Authors, especially those who are self-publishing, need to be aware of the huge, untapped market that the tech industry is frothing at the mouth for: the mobile phone consumer.
The juicy information below shows that from the commuter in London to the infrastructure-poor teen in South Africa everyone is using mobile phones more and more for accessing the internet – sharing, browsing and reading. From buying life insurance to banking to watching videos, cellphones are becoming relevant in a big way, especially on a continent where the middle class market is expected to grow and the ratio of phones to people is so high. (In SA there are 45m active cell phones for a population of 49m).
This is why you can find our books on Bookly, a mobile phone reader app on the South African based Mxit. Now, this is more than just being able to read your books on your smartphone. Apps like Bookly allow non-smartphones to buy and consume books on this one platform (Amazon apps, for example, don’t allow buying).
So how do I get onto a mobile platform?
Step 1: Start with the smartphone market and make sure that your book is available as an eBook on platforms like Kobo and Amazon. Android and iOS users can download reader apps for free and read their books this way on their cellphones when they’re commuting or waiting in line somewhere.
Step 2: Build your reputation among the under-served market. Find a platform like we did with Bookly that speaks to your genre. Worldreader is focused on getting books out to underprivileged learners, and keen to make contact with book donors.
Get into contact with the spokesperson for the platform. Often these technologies are still relatively new and the creators are keen on adding content to showcase all the features and abilities of their apps.
And you’re in a better, more flexible position than many of the slow-moving publishing houses to quickly send over your work. However, let’s not make promises here that you’ll get in there quickly. Sometimes persistence counts, but chances are indie publishing houses already on these platforms are looking for tailor-made content and contacting them would be easier.
Contact: tick. Now for getting people to read your stuff.
By now you should’ve read quite a bit about writing great blurbs and good cover design.
However, on cellphones you have even less space and attention span to work with. So your blurb needs to be shorter and punchier. We’ve found blurbs in the first person do better than others. Make sense? No, but we’re working on figuring out why.
As for the cover design – it needs to be digitally friendly. Look how striking the black and white of Brett Bruton’s Birth One is on this screen shot, and it pays off in the number of times read.
Striking the right balance for blurbs and design takes some experimentation. However, if you’ve found a good platform and have a good relationship with the content editors, it’s easy to make changes and see how they impact your figures. We like that we can see how many people have read our books and how many have liked or disliked them. This immediate feedback allows us to make more accurate decisions regarding the length, type of content, the blurbs and the look of the books we publish. Power to the people, hey?
Then there’s the content. We find our shorter stories do much better than the longer ones. We’re talking 3000 words here. So you don’t want to dump your entire novel onto this platform, rather, perhaps, a short story using the same characters and world, but a different plot. Use it as a way to build your reputation so that when your novel is launched, there are more people who can recognise you and what your work is about. Author Fiona Snyckers chose Bookly to launch her novel Team Trinity to an audience of 7.3m monthly active users, three weeks before the real-world launch in bookstores.
The problem with mobile platforms, is that some aren’t linked to your social media accounts or have different ways of connecting to the Internet – so you can’t link your book site to your Twitter account or find all your friends from Facebook. Some platforms are also very age-specific, so you’ll most likely be oldest person on the platform, and asking 16-year-olds to follow you is kinda creepy. These platforms are still very isolated from the rest of the online world. It’s still early days, but for now consider that the platform that you’re using can send messages to all the readers of your previous books, can tell how far they read your books and how long they spent on your work. They can also send out messages directly to a cellphone to alert users of giveaways, new releases and other newsworthy items. For now, that’s all I’ve got, but it sounds pretty good to me.
Show me the money! Please? Oh ok.
However, as with most of these new endeavours, you’ll probably be paid a pittance, if at all. So you’re back to being a poor writer. BUT, we live in hope. Which is why mobile is so interesting – it could mean more eyeballs for your work, which means more clout in terms of social networking and readers of your other books, all of which you can take to a publisher and say “Look, Look at these crazy numbers – there are so many people reading me, you should have signed me years ago, but I’ll forgive you … for a fee. And a footrub.”
Some tidbits of info getting the techies excited:
The Internet Access in South Africa 2012 study, conducted by World Wide Worx and backed by the howzit MSN online portal:
- A total of 7,9m South Africans access the Internet on their cell phones. Of these, 2,48m access it only on their cellphones, and do not have access on the computers. The remaining 6,02m users access the Internet on computers, laptops and tablet computers. However, 90% of this number – 5,42m – also access it on their cellphones. This means that almost 8m South Africans sometimes or regularly access the Internet on their phones
The numbers according to the The Mobility 2014 research study, conducted by World Wide Worx with the backing of First National Bank:
- The 19 to 24 age group – representing students and entrants into the workforce – is abandoning voice faster than any other segment. Only 56% of this group’s mobile budget is now spent on voice, down from 66% in mid-2012. Data spend, on the other hand, has increased from 17% to 24%.
- Voice spend has dropped from 73% of mobile budget to 65%, while data has increased from 12% to 16%. At the beginning of 2010, voice stood at 77% and data at 8%.
Check out the World Wide Worx site for more info on cellphone usage and internet penetration in Africa.