The Thirty Minute Upload Workout – Going Wide Needn’t Be A Chore.

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And no, despite the image, this is not a self-promo Buy My Book post!

 

When it comes to finding the path of least resistance we indies have it down to a fine art.

Even though all logic dictates that, unless we have a sweetheart deal with a retailer, being available as widely as possible is the best long-term career move we can make, it seems many indies will nonetheless convince ourselves it’s all soooo much effort that we’re better off just signing up to Select and crossing our fingers.

NB: This isn’t an anti-Select post. Select is a great tool and used wisely can bring its own rewards, but we should never chose an option simply because it’s quick and easy, or because we see big-name authors doing well in Select but who may well have special deals like White Glove, etc that are why they are doing so well when so many regular indies are not.

Especially when it’s so quick and easy to go from being just in Amazon’s dozen stores to being in 400-500 stores worldwide, and still be in those same dozen Amazon stores as well.

How quick and easy?

Well, overnight the cover came in for my English-German bilingual version of the Red-Headed League, the Conan Doyle classic re-told for children as part of my Classics For Kids global literacy project.

There’s not much point putting a global project in Select, because, despite that long list of countries in the KDP dashboard when you click world rights, Amazon actually blocks downloads to much of the world and imposes surcharges on ebook sales in other countries not in the Kindle Zone (ie outside the dozen or so Kindle store countries).

For example a $2.99 title sold in South Africa will cost the reader $4.99 but the author will see just 35% of the original $2.99 list price.

I picked the bilingual title to illustrate this post because, being bilingual, it has almost double the metadata, with bilingual title, bilingual series title, bilingual blurb, etc.

But it still took me only thirty minutes to put that title into all the distributors needed to reach 400-500 global retail and library outlets.

Okay, here’s how I set about it.

First, I have everything ready and lined up.

  • The epub/mobi file is ready.
  • The cover is ready to go.
  • The finalised Word file is open at the title page.
  • I have the blurb all-typed up and ready to go.
  • I have a list of keywords ready to type in.
  • I have my categories and price decided on.

All of which (epub aside) we need whether we are going as wide as possible or going into Select. If we have the mobi file it’s just a couple of minutes work to run it through Calibre and convert to epub.

Then I simultaneously open browser tabs for Amazon KDP, Kobo KWL, Pronoun, Smashwords, Draft2Digital and PublishDrive (I don’t have direct access to Apple and gave up on NookPress when Nook UK closed, so I use the aggregators to get into B&N).

From there, it’s a breeze.

  • Copy title from Word doc and paste into title bar in KDP, then KWL, then Smashwords, then Pronoun, then StreetLib, then PublishDrive.

If moving from Select to go wide, then do the same and copy the metadata from KDP to the other stores.

  • Repeat for series title. Repeat for blurb.
  • Upload cover to KDP, then move along to KWL, then etc.
  • Upload epub/mobi/Word doc to KDP, then KWL, then etc.

All of which has so far taken maybe ten-fifteen minutes of our valuable time if we’re on a steam-powered laptop and a Third World internet server as I am.

Then we have fifteen-twenty minutes remaining to tackle the more time-consuming tasks of selecting categories, keywords, price and outlets.

But here we simply refer to our categories and keywords list and input the data, one upload option after the other. Category options vary slightly from one upload option to the next, but it’s no big deal.

Prices again need a few minutes of thought to make sure we optimise our list-prices. For example, having chosen our KDP prices we can still play with lower prices for some locations with some outlets. If we have $3.99 AUD set for Australia in KDP (the lowest we can get 70% for) then obviously we need to match that in KWL, D2D, etc for Australia using the territorial pricing tool. But we can still list at 0.99 for example in New Zealand, which isn’t covered by Amazon’s MFN clause because there isn’t a Kindle NZ store.

Our final job is to choose the sales/library outlets for each uploader. Again, done one after the other it’s just a few minutes work to sort them all.

If using KDP then obviously we untick Amazon on StreetLib, Pronoun and PublishDrive (there are good reasons why we might want to upload to Amazon without using KDP, but that’s for another post).

Ditto KWL.

