Category Archives: Audio Books

How many paperbacks and audio-books will you sell this Christmas?

Christmas Quick Tips → Diversity → Promoting Multiple Formats

I’m delighted, but not at all surprised, to hear how many indies are reporting increasing percentages of their revenue is coming from formats other than ebooks.

With the recent slump in ebook sales on Amazon, now pretty much confirmed by the latest Author Earnings Report, many indies are even reporting revenue from “other formats” is exceeding their ebook revenue.

And it begs the question – would that percentage be even higher if we took time out to take format diversity seriously?

Yes, I know, we indies sell more ebooks than any other format, therefore we should focus on ebooks, blah, blah, blah.

But as I’ve said many times, this is an artificial construction. A corner we have painted ourselves into.

We spend all our time and energy writing and promoting our ebooks, and on those occasions when we do manage to put together a print version or an audio book we mention it once on FB or twitter with an embarrassed smile and the go right back to focussing on our ebooks.

Of course we sell far more ebooks than any other format.

But what if we were to divide our attention more equally across all our formats? What if we tried cross-pollinating our different formats?

For example, how many of us even mention, in our ebook back-matter, that our titles – including, and perhaps especially, the one the reader has open on their device – are also available in print and audio-book versions?

Cross-pollination is essential to our organic growth. Not just of ebooks but of all formats.

Here’s the thing.

When a reader on Amazon loves our ebook they can tweet, FB, email, or otherwise tell all their friends about this great book. Personal recommendation is – or should be – our biggest driver of sales. Word of mouth matters.

But when our Amazon reader tells their friend who uses Kobo or Nook or Apple or Google Play or OverDrive or Scribd or whatever, and that friend rushes to their preferred retailer or digital library or subscription service to get this highly recommended book and finds it’s not available because we’re in Select, or we couldn’t be bothered to get in it digital libraries, or decided subscription services were a waste of time, then we’ve just lost not only that one sale but also the future sales from all the other titles that reader might have bought afterwards.

It works both ways. Our excited Google Play or Apple or OverDrive reader tells their friend using Amazon, Kobo and Nook and they rush off to download our book.

Just to repeat part of that. Our excited Google Play or Apple or OverDrive reader tells their friend using Amazon…

In other words, going wide doesn’t just bring us more sales from other outlets, It also brings us more sales on the Big Gorilla itself.

It’s cross pollination.

Now lets extrapolate this to formats.,

Our ebook reader on Amazon or Kobo or Google Play or wherever loves our book and raves about it to their friends.

But what if that book is only available as an ebook, not in print or audio? Those friends who want to read it in print or listen to it having heard about it on social media are going to be disappointed. We’ve just lost not only the one print or audio-book sale but all the other print and audio sales we might have picked up for our other titles.

But perhaps our excited reader isn’t a social media person but still likes to personally recommend titles to friends and family.

If we have a note in our back-matter saying this books (and others) are available in format X, Y or Z then that reader can make a judgment about who to recommend or indeed buy that other format for.

“I so loved this book and I’m sure Mum would, but she doesn’t read on a screen. It’s Grandpa’s birthday next week and he would love an audio-book. What a shame this book isn’t in audio format. And dear Aunt Nelly is really struggling to find books she’d like that are in large print,but there are so few to choose from…”

Lost sales, folks.

This is particularly important with Christmas approaching.

Yes we can, with some effort, on some retailers, gift ebooks. But seriously, what kind of gift is a digital download? Try wrapping that up with a pretty ribbon and a “love You” tag and popping it under the Xmas tree.

But supposing we have, in our ebooks, a little message at the back saying something like,

“If you enjoyed this book, why not share the pleasure and give the print or audio version as gift to a loved one? Also available in large print.”

For those of us with email lists now is the ideal time to be putting together that email promo reminding our followers that not only our all our titles available in ebook format, but also in print, large print and audio versions that they can give to their friends and family.

But don’t – please, please don’t – just say “It’s available on Amazon” it it’s in fact wide, because you’ll be sending out a clear message to everyone that doesn’t shop at Amazon that the book is not available anywhere else.

List the ISBN (print and audio) and tell folks they can simply Google the ISBN and up will come everywhere the audio or print version is available.

In the USA some 70% of all book sales are in print. And before we roll out the “Life’s so unfair – we indies can’t get into bookstores” excuse again do bear in mind that a) that’s not true, and b) half of all print sales happen online anyway.

Print isn’t dying. Audio-book sales are soaring. Large print is easy to add to our portfolio,and shouldn’t be seen as just for those books that will appeal to mature readers. Lots of younger readers also have challenged vision. (Lots more on large-print opportunities in a future post.).

Amazon’s CreateSpace and ACX aren’t the only options, but they do offer a quick and easy foot in the door for indies wanting to take those first steps into multiple formats.

If we indies aren’t getting a decent share of the print and audio action like trad pub is then, sorry folks, but we have only ourselves to blame.

And sometimes the fixes can be as simple as letting our ebook readers know other formats are available.

As I post this it’s 27th October. Christmas is literally less than eight weeks away. Just enough time to nip in, update our ebook back-matter, update our websites, and send out our newsletters to tell the world we’re not embarrassed to be multi-format and yes, we have regular and large print paperbacks and audio-books available! (And maybe hardbacks and special editions too).

How many print and audio-books will you sell this Christmas?

♦ ♦ ♦

This post first appeared in the International Indie Author Facebook Group.

 

THE INTERNATIONAL INDIE AUTHOR
LOOKING AT THE BIGGER PICTURE.

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The Globile Future For Indie Authors Starts Here

globile

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.

◊ ◊ ◊

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.

Our loss.

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.

◊ ◊ ◊

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.

◊ ◊ ◊

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.

◊ ◊ ◊

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.

◊ ◊ ◊

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.

◊ ◊ ◊

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.

Our loss.

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!

◊ ◊ ◊

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.

