E Unum Pluribus – Going Global Part 2. The View From The Beach: Mark Williams At Large

Gunjur-Coastline-Gambia

Last post I sketched a simple but very effective outline of how to vastly increase your global reach by adding substantial numbers of new titles to your catalogue without writing an extra word.

For anyone who missed it, go here (LINK) and get the background.

E Unum Pluribus, for those who flunked Latin, or simply prefer to live in the modern world, is an inversion of the US motto E Pluribus Unum, meaning From Many, One. The inverted version therefore means, From One, Many.

Get your bestselling English-language title translated into another language and you have two titles instead of one without writing an extra word. Get that same book translated into ten other languages and that one book is eleven titles.

Do that for three books and your three English-language titles become over thirty titles, all potentially selling around the globe to readers who would never know your English-language version existed.

And as I said last post, it needn’t cost you an arm and a leg.

Since then, as this follow-up post is running late, many have emailed asking for more info. Apologies for that. Real life here in West Africa has an annoying habit of interfering with my schedule.

This post will be a brief outline of the options you might want to consider. In future post I’ll present a detailed how-to for the various options, but the more ambitious or impatient among you will find plenty here to get you off to a good start.

~~~

By chance I was researching Thor Heyerdahl for my newly-launched travelogue-memoir series West Africa Is My Back Yard. The first of the series should be available in Spanish in late August, in Portuguese and German later this year, and a half dozen more languages sometime in 2016.

Which sounds exciting until you consider Thor Heyerdahl’s flagship book The Kon-Tiki Expedition has been translated into seventy languages.

Of course, Thor Heyerdahl wasn’t an indie author charting the unexplored waters of global self-publishing. He had a publisher behind him able to take care of all that.

Which brings me to Option # 1: Trad Pub.

Back in 2012 my flagship title Sugar & Spice, marketed under the Saffina Desforges brand, was picked up by a small French publisher, who found the English version on a French retail site, loved it, and offered a rather nice advance, translation and promo package for the French-language rights.

The indie die-hards said it was crazy to hand the foreign rights to a traditional publisher. Pay for a translation, upload from home, and get 70%, they cried.

Yeah, right. The problem with that is that the rest of the world is not the United States or the UK. Had serious money been spent on a translation the chances are it still wouldn’t have earned out today.

France isn’t big on ebooks even now, and back then was even less so, so ebook sales were negligible, especially given the ebook price was just a fraction below the 20 euro price for the hardcover.

Obviously if it had been self-pubbed the price would have been a lot less, and ebook sales might have been better. But by how much? The French ebook market is still, in 2015, nowhere near where the UK ebook market was in 2011.

And the best print alternative would have been a POD version.

No hardcovers in French bookstores.

Not so important in the US, perhaps. Critical in a country like France that has yet to embrace ebooks in any meaningful way.

Instead a French publisher took control.

The advance alone was substantially more than it would have cost for the translation. The book then sold a respectable 50,000+ hardcovers and might have gone on to do far better had the publisher itself not encountered problems elsewhere in its business and was forced to call it a day. So rights reverted last year.

And it has to be said, current French ebook sales even at the far cheaper price currently on offer, are lightyears away from the hardcover sales the traditional publisher was able to bring in. And I don’t expect that to change any time soon.

Bottom line is, for most of the world print ebooks have yet to reach even 10% of the local book market, so a focus on print as well as digital should be a key part of any self-respecting indie’s going-global strategy.

No matter how much we may loathe the idea, the reality is trad pub is by far the most effective way of gaining traction in the print market on foreign shores.

November marks my fifth anniversary as a digital author, and for my “relaunch” for the next five years global print availability will be a key part of my plans.

That means reaching out to trad publishers large and small across the globe to see what might be on offer.

But here’s the thing: it does not mean you need to compromise your indie position back home if you are doing well with digital in the more mature ebook markets like the US and UK.

Global rights should always be viewed in the plural.

Not one all-encompassing “world rights” deal, but myriad deals for each and every language, country and territory you can make happen.

Seek out and approach trad publishers big and small in as many places as you possibly can. Most countries do not have literary agencies, so a direct appeal to the publisher is often the way to do it. A sometime-in-the-future post on how best to go about this – everything from finding publishers, to best ways to approach them, to clinching deals, and to protecting your rights. But for the impatient among you, savvy use of Google or your preferred search engine would be a good place to start.

The downside with Option # 1 is of course that having a publisher take on all the hard work will result in lower royalties per unit ebook sale. And when your target audience is your home-market in the ebook-mature US and UK that has to be a serious consideration.

But most of us are not even selling that well in the other key English-language markets like Australia and New Zealand, let alone the foreign-language markets. So a pragmatic approach should take precedence over any ideological fixations along the lines of self-pub-good-trad-pub-bad.

Here’s the thing: can you realistically do it on your own?

If a trad pub deal with a publisher in France or Fiji, Morocco or Malaysia, Oman or Outer Mongolia, gets your titles in front of an audience in a country where you cannot by any reasonable, cost-effective means get to yourself then it really should be a no-brainer.

At its simplest, x-percent of something is a whole lot better than 100 percent of nothing.

Yes, in five or ten years time there might conceivably be an easy-access self-pub portal in Outer Mongolia and you might conceivably be able to top the charts in the Kindle Mongolia store and be signing your books for avid readers in Ulan Bator.

But by then you’ll have a ton more books written to go down that route with, in the unlikely event that scenario was realised. Meantime you could be gaining traction and establishing your author brand in readiness, with the help of a traditional publisher and a presence in the global print market.

