Tag Archives: selling ebooks globally

2016: The Year So Far For Internationalist Indie Authors

2016 The Year So Far

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Meantime, back to 2016 so far.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then there’s Apple.

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

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

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

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

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

Something to keep an eye on as this year unfolds.

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

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

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

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

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

Video, for example.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not least Booktopia.

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

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

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

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

Very little, no doubt.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Being available is half the battle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exactly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am. How about you?

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

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

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

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

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Finally for today, and staying with China:

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

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

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

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

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

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

But let’s come back to going globile.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go globile in 2016!

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

 

 

 

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The International Indie Author Is Now On Facebook

It’s probably a bank holiday where you are right now, so the briefest of posts to mention the formal launch of The International Indie Author’s Facebook Group.

This weekend yet another broadband satellite went into orbit. Launched from Kazakhstan and serving (from the end of the year) the Pacific region, it’s a reminder of how truly globile (global mobile) our world is becoming.

So no better time to be climbing on board the international indie author crusade.

For those interested you can find the Facebook Group here (LINK).

It’s a public group and open to any and all to join and contribute to. If you have any useful experiences of going global, or spot any pertinent news stories about the global publishing market, do share.

But please, no book promo. Only include a link to your book if making  a point about, or contributing a post about , the global publishing markets.

Which basically means that big wide world beyond the US-UK axis that most indies focus on.

English-language titles selling well outside the US and UK markets? Charting on Amazon India or Amazon Mexico? Seeing sales through Kobo in Japan or the Philippines? Getting good results from the Tolino stores across Europe? That’s news. We want to hear about it in the FB group, and yes, with relevant links.

Getting your works translated through Fiberead, Babelcube or by some other means? That’s pertinent. Come and and share your experiences in the FB group.

Seeing chart success with your by translations? That’s worth linking to. Come and show us it can be done!

Got a question about the global markets. Put it up in the FB Group and if I don’t have the answer someone else may.

There’s only a handful of members right now, because the group has only just today been officially announced, so come and help bump those numbers up and meet fellow indie authors travelling the global journey to international sales.

The International Indie Author Facebook Group

The Future Is Globile!

Gunjur-Coastline-Gambia

The View From The Beach

Mark Williams At Large

With India set to surpass the USA as the second-largest smartphone market after China, there’s never been a better time to start taking the global ebook scene – and especially India – seriously.

“While it often seems the tech world revolves around the US”, said VentureBeat earlier this month, “this next decade is shaping up to be quite different.” (LINK)

Well, no surprise there. I’ve been saying a long while now that the centre of digital gravity is shifting east. I’ve also been saying that there are some two billion people out there that hold a device that they could be reading our ebooks on.

And that number is growing by the day.

As the same VentureBeat post reports, global smartphone sales (not total, just new sales) will increase from 1.5 billion this year to 1.7 billion in 2017.

India will play a big part in that, with 118 million smartphones being sold in India this year. By 2017 the figure is expected to be 175 million.

And that may well be a very conservative estimate.

I’ve often talked here about Xiaomi, the upstart start-up in China that went from nowhere to become the number one smartphone maker in the country. They also sell ebooks, and as an aside are setting up an English-language ebook section in their Chinese store this year.

This month it has been announced Xiaomi are setting up their own manufacturing plant in India, which will bring down costs and make even more smartphones affordable to Indian consumers. (LINK)

Not to be outdone, Google recommitted to its exciting Android One project in India. (LINK)

Amazon of course is investing massively in India, and so, somewhat belatedly, is Apple, which saw 93% growth in India sales of its ebook-friendly iPhone 6 in April-June of this year following a big TV promotional campaign.

There isn’t an iBooks India store yet, but that will come. Meanwhile Apple devices are just one more instrument on which consumers in India can read our ebooks.

The problem of course – and the excuse we can all hide behind to avoid taking this seriously – is that India has only a woeful 19% internet penetration right now.

Nineteen percent! Now worth bothering with, right?

Let’s just knuckle down with the easy US market. The USA has 86% of its population online after all. An impressive 280 million people.

Why spare a second thought for India’s measly 19%?

Here’s why: That measly 19% equates to almost 245 million people. Just 25 million people short of the US number, and India is barely off the starting grid.

