By Jon F. Merz
Imagine if you were a corporation and you sold several products, one of which sold better than any of the others. That one product was responsible for bringing in more revenue than any of your other products. Looking at your numbers each month would hammer that home and probably make you wish there was a way to clone that product so you could double the revenue it brought in. Or pretend you make good money at your job and wished there was a way to double that income. Before, you’d have to take on a second job, but you could only do so much until you burned out. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day.
For writers, books have traditionally had this feature built in to them. When you sold North American rights, you, as the author (or your agent), could then turn around and sell those rights to foreign publishers who would translate the book and bring it out in whatever market they operated in. Many times, the sale of foreign rights brings in staggering sums for bestselling authors and much more modest sums for midlist authors. Perhaps the book earns out enough to generate royalties, but that isn’t often the case.
With the advent of ebooks, however, the author has far more control over that “cloning” process. Entrepreneurial authors – or as I like to call them “authorpreneurs” – who view their writing careers as a business will be keen to capitalize on the incredible potential that now exists. Let’s take a look at it in-depth.
This is the cover for the Spanish-language edition of the first book in the Lawson Vampire series, THE FIXER. EL EJECUTOR is nearly finished being translated by a fantastic friend of mine and should be on-sale the first week of June. THE FIXER consistently sells hundreds of copies each month on its own and its impact on my bottom line is huge. It is a solid earner, and as such, I want to clone that success. So I paid to have it translated into Spanish, which is one of the largest market demographics in the world. According to recent statistics, upwards of half a BILLION people speak the language globally. That’s a market I want a piece of!
The translation costs were an investment into my business. In order to make money cloning the success of THE FIXER, I had to first invest the capital to pay for its translation. I consider that money well spent. As more and more people turn to ebooks, the number of people who will start reading my Lawson series will also climb. And if the series is available in multiple languages, then I can exponentially increase my profit potential on each book I write. After several months of strong sales, the translation cost will be earned back and then the real fun starts.
Here’s one of the coolest things: even though El Ejecutor is written in Spanish, it will be available in every single one of Amazon’s Kindle stores. Think about that for a moment. Using the old business model of publishing, if you sold Spanish rights to your novels, then the books would only be available wherever the publisher had distribution. But with Amazon, El Ejecutor will be available in the US for Spanish-speakers, in Amazon ES, their official Spain site, as well as Amazon UK, France, Germany, Italy, and many more coming down the road. So now instead of a fragmented distribution that used to happen with foreign rights sales, you have the SAME global distribution that you do with a book written in English. Suppose there’s a Mexican ex-pat living abroad in Italy, for example, and he wishes he could read something in his native tongue but can only surf for ebooks on Amazon’s Italian website? No problem, El Ejecutor is sitting right there ready to be bought. BAM! Sold!
The point is, with Amazon’s global storefront you not only have the opportunity to get your translated ebooks into the hands of the particular demographic you’re trying to reach in their home country, you can also reach them wherever they might be across the world! This is huge. It increases your chances of finding new readers in places you might not expect. Whereas before if you had a book out in Germany, you might only reasonably expect to find it in German bookstores and perhaps a few specialty shops here and there. Now, you can have that same ebook available to Germans in Germany as well as Germans anywhere else in the world – or at least anywhere else Amazon has a storefront at this moment. (But believe me, Amazon will soon have storefronts everywhere…)
You are truly cloning your success when you get your ebooks translated. And each time you add a new translation, you’ve just cloned it again. Instead of doubling your profit potential, you can triple it, quadruple it, and so much more. And you don’t have to worry about earning out advances, reserves against returns, or any of the other stupid antiquated business machinations left over from the decaying publishing industry. Amazon pays you net 60 days every single month via direct deposit. You’ve just potentially doubled your money without having to do anything beyond the translation! No extra work, you don’t have to write the novel again, you don’t have to devote any extra time. Translated. Done.
To say I’m excited about debuting THE FIXER in Spanish is an incredible understatement. I’m beyond excited. I don’t know how sales will go, obviously, but ebooks are a long-term investment. They earn forever. And as more and more people flock to ebooks, the profits will continue to escalate. Once the initial investment in translation has been earned out, that ebook goes on to provide income – passive income at that – forever.
And that ain’t too shabby.