But this post is about translations with ebooks the key focus, so let’s look at Option # 2: Buy Your Translations Outright.

At first glance, this seems by far the best choice if you have the cash to splash. It’s just an extension of what most indies already are doing to get covers designed, to get editing and proof-reading done, etc. Pay a fixed sum for the job and reap all the rewards down the road. A no-brainer, right?

Well, maybe. Maybe not.

First off, it’s a huge up-front expense. Translations do not come cheap.

Over at the translators’ café (LINK) http://www.translatorscafe.com/ a rate of $0.05 a word is about average for non-technical translations.

Not too bad for a translated tweet, perhaps, but a 5,000 word short story will set you back $250. Selling at 0.99 on Amazon you’ll need to clear well over 700 sales just to break even. And that’s without paying someone to check the translator’s work, and paying for the foreign-language cover, and other costs like formatting. And then there’s getting the blurb and keywords translated, and…

An 80,000 word novel at that rate will set you back $4,000. Not bad if you are already established in that language and can command a premium price on the foreign retail sites. But a helluva risk if you are barely ticking over in English and a total unknown globally.

Selling at 2.99 you’ll need to sell 2,000 copies before you earn out, again without taking account of other expenses. And that’s assuming you are collecting 70%. Which you ,most definitely cannot assume when it comes to going global.

This is where things get complicated.

Supposing you spend four grand on a Spanish translation and you are in KDP Select. You may be thinking you’ll be picking up 70% from sales in Spain and all those Spanish-speaking Latin American countries, but the reality is rather different.

Amazon will pay you 70% in Spain and Mexico. For the rest of the Spanish-speaking world, where Amazon allows downloads at all, you’ll be getting just 35% of list price. And to complicate matters further, list price will not be what the reader is paying. Amazon will be imposing a $2-$4 Whispersync charge on top of your set list price, of which you will see nothing. So even if a reader does pay $6.99 for your $2.99 title you’ll only see a dollar of it.

No, none of this is anti-Amazon. This is simple fact.

When thinking globally, the Amazon Whispersync charge and the 35% royalty outside of the dozen Kindle countries are things you need to take account of when investing serious sums for outright translation deals to reach the global markets.

The upside of the pay-up-front model is, once you’ve earned out the fee all the royalties will be profit.

But…

The downside is, that book is out there on its own. Probably just the ebook and maybe a POD, and with few exceptions (Germany, China) in a market where ebooks are just beginning to gain acceptance.

Let’s assume you’re savvy enough to be able to get access to all the key ebook markets for that language. That’s pretty easy for the German language, with Germany, Austria and Switzerland the key players.

Not so easy for Spanish where, Spain aside, the key market is Latin America. Amazon considerations as above. Mexico aside you’ll be getting just 35%, and you’ll only get 70% in Mexico if you are exclusive with Amazon.

Apple and Google Play are in some Latin American countries (Apple paying 70% and Google Play just over 50%) and Kobo is a token player. With Txtr and Nook out of the international game you really need to be looking at the domestic retailers in the region. But getting your books into the key domestic Latin American retailers is not at all easy.

And even if you can get your titles there, how will anyone know?

How do you promote and market your foreign language title in a foreign language you don’t speak or write? How many twitter followers and Facebook friends do you have in Argentina or Chile? In Guatemala or El Salvador? In the Netherlands or India? How would you get any?

How do you answer emails from fans in Spanish or Dutch or Hindi if you don’t speak that language? How do you take advantage of the self-pub portals in foreign lands (everywhere from Mexico to Vietnam right now and more coming) if you can’t navigate the foreign-language site?

There’s no question you should be available in these places, and in local languages it at all possible. That early start could transform your prospects down the road, quite apart from bringing in useful income trickles now. But does it make financial sense to pay outright translation fees for even one book at this stage, let alone several?

To my mind, no. Even with a proven international bestseller like Sugar & Spice that has topped the charts in several countries I’m simply not convinced this option is worthwhile at this stage in the game. Not when there are so many alternatives that can help you get a foothold on foreign shores.

Presuming you’re not a one-book wonder you’ll have plenty of future opportunities to go down the pay-up-front route, and as these foreign markets mature that will probably become cost-effective. But for now, I recommend a focus on getting maximum reach and maximum exposure without taking out a second mortgage.

Which brings me to Option 3: Translator Partnerships.

For my partnership arrangements I offer the partner translator nothing up-front, but a tasty 50% of net proceeds for the life of the foreign-language title they translate.

In return I ask for far more than just a translation. I want partners who will not just translate, but also help market and distribute afterwards, for the lifetime of the book.

The incentive is all on the translator. They undertake the task because they believe in the book and they believe they can not just render a great translation but also help market it effectively in their language.

The more it sells the more they make. If it dies a death after the first week you’ve lost the cost of the cover and whatever. They’ve lost months of hard work.

Crucially the partner-translator understands that from day one and if they climb on board with your project they do so not as a day-job to be done, dusted and forgotten, but as a financial investment.

Again, it may at first glance seem like collecting 50% less money just to save on paying out a lump-sum for the translation is a dumb idea. But, unless you are able to competently handle ALL the issues arising from having a foreign language title selling in a foreign land, then it makes a lot of sense.

By which I mean not just the translation, but local uploads, blurbs, keywords, cover and back cover translations, tweets and other promo, press releases, responding to queries from readers and possibly publishers, making sense of reviews, engaging with foreign book clubs, finding a local POD operator, talking to bookstores in that country about stocking the title…

