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Friday October 25, 2019

Welcome to Publish Global #1

Serious about self-publishing

Welcome to Publish Global #1

As this is the debut issue of Publish Global a little background is in order.

Publish Global is published by StreetLib, probably best-known in indie author circles as “just another ebook aggregator.” The Italian version of Smashwords, Draft2Digital and PublishDrive.

Actually there’s a lot more to StreetLib than that, but to be clear, Publish Global is not a StreetLib promotional vehicle.

We'll see mention of StreetLib news and services here, for sure, but it will be clearly marked as such. And we'll also see mention of news and services from PublishDrive, Smashwords and Draft2Digital, as well as other aggregators and services relevant to the ambitious and professional self-publishing author interested in going truly wide and truly global.

What you won’t see here is paid advertising, affiliate links, expensive courses, just-add-water miracle cures for our ailing sales, or promises of untold riches if we just do this, that or the other.

What you will see here are opportunities and possibilities, and an exploration of the big wide world of publishing beyond the Amazon-centric world that most indies, quite naturally, start out in.

Publish Global is for serious, professional self-publishers looking at the long-term and wanting to build a sustainable career, not how to game the system and make a quick buck next week.

Which means that, while there will certainly be a digital focus to Publish Global, this will be about all formats; about publishers big and small; about literary agents and scouts; and most of all about the global book market opportunities unfolding beyond our cosy US-UK focused ebook-centric comfort zone.

And no, I don’t just mean Canada and Australia. I mean the opportunities unfolding in the emerging markets in Africa, South and South-East Asia, Latin America, East Europe, Scandinavia and other parts of the world that rarely get a mention in indie circles.

That’s entirely understandable as we start out on our indie careers. The USA is the single biggest book and ebook market out there and a natural focal point. Amazon is the easiest place to start, and being on Amazon instantly gives us some global reach.

But as we grow into our author careers we soon realise that there is a big wide world of publishing we can reach in addition to benefitting from Amazon.

How big? Consider this:

As far back as 2016, the last year for which we have reliable global estimate, the entire global book market was assessed to be worth $143 billion.

Mostly in the USA, right? Well, no. While the USA comprised the single biggest chunk, at 29%, that meant 71% of the global book market’s sales were happening elsewhere.

That’s a lot of sales opportunities to be missing out on.

As we wind up 2019 we don’t have a reliable new estimate for the global book market but it’s safe to say the market has grown significantly, and especially in the digital arena.

But hold on, I hear some saying. As we all know, the USA is by far the biggest country in the world by internet users, and without the internet we can’t sell print or digital books online, so why bother with the rest of the world where the internet has yet to reach?

It’s a common belief, and ten years ago it was a very valid point. In late 2019? Not so much.

If we are to fully grasp the enormous opportunities unfolding in the global book markets as we head into the new decade we need to understand the phenomenal growth of internet access and the proliferation of smartphones worldwide in the current decade.

Consider this: the USA, with a population of 320 million, is at 95.8% internet penetration with 312 million people online, but it’s not the world’s biggest internet country. 

In fact it’s only the third largest.

Way out in front is China, with 854 million people online, and China is only at 60% internet penetration.

Also way out in front is India, with 560 million people online, and India is only at 40.9% internet penetration.

Massive online markets with enormous room to grow.

And then there’s Latin America.

Ah, we might be thinking, we indies have got that covered. There’s a Kindle store in Brazil and in Mexico. Case closed.

But hold on. There’s more to Latin America than just Brazil and Mexico, important as they are. And there's certainly more to the Brazil and Mexico book markets than the Kindle BR and Kindle MX stores, important as they undoubtedly are to us.

The population of Latin America is north of 600 million people, and more than 420 million of them are online.

Do they read books? Consider this - the largest annual cultural event in Argentina is a book fair. No, not a village fete, but a full-blown book fair, that each year attracts 1.2 million visitors. (No, that’s not a typo.) And it’s not even the biggest book fair in Latin America.

The biggest cultural event in Colombia is also a book fair. Oh, and the biggest cultural event in Guatemala is a book fair. And in Chile, and in Peru, and in Bolivia, and in Mexico, and in Cuba, and in Panama and in… Well, you get the picture.

The biggest book fair in Latin America? You might want to be sitting down for this: It’s Cuba. The Havana International Book Fair can pull in over 2 million visitors.

If we’re not thinking seriously about Spanish and Portuguese translations and maximizing our Latino appeal then we could be missing out on some serious international engagement.

And of course Spanish and Portuguese gives us full Ibero-America reach.
Guess what the biggest cultural event is in Spain? Yes, it’s a book fair. The Madrid Book Fair is in fact the biggest cultural event in Europe, each year attracting over 2 million visitors, who spend close to 10 million euros on books in the space of two weeks.

And the Lisbon Book Fair in Portugal itself attracts crowds of over half a million.

Having mentioned India above, I’m not even going to touch here on the rest of South Asia (Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar…) or South East Asia (Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines...) other than to say that Bangladesh, Vietnam and the Philippines all have more internet users than the UK, and Thailand has more internet users than Italy.

And then there’s Africa. 

As this decade started, less than twenty years ago, there were just 4.5 million people online across the whole of Africa.

Today (June 2019 figures – it will be higher still as you read this) there are just shy of 525 million Africans online.

Seriously. South Africa has more internet users than Canada.

There are more people online in Kenya than there are in Spain. Kenya has twice as many internet users as Australia.

