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Is Self-Publishing In Germany The Next Opportunity? Lessons From Frankfurt BookFair And The ALLi Translations Rights Program: AskALLi Advanced Self-Publishing Salon With Orna Ross And Joanna Penn

Is Self-Publishing in Germany the Next Opportunity? Lessons from Frankfurt BookFair and the ALLi Translations Rights Program: AskALLi Advanced Self-Publishing Salon with Orna Ross and Joanna Penn

Should you consider self-publishing in Germany? As Amazon opens its ads dashboard in the UK and Germany, and a number of the authors on the ALLi Indie Author Translation Rights project turn their attention there, Orna and Joanna consider the options for indie authors around the world who’d like to reach the 29.1 million ebook readers in Germany, in English or in translation.

Joanna reports from Frankfurt Book Fair and Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith’s Business Masterclass in Vegas, and Orna will have news from ALLi’s indie author rights translation program.

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The Advanced Self-Publishing salon is brought to you by Specialist Sponsor Ingram Spark. IngramSpark is the award-winning indie publishing platform that offers authors like you a way to publish your book and share it with over 39,000 bookstores and libraries worldwide.

Here are some highlights:

Orna, on the German Market

“There is a fantastic book culture in Germany and a fantastic support for indie bookstores. And the print book is almost a revered object in Frankfurt, and in other German cities.”

Joanna on Translation Ecosystem

There is no ecosystem right now for indie translation, like, I have a page on my website. The Alliance has list of editors, we have lists of book cover designers, we have Reedsy, we have a whole ecosystem in the English language of freelancers who work with indies and who know what that means. Now, what I think is missing in this environment is an ecosystem of translators who are happy to work with indies.

If you haven’t already, we invite you to join our organization and become a self-publishing ally. You can do that at http://allianceindependentauthors.org.

Listen to the Podcast: Self-Publishing in Germany

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Show Notes

Should you consider self-publishing in Germany? @OrnaRoss and @thecreativepenn have answers on the #AskALLi Advanced Self-Publishing #podcast Click To Tweet

About the Hosts

Joanna Penn is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling thriller author, as well as writing non-fiction for authors. She is also a professional speaker and entrepreneur, voted as one of The Guardian UK Top 100 creative professionals 2013. She spent 13 years as a business IT consultant in large corporations across the globe before becoming a full-time author-entrepreneur in September 2011. For more information about Joanna, visit her website: http://thecreativepenn.com

Orna Ross launched the Alliance of Independent Authors at the London Book Fair in 2012. Her work for ALLi has seen her named as one of The Bookseller’s “100 top people in publishing”. She also publishes poetry, fiction and nonfiction, and is greatly excited by the democratising, empowering potential of author-publishing. For more information about Orna, visit her website: http://www.ornaross.com

Read the Transcript

Joanna Penn: Hello everybody, and welcome to the Alliance of Independent Authors Advanced Self Publishing Salon with me, Joanna Penn and Orna Ross. Hi, Orna.

Orna Ross: Hi, Joanna. And hello, everyone.

Joanna Penn: And we have an exciting session for you this evening. We’re talking about “Is Germany the next self publishing opportunity? Lessons from Frankfurt Book Fair” and also the Alliance Translations Rights Program. So we’ve got lots to talk about this evening as ever, but of course, we are writers and we are always busy writing and in fact, I just started Nanowrimo today. And I’m like four days late, but I’ve got like three and a half thousand words. So it’s a good start.

Orna Ross: The nano police will forgive you.

Joanna Penn: Oh, yeah, it’s actually, as long as it’s done by the end of the month. But Orna, give us an update on your writing and also what’s happening with the Alliance?

Orna Ross: At the Alliance we’re concentrating at the moment on a new series of guidebooks for particularly the associate and author members and so we’ve just put two to bed now, gone to press. One on how to get your book into libraries, which is a big sort of opportunity for Indies at the moment, discoverability opportunity, and in some cases, particularly in the US, actually a paid opportunity, because trade publishers are in a standoff situation with libraries to a large extent in the US. So indies are getting in there and this guide is all about how to do that and also a guide to getting more reviews and how to do that and how to think about that while you’re writing your book, how to set yourself up for that.

Joanna Penn: They sound brilliant. Can I just say on libraries, I’m making money from US libraries through Findaway Voices because they have pay-per-checkout model on audio. So instead of libraries having to pay outright for your book, and it might cost them like $20=$30. They can pay a micro payment per checkout. And, you know, that really adds up. And of course, when you’re marketing, you can say, “Hey, you can get my book for free. Just go to your library and request it in the catalog.”

