As usual, there was a lot on offer at the Frankfurt Book Fair, the biggest book fair in the world: gazillions of publishing houses and other companies with stalls plus anything else related to books including an increasing number of self-publishing events and suppliers.
I attended several events for self-publishers in the German language area. The picture shows two successful German authors, Poppy J. Anderson on the left and Marah Woolf in the middle. They discussed how to connect to readers and both speakers are very much in touch with their audience. Apart from strategies like social media, Poppy mentioned one of her quirky ideas: she once hired a handsome male model who dressed up as an American Football player since her books are dealing with this topic. Her apporach seems to work since several of her books are ranking high in the Kindle charts.
At another event, Sophie Schmidt of Berlin-based Epubli came up with some predictions regarding the future of self-publishing for the year 2020. Here are two of her assumptions:
– Format will not be important anymore, content is king, and there will be more and more interaction with content.
– Many joint projects with more than one creator will come into being.
Interesting stuff for thought, and both points are positive for self-publishers including those who are into international self-publishing because cooperating with people in different parts of the world is so easy these days.
Then I attended an event with self-publishing service providers Tom van Endert of Ruckzuckbuch and Sönke Schulz of Tredition. Both websites are only in German, though. Sönke Schulz mentioned if you really want to have a chance to get into German bookshops, it is not just important that your provider makes sure it is in the “Verzeichnis lieferbarer Bücher” (list of German books in print), but you need to get your books to wholesalers, too. Both Tredition and Ruckzuckbuch provide this. Theoretically, German bookshops can also order from “Verzeichnis lieferbarer Bücher”, but it involves more hassle for them and they prefer not to. Tredition and Ruckzuckbuch are cooperating with each other, and whereas Tredition have more experience dealing with digital, the people of Ruckzuckbuch have a print tradition using eco-friendly resources and they offer a personal customer service plus a free paperback book with lots of information on self-publishing in general and their service in particular (only available in German).
I had a lot of disscussions with translators in Frankfurt as well, and some of those that I met had already worked with indie authors. There are three models: The majority are being paid a fee, a tiny minority are doing a royalty-split with the author, and then there is the hybrid model, that is receiving a fee, but doing a bit of marketing as well. For authors who want to have their book translated on a split-royalty basis, the platform Babelcube currently still seems to be the most promising way forward. Even after the Fair, I am now still discussing with translators and authors the best possible ways of cooperating with each other.
It didn’t come as a surprise that translators who are native speakers of English are the ones who have been approached by indies more often than anyone else – having a book in English is popular (See also my previous article). I learned about an extreme example in Frankfurt: one author had not been able to pay for a translation into English, but was so desperate to achieve this that he offered the translator to share not just the royalties of the translation, but the royalties of the original book as well!
I also talked with authors at the Fair, and one of our topics was the fact that a lot of English-language books are now written with American spelling using American words, even though the authors are British, because authors usually have more American than British readers. There is another group, however, who feels strongly about keeping their Britisch conventions. I am curious to know from everyone who is reading this: does it really bother you whether you are reading books in “English English” or “American English? And there are even more options, for example Australian and Canadian English…
If you would like to read more about the Fair from the perspective of self-published authors, I recommend the excellent article Frankfurt For Indies – An Abundance Of Abundance by Nerys Hudson of the Alliance of Independent Authors.
And here is a picture that is representative of the last couple of days at the Fair. It hosted the German National Cosplay Championship that made everything more colourful and fun – you could see many young people in fancy costumes, which is the whole idea of “costume play”: to dress up like characters from books, films etc. (Look at their ears ;-).