It’s almost time to say goodbye to 2015 and start the countdown to the end of this decade.
It may be 2016 in a week or so, but 2020 is just around the corner, and if we are serious about our writing careers we need to be thinking about where we will be in 2020, as the era of 5G and the Internet of Things becomes a reality. A global reality.
Personally I’ve got no time for crazy notions like New Year resolutions and Predictions of Things to Come.
If something is worth doing it’s worth doing now. No need to wait for a New Year to arrive to take the plunge.
As for predictions… The future’s not ours to see, but we can anticipate and prepare for the future by simply looking at the trends happening now.
When the latest Author Earnings report talked about the size of the US ebook market compared to the rest of the world it was pretty much spot on.
The US is by far the biggest ebook market by revenue and pretty much the largest by volume.
But a snapshot of how things are today is no guide to how things might be even next year, let alone in 2020.
2020 is going to be as different from 2015 as 2015 is from 2009 when the self-publishing “revolution” began.
E-readers – and specifically the Kindle – changed the ways Americans read. No question. But globile – that is, global mobile – has changed the way the world reads, and not just reads, but consumes TV, film music, radio, games, audio… you name it.
The Global New Renaissance that sounded so fantastical when I first started talking about it back in 2011, is now a reality.
We have unparalleled reach, not just as authors, but as content-providers across media, that was quite inconceivable even ten years ago, and pretty improbable just five years ago.
So bear with me today as I present some recent news stories that demonstrate just how much and how fast the world is changing, offering us unprecedented opportunities in 2016 and beyond.
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Bricks & Mortar Bookstores Sales Rose 6.9% in October.
It’s a strange old world.
More than five years after the ebook pioneers declared print to be redundant and the Borders closure to be conclusive proof that bookstores were dead in the water, print adamantly refuses to tow the line.
In October print sales in bricks and mortar stores across the US inconsiderately rose 6.9% compared to October 2014, following an equally inconsiderate year on year rise of 6.7% in September.
Given the time of year it’s beyond improbable that we are going to see any change to that pattern for November and December.
Which begs the question, what is happening out there?
It’s a fact that the biggest rise in ebook sales, seemingly at the expense of print, came in the era of dedicated e-reading devices.
E-readers are still available, and far cheaper than before, and so now are gazillions of smartphones, meaning people have a means to read ebooks whether they have an e-reader or not.
Ebooks are (mostly) cheap, there are literally millions to choose from, and there are any number of subscription services where you can read for next to nothing, and God knows how many free ebooks available such that we need never pay to read a book ever again.
We ought to be shifting tons more ebooks and seeing print spiral into oblivion.
But it just ain’t happening.
That’s not to say ebooks are fading away. Ebooks are here to stay. But for the foreseeable future so is print.
And as we hurtle into 2016 we should all be looking very carefully at our print options.
Revamping all my print titles has been a priority for me for 2016 simply because I’ve not had decent enough internet to do it properly until the last few months (for any newcomers, I live in West Africa), but the latest figures emerging add to the urgency of the task.
It’s easy for indie authors to relegate print to a secondary consideration because of the issues getting access to bricks and mortar stores, but the difficulties are nowhere near as big as we’d like to think (it’s always far easier to avoid a hurdle than try to jump it cleanly and move forward) if we do some homework and embrace more than just the obvious first port of call for POD that is Creatspace.
Not that there’s anything wrong with CreateSpace, but if we aspire to sales in bricks and mortar stores, at home and globally, we need to have more than one POD operator in our toolbox.
And the bricks and mortar stores excuse anyway does not stand up to close scrutiny. for the simple reason that so many print sales actually take place online.
It’s important to remember that it wasn’t ebooks that put Borders out of the game. It was the online sales of print titles.
Yet most indie authors treat print as an afterthought. We are, collectively, ebook authors, some of whom dabble in other formats.
Print has somehow survived the past five years of turmoil in the US, and will yet survive the next five years.
And globally… Print is still king and as internationalist authors we will all be missing major opportunities ahead if we ignore print as the Global New Renaissance unfolds.
Because smartphones aren’t just a place to read our ebooks. They are also a shop window to the global bookstores selling our print titles.
And it’s an amusing thought that smartphones, which ought to be sounding the death knell of print, are actually helping global print sales, by increasing discoverability among global print readers.
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Audiobooks Outselling Print by 4-1
This Marketwatch story (LINK) should be taken as anecdotal, in that only a handful of authors are seeing this phenomena right now – but indicative of the future.
As I’ve been saying since 2011, audio-books will form an important part of the Global New Renaissance as digital enables listeners anywhere to embrace our titles.
These reports of authors giving up their day-jobs on the strength of audio may be few and far between, but this is going to happen more and more.
The problem, as ever, is distribution, with very few outlets available for global a-book sales. But that’s already changing, and over the next few years will change all the more.
ACX is the obvious and probably easiest option for indies to go the audio route, and a good place to start, but it’s not the only option.
As indie authors we have somehow managed to sort our own production of ebooks. So it’s certainly within our capacity to make similar arrangements for audio and keep more control of our work.
Now I’m finally fully internet-enabled here in West Africa a-books are a top priority for me for 2016, and I’ll be exploring further the possibilities for both production and distribution of audio in a series of posts in the new year.
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Mickey Mouse Goes To Beijing.
If we were still having any doubts about whether China might be interested in our western culture, Alibaba laid that crazy notion to rest with the announcement that Disney’s content will be streaming to China next year, and included in the deal will be a year’s subscription to Disney Life, which has Disney ebooks as part of its package. (LINK)
This comes hard on the heels of a report in Publishers Weekly saying “The Chinese market is hungry for U.S. children’s book content, ”
More on that report and other exciting prospects unfolding in China, in a future post.
But first, let’s get to grips with just how big the China market is going to be.
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China To Hit A Half Billion 4G Users By End 2016.
China Mobile is leading a crusade in China to double the number of 4G users in the country over the next twelve months, with 500 million people expected to be 4G connected in China by this time next year. (LINK)
It’s not clear how many of those will be upgrading from 3G rather than new users, but safe to assume China’s total internet engagement will be well over a billion people.
China remains one of the most exciting places on the planet for indie authors. And as the barriers to global engagement with China continue to tumble it can only get more and more exciting as we head into 2016.
As the deal with Alibaba and Disney Life (see above) clearly shows, China is hungry for western culture.
Western publishers know that. They are piling in both English-language titles and translations, and seeing great results.
Indies too. Regular readers will know a few western indies have done rather well in China, even (no names mentioned) hitting #1 in the Kindle China store in 2014, and many more have hit the top ten this year.
2016 holds untold possibilities and hard-to-exaggerate opportunities for indie authors willing to take fair Cathay seriously.
China isn’t easy to get into. But nor is it a closed shop.
China should be on the radar of all internationalist indie authors in 2016.
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The Future Of The Big 5 Is Multi-Media. How About For Us Indies?
HarperCollins continues to embrace the digital Global New Renaissance, having just teamed up with the video production company Insurrection Media to option and develop books in sci-fi, drama and comedy for both digital video and linear television series. (LINK)
They will “jointly identify key titles that are most compelling and suitable for video series and then co-develop and produce shows to be owned and distributed by Insurrection in the U.S. and overseas on a multitude of over-the-top and linear video platforms.”
Just one more way in which trad pub, far from being destroyed by digital as we were assured would happen back in the early days of the “self-publishing revolution”, is in fact embracing digital to add value to its operations.
And for most indies this will just widen the gap between successful trad pub authors and successful indie authors.
While indie authors’ works can and do get optioned for other media productions (earlier this year David Gaughran reported one of his books getting optioned for film – LINK), instances of this happening are few and far between, not least because generally only the most successful and high profile indies are going to get noticed in the first place.
Meanwhile it’s well worth us looking at our existing titles and pondering what other media they might work well in, and also looking at our future production with multi-media built in as we write.
Back when I was writing for TV the constraints were dreadful. To keep down costs concepts had to be “int” (indoor, so studio produced, not expensive outdoor shoots) with as few speaking cast as possible (speaking actors cost more than walk-ons), etc, etc. The list of what to avoid was a book in itself. Modern production is a world apart.
The only real issue for adaptations to mainstream video now is momentum and timing (does the story carry forward evenly and will it break down into twenty/fifty minute segments or will it cram into a 90-120 minute film production.
For those of us writing series, and especially novella length, it would take little adjustment to write more visually with a video adaptation in mind.
