I interrupt the second Tip Tuesday to talk about something that will have vastly more impact on your writing career than eliminating adverbs or what back matter to put in your books.
Back in early June, eReader company Kobo announced its launch of Writing Life, a platform for independent authors to self-publish their works. I came a little late to this game, but with some persistence emailing the Kobo Support Team, I was able to glean a few details that I’m not sure are publicly, or at least widely, available yet.
Who is Kobo and why are they important?
While Amazon is certainly the 800 pound gorilla in the epublishing arena, many agree that its most feared competition isn’t Barnes & Noble or Apple (iBooks/iTunes). And it’s certainly not Google eBooks, Smashwords, Diesel, or Sony.
Amazon’s main competition is Kobo, for the simple reason that, as best anyone can figure (since all of these companies are keeping their numbers close), Kobo is not only keeping pace with Amazon in many arenas outside of the U.S., in a few cases it is the market leader.
It has 50% market share in Canada (its home market) and France, while also making serious inroads in Japan (a forecasted $1.9 billion dollar market by 2015), where its only serious competition is Sony.
While Amazon announced that the Kindle will launch in Japan soon, the real game-changer in all of this is Japanese ecommerce giant Rakuten, which acquired Kobo in late 2011/early 2012, bringing massive funding to Kobo’s war chests and obviously making Japan (and Asia, and the global market) a top priority in the war of the e-readers.
If you are an independent author and buy into the idea that your work should be read globally, and not just where Amazon decides to open an e-store, then you should be paying attention to what Kobo is doing now…and what they will do in the next 12-18 months.
One of the major moves Kobo is making for authors is the launch of Writing Life, a self-publishing platform that follows in the spirit of KDP and PubIt. Luckily for us, it appears that Kobo has not only taken to heart the lessons learned from KDP’s ground-breaking and PubIt/B&N’s website failure, they’re interested in competing directly with those platforms by upping the ante with more lucrative royalty rates and incentives:
The numbers below were sent to me from Kobo’s support team. While the numbers for the U.S.and Canada aren’t anything special, check out the thresholds for Great Britain, the Eurozone, andAustralia:
Kobo vendors will receive a 70% or 45% royalty rate on each eBook sold through Kobo Books, depending on the price of their eBook and the territory in which the eBook is sold. eBooks that are priced according to the following pricing rules are eligible to receive a 70% royalty rate.
Currency Pricing Rule
CAD $2.99 – 12.99 CAD
USD $2.99 – 12.99 USD
GBP £0.99 – 7.99 GBP
AUD $0.99 – 11.99 AUD
EUR €0.99 – 12.99 EUR
HKD $7.99 – $99.99 HKD
See what I’m seeing? First, a 45% royalty rate, presumably for the lowest priced titles.
Second, an incredibly low threshold for the 70% royalty rate in all the other sample markets (the Hong Kong dollar trades roughly at .12:1.00, so it may look high, but $7.99 HKD is only $1.03 USD). This is very good news indeed: 70% royalties on books priced at roughly $1.50 USD at the high end (GBP) to just over $1 USD at the low (AUD, HKD).
We are looking into bringing features and new ways to feature your books as we speak. One advantage that Writing Life provides is that you are able to make your book for free at any point in time.
No more 5 days out of 90 for free sales. “Free at any point in time” means flexibility in promotion, a (partial) dream come true for indie authors. (I say partial, because I don’t see any e-distributor besides Smashwords allowing a coupon or discount system, which I think is the missing link in truly robust promotional control of our books.)
A Better Looking Product
Kobo has announced that it’s committed to sticking with the powerful and elegant .EPUB format, which allows for enhanced formatting that Amazon’s .mobi requirements does not.
The submission requirements are nearly universal as well:
– DOC and DOCX
It should be easier than ever to get your books formatted, beautified, and onto a platform where it can be bought and read.
Why You Should Care
Beyond the obvious benefits of increased royalty rates and enhanced distribution, we should all be blowing kazoos and handing out streamers anytime someone comes forward to give Amazon competition.
Because we hate Amazon? No.
Because we love Amazon and we want to see it get better.
Because true competition ensures that Amazon will never get complacent, or take its content providers (authors) for granted, or be tempted to shave off a percentage or ten from royalties when corporate quarterly profits are down. We should all be pulling for Kobo to succeed in a big way…because when Amazon faces true competition, we’ll know that e-publishing has truly come into its own.
Check out some screenshots of the Writing Life beta.
Check out the Writing Life page (mostly just promotional messaging, but still cool).
Read the rather amazing account of Kobo springing into life and being sold for over $300 million dollars two years later.
Author Joseph Nassise was asked to beta-test Writing Life and wrote about his experience on Kindleboards. As I said, I’m a little late to the game…but Kobo’s royalty information is new, I believe.