Regular readers of this blog will be aware I’m a bit of a Kobo fan. They launched early into the Australian market (May 2010) and were my primary ebook store for this reason.
I had high hopes about the launch of their self-publishing platform – Writing Life. I’ve always been impressed at the depth of knowledge Kobo had about their readers. I feel that Kobo get the publishing industry. I believe they are demonstrating the same care and knowledge when dealing with small publishers or authors starting their indie publishing journey.
There are now many options available to authors who want to self publish and I’ve been comparing them all recently. In one way or another they all seem to have pros and cons. So how does Kobo Writing Life stack up against some alternatives like Smashwords or BookBaby?
Cut to the chase?
My favourite thing about Kobo Writing Life is that authors are able to download their ePUB file after conversion. I believe strongly that authors and independent publishers should retain ownership of their files and materials. If you pay (and with everyone you will pay one way or another) for a service like conversion then you should own the files. This file can then be used for other retailers, book reviews or to share with friends and family.
Some options give you free conversion and take a cut of the sales. Others may charge for conversions and pass along sales.
Benefits of dealing with Kobo Writing Life?
- Free conversion to ePUB.
- The ability to download your ePUB file after conversion. I love this feature. Having the ability to download your ePUB after conversion gives Kobo an advantage over their competitors. By giving an author their ePUB file they can then go on and upload this to Amazon, using the tool to convert it Amazon format. Most other retailers accept ePUB files. Importantly an author or publisher can also send out their ePUB file to whoever they want rather than needing to use coupons or other methods.
Once we have provided you with the converted file, it is yours to do with as you wish. The ePubs we create for vendors adhere to the standards as established by Editeur (the trade standards body for the global book supply chain) so any other service which utilizes the ePub standard should accept the files we create (unless of course, they have their own proprietary formatting restrictions). Stephen Troister, Vendor Relations, Kobo Books.
Just a little note of caution here: Any automatic conversion tool will work better if you go into it with really well formatted files so always follow instructions provided to get best results. Realistically you are likely to get a better result when you pay for professionally converted files.
- Authors are able to view their conversions prior to going live to review and if necessary ask for any changes to be done.
- Easy process and nice user interface. Kobo has always had a good clean design and great usability.
- Their terms with an author are non-exclusive. Of course, you WOULD expect this but one recent self-publishing service launched in Australia tried to lock authors in!
- New Kobo users and existing customers are easily able to register themselves as a self publishing author.
Formats for Conversion
- They accept the following file formats for conversion: doc, docx, mobi, odt. You can also upload your own ePUB files.
Nice features of Kobo Writing Life
- Your Ebook will be for sale on Kobo. Market share is hard to determine but Kobo may have something in the vicinity of
5-8% of the Australian ebook pie, perhaps the same internationally. (I’ve got no inside info there so I could be wrong)A Kobo insider has just told me they (Kobo) claim in excess of 15% of total eBook sales in Australia.
- Like other web-based publishing tools an author is able to access and alter their metadata, geographical rights, and pricing.
- Use of the the ‘Dashboard’ will enable an author to view live-time sales reporting. Using the Dashboard will enable you to send live your titles as well as un-publish them if you need to for some reason.
- The ebooks will be available where you can currently purchase Kobo Books, ie their KoboBooks website; Angus & Robertson; Whitcoulls NZ; FNAC France; Chapters.Indigo in Canada (previous owners and creators of Kobo) and WH Smith in the UK.
- Small publishers and authors on Standard Terms can receive 45% of the Suggested Retail Price (SRP). This is in comparison to Amazon who pass on 35% of the List Price (comparable to the Suggested Retail Price). Both retailers can set the selling price actually paid by the user.
- A Publisher can also deal with Kobo under their Independent Publishing Program and receive 70% of the SRP if they meet certain rules that include among others:
- Setting their SRP between A$1.99-$11.99 or US$1.99-12.99. Amazon on their 70% option sets this as US$2.99-$9.99 so Kobo are giving a greater range here. Kobo lists other countries with their currency equivalents.
