Monthly Archives: March 2016

Future Watch: Sky Steps Up Its VR Game. What It Means For Indie Authors.

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One of the biggest transformations we’ll see as this decade closes and the era of 5G and the Internet of Things arrives is Virtual Reality.
Virtual Reality (VT) and its cousin Augmented Reality (AR) have been slowly moving from science fiction to science fact for a good few years now, driven by the games industry.
We’ve seen token gestures towards the future, most famously with the VR documentary shown at the premiere of the final Hobbit movie, and I’ve reported here recently on AR books.
But with Sky’s announcement of a dedicated VR production studio (LINK) VR moves firmly into mainstream media.
The tipping point has been improvements in quality, affordability and availability of the headgear required to make VR consumption an experience worth paying a premium for.
The next step is to produce content worth paying for, and that’s where we authors, in time, will be presented with opportunities and challenges.
Opportunities? Expect children’s books, adult erotica and documentary books like cookery and educational titles to become early runners.
No, we don’t have to do crash-courses in VR-scripting to get in on the act. We just need to be pro-active, follow developments, cast our net wide and build contacts who might, for profit-share or as a freelance paid job, do all that for us.
VR/AR is just another sub-licensing opportunity unfolding.
In time it will be another major distraction for consumers who might otherwise by buying and reading our books.
But it will also bring promotional and retail opportunities.
Back in 2011 I sketched a VR future where instead of looking at flat-screen pages of books and having to jump from page to page each time, we could walk around a virtual book-store, see hundreds of books lined up on shelves just like in a book store, step away and be in a different section discovering new books, and be able to pick them up, read them and engage with them, just like in a real book store.
Imagine a full-size box-store in your living room where you can stroll the aisles, select a dozen books and pile them up, then grab a virtual coffee at the virtual coffee bar and sit and flip through each title as if turning real pages, and decide which you want to buy.
And then, having downloaded the title, take it to bed with you and virtual-read it as a book, turning virtually-real pages with your absolutely real fingers, highlighting passages with a virtually-real pen, dog-earing virtually-real pages and, if you’re of the crazed mentality of one patron of my local library a few years ago, rip-out the virtual-last page so the next poor sucker won’t find out how the story ends.
If Amazon (the player most able to afford to make it happen) hasn’t got a VR book store by 2020 I shall be very surprised.
And if that VR book store isn’t replete with VR and AR books I shall be even more surprised.
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The International Indie Author
Looking at the bigger picture.

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For daily news and discussion about the global indie publishing scene join this lively Facebook Group.
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How To List At $0.00 On Amazon. No Exclusivity Or Price-Matching Required.

SFK FREE

Free On Amazon! And No, This Is Not A Self-Promo Post.

Yesterday I took one of my Sherlock For Kids titles out of KDP and uploaded to Amazon by another route and listed the price at $0.00.

Today here it is on Amazon at $0.00 with the immortal words “This price was set by the publisher.”

  • No exclusivity. It’s still on Apple, Kobo, etc.
  • No Select five days free every ninety days. This is free for just as long as I want it to be.
  • No going free on other retailers and just hoping Amazon will price-match, or getting friends to tell Amazon there’s a better price elsewhere. In fact it’s still at 0.99 on several retailers, but free on Amazon.

How? By uploading my title to StreetLib, the Italian aggregator (don’t panic, the site is in English!) that in many ways continues to lead the aggregator pack.

StreetLib’s Anne-Catherine de Fombelle has said this is a six month trial and that she hopes indie authors will use this option wisely. I’m sure we (mostly) will.

Free can be a great tool in our indie tool kit, but as above, indie authors have never had the option to list free on Amazon except a) by going exclusive and being able to list free for five days in Select, or b) going free on another retailer and hoping Amazon will price-match.

Now we have the option to list free on Amazon for as long or as short a time as we like, subject of course to either StreetLib and Amazon not changing the rules down the road.

As part of a multi-book and growing series I hope this title will now find lots of new eyeballs and lots of buys of the rest of the series, both on Amazon and on other retailers.

My thanks to StreetLib for making this option available and working so efficiently.

For those who haven’t used StreetLib before, it has some of the best distribution available from any pay-as-you-sell aggregator, and lots more to commend it too.