Nigeria, with 123 million people online, has double the online population of the UK, three times as many internet users as Spain, and five times the online population of Australia.

Nigeria has more people online than any country in Europe, and more internet users than Japan.

And Nigeria is just at 60% penetration.

Globally there are 4.5 billion people online. For context, that means the USA accounts for less than 7% of the world’s internet users.

That’s something to be seriously thinking about as we strategise our global author careers and think about where we want to be in ten years time.

And by the way, in ten years time there is expected to be around 7.5 billion people online around the world.

Bear in mind that the USA, central as it is to us right now, is already close to saturation with 312 million people online. There simply isn’t any room to grow.

By 2030 the USA will account for just 4% of the world’s internet users.

Keep that thought at the back of our minds as we wade through issue number one of Publish Global.

It may seem like that idiot Williams has lost the plot, going on about the Arab markets, a book fair in Serbia, opportunities in Poland, nonsensical goings on in Sweden and Africa, and talking about online reading apps and…

But as I stressed at the outset, Publish Global is not about just-add-water miracle cures for our ailing sales, or promises of untold riches if we just do this, that or the other.

Publish Global is for the serious self-publisher wanting to identify trends, opportunities and possibilities, wanting to anticipate and even shape the future of the global book market.

A global book market that is growing fast and furious, and is already, I assure you, soooo much bigger than you think.

Draft2Digital now lets indies add audiobooks to its Universal Book Links page

A great new Value Added Service from D2D

Our first item today is great news for indies with audiobooks, and should dispel any notion that this newsletter, given it is published by StreetLib, is going to be just a StreetLib promotional vehicle.

We do have some StreetLib news in this issue too, and that will be clearly marked, but this item is about a very smart move by US-based aggregator Draft2Digital, which has a great Value Added Service called Universal Book Links (UBL).

This week it added even more value to the service by letting indies add links to our audiobooks.

Explains Draft2Digital:

We’ve always been proud of how useful and versatile our Universal Book Links are, but now we’re turning it up to eleven!

Starting now, you can add links to audiobook versions of your books right from the UBL management page!

Draft2Digital stress that, unlike for ebooks, we’ll need to add the audiobook links manually.

Read more here, and watch a how-to video on Youtube here.

Draft2Digital concludes:

Now your readers and listeners can both find what they’re looking for on your UBL’s landing page. Just one more way that Draft2Digital is making the author life easier!

If we’re not using Draft2Digital as a component in our going wide and going global strategy then we really aren’t taking going wide and global seriously.

Each indie-friendly aggregator (Draft2Digital, PublishDrive, Smashwords, StreetLib) has its unique features and its good and less endearing elements, but none require exclusivity and that means we can slice and dice between them to get what is best for our particular going wide and going global strategy.

Just to add here that despite scanning for news from Smashwords and PublishDrive over the Frankfurt Book Fair period and up to launch day I've not turned up any recent news from these two to include in this issue. If I've missed anything, let me know and I'll follow up in issue #2 in two weeks time.

Draft2Digital terminates its distribution agreements with Google Play and Playster

Draft2Digital giveth, and Draft2Digital taketh away

It comes as no great surprise that Draft2Digital is ending its distribution partnership with Google Play Books.

In February of this year Draft2Digital joined PublishDrive and StreetLib in offering Google Play as a distribution option (Smashwords has never had an agreement with Google Play), but barely had authors had time to take advantage than Google Play made some major changes to its rules of engagement, and Draft2Digital decide it would not or could not meet the new requirements.

Both PublishDrive and StreetLib had to invest time and resources in adapting to the new Google Play regulations, and both continue to offer Google Play distribution.

But for Draft2Digital the contract with Google Play has only a few more days to run.

And Google Play is not alone. For reasons that are not so clear, Draft2Digital is terminating its Playster distribution on the same day.

There have, in some less than totally reliable publishing circles, been suggestions this year that Playster has been in difficulty. I’ve no independent indications that that might be true. See Draft2Digital’s explanation below. As of November 1 PublishDrive will be the only aggregator serving Playster.

This from Draft2Digital's email notification:

…We have determined that distribution to Google Play and Playster are not in the best interest of our authors, and we will be removing distribution to these channels.

Google Play’s current terms of service create a relationship with distributors like D2D that is neither manageable nor scalable, forcing authors and aggregators both to take extreme measures to be listed. Pricing changes, requirements for account management, and other restrictions imposed on our authors make Google Play an unattractive option.

Effective October 30th, Draft2Digital will no longer offer Google Play distribution, we will be closing our Google Play Distribution Beta program, and all titles will be taken down at that time.

We have been closely monitoring distribution via Playster for several months and have determined that the platform lacks the level of stability we require for our distribution partners. As a result, we will be removing Playster as a distribution channel for new books and ensuring that all books currently listed are removed as soon as Playster is officially closed. This is in the best interest of our publishing partners.

As professional indies we need to keep constantly appraised of the latest changes in our aggregator channels and policies, and note concerns when raised.

Draft2Digital’s concerns about Google Play are specific to Draft2Digital. Google Play changed the rules and Draft2Digital decided it would not play by the new rules. 

With Playster the matter is less clear cut. Draft2Digital talks of deficient stability levels, but we have no idea if this is something related specifically to the Draft2Digital system requirements, as per Google Play, or something broader that might also give PublishDrive cause for concern.

This story is breaking as Publish Global prepares to go live. Hopefully I can add to this story in the next issue in two weeks time.

