Monthly Archives: June 2015

Amazon Embraces Messaging Apps For Kindle Promotion. It’s Time For Indies To Take Messaging Apps Seriously.

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This past year or so we’ve been plotting the rise and rise of the messaging app and advising messaging apps are where the future of book promotion lies.

Kobo’s owner Rakuten is gearing up its Viber site as a sales and promotion platform for Kobo ebooks. The Japanese messaging app LINE already has music subscription services in two countries. Many companies globally are using messaging apps to drive traffic and sales.

This week Amazon climbs on board with the Kindle store. The only surprise is that they’ve taken so long.

From Amazon (LINK):

“Kindle readers can share quotes and recommendations with specific friends, using their favorite mobile apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, texting, and more.
Friends who receive a share can instantly start reading a free book preview right from their phone, tablet, or PC—no need to sign up, sign in, or install an app.”

Its early days for Amazon’s venture into messaging apps. Expect a big expansion of this engagement as we hurtle into 2016.

And with Rakuten already owning Viber don’t be too surprised if Amazon picks up a messaging app of its own before long.

~

Okay, as promised, here’s a rough sketch of how this will work for indie authors.

First, we need to look on messaging app engagement as an extension of our email lists. While we may have gazillions of “followers” and “friends” on sites like twitter and Facebook, we all know a good mailing list outperforms them all, because the people who have signed up have made a specific request to be kept updated on our latest releases, news, whatever.

But here’s the thing. Readers generally are not writers. Not every reader is comfortable with email, and likewise not every reader will be on Facebook or twitter, let alone following or friending us.

A reader who doesn’t use Facebook or twitter or email is not going to be able to sign up for our latest news. But chances are those same readers are using Facebook Messenger, or WhatsApp, or LINE, or Viber, or WeChat, or KakaoTalk or Nimbus or…

And just a reminder here. WhatsApp and Viber alone have over one billion users between them.

So developing a messaging app list is just like developing an email list, except that instead of sending out emails we send out messages (with images and even video if needed), which the recipients receive direct on their smartphone.

How does it work for us?

Let’s take the hugely popular WhatsApp (800 million users, 70% of whom access the app daily) as a guide. With subtle variations the same will apply to other apps.

Back when WhatsApp launched in 2009 it was very much a one-to-one service. You sent a text message to one individual. The idea behind the apps was to bypass the text fees telcos charged. Messaging apps are either free or charge a token subscription fee. WhatsApp costs $1 a year.

In 2013 WhatsApp rolled out “broadcasting” (other apps have similar) which essentially means you can send the same message to a number of people at one time without revealing the contact numbers to others, so like a blind CC email.

At the moment WhatsApp has a limit of 250 contacts for a broadcast, but that’s a great starting point. And you can simply have variant lists, slightly differentiated, to get around the limit. You have 1,000 contacts? Just send four messages, each very slightly different. Facebook has already made exceptions for big companies using WhatsApp to reach more people, and the broadcasting limit will surely be raised for others as we go. Other apps vary.

Facebook itself has an organic reach of 6% – that is to say, just 6% of “friends” on average actually see the posts we put up.

Now compare message broadcasting where you have effectively 100% reach, just like with your email list.

The key is to get readers to sign up in the first place, and in the case of messaging apps it means adding your number to their phone. So in the first instance you need a number. Don’t use your personal number.

Most smartphones nowadays come with multiple sim capacity, so simply buy a sim card and keep that number exclusively for promo. Then get that number out on your website, blog, regular promo campaigns, etc. In fact, tweet and FB it!

The key then is to treat your new contacts with the same respect you show your email sign-up contacts. Sending out a message ten times a day seven days a week will have people delisting you like crazy. Remember, EVERY message you send will ping on EVERY phone EVERY time.

So from the beginning, think global. If you are building a contact list on WeChat to boost your China sales or trying to get a contact list going in Australia or New Zealand, bear in mind that (unless you live there yourself) their time zone will be the reverse of yours. Sending out a message in the early afternoon in London or New York may not be appreciated by the recipient in Beijing, Canberra or Wellington being woken in the early hours with a pinged message. So when you compile your broadcast lists, doing so by country or continent might be a good starting point to consider.

