Monthly Archives: August 2015

The International Indie Author Is Now On Facebook

It’s probably a bank holiday where you are right now, so the briefest of posts to mention the formal launch of The International Indie Author’s Facebook Group.

This weekend yet another broadband satellite went into orbit. Launched from Kazakhstan and serving (from the end of the year) the Pacific region, it’s a reminder of how truly globile (global mobile) our world is becoming.

So no better time to be climbing on board the international indie author crusade.

For those interested you can find the Facebook Group here (LINK).

It’s a public group and open to any and all to join and contribute to. If you have any useful experiences of going global, or spot any pertinent news stories about the global publishing market, do share.

But please, no book promo. Only include a link to your book if making  a point about, or contributing a post about , the global publishing markets.

Which basically means that big wide world beyond the US-UK axis that most indies focus on.

English-language titles selling well outside the US and UK markets? Charting on Amazon India or Amazon Mexico? Seeing sales through Kobo in Japan or the Philippines? Getting good results from the Tolino stores across Europe? That’s news. We want to hear about it in the FB group, and yes, with relevant links.

Getting your works translated through Fiberead, Babelcube or by some other means? That’s pertinent. Come and and share your experiences in the FB group.

Seeing chart success with your by translations? That’s worth linking to. Come and show us it can be done!

Got a question about the global markets. Put it up in the FB Group and if I don’t have the answer someone else may.

There’s only a handful of members right now, because the group has only just today been officially announced, so come and help bump those numbers up and meet fellow indie authors travelling the global journey to international sales.

The International Indie Author Facebook Group

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100 Million Reasons To Think About Translations Into Local Languages In India.

When I talk about the global New Renaissance and how virtually everyone on the planet will soon be able to access our ebooks I know many struggle to take the idea seriously.

After all, we were brought up in another era. An era when internet access involved buying an expensive computer powered by expensive electricity, that needed an expensive desk to sit it on and an expensive telephone cable connection only available in big cities, and an expensive subscription to an ISP, just in order to dial-up a connection that would slowly unfold a static webpage.

Nowadays we in the rich west take for granted the idea of a handheld, cable-free smartphone that we can read books on, watch films on, message people all over the world on, and, oh yeah, make telephone calls on. And conference calls. And video calls. And…

Ten years ago much of this seemed like science fiction. Even five years ago, when ereaders were just becoming popular, the idea of reading books on a phone seemed a fad that would never catch on in the real world.

But change just keeps on coming, and it gets faster and faster.

IT is no longer the exclusive preserve of the rich west. It’s not even the preserve of the rich few in the rest of the world. The rest of the world has simply skipped all that pain and gone straight from nowhere to 4G.

We’re fast approaching the point where everyone on the planet will have internet access and a handheld device on which to engage with said internet.

There are already over two billion smartphones out there. There are over three billion people with some sort of broadband connection.

And while of course the focus is on the larger cities and densely-populated regions of the world, that doesn’t mean the rural areas are missing out.

Projects like Google’s Loon internet balloons and Facebook’s Aquila internet drones will soon be bringing the internet to even the most remote parts of the inhabited world. For example, Google has recently announced a deal with the Sri Lankan government for Google Loon to provide internet access to the entire island.

Meantime, down on the ground, Facebook’s internet.org initiative is bringing free internet access to the poorest of the poor.

And now Google’s “Internet Saathi” project is literally wheeling out the web across rural India. By bicycle.

Over the next eighteen months five million women in 45,000 Indian villages will be getting lessons in how to use their smartphones to connect to the internet. (LINK)

Google this past week tweeted that the first rural woman student, Jayant, had successfully used her smartphone to look up information about the cattle she rears to support her family.

The internet is a wonderful thing.

But it won’t just change Jayant’s life in practical terms like providing information about her cattle. It will also open up a world of entertainment and social engagement previously totally off-limits to her.

How long before Jayant and the other five million women this project will reach will discover ebooks? Maybe one of yours?

Google ‘s South Asia VP Rajan Anandan says that while the English language has dominated the growth of the internet in India so far, “the next 100 million Internet users will not be fluent in English”.

That’s one hundred million reasons to start thinking about translations into India’s myriad local languages.

I am. Are you?

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

Something for the Weekend. An overview of the global ebook scene.

There’s a rumour circulating in India that Amazon will be launching the Kindle Unlimited subscription service for just 199 rupees per month.

The report in ETRetail (LINK) does stress this is just a rumour, but if it turns out to be true it could be a game-changer.

The minimum price indies can set on Kindle India through KDP is 49 rupees, so a subscriber would have to read just five minimum-price titles a month to be up on the deal. For more expensive titles it would be even more rewarding for the reader.

And possibly lucrative for the author. The India ebook market may be nascent but it’s not dormant. In time it will be the second largest ebook market in the world.

That’s a few years off yet, but India is already set to exceed the USA as the second largest smartphone market. And every smartphone out there could have our ebooks on.

