the BBC Is Now On Line. No, Not On-Line. On LINE!

Go Global In 2014

The BBC Is Now On Line.

No, not on-line. On LINE.

As in, Line, the Japanese messenger service we mentioned here a few days ago (LINK) as an ideal way to promote your ebooks in foreign lands.

In the past week the BBC has begun using Line to promote news in countries including India, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Germany, France, Italy and Spain.

In just said past week the BBC has already picked up over 80,000 followers. And yes, the BBC is messaging to all these countries is in English.

The BBC has also been using the hugely popular social media services WeChat and WhatsApp in India for nearly six months.

The BBC thinks these messaging and social media services are a great way to reach people overseas. So do we.

And for reasons explained in the previous post (linked above), your existing Facebook and twitter accounts are not best suited to finding readers in foreign lands.

The global ebook market is already bigger than most people imagine, and is growing by the day.  But we indies need to be willing to step outside our comfort zones if we want to be part of it.

Just like with selling ebooks back home, being there is unquestionably half the battle.

Letting readers know you are there is a big part of the other half.

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

Almost Two Billion. That’s How Many People On The Planet Could Be Reading Your Ebooks.

Go Global In 2014

As we love to remind you here at EBUK, every single smartphone and tablet around the world is a potential recipient for your ebooks, and the number of people who have them is getting bigger and bigger by the day.

Currently almost TWO BILLION people on the planet have smartphones.

And that number is about to get even bigger as Google launches its Android One programme – with a mission to bring affordable smartphones to the FIVE BILLION people on the planet currently without a device.

Over the next couple of years the potential readership of your ebooks is going to grow exponentially as Android One partners – including some of the biggest device manufacturers on the planet, such as Lenova, HTX, Acer and Asus – to bring affordable smartphones to the developing world.

As we often say here, we regard India and SE Asia – and in particular China, Indonesia and the Philippines – as key growth areas for ebooks we should all be targeting. And as we reported here (LINK) the demand for English-language books in these countries is clear.

It’s no coincidence that Google’s Android One launched this week in India, and next on the list is Indonesia and the Philippines, with Pakistan and Bangladesh to follow, as well as Sri Lanka and tiny Nepal. And an Android One roll-out globally in 2015.

But hold on. Did we say “tiny” Nepal? This wonderful country may indeed be a tiny smudge on the world map, but with a population of 28 million it has more people than Australia, and almost as many as Canada!

Sri Lanka? Just behind Australia, but still five times more people than New Zealand!

The Philippines? The Philippines has more English speakers than the UK has people!

So has Pakistan, where English is the official language. Total population in Pakistan is 180 million.

Bangladesh comes in just behind Pakistan with 160 million people. English is not so widely spoken here but still very widespread.

Indonesia has 250 million people. Twenty per cent of Facebook users in Indonesia conduct their business in English, suggesting the English-language is very widely used in this beautiful country.

Smartphone penetration is still low is many of these countries. But even so, the numbers are surprising. Take this snapshot of SE Asia:

33m people in Vietnam are already using smartphones (LINK). 32 million in Thailand. 15m in the Philippines. 23 million in Malaysia. In Indonesia only 23% of the population currently use smartphones, but that’s almost 60 million people – close to the entire population of the UK!

Apple is big – very big – in Vietnam and Indonesia, but until they open iBooks stores in these countries it’s not relevant to us as indie authors. Fortunately for us the big growth in smartphones across the region is Android-driven, and that means Google.

Obviously global Google’s mission isn’t primarily about ebooks, but as Google have already shown with their rapid expansion of the Google Play Books store to 57 countries, ebooks are a key part of the equation. Google Play already has ebook stores in Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines. Expect Google Play ebook stores for Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal in the not too distant future.

As Google said on their blog this week (LINK)

“Knowledge is a game changer. I’ve long been inspired by the Internet and how it opens the doors to opportunity. It provides access to knowledge, no matter who you are or where you are. For instance, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Nobel Laureate at a world-class research center or a young student at a rural school in Indonesia, with Google Search, you have the same information at your fingertips as anyone else.”

