It’s Time To Publish Your Book Internationally

publish your book

You’ve heard the phrase “content is king,” but it’s time to revise that to “distribution rules,” which is why you need to publish your book internationally.

More than any other book/publishing conference I attend, London Book Fair is a truly international affair, lending readers the opportunity to meet and talk with authors, agents, and publishers from all around the world.

If you’ve attended the conference in the past, you might have heard echoes of a sentiment first uttered by Microsoft’s Bill Gates that has been embraced in the publishing world: the idea that when it comes to publishing, “Content is king.”

It was in the early days of the Internet when Gates expressed this idea, and that line of thinking paid off for him. And there is a lot of truth in it: great stories are a big part of what sell books. That will always be the case. But as I prepared to represent BookBaby at 2018’s London Book Fair, knowing what I’ve learned about the new world of publishing, I offered an updated version of Gates’ guiding principle: Distribution is king.

Some have likened the concept of distribution as the “queen” to Gates’ “king” content, but I’m of the mind that these roles should be reversed.

Call it what you want — transmitter, network, bullhorn — distribution is the vital infrastructure that broadcasts authors’ messages. Without distribution, there is no discovery ,  no matter how brilliant the content.

Many authors still don’t lend credence to this fact. They believe that as long as they’re on Amazon, people will find their book. But that just isn’t true. For one thing, Amazon commands only a portion of US readership, let alone worldwide readership. And getting your book in the hands of readers who aren’t on Amazon and don’t live in the United States is becoming more and more paramount.

And while eBooks may have plateaued in the US, other countries around the world have embraced the technology. Tons of emerging nations, beginning with China — which now boasts the largest middle-class population in the world — are using their phones in ways that Americans don’t. They’re using it as a bank. They’re using it to conduct transactions. And, above all, they’re using it to read books.

In fact, in some countries, people can only read using their mobile devices. They don’t have bookstores and publishers don’t have the opportunity to sell print, either. Digital reading mechanisms have become the preferred medium for distribution. In some cases, they’re the only formats readers have ever been familiar with.

One of the reasons authors choose BookBaby is what I term our “books without boundaries” approach to retail store distribution. We’ve been at the forefront of printed book and eBook globalization, supporting the rise of digital publishing throughout the world.

The physical logistics of print books didn’t allow self-published authors to reach such widespread international audiences, but digital truly changes everything. It is called the World Wide Web, after all.

We’ve placed tens of thousands of books into Amazon, iBooks, Google Play, Kobo — all the major players — but eager readers can now find our authors’ books in stores such as the German eBook giant Ciando, the UK’s Gardners, and eSentral with its stores in Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia.

The reason why we do this is that it’s so inherently valuable to sell your book internationally. In fact, the international English-language eBook market will soon surpass the US market. Some numbers shared by the eBook Bargains UK (EBUK) newsletter illustrate this point.

Sampling EBUK, you can see there are upwards of 75 million English speakers in the Philippines, over 40 million English speakers in Germany, 30 million in Bangladesh, and tens of millions in countries like Egypt, Turkey, and Thailand. In just India, Pakistan, and Nigeria alone, the number of English speakers exceeds the entire population of the United States. A very conservative estimate puts the number of English speakers outside the US at around 750 million, and that figure doesn’t include the UK (60 million), Australia (20 million), New Zealand (4 million), and Canada (25 million). To reach all these readers, authors need to make sure their books are available in the leading stores in each country.

The publishing world still operates in a primarily US-centric, Amazon-centric fashion, but we at BookBaby have seen the value of redesigning that focus. As of this year, almost 50 percent of our authors’ sales came through stores other than Amazon, and we anticipate our largest area of growth in the eBook market to come from emerging nations.

A survey recently conducted by the Chinese Academy of Press and Publication reports the percent of adults in the country using their phones to read books increased in 2016. In 2015, 60 percent of adults in China used their phones to read; in 2016, that figure jumped to 66.1 percent.

Another 2017 study revealed that about 33 percent of the population preferred eBooks to print books — up from 25 percent as recorded in 2015.

At the end of the day, everyone on the planet has the potential to create eloquent, even life-changing, content. But without an audience — or, more precisely, without the right means of reaching that audience — that content will never be fully appreciated.

Which is to say, the key to availing your book to the largest possible audience is international distribution. Sorry, Mr. Gates.

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Steven Spatz is a writer, marketer, and President Emeritus of BookBaby, the nation’s leading self-publishing service provider. After a successful career with companies including Mattel, Hasbro, and Pinnacle Orchards, Steven joined AVL Digital in 2004 as Chief Marketing Officer, leading the direct-to-consumer marketing teams for music industry-leading brands Disc Makers, Oasis, and CD Baby. The native Oregonian was tapped to lead BookBaby, the company’s new publishing division, in late 2014. BookBaby’s growing book-printing operation is located outside Philadelphia, PA, and employs over 100 book-publishing experts across the United States to meet the printed and eBook needs of thousands of self-publishing authors around the globe. Steven retired as brand President in 2022 and continues to contribute via weekly emails, industry guides, and posts on the BookBaby blog. He’s in the process of relocating full-time to southern France in early 2023. Steven loves to hear from authors, editors, and publishers in the BookBaby community with tales of publishing trials and triumphs. To tell him your story, write to


  1. What is my first move in promoting my book? Presume a page on fb would be first?
    Thanks for any assistance.
    Roger Barton

  2. Steven hi, I have some CD’s with CDBaby… good to know that I can get my book distributed by you as well. Both are with different publishers and available as paper back and e book….currently on Amazon- what’s my next step to get them placed internationally? Thanks Georgina

  3. My novel True Mercy is on Amazon, Smashwords, and IngramSpark. Is there a way I could get it to the international markets? How much would it cost? True Mercy is a thriller designed to bring more awareness to two issues: families taking care of a loved one with autism and the human trafficking crisis.

    • Sounds like a terrific book, Idelle. One of the best things about BookBaby eBook distribution is that you can maintain existing accounts with Amazon, Smashwords and others and simply add in more stores through BookBaby. We charge $249 for the complete eBook conversion and distribution package that delivers your eBook in 50+ stores around the world.

  4. i have tried so many promotion companies in the last 2 years and i am at a dead end.My book “magical Reflections”; non-fiction book of illustrated poems written in 3 languages was published 2 years ago and i have not sold a single copy. I need help. I followed your course on the website but that did not help me much.

  5. I quite agree with everything you say in this article. However, what are we as individuals to do to promote are work abroad. It sounds as though BookBaby will take care of this for us, but I suspect we need to take action on our own. I have made certain that my book appears on the English Amazon, but was unable to negotiate the sites in Germany and Japan. Any other suggestions?

  6. Of course I want my books to be available world-wide. Other than paying to be in the London Book Fair, and mentioning that your sales are international, you give us no clue how to implement a strategy. So, please elaborate.

    • Hello Charles. Step one is getting your books into the international stores. BookBaby’s distribution program will put your eBook into 50+ stores around the globe. As they say in sports: the best ‘ability’ is simply availability! I’m not sure paying to attend book fairs such as London or Frankfurt is a good strategy for authors. As I don’t know anything about your book it’s difficult to advise you. Is there something about your book or genre that might be appealing in one region over others?

  7. […] Posts It’s Time To Publish Your Book Internationally The #1 mistake of self-published authors for worldwide book sales Sell them with your cover design […]


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