Any author looking to the long-term will be looking carefully at the India market, regardless of what happens with KU.

See this post on the “globile” future to understand why. (LINK).

~~~

I’ve posted on the phenomenon of adult colouring books a few times.

Mainly to stress that as indies we are already, to some extent, “outside the box”, and we should always be willing to take a few strides further and explore the incredible possibilities digital presents us.

With adult colouring books it’s been small press print outfits that have led the way.

This week it’s emerged that the “Secret Garden” adult colouring book has sold three million copies in the past three months… in China. It also sold a million in Brazil and a half million in South Korea. (LINK)

Both Brazil and China wildly outsold the US, and Korea outsold the UK.

Meanwhile in the US a self-published children’s book produced POD via CreateSpace and Ingram has sold over 20,000 copies in the US, topping the print charts.

In the latter case it was an indie author. In the former it could easily have been.

In this brave new world of the global New Renaissance the boxes we choose to live are largely of our own making.

We have unprecedented reach, unprecedented opportunities, and unprecedented possibilities to experiment.

Don’t waste them.

~~~

The issue of the self-publishers’ ghetto at OverDrive came up again this week. The post has since been updated to say there was “initially” a ghetto. (LINK)

Comments on that post confirm that, while there is a sub-section within the OverDrive facility for librarians that just holds Smashwords titles, indie titles from Smashwords ARE available in the OverDrive public catalogue.

In fact there are 187,000 Smashwords titles showing in OverDrive right now.

So let’s be clear. There is no ghetto.

I’ve been getting titles into OverDrive libraries for almost five years with no problems, and lately have been using Smashwords to add some new titles to the OverDrive catalogue.

For those who assert I’m “anti-Smashwords” for complaining about what doesn’t work well at Smashwords, let me be clear.

IF… and that’s still a big if, sadly – but if you can get your titles into the Smashwords premium catalogue, and of course if you’ve opted into library distribution, your titles will appear in the OverDrive library catalogues worldwide in a matter of days.

The exceptions are erotica titles, which OverDrive does not accept from Smashwords, but for everything else Smashwords is a cheap (pay as you sell), quick and (relatively) easy way to get your self-published titles into the OverDrive global libraries.

~~~

Sadly the same cannot be said for Flipkart. Smashwords has just announced they have cancelled the deal with Flipkart to get indie titles into India’s largest retailer.  (LINK)

Mark Coker makes some interesting, if controversial, arguments about how Amazon’s KDP Select is in part responsible for this decision. Coker argues indies wanting to jump in and out of Select were finding their titles not being removed from Flipkart in timely fashion, leaving indies in breach of Amazon’s exclusivity demand for participation in KU.

But here’s the thing: by cancelling the Flipkart deal, it is Smashwords that is penalizing the many authors that do not jump in and out of retailers chasing every new shiny dangled in front of them and are trying to build a global presence.

Surely it is not beyond Mark Coker’s ability to simply put a clear message on the site in relation to stores like Flipkart that indies cannot expect instant responsiveness from this particular retailer, leaving indies the option to list on Flipkart through Smashwords.

The very real danger for Mark Coker is that ,by removing options like Flipkart, he risks sending indies to rival aggregators like Xin-Xii who do offer Flipkart, along with Google Play and the Tolino Alliance stores that aren’t available through Smashwords. (LINK)

~~~

The latest of Big Pub to sign an English-language deal in China is PanMacmillan UK, who have announced a deal with Trajectory at the Beijing Book Fair this week. (LINK)

Trajectory are leading the way in taking English-language titles to the new globile (global mobile) markets, and fully understand we who write and publish are sitting on a global goldmine.

Trajectory has no facility for (or interest in) indie authors, but it may at some stage come to an agreement with one of the distributors we can access. That could be a long wait. Meantime trad pub is raking in the cash from English-language readers in China and elsewhere.

I’ll be forwarding this latest report to Fiberead (LINK) in the hope of nudging them in the direction of making our indie English-language titles available in China, but as yet their focus is (understandably) on the translations market.

But, in mind the current mess at Smashwords with Flipkart, Fiberead, or whoever steps forward to make China accessible to indie E-L titles, will have to include a clear contractual commitment to keep titles in for a sensible length of time, and that hopping in and out every five minutes will not be an option.

~~~

Globile up 55% year on year!

A new report from Ericsson estimates there are three billion mobile broadband users across the globe right now, (LINK) and the vast majority therefore have potential access to our ebooks.

Globile (global mobile) is still in its infancy in much of the world, but the growth areas are worth looking at. The US, unsurprisingly, but also India, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Nigeria.

I’m adding Myanmar (Burma, for those who last looked at an atlas when they were at school) to my watch-list in view of the latest data, which confirms the trend I’ve been watching this past year for Myanmar.  There’s been a massive investment in broadband recently and its beginning to pay off big time.

It’s a pattern we’ll see repeated very soon in countries like Pakistan and Nepal, and across the globe.

I won’t bore you with details of the countless 4G licences I’m monitoring being auctioned right now globally, but my globile map is lighting up in places even I, the eternal digital optimist, thought were unlikely before the end of this decade.

As Google’s Loon balloon project and Facebook’s Aquila drone project go live over the next few years (the former already underway in Sri Lanka) we’re going to witness an explosion in globile traffic and global engagement that will be truly, truly remarkable.

~~~

In mind the previous item ponder this, for of such things as this is our future as global authors made.

The Pacific Caribbean Cable System (PCCS) has just started commercial operations. It links the USA, via Florida, with the Caribbean nations, Central America and northern South America as far as Ecuador, meaning millions more people across the Caribbean and Latin America have access to 4G-standard internet service. (LINK)

This in turn will accelerate the take-up of smartphones across the region, which in turn will build awareness of the benefits of the internet and so accelerate smartphone adoption even more.

Just one of the many reasons I am so excited by the Latin American market right now.

Here’s another.

The Russia-based subscription service Bookmate now has a carrier-billing deal with Tigo Mobile in Guatemala and Paraguay. (LINK)

Tigo Mobile is one of the big telcos in Latin America, and safe to assume this will be the first of many carrier-billing arrangements, not just with Bookmate but almost certainly soon with Google Play.

For those unfamiliar, carrier billing is where you pay for online purchases like ebooks from your mobile phone credit.

For Third World countries like these it is hard to exaggerate the significance of this. Most people across the world do not have bank accounts, let alone credit cards. But trying buying from Amazon or Apple without a card… Try subscribing to Scribd without a card…

Carrier billing enables the cash-paying reader to pay for ebooks online instead of relying on free-reading sites like Wattpad.

Study after study shows that, around the globe, the biggest hindrances to e-reading on smartphones are

a) that the retailers aren’t accessible and

b) where, as with Kobo, they are, local people simply have no method by which to pay.

Indian app-based stores like Newshunt and Rockstand shift millions of ebooks every year thanks to carrier billing. People who have no way whatsoever of paying Amazon India, for example, can simply buy a mobile credit scratchcard with cash, top up their mobile, and buy and download an ebook from Newshunt or Rockstand. No wonder these two stores are the fastest growing ebook stores in India.

In Latin America carrier billing plays a similarly crucial role in allowing people to pay for goods online. But it requires the retailer to come to an arrangement with the telco.

This service is already offered by some “domestic” Latin American retailers, but this move by Bookmate is the first by an outsider. I understand Google Play is also in talks with Tigo and other telcos to offer carrier billing.

Bookmate is a global subscription service that cleverly focuses on markets Amazon neglects, and it’s doing rather well. As well as being one of the biggest Russian services (along with LitRes – but watch out for a possible Kindle Russia store in the future – there are indications Bezos is trying to get a foothold there) Bookmate is a global operator, and big in key countries like Turkey (Amazon blocks downloads to Turkey).

The move with Paraguay and Guatemala is believed to be the first of a wider campaign by Bookmate to embrace Latin America. Just one more sign that Latin America is now firmly on the radar of the global retailers.

I get my titles into Bookmate through the British aggregator Ebook Partnership, but it’s a pay-up-front service and not one I could recommend just now, as the global landscape is changing so fast, and other routes are opening up.

Bookmate recently launched its own self-pub portal. I haven’t had the chance to investigate this yet, but it’s on my To Do list.

Bookmate is not going to make anyone rich with its payouts, but as a vehicle for global discovery and laying the foundations for the future, Bookmate should definitely be a consideration for any author going global.

One final word on Bookmate – they’ve just launched this past week in Indonesia. I can’t tell you how exciting that is. I’ll be doing an in depth post on the Indonesia scene shortly to explain why.

~~~

Here in West Africa the ACE cable linking Europe and the west coast of Africa finally went live in The Gambia just over two years ago.  While meaningful reach is still limited to the coast because the relay infrastructure is not in place yet across the country, the transformation has already been remarkable, with pretty much everyone having a smartphone of some sort in their hands.

Bear in mind this is one of the poorest countries on the planet.

People who two years ago did not know the internet even existed, and still have no access to running water or electricity, now watch youtube videos, use skype and Facebook, and would be lost without their (probably counterfeit, they are so cheap) smartphones.

Do they e-read? Most definitely, yes. But mainly on free sites like Wattpad because, quite simply, there is no mechanism for them to make payments even if the big retailers actually let them download.

But that will come, and with it will come a surge in global e-reading on an unprecedented scale as the global New Renaissance gets into second gear.

It won’t happen overnight, and it won’t happen everywhere at the same time, but it will happen. It is happening.

And those authors who have positioned themselves well now, and are using sites like Wattpad to establish a global presence where they have no commercial reach, will reap the benefits.

The PCCS cable mentioned above is just one of myriad similar projects happening right now around the globe that, along with the Google Loon project and Facebook’s Aquila drone project, is creating an internet-connected world that within ten years will net-enfranchise well over 95% of the world’s population.

Already our potential audience is well over two billion people. That’s how many people have a smartphone, tablet or similar e-reading device in their hands right now.

More than two billion people.

Yet the majority of indie authors are so busy fighting each other to grab a share of the fraction of the couple-hundred million US market that they don’t even know the wider world exists.

Their loss. And less competition for the rest of us.

