Tag Archives: Mark Coker

Something for the Weekend. An overview of the global ebook scene.

There’s a rumour circulating in India that Amazon will be launching the Kindle Unlimited subscription service for just 199 rupees per month.

The report in ETRetail (LINK) does stress this is just a rumour, but if it turns out to be true it could be a game-changer.

The minimum price indies can set on Kindle India through KDP is 49 rupees, so a subscriber would have to read just five minimum-price titles a month to be up on the deal. For more expensive titles it would be even more rewarding for the reader.

And possibly lucrative for the author. The India ebook market may be nascent but it’s not dormant. In time it will be the second largest ebook market in the world.

That’s a few years off yet, but India is already set to exceed the USA as the second largest smartphone market. And every smartphone out there could have our ebooks on.

Any author looking to the long-term will be looking carefully at the India market, regardless of what happens with KU.

See this post on the “globile” future to understand why. (LINK).

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I’ve posted on the phenomenon of adult colouring books a few times.

Mainly to stress that as indies we are already, to some extent, “outside the box”, and we should always be willing to take a few strides further and explore the incredible possibilities digital presents us.

With adult colouring books it’s been small press print outfits that have led the way.

This week it’s emerged that the “Secret Garden” adult colouring book has sold three million copies in the past three months… in China. It also sold a million in Brazil and a half million in South Korea. (LINK)

Both Brazil and China wildly outsold the US, and Korea outsold the UK.

Meanwhile in the US a self-published children’s book produced POD via CreateSpace and Ingram has sold over 20,000 copies in the US, topping the print charts.

In the latter case it was an indie author. In the former it could easily have been.

In this brave new world of the global New Renaissance the boxes we choose to live are largely of our own making.

We have unprecedented reach, unprecedented opportunities, and unprecedented possibilities to experiment.

Don’t waste them.

~~~

The issue of the self-publishers’ ghetto at OverDrive came up again this week. The post has since been updated to say there was “initially” a ghetto. (LINK)

Comments on that post confirm that, while there is a sub-section within the OverDrive facility for librarians that just holds Smashwords titles, indie titles from Smashwords ARE available in the OverDrive public catalogue.

In fact there are 187,000 Smashwords titles showing in OverDrive right now.

So let’s be clear. There is no ghetto.

I’ve been getting titles into OverDrive libraries for almost five years with no problems, and lately have been using Smashwords to add some new titles to the OverDrive catalogue.

For those who assert I’m “anti-Smashwords” for complaining about what doesn’t work well at Smashwords, let me be clear.

IF… and that’s still a big if, sadly – but if you can get your titles into the Smashwords premium catalogue, and of course if you’ve opted into library distribution, your titles will appear in the OverDrive library catalogues worldwide in a matter of days.

The exceptions are erotica titles, which OverDrive does not accept from Smashwords, but for everything else Smashwords is a cheap (pay as you sell), quick and (relatively) easy way to get your self-published titles into the OverDrive global libraries.

~~~

Sadly the same cannot be said for Flipkart. Smashwords has just announced they have cancelled the deal with Flipkart to get indie titles into India’s largest retailer.  (LINK)

Mark Coker makes some interesting, if controversial, arguments about how Amazon’s KDP Select is in part responsible for this decision. Coker argues indies wanting to jump in and out of Select were finding their titles not being removed from Flipkart in timely fashion, leaving indies in breach of Amazon’s exclusivity demand for participation in KU.

But here’s the thing: by cancelling the Flipkart deal, it is Smashwords that is penalizing the many authors that do not jump in and out of retailers chasing every new shiny dangled in front of them and are trying to build a global presence.

Surely it is not beyond Mark Coker’s ability to simply put a clear message on the site in relation to stores like Flipkart that indies cannot expect instant responsiveness from this particular retailer, leaving indies the option to list on Flipkart through Smashwords.

The very real danger for Mark Coker is that ,by removing options like Flipkart, he risks sending indies to rival aggregators like Xin-Xii who do offer Flipkart, along with Google Play and the Tolino Alliance stores that aren’t available through Smashwords. (LINK)

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The latest of Big Pub to sign an English-language deal in China is PanMacmillan UK, who have announced a deal with Trajectory at the Beijing Book Fair this week. (LINK)

Trajectory are leading the way in taking English-language titles to the new globile (global mobile) markets, and fully understand we who write and publish are sitting on a global goldmine.

Trajectory has no facility for (or interest in) indie authors, but it may at some stage come to an agreement with one of the distributors we can access. That could be a long wait. Meantime trad pub is raking in the cash from English-language readers in China and elsewhere.

I’ll be forwarding this latest report to Fiberead (LINK) in the hope of nudging them in the direction of making our indie English-language titles available in China, but as yet their focus is (understandably) on the translations market.

But, in mind the current mess at Smashwords with Flipkart, Fiberead, or whoever steps forward to make China accessible to indie E-L titles, will have to include a clear contractual commitment to keep titles in for a sensible length of time, and that hopping in and out every five minutes will not be an option.

~~~

Globile up 55% year on year!

A new report from Ericsson estimates there are three billion mobile broadband users across the globe right now, (LINK) and the vast majority therefore have potential access to our ebooks.

Globile (global mobile) is still in its infancy in much of the world, but the growth areas are worth looking at. The US, unsurprisingly, but also India, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Nigeria.

I’m adding Myanmar (Burma, for those who last looked at an atlas when they were at school) to my watch-list in view of the latest data, which confirms the trend I’ve been watching this past year for Myanmar.  There’s been a massive investment in broadband recently and its beginning to pay off big time.

It’s a pattern we’ll see repeated very soon in countries like Pakistan and Nepal, and across the globe.

I won’t bore you with details of the countless 4G licences I’m monitoring being auctioned right now globally, but my globile map is lighting up in places even I, the eternal digital optimist, thought were unlikely before the end of this decade.

As Google’s Loon balloon project and Facebook’s Aquila drone project go live over the next few years (the former already underway in Sri Lanka) we’re going to witness an explosion in globile traffic and global engagement that will be truly, truly remarkable.

