How to Reach International Readers With Your Books

Written by A Guest Author

by K.A. Wiggins

The US is (still) the largest English-language book market, but the gap is rapidly shrinking. China’s publishing industry is taking off. India’s millions of English-speakers spend twice as much time reading as Americans. Italy and Germany have strong translation markets.

Whether independent or traditionally published, authors who overlook the value of connecting with international readers are missing out on the chance to expand visibility, access new opportunities, and increase earnings.

Get started with these four paths to growing your publishing career by thinking global:

Influencers & Giveaways

There are two reasons why most giveaways and promotions are US-centric:

  • Shipping abroad is absurdly expensive
  • Licensing restrictions prevent publishers from promoting outside their market

Authors can and should push back against these limitations.

Licensing restrictions don’t necessarily apply to authors, who can take point on running promotions, and the extra cost can pay off in added benefits. International influencers often have worked harder for their followings, hold more clout over their regional market, and express more enthusiasm and appreciation for the opportunity. Plus, it’s easier to stand out from the crowd in a smaller market.

If possible, budget for the higher shipping costs and show you value your international fans. If that’s out of reach, create preorder campaigns with an exclusive digital asset (artwork, printables, side stories/prequels, etc.), offer digital ARCs, and run giveaways with online bookstore credits or other digital prizes for international winners.

Distribution, Printing & Pricing

Licensing each foreign market, format, and translation separately can keep bringing in the cash well after the book is out in the US—if you’ve retained those rights. Traditional authors and indies can both take advantage of IP by segmenting and licensing their work.

Learning the tastes, sales avenues, and marketing tactics for a foreign market is a big job, and indies may choose to license their work to an international publisher or stay independent. Print on demand (POD) providers like KDP and Ingram Spark have printing and distribution centers around the world, and a new generation of region-specific POD companies like India’s Pothi and Notion Press support lower prices and faster delivery for those selling directly to international readers.

Setting region-specific prices is key. Check online bookstores for a sense of appropriate price point and format (pro tip: $0.99 pricing isn’t universal) in each market.

While Amazon might seem to be taking over the world, international markets may not favor the world’s largest bookstore. Australia buys most of its books from Booktopia, for instance, while China has locked out Amazon entirely. Services like Draft2Digital, PublishDrive, and Ingram Spark all offer options to gain access to international booksellers, and some can be approached directly.

Translations

The English-language publishing market is huge—but it’s far from the only one. Unfortunately, good translations take time and money. Let your agent know you want to target international markets and you’re willing to promote as needed.

Indie authors can commission a translation—if they have the time, the budget, and the ability to assess the quality—but may be better off seeking a publisher willing to take on the translation, marketing, and sales in the target country or region.

As with the audiobook market, things are changing. Start-ups like China’s Fiberead are dedicated to making translations accessible to more authors with royalty sharing options, so keep an eye on developments in this space.

Promotions & Events

Think global when it comes to social, sales, book tours and other events.

On social, make a point of seeking out and interacting with influencers from around the world (with special focus on any target regions). For sales, rotate through different markets. You’ll have something to promote more often, and you can be more focused when you do.

Not everyone will have the time, budget, or connections to make international events worthwhile, but they can be a career-builder for those who do. Gain experience with smaller events close to home, then signal your interest in speaking at international events on social (including LinkedIn) and your author site. Encourage fans who ask if you’re coming to town; if enough readers make their wishes known to a publisher, festival, or other venue, they’re more likely to bring you in.

Valuing and reaching out to international readers can have unexpected benefits for your author career, so keep them in mind as you price, position, and promote. Then take it the next level with international bloggers and printing fulfillment to grow your publishing career.


Bio K.A. Wiggins is a Canadian author writing fantasy with an edge for young readers. The first copy she sold of her debut was to a reader in the Philippines and she was honoured to present as a guest speaker at the 2019 ORCHIDS Children’s Literature Fest (Mumbai). Find her at: https://kawiggins.com

 

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