~~~

Google’s fleet of self-driving cars now numbers twenty, averaging 10,000 miles a week. (LINK)

Over the past six years there have been eleven minor accidents and all have been the result of human-driver error in other vehicles – even a super-duper computerised self-driven car that can simultaneously see every other vehicle and pedestrian on the road can’t stop some idiot driving into the back of you because they were on their phone.

One day these vehicles will be everywhere, and will save countless lives.

Driverless cars, books with no paper, watching films on a phone, 3-D printers… My childhood science-fiction is today’s reality.

5G is almost with us, and at the current rate of accelerated innovation it’s impossible to guess what even 6G, let alone 10G, will bring, but I plan on living forever so I can find out. 🙂

That way I might even get time to finish a few more books.

~~~

Not everyone is enamoured by the idea of serialization of works, but I’m having great fun with it, and I’m not alone.

This report from the Bookseller is well worth reading to see how trad pub is engaging with serialization and seeing great results. (LINK)

Of course in the case of Transworld and Headline all the serialized parts were professionally edited to meet the requirements of serialization and put out well-formatted on all retail platforms, and then strung together professionally in a print version also made widely available.

Sadly indies going the serialization route often seem more focused on short-term gains (as with the old KU system), but serialization has much more to offer the savvy author.

One of the problems with serialization, of course, is that a serialized novel (or indeed non-fiction works, which is where my serialization focus is) is not a stand-alone book simply chopped into equal pieces.

A thoughtfully serialized work needs to a lot of careful consideration to balance the parts. So while it may allow you to get to market sooner and start building an audience for the project, it may well prove to be not just as much, but more work than slogging away at a single full-length project.

I’m certainly finding that with my serialization of the West Africa travelogues. In theory part two and three could have been live by now, but as I work through parts 4-5 I keep finding cause to go back and make adjustments to parts 2 and 3. While that’s easy enough with digital, it’s not a sensible option once the early parts are live, because early readers will not know of the re-writes and be lost if they impact on later parts.

So if you do go down this route take a leaf from Transworld’s and Headline’s book and make sure you have several parts firmly in place before you launch.

~~~

The Madrid-based digital-library supplier Odilo (LINK) is ramping up its game, and shifting to more English-language titles alongside its Spanish-language range.

No easy way into Odilo right now, but definitely one to keep an eye on, both as possible outlet in the future and as a barometer of the way things are shaping up.

Globally digital libraries are still pretty embryonic, but they present a fantastic opportunity for discovery and reaching new audiences.

Odilo is gearing up to challenge the long-established players like OverDrive, and its focus is worth watching.

While Spain is of course its core market, Odile is taking big strides in the US, and is in Peru, Colombia and Mexico right now, and will soon be in Chile. It’s also, intriguingly, in Australia.

And it’s handling titles in Italian, Russian and Chinese as well as Spanish and English, suggesting global ambitions and, for authors, global opportunities ahead.

Odilo isn’t geared to indie authors yet, but I’m making tentative enquiries about third-party routes in.

Even if we can’t get into Odilo this year or next, we should all be looking at operators like this, because they show clearly the way the global markets are developing. Latin America, for instance, is getting more exciting by the day.

If we’re not taking the global markets seriously and getting into translations and extensive distribution right now we’ll only have ourselves  to blame in years to come when other authors are seeing global success while we’re still struggling to get noticed in the ever more overcrowded market at home.

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

Self-Publish At Home, Query Abroad. The Indie Author’s Guide To Becoming A Bestselling Author In A Far-Away Land.

The chances of getting “discovered” by a foreign (outside US/UK) publisher and getting a nice deal in a country you can’t easily reach on your own is pretty remote.

It happened to me with Sugar & Spice when a French publisher came cold-calling, and a nice advance and 50,000 hardcover sales later I’ve no regrets. But I’m not holding my breath until it happens again.

Now I’ve got my new-and-improved internet here in West Africa I’m taking Going Global to the next level.

Not just chasing translators through Babelcube and Fiberead (which together will get you eleven languages if you are lucky see here ((LINK)) and the follow-up post here ((LINK)), but trying two other key tactics:

1)  Finding more translator-partners independently.

My priority countries should be well-known to any regulars. China, Indonesia, Brazil, Turkey, the Philippines, Mexico, Japan, India, South Korea, the Scandinavian countries, Germany, Poland, etc.