In the Philippines Wattpad leads the way, with Wattpad TV going out four nights a week with video adaptation of Wattpad titles. Aimed at a Filipino audience, of course, but only a matter of time before this becomes a feature in countless countries.
Amazon is already moving in this direction with its own studios, and the logical next step for the Amazon is to adapt its imprint titles to video.
The US ebook market is going to get tougher and tougher next year, making diversity both at home and abroad, in content, content distribution and content format, absolutely essential if we are to keep moving forward.
The opportunities ahead are incredible. But only if we can not just step outside of, but take great strides away from, the “I’m a one-market ebook writer” box that characterises most indie authors today.
As for staying in the comfort zone of being a one-market ebook author, check out the next story to see just why I think that’s a bad strategy.
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Reality Check: Glut Of Scripted TV Content Troubles Hollywood.
So says this Wall Street Journal piece. (LINK)
Needless to say the Reality Check bit is mine.
Market fragmentation is something I’ve long been warning of, and we see it across all media. Music, TV, film, books, etc.
Put simply, as more and more content producers enter the fray with a means to distribute, so the competition for eyeballs, ears and consumers’ cash becomes more and more fierce.
We saw this clearly with television in bygone days as multi-channel broadcasting became the norm. The average number of viewers for a TV programme today is a fraction of what it was thirty years ago when viewers had very little choice about what to watch.
We saw it with music as it became easier for smaller bands to get noticed, specialist radio stations and record labels proliferated, and production was digitalised.
And we see it with books. Readers have more and more books to choose from and more opportunities to discover new material.
But at the end of the day there are only so many viewers, listeners and readers to absorb this tsunami of new content being flung at us from all directions catering for every imaginable niche in any format we want.
Nowadays corporate film, TV, music and book producers clearly understand this, and they all look to global reach to keep their businesses viable.
Whether it’s the latest Hollywood blockbuster, the latest Marvel TV show, the latest Taylor Swift album or the latest Lee Child Jack Reacher novel, it’s a given these will be available worldwide to a global audience ion multiple formats and will rake in a ton of cash by being so.
Indie authors, not so much.
And while it’s true there are practical limitations to our global reach, the single biggest obstacle to indie success in the international markets is our own collective unwillingness to engage.
As globile internet takes hold we have unparalleled opportunities to reach audiences in places and formats totally off-limits even five years ago.
Or we can carry on partying like its 2009 and wonder why its getting harder and harder to get anywhere.
Go globile in 2016!
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From Russia With Love.
Over in the Russian Federation telco Rostelecom has extended its fibre coverage to 30 million households, with plans for further advances in 2016.
While not a priority engagement right now, everyone should have Russia on their radar.
Google Play is there, and of course Bookmate. Both accessible through StreetLib.
I’ve just signed up my two translator-partners for the Russian language and one for Ukrainian, and I’m looking forward to seeing my titles available to Russian, Ukrainian and CIS readers in 2016.
Currently Russian is not supported in Amazon’s KDP account, but there have been indications Amazon is planning a Kindle RU store. But don;t wait until that happens to start your Russian-language catalogue.
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Vodafone India Begins its 4G Roll-Out.
The Global New Renaissance is driven by globile – that is, global mobile.
It’s very much a leap-frog affair as 3G smartphones encourage people to buy smartphones which then justify 4G expansion which encourage even more people to get smartphones.
Vodafone India has just begun its 4G roll-out across India, (LINK) which will accelerate the take-up of smartphones across the country.
Literally half the world now own a smartphone. Over three billion people.
A reminder, if needed, that every single smartphone in the world is a potential home for our ebooks, audiobooks and other digital offerings.
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Instagram Is Already Bigger Than Twitter. Pinterest Won’t Be Far Behind.
Two new acquisitions by Pinterest strongly suggest the direction Pinterest is heading. As a major e-commerce player. (LINK)
The first five years of the “ebook revolution” have been dominated by one country, one retailer and two social media platforms.
The next five years are going to be dramatically different.
Not that the US, Amazon and Facebook and twitter won’t continue to play pivotal roles.
But the new world of globile publishing that is now solidifying is very different from what has gone before.
Availability everywhere needs to be combined with discoverability everywhere and buyability everywhere.