Orna Ross: It’s great for all sorts. Yeah, absolutely. And there are services that weren’t paying before, like Selfie, which are now beginning to move towards a payment model as well. So, I mean, you’re not going to get rich on your library payments. But libraries are fantastic for discoverability, readers love them, and so on. So the other thing that we’ve been kind of concentrating on this month is a special edition of The Indie Author, our member magazine, which is quarterly, and we’re doing a special edition all about how to make the most of your membership.

We’re aware that a lot of our members are not using all the various, you know, benefits that are available to them. They don’t have to, but we want to make sure that everybody knows what’s there. And, you know, we’re more than a Facebook group. And there’s lots of things going on. So this will be sort of a special edition, an evergreen edition, if you like, that will always be available to members will talk to them about the different kinds of levels of membership and how to make sure that you making the most of it.

Joanna Penn: That sounds good. And of course, one of our brilliant benefits is the IngramSpark codes, which I’ve been using to get people into the Alliance now for ages, which is basically you get your code so it’s free to put your books up on IngramSpark. So that’s pretty exciting.

Orna Ross: And all your revisions as well. We are the only, I mean, Ingram does a lot of codes for a lot of different groups, but we’re one of only two groups that actually get the revision code as well. So your Ingramspark books essentially don’t have to cost you a penny and of course, Ingramspark is our sponsor for this show. And which isn’t really why we set it up but they are great and not having to pay makes them even greater.

Joanna Penn: Yes! It’s your content. Do more with it. That’s what we say with Ingram Spark.

Orna Ross: Indeed.

Joanna Penn: Anything else that you want to say around the rights programming? Last month we talked a lot about rights, and that you’ve got this ongoing program.

Orna Ross: Yes. So I’ll talk a little bit about that, you know, as we get into talking more about Germany but we are running a translation program with six authors who are going to spend six months trying to set themselves up to sell their translation rights, not just German, but various rights. Some of them have already sold rights before some of them are also rights, well, one of them, Michael Anderle, is also a rights buyer. But we also have on the panel and Ethan Ellenberg, a literary agent and John from PubMatch.

So the panel is kind of talking all around the issues of translation rights and these indie authors are going to kind of be our case studies across various genres about how easy is it, you know, how possible is it? Is it worth all the effort? What do they think? Can they get a meeting setup at London? How do they pitch? How do they negotiate when the time comes? All of that, we will be covering it all over these coming months. And it’s really interesting, I think we’re all learning from it, both the panel and the authors. So these are public videos, and the first two are up on our self publishing advice center. So it’s selfpublishingadvice.org/indierights.

Joanna Penn: That sounds good.

Orna Ross: So have a look at those there if you’re interested.

Joanna Penn: I’m interested and in fact, as I showed you last time, I do have How Authors Sell Publishing Rights by Orna Ross and Helen Sedgwick, one of the ALLi handbooks. I think there might be another edition of that coming after you’ve finished.

Orna Ross: Exactly, that’s very much what this is about, you know, that book was written I think 2014, 2015-

Joanna Penn: A couple of years ago now.

Orna Ross: Yeah, it’s definitely due an update. Rights area is slow to move. It operates in a very particular way and it’s not something that’s kind of skipping ahead like other parts of indie publishing but, as ever, there are changes and we’ve learned more in ALLi about how authors sell publishing rights in those years because more and more authors are actually succeeding in doing that.

Joanna Penn: Fantastic and what about you personally, because as ever, we need to keep our personal creativity going around all these business things?

Orna Ross: Yeah, I published another collection of poetry called Allowing Now and that’s kind of hot on the heels of another collection. So I did these two selected inspirational poetry, if you like, similar kinds of poems. I handled the marketing in very similar kinds of ways and kind of came to the conclusion, it proved something that I thought would be true, which is that themed poetry collections sell much better. So you know, even allowing for the fact that Allowing Now is the second book in the series, not the first.

So you would expect that there will be some more sales, there are almost at this point, and it’s only out a week and a half or something, there’s already almost three times as much. So I think themes for poetry is something that really does make a difference. So rather than just, you know, traditionally, poetry books, it’s just when you have enough for a collection, and you put a collection together or else you put a themed collection together. So I think if you can theme it, you should.

Joanna Penn: That is a great tip. And in fact, I do have poetry books by various poets, yourself included, but I do have more poetry books in themes.

Orna Ross: Yes.

Joanna Penn: So, you know, when I think about when I buy poetry, you know, you might be browsing the section and you’re like, “Oh, look that’s on something I’m feeling right now,” you know. And you’ve got a love collection, haven’t you?