There are some downsides – not least the clunky interface – but the StreetLib team are working on that and to bring many new features to StreetLib this year.

But the free-on-Amazon option has to be the best thing they’ve come up with to date.

Do pop along to StreetLib (LINK) and at least check out what they offer. Access to Google Play, for example, and the best Italian and Latin American distribution of any English-language aggregator.

This post first appeared in The International Indie Author Facebook Group (LINK) on 16 March 2016.

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The International Indie Author
Looking at the bigger picture.
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For daily news and discussion about the global indie publishing scene join this lively Facebook Group.

Facebook Lite – Why It’s Good For Indies, BRUSA, Amplifiable Content, And More.

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Facebook Lite Has 100 Million Monthly Active Users After Just Nine Months. Great News For Indie Authors Using Facebook Targetted Advertising To Grow Our Global Audience.

Most of us in the rich west use the internet with scant regard for how much data we consume. A typical plan with our ISP will be “unlimited”. We don’t have to worry about how “big” a site is, or avoid sites with video or fancy graphics because it will eat up our credit in a few minutes.

But in many parts of the world the only affordable way to by data is in sachets – x-megabytes at a time – and when it’s used up we need to go buy some more.

That was a big problem for me here in West Africa not so long ago, and while I now have “unlimited” access to a 4G network and can download what I like, it costs me more per month than most people here will earn in half a year.

Facebook Lite is an app that lets data-conscious internet users access Facebook without having to worry about how much data that attached image or is going to use up, because the Lite app adjusts content to minimise the data needed device by device.

It works great for 4G, 3G and even 2G networks.

The top countries where Facebook Lite is used are Brazil, India, Mexico, Indonesia and the Philippines. By happy coincidence all priority markets as recommended by me for internationalist indies looking to find new audiences.

Facebook Lite means it’s that much easier for authors to connect with people in those countries, and particularly worth bearing in mind for those of us using paid, targetted Facebook ads to reach new audiences. Facebook Lite countries obviously have better potential reach.

In India, for example, Facebook has 142 million active monthly users (69 million accessing FB daily!), but 133 million of that 142 million use the Facebook Lite app.

That’s a lot of people we could be letting know we have books available.

But a gentle reminder here that targetted global promotion needs to go hand in hand with targetted global distribution.

Last year I watched with mild amusement as one author ran targetted ads aimed at the Philippines to promote their ebook on Amazon and then complained bitterly that he’d seen no upturn in sales.

Mild amusement because I’d said to this author time and again that Amazon blocks downloads to the Philippines and most of Asia.

I’ll cover targetted global promotion in detail soon. Here just to note some observations on those top Facebook Lite countries, Brazil, India, Mexico, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Indonesia and the Philippines are both blocked by Amazon and Apple. Nook of course is only a player in the US now. Luckily Kobo and Google Play are available in all five of the top Facebook Lite countries. Kobo also has a partner store in the Philippines – National Book Store.

Brazil and Mexico are catered for by four of the Big 5 retailers, but be aware you’ll only get 35% from Amazon unless you are in Select. Brazil and Mexico both have Kobo partner stores as well as access to the Kobo store itself.

India, bizarrely, is both the largest market and the least well catered for, and here probably Amazon is indeed the best bet. No Nook or Apple, and Kobo and Google Play only have a token presence.

In each country there are domestic ebook stores available, but none are easily accessible, and are best left only to the most serious of internationalists.

Of course all these countries also sell print books, and in far, far,far greater volume than ebooks.

But again, no point in promoting a title unless it is actually available there.

Targetted global promo can get good results. Even better results if using cheap paid-promo like Facebook and twitter ads.

But targetted global promo, paid or free, is pointless if our titles are unavailable or unaffordable in the targetted country.

This post first appeared in The International Indie Author Facebook Group 10 March 2016 (LINK

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New Undersea Cable To Link Brazil And USA in 2018.

Submarine cables are the key to our international internet reach.

While futuristic social infrastructure projects like Google Loon (internet balloons) and Facebook Aquila (internet drones) are soon to join satellites in making the internet available globally, it is submarine cables that will continue to be the mainstay of our globile (global mobile) future.

