Guest Post: an Overview of the Italian indie ebook market, pt. 2
The second part of Marina’s merciless (but, for my money, fair) overview of the Italian indie book market.
Enjoy, if you can…
You can’t count on reviews on the e-commerce platforms. You can’t count on reviews on other sites.
Surely there must be some ways to put your work under the eye of potential readers, right?
Well, not exactly.
Three quarters of the times I listen to a podcast on marketing, what they say is not applicable to the Italian market.
Amazon Ads? Only available if the book is in English.
Kindle Countdown Deals? They’re not available for the Italian market, even if we’d love to use them.
BookBub and the likes? Not only can’t Italian authors use these kinds of services, but not even Italian readers can thoroughly benefit from them. The reason is twofold and pretty simple: the direct links are to .com stores; even if we manage to find the promoted books on any of the .it retailers, half the times the promotion is not valid on .it markets too.
You can still use preorders on the Italian markets. They obviously come with all the usual pitfall preorders have in every market, only times three (or four, or maybe even five) because this is Italy, baby. The smaller starting size of the Italian market means smaller niches segmenting it, which in turn mean even smaller audiences that can preorder your book. Most Italian indies don’t go for long preorders, just a handful of days, and even then they may find themselves with people who decide last minute to cancel their preorder because… reasons.
If you want to find readers in Italy, you may have to resort to strange avenues.
Between my colleagues and I, we’ve used anything from handing bookmarks with QR codes during cons, to setting up Telegram channels offering sneak peeks and exclusive offers to our readers, to setting up Patreon pages, to using Facebook ads.
The results have been mixed, tending towards feeling like we’re in space, when nobody can hear you scream.
The next book is the best marketing. Except in Italy
Another marketing tip I hear a lot is that “writing your next book is the best way to market your work.” The wisdom behind it is that, mostly if you have a series going on, one book will lead to the next, that will lead to the next, that… And even if you don’t have a series of twelve high fantasy, action-packed, gripping novels, being prolific can be a way to self promote.
Put the links to your other books at the end of each book!
Put the links to your other series starters at the end of each book!
Make the reader feel like you’re a good, prolific author, a power-house of writing, and they will follow you, read your stuff and make you earn a lot of cash every month.
Personally, I have eight ebooks out there and I can’t say much about it, but I have colleagues with tens of ebooks under their belts, some of them heading steadily towards Ebook One Hundred. None of them ever earned above the 200 Euros a month threshold.
We would all love to steadily supplement our income thanks to the fact we write and publish a lot, but we simply can’t. Not in Italy.
Not when nobody ever clicks the link to the next book embedded in the series starter (and we know, because, thank God, at least affiliate programs and url shortners are available to Italians!)
You may be thinking I forgot mailing lists. No, I didn’t forget them. Mailing lists are just another thing that doesn’t work well within the Italian market.
It’s as if the average Italian is living in fear of technology. If, until a handful of years ago, it was fear of e-commerce and having their credit card data stolen by some East European hacker or Nigerian prince, now it’s become fear of giving their email addresses to a stranger.
The number of Italian indie authors who have a mailing list is very low, and the number of their subscribers is even lower.
The opening rates? Abysmal.
And sign up incentives like free stuff don’t help much, since we live in the land of “everything immaterial should be free.”
Free is the right price
You may not believe it, but for way too many people in Italy, free is the right price for MP3s, ebooks, apps and everything else you can’t actually grasp in your hands.
In March 2018, Spotify acted to stop those mobile users who, thanks to a hack, were enjoying the premium version of its services without paying the 10€ monthly fee. The uproar on the Italian Android and iOS stores was… something. Angry people took to the stores to one-star the app, claiming Spotify was acting unreasonably, that no way could Spotify want to be paid that much for a music streaming app, nobody buys music, let alone a Premium account, this was a fraud against the customers.
The levels of outrage were laughable, and at the same time chilling.
The idea of paying to legally stream music is unconceivable. The idea of paying to legally read ebooks is nearly equally inconceivable.
Maybe a factor that contributed to this is the fact that, when Italian indie authors started publishing on the internet, it was in the form of free ebooks (we had no “legitimate” markets available and the laws surrounding ebook sales was a jumbled mess of pitfalls). The problem is that people’s mentality is still mostly stuck there. Readers won’t shill their hard-earned coins for just a bunch of letters on a screen.
A fellow author was told something to the effect of “No, I won’t buy your 99 cents ebook. You have no idea of what kind of things I may do with 99 cents!” (Interestingly, some of the people one-starring Spotify said similar things about its monthly fee.)
If they won’t spend 99 cents on a short story, they surely won’t spend 3,99 € or 4,99 € for a 70-thousand words self-pubbed novel. It’s too much money to invest on the work of an indie!
Now, if that same ebook were free, they’d pounce on it like a tiger on a lamb. The difference being that the tiger would eat the lamb, while the Italian reader may just acquire the book, download it and then proceed to forget all about its existence. We have droves of compulsive “buyers” who can’t resist a free ebook but mostly won’t feel any need to read it anytime soon.
As a consequence, every time I read or hear someone saying that reviews are among the positive side-effect of a free promotion, I can’t but shake my head and think “Not in Italy”. In my very own, very Italian experience, you’re lucky to receive ONE review for every 100 free downloads.