India needs just a 3% increase in internet take-up to equal the USA. A 5% increase will push India significantly ahead, and a 10% increase will leave the USA far behind.

Imagine what a 25% increase will do…

And then, if you brain can take the strain, give some thought to the rest of the world where internet access is also becoming “the norm”.

With projects like Google’s Loon and Facebook’s Aquila set to transform the way the less accessible parts of the world connect to the net, we are just at the start of an incredible journey.

Just last month Google announced a deal with the government of Sri Lanka to bring internet access to every part of the country via the Google Loon balloon project.

Facebook are already committed to connecting the Third World with the internet, as we see with their innovative (if controversial) internet.org initiative.

But with the Aquila drones project they quite literally move to new highs. Sixty thousand feet, in fact, which is where the Aquila drones will be flying.

While Amazon is working on drones that will one day deliver your POD book to someone’s door, Facebook’s solar-powered Aquila drones – each the size of a Boeing 747 – will be delivering your ebooks to places that right now can only dream of connecting to the internet.

But no need to wait for the Loon and Aquila projects to turn science fiction into reality.

Science fiction is already a reality for the over two billion people who now hold a device they could read our ebooks on.

Three billion is just around the corner, and five billion is on the cards as Loon and Aquila come of age to deliver the net, and as smartphone proliferation (and whatever comes to make them obsolete) escalates.

And that escalation might just exceed our wildest expectations.

Last year I reported on Xiaomi’s fabled flash-sales, when they would sell 40,000 smartphones in less than five seconds.

That is soooo last year. This past week Letv, another of those upstart startups we’ve never heard of, sold one million smartphones in just ninety days. (LINK)

In author terms, that’s one million devices that could be holding your ebooks, sold in just three months.

With 86% net penetration the USA’s 240 million internet users, important though they will remain, are just one small fraction of the reach we indie authors have right now, let alone the incredible reach we will have in five years time.

As indie authors we can and of course should all stay focused on the big western market(s) that sustains us now.

But it’s not rocket science to see the way things are going.

The US and UK markets are not going to get any less crowded with titles. Just the opposite.

• Fact: more and more people are self-publishing for the first time, producing a ton of new titles that compete for visibility and reader’s dollars with ours.

• Fact: more and more established indies are upping their output as they grow in confidence and keep churning out new titles. All competing with ours.

• Fact: more and more trad pub titles are seeing their contracts time out and rights revert. Guess what. The authors of those books are going to slap a cover on them and re-release, flooding the market with even more titles that will compete with ours.

• Fact: trad pub, instead of keeling over and waving its legs in the air as seemed to be the consensus view back in 2011-12, is going to churn out even more ebooks, flooding the market with more titles that will compete with ours.

• Fact: it’s not just fiction ebooks we have to worry about. Smartphones and tablets make great reading devices for the many areas of non-fiction and children’s fiction which, back in the dark ages of black & white ereaders, were an insignificant part of the market. All these new titles will be competing with ours.

• Fact: comics and graphic novels, not so long ago insignificant in the digital reading scheme of things, is now directly competing for readers’ attention. And often on the exact same device those readers will be reading our books on.

• Fact: it’s not just a tsunami of new reading material that we have to compete against. Digital games, digital music, digital film and TV, audio-books, social media… All right there on the same device as our ebooks.

And all this stuff is still in its infancy.

We know how hard it is already to get noticed in the e-stores if we aren’t big names or do not have a well-established brand. The future is just going to be more and more authors chasing an ever smaller slice of the American and British pies. Pies that, put simply, haven’t got much more room to grow.

Because let’s face it, even if US internet penetration increased to 100% and every single man, woman, child and baby in America was connected we’d be talking less than 350 million people.

Now that may sound a big number, but bear in mind we’re already talking 240 million right now.

The number of authors and titles competing for those readers’ attention is growing much faster than the number of readers who have attention to give.

So what’s a savvy indie author to do?

Well, we could take a step back, take a deep breath, and spend just a fraction of that time and effort we currently spend fighting for a share of the US and UK markets and invest in the future, laying the foundations for a truly global presence in a truly global market beyond our shores.

Because mobile is going global, and where mobile goes, the savvy indie authors ebooks will go too.

