Since we’ve been publishing on Kobo directly for over two years, I have the pleasure of beta testing the new system. Its simple. Its crisp. Its clean and most importantly, its user friendly.
First thing I love is that there are 4 pages of information you must fill out. Sounds like a lot? Nope. Each page has only a few steps. You first upload cover and metadata. Then you upload the book. Then set your price. Then you hit publish. Those are the 4 pages.
There are a few minor things I have suggested and I just got an email from them saying they “are in the works”. The two big thing is more categories for the books. They are very limited and I’m finding it difficult to categorize my books properly.
The other change they need to make is to create an in the system preview. Right now, if you use their tool to make your ePub file (I still don’t recommend using a Word Doc as a source file and will always recommend hiring a professional formatter, but we will get to that in a minute) you have to download the file and find a way to view it. Since I create the ePub file and test it inside their App on my iPad, I know how my file will react. This is something I don’t think most self-published authors understand. Heck, I don’t think publishers understand that just because your book looks good on one device, doesn’t mean it will work the same way on another device. This is where understanding technology comes in handy and understanding that each browser acts differently when given code and each operating system acts differently when give code.
The other thing I really like about the Kobo Writing Life portal is that when I go to my dashboard I get to see sales statistics! And not just you sold x number of books. I get to see a pie chart of daily sales, a top sellers list, a top sell of all time list, daily average and a map of where my books are sold. This really will help me make decisions about promotion and other things. Yes, besides being a geek techno freak, I’m also a numbers kind of girl (I blame Bob for that one).
Is there a negative for authors by using this portal? HELL NO! The only negative I see are companies like Smashwords because more and more authors will be opting out of distribution through Smashwords to the Kobo site. While I think Smashwords is an excellent service (though as a formatting professional I have a few issues with the meatgrinder), their services are becoming less and less needed as more and more stores make it simple for authors to upload direct. And if you can sell direct, I suggest you do it. Its worth making the extra file (or paying a professional to make the file).
This leads me one other little think I’d like to discuss. Technology that makes it easier for us to upload etc, doesn’t mean we can go “cheap”. This is a topic of discussion I see all the time in with authors. I can’t afford a formatter, a web designer, an editor, a cover artist, etc. I understand. Money does not grow on trees. But this is a business and in order to be successful, to achieve sustainability, a little investment needs to be made.
There are shortcuts I will always recommend. Use a template for a website. 1and1.com has great templates and their sites are inexpensive. Use a WordPress blog. You can have pages and its free and there you have it. A blog and a website, though I think its important to have a domain name, like jentalty.com but a WordPress blog/website is a good start until you start making money.
There are excellent services for little money when it comes to formatting. I no longer do freelance formatting but the eBook Formatting Faires (Marie Force) I highly recommend. I believe they do covers as well, but this is a great resource for writers. They know what they are doing, have been doing formatting for many years and will make you a quality file. Also, you can tailor the files so that you can have buy links at the end of your book. Check them out. Well worth it.
Back to Kobo. They will be open to everyone I believe in July. I highly recommend using the portal and selling through Kobo.