Of course, the difference between the Nobel Laureate in the world class research centre and the student in a rural school in Indonesia is that the former will be able to buy your ebooks very easily from a western retailer. But apart from Google Play there are no western retailers who will even give Indonesian readers the time of day.

Amazon completely blocks downloads to most of SE Asia. Even Apple, which is hugely popular in the region, has yet to make its iBooks store available in Asia apart from Japan.

Tim Cook, wake up and smell the coffee! Apple and Google are the only two companies currently capable of creating truly global ebook retail franchise, but Tim, you seem happy to hand the opportunity over to Google. Take the iBooks store seriously!

Pending Apple getting their act together, there are other options for indie authors to reach the SE Asia market. Malaysian-based E-Sentral, for instance, which serves not just Malaysia but also Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam and tiny Brunei. And there are many “local” retailers like Ookbee and Scoop, though getting into these is not easy at this stage.

For the record, you can go to E-Sentral direct, or use Bookbaby or Ebook Partnership.

But for most of us Google Play remains by far our best bet for reaching readers not just in SE Asia but also across the vast regions of the world that Amazon either blocks, surcharges or makes payments difficult.

Payments are one of the key sticking points for global expansion, and Google understands this. Expanding their range of payment options to suit local needs (glocalization) is a top priority for Google (LINK), who already offer a diverse range of payment options quite aside from credit cards, which most of the world’s population do not have. Carrier billing, Paypal, gift cards and other options and local payment processing such as over-the-counter payments are all on the Google agenda.

And these will all help potential readers buy our ebooks. If they are available.

At risk of sparking another bout of “anti-Amazon” cries, it needs repeating here, because so many indie authors think that when you tick world rights box in the KDP dashboard, that huge list of countries means that your ebooks will be available in all these places. It doesn’t.

The simple fact is if you are exclusive with Amazon you are not going to reach digital readers in these exciting nascent markets because Amazon – the “world’s biggest bookstore” – blocks downloads to these countries. And no, there is absolutely zero chance Amazon will be opening Kindle stores there in the future.

But here’s the thing. Unless you are in Select you can sell on Amazon and still enjoy the reach of Google Play.

And for those who have tried and given up because of the frustrating experience that was the Google Play self-pub portal, note the use of the past tense there. Google Play has just upgraded their self-pub portal to make it a far easier experience.

Get your ebooks in the 57 Google Play stores (LINK) and grab a ride on Google’s Android One programme.

We often talk about a New Renaissance.  That we are witness to, and participating in, a global renaissance unparalleled in human history.

Just take another glance back over the countries mentioned above. Five years ago smartphones, for all practical purposes, did not exist. Digital reading was, for all practical purposes, non-existent outside of  a handful of rich western nations, and the limited availability and high cost of print books meant reading was a privilege of the elite.

The chance of any author finding a readership for their English-language tiles in Vietnam or Indonesia was limited to having print books left  by tourist when they headed homes.

Digital has changed everything.

Digital democratizes the world, and for those indie authors willing to grasp the nettle, we can now reach readers almost anywhere on the planet.

And with every new smartphone out there that’s another device they could be reading your ebooks on.

If you are available.

How available are your ebooks?

 

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

 

 

China In Your Hands. The Global English-Language Book Market

Go Global In 2014Many of you are unconvinced by our enthusiasm for the overseas markets, arguing that, without translations to local languages, it simply isn’t worth the effort to target foreign lands, no matter how big they might be.

Yes, China has fifty trillion, gazillion, pfazillion people all eagerly buying ebooks, but who cares? The lazy b******s can’t be bothered to speak English, so in the words of Marie Antoinette’s second cousin in Cathay, let them eat prawn crackers.

But as we’ve said on many occasions, while some indies take the moral low ground and dismiss Johnny Foreigner as a waste of time, trad pub is raking in the cash from English-language titles overseas.

In July last year the Association of American Publishers reported how English-language titles – both print and digital – were flourishing. 

