Category Archives: India

Wattpad’s Global Data Mine

wattpad-global

Are you making the best of Wattpad’s data tools?

Wattpad is, increasingly, a valuable tool to get actual sales, and I’ll be looking at some of Wattpad’s new sales-orientated features over coming weeks.

But for me Wattpad is most valuable for its global reach and its data.

Take the image above. Obviously this is an inert screenshot, but the original in my Wattpad data dashboard is interactive and a click on each of the highlighted countries will tell me what percentage of my readers are coming from each country.

Wattpad will also break down my readers by gender and by age group, and a lot more besides.

  • This map shows me that for this particular title some 25% of my Wattpad readership is in the US. More than I would have expected, but then this is an English-language title.
  • The UK accounts for 11% and Canada and Australia account for 3% each.

But what matters to me with Wattpad is reaching the rest of the world and, again bearing in mind this is an English-language title, the stats are both revealing and occasionally surprising.

  • In Europe I’m finding readers in Germany and Austria. Surprisingly no traction yet elsewhere in Europe.
  • 10% of my Wattpad readers for this title are in India. That’s very useful to know as I really hadn’t considered India a likely market for this particular book. And 2% in neighbouring Pakistan and 1.5% in Sri Lanka.

But then come the real surprises.

  • Courtesy of Wattpad I’m finding readers in Africa for my English-language title – in South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana and Nigeria. In fact 5% of my readers for this title are in Nigeria, which gives me something to focus on.
  • In Latin America it’s not great, but I’m finding readers in Brazil and Guyana.

Across Asia it’s looking very promising.

  • The Philippines is delivering fully 10% of my readers, and while there are still far too many white spaces (0%) across Asia I’m doing the happy dance on seeing I’ve found readers in Georgia and Outer Mongolia.

Am I seeing sales from all this? Two points arise.

First, it’s impossible to make a direct link between the Wattpad stats and sales , but I suspect yes, I’m seeing some extra sales. Not many, but a few.

But, to come to point two, that’s not what I use Wattpad for. Wattpad is my route to connect with readers who for whatever reason cannot or are not looking at the big ebook retail stores we mostly rely on.

Wattpad is about finding my future core readers and establishing my brand in far-flung lands.

As per stats, there are clearly a couple of countries where it may pay off to start some focussed promotion. By which I mean focussed brand-building, not buy-my-book marketing, although of course that’s a welcome bonus.

For this particular title 49% of my readers are 13-18 age group and 80% female. Both figures could be higher as about 20% in each case have opted not to give that data. Given the title (YA aimed at girls) the stats are not surprising. A further 25% are 18-25, but I’m getting readers across all age groups.

For this sort of data alone Wattpad is worth setting some time aside, but there is much more to Wattpad than just data, as I’ll be exploring in future posts.

For 2017 I plan on getting ALL my tiles on Wattpad and trying to leverage some of Wattpad’s many promotional tools. More on that soon.

With 45 million users worldwide, and literally one new reader signing up every second of every day, Wattpad is potentially one of our most valuable internationalist-indie tools.

Are you getting the best out of Wattpad?

This post first appeared in the International Indie Author Facebook Group. See the original post and discussion here. (LINK)

◊ ◊ ◊

Other recent posts from the International Indie Author Facebook Group:

Google Play have introduced new discovery features to Google Play Books that might just bring us a few more sales.

With 75 global ebook stores GP is one of our most useful assets for global reach.

While still sadly indifferent to Africa (just South Africa and Egypt), Google Play is a strong player in Latin America, eastern Europe and SE Asia (inc. Thailand, Indonesia,Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Philippines, etc, where Amazon and Apple are not available). .

Anecdotally Google Play is my best bet for sales across Latin America, out-performing Amazon in Brazil and Mexico, and even bringing sales from small countries like El Salvador.

Google Play’s self-pub portal is now closed to newcomers, and we have to be in one of the 75 GPB global countries to even see the store, but we can still get our titles into Google Play Books.

Sadly neither Smashwords nor Draft2Digital can help here, but StreetLib and PublishDrive can, and of course so can the pay-up-front aggregators like Bookbaby and Ebook Partnership.

See the original post and discussion here. (LINK)

◊ ◊ ◊

Another One Bites The Dust – Sainsbury Ebooks To Close.

I’ve not heard anything from Sainsbury yet but Kobo are reporting they are hoovering up Sainsbury’s customer base as Sainsbury opts out of the ebook business.

Sainsbury is a significant UK supermarket chain that, along with Tesco, took on the challenge of the UK ebook market.

Tesco fell foul of major issues unrelated to its digital ambitions and had to pull out of peripherals like ebooks.

No word yet as to what triggered the Sainsbury pull-out, but given Amazon UK’s overwhelming dominance of the UK ebook market this is disappointing but not surprising news.

For indies it will make no difference to our Sainsbury sales as Sainsbury was strictly trad-pub only. A handful of indies using Vearsa were there, but for the rest of us it simply was never an option.

This latest UK ebook store failure follows close on the heels of the Waterstone’s surrender. Waterstone’s too handed its ebook clientèle to Kobo. As did Sony UK before that. And of course Nook UK has left us. And somewhere in between Txtr UK left us and Blloon left us.

Apple and Google Play line up with Kobo to keep Amazon from total UK ebook dominance (small players like Blackwells and Hive are neither here nor there. Kobo has both a localized UK store and partners with the high street chain WH Smith.

I wouldn’t be that surprised if WH Smith conceded defeat next.

The sad reality right now is that if an indie has a very strong UK presence and isn’t faring well on other retailers at home or abroad then going KDP Select and focussing on the Amazon UK market would make perfect sense.

No doubt there will be rejoicing on the Zon-centric blogs these next few days (I suspect many are already planning street parties for when B&N goes down) but a healthy market is one with strong competition.

The UK ebook market is as close to an Amazon monopoly as they’ve got anywhere. It’s common sense, not anti-Amazon sentiment, to say this latest UK ebook store closure is not good news.

◊ ◊ ◊

India news – from Amar Vyas

Manasi Subramaniam, Commissioning editor and Rights Manager at Harper Collins India, conducted a master class on publishing rights during Publishing Next 2016. During the masterclass, she talked about translations, international rights, film and other rights for books. Manasi also gave examples of how the B2B books rights process works at Book Fairs.

You can listen to this very informative session here. (LINK)

◊ ◊ ◊

The future is never far away, and as regular readers of my Beware The Future posts will understand, if we plan on being in this game for the long haul we need to, if not predict the future, at least anticipate and be ready for it.

The 2016 Tech Trend report is out and while the whole thing is worth snuggling down in bed with, Joe Wikert has thoughtfully been through it and picked out a few key areas pertinent to the future of publishing.

Read Wikert’s summary here, where there is also a link to the full report.

Wikert’s perspective is of course that of Big Pub, not indie authors, but while we indies may not have the financial muscle of the big players we do have other advantages – speed and agility to experiment – and we can partner with third parties to get in on many of these future developments.

The future will happen whether we like it or not. Change and disruption will happen in our cosy indie-ebook-author lives whether we embrace it or bury our heads in the sand.

If we’re on our last legs and don’t plan on being a writer in the 2020s and beyond, then anticipating and preparing for the future is something we can afford not to do.

For the rest of us the future is our biggest challenge, because change and disruption will happen, and in a far faster and more furious pattern than we’ve experienced this past few years with the so-called ebook revolution, when the only big change was print to ebook.

The real digital revolution is still in first gear. (LINK to Joe Wikert post.)

◊ ◊ ◊

On a personal note, for those intrigued my my Third World life here in West Africa, my June and July Gambia Diaries are currently holding #1 and #2 place in category in the free charts on Amazon.

 

1-2-in-niche

These short essays are available free from all good ebook retailers.

Given these monthly ebooks are the only two free titles in this category I’m in the interesting position whereby over the coming months I’ll hold the top five, top ten and eventually top twenty spots in category. And in just over eight years I’ll have the top 100!

For anyone wondering, I am able to list on Amazon without price-matching or being exclusive by uploading via StreetLib.