Make no mistake, the future of the internet is global mobile. And here I exert my right as an author to invent words and lay claim to the word “globile” to summarise this new phenomenon.

The nascent markets are going to expand at a phenomenal rate over the next decade, as the developing countries simply skip that expensive and cumbersome desktop and cable phase we grew up with, and go straight from no internet access to a globile world where everyone and their camel has a mobile device in their hands.

And for savvy indie authors this presents us with incredible opportunities, because just like the US market in 2010 and the UK market in 2011, the globile markets are still pretty much an open goal for those authors willing to go the extra mile.

While the individual globile markets may not (China aside) be as big as the US market, they collectively already pack a punch and can deliver a healthy chunk of change.

And in five years time…

Where will you be an author brand in 2020?

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

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

The View From The Beach – Mark Williams At Large

Gunjur-Coastline-Gambia

China’s Golden Age For Writers.

The China Gold Rush For Western Indies.

China Daily today confirms what we’ve mentioned here before – that some Chinese indie authors are picking up the USD equivalent of $1.6m per year from e-writing. (LINK)

That’s the top end, of course, but many more are doing very nicely at slightly more moderate levels, and handful of western indies are enjoying the rewards too.

At the moment the easiest way into the China market is the translation and aggregation service Fiberead (LINK), but that will change soon enough as other operators realise the potential here to leverage western literature in the barely started but already humungous Chinese digital-reading market.

Fiberead is largely retailer-focused, and while I’ve of course no complaints about what Fiberead has achieved for me (first western indie to hit #1 on Kindle China for those unfamiliar), and I’m working closely with Fiberead on new projects, there is much more on my horizon.

My sights are set on the many micro-payment sites which is where the readers are, and where savvy Chinese authors are making the serious money. Think Wattpad but getting paid. 🙂

No easy access to these sorts of sites from outside the country, which is why I am cultivating contacts within China to help me go to the next level in reaching Chinese readers.

There are incredible opportunities in the global markets right now for those of us willing to go the extra mile, stake our claim and do some prospecting.

China is by far the largest, but by no means the only goldmine out there for savvy indies willing to take the international markets seriously.

No, there are no just-add-water instant-gratification solutions, but if you are ambitious, willing to work hard, and not averse to the occasional risk, the whole world is your potential audience as the global New Renaissance gets out of first gear.

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

300+ Global Ebook Outlets? It’s As Easy As One-Two-FREE!

Go Global In 2014

We all know the ebook market is going global. But for most indie authors it seems we’re still partying like it’s 2009. Many of us are still exclusive with one store, or in so few other outlets that we may as well be.

Meanwhile that international ebook market just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

So just how many global ebook stores can we indie authors get our ebooks into without taking out a second mortgage and busting a blood vessel?

How does over 300 sound?

 ~

 Amazon has eleven Kindle sites, but readers in Ireland, Belgium, Monaco, St. Marino, Switzerland, Austria and New Zealand can buy from neighbouring Kindle stores without surcharges, as can South Africans. So effectively nineteen outlets covered there.

NB In theory many other countries (by no means all – over half the world is blocked totally) can buy from AmCom, but sending readers to Amazon US only to be surcharged will reflect badly on the author, as readers won’t know that the $2+ surcharge (even on “free” ebooks!) goes to Amazon, not to you. For that reason we’re counting just the above-mentioned countries for Amazon.

f you are with Apple you can add another 51 countries to the list. Apple is the second largest ebook distributor by dedicated-country reach. Extensive coverage of North America, Latin America and Europe. Not so hot in Asia or Africa.

Nook is kind of in limbo right now. Apart from the US Barnes & Noble store and Nook UK (a reminder: it’s NOT called B&N in the UK) there are another thirty or so countries served by Nook with a Windows 8 app.

At some stage they will all become fully fledged stores, maybe, but for now, let’s discount those and just add the two key Nook stores to the list.

