Why should you care that Indians love free online romance novels? Because in late July of this year, Amazon announced that it would be launching in India early in 2012. When I first read the news on Konrath’s Blog I started to do a little dance. We have a huge head start, as India already loves Lizzy Ford.
Lizzy has discussed in several places about how we decided to release all books she planned to write this year for free in an attempt to build a back-list and a fan base. If you’ve read those articles, you know our plan is so far working better than expected. We can 100% take credit for that little bit of careful planning. What we didn’t see coming was that the country with the second most downloads of our free romance novels would be India.
Earlier this year, in an effort to build a fan base, I scoured the internet and put Lizzy’s books on many different websites catering to free eBooks. Whenever I went to check our numbers, the United States always had the most downloads (no surprise there) but #2 was always India. That’s when I first learned that Indians love free online romance novels. I thought that made sense; while only 11% of Indian’s population speaks English, 11% of a billion people is still quite a few people.
The exciting part comes when you realize that people in India don’t have a mechanism for paying for eBooks right now. Amazon hasn’t set up shop yet. The only people with Kindles are ones who had them shipped over from the United States. Indians don’t just want free online romance novels because they’re free, they want them because they’re the only romance novels they’re able to get in eBook format right now. Amazon has rooms full of people much smarter then I am crunching the numbers and deciding to go into India with full force.
I really don’t know how much our sales will increase once Amazon is in India. A 10% bump in all of our sales would seem to be a safe estimate. That doesn’t sound like much but a 10% boost for doing absolutely nothing is pretty darn powerful. I also think there’s a chance it could be more then 10% after seeing our stats on Alexa.com the other day. Our website showed up as being the 464,679 most visited website in the world. Our ranking in the US is 81,277. As I started to close Alexa, I noticed there was a second flag and number beneath the U.S. flag. Alexa is now telling me that our site is the 291,309 most visited website in India. That’s pretty cool! We don’t even have a ranking in the United Kingdom but we do in India.
I checked India’s version of Google (Google.in). It shows us in the top 10 for several good keywords. Things like this make me even more excited about India’s potential.
In the United States, a romance novel by Jude Deveraux is going to sell a lot more then a romance novel by Lizzy Ford, because Ms. Deveraux has name recognition and a huge fan base. I’m sure some of those advantages already apply in India, and I’m sure Amazon will be giving the top selling authors quite a push. But it also seems like the early period after launch could be a state of flux that leaves those willing to fight for market share able to grab a bigger piece than they’ve been able to acquire in the U.S., where reading habits have been formed through books bought on store shelves and in airport gift shops.
While I’m still figuring out what steps I plan to take (if any) to try to increase our profile in India, I think the main lesson we learned is that – by using non traditional distribution methods -you may end up reaching markets you never anticipated.