A snapshot of Poland's vibrant digital books market

The global book market is soooo much bigger than we think

The 23rd Kraków International Book Fair is underway. It’s one of the biggest publishing industry events in Poland, with 572  exhibitors from 20 countries this year. 70,000 are expected to turn out for the fair.

The event runs October 24-27 and can be followed on twitter: @BookFairKrakow.

For Anglophone authors and publishers Poland often tends to be dismissed as a publishing backwater, even for print, and of course we all know digital hasn’t reached East Europe yet. 

Good old urban publishing myths. Where would we be without them? 

Well, probably a lot more globally engaged is the answer.

Marking the Kraków International Book Fair, let’s take a snapshot of Poland’s digital books market.

Poland has a population of 38 million, and almost 30 million online of them are online, making this a potentially exciting digital books market, if only the country could catch up with us in the west.

Actually, Poland is already far more “caught up” than we might think.

This from Statista’s summary of the Polish ebook market (“ebook” here used loosely to capture all digital books):

•    Revenue in the eBooks segment amounts to US$49m in 2019.
•    Revenue is expected to show an annual growth rate (CAGR 2019-2023) of 7.6%, resulting in a market volume of US$65m by 2023.
•    User penetration is 10.4% in 2019 and is expected to hit 11.6% by 2023.
•    The average revenue per user (ARPU) currently amounts to US$12.31.

Statista doesn’t lay out its sources for this data, but while we can’t take this as gospel we should see it as indicative.

A digital books market worth $49 million in Poland? Who knew?

For many of us it’s the Kindle factor at play. If there isn’t a Kindle store in a country then, ipso facto, there are no ebooks.

Another urban publishing myth, of course. As indies we all too easily get carried away with the idea that Amazon is essential for an ebook and audiobook economy to exist. But around the world, as we'll explore in future editions of Publish Global, ebooks and audiobooks are doing just fine, often in the least likely countries.

Meaning that even if indies are still at the ebook-only stage of their career trajectory they are going to be missing out on major opportunities to reach new audiences if they focus solely on Amazon.

A look at the Polish print market another time. Here to stay focussed on the digital opportunity in Poland.

While Amazon has chosen not to open a Kindle store for Poland and KDP/KEP does not support the Polish language for either ebooks or print, Kindle devices are widely available, thanks to many Poles working or living in Kindle countries like Germany and the UK. For this reason many Polish publishers offer mobi files of their books alongside epub.

Apple and Google Play both have semi-localised Polish ebook stores, but neither have made any great effort to engage with Polish publishers, and Kobo, while available in Poland, offers Polish titles only through the US store, at US prices and in US currency.

So how on earth does Poland have a digital books market worth $49 million?

The answer is simple and elegant: like many countries, Poland has not sat on digital hoping a certain big western ebook retailer would come and grace the country with its digital infrastructure. 

They’ve gone ahead and built their own vibrant digital books infrastructure, leaving the western players out in the cold.

There are countless smaller ebook players. Here’s just a few:

All these ebook stores also support digital audiobooks.

Wait, what? They have audiobooks in Poland too?

Leading the audiobook show is Audioteka, which is expanding outside Poland. It has localised satellite stores in Italy, France, Spain, Germany, Sweden, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, and earlier this year it launched in Turkey.

Audioteka has over one million subscribers..

Storytel is also in Poland, where it has partnered with telco T-Mobile Poland.

- and earlier this year it added podcasts to its Storytel Poland site.


Russia’s digital books giant LitRes has been in Poland for some time with a holding site, but this year launched a full Polish service. When Poland’s VAT rate dropped from 23% to 5%.

The LitRes Poland site offers a reading app, Czytaj, and an audio app Sluchaj.

The other key player in Poland is the digital books subscription service Legimi.

Legimi, which saw 60% growth in 2018, has an IPO set for Q4, and will use the funds to finalise its takeover of the Germany digital books operation Readfy, as part of its plans to expand into Germany,

Far from being a digital publishing backwater Poland is a vibrant and fast-growing digital market, enjoying the freedom that not having to compete with Amazon brings.

For indie access to these sites, check with your preferred aggregators. If they aren’t options, petition your aggregator to let them know you’re interested.

Déjà vu. Once again self-published authors are not welcome at the Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award

Self-published? Use POD? You're not worthy

Last year the Wall Street Journal noted how Jeff Bezos had proudly told us how thousands of authors earned more than $50,000, with more than a thousand surpassing $100,000 in royalties.

Those earnings come from ebook sales via the Kindle store, from paperbacks printed by Amazon’s print-on-demand service KDP print (formerly CreateSpace) and from Audible’s very own ACX.

These books are good enough to be sold on Amazon, by Amazon, and make a profit for Amazon, but they are not good enough to be entered into the Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award.

The prize website tells us,

The Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award is the richest prize for a single short story in the English language, worth £30,000 to the winner. The award, for a story of 6,000 words or less, is open to any novelist or short story writer from around the world who has been published in the UK or Ireland.

What’s not to like?

Well, since you asked, the definition of being published in the UK or Ireland.

Just as last year there are clarifications on site to make sure no charlatans try to game the system.

To be eligible, the author MUST have a record of prior publication in creative writing in the United Kingdom or Ireland. This means the author MUST have previously have had works of prose fiction, drama, or poetry published by an established publisher or an established printed magazine in the UK or Ireland, or broadcast by a national radio station in the UK or Ireland.

Okay, so TV writing doesn’t count. Music lyrics doesn’t count. Newspaper writing doesn’t count. Vanity press publication doesn’t count.