~~~

In mind the previous item ponder this, for of such things as this is our future as global authors made.

The Pacific Caribbean Cable System (PCCS) has just started commercial operations. It links the USA, via Florida, with the Caribbean nations, Central America and northern South America as far as Ecuador, meaning millions more people across the Caribbean and Latin America have access to 4G-standard internet service. (LINK)

This in turn will accelerate the take-up of smartphones across the region, which in turn will build awareness of the benefits of the internet and so accelerate smartphone adoption even more.

Just one of the many reasons I am so excited by the Latin American market right now.

Here’s another.

The Russia-based subscription service Bookmate now has a carrier-billing deal with Tigo Mobile in Guatemala and Paraguay. (LINK)

Tigo Mobile is one of the big telcos in Latin America, and safe to assume this will be the first of many carrier-billing arrangements, not just with Bookmate but almost certainly soon with Google Play.

For those unfamiliar, carrier billing is where you pay for online purchases like ebooks from your mobile phone credit.

For Third World countries like these it is hard to exaggerate the significance of this. Most people across the world do not have bank accounts, let alone credit cards. But trying buying from Amazon or Apple without a card… Try subscribing to Scribd without a card…

Carrier billing enables the cash-paying reader to pay for ebooks online instead of relying on free-reading sites like Wattpad.

Study after study shows that, around the globe, the biggest hindrances to e-reading on smartphones are

a) that the retailers aren’t accessible and

b) where, as with Kobo, they are, local people simply have no method by which to pay.

Indian app-based stores like Newshunt and Rockstand shift millions of ebooks every year thanks to carrier billing. People who have no way whatsoever of paying Amazon India, for example, can simply buy a mobile credit scratchcard with cash, top up their mobile, and buy and download an ebook from Newshunt or Rockstand. No wonder these two stores are the fastest growing ebook stores in India.

In Latin America carrier billing plays a similarly crucial role in allowing people to pay for goods online. But it requires the retailer to come to an arrangement with the telco.

This service is already offered by some “domestic” Latin American retailers, but this move by Bookmate is the first by an outsider. I understand Google Play is also in talks with Tigo and other telcos to offer carrier billing.

Bookmate is a global subscription service that cleverly focuses on markets Amazon neglects, and it’s doing rather well. As well as being one of the biggest Russian services (along with LitRes – but watch out for a possible Kindle Russia store in the future – there are indications Bezos is trying to get a foothold there) Bookmate is a global operator, and big in key countries like Turkey (Amazon blocks downloads to Turkey).

The move with Paraguay and Guatemala is believed to be the first of a wider campaign by Bookmate to embrace Latin America. Just one more sign that Latin America is now firmly on the radar of the global retailers.

I get my titles into Bookmate through the British aggregator Ebook Partnership, but it’s a pay-up-front service and not one I could recommend just now, as the global landscape is changing so fast, and other routes are opening up.

Bookmate recently launched its own self-pub portal. I haven’t had the chance to investigate this yet, but it’s on my To Do list.

Bookmate is not going to make anyone rich with its payouts, but as a vehicle for global discovery and laying the foundations for the future, Bookmate should definitely be a consideration for any author going global.

One final word on Bookmate – they’ve just launched this past week in Indonesia. I can’t tell you how exciting that is. I’ll be doing an in depth post on the Indonesia scene shortly to explain why.

~~~

Here in West Africa the ACE cable linking Europe and the west coast of Africa finally went live in The Gambia just over two years ago.  While meaningful reach is still limited to the coast because the relay infrastructure is not in place yet across the country, the transformation has already been remarkable, with pretty much everyone having a smartphone of some sort in their hands.

Bear in mind this is one of the poorest countries on the planet.

People who two years ago did not know the internet even existed, and still have no access to running water or electricity, now watch youtube videos, use skype and Facebook, and would be lost without their (probably counterfeit, they are so cheap) smartphones.

Do they e-read? Most definitely, yes. But mainly on free sites like Wattpad because, quite simply, there is no mechanism for them to make payments even if the big retailers actually let them download.

But that will come, and with it will come a surge in global e-reading on an unprecedented scale as the global New Renaissance gets into second gear.

It won’t happen overnight, and it won’t happen everywhere at the same time, but it will happen. It is happening.

And those authors who have positioned themselves well now, and are using sites like Wattpad to establish a global presence where they have no commercial reach, will reap the benefits.

The PCCS cable mentioned above is just one of myriad similar projects happening right now around the globe that, along with the Google Loon project and Facebook’s Aquila drone project, is creating an internet-connected world that within ten years will net-enfranchise well over 95% of the world’s population.

Already our potential audience is well over two billion people. That’s how many people have a smartphone, tablet or similar e-reading device in their hands right now.

More than two billion people.

Yet the majority of indie authors are so busy fighting each other to grab a share of the fraction of the couple-hundred million US market that they don’t even know the wider world exists.

Their loss. And less competition for the rest of us.