A translator-partner will understand all this, and while they may need some help making sense of the self-publishing world, they’ll be keen to learn, because every sale you make is a sale they earn on too.

Again, don’t confuse profit-sharing with giving your hard-earned cash away.

The translator will be getting 50% of something you never had before, and wouldn’t otherwise be getting now, so it costing you nothing in real terms. And crucially you’ll be getting the other 50% where before you had nothing for sales of your book in that language. And they are doing all the hard work!

How to find a partner translator? You can ask around on sites like Translators’ Café and Proz, for starters. There are a ton of sites where translators can connect, and while pretty much all are set-fee focused, there are plenty of opportunities to negotiate.

But better still you should, if you’ve been making yourself known on the international circuit with your English-language titles, and have been using your social media presence wisely and not focused exclusively on the US market, have a wealth of contacts to draw upon to find the right people.

The downside of this type of arrangement is sorting contracts, handling payments, etc. This can be quite challenging.

So wouldn’t it be great if there were such a thing as a translation aggregator along the lines of Smashwords or Draft2Digital that could connect you with a translator, handle all the distribution, collect all the monies and share out the rewards on a pre-agreed basis while you just sit back and put your feet up?

Say hello to Options # 4 and 5: The Translation Aggregators.

There are a small number of outfits out there that fit the bill. I’ve tried a few and can recommend two of them: Babelcube and Fiberead.

Both are translation aggregators, but they work on slightly different models and have different reach, so I’ll briefly deal with them separately here in outline. In future posts I’ll offer a detailed breakdown of how each one works and how best to use them.

Fiberead.

Regular readers will know that late last year I became the first and so far only western indie to hit #1 on the Kindle China store. The Mandarin Chinese translation of Sugar & Spice also charted on numerous other Chinese ebook retailers.

This came as a big surprise to the many indies that didn’t even know China sold ebooks, let alone that Amazon has a Kindle store there. In fact China is the second largest ebook market on the planet and will soon be bigger than the US.

But, being China, access is strictly controlled. To sell your books in China you need to distribute through a domestic operator, which is why the Kindle CN store is not part of KDP.

As has been reported here on the Ebook Bargains UK blog many times, interest in English-language ebooks in China is soaring, and trad pub is doing all it can to get a slice of the action. There are only about ten million competent English speakers in China right now, but English is the lingua franca of the world and there are three hundred million English-language learners, many of whom will be eagerly buying the few English-language books that are available.

But of course that number pales beside the number of Chinese speakers who will be buying local-language titles. And while they may well gravitate to Chinese authors, all the evidence suggests the same desire to learn English and engage with western culture means they will also swarm to competent translations of English-language books.

My own Sugar & Spice makes the point. An extremely dark crime thriller about the hunt for a child killer, set in small town Britain, went from nowhere to #1 on Kindle China within weeks of release, and is still hovering in the top 500 in store nine months later.

And it got there thanks to Fiberead. (LINK)

Fiberead are a China-based translation-aggregator that lets you load up your English-language titles and if approved Fiberead undertake, at no up-front cost to you, to have them translated into Mandarin Chinese and marketed not just across China’s myriad ebook stores (many of which are much bigger than Kindle CN) but globally, reaching Chinese readers around the world. The Chinese version of Sugar & Spice, for example, is available not just in the Amazon US store but also in Books-A-Million, Nook, etc.

But of course it is the prospective China sales that make this so exciting. Not just right now, when the Chinese ebook market is still in its infancy, but for the future when the Chinese ebook market will dwarf the US ebook market.

I know some authors who have had books on Fiberead and have been disappointed with the results, but Sugar & Spice is living proof that Fiberead can deliver. At the end of the day there are no guarantees for any book in any language. Some will do well. Some won’t. One more reason to keep the pay-up-front option at arms-length until you are well-established.

The one thing you can guarantee is that if your book isn’t available for sale in a given country it won’t sell there.

So when an operator like Fiberead is offering the chance to reach the extremely lucrative and extremely fast-growing China market with no up-front cost, when there is no other realistic way in, it really is a no-brainer not to give it a try.

A detailed break-down of the Fiberead operation soon.

Here just to say that, while up until end 2014 Fiberead were actively seeking new authors, there’s now a long waiting list to get accepted.

Babelcube .

Babelcube (LINK)  runs on different rails.

Babelcube is a multi-language translation-aggregator, but with the key difference being that whereas Fiberead finds translators for you, Balelcube acts as an interface between would-be translators and authors.

You load up your titles to Babelcube and either wait for a translator to make an offer, or you can approach listed translators and pitch direct to them.

The deal is that no money changes hands, but when a translation has been agreed and completed it will be published by Babelcube through their not-insignificant distribution network. Babelcube will then, like Fiberead, share the proceeds among author and translator on a pre-agreed basis, plus of course a percentage for Babelcube.

Does it work?

Well, I’ve not emulated the China success just yet, but I’ve now had several titles translated and published through Babelcube, and am seeing sales from them that I would otherwise never have had, in languages I was not previously available in.

It’s working for me!

I’ve got a dozen more titles currently at various stages of translation in my Babelcube account, and the plan is to get translations of all my titles in all the available languages (currently ten) on Babelcube just as soon as it can be done.

Babelcube is a great idea, and while there are some minor irritations and of course there are ways it could be improved, it’s unquestionable a great way to connect with prospective translators and get your titles widely distributed.