19 Amazon stores, 51 Apple stores and 2 Nook stores means you already have easy access to 72 global ebook stores.

If you are with Kobo then in theory you’ll be in the localized Kobo stores in US, Canada, Australia, Japan, South Africa, India, UK, Netherlands, Germany, France… You’ll be in Kobo partner stores like Bookworld, Collins, Angus & Robertson and Pages & Pages in Australia, in PaperPlus in New Zealand, in National Book Store in the Philippines, in Crossword in India, in Indigo in Canada, in Fnac in France and Portugal, in Mondadori in Italy, in Livraria Cultura in Brazil, and probably a few more that aren’t springing to mind right now.

Okay, so twenty-two more retail outlets right there, taking you up to 92.

Then there’s the Indiebound stores. Indiebound is a Kobo partner project whereby bricks and mortar indie stores have a Kobo ebook store integrated with their website. As an example, checkout Poor Richard’s in Kentucky. Or The Velveteen Rabbit Bookshop & Guest House in Wisconsin. Or Octavia Books in New Orleans.

We haven’t done a full appraisal of all of the Indiebound stores yet (soon!), but there are well over FOUR HUNDRED b&m indie bookstores selling ebooks via Kobo. Some just send you to the main Kobo store. Others have a fully integrated ebook store as part of their website.

We discount the first lot here and just include those with an integrated Kobo store. Let’s play safe and say there are, very conservatively, just 50 integrated Indiebound stores with your ebooks in (more likely well over 200!).

Suddenly we’re looking at 142 retailers with your ebooks in.

If you are in ‘txtr that’s another twenty stores right now, and with six more in Latin America about to open.

162 global retail stores.

If you are with Smashwords then as well as ‘txtr you ought to also be in Blio and Versent, and in the Indian megastore Flipkart.

Bookbaby will also get you into Blio and Flipkart, and if you are with Bookbaby you can be in eSentral. E-Sentral is based in Malaysia but also has stores in Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand and Brunei.

Bookbaby will also get you into Ciando, one of the key retail outlets in Germany. And as per this link – http://www2.ciando.com/ – the Ciando ebook store in Germany is in English!

For those who haven’t been keeping count that’s 173 global ebook retailers.

Throw in All-Romance and OmniLit, which is free-access, to make that 175.

American and British indies often don’t look beyond Smashwords and D2D, and maybe Bookbaby, totally ignoring the free-access aggregators in Europe like Xin-Xii and Narcissus. We do so at our peril.

Xin-Xii will get you into the seven key Tolino Alliance stores (Hugendubel, Weltbild, Thalia, etc) that devastated Amazon market share last year. Essential places to be if you want to make it in Germany.

But Xin-Xii will also get you into Donauland in Austria, Casa del Libro in Spain, Family Christian in the US, Otto in Germany, and Libris in the Netherlands. It will also get you in the ebook stores of the mobile phone operators O2 and Vodafone.

Lost count yet? We’re talking 189 global ebook stores already.

So let’s see if Narcissus can push us over that 200 mark. Narcissus is based in Italy, and little known outside, but it a gem of an aggregator.

Quite apart from many of the stores already covered above, Narcissus will also get you in Ultima, in LaFeltrinelli, in IBS, in Net-Ebook, in Libreria Rizzoli, in Cubolibri, in Book Republic, in Ebookizzati, in DEAStore, in Webster, in MrEbook, in Ebook.it, inLibrisalsus, in Libreria Fantasy, in The First Club, in Omnia Buk, in Il Giardino Dei Libri, in CentoAutori, in Excalibooks, in Hoepli, in San Paolo Store, in Libramente, in Ebook Gratis, in Libreria Ebook, in Byblon Store, in Libreria Pour Femme, as well as numerous specialist and academic stores. Narcissus also distribute to Nokia. Yes, as in the phone company. Ebooks are still widely read on Feature phones, and Nokia leads the way.

But just those 26 examples from Narcissus take us to 215 global ebook stores.

And then there’s Google Play. You can go direct to Google Play or free (pay as you sell) through Narcissus.

Google Play have 57 global ebook stores (and more on the way).

Which takes us up to 272 ebook stores. And counting.

On top of this we can add the ebook subscription services like Oyster (US only) and Scribd (global), accessible through Bookbaby, Smashwords and (in the case of Scribd) D2D.

Then there’s digital libraries. Even leaving aside the as yet unresolved mess that is the Smashwords-OverDrive saga, indies with Smashwords or Bookbaby may be in libraries through Baker & Taylor.