~~~

Google’s fleet of self-driving cars now numbers twenty, averaging 10,000 miles a week. (LINK)

Over the past six years there have been eleven minor accidents and all have been the result of human-driver error in other vehicles – even a super-duper computerised self-driven car that can simultaneously see every other vehicle and pedestrian on the road can’t stop some idiot driving into the back of you because they were on their phone.

One day these vehicles will be everywhere, and will save countless lives.

Driverless cars, books with no paper, watching films on a phone, 3-D printers… My childhood science-fiction is today’s reality.

5G is almost with us, and at the current rate of accelerated innovation it’s impossible to guess what even 6G, let alone 10G, will bring, but I plan on living forever so I can find out. 🙂

That way I might even get time to finish a few more books.

~~~

Not everyone is enamoured by the idea of serialization of works, but I’m having great fun with it, and I’m not alone.

This report from the Bookseller is well worth reading to see how trad pub is engaging with serialization and seeing great results. (LINK)

Of course in the case of Transworld and Headline all the serialized parts were professionally edited to meet the requirements of serialization and put out well-formatted on all retail platforms, and then strung together professionally in a print version also made widely available.

Sadly indies going the serialization route often seem more focused on short-term gains (as with the old KU system), but serialization has much more to offer the savvy author.

One of the problems with serialization, of course, is that a serialized novel (or indeed non-fiction works, which is where my serialization focus is) is not a stand-alone book simply chopped into equal pieces.

A thoughtfully serialized work needs to a lot of careful consideration to balance the parts. So while it may allow you to get to market sooner and start building an audience for the project, it may well prove to be not just as much, but more work than slogging away at a single full-length project.

I’m certainly finding that with my serialization of the West Africa travelogues. In theory part two and three could have been live by now, but as I work through parts 4-5 I keep finding cause to go back and make adjustments to parts 2 and 3. While that’s easy enough with digital, it’s not a sensible option once the early parts are live, because early readers will not know of the re-writes and be lost if they impact on later parts.

So if you do go down this route take a leaf from Transworld’s and Headline’s book and make sure you have several parts firmly in place before you launch.

~~~

The Madrid-based digital-library supplier Odilo (LINK) is ramping up its game, and shifting to more English-language titles alongside its Spanish-language range.

No easy way into Odilo right now, but definitely one to keep an eye on, both as possible outlet in the future and as a barometer of the way things are shaping up.

Globally digital libraries are still pretty embryonic, but they present a fantastic opportunity for discovery and reaching new audiences.

Odilo is gearing up to challenge the long-established players like OverDrive, and its focus is worth watching.

While Spain is of course its core market, Odile is taking big strides in the US, and is in Peru, Colombia and Mexico right now, and will soon be in Chile. It’s also, intriguingly, in Australia.

And it’s handling titles in Italian, Russian and Chinese as well as Spanish and English, suggesting global ambitions and, for authors, global opportunities ahead.

Odilo isn’t geared to indie authors yet, but I’m making tentative enquiries about third-party routes in.

Even if we can’t get into Odilo this year or next, we should all be looking at operators like this, because they show clearly the way the global markets are developing. Latin America, for instance, is getting more exciting by the day.

If we’re not taking the global markets seriously and getting into translations and extensive distribution right now we’ll only have ourselves  to blame in years to come when other authors are seeing global success while we’re still struggling to get noticed in the ever more overcrowded market at home.

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

Smashwords OverDrive Saga Updated – It’s Looking More Promising By The Day.

Go Global In 2014It’s only a couple of days since we carried the news that Smashwords titles had finally been liberated from the Self-Published Ghetto (a section of OverDrive accessible only by librarians) and were finally appearing in the public OverDrive catalogue. (LINK)

Since then another 2,000 Smashwords titles have materialized in the public catalogue and we are optimistic, if by no means yet certain, that all the Smashwords titles will eventually filter through.

Eventually being a key word here.

Smashwords sent some 200,000 (now 215,000) titles to OverDrive, but as we reported back in July, many were not even reaching the indie ghetto, let alone the public OverDrive store. (LINK)

It transpires many of those 200,000 titles still have yet to reach OverDrive.

The Digital Reader expanded on the story and Mark Coker stepped in to explain that while 215,000 titles have been sent, OverDrive have so far only ingested 132,000 of them, so some 80,000 Smashwords titles have yet to reach OverDrive at all, let alone the public catalogue. (LINK)

Interestingly Coker says,

“OverDrive’s website is designed to be public-facing for patrons of a particular library, but not public facing for a view into their entire catalog. This means you can’t easily determine which books are in their catalog.”

This is at variance with what I see, which is the full OverDrive catalogue with an option then to search whether a given title is available in a particular library. The logic being if OverDrive have it then any OverDrive partner library can order it.

Coker makes clear the indie ghetto is not going anywhere any time soon:

“OverDrive tells me they’ve received positive feedback from libraries regarding the segregation. This means the “ghetto” is unlikely to be abolished any time soon unless libraries (OverDrive’s customers) voice their opposition to it. Our position, which we have shared on numerous occasions with our friends at OverDrive, is that such segregation is a disservice to libraries and their patrons, not to mention it’s insulting to the indie authors and publishers we represent.”

Coker concluded,

“Despite the delays and segregation, I remain excited about the OverDrive relationship, and I’m optimistic it will become an increasingly important channel for Smashwords authors and publishers in the years ahead.”

We concur entirely.