Beyond that we need to choose whether to use Smashwords or StreetLib for OverDrive, and whether to use StreetLib or Pronoun or PublishDrive for Google Play, and D2D or Smashwords or PublishDrive or StreetLib for Tolino, and StreetLib or D2D for 24 Symbols, and etc, etc.

Yeah, decisions, decisions, but if we’re going straight from one to another it’s not rocket-science to keep track and make sure we get all the options available without any overlapping.

Finally, hit publish and, for Smashwords, pop back and check the channels and series managers because for some reason Smashwords make us do that after we publish, not before).

Then make ourselves a cup of coffee. We deserve it.

Many outlets will have our title live the same day, Others will take a few days or a week or even many weeks, but the thing is, all it’s taken us is half an hour of our lives to set it all in motion.

Maybe a few minutes longer if we are also doing NookPress and Apple direct, or maybe also using Bookbaby or XinXii or Ebook Partnership or…) but by any realistic measure this isn’t going to take us much over thirty minutes.

A half hour now that could be paying back at one level or another for years to come.

There are good reasons to restrict our reach with some titles and focus our energies on one retail outlet.

But saying we haven’t time isn’t one of them.

I’m wide. How about you?

♦ ♦ ♦

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

 

 

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Paypal Suspends Operations In Turkey. StreetLib, Draft2Digital, Smashwords, Pronoun et al – Take Notice.

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Paypal Suspends Operations In Turkey. StreetLib, Draft2Digital, Smashwords, Pronoun et al – Take Notice.

Imagine you’re an indie author in Turkey. You’ve been selling ebooks using platforms like Smashwords, StreetLib, D2D, Pronoun, etc, and receiving your payments through Paypal because for most of the above that’s the only option available to you(in Pronoun’s case, the only option available, period.)

From 06 June your writing career is going to be effectively over as Paypal suspends all operations in Turkey.

The Turkish financial authorities have declined to renew Paypal’s licence. (LINK)

The whys and wherefores are neither here nor there.

For these Turkish authors (and ex-pats in Turkey without a Paypal account in another country) sales coming in through Smashwords, StreetLib, D2D, Pronoun, etc will effectively be meaningless unless those authors are able to use one of the very limited alternative payment options available.

Pronoun only offers Paypal. Pronoun no longer has any relevance to Turkish authors. Some of the other distributors offer bank-transfers, but getting money transferred to a European account from the US can be prohibitively expensive ad make smaller payments pointless. Likewise receiving and banking USD cheques/checks outside the US can be a nightmare.

It’s not just Turkish authors. Paypal makes a lot of noise about being a global player in 203 markets worldwide, but here in West Africa I cannot open a Paypal account at all, despite the fact that The Gambia is listed as a Paypal country. Paypal requires street names and zip codes. Only handful of roads here in The Gambia have names, and there is no postal service, only PO Boxes in a handful of big towns, so zip codes don’t exist.

Across much of Asia, Africa and Latin America where Paypal accounts can be opened these are often limited accounts and money cannot be transferred to local banks from Paypal, so receiving payments through Paypal is meaningless.

Many people in the US and Europe have had Paypal accounts closed on a whim by Paypal because of some real or perceived transgression.

To get my payments from Pronoun, Smashwords, etc, I have to have the money paid into a friend’s Paypal account in the UK, and they transfer the money to my bank account. For D2D I have a friend in the USA who receives payments on my behalf, and holds that money to pay for services I may need.

Most people in the world won’t have conveniently-placed friends in rich western countries to help out.

Back in 2009-10 when the global ebook market was US-UK it didn’t matter so much that distributors offered such limited options to receive payments.

In the globile world of 2016 it matters a lot.

And as events in Turkey demonstrate, it could matter a whole lot more in the future.

Being able to sell books around the world through Pronoun, StreetLib, Draft2Digital, Smashwords, etc, is fantastic. Fantastic, that is, for western authors and the handful of global authors who can participate and get paid.

In the light of events in Turkey I would ask all distributors to look again at their payment options for authors and broaden the payment-receiving options.

