Friday, 28 February 2014

Interview with Birgit Kluger (Indies in Germany)

Birgit Kluger has written an excellent resource for the indie author hoping to start selling in Germany. Going Global is extremely informative on the German market, highly practical on how to set up author pages and promote your books, and invaluable in its listings of bloggers and routes to alternative reading devices. Under the pen name JB Brooklin, she writes fantasy novels in both German and English, and under her own name, highly successful chicklit in German.

Birgit talked to me about the explosion in eBooks and why writers really need to consider this rapidly growing opportunity.

The German book market is changing fast. What do you see as the key shifts happening now?

For authors promoting their books key shifts are that free promotions on Amazon don’t have the impact they used to have. Due to this many authors now switch to promoting their books with a reduced price, such as 99 Cents.

Also – against all predictions - Indie authors have succeeded in gaining a foothold in the top 100 Amazon ebook charts. What many viewed as a short term trend has in fact established itself as normal. I just had a look at the top 10 and 7 out of these 10 books are published by Indie authors. This is a huge success!

Other ebook stores apart from Amazon are gaining market shares. With the launch of the Tolino in 2013, an ebook reader that has been created through the cooperation of the leading German booksellers together with German Telekom, there is another device besides the Kindle that is gaining in popularity, ensuring that readers not only look at Amazon when they want to buy an ebook. Due to this other ebook stores such as, bü, etc. are selling more ebooks than before. I believe that Indie authors are well advised to get their books into these shops.

Tell us your story. How did you get involved with the world of independent publishing?

After almost 20 years of trying to get a publishing contract I finally succeeded in 2011. I was ecstatic with joy. After the book was published as an ebook in the fall of 2011 I soon discovered that the publisher expected me to do all the marketing. So I did, I tweeted and posted about my book constantly with little success and a lot of frustration.

Fortunately for me my publisher wasn’t interested in my second book. It was another Genre and my first book wasn’t selling too well anyway. I decided to self publish it. That was the beginning of 2012 and self publishing had just taken off in Germany. Within six months I sold 10.000 copies, a number I still have to reach with my first book (should take only about 15 years at the rate it’s going).

Ever since then I have self published my books and am tremendously enjoying the process. I am in control of what I do, I am responsible for my successes and failures, plus the royalties are much higher than when using a publisher.

How do German readers react to self-published books? Which genres are popular?

Many readers are not even aware that there is a difference, that there are Indie authors out there who self publish their books.

And from what I hear they don’t make much of a difference if they are aware as long as the quality is right. Books with lots of spelling and grammar mistakes are bad for Indies, because some readers tend to assume that we all work like this. But, since self published books are usually priced lower, many readers take a chance. Popular genres are Crime, ChickLit and Fantasy.

You’re very generous in sharing advice via Going Global. Why did you choose to offer your expertise to English-speaking writers?

I noticed that English books sell quite well in Germany. At the same time there aren’t many Indie books in the English ebook charts at Amazon. My assumption was that probably many Indie authors didn’t know how and where to promote their books for the German market, which is why I wrote “Going Global”.

I read that 70,000 people have published their own books in Germany. Is there a supportive community of indie authors?

Yes, there is. There are many Facebook groups for Indie authors. Facebook tends to be the place where one finds a lot of support. There are also some internet forums but Facebook is more popular since many authors check in every day to communicate with their readers and other authors.

I am a member of several groups and I really enjoy the supportive attitude most Indie authors show toward their peers.

It's clear that eBook sales are exploding, but can you see a future for self-published print books?

Yes, with Createspace now offering expanded distribution for German books many Indies are starting to offer print versions of their ebooks. Together with the MatchBook program at Amazon, this is an opportunity to reach even more readers. Also German book on demand companies are trying to offer attractive solutions.

What do you personally enjoy reading?

I love the genres I write in: Fantasy and ChickLit.

You write in both German and English – does you style change according to which language you’re using?

I believe it does. I spent a year in the US when I was fifteen. And somehow, maybe because this is an age where emotions tend to go overboard, I express emotions better in my English texts than in my german writing. For example I write song lyrics as well, but only in English, in German somehow the words won’t come as easily.

Which authors who write in German would you recommend for our readers?

I love books from Kerstin Gier, B.C. Schiller and Matthias Zipfel.

What are you working on next?

Right now I am re-editing my German novel “Küss niemals deinen Ex” (Never Kiss Your Ex). It’s ChickLit mixed with a crime story. I hope to publish it by the end of February. After that I’ll start writing the sequel to my fantasy novel “Creatures of Fire”, both in English and in German. And then I am thinking about writing a new “Going Global” book, this time focusing on the US market.

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