Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Thinking Global

I've touched on this before, but due to recent news I feel it needs to be addressed as its own blog post.

The recent news is that Amazon is launching Kindle in India early next year.

This comes on the heels of Amazon's Kindle launch in Germany a few months ago.

This is a Big Deal. And yet, the only writer I know of who has capitalized on it is Scott Nicholson, whose German translation of his thriller The Skull Ring (Der Schädelring) is now the #246 bestseller on the German Amazon website.

My own legacy published books have appeared in ten or eleven countries (possibly more--it's easy to lose track.) Foreign advances are usually small, ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, and most midlist writers just regard these as bonus income, if they're lucky enough to sell these right in the first place.

Kindle is going to change all of that. The Internet, and digital downloads, has allowed self-publishers to become part of a global economy. And the globe is much bigger than just the US, Canada, UK, and Oz.

In the past, foreign sales were small and largely out of an author's reach.

Times have changed. The potential to make money world-wide is an unprecedented opportunity for vast riches that makes current ebook sales pale by comparison. There are billions of people in 196 countries. More and more have acquired computers, cell phones, and mp3 players. Ereaders will come next.

Here's what we need to do:

Find translators. They're expensive, but it's a sunk cost, and ebooks will sell forever.

Or...

Let your estributor handle the translations. I have enough work on my plate just deal with English-speaking countries. If my agent, who is assuming some estributor responsibilities for me, can handle the translations and uploading to foreign territories, I'd offer more than 15% for that service.

This is low hanging fruit, waiting to be plucked, and no one is taking advantage of it. Foreign markets are going to be starved for good novels. Those who get in early, like Scott Nicholson, are going to make a fortune.

This is an even bigger deal than when Amazon launched the Kindle back in 2007. That gave writers an opportunity to bypass the clunky old gatekeeping system run by legacy publishers, and reach readers directly. Guess what? The gatekeeping sytem for foreign sales is even clunkier and more inefficient. You have to deal with multiple agents and publishers, I've never earned out a single foreign advance except for UK (no doubt due to the inability to track sales in foreign markets), and there are many countries I'm simply not available in because we never sold the rights.

Now distribution is going global, and the writer can be in charge. I joke that I spend a lot of time "managing my empire." When Kindle is available worldwide, it will indeed be an empire. I won't have 40 titles for sale. I'll have 4000.

Think about that. Forty ebooks available for sale in one hundred countries.

It will require work, and an initial investment, but I can't imagine a brighter future for the self-pubbed author.