Indie Publishing isn’t just an American game and it benefits authors to think globally. Maria and Petra join us to give some Dutch insight into the publishing world.
What are the differences, and similarities, between the Dutch and English language indie publishing space? What can we teach each other? Today we chat with Petra van der Ploeg, a developmental editor who helps Fantasy writers get their story ideas to paper. We’ll also by joined by Maria Staal, a writer and self-publishing expert who helps Dutch indies publish and sell their books.
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Maria Staal, Mark Lefebvre, Petra van der Ploeg
Mark Lefebvre 00:03
Hello, and welcome to Self-Publishing Insiders with Draft2Digital. My name is Mark Leslie Lefebvre. And I am the Director of Business Development for Draft2Digital. One of the things I take great pride in and working on this amazing, awesome team is I am the only person on the team who is not a US citizen. I’m not an American. I’m actually up here in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. So I’m kind of like that little mini international, because I’m not really that far away from the States, a little mini international person. But what I’m so excited about today is because we’re always so US-focused, we’re always so North American focused in our self-publishing landscape. And I’m so excited today that we’re bringing in two experts on the publishing landscape and the self-publishing landscape in the Netherlands. So we all have access to insights that go way beyond the borders of the US and Canada and the territories that we normally focus on, which would probably include the UK, Australia, New Zealand, etc. So, Maria, Petra, welcome to Self-Publishing Insiders.
Maria Staal 01:14
Thank you. Thank you.
Mark Lefebvre 01:16
So that we voluntold Maria was gonna go first just to basically share so our live audience can understand. And there will be a chance for people to ask questions, so feel free to drop your questions in the comments. But Maria, a little bit about your background in writing, self-publishing, etc.
Maria Staal 01:36
Yes, my name is Maria Staal. And I have published my first two nonfiction novels back in 2007, when everything was still quite archaic. And I started off with a print run, and had an attic full of books as you did in those days. And in 2010, I jumped on the bandwagon, the digital bandwagon, and I have since published nonfiction books and fiction books. I write a cozy mysteries, and nonfiction mostly about how to self-publish, how to market, that sort of things. They are in Dutch and in English, the cozy mysteries are in English. I have a Dutch language blog about self-publishing. And for about a year and a half, Petra and I have had a podcast about writing and publishing. And we’ve actually interviewed you, Mark, this year. And I’m also the Dutch ambassador for the Alliance of Independent Authors.
Mark Lefebvre 02:38
Okay, so that’s a lot to unpack. Before we move on to Petra, the URL that I just popped up, and I am not going to butcher this, so can one of you pronounce the URL for the website, podcasts, etc?
Maria Staal 02:51
Yeah, this is schrijvenenuitgeven.nl.
Mark Lefebvre 02:55
Oh my God, I could not have said it better. I could not have said it myself. So we’ll drop that in the comments as well so that people can check it out. I was a guest, I was honored to be a guest this summer, I believe this past summer 2022. And I might have been the only English-speaking guest you’ve had so far, right?
Maria Staal 03:18
Yes. Yes. That’s correct.
Mark Lefebvre 03:23
All right. I want to go back to this basement full of books, or whatever. So how long ago was this again, when you did this, and how much has changed between now and then?
Maria Staal 03:40
Yeah, that was 2007. That’s a long time ago. And you know what you did, you had a print run, because digital didn’t really exist yet. Okay, ebooks existed, but not really. And so I just had 3000 books printed. And then I rented a bookshop, for myself. It was a local subject. So that was lucky. And I was lucky to sell them all in about five years. I got rid of the 3000 books. And by that time, I started writing other books, and then it was 2010. And I realized that okay, Amazon UK just come in and KDP you could actually publish via KDP UK. And that’s what I started to do, ebooks and print books, as well as print on demand. That was much, much easier. Yeah.
Mark Lefebvre 04:32
Awesome. Awesome. Thank you for clarifying on that, because it just reminds people how long you’ve been in this space and how much it has changed, not just in the last ten years. Excellent. So Petra, how about your background in publishing and writing, etc.?
Petra van der Ploeg 04:53
Well, I’ve been writing since I was 13. And mostly for myself at that point, because I was way too shy to put my books out there, and I decided in 2016 that I wanted to actually publish. So since then I’ve published five books, five English fantasy books. And I’ve also started back in 2016 a writing coach company to help other fantasy writers to write their stories. And next to that I also do freelance work. So I’m a content writer that writes text about Mindset and Marketing and anything entrepreneur.
Mark Lefebvre 05:32
Awesome. This is fantastic. And so you both work with other writers, you both coach and support other writers. And obviously, you inspire other people with your podcast. How did the two of you meet? I’m curious to hear your hero origin story here.