And the other countries on my radar should also be familiar. The rest of Latin America, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Romania, Hungary…

The downside to this strategy is that, even if I can get a translator on board and get my ebooks into Polish or Korean or Vietnamese, my chances of actually getting into the ebook stores in these countries is limited, and of course the level of ebook take-up in many of these countries is still low.

Which is where the second strategy comes in.

2) Finding a trad pub print and/or digital partner in these countries.

The indie stalwarts will cry “No! Self-publish and get 70%!”

But that’s a fundamentally flawed approach when it comes to the international markets that ignores certain realities.

Taking Indonesia, Vietnam and Bangladesh as examples, Apple has no iBooks stores in these countries and Amazon blocks downloads to these countries. In countries like Poland, Romania, Norway or Argentina Amazon pays just 35% and surcharges readers.

My first Norwegian translations are just about ready to go live. But these are short stories selling at $0.99 or the local equivalent.  Amazon will charge a Norwegian reader $2.99 (list price plus the Whispernet surcharge) and I’ll get just 35% of the 0.99 to share with my translator.

No, that’s not “anti-Amazon”. It’s simply stating the cold reality we need to understand when going global. That outside the dozen or so Kindle stores Amazon is not going to be our key breadwinner.

~~~

But don’t let that put you off. No question the readers are out there. And no question sowing the seeds now for future harvests in the global markets is eminently sensible.

But sometimes sowing those seeds may be best achieved by partnering with trad pub in these countries.

With Google and similar search engines it’s no big deal to find publishers and agents overseas, and there are a number of websites that specialise in such information, complete with useful email addresses and contacts.

But when your English-language email lands in the inbox of the Vietnamese or Korean secretary who doesn’t speak English, always assuming it has survived the local spam filter, what chance they will then bother to track down someone in the company that does speak English? More likely the secretary is as far as your email will get.

You might have just blown your chance of getting a trad pub deal to get your bestseller translated and in book stores in a remote land.

Don’t go assuming foreign publishers will only be interested in the “big name” authors. The reality is those foreign publishers will of course be interested, but simply won’t be able to afford them.

On the other hand your respectably-selling indie title that doesn’t come with demands for a huge advance and special treatment might be perfect for them to expand their portfolio.

And don’t assume that your particular book won’t be of interest because it’s set in the US or UK and has absolutely no connection with the rest of the world.

Sugar & Spice is a dark crime thriller set in obscure parts of the UK and heavily reliant on the detail of the British criminal justice system, with lots of British prison slang and absolutely nothing to suggest it would appeal to readers in, say, France or China. But the translations have topped the charts in both countries. And I do mean topped. So far it’s the only western indie title to reach #1 on Amazon China.

Another factor that gives indies an advantage is list-price. A title that sells at 9.99 in the US is not going to fare well at a similar price in Vietnam, Turkey of Indonesia, but if you’ve been happily selling at 2.99 or less in the US and UK you are hardly going to object if the foreign publisher prices you low in their country.

But that’s all pretty academic if you can’t get their attention in the first place because your English-language email doesn’t get past the company secretary.

But there’s a simple solution. Invest $5 of £5 on a Fiverr or Fivesquid translation service.

Check out these sites and you’ll find no end of people offering to translate anything from 500 words to 2,000 words of English text into just about any language you’ll likely to need, and for just a fiver.

That could get expensive for a translation of a novel, but for a short query letter it’s perfect.

I’m just about to approach publishers in Vietnam and Korea. Having final-drafted the first-contact letter (which should be kept brief, so 500 words should be ample) I’ll be paying £5 a time to a translator to turn that letter into fluent Vietnamese and Korean.

Here’s an English-Korean translator on Fiverr (by way of example, not a recommendation). (LINK)

And here’s a Vietnamese translator. (LINK) Again an example, not a recommendation.

When you compose your English-language template do remember to include a note that you don’t speak/read Vietnamese, Korean or whatever and if they can reply in English that would be greatly appreciated, but not essential.

If the foreign-language reply is brief you can run it through Google translate to get the core meaning, and if the reply is positive then invest another fiver to get it professionally translated back into English so there’s no misunderstandings about what’s on offer.

DO NOT use Google translate to get a cheap translation of your letter to the publisher. At best it will be a poor translation and look unprofessional, saying more about you than your book, and at worst it could be complete gobbledegook.

If you have translated titles out in the big wide world, whether direct, through Babelcube or Fiberread, or through a publisher, it could also be well worth spending a fiver to get short blog posts and other promo tweets, etc) prepared.

Anyone using Blogger or WordPress for their English-language blogs will have seen those wonderful maps showing where your traffic is coming from, and this could be a great indicator of where you (and potentially your books) are finding interest overseas among English-language readers, and where you might therefore want to focus your global aspirations.

We are witnesses to, and can be party to, a global New Renaissance quite unprecedented in human history.

We have unprecedented reach and unprecedented opportunities.

