If you’re wondering, “What’s a Kobo?” Here’s the backstory: Kobo entered the scene in 2010, marketing the Kobo e-Reader as a less expensive alternative to Kindle and Nook, which are currently the best selling e-Reader devices. That will change if Hiroshi Mikitani gets his way. Mikitani is CEO of Japan’s largest e-commerce company, Rakuten, which purchased Canadian-owned Kobo in 2011. Since the acquisition, he’s publicly vowed to destroy Amazon – and the competition might just prove to be good news for self-published authors.
Although well known in its native Canada, Kobo hasn’t caught up with Kindle or Nook in the U.S. Touted as the world’s third most popular e-Reader, that position may improve due to a recent Rakuten-backed foray into the Asian market. And that’s just the beginning. Two new Kobo e-Readers, the Kobo Glo and the Kobo Mini, are scheduled for release October 1, 2012, and the 7-inch tablet Kobo Arc should be launched in November, 2012.
Kobo launches DIY author/publisher portal, “Kobo Writing Life”
As part of the company’s evolution, Kobo has now launched their own DIY author and publisher portal, dubbed “Kobo Writing Life.” Indie authors and self-pubbers can now publish directly on Kobo’s site, without going through Smashwords or another ebook distribution vendor.
Last summer, Kobo’s Director of Self-Publishing and Author Relations, Mark Lefebvre, issued a letter to potential users of Kobo’s direct-upload platform. It said, “We spoke to authors around the world before designing and building Kobo Writing Life… we incorporated their feedback and advice and the result is what you’ll find on our website: a DIY portal designed with authors’ needs and desires at the forefront.”
Per Lefebvre, “The big selling point of this new system is the deep analytics it provides for authors to track their sales in real time. If people review the book on popular websites such as Goodreads, Twitter, or Facebook, the author is instantly notified.”
Pros and Cons: Kobo vs. Smashwords
Until now, Smashwords has been the go-to method of distribution to other ebook outlets, but Smashwords can be slow to make books available on other sites. According to the Kobo entry on my Smash Distribution Channel Manager, “Books usually appear within a few days of shipment.” However, my novel, Mark of the Loon, was accepted into Smash’s Premium Catalogue July 7, 2012, shipped to Kobo the same day (per their notation), but a month later was still not available for sale on the Kobo site.
So, when Kobo Writing Life went live, I did a little research. Some commenters wrote that Kobo’s onsite book search engine needs a bit of work. I also read that although Kobo’s dashboard provides more detail about sales, their author payouts are slower than Smashwords. But here’s the deal: I realized I wouldn’t get paid anything if Smash’s slower distribution never made my book available on the Kobo website. So, I decided to opt out of Kobo distribution on my Smashwords account and upload directly.
Step-by-step: How to self-publish your book using Kobo’s direct sales portal
Authors can create a Kobo Writing Life account here. During the process, you will upload a Word, Open Office, or pre-formatted mobi or e-pub file. Then you will enter your metadata, input a synopsis, set the price for various currencies, and input your payment and contact info. Kobo’s Learning Centre has FAQs, a User Guide, and a step-by-step video guide. The Kobo dashboard is attractive, clean and uncluttered. Sections are clearly delineated and it’s pretty much a no-brainer to upload and publish. Here’s the process:
Initial Process to set up a Kobo Account:
- Enter your email and password
- Enter your name, publisher name (optional), email (auto-populates from previous page), phone (optional) and PREVIOUS Kobo publishing account ID – if applicable
- Scroll down to input country, street address, city, state, zip
- Accept terms of service
- Respond to email to confirm registration
- Enter payment information – bank, routing number, branch address, etc, and save info
- Click on “ebooks” in the top right menu bar
- Click on “create a new ebook”
The 4 Steps to Publishing an ebook on Kobo:
Step 1: Describe the book
Input title, ISBN (optional), select up to 3 categories (wish their selection was more comprehensive!), upload cover image (2 MG max, it accepted my 300 pixels tall version) and synopsis.
What you need to know before you upload your file:
• Supported file types: epub, doc, docx, mobi, odt (file size cannot exceed 10MB)
• Kobo converts all files to e-pub format
• If your file is a doc, docx, mobi, or odt, check Kobo’s Conversion Guidelines to be sure that all formatting and chapter markers make it into the e-pub version. (I did not read this first. Bad Molly!)
Step 2: Add ebook content
Browse for your file and upload the book. I uploaded my file on a Saturday and fifteen minutes passed BEFORE the conversion process actually began. Note: I originally uploaded a mobi file, and Kobo’s conversion engine never could convert it – the conversion icon spun for over a week, so I emailed Tech Support. They couldn’t “see” my account or diagnose the problem. I finally just deleted the book and uploaded an e-pub file. That attempt resulted in a conversion in 2.8 seconds!)
When the file is uploaded and the conversion process begins, you’ll get this message: “Converting content… You can move on to another step and come back later to check on the status.” Once your file is uploaded and converted, you can download and review the file.
Step 3: Choose content rights
Apply Digital Rights Management? Yes = default
Geographic rights? (you own the rights in all territories) Yes = default
Step 4: Set the price
When pricing your ebook, you need to take into account your opportunities for sales in other currencies, and the royalty rates at different list price points. Find out what you need to know in their User Guide. .99 cents = 45% royalty, 1.99 = 70% royalty
Want to see the finished product? Here it is: Mark of the Loon live on Kobo! …and here is the email Kobo sent me when I made my first book sale!
Want to read more?
• Leslie Buroker: My Plans to Upload Ebooks Directly to Apple & Kobo
• WSJ: Kobo to sell e-Readers through independent U.S. booksellers
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