40 Million Germans speak English fluently. Germany is the second biggest market for sales of American books in print and the third biggest market for sales of American ebooks. Many successful German writers take English-sounding author names, especially in the romance, history novel and fantasy sections. Genre fiction is a winner: romance, erotica, crime, and non-fiction self-help and how-tos are in high demand. Love stories set in the British countryside seem to be much more appealing to readers when they are set in the English environment.
There’s no capital for the German-speaking publishing market like Paris for French-speaking Europe, or London for the UK. There are major publishers in Munich, Frankfurt, Cologne, Hamburg, Berlin and Zürich. The two major book fairs in Leipzig and Frankfurt have recognized the potential of self publishing and invite independent authors to discussion threads and events.
The German book market is regulated by “Buchpreisbindung”, which means “fixed book price law”. This states that a book cannot be priced differently on different platforms. The fact that retailers cannot freely determine the price for books – and that pricing is not linked to consumer demand or production costs – is designed to support small local bookstores. Without Buchpreisbindung big online retailers could offer discounts on most books and local stores would lose customers. Publishers and authors can set the price for a title as high or low as they like.
An interesting development is the the Tolino ereader. In 2013 three of the big players in the book market, Thalia, Weltbild (with Hugendubel) and Bertelsmann Buchclub and Deutsche Telekom (ie, all the important bookstore chains) formed an alliance against Amazon by creating their own ereader – the Tolino. This is competing well with 40% market share of ebooks, as it’s seen as a homegrown product.
Swiss, Austrians and Germans, like most of Europe, prefer print books. It accounts for over 90% of book sales. Fewer than 40% of trade publishers offer e-versions of their publications. However, the overall market share for ebooks doubled in 2014 (10%). While the German-speaking market is behind the US and the UK, it is growing fast.
The indie author scene is growing. Amazon.de’s ebook bestseller list reveals that 50 % to 80% of the top 10 ebooks are self-published titles.
… in the longer run, the ebook share will rise gradually and take years, but in the end it will be the predominant form to publish a book. The first signs of that are the massive growth in self-publishing. That very quickly goes e-only. We are also seeing publishing moving in that direction as well, by creating self-publishing platforms.
– Ronald Schild, CEO of MVB
Indie authors gravitate towards each other and are good at sharing. The German hub, in German and English, is Der Self-Publisher Bibel, run by Matthias Matting. Austria’s Rüdiger Wischenbart is an expert on e-publishing and has compiled comprehensive data on the global perspective. And in Switzerland, The Woolf has created a community of writers, publishers and artists who pool skills and intelligence.
If you’re looking to expand in Germany/Switzerland/Austria, here are some key sites which also have English versions:
And key books to read:
Going Global by Birgit Kluger
How to Publish in Germany by Matthias Matting