Spain’s Telefónica is behind the new BRUSA (Brazil-USA if you’ve not yet had your morning coffee) cable, which is going to significantly improve not only existing 2G, 3G and 4G connectivity between the USA and Brazil but also give Brazil a firm foundation for the imminent arrival of 5G.

This in turn greatly accelerates interest in and take up of mobile devices for consuming digital goods.

This new cable link from Telefónica is in addition to its existing Pacific Caribbean Cable System (PCCS), a consortium submarine cable which links Florida, USA with the British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Aruba, Curacao, Colombia, Panama and Ecuador, and the Unisur cable connecting Uruguay and Argentina, and the SAM-1 submarine cable system which forms a 25,000 km ring linking the USA, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

Latin America is already a lucrative market for our digital content, and is just going to get bigger and better as we wind down this decade, move into the era of 5G and the Internet of Things, and move inexorably towards 6G and the Internet of Everything.

The market for digital content is global. It’s driven by mobile.

5G will arrive whether we like it or not, and while it won’t destroy print, it will radically alter our prospects as digital content providers in the future.

Huge opportunities ahead. But also huge challenges.

We all have the option to look the other way and pretend the globile future isn’t happening. But it’s happening anyway.

I’m embracing the globile future.

How about you?

 

This post first appeared in The International Indie Author Facebook Group 10 March 2016 (LINK

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“Amplifiable Content” – A Digital Publishing Buzzword That Might Just Buzz.

When it comes to business buzzwords, they are usually great for comedy, but not much else.

But the term “amplifiable content”, which got the spotlight at DBW this week, is worth a second look.

The tagged report from BookBusiness notes,

“Although social media, in particular Facebook, is often at the top of publishers’ audience growth strategies, organic search is still the top traffic driver.”

That alone is worth pondering.

There’s a common belief in the indie world that the only way we can possibly sell a book is by marketing it to death, spamming everyone day in day out with promo and paying for advertising.

Well, promo certainly helps, of course. If done right. But spamming people isn’t doing it right, and the big question I would be asking is, if our book can’t build its own momentum, do we need maybe to revisit the book?

I’ve sold, to put it mildly, a fair few books over the past half decade. Yet I’ve never run a Bookbub ad, have maybe ratcheted up a dozen promo tweets and FB promo posts over the past year and generally do very, very little promo.

I prefer to just put titles out there and let them find their own way.

No question I’d have sold more if I was more active with marketing, and probably a ton more if I went for (and was lucky enough to secure) a Bookbub ad.

But organic growth is more meaningful than blip-driven growth in the long term.

I see some authors who buy a big ad, race up the charts, and a week later are back in the wilderness and need to do it all over again just to stand still.

That’s blip growth. Instant gratification, but like your average takeaway / carry out meal, you feel hungry again an hour later.

A big ad only pays off long term if backed by plenty of quality content available where the readers are.

If we have that, then organic growth kicks in and big ads and promo can become a supplement to our careers, not the only thing that keep us afloat.

When I hear authors, who have been on the circuit for several years, saying “we can’t sell books unless we promote them non-stop” and “the moment I stop tweeting and FB-ing my book my sales stop”, I can’t help but wonder what they are doing wrong.

Discoverability is a big issue for unknown, new writers just starting out, of course, or for an established author going incognito under a new pen-name, or kicking off in a new language.

But if we’ve been on the circuit for many years using the same name and the same branding and churning out the same books and we still have no organic momentum and are reliant on promo for our next sale then just maybe we need to take a step back and address the underlying problems.

To return to the DBW post, where SEO expert Rand Fishkin discusses “amplifiable content”:

“On average, Google drives 7X to 10X more traffic than Facebook does,” says Fishkin, adding that for ecommerce sites, search traffic is still the top referrer.

“Although publishers should invest time and energy in identifying valuable keywords, optimizing search snippets for articles, and building a network of links back to their original content,” says the DBW report paraphrasing Fishkin, “SEO success really comes down to understanding on a deeper level one’s audience and creating content that they will not only love, but will also share.”

That is, “amplifiable content”.

If we have to spam people just to get our next sale then we don’t have “amplifiable content”.

We don’t have organic growth.

And we don’t have a sustainable writing career.