It’s 2016, not 2009. The ebook market is global. It shouldn’t be a one-way street for authors lucky enough to live in the right place that they can get paid, while other authors are forced to look on enviously, denied the opportunity to participate in the Global New Renaissance.

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

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StoryDrive – Beijing. End May. Something To Look Forward To.

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China’s StoryDrive convention kicks off later this month. Not something we can easily attend, so enjoy the photo of the convention centre as a reminder that China is very much part of the digital age, and we should all be looking very closely at the opportunities unfolding in this amazing country.

I’m on limited net access this month (for the many new subscribers, I live in West Africa) so just a brief post here to point you towards Porter Anderson’s post over at Publishing Perspectives with a preview of StoryDrive. (LINK)

As Anderson describes it, StoryDrive “is a conference that focuses on storytelling across cultural and international borders, and the rights trade.”

For the many newcomers who may be thinking “why bother with China? It’s a closed community,” just to say I regard China, along with India, as the two most exciting prospects on the planet right now for savvy indie authors looking at the bigger picture.

It’s a common misconception that western authors can’t sell in China and no-one in China would be interested in western books anyway.

A widely held belief that has no basis in reality.

As long ago as 2014 my UK-based crime thriller that has absolutely nothing even r emotely Chinese about it topped the ebook charts in China, including taking number one slot in the Kindle China store.

It can be done. It has been done.

China is a very real opportunity for adventurous indie authors, and not just for ebooks. China is way ahead of the transmedia game.

Do take time to check out Porter Anderson’s post and see why you should have StoryDrive Beijing 2016 on your Follow Closely agenda.

Oh, and watch out for StoryDrive Asia in Singapore in November.

A Global New Renaissance is unfolding. Writers today have opportunities quite unprecedented in human history.

Don’t let them pass you by.

The Global New Renaissance is real. It’s happening right now.

Be part of it.

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This post first appeared earlier this month in the international Indie Author Facebook Group.

To keep up with all the latest on global publishing opportunities, and a lot more, join the International Indie Author Facebook Group. (LINK)

Alas, Poor Waterstone’s, I Knew Thee Well. The UK’s Biggest Bookstore Shuts The Door On Ebooks.

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The UK’s prestigious Waterstone’s bookstore chain (the British equivalent of B&N for those unfamiliar) has finally called it a day with its token ebook store, and customers have until mid-June to transition to Kobo.

I’ve been with the Waterstone’s ebook store since the beginning. It helped make one of my titles the eleventh bestselling ebook in the UK back in 2011, and while sales hardly compared to Kindle UK, they were well worth having.

That was then. In recent years Waterstone’s sales have dwindled dreadfully (to be fair possibly a reflection of my shift to children’s titles the last two years, which are generally less rewarding as ebooks) and it’s long since become clear the Waterstone’e book store had lost the will to live. Waterstone’s chief James Daunt knows a futile battle when he sees one. I’m just surprised it took this long.

It’s another notch on Amazon’s bedpost. Waterstone’s joins Sony UK, Nook UK, Txtr UK, Tesco Blinkbox and the subscription service Blloon in the Uk ebook graveyard, leaving token players like Hive, Blackwell’s and Lovereading to compete with the bigger stores.

The bigger stores being Amazon Kindle, of course, along with Apple and Google Play. In addition Kobo has both a localized UK store and a partnership with WH Smith.

The other small but significant player is Sainsbury, but no indie access to that store.

Playster is also in the UK with its subscription service. Indies can get into Playster through StreetLib and I’m expecting an announcement from Draft2Digital soon.

Future competition in this sector may come from subscription service Storytel-Mofibo (or whatever it will rename itself in the wake of the merger), and a subscription service with trad pub titles in number may well find a niche to compete with KU.

But safe to say that now, as opposed to if it had happened back in 2011, the closure of Waterstone’s ebooks will make a difference to no-one but the Waterstone’s clients who will be transferred to Kobo.

Alas, poor Waterstone’s ebooks, I knew thee well.

How well?

Back in 2011 my titles were topping the Waterstone’s e-charts and while Kindle was bringing in far more, of course, the Waterstone’s money was not to be sneezed at.