The Smashwords-OverDrive partnership may have got off to a bad start, and yes, all Smashwords erotica titles are still excluded. See the EBUK post on Smashwords’ dark side to understand why. (LINK)

But for those that have had titles sent to OverDrive it looks increasingly likely – not guaranteed yet, but likely – that you will all, eventually, get a chance to be discovered by OverDrive-partner library users.

What should you do now?

First, keep an eye on the OverDrive catalogue. (LINK)

Check back every week and see if maybe some of your titles have been pulled through.

If they have, do a spontaneous happy dance (best not to check on your smartphone while in the supermarket queue). and break open the champagne (best to pay for it first if still in said supermarket). And then promote!

How?

Mark Coker has some suggestions on the Smashwords site for partnering with your local library. (LINK)

Most importantly, simply let people know your ebooks are available from libraries, and make sure the OverDrive links to the titles are on your website.

Include the OverDrive links in tweets and FB promotions, etc.

Then get in touch with your local libraries and let them know your ebooks are available.

Most local libraries love to promote local authors. For indies that’s been a hard sell with many librarians not too keen on the idea of self-publishing. But when your books are there alongside the big names in the OverDrive public catalogue that changes everything.

Make the most of it.

Above all, promote the very fact that libraries have ebooks available. Far too many readers are still unaware of this.

These past few years suggestions that indies target libraries have been largely met with derision. Libraries, like book stores, were all dinosaurs and all going to close. Only a handful of libraries sold digital, the story went, so why bother.

Perceptions began to change when OverDrive reported its 2013 stats – OverDrive libraries had seen 100 million digital downloads in 2013.

We’ve no idea what the 2014 number will be but safe to say it will be much, much higher.

What’s important to understand is that, at risk of stating the obvious, library users use libraries. They may also buy from book stores, but every borrow they make from a library is a sale not made by a bookstore.

No, there’s no guarantee anyone will borrow your book from the library. But there is an absolute 100% guarantee they will not if you are not there.

Print borrows account for substantial portions of print book revenue for trad-pubbed authors and publishers. The same goes for ebook borrows.

Trad pub has been raking it in while we looked on enviously, or more likely looked the other way.

Which was fair enough. Then.

Until now it’s not been easy for indies to gain access to this lucrative income steam.

Going direct to OverDrive is not a simple process and the only other easy route – Ebook Partnership – involves upfront costs. That said, Ebook Partnership also get you into the OverDrive retail stores like Waterstone’s and kalahari which the Smashwords deal does not.

But be in no doubt that, if all goes well and the Smashwords indie titles now being delivered eventually feed through to the OverDrive public catalogue, then this is a major breakthrough for Smashwords, and major opportunity for Smashwords authors to reach new readers.

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OverDrive Gets Better & Better – But Is Smashwords Delivering On Its Promises?

Go Global In 2014First a reminder. OverDrive saw over one hundred million digital downloads in 2013. Most of these happened at OverDrive-partnered digital libraries worldwide, but also at partner retail stores, which include Waterstone’s here in the UK, and stores like Kalahari and Exclus1ves in South Africa, among many others.

OverDrive have recently upped their game yet again with the addition of embedded samples, a feature aimed at the library catalogues but which can easily be used by indie authors on their blog or website, or even in social media.

Embedded samples? Essentially when the reader clicks on the sample link, instead of just being taken to the product page in the OverDrive store the first pages of the book will open up right there in your browser to start reading. Then if interested you can be redirected to your local digital library to download the full book.

OverDrive also has another great feature with the embedded samples. Bing users who search for your title will see in the right-hand sidebar (where Google puts its ads) an embedded sample link to the OverDrive ebook version. See an example here at the OverDrive library blog

All great stuff by OverDrive – the most forward-thinking and innovative of the wholesale distributors – but back to our headline.

Two months back Smashwords made big news with the partnership with OverDrive whereby 200,000 non-erotica titles were going to be available in the OverDrive store.

Wonderful! Except to Michael Kozlowski over at Good Ereader, who ran with the headline OverDrive inundates libraries with 200,000 horrendous indie ebooks.

Don’t be shy, Michael. Tell us what you really think.

Eight weeks on, the big question is, has OverDrive been inundated with 200,000 Smashwords indie ebooks, horrendous or otherwise?

If you are a Smashwords author and did not opt out of this distribution then, two months on, you ought to be there by now, right? After all, two months is plenty of time, and the default Smashwords position is that you get distributed to new partners unless you specifically opt-out.

So why is it all the indie authors we have contacted, who are with Smashwords and did not opt out of OverDrive, are seeing a big blank when they search for their title or author name in the OverDrive store?

 ~ ~ ~

Back in mid June Nate Hoffelder over at The Digital Reader broke the news that OverDrive, apparently, was shunting self-published titles into an indie ghetto.

We say “apparently” as we’ve not been able to locate this ghetto, but the quote Nate has from OverDrive concurs with his headline. OverDrive do indeed have a separate section – somewhere –  for “self-published” titles.

Well, it’s their company and they can do what they like. If OverDrive has some objection to self-published titles then it has every right to close the door to them.

But that’s the point. It didn’t.

The team at OverDrive are not stupid. They did not blindly sign a deal with Mark Coker, oblivious to the fact that Smashwords are the biggest distributor of self-published titles on the planet, bar none.

The deal OverDrive signed with Coker specifically excluded erotica titles. That’s a telling point. Because if you go to the OverDrive catalogue you will find any number of erotica titles. OverDrive has no problem with erotica per se.

