As we start 2016, ponder this round-up of global publishing news on which 2015 ended, and take time out to reflect just how far we’ve come from those heady days of 2009 when the global ebook market was, for all practical purposes, the USA.
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Readers in far-flung lands.
When it comes to distant lands you don’t get much more isolated than Rapa Nui. That’s Easter Island to us outsiders.
Its nearest inhabited neighbour is Pitcairn Island (of Mutiny on the Bounty fame) a thousand kilometres away, and the nearest mainland is Chile in South America, 3,500 kilometres distant.
Easter Island is about to get free wi-fi as part of a great initiative across Chile to make the internet available free to Chileans everywhere for thirty minutes a day. (LINK)
It’s a fine example of how our ebooks are now potentially available anywhere in the world.
As we start 2016, with literally half the world owning a smartphone, indie authors have unprecedented reach and unparalleled opportunities to find, engage with and, yes, sell, our books around the globe.
For much of the past five years I’ve been a lone voice in the wilderness advising indie authors to prepare for the global mobile future.
But as we kick off 2016 the globile (global mobile) markets are hot news on the indie circuit as more and more indie authors look beyond our own borders and embrace the opportunities globile offers us.
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The India goldrush is coming.
Obviously with a population of just 5,000 Easter Island is not going to be a primary focus for anyone looking to sell ebooks globally.
For that we need to turn our attention to India, for example, where 4G roll-out continues apace, driven leap-frog style by the take-up of smartphones in the country.
Earlier this year India became the sixth largest book market on the planet, and the second largest English-language book market, pushing the UK into third place.
For those who wrongly believe print is not worth bothering with, ebook take-up remains in single figures as a percentage of the overall book market, but when we’re talking such big numbers even small fractions can be interesting.
But what really matters is the direction.
Flipkart may have just closed its ebook store in India, but even before that Amazon was reporting a 200% increase in ebook sales year on year. (LINK)
The Indian telco Idea Cellular is the latest to roll-out 4G, this time across southern India, with further expansion through 2016. (LINK)
As 4G roll-out accelerates so does smartphone embrace, which in turn accelerates 4G roll-out, which sparks further smartphone take-up, and so on.
I’ve covered India many times over the past year exploring how mobile internet is rolling out across the country.
China if of course bigger than India, far more internet-enabled and with far more prospective readers, but in terms of access and language India is, as we kick off 2016, the most exciting prospect on the planet for indie authors looking ahead.
India already has more people connected to the internet than the USA has people in it, and with another billion Indians on target to connect over the next five years it’s not rocket science to work out that the India book market alone, let alone the collected global markets, will, in time, dwarf the US market.
Savvy indies will be staking our claims now for the goldrush to come.
Not sure how? Stay tuned. I’ll be kicking off the New Year with some Going Globile guides to the international markets, for everyone from beginners just venturing out into the global publishing arena to advanced internationalists looking to fine-tune their global presence.
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Kobo now has a Wattpad section in its ebook store.
It’s still not clear exactly what Kobo and Wattpad are planning, but what is clear is that Kobo and Wattpad are collaborating to bring exposure to Wattpad authors who are on Kobo. (LINK)
Several industry blogs have carried versions of this story with wildly different assertions, but I think all of them are missing the point.
What I think we’re seeing is Kobo working with Wattpad to build its profile in Wattpad’s stronghold regions, while adding value to Wattpad for content-suppliers to keep fresh blood coming on board.
Kobo is the only really international store right now. Google Play and Apple have 60+ and 50+ global stores respectively, but no reach beyond those countries.
Amazon? There may be a massive dropdown list of countries in the KDP account that we all tick rights to, but the reality is Amazon blocks downloads to much of the world and imposes a Whispernet surcharge of $2-$4 – even on free ebooks.
Kobo understands it cannot compete with Amazon in any meaningful way in most of the countries where Amazon has dedicated Kindle stores, but the rest of the world where Amazon is surcharging readers or blocking downloads is a potential open goal.
