On March 6, I was fortunate to be in the audience at the Stratford Public Library when Mark Lefebvre, the Director of Self Publishing and Author Relations at Kobo, spoke at a panel discussion on electronic publishing. Aware that he would be coming, I asked my Indie friends if they had any specific questions for him.
[Note: Some information on Kobo is already in this article that Rich Meyer posted on March 8, both in the main post and in the comments.]
The event was pretty free-flowing. Mark tried to make sure we all got what we were looking for by asking us for questions up-front. This was great but it also had a downside. Or perhaps my ADD got in the way. I’m having a hard time organizing what he told us.
One difference from other platforms is that Kobo has established a relationship with the American Booksellers Association, which, if I understood correctly, allows their books to be distributed and sold via independent bookstores in the US and Canada.
The first question was about ISBNs for non-Canadian authors (Canadians get them free). I will let Mark speak for himself on this via the e-mail message he sent me. “Yvonne – I saw a note about ISBNs on Kobo on the Indies Unlimited website and thought I should clarify that an actual eISBN isn’t required to publish through Kobo Writing Life. If you enter one, great, we’ll use it — if you don’t, we’ll assign a ‘dummy’ ISBN to it. 95% of our retail partners accept the dummy ISBN, including Chapters/Indigo and the American Booksellers Association Indiebound.org (their central database that powers indie bookstores in the US with the ability to sell Kobo ebooks) — however, some of them (and WHSmith is one of them I know won’t accept it) require a legitimate 13 digit eISBN that starts with 978 or 979. Regardless of whether or not you have a real ISBN, your book is still available in the approximate 200 countries that www.kobo.com is available in. (i.e., yes, your book won’t appear in WHSmith’s ebook catalog in the UK, but if will still be available at www.kobo.com in the UK)”
This clarifies what their site, Kobo Writing Life, has to say. Thank you, Mark.
An added bit of interesting information about ISBNs. The industry standard states that we ought to have separate ISBNs for each version of our book. The problem is that when our books are ranked, each ISBN is tallied separately, even though the content is identical. This hurts our ratings, as the sales for the various formats are not aggregated. However, it is now possible to use the same ISBN for all ebook formats (and this refers to ebooks only) so that all our sales, and thus ranking, for a title show in the same tally. Since I was only asked for one ISBN when I published with Smashwords, I assume the ISBN is the same for each version they distribute. I may be mistaken in how I understand how this affects ranking. It may require a separate post.
Another question dealt with author pages, a feature readers like to see when they are looking for books. Currently Kobo does not have that option, but there is good news on that front. Mark assured us that they are in the process of adding author pages and expect them to be available by the end of 2013.
In not-so-good news, Kobo has no plans to add an option to place reviews on their site. They will continue to glean them from Goodreads and possibly other sites. I checked one of my books, which does have reviews on Goodreads, and did not see any reviews noted on the Kobo site. Nor was I able to click on the ‘rate this book’ and get it to work.
I did try to set up an account, but since my books are already there via Smashwords, I could not complete the process. One thing I wanted to find out was what kind of help is available if I run into difficulty, especially as I am a computer dunce and none of this is ever easy for me (hey, I’m old, lol), so I suspect I am not alone. I was not able to figure that out from the site. They do have a ‘support’ section, but I could not find a way to reach a live person or send a question not already in their list. That may be my shortcoming. Perhaps Mark will expand on this.
Mark has generously agreed to field some questions here, in the comments below. Perhaps that is one he will expand on for us. Mark?
One complaint I researched was that author’s books do not pull up when their names are typed into the search. I tried it and both my books popped up. This may have been an anomaly.
I’d like to end on a positive note by quoting from the comments in the previous post. Thank you to Teresa Kennedy: “Kobo is the only platform from which brick and mortar Indie booksellers can purchase ebooks, so if you want to actually go retail, as opposed to virtual, upload to Kobo and target your local indie booksellers and libraries with a press release.”
This is an area I would love to have Mark expand on. I think it has to do with the fact that Kobo uses epub as their format but I don’t understand exactly how that works.
Perhaps I have left you with more questions than answers. Please feel free to ask them. Mark will respond to those he can, though he admits to being behind in his e-mails. Hey, he’s human, too.
All in all, I am positively impressed with what I have learned. Kobo is another option for Indie authors, free to use, and offers different distribution opportunities from some other platforms. It is the only option, at this time, for borrowing from libraries, one I feel is important. And I know my daughter loves her Kobo reader.