Try this for size: https://www.overdrive.com/media/465867/letters-to-penthouse-xxxx

In fact the OverDrive catalogue is showing some 13,000 erotica titles. So when OverDrive specifically excluded Smashwords erotica titles they did so for a reason. Because Smashwords’ reputation precedes itself as a free-for-all where anything technically legal in the US is acceptable.

Let’s be clear. OverDrive accept erotica titles. They just don’t accept Smashwords erotica titles, because they know the only quality control at Smashwords is the formatting guidelines.

And our guess is they take much the same position on Smashwords self-published authors. Because it seems Smashwords self-published authors are being shunted into a ghetto, not all indies.

Indie authors who have enough titles to warrant setting up a direct account at OverDrive have no problem. Indie authors using an aggregator like Ebook Partnership have no problem. Their titles are readily available in the OverDrive catalogue, both for libraries and for retailers, and we can confirm from personal experience (one of our team has been with OverDrive and Ebook Partnership for many years) that they are seeing great sales from stores like Waterstone’s, and library borrows across the globe.

But let’s get back to Smashwords.

The day after Nate ran his piece the story was picked up by The Passive Voice and Mark Coker responded.  The comments section is worth wading through, but here’s some key premarks by Coker.

On June 19 Coker said, “I’m investigating”, before assuring us “everything will work out in the end.”

Well that’s nice to know, Mark, but that was a while ago ago and your silence on this since has been deafening.

Back to what Mark Coker said over at The Passive Voice on June 19.

 “The deal with OverDrive happened because so many librarians demanded it, because so many patrons wanted these books, and because OverDrive is committed to serving libraries and their patrons.”

So why have they put Smashwords titles in a separate category that can only be found from a drop-down menu that almost no-one knows exists, including librarians who use the OverDrive portal every day?

Coker noted that some 100,000 titles had already been “ingested” by OverDrive when the official announcement was made, and that it would take 4-8 weeks to complete the process. Tons of indies saw that, according to the Smashwords dashboard, their titles had shipped to OverDrive.

We’ve held off those two months before raising this, but the simple fact now is that even if only those original 100,000 titles from Smashwords were ingested, still none are showing up in the OverDrive store.

Are they in the indie ghetto? We don’t know, because neither we nor anyone else knows how to access this ghetto. If even librarians cannot find it, let alone readers, what point the Smashwords-OverDrive deal in the first place?

In theory the Smashwords partnership with OverDrive (even though only for libraries, not for OverDrive retail outlets) should be up there alongside the Scribd and Oyster deals as tributes to Mark Coker’s commitment to the cause of indie distribution.

But all the evidence so far suggests we’ve been sold a pup. There is very little evidence Smashwords is delivering on its promises on this occasion.

~ ~ ~

And it would seem that Smashwords still does not know what’s going on. We heard from two authors on June 22, over a month after Coker said “I’ am investigating”.

One contacted Mark Coker direct and Coker confirmed he is working on this matter. Other than saying it was OverDrive calling the shots there was no further explanation.

That same day we heard from an author who emailed the Smashwords Sevices Team asking why his titles were not in the OverDrive catalogue.

Smashwords Services Team member Raylene B told the author, “We’re currently shipping out titles to OverDrive in batches. It can take multiple weeks for implementation!”, adding “You can periodically check for your titles at OverDrive by using the link: https://www.overdrive.com/search?q=XXXX where “XXXX” would include the book title’s ISBN #.”

No mention to this author that, actually, you won’t be able to find your titles there regardless, because if they are actually getting to OverDrive at all they will be in a secretive ghetto no-one knows how to find, but which most definitely is not via the link provided.

So are Smashwords titles available from OverDrive or not?

In the comments at The Passive Voice Coker was very clear:

“They (OverDrive) just invited 200,000+ Smashwords titles into their catalog. They’re going to merchandise our buylists. We’re going to work together to try to sell a lot of patron-pleasing books and gain our authors and publishers a lot of new readers.”

On the Smashwords bloghttp://blog.smashwords.com/2014/05/smashwords-and-overdrive-to-bring.html – a few weeks earlier Coker had been even more specific:

 “This agreement marks a watershed moment for indie authors, libraries and library patrons around the world.

It’s also a big deal for thousands of small independent presses around the globe who now have a convenient onramp into the OverDrive network.
Millions of library patrons will now have access to the amazing diversity and quality of the Smashwords catalog.”

Really?

Further down on this same blog Coker says:

 “The full Smashwords Premium Catalog of non-erotica titles is eligible for the distribution to OverDrive.”

Eligible? “Eligible” does NOT mean “will be distributed to”. In fact, it doesn’t mean much at all when you take into account Raylene B’s reply that Smashwords is sending batches of ebooks to OverDrive. Especially when you look at what Coker has to say about batches on that same Smashwords blog (this, remember, two months ago).

 “To help librarians streamline collection development, in the weeks ahead OverDrive and Smashwords will create curated buy-lists lists libraries can use to purchase the most popular indie authors and titles. Libraries will soon have the option, for example, to purchase the top 100 YA fantasy novels (approximate price: ~$400), or the top 1,000 most popular contemporary romances (~$4,000) or top 200 complete series across multiple categories (~$2,000), or the top 200 thrillers, mysteries, epic fantasies or memoirs.  With most of our bestsellers priced priced at or under $4.00, you can do the math to appreciate how incredibly affordable these collections will be.  We’re going to have fun slicing and dicing.”

Let’s run that last sentence again.

 “We’re going to have fun slicing and dicing.”

