Selling Books Internationally: Optimize for a better Return

How-to-sell-a-book-internationaly

Guest Post: Written by the uber-talented Walt Popester

Obviously, the U.S. Amazon.com market is the largest and most profitable.  However, since everyone knows this, the competition on the US market is getting harder and therefore requires studying advanced book marketing tactics and blogs like Kindlepreneur.

But, what if you didn’t have to?

What if there were markets out there that weren’t over populated and didn’t require as much work in order to get ahead?

Well, the good news is that there are many markets like that: The international markets!

In everyone’s quest to sell their books on Amazon.com, they optimize for the US market and forget about the other markets out there – or just plain neglect them.

However, today, I’m going to show you is how to optimize your book for the other markets so that your book will have better reach internationally and thrive in a ‘smaller pond’ instead of trying to succeed in the ‘ocean’ with all of the big fish.

In this article, we’ll discuss:

  • What’s The Difference In The Amazon Markets
  • Why You Should Consider An International Focus
  • How To Get Your Book Translated
  • Foreign Market Optimization Advice

American market, Canadian market…what’s the difference?

Although all 13 of the Amazon markets are owned by Amazon, you really need to think of them as separate entities – not the same company.

Amazon currently have dedicated platforms in –

  • Australia
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • China
  • France
  • Germany
  • India
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Mexico
  • Netherlands
  • Spain
  • United Kingdom

amazon international map

The truth is, Amazon made it so that the different markets could make decisions that would address their locale and the desires of the people in area. They acknowledged the shopping taste of those in France was different than those in India – basically, they were just plain being marketing smart.

That is why you’ll see a book sales page on the french market look really different from the same book’s sales page on the American market.

Amazon USA VS Amazon France

Amazon France Amazon America

So, what does this have to do with us?

Even though your book will be sold on all of the different stores of Amazon through you submission on KDP, it’s really being sent to 13 different companies and being sold in 13 different markets.

How different you ask?

  • People who have accounts in one market, can’t leave reviews in another
  • Amazon Best Seller Rank and category rank are all different in each market
  • Features on the sales pages are arranged differently – sometimes hiding the book description, sometimes featuring it while also using different CSS and fonts.

In a way, it feels like using KDP for the 13 markets is like using Smashwords for ibooks, Barnes & Nobles and Kobo.  One system to submit them, but multiple different markets with differences in the presentation of the same information.

Why Consider International Book Marketing?

So, if there are all these differences, why care about international book marketing?

The big markets, like Amazon US and UK, are like giant oceans.  They’re chock full of fish, but to make it, you’ve got to be bigger than the rest.  That’s why you need to consider the smaller markets, which I call the little ponds.

As it stands, you’re probably making a little money in those markets already without even doing anything.  But, are you really making any significant sales in those markets?

You just need to do the right things, and I’m here to help you with that.

Believe me. Smaller markets give you a bigger chance to end up in their top 100, and I don’t mean the top 100 in some crazy small niche, like is the case with Amazon.com.

I mean top 100 general. The real top 100, the one where everybody wants to be and gives you some significant authority and leverage!

The Proof is In the Puddin

Working towards a smaller market or pool, you can make some serious gains that would otherwise be lost in the giant ocean of the US market.  Check this out if you don’t believe me:

International book sales compared to us book sales

No, there’s nothing wrong with my Amazon profile. One of those ‘small ponds’ where you probably only earn something like 1.99 per month is actually my my main income source.

In a market as little as Amazon.it I’m selling more than .com and .uk put together.

Strange, isn’t it?

The whole truth: I make a lot more than that because a third of the money I earn comes from Kindle Unlimited, which can’t be seen in the picture above, but the royalties I get from KU follow the same proportional distribution between regions.

How did I do this?  Well, I started by focusing on one of the non-US markets.

Admittedly, being Italian, in the beginning I focused my attention on the Italian market and that wasn’t totally a choice (it’s just that I had an Italian book, you know).

I had my ups and downs, like everybody.

However, because I understood advanced marketing from sites like Kindlepreneur, and knew how to effectively market the book, I had a competitive advantage over the other books in the Italian market.

I followed the permafree technique, that is to say: put the first book of your saga permanently free and then make the following episodes worth their weight in gold (2.99 euros\dollars, which is a lot in this 0.99 world).

