eBook Publishers: Kobo

February 13, 2015

Welcome back to my ongoing series on the different platforms I used to publish my first eBook, Satin & Sutherland – The Golden Curse. Here I go through my experiences with the different platforms and how they help or hinder getting your book out there.

In this, my second posting on the topic, I’ll be discussing Kobo.

Account Creation

Kobo’s publishing platform is called Writing Life. As with all the other platforms, it requires a user account to be able to publish books with. Setting up your account is standard fair with a user name and password as well as various contact details such as your email, mailing address, and optionally your phone number.

In your account you will need to deal with your banking details. This involves filling in your bank account and the bank it’s associated with. Filling in the bank requires a SWIFT, routing, or IBAN number, basically an alphanumeric code that identifies the particular bank you’re dealing with. You should be able to type in your bank and have it pop up for selection. If you run into any difficulties, Kobo advises contacting you branch to get this information.

Kobo operates under Canadian tax rules. As a Canadian, I didn’t have to do anything special as far as tax forms were concerned. If you’re an author operating outside of Canada your mileage (kilometerage) may vary.

Kobo’s account creation also has you agree to their terms of service. Do take the time to read through this as it’s the legal agreement between you and Kobo and spells out how your rights are handled and the royalty you will receive. Kobo gives a 70% royalty on books listed at $2.99 Canadian or more (other countries have different rates, so watch this closely). Kobo also requires that your list price be comparable to other online sellers and at least 20% less than the price of any physical edition you may have published.

Book Submission

Once you have your account in place with Kobo, you’re ready to submit your book. I found the Kobo submission process to be the most streamlined and straightforward of all the publishing platforms. Clearly Kobo worked with actual authors to make this process as simple as they could. Kobo’s process takes you through several simple steps.

First you’ll describe your eBook by filling in all of its basic details. At the time of writing, this information consists of the following. All fields are required except where otherwise noted.

  • eBook title
  • eBook sub-title – Optional.
  • Series name – Optional. If the book is part of a series you can mark it here, which I suspect will link the books together in the Kobo store. With only one book published, I haven’t been able to try this.
  • Author(s) – You can fill in your author name here. If multiple authors participated in the book you can optionally add extra author names.
  • Publisher name – I used SeaLeft Studios here. I believe this is required, so if you’re self-publishing and don’t have a company you can probably just put your own name in here. You may want to verify that independently though.
  • Imprint – Optional. If you’re working with a publisher that has different operating trade names you may want to enter the appropriate one of those names here.
  • Original publication date – When was the book first published if it was published elsewhere. If this is the first time publishing then you can fill in the date you're making the book available.
  • Book cover – The details page shows a rectangle that you can click to upload an image of your eBook. Kobo requires a JPEG or PNG image that cannot exceed five megabytes in size. For my book, I used a 1600x2400 pixel JPEG image.
  • eISBN – Optional. The normal ISBN for the ePUB edition of your book if you obtained one. eBooks are considered separate editions from physical books and so should have their own separate ISBNs. What's more, if you're publishing on several platforms, like I did, then each different eBook format should have its own ISBN. In my case I needed one for the ePUB for Kobo and Google, one for the Amazon MOBI format, and one for the iTunes iBook format for a total of 3 ISBNs.
  • Primary Print ISBN – Optional. If your book has a physical copy available you can include its separate ISBN here.
  • eBook language – A dropdown allows you to choose the language the book was written in.
  • Public domain – You can choose whether the book is in the public domain or not. Kobo will allow you to publish public domain works and set a sales price for them. For such works you’ll earn a 20% royalty.
  • Categories – International book categories exist for all books. Kobo allows you to choose up to three categories. Kobo gives you an easy to use tree view of the categories that allows you to “drill down” to the specific categories you want. For my book I chose the three categories Sci Fi & Fantasy – Steampunk, Fiction & Literature – Action & Adventure, and Fiction & Literature – Westerns.
  • Synopsis – The back cover blurb for your book. Kobo allows you to do some basic formatting with bold, italic, underline, lists, and indents.

Once you’ve entered all the basic information you can click the “Save and continue” button to move on to the next step, which is where you upload the book itself. Kobo accepts a wide variety of formats, which it then converts to ePUB. If you’re not submitting an ePUB file itself, Kobo provides guidelines on how to format your book for the best conversion process. Uploading your book takes a little bit of time depending on the size of your book and the format you upload with.

Once you’ve uploaded your eBook you can edit it online to make minor changes. I never tried this option, so I’m not sure what the editing tools are like. However, I did use their convenient “Download and preview this eBook” link to get back a copy of the book to ensure that it uploaded properly. After all the work it took to create and format my book I wanted to make sure nothing glitched in the upload.