Orna Ross: Yeah, I’m going to be hitting that one bigger because I had a small one. So I’m going to actually do a bigger one for Valentine’s Day, and I’m going to do one on mothers and you know- I don’t know if I’ll get around to fathers but yeah, exactly. I have a Christmas one and I’m gonna go upgrade that. And what it’s doing is actually making me write more as well.

Because if you know you have a theme collection, and you’ve got X amount poems for it, well, then suddenly ideas start coming again. “Oh, I want to write, you know, I need to fill up that collection so I can get it out,” basically. So, yeah, good creatively, as well as commercially.

Joanna Penn: And Fathers. Christmas! Yeah, that’s really good. And we should also say, Orna is sounding so relaxed because she’s on retreat right now and we are… That’s right you do sound really relaxed, you’re like, “Yeah, dude, whatever.”

Orna Ross: Do I? That’s really funny. I thought it was because I was done my poetry.

Joanna Penn: In general, I am not relaxed. In fact, you know, my husband says I have full speed or I crash. And basically I had full speed in Frankfurt, Frankfurt Book Fair. And then Vegas. I was in Las Vegas for the business master class and then I spent about 10 days being ill. And now I’ve just about returned to my full strength. I’m about 95%, which, you know, makes me mildly hyper. So I’ve got so much to do. I have, I kid you not about 45 A4 pages of typed notes from the last three weeks. And I thought I was going to try and parse them into something coherent. But I’ve decided it’s just too much and I’m just going to wait for my brain to think about things because some of them are very big things. Some of them are very specific. But I’m going to just let it breathe for a bit and, you know, December for me is never a great month productivity wise, so I’m just going to let it percolate.

Orna Ross: That’s a good plan. And also, as part of that plan, make a memo to self never to do two at once in future.

Joanna Penn: Yes. And it’s just the timing of these things, isn’t it? I mean.

Orna Ross: Well, that’s true. Yeah. It’s things you want to go to. Yeah, of course.

Joanna Penn: And as I said, I’m doing NanoWriMo for Map of the Impossible and I’m going to be using the secret weapon of dictation to get words down. It’s obviously easier to write the third book in a series because you have characters, you have the world and some ideas on plot. So it’s good that the timing works. I haven’t done nano since 2014 because the timing hasn’t worked, so I’m happy to do it this month. And if people listening are doing Nano then happy writing. And if you don’t know it’s National Novel Writing Month that people do every November, if you’re on Twitter or Instagram, look for #nanowrimo, and you’ll find lots of people writing. It’s a great time to make author friends who are writing as well.

Orna Ross: Fantastic.

Joanna Penn: Yeah. Okay. So the other thing that is happening is that I have three books coming out in German next week. They are three nonfiction books. So what we’re going to do now is get into the main part of the show, when we’re talking about Germany as the next self-publishing opportunity. So I’ve got some stuff that I want to talk about, but Orna, let’s start with you. What are some of your thoughts around the German market and translation things?

Orna Ross: Yeah, I mean, I’ll talk generally I think for today’s show, But really, you are the person who has, you went out there, what is it three years ago now, four years ago, with German, you’re going out again in quite a different way. So I think, you know, we will be picking your brains and your experiences and seeing what you’ve been doing as as the case study here, but just some general thoughts. I’ve been speaking to some of the translation associations.

A couple of us here on the team are trying to find translators who are happy and willing to work with AI and consistently we’re getting sort of response that it’s nearly more difficult to work with something that’s half done and than it is to work from scratch. Now, I talked to you about your experience of that and I know that wasn’t yours. But it’s, in short, it’s proving difficult to find translators, I think, who are ready to think about that particular aspect of translation.

There are a couple of people who specialize specifically in translating into German whom you might be interested in contacting. And there were two indie translators that I met at LBF last year and they have got together and they’re specializing in working with authors. So you’d find them at an indie-translations.com and looked at a number of sources for, you know, where can you actually find somebody who will translate your book into German. It’s not that easy going this way. If you’re coming out of German, there’s a huge support network in Germany and in German publishing that will support you for that and lots of awards and grants and things but the other way around, not so much.

So one of the best marketplaces I think, is translatorsbase.com. And they seem to be using a much more sort of up to date model that we will be used to in looking at all the marketplaces where you go on and you kind of key in what you’re looking for, post your project, explain, you know, exactly what you’re looking for, and then get quotes from people. And again, it’s in various languages. It’s not just in German. And I did mention grants there and I think, you know, in traditional publishing a huge amount of translation work happens through the grant system.