◊ ◊ ◊

 

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.

◊ ◊ ◊

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.

◊ ◊ ◊

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.

◊ ◊ ◊

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.”

Reidy adds,

“…the company’s direct to consumer marketing was ‘seeing terrific results’, with visits to its website up by more than 50%.”

On audio:

““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?

◊ ◊ ◊

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.

For daily news and discussion about the global indie publishing scene join this lively Facebook Group.

Catching Up On The Global Publishing Scene. November 2015 Update.

google-mobile-asia

 

Asia’s Emerging Ebook Markets.

When it comes to global ebooks sales we all need to think “globile”. That is, global mobile.

Much of the world have simply skipped the entire desktop PC and dumb-phone era and gone from no internet access to 3G and 4G smartphones, pretty much overnight.

With every single smartphone a device that could be carrying our ebooks the potential for authors and publishers is hard to exaggerate. But where to focus one’s strategic planning?

That graphic from Google at the top of this post may help decide.

For those unfamiliar with the international two-letter country coding:

  • AU is Australia
  • ID Indonesia,
  • TW Taiwan,
  • SG Singapore
  • HK Hong Kong
  • JP Japan
  • KR South Korea.

Right now Korea is the tops and India and Indonesia are way down the list in terms of smartphone penetration. But it’s these two countries that are among my top priorities.

Not just because they are fast growing (India will likely be the second largest smartphone market next year) but because Indians and Indonesia, coming late to the internet world, are far more reliant on smartphones in their everyday lives than we in the rich west who use smartphones mainly as an add-on to our existing desktops, laptops, e-readers, dumbphones, landline phones, etc.

And given India is the nation that reads the most, and the sixth largest book market on the planet even before smartphones fully impact, it’s not hard to see why even the more cautious commentators are now joining me in predicting India will be the next ebook gold-rush.

# # #

Africa Watch 1: Egyptian Book Store Chain Sets Up In UK.

In a sure sign of how the Global New Renaissance is taking hold, the Egyptian bookstore chain ALEF has opened a store in… London.

Read the linked post on Publishing Perspectives for the full story. (LINK)

Here just to extract the most pertinent point:

“We believed that people in Egypt don’t read because they don’t have access to books, and we turned out to be right…”

In fact ALEF is doing “booming business” in Egypt and the new London store is just the first step of their international expansion, selling not just Arabic-language books but Arabic books translated into English.

Yes, there are issues of (comparatively) low literacy levels in many countries across Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere. But the idea that people in these countries therefore don’t read is just ludicrous. The problem is, always, about availability and affordability.

And for indie authors and trad pub publishers alike the new “globile” markets where everyone and their dog has a smartphone in their hand, mean that we can, increasingly, reach readers hitherto completely beyond reach.

As we hurtle into 2016 the possibilities – and opportunities – ahead are unprecedented.

Don’t let them pass you by.

Go Globile in 2016 and build a truly international readership for your brand.

# # #

33% Of French Commuters Prefer Ebooks

It will come as no surprise to learn that French train commuters, just like commuters in many countries, while away the journey reading.

The French railway operator SNCF estimate 75% of passengers read books on their journey. (LINK)

What may come as a surprise is that 33% of them e-read – either on dedicated e-readers or on smartphones.

SNCF responded by offering their own ebook subscription service with 100,000 French-language titles. Check out the SNCF store here. (LINK)

It’s not clear who is supplying SNCF, but that’s neither here nor there.

What is key for us as indie authors is the direction digital reading in France is taking.

Ebooks, may still be a tiny fraction of the overall French book market, but early days.

Hard to imagine though it is, just a few years ago the US and UK were nascent markets with only a handful of people reading ebooks.

And in those early years it was very easy for a handful of savvy, forward-thinking indie authors to be very big fish in a very small pond.

This is the true beauty of the global nascent markets right now. There are open goals out there. Major opportunities to be big fish in small ponds now and to grow into even bigger fish as those ponds grow.

Already this year we’ve seen western indies top the charts in China. We’ve seen India leapfrog the UK as the second-largest English-language book market. In Germany indie authors have been dominating the ebook charts for some while.

Across Asia, Latin America and eastern Europe the book markets – and especially the ebook markets – are seeing a new vitality as the Global New Renaissance takes hold.

No, none of these markets (except China) can compare to the US market today. But that’s to miss the point.

And more importantly to miss the opportunity.

Because many of these so-called nascent markets – China, India, Germany, Latin America, Indonesia, etc – are already as big, or bigger (much bigger in the case of China) than the US market was back in 2009-2010.

And back in 2009-2010 savvy indie authors like Amanda Hocking and John Locke were gigantic fish in a very small pond. Million-sellers at a time when hardly anyone in the US even knew ebooks existed.

When looking at the emerging global markets available to us now, don’t think “nascent – not worth bothering with”.

Think OPPORTUNITY!

# # #

Children’s Book Sales “Booming” In China.

The Shanghai Children’s Book Fair took place earlier this month, and reports emerging (LINK) show a very vibrant children’s publishing sector with keen interest in titles from the wider world.

Hardly surprising given there are 370 million under-eighteens in China right now – more than the entire population of the USA. And that number could grow rapidly with the new two-child policy.

Incredible opportunities emerging in China across all genres, not just children’s books.

So far Fiberead remain the easy option for accessing this massive market, but I’m watching carefully for more direct opportunities alongside.

China is potentially the most lucrative of all the markets – the China market alone will dwarf the US market very soon – and it will rapidly expand over the next five years. But access is always going to be awkward. Not impossible, by any means, but not without its challenges.

Awkward it may be, but China should definitely be on the watch-list for any author serious about global reach.

# # #

New Distribution Channel’s For Audio Books.

While Amazon’s ACX is effectively the only show in town for indie audio, we should never rush to put all our eggs in one basket, because alternatives will be along soon enough.

  • Xin-Xii recently started distributing indie audio to German retailer.
  • Now, say hello to Author’s Republic (LINK), courtesy of AudioBooks(dot)com. (LINK)

I’ll investigate this further, but so far it looks like we now have a real alternative to ACX for distribution, although we’ll still need to get our audiobooks made first, which means ACX still has the advantage.

Author’s Republic does have some sort of iOS tool for making our own, but ACX clearly holds all the aces in this respect.

The Author’s Republic will distribute not only to Audiobooks(fdot)com but also to:

  • Audible
  • iTunes
  • Amazon
  • Barnes & Noble
  • Scribd
  • Downpour
  • tunein

as well as library providers such as

  • Findaway
  • Overdrive.

And presumably they will expand further on that as we head into 2016.

Perhaps more importantly, this will be the first of many. A matter of time now before other retailers open up audiobook self-pub portals themselves or ebook aggregators follow Xin-Xii’s lead and start distributing audiobooks.

Those locked into exclusivity with ACX for their audiobooks may be getting slightly better royalties (although Author’s Republic will supposedly be paying a competitive 35%) but could be missing out on reach, especially with Author’s Republic ‘s access to key outlets like OverDrive and Findaway which ACX will deny you.

And don’t forget good old-fashioned CDs. CDBaby can your audiobooks widely distributed for the majority of audiobook listeners that have not yet embraced digital.

Beyond that, another reason to avoid exclusivity is radio. Global radio is an exciting opportunity for indie authors converting their works to audio. More on that in another post.

# # #

Africa Watch 2: One Billion Reasons To Take A Second Look At Africa.

For authors and publishers, Africa remains the Dark Continent (which BTW meant and means “unknown”, not something derogatory) for book sales and discovery.

But for me it’s THE most exciting of the long-term prospects for indie authors, and one I’m following closely, although little chance of any significant sales there in the very near future.

But a new report confirms my anecdotal observations that Africa is embracing smartphones and 3G-4G mobile internet just like everywhere else on the planet.

Mobile subscriptions across Africa are expected to pass the one billion mark in 2016. (LINK)

That’s one helluva lot of people with devices that could have our ebooks on.

Contrary to popular opinion Africans love to read. Their problem is access to affordable books.

For authors, reaching African readers is the big challenge.

  • There is not a single Apple iBooks store anywhere on the continent.
  • Amazon blocks downloads to most of the continent and surcharges the rest, including South Africa.
  • Even Google Play, from whom you’d expect better, are only in South Africa so far.
  • Kobo is sort of available, but there is only a localized Kobo store in South Africa, and you need a bank card to use Kobo, so that makes it pretty irrelevant to most Africans.

Right now, South Africa aside, the African continent is not a friendly place for authors. But make no mistake – that’s an issue of distribution and accessibility, not a cultural indifference to books, ebooks and reading.

And there are a few bright spots on the horizon, as I’ll be reporting soon in an in-depth analysis of the state of play across my favourite continent. Meanwhile, check out further posts on Africa below.

I’m very excited by the emerging prospects for authors here in Africa. When I talk about the Global New Renaissance unfolding I really do mean Global, and I intend to be selling across many countries in Africa before this decade is over.

I’m a six-continent content-provider.

How about you?

# # #

$10 Smartphones At Wal-Mart.

With The Next Generation social media like Instagram and Pinterest, and messaging apps like Viber and WeChat getting hotter and hotter by the day, it’s a real PITA that you need a smartphone to participate. Even though many, like Viber, have desk-top access, you still need a smartphone number to sign up in the first place.

And some people, quite understandably, do not want the expense of a new phone, a monthly payment plan, etc just to join Instagram or Viber.

For those in America it seems salvation is at hand. Over at The Digital Reader Nate Hoffelder reports that Wal-Mart now offering a smartphone for just ten bucks, and on a Pay As You Go plan so no crazy monthly payments for a phone you may rarely use. (LINK)

Perfect to buy, along with a separate sim card and phone number, and use exclusively for social media like Instagram and messaging apps like Viber, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, etc.

As per previous posts, Instagram is now bigger than twitter. Messaging apps are reaching close to two billion people. An updated post on messaging apps this coming week.

Don’t get stuck in the past for the sake of ten bucks. Move with the times.

# # #

Africa Watch 3: Nigeria.

When it comes to global ebook sales Africa remains the last frontier as western ebook retailers continue to ignore this vast and exciting nascent market.

After all, Africa is still in the stone-age when it comes to digital, right? There’s no internet there, so no-one knows what smartphones are.

And as well know, nobody in Africa reads.

The latter point, however widely believed, is of course so laughable as not to bear further consideration.

But let’s take another look at the first point – that Africa is has yet to realise the internet even exists.

Leaving aside the above report, that Africa will have over one billion mobile subscribers in 2016, ponder this report on what Ericsson is up to in Nigeria.

Subscription video on demand.

Ericsson’s NuVu will launch in early 2016 offering some 3,000 local and international TV and films to eager Nigerian subscribers eager to use their smartphones for entertainment. (LINK)

Ericsson is working with leading international distributors to acquire content ranging from Hollywood to Nollywood (Nigeria has a thriving film industry).

How long before a dedicated Nigerian ebook subscription service pops up? Well, it certainly won’t be KU – Amazon has zero interest in Africa. But it will happen.

And just as Nigerians love Hollywood films so they do and will love western books (Nigeria is the largest English-speaking nation on the continent) – IF they are allowed access to them, and IF they are affordable.

Nigeria presents a great opportunity to start building a pan-African readership beyond the usual suspect, South Africa.

More on how soon. Here just to remind everyone that, as always, we should keep the third tier nascent markets like Africa firmly in mind when looking at the next five years.

No, absolutely no point anyone rearranging their schedule to prioritise Africa right now, but do keep Africa on your radar, and do lay the foundations there now for future development.

Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and Tanzania are close to the tipping point where smartphones will become the main everyday access point to the internet for millions of English speakers. And there are plenty of other English-speaking nations in Africa not far behind. Malawi, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Liberia, Sierra Leone, etc. And even here in tiny The Gambia (yeah, The Gambia is one of only two countries in the world where the definite article is officially part of the country’s name).

And of course this is not some uniquely Anglophone phenomenon. French-speaking Cote d’Ivoire and Senegal, to name but two, are right up there in the globile (global mobile) stakes too.

Watch out for more reports on Africa below, and an in-depth report on Africa soon. The way things are shaping up here may well surprise you!

# # #

British Comedian Russell Howard’s Pending 2017 Global Tour.

No, not a book tour, but this isn’t as off-topic as it may at first seem.

Russell Howard is a British stand-up comedian who rose to fame in the UK on the back of the early days of the digital TV transition, when cheapskate TV productions flooded the myriad new broadcasting channels then emerging.

From being a largely unknown British comedian doing bottom-of-the-barrel shows for late-night TV micro-audiences Howard has, thanks to digital reach, built up a worldwide audience, in English, that goes far beyond the English language countries.

Yes, the tour is focussed on the UK, USA, Australia and New Zealand, but also Finland, Iceland, Sweden and Norway, and of course his wider reach through digital extends globally.

Howard already knows where his paying audience will be in 2017.

The key throughout all this is digital. Digital reach is global, and that goes every bit as much for books as it does for stand-up comic TV shows.

Yet many of us indie authors still treat ebooks as simply cheap versions of print books, to farm out to the same home-market audience as print books, and then to wonder why it’s such hard work actually finding an audience.

Far from thinking about 2017 many of us indies don’t even have 2016 on our radar, even though it’s weeks away.

I’ve no idea how much Russell Howard actually understands or cares about all this, or how much his success is down to having a great manager and Howard is just sitting back and enjoying the ride.

But I do know most of us indie authors don’t have managers to think outside the box for us and spot the opportunities unfolding as the Global New Renaissance gets under way.

That’s down to us.

We have unprecedented opportunities to expand our reach and our modes of delivery.

We have unprecedented opportunities to step out of our ebook novelist boxes and become global content-providers across formats, across multi-media and across multiple nations far beyond the usual suspects.

Don’t look on 2016 as just a new year.

Look on 2016 as a new opportunity to break new ground and reach new audiences quite unthinkable back in 2009-1010 when the “ebook revolution” began.

Don’t let these unfolding opportunities pass us by.

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

# # #

Africa Watch 4: Google Play Is Rolling Out Youtube Offline Across Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and South Africa.

No, it’s not ebook stores, but the direction is clear. Google is focussed on the wealthiest English-speaking countries in Africa.

So far Google Play only has one ebook store on the continent – in South Africa.

It’s a safe bet that, some time soon, Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya will follow suit.

Google Play already has more global ebook stores than any other retailer. Some sixty or so. We can expect that to increase next year.

Currently the Google Play Books self-pub portal is closed to newcomers – although existing clients can still upload direct.

For the rest of us will need to use an aggregator.

Sadly neither Smashwords nor Draft2Digital supply Google Play Books.

Luckily both StreetLib and PublishDrive do, and can get your titles on Google Play within 24 hours.

NB: Other aggregators like Ebook Partnership also supply Google Play Books, but they have up-front fees. StreetLib and PublishDrive are pay-as-you-sell aggregators.

Google Play is a tiny player in the US, and if that’s where you are focussed, don’t expect too much action. But elsewhere around the world Google Play can and should be a key part of your global strategy.

But do be aware that Google Play pretty much automatically discounts our titles to make them more appealing to its customers. Which is great, except…

This will inevitably put you in conflict with Amazon’s price parity clause which dictates you cannot sell cheaper on another retailer than on Amazon.

So to avoid being punished by Amazon for Google Play trying to offer customers a better deal, you’ll need to price higher on Google Play when you first list.

But don’t let that put you off. Google Play is an invaluable place to be if you plan on going global.

# # #

Africa Watch 5: ACE Soon To Reach South Africa.

Okay, so quite a lot on Africa here today, but that’s just an indication of how Africa is fast gearing up to become a significant part of the global publishing scene.

Still not convinced? Consider this news just in.

Phase 2 of the ACE (Africa Coast Europe) project is about to begin. (LINK)

Now that may mean absolutely nothing to most readers, so let me offer some background as to just why this is so significant.

I’m writing this from The Gambia, West Africa. One of the poorest nations on the planet.

Five years ago, when Kindle UK launched, I had to partner with someone in the UK just to get my books uploaded, because there was, for all practical purposes, no internet here. Just a ridiculously expensive connection in the hotels, at dial-up speed.

Today I’m on a 4G connection quite unimaginable just a few years ago.

All thanks to ACE, a submarine cable which connects France and Portugal with :

  • Canary Islands (Spain)
  • Mauritania
  • Senegal
  • Gambia
  • Guinea Conakry
  • Sierra Leone
  • Liberia
  • Cote d’Ivoire
  • Benin
  • Ghana
  • Nigeria
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Gabon
  • Sao Tome & Principe

In addition two landlocked countries in the middle of the Sahara Desert, Mali and Niger, are connected via a terrestrial extension.

Hundreds of millions of people have suddenly, in the past few years, gained access to the internet in West Africa, completely by-passing the desktop and dial-up telephone line era, and are now enjoying 3G and 4G internet on smartphones.

As Phase 2 of ACE rolls out the submarine cable will extend all the way down the west coast of Africa, bringing European-standard internet to:

  • Namibia
  • Angola
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Congo-Brazzaville
  • South Africa
  • as well as an extension to Cameroon

reaching almost a quarter billion people.

As reported above, the number of mobile subscribers in Africa is already expected to exceed one billion in 2016.

And that’s before Phase 2 of the ACE rolls out.

Unless you’ve actually been to a seriously Third World country it’s hard to imagine just how transformational the internet can be in terms of education, health and economic development. Or how much it can transform entertainment.

Ebook sales are probably the last thing the ACE team are thinking about as they roll out Phase 2, but indie authors looking at the global picture should be in no doubt about the new opportunities unfolding.

The global digital reading scene in 2020 is going to be far bigger than anything we can envisage right now.

I’ve said before and will say again – the global ebook markets will collectively dwarf the US market many times over in the coming years.

If you doubt that, just consider the projection for 2016. Over one billion mobile subscribers in Africa as soon as next year. That’s over one billion subscribers in Africa using a globile device that could be holding our ebooks.

That’s a billion people almost all of whom are completely off the radar of the big western ebook retailers right now.

That’s a great excuse for just ignoring Africa. But if we’re serious about becoming global bestselling authors then we can’t afford to ignore any prospective market. Least of all one with the potential of Africa.

Think about the next five years. Not the next five weeks.

# # #

NB These posts have appeared previously over the past week or two on The International Indie Author Facebook Group.(LINK)

 

 

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

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

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

Thirty free audio-books, obviously.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Digital offers indie authors unparalleled opportunities to reach new audiences.

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

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

The View From The Beach – Mark Williams At Large

Gunjur-Coastline-Gambia

Think Outside The Audio-Book

British indie author Debbie Bennett​ had a great post on her blog this past week that I strongly recommend. (LINK)

Debbie is working with a local theatre group to produce local radio, but the possibilities here are much wider and worth a full discussion.

Having started out as a TV, radio and theatre writer long before I made an impact with novels, I’m fascinated by the opportunities emerging to take our books and trans-mediafy them, taking full advantage of the possibilities digital opens up.

Were I back in the UK with access to local drama groups one thing I would definitely be doing is working with said local drama groups. As it is, I’ve just this past week got a significant improvement in my internet capacity here in West Africa and will be trying to pursue the following ideas myself after the summer from a distance. Not quite as effective, but us ex-pats have to take what we can get.

But for those of you with perma-homes back in civilization…

As Debbie says of local drama groups, “Many actors can’t commit to line-learning and/or rehearsals; some older members are no longer comfortable on stage and newer members may lack the confidence.”

Not so helpful when trying to stage a theatre production. But that is precisely why such people may relish the opportunity to “blind-work” with an author. That is to say, to act for a non-visual audience.

While the possibilities are endless, there are two key themes I want to explore here today.

First: audio-books.

Many a local dramatist may have the right voice and enough acting ability to narrate your book as an ebook, regardless of how well they can run off a Shakespeare soliloquy by heart or stalk the stage with an air of confidence.

Many would relish the opportunity of having a credit as a voice-artist, and a percentage of the net of future sales could be a great incentive to for them to give their very best performance.

And while a local church hall drama group is unlikely to have access to adequate recording equipment, you may well find a theatre group at a nearby college or university has just such facilities, along with budding technicians, who again would love to be part of something that could be put on their CV.

While the service offered by ACX is superb, indies should treat a-books in the same way they treat ebooks, and look to do as much as possible themselves.

But there are possibilites beyond simply audio-narrating your book.

There is the possibility of enhanced audio-books.

That is to say, audio-books that go beyond relying on a single narrator, and instead explore the full dramatic potential of your story and have multiple narrators or even a full cast, along with sound-effects and the full panoply of radio production, that can be sold an an electronic file just like an ebook or a-book…

Again, Debbie makes some points about the specifics of writing for radio, where there are no visual aides to help the listener follow the story.

But with a little thought and some study of radio-scripting techniques it would not be hard for an author to transform their novel into an audio-play rather than just an audio-book, and work with a local drama group to make it reality.

At the sales end, the product is much the same. Ebook, audio-book or audio-play, it’s just a bunch of electrons sent out to a willing buyer. A bigger file, sure, but still easily exchanged for cash on a retail site.

At the production end, it’s really not so hard. Again many local drama groups will have sound technicians who know how to create sound-effects from the most every-day objects, and a good sound-technician can give a story a whole new lease of life. Match that with a good recording technician and the world is your oyster.

Audio-distribution is not quite as easy as ebook distribution at this stage, but new opportunities are emerging all the time, and even now there are actually far more options than just Amazon’s ACX, which appears to be as far as most indies get when thinking about audio.

If you’re thinking it all seems like a lot of work for little reward, then think again.

Audio is one of the fastest growing elements of the publishing market, and your potential reach is global in a way that even your ebooks can’t match, because many, many more people speak and understand English around the world than are comfortable reading in English.

You also open up to an audience at home that may be too visually impaired to read your ebooks, or that simply had no book-upbringing and would rather listen to play on the radio than try to read.

Plus of course the usual audio-book suspects too busy or too pre-occupied (driving, gardening, commuting, shopping, jogging, whatever) to hold a book or an ereader, but still wanting to be entertained.

And beyond that, when you do have the finished product, if you’ve been clever and produced it in fifteen or thirty minute installments or whatever, with top and tails, you may just have a commercial product you can sell to radio stations globally.

Not just as a radio-play but as a serialized audio-book. Not all books will lend themselves to serialization, but many will, and some of course are written as serials in the first place, which presents a wonderful oportunity to offer serialized audio, with top-and-tails for each episode.

Thanks to digital, the number of radio stations out there struggling to find content is staggering. Start at home with your local radio, but then expand your horizons. A local radio station on your doorstep may be just as likely to buy a good radio-play series or a serialized audio-book as a radio station in Australia or New Zealand, in Zimbabwe or Nigeria, Malaysia or Thailand.

No, most won’t pay much (though some, like the BBC, do have respectable fee structures) but what a way to reach new readers and a new audience. just by taking your existing works and tweaking them while having fun with the local community as Debbie is doing in Cheshire.

And along the way you just might get the attention of a TV or film producer to take your story to yet another level.

And this idea also has much to offer the author who specialises in shorter works.

My writing ranges from 120,000 words thrillers to short stories of 5,000 words, but this year I’m devoting my time to short and serialized works, from 5,000 to 20,000 words. I’ll report here later in the summer on how this is working out (so far, very promising) but I mention it here now in the context of audio, because short works are great for audio, whether it’s a podcast, a fully-fledged audio book, or a radio piece. And of course the production costs are a lot less for a shorter work.

Whatever your niche, don’t lose sight of the opportunities unfolding above and beyond the ebook as digital gets into second gear.

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

The View From The Beach – Mark Williams At Large

Gunjur-Coastline-Gambia

EBUK blogger Mark Williams takes a personal look back over recent developments on the global ebook scene.

~~~

Never mind audio-books. Say hello to smelly books. Smell-e-books, that is.

It had to happen. Ebooks that you can sniff.

A company called Vapor Communications has been testing smelly text messages for a while – no, seriously – and is now ready to apply the technology to ebooks. (LINK)

Not quite sure what they have in mind – food smells for your cookery books? Coffee smells for your series sponsored by Nescafe? Lots of opportunities to get boys reading with the smell-e-book version of Captain Underpants complete with fart smells and smelly skid-marks. As for bringing erotica ebooks to life with the pungent aroma of… No, let’s not even go there.

Or just maybe that wonderful bookstore smell you get when you first open a new print book. Now that would be a breakthrough.

~~~

Romania has long been on my Ones-To-Watch list for Europe, and Publishing Perspectives had a report this past week on one of Romania’s biggest online bookstores, Okian, which saw a 30% increase in sales last year.

I haven’t worked out how to get into Okian yet (they sell both print and digital) but a quick perusal of the store  (LINK) shows the prominence Okian gives to English-language titles. In the Publishing Perspectives report Okian’s CEO Tudor Benga confirms English-language titles are a big growth area for Okian.

Does this mean we’ll all sell more books in Romania? Yes and no.

At risk of being slammed for being anti-Amazon again it has to be noted that Amazon are busily surcharging Romanian readers, so your $2.99 ebook will cost a reader in Bucharest $4.99 plus currency exchange fees. You’ll get paid just 35% of the $2.99 if you do get a sale.

Luckily you can reach Romanian readers through Google Play, Scribd and Apple. To see your books in the Apple iBooks Romania store just go to your Apple product page or preview page link and change the country code (US, GB, AU or whatever) to RO.

There are a good few local ebook stores too. Okian, obviously, and Elefant and Evobook are among the key players. Digital libraries are also doing well in Romania.  No easy access to Romanian ebook stores right now, but that will change. It’s early days. The global New Renaissance is still in first gear.

Romania, Hungary, Greece and Turkey are among the key players emerging in east and south-east Europe right now. These should be priorities for career-authors looking to partner with translators, partner with local publishers, or indeed to find a niche following in the English-language sector.

But the rest of Europe is proving very exciting too, with Poland a key player. Make sure you have your ebooks available in mobi as this format is very popular in Poland, where Poles are returning home from Germany and the UK with Kindle devices only to find they get surcharged by Amazon back home.

Germany of course is Europe’s sleeping giant for ebooks, and especially for English-language ebooks, along with the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark.

Not so hot for E-L titles but worth keeping an eye on for translation partnerships are Slovakia, Slovenia and the Czech Republic, and also the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Small populations, but embracing digital fast.

And since we’re on the subject of Europe a reminder that Kobo is now getting titles back into the UK’s WH Smith store, so Kobo is back on track as a player in the UK, as well as taking a keen interest in indies in western Europe.

~~~

Staying with Europe and English-language in Europe, click on this link to see an infographic of the percentage of people in the EU who can hold a conversation in English. It may surprise you. (LINK)

Of course holding a conversation and reading a book are not quite the same thing, but the stats are indicative of the high-regard English is held in as the lingua franca of the world.

~~~

Having mentioned Kobo and WH Smith above, romance writers may be interested to know Kobo is running a competition in conjunction with Mills & Boon, with first prize a Mills & Boon published novel, in both digital and print, with full promo from both Kobo and WH Smith. (LINK)

The deadline is July 14th.

~~~

WhatsApp has hit 800 million active users, with 100 million of them just since January. (LINK)

We’ve covered the messenger services a few times here at EBUK, and it’s a subject we’ll be returning to in-depth later. Here just a few quick observations.

WhatsApp is owned by Facebook but is a very different user experience from Facebook, and one largely ignored by indie authors. But these messenger services – along with the likes of Viber and Line, etc, etc, can, and are/will be key parts of our future promo scene. Ignore them at your peril.

With 800 million active users just on What’s App (equivalent to twice the population of the USA and UK combined) that’s a lot of people.

Re the mini-post above on English-speakers in the EU, chiming in at 90% was the Netherlands. It’s only very recently Amazon opened a Kindle NL store, and being so late to the party most indies are seeing little action, but Kobo now gets you into the biggest-by-far Dutch ebook store Bol.com, and the Tolino Alliance also distribute to the Netherlands, as do Txtr, Apple and of course Google Play.

According to this report (LINK) 8.7 million Dutch smartphone users have downloaded the WhatsApp app, and 90% of all female smartphone users in the Netherlands have downloaded WhatsApp.

~~~

As we explored in a post here at EBUK back in September (LINK), we will all have noticed that we don’t get inundated by tweets and FB posts from people in the Netherlands, or Indonesia or Outer Mongolia, and with good reason. But it works both ways. Our tweets and FB posts, even if promoting ebooks aimed at these markets, simple don’t get seen by most of the world, or even most of our regular contacts.

The only realistic way to connect with the global readership is to reach out and make connections on the social media and messenger services where they are, not where you are.

Not easy, and outside our comfort zone, of course. To make matters worse, messenger services do not work in the same way as the “traditional” (or should we say legacy?) social media we are used to, so there’s a learning curve involved.

But don’t tune out just yet, or you may find yourself standing at the station when this train departs.

You only have to look at the way Rakuten is gearing up to use Viber as an e-commerce sales vehicle – with a strong focus on selling Kobo ebooks! – to understand that it can be done and is being done. More on Rakuten’s plans in a full post very shortly.

Meantime why not trying connecting with WhatsApp users in the Netherlands, where 90% will at least understand your English, and a good percentage may be interested in reading your English books and ebooks? From little acorns…

As ever we indies can move with the times, or stay safe and cozy in our indie boxes partying like its 2009.

Our choice. Our prospective loss. But nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Oh, and for those wondering what the top ten messenger apps are right now… (LINK)

~~~

Indonesia Alert!

Facebook’s internet.org has just gone live in Indonesia. (LINK)

For those unfamiliar, internet.org is a free curated internet service featuring a couple of dozen key sites like Wikipedia, Wattpad, local government sites, health and employment sites, and of course Facebook.

The initiative is aimed at the net-disenfranchised who may have a smartphone but still cannot afford, or do not have the means to pay for, actual internet access. The internet.org connection is free.

Regulars here will know Indonesia is high on our watch-list as a big prospect for indie authors. Those using Wattpad might want to think about directing messages at Indonesian readers (20% of FB traffic in Indonesia is conducted in English!) to get yourselves known for when Indonesia moves to the next level. Today’s free-readers on Wattpad (accessible through internet.org) may be tomorrow’s paying customers that make you a best-selling author in Indonesia.

And while neither Apple nor Amazon sell ebooks in Indonesia, both Google Play and Scribd do.

~~~

For those who speak/read German the long-awaited Tolino self-pub portal is now up and running. (LINK)

I’m both disappointed and surprised there is no English-language option on the site, given the pan-European nature of Tolino and that is it, apparently, open to all EU members to use direct (presumably a payments and tax issue).

Germany’s Xin-Xii and Italy’s Narcissus both understand the value of the “international” language that is English. Hopefully an E-L option for the Tolino site will follow soon.

Meantime, for those like me who are linguistically challenged Tolino is easily accessible via Draft2Digital and Xin-Xii.

~~~

Rakuten wrapped up its buy-out of OverDrive this past week.

I’m a big fan of OverDrive and delighted Rakuten have taken over the operation. OverDrive are best known as the world’s largest library distributor, and I’ve been enjoying global library traffic through OverDrive for many years.

But OverDrive also supply a number of retail outlets, including key players like Waterstone’s in the UK and Kalahari in South Africa.

Rakuten have intimated there are no immediate plans to make changes at OverDrive, so business as usual for now, but it will be interesting to see what Rakuten has in mind longer-term.

With the Rakuten CEO’s plans to make Kobo ebooks a central part of the Rakuten Viber e-commerce venture it’s very clear ebooks and digital media in general is going to play a big part in Rakuten’s future.

Forward-thinking indies would do well to be fully engaged with both of Rakuten’s current ebook outlets. You can go direct to Kobo via Kobo Writing Life. OverDrive sn’t so easy to access, but the British aggregator Ebook Partnership will get your titles into both the OverDrive libraries and the OverDrive retailers.

For non-erotica indies you can get your titles into the overdrive libraries via Smashwords. The much-screamed-about “indie ghetto” at OverDrive is history, but it’s still a tortuous process gong via Smashwords.

A few days ago it was announced one of OverDrive’s library competitors, Ingram’s MyiLibrary, was being acquired by Proquest. I’d been trying to dig up some background on this without much success when, Nate at Ink, Bits & Pixels (formerly The Digital Reader) usurped my plan and ran a post this morning on this very subject. (LINK)

It’s well worth reading Nate’s post for some speculation on Proquest’s future plans.

Meantime I’m left wondering how indies will be able to get content into MyiLibrary now it is separate from Ingram.

Hopefully a savvy operator like Draft2Digital will step in. D2D have recently signed up with Tolino, and as aggregators go they show a lot of promise, but with neither Smashwords nor D2D yet to secure a deal with Google Play (both Italy’s Narcissus and Germany’s Xin-Xii have, as has Britain’s Ebook Partnership) it may well be that one of the European aggregators takes the lead here too.

~~~

Back in 2013 here on the EBUK blog we speculated that ebooks would soon come with a QR code on breakfast cereal packets and ketchup bottles. Well, we’re still waiting to see ebooks on ketchup bottles, but the innovative British ebook retailer and supermarket chain Sainsbury had ebooks on its own-brand cereal packets just a few months later, and in April 2015 Simon & Schuster joined the cereal club with a deal to promote ebooks on Cheerios packets. (LINK)

By no means the only example of Europe being literally years ahead of America with digital. Just think ebooks on planes, trains and buses, or indeed subscription services.

~~~

Not for everybody, but for those who write about finances, money and business, this new report from K-lytics is very useful reading. (LINK)

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I’m often asked which blogs and such I’d recommend to keep ahead of the ebook game and spot the trends before they become the next overcrowded bandwagon to jump on.

In fact it’s a broad mixture of publishing-industry blogs, tech blogs and finance blogs that collectively give the bigger picture.

So over the coming weeks I’ll take a look at a few must-read sites and discuss their good and bad points. Starting today with GalleyCat.

GalleyCat gets singled out for being one of the most irritating of the industry blogs.

Not that it’s all bad, of course. If you want the latest trad pub news then GalleyCat is as good as any, but GalleyCat also purports to be on top of the indie scene. Yet it rarely shows it is anything of the sort.

Take the weekly best-selling self-published titles report they reel out. (LINK)

This is a great idea in principle, but guys, first you need to understand what the key self-publishing sales platforms are, and clearly you don’t.

In GaleyCat’s own words, “To help GalleyCat readers discover self-published authors, we compile weekly lists of the top eBooks in three major marketplaces for self-published digital books: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.”

Er, guys, I hate to break this to you but Smashwords is a major self-published authors’ distributor. An aggregator. That it happens to sell ebooks as a sideline service does not in any way, shape or form make it “a major marketplace” for indie ebooks. Most non-writer readers have never heard of Smashwords.

If you want to produce a meaningful list try comparing the top indie titles across Amazon, Nook, Apple, Scribd, Oyster, Kobo and Google Play.

To see just how meaningless the current list is, just take a look at the top three self-published bestsellers from Amazon and Smashwords. I leave you to decide which store is which. Somehow I doubt you’ll have brain-hernia working it out.

Store 1:

  1. The Mistake (Off Campus Book 2)by Elle Kennedy
  2. Chanceby Deborah Bladon
  3. The Mad Tatterby J.M. Darhower

Store 2:

  1. Cognitive Activity Design: Designing Creative Activities and Art-Based Projects That Promote Brain Health and FlourishingBy Michael C. Patterson
  2. Negotiating for Success: Essential Strategies and SkillsBy George J. Siedel
  3. Strong Brains, Sharp Minds: The Definitive Guide to the MINDRAMP Method For Brain Health & Mental DevelopmentBy Michael C. Patterson & Roger Anunsen

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While the indie world is obsessing about Amazon’s drone programme, Jeff Bezos is quietly getting on with something far more exciting – a space programme. This isn’t part of Amazon, but one of Bezos’s many private ventures.

His private space company Blue Origin successfully launched its first space rocket at the end of April, taking the world a step closer to passenger space travel. (LINK)

Bezos is no stranger to space. Two years ago his private exploration operation recovered the Saturn 5 rocket engines that launched Apollo 11. (LINK)

I often get slammed for being “anti-Amazon” for suggesting that everything Jeff Bezos does at Amazon is not in fact done for the sole benefit of indie authors. But as a child of the Apollo programme, when it comes to Uncle Jeff’s space endeavours I love them all!

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OverDrive Digital Library Ebook Loans Rose By A Third In 2014.

 

DiversifyIn2015

Over 100 million ebooks were loaned out by OverDrive last year, along with 32 million audio-books.

Next time you read about ebooks sales slumping, ebook gluts, and other nonsense, bear in mind what we’ve long been saying: that market fragmentation is accelerating and the handful of big retailers indies have focused on are just one part of the picture. Readers have plenty of other places to obtain ebooks from.

Yes, digital libraries are eating into mainstream retailer market share, but that needn’t be bad news for authors. Just the opposite! Just like with subscription services, digital libraries are a great way for us indies to reach new readers and develop new fan-bases. And yes, authors do get paid for ebooks loaned through libraries.

Until last year getting into digital libraries wasn’t at all easy for indie authors, but the few that did reaped the rewards. Some indies have been with OverDrive for years, and have seen global downloads not just in the UK and US but notably from libraries in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Now, thanks to Smashwords, getting into the world’s biggest library distributor, Overdrive, is relatively straight-forward for most genres. (Note, erotica authors will need to try a different route – OverDrive draws the line at Smashwords erotica for obvious reasons, but OverDrive does NOT have a no-erotica policy).

It’s worth noting that all the Big 5 have ebooks with OverDrive libraries. If it’s good enough for them…

Lots of individual libraries across Canada and the USA saw over one million downloads in 2014, with some clearing two million.

Los Angeles Public Library saw its OverDrive circulation expand by 56 percent. The New York Public Library and the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County each saw 42 percent growth to top the one million loan mark. And the Seattle Public Library, Hennepin County Library (MN), Cleveland Public Library, Calgary Public Library (AB), and Cuyahoga County Public Library (OH) each increased OverDrive checkouts between 25 and 35 percent to exceed one million loans.

The shift from PC-based downloads to mobile devices has been critical in this increase, and we can expect these numbers to be much bigger by the end of 2015.

We haven’t seen figures for other library distributors yet but safe to presume it’s similar story for them, albeit on a smaller scale. Again, library-distributors are not always easy-access, but it can be done. More on the various options soon.

Those not yet in the library distribution arena really need to think again. Or miss out. Because digital libraries are still in their infancy. This is just the tip of the ice-berg,

Digital libraries are an easy way to reach readers and boost your income even as the mainstream retail sector becomes harder and harder to navigate.

Yes, there is a glut out there. A glut of badly written, badly formatted and badly written ebooks that are cluttering the cyber-shelves and making discovery more difficult for serious authors trying to reach readers. And a glut of free ebooks and ten and twenty volume box sets sold for 0.99. If we swamp our readers with free and ultra-cheap titles by the million it’s hardly surprising readers are sitting back and waiting for the next freebie from indies rather than pay full price.

But as subscription service reports and library reports show clearly, ebook reading is on the up and up. And print is firmly refusing to keel over despite the repeated assurances of the indie fundamentalists over the last five years that trad pub was in terminal decline.

If some of our sales are tanking right now, maybe it’s because some of us aren’t focused enough on being where the readers are, and aren’t focussed enough on making our works available in formats the readers want it in.

Make no mistake. We are witness to, and participants in, a New Renaissance quite unparalleled in human history. We have global reach and global opportunity the like of which authors even a decade ago could only dream of.

Trad pub understands this, no matter how many times the Indie Old Guard trot out the heads in sand / deckchairs on the Titanic spiel.

Yet many of us indies are still partying like its 2009. Many of us are so over-awed by being able to publish at all that we are losing sight of the fact that there is more than one way to publish, and more than one or two retailers to publish with.

Digital libraries are just one option to diversify in 2015.

How diversified will you be by the end of this year? Or will you still be partying like its 2009 in 2016?

 

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