How to Self-Publish Internationally: Sell Your Books to a Global Audience

how to self-publish internationally

As an author, you may have heard about “publishing wide,” selling internationally, and expanding your reach, but the question remains: “can you publish a book in another country?

First, that could imply publishing in a foreign language, which may be an advanced business practice for many authors.

Second, you’re probably wondering how to get to an international publisher.  The good news is that there are published authors who don’t need a foreign publisher to sell their books globally, as they chose self-publishing. Self-publishing can be set up to easily and efficiently publish your books all around the world.

Let’s go over why and how to publish internationally using a fast and easy route available to an indie publisher.

Why Sell Globally? (The Numbers)

Is selling books in other countries really worth it? The numbers say yes. The data I’m about to show you comes from PublishDrive, a book publishing aggregator on a mission to make global independent publishing simple and efficient. During the last few years, PublishDrive helped indies and publishers bring more than 150K books, including ebooks, audiobooks, and print-on-demand titles, to readers around the world.

Some indies achieved up to 200% more book sales in 2022 by selling globally with the online self-publishing platform PublishDrive. That’s on top of a 200% boost they saw in the year prior. And 56% of their sales came from international markets. If you’re looking to maximize your reach, you have to go global.

As selling digital books online has become the norm in the publishing industry, the demand has peaked:

why sell globally

The ebook market demand is global. Many indies publish wide, and sell globally, meaning beyond Amazon. They distribute in numerous stores and countries. 

In fact, 56% of sales seen through the PublishDrive channel in 2022 came from markets other than the United States, which is a 10% growth in international markets, compared to 2021:

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international book sales

Authors, international readers want your content! Check out the growth from these countries in particular:

book sales by country

Check out the bestselling retailers and platforms below. Most of them have an international reach. Storytel, for example, gives authors the opportunity to sell in 25 countries.

book sales growth by store

Despite negative trends we have seen in the last few years across the global economy due to events like the pandemic and the Russian-Ukrainian war, digital book sales are booming around the globe. 

So that’s the rundown on why you ought to publish internationally. But you may wonder – are foreign readers interested in English books? Let’s talk about this a little. 

Do I Need to Translate My Book to Go Global?

The translation process takes time, money, and effort. For indies, in particular, acquiring funds can be a constraint for growth and expanding to put a title out in multiple formats like print and audio. Well, good news: as English-language content is in high demand everywhere, you don’t really have to translate it because you’ll still have readers. 

However, if you want to go beyond English-speaking countries and do country-specific targeting to reach more readers, you should consider translating your book into the official language of those countries you’re interested in selling to. 

Bestselling author Jean Joachim has a few tips for you on how to translate a book and publish it, as she translated her books to publish in Spanish, French, German, and Italian:

  • It may be a good idea to translate your book into a target country’s language, as you never know when your books may catch on at a certain retailer, like hitting the Amazon top 100.
  • Advertise your book using the language of the country you’re advertising in: “Simply posting excerpts, review quotes, and the blurb has worked well,” she said. Using social media ads is also a plus.
  • Keep everything genuine, and don’t tweak the content of your book when translating it. 

Lauren Smith’s case study can also show you a few tips on how to publish a translated book and then market it for higher visibility. “I really enjoy the multi-store reach. It's not just Google that I use. I have reached a lot of different countries. Currently, I'm selling Italian novels that are historical romances translated from English...They do decently on PublishDrive, and I'm very excited about that. It's not just Amazon where translated titles can do well...There are other stores that are reaching countries where Amazon doesn't exist, maybe not even a lot of Apple users.” – Lauren Smith

Here are the highlights from the case study: 

  • Look into providing translated books in foreign markets, but do your research first: “I would encourage people to investigate their genres, investigate prices, and ask around what's fair. There are ways of verifying good translators versus not. Know the rights.” You can ask for help regarding translations on this Authors Support Network.
  • Learn about marketing your book and outsourcing the process to the experts when you can. Mark Dawson has courses on crafting, production, and marketing.
  • Take your time to learn every step of the process, and don’t rush into spending more money than you need to.

If you don’t want to translate your book into a foreign language, you should know that there are many PublishDrive indies who publish internationally and list their books as they are. China is an awesome example to look at, and PublishDrive is currently the only publishing aggregator that can easily get your books to audiences there:

  • China’s landscape is influenced by economic and urban growth, resulting in a more educated middle class eager for international books.
  • China’s market share of international books has rapidly increased since 2020.
  • Some indies selling books in China even made up to 201% more sales in 2020 via PublishDrive.

So, how to self-publish books in China and beyond?

How to Self-Publish Internationally (Fast & Easy)

If your question is if you can publish a book in another country, the answer is yes.

There are several ways to self-publish internationally. You can license foreign and translation rights to international book distributors. You can pitch your book to global book wholesalers or international publishers you find on the web. These efforts involve reading up on international rights, searching for a few marketing tips, pricing, and more.

So, the first step is to understand how international rights work:

  • Foreign language rights: These rights allow you to legally publish your novel in its original published language in other foreign countries.
  • Translation rights: If you own these rights, you can legally translate and publish the book in languages other than the original published language.