For print the growth areas are instructive. These by ranking order:

“UK, Germany, Australia, South Korea, the Philippines and Singapore. The countries with the greatest year-to-year increases in print revenue were the Philippines, the UK, France, Colombia and the United Arab Emirates.”

For ebooks:

“The revenue-generating territories were led by Europe, followed by the UK and then closely by the territory including Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and India. The top countries contributing to eBook sales were the UK, Australia, Germany, France, Norway and Switzerland. Germany showed the greatest year-on-year revenue gains while New Zealand, Spain, Italy, South Africa and Brazil also contributed significant eBook revenue gains.”

Remember, this is English-language titles.

As the APP report says,

Asia is a thriving market for US publishers for several reasons. English-language literacy, already important in a number of Asian countries, is rapidly growing among populations in more countries including China, Malaysia and Indonesia. Also, the Asian market places strong emphasis on education and English Language Teaching (ELT), and books from US Children’s/Young Adult publishers are considered critical to long term education investments.”

Most indies are sharing in almost none of this growth.

Why? Basically, myopic thinking and too heavy a reliance on handful of retail outlets.

As per bold above, Asia is a big growth area for English-language titles.

China may not be the easiest place to sell our ebooks, and if you are exclusive with Amazon you won’t be seeing much action in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore or the Philippines, but Kobo will get you into the biggest ebook store in the Philippines, and both e-Sentral and Google Play will get you in front of readers in all four countries.

China? Not yet.

But HarperCollins is about to rake in a whole load more cash following a new agreement with one of China’s stop retailers, JD – second only to Alibaba in Chinese e-commerce.

Significantly, HarperCollins has just signed a deal with JD solely dedicated to selling HarperCollins’s ENGLISH-LANGUAGE ebooks in the Chinese market.

HarperCollins are actually quite late to the party. OverDrive signed a deal to get ebooks into China back in August 2013. Sorry, if you’re in OverDrive through Smashwords you won’t be there.

That said, several western aggregators have been looking at gaining access to the lucrative China market, and at least one has an announcement pending, but the details are still under wraps.

Here just to say, when the opportunity comes, grab it!

Ironically it is Amazon, the store that blocks downloads to most of Asia (Japan aside) that has the best foothold in China right now. But we indies aren’t invited to the party. Yes, Amazon sells ebooks in China, but you won’t find Kindle CN anywhere in your KDP dashboard.

Amazon has been in China since 2004, when it brought Joyo for $75 million, but has never got off the ground properly. No official stats, of course, but pundits generally agree China is one of the biggest drains on the Zon.

One reason might be their refusal to glocalize.

Take a look at the China site. The content and prices are in Mandarin, true, but check out the framework of the site and it’s exactly the same as the US site and every other site (check out Nook UK http://www.nook.com/gb for a fine example of how not to treat foreigners as an afterthought), and Amazon haven’t even been bothered to translate the most basic navigation tools, like the sign-in button.

Chinese users with no familiarity with the Latin alphabet might be able to guess where to sign in, but what will they make of “Today’s Deals”, “Gift cards” or “Sell”?

Amazon have thoughtfully translated the information on these pages, so if you click through it will all make sense. But if you don’t speak English you won’t know where to click through in the first place. The bottom bars of the home page are almost completely in English, even though linking to important information like payment methods . Go figure.

But be in no doubt there’s a demand for English-language books in China.

A look at the Kindle CN bestsellers list is instructive. http://www.amazon.cn/gp/bestsellers/digital-text/116169071/ref=sv_kinc_4

At #12 in the top 100 free on Kindle China is a public domain HG Wells title, in English, and at #18 a Sherlock Holmes anthology, again in English. And several more public domain classics, in English, in the Top 100 Free chart.

No English-language titles in the Top 100 paid chart, but that may be more down to availability than lack of interest. Clearly HarperCollins think there is plenty of demand for English-language originals in China, and a look at the imported print and Kindle books section throws up all the usual big names, as well as some surprising ones.

A common reaction to any discussion about the Chinese book market is that there is so much state censorship that nothing western will be allowed through.