This suggests Coker and co. are going to cherry-pick established Smashwords best-sellers on Apple, B&N and Scribd (the main Smashwords outlets) and parcel them out to OverDrive as potentially available to purchase.

So, the lucky few who get “curated” may, possibly, be bought as part of a package, always supposing anyone knows where the indie ghetto is and can be bothered to look there.

The rest of us? Nobody knows. Including, it seems, Mark Coker.

~ ~ ~

 Note for those indies who want to be in the actual OverDrive store, not just the ghetto:

To get to OverDrive direct you need a minimum of ten titles. By all accounts the process is not a walk in the park.

For those who meet their requirements, you can also access OverDrive through Ebook Partnership, IPG or Perseus. If anyone is aware of other roads in, do let us know.

And if any Smashwords authors have actually seen their titles available in the OverDrive catalogue courtesy of Smashwords, we’d be delighted to be proven wrong on this.

 

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Smashwords Goes From Strength To Strength

GoGlobalIn2014_500

Smashwords stepped up their game this week with two major distribution announcements. On Monday Mark Coker kicked off with news that Smashwords are now officially distributing to the Berlin-based ebook retailer ‘txtr.

On Tuesday Coker announced a partnership with OverDrive to get indie titles into digital libraries.

EBUK regulars won’t be surprised by the news, as we’ve reported on both several times over the past months.

At this stage it appears the OverDrive deal is only for library distribution and will not involve OverDrive’s retail partners like Waterstone’s, so there’s still good reason to check out the British aggregator Ebook Partnership, which does get you into Waterstone’s, and also a host of other outlets currently not on Smashwords’ radar. Not least Google Play.

How long before Smashwords adds Google Play to its growing list? Coker’s not saying, but no question Smashwords are, at long last, embracing the opportunities presented by the blossoming global ebook markets.

This will be an interesting year for Smashwords. But Mark Coker, if you’re reading this, what would really impress us would be deals with Google Play, Copia, Gardners and Ingram, and targetting the European markets (esp. Germany and the Tolino stores), Latin America (esp. BajalLibros) and the Far East (esp. Indonesia’s Scoop and Thailand’s Ookbee).

The deal with ‘txtr (no, no capital, no vowels, and the apostrophe is compulsory) is an exciting development that will bring rewards to those indies willing to step outside the Only Amazon Matters mindset and actually try PROMOTING the ‘txtr stores.

Did we say stores, plural? Believe it! ‘Txtr have dedicated ebook stores (local languages and currencies) in, wait for it, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, UK, and USA. Plus an International store selling in euros to the world.

The list is worth looking at closely. Amazon forces Belgian readers to buy from Amazon France, expects Austrians to buy from Amazon Germany, only lets Swiss readers uy from France or Germany in a foreign currency, gives the Irish the choice to buy from Amazon UK or Amazon US – both in a foreign currency – and expects New Zealanders to buy from Amazon Australia or Amazon US – both in a foreign currency.

‘Txtr understands that the Swiss use Swiss francs, not euros, the Irish spend euros not pounds, New Zealanders like to pay in NZ dollars not AU dollars and South Africans flash the cash in rands, not US dollars.

As for readers in Denmark, Poland, Hungary, Netherlands, etc… Amazon not only expects them to pay in a foreign currency – US dollars – but charges them a $2-$4 surcharge on top of the list price and on top of the currency exchange fees they’ll be hit with. Amazon even imposes the surcharge on your free ebooks. And no, you won’t see a cent of it.

Google Play does serve these countries too – and yes, Google Play too manages a dedicated store and local currencies – but few indies are with Google Play (you can go direct or via Ebook Partnership) so for most authors the Smashwords-‘txtr will be the first serious opportunity to build a non-Apple readership in places like the Netherlands, Denmark and Poland. Don’t waste it!

And for those wondering if anyone there understands enough English to make it worthwhile, there are 15 million English-speakers in Netherlands, 12 million in Poland and 4 million in Denmark.

~

Smashwords authors were told they see their titles appearing in the ‘txtr stores at the end of this week, but in fact some titles are already showing. Many have serious pricing errors like $2.99 titles showing at $6.99. If that’s happening with you, email Mark Coker and give them time. Teething problems are to be expected. We’ve had confirmation from indies in ‘txtr stores via other routes that ‘txtr pricing is usually very reliable.

Spend some time now getting familiar with the ‘txtr stores so when your titles do go live you can hit the ground running and let readers know.

The best place to start is ‘txtr UK, as this gets good Google results and is in English. So are the US, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand sites of course, but the search engines in our experience tend not to pick them up so easily.

Just search for ‘txtr UK, or go to http://gb.txtr.com/ and then tootle down to the right-hand corner where you’ll find a menu for all the ‘txtr stores and can get the country-specific link and price in local currency ready for your promo.

Don’t expect miracles. The ‘txtr US and Canada stores are obviously insignificant, but ’txtr are picking up steam elsewhere. ‘Txtr are a Berlin-based operator so have a good presence in Germany (45 million English-speakers since you ask), Austria and central Europe. ‘Txtr supply epub files which can be read using the free ‘txtr app on any tablet, not just their own ereader – the ‘txtr Beagle.

In addition to their own stores ‘txtr also act as a feeder for other stores like Britain’s prestigious Foyles, and also the Sony Australia, Austria, UK and Germany Reader Stores, though given the said Sony stores are closing shortly that’s academic.

‘Txtr won’t bring you sales in big numbers any time soon, if ever, but for those of you who value reaching readers globally and building a long-term career, over chasing quick-fix sales from one or two big retailers, the Smashwords partnership with ‘txtr is wonderful opportunity.

