Wait, there are Afrikaans authors on Amazon!?
Yes, Amazon currently has an Afrikaans section spanning over 3000 titles, although there is little to no information easily available (that I know of) that shows how well Afrikaans authors are using Amazon to publish independently. After years publishing South African authors on Amazon shelves I thought it was time that someone had a look at which Afrikaans authors had a presence on the world’s largest eBook store, how they are selling and what they are doing right (or wrong).
Why Afrikaans Authors?
I chose to analyse authors on the Afrikaans shelves at Amazon because these shelves clearly should belong to us as South Africans. If I wanted to examine South African authors who write English fiction for example, it becomes impossible to easily and accurately extract exactly which authors within the English category, publish from our sunny shores, as all the English authors are grouped together. Afrikaans has its own clearly designated eBook category, so we are able to accurately assess our local authors’ performance.
Looking through the category it does not surprise me why a few eBooks are indeed selling very well. There are a handful of universal principles that can be applied by indie authors trying to stand out amongst the vast swathes of eager authors on Amazon that, if done correctly, yield results, no matter what the language of publication. I will cover these principles in greater detail in a future post.
At the same time, I also see plenty of needless mistakes made by our publishers loading these eBooks on Amazon. These mistakes I think stem mainly from a digital publishing industry that is in its infancy in South Africa. Only a few years back most of our authors would not have been aware of the power of publishing an eBook on Amazon. They would not have known of the astounding amounts of readers that can be easily reached, at a relatively low price when compared to typical hardcopy printing and marketing costs.
Let’s clear something up before we dig deeper, a badly-written book won’t sell well over a long period, regardless of the large sums of money spent on marketing efforts. A gripping story, written by an average author, with a strong focus on leveraging the authors existing platform before the book’s release, will trump most other books that would have been “published into obscurity”.
For those visitors to my blog who want a quick answer, at the time of writing this post, here are the best-selling Afrikaans eBooks in Amazon:
- Ikarus - Deon Meyer
- Boer kry 'n Vrou - Jan van Staden
- Eugene de Kock: Sluipmoordenaar van die staat - Anemari Jansen
- Skuldig - Martin Steyn
- 150 Stories - Nataniël
- Tussen stasies - Irma Joubert
- Onsigbaar - Deon Meyer
- Hospitaaltyd: Rillers 7 - François Bloemhof
- Judaskus - Rudie van Rensburg
- Karretjiemense - Ms Carol Campbell
eBooks from - Kindle Store : Kindle eBooks : Foreign Languages : Other Languages : Afrikaans (3001)
For those visitors who want a more comprehensive list.
Whilst bashing out at my keyboard, carrying out the research for this post, I wondered how to decide who was a “best-selling” author? Does the snapshot of a given day’s best selling eBooks above accurately tell us which of our authors have the biggest footprint on Amazon? I don’t think so.
To fully understand an author’s impact on Amazon, we need to look deeper at other bits of info that can be gleaned from Amazon’s eBook sales page. Other considerations that are better indications of long-term success on Amazon are:
For how long have the eBooks been available?
The longer a title has been available on Amazon, the better.
For example a best-selling eBook published in 2013 vs a best-selling eBook published this month. The older one obviously has the edge.
What were the prices used? (These are priced in Dollars)
Cheaper prices incentivise sales. Is the author experimenting with cheaper or free eBooks, enticing international readers to read the first eBook in a series for example?
How many other Afrikaans titles do these authors have available on Amazon?
More titles will naturally give readers a wider selection and result in a greater potential income for the author. As most of the publishers responsible for these eBooks do not seem to be correctly creating or linking author profile pages, finding a summarised list of the author’s Afrikaans eBooks was made difficult, but still possible.
This is what an eBook’s sale page will look like, if the author profile page has been correctly created and linked:
As a note, whilst researching the detailed list below, I only paid attention to other Afrikaans publications, no English titles were counted. I only looked at Kindle eBooks, paperback and other hard-copy formats were ignored. I also included Afrikaans titles that were co-authored by the respective bestselling authors.
Here is a more detailed list that gives you a better idea of the author’s standing within Amazon relative to everyone else.
First, here are some insights, based on the numbers from the list above.
Notice the (high) prices?
These Dollar prices are all actually considered high by Amazon’s standards.
Amazon wants authors to publish an eBook for between $2.99 and $9.99
To incentivise this pricing, Amazon pays an author it’s higher royalty rate of 70%, for eBooks priced between those brackets.
So why would our Afrikaans authors and publishers be selling eBooks outside of Amazon’s “golden” 70% bracket?
I think two answers come to mind here:
- They incorrectly link eBook pricing to paperback pricing. This is a common mistake to countries new to Amazon’s KDP publishing platform.
- They are unaware of the Amazon Whispernet Surcharge. This means customers purchasing these eBooks from (South) Africa will still have to pay $2 extra than customers from the USA or the UK. ( VAT is added too)
Authors should always be aware that the list price they chose to sell at will not be the price that readers from South African will see on Amazon. I hope that as we mature in working with Amazon, that our publishers and authors will start pricing eBooks at a fairer rate than they currently are. This will help make an eBook more affordable to the average South African and it will also increase the royalties paid to the author. As seen in this example below, pricing below $9.99 results in higher royalties paid to the author.
eBook sold @ $9.99 = $7 royalties paid to author. (70%)
eBook sold @ $15 = $5.25 royalties paid to author. (35%)
How about the small amount of reviews?