I studied a lot, of course, and mastered the science (I’d rather say the art) of keywords, by attending webinars and reading marketing courses like everybody.

Then, when I made the right choices, my sales diagram skyrocketed to the heavens. In the end I managed to gain a dominating presence in my market niche and become one of the most popular fantasy writers in my country. Cool, isn’t it?

Would that have ever happened on the .com? Of course not and nor has it yet.

For the past three years my first (Italian) book which is my permafree download to the trilogy , ‘Dagger – La Luce alla Fine del Mondo’ has been permanently in the top 100 general of Amazon.it (the free one), and always somewhere between the #1 and #6 most downloaded fantasy.

International Book Marketing Book

I’m so confident that it will stay there, I will not use a screen shot but give you the link to see it for yourself: http://tinyurl.com/Dagger1Italian.

Of course, the more people that download the first book, the more copies I sell on the following installments.

Then, I had my books translated into English, had them edited by a professional editor, and I used the same kick-butt cover art.

What happened? For some kind of reason, I wasn’t getting the same results in terms of sold copies. You know that sensation, right? Struggling to keep your head above water when the currents are against you.

Why?

Was it because the books were poorly translated?

No. I’m actually getting more positive reviews on Amazon.com than on the .it (and I still don’t understand why).

Some problem with keywords?

No. Dagger 1, English version, is downloaded a lot more than its Italian brother, but book 2 still sells better in my homeland: on Amazon.it, for every 10-15 downloaded copies of Dagger 1, I sell one copy of Dagger 2. On the .uk is one every 25-30. On the .com is one every 40.

Why? Why? I wondered over and over again.

Then I saw something that totally opened my eyes: my rankings.

Independently from the downloaded copies, on the .it I’m a top 100 (a top gun!). On the .uk I’m a top 300, while on the .com I’m a top 3000 or something.

Do you think it matters? Of course it does.

In Italy I was (well, I still am) an authority in the sector. I am someone who got to the top, not somewhere near it.

For instance, my small, independent, fantasy book was downloaded more than the free fantasy books of the biggest publishing house in my country, owned by Berlusconi himself, our former prime minister, (would that easily happen in the USA or UK?).

Berlusconi Publishing

There were Italian blogs talking about me everywhere; Googling around, I found unknown readers suggesting Dagger in forums and facebook groups. The fact is that when people download Dagger in Italy they will even read it. No joke.

Customers on Amazon.com may be so accustomed to free copies thrown in their faces that they download more books in a day that they will ever read in a lifetime.

But if I download a book that’s in the top 100 general (and is on the fantasy podium) and has good reviews, I will probably read it.

On the other hand, I would probably download a book that’s ranked 2500 in the charts just because it’s free and then I’ll never read it, leaving it under the digital dust of my device (I’ve got thousands of them in my kindle, like all of you, probably).

so many books meme international

So ask me again that question: Why work to sell internationally?

Basically, the same tactics applied in the US market weren’t strong enough to make a dent in that giant behemoth…but it did wonders in the less competitive Italian market.

How To Get Your Book Translated

Now, one thing that stops people from doing international sales is the translation process.  Let’s face it, a book in English will not do near as well as a book in Italian for the Italian market.

But the good news is that there are many options you can use to get your book translated:

Book Translation Services

Here are a couple of the major services that will do your book’s translation for you with minimal effort:

BabelCube: BabelCube will translate your book into just about any language in return for a 15% royalty + whatever your translator requests in royalties.  This can quickly add up.

Click For Translation: One of the higher quality services, however, also the most expensive.  Their standard cost is $20 per page of 250 words.

Today Translations: Packed with some amazing clientele, this London based company requires you request a quote before they tell you the price…smells expensive.

Translator Base: Translator Base is like the Upwork for Translations.  You post a job and skilled translators will bid on your book.  Access their previous works and ensure you’ve got the right person for the job.  I also, think it’s generally well priced.

First Edition Translation: Just like Today Translations, this is another high priced London based translation company that requires a request for a quote and won’t publish

Next week, Dave Chesson of Kindlepreneur will be going super in-depth on this step and showing you step by step how to get the best translation for the cheapest price.  So, stay tuned.

