Thursday, January 24, 2013

Kobo Writing Life

The Canadian company Kobo has dedicated e-readers and these are my notes from the Cracking Kobo seminar given by Mark Lefebvre on 23 January 2013. The biggest player in the self-publishing market is Amazon, but I am interested to see Kobo’s growth in the marketplace, and they have some interesting strategies which may propel them more into the limelight in 2013 and 2014, so I thought it was useful to attend the video seminar. Here are my notes from the session - it's a long post, but I also left out a lot of stuff, and probably really useful stuff, so do check through the links if you're interested, where others have detailed more!

I haven’t self-published anything with Kobo to date, but have 2 novels published by The Wild Rose Press on Kobo, and also a collection of short stories (which is free).

Kobo uses the epub format, and their policy is any ebook, any device, any time.

My self-published collection of short stories went up on Kobo via Smashwords, which allows self-publishers to distribute their titles to a variety of different ebook retailers. It is possible to choose which retailers to distribute to via Smashwords – at the moment I turn Amazon off, because I upload directly to Amazon using KDP, and now that I have learned more about Kobo Writing Life, I am keen to try to publish there directly too. Like Amazon’s KDP, this gives the publisher access to a dashboard where they can have better control, including live sales data.

Mark’s slides from the presentation are here, and I found an interesting you tube from Hugh Howey talking about Kobo Writing Life here.  

Here are some of the main points I gleaned from the seminar – any mistakes are mine!

Kobo uses epub format.

You can buy your own isbn, or use internally generated ‘dummy’ isbns.

70% royalty rate for books priced $1.99-$12.99 – with the ability to specify different sales prices for different territories. An interesting point that Mark made was that rather than allow the automatic readjustment for currencies, setting the price for individual currencies can earn you a few more pennies in each market…

The rate is 45% for all other price points.

Payment is 45 days after end of period once $100 threshold reached, and this is paid into your bank account in whatever currency you choose. They also do a twice annual purge (next on Feb 15 2013) to clear down the books, so if you’ve made below the threshold, you will at least see the royalties at some stage.

They create an invoice for you, and pay you against that, and don’t withhold taxes, it is the authors job to make sure that they are compliant in whatever country they live in.

Flexibility on hybrid files – so if you have sold the UK rights (for example) but hold the rights to different territories, you can make the ebook available for sale in just the territories that you hold the rights to.

The author dashboard has a lot of graphs and sales crunching info, including a global snapshot of sales.

You can upload in a variety of formats including word, mobi or epub, and a converter will convert to mobi, although the best way to do it seems to be to convert your file to epub, check and tweak, and then upload the final epub version for best results.

You can set a date in the future for publication, so can have preorders.

You can set the price and change it anytime. Including FREE.

And a dedicated Kobo Learning Centre is full of information about how to do things. Here’s the FAQ’s section.

Kobo is in 190 countries, and has localised rankings and bestsellers lists. Interestingly, they rank the author, not the books, so if for example your books Fabulous Romance one, Fabulous Romance two and Fabulous Romance three are the top three bestsellers on Kobo (dream on!) instead of taking up the top three spots, you are featured ONCE, which allows more authors to be featured in the top 20, which is not something that is likely to be useful for me, but interesting nonetheless. Mark also talked about a system that will notify you if you’re ranking high in a particular territory.

One point I found most interesting is the partnership options that Kobo has entered into. I became aware of this when I visited the UK in December, and kept seeing Kobo e-readers for sale in WH Smith, a major bookseller in the UK.  Here’s a report about the WH Smith partnership. Here in Ireland, Kindle is everywhere, but in the UK, I saw Kobo everywhere. This report states that Kobo doubled its sales in 2012, and continues to experience rapid growth, and this report from The Bookseller, states that they achieved 7 fold growth in sales in December alone.

