Why Kobo is Light-years Better

If you’re an independent or small publisher, or an independent author, then you really should read this. I’m both of those, and I have a pretty good idea of what I’m talking about here. I’ve been doing this whole indie thing for a number of years, and I’ve worked with Amazon, CreateSpace, Kindle Direct, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords. I don’t use iBooks because they’ve always had way too many hoops to jump through and even require that you own a Mac just to upload books… screw that.

In my experience, there are some platforms that are good and some that are not. And that evaluation slides from left to right as business development teams and website engineers continue to make alterations to the distribution platforms (I call them sales channels) that I’m talking about.

A recent experience has proven to me unequivocally that Smashwords thinks it’s bigger than it is, and Kindle Direct thinks it’s the only game in town. Allow me to explain.

I produce a series called Penny Dread Tales—short story anthologies by authors from all over the world—with four volumes released thus far. As I was attempting to get volumes III and IV squared away on Smashwords, their system was telling me that I could not complete the listing process because I don’t have an author name on the cover. They actually informed me that I needed one as a “requirement” in order to sell books there. Their suggestion was that I put those names on the cover (all 20 of them) and then have all of those contributors get Smashwords author pages, and then send the complete list of authors and their Smashwords URLs to their customer support staff to update my meta data. Right.

I feel it’s important to mention that of the four volumes I had uploaded, two were approved and two were not. One of the two that were approved did not have a name on the cover, which means their standard is inconsistently applied. The two most recent ones, those not approved and without names, were simply not going to be accepted, according to the representative I had an email exchange with. That was pretty much the end of the discussion.

Great. Good for them. It’s their platform, and they can run it any way they please.

Coincidentally, these very same titles, all four of them, are currently listed on both Amazon and Kobo. They will soon be listed on Barnes & Noble as well. What the folks at Smashwords think is a requirement simply isn’t.

I made it very clear that I wouldn’t be listing my anthologies with them and have subsequently unpublished the titles in question. All of my future marketing efforts for any of my titles will be focused elsewhere, and I will be directing those efforts towards a platform that works best for my needs.

That’s business.

And then there is Kindle Direct. The biz dev folks over there think that it’s reasonable for them to only permit access to their promotion functionality if the publisher or author uses the highly touted Kindle Select program. This program locks in the title in question for three months, meaning that you can’t sell that title anywhere other than Amazon if you want to do promotions of your title within their environment.

In my email exchange with their representative, the person was very apologetic and indicated that my request to have access to promotions without using their Kindle Select program was going to be passed along to the powers-that-be for evaluation.

Great. Good for them. It’s their platform, and they can run it any way they please.

I will never use a program that limits where I can sell my books. That would be particularly stupid on my part. There are quite a number of venues to work with in this business, and the biz dev folks who believe otherwise are hurting the companies who employ them.

Now let me talk about Kobo, and no, they didn’t pay me for this… or if they did, it was with an easy to use platform with great functionality that meets my business needs.

I uploaded my four titles to Kobo. I did so in about half of the time and effort necessary to upload to Smashwords. I was able to schedule a promotion with a start date, end date and a discount price that will coincide with the official release of the fourth anthology. I’ve discounted all four of those titles by nearly 50% for a span of 10 business days, and I did so with the click of a couple of buttons and one text boxy entry. It’s done and I don’t need to worry about it, even after the money starts rolling in.

Simple. Effective. Versatile. Non-limiting.

That’s what Kobo offers.

So, when I do my launch of Penny Dread Tales Volume IV on the eleventh, I’ll have three other related titles also on sale. I was also able to set similar promotional pricing for my novelette and my novel. I’m good to go on one platform. When I do my book launch and start sending the “buy here” URLs, guess which platform I’m going to be directing people to. I guarantee you it’s not going to be Smashwords, and I’ll only link Amazon because they are a big fish and I’ll still make sales there.

It’s really a very simple proposition. If you are a service vendor, which they all are, then you need to cater to the needs of your customers. Period. Sure, you can ignore their needs, but you do so at your own peril. When you ignore the needs of your customers, you are likely to get folks like me who not only take their business elsewhere, but who write blogs like this to encourage other professionals in this vertical market to do the same.

Go Kobo.

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