Petra van der Ploeg 05:51
Should I tell the story Maria? We actually met on Facebook. She had the Facebook group for writers and I went on there. And I was like, okay, Maria’s apparently the host of this group. And I at one point, just contacted her and said, you know what, let’s grab a cup of coffee. And that was like the start of a friendship. And I think about a year, a year and a half ago, I told her, we have both the same desire to help indie authors [inaudible] ….. Am I still there? I’m here. Okay.
Mark Lefebvre 06:40
Thank you. I’m not sure if that was just me. But I missed the last few words. If you can just repeat that, please.
Petra van der Ploeg 06:49
Yes, we had the cup of coffee. And then we had a friend, we started a friendship. And then, about a year and a half ago, we decided we have the same idea about helping indie authors get through the writing and publishing process because we both had our struggles. And that’s how we came up with the websites and the podcast and starting to help others.
Mark Lefebvre 07:14
Excellent. Thank you for repeating that. I’m just going to pop up a little, we’ve got a hello from the US from Jenny, who’s excited to learn more about international markets, which is really exciting. And so if you guys watching live have any questions about international markets, please drop them in the comments. We’ll get to most of those towards the end of the interview. But because I’m selfish, I want to ask my questions first. Maria, you had mentioned you were a member of, like an advisor, or you work with the Alliance of Independent Authors. Is that specifically to help Dutch language authors or authors from that region?
Maria Staal 07:56
Yeah, I am. The Alliance of Independent Authors has ambassadors to sort of take out the words and get in new members, sort of promote, ally in other countries and also in America and everywhere. And I’ve been the NL ambassador for them for about three years or so. And trying to put ALLi on the map in the Netherlands and Belgium, which, by the way, not only for the Netherlands, also the Dutch speaking part of Belgium, we also cover that bit. So it’s trying to be a good supporter for ALLi and get as many people on board, because I love ALLi, so yeah.
Mark Lefebvre 08:41
Awesome. Awesome. I love this. So I want to lay the groundwork for … So obviously, I couldn’t speak Dutch when I came on your podcast to talk about Draft2Digital and self publishing and stuff like that. But you guys speak very fluent English. And you speak Dutch as well. Probably other languages, I’m guessing. I find a lot of Europeans tend to know at least two or three languages beyond their mother tongue. Let’s talk about the publishing landscape in general in the Netherlands, because I have had some experience working with some colleagues when I was at Kobo who came from the Netherlands, came with a literary background, literary agents and representatives from the Kobo team. And I do know that, my impression of the Netherlands is this is a country where reading is sacred. Where reading is very, very valued and held in high regard. But can you guys talk a little bit about that? Because I’m trying to sort of set the scene for people who aren’t familiar with the difference between, you know, the market in North America and the UK, for example, compared to the bilingual market in the Netherlands?
Maria Staal 09:57
Yes. I think I can take that one. Petra can interrupt me if she wants to say … I think the Netherlands is still very, Dutch readers at the moment are still really focused on print books. But since the pandemic, they are getting more interested in digital reading, so they are reading ebooks, and also audiobooks are becoming more interested in it. And the interesting thing is that, in the Netherlands we have I think this is quite unique here, we have a sort of national distributor for print books. It’s called the CB and stands for Central Bookhouse. And they’ve been there for decades and decades. And mostly all the bookshops, but also the online libraries and the distribution to that goes via CB. And for indies, it’s difficult to get to get into the CB because you have to have an account there. And it’s a monthly cost and it’s all in Dutch and it’s not handy. But luckily there are some English ways of also getting into the Dutch markets. So that’s what there are, there are different ways that you can use. But the CB, as a national distributor to the Netherlands and the Flemish part of Belgium is quite unique, I think here. Yeah.
Mark Lefebvre 11:29
And like you said, that’s not something that the average indie author can just create an account with or whatever, there’s probably other channels to connect through them somehow?
Maria Staal 11:39
Yeah, yes, yes, there are sort of self-publishing platforms. And there’s one that has, quite a few of them have actually an account at the CB. And it’s bit like Kobo Writing Life, but then that’s Kobo Writing Life, and you qualify them and then they sort of distribute to the CB and the CB then distributes everywhere else. So it’s handy in a way. But in another way, the CB takes quite a lot of the money that you, you end up with much less royalties, actually, in the end.
Mark Lefebvre 12:14
And this is for print books, primarily, right? Because it’s a heavy print market still, except maybe it started to change a bit in March 2020?
Maria Staal 12:26
Yeah, that’s right. Yeah, it’s mostly print books. And indies can have an account there but it cost like 50 euros a month so you’re never gonna … Yeah, that’s a problem.