Wattpad strongholds like the Philippines, for example, where Wattpad has its own TV show that goes out four nights a week, but no-one can buy ebooks from Amazon or Apple.
If Kobo can deliver sales to Wattpad authors then that’s a win-win for Kobo, Wattpad and the authors. Those authors will be more likely to put more content on Wattpad in the future, boosting Wattpad’s appeal.
Wattpad has its own revenue-generating angles connecting Wattpad content-suppliers with publishers, TV and film producers, etc. Kobo authors who are also on Wattpad are in with a chance.
But of course the main reason for being on Wattpad is to find our future paying readers.
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Twenty Percent of Kindle India’s Top 100 Titles Are Self-Published.
So says Neal Thompson, Amazon’s director for author and publishing relations. (LINK)
The “long-term goal in India is to expand into other languages”, says Thompson.
That’s not entirely encouraging.
I’ve no idea what sort of obstacles are presented in embracing the numerous Indian languages for the Kindle India store, but ebook retailers like Rockstand and Dailyhunt (as well as several smaller players) have no problem handling content in multiple local languages.
I suspect the issue is more about Amazon’s overall target audience, which is a niche of middle class India for whom English is the norm and they have bank cards available to pay for goods.
The majority of Indians do not speak English and do not have bank cards, so are not on Amazon India’s radar right now. Whereas Rockstand and Dailyhunt specialise in alternative payment options such as carrier billing
At which point some may be asking, is it worth bothering with other Indian languages at this stage?
That’s a big yes from me!
This is a great opportunity for indie authors to get local-language translations out on the ebook stores that do cater for the majority of Indians who don’t speak English, many millions of whom are holding a smartphone in their hands
With Amazon catering for just one local Indian language, Hindi, and with only 100 titles available, there’s not only an open goal on Amazon but of course also a chance to find readers using other ebook stores.
Getting my catalogue translated into, and selling in, multiple Indian languages is a firm priority for 2016.
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For most indie authors print is an afterthought – “let’s add a POD edition to our ebook versions” – rather than an integral part of our business plan.
So here’s a thought to start 2016 on.
As of early December some 571 million print books were sold in the US in 2015, and that’s not taking into account the December Christmas surge. Yet already that was an increase of some 20 million on 2014, when a mere 559 million print titles were sold.
So much for the death of print.
We can all argue to suit our agenda whether ebook sales are still increasing or static, but one thing is clear. The much-predicted demise of print just isn’t happening.
Even in the romance sector.
Harlequin (now part of HarperCollins), which at one point hit the magical 50-50 digital/print mark, has seen that figure waver this year in print’s favour.
Some are “blaming” the increase in ebook prices by the Big 5 for boosting print, but that’s a spurious argument.
For starters only a tiny fraction of Big 5 front-list titles have seen their prices rise. Mostly Big 5 backlist ebook prices compare well with indie prices. Not convinced? Try signing up to the Big 5 newsletters and see what is really on offer.
But there’s a more important message there.
Readers are buying more print books from corporate publishers because, we are being told, corporate publishers have raised the price of their ebooks.
So let’s get this straight. Faced with a hike in ebook prices, rather than gravitate to the supposedly much cheaper indie ebooks available, readers instead shell out high prices for a corporate published print book in preference to taking a risk on a self-published title. Hmmm.
A more likely explanation why print in continuing to hold its own against competition from ebooks is that we are seeing an increase in reading overall as the New Renaissance builds momentum.
More ways to access and consume content combines with new ways to discover content across all media.
Far more people watch TV and listen to music of their choice now than they ever did in the old days of analogue, even though market fragmentation means less people are likely to gravitate to one particular TV programme or one music act.
Print overall is finding more readers even as the overall sales numbers for most top brands decline slightly.
Of course, more reading can only stretch so far. There are only so many hours in the day and so many dollars to splurge on books, or something else entirely.