~~~

 So there you have it. Five ways to get into the global ebook marketplace with translations of your works.

Which is the best? Well, aside from the pay-up-front option, why not try them all?

Fiberead is the obvious (and pretty much only) choice for China.

But why not hunt down a traditional publisher in India or Indonesia, Poland or Hungary, Nigeria or Turkey?

And sound out your contacts to find a translator-partner for another language.

Then pop along to Babelcube and try get a translator and let Babelcube take the strain for a Spanish or Portuguese or Italian translations, for example.

Before you know it your 1 title could be in 5 other languages. From 1 title, 6. E unum pluribus.

But why stop there?

Thor Heyerdahl has set the bar for me. It’s 71 languages or bust!

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E Unum Pluribus – Going Global. The View From The Beach: Mark Williams At large.

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As I sat down to write this post this morning a serendipitous email came in telling me I now had a new translator for one of my books, from English into Ukrainian.

No, E Unum Pluribus is not the Ukrainian national motto. Nor is this a Latin-challenged Brit messing up the famous United States motto.

What it is is an insight into how we indies can all engage with the global New Renaissance unfolding right now, and be in with a chance of becoming truly international bestselling authors.

Lest anyone is unfamiliar (it’s possible!) the US motto E Pluribus Unum translates as From Many, One, a reference to the creation of one country – the USA – from the myriad colonies that fought the British for independence back in the 1770s.

E Unum Pluribus, therefore, translates to From One, Many.

No, I’m not advocating chopping long books into short ones just to game the system. But rather turning one book into many, pretty much without writing an extra word, and at a stroke increasing your potential audience reach by literally hundreds of millions.

~~~

Translations is the name of the game, and if you haven’t been thinking seriously about translations so far, I can promise you will be by the time you finish this post. Here’s why.

My flagship title, Sugar & Spice, has sold close to half a million copies in the English language, mostly in the UK. In the New Year I’ll be re-launching the title and actively targeting the other English-speaking markets. Not least the US, but also Canada, and of course Australia and New Zealand.

But I’ll also be targeting India, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Africa and the Philippines, as well as key English-As-Second-Language countries like Germany, Poland, Romania, South Korea, etc.

No translations needed. Just focus, targeted marketing and wide distribution. As has been said repeatedly here on the EBUK blog, English is the lingua franca of the world. It is our single greatest asset. Don’t waste it by ignoring the immense reach we indies have simply by writing in the world’s most widespread and popular language. Trad pub is raking in the cash from English-language titles selling in non-English-speaking lands right now.

But beyond that reach are not just hundreds of millions, but literally billions of readers who do not speak English at all, or at least not well enough to read our books.

Five years ago, when the self-publishing movement began to build momentum, most of those readers were off-limits even to the elite trad-pubbed authors with big corporations able to get their books translated and distributed to bookstores around the globe.

Because the vast majority of those potential readers lived where print books were either unavailable or unaffordable.

Today that remains largely true. Print is actually gaining ground around the globe – the global New Renaissance is driven by digital , not limited to digital – but not in a way that makes much difference to most indies. The logistics of global print production and distribution simply does not allow for more than a handful of big-name authors to become international print bestselling authors.

That’s not to say it can’t be done by lesser-known authors without a Big 5 backer. The French translation of Sugar & Spice had sold some 50,000 hardcover editions in France and Belgium last I heard, and I’m currently looking at getting the print version out in China. But my focus is and will remain digital.

But to get back  to E Unum Pluribus.