This post first appeared in The International Indie Author Facebook Group 09 March 2016 (LINK)

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This Island Earth.

As I reported here at the start of the year, residents of Easter Island, the furthest flung inhabited island on the planet, may have trouble getting hold of print books, but they will, if we’ve made the effort to be available, have access to our ebooks.
 
A couple of days ago Easter Island’s LTE (4G for all practical purposes) network was activated, giver Easter Islanders even more reason to buy a smartphone that they could be reading our books on.
 
Also this week comes news that Kiribati is soon to get an advanced internet connection through the satellite service O3b Network, in conjunction with SpeedCast International.
 
Earlier this year 03b and Speedcast Int. began new operations in Papua New Guinea and on Christmas island.
 
Elsewhere in the Pacific O3b teamed with local telecoms to expand advanced internet reach to Palau and the Solomon Islands.
 
Back when the “ebook revolution” began in 2009 reach for indie authors was pretty much a one-country affair, and consumers needed a computer and an expensive e-reader to engage,
 
In the globile (global mobile) world of 2016 it’s hard to find anywhere on the planet we cannot reach, or anyone on the planet who does not have access to an affordable device that could be used to download our ebooks.
 
And not just our ebooks, but our audio, video and any other digital content we might care to make available.
 
But that’s down to us. The consumers are out there. The means to reach them is available to us all.
 
But if our titles aren’t available where they are… Our loss. They’ll just buy another author’s works instead.
This post first appeared in The International Indie Author Facebook Group 11 March 2016 (LINK)

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The International Indie Author.

Looking at the bigger picture.

 

 

 

Google Loon Coming to India, Spotlight Falls on Poland, and more.

Loon

 

Google Loon For India.

It’s early days yet, but it looks likely India will join Sri Lanka and Indonesia in being among the first countries to have nationwide internet access courtesy of Google Loon.

Loon is a balloon project whereby unmanned balloons fly at high altitude reflecting and beaming down internet signals to places that would otherwise be uneconomical to reach.

Google is currently partnering with telcos on the ground (literally in this case) to move to the next stage.

Long term everyone benefits from these social infrastructure ventures being undertaken by companies like Google and Facebook (think Aquila drones), that will make the internet even more accessible.

Loon and Aquila are of course driven by mobile. Global mobile. Globile.

And with each new advance the potential audience for content suppliers grows ever bigger.

This post was previously published in the International Indie Author Facebook Group on 08 March 2016.  (LINK

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Spotlight On Poland 2016-17.

Poland will be in this spotlight this year and next, with several major book fairs showcasing the Polish book market.

Publishing Perspectives covers this in a post by Porter Anderson, where I noted in comments,

“Poland is a particularly interesting market for ebooks because Amazon has no Kindle store there and is therefore busily surcharging Polish readers for Kindle books unless they have pre-existing accounts from a Kindle country.

A lot of Poles have bought Kindles and have accounts set up whilst in Germany or UK, etc, which enables them to buy from the UK or Germany Kindle store without whispernet surcharges, but of course there is very little Polish content being made available in the Kindle store in the first place.

Many domestic Polish ebook publishers have taken full advantage of this by supplying ebooks in mobi format as well as epub.”

We indies tend to assume it has been the USA that has made all the running in the ebook sector, and of course by market size that’s true, but Poland was fielding ebook subscription services long before Scribd, Oyster and Amazon got in on the act.

Check out Legimi (one of the first Polish subscription services, way back in 2013) for one of many Polish outlets where we can sell our Polish translations, should we ever have them available.

Of course we all know that’s a waste of time because we all know central and east Europeans wouldn’t want to read our stories set in America and Britain.

That’s why there’s no sign in the Legimi store of Lee Child or Karin Slaughter or EL James or Andy Weir or… No, hold on. They are all there.

It’s just as indies that can’t be bothered.

Our loss.

Admittedly none of my titles are in Legimi right now either, but that’s just a matter of time. My first Polish translations will be going live in the next few months.

How about you?

This post was previously published in the International Indie Author Facebook Group on 07 March 2016. (LINK

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Augmented Reality Books Are Coming. No, Not Ebooks. Print Books!

Yep, Google has just patented the tech to create digitally-enhanced print books. You couldn’t make it up.