Don’t let them pass you by.

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

The Intercontinental Indie Author

WestAfricaPt1-SpanishCover

When it comes to being an international indie author I like to do it from both ends.

The cover for the Spanish translation of Part One of my West Africa travelogue series, “West Africa Is My Back Yard, came in overnight. Now to format, upload and get it distributed around the world. But it already has more global credentials than you might expect.

Written right here in The Gambia in West Africa, it was translated into Spanish by a translator in Argentina in South America, and the cover was made by my regular designer in Indonesia in Asia. The English-language version has already seen sales as far apart as France, India and Brazil, but I’m looking forward to getting this title into multiple languages.

Most indies never give translations of their works a second thought because they believe

a) translations are unaffordable,

b) getting new covers in lots of different languages will require a second mortgage

c) no-one knows what ebooks are in the rest of the world, and

d) that the overseas markets are the exclusive preserve of the big-name authors with big-name publishers behind them.

Well, this particular book is pretty niche. A Spanish translation of a West Africa travelogue by a British ex-pat in one of the less-travelled parts of the world is hardly likely to set the charts on fire.

Is it worth an indie spending thousands on translators and hundreds on covers? For a proven bestseller, yes. For a niche title like this, no.

Which is where translator-partnerships and shoestring budgeting comes in.

I’ve covered the translation options before. (LINK)

For this title my Spanish-language translator in Argentina comes courtesy of Babelcube. No upfront costs.

And the cover cost me just five British pounds (about eight US dollars) from my Indonesian designer who plies his services on Fivesquid, the UK equivalent of Fiverr.

A few days ago I needed an update to another cover I’d first bought several years ago and paid $150 for. When I approached the designer she said it would cost me another fifty bucks to make the alteration and it would be a week before she would get to do it.

So I sent the cover to another designer I use on Fivesquid, in Romania, and the cover came back within four hours exactly as I wanted it, and cost me just a fiver.

Which is the same price I pay for all my translation covers and many of my originals now.

So far this month I’ve bought ten covers for my translated titles. At $100 a time that would have cost me a grand. At $50 a time that would have cost me $500.

Using the fiver sites I get ten covers for my translations for just $50.

As I do my own formatting that means each translation that goes live costs me just $5, and even a niche audience title like this one, aimed at a nascent market where ebook take-up is embryonic, can earn out in no time.

As I’ve said before (LINK) you can turn one title into six just by partnering with a translator and getting that title translated and selling in five different languages as well as English. One title becomes six without you writing an extra word.

Do that for two titles and those two titles become twelve.

Get five titles into five languages plus the English originals and your five title portfolio is suddenly a thirty title portfolio.

And somewhere down the road you’ll not only have new income streams but may just find yourself a truly international best-selling author.

It’s 2015, not 2009. The opportunities open to indies today are a world apart from just a few years ago when KDP launched and was only available in one country.

With two billion smartphones out there across the globe, each one capable of holding your ebooks, we have unprecedented reach and unprecedented opportunities.

Don’t let those opportunities pass you by.

Invest in the future, now.

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

Google’s Android One Launches In Africa. Thoughts On Arabic Translations.

Gunjur-Coastline-Gambia

The View From The Beach

Mark Williams At Large

Pray that you never get quite as obsessed about the global markets as I am.

Awoke this morning about 4.30 am (living in a Muslim West African country it pays to be awake before the dawn chorus call-to-prayer shakes you from beneath the mosquito net) and settled down to check the overnight emails while the water heated for my kickstart coffee.

But who needs coffee when there’s a report on publishing in Vietnam in the in-box?

Now that may be enough to send any normal person straight back into bed, but for me the outside world may not have existed for the next ten minutes, and I came back to reality only when my water pan boiled dry.

Vietnam is not on my recommended list right now because of state controls and other difficulties facing “foreign” authors, and for ebook-reliant indies only Google Play among the Big 5 retailers has an ebook store serving Vietnam, although you can get in through regional micro-aggregators like e-Sentral.

But while I’m not recommending Vietnam should be anyone’s priority target, I have to confess Vietnam is a personal priority for me, a) because I love a crazy challenge, and b) because I sincerely believe in the global New Renaissance. I’ll be making strenuous efforts to get at least some of my titles translated and available to Vietnam’s 90 million pepulation before 2016 is over.

The other priority for me is Africa. Not just because I live here, but because there are over a billion people on this continent and in the new globile (global mobile) world every one of them is a potential reader of our books.

So I had just refilled the water pan and was looking forward to my first coffee of the day when I felt that all-too-familiar adrenalin rush as another email in the in-box caught my eye. Google’s Android One has finally launched in Africa!

Cue second Happy Dance of the morning. 🙂

I’ve long said Google would lead the way in bringing the internet and western ebooks to Africa beyond the borders of South Africa (where currently Kobo and Google Play operate but there is no iBook ZA store and Amazon surcharges South African readers).