In other words, lots and lots of books that are translated, I mean, the vast majority of them would never see the light of day if it wasn’t for the grant to help the, usually indie, publishing house along with that. So funding bodies that we’re talking here about the more literary end of the spectrum, literary fiction, poetry, literary nonfiction, memoir, autobiography, biography, that kind of stuff, history and there is, it’s a long address but all of it will be in the show notes, there is an agency, which has kind of drawn together all the various translation grants that are available around the place. And they are called Two Seas Agency. But as I said, the address will be in the show notes.

My comment overall would be we are in the infancy of this idea that authors are actually going to pay for a translation and that’s why I’m so interested to hear you talking about your actual experience. So, I mean, firstly, what has changed since you went there last time.

Joanna Penn: Yes, I first self published in Germany in 2014. So those people who might have been around in the indie space back then, it feels like a long time ago, there was an author called Tina Folsom. I’m sure there still is an author called Tina Folsom who basically is German and was writing her books in German and you know, American English and publishing at the same time in both, and there’s certainly been romance authors, indie authors in Germany for a while, but I did Stone of Fire, which is the first in my Arcane series and also Desecration. I did both of those.

I translated with translators who did split royalty deals, so they really did put their faith in me and then one of those, I self published Stone of Fire, which at the time was Pentecost and Desecration actually got picked up for a digital only book deal by a German publisher Ullstein-Midnight and Ullstein is a, you know, pretty significant German publisher and this was one of their digital crime imprints. It was interesting because I had a kind of split test of an indie book against a traditionally published book. And I gotta say neither of them sold very many copies at all. I mean, it was dire, it was seriously dire. And I didn’t know how to market.

This was 2014. This is kind of before even Facebook ads, of course, I didn’t speak German. There were no Amazon ads at the time. You know, it was early days in general. And of course, me being gung ho and always trying to be at the forefront of things thought, “Oh, I’ll manage this.” But no, and in fact, even though Ullstein-Midnight are still going. But it was early days in German digital and I think this is what has changed. So because I was burned and essentially I ended up paying out my translators. I also did at the time Italian, Spanish and I ended up paying my translators because I felt so guilty that they had spent their time helping me and didn’t make the money that we thought would happen.

And this is a great tip. Like, if you came to me with one book first in series in English and said, “Why is my book not selling?” I would say “Go write some more books in the series.” So you can see the first thing I did wrong is that I should never have done two different, you know, the first book in two different series, I should have done three books in the same series. And then there may have been a chance to to make some money. This is also before KDP select. So that’s another thing, before you had those opportunities. So what changed this year, so I was burnt pretty badly because of that. It cost me quite a lot of money.

But this year, what happened in May around me when I do my annual report of my book sales, I literally only look at it once a year, 7% of my book sales income was from Germany and these are books in English and these are mainly nonfiction, a lot of them in print. So what I saw there is actually there’s been a change in the market in terms of the reader and the author environment in that people, and of course, my nonfiction is for authors, it demonstrates that I have an audience in Germany for books in English.

So what if I had some books in German? So essentially, what I did was I took the top three best selling nonfiction books, and those are the ones I targeted for translation. So that would be the first thing is that what’s happening is that there has suddenly, I think, been a shift in reader behavior to buying digital and that includes print in digital, and also authors are definitely more empowered and that is demonstrated in them buying my books. Romance and fantasy, particularly, I saw at Frankfurt, leading the charge as they do, like 2012 in the USA, 2015 in the UK, and now 2019.

Now I wasn’t there last year, apparently last year 2018 in Frankfurt was also pretty cool. But certainly romance and fantasy authors tend to lead the way when it comes to digital sales and once they take over the world, and the rest of us falling behind, so that that’s kind of what I think has changed.

Orna Ross: Yeah, and I think that aligns with what people are seeing generally. So tell us a bit about how you did the nonfiction translation. So we talked, we had a show a couple of months ago about AI and its uses in in for Indies, in terms of publishing, so you used a DeepL, I think, for your nonfiction translations. Did you have the issue that I was talking about, was it difficult to find somebody who was happy to work with that?

Joanna Penn: Right? So yes, DeepL.com, first of all, let’s just mentioned what it is, essentially, they do, I think, about nine languages. They are a German company, so they do AI translation, and you get a free 30 days anyway. So I really think it’s worth going to check out because if you upload a manuscript, like I did, like, say, 50,000 words, it will be translated into one of these languages under a minute. So that in itself is quite shocking. And I think it’s really worth seeing. And if you are bilingual or you read in another language, it’s worth having a look because from what I have talked to authors who have a kind of open mind about this, is they think it’s kind of possible. It’s like, “Oh, this actually is possible.”