Tips To Optimize For International Sales

Experiencing success internationally doesn’t have to rely on translated books alone – you may want to consider targeting the Australian or Indian markets, for example. These both represent the chance to make some inroads on international territory while keeping your work in its original language.

One of the most powerful ways to access a market is through the use of international keywords.

For example, I’m actually beginning to sell some on the German market, too, simply by using another English version of Dagger with German keywords. Instead of fantasy book, write fantasy bücher. Instead of war, write krieg (you got the idea, right?).

This will give you a lot of good chances there, take my word for granted. Germans are fluent in English, just like all northern European people, and I must say they are the kindest readers I ever had, too.

Why not try this with other markets as well?

Note From Dave: Translation of keywords is okay with Amazon.  You can find their caveat allowing such a tactic here.

Social media can also help you to gain an understanding of, and access to, an international market. Spend some time browsing relevant hashtags, or Facebook groups, for your genre/style of book within a given country. You will get a feel for the level of demand and you may also have the chance to directly interact with some potential international readers.

For our English markets, we all focus our keywords choosing on the .com.

But remember? Amazon.com is a big, big ocean, and it’s easy to get lost in there.

I actually obtained very good results choosing my keywords starting from the search bar of Amazon.co.uk, that is a middle way market (a middle way pond.) You know the process, I guess: type one word in the search bar and watch the result showing at the top of the list.

That is the most searched keyword, and it surely differs from the equivalent on the .com market. Why do that? The UK is a more manageable market, and it’s not that little, too.

Of course, this may penalize your American market, or may not. Focus on the total amount of copies you sell, or download for free, and then decide.

Try, experiment, that’s the only way to find out new things. Never stop being curious about this stuff.

But just don’t forget about the other Amazon markets!

Conclusion

Ebook markets are growing all over the world. Can you really imagine the ebook fading away before the end of your lifetime? Not a chance.

There will always be a place for old school things – such as printed books. I love vinyls. I love CDs. But when I go out cycling, I use my MP3 player.

So what I say is: become an authority somewhere, and do it now. Reserve your seat in the little markets, because with years they will grow, like the tree you planted in your garden as a child (disclaimer – this tree may not exist outside of metaphor land).

Yes. I definitely prefer to be a big fish in my little pond. Even because, with time, you can move to bigger ponds until you reach the ocean.

I’m Walt Popester, dark fantasy author and KDP coach. This is the book I’ve been talking about all the while: http://tinyurl.com/Dagger1freedownload.

Share knowledge, talk to people. Enjoy what you do and nobody will ever be like you.

Yours truly.

WP.

  • This is good thinking.

    In working now with translators, I’ve realized that there are some other considerations to keep in mind:

    1) Also hire an independent editor who can read in the language and confirm the quality of the translation. Don’t just take the translator’s word for it.

    2) All sales copy needs to be translated.

    3) Any funnel copy you have set up needs to be translated and if you have offerings in English (or another mother tongue), you may need to explain why all of this material exists. Even if you’re not selling it, people will get curious.

    Plus, if you have your own website and it is in a language other than your translation, if you start getting mounds of traffic from another country and they bounce because they don’t read your original language, that can hurt you with Google.

    None of these are dealbreakers, but very important points to keep in mind.

    Thanks for the great article! I have a book in Italian translation already and this has inspired me to think about putting out more of my books on the .it store. 🙂

    • Walter Reali

      thanks for your comment. I strongly recommend to make the most of every market, expecially Amazon.it and .de (amazon.fr is more ‘lazy’, if you don’t have a copy of your book translated in french). There’s a different attitude by italian readers. In my personal experience, they are more ‘faithful’ and will follow you for a lifetime, but of course you can’t expect to make millions there.
      Anyway, let’s say you can earn 100 buck every month on Amazon.it (you may actually earn a LOT more). It’s 1200 buck every year. Do it for all the markets and you have a salary even if you’re not a best seller on the .com
      This is why I wrote this article.
      Walt.

  • myfairies

    Hi, thank you for the article, but I feel quite puzzled. What do you mean by “I’m actually beginning to sell some on the German market, too, simply by using another English version of Dagger with German keywords.”? Did you upload the same book twice (or even more time, one for each country you are targeting) and put keywords in the language of the country you wanted to target? Are we allowed to have multiple copies of the same book? I don’t think so. Moreover, I don’t even think we are allowed to have a book in a language and the keywords in another.

