Marketing Your Book Abroad? How About A Buddy System?

iStockphoto / Lorado
iStockphoto / Lorado

Offshore Authors Seek In-Country Guidance from Adventurous Foreign Partners

“I actually set this up with a dating portal software.”

Matthias Matting
Matthias Matting

Matthias Matting of Munich is playing something of a matchmaker for writers. His Authorbuddies.com has just gone live this week. It’s the sort of mutual aid society you find in the self-publishing world.

You’re invited to drop by the site, look around, set up a free account, and get ready to trade some marketing help with an author in your target region: advice from a native, in exchange for your tips about your own market.

If it all leads to a romantic evening and one free drink on the Riviera, drop me a postcard, will you?

“Marketing a book in a country far from your home is more difficult than expected for most authors,” Matting tells me, “and we want to lower the barriers by providing a way to find fellow authors with a mutual interest.”

Certainly the idea of getting your books into international markets is a big interest among entrepreneurial authors this season; it was one of the key topics requested for presentations in BookExpo America’s Author Hub in New York a couple of weeks ago.

“The idea basically came up,” Matting says, “after a conversation with Joanna Penn.”

No surprise there for regular readers of the London-based Penn’s popular self-publishing blog site, The Creative Penn. Just last week, she posted How To Self-Publish In German. Lessons Learned From Pentecost In Translation.

Joanna Penn
Joanna Penn

Pentecost is the opening book in Penn’s “ARKANE” series, originally published in English. The buxom young gun-toting Oxford-psychologist Morgan Sierra seems to have fallen off the cover on the way from London to Berlin, but from the sounds of the German marketing copy, none of the action has been lost:

Als ihre Schwester und ihre Nichte entführt werden, macht sich die Psychologin Morgan Sierra von der Universität Oxford auf die Suche nach den Steinen. Sie wird dabei von Jake Timber unterstützt, der für ARKANE arbeitet, ein geheimnisvolles britisches Regierungsinstitut, das auf übersinnliche und religiöse Erfahrungen spezialisiert ist. Morgan muss ihr eigenes Leben riskieren, um ihre Familie zu retten – wird sie dabei am Ende verraten?

And Penn, prolific blogger that she is, has spared nothing in letting us know that even for a dedicated full-time self-publisher like herself, getting going in Germany was no walk through Alexanderplatz. In her post, she writes:

It’s been a very strange experience for me to start out all over again in a new market, in a language I don’t know, with basically no platform and very [few] contacts. I’ve spent over five years building my audience in English, so it’s quite alien to begin again. This means that I’m certainly NOT an expert on the German market and I am just sharing my initial experience with you in this article. I have no doubt that I will change my process over the coming years. After all, it’s only week 3 in this new game!

And then? Well, like a thoughtful date returning the compliment, Penn mentions that Matting has produced a book (in English) expressly for authors making the hike she has made:

My first advice is to read Matthias Matting’s book How To Publish in Germany, which includes lots of great tips.

I’m familiar with Matting’s useful guide, myself, having worked last year at Frankfurt Book Fair with this journalist and author in our CONTEC Conference Town Hall on self-publishing. Matting is an apt counterpart to Penn, an avid self-publisher (of more than 50 books) in the growing German entrepreneurial market. He writes for FOCUS Magazine, and faithfully produces Die Self-Publisher-Bibel, the go-to source for news of the entrepreneurial market’s activities in Germany. He’s also the founder of Germany’s Self-Publishing Market (for service providers to German authors) and eBook Discounts, and is program director for ebooks at Münchner Verlagsgruppe.

As Penn points out in her piece, the German self-publishing market is busy: “It feels like the exciting growth period before the leveling out of the market,” she writes, “as we’ve seen in the US and UK for indies.”

And looking at the length of what she describes, herself, as a “mammoth post” on her experience in taking Pentecost into Germany, it looks to me like she may have enjoyed having Authorbuddies.com along, herself.

At least, as she approaches a Spanish translation of Pentecost and Italian translations of Pentecost and Desecration, she may find some buddies willing to help.

“Business Dating For Authors”

“This is not necessarily only for indies,” Matting tells me. “If you are an author with one of the Big Five publishers or AmazonCrossing [Amazon Publishing’s prolific imprint for translation], it also helps to have someone with local market knowledge by your side.”

As many authors tell us, a publisher’s marketing support isn’t always everything one might wish. Even traditionally published writers are increasingly proactive in marketing and PR; they may find Authorbuddies’ help useful when their books are moving into new territories.

“To find an author-buddy, you simply tell the site what you’re looking for,” Matting says, “and, hopefully, with enough users, it will show you the perfect person.”

He points out that an author might want to find another author who works in the same genre as his or her own. The more closely you can match yourself to your international author-buddy’s success level, the more applicable his or her advice is likely to be, too.

“Of course,” Matting says, always the realist, “there’s a chicken-and-egg problem: The site is only useful if it has a fair number of users.” As we spoke, some 20 people had signed up: it really did just launch Monday.

At the outset, Authorbuddies’ focus is on peer-to-peer assistance. In answer to my questions, Matting says, “Publicists or translators may, of course, offer their help, too,  but the ‘mutual’ aspect [of author-to-author sharing] may be missing.

“In the future, we could expand it to include commercial entities,” Matting says, “people offering their paid support in case someone doesn’t find an author-buddy.”

“Paid” in that case might be an up-front flat fee or a share of a book’s revenues. “This might be interesting for more novice authors,” he says, “or authors who are working in more exotic genres.”

He points out that many translators and authors use Babelcube.com to find each other. “I think of Authorbuddies as a kind of supplement to that service.”

Matting says that so far, sign ups have come mainly from Germany and the States. “If you know someone in French, Italian, or Spanish-speaking markets interested in this kind of platform,” he’d love to have them jump in.

Certainly, Penn may be glad to see newcomers arriving. “I’m particularly interested, she writes, “in South Korea, India, Israel…oh, let’s face it, I’d like to be everywhere! I’m a travel-addicted writer and I need more excuses to visit places.”

And remember, with no cost to participants, Authorbuddies is a nice, cheap date. Pending what he’s done to that software he altered, you might even get lucky tonight.

Hell, you may spot Matting, himself, looking to dance: “I hope to find someone, too, for my own books,” he says. “That will be my payment.” TC mark

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