Mark Lefebvre 12:39
And most indie authors are usually get their start with moving ebooks, before they move into print. That’s usually because the path of resistance is a lot lower right, with setting up an ebook. Okay, so let’s also paint the scene in terms of the retail landscape. So you talked about CB, and that’s distribution into print. And print is still, throughout Europe actually, print is still significantly more powerful. Now most Americans don’t realize that even in the US, the print market is still 75 to 85% of the market. Most indie authors who are selling nothing but ebooks or mostly ebooks have difficulty believing that, but it’s probably even more powerful. The print book market in Europe. Would you say the print book market is even a higher percentage of the overall market there?
Maria Staal 13:29
Yeah, I don’t know the exact percentages but I do think it’s higher than then the ebook definitely. But the ebooks are getting more, they are becoming more interested. And also subscription. People are selling more, becoming more into subscription reading.
Mark Lefebvre 13:46
Well, that leads to the question is, I’m aware, thanks to the partnership Kobo has, that Amazon is obviously the world’s largest bookstore and is dominant in a lot of markets. But a lot of people outside of Netherlands and maybe even Belgium where Bol is a massive, massive retailer. Can you guys explain what this is? And then I’d love, that’s a great segue into that partnership because Bol and Kobo and subscriptions is something authors are probably familiar with. So is Amazon dominant in the market? I mean, they’re there. Right?
Petra van der Ploeg 14:22
No, I think the difference is, Bol started as the Dutch Amazon. You could just say it like that. Bol is really like the Amazon here in the Netherlands. And so everyone knows Bol. And Amazon, when it started here it was.com or.co.uk, and people needed a credit card. It was a lot of a lot of hassle to get books through Amazon. So people always went to Bol. So that is, in most cases, the only place in people’s minds where they can buy books. So now we have amazon.nl and I think it’s starting to pick up that that is also a possibility to buy there, but Bol is just so engrained in people’s minds so that is just the first place people go.
Mark Lefebvre 15:05
So it sounds like the natural, just like in the US for example, people think to go to Amazon when they’re looking for The Everything Store. So Bol is not just books, right? They’re like a larger retailer and they have physical locations plus they got into the online space pretty early right?
Petra van der Ploeg 15:22
Yeah, but they don’t have physical places but everything online. Yeah, but they do sell everything so it’s not just books. I think it started with just books and DVDs, way way way back. But it now has even groceries you could buy through Bol.com, so.
Mark Lefebvre 15:38
So I can have a coffee and my books both delivered to my home?
Petra van der Ploeg 15:42
Okay, all right. Not if you go to supermarket and fill up your whole creative stuff like that, but it’s kind of the same as Amazon, the bulk things you could you could try to find on Bol as well. Yes.
Mark Lefebvre 15:55
Is it fair to say Bol is a trusted a trusted brand to people? Because you said we’ve known about them, we trust, like we we’ve already shopped there, etc.
Petra van der Ploeg 16:05
Yeah, it’s very trusted. It’s the place to go for the Dutch people. Yeah.
Mark Lefebvre 16:10
Okay, which probably is why the really brilliant people at Kobo decided to partner with Bol, because their mandate is, okay, Bol is selling physical goods. And Bol probably wanted to sell ebooks. And this couple came in and said, Hey, we’ve got ebooks for you. Let’s partner. That’s usually how that works in different territories. But Bol introduced something that was really intriguing is the concept of subscription. Now the concept of subscription reading, without a demand for exclusivity like those other guys in the RiverPlace. Can you talk a little bit about what that’s like, and has the subscription program perhaps introduced more readers, especially avid readers who read a lot, to the concept of ebooks in a different way?
Maria Staal 17:06
I definitely believe that that Kobo Writing Life, sorry, Kobo Plus, it’s called Kobo Plus, has made the Dutch readers more interested in ebooks. Because it’s an easy way for them to pay I don’t know how much, eight euros, nine euros a month. And then they can read as much as they like. And if they don’t like something, they can put it back. Same as with Kindle Unlimited. And it’s I think it has put the ebooks and now I think audiobooks as well, definitely put them on the map. I have the Facebook group for indie writers, and quite a few of them say I have a Kobo Plus account and I read lots of books there and ebooks there, and that sort of thing. So I think people don’t really as much buy ebooks anymore, they might just want to borrow them like you do from the library. And I think that’s very good. The connection. And that started here. They set it up here, Kobo and Bol set it up together and now they’re spreading it out over the rest of the world, I think.
Mark Lefebvre 18:10
I love that. If possible, if you could drop, is the Facebook group that you have for Dutch authors, is that open? People can come and check it out?
Maria Staal 18:20
No, it is a private group, it’s a Dutch language group, but people can find it on Facebook.
