Independent Publishing

Kobo: Publishing, Self-Publishing And Getting Bought

When Kobo announced that they were planning on becoming a publisher I meant to write  a post that said something to the effect of:

That makes sense, in fact it’s essential to their survival. What’s also essential is that they open their publishing platform to writers, and allow them to self-publish their work just as Amazon and B&N do.

Amazon and Barnes & Noble are having considerable success for a variety of reasons, but an important and, I think, underplayed aspect of that success is built on allowing authors to access their platforms.

In many ways, Kindle has become the international ebook platform of choice for writers because it has been the easiest platform to self publish through.

Other platforms have made it difficult to do the same, for instance you MUST use a mac to access the self-publishing abilities on for Apple’s iBooks (seems crazy to me). B&N, despite attractions, has Byzantine rules about providing US Bank Accounts, US Credit Cards and US Social Security Numbers before being allowed self-publish and the only other viable route to it and other markets are via Smashwords (lucky for Smashwords who do a great job) or one of the more expensive aggregators.

I suspect that if you are going to try the ebook market as a way to sell your work and Amazon make it easy (and they do) then you will push their system to your readers helping to spread the word of Kindle rather than the word of ebooks in general.

Of course you could counter by saying that it’s the quality that matters and so we deal with top publishers. That’s fine, but, I suspect, wrong.

Then I read, with some surprise I must admit, that the company (Kobo) has been sold. I hope for Kobo’s sake that the change in ownership doesn’t result in a change of priorities.

I want them to unveil their self-publishing platform and fast. The battle for position in the ebook market is really fierce and while as I argued many moons ago Ebooks Are A Cul de Sac, right now they are the most interesting game in town. Any delay for Kobo\s plans means another chance for Amazon or B&N to sneak a march on them. If B&N’s flagged move out of the US happens soon, you can expect them to ease the restrictions they place on foreign self-publishers opening an easier route to market for many writers*.

It seems clear to me that not having an open and easy to use system to facilitate self publishing is now a damaging and foolish business decision for an ebook platform.

Great chat today with interesting people!
Eoin

* I should add that the KDP is also a godsend for many small independent publishers like my own The Irish Story.

A Writer’s Ire Misdirected & An Odd Counterpoint

Transworld Ireland gets quite a battering from Aiden O’Reilly’s 21 December open letter. He lambasted publisher Eoin McHugh* with a wonderfully amusing paragraph:

I decided not to bother sending my manuscript to you. I cannot have any trust that it would get serious attention. I would not fit in among the authors on your list. Even if you decided to publish me, I would not feel comfortable with your publishing house.

Personally I think the target poorly chosen and the tone a little too much for my liking, but I do understand the frustration of writers in Aiden’s position which regardless of my thoughts on the subject he puts well:

I put this question to you: What is your ethos? What is your company’s ethos?

When I go to my local restaurant, the owner tells me he wishes to bring authentic and excellent Indonesian cuisine to Dublin. A building company run by a friend will strive to use Irish materials in an energy-efficient manner. None of them will say: “I need to maximise income for my shareholders in a very difficult market.”

What is your ethos Sir? Do you have any sense of responsibility that you are shaping a new generation of writers?

I see also that you were previously a book buyer at Easons, a company known for playing a role in the literary life of the nation. Was there some sense when Transworld Ireland was set up in 2007, that it should promote new writing that reflects what’s happening in this country? Is there any sense of responsibility for seeking out good writing wherever it may be found?

via The Stoneybatter Files – News.

Oddly enough, I stumbled across another blog today, from a  writer too (one Stephen Leather), with a much different attitude to the world and for his good fortune a better outcome:

Last month I sold 44,334 books on Kindle UK. That’s a lot of books. I don’t know of any Indie author who even comes close to that in the UK. I know that I’m not a true Indie author in that I am also published by one of the best publishing houses around – Hodder and Stoughton. But I have published five books on my own and they are true Indie books.

I know of only one Indie author who sells more than me in the US and that’s paranormal romance writer Amanda Hocking – and she sells more than twice as many as me.

I’m putting my December sales figures onto my blog so that people can see for themselves where my sales are coming from.

In December it was my vampire book Once Bitten that sold best, accounting for 22,607 sales. Interestingly it is my New York serial killer story, The Basement, that is currently selling best – and heading the Kindle UK bestseller list. But in December it was lagging behind Once Bitten with 17,321 sales. For most of December Once Bitten and The Basement were Number 1 and Number 2 in the Kindle UK bestseller list respectively. As of today, it’s The Basement that’s Number 1.

via I Sold 44,334 Kindle Books in December

It is a strange phenomenon in this age of digital books, that authors CAN now serve very large markets with a single account and do darn well out of it.

I’m not saying that Aiden’s solution is to jump on the independent publishing bandwagon, perhaps that’s not his bag and not every independent author will sell such huge numbers, but I am saying that the things he writes about are the frustrations consequential to his choice. Had he chosen to publish independently his frustrations would be different ones, but real nonetheless.

Writing is a frustrating career choice, wether ploughing the traditional route or trying the newer independent forms, but it IS a choice. Commercial publishers, as crass as you might think their list to be, are not the cause of your problems, nor a suitable target for your ire.

Eoin

*It’d be wise for me to point out that I know Eoin, have met with him on several occasions in both a business and more recreational situations both since he joined Transworld and when he was at Easons and have a lot of respect for him.