Kobo: Great for readers but tricky for self-published authors

The ebook version of “The Percussionist’s Wife: A Memoir of Sex, Crime & Betrayal” is selling nearly 2 to 1 to the printed versions.

That may be a fluke compared to ebooks as a whole. In an increasingly old statistic, ebooks represent only about 20% of the overall book market in the United States, according to  2011 data from Association of American Publishers.

image009Still, Kobo doesn’t have much of a market share in the industry or in my experience.

In this, the third installment of a series on my self-publishing experiences, I explore Kobo, which touts itself as “one of the world’s fastest-growing eReading services.” Well, using that phraseology, I’m probably one of the best selling memoirists, too.

About 1 percent of the sales of my memoir have come on Kobo, which is to say, so few that I haven’t actually been able to collect my royalties yet; Kobo reserves the right to “accrue and withhold payments until the total amount due is $100.”

To be honest, I don’t understand the underwhelming reader adoption of Kobo. I’ve read both self-published and mass market novels on the Kobo app of my iPad, and I love it. A Kobo reader can interact with other readers of the same book, update reading progress on Facebook and earn all kinds of fun rewards. It’s a great e-reader.

However, shopping for a title on Kobo is a bit underwhelming. There are no written reviews (only star ratings) unless they’re connected to Goodreads, limited categorization (mine’s listed under “Biography & Memoir > Entertainment & Performing Arts Books” which is accurate but not quite right) and even the book descriptions seem less rich than Amazon’s. If you know what you’re looking for, Kobo works; if you don’t, Amazon will do a better job for you.

If you’re looking for an e-reader for you iPad, I highly recommend giving Kobo a try. The app is free and fun to use. But if you’re an author, proceed with caution.

Initially, I self-published with Kobo because I couldn’t stomach all the hurdles thrown up by iBooks, in particular iBooks’ requirement that the author supply an ISBN, which cost money; I purchased only one ISBN for the paperback version of my book. Like Kindle and Nook, Kobo will assign its own ISBN to your ebook if you don’t have one.

As it turns out, iPad users can download both Kindle and Nook apps if they don’t use iBooks so Kobo isn’t the only way to read a book on iPad.

Publishing to Kobo was nerve-wracking. I kept getting download errors even though I was using the same .doc file I used with Barnes & Noble’s Nook. Finally, I emailed the Help desk and waited on pins and needles for my book to appear on Kobo in time for the launch. I recommend authors give themselves plenty of time to work out the kinks in their file.

For a few months there, Kobo was paying the highest royalties of any of the distribution channels I was using: 80%. It’s back to 70% now; no delivery fees. But there’s that pesky threshold of $100 to achieve before actually seeing a check.

Overall, I’m thrilled I’ve sold so many ebooks of my memoir and every copy counts, even Kobo’s. But 37 percent of my sales have come in printed formats, and I address the biggest one here tomorrow.

Tuesday: Self-publishing with Amazon’s Kindle

Wednesday: In Barnes & Noble’s Nook fold

Coming tomorrow: Createspace, Amazon’s print-on-demand publishing service

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2 thoughts on “Kobo: Great for readers but tricky for self-published authors

  1. Pingback: CreateSpace is the quickest route to a printed book | Monica Lee

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