Mark Lefebvre 18:27
Alright, so Dutch language folks will know how to search for it. And I imagine there’s probably a survey that they have to fill out. So it’s not some guy like me who’s gonna come in and ask questions in English. Okay.
Maria Staal 18:38
You are more than welcome, Mark. Anytime.
Mark Lefebvre 18:42
I’ll have to use the little Google Translate in order to understand what’s going on. Okay, so this is interesting. And yeah, you’re right. Kobo Plus launched in the Netherlands. And one of the things I always found interesting is, Bol was the dominant retailer. Therefore, there were a lot of customers at Bol and potentially not as many on the Kobo Netherlands website. But getting into the Kobo Plus catalog, I always used to say, get your books into four different platforms. It gets you into the regular Kobo catalog, the regular Bol catalog, then it gets you into the Kobo Plus catalog on Bol. They call it Kobo Plus on Bol.com, right? Like Bol powered by Kobo, and then Kobo Plus. It’s almost like you get four listings instead of two in those territories.
Maria Staal 19:28
That’s right. Yeah. Yeah, I will say, you asked before how many people read in English and the bilingual thing? And I think quite a lot of Dutch people read in English, I read in English. Petra as well.
Mark Lefebvre 19:43
You both read in English? Okay.
Maria Staal 19:47
I think if there are English language indies that want to become more ingrained in the Dutch world, that’s okay to just have it in English, because we read in English anyway. So they could they can put their English language books into Kobo Plus, it’s not a problem.
Mark Lefebvre 20:06
So just to be clear, because I want to be very, very clear. Is Bol as dominant, or even potentially more dominant than Amazon is in English language territories? And this is, and Bol exists as far as I’m aware in the Netherlands as well as in Belgium, right? They have a presence in Belgium as well. Which means that authors who want to be successful wide, even if they’re not publishing in the Dutch language, have a really great opportunity not only to make sure that they list their ebooks through Kobo, and you can do that either directly with Kobo you can go to Draft2Digital through other distributors. But when you list your books to Kobo, it’s probably optimum to check that little box that says yes, put my books in Kobo Plus, because then that makes your book available to more and more readers. And you guys both do read in English as well.
Petra van der Ploeg 20:57
Yeah, we read and write in English. And I think that’s also very interesting for the international people who are watching this, because we get questions about translation and everything. And we always say, you know, that’s not the most important thing. If you just want to make a name here first, see how your English books are doing. Focus on that first and don’t go into the whole translation, because that is like high costs. And you don’t know if you’re going to succeed. Just try to find a place with the English books first, that would be our advice.
Mark Lefebvre 21:29
Oh, I love that advice. Thank you. And that’s something you don’t think about because you think, okay, I’m going to be in the Netherlands, I have to have something in Dutch. If not, I’m not going to sell. But you’re saying no, English is pretty prominent, pretty powerful. Save your money, don’t spend the eight to $10,000 to get your books translated.
Petra van der Ploeg 21:45
It’s like trying to first figure out if the market’s for you, what it all entails. And you can do that just with English books. And if you’re thinking you know what, I want to expand, you can always go through for the translation, because there are of course people who only read in Dutch as well. So if you want to reach those people as well, then go for a translation. But my advice would not be just to first try and then do everything with translation. Just try it with English first.
Mark Lefebvre 22:14
I love that fantastic advice. And speaking of translations, I do have to pop this comment up from Jenny who said, “Hallo is not a typo. It’s Dutch for Hello.” Now is she correct there? That’s correct. Yeah. Hallo, is that how it’s pronounced? Did I get it right? Oh, excellent. Thanks, Jenny. I’m learning lots here. So the other thing, now I’ve heard that thrillers are significantly popular in in the Netherlands. Is that still true? Or was that just a rumor I heard?
Maria Staal 22:50
I think it’s true. Yes. And I think romance feel good, feel good books are very popular. I think they are the most and I think romance is still number one. I think it’s pretty similar to the English-speaking world. And then the thrillers and mystery are very popular as well. Yeah. Absolutely.
Mark Lefebvre 23:10
So you’ve got, because obviously we all want to feel good. We all want a happy ending for God’s sakes, especially the last few years. We’re locked down. We’re trying to read more, let’s read some happy endings. So romance, thrillers, suspense, etc. Are other genres in the top area, or are there, what else sells well?
Maria Staal 23:31
I think children’s books are popular. I think non nonfiction books in general. Other ones I’m not entirely sure. I think that like horror, sci fi, and fantasy. I don’t know Petra, fantasy. Do you know anything about that?