If you have an author website then take time out to set up a showcase for your international portfolio of ebooks. We’ll be posting in detail on suggestions how to do this shortly, but here suffice to say if you are with Apple, Kobo, Google Play and ‘txtr you will be able to proudly display your titles with links in local currencies to local retailers in around one hundred different countries.

Then instead of spending time promoting one or two stores over and over you can promo your author website and let readers make their own choice about which retailer they will buy from. And of course you can also sell direct to readers, which is another option we’ll be looking at more closely soon.

If you’re Going Global In 2014 then do keep in mind it’s a two-part process.

Being there is of course half the battle. If your titles aren’t available no-one can buy them.

But the other half is letting readers know you’re there.

Tweet a ‘txtr link a day to build a truly global readership.

 

Ebook Bargains UK.

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

A Reminder That Amazon’s Pernicious Price-Parity Clause Is Illegal In The UK And EU.

GoGlobalIn2014_500One of the great urban myths of the indie revolution is that when we self-publish we have control over our pricing.

If only.

In reality of course the retailers set parameters within which we have some limited choice over how we price, subject to their whim.

On Amazon the minimum we can ask is $0.99, but if we do try to offer the reader a real bargain we are penalized with lower royalties. Just 35%. To get the much-vaunted 70% royalty we need to set the list price at $2.99 or above.

If we want the 70% royalty in Kindle countries like India, Brazil, Mexico and Japan we have to sign up to Select as well, otherwise we get the 35% payout regardless of what price we sell at.

In countries outside the Kindle Zones we also get paid just 35%, regardless of list price. And that list price may be considerably more than we set, because Amazon bizarrely surcharges many readers around the globe. Your $2.99 title may cost a reader in the US $2.99 but a reader in Poland or Norway or Malta may have to pay anything from $4.99 to $6.99 for the same book. The author will still be paid a single dollar – 35% of the $2.99 they listed at originally.

Curiously Apple can deliver our ebooks to these same countries and pay us 70% regardless of list price. And it doesn’t add surcharges.

Not satisfied with dictating how much we can sell at on Amazon’s own site, which is fair enough – its their site – Amazon also dictates what price we can sell on other retail sites.

No, seriously.

It’s a little known fact that when you sign the KDP T&Cs you sign away your right to choose how much you list on B&N or Apple or Kobo. Amazon dictates that for you, if you list through KDP on the Kindle sites, you may not list at a lower price anywhere else.

Selling well on Amazon at $2.99 but want to run a sale over at Books-A-Million or Nook or Apple iBooks or All-Romance/OmniLit or Diesel or Smashwords at $0.99? Amazon won’t let you.

If you list at $0.99 on one of the other sites – or even at $2.98 – you’ll get a threatening email from Amazon.

No, it doesn’t say they’ll send the boys round to break your legs. But it will say this (or a variation on this, as they seems to have a small selection they send out).

Hello,

We recently noticed the digital list price for the title(s) listed below is higher than the list price of the same book listed on Amazon.com or another website.

TITLE REDACTED is listed on Amazon.com at $2.99 and at $0.99 on Barnes & Noble

According to our pricing policy, your book should be priced no higher than the list price on Amazon.com or any other sales channel for either the physical or digital edition of the book. Please adjust the list price for the above book(s) within the next 5 business days. If the price isn’t updated within 5 business days, we may remove the book(s) from the Kindle Store, at which point you will need to republish the book with an updated price.

For more information on our list price requirements, see section 4 on our Pricing Page below:

https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help?topicId=200634500

Thanks for your understanding.

Sincerely,


The Kindle Direct Publishing Team

Let’s just have that key bit again: “…your book should be priced no higher than the list price on Amazon.com or any other sales channel…

Amazon is dictating your pricing options on other retail outlets that it has nothing whatsoever to do with.

And if you don’t comply? As the email says, they “may remove your books from the Kindle store.” A variation of this email adds that repeated breaches of this policy may result in account closure.

# # #

Is this legal? We’re not based in the USA, so we don’t know what American law is in this regard, but we can say that this is completely illegal in the UK and across the European Union (EU).

So much so that after a major investigation by the UK’s Office of Fair Trading and Germany’s Federal Cartel Office, Amazon conveniently dropped this pernicious policy before legal proceedings could be initiated.

As of August 2013 you may price how you like on Amazon UK, Amazon France, Amazon, Germany and Amazon Italy and run lower prices for the same title at (for example) Waterstone’s in the UK, Fnac in France, Hugendubel in Germany, or Mondadori in Italy – and you won’t get a nasty letter from Amazon telling you to change it or else.

Savvy indies listing in the UK and other EU countries have been taking full advantage of this climb-down by Amazon to gain traction in the many smaller stores across Europe.

Few will have missed the fact that indie authors have been doing very well on Amazon Germany recently. What has received somewhat less attention is how well indies are doing on other German ebook sites, like Thalia, Bucher, Bol, Buch, Ciando, Bild, Der Club, etc.

Is it coincidence that since last summer when indies were allowed to list cheaper on rival sites in the EU without Amazon interfering, Kindle Germany’s market share plummeted, from around 90% at the end of 2012 to (estimates vary) between 50%-65% by the end of 2013?

Other factors were at play too, of course, as we’ll be discussing in a forthcoming post on the rise and rise of the Tolino Alliance, but safe to say indie titles listed cheaper on rival sites than on Amazon helped.

# # #

One of the few indie spokesfolk to publicly challenge this policy of Amazon’s has been the Smashwords head honcho Mark Coker.