Fine, we can understand that. This is about creative writing that can be recorded as audio.

Which surely puts indie authors in the running for the prize, right?

After all they have been published as ebooks by Amazon’s very own KDP service.

They’ve published their paperbacks using Amazon’s very own POD service.

They’ve created the audiobooks using Amazon’s very own ACX audiobook service.

Some of these authors are, by Amazon’s own admission, earning over $100,000 in royalties.

But that counts for nothing when Audible puts its name to, and money behind, the Sunday Times Short Story Award. As the guidelines explain:

For the avoidance of doubt NONE of the following will constitute a record of prior publication:
•    self-published material of any kind
•    work published using a print-on-demand service
•    work published via a commercial arrangement through which the publisher is paid by the author
•    online publication

When I ran this story last year it was argued that Audible was the sponsor and did not make the rules, but that’s really neither here nor there. 

This isn’t just about Audible sponsoring a prize. The winning entry will be published by Audible.

At a time when it sometimes seems the stigma of self-publishing is a thing of the past, it begs the question why Amazon, which has for so long championed the self-publishing movement and launched so many successful author careers, is happy to sponsor a prize that clearly holds self-publishing in contempt.

Amazon’s self-publishing arm KDP Print now offers POD in Canada

But global POD remains a challenge for indies

Print-on-demand (POD) is a great resource for publishers of all sizes, but it’s only as good as its nearest localized print and distribution partner.

While a POD book can, in theory, be sent anywhere in the world once ordered and paid for, the reality is that the shipping costs and shipping time act as a deterrent to would be buyers worldwide.

For Amazon’s KDP Print operation (formerly CreateSpace), having print bases in the US and EU has helped make paperbacks a viable revenues stream for indie authors and small presses, but orders outside those countries are shipped from the US at US prices and in US currency, ratcheting up the final price. And not all vendors offer worldwide shipping.

This is where IngramSpark can increase author and publisher reach, although Ingram’s POD base still has a long way to go to be meaningfully global.

But last week Amazon quietly announced on its KDP Support page that it now offers printing directly in Canada.

We’re excited to announce paperback manufacturing in Canada! This enables new features for KDP authors, including:

•    Faster shipping to readers in Canada. Manufacturing in Canada enables FREE Two-Day Shipping for Prime Members
•    Amazon Canada royalty reporting in the KDP reports. Previously Canadian sales (and other overseas sales except EU) were included in US sales
•    Canadian Dollar (CAD) list prices. NB Authors will need to go to the dashboard to set Canada list prices or they will be adjusted automatically based on currency exchange rates, which would look messy.

Amazon confirm that proof copies and author orders for authors in Canada will still be printed and shipped from the US.

This is a big step forward for authors, and likely to boost indie paperback sales in Canada, but that still leaves most of the world without meaningful access to Amazon’s POD operation.

Ingram has printers in the US, UK, Australia and France.

In any case Ingram at this point isn’t that interested in indie authors. Despite a lot of promotional stuff on the IngramSpark website aimed at self-publishers, Ingram continues to demand a $49 set-up fee for each POD title, and $25 for an ebook. Amazon charges nothing.

Hardly surprising then that the most recent Bowker figures for ISBNs show a massive jump in Amazon ISBNs for its paperback publishers, following its transition from CreateSpace to KDP Print, while Ingram remains a back-up option for indies.

Globally POD operations are proliferating rapidly, but while most in theory offer single copy printing, few are structured to be able to deal with indie authors or offer meaningful global shipping.

That's the big challenge – and the big opportunity – for self-publishers as we head into the new decade.

I take a closer look at the challenges of and opportunities for global distribution in the next item.

To become serious global players indies need to embrace distribution at every level


Beyond the usual suspects - an introduction to wide and global

Tucked away in the depths of the US-based trade journal Publishers Weekly is a brief (two sentence) report on a new distribution arrangement by the UK independent publisher One World

Effective November 1 2019, reports PW, Simon & Schuster will handle sales and distribution of One World titles to markets and territories in North America.

It’s no one-off. 

One World uses Pan Macmillan for Europe and Middle East distribution; Bloomsbury for Australia; Penguin Random House for distribution in Malaysia, Singapore and China, HarperCollins for India, the White Partnership for Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam & Myanmar, and so on.

Full details here.

On the same day PW carried news that David & Charles, another independent UK publisher, has partnered with US-based Two Rivers Distribution.

Two Rivers is actually part of Ingram, but not the indie-friendly IngramSpark part. A reminder that, if we want to play in the big league we have to start thinking and acting like big league players.

But for this essay, let’s return to One World.

Producing over 100 books a year obviously puts One World in an advantageous position to enjoy the benefits of scale when coming to arrangements with the distributors, but still there’s a lesson here for indies.

For all the benefits of being indie and having control and that lucrative 70% “royalty” from some ebook outlets, when we choose to go it alone and eschew traditional publishing services and networks we also shut the door on potential reach far greater than we can manage on our own.

Which is why the professional indie needs to take a hybrid approach to going wide and global. And that means more than just signing up to PublishDrive, Draft2Digital or StreetLib.

Because we are talking about the kind of distribution the indie-friendly aggregators cannot offer at this time, even with digital, let alone print.

Yes, aggregators can get us into lots of global ebook stores, and between Amazon, Apple, Kobo, KDP Print, IngramSpark, Draft2Digital, PublishDrive and StreetLib we have reach in 2019 unimaginable ten years ago.

But if we think they’ve got us covered and there’s nowhere else we can reach then we need to think again.