As well as the UK WH Smith partnership, they have partnered with the ABA in the US as well as others, In short, their approach to the marketplace is strong and aggressive. Mark spoke about the possibility of authors doing promotion in their local stores, promoted by Kobo.

There was talk about Kobo’s facebook, and also about the ability to have ratings and reviews transfer automatically from Goodreads. I found this to be a very significant feature, and here is the link about how to get that to work. Eric Kent Edstrom has written a great tutorial on how to do this, which is here. I tried this yesterday for one of my books, but it hasn’t transferred my goodreads stuff over yet. For a new user of the Kobo Writing Life platform who has a strong goodreads community interested in their books, having the reviews port across could be fantastic.  Of course, if you have some horrid goodreads reviews, you might decide against it!

Also of interest? That the people who own Pinterest also own Kobo… more.

Here’s Kobo’s pinterest board.

So, in conclusion:

I’m a hybrid author, in that I am self-published and published by publishers. For self-publishing, I have found Amazon’s kdp select program (for which I have to be exclusive to Amazon) to be great for driving sales and increasing my visibility. I’m doing okay, always want to do better, but at this stage I’m selling hundreds every month. My traditionally published titles are selling better due to the halo effect from my self-published works. I like the look and drive of Kobo, and think that their rapid growth is something to be aware of and to inform myself about. I was impressed by the presentation, and found much to like in Kobo Writing Life. But looking at my sales reports, I’ve sold really miserably at Kobo for my traditionally published work. Like, really miserably.

I’d like to try out the Kobo Writing Life self-publishing platform, but have read much about the difficulties in gaining traction and getting visibility there – there’s no point in having a platform to sell if no-one can find me! And right now, leaving the kdp select program feels like killing a golden goose in a vague hope of attaining visibility elsewhere, so I’m reticent to try it.

For now.

But the one thing you can be sure of in publishing, is that things change quickly, and being informed is the best policy for making future decisions.

Thanks to Mark and Orna Ross of the Alliance for Independent Authors for the Cracking Kobo seminar, you can check them out on the links embedded above. Here are my Kobo titles!

I’d be very interested to hear from anyone currently using Kobo Writing Life – is it working for you?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Reasons to be cheerful...

One - The 'keeping a record of new words written' resolution is showing results. Bum on seat, fingers on keyboard, means my new words written wordcount is looking good for January.

Two - I've signed a contract with Entangled Publishing for a 'flirt' length romance, titled Under Wraps.

Three - I've finished and submitted another book, and yesterday started a new one.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Keeping a record

This year, I decided to take a leaf out of Suzanne Ross Jones' book (not literally, that would be plagerism!). Suzanne minx does a post on her blog most years which I always enjoy and look forward to, which is a summary of her year, and every year she posts it, I'm impressed by her output during the year, and her successes.

So here's my plan for 2013.

To record my wordcount on new words generated throughout the year. Every week, and adding it all up at the end of each month. I've never done this before. Normally, I keep an eye on sales, but whether or not people buy my books is an element mostly out of my control. Yes, I can run giveaways, do guest blogs, and do advertising, but this takes up a lot of my time and distracts me from the only thing that I can control - my output!

I love writing. I enjoy the challenge of making my writing better. I read a ton of writing related books, and read a lot of fiction for enjoyment and also because I appreciate my favorite authors' skill and mastery of language. But to become a better writer, I need to put words on the page, and if I don't keep a record of just how many new words I am producing, it is easy to fool myself that I'm being productive, when really I'm not.

Re-writing, polishing, editing and launching new works is part of my everyday, but the magic element, for me, is to create something new. I've set myself a weekly, monthly and yearly goal.
Only time will tell if I achieve it, but breaking my writing goals down like this into mini goals, means that I can be happy each and every time I achieve one. And happiness is important - if I'm unhappy or stressed, I find writing hard.

New Year. New strategy. Let go of stressing about things that I can't influence directly, and focus my attention on things that I can. Celebrate every teeny tiny milestone along the way, and grow the happy!