Petra van der Ploeg 23:49
I’m a very big fan of buying books. And I buy Dutch and English books, and fantasy is completely my genre. So I can always find in English and in Dutch. But the fact is that I usually buy English because either the Dutch translation takes a long time, and then the book is already in English. And I can’t wait. I just want to buy the book. Or it’s from a Dutch author. And then, of course, it’s going to be in Dutch. So I think it’s also, fantasy is also high, but not as high as romance and thriller. Those are really really popular here. Yes.
Mark Lefebvre 24:31
Oh, this is great. Thank you. I’m learning so much. I guess the other thing is, when you’re talking about buying books, are you talking about buying physical books? Yes. And then is it a case? Is it a case where, I know when I worked there a couple years ago, I remember Kobo released a study that showed that people who read ebooks tended to read three times as much as they used to before when they were only print on a print only diet, and they bought twice as much of the print books as they used to when they started reading ebooks. Now, do you consume a lot of books through Kobo Plus or subscription programs? And then go back? Are you buying books just to have it because you really like it and you want it on your shelf, or you’re buying it for friends? How does that work?
Petra van der Ploeg 25:18
You asking me?
Maria Staal 25:19
Petra van der Ploeg 25:24
Well I don’t buy double books. So if I’ve if I have bought a book on ebook, I’m not going to buy it in a physical copy unless I really really like it. But it’s also a matter of, do I have space in my in my closet bookshelves behind?
Mark Lefebvre 25:41
I was just curious about that. Because I end up, I mean, I’m a print book quarter. I buy a lot of print books, especially when I’m doing research. But also even, I may buy the print book so I can get it signed or I can keep it keep all of the nice hardcovers on my shelf. But I’ll listen to the audiobook. Let’s talk a little bit about audiobooks because I know Kobo Plus is available in audio. Is the audiobook market something that’s been growing significantly in the last few years in in the Netherlands?
Maria Staal 26:16
Yeah, yeah, it is. It has definitely. And I think more people, particularly because audiobooks are now on Kobo Plus, but they are also in the online library. So before they had only ebooks in the online library, but I think during the pandemic, they put the audiobooks on the online library as well. I think that made them far more popular these days than they were before. Absolutely, yeah.
Mark Lefebvre 26:55
There I am with my mic muted because I was typing, and then I forgot to unmute it when I started. Thanks for letting me know. I’m just going on and on. So we had a comment asking Bol, Bowl or Bol. How do you pronounce it? So I popped up bol.com. And that is the website is called Bol.com. Correct?
Maria Staal 27:17
Yeah, correct. Yeah.
Mark Lefebvre 27:18
What does it stand for?
Maria Staal 27:21
It stands for books online, actually.
Mark Lefebvre 27:23
Is this Dutch and there’s like an English language, or is BOL the same thing in Dutch? Is it?
Maria Staal 27:33
No, no. This is the way they wanted to have books online. And then they made this acronym for it. Yeah, that’s how they started I don’t know, 20, 30 years, 25 years ago, so yes.
Petra van der Ploeg 27:46
But also if you say it in Dutch it’s Booken Online. So it’s kind of the same.
Mark Lefebvre 27:50
Oh, yeah. I love that. Oh, cool. Oh my god. And so CB is Central Booken House. Is that it?
Maria Staal 28:01
Yeah, central book house. But actually the name changed already about 15 years ago and it’s CB now but everyone still says central book house. I don’t know why, I always say CB.
Mark Lefebvre 28:18
Okay, so we know you can get ebooks you can get into the the Dutch language or the Dutch market, the Netherlands market I should say, through Kobo. Are there other ways to get ebooks published in the Netherlands? And then let’s talk about, how would somebody go about getting print books published in the Netherlands?
Maria Staal 28:41
Well, ebooks are very easy because you can just do basically the same thing that you do in the in the English speaking market. So personally what I do, I use KDP for Amazon, Kobo writing life for a Kobo and automatically ebooks, then also are sold on Bol.com. So that goes automatically. And you have Draft2Digital for the rest of the world, so to speak. And that’s exactly the same. This for ebooks is basically the same.
Mark Lefebvre 29:13
Good stuff. So ebooks is relatively easy and simple. So most people around the world, whether they’re using Kobo Writing Life, Draft2Digital, or some other distributor, as long as the books go to Kobo, you’re good, you’re in. It’s automatic. Which is fantastic and good to remind people of just how easy that is. And when you’re asked about whether or not you want to be in Kobo Plus, I always recommend it. Why not make my books available to more readers, right?
Maria Staal 29:41
Exactly, exactly. Yeah. Yeah. That question I often get, do I put my books in Kobo Plus? Well it’s an extra market that you can sell. Why not? Why not?