And what we’re seeing with AI translation is it’s literally getting better. It is literally getting better every day because the more data they have, the better it gets. Now what is very interesting about DeepL first draft translation, and this in itself is a reason to do it, from, and again, we’re talking about being a rights holder here. We write our books and we own the copyright and it’s our intellectual property. What happens if you have a translator in Germany is the intellectual property for the translation basically belongs to the translator.

So unless you get a contract assigning those rights, you know, that stays there. But what happens with DeepL, I read the Terms and Conditions is that because it’s the first draft, it belongs to you, you keep the copyright. So in itself, as a rights holder, and people can debate this on any kind of level. What they want but when you own the IP, your job is to protect the IP and yes, license the IP and exploit it but protecting it and not letting it out of your hands as much as possible is kind of the point. So then because I obviously have a podcast I put out on the podcast, I said “I’m doing this. Do I have any translators or any people who can help me in the audience?”

And that was how I got my editor and so I had two editors in the end who one who did two of the books and another one who did one of the books and we also, one of the biggest questions was around voice because I have obviously quite a conversational tone in my nonfiction, but the DeepL does “sie” and “du” which are you, like we only have YOU in English but German has “sie” and “du” and du is this kind of more casual you and the translation kind of mixed them up. So that was the biggest decision.

Once we had that and we went with “du” so it’s very informal, very self help-y. We were able to do the documents quite quickly and also much more cheaply. So, after I got quotes from a number of providers, I’m still getting quotes for different books. It’s about a third, I would say, somewhere between a quarter and a third of the price basically and this is for non-fiction.

Orna Ross: I was just gonna say that, yeah, that’s the important point, isn’t it? You haven’t gone there with your fiction yet in this way.

Joanna Penn: I don’t even know if I will, we’ll come to this.

Orna Ross: Right. Okay.

Joanna Penn: But basically, these are all, I think, good reasons to give it a go. I would say the three books I’m doing, they’re all 30,000 words each so they are short. Then after the editing, and we also, they needed adapting. So I basically got a virtual assistant/editor/translator because they have to know English, they have to know Indie, they have to be, you know, they have to know the market, who added in German-specific information, so what you would call localization for the market. I have learned this is the terminology.

Orna Ross: And that was a different person to your translator, your translator didn’t do that?

Joanna Penn: No, it was the same person. So we had one kind of overarching VA/translator/editor/wonderful person who has gone on maternity leave so I can’t give you her name whoever is asking.

Orna Ross: Me. No, I’m just curious, really.

Joanna Penn: Well, I have told her when she comes back I’m sure there’ll be lots of work so I’ll share her-

Orna Ross: She’ll be inundated.

Joanna Penn: Yeah, exactly. I said I get first dibs but I’m happy to share once she is available. And so then after that, I used beta readers. So I had about 10 beta readers in my community who got the first draft, because, and this is the thing, right? This is a psychological issue, which is I thought I would have more control by self publishing, because that’s part of why we do this, right? But it turns out if you can’t read the language, you don’t know the language it feels like you’re out of control. Because I, you know, I just, I don’t know.

Orna Ross: You are. Yeah, you are. Yeah, really? Yes. Yeah. Interesting.

Joanna Penn: Yeah. So basically, I would say, overall, I’m really happy. I’ve done the three. But I know, it’s funny. I’m still on the fence. You know me, I try things and then I feel like it’s loads of work. It felt like way too much work. I mean, it was going backwards and forwards and backwards and forwards. And the thing is, like, even with the print proofing, so I’ve got one here, you know, in front of me, I’m looking at the print proof. I don’t know whether it’s right or not, because it’s not my language.

So I’ve had to order print proofs to be sent to some of the beta readers in order for them to check it, but their checking is not my checking. And in English, I can just fix stuff and re upload it. But in German, it’s very difficult. So I would say, if you’re going to do this, people listening, you really do need to commit some time. But also, you know, you have to have a close relationship with trusted people who are going to do these tasks for you. It’s not just translate, upload, you know, there’s all the publishing aspects and we haven’t even talked about marketing yet.

Orna Ross: Okay, so I mean, so far, so I realize you’re very close to the actual process, but do you think it was worth it? Or you don’t know until you see it yourself?

Joanna Penn: Yeah, I certainly I don’t know until I see what, you know, what I sell-

Orna Ross: What comes back.