Earlier in this newsletter I took a look at Poland, in a brief profile as an example of a digitally advanced book market that few indies give a second thought to even for ebooks and audio.

And that’s before we begin to think seriously about global print reach.

It’s challenging enough for indies to get their books into bricks & mortar stores in the US, UK or Australia, let alone Poland, Malaysia, Egypt or China. yet as we saw in the examples, we don't actually need to be published by a Big 5 house to match their reach.

It's not easy, but it can be done.

As forward-thinking and professional indies we can get together in tight-knit groups, pool resources, petition our current distributors to put together packages, or create our own packages, that will meet the core requirements of the mainstream global distributors to get the extra reach that right now most of us can only dream of.

POD, for example, can potentially bring us far more reach if we are willing to go the extra mile and look beyond the easy-access options like KDP Print and IngramSpark.

Because in real terms POD is only as valuable as its nearest print & distribution point. For example, our paperbacks may showing up on an online bookstore in India or Paraguay or Malaysia or Russia via our Ingram or Amazon upload , but the titles, once sold, have to be shipped from the US (always assuming there is even a vendor that will actually send them to those countries) at significant additional cost and a long delivery time.

In future editions of Publish Global we’ll reference many POD operations, and take deep dives into some.

But a reminder in winding up this essay, that Publish Global is not about promoting specific services, or delivering how-to guides on what we need to do to access a particular service provider, but to shine a light on the global opportunities out there for serious self-publishers wanting to up their game.

It's up to us to do our homework, to find what looks good for our particular publishing strategy and our particular books, to petition our distributors and to share our knowledge and discoveries.

Let me finish for now by mentioning that, back in April of this year, a new partnership was announced between Bibliomanager and Trevenque.

Bibliomanager? Trevenque? If these names mean nothing to us, then that’s exactly why we need to be reading Publish Global.

Trevenque Group is a leader in the implementation of software for publishers, bookstores and distributors, and is present in Spain, Mexico and Colombia and in the process of Ibero-America expansion to new markets such as Argentina.

Bibliomanager is the main distributor of POD books in Ibero-America, with operations in Spain, Argentina, Mexico, Peru and Colombia. 

A closer look at Bibliomanager another time.

Publishing logistics firm CB acquires Holland's Lusiterhuis

And yes, this is relevant to indies

One of the reasons we launched Publish Global for indie authors is to help indies make better-informed decisions about our wide and global strategies.

As self-published authors its easy to get lost in our own little world where Amazon straddles the globe, with the Kindle store the only ebook store, Audible the only audiobook store, and KDP Print (formerly CreateSpace) the only POD outfit of any consequence.

Yet as we've demonstrated in previous items in this issue, wonderful as Amazon is (when it's not shutting us out of awards), it is not, by any measure, the only show in town.

Take the Netherlands as an example. There has been a Kindle NL store since 2014, but it has really not taken off in the same way as the other Kindle stores, despite an online population of 16.3 million.

It's not that the Dutch don't like ebooks and audiobooks. Quite the opposite. But Amazon arrived late in the Netherlands and never really took the market seriously. Audible is not there. There's no Kindle Unlimited. No Amazon Ads. Etc.

That's allowed more dedicated players to gain the advantage.

Apple and Google Play are there, and the Netherlands is a major market for Kobo, which supplies the country's biggest-by-far digital books store Bol, and also the Kobo Plus ebook subscription service.

There are other ebook players too, and audiobook operations (Storytel, for example), but the biggest by far is Luisterhuis, which as of January 1 2020 becomes part of the publishing logistics company CB, although it will retain its brand.

Okay, so this is becoming a news item about a company we've likely never heard of, taking over a company we've likely never heard of, in a country we've likely never have given much thought to as a book market. Bear with me.

Here's the thing. The Netherlands (and Belgium) are first off noted for being countries of excellent speakers and readers of English, which is a great entry point for us, and they also have a very worthwhile joint book market for Dutch-language content.

The good news is Dutch is an accepted language for KEP and KDP, and because the Netherlands is in the EU we can benefit from cheap and fast shipping of POD from Amazon and Ingram, or we might want to explore CB's own POD operation, Printforce.

But this item is mainly about the Dutch audiobook market, where Audible fears to tread and where Storytel and Bookbeat have to compete with the country's oldest audiobook operation, Luisterhuis, launched way back in 2010.

Luisterhuis carries some 5,500 titles from 200 publishing houses, and if we are serious about making an impact in the vibrant Dutch book market then Luisterhuis needs to be on our radar.

More about the take-over can be found over at TNPS.

200,000 attend Serbia’s Belgrade International Book Fair

Book fairs as barometers of invisible book markets

An event like the 64th Belgrade International Book Fair doesn't get much international coverage even in a quiet period, let alone days after Frankfurt.

Over at TNPS this week I managed to cover some news about Serbia's biggest cultural event, and if you're interested, just click on the image below.

I drop this item into the conversation here simply as a topical illustration of a thriving international book market that passes almost completely unnoticed in indie author circles.

Time and again as we dip into the Publish Global newsletters,  we're going to find that in country after country after country the biggest cultural event is not a pop concert or a sports match, but a book fair.

Book fairs are an excellent barometer of public interest in books and reading that is happening beyond the book sales statistics that only tell us what people have brought from a limited selection of books that have been made available.

A closer look at the Balkan book markets at another time.

