Selling your ebook worldwide is both easy and extremely difficult. Amazon automatically distributes your ebook to 245 territories (from Guam to Germany). Createspace now sources locally for print books in Europe, and Expanded Distribution will get you into the Book Depository, which ships free to 100 countries. Apple distributes to 50 countries. Kobo is big in Canada and, to some extent, in Europe. XinXii will distribute to many smaller ebook retailers in Europe.
The US is by far the biggest ebook market, but the rest of the world is slowly catching up. The UK market is next largest (in English), with Europe, Canada, and Australia on the rise. Even in English-speaking markets, sometimes story concepts don’t translate well, but getting a toehold is mostly a matter of discoverability. Having a free book in a series helps – once Open Minds (English version) went free in the UK and DE, Closed Hearts and Free Souls sales picked up.
The non-English-speaking ebook markets are also taking off, but tapping into those markets requires translation. Normally, that would mean selling foreign rights to a publisher, who would pay translation costs, distribute the book, and take the vast share of the profits. Unless you’re selling very sell, most indies will not attract foreign publisher interest, and translation costs can be prohibitive ($5k-$10k per novel). And even if you pay for a translator, how do you reach the readers in that market? It seems a bit daunting at best.
A Translator Finds Me
A friend of mine (EM Tippetts) found a great German translator (Michael Drecker) for her romance novels and she basically hooked us up, saying, “Michael and Sue, you should work together.” (Do I have the most awesome friends, or what?) I was intrigued – he was willing to negotiate a revenue share agreement as well as help with discoverability in Germany. Michael was interested as well, but he was booked for six months. However, I’m in this business for the long haul, and six months isn’t too long to wait for the chance to work with the right person. I told him to keep me in mind for when his schedule cleared.
Michael is an experienced translator, but also an innovative one. Our contract is a royalty-share-based one that makes him more than just a translator – he’s a partner in producing and marketing the German version of Open Minds. It’s almost like he’s an indie-author-friend in Germany who is co-producing the book – very much like working with a narrator to produce a royalty-share audiobook through ACX. Only Michael goes beyond that in reaching out to his own set of book bloggers in Germany, as well as having strategies for producing our initial large free sample, as well as the best pricing for Germany. All of which is not only a tremendous help, but I think a key in the future success of the series in that market.
The German Market
You can sell in the German market without translation – there are a surprising number of English-reading people living there, and I’ve had some success with the Mindjack series in English. I did little to market in Germany, but occasionally tipped onto the bestseller charts anyway. Even though Europeans are famously multi-lingual, I’ve been told they often find it easier to read in their native language. Which makes complete sense. And I have hopes that the German version will do even better.
One of the coolest things about being indie is being able to do innovative things like sign revenue-share contracts with a translator to get my books into the German market in a real way. I’m intrigued to see how the book will be received by a culture similar to, but distinctly different from, the primarily-US-based readers who have loved the book so far.
We shall see! Wish Michael and me luck!
(And pick up a copy of Open Minds in German while it’s only 99cents!)