Well, each country has laws and those laws will be enforced. There’s a lot of material on Smashwords, for example, that would be illegal in the UK and would have us Brits arrested if we were caught downloading it.

But let’s not assume China is still some sort of no-go area for western ideas. Those days are long gone. It’s 2014, not 1984.

Speaking of which…

George Orwell’s anti-totalitarian classic 1984 is readily available. In fact the Kindle addition is just 18 yuan and it has over 350 five star reviews. Assuming the ratio of reviews to sales is similar to the US then that suggests some serious sales numbers. Orwell’s anti-Stalinist Animal Farm has almost 500 five star reviews, and sells for less than 6 yuan.

The Chinese ebook market is already massive. At least second to the US. Possibly bigger. There are many dollar-equivalent millionaire indies in China right now, and just a matter of time before the first western indies breakout there and win the biggest lottery on the planet.

Don’t fall for the media propaganda that China is living in some sort of time-warp and is way behind the west. China is already ahead in many ways, and is at least keeping up in others.

Take social media as an example. Yes, they use Facebook and twitter in China, but they also have their home-grown versions. And how!

Sina Weibo, a Chinese version of twitter, has 148 million active monthly users. That’s twice the population of the UK.

WeChat in China has 350 million active users each month. That’s more than the entire population of the USA!

Sounds impressive until you consider that Tencent has 800 million active monthly users. At one point in April this year Tencent had an incredible 200 million users online at the same time!

A reminder that we at Ebook Bargains UK regard S.E. Asia as THE most exciting region on the planet right now, ranking China, along with India, Indonesia and the Philippines, as key Asian markets we should all be paying close attention to.

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

These markets won’t pay tomorrow’s lunch. But they will be a great addition to your pension plan.

 

Walk The Line. Promoting Ebooks In The Global Marketplace.

Go Global In 2014When it comes to promotion, we indies like to stay well inside our comfort zones. Facebook, twitter, maybe Google+, and that’s often about it. Of course there are plenty of other options. Pinterest, Tumblr, blah,blah, blah.

But even if we are engaged on these sites our reach is invariably limited to fellow authors and a desperately small circle beyond, usually in a handful of English-speaking countries.

And therein lies the problem when it comes to making an impact in that blossoming global ebook market beyond our shores. HTF do we get noticed by readers in India or Indonesia, Mexico, Myanmar or Malaysia, Vietnam or Venezuela?

Yes, all these countries use Facebook and twitter, often on a scale beyond anything we might expect, but if we have an existing FB or twitter account with a ton of US/UK/Australian/Canadian/NZ friends, then the platform algorithms will do their level best to keep it that way.

Why? Well, how would you feel if your inbox was overrun with tweets or FB posts from people you’ve never heard of in Nicaragua, Niger, the Netherlands, Nepal or Namibia? And in a foreign lingo to boot?

So for very compelling reasons our existing Facebook and twitter accounts are NOT the best way to reach the global markets beyond our shores.

Yes, India has over one hundred million active Facebook users, but we all know how most of our FB posts aren’t even seen by our connected friends. What chance getting noticed by any of those one hundred million Facebook users who aren’t our Facebook friends, even if the algorithms were on our side?

Wehear back constantly from frustrated indies saying they are promoting their Flipkart and e-Sentral links on Facebook and twitter but nothing happens.

One key reason is quite simply because no-one in those countries are seeing them.

One solution is to step outside our comfort zone and sign up to a messenger service or social media platform in a distant land that doesn’t know or care about your friends and family back home.

How will we gain traction? The same way we did on twitter and Facebook when we first started out. By making friends, beings sociable, and promoting others.

Yes, we know, we all have zero time and can’t be bothered. But is that really true? Somehow we are finding the time to endlessly tweet and FB the same book details to the same handful of people over and over, usually to ever-diminishing effect.

Take some time off from twitter and Facebook and try signing up and being social (yes, social, not ramming our books down everyone’s throat from day one – there’s a clue in the term social media platform) to a messenger service or Facebook clone that we in the US and UK may never have heard of but which are having a big impact in the countries we are trying to reach.