“The technology outfits a physical book with numerous page sensors, touch sensors, and motion sensors to understand the reader’s movements. Based on those movements and the storyline of the book, the system adds augmented reality elements over the pages.”

My guess this will in turn embrace hologram tech and provide, in time, a 3D augmented reality experience.

For children’s books, fantasy and sci-fi and for non-fic like how to and cookery this could be major step forward and show once more that print is far from dead and can be reinvented just like the story-telling process.

This a post was previously published in the International Indie Author Facebook Group on 05 March 2016.  (LINK

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Facebook Messenger Integrates With Spotify.

We can ignore them all we like, but messaging apps aren’t going to go away.

Facebook Messenger has now integrated with Spotify in an attempt to attract its NEXT billion monthly active users.

Yes, Facebook Messenger already has a billion monthly active users we could be connecting with to promote our books.

WhatsApp has 800 million, WeChat 600 million, Telegram 100 million and growing fast.

There are lots more.

As with Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc, a handful of savvy indies are shifting million of books (search the Group for posts on this) while the majority of us carry on partying like it’s 2010 and dismiss any suggestion that The Next Generation social media platforms might be worth a second look.

Our loss.

This a post was previously published in the International Indie Author Facebook Group on 04 March 2016.  (LINK

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The International Indie Author

Looking at the bigger picture.

2016: The Year So Far For Internationalist Indie Authors

2016 The Year So Far

2016 is simply racing by. Either my calendar is on amphetamines or February’s gone, April is looming, and we’re well on the slippery slope to 2017, with 2020 just around the corner.

A step nearer to the the first decade of 5G and the Internet of Things. A decade that, for publishing, is going to make the tumult of the 2010s seem rather tame by comparison.

I’ll be re-visiting the future as we go, because any of us planning on still being on the writing and publishing circuit in the 2020s needs to be preparing now for the challenges ahead.

But we also need to keep one eye on the present because, to paraphrase John Donne, no writer is an island, and events unfolding around us largely unnoticed now will determine all our futures.

So I’m kicking off March with a look back on how 2016 is shaping up so far for us internationalist indie authors looking at the bigger picture than next month’s pay-cheque. (A reminder there, for any new readers, that I write in British English!).

And a reminder too that I live and write in West Africa, and sometimes the distractions of Third World life play havoc with my blogging schedule.

This is my first blog post in over a month. But I do post far more frequently – pretty much every day, often several times a day – over at the International Indie Author Facebook Group. (LINK)

While blogs have a permanence and discoverability Facebook sorely lacks, Facebook Groups are great for interaction. It’s a telling point that the Facebook Group, with fewer members than there are followers of this blog, gets far more productive, daily engagement than the blog does.

So do pop along and sign up to the IIA Facebook Group and enjoy daily reflections on Going Global.

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Meantime, back to 2016 so far.

Amazon is lining up suppliers for a new music subscription service intended to go head to head with Apple’s music subscription option and to challenge the established music subscription players like Spotify.

Currently Amazon offers a limited music subscription service option free to Prime members, but this latest move – expected to materialise in the latter half of this year – indicates the mighty Zon has bigger ambitions than just keeping Prime members on board.

It begs the question, where does Amazon go from here with subscriptions? And more pertinently for us, ebook subscriptions?

I’ve long suggested Amazon will, when the time is right and the costs are down enough, make Kindle Unlimited available free to Prime members.

KU may have a million titles, but in real terms the choice is limited, just like the Prime music and video selections.

But whereas Prime members get the music and video free they are asked to pay full price for KU (aside from the one free title a month).

The logical next step would be to make KU available free to Prime members in its current format, and then re-launch KU proper as a “real” ebook subscription service, dropping the exclusivity condition.

Dropping the exclusivity condition for self-publishers for the extended KU could bring into the game the titles of the many indie authors who play the wider game and are therefore excluded from KU by Amazon’s current rules.

That would be a win for the revamped subscription service – lots of new content to attract paying subscribers – and also a further income stream for authors.

But also a win for Amazon’s wider game, undermining the subscription competition.

It may seem like there is no competition to KU, especially now Oyster is out of the game, but to the extent that’s true at all, it’s only true in the US and UK.