A diverse distribution strategy needs to go hand in hand with a diverse social media strategy over the next five years if we are to reach the hundreds of millions of potential readers who do not think Facebook and twitter are the be-all-and-end-all of social media existence.
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Google Steps Up Its Plans To Bring All Indians Online. Indie Authors, Stake Your Claims Now For the Goldrush Coming Soon!
This week Google announced plans to launch a program to train two million new Android developers over the next three years, partnering with more than 30 universities in India.
Google India already one of the biggest Google operations outside the US and is second only to the U.S. in total number of mobile search queries. (LINK)
I reported here back in September how Google planned to get wi-fi to 400 train stations in India, and this week Mumbai Central became the first to go live.
There will be 100 wif-fi train stations connecting 10m million train commuters by this time next year.
I also reported on the wonderful Google Saathi initiative involving Google teams touring the remote Indian countryside by bicycle and teaching rural women how to use their smartphones.
The Saathi project has now reached one thousand villages, and the plan is to reach 300,000 villages over the next three years.
These are just a few among countless initiatives from Google (like youtube offline) that are bringing more and more Indians to the internet each day.
And speaking of youtube, if you ever needed proof that we are witnessing a Global New Renaissance, just check out Youtube Space Mumbai, which also opened this week. (LINK)
“Today’s announcements are just our latest steps in our journey to bring all Indians online and make the Internet more relevant and useful for their needs,” Caesar Sengupta, Google’s VP for Chrome & Android said.
India this summer reached the point where the country has more Indians online than the USA has people. 350 million internet users. Most of them using smartphones that could be carrying our ebooks and audiobooks.
But here’s where it gets really exciting.
As Sengupta notes, “There are still nearly a billion people in India who don’t have access to the Internet.”
Not for much longer!
Any indie authors still not taking India seriously as we wind up 2015 should nip off to Starbucks and down a few treble-espressos.
India is already the second largest English-language book market on the planet (yes, bigger than the UK) and the sixth largest book market overall.
And it can only get bigger and bigger.
Given the hurdles to getting into China right now (it’s possible, but not easy) India remains my number one prospect for the next five years.
Don’t wait for the bandwagons to start rolling.
Stake your claim now for the India goldrush to come.
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Simon & Schuster Report “Significant Growth” In UK in 2015.
Reading the indie blogs recently you could be forgiven for thinking corporate publishing is on its knees once again. Every time a minor downturn in sales/revenue happens we seem to revel in the impending demise of the Big 5.
But of course sales and revenues roller-coast all the time depending on seasonal fluctuations, and of course one-off breakouts. And the Big 5, contrary to popular opinion in some indie circles, are not wholly reliant on the US marketplace for their continued existence.
This week Simon & Schuster are revelling in their global progress. Carolyn Reidy, CEO at S&S, notes,
“All the S&S international arms “turned in outstanding performances this year… with (our) Canadian arm growing faster than the Canadian industry. Australia has also outperformed the industry, gaining market share, strengthening (our) local publishing program, adding new distribution clients and making bestsellers from both US and UK titles. India, meanwhile, will launch its own local publishing program in 2016.”
“…the company’s direct to consumer marketing was ‘seeing terrific results’, with visits to its website up by more than 50%.”
““We are positioned to capitalize on the fast- growing digital audio format which is transforming the audio business,”
Simon & Schuster and the other corporate publishers understand publishing is not a one-retailer, one-country, one-format affair.
Corporate publishing is enjoying the Global New Renaissance.
I’m loving it!
How about you?
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That about winds it up for now. There won’t be much industry news between now and the new year, so this may or may not be the last post of 2015, depending on what happens out there.
But as ever you can keep up on news snippets over at The International Indie Author Facebook Group.
But a final thought as I wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.
I live in a Muslim country in West Africa. Islam has its own calendar and their own new year. So does China and lots of other countries. Their new year does not coincide with ours.
But here in The Gambia, as around the world, Christmas will be celebrated in some way, and the New Year welcomed in as December 31st 2015 becomes January 1st 2016, whatever the local calendar says.
We live in one world where. whatever our differences, we all share a common need to be entertained.
As 2016 rolls in we, as content providers, have more potential reach, across more media, through more formats, in more languages, and to more people, than anyone has ever had at any time in history.
And the Global New Renaissance is only just beginning.
Don’t let it pass you by. Think about the next five years, not the next five weeks.