Take Whatsapp. Never heard of it? Obviously you haven’t read our previous posts on India!

Whatsapp is a Facebook alternative in India (and elsewhere), currently boasting around fifty million monthly users. And yes, it’s in English.

If we know someone who can speak Mandarin we might want to sign up to Sina Weibo, WeChat or Tencent.

Never heard of them? If you live in China you will have.

Sina Weibo, a Chinese version of twitter, has 148 million active monthly users, knocking India’s Facebook for six.

WeChat in China has 350 million active users each month. That’s more than the entire population of the USA!

Sounds impressive until you consider that Tencent has 800 million active monthly users. At one point in April Tencent had an incredible 200 million users online at the same time!

Of course, unless we have ebooks available in China there’s not much point spending time promoting there.

But even if we are exclusive with Amazon, we can take advantage of a ton of other social media platforms to strike up a presence in key countries like Brazil, or Mexico, or Japan.

Take Line.

Line may be a Japanese messenger service, but you can download the Windows app right here.

And you’ll be delighted to find it’s in English.

Never heard of Line?

Here’s the thing. Four hundred and ninety million people around the globe have.

Line has a measly ten million users in the USA. But… It has fifteen million users in Mexico, and eighteen million each in Spain and India.

Thailand had been in second place for Line, and Indonesia third. That was way back in… April.

In the past six months alone Line found ten million new users in Indonesia, taking it up to thirty million, and knocking Thailand back to third place with just 27 million users.

A reminder here that Indonesia is tipped by EBUK as one of THE key places to be.

Line’s top spot is still held by Japan, with over fifty million users.

And because their algorithms haven’t got you locked down into a pattern, you can start off fresh, find fellow writers and readers and make social contact, and gradually introduce your books to all the new friends you’ll be making.

Try a mixture of English-language and local-language. Yes, use Google translate or whatever. No, it won’t be perfect, but at least you’ll be seen to be making the effort, and that will count in your favour.

Line is just one of a gazillion options available. There are more social media platforms out there than you can shake a banana at, and yes, it would be senseless to devote all your time to chasing them.

But pick maybe one or two that have a good presence in the countries you are targeting for your books, and give them a try.

Want to target Indonesia (an especially good bet for indie authors in Australia)? Yes, of course twitter and Facebook are humungous there, but see above.

To be productive in Indonesia try a new account with Line (thirty million users, remember?), or try the aforementioned WeChat or Whatsapp, both making big gains here.

Or try Kakao Talk, or Bee Talk, or Blackberry Messenger. Or Viber.

Viber began life in Israel, but is now part of Rakuten (Japanese) who own Kobo. It could be worth getting on Viber just to be part of the Rakuten ecosphere.

Don’t make the mistake of dismissing Rakuten as some two-bit Japanese outfit that happens to own Kobo. Rakuten is BIG. Globally, not just in Asia.

Go on, set aside five minutes now and then to give one of them a try.

One of us might just find ourselves a bestselling author in a far-flung land. And how cool would that be!

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just another ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

It’s Only Rock-N-Roll (But You’ll Like It!) – Maybe Not So Much The Second Half.

Go Global In 2014

As the Amazon-affiliate blogs dance on Nook’s grave this week, Nook UK just gets better and better.

While pretty much all the other retailers simply clone their US ebook sites abroad and throw in some local window dressing to keep the natives happy, Nook shows it understands glocalization.

Unlike the Nook US site, Nook UK is a joy to behold. Completely different from the dinosaur of a site that is Barnes & Noble.

Not just a dedicated ebook site with crisp, clean and uncluttered product pages, that doesn’t trying to sell you dog food, diapers or dead-in-the-water phones, and, all-importantly, prices often much cheaper than Amazon’s. But also some great discoverability tools.

Take Nook Channels, for instance.

Pretty much all retailers have the same key categories. Boring old same-as-everywhere-else options like detective, romance and horror.