~~~

Sugar & Spice is a proven bestseller in English that went on to conquer the charts in French and Chinese (in China the first and so far only western indie title to hit #1 on Kindle China). As I write this post, translations are well-advanced in Spanish and Portuguese, with an eye not just on the obvious markets of Spain and Portugal but, more significantly, on Portuguese-speaking Brazil and the Spanish-speaking countries that comprise most of Latin America.

Finding translators for a 120,000 word novel is, for reasons I’ll go into in a follow-up post, more difficult than finding translators for shorter works. Clearly it can be done, but for several reasons you would be advised to focus on shorter titles first when going down this route. And no, they don’t need to have been bestsellers in English first. I’ve gpot translators right now fighting over new releases that have yet to hit even an obscure category chart, let alone the in-store top 100.

At which point you may be saying,

But hold on. Why bother at all? We can count on one hand the global ebook markets with even 10% market share compared to print. Isn’t this just going to be a lot of hard work, a lot of money up-front, all for no reward, because no-one outside the US and UK even knows ebooks exist?

Well, regular readers of this blog will be in no doubt the readers are out there. As for reaching them. This is where E Unum Pluribusfrom one, many – comes into its own.

For my part, as well as Sugar & Spice I have another dozen titles currently with translations either complete or underway, and a dozen more being lined up. But let’s take a more probable scenario – say two titles in a series, being given the translation treatment.

Here’s the thing:

2 titles in English is, obviously, just 2 titles in your global catalogue.

But get those 2 titles translated into French and you suddenly have 4 titles available, and have added literally tens of millions of French-speaking readers to your potential audience, pretty much without having written an extra word. Potential readers not just in France, but in Belgium, and the European principalities, and in Canada, as well as across much of North and West Africa, etc, etc.

Now get those same 2 English-language books into Spanish. Your 2-book portfolio has suddenly become 6, and you have the Spanish speaking audience of readers in Latin America and Spain, the many Spanish-speakers in the USA, and countless more around the world.

Add Italian and German translations to your repertoire to increase your 2 book portfolio to 10 titles and added a ton more readers to your potential audience.

But why stop there? Do what I’ve done and add Dutch and Japanese translations to the list. And why not go for broke and throw in a Chinese translation too?

When complete your 2 titles will have become 2 x English, 2 x Spanish, 2 x Portuguese, 2 x French, 2 x German, 2 x Italian. 2 x Dutch, 2 x Japanese and 2 x Chinese.

Your 2 English-language titles have suddenly become 18 titles. E Unum pluribus. From one, many.

And since you ask, yes, all those languages have associated Kindle stores, although of course Amazon is just one of myriad retailer options to reach readers in these countries.

~~~

But chances are you’ve got 3 English language titles. Get those into 8 languages plus English and you suddenly have 27 titles in your global portfolio.

5 English-language books?  How does 45 titles in your global portfolio grab you?

I’ve got a dozen titles going through translations right now, with more to come. And not just in those eight languages. Ukrainian I mentioned above. Fresh in today. Two different Indian-language translations are currently underway. Hindi and Urdu since you ask. I hope to have translations into Russian, Danish, Swedish and Norwegian on-going by the end of this year.

High priorities beyond those are Indonesian, Tagalog (Philippines), Korean, Turkish, Polish, Hungarian, Romanian, Afrikaans and Arabic.

None of these are random choices, but rather driven by the way the nascent global markets are shaping up. And regular readers here will know the global markets are indeed shaping up.

~~~

That’s all very well and good, But I can’t afford to get even one of my books translated into one language, let alone all of them translated into more languages than I’ve had hot dinners. How much is all this costing you?

Fair question. And yes, of course there are costs.

Covers, for example. Every translated title is going to need a new cover in the relevant language. But it’s only the title wording that needs changing, and chances are your regular cover designer will do that for a token sum or even for free.

Translation costs? Well, no question they can get very expensive. Serious money.

I know some indies who went that route very early in the evolution of the digital markets and still are nowhere near recouping their costs. Ebook take-up around the globe is still in its infancy. Paying big money for a translation that you cannot easily distribute or promote in the relevant countries is probably not a good idea.

Which is why I’ve long advocated the partnership model, where the translator takes on the task with no up-front payment, instead working on the promise of a share of the royalties when that title sells. This gives the translator the incentive not just to do an outstanding job, but also to help promote and market that title in the local language once the job is done.

At which point you’ll be asking,

But how do you find even one translator, let alone dozens, willing to work for nothing on your book in the hope they might get paid down the road?