While a Google Play Book store has yet to happen, the new Android One initiative brings it a big step closer, with Google Android One phones (in partnership with Hong Kong’s Infinix) now available in Nigeria, Morocco, Egypt, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Kenya – which by no coincidence whatsoever are among the wealthiest nations on the continent, and the ones I identified would be Google priorities a year or so ago.

There are ebook stores in Africa already (notably South Africa via OverDrive, and in Nigeria) but these are not easy access for western indies. But this latest move by Google is a big step forward, presaging not just Google Play Books stores in the not too distant future, but also laying the foundations for the rest of the Big 5 to look more closely at the continent.

Of those six countries Android One has just launched in, three are English-speaking – Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana – and English is of course widely spoken in the others. The first language of Ivory Coast and Morocco is French, so an easy target for our French translations, and Morocco and Egypt are of course also Arabic-speaking nations.

I’ve spoken often about the prospective opportunities in the Middle East and North Africa as the Arabic-speaking world gets noticed by the Big 5 retailers, and Google and Kobo are leading the way.

And while Arabic translations of your works are unlikely to bring you great rewards any time soon, don’t rush to dismiss Arabic as a worthwhile investment.

Arabic is the sixth most widely spoken language in the world, with over twenty-five Arabic-speaking countries. Total population over 400 million.

• Algeria
• Bahrain
• Chad
• Comoros
• Djibouti
• Egypt
• Eritrea
• Iraq
• Israel
• Jordan
• Kuwait
• Lebanon
• Libya
• Mauritania
• Morocco
• Oman
• Palestine
• Qatar
• Saudi Arabia
• Somalia
• South Sudan
• Sudan
• Syria
• Tunisia
• United Arab Emirates (UAE)

In all these countries smartphones are widespread, and many of these countries have wealthy and literate populations. The biggest hindrances to our ebook reach here are the usual twin-fold problems of availability (I think it safe to say Amazon blocks downloads to all these countries and Apple has no iBooks stores here) and accessibility (ie readers being able to make payments without credit cards).

Over the next five years we’ll see those issues confronted and solved as some of the Big 5 western retailers rise to the challenge.

And be prepared for an eastern operator to emerge in the nascent markets like these and run with the ball, rolling out ebook accessibility on a truly global scale.

The global New Renaissance is real. It’s happening right now.

Already we have reach quite unimaginable just five years ago. In another five years it’s a safe bet most of these countries, along with most of the rest of the world, will have both availability and accessibility to our titles.

Chasing Arabic translations right now might seem like a waste of time and energy. But get real.

The savvy author prepares for the future, and the future is globile. A global mobile market where digital products are accessible to everyone, everywhere on the planet.

Don’t wait until the train has left the station before you buy your ticket. Think about the next five years, not the next five weeks.

Mark Williams international

The Future Is Globile!

Gunjur-Coastline-Gambia

The View From The Beach

Mark Williams At Large

With India set to surpass the USA as the second-largest smartphone market after China, there’s never been a better time to start taking the global ebook scene – and especially India – seriously.

“While it often seems the tech world revolves around the US”, said VentureBeat earlier this month, “this next decade is shaping up to be quite different.” (LINK)

Well, no surprise there. I’ve been saying a long while now that the centre of digital gravity is shifting east. I’ve also been saying that there are some two billion people out there that hold a device that they could be reading our ebooks on.

And that number is growing by the day.

As the same VentureBeat post reports, global smartphone sales (not total, just new sales) will increase from 1.5 billion this year to 1.7 billion in 2017.

India will play a big part in that, with 118 million smartphones being sold in India this year. By 2017 the figure is expected to be 175 million.

And that may well be a very conservative estimate.

I’ve often talked here about Xiaomi, the upstart start-up in China that went from nowhere to become the number one smartphone maker in the country. They also sell ebooks, and as an aside are setting up an English-language ebook section in their Chinese store this year.

This month it has been announced Xiaomi are setting up their own manufacturing plant in India, which will bring down costs and make even more smartphones affordable to Indian consumers. (LINK)

Not to be outdone, Google recommitted to its exciting Android One project in India. (LINK)

Amazon of course is investing massively in India, and so, somewhat belatedly, is Apple, which saw 93% growth in India sales of its ebook-friendly iPhone 6 in April-June of this year following a big TV promotional campaign.

There isn’t an iBooks India store yet, but that will come. Meanwhile Apple devices are just one more instrument on which consumers in India can read our ebooks.

The problem of course – and the excuse we can all hide behind to avoid taking this seriously – is that India has only a woeful 19% internet penetration right now.

Nineteen percent! Now worth bothering with, right?

Let’s just knuckle down with the easy US market. The USA has 86% of its population online after all. An impressive 280 million people.

Why spare a second thought for India’s measly 19%?

Here’s why: That measly 19% equates to almost 245 million people. Just 25 million people short of the US number, and India is barely off the starting grid.

India needs just a 3% increase in internet take-up to equal the USA. A 5% increase will push India significantly ahead, and a 10% increase will leave the USA far behind.

Imagine what a 25% increase will do…

And then, if you brain can take the strain, give some thought to the rest of the world where internet access is also becoming “the norm”.