Joanna Penn: But I think it’s a good idea right now, but I don’t know if I’m going to do any more. That’s probably what I would say.

Orna Ross: Okay, well, let’s see. Now, interesting, very interesting. You’re going with KDP select and you are, you know, in the poster child for publishing wide. So interesting choice here and ACX exclusive for audio. So talk to us about why you made those decisions. I found that very interesting.

Joanna Penn: Yes. So I think this is a case of, it’s obviously the language thing, right? Because I have a podcast. Podcasting is book marketing in many ways. And so I can market in English and I can market to people all over the world. And they should be able to find my book in whatever store they use in whatever country they are in. So I’m absolutely wide for English language. However, for German I can’t do the marketing that I do, content marketing, blogging, podcasting, social media, none of that is relevant because I’m not doing that.

So if it comes down to what is available for us to do marketing-wise, that you don’t need to know the language for. I mean, there literally are a couple of things which are KDP select allows your five days free. And in Germany, there are some of the, you know, Bookbub style free email list thing so you can get some movement and you can get some reviews. And this is the advice that I still give for people who have up to three books, you know, in English, which is it’s, it’s much easier to start in a market if you just use Amazon.

And then also, what happened a couple of weeks ago is Amazon ads opened up to the German store on our KDP dashboard. So you don’t need to do anything except login to KDP. Go to your marketing tab and you know the button on the book and you can set up ads for Germany. So Dave Chesson at Publisher Rocket has a German keyword version coming out of which I’ve had an early look. So essentially, I’ll be doing KDP select plus free days plus Amazon ads using German keywords. And that will be my core marketing.

And as for ACX, I’m only doing one book, which is the most evergreen book, Successful Author Mindset. And ACX is a, I’m going to pay up front so it won’t be a royalty share, I’ll pay up front. And if you pay up front on ACX, even though you’ve signed for seven years, you can get out of it in one year’s time. So and also what they’ve done with codes now, promotion codes on ACX is they’ve made it so you only get promotional codes if you’re exclusive.

They’ve obviously done this for, you know, the wide reason. So basically, I’m doing these things strategically. I don’t know whether I will stay with these things or whether I will go wide later on as other marketing opportunities arise. But realistically, the Tolino is the other ereader in Germany, and I spoke to a lot of indies at Frankfurt Book Fair and they said it’s much harder to market on the tolino. So those are those are some of my reasons and happy to be shot down.

Orna Ross: Sure, I mean, always, I know you operate in the spirit of sort of experiment and explore, keep what works, dump what doesn’t, move on kind of thing. It’s the creative kind of approach to publishing. And I think that’s the only way we find our groove, whether it’s in translation or in English or whatever, just a word or two about tolino for those who are not familiar with it, and so it’s kind of the German e reader. And it has about 45% of the market share in Germany. Kindle has about 39% by comparison, so ebook market share in Germany generally has been slow to take off. I mean, people were back when you started in 2014, everybody was saying Germany is going to be the next market. And you know, watch this space kind of thing. So here we are, four or five years later, and it’s actually beginning to happen. There is a fantastic book culture in Germany and a fantastic support for indie bookstores. And the print book is almost a revered object in Frankfurt, and in other German cities, and there has been a lot of debate about the, you know, the print versus ebook stuff that everybody in the UK and US has kind of dropped and long forgotten that it’s beginning to kind of drop away now I think. Yeah, and audio books?

Joanna Penn: Yes. I thought “Why not give it a go? and put it up on ACX. So they don’t have ACX in Germany yet, and the audiobook culture is certainly growing. But I have had an audition. So I’m planning to do an audio book, but as I said, be exclusive for at least one year and then see what happens. But I do have, I’ve got some podcasters I met at Frankfurt, so i’ll be doing some podcast interviews, but again, it will be in English. So I’m not sure how useful that is.

But also, I’ll be using some of those email lists. So basically, it’s very interesting, because of course, the marketing is going to be very basic. And so it’s essentially what those people just starting in English would be doing, which is, you know, putting an ebook and a print book on Amazon and doing some KDP selects and maybe some auto ads.

Orna Ross: And it’s like back to beginners again, which is not a bad thing, you know, the whole beginner’s mind thing where you have to rethink, I mean, I’m sure it helps in terms of thinking about, you know, core things. What are, you know, what can you do? What should you do entirely? So, what are your thoughts going forward? Do you think we’re still a bit early here, your our canary down the mine? Are you still too early?