Keep your broadcast messages short and pertinent. No nd 2 use txt-spk. Proper English is fine. But keep it succinct. Individual readers who want a further engagement will let you know. But message too often and you’ll have people delisting you, just like with email mailing lists.

On WhatsApp you can create and edit lists just like with an email list. You can have a list of contacts in Siberia and list of contacts who only read your children’s books and another list for readers who only read your hard core erotica with dinosaurs titles. Messaging apps really are just email lists for reaching readers who don’t like email.

A reminder of the top ten social media messaging apps:

WhatsApp
Viber
WeChat
LINE
Kakao Talk
Kik
Tango
Nimbus
Hike
MessageMe

There are many, many more, and if you are looking at the global markets it’s really worth doing some research and finding out which app is doing well in a particular country. LINE, for instance, is big in Thailand. Nimbus has 25 million users in India. A full post on messaging apps by territory another time.

Messaging apps on top of FB and twitter!!! “No! No! No!” we hear you cry. But hold on.

Yes, its more hassle for us poor, over-worked, under-paid indie authors. But as we’ve said here before, if we want to stay ahead of the game we need to stay ahead of the trends.

Just like, not to very long ago, we all had to sign up with and learn how to use Facebook and twitter and our blogs. Oh, and that crazy new thing called KDP that allowed us to bypass the query system and actually publish our books ourselves.

Yes, we can all scream “Gimmick! Gimmick! Gimmick!” and pretend it’s not happening. But it’s happening anyway.

Just ask Amazon.

And no, before someone says it, no-one can do them all. Don’t even think about it. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try at least a few.

Think about the next five years, not the next five weeks.

 

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The View From The Beach – Mark Williams At Large

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China’s Golden Age For Writers.

The China Gold Rush For Western Indies.

China Daily today confirms what we’ve mentioned here before – that some Chinese indie authors are picking up the USD equivalent of $1.6m per year from e-writing. (LINK)

That’s the top end, of course, but many more are doing very nicely at slightly more moderate levels, and handful of western indies are enjoying the rewards too.

At the moment the easiest way into the China market is the translation and aggregation service Fiberead (LINK), but that will change soon enough as other operators realise the potential here to leverage western literature in the barely started but already humungous Chinese digital-reading market.

Fiberead is largely retailer-focused, and while I’ve of course no complaints about what Fiberead has achieved for me (first western indie to hit #1 on Kindle China for those unfamiliar), and I’m working closely with Fiberead on new projects, there is much more on my horizon.

My sights are set on the many micro-payment sites which is where the readers are, and where savvy Chinese authors are making the serious money. Think Wattpad but getting paid. 🙂

No easy access to these sorts of sites from outside the country, which is why I am cultivating contacts within China to help me go to the next level in reaching Chinese readers.

There are incredible opportunities in the global markets right now for those of us willing to go the extra mile, stake our claim and do some prospecting.

China is by far the largest, but by no means the only goldmine out there for savvy indies willing to take the international markets seriously.

No, there are no just-add-water instant-gratification solutions, but if you are ambitious, willing to work hard, and not averse to the occasional risk, the whole world is your potential audience as the global New Renaissance gets out of first gear.

Ebook Bargains UK

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Far more than just the UK.

The View From The Beach – Mark Williams At Large

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Don’t Buy From Me, Argentina.

Why indies should take a fresh look at the Latin America market.

How many people attended the Buenos Aries Book Fair this year?

A hundred? Two hundred? A thousand?

Try 1.25 million. And it was no one-off. The Buenos Aries Book Fair regularly gets over a million people swarming over its book stalls, and queues eight blocks long were forming for signed books from favourite authors.

YA and children’s works are doing particularly well right now.

The first of the Spanish translations of one of my children’s series is almost ready to go live, and while I’m looking forward to seeing it available in Spanish stores, not least Kindle Spain, the real excitement is being able to tap into the blossoming Latin American market, with Argentina top of the list.