With projects like Google’s Loon and Facebook’s Aquila set to transform the way the less accessible parts of the world connect to the net, we are just at the start of an incredible journey.

Just last month Google announced a deal with the government of Sri Lanka to bring internet access to every part of the country via the Google Loon balloon project.

Facebook are already committed to connecting the Third World with the internet, as we see with their innovative (if controversial) internet.org initiative.

But with the Aquila drones project they quite literally move to new highs. Sixty thousand feet, in fact, which is where the Aquila drones will be flying.

While Amazon is working on drones that will one day deliver your POD book to someone’s door, Facebook’s solar-powered Aquila drones – each the size of a Boeing 747 – will be delivering your ebooks to places that right now can only dream of connecting to the internet.

But no need to wait for the Loon and Aquila projects to turn science fiction into reality.

Science fiction is already a reality for the over two billion people who now hold a device they could read our ebooks on.

Three billion is just around the corner, and five billion is on the cards as Loon and Aquila come of age to deliver the net, and as smartphone proliferation (and whatever comes to make them obsolete) escalates.

And that escalation might just exceed our wildest expectations.

Last year I reported on Xiaomi’s fabled flash-sales, when they would sell 40,000 smartphones in less than five seconds.

That is soooo last year. This past week Letv, another of those upstart startups we’ve never heard of, sold one million smartphones in just ninety days. (LINK)

In author terms, that’s one million devices that could be holding your ebooks, sold in just three months.

With 86% net penetration the USA’s 240 million internet users, important though they will remain, are just one small fraction of the reach we indie authors have right now, let alone the incredible reach we will have in five years time.

As indie authors we can and of course should all stay focused on the big western market(s) that sustains us now.

But it’s not rocket science to see the way things are going.

The US and UK markets are not going to get any less crowded with titles. Just the opposite.

• Fact: more and more people are self-publishing for the first time, producing a ton of new titles that compete for visibility and reader’s dollars with ours.

• Fact: more and more established indies are upping their output as they grow in confidence and keep churning out new titles. All competing with ours.

• Fact: more and more trad pub titles are seeing their contracts time out and rights revert. Guess what. The authors of those books are going to slap a cover on them and re-release, flooding the market with even more titles that will compete with ours.

• Fact: trad pub, instead of keeling over and waving its legs in the air as seemed to be the consensus view back in 2011-12, is going to churn out even more ebooks, flooding the market with more titles that will compete with ours.

• Fact: it’s not just fiction ebooks we have to worry about. Smartphones and tablets make great reading devices for the many areas of non-fiction and children’s fiction which, back in the dark ages of black & white ereaders, were an insignificant part of the market. All these new titles will be competing with ours.

• Fact: comics and graphic novels, not so long ago insignificant in the digital reading scheme of things, is now directly competing for readers’ attention. And often on the exact same device those readers will be reading our books on.

• Fact: it’s not just a tsunami of new reading material that we have to compete against. Digital games, digital music, digital film and TV, audio-books, social media… All right there on the same device as our ebooks.

And all this stuff is still in its infancy.

We know how hard it is already to get noticed in the e-stores if we aren’t big names or do not have a well-established brand. The future is just going to be more and more authors chasing an ever smaller slice of the American and British pies. Pies that, put simply, haven’t got much more room to grow.

Because let’s face it, even if US internet penetration increased to 100% and every single man, woman, child and baby in America was connected we’d be talking less than 350 million people.

Now that may sound a big number, but bear in mind we’re already talking 240 million right now.

The number of authors and titles competing for those readers’ attention is growing much faster than the number of readers who have attention to give.

So what’s a savvy indie author to do?

Well, we could take a step back, take a deep breath, and spend just a fraction of that time and effort we currently spend fighting for a share of the US and UK markets and invest in the future, laying the foundations for a truly global presence in a truly global market beyond our shores.

Because mobile is going global, and where mobile goes, the savvy indie authors ebooks will go too.

Make no mistake, the future of the internet is global mobile. And here I exert my right as an author to invent words and lay claim to the word “globile” to summarise this new phenomenon.

The nascent markets are going to expand at a phenomenal rate over the next decade, as the developing countries simply skip that expensive and cumbersome desktop and cable phase we grew up with, and go straight from no internet access to a globile world where everyone and their camel has a mobile device in their hands.

And for savvy indie authors this presents us with incredible opportunities, because just like the US market in 2010 and the UK market in 2011, the globile markets are still pretty much an open goal for those authors willing to go the extra mile.

While the individual globile markets may not (China aside) be as big as the US market, they collectively already pack a punch and can deliver a healthy chunk of change.

And in five years time…

Where will you be an author brand in 2020?

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

Ebook Bargains UK

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