Bookbaby also distribute to the wholesale catalogues Copia and Gardners, which supply libraries and also a ton more retail stores over and above those listed above.

Throw in the Copia and Gardners outlets and we EASILY cross the 300 retailer mark.

Remember, ALL these are accessible free of charge (you pay a percentage per sale).

There are other options, like Vook. IngramSpark and Ebook Partnership, which would substantially add to this list, but these options either have up-front costs or offer a very poor percentage return for free-access.

But worth noting that players like Ebook Partnership can get you not just into the OverDrive catalogue, which means an appearance in key stores like Books-A-Million, Waterstone’s, Infibeam, Kalahari and Exclus1ves, as well as the myriad OverDrive library partners, but also other key up and coming outlets like Magzter, like Bookmate in Russia, and so on and so on.

 ~

 The global ebook market is growing by the day. There are huge new markets opening up in Latin America, in India, in China, and across SE Asia right now that most indies are not a part of.

In the near future Africa will take a big leap forward as retailers make ebooks accessible to the hundreds of millions of Africans currently locked out of our cozy ebook world.

Make no mistake. The global ebook market will dwarf the US ebook market many, many, many times over as it gains momentum.

No, there won’t be many overnight successes, yes it will take time, and yes it will require a good few hours of effort to make sure you are in all these stores in the first place.

Sorry. There are no magic wands to wave. No just-add-water instant solutions.

No pain, no gain.

But you only have to upload to these stores once, and a handful of aggregators can do most of them for you in a couple of rounds, planting the seeds for future harvests. Then you just need to pop back now and again to tend the garden. It’s a one-off effort now that will pay back over a life-time as these global markets take off.

That list of 300+ stores above is just going to grow and grow and GROW as market fragmentation and international expansion gather momentum. The global ebook market has barely left the starting line!

The savvy indie author thinks about the next five years, not the next five days. Don’t get lost in the minutiae of your every-day ebook life and miss the bigger picture here.

Because we are all privileged to be part of something that is way, way bigger than just selling our books. We are witnessing – participating in – the early stages of a New Renaissance quite unparalleled in human history.

A New Renaissance on a global scale that will not just make accessible existing art forms to every single person on the planet, but will create new art forms as yet unknown, but in which we can be sure writers will play a key role.

Be part of it.

’Txtr Launches Ebook Stores In Latin America. Wears Its Smashwords Badge With Pride. Indies, It’s Time To Return The Favour!

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Berlin-based ebook retailer ‘txtr (for those unfamiliar, there’s no capital, no vowels and the apostrophe is in the right place!) is about to take another big leap forward with the imminent launch of six new ebook stores. Five in South America – Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Peru and Venezuela – and another in Mexico.

At this point the store menu (bottom right on the ‘txtr home page) has visual links to the new stores, but they feed back to the central store in Germany. We’re hoping to hear back from ‘txtr on a firm launch date for these, and whether we can expect ‘txtr to follow Google Play’s lead and roll out across a wider swathe of Latin America.

Some observers will be dismissive.

‘Txtr has yet to make a significant impact anywhere, and its token stores in the US, Canada, UK and Australia face fierce competition from established American and domestic brands. ‘Txtr also has the failure of its ultra-cheap ereader the ‘txtr Beagle to weigh down its reputation.

But as Tennyson would have said had he lived to see digital books, better to have tried and lost, than never to have tried at all.

Here’s the thing: ‘txtr is a plucky little outfit with ambition, vision and, it seems, enough money (3M, itself no stranger to ebooks, are among its backers) to play the long game.

With twenty-five global stores ‘txtr has already more than doubled Amazon’s Kindle stores, and is firmly in third place behind Google Play and Apple for dedicated ebook stores catering to overseas markets. Throw in the reach of ‘txtr’s partner stores and ‘txtr ebooks are available in some fifty countries. Without surcharges.

Our guess is Russia, Brazil and India will be priorities for ‘txtr, and then to embrace those areas of Europe so far by-passed (notably Scandinavia and east Europe), before turning its attention to S.E. Asia, following close on Google Play’s heels.

For indies this is great news. While some indies have been enjoying sales at ‘txtr for several years through Ebook Partnership, it is only recently that ‘txtr has been easily accessible, thanks to a distribution deal with Smashwords.