No, there’s no Kindle Argentina store, and given Amazon will charge $2.99 for my 0.99 short story (the $2 whispersync surcharge) and give me just 0.35 to share with the translator (for Latin American sales other than Brazil and Mexico Amazon pays 35% regardless of list price) Amazon is not going to be relevant to my Spanish language sales in the region except maybe in Mexico.

Brazil of course is Portuguese-speaking, and does have a Kindle store. And hey, guess what? I have Portuguese translations almost ready too. 🙂

But for the rest of Latin America the easy access will be through Google Play and Apple. Kobo is only present in any meaningful way in Brazil.

Then comes the bigger challenge of the “local” ebook stores in Latin America, of which there are far, far more than you might expect. Latin America had ebook subscription services long before they arrived in the USA!

The improbably named Ghandi store is not only Mexico’s biggest book store and online bookseller but they sell ebooks and even have their own self-publishing portal.

Spain’s own Casa del Libro is targeting Latin America right now, but the local players are already well ahead of the game in South America. Along with Argentina and Mexico, Chile, Peru and Colombia are leading the way as ebooks take off across the continent.

That’s not to say ebooks are booming in the region. Digital represents less than 1% of publishing’s sales.

But don’t let that put you off. This is just the beginning.

Ebook take-up may be low in Latin America right now, and literacy levels may not compare to the USA or Europe, but those that do read are voracious readers, and with tablet and smartphone proliferation ebooks are becoming accessible and affordable to many millions of new readers across the continent.

Digital changes everything.

A full report soon on the opportunities opening up across Latin America, including a survey of the local players that we internationalist indies need to be looking at.

Because the interest in books and reading in Latin America is clear. The problem has always been access to affordable and desirable content.

Digital changes everything. Including the ability of indie authors like us to reach new readers in foreign lands like Latin America.

Yes, it’s really inconsiderate of them to want to read in Spanish and Portuguese instead of English.

So here a reminder that Babelcube is now letting authors pitch to translators, rather having to hope a translator finds you.

A full report on Babelcube soon. Here just to say Babelcube is an easy way to tap into the growing global ebook market, not least for Spanish and Portuguese translations.

And one of the best ways to pitch to a translator and convince them to invest their time and energy in translating your book for no up-front fee, is to show them the market potential.

For example, the fact that 1.25 million people piled into the Buenos Aries Book Fair this year. That’s just one book fair in one city in one of the many Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America.

Don’t let the global New Renaissance pass you by. Be part of it!

 

Ebook Bargains UK

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Messaging Apps Are The Next Big Thing For Savvy Indie Authors Looking To Stay Ahead Of The Game.

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While most indie authors continue to look the other way as messaging apps become the new black for selling digital goods, the Japan-based messaging app LINE has just launched its second music streaming service in as many months. (LINK)

Hard on the heels of the Thailand launch last month, LINE now has digital music streaming available in Japan, and other countries will be joining the, ahem, line-up later this year.

With Rakuten preparing to relaunch the messaging app Viber as a global sales platform for Rakuten products this year, we indies all need to sit up and take notice of the way the winds are blowing.

We can be forgiven for being unfamiliar. The so-called social media experts and mavens continue to tout Facebook and twitter as the only entities that matter for ebook marketing. Far easier to keep recycling the same old mantra than look at what’s coming next.

Without naming names, one social media maven famously told us MySpace was here to stay and that new cowboy outfit Facebook was just some fly-by-night rival that had no future. This was the same social media maven who told us reading ebooks on phones was a fad peculiar to Japan and was never going to catch on.

Meantime savvy authors are using sites like Pinterest and Instagram to great effect to find new audiences.

And the super-savvy amongst us will be getting established on the messaging apps.

Make no mistake, messaging apps are the next big thing for promotion and sales. Rakuten have made very clear their plans for Viber, and in particular they have spelled out their intention to sell Kobo ebooks using the Viber messaging app.

With LINE leading the way offering music streaming, others will follow. And just how long do you think it will be before other digital goods – ebooks, for example – are streamed on the messaging apps too?

