Episode 80 – Translations, More VAT, and the Ebook Market

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Question of the Week: Which non-Amazon ebook retailer would you like to see at #2 in the market and why?

This week, Bryan and Jim tackled another wild week in publishing, including stories on the VATmess expanding, the Author Earnings ebook market report, and the Amazon Crossing announcement. First, Bryan talked about the successes and failures of his insane last week activities, such as an attempt to hit the NY Times list with a BookBub and his March to a Bestseller 3 event. You can opt-in to get his free training course for authors at http://sellingforauthors.com
Our Featured Patron of the week was Thomas Umstattd of the Novel Marketing Podcast (http://www.novelmarketing.com ). Jim and Bryan also covered tips on free book promotions, pre-orders, and writer’s block. This week’s Question of the Week: Which non-Amazon ebook retailer would you like to see at #2 in the market and why?
What You’ll Learn: 
  • How many books Bryan sold off his BookBub
  • Whether or not KDP free promotions still work
  • How to boost your pre-order
  • Why writer’s block may not actually exist
  • How Audible is using VR to promote a big release
  • Why Jim is tired of talking about trad pub
  • What 13 countries are doing to collect more taxes
  • The numbers behind the ebook industry
  • How Amazon’s announcement could’ve been a bigger deal
Question of the Week: Which non-Amazon ebook retailer would you like to see at #2 in the market and why?

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  • I had high hopes for B&N for a while. I think people took them and Amazon more seriously because they had hardcopy books and ebooks, but they sure screwed the pooch on that one.

    I wish Kobo the best of luck. If they can be #2, then I’d love it because they seem to have a good platform and I like the attitudes of those involved.

    • Bryan

      Oh man. Did they ever.

  • Crissy Moss

    Why is amazon in the publishing business? Because they are in it to win it. They are thinking with a long view toward publishing as a whole.

    By creating their own imprint they showed customers and authors a like that they could have a great experience with a publisher, sell more books, and not give away all of their rights on everything forever. Amazon is showing traditional publishers what they should be and still be profitable. A helper, and a partner with authors, not a lord to take all the serfs earnings and give them the dregs.

    They also showcase the talent at Createspace since they use the same editors and designers from Createspace that you can hire directly.

    By creating their imprints they pulled some great talent away from traditional publishers that may have stuck with the traditional publishers just so that they did not have to do everything themselves. I wish more small publishers would come forward with a similar model who actually created great books.

    I think amazons imprints have also been a great way for them to get out into conventions and meetups to advertise kdp, kindle, and ebooks in general. It’s also a great way for them to keep in contact with their readers and keep a pulse on the market.

    So : research, outreach, education, acquiring talent… And more. Good reasons?

    QOTW : I wish that Google would come up with a better platform so that they could even attempt to compete. Barring that, Kobo would be great since they seem to love books authors, and readers.

    • Bryan

      Great points on Amazon’s mindset, Crissy.

  • Bill Weiss

    In a perfect world, Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, and possibly new players would compete equally for great writing and sales. Unfortunately, I suspect Google or Amazon will ultimately gobble up Kobo and others and become virtual monopolies, manipulating royalties and prices just as the big 5 have always done.

    However, the moment the process for avoiding sideloading emerges, all bets are off. Direct sales will make middlemen less relevant, as we develop our own reader bases and indies work together to promote.

    • Bryan

      I know folks who are in the works on the sideloading problem, but it isn’t perfect. The day is approaching…

      • A D Davies

        It would be easier if we didn’t need to add an email address to the permitted senders on Kindle, but of course that would let in all sorts of spam. Meanwhile, if you add your own email address, you can send anything. Someone emails you their mobi file, you just forward the email to your kindle address, and it’s there. Perhaps working on that principle, someone could develop a macro that allows one-click emailing?

        • Bryan

          Maybe an app like Zapier that deals with automation.

  • A D Davies

    My heart says Kobo because they’re just so nice, but my head says iBooks due to the proliferation of Apple devices. The other wonderful thing about Kobo is that they are in more countries than either Amazon or Apple, but their penetration doesn’t feel quite so deep. Perhaps Kobo needs a marketing push on apps that can make purchases for lower-end mobiles. With Pothi in India and eSentral across SE Asia, it shows there’s a market out there.

    • Bryan

      But what does your stomach tell you? 🙂

      I’d be interested to see what would happen if Kobo was able to push those kinds of apps.

      • A D Davies

        My stomach tells me it’s breakfast time 😉

  • Marie M.

    In answer to the question I would like to see Kobo become #2. They have a more international perspective versus the American centric Apple. Bookselling is how Amazon got started and I think the #2 company should also be book centric. Apple is really about selling devices. We really need a company that is focused on the author and reader experience and I think Kobo has that.
    In answer to Jim’s question about Amazon co-opting the Mahogany Desk from traditional publishing. That has always been Bezos’s aim. He said it early on that he was out not to disrupt the publishing industry but to destroy it. That he would be the sole publishing outlet for the world. His aim is to become a monopoly. In Europe, there is the same kind of push back against Amazon that Wal Mart has experienced. The ugly American interloper coming in and not respecting the traditions of the old world.
    I think Europeans are very forward thinking in their adoption of technology and scientific/medical advancements but they also tend to draw line with technology when it comes to its encroachment on family life and interpersonal interaction. No falling into water features because you are too busy looking at your smart phone and not paying attention to the world around you.