Yet bizarrely many indies seem to have opted out of ‘txtr distribution.

Their loss, because ‘txtr is one of the few ebook stores that wears its indie badge with pride.

Check out the indie section on ‘txtr’s US and UK sites, where indie titles are being given significant exposure. Not a self-pub ghetto like on OverDrive (an update on this soon) but front page stuff saying ‘txtr are PROUD to host self-published titles.

At which point you’ll be thinking, yeah, very nice, but it will be the usual suspects. Ordinary indies like us don’t stand a chance.

Think again.

No sign of Hugh Howey and Joe Konrath here! Konrath of course is exclusive with Amazon (apart from Be The Monkey), and Howey, it seems, just can’t be bothered with ‘txtr, or even Smashwords. Given Smashword’s is the world’s biggest indie aggregator and indie ebook store this is a rather curious stance from someone who purports to champion the self-pub cause.

So which indies are ‘txtr showcasing?

Click on this link – http://us.txtr.com/smashwords/?referral=banner – and you’ll see a slide show of highlighted indie authors. Delve deeper to see highlighted indie series and other great little boosters.

Doubtful these authors will be buying their second luxury yacht off of ‘txtr sales just yet, but don’t dismiss ‘txtr out of hand just because no-one’s ever heard of it in indieland.

In the real world beyond, ‘txtr has a lot going for it.

An ebook store with over a million titles, a great device-agnostic platform, and a key understanding of glocalization that Amazon sorely lacks.

While Amazon hints at a pending Kindle Netherlands store, maybe, some time, when they can be bothered, and meanwhile surcharges Dutch readers who try to buy from the Everything Store, ‘txtr long since provided the Dutch with their own ebook store. And the Belgians, and the Swiss, and the Danes, and the Poles, and the Hungarians, and…

In fact, going where Amazon can’t be bothered is a key part of ‘txtr’s strategy.

“Especially in markets where Amazon isn’t yet present, network operators can combine the competitive advantage of being first to market with their billing capabilities to lead the development of the local ebook market. txtr’s e-reading service comes with an integrated billing solution, but we have extensive experience of connecting to 3rd party payment providers.”

‘Txtr has been around since 2008, a year before Amazon launched KDP, and as above counts 3M among its backers. At the other end of the business ‘txtr counts classy book retailers like Foyles (UK), and major tech-players like T-Mobile and Lenova as partners.

‘Txtr may not have Amazon’s brand recognition or traffic, and may forever be a bit-player in the key US and UK markets, and even in its home market in Germany, but elsewhere ‘txtr is shaping up to be a significant player in the global ebook market Amazon shuns.

Here’s the thing: Amazon’s Kindle stores runs on rails. Print rails. It’s a sad irony that the store dedicated to accelerating the transition to digital at home (mainly to reduce storage overheads and shipping costs) predicates its international Kindle expansion on the print market.

That’s just beginning to pay off in Brazil, where Amazon is starting to gain traction in the lucrative print market. But as anyone who has sold an ebook on Kindle BR will know, you can hit the best-seller charts with a single sale, and make the higher echelons of the in-store chart with just a handful.

Brazilians were buying ebooks from domestic and Latin American stores back when Amazon was slapping surcharges on readers who tried to buy from AmCom. No surprise then that Brazilians haven’t rushed to embrace the Kindle store since it launched.

And it’s a similar story across the Amazon sites. With the exception of maybe Kindle UK and Kindle DE, the satellite Kindle stores are simply adjuncts to Amazon’s actual or pending print and other e-commerce interests in those countries.

Which is why we can’t even hope, let alone expect, Amazon ever to become a global ebook player in the way that Google Play and ‘txtr are now positioning themselves.

As the global ebook markets burgeons, so Amazon will become more and more marginalized.

Not a problem for those authors who think the US and UK are the be-all and end-all of their publishing existence – Amazon will continue to be the dominant player here for the foreseeable future. But for anyone with ambitions to become a truly international bestselling author it is stores like Google Play and ‘txtr that will help make it happen.

At the moment Google Play, while supportive of self-publishers (Google Play is actively seeking out indie authors to sign up for special deals) does not make it easy for us.

The Google Play self-pub portal is a challenging process, and as yet very few aggregators will get you in. The UK’s Ebook Partnership and Italy’s Narcissus, and Ingram and Vook seem to be the only alternatives to going direct.

With ‘txtr, by contrast, access is as easy as signing up to Smashwords.

And as is now plain for all to see, ‘txtr won’t hide your Smashwords titles away like OverDrive does.

Just the opposite. ‘Txtr will proudly shout them from the rooftops.

At a time when indie authors are increasingly being sidelined by ebook stores (in the UK three of the biggest ebook retailers have no self-pub titles at all); at a time when Trad Pub is dominating the ebook charts; and while the big players like Amazon and Kobo continue to pay lip-service to indies while giving Big Pub all the perks (how many years has it taken just for indies to get pre-orders?), we need all the friends we can get.

If you are in Smashwords and have for some reason opted out of ‘txtr, you might want to reconsider.

If you are not in Smashwords at all, then the ‘txtr distribution alone is a good reason to reconsider, plus they have great distribution to Flipkart, India’s biggest ebook store. So far as we know Smashwords is the only “free” (pay-as-you-sell – there are no free lunches!) aggregator getting titles into ‘txtr.

So a big round of applause to Mark Coker and Smashwords for the deal with ‘txtr, and an even bigger one to ‘txtr for embracing and promoting self-published titles, instead of hiding them away.

Now how about we indies do something to show our appreciation?

Next time you’re doing some promo, spare a thought for ‘txtr. No, none of the big promo newsletters even know ‘txtr exists, but there’s nothing to stop you adding a ‘txtr link to your tweets and FB posts.

If we all tweeted a ‘txtr link alongside our Amazon links it could make a big difference, not just to our sales, but to ‘txtr’s future.

‘Txtr is making the effort for us. Let’s return the favour.

 

Ebook Bargains UK.

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

 

While Kindle Ebook Sales Plateau, Kobo Soars

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As we all know, ebooks sales have levelled off in the USA, which is why recent reports from Amazon have been conspicuously quiet about Kindle ebook sales at home. And even quieter about Kindle ebook sales abroad, where Amazon has been facing stiff competition from the Tolino Alliance in Germany, the supermarket ebook store Sainsbury in the UK and myriad alternative ebook stores in Australia. When Kindle ebook and device sales are going well Amazon miss no opportunity to let us know it. Their recent silence on this matter is golden.

While Google Play continues to roll out international ebook stores (forty-four and counting) it seems Amazon’s international Kindle expansion is on hold. There are strong rumours we might see a Kindle Russia store this year, but there have been strong rumours in the past about a Kindle Chile and a Kindle Netherlands store, which came to nothing. As Amazon shareholders get restless about Amazon’s continuing failure to deliver meaningful profits, it seems unlikely we will see many – if any – new Kindle stores this year.

The last expansion by Amazon Kindle internationally was in August last year with the Kindle Mexico store. The more recent addition of the Kindle Australia store simply consolidated an existing market of Australian and New Zealand Kindle users, bringing nothing new to the table.

Not that Kobo has been dazzling us with new partner stores lately, but at least Kobo have been seeing continuing growth. A possible factor in Bella Andre’s decision to go exclusive with Kobo.

While Amazon kept the bad news quite Kobo delighted in telling us that revenues were up 40% in 2013 and the Kobo userbase had seen a 50% increase. Several sites reporting this, of course, but we’re linking to The Digital Reader again for this because Nate Hoffelder has a couple of little gems tucked away in his assessment.

Earlier this month Kobo CEO Mike Serbinis stepped aside to let Takahito Aiki take over at the Kobo helm. For those out of the loop Kobo, originally a Canadian company, was bought out by the Japanese-based on-line giant Rakuten, often referred to as the Amazon of the Far East. Until now Rakuten has stayed firmly in the back seat so far as driving Kobo’s ebook business was concerned, providing funding but little else.

Despite this, as just mentioned, Kobo saw its revenue rise by 40% last year.

~

Yes, we know. Most indies are selling next to nothing on Kobo, so how can this possible be so?

