Why Global Publishing is the Future
2012 was a fantastic year for indie authors. Those who already had a few manuscripts ready to publish were perfectly placed for the Kindle Gold Rush. US eBook adoption figures exploded in that period, and even authors who released typo-speckled novels with amateur covers found readers by pricing their books at 99 cents. When word got out, the huge demand and limited competition attracted a mass migration of creatives to the Kindle Direct Publishing platform, all of whom wanted a piece of that gold.
Looking back, it’s easy to see why industry outsiders say it’s too late to get into publishing. There’s more competition now. Big earners typically publish flawless books with professional covers, all of which require an investment. Plus, since Amazon launched its own ads platform, organic visibility has diminished. Authors and publishers are forced to bump their books with a constant stream of paid ads to stay visible. And as the US, UK and Canadian markets have matured, rising the ranks as a newbie has become an ever-daunting challenge.
However, the few affluent societies KDP currently service aren’t the only places you can sell books. Many “big” indies who have seen their businesses plateau in the main markets have found a large, unexplored world outside Amazon’s established ecosystem. There are 195 countries, most of which have some form of internet connection and access to eBook retailers. In a lot of these places, the digital revolution is still young, unorganised but full of potential. Exactly how big it is will become clear in today’s blog post, where we will explore why publishing globally might be your best long-term growth strategy.
New Amazon Markets
Amazon currently has Kindle Stores in 13 countries, a small portion of the potential 195. That means there’s a lot of room for growth even for the world’s biggest bookstore. And while the company hasn’t launched a new store in six years, according to The New Publishing Standard, there are rumours that they are considering a 14th in Sweden.
This news isn’t confirmed but, if it happens, historical trends suggest that it won’t support an ads platform for the first few years, at least not one that’s available to KDP authors. That means that the only way to outpace your competition into these new markets will be to advertise through other means (normally Facebook ads) and reach budding audiences before Amazon makes it easy for everyone else. Just look at the European ads rollout in 2019 and you’ll see how much tougher it can become when Amazon opens the floodgates. Upskilling might be necessary but the potential rewards of being an early presence far outweigh the friction of learning a new skill.
In its quest for year-on-year growth, Amazon will inevitably look to capitalise on more territories, either by opening Kindle Stores or by acquiring companies that already cater to those audiences. China, Russia and South Korea all have prominent economies and large populations. In those areas, the eBook-selling potential is huge. Make no mistake – although Kindle growth rates have slowed in North America and Europe, there are plenty of opportunities for gold rushes in other markets. Position yourself early and you could join the next wave of Kindle millionaires.
When it comes to internet populations – the number of internet users in each country – who would you say are the biggest 10 nations? The US? Correct! China? Right again! India? Yes, them too. Now what about Indonesia, Nigeria and Bangladesh? Believe it or not, they take spots four, six and nine, surpassing Germany, the UK and France. Bangladesh’s internet population has grown 94,000% in the last 20 years! In fact, you might be surprised to discover that, despite the poverty and hardship presented in the media, many countries in the south of Asia and mainland Africa actually have larger internet populations than the countries we traditionally consider “big” markets.
These places don’t interest the majority of online sellers yet but that’s only because many of their inhabitants lack attractive disposable incomes. Geographic wealth distribution will shift gradually, of course, now that over half of the world is online and any individual can deal remotely with those in richer nations. Businesses in poor regions of Thailand, the Philippians or Egypt, for example, no longer have to trade with their neighbours. Thanks to the internet, anyone from an emerging nation can make a healthy income. When that starts to happen on a grand scale, they will also look for entertainment and be just as eager to find localised content as the rest of us.
Expanding Internet Access
Though the world has made enormous leaps forward, parts of Planet Earth are still disconnected from Silicon Valley’s tech giants. But that’s changing. Already, Facebook is introducing more countries to the internet by installing a 37,000-kilometer undersea cable around the entire African continent. According to CNBC, the company claims that the 2Africa project spearheaded by Facebook will, “provide nearly three times the total network capacity of all the subsea cables serving Africa today.” The effort has been fastpacked thanks to a partnership with China Mobile and Vodafone, among other industry titans, and is considered to be the next major step in connecting a large portion of Africa’s 1.3 billion inhabitants.
Similarly, Alphabet has partnered with telecoms companies to launch Loon LLC. This company provides a balloon-based solution that will reportedly improve connectivity in a number of remote, rural locations, including parts of Kenya and Mozambique. And Loon isn’t the only project of this kind. Nascent markets are swiftly catching up to superpowers. That means that most of the world either already has internet access or will gain it in the next decade. Lacking paperback distribution infrastructures like the ones that exist in the UK and US, billions of new readers will emerge from this development, hungry for digital reading experiences.
Rising Literacy Rates
World adult literacy rates have grown from 65% to over 86% in the past 40 years, with countries that once lagged behind rapidly catching up to the frontrunners. This, in part, is due to technology giving more children access to a high-quality education. Extrapolate the trend and we can conclude that almost every human on the planet will soon be able to read and write. So, the expansion of internet access isn’t just opening the world to more middle-class communities. Now people from all socioeconomic backgrounds are becoming educated readers. This, by default, means that populations of book-buyers continue to grow.
What’s more, they’re spreading faster in countries that were once overlooked by traditional publishing. As such, there lies an opportunity. Not having to battle with the reputations of trad-pubbed juggernauts like Margaret Attwood and Jeffrey Archer, lesser-known indie authors can thrive in these unexplored territories. If the history of trade and tech innovation has taught us anything, it’s that those who bushwhack their way into uncharted markets often stake the largest claims and make a lot of money along the way.
Better Distribution Options
If you still prefer the idea of investing your energy into mature environments where reading eBooks has become a cultural norm and sales come with less friction, that’s fine. However, you should know that digital retailers are probably further ahead of the game than you expect. You’ve almost certainly heard of big players like Kobo and Google Play that operate in more countries than Amazon, but there are hundreds of localised options too, like Dangdang in China, Elent in Romania and Okada in Nigeria.
Between them, the “Big Four” aggregators – PublishDrive, Smashwords, Draft2Digital and StreetLib – distribute books to hundreds of partners, encompassing dozens of territories and languages. That means entrepreneurs, software engineers, investors and marketers are primed to raise these toddler markets on a digital-first diet. Starved of the physical content they’ve wanted for years, a considerable number have even skipped paper formats altogether, favouring eBooks and digital audiobooks. Suggesting that 21st-Century formats have legs is an understatement. While other formats march forward, e-publishing is moving at a sprint.
Given the interest in budding markets, it’s pretty likely that global publishing will be the future for both indies and traditional publishing outfits. Never before has it been easier to exploit your publishing rights, distribute to far-flung continents and drive sales in a range of formats and languages. People say the world is getting smaller, but for publishers there is still a lot of growth on the horizon.
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