Joanna Penn: I think I’m always too early. But it is interesting. I would just say what you just said about beginner’s mind. You’re right. I mean, I’m very fresh on this. I mean, I literally just uploaded the last print copies today, you know, and published them and so maybe the frustration I’m feeling is exactly what people feel when they start publishing indie and I’m so used to doing it in English and so used to being in control, and I know what I’m doing and I know what all the words are and all of that, but it’s, yeah, literally is a different language. And I know people feel that when they come in to indie, they’re like, “What are all these things you’re talking about?”

Orna Ross: I remember that very well.

Joanna Penn: So if you are somebody listening and you’re new in the game, I mean this is definitely well advanced but if you’re feeling frustration publishing your first book in English, I empathize. Okay, so my thoughts going forward – this is hard right now and I would say practically impossible if you don’t have a network and I have a network because of the podcast and you know, relationships.

Someone like Mark Dawson who is doing translation for his thrillers, you know, has the money to pay for, you know, translations the more traditional route, but there is no ecosystem right now for indie translation, like, I have a page on my website. The Alliance has list of editors, we have lists of book cover designers, we have Reedsy, we have a whole ecosystem in the English language of freelancers who work with indies and who know what that means.

Now, what I think is missing in this environment is an ecosystem of translators who are happy to work with Indies, but also who are really interested in DeepL or any other AI translation, because as I said, it’s getting better every single day. And there is no way that is not going to have a massive upheaval on the language market. Absolutely no way. Even if it’s just the whole of the non fiction space, that’s pretty significant.

Orna Ross: I agree. I think it will go further. I think it will, you know, fiction and even poetry will also, it will have its place. I mean, that what you said about the copyright in various countries, that alone is reason enough for indies to be doing it but problem with the translation space is that I think there is that sense of it being a threat. So it’s a bit like when ebooks came and you know, traditional publishing was against ebooks until they had to embrace them. I think we’re probably seeing something like that. So that a lot of the translators I spoke to said, you know, no way AI doesn’t, won’t, never will, the end, you know, they don’t want to to work with it. They want to do things as they’ve done it.

Joanna Penn: Well, this is the thing, I met a, and I’m not going to share his details anywhere, but I met a translator who said to me, “Why are you talking about what you’re doing in public? I don’t want them to know what my business model is.” So there are people doing this. Because if you’re a translator, why wouldn’t you use tools to make your first draft quicker?

Orna Ross: I’m sure they do.

Joanna Penn: Exactly

Orna Ross: Like editors do.

Joanna Penn: Yes. Editors have software.

Orna Ross: Yes. We all have software now. And yeah, exactly. No, absolutely. I’m sure they will come but what I’m saying is it’s not easy. It’s not easy to find someone right now.

Joanna Penn: Oh, no, and this is why this is a difficult thing to do. And I think fiction is more expensive, obviously longer. I might do How to Write Nonfiction. But it’s going to be more expensive because it’s a longer book. So and then yeah, we’ll see. I might reinvest my money if I make any in that. So yeah. The other thing I think, is that in the AI, I know I often come up with predictions early. But I think we are moving, let’s even say if it’s 10 years in the future we have some kind of Google lens.

If people don’t know Google lens, on your smartphone, you can hold Google camera up to a foreign language sign, for example, or a menu or something and it will translate, like, there. And so that type of thing potentially coming in five to 10 years time are we in this window of spending too much, like, I feel like we are with audio as well, the price on audio production is going to come down or has come down dramatically from when it was in studios with loads of equipment, video, I mean, look at the cost of producing a lot of these materials.

Look, we’re doing a radio show for free. I mean, so I wonder if we’re in a window before a kind of ubiquitous translation. So I’m almost, part of me wants to rush into this and the other part wants to go “Nope, just wait because this will all become much, much easier.”

Orna Ross: I do think it will, but I don’t think you’ll be able to help yourself. You’re just curious and love to find out what’s going on and share that with other people as well as just see because we have seen advantages and being first, you know, and not waiting and in certain areas, you know, being first can carry competitive advantage just by being in an emptier space, a lot of the spaces you know, in the UK and US it’s quite a saturated market now, ebooks in particular. So moving into other arenas can give you that advantage just in being there, in being first.

Joanna Penn: Yeah. And what I would say if you are listening and you speak German or you are in Germany, Austria or Switzerland or any other German speaking place, then you are early. You are the vanguard of what’s happening and you can take advantage of being indie. Look at what happened in, you know, 2011-2012 is when we had some real Kindle millionaires, right. I mean, it was a boom time for many people.

Orna Ross: Yeah, all you had to do is sort of sling your book up there and off you went. Yeah, definitely.