But as we’ve said before, Kobo has a very limited focus on the US market. In the wider world, on the other hand… Kobo is the biggest player in Canada and the Philippines and a significant player in France, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere. Not least the UK, where it still supplies trad-pubbed titles to WH Smith, even though indies have been banned from the store.

If you’re not seeing significant sales from Kobo and other platforms then, as we keep saying, don’t blame the other retailers if you spend half the time in Select or promotion and marketing is geared almost exclusively to Amazon. You reap what you sow…

~

 What does the future hold for Kobo and indies?

Well for Kobo the future is bright. The Digital Reader describes Aiki as a

turnaround specialist (who) previously ran Fusion Inc, one of Rakuten’s telecom subs…Fusion was a money pit when it was acquired by Rakuten, but by the time Mr Aiki left it had generated over 1 and a half billion yen a year in operating income (aka operating profit) in 2012, and 1.9 billion yen in the first 9 months of 2013… If Mr. Aiki can have a similar effect on Kobo it’s potentially very good news for Kobo’s customers (as well as anyone who hates Amazon’s dominance of the ebook market)…

So looking good for Kobo customers who want to read trad pubbed books.  Kobo is going to go from strength to strength.

But (the likes of Bella Andre aside) will we indies do anything more than cadge a ride on Kobo’s coat-tails? We’ll be coming back to Kobo and the future for indies very soon, with what may be a bleak outlook although (see below) there are some promising developments too.

For now, a reminder that, as well as the Kobo international store Kobo has “localized” stores in the US, UK, Canada, Netherlands, Germany, South Africa and elsewhere (these have territorial restrictions so you may need to live there to access them) as well as ebook partnerships with a large number of retailers. If you are listed with Kobo you may be lucky and find your titles in the following partner stores:

Chapters Indigo in Canada, Livraria Cultura in Brazil, National Book Stores in the Philippines, LibriMondadori in Italy, Fnac in France, Crossword in India, Angus & Robertson, Bookworld and Collins in Australia, Whitcoulls and Paperplus in New Zealand. There are plenty more, though sadly W H Smith UK and W H Smith India are both off limits to indies, and that’s very unlikely to change.

~

Kobo is a significant international ebook player, however much your sales and the Amazon-obsessed indie blogs tell you otherwise.

Don’t misconstrue any of this as anti-Amazon. Amazon is still the biggest player in several countries – and especially the US, UK and Germany – but Amazon is not the only show in town and indies need to stop partying like it’s 2009.

Kobo is an essential part of your ebook toolbox if you plan on going global in 2014.

~

 Since this post is about Kobo a couple of snippets from the Kobo newsletter just released’

Kobo have just launched Kobo Next, an indie-exclusive recommendations engine. In Kobo’s words:

 Customers can find their next great read on the Kobo Next page.

This section highlights self-published titles exclusively, and NOW has prominent placement on the Kobo site and in new releases emails worldwide.

That’s not the only thing Kobo are offering indies. They also have five places available on the Pubslush crowdfunding blog for authors to interest potential investors in their next book to help fund editing, cover design, formatting, etc. But you’d best hurry. The deadline is February 21, just a few days away.

Here’s the link for the Kobo Writing Life February newsletter. Along with Amazon’s Kindle and CreateSpace newsletters this should be an essential part of your indie toolbox, whether you go to Kobo direct or through an aggregator.

A final thought. Kobo is owned by Rakuten, a Japanese company. The Japanese company Rakuten have just announced their Global Strategy Briefing. You can read about it here. In English. And if you’re thinking that’s just a translation of the Japanese original, check out the link and watch the video where Rakuten’s Japanese head honcho delivers his (somewhat lengthy) address in person to the media and shareholders. Guess which language he delivers that lengthy address in…

 Retailer Round-Up:

Another simple one. To get in the Kobo partner stores, in the Kobo localized stores and in the Kobo international store you simply need to be in Kobo. You can go to Kobo direct through Kobo Writing Life, or through pretty much any aggregator, including Smashwords, D2D, Ebook Partnership, Bookbaby, etc.

Also mentioned were Amazon Kindle (go direct via KDP or through pretty much any aggregator) and Google Play. Again, you can go direct if in a Google Play country, otherwise the only aggregator loading to Google Play appears to be Ebook Partnership.

As ever, if you know differently, do share.

Ebook bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.