    • Bryan

      Great points, Marie.

  • avenutolo

    Which non-Amazon ebook retailer would you like to see at #2 in the market and why? IBooks … Why? Because everyone has an iphone in their pocket or iPad on their nightstand… ANTHONY VENUTOLO

    • Bryan

      Great point, Anthony. I know I do. In fact, we own both!

  • Patrick Stemp

    I’d love to see Kobo be # 2, but they have a LONG way to go. Their prices are usually higher when I comparison shop against Amazon, and the overall shopping and reading experience isn’t quite there yet. I know they’re working on it though. I’d love for them to focus more on the apps and pricing, and less on hardware that frankly, nobody really needs with the proliferation of phones and tablets. Love my e-reader, but haven’t touched it much since my phone screen got bigger.

    • Bryan

      We’ll have to see if Kobo can’t gain some ground with its new promotions.

  • Thomas Diehl

    I’d love to see Tolino get in that position outside of Germany. It’s a common platform created and used by several online bookstores. The stores are still in competition to each other (note that in Germany, there is no price competition with books, though), but they managed to create a common platform with a coresponding line of reading devices.

    • Bryan

      Tolino! D2D offers distribution. I really need to give that a shot.

      • Thomas Diehl

        Oh, missed that when they introduced it. Nice to have an easier way to get my English language titles to customers over here outside Amazon.
        However, while I do wish Tolino to expand, so far it’s mostly German (with some share in Austria and the Netherlands), but is rivaling Amazon in market share locally. Still, many readers, especially of fiction, do look for an option to read the originals of English works, and Tolino does have the advantage of presence in brick-and-mortar stores. On the other hand, their user base is biased in favour of traditionally published books because of that connection.

        • Bryan

          Understood. Thanks for offering the European insider info :).

  • I have an off-the-wall answer, I guess, but I’d love to see Smashwords become number two. I know it’s not very likely, but they’re the ones who seem to prize indies the most.

    The things standing in their way are their poorly designed website and the difficulty of sideloading books. If they fixed those, you could have a website that was by indie authors for indie authors.

    However, with that said, I really want anyone but Amazon to start to take off. We’re heading into a monopoly situation. I’ve already seen readers saying, “I want to read this, but it’s not on KU, so forget it.” It’s not widespread yet, but I can see it being KU or nothing soon.

    • Bryan

      You’ve really seen readers say that? Not good.

      • Unfortunately so. From a reader’s perspective, KU makes a lot of sense. I’ve told people at my day job about it and they said it sounded great (Like Spotify for books)

  • I think Apple has the best chance of chipping away at that nasty 75% Amazon currently has. From what I understand, there are more ibooks than kindles in the globe, and ibook readers are willing to pay more for a digital book than the Amazon counterpart. Sounds like a win-win to me!

    All that being said, I’m a sucker for the underdogs who are showing true passion for their readers and authors alike. Keep it chugging, Kobo and Smashwords!

    • Bryan

      Don’t forget Draft2Digital :).

  • Sandy Williams

    Random Comment/Confession: I haven’t reviewed or rated the show. It’s because I listen on Downcast, not iTunes, and I’m pretty sure Downcast doesn’t have a way to rate or review shows. Maybe others listen via different apps, too, and that’s why they haven’t ranked or reviewed the show either? I might try to migrate all my podcasts over to iTunes. Then it’ll be easier and more natural to rank and review. But it’s so hard to break the Downcast habit! 🙂

    • Bryan

      Blasphemy! It’s ok, Sandy. If you want to rate the show on iTunes, you can do it without listening there. Just so you know :).

  • I wonder if google could come up with an ereader that’s cooler than a kindle – then they might decide to sell books in a more interesting way. Don’t forget Microsoft – the new surface products are making waves.

    All the big operators want to own all our content – they want our photos, our music, our email – sooner or later they’ll all be fighting over each other to get their hands on our ebooks as well.

    • Bryan

      I wonder if they care enough to do so with the ereader market on the decline… Thanks for the input, Mikey!

  • Chris Shumate

    I meant to comment on this the week of, but other than Kobo, I’d love to see “Jazzy Jim’s Go Direct” as the #2 ebook retailer.

    • Bryan

      Haha. JJGD!

  • Craig A. Price Jr.

    I’d love to see Kobo be the #1. And Amazon be #2. Kobo puts a lot of work and energy into its authors and readers. They really care about the authors and readers, and they’re doing the best, and smartest business decisions. The Koba Aura One? All the markets they’ve picked up? Their easy interface? The built in marketing on their dashboard where it doesn’t cost you, just takes away a little percent during the week? The easy use of the app compared to the kindle app? I really want to see Kobo blast to the top. They’re treating authors and readers right.

    • Bryan

      Go, Kobo, Go!