Mark Lefebvre 29:52
Right. So how does that, can I ask some personal questions. Now, you don’t have to give me definitive numbers. But as authors yourselves, I’ve noticed I’m through my Kobo sales, both direct with Kobo Writing Life and through Draft2Digital hub for my payment splitting books, I’ve noticed that the main increase I’ve seen in the last several years has not been in ala carte sales of my ebooks but has been the Kobo Plus reads. Are you guys seeing that trend as well?
Maria Staal 30:22
Not for me personally, because at the moment, my nonfiction books mostly get sold as paperbacks and my fiction books, I’m right in the middle of rebranding them. So they are for sale, but I’m going to change the cover and the title. So they don’t sell very much at the moment. I don’t have much to compare. And so I can’t really give you an answer to that.
Mark Lefebvre 30:49
So, but that leads to a side question, because I was gonna jump into print, but then you mentioned covers, and I said, okay, all right. So if I have a really brilliant cover a fantasy cover, for example, or a thriller cover that works brilliantly in English language markets in North America, is there a different style of cover that’s more paramount in the Netherlands? For, let’s say, for fantasy? Let’s start with fantasy.
Petra van der Ploeg 31:16
Yeah, well, the difference between the English market and the Dutch market is definitely you have to check the covers because the covers in the US might not work here. So you have to do your research in order to publish it here and also be successful. It doesn’t say that it automatically won’t work if you use the same covers, it also depends on your marketing strategies and everything. But there is definitely a difference. Yes.
Mark Lefebvre 31:41
Okay. So I’m just going to advise potentially, then, one of the best things for people to do is to go to Bol.com, the most significant largest online retailer. Books Online, I love it. In the Netherlands, and in your category. And again, you can use Google Translate, so you can actually double check to see what you’re looking at, browse categories, and probably check the bestsellers in that territory to see what’s selling well. If you wanted to do a cheat, you go to kobo.com. And you just change the little flag to the Netherlands, so you can kind of see what are they merchandising for best sellers there. That’s probably a good way to see the difference and go oh, wait. So the fantasy covers maybe aren’t all dragons and things like that? Or there’s different aspects to them?
Petra van der Ploeg 32:29
Yeah, I need to add to that if you publish in English, you keep the English covers. So because that’s the you know, the US books are also sell sold here with same covers. So if it’s targeted to an English audience, English written, you can usually have the same covers, but if you target the Dutch, the Dutch audience, then you need to check the Dutch written books, because that might be a difference. Yes.
Mark Lefebvre 32:56
Excellent. Thank you. And I guess that leads to, I’m gonna get to print, I promise I’ll get to print. But that sort of led to the question of, how do I market? How do I how do I market my ebooks in the Netherlands? Do I purchase BookBubs? Do I go to written word media and get a Bargain Booksy? Or are there different marketing strategies that authors in the Netherlands that you guys recommend or use?
Maria Staal 33:23
That is a big question indeed, we unfortunately don’t have any like, BookBub sort of organization. So we don’t have that here, which is a big problem. We really want some because then we could sell more books in the US for our own markets even. But we don’t really, so what I always advise is, make sure you get the right cover. It’s basically the same so that your metadata is perfect. The right cover, the right title, everything in the blurb, and just yep, put it on there and try to get as close as you can to the right category. And that is that is a bit of a stretch difficulty sometimes here, but yeah, and then just put the word out basically, it’s one of these things. You can of course use Facebook ads, quite a few people use Facebook ads here, but other ways … Bol.com doesn’t give us ads, we don’t have ads on Bol.com. I think we can use Amazon ads, I don’t know what, it’s just for me now. I’m not sure that works. I think most people use Facebook ads here. Yeah. Yeah.
Mark Lefebvre 34:31
Okay. And Facebook ads targeting readers, I guess, etc. Right.?
Maria Staal 34:37
Petra van der Ploeg 34:38
It’s also good to know that the indie authors have a bit more struggle here because, for instance, the categories, the genres are different from the US based, the English, Amazon. There’s loads more categories, genres there than there is in the Netherlands. So your book might be a little harder to find here in the Netherlands based on those categories. So we have a lot of catching up to do on several things. But hopefully, what Maria and I are doing, it helps to lift the, how do you say it?
Maria Staal 35:20
Mark Lefebvre 35:24
So does that mean, just to clarify, so for example, maybe the category might just be fantasy rather than I have urban fantasy. And Petra, let’s say you’re writing epic fantasy or historical fantasy or something like that. Is that the case where it’s just all under fantasy, so the subcategories are harder to … ? Okay.
Petra van der Ploeg 35:44
Yeah, you can’t really go very deep in the subgenres.