    • Walter Reali

      Sorry, I had to specify that I changed the final bit of the book for the .de, to make it different from the original one (not the story itself, just the post-face). I wrote a dedication to German readers.
      Yes, you’re allowed to use any keyword as long as it doesn’t go against the rules.

  • This is a WICKED good article! I recently launched a book, and the CANADA market is kicking butt! My book is still #7 and actually climbing! Turns out the keywords I chose for the .com market overlap very well with the .CA market.
    QUESTION:
    How can we keep them apart at all in the English markets? I understand the part about publishing a book in a different language and using that language’s keywords.
    But in the English markets you mean we just optimize for one market and bugger the rest?

    • Walter Reali

      I’ve created a separate version only for the german market, writing a dedication to the german readers in the end to make the book different from the original English version, and that worked like hell.
      For the English markets, I recently I changed the keywords starting from the amazon.uk search bar, not the .com (They differ a lot, believe me). The results were amazing: I gained positions in the UK charts while I was stable on the .com
      I recently changed again to gain positions on the .com, but I dropped to #500 free on the uk, just to say that every search bar has a… soul of its own.

      Try that: see what is the most searched keywords in your genre on the .uk and use it. You may try even with the smallest markets, but take in consideration that UK is way bigger than .in or .ca
      For that, try local facebook groups, and mind that in India new, shining paperback books cost no more than a couple of bucks, so if you want to sell an ebook you have to ask less 😉

      • This is great stuff Walter – THANKS! Yup Big fish in a small pond is a great device!

  • Roy Gomez

    Great advice. It’s a big world, no?

    • Walter Reali

      Yes, it is.

  • Effrosyni Moschoudi

    Fantastic post, chock full with tips. Thank you, Walt! I’ll definitely try them. It’s a pity there’s no Greek Amazon store! (I am Greek – ma stessa faccia stessa razza, no? LOL) Still, intuitively I’ve been following your path all along selling my books more on Amazon UK rather than the US by using location (the island of Corfu) to market them to British tourists who love the island. I also used Facebook groups, as you mentioned, to find them. You sound very savvy and confident at what you do, you certainly inspired me! Thank you again 🙂
    Effrosyni

    • Walter Reali

      That’s great, Effrosyni. I love your island, I’ve been there twice! Always experiment to find new and better ways to sell our books.

  • Efron Hirsch

    When you market to a market like Italy or Germany, do you create a completely separate KDP account for the Italy or Germany store? Or do you just put the book in Italian on the U.S. store?

    • Walter Reali

      I don’t think you can create more than one account with kdp, since it contains very delicate information like your tax history and bank account. No, I use one single kdp account to manage everything.

  • Very good article if you are new to the german market!

    We can help you to promote your products in Germany to our german audience by our website http://www.dieprodukttestfamilie.de So it will be more easy for you to get new customers.

    If you need help to make your product or company known in Germany, let us know by contacting us. We speak english, so communicating will be easy for you with us.

    • Walter Reali

      that looks great, I just wonder if you could make an English version of your site

  • Scott

    Dave, Walt,

    Do you have any advice for getting reviews in the other English markets? i.e. UK, Cananda, AU, India ? I have been pretty successful in U.S. market but haven’t been able to get any reviews on the other markets and consequently am not really ranking

    Thanks

    • Scott

      I was considering advertising on Adwords in those markets and linking to my webpage offering the books free for a review. This is for books in a math & programming genre. Any thoughts on if that would be effective or a better strategy ?

      • Walter Reali

        I know, I’ve got the same problem with Germany, Canada and Australia. I suggest to scroll the top 1000 reviewers in those markets and look for the ones best-suiting your genre. Of course, always leave a kind, funny and engaging review request at the bottom of your book, something like ‘did you hate the book? Please write a review here… and if you liked it, all the better!’ that increased my monthly reviews a bit everywhere.
        Then, the most difficult thing: go on facebook or twitter and look for LOCAL groups. I know tons of them in Italy. It takes time because you can’t just spam. Leave a comment there, gain a friend here, and then ask ‘By the way, I wrote a book and…’
        Invest time on people. With time, you’ll get back your investment.

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