The other day, I was in the DMs of a friend of mine who worked at a library in California. We were both fiction writers so of course we talked about books. She mentioned her library was looking to acquire Filipino-language titles for their catalog. It got me thinking about how to indie publish Filipino-language books in the Philippines and getting it out to readers who might be interested, a lot of whom may not live here.
I write fiction in English. I do have dreams of one day writing Bisaya erotica (and delighting/horrifying my aunts) but alas my Bisaya language skills are shamefully inadequate. I’m aware that those of us who publish English books enjoy the privilege of having many more places we can sell our books. For instance, I can publish on the Radish app and on Amazon, but currently neither will accept Filipino-language books. Furthermore, there are a ton of online resources to help you indie publish your English-language book, a lot of them free. Do Filipino-language novelists have similar resources? (No, really, I wanna know.)
A couple of months ago, out of curiosity, I looked up the language requirements for books you can publish on Draft2Digital. D2D is currently my favorite book publishing aggregator — a platform that will distribute your books to different marketplaces such as Amazon and Apple Books, among others. It’s relatively easy to use and has a nifty ebook and print book formatting feature. Plus, it will distribute to pretty much all the major ebook markets with the exception of Google Play Books.
It turns out the list of languages D2D accepts includes not just Tagalog but other Pinoy languages such as Bisaya, Chavacano (IIRC it falls under Creole) and Hiligaynon.
But as D2D is only an aggregator, each book seller platform will have its own rules — e.g. Amazon won’t accept Tagalog or Bisaya books for either print or ebook distribution. Still, there has to be some platforms where we can sell Filipino-language books through D2D. I will do more research on this because I’m curious if there’s some way to distribute Filipino-language books to libraries through D2D.
(Please note that the best an indie author can do is make their books available for libraries to acquire. Whether or not any library actually acquires your book is out of your hands. So please ask your readers to go to their local libraries and request your books! It will cost them nothing and it’s a great way for them to read your book for free while also giving you book sales.)
I emailed D2D for more information and they confirmed that yes we can distribute our Filipino-language print books through them. Luckily most of our local languages use the same alphabet system as English, Spanish, French, etc. I’d love to see how this works but alas I have no Filipino-language books to publish. If you have experience publishing your Filipino-language books through D2D (or really any platform), I’d appreciate it if you’d let us know in the comments.
Another option for publishing books in any language is Gumroad, which as far as I can tell, will let you sell ebooks in any language. Like D2D, Gumroad can pay you through Paypal, although it just recently started allowing payouts in direct deposits to your local bank account in the Philippines — which is a great way to avoid Paypal’s horrible exchange rates. Unlike D2D, you’ll need your ebook already formatted before you can sell it on Gumroad.
(Pro-tip: If you’re already publishing on D2D, the site will allow you to download the epub file of your book. You can then sell that epub file on Gumroad and save yourself the time it takes to format your own epub file. Seriously, D2D doesn’t care what you do with the ebook files they generate from your manuscript. They’re super nice like that.)
It’s 2022, and I feel that the thousands of Pinoy authors publishing their Taglish novels on Wattpad (and racking up millions of reads and hordes of loyal readers) should look into the option of independently publishing their works instead of just waiting to be picked up by local traditional publishers. Not that a traditional book deal isn’t as good as going indie, but it’s good to be aware that you have options. It’s a lot more work to indie publish your book, certainly, but if you feel you can do it well, you get to reap the benefits of getting all the royalties of each book sale (instead of a just a small percentage) and keeping all the rights to your books. I say this as someone who publishes on Wattpad and made the choice to be an indie author (and who is a reader looking for Bisaya erotica books). My stint as an indie author been greatly rewarding so far and I’d love to see Filipino-language authors succeed the same way.