While lamenting the imminent closure of the Sony North America Reader Store, Coker this past week delivered a blistering attack on Amazon’s predatory small-print.

While not blaming Amazon directly for the demise of the Sony store, Coker makes the point that you may find yourself in violation of Amazon’s insidious price-parity clause through no fault of your own.

For example, Google Play are very actively discounting. When you list on Google Play (and with forty-four stores world-wide you certainly should be listing on Google Play) it’s very likely they will discount your title.

When Google Play US discounts your title and your price goes below your Amazon price, you’ll very likely receive “the email” from Amazon KDP telling you they may remove your titles from KDP or even close your account because you have listed on another retailer cheaper than on Amazon – even though in reality you listed at exactly the same price on both.

This creates the ridiculous situation where indie authors are pricing their titles higher on Google Play to start with so that if Google Play does discount, the author will not be penalized by Amazon.

Is it any wonder this pernicious policy of Amazon’s was ruled illegal in the UK and across the EU?

The real wonder is how this can possibly be legal in the US.

In India the online giant Flipkart is busily discounting indie titles listed in their ebook store and Amazon India is busily price-matching. We haven’t heard (yet) of anyone receiving the threatening email from Amazon regarding the price on Flipkart. If anyone has, do let us know.

Hopefully it’s not happening. Amazon is trying to push the door open to further investment in India, so perhaps is playing it safe rather than risk an embarrassing investigation like the ones in the UK and Germany.

Elsewhere we might not be so lucky. We’ve not heard of this happening with authors listing in Australia since the Kindle AU store went live, but that’s probably because so few indies are on more than one or two Australian ebook sites in the first place.

But in the event Amazon revives its international expansion plans for the Kindle stores, which seem to have ground to a halt, this could be a recurring issue. Sadly the indie spokesfolk who were so quick to lambast the Big 5 for their price fixing policies are not so vociferous when it comes to Amazon’s dark side.

One indie spokesperson  that does say what we need to hear rather than what we want to hear is the aforementioned Mark Coker. We leave you with this thought from Coker, from the afore-linked Smashwords blog:

“Amazon punishes the author with full knowledge that the price discrepancies are not the author’s fault, and then authors feel pressured to abandon the smaller retailer rather than risk facing Amazon’s future wrath. The behavior this motivates (opting out of the smaller retailer forever) then harms the smaller retailer and makes the author more dependent upon Amazon.”

# # #

Retailer Round-Up

We mentioned several ebook retailers and stores in this post. Here’s how (or if) you can get your titles into them, In order of appearance in the post.

NB This list is hopefully accurate, but doesn’t purport to be inclusive. If you see any errors, or know of other options, do let us know.

  • Amazon – KDP. One portal to all the Kindle sites.
  • Apple – Direct if you have the right i-device, otherwise most aggregators will get you there, including Smashwords, Bookbaby, D2D, Xin-Xii, Untreed Reads and Ebook Partnership among many.
  • B&N Nook – Direct via NookPress if you are in the USA, otherwise most aggregators will get you there, including Smashwords, Bookbaby, D2D, Xin-Xii, Untreed Reads and Ebook Partnership among many.
  • Books-A-Million – A great little North American site overlooked by most indies. Supplied by OverDrive and possibly also by Ingram.
  • All-Romance/Omni-Lit – With international payments, no territorial restrictions and multiple formats this is a great little site to be on. Accessible direct or through Ebook Partnership.
  • Diesel – A California based pioneer indie ebook store that accepts international payments and has no territorial restrictions. Accessible through Smashwords.
  • Smashwords – As well as being a key aggregator that can get you into many stores other aggregators cannot, Smashwords also has its own retail site offering an excellent range of format, does not have territorial restrictions and does accept international payments.
  • Waterstone’s – The UK’s equivalent of B&N, but sadly not the UK’s equivalent of Nook. Nonetheless the Waterstone’s ebook store can deliver useful results. Accessible through OverDrive or through Ebook Partnership.
  • Fnac – Little know outside Europe (although it is also in Brazil), Fnac is a key player on the French ebook scene. Theoretically accessible through Kobo (via Kobo Writing Life or most aggregators) , but the Kobo distribution channels are a mess right now, so it’s hit and miss.
  • Hugendubel – Accessible through Ebook Partnership and probably through Xin-Xii.
  • LibriMondadori –  Italy’s biggest player. Theoretically accessible through Kobo (via Kobo Writing Life or most aggregators) , but the Kobo distribution channels are a mess right now, so it’s hit and miss.
  • Thalia – Accessible through Ebook Partnership and probably through Xin-Xii.
  • Bucher – Accessible through Ebook Partnership and probably through Xin-Xii.
  • Bol – This is Bol.de, not to be confused with the Ditch ebook retailer Bol.nl). Accessible through Ebook Partnership and probably through Xin-Xii.
  • Buch – Accessible through Ebook Partnership and probably through Xin-Xii.
  • Ciando – Accessible through Ebook Partnership and probably through Xin-Xii.
  • Bild – Accessible through Ebook Partnership and probably through Xin-Xii.
  • Der Club – Accessible through Ebook Partnership and probably through Xin-Xii.
  • Google Play – Accessible direct if you are in a Google Play country and have the patience of a saint, or through Ebook Partnership.
  • Sony North America Reader Store – No longer accepting titles, as closure is imminent.
  • Flipkart – India’s biggest online retailer. Accessible through Smashwords or Pothi.

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just another ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.