One reason why trad pub is doing well is that it is catering for new niches.
Simon & Schuster CEO Carolyn Reidy noted the rise of coloring books and of books by YouTube stars. “Neither of these categories was a factor before this year,” she said.
For children’s books and non-fiction – thanks in large part to dedicated e-readers being pretty useless for these sectors – print still wins hands down. For Jeff Kinney’s million-selling illustrated Diary of Wimpy Kid: Old School 95% of sales were for print.
Adult fiction fared better. Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer Prize-winning All the Light We Cannot See divided equally between print and digital.
Harper Lee’s “Go Set a Watchman sold in hardcover by a ratio of 4-to-1 over the e-book.
Romance author Jennifer Ryan was first published digitally in 2013 through Avon Impulse, and did very well. This year another of her novels was finally published in print.
“When I got into the paperback market and was in bookstores I thought my e-books would outsell my paperbacks because people knew me just through e-books,” she said. “But over the last year or so the digital sales have gone down a little and my paperback sales have gone up. I have talked to other author-friends, and they have seen the same thing.” (LINK)
Indies don’t see that balance between digital and print because, with a handful of exceptions, we indies treat print as an afterthought rather than part of our core business strategy. Our loss.
But the point of raising these print-related stories here is this: If print is still doing so well in the USA, all this time after ebooks became a serious player in the US reading market, imagine the balance in the rest of the world.
As we Go Globile in 2016, remember that global mobile is about reaching readers across all formats, not just ebooks and digital audio.
Countless readers around the globe will be buying print books after reading about them on their smartphones.
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The Final Frontier.
To wind up here today (it’s New Year’s Day so I’m being gentle), let’s return to the Pacific Rim, that region that encompasses the west coast of the Americas all the way across to the east coast of Asia, and the vast Pacific in between.
Obviously the internet is already available, and per Easter Island above.
But by 2018 connectivity will be all the better when the Apstar-5C/Telstar-18 Vantage satellite takes up position to replace Apstar-5/Telstar-18 in a 138 degrees East geostationary orbital slot. (LINK)
atellite operator Telesat procured the new spacecraft from Space Systems Loral (SSL) to expand Telesat’s coverage of growing satellite service markets in China, Mongolia, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Ocean region.
For Tom Clancy fans who need a dose of tech detail it will be using “a combination of broad regional beams and high throughput spot beams in Ku-band to maximise throughput and spectral efficiency…(providing) extensive C-band coverage of Asia that reaches from India and Pakistan in the West all the way to Hawaii in the East, enabling direct connectivity from any point in Asia to the Americas.”
If you’re not a Clancy fan, no need to get hung up on the technical details. They are no more relevant to us than the specs for Facebooks’s Aquila drones or Google’s Project Loon.
What matters is that this satellite (not the first, and it won’t be the last) are just one more way in which our titles can and will be delivered to people literally anywhere on the planet.
- If we take the trouble to make our content available where those consumers are
- If we take the trouble to make our content available in formats and languages those consumers can use
- If we take the trouble to make our content available at prices those consumers can afford
- And if we take the trouble to make our content available through retailers/distributors that can take their payments
Sounds like a lot of work? Hey, no-one said going globile was going to be easy.
But if we are serious about becoming international bestselling authors we’ll be doing all these things and much more.
And thoroughly enjoying ourselves while we do so.
Because actually, going globile is the most fun you can have with your clothes on. And somewhere down the road it will be rather lucrative for those who do it properly.
I’m already seeing over a third of my revenue from outside the US/UK and I expect to close in on 50% by the end of this year, and 75% before this decade is over, as the Global New Renaissance blossoms. While still earning from the US and UK markets.
As we count down the last few years of this decade the US and UK markets are just going to get more and more over-crowded. More and more competitive. While the number of readers is going to stay pretty much the same.
Think about the next five years, not the next five weeks.
Go globile in 2016.
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