Viber will be leading the way with messaging app ebook sales, and the rest will surely follow.

Meanwhile us indies are still busily carrying on as if Facebook and twitter are the be all and end all of social media promotion.

Wake up and smell the coffee!

Check out our past posts on this subject on the EBUK blog. Here’s one. (LINK) Several more in the archives.

Mobile messaging apps are the next big thing in global ebook promotion. Don’t wait for the social media mavens to wake up and jump on the bandwagon. Explore the world of messaging apps now and lay the foundations for your global ebook promotion empire.

Here’s the top ten social media messaging apps:

WhatsApp
Viber
WeChat
LINE
Kakao Talk
Kik
Tango
Nimbus
Hike
MessageMe

There are many others.

Never heard of them? We need to step outside our box. WhatsApp alone has over 800 million monthly users. Just because they are not on our radar does not mean no-one else has heard of them.

Nimbuzz has 25 million users in India, one of the key up-and-coming ebook markets.

Viber has over 300 million subscribers.

We all know how few of our Facebook friends and twitter followers actually get to see our posts and tweets. And we all know the services are clamping down still further to force us to pay to reach people, especially if there’s a promo link involved.

Instead of playing the same tune over and over to the same handful of people who actually do see our Facebook posts and do see our tweets, most of whom couldn’t care less, why not spend just a tiny fraction of that time and energy reaching out to new audiences in new ways.

Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram… LINE, WhatsApp, Viber…

Yeah, new learning curves, new ways to interact, new demands on our precious time.

But if we want to stay ahead of the game we need to stay ahead of the trends.

Just like, not to very long ago, we all had to sign up with and learn how to use Facebook and twitter and our blogs. Oh, and that crazy new thing called KDP that allowed us to bypass the query system and actually publish our books as ebooks.

Yes, we can all scream “Gimmick! Gimmick! Gimmick!” and pretend it’s not happening. But it’s happening anyway.

Don’t worry. The social media mavens will be along in a year or two to say they saw the messaging apps coming but were biding their time before letting anyone know.

Meanwhile everyday folk, you know, like readers, are busily signing up to messaging apps not by the hundreds, or thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, but by the billion. WhatsApp and Viber alone have a billion subscribers between them.

Just this week twitter announced it is expanding its character quota as it recognizes messaging apps are where people are heading. (LINK) Facebook of course famously already owns WhatsApp.

And no, before someone says it, no-one can do them all. Don’t even think about it. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try at least a few.

Think about the next five years, not the next five weeks.

+++

Note: We’ll be following up this post with some specifics about getting started with messaging apps in the next few days. Stay tuned!

Ebook Bargains UK

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Far more than just the UK.

Google Play Books Hits One Billion Installs.

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Txtr may have just closed over twenty global stores (LINK), but the global ebook player that matters, Google Play Books, goes from strength to strength.

According to a report on Ink, Bits & Pixels (LINK) It’s sixty global stores have collectively seen ONE BILLION downloaded Google Play books apps – that’s DOWNLOADED, not pre-installed, according to Nate..

Nate reckons Google Play Books US is by now bigger than Nook. That alone is worth being on Google Play Books for. Even if we count Google Play Books at just 10% of the US market that’s a huge number of readers.

And globally… Google Play is the only western ebook playing offering a window to the key up-and-coming Asian sites like Indonesia and Thailand, and in places like Scandinavia, east Europe an across Latin America where, Brazil and Mexico aside, Amazon is surcharging.

Is Google Play worth the effort? Don’t take our word for it. Take this from the Kindleboards forums as long ago as 2013 when Google Play only had a measly 40 global ebook stores.

“I know some of you are Google-phobic; however, y’all should keep an open mind. You may be leaving a significant chunk of money on the table.  I’m making between 2x — 5x at Google Play compared to Amazon for The Devilhouse Books. I’m quite disappointed with The Devilhouse’s sales at Amazon, and I’d be a sad puppy about now, but for Google Play.” (LINK)

The author later adds,

“I’m huge in Finland, Belarus, and South Africa, like multiple sales every day. Australia, Great Britain, Canada, and the US are my biggest markets by far.”