To publish your book in international markets, you need to own international rights, which you have unless you’ve signed a publishing contract or released your book via a self-publishing platform.

There are two situations regarding international publishing rights:

  • Traditional publishing houses: If you’ve signed a contract with a traditional publishing house, you need to check the contract to see which licenses you’ve given to the publisher.
  • Independent publishers: If you choose to self-publish, you’ve probably given away all the international rights by signing up for a certain platform.

Although this doesn't seem like something you'd want, selling your international rights can be a good thing:

  • If you choose traditional publishing, they have access to professional translators and can help. 
  • With a self-publishing platform, you'd have to take care of the translation yourself, but once you do that, the platform distributes your book to other countries and handles the advertising and marketing.

The purpose of this write-up is to show you the fastest and easiest route. 

Here it is: go with an international self-publishing company that takes care of the logistics for you.

Better yet, choose a platform that reaches the most channels across the most countries. That means you DON’T want to call it a day after simply publishing a book on Amazon and the 13 countries it has storefronts in. Rather, you should maximize and diversify your reach. Remember all those bestselling countries and bookstores above? Don’t miss out on those.

Just think about this:

  • Apple Books reaches more than 50 countries. So does Google Play Books. 
  • There are up-and-coming channels like Dreame in Southeast Asia, which was PublishDrive’s #1 store for the most growth in 2020.
  • Spain’s Bibliotheca is a digital library that generated up to 250% more sales for some indies in 2022.

Learn about today’s top distribution companies. Then consider PublishDrive, the platform that reaches all the industry giants like Amazon, Apple, and Google. Plus, they reach all the rest, like Dreame, Bibliotheca, and more. 

publishdrive international stores

Indies made 200% more book sales in 2022 by publishing wide. With PublishDrive, that’s more than 400 stores, 200K libraries, and 100 countries.

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Selling internationally with PublishDrive takes just three steps:

3 Steps to Publish Internationally With PublishDrive

The numbers show how going global is the best business move you can make for your author business. To prepare for selling internationally, go over these points to make sure you’re on the right track:

  • Decide if you want translations or not. There are benefits to translating your book, as we’ve previously seen with Jean and Lauren’s cases. On the flip side,  English-language content is in demand. Since translations cost more to do, try experimenting with distributing your book as is before deciding to translate if you’re trying to control costs.
  • Be aware of your copyrights for different countries and stores; ensure your work gets distributed legally.
  • Know about managing taxes with different countries. With PublishDrive, it’s a simple tax process under one entity since everything else is managed for you.
  • Figure out how you want to price your book depending on different markets.

Now, let’s see the process:

Step 1: Sign up to the PublishDrive platform (start with the 14-day free trial) and upload your content files for ebook, audiobook, and/or print-on-demand. You also have to fill out all the necessary details, such as creators, metadata, categories, price, rights, and distribution.

Step 2: Wait as PublishDrive quality checks your files, metadata, categories, and more.

Step 3: Select the stores you’d like to distribute to and click submit. Publishing takes a few days, and in some cases, up to a week. Take a look at all the stores and countries you can reach with PublishDrive.

Note: After publishing, you’ll start earning royalties after two months. PublishDrive compiles sales reports around the 10th of the month, two months after the sales, with the deadline for payment being the end of the same month. For example, sales made during May will be reported around the 10th of July and paid at the end of July.

online self-publishing platform publishrive

Why PublishDrive?

We’ve pushed published authors to go global since 2015. And we’ve seen digital book sales from outside markets increase more and more. Good news: self-publishing a book internationally can be simple and effective with an aggregator, a publishing company that distributes it to multiple places for you.

Here are just a few good reasons PublishDrive is an awesome aggregator to partner with:

  • You get the widest distribution network of over 400 stores and 240K libraries worldwide. Reach the hottest markets we talked about, even hard-to-reach places like China (see list of stores).
  • Enjoy a flat fee subscription model that doesn’t take any additional percentage of your earned royalties.
  • You get proven tools and solutions from one dashboard, including manuscript conversion, distribution, promotion, and beyond.
  • You can easily track your store links and sales performance with integrated analytics.
  • Use a built-in tool for collecting and managing your royalty payments.
  • Split royalties easily with your co-authors using Team Royalties or Abacus.
  • Tap into the platform’s integrated marketing tactics and promote your book with in-store featuring, review copies, and more.
  • Increase your book’s visibility with Amazon ads, which you can set directly from PublishDrive.

The Key to Selling Your Book Internationally? Maximize & Diversify

The point of selling internationally is to reach as many readers as possible. You can do this by publishing wide:

  • Publish internationally in as many countries as possible.
  • Publish in different book channels – make sure you’re not forgetting to get your book selling to libraries, in niche spaces, through subscription models, etc.

Publish in different formats, like ebooks, audiobooks, and print, and increase your international sales.

Self-Publish Internationally in No Time

Now you know how to self-publish in Europe, Asia, Australia, and beyond. What next? Start your global book distribution with PublishDrive:

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