02-23-19 – Best Selling Author and RTG Alumni: Christy Carlyle

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Indie Publishing, Part 2

by Madelle Morgan

I wrote about Amazon's KDP and CreateSpace platforms for self-published authors in a previous post dated August 12, 2014. The platforms enable authors to upload and sell ebooks and print books on Amazon's retail websites. 

This month I will cover Kobo, Apple's iBooks and Google Play Books. All have self-publishing platforms that enable the indie author to upload ebooks for global sale on their websites.

Kobo and Kobo Writing Life

Like Amazon, Kobo sells books in print and electronic formats. Authors upload EPUB documents via the Kobo Writing Life platform. Unlike Amazon, Kobo does not have the equivalent of CreateSpace to upload files for print on demand books. Authors have to use Lightening Source, IngramSpark or another company.

Kobo's KWL self-publishing platform went live a mere two years ago. KWL's small team of fewer than 10 employees is headquartered in Toronto, Canada and led by Mark Lefebvre, Director of Self-Publishing and Author Relations. 

It's no secret that Kobo has not (yet) invested as heavily as Amazon in marketing ebooks. Kobo was bought by Japanese retailing giant Rakuten in 2011, so the potential exists for a great amount of money to be invested in the retail side of Kobo. Kobo's catalogue expanded when it absorbed Sony e-store and Borders e-store books when those ebook retailers closed.

Why should authors ensure their books are available on Kobo as well as Amazon, you ask? There are a few good reasons. First and foremost, Kobo has global retail partners. While as of July 2014 Amazon distributed to 246 countries via its own websites, Kobo has partnerships with overseas distributors and retailers such that its books are sold in 190 countries. Kobo also partners with independent bookstores who receive a percentage of sales. 

If your ebook is priced higher than $9.99 USD (Amazon's upper limit for author's 70% of list price) know that Kobo does not have an upper limit. KWL authors receive 70% for ebooks priced at $2.99 and above.

Yes, authors can save time and effort by having Smashwords (which takes its cut of revenue) distribute to Kobo. However, by uploading to Kobo via KWL yourself, you gain access to real time sales data.

You may not be aware that, beyond Kobo's extensive support to indie authors, KWL helps authors support authors. Check out the helpful author posts in The Craft of Writing and The Business of Writing

Apple's iBooks Store and iBooks Author

Apple owns the iBooks retail e-store for ebooks (no print). Ebooks are sold in EPUB, PDF and iBooks Author formats in approximately 50 countries. Readers download the iBooks app to their devices to access the iBooks Store. With an iTunes account you can seamlessly access video, music, apps and ebooks.

iBooks Author is Apple's self-publishing platform. The Apple ebook format is proprietary, just like the Amazon KDP format, and cannot be used to upload to other retail sites. It is not necessary for indie authors to create a file using iBooks Author. Uploading to Smashwords is the easiest channel to get indie books into the iBooks Store.

Google Play Books

Goggle Play Books is the newest retail website for ebooks (no print distribution). Authors can upload their ebooks in EPUB or PDF format through the Google Play Books Partner Center. Readers buy the books via Google Play and can preview the books via Google Books. Google Play sells ebooks in 61 countries, according to Wikipedia.   

Google Play offers the temporary advantage of improved discoverability, since relatively few authors have uploaded their books as yet. Joel Friedlander in his blog post Selling Books on Google Play: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly has more to say.

There are some concerns to note. First, the word is that uploading your ebook file via the Goggle Play Books Partner Center is no easy feat. Scarlet Cox has written a useful article entitled How to Publish to Google Play

On the sales side, unless a buyer knows the author name or book title, discover functionality is poor. Your cover had better be outstanding, because the buyer basically scrolls through a sea of covers. Check out the contemporary romance collection and click on a few covers. 

When signing up for an account, you'll read this in the Terms and conditions: "Revenue Split" is 52% of the List Price or Fixed Net Price as applicable." It makes Amazon's 70-30 revenue split (for ebook prices in the range of $2.99 - $9.99) appear generous. However, as with Kobo, you are not at a disadvantage if your Google Play list price is outside of Amazon's optimal range. Apparently Google Play discounts the price you list at, but you receive 52% of the list price, not the discounted price. The consensus seems to be that author net revenue from Google Play Books sales will be similar to that from retailers such as Smashwords and B&N. 

One major disadvantage: authors have no control over the Google Play discount. It makes it tricky when you are trying to price-match across retail sites.

How-to-Publish Books for the Indie Author

Are you just starting out on the self-publishing learning curve? Catherine Ryan Howard is on Santa's Good List for her blog and book Self-Printed: The Sane Person's Guide to Self-Publishing (3rd ed.). Both are excellent information sources and are written in a fun style. Be entertained while you learn!

On Kobo Writing Life's blog I discovered The Global Indie Author - Your Guide to the World of Self-Publishing, 3rd ed., by M.A. Demers. This Canadian's well-researched book and blog contain a wealth of information useful to all authors who sell ebooks globally, whether you are traditionally or indie-published. 

Cover Reveal

Tra-la! My new cover, courtesy of Kim Killion

Please "Like" my new Facebook page to be notified of KDP Select deals upon the January, 2015 release of this romantic suspense set in Canada's Sub-Arctic.

Happy Holidays!



Sarah Raplee said...

Interesting and informative post, Madelle.

Diana McCollum said...

Wow! Thanks for all the great info! I really hadn't heard a lot about Google Play Books. Great post!

Judith Ashley said...

Thanks, Madelle - lots of information and great links!

Did you mean that Amazon sells in over 200 countries and Kobo in less than that? I'd always heard that Kobo was the bigger e-retailer of books outside the US where Amazon holds the title.

I'm glad to see competition! So thanks for the Google Play information. I'm still figuring out how to use Google + to my advantage.

Last but not least, Congratulations on "Diamond Hunter"'s release in January. Another great cover!!!

Madelle Morgan said...

Thanks, Sarah, Diana and Judith.

Judith, I think Kobo's reach and (possibly) sales are greater than Amazon's, outside of the US. It's probably volume of sales through the Kobo partnerships that makes the difference, even though Amazon is in more countries?

However, I have NO access to sales numbers, so this is just an assumption on my part. Maybe other readers can weigh in?

निर्मला कपिला said...

Nice . Informative post thanx

निर्मला कपिला said...

Nice . Informative post thanx

निर्मला कपिला said...


J Jade Jordan said...

Great info, Madelle! Since my book will be out of KDP on January 15th, I'll need all this information to help guide me with the next phase.

My POD has been held up a little, but should be out by Christmas, depending on how speedy CreateSpace is once they get my formatted version.

Great cover and congrats on your book coming out in January!

Also great picture!


Rachel Leigh Smith said...

Smashwords is not the only option for iBooks. There's a great service called Draft2Digital that kicks Smashwords' butt. I love D2D! I distribute to Kobo, B&N, and iBooks through D2D.

I'm also one of the few indies uploading to Google Play. It's not as hard as you think, so long as you do some research beforehand. I have no problems with it. And D2D is working on a distribution agreement with Play.