Joanna Penn: And in fact, the rules will still apply because as you said, Germany has an incredible book market, book culture, like France, very protective of their writers, but what they also do is have high prices. And that is the very first thing that people did on Kindle was lower their prices and basically undercut traditional publishing. So if you’re in Germany or you speak German, there’s some interesting times ahead and you can take advantage of it much more than someone like me, because you speak the language. So get in there.

Orna Ross: Yes. And let us know if you are one of those people because, you know, the indie rights program, the reason we’re doing it publicly and these authors are actually sharing everything is because we want to get a big conversation going around this and we want to hear from people who are already doing it and what you know, what are you finding because, like everything indie, each person’s experience is going to be a bit different and if we can all kind of get together and share stuff and contacts. The other good idea I think is getting together. You know, somebody who writes in English, somebody writes in German, authors in the same genre who can maybe do some cross collaboration across the language in various ways. Do you know anybody doing anything like that?

Joanna Penn: I did, as we talked about this last time, and I made some moves in those directions, and pretty much came up with the decision that you very much have to like each other’s work first.

Orna Ross: Totally.

Joanna Penn: Otherwise, you are not going to want to necessarily work together. And it’s actually very hard to know that when the book is in another language.

Orna Ross: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Good point.

Joanna Penn: I would say I thought that was brilliant. I was going to do that too. But then the amount of time that’s going to take and also, as you said that, it’s very competitive in English. So if Germans want to translate into English and then get the books up in English, there’s a lot more work to be done to sell books in English than there is in German right now.

Orna Ross: Yeah, though you have a more developed. Yeah, it depends, I guess. It will be interesting still to hear if anybody is doing anything like that or any other cool things that we haven’t thought of in this arena because we want to want to see it grow. We want to see authors getting their part of this and I think there’s a bit of work to be done as well in convincing not just translators, but people, you know, rights buyers generally about author publishing still. We still have some work to do there. So yeah, this one will run and run.

Joanna Penn: Oh, yeah, definitely. And what I would say also is I have three books out in German. Successful Self Publishing, Successful Author Mindset and How to Make a Living With Your Writing. In German. I’m not even going to try and pronounce the titles. But if you search for Joanna Penn on amazon.de you will find them.

Orna Ross: And that must feel great. That must feel really good.

Joanna Penn: Yea, I mean, I do have books out in French as well, with the wonderful Cyril Godefroy. And I think it’s worth doing these things, but you also have to consider the business model around what you’re doing. So as ever, we’re creative, but we’re also business people. So thinking about the month ahead, Orna, what’s happening for you?

Orna Ross: I’m here about to go into retreat tomorrow, and I can’t remember what I’m doing when I come back. Oh, yes, I do. I’m finishing Creative Self Publishing, which is an Alliance of Independent Authors guide. So no poetry publishing this month. And so yeah, that’s the book that I hope to be completing. What about you?

Joanna Penn: Nanowrimo is basically my big focus and also trying again banking, I’m behind on my admin. So I’m kind of have to run to catch up again with all my interviews and admin and stuff. So I can then have December off. So it’s kind of, it’s all one thing or the other thing, isn’t it? But yeah, definitely.

Orna Ross

Yeah, definitely. We’re just over the VAT monster around Halloween. I need to retreat after that. Yes. So there are always these three hats that we have to wear the, you know, the manager, the marketer and the maker and we keep on juggling.

Joanna Penn: We do.

Orna Ross: Yeah. Fun times.

Joanna Penn: Alright. We will be back in early December and I think we will be sort of taking a look back at the year. And picking-

Orna Ross: Yeah, the big news stories, I think of what the biggest trends were this year, those that are likely to stay and carry on into next year.

Joanna Penn: Yeah. Fantastic. All right. Well, happy writing, everyone. Happy publishing. See you next time.

Orna Ross: Bye.

Howard Lovy

Howard Lovy is an editor and writer with more than 30 years of experience in journalism, from newspapers to magazines specializing in business, science, and technology. He has spent the past few years guiding coverage of independent publishing, amplifying voices of the marginalized. Howard is also a book doctor who enjoys working with authors to get their work ready for publication.

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  1. Orna and Joanna,

    Another interesting and highly informative podcast! This is particularly interesting to me as a trilingual author. I can’t wait for Amazon to enter the Scandinavian market when I can take advantage of Finnish and Swedish translations of my books. They are not done yet, but I am hugely inspired by you two. I am now thinking of starting with my nonfiction titles, ready for when Amazon finally launches–thank you, Joanna, for that tip!

    Helena

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