It’s actually a lot easier than you might think. And I’ll tell you exactly how in the next post.

~~~

Until then, ponder those numbers once more.

3 English titles into 9 languages gives you 27 titles in your global portfolio, without writing a single additional word of text and without paying out a penny in translation fees.

Oh, and did I mention box-sets? Bundle those three English titles into one box-set and you have four titles. Bundle those translations and your 27 title global portfolio is suddenly 36.

Now imagine doing that with a dozen titles into nine languages with nine box-sets…

~~~

As the global New Renaissance gets into second gear we should all divest ourselves of any straight-jacket notions about what will sell and where, and what will be commercially viable. If you’d told me this time last year that my very dark psychological crime thriller Sugar & Spice, set in small-town Britain and about the hunt for a child killer, would hit #1 on Kindle China within weeks of going live I would have laughed.

It happened.

Likewise we should all divest ourselves of any straight-jacket notions about marketing and promotion. Bookbub is great and Bookbub is in several countries now, but only for English-language editions. But there are plenty of other ways of reaching readers abroad, and crucially your translator is one of them.

And finally, let’s divest ourselves of any notion that translations and global distribution are the luxury of trad pub and a handful of super-successful indie authors with money to burn.

Going global with multiple-language translations of your works needn’t cost you a penny.

I’m doing it right now. Next post I’ll show how you can do it too.

 

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India Update. Don’t Let The Global New Renaissance Pass You By. Be Part Of It.

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India Update.

India is expected to become the second largest smartphone market in the world in 2017. That’s one helluva lot of people with a device in their hands that could be reading your books.

Number one of course is China, which means India will be shunting the USA into third place.

From VentureBeat,

“…smartphone growth is mirrored by the rise of India’s overall Internet population. As of 2014, India was the third-largest Internet population with 243 million online, behind the U.S. with 279.8 million. But that will change in the coming years because while the U.S. has 86 percent of its population online in some fashion, India only has 19 percent penetration.” (LINK)

And VentureBeat adds,

“As a result, entrepreneurs and investors are increasingly looking at markets like China and India as tantalizing regions for products…”

Indies not focusing on India now and laying the foundations for brand recognition there will be missing out big time down the road.

Here’s the thing: The US market is already close to capacity. Its book market can only grow so much bigger, but the supply of books and ebooks being churned out is growing by the day

In India and China the reading markets are already as big as the USA and they’re barely off the starting grid when it comes to meeting demand.

And the same goes for much of the world. Indonesia, Brazil, Russia… Latin America’s Spanish-speaking market… Scandinavia… Eastern Europe… The Middle East…. Nigeria and South Africa…

There are incredible opportunities out there right now for those thinking about the next five years rather than the next five weeks.

Don’t let the global New Renaissance pass you by. Be part of it.

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And The Second Biggest Bookseller In The World After Amazon Is…

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For those of us who are neglecting the India market as a place to find readers, take heed of this latest report which suggests Flipkart is way up there ahead of the likes of Barnes & Noble, Waterstone’s, Fnac,etc. (LINK)

A few caveats.

First off, the world’s second largest book market China is totally omitted from the survey.

Second, the survey is actually about the popularity of a store rather than how many books are sold. And it is the whole store, not just the book store.

So for Amazon and Flipkart we are actually looking at the overall popularity of the Amazon and Flipkart stores as opposed to just the bookstore element.

No surprise that Amazon came top therefore. As to whether or not Flipkart sells more books than Barnes & Noble, the jury is out. This survey shows Flipkart is more popular, but given the population of India, the scale of the Flipkart enterprise, and the trending unpopularity of Barnes & Noble, that’s no surprise either.

But we should be in no doubt Flipkart shifts a lot of books and is by far the biggest bookseller in India. Nieslen estimated their market share at 80% in 2013.

Ebooks? There is no breakdown of ebook sales per se for Amazon India and Flipkart, and ebook take-up is India is still in its infancy, so we are not talking massive numbers. But that will soon change as more publishers in India engage with digital, and Flipkart and Amazon will no doubt fight it out for top place as the country’s leading ebook provider.

Both stores are massive in India, although Flipkart by far the largest, but it has to be noted that since Jeff Bezos started taking India seriously last year Amazon has really begun to close the gap on Flipkart’s dominance. Stats for May indicate Amazon actually had more unique visitors than Flipkart, for the first time.

Of course unique visitors and regular paying customers are two different things, but it’s clear that, after a couple of years of seemingly going nowhere, Amazon has really got its act together in India, and is now a major player.

How much that will be reflected in book and ebook market share remains to be seen.

But one thing is clear. Indians love to read, and the Indian reading market, already massive, is growing by the day as more and more of the population engage with the e-commerce world thanks to the proliferation of smartphones and tablets and improvements in internet availability across the subcontinent.

The English-speaking book market in India is impressive. The local-language book market likely to be even more so.

Anyone not thinking about translations into the myriad Indian languages is going to miss out big time in the coming years.

So will those who do not engage fully with the myriad retailers operating in India.

