Authors tend to focus on Amazon’s US store to measure how well a book is doing, but Amazon US is only one slice of a very large pie in the ebook business. While industry statistics are inconsistent regarding the exact percentage Amazon US holds of the English-language ebook market, according to the Author Earnings Report, Amazon US composes 65% of all unit sales.
That leaves a lot of market for authors to tap. Amazon, iBooks, Kobo, and Google Play all offer access to a wide array of non-US English-reading audiences who are ready and eager to buy books. (Nook is the only major retailer available solely in the US.)
And, of course, you want these global readers to buy your books. However, they cannot buy what they do not see. Like all markets, visibility is key, so let’s talk about how to reach international audiences — at a low cost.
Target the largest English-language markets
Outside of the United States, the main English language markets are the UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and India. Ignoring these markets means missing out on a sizable chunk of potential readers. Marketing to them takes some work, but then again, so does every aspect of this business, right?
Ask for the sale
One completely free, 100% controllable way to grow your international audience is simple: Provide your audience with relevant links. How many times do you promote a book on social media… and don’t include an Amazon UK, Amazon Canada, or Amazon Australia link? Or an Amazon link that automatically redirects the reader’s regional store? When I started including UK/CA/AU links in my social media ads and in newsletters, I got fan mail thanking me for it! I was shocked.
But it worked. And it cost me nothing.
Run International BookBub Featured Deals
Running a BookBub Featured Deal is one of the best ways to reach a high volume of relevant readers at a relatively low cost. Getting an international-only Featured Deal means promoting your book to the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and India via one of the most powerful tools in publishing. It’s a slam dunk. Watch your sales trends to see where your book experiences a spike — and set that data aside for analysis later.
Run BookBub Ads
But what about BookBub Ads — the display ads at the bottom of BookBub’s daily deals emails? While a BookBub Featured Deal delivers your book to a guaranteed audience (based on the category and regions of your promotion), with BookBub Ads you need to find your own audience. This tool allows you to target by genre, author, and/or region. Here’s the most important tip for using display ads to target non-US territories: Target popular authors in those territories.
Do your research to find these authors in each region. For instance, if you want to grow your Australian audience on iBooks, look at the iBooks Australia charts. Go to iBooks, scroll to the bottom of the page, and look in the right-hand corner. You likely have the store set to default for the United States (or whatever country you live in). Click on the US flag icon.
A web page will appear with flag icons representing each territory. Then choose Australia.
Look at the top of the charts in your subgenre. Write down the names of those authors who are doing well. Then target those authors when you run a BookBub Ads campaign for Australia. Targeting authors who are popular in the US might get you sales in other countries and territories, but tapping well-known names in the country where you want to grow readership is even better.
Apply the same principle to every country you’re targeting. Keep those lists of names. They’ll come in handy as you do other forms of advertising or cross-promotion.
Reach out to reviewers and bloggers in major English-language territories
If you use blog tours, or have relationships with bloggers who review and/or promote your books, are any of them in the UK? Canada? Australia? If yes, great! And if not… now’s your chance to develop some relationships.
Take a look at your book’s reviews on Goodreads and on BookBub.com. See if any of the reviewers are from non-US, English-language territories. Reach out. Offer review copies. Develop relationships. Look at popular authors in your subgenre in non-US, English-language territories, the ones I mentioned earlier, and see which bloggers reviewed their books. Reach out and offer review copies.
Those bloggers know their country’s audience, and if they love your books, they can be powerful with reader networks. Plus, sending an ebook ARC costs you nothing but time.
Invest in smaller English-language markets
Finding readers in smaller English-language markets, like Sweden, South Africa, Denmark, Germany, France or even Poland means investing a little more money to find readers. (Shout out to that one Kobo reader in Poland who bought a book from me last week! Thank you!)
Analyze retailer reports
Kobo, iBooks, and Google Play all provide country-specific data on your existing buyers. This is gold. Aim to target readers in these countries where you already have a proven existing readership.
While BookBub Ads lets you target readers in the US, UK, Canada, Australia/New Zealand, and India, you can use other ad venues such as Facebook, Twitter, Google AdWords, and others to target other English-speaking countries. Clustering your advertising dollars in countries where you already have a few readers is a lower-risk approach vs. running cold ads to countries where your books might not sell.
Mine your newsletter
Your current fans are your best research asset when it comes to learning about promotion in other countries. They are on your mailing list because they love your books. So consider surveying readers in non-US countries! Some newsletter services (including Mailchimp and Sendpulse) tell you which country readers are in when they subscribe. Reach out to these international readers and ask them:
- Where they learn about new books
- Where they buy their books
- If they’d consider writing reviews for you on those sites
- If they could help you spread the word about your books
Word of mouth still sells… and it’s free. Can’t get more low cost than that.
Analyze your data
Once you’ve started marketing a book in international regions following the steps above, it’s time to analyze your data. This will help you get a sense of which regions are most receptive to your books, and let you find opportunities to strengthen your presence.
Measure growth over time in each international region
I performed an analysis of my international readership in late 2016 and focused on selling more in five countries/regions: the UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. I used many of the marketing tactics I’ve outlined in this article.
Here are my results in growth comparing 2016 and 2017:
- United Kingdom: +73%
- Ireland: +398%
- Canada: +43%
- Australia: +200%
- New Zealand: +175%
Measuring growth over time gives me insight into which promotional efforts are working, where to invest resources, and which markets are best for my specific books as my efforts yielded a positive ROI.
Consider covers and content
Depending on the genre, there are some cover elements that don’t do well in some markets — for example, “Manchest” (a naked male torso), guns and weaponry, extreme gore. Some authors use different covers for UK/IE/AU/NZ markets, with a focus on non-weapon objects or illustrated covers.
Running ads with a cover that doesn’t suit a particular culture isn’t going to be low cost, nor will it lead to good sales conversions. My covers for my Shopping for a Billionaire series do well overseas, but I have other series with covers I wouldn’t use in ads or for foreign markets.
Content is tougher. Only your own research will reveal whether a market is a good fit for your content. My Shopping for a Billionaire series sells very well in markets where “chick lit” is popular, for instance, even as it wanes in the US. Crime novels have a strong presence in the UK bestseller charts. When I look at bestseller charts in certain countries, I see that my books have a potential audience looking for more.
Diligent research will give you answers about content, but bear in mind it’s an individual experience based on what you write. Don’t automatically assume anything based on another author’s experience. Do the legwork.
Is the effort worth it?
As the self-publishing market matures, authors find themselves in an emerging position: Is the result I am chasing worth my investment of time, effort, and money? For me, pursuing an international audience absolutely is worth it. I have committed myself to having a wide presence on as many platforms as possible, which means the more revenue streams I have in smaller markets, the more diversified my revenue and the more potential I have for growth in markets where ebook sales are growing.
Each author has a different approach and a different set of needs, but for those seeking lower-cost avenues for growth, the potential is there in international markets. So consider this article a basic map that gets you started — but always do your own research, run your own tests, and review your own data.
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