Sticking close to home comes naturally to many of us. Whether it’s because it just feels familiar, because it seems like “here is where everything is,” or even because we are still adjusting to how small our pandemic worlds have become, many of us look no further than America when it comes to selling books.
And it’s no wonder. The US book business is enormous. But it’s also incredibly competitive, with estimates that, as of 2019, more than 4 million books are published each year.
One of the things often overlooked by self-published and indie authors is the world outside the US, or even North America. Sometimes even Canada—which boasts a comparatively small population but manages a billion-dollar book publishing industry—fails to register when authors are looking at book sales in other countries.
According to the New Publishing Standard, the US represents roughly 29 percent of the publishing market. No small feat. But Germany counts for 31 percent and China for 17 percent. The UK, France, Japan, and India also have a slice of the global book sales pie.
Which raises some questions: How much have you thought about selling your books in other markets? Have you considered translating your book? And are you missing out on potential sales?
Consider stories such as that of novelist David Gordon, who found success far more quickly in Japan than in his native UK. He became a sensation, and it considerably changed the direction of his writing career. While not exactly a typical author success story, it does act as a reminder that America isn’t the only successful book market.
So what can authors do to launch their books internationally?
Explore your book’s territory rights
Traditionally, agents and publishers tend to guard territory rights. “These rights are typically the right to sell a license to a foreign publisher to publish in another country or another language,” explains an Ask the Agent blog post. “Sometimes publishers merely export the existing book and have it distributed in foreign markets.” But sometimes publishers buy the rights only to specific countries and might push your book hard only in that country or countries. Self-published and indie authors, on the other hand, generally hold all the rights to their own work. This means that you can either try and publish your book traditionally in another country—even if you’ve self-published at home—or you can sell your book in any market you like.
Check out international booksellers
It makes sense to see how readers in other countries are buying their books and decide how you might like to distribute your book in the UK, Germany, Canada, or elsewhere. Not every country is Amazon-only, so you’ll want to ensure that you’re getting into the biggest booksellers in each country. But you’ll also want to see what readers are buying and which titles are popular, and think about where your book might fit. It’s also worth taking a look at book covers for bestselling titles in those countries because...
Consider a new look for your book
There are a few things to consider when releasing your book in other countries, and a big one is your cover. Your current cover may be perfect for the American market, but how much will it engage readers elsewhere? If you’re not sure how to spot the difference, take a look at similar books in your genre, and compare the US cover with the ones sold overseas. It’s also worth updating the copy and any taglines for the book’s description, as many other English-speaking countries use different spelling. Canada, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand, for example, all use British-style spelling rather than American. You may also want to scan your book’s description for American terms and phrases that might not translate to another market.
Get your book on Amazon Author Central International
If you live outside the US, ordering from Amazon.com can get expensive. Instead, make it easier on your international readers and get your book on some of Amazon’s international platforms, such as the UK, Germany, Japan, France, Canada, Australia, and more. It’s the same deal: create a page on each country’s Author Central and then add your books.
Make sure you market your book in each country
Much like marketing your book in the US, exposure and reaching readers are the best ways to increase your sales. Start by investigating popular book bloggers and reviewers in other countries who might be interested in reviewing or chatting up your book. You might also want to allocate a budget to buy some social media ads and see how that works. It’s important to make an effort to reach readers in each country as best as possible. Looking for a few extra ideas? Check out our blog “14 Surprising Ways to Market Your Book.”
Hannah Guy lives in Toronto and is a professional writer and copywriter who specializes in books, books, and more books. Follow her on Twitter at @hannorg.