Apple and Nook aren’t there, but Amazon and Flipkart are up against Google Play and Kobo, as well as local players ranging from the small (but very useful for local POD) Pothi to the two big mobile-only vendors Newshunt and Rockstand. There are others. Infibeam perhaps the most interesting as it prepares for its IPO (LINK) , and with a fresh influx of cash it may get back on track with its own ebook store.

India is one of the most exciting prospects on the planet right now for indie authors, and with Bookbub now sending out a newsletter with buy buttons for some of the key Indian stores, including Amazon and Flipkart (but sadly not Newshunt or Rockstand), we can expect to see a handful of western indies do very well here over the next twelve months.

If you fancy your chances check out the Bookbub blog which has a post on how best to discount ebooks in India. (LINK)

Don’t just be a witness to the global New Renaissance. Be part of it.

Ebook Bargains UK

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Amazon Embraces Messaging Apps For Kindle Promotion. It’s Time For Indies To Take Messaging Apps Seriously.

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This past year or so we’ve been plotting the rise and rise of the messaging app and advising messaging apps are where the future of book promotion lies.

Kobo’s owner Rakuten is gearing up its Viber site as a sales and promotion platform for Kobo ebooks. The Japanese messaging app LINE already has music subscription services in two countries. Many companies globally are using messaging apps to drive traffic and sales.

This week Amazon climbs on board with the Kindle store. The only surprise is that they’ve taken so long.

From Amazon (LINK):

“Kindle readers can share quotes and recommendations with specific friends, using their favorite mobile apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, texting, and more.
Friends who receive a share can instantly start reading a free book preview right from their phone, tablet, or PC—no need to sign up, sign in, or install an app.”

Its early days for Amazon’s venture into messaging apps. Expect a big expansion of this engagement as we hurtle into 2016.

And with Rakuten already owning Viber don’t be too surprised if Amazon picks up a messaging app of its own before long.

~

Okay, as promised, here’s a rough sketch of how this will work for indie authors.

First, we need to look on messaging app engagement as an extension of our email lists. While we may have gazillions of “followers” and “friends” on sites like twitter and Facebook, we all know a good mailing list outperforms them all, because the people who have signed up have made a specific request to be kept updated on our latest releases, news, whatever.

But here’s the thing. Readers generally are not writers. Not every reader is comfortable with email, and likewise not every reader will be on Facebook or twitter, let alone following or friending us.

A reader who doesn’t use Facebook or twitter or email is not going to be able to sign up for our latest news. But chances are those same readers are using Facebook Messenger, or WhatsApp, or LINE, or Viber, or WeChat, or KakaoTalk or Nimbus or…

And just a reminder here. WhatsApp and Viber alone have over one billion users between them.

So developing a messaging app list is just like developing an email list, except that instead of sending out emails we send out messages (with images and even video if needed), which the recipients receive direct on their smartphone.

How does it work for us?

Let’s take the hugely popular WhatsApp (800 million users, 70% of whom access the app daily) as a guide. With subtle variations the same will apply to other apps.

Back when WhatsApp launched in 2009 it was very much a one-to-one service. You sent a text message to one individual. The idea behind the apps was to bypass the text fees telcos charged. Messaging apps are either free or charge a token subscription fee. WhatsApp costs $1 a year.

In 2013 WhatsApp rolled out “broadcasting” (other apps have similar) which essentially means you can send the same message to a number of people at one time without revealing the contact numbers to others, so like a blind CC email.

At the moment WhatsApp has a limit of 250 contacts for a broadcast, but that’s a great starting point. And you can simply have variant lists, slightly differentiated, to get around the limit. You have 1,000 contacts? Just send four messages, each very slightly different. Facebook has already made exceptions for big companies using WhatsApp to reach more people, and the broadcasting limit will surely be raised for others as we go. Other apps vary.

Facebook itself has an organic reach of 6% – that is to say, just 6% of “friends” on average actually see the posts we put up.

Now compare message broadcasting where you have effectively 100% reach, just like with your email list.

The key is to get readers to sign up in the first place, and in the case of messaging apps it means adding your number to their phone. So in the first instance you need a number. Don’t use your personal number.

Most smartphones nowadays come with multiple sim capacity, so simply buy a sim card and keep that number exclusively for promo. Then get that number out on your website, blog, regular promo campaigns, etc. In fact, tweet and FB it!

The key then is to treat your new contacts with the same respect you show your email sign-up contacts. Sending out a message ten times a day seven days a week will have people delisting you like crazy. Remember, EVERY message you send will ping on EVERY phone EVERY time.

So from the beginning, think global. If you are building a contact list on WeChat to boost your China sales or trying to get a contact list going in Australia or New Zealand, bear in mind that (unless you live there yourself) their time zone will be the reverse of yours. Sending out a message in the early afternoon in London or New York may not be appreciated by the recipient in Beijing, Canberra or Wellington being woken in the early hours with a pinged message. So when you compile your broadcast lists, doing so by country or continent might be a good starting point to consider.