 

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

 

 

Advertisements

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

FB-Lite_India-1-750x422

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

◊ ◊ ◊

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

◊ ◊ ◊

“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)

◊ ◊ ◊

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)

◊ ◊ ◊

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

◊ ◊ ◊

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

◊ ◊ ◊

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

◊ ◊ ◊

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

◊ ◊ ◊

The International Indie Author

Looking at the bigger picture.

Going Globile: India – Momentum Builds, Despite The Indifference Of The Western Retailers.

For those looking at the bigger picture, Publishing Perspectives this week (LINK), in the wake of the New Delhi Book Fair, runs a post on India reporting on the success of local authors writing in local languages.
 
As I’ve long been saying, the rise of globile (global mobile) means previously disenfranchised readers across the globe are for the first time being given the opportunity to read, listen and watch books, audio-books, video, etc, that were previously off-limits to them due to the restrictions (accessibility and affordability) of analogue content.
 
As the Publishing Perspectives posts notes, in India there are 22 official languages and over 100 more major spoken languages in dozens of communities from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal. ”The emergence of smartphones and tablets — enabling so-called “mobile reading” — promises to make India a nation of translations.”
 
The post reports Prashasti Rastogi, director, German Book Office in New Delhi as saying, “Lately in India, there’s a huge concentration in publishing on Indian languages. Technology is deep-seated in the market, and we’ve seen the rise of reading apps which cater to Indian languages.”
 
Rastogi adds, “…hordes of people flock to book fairs in Patna or Kolkata to look for books in Hindi or Bengali.”
 
Print books that is. A reminder that we indies venturing into the India market should not ignore print.
 
Ebooks? If only.
 
But the simple fact is local-language Indian ebooks are not taking off in a big way because of retailer indifference.
Take Amazon, for example. With a whole 100 Hindi ebooks available in the Kindle IN store and zero titles on other Indian languages that’s hardly an incentive for publishers to start getting their local-language titles into mobi format.
 
But there’s always Apple and Kobo, right?
 
Sadly, no. There is no IBooks IN store, and Kobo treats India as an afterthought. Kobo has a disappointing partnership store with Crossword and the Kobo international store is available, but there is no localized Kobo India store and like Amazon, Kobo doesn’t want to know about local-language ebooks.
 
Having just absorbed Flipkart’s customers, that’s tragic. Kobo, wake up and smell the coffee!
 
There are two key local-language players in India right now – Dailyhunt and Rockstand.
 
Both are doing rather well, not least because they not only offer local-language titles, But also because they offer local-payment options too – another big fail for the western retailers in a land where only a tiny fraction of its people have bank cards.
 
Both Rockstand and Dailyhunt are in theory accessible to authors outside the country, but the hoops you need to jump through to go direct are not going to have western indie authors queuing up to clamber aboard.
 
Late last year the Hungarian aggregator PublishDrive signed a distribution deal with Rockstand, but that aside the big western aggregators, like the western retailers, seem determined to stick to the easy option English-language market in India.
 
“Languages (other than English) are really thriving, and in fact, there is an increased readership that we see in a lot of local languages,” says Meera Johri, head of an Indian publisher of Hindi classics.
 
In the tagged Publishing Perspectives post Jori adds, “There is a renewed interest in buying Hindi books and reading Hindi books. (Indian languages like) Marathi has always been very vibrant. Malayalam and Bangla, too… One reason is that these languages have a very strong culture of reading.”
 
Getting my titles translated into multiple Indian languages in multiple formats – ebook, print and audio – is a priority for me this year as the Indian book market – already the sixth largest in the world – transforms into a dual analogue-digital market.
 
The opportunities in India right now, for those playing the long game, are hard to exaggerate.
 
Stake you claim now for the India goldrush to come.
 
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.

 

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.

India – The Race For Local-Language Internet Supremacy Has Begun. Indie Authors, Prepare Now For The Opportunities Ahead.

India e-commerce

There are three major e-commerce players in India right now. Flipkart, Snapdeal and Amazon.

Of those only one – Amazon – is now selling ebooks, but don’t give up on this story yet, because what Snapdeal is doing right now is going to alter the Indian e-commerce landscape.

So far the internet in India has been very much an English-language affair. India may be the second largest English-speaking nation in the world, but English is spoken by a substantial minority of Indians.