Maria Staal 35:49
And as even the weirdest thing here that is still baffling me beyond belief is that they have the word novel is actually a genre here. Which is really strange to me. Yeah.
Mark Lefebvre 36:03
Does novel apply to general fiction? That’s not a genre? Is that what a novel is in …?
Maria Staal 36:10
Well, no, I’m still trying to figure it out what it stands for. To me a novel is a book of a certain length, but here they are novel is something that you read, basically. And that’s the category on both accounts. So really that’s how basic it is. Basically, if you don’t really have the, you know, what we have on Amazon, whatever, that you really can have the subcategories. Yeah.
Mark Lefebvre 36:33
Because I see beginners often put “a novel” on any book they release, whether it’s nonfiction, fiction, whatever, because they think novel and book are synonymous. It’s not that, right? So I can’t have a nonfiction book for writers and call it a novel.
Maria Staal 36:55
No, no. It’s fiction, but somehow, I don’t know, they don’t have it split out as much as you do. Yeah, unfortunately.
Petra van der Ploeg 37:06
Don’t put your book in the category novel, because I think most writers will be very confused by that, and that it’s going to be like a mishmash of all kinds of categories in there. So don’t use it.
Mark Lefebvre 37:19
Oh, my goodness, that is, wow. Okay, let’s get back into, so primarily, print is so popular there. What are some of the ways that authors can get, because you guys help with getting print books made? Right? What are some of the ways that you usually advise people to get into that. get their books distributed? And you know, with the English language market, for example, you can go through D2D Print, and you’re distributed through Ingram, the largest wholesaler of Print On Demand Books, which doesn’t mean you’re gonna get your books into bookstores. But because most bookstores won’t order non-returnable, but you can get listed online and people can special order them. Is it similar or harder or easier?
Maria Staal 38:09
Harder, I think. It is similar in a way that if you have Ingram Spark that does the distribution worldwide to bookstores. Here we have the CB that does distribution to bookstores. So it’s a good idea to have if you have a print book. I think Ingram Spark does somehow get the book onto Bol.com. But it’s not always, it’s not a failsafe thing that you can do it. And so you should try to get your book a CB account. So there are self-publishing platforms that have a CB account, and you can use their CB accounts. Yeah.
Mark Lefebvre 38:47
You said it was 50 euros a month?
Maria Staal 38:51
Yeah, if you have one on your own. Yeah, if you’ve got them for yourself, but it will be all in Dutch as far as I know. So that’s really not very handy for English speaking. So it’s easier to get via a self-publishing platform like Pumbo. Pumbo.nl. And they are one of the biggest self-publishing platforms for print books, for print on demand. And they do the distribution to Bol.com, but also all the bookstores because they haven’t received it yet. So they have a CB account. So it’s very handy and it’s free, it’s free to use.
Mark Lefebvre 39:33
Thank you. I was just I was just wanting to pop that up, if I spelled that properly. And that’s one of the self-publishing platforms to get your print book loaded to places like Bol, if you’re already not getting it there through Ingram. Or you’re saying that potentially, maybe because of that relationship that CB has, as a trusted distributor or as the monopolistic …
Maria Staal 39:59
Monopoly yeah. Yeah. I think that makes it difficult for Ingram Spark to grow to gain ground in the Netherlands, with the bookshops and everything because the CBs are there, I think that really is a problem. And that makes it difficult for us because traditional publishers can have, they have their own CB accounts, it’s not a problem. But for us it’s much more difficult for the indies.
Mark Lefebvre 40:24
And then what’s the typical cost? And are these platforms like Pumbo.nl, could an English language person navigate them? Are they in both Dutch and English? Or are they just in Dutch?
Maria Staal 40:40
No, no, I think Pumbo is only in Dutch.
Mark Lefebvre 40:45
So we’d need to check out your website and potentially get some help from you guys. Right?
Petra van der Ploeg 40:53
That’s also what we try when we connect with other authors, either English speaking or Dutch, is we always say, you know, you need to work together as indie authors. And if you want to go onto a Dutch platform, like Pumbo Print NL, and you don’t speak the language, try to find a Dutch writer that can help you in that process. Because self-publishing is not a one man’s job, we can all do it together. That would be advice.
Mark Lefebvre 41:23
And what I like to say is that self-publishing, when done correctly, is self-directed. Meaning, yes, I’m directing everything myself, but I’m working with professionals. I’m working with partners, collaborators, and advisors, right?
Petra van der Ploeg 41:39
Yes. And I also think that if there are a lot of English people who want to use the platform of Pumbo, and they get emails asking, why is the platform not in English? If they get a lot of emails, maybe they they’ll change it, as well. So you can always try.