Bear in mind Kindle UK only kicked off in summer 2010 and ebooks were still a novelty and possibly a fad. In early 2011 you could top the Kindle UK charts with just 20,000 sales a month.

James Daunt only took over at Waterstone’s in May 2011, at which time the Waterstone’s ebook store (it still had a sensible apostrophe back then) was ticking over nicely. There was almost zero indies to compete with (I think Waterstone’s was Gardner’s supplied then – OverDrive came later) which meant the handful of indies that were in could do well.

Daunt took over an effectively bankrupt bookstore chain (backed by Russian money) with a token ebook store and rumour kicked off about a B&N Nook partnership. Clearly at that time Daunt was hedging his bets. He even dropped the apostrophe in the name of the store to make it more on-line-friendly.

No-one was sure what way the ebook wind would blow in the UK, but B&N’s straddling physical and digital with the Nook project seemed (back then – hindsight is a wonderful thing) as good a bet as any.

At that time the Waterstone’s store sold iRiver and Sony ebook readers and displayed them quite prominently.

Then came the surprise Kindle partnership – presumably an offer Daunt couldn’t refuse – to pre-empt the Nook partnership. Why Daunt took it is anyone’s guess, but I suspect Daunt understood the long-term conflict that B&N was later to face – that you can’t cannibalize your physical stores by promoting ebooks.

Under the original B&N model that wouldn’t have been an issue, because the ebooks and print books were all from the same supply base. No problem. Ebooks and print books sold in tandem and complemented one another.

The phenomenal rise of self-publishing tipped over that apple-cart, and instead of ebooks complementing the print titles, ebooks began to cannibalize print.

B&N exacerbated the problem with the self-pub portal, making it easier for indies to sell on the Nook platform (back then Smashwords was the only realistic alternative route into Nook).

Daunt possibly had the foresight to see that coming. After all, at least one indie in the Waterstone’s ebook store – no names mentioned – was outselling the biggest names in publishing and was the most searched for brand in store for three months solid.

I was disappointed to see the Waterstone’s ebook project effectively shelved. The store remained open, but hidden, and the Kindle partnership was never taken seriously. Kindle devices were never displayed to their best advantage and staff studiously avoided being helpful when customers asked about them.

From public statements by Daunt in the last year or so it’s clear the ebook store had dwindled to irrelevancy. He was going out of his way to belittle its impact, suggesting the revenue from ebooks wouldn’t buy a coffee at the Waterstone’s Costa coffee bar. Back in 2011 the Waterstone’s royalties I was collecting would have kept me in coffee for a year, and I drink a lot of coffee!

Even allowing for some exaggeration (de-aggeration?) by Daunt, it was clear the Waterstone’s ebook store was not pulling its weight.

How much that was market economics and the obviously powerful impact of the Kindle store, and how much deliberate policy by Daunt, is unclear.

By 2013 it was obvious Daunt had no intention of developing the Waterstone’s ebook store, and by 2015 obvious it was on borrowed time. The only surprise since is that he’s kept the Waterstone’s ebook store open this long.

I suspect Daunt has ideological as well as commercial antipathy towards ebooks, but all credit to him for turning around an all-but bankrupt bookstore chain to the pont where it’s now expanding, showing that print bookstores can thrive in the face of ebook and on-line print sales from a far bigger competitor.

Without the burden of the Nook – a valiant attempt by B&N, but one destined to fail because the two arms cannibalized instead of complementing one another – B&N might be in a far stronger position, as Waterstone’s is in the UK today.

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The International Indie Author
Looking at the bigger picture.

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Dan Brown Shows Us How Its Done – Age-Group Verticals.

da vinci

Yeah, I’m still here. It’s just that I haven’t been, well, here.

Living in The Gambia, West Africa, has its compensations, of course. and my worst nightmare would be having to leave, but life is never a breeze here. At last, not when it comes to trying to keeping on top of the writing workload.

Back when I actually lived in the UK I imagined being endlessly productive once I set up here, with no commuting to and from the coffee bar every day, no distracting TV and newspapers, etc.