Digital publishing is the future, and we seek to embrace it wholeheartedly”


2020 Abu Dhabi Int. Book Fair adds digital and audio to its Spotlight On Rights programme

For indie authors going global, the limitations of digital reach presents a challenge. Many countries are not as far advanced in embracing digital as the self-publishing havens of the US and UK.

But that's changing fast, no matter what nonsense we may read in the mainstream trade journals about ebooks and digital reading in decline.

Take the United Arab Emirates, for example, where the Department of Tourism & Culture of Abu Dhabi said this past week,

We are proud to be leading the way on the latest international trends in publishing and translation, using cutting-edge technologies to translate or disseminate our world-class publications. Digital publishing is the future, and we seek to embrace it wholeheartedly as a way to further our mission of enabling the wider consumption and appreciation of Arabic literature and Arabic-language content.

Arabic-language books? The Arab book markets? A reminder Publish Global is for the serious self-publisher. And the MENA (Middle East North Africa) markets are a serious opportunity for indies willing to go the extra mile.

The Arab markets, with 220 million people online, and a total population of over 420 million, are about to get a whole lot more accessible and more exciting as we kick off the new decade.

If we're not thinking seriously about Arabic translations and MENA-focussed content and marketing then we could be missing out big time as the Arab Renaissance gets into second gear.

Read more about the Abu Dhabi "Digital publishing is the future" story over at TNPS.

Still not convinced the Arab markets are worth looking at?

Just wait until you read the next two items in Publish Global.

In Algeria the biggest cultural event is a book fair

Will the Algiers IBF break its 2.3 million visitor record this year with its focus on young authors?

In Algeria the 24th Algiers International Book Fair gets underway at end October, running parallel with the Sharjah International Book Fair in the UAE.

While Sharjah is a major international event (all the more so this year as it is also UNESCO World Book Capital) making every effort to attract a global audience, the Algiers event is very much Arabic and French, and comparatively insular, focusing on the Arab markets.

This year 1030 publishing houses are participating, with 298 from Algeria, 323 from other Arab countries and 409 from the rest of the world, with 34 countries represented. Senegal is Guest of Honour.

Algeria will be represented by 298 publishing houses. The Arab countries mark their presence with 323 publishers, against 409 from the rest of the world. "The book, a continent" is the slogan chosen this year at SILA. 

In 2018 the Algiers event attracted 2.3 million visitors, according to the SILA (from the French Salon du Livre International d’Alger) website (a revised figure on the 2.2 million reported in the media at end 2018).

More about the Algiers event can be found in a full post over at TNPS.

Here just to close this item by noting that this year Algeria Post, the Algerian postal service, has issued a new stamp to mark SILA as the country’s most important cultural event.

With a population of 42.6 million Algeria is a potential book market on par with Spain (46.4 million).

Internet penetration is only at 59.6%, but that’s still 25.2 million people online – 8 million more than the Netherlands, mentioned above, and more than twice as many as Sweden, the home of Storytel - making Algeria a potentially exciting digital books market.

That said, right now Algeria, has just two key ebook stores, both operated by Algérie Télécom. One is in French – Fimaktabati – and one in Arabic - Nooonbooks.

But the point of Publish Global is not to tell us where we are, but rather to illuminate the opportunities ahead. And any country that can pull a crowd of 2.3 million people to a book fair is an opportunity in my eyes.

As we'll see in the next item, the Algiers International Book Fair's 2.3 million visitors is no outlier in the Arab world.

4 million Arabs will be heading to Arab book fairs next week

Challenging the faux narrative that Arabs don't read

This year Sharjah, one of the United Arab Emirates, is UNESCO World Book Capital. Which means the Sharjah International Book Fair, a major literary event in any year, is going to be even more spectacular in 2019. Millions will be attending the event

Millions? Is that perhaps hyperbole to make a point?

Not at all. I mean, literally, millions.

Next week two Arab book fairs will be running simultaneously at opposite ends of the MENA (Middle East North Africa) Arabic-speaking world.

One is the aforementioned Sharjah International Book Fair. The other the Algiers International Book Fair in Algeria, covered in the previous Publish Global item.

Last year both fairs, again running simultaneous dates, each attracted a crowd of over two million visitors. No, that’s not a typo, and yes I did say each.

For comparison, the Frankfurt Book Fair that has just finished set a new attendance record this year by topping 300,000 visitors.

No, we're not entirely comparing like with like. Frankfurt is a trade-facing book fair with a public element. Sharjah and Algiers are public-facing book fairs with a trade element. But these are all book fairs.

Let’s just savour those numbers. Just weeks after the Frankfurt Book Fair attracted record crowd of 300,000, more than 4 million people will be cramming into two Arab book fairs in two MENA countries. 

Last year they together totalled 4.5 million, and we could see 5 million exceeded this year between them, given the special event Sharjah is laying on.

In Sharjah and in Algeria the biggest cultural event is a book fair.

And they are not alone.

In Saudi Arabia the biggest cultural event is a book fair.

The Riyadh International Book Fair alone attracted over 1 million visitors this year.

The Muscat International Book Fair in Oman also attracted over 1 million visitors this year.

The Baghdad International Book Fair also attracted over 1 million visitors this year.

The Casablanca International Book Fair in Morocco drew a crowd of 550,000 this year.

The Erbil International Book Fair in Iraqi Kurdistan attracted over 400,000 visitors this year.

No room here to list the book fair attendance across all the MENA countries, but let me just add Egypt, where this year attendance was down thanks to some issues with a new venue.

But despite a disappointing turnout of “only” 3 million, the Cairo International Book Fair retained its title as the world’s largest book fair.