Mark Lefebvre 41:56
That’s right. The mob has spoken. Okay, so I have a very special question. Now I’m gonna have to get one of you ladies to read this because Jenny, I guess is bilingual, or trilingual, who knows? Okay, so this is a comment, question from Jenny. I’m wondering if one of you can read it aloud for people who are only listening to this?
Petra van der Ploeg 42:17
You want us to read it out loud in English?
Mark Lefebvre 42:19
Oh, no, read it aloud in Dutch, and then maybe you can translate it? How’s that sound?
Maria Staal 42:25
I’ll read it. Yeah, it says [speaking in Dutch]. So what she writes is, thank you very much. Lots of very good information. I haven’t got any questions, but thank you very much.
Mark Lefebvre 42:44
Oh, awesome. Cool. That’s cool. Thank you, I would have looked at it and said, Jenny’s asking something. I don’t know what it is. But she was just appreciating this wonderful information. So we just have a few minutes left. And so are there any things you would advise? So for somebody who’s watching this, and they haven’t gone into self-publishing, they haven’t potentially even explored beyond the borders of the US maybe, what’s some advice you would offer to beginning writers, if they’re thinking about, okay, I want to do this. And I’d love to be able to try and sell more books in in the Netherlands.
Maria Staal 43:23
Well, personally, I would always say just go for it. Because there is a big market here for English books, as Petra said before, and if you don’t come here with your books, then you might miss out on readers and sales. That’s the thing. So I think just go as wide as you can and sell as many places as you can. Yeah.
Petra van der Ploeg 43:45
And my advice would be connect with other writers, because there are a lot of companies that might scam you into paying a lot of money if you’re unexperienced in the publishing industry. You know, don’t give a lot of money to certain companies, you know, and connect with other writers and ask for advice and help. And I’ve always found the self-publishing community very open and honest about questions and very helpful with advice. So that would be my advice. Don’t do it alone.
Mark Lefebvre 44:21
Thank you. Now, some quick questions that came in just at the very end here. Tom was asking, “Would you say that bookstores in the Netherlands account for 40% of book sales?” Or what would that number be?
Maria Staal 44:33
I think it’s probably a little bit more. I’m not sure. Bookstores, as in brick and mortar stores, probably less. I think Bol.com sells a lot of books these days.
Mark Lefebvre 44:43
Okay. Very much like Amazon has taken a lot of that market, right? Here in North America. Okay, so Lexi says, “Go as wide as you can. Music to my ears.” And so Jeroen, I pronounced that improperly. Mr. Bakker says, “I run a small indie publishing company. My main issue is promotion.” And I guess promotions is again, the big challenge for everyone, right?
Maria Staal 45:13
Absolutely. Yeah. I think that it doesn’t matter if you’re English or Dutch, promotion and marketing is the big problem. And I think if Jeroen, his name is Jeroen, he can come to our website, and we can we can help him. It’s not a problem. And otherwise, you can become a member of the Facebook group. And there’s lots of information there.
Mark Lefebvre 45:34
Awesome. Awesome. Thank you.
Petra van der Ploeg 45:37
And one advice I want to give to that is that there is a difference in promotion here in the Netherlands as to the US. And that is also because we have, what’s the word for it Maria? What is the English word?
Maria Staal 45:52
Now I’m blanking.
Mark Lefebvre 45:55
Are you gonna tell me it’s not all about 99 cent books and cheap books, it’s about quality?
Maria Staal 46:01
No, it’s about press releases. That’s the word.
Petra van der Ploeg 46:05
Yes. And that’s the difference, because the Dutch are very, how do you say, old fashioned kind of? They try to go after the traditional publishing ways with promotion. And we are trying to teach the Dutch people that you actually have to go the English promotion way. And so there is a difference. So just like Maria said, as a Dutch speaking person, go to our website, we have a lot of information there. And if you’re English speaking and you want to know, just drop us an email and we’ll gladly help.
Mark Lefebvre 46:41
Awesome. Thank you ladies so much. This has been so enlightening. So exciting to get to chat with you. I know it’s later, much later in your day than it is for me. So I want to say thank you for joining. Thanks for all the comments and interaction everyone online. Don’t miss us, we’re here usually every Thursday at 1pm Eastern, is when we are doing D2Dlive.com. But if you missed the live, it’s okay. We have all the episodes available over at youtube.com/draft2digital. But if again, if you bookmark D2Dlive.com. That’ll bring you to our Facebook page where you can find the previous videos and you can also check out through our blog, draft2digital.com/blog. You can get some of these converted into audio so you don’t get to see me speaking with the mic off and just see my lips moving, you just hear the silence when that’s happening. So thank you ladies again so much for sharing your wisdom with us and thank you guys for watching.
Maria Staal 47:42
Happy to be here.