Amazon take that a step further with some great sub-categories that are far more useful than the standard BISAC options. Unfortunately they also go to the opposite extreme with mind-numbingly irrelevant micro-categories so you can shift one book to your Great Aunt Dot in Cumbria and become a “best-seller” in Detective Fiction > Women Sleuths > Vegetarian Women Sleuths That Dye Their Hair Blonde And Wear Stilettos > And Have A Pet Siamese Cat With A Wooden Leg > And Scabies.

Nook UK? Nook UK has introduced Nook Channels.

Here’s some examples (brackets are theirs):

It’s Only Rock N Roll (and I like it). Romance Through the Ages, International Intrigue , This Is A Man’s World (books for blokes), Sophisticated Journeys, That Way Madness Lies, Simpler Times (Midwives, nurses and other women of strength from days gone by), Continental Escapes, Hemingway & Sons, Digging Into Murder (If you like forensic mysteries and true crime cases, too.), Cool Critters, Girl Power, and a ton of others.

At this stage it appears (from a casual survey) only trad-pubbed titles are included in the recommendations, but no reason to suppose Nook UK will not be open to including indie titles. In the future, if not already.

Of course those who have been reading the Amazon-Infatuation-Syndrome blogs will be convinced Nook is the walking dead, after the latest reported losses and the drop in revenue.

But don’t give up on Nook just yet.

No question Nook is struggling right now, but let’s keep things in context.

Nook is up for sale. B&N have conceded they don’t have the resources to sustain the Nook project, and sometime early next year it will be under new ownership.

We’ve speculated a while now that the key bidders may be Wal-Mart, Tesco or Alibaba, any of whom have pockets deep enough to easily turn the ship around and make Nook a global force to be reckoned with.

Over at Forbes Jeremy Greenfield also raises the possibility of a Wal-Mart buy-out.

Yes, Nook is losing money right now, but, Apple aside, which ebook retailer isn’t?

Amazon? You won’t read much about this on the Amazon-affiliate blogs, but the mighty Zon is actually losing money hand over first, and is recording deficits right now that make Nook’s problems look pretty tame by comparison.

Hugh Howey, in a post entitled Barnes & Noble On the Brink, lays out the imminent demise of both B&N and Nook.

Howey delights in reminding us B&N is reporting a loss of only (Howey’s srcastic italics) $30 million. And as further evidence of the abysmal failure of B&N tells us that the latest Nook tablet is actually nothing more than “a modified Samsung device”.

Er, actually, Hugh, it’s a partnership between Nook and Samsung. If you want to find a company riding on the back of another, look no further than Amazon. Rather than develop their own operating system all the Amazon tablets, and the Fire phone, are piggy-backing on Google’s Android. And then they fork the system to prevent users accessing Google!

Sticking with Samsung, it’s also worth noting that, while Samsung devices continue to sell well, Amazon’s KindleFire shipments fell off a cliff in Q1 this year, dropping 80%, causing Amazon to go cap in hand to Samsung to get the Kindle app installed on Samsung devices.

As for the thirty million dollar loss B&N are reporting… Well, that’s pretty conclusive. A big FAIL.

But nowhere can we see Howey referencing the $126 million loss that Amazon reported last quarter. That’s only (our italics) a loss of almost $100 million MORE than B&N.

To drive home just how pointless B&N is in the scheme of things Howey tells us B&N are “flatlining.” If that’s flatlining, then Amazon are deep-sea diving.

But not only does Howey omit to reference the current Amazon losses, he also declines to mention the Q3 losses due to be reported next month. On Amazon’s own guidance, Q3 losses are expected to be over HALF A BILLION dollars.

Deep sea diving? Amazon is exploring the Marianas Trench!

Just last week Amazon went cap in hand to Bank of America to BORROW two billion dollars, an announcement that was snuck out after business hours on a Friday to lessen the impact. Curiously Howey’s post, dedicated to showing that an ebook retailer reporting a loss must be on life-support, didn’t mention this either.

One reason for Amazon taking on new debt will be the utter disaster that is the Fire phone. Amazon’s much hyped venture into the mobile phone business, with a pioneering 3D device that was supposed to sell gazillions and knock Apple and Samsung for six, sold just 35,000 units in its first month, despite having the brand name and full marketing power of the Amazon machine behind it.