And for those that don’t speak, read or write in English, the internet – and especially the field of e-commerce – has been of limited interest.

There are great sites in local languages, of course, and some ebook retailers specialize in local-language titles, but English has been the driving force in internet take-up in the country thus far.

But not for much longer.

As Google’s South Asia VP said earlier this year, the next 100 million internet users will not be in English.

The proliferation of smartphones has made internet access a global phenomenon in a way that was quite impossible even five years ago. Globile (global mobile) has allowed nations to simply skip the desktop era of cable internet access and go straight from no internet to 3G/4G internet pretty much overnight.

In India, the fastest-growing smartphone market, globile is changing lives as internet access becomes available to even the remotest parts of the subcontinent.

But with English a minority language (a mere 150 million speakers) the shift to embrace local languages on the net was always just a matter of time.

That time has come. And Snapdeal is the first of the big Indian e-commerce sites to grasp this nettle.

Snapdeal, generally acknowledged as the second largest player after Flipkart, is rolling out the Snapdeal site not just in English but in Hindi and Telegu with immediate effect, and by end January will have Snapdeal options in nine other regional languages – Gujarati, Tamil, Marathi, Bengali, Kannada, Malayalam, Oriya, Assamese and Punjabi. (LINK)

Flipkart will follow suit in no time at all.

Amazon? Well, this is going to be interesting to watch.

Amazon’s focus is on the middle class niche who largely coincide with the English-speakers, not the whole population. With its limited payment options in a country where over 90% of the population do not have bank cards that’s unlikely to change.

In the Kindle store Amazon currently supports only one local language, and there are just a handful of titles available.

That’s not so important right now, when over 50% of print titles sold in India are in English. But that’s more to do with availability and affordability than reader preference.

As innovative local-language digital players like Rockstand and Dailyhunt are clearly showing, when local language ebooks are made available and affordable, Indian readers are snapping them up.

And now Snapdeal have just opened the door to local-language engagement with the internet in India at a whole new level.

It seems unlikely Snapdeal will be selling ebooks in the foreseeable future, but the idea that the internet in India will remain the preserve of English-speakers is now redundant.

More and more Indians will be coming online looking for local language content, including books and ebooks.

And many – probably most – Indians who do speak English likely do so as a second language learned at school, rather than their family conversational language at home, and will welcome content in their first language.

There are fantastic opportunities here for internationalist indie authors willing to go the extra mile and seek out translations in as many local languages as possible, for ebooks, print, audio and beyond.

By beyond I mean, for example, promo, blogging, social media engagement, etc.

It’s not commercially viable for me to have The International Indie Author blog and FB pages translated into other languages right now, but it’s certainly something I’m looking at for the future. if we want to fully engage with the world we will have to address translations not just of our books but of our wider social media presence.

But let’s focus on books for now.

Earlier this year India leapfrogged the UK to become the second largest English-language book market in the world. It’s now the sixth largest book market on the planet overall.

And it will get much bigger as smartphones make internet access available to literally hundreds of millions of Indians who previously had no way of getting online.

Many will be buying ebooks, and many more will be using their smartphones to buy print books from online stores.

We are going to see a big surge in local language take-up of books, across all formats, over the next five years.

Savvy indies will be positioning themselves now to enjoy the ride.

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

 

 

Flipkart Ebook Store Closes. You Heard It Here First!

When the International Indie Author blog broke the news back in September that Flipkart’s ebook store was on the chopping block, (LINK) I was hoping I might be proved wrong, but it’s now official.

Flipkart’s ebook store is history. (LINK)

This is good and bad news.

The bad is that Flipkart is a major brand in India and still, just, the biggest e-commerce operator in the country. Had it taken ebooks seriously it might have been a very different story for the Flipkart ebook store. But what’s done is done.

The good news is that indie authors now have an easy access point to India through Kobo.

As I said back in September,

“Rakuten-owned Kobo could yet surprise us all, make a bid for the Flipkart customer data, and start taking India seriously.”

That’s what has happened. Just how seriously Kobo will now take India remains to be seen, but there’s every reason for optimism..

India remains the most exciting prospect on the planet for indie authors as ebooks take off across the subcontinent.

The India ebook gold rush is imminent. Stake your claim now!