- Ensuring their title is equal to the lowest price of other retailers. It actually says ‘less than or equal to the lowest price provided by Publisher to other retailers’. However, this is important to watch because if you also sell through Amazon then they want the same benefit of ensuring they have no one else selling lower!.You will need to ensure your prices are consistent or incur problems as each retailer then drops the price, then drops it again!
- Although the program shares a 70% share it can’t really be compared with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Program with the same % because:
- Kobo doesn’t appear to be charging for downloads as Amazon do on the 70% royalty options.
- Unlike Amazon, Kobo offer the 70% option for Australian sales. The Amazon 70% royalty is available in specific countries as outlined here. They are Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, San Marino, Switzerland, Spain, United Kingdom (including Guernsey, Jersey and Isle of Man), United States, Vatican City.
- Now, it is likely that Australian or New Zealand authors would more sales through the US and UK so perhaps this isn’t a deal breaker. However if they had dreams of huge Australian sales then it’s important to understand they will (currently) only be able to get the 35% royalty on Amazon.
- The Amazon 70% royalty option needs your price on Amazon to be 20% lower than any ‘physical’ (ie print) edition of your book on sale anywhere.
As with Kobo currently:
- There is ‘social reading’ enabled so readers can share short quotes on social media. Kobo is also offering authors the chance to interact with their readers through Kobo Pulse. This allows readers to ask you questions, comment on the title and discuss with other readers. That sounds good if you want to interact with your readers!
- Your ebook will only be on sale on Kobo and their partners are listed above. Kobo are in the top 3 eBook sellers globally behind Amazon and Apple. Note: Kobo reports that they are #2 except in the US.
- You will need to supply ePUB to other retailers that you wish to deal with (ie Amazon and Apple). If that seems like a whole lot of work then read read the next paragraph.
Other parths to Kobo sales
As KoboBooks clearly makes clear in their FAQ’s it is possible to deal directly with their partners to get your content onto Kobo and other retailers. Their partners include:
- Smashwords (US)
- Author Solutions (US)
- eBookit (US)
- Book Pod (Australia) Interesting as I thought did only printed book services!
- Book Hub (US)
- Fast Pencil (US)
- eBook Partnership (UK)
- Book Baby (US)
- Bookmasters (US)
- National Book Network (US)
This is a brand new service being offered by Kobo. Naturally things will be added on and changed over time. Every service for authors has a slightly different offering. BookBaby charge for conversions but pass on 100% of sales – and have Amazon distribution. Smashwords do free conversions and take a cut of sales but don’t have Amazon. And so forth for other options.
If you want to take the short route with minimal hassle then BookBaby or Smashwords would be the go. If you want to maximise every dollar you make then I would dealing with Kobo and their sales % advantage. THEN take your ePUB file and deal directly with Amazon (converting it to their format). Alternatively take that ePUB file to Book Baby and do retail distribution through them but ensuring you ‘uncheck’ the Kobo distribution.
It all comes down to how much work you are prepared to do yourself and how much you want to outsource! Naturally there are numerous ways to convert your ebook and get it on sale (all service operations, managing your own conversions via a designer or conversion specialist etc). In fact the list of options available is getting so long that it’s harder for authors to decide.
Of course (to state the obvious) it is necessary to EDIT the work before you even start conversions and comparing retail channels. If a writer hasn’t done that yet then they should go back and get edited before proceeding any further. A link here to my favourite post about why you need to edit!
Kobo Writing Life seems a valid and sensible option to creating your ebook file and having access to a smart mover in the ebook space. If authors or publishers want Apple distribution – and no doubt they will – then it’s easy to take their ePUB file there as well as to Amazon for conversion to their format.
Updated 18/07/12: Thanks to reader Paul for pointing out this User Guide for Kobo Writing Life.
Added 18/07/12: Here is a link to information from Kobo on how to obtain an ISBN: Kobo_HowDoIGetAnISBN
Updated 26/07/12: Kobo Writing Life FAQ’s.
What do you think of the new Kobo Writing Life platform?