To put that in context, the Chinese phone manufacturer Xiaomi held a flash-sale in India last month and sold more than that in just 4.2 seconds. No, that’s not a typo. Forty-thousand cell phones sold in fewer than five seconds. http://www.androidcentral.com/xiaomi-sells-40000-units-redmi-1s-just-42-seconds-india

The mighty Zon failed to shift that many in a month, despite throwing in a $100 dollar bribe in the form of a year’s free Prime membership.

Oh, and remember that $126 million loss for Q2 and the half a billion plus loss for Q3? That doesn’t begin to take into account the losses on the Fire phone, which was expected to bring in a ton of revenue.

This week Apple launched their latest phone. No-one is in any doubt it will sell in the millions.

Amazon’s response? They dropped the price of their $200 phone that nobody wants to just NINETY-NINE CENTS, still with a year’s free Prime membership worth a hundred bucks.

When you see Nook charging a buck for their devices just to get the junk out of the warehouse, then is the time to start worrying about Nook’s future.

~

Meanwhile, spare a thought for Jeff Bezos.

Any hope he might have had that the much-vaunted Alibaba IPO would flop and investors would not touch a ropey old Chinese interloper daring to spread its wings on Amazon’s home territory have been well and truly dashed.

Just two days into the Alibaba IPO campaign the entire IPO is over-subscribed, despite the road-show having only covered two cities -http://www.pymnts.com/news/2014/alibabas-ipo-already-oversubscribed/#.VBGiwMJdUsc.

What has Alibaba to do with us indies? More than you might think, not least because of the very real threat it poses to Amazon.

We’ll be looking more closely at Alibaba, and at the cruel reality that is Amazon’s precarious financial predicament, in forthcoming posts.

No, you won’t read much about that on the Amazon-affiliate blogs. Just like you won’t read much about the lawsuit the FTC has against Amazon for fleecing millions from customers, the investigation into Amazon in India by financial authorities, the EU investigation into Amazon’s Luxembourg affairs, or the H&S investigations into two deaths of workers in Amazon’s American warehouses in the past year, or the two billion they just had to borrow..

Which is why we took the decision at the outset to have no affiliation with any retailer. We call it as we see it.

But be assured it’s not just us looking on nervously as Amazon struggles to make a cent of profit. Again and again and again.

Try looking outside the cozy world of our indiesphere and reading the money market blogs.

Yes, it’s easy to keep our heads down an stay hidden in our indie-author box and assume everything is rosy and it’s all the other retailers that are struggling, while Amazon is invincible.

But everything isn’t rosy. And Amazon is far from invincible.

You think the Hachette dispute is about getting better prices for customers? Be serious.

It’s about trying to force down front-list prices for ebooks to make the print versions less appealing. Why? Because it costs Amazon nothing to deliver hundreds of thousands of $9.99 ebook. It costs Amazon far more than they can comfortably afford to ship hundreds of thousands of heavy hardbacks for “free” to Prime members. Shipping costs are one of the biggest problems Amazon is facing right now. Which is why they are offering to PAY Prime members a dollar to accept standard shipping instead of the expedited Prime service.

Amazon famously relies on wafer-thin margins to give customers the best prices. But the prices often aren’t the best, as anyone who takes the trouble to shop around will know, and there’s a fine line between wafer-thin margins and no margins at all, or a loss.

Many authors rely heavily on Amazon for their livelihoods. What happens in the Amazon Boardroom matters.

Yes, we know we’re going to get hammered for being “anti-Amazon” (curiously we are never hammered for being anti-Smashwords, or anti-Kobo when we report their downsides), but if its anti-Amazon to report the fact that Amazon is in its worst financial crisis since its inception, that growth is slowing, market share is falling, profits are zero and investors are very, very nervous, then so be it.

Go read the Amazon-affiliate blogs instead.

They’ll tell you what you want to hear.

It may not be what you need to know.

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just another ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK. Continue reading

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!

txtr indies

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.