One reason we love the “smaller” retailers is the chance to be come a big fish in a small pond. This author concurs.

“Small pond. Fewer fish. About 5 sales/day for a unit will land you on the bottoms of the lesser-populated Top Charts, like Fiction & Lit > Short Stories. This leads to increased visibility and higher sales.”

Before you rush off to get your titles into Google Play Books, be warned. The Google Play Books self-pub portal is currently offline while some adjustments are made. If will soon be up again, but if you are too impatient to wait, or live in a country where you can’t upload direct, there are other ways in.

Curiously none of the big American aggregators have a deal with Google Play yet, but the British aggregator Ebook Partnership does and the German aggregator Xin-Xii and the Italian aggregator Narcissus will both get your titles into Google Play Books too..

It’s worth noting that Bookbub, which has dropped Smashwords as a listing-featured store, is carrying ever more Google Play buy buttons as more and more top-selling indies climb on board with Google Play. Yesterday 19 out of 25 Bookbub listings carried Google Play buy buttons.

If Nate’s report is right – and he has a good track record – that’s one billion not-preinstalled but deliberately downloaded Google Play Books apps.

That’s a lot of reasons to get your titles for sale on Google Play Books.

Are yours?

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

It’s Official. Txtr Has Closed All Its Ebook Stores Except Germany.

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No real surprise here. Just tangible disappointment.

When Txtr began the bankruptcy journey there was some hope that the German media giant Saturn would throw its muscle behind the Txtr project and just maybe give it a new lease of life.

It was not to be,

Twenty-three of the twenty-four global Txtr stores are now shuttered, with a warning to readers that as from June 26 there will be no Txtr store. Period.

The only store not carrying the warning is the Txtr.DE store.

Will Txtr be missed?

Not by most indies, as sadly with a handful of exceptions we’ve never bothered to support the store even if, by chance, we had ebooks there. And that is a real shame because Txtr has been one of the most indie-friendly of the smaller retailers and has always been open to promotional deals with authors. The feedback from authors who did engage with Txtr was always positive.

But now Txtr is back to square one with just the one German-language store.

There’s been no mention on the Smashwords blog about the Txtr issue, despite Smashwords being the only US aggregator distributing indie titles to the Txtr stores.  It remains to be seen if the Smashwords distribution agreement with Txtr will continue for the one remaining Txtr store.

At this stage its not clear if Kobo is going to step in and absorb the Txtr customer-base. They’ve done that in the past – Sony and Tesco Blinkbox for example – , often with no announcement until the last minute, so it could yet happen.

Regardless, on behalf of the handful of indies who did make the effort to work with Txtr, and enjoyed finding new readers by doing so, we’d like to say thanks to the Txtr international team for trying. You’ll be sorely missed.

Ebook Bargains UK

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Far more than just the UK.

June Is Audio-Book Month 1: Free Audio-Books From AudioBooks.Com.

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June is Audio-Book Month, and for those with a mobile device the audio-book retailer AudioBooks.Com (LINK) is giving away a free ebook every day of this month.

There are thirty-two things we indies can take from this.

Thirty free audio-books, obviously.

But more importantly a) that Amazon’s Audible is by no means the only show in town when it comes to a-book retailing.

And b) that most of these free a-books will be short works – non-fic, fic, whatever

For us indies short a-books provide a great opportunity to expand our reach and our repertoire.

Audio-book production, unlike ebook production, escalates significantly in cost as the length of the book goes up. If you’re paying for professional narration and recording services a longer book can cost a small fortune. And conversely a shorter work can be produced for far less.

As per previous discussion here (LINK), there are opportunities above and beyond the standard a-book outlets for audio-titles. Radio, for example. Podcasts. Digital libraries. Etc, etc.

For those writing serialized fiction or non-fiction or short series of regular length, there is also the opportunity to top-and-tail these and sell them direct to consumers or direct to broadcasters.

Digital offers indie authors unparalleled opportunities to reach new audiences.

Don’t let the New Renaissance pass you by. Explore some new opportunities today!

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.