Keep your broadcast messages short and pertinent. No nd 2 use txt-spk. Proper English is fine. But keep it succinct. Individual readers who want a further engagement will let you know. But message too often and you’ll have people delisting you, just like with email mailing lists.

On WhatsApp you can create and edit lists just like with an email list. You can have a list of contacts in Siberia and list of contacts who only read your children’s books and another list for readers who only read your hard core erotica with dinosaurs titles. Messaging apps really are just email lists for reaching readers who don’t like email.

A reminder of the top ten social media messaging apps:

WhatsApp
Viber
WeChat
LINE
Kakao Talk
Kik
Tango
Nimbus
Hike
MessageMe

There are many, many more, and if you are looking at the global markets it’s really worth doing some research and finding out which app is doing well in a particular country. LINE, for instance, is big in Thailand. Nimbus has 25 million users in India. A full post on messaging apps by territory another time.

Messaging apps on top of FB and twitter!!! “No! No! No!” we hear you cry. But hold on.

Yes, its more hassle for us poor, over-worked, under-paid indie authors. But as we’ve said here before, if we want to stay ahead of the game we need to stay ahead of the trends.

Just like, not to very long ago, we all had to sign up with and learn how to use Facebook and twitter and our blogs. Oh, and that crazy new thing called KDP that allowed us to bypass the query system and actually publish our books ourselves.

Yes, we can all scream “Gimmick! Gimmick! Gimmick!” and pretend it’s not happening. But it’s happening anyway.

Just ask Amazon.

And no, before someone says it, no-one can do them all. Don’t even think about it. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try at least a few.

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

 

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Far more than just the UK.

The View From The Beach – Mark Williams At Large

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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.

The View From The Beach – Mark Williams At Large

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Don’t Buy From Me, Argentina.

Why indies should take a fresh look at the Latin America market.

How many people attended the Buenos Aries Book Fair this year?

A hundred? Two hundred? A thousand?

Try 1.25 million. And it was no one-off. The Buenos Aries Book Fair regularly gets over a million people swarming over its book stalls, and queues eight blocks long were forming for signed books from favourite authors.

YA and children’s works are doing particularly well right now.

The first of the Spanish translations of one of my children’s series is almost ready to go live, and while I’m looking forward to seeing it available in Spanish stores, not least Kindle Spain, the real excitement is being able to tap into the blossoming Latin American market, with Argentina top of the list.

No, there’s no Kindle Argentina store, and given Amazon will charge $2.99 for my 0.99 short story (the $2 whispersync surcharge) and give me just 0.35 to share with the translator (for Latin American sales other than Brazil and Mexico Amazon pays 35% regardless of list price) Amazon is not going to be relevant to my Spanish language sales in the region except maybe in Mexico.

Brazil of course is Portuguese-speaking, and does have a Kindle store. And hey, guess what? I have Portuguese translations almost ready too. :-)

But for the rest of Latin America the easy access will be through Google Play and Apple. Kobo is only present in any meaningful way in Brazil.

Then comes the bigger challenge of the “local” ebook stores in Latin America, of which there are far, far more than you might expect. Latin America had ebook subscription services long before they arrived in the USA!

The improbably named Ghandi store is not only Mexico’s biggest book store and online bookseller but they sell ebooks and even have their own self-publishing portal.

Spain’s own Casa del Libro is targeting Latin America right now, but the local players are already well ahead of the game in South America. Along with Argentina and Mexico, Chile, Peru and Colombia are leading the way as ebooks take off across the continent.

That’s not to say ebooks are booming in the region. Digital represents less than 1% of publishing’s sales.

But don’t let that put you off. This is just the beginning.

Ebook take-up may be low in Latin America right now, and literacy levels may not compare to the USA or Europe, but those that do read are voracious readers, and with tablet and smartphone proliferation ebooks are becoming accessible and affordable to many millions of new readers across the continent.

Digital changes everything.

A full report soon on the opportunities opening up across Latin America, including a survey of the local players that we internationalist indies need to be looking at.

Because the interest in books and reading in Latin America is clear. The problem has always been access to affordable and desirable content.

Digital changes everything. Including the ability of indie authors like us to reach new readers in foreign lands like Latin America.

Yes, it’s really inconsiderate of them to want to read in Spanish and Portuguese instead of English.

So here a reminder that Babelcube is now letting authors pitch to translators, rather having to hope a translator finds you.

A full report on Babelcube soon. Here just to say Babelcube is an easy way to tap into the growing global ebook market, not least for Spanish and Portuguese translations.

And one of the best ways to pitch to a translator and convince them to invest their time and energy in translating your book for no up-front fee, is to show them the market potential.

For example, the fact that 1.25 million people piled into the Buenos Aries Book Fair this year. That’s just one book fair in one city in one of the many Spanish-speaking countries in Latin America.

Don’t let the global New Renaissance pass you by. Be part of it!

 

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.