If only. Trying to straddle the First and Third Worlds is like swimming in treacle.And for some reason WordPress seems to suffer from the heat and sand while Facebook doesn’t, which means while I’ve managed to remain active in the International Indie Author Facebook Group, keeping up with the posts on the blog has become a casualty of real life.

So for the next week or so I’ll be re-running some of the posts that have already appeared in the IIA Facebook Group, along with new posts that will with luck go out the same day on both sites.

And I’ll kick off today with this IIA Facebook Group post from a day or so ago.

Dan Brown Shows Us How Its Done – Age-Group Verticals.

I’ve long been an advocate of exploring every possible vertical for one’s titles.

We’ve written an ebook?

A print version should be the standard next step, not a token afterthought if we can be bothered.And not just a print version. We can offer print versions in variant-sized paperback formats to suit reader needs. We can offer large-print versions. We can offer hardcover versions, special editions, numbered and signed editions…

With Amazon’s ACX helping us produce audiobooks and Babelcube helping us get translations with no upfront costs there’s really no excuse for us not to be adding these verticals to our portfolio even if we have severely limited budgets.

(BTW I deliberately use the word portfolio rather than catalogue because these are one hundred percent investments.)

As per previous posts on this subject, we need to think of ourselves as content-providers, not just book authors, and definitely not just ebook authors.

There are so many possible verticals we can breed from one single ebook if we would but set aside the time, energy and token expense to look at the bigger opportunities unfolding.

As I’ve explored in many previous posts, we don’t need to be screenwriters to see our books turned into film or TV, we don’t need to be artists to produce colouring books (adult and child alike), illustrated books or Manga versions of our titles, we don’t need to…

Just as we don’t need to be voice-artists or fluent in foreign languages to have audio-books or translations.

We simply find a third party, paying or partnering for the service, to do it for us.

But there are some verticals we can do very easily ourselves. Age-group verticals and easy-read verticals.

By way of example, not self-promo, I’ve been exploring both with my Sherlock For Kids adaptations of the classic Sherlock Holmes short stories, and my easy-read Easy-English versions of those stories. I’ll be producing illustrated versions and adult and child colouring book versions of these titles later this year too. Audio-books are under way and I already have some in a dozen or so languages.

Let’s take easy reads first.

We easily forget, as authors who have been devouring books since infancy, that not everyone is lucky enough to have had an education or up-bringing that encouraged them to read.

My Easy-English titles are beginning to find a receptive audience among late-to-literacy adults, reluctant teen readers, and ESL students who have some grasp of English but aren’t confident enough reading to tackle a full-length book written for native-speakers. I’ll be working on dedicated ESL versions later this year.

And sometimes adult titles will work very well as teen or even children’s reads.

Most of us will, as I did, have discovered Dickens, Austen and the other greats in abridged children’s versions long before we tackled the originals.

Some adult titles – erotica, for example – might not easily be adapted to YA or children’s versions, but most books will, and it’s a niche well worth looking at.

Later this year Dan Brown will trigger a goldrush for this sector as he releases a YA version of The DaVinci Code, to coincide with the Inferno film.

Save the scathing criticisms of Dan Brown’s literary skills for elsewhere. He makes no claim to be Shakespeare. Here let’s just remember The DaVinci Code has already sold 82 million copies, and the YA version is going to open up that classic to millions upon millions of new readers far too young to remember the phenomenal success of the original, and many of whom will be to young to tackle the original.

YA and children’s versions of our titles are just one more way we can leverage a single book and turn it into multiple new income streams.

And I do mean multiple. Because once we have abridged and adapted our adult title to the YA and children’s ebook market (and why not go the whole hog and do both separately?) we then have the opportunity to produce print versions, audio versions, illustrated versions, colouring book versions, TV and film versions, musicals, school plays and a host of other possibilities it would take me all day to list.

Don’t be an ebook author. Be a three-dimensional content creator.

Take your horizontal ebook, explore and exploit every vertical you can, and then look at your diagonals (series, spin-offs, etc) and explore all those verticals too.

I’m a 3-D content-creator that happens to start with ebooks.

How about you?

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This post first appeared in the International Indie Author Facebook Group on 18 May 2016.

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

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

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