And since 3 million is in the air, let me just add that in Dubai, also part of the United Arab Emirates, Big Bad Wolf has just concluded its second gigantic eleven day 24/7 book sale.

We don’t know the final visitor numbers yet, but last year Big Bad Wolf took 3 million books to Dubai, and this year it took the same number again. 3 million books shipped to an eleven day book fair in Dubai.

All told, somewhere between 12-15 million people will be attending Arab book fairs this year, many walking out with suitcases full of books.

As per the item earlier in this newsletter on Abu Dhabi, the Arab markets are poised to flourish in the coming decade. We'd be crazy to let this wonderful opportunity to reach new audiences pass us by.

Million-subscriber digital books service Scribd expands in Mexico


Offers enhanced localised presence with 60,000 Spanish titles

Despite being one of the oldest subscription services for digital books, Scribd rarely makes the industry headlines, preferring to pursue a path of quiet but steady development.

Those who remember the early days of subscription will remember Scribd and Oyster going head to head in the US, and when Oyster fell few doubted Scribd’s days were numbered too.

When Amazon decided it too would launch an ebook subscription service it seemed to many to be the final nail in Scribd’s coffin.

Scribd had other ideas.

In 2019 Scribd is still with us, and started this year with a wake up call that it was still in the subscription game, announcing it had surpassed one million subscribers.

Now Scribd announces an impressive revamp of its Mexico presence with a new “localized reading experience for the Mexico market” that offers over 60,000 Spanish-language titles.

In a press release Scribd explained
Over the past few years, Scribd has seen a significant increase in readers from Mexico engaging with its digital library of ebooks and audiobooks, which led to the company's decision to build a first-class reading experience in the country. In addition to making several improvements to localize the product experience and enhance content recommendations, the company has established new relationships with publishing partners to diversify the content offering. Partners include leading Spanish-language publishers such as Planeta, Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial, Anagrama, Sexto Piso and El Colegio de México.

The localization efforts for the Mexico market are a key piece of Scribd's larger expansion strategy in Latin America, which represents an enormous opportunity for the company to establish itself as a global reading service and further the company's mission: to change the way the world reads.

Scribd currently has over 1 million paying subscribers and draws in more than 100 million unique visitors to its platform per month. The full catalog includes over 1 million premium titles and 80 million documents, and readers have spent 190 million hours of reading on the platform to date.

These are remarkable numbers, so it should come as no surprise that Scribd has enhanced its Mexico offering.

The surprise is that it has taken so long and that it is not happening more often.

Being everywhere is of course half the battle, but the other half is in localised engagement with content suppliers and with audiences.

Storytel, which also crossed the one million subscriber mark this year –

exemplifies this approach, and its success speaks for itself.

Glocalisation (globally local) remains one of Scribd’s weak points.

As an American company with a global presence Scribd is doing a great job, but if it is to get that next million subscribers before Storytel then we need to see more glocalised initiatives like Mexico.

Serialised mobile reading snapshot: Thepigeonhole

The exciting world of digital opportunity beyond the ebook

With just 3 days to go until our latest #Historical #Fiction novel goes live, places on @HoskerGriff’s latest work are flying off the shelves. 

So read a tweet from Thepigeonhole (@thepigeonholeHQ)

Wait, what? The pigeonhole? Goes live? Places flying off the shelf?

Welcome to the lucrative world of serialised mobile reading.

Actually Thepigeonhole (all one word) is perhaps not the best ever example for this newsletter, given indie authors won’t find it easy to get in on this act, and we won't directly earn royalties from it.

 But as the latest Thepigeonhole book is about to go live, and Publish Global is for serious indies who relish opportunity, no matter how challenging, let’s run with this as an introduction to an exciting world of digital opportunity beyond the ebook.

So what’s this new book? This is just for illustrative purposes.

Not here to get bogged down in the book itself. Head over to Thepigeonhole to find out more about that.

Here to talk about how Thepigeonhole works. Or rather, let's let Thepigeonhole explain:

The book will be delivered in 10 instalments (or staves), one every day. The instalments are delivered to your Pigeonhole bookshelf on your IOS or Android app, plus you can read on our web reader. You will receive an email letting you know when each stave is available.

We believe that shared reading leads to new ideas and connections. That’s why we have a dynamic commenting system which allows in-text discussion between our readers. Post a comment and all your fellow readers will be able to respond. You can also choose to receive notifications when someone responds to your comment, or, additionally, whenever a comment is left in the book.

As you read you will see round purple icons at the edge of certain paragraphs – tap on these to reveal behind-the-scenes extra content!

Links will be included at the end of the final stave which will allow you to leave reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. The full book will be available on your Pigeonhole bookshelf for one month for you to read at your leisure

So it’s an online book club, right?

Yes, but one with over 15,000 UK members, who have enjoyed serialized works from big-name authors like Ken Follett, Sophie Kinsella, Anthony Horowitz and Jodi Picoult.

Thepigeonhole began life as a serialized reading app whereby readers would pay to receive the weekly installments, and authors would share in the profit.

It’s a model that can and does work – only not so much for Thepigeonhole, which struggled to pay the bills. Rather than give up, they changed the model so now it is the publisher, not the reader, that pays.

Thepigeonhole now goes out to a select number of readers and the paying publisher gets feedback about how well the book is received.

I’ve no idea about how much the publisher is asked to pay, and I'm far too polite to ask, but safe to say it’s more than most indies would feel comfortable shelling out.