Having uploaded the book you then move onto the third step where you set the content rights. Here you have a couple options to deal with:

  • Apply Digital Rights Management? – You have the option to turn DRM on or off. Reviewing my book now, it looks like you can change this after the initial publishing of your book. Some platforms don’t allow that, so I’m not completely sure.
  • Geographic rights? – Here you choose the territories where you have the rights to publish the book. By default the setting will be for worldwide rights. If you change this to non-worldwide then you will get additional options to choose the territories where you do have rights to publish.

Hitting “Save and continue” again will take you on to the next step where you set the price for your book. Here Kobo lists the different territories where you can set prices. Kobo has several nice features here.

Based on your account settings, Kobo will show your local region first where you can enter the list price in your local currency. By default all other regions are calculated from your price with the exchange rates in effect on the day you set your price. However, you can easily toggle the other territory prices so that they do not auto calculate and you can fill in your own price.

Regardless of whether your prices are auto calculated or manually entered in a specific territory's currency, Kobo will show you the royalty you will earn off of sales in those territories in your own currency so you can easily tell how much you’ll receive.

When setting up your book for the first time, you will enter the regular price for your book. After it has been published, you can come back to this page to set a promotional price instead for whatever period you desire.

Once you’ve set the price you can move onto the publishing step itself. Here you can set the date you want the eBook to be published. If it’s in the future then this controls the day on which it will be made available in the store. In such a case, you can also indicate if the book is available for pre-order. I was doing my release that day so I didn’t bother with the pre-order option.

And that’s it. You can hit the publish link to submit the book. Kobo indicates that they will do a complete content review that takes about 24-72 hours to complete. If all is well, your book will then be listed on the store. Just imagining the number of books that must get submitted to them, I suspect they don’t actually do a complete content review. Regardless, I submitted my book in the morning and it was available in the store by at least 4:00 PM in the afternoon of the same day. I didn’t receive any notification when the book became available and the Kobo “dashboard” doesn’t indicate when the book became live. You will have to manually check the store to see when the book becomes available.

One thing to note when publishing your book is that Kobo will make a free preview available. You don’t have control over how much of the book is made available. I couldn’t find anything on Kobo’s site that indicates how they build their preview. From what I can see, it looks like they make the first 5% of the book available in the preview. Based on the preview for my book, the preview generation is smart enough not to break the text mid sentence but will break it mid paragraph.

Post Publishing

After the book has become available, you can use the Writing Life website to track how it’s doing and to adjust your prices. The website provides a dashboard that shows an overview of all books you have available rolled together. You can also filter this by book or region although you have to type in the names of these rather than choose them from dropdowns.

You are provided with basic stats showing number of sales and estimated earnings. This view defaults to the current month, although you can change this to different periods.

Kobo gives you a breakdown of sales per day. It also gives you an interactive map of the world where you can see, by region, how many copies you’ve sold. There’s no indication of returns in all of this, so I am uncertain on if the numbers shown are gross numbers or net numbers. I would suspect net.

Even though the information Kobo shows is pretty minimal, it does seem to be all the truly important stuff. I’ve found Kobo’s reporting the easiest to review. It’s also nice that in the reporting Kobo lists not just sales for the period you’re looking at, but gives you an all-time sales count so you can see at a glance how many copies you’ve sold since release.

Final Thoughts

I found Kobo’s Writing Life platform to be the easiest and fastest to use. It’s certainly the most well-designed of the platforms, edging out even Amazon. I had to enter all the same info as on Amazon but things were just laid out better on Kobo. The purposes of most fields and controls you deal with are self-evident. The few that I had questions about clearly other people did as well, as Kobo put handy question mark buttons on the pages for them to provide clear and informative descriptions.

From the point where I started filling in the details for my book to when I hit the publish button it only took me a total of 15 minutes. As we’ll see in future blogs, this made Kobo by far the fastest and most painless publishing process.

Overall, I like the Kobo experience the best. I would expect no less of them as, of all the e-tailers I used, Kobo is the only one whose whole business is focused on selling books. One small wrinkle I’ll point out from the reader side of Kobo. At one time Kobo allowed you to gift books to other people. However, in Canada at least, they removed this feature a couple years back and seem to have no plans to reinstate it. From a sales point of view, this may make getting some sales on Kobo more difficult as people who enjoy your book don’t have a way to gift it to others without either buying a Kobo gift card or gifting the book from one of the other e-tailers. Just something to be aware of.

Right, so come back next month when I’ll move onto the third platform I used to publish: Google Play. And stop by next week for the next article in my series on the Benefit of Writing Comics.

In the meantime, you may want to check out the previous blog in the series covering my experience with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing.