Posted in E-publishing | Posted on 11-06-2012|
In late April, I published my fourth Emperor’s Edge book to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. The book appeared in all of these stores within 24 hours. This is what you’d expect in this digital age. But what of other stores? Apple? Kobo? Sony?
When I started publishing in December of 2010, I decided to use Smashwords as my distributor to get into these other stores. That was, I gathered from listening to other indie authors, how it was done. Sony and Kobo didn’t have self-publishing portals and it sounded like a convoluted process to get into the iTunes store, so I didn’t research it much. Smashwords was willing to handle the distribution for free (well, they take a small cut of the sales, but they don’t charge an upfront fee), so I was content to let them handle things. Most of my early readers were at Amazon and, to a lesser extent, Barnes & Noble, so I didn’t worry much about Apple and the others anyway.
Last Christmas, however, I decided to make the first book in my Emperor’s Edge series free at all of these stores, and that led to more readers at Kobo and Apple, in particular. Readers tried the freebie and went on to buy other books in the series. Unfortunately, these readers aren’t able to get new books as they’re published. It took my last ebook (Peacemaker) over six weeks to show up in the Apple Store, and I’m still waiting for EE4 to show up (it’s been over six weeks since I first submitted it to Smashwords).
Several readers have tweeted or written and asked where the heck EE4 is at Apple. They follow me online, so they know that the book has been out for a while. All I can tell them is that I’m still waiting for it to get from Smashwords to the other stores. Even though I don’t think Amazon needs the extra publicity, I’ve mentioned the iPad’s Kindle app more than once and suggested folks may want to buy the book from Amazon. Not everyone is interested in supporting the e-giant though, and I don’t blame them.
Smashwords is a very affordable service (as I mentioned, free until you start making sales), so I don’t want to complain about the waits and the customer service (you get what you pay for), but the fact that people want the book and aren’t able to get it in a timely manner has led me to take a second look at ways to get into these stores. Fortunately, there are some new options coming online.
Kobo’s New Self-Publishing Platform
I just uploaded EE4 over at Kobo where they are beta testing their new self-publishing platform, Writing Life. It’s due to go live for everyone at the end of June.
As many of you know, I’m a fan of having readers everywhere and not putting all of one’s eggs in the Amazon basket. Going the Smashwords route, things took forever to get into Kobo, if they made it at all (I have a title published last August that isn’t there yet). Now we’ll be able to get ebooks into the store within a day or two.
As with other self-publishing portals, the dashboard will allow us to see real-time sales stats and make changes to price, cover art, blurbs, files, etc. that will be reflected in their store within a couple of days. The royalty rates there are set at 70%, which means you’ll make more than if you went through Smashwords, and it looks like you’ll be able to run free-ebook promotions any time you like.
This may be a great new opportunity for indie authors, especially for authors hoping to expand their reach with international sales. Kobo is based in Canada, and I’ve honestly never seen a Kobo e-reader here in the U.S., but it seems to be making leaps and bounds in global markets.
I’ve been in touch with Mark Lefebvre, the director of self-publishing & author relations, over at Kobo, and I hope to be able to give you guys some more information on the program soon, but it definitely looks like a promising new contender so far. They have things set up to pay in U.S., Canadian, Australian, etc. dollars, so it looks like there won’t be any barriers for international authors.
More on Kobo’s Writing Life here.
Uploading Directly to the Apple Store
From what I’ve read, you’ve actually been able to upload directly to the iTunes store for a while, but there are some hoops to jump through, which makes it tough for a lot of authors. The biggest one is that you need access to a Mac because publishing is done through their iTunes Producer software.
I was all set to install this last month, but my Mac is too old to run the OS required for the software. I am, however, planning to use my next Smashwords payout (irony?) to buy a new Macbook Pro, so I can make this happen (and because the keys are falling off my old Macbook). For those of you who have no interest in purchasing a Mac, it may be worth finding a friend with one if you get to be in the boat I’m in.
The other obstacle is that you need to buy your own ISBN. Once I’ve actually gone through the process, I’ll write up a post on what all is involved here, but I don’t think it’ll be a major hurdle.
Apparently, you can also make your ebooks free any time you like at Apple, so I’m looking forward to playing around with sales over there (since that first free ebook is what took me from $X a month at Apple to $XXX a month).
A Goodbye to Smashwords?
Though, for all the reasons I’ve mentioned, I’m not planning to use Smashwords to distribute to Apple and Kobo with future books, I’ll still make sure my latest titles are available there. I know there are quite a few international readers, in particular, who enjoy downloading ebooks from Smashwords (there are no extra fees for them to buy there).
Smashwords also has some perks that make me wish the outfit had made more inroads into the ebook market on its own merits (as a seller and not just a distributor), such as the ability to issue coupons, to offer affiliates a greater percentage of the sales price, and the fact that authors receive a higher royalty rate there than at any of the other stores. Their store interface has never been user friendly, though, and I know it’s rare that I make sales there when I haven’t specifically directed folks to my book links. The times are changing, though, and we may see less and less of a need for a distributor.