Authors not having any reviews, or very small amounts of reviews (less than 10), can be marked off as having cracked the Amazon Best Seller list via luck rather than the organic growth and natural appeal needed to stay there. For example, a large book launch and the emailing of a publisher’s reader database will result in a spike in eBook sales, catapulting the author into the best seller list but not necessarily keeping it there.
The small amounts of reviews seen mean that most of these eBooks won’t be on this list for long and will be soon forgotten by Amazon and the readers, unless the authors take an active interest in their Amazon presence. Authors who focus on building a larger digital platform tend to have a better, sustained performance on the sales charts on Amazon. A simple example is authors who actively cultivate their Facebook pages into a community of readers who actively discuss the author’s books. The author MUST be a part of these discussions.
Remember, reviews (good or bad) are gold to authors publishing in Amazon
What about the salesranks?
The Salesrank numbers seen on each eBook sales page and indicate how well the eBook is selling on Amazon at any given moment. This “Rank” is updated hourly so don’t be surprised if it changes whilst you are browsing the store.
Thanks to some dedicated self-published authors from the US sharing their research on the internal Amazon algorithms (how they link daily eBook sales to an overall “rank”), we are able, via the Amazon Salesrank, to estimate daily sales of an eBook.
Here is how we link an Amazon salesrank, roughly, to daily eBook sales on Amazon:
So what does Amazon’s Salesrank numbers from the table mean to our Afrikaans authors?
It means that we can estimate that Deon Meyer, at our number 1 spot with a sales rank of #13,396 is selling at a rate of just over 5 eBooks a day. The authors nearer the number 10 spot are selling at a rate of just under 1 eBook each day. That is a big difference between the first and last spots.
Once again, I attribute this large difference in sales to the eBook market being relatively new in South Africa. We don’t yet have a large-enough pool of talented Afrikaans authors publishing eBooks on Amazon. This is great news for Afrikaans authors currently writing, as cracking the top 10 of the Afrikaans best seller list is actually not very hard for authors who can sell 1 eBook a day ( this is not as difficult as it might sound).
So who are our bestselling Afrikaans authors on Amazon?
I was not expecting the answer I found here.
I really expected to, using a mixture of quantity vs quality, (reviews) vs salesrank, to be able to give you a concrete list of our top 10 home-grown Amazon adventurers. Do you know what I found instead?
Of the authors who have 5 or more eBook titles or more in Amazon, and are making an impact in one of our unique languages, almost none of them are South African!
Authors having multiple publications in the Afrikaans shelves like John C Maxwell’s 18 Afrikaans eBook translations, the 7 Afrikaans eBooks published by Nick Vujicic, the 21 eBooks from Joyce Meyer, Karen Kingsbury and her 43 titles, 12 Afrikaans titles from Max Lucado, Joel Osteen’s 10 titles, 9 titles from John Eldredge, 8 eBooks from Sheila Walsh, Melanie Milburne, Dee Henderson, Gary Smalley are all from outside South Africa and instead have just translated their international material into Afrikaans.
The digital publishing industry and related author communities targeting Amazon are new and still in their infancy. Getting an eBook on Amazon is still incorrectly seen as a nice-to-have rather than an essential tool for our authors looking to make an impact outside our country.
Of our top 10 Afrikaans authors on Amazon, I did not see any authors who published themselves, all rather opting to be published on Amazon by a traditional publisher. This choice might be robbing the author of precious royalties, and the author runs the risk that the publisher lists the eBook on Amazon incorrectly. Evidence of this was seen via the higher than normal eBook prices from our top 10 list and the lack of eBooks sales pages where the author had claimed their author account (this author account is created via https://authorcentral.amazon.com/ once the eBook is live)
Our Afrikaans eBook shelves are being occupied by authors who are not from this country, with only three authors from the initial top 10 best sellers list having a meaningful presence on the online eBook giant. True Afrikaans authors who have made the biggest impact on Amazon have, in part, done so by recognising the impact of the English market and ensuring their titles are translated. I am very sure that translation to English is an expense that every author should seriously consider.
Let’s take back our place and rightfully claim our language on Amazons shelves.
Authors publishing on Amazon – take it seriously.
Afrikaans Readers – support true South African authors on Amazon, every purchase helps. If you enjoyed the eBook then please leave a review on Amazon, this will help the author more than you know.
A special mention to an author who I think sets the benchmark for Afrikaans writers publishing on Amazon -Deon Meyer
Deon’s latest eBook was released into Amazon’s shelves in March of 2015, he has really shown to have an aggressive publication schedule with new eBooks popping out each 6 months or so. He currently has 13 Afrikaans titles published on Amazon’s shelves with many of the titles having English translations. This is a great example of a traditionally Afrikaans author bridging the gap and earning extra income off what is essentially the same story.
I would really love to delve deeper into sales of English eBooks on Amazon. If you think this could be useful to you, nominate a local author you think is really setting an example in Amazon, leave their details in the comment section, I will do the rest.
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