But it’s a great example of the serialised installment mobile reading model that, for other operators, is bringing in hard cash from paying subscribers, not the publishers.

Let me just mention here two examples where indie authors can participate and profit. Wattpad and Dreame.

Wattpad we’ve no doubt all heard of as the fan-fic site for teen and tween girls.

But how many of us know that it has a paid tier where authors can earn serious royalties?

How many indies know that Wattpad has its own publishing arm, and works closely with major publishers like Penguin Random House?

How many indies know that Wattpad has its own film and TV studio arm, and even has its own TV shows based on Wattpad books?

How many people know Wattpad has a global monthly audience of over 80 million?

Earlier this month it was announced that the film studio Picturestart had acquired the film and TV rights to Wattpad author Rachel Meinke’s book Along for The Ride, which will be jointly produced and financed with Wattpad Studios. 

Meanwhile Wattpad Books has acquired the publishing rights to the story, which will be part of their spring/summer release schedule for Wattpad Books.

Along for the Ride has accumulated more than 26.3 million reads on Wattpad, while altogether, across 20 stories on the platform, Meinke, who has 241,000 Wattpad followers has accumulated more than 300 million reads.

While Canada-based Wattpad has been around for over a decade, STARY’s Dreame, which operates out of Singapore, is just over a year old, but already has over a million subscribers.

There are countless more mobile reading apps out there that collectively represent many hundreds of millions of digital readers who are consuming content outside the regulation ebook and subscription services we indies have grown up with and that, for many of us, are our sole focus.

In future editions of Publish Global we’ll take a deep dive into some of them, and in passing touch on many more. Some – perhaps  many – will find a place in our 2020s publishing strategy, complimenting, not competing with, our regular ebook revenue streams.

But it all starts with knowing what’s out there, which is what Publish Global is all about.

To drive that point home, our next stop is somewhere I doubt even a handful of indies have considered as a viable market for their books: francophone West Africa.

YouScribe on target for 300,000 subscribers in francophone Africa by end 2019

There’s more to subscription that Kindle Unlimited, Scribd and Storytel

When we think of digital books subscription services it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture as we focus on Kindle Unlimited, Scribd, Storytel, Nextory, Bookbeat, Audible, Ubook and a host of other players targeting consumers in North America, Latin America and Europe.

Africa in particular comes in for some serious looking the other way by the publishing industry, with the consensus being that digital books outside of South Africa have no hope of taking off, despite, as I stress regularly over at TNPS, there being more Africans online than most people, on the continent or beyond, realise.

Then earlier this year France-based YouScribe began an expansion of its Africa game.

In particular a launch in Senegal produced stellar results, with 100,000 new subscribers in the first two months, while across YouScribe’s Africa markets the company saw 100,000 new subscribers just in August.

Across Africa YouScribe expects to top 300,000 subscribers by the end 2019, with a heavy tilt towards education, thanks to a partnership with La Sonatel. But don’t let that detract from the enormity of the news here.

Let’s just hear that last number again so it sinks in. YouScribe expects to have 300,000 digital subscribers in francophone Africa by end 2019.

Here’s the to-date graphic from YouScribe, lest we should be in any doubt.

Africa, with 525 million people online, is an incredibly exciting digital prospect for publishing, and as this news from YouScribe shows, African readers are eager to get hold of books on their smartphones.

In the next decade we will see the African book markets bloom. Be part of it.

StreetLib expands global IP Rights partnership with Nakiri

As announced at the Frankfurt Book Fair 2019

The StreetLib partnership with Paris-based Nakiri, an IP rights specialist, is news right now as it was announced at the Frankfurt Book Fair last week.

It is not Publish Global's role to showcase StreetLib initiatives whenever they crop up, but obviously this is topical publishing news that is pertinent to self-publishers and therefore falls within the Publish Global remit.

Click on the image below to be taken to the full press release for more details.

StreetLib partners with podcasting platform Spreaker


As announced at the Frankfurt Book fair 2019

This is a little embarrassing, but as the Publish Global newsletter was itself first announced at the Frankfurt Book Fair earlier this month, it's only to be expected that Frankfurt self-publishing news makes the first issue.

And that's what's happening here. As per the previous item, I'll keep this short and sweet and those that wish to know more can click on the image to be taken to the full press release.

Here just to say podcasting, long the staple promotional tool of many an indie author, can also bring in serious revenue.

I'll be taking a look at revenue podcasting in more detail in issue #2 of Publish Global.

Thanks for reading


That's it for this edition. We'll be back in two weeks

Thanks for your time if you made it this far through issue #1 of Publish Global.

Expect the editions to evolve as we go, in response to feedback and requests. If I've missed any major self-publishing news or topics this time around then apologies. Let me know and if still topical I'll get them into the next issue.

We welcome press releases and news from self-publishing service providers, and of course tips and suggestions from indie authors.

I'll leave you with a reminder that I'm writing this from West Africa, where the internet and electricity gods are fickle at best and occasionally cruel, so bi-weekly should be taken as an approximate timetable, not a set-in-stone schedule.

I'm Mark Williams, signing off this issue of Publish Global on behalf of the StreetLib team.

Publish Global is a free bi-weekly newsletter aimed at the serious, multi-format self-published or hybrid author committed to "going wide" and looking for indie-author-orientated insights and opportunities in the truly global publishing markets.

Subscribe to Publish Global

Copyright © 2019 StreetLib, All rights reserved.

Publish Global is brought to you by Mark Williams


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