Internationally subscription services like Bookmate, 24Symbols and Mofibo are doing just fine, and in the “home markets” niche subscription services are also doing well, while a new global subscription service, Playster, may yet surprise us.

Given Google has soaked up the Oyster team and skills-base it seems likely Google Play will enter the ebook subscription scene at some stage, perhaps with an international service to compete with Bookmate, Playster and Scribd.

And then there’s Apple.

Pundits like to dismiss Apple as a hardware firm that dabbles in content-supply, but that’s self-evidently untrue. Apple has plenty of content ambitions or it wouldn’t have introduced a music subscription service or be fielding 50+ global ebook stores.

Yes, Apple will remain primarily focussed on hardware, just as Amazon remains primarily focussed on e-commerce but dabbles in hardware and building its own content creation. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Last year Apple entered the music subscription game – something Amazon is now preparing to respond to. And while there are no indications yet that Apple is sounding out big pub on launching an ebook subscription service, it‘s a safe bet that it’s on the way.

For Apple, it’s an extra income stream for very little effort as they already have some 50 global iBooks stores. And of course it would be an extra arrow in their quiver to attract buyers to their hardware, which is the whole point of Apple’s content ventures. For the many publishers who don’t have a problem with subscription services per se, but are studiously avoiding KU for obvious reasons, an Apple subscription service would be welcomed.

And in another slow puncture in the wheel of Apple- isn’t-interested-in-content it’s just been announced Apple’s first original TV series is being made.

Something to keep an eye on as this year unfolds.

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But music subscription is not the only content push Amazon is planning.

Currently Amazon is advertising for new technicians to take Audible to a whole new level. I’ll be covering this in detail in a dedicated post on audio shortly.

And yet another event on the Amazon horizon is the arrival of an Amazon used-ebook store.

At the moment it’s only an industry rumour, and there’s no real indication of how this might work, or what its impact might be.

My guess is an Amazon used-ebook store would, like KU, be aimed at the indie circuit. I’ll reflect on why in another post, as so much else to cover right now.

Video, for example.

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Amazon has been actively building its film and TV production arm and clearly has ambitions far beyond simply adding to the free content available for Prime members.

Video is big business. Not just in the US but globally.

Of course, film and TV have long been available worldwide. Nothing new there. But what is new is a) the scale and b) the delivery.

Here in West Africa freeview satellite dishes are everywhere, for those lucky enough to have electric. That’s the same across the world. But old-fashioned satellite broadcasts are a hang-over from the twentieth century, like analogue TVs.

As the Globile (global mobile)  New Renaissance unfolds, access to video – by which I mean mainstream film and TV, not just three-minute home-made footage of a playful kitten on Youtube – is moving to new heights, delivered by mobile broadband.

As the world goes globile (global mobile, don’t forget!) and internet speeds and reliability move to new levels, pretty much the entire globe is within reach of mainstream video, just as pretty much the entire world can now access our ebooks.

Netflix kicked off 2016 with an expansion into 130 new countries, including Pakistan, South Korea, Turkey and Russia, taking Netflix’s reach to 190 countries globally, and in twenty languages.

“In 2016 (Netflix) plans to release 31 new and returning original series, two dozen original feature films and documentaries, a wide range of stand-up comedy specials and 30 original kids series. Netflix will also work to make the rest of its content available worldwide, so it offers the same programming in each market.” (LINK)

So let’s be clear on this. Netflix will be showing classic film and TV from our western culture, making it available around the world to audiences eager to lap it up. And pay for the privilege.

Books are no different. We only have to look at the bestseller charts around the globe to see how translations of top-selling American and British books are being devoured by eager readers in countries are removed from the culture of the US and UK.

Don’t think you need to be a Stephen King or an E.L. James to sell well abroad. Indies can do it too. Those of us who have made the effort to reach out to global audiences have, both for our translations and English-language originals, found a positive reception. Number one on Kindle China, anyone?

But we don’t need to stop at books. Savvier indie authors will be looking at operations like Netflix and asking ourselves – “Can they use my content?”

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If the Netflix scenario were a one-off story, this would still be significant But it’s far from one-off.

A South Korean TV subscription player in January expanded across Asia, observing astutely, “Korean content travels well”.

Hard on the heels of HBO announcing (end 2015) plans to stream video in Spain later this year and the global expansion of Netflix in January, Spain’s Telefonica announced plans to create and broadcast eight to ten series a year, starting in 2017. While Spanish-language focused Telefonica also plans to team up with other major European studios for co-produced English-language works.

January also saw the news that UKTV is to launch a new flagship subscription service called ‘W’ (don’t ask!) laden with original shows.

Steve North, W’s general manager, said, “We have a treasure trove of compelling original commissions, our own crown jewels.”

The tagged report notes that “UKTV’s investment in original content has pulled in millions more viewers to its portfolio of channels”. (LINK)

These are just a few among numerous similar developments as the Global New Renaissance blossoms, allowing countless new players to not just distribute but to create original content.

Which means production studios around the globe are screaming out for new content that can bolster their catalogue. Not just the big Hollywood film and TV studios and their equivalent in other countries, but the upstarts like Amazon Studios, Netflix, HBO, etc and the perhaps less-well known but still big enough to pack a punch producers like UKTV.

No, we don’t need to be professional screenwriters to be excited by this.

Yes, we can stay as we are, fingers crossed, and dream. it’s always possible someone will stumble across our works and want to option them for a TV series or a film. It happens.

But savvy indie authors will be proactive, not trusting to luck.

As I’ll be exploring in detail sometime soon, there are a number of agents who specialize in licensing IP rights for other media. There are also a number of agencies operating IP databases where production teams go to search a database as an easy way to find good content that by definition is available for licensing.

And then of course we have the option to approach production studios ourselves with our titles and show why they would work in other media, or to partner with a third party to produce a script/storyboard/whatever that will get the attention of those production studios. Amazon has its own film storyboarding software available free to use!

Several big publishers are setting up units specifically to team with video-production studios to develop their book titles in other formats, and the only thing stopping indies getting in on the act is our own tendency to think of ourselves as “ebook authors”.

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Moving back to books, and potentially good news on the horizon for indies looking to reach Australia’s readers. Amazon is launching The Book Depository in Australia (LINK), possibly as a prelude to a wider Amazon AU store down the road to compliment the Kindle AU store.

The Book Depository sells print, so is not on the radar of most indies because of our unhealthy focus on ebooks even at “home”, let alone in markets in far flung lands like Australia.

Equally safe to say that for most indies the Australian ebook market is the Kindle AU store, although there are numerous other options to read ebook readers in Australia.

With ebooks accounting for about 7% of total book sales in Australia right now, and ebook take-up growing by 26% per year, it’s worth taking Australia seriously.

That means at the very least being available on Kobo AU, Google Play AU and Apple AU, while for the more ambitious among us there are plenty of other players.

Angus & Robertson, for example, which is supplied by Kobo.

While some smaller AU ebook retailers lost the battle for survival (JB Hi-Fi and Big W both called it a day) other players are holding their own.

Not least Booktopia.

Amazon’s The Book Depository is the biggest player in Australia for on-line print titles even before it sets up shop in situ, but the second largest on-line bookseller is Booktopia, which last year bought out Bookworld, previously owned by Penguin Random House.

Booktopia doesn’t give out ebook stats but it shipped ten million print books last year and expects that to increase now it’s absorbed Bookword’s customer base.

Booktopia expects to sell $80 million worth of print titles in 2016. Amazon, boosted by the Book Depository local-launch, is on target to sell $200 million of print titles.

How much of that $280 million Australian print market will indies be getting a share of?

Very little, no doubt.

As we all know, trad pub has an oh-so-unfair advantage because it can get books into bricks and mortar stores and we indies can’t. Or so the chant goes.

The reality, of course is that indies can, if we make the effort, get print books into bricks and mortar stores, at home and around the globe.

But that debate is academic here because that $280 million market being discussed is all on-line sales, not though bricks and mortar stores.

Very unhelpful for us looking for any excuse to take the path of least resistance. Great news for those of us who are serious about becoming international bestselling authors.

But let’s stay briefly with ebooks. For indies looking at Australia, aside from Kindle AU there is Apple AU, Google Play AU and Kobo AU, as well as the aforementioned Kobo partner store Angus & Robertson. Then there’s Booktopia’s ebook store and beyond that smaller but still significant players like QBD.

If our books aren’t in these stores then obviously Australian readers who frequent these stores will not be able to buy them. It’s that simple.

Being available is half the battle.

How to reach Australian ebook readers? Amazon, Apple and Kobo are easy enough to get into, of course. Google Play not so much, as neither Smashwords nor Draft2Digital distribute to Google Play. Luckily for us, both StreetLib and PublishDrive do.

To get into QBD we need to be in the Copia catalogue, and to get into Booktopia the Ingram catalogue is required.

Yeah, I know. It’s a cruel world. How dare they make life difficult for us over-worked, under-paid indies.

But here’s the thing. The retailers are responding to consumer demand. For some obscure and unfathomable reason consumers prefer to buy from stores that are convenient for them not for us.

Yes, it would be great if readers the world over were all thinking, “Those poor indie authors trying to do it all on their own… Why don’t we all buy from one store to make their lives easier and then they can spend more time writing and less time trying to maximise their distribution.”

But the reality is, our typical reader no more cares about us as authors of the books than we do about the screenplay writers who create the TV dramas and films we ourselves love to watch.

And let’s be honest with ourselves here. How many of us could even name, let alone care about, the writer or writers who wrote that TV drama we were enthralled by last night? Or the latest blockbuster film we watched at the cinema last week?

Exactly.

Bottom line is, it’s our choice. We can put consumers first or put ourselves first.

The path of least resistance is always there if we want to walk it.

But we wouldn’t be here reading this in the first place if that were the case, so take a deep breath and check out Ingram and Copia distribution if you haven’t already.

Australia, with urban populations separated by huge distances, is perfect online-store territory for both print and ebooks, and perfect long-term ebook territory now smartphones have replaced dedicated ereaders as the primary reading device.

Most Australians speak and read English meaning there’s no need for translations to reach this lucrative overseas market.

Yet indies seem largely indifferent to Australia’s charms. Even Australian authors seem to obsess more about the US market than building a fan-base at home. Which is crazy when a glance at any Australian bookseller – print or digital – shows the retailers obsessively promote home-grown Australian talent.

Whether Booktopia can hold its own when The Book Depository goes live in Australia remains to be seen, but the one certainty is the Australian book market – for English-language print, ebooks and audio alike – is worth taking seriously.

I am. How about you?

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Coming back to Amazon yet again, and Kindle Unlimited launched in China last month.

But don’t get too excited. Unless our ebooks are in the Kindle China store in the first place then we’ll not be there.

The good news, for those of us who are there, is that there is no exclusivity conditions so we can continue to reach reads on China’s many other and mostly bigger, ebook retailers while still getting the benefits of KU-China.

Kindle China is not part of the KDP set up, so there are none of the Kindle star names in KU-China to compete with.

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Finally for today, and staying with China:

More Than Half Of China’s Population Is Now Online!

Last summer I reported that India has more people online than the USA has people in it.

2016 kicked off with news that over half of China’s people are now connected to the internet.

688 million people (50.3% for fellow maths obsessives) are connected, and 620 million of those connect using mobile devices.

A reminder, if needed, that the world is going globile. That’s global mobile for anyone who’s not been keeping up.

And also for any newcomers, a mention that the Beijing-based aggregator Fiberead will translate, produce and distribute your titles in China at no up-front cost.

But let’s come back to going globile.

More Indians on the internet than the USA has people in it. Almost twice as many Chinese on the internet than the US has people in it.

Globile – global mobile – is enfranchising literally billions of people who previously had no access to books.

Now people almost everywhere on the planet have a device in their hands that can be used to read our ebooks. As I reported at the start of the year, even Easter Island, the remotest inhabited island in the world, has wi-fi.

The US is and will remain for a while yet the biggest book market in the world. But collectively the rest of the world will dwarf it many times over in coming years.

Already in 2015 India leapfrogged the UK to become the second biggest English language book market and the sixth largest book market overall.

Savvy indies will of course remain focussed on the US and UK markets that sustain us now. But we will also be sowing the seeds for future harvests in the now nascent markets.

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

Go globile in 2016!

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For daily news and views on the global ebook scene, and some great debate, join The International Indie Author Facebook Group. (LINK)

 

 

 

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