Extending Your Reach

You’ve published your novel! Congrats! You have it on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, now what’s next? Both of these retailers are great and will give you a generous reach to all over the world, but they don’t get everyone or to every device. After a few months of selling on both, but mostly Amazon, I saw an advertisement on Goodreads for Google Play. Now, if you have been following my blog for sometime you probably already know how amazingly arduous getting on Google Play was. I was astounded that such a large company would be so poorly set up to accept novels from publishers and authors. The whole system is archaic. Where it took me all of five minutes to get on Amazon and B&N it took me nearly TWO months to get on Google Play and countless emails. There was a bit of embarrassment involved in that one, too. I normally save my temper for my saint like husband (Jeff you’re amazing), but when I sent a email to the “Help Section” and immediately received an auto response back that said  “Emails to this inbox no longer are answered…blah blah” I went bonkers. I figured no one would ever see it. I hit the caps key and wrote something to the tune that the system was useless and archaic and it was ridiculous that I couldn’t get anyone to help me, etc. Imagine my shock when someone answered the email saying that it was a glitch in the system that the auto response was received and that they were working on my problem ASAP. They did fix it, but boy-oh-boy was it annoying. So there I was on Amazon, B&N and Google Play (and after all that annoyance I still haven’t sold one book on Google Play) and wondering where else I could branch out. I wanted to get on the Apple store, but unfortunately you have to have an e-ISBN and you have to pay $125 for one. I don’t have that kind of money and if you have an iDevice the Kindle application can be downloaded so in the end I wasn’t too worried about that. My answer to getting to more places came in the form of a blog post from the awesome, Candace Knoebel, or maybe it was just something I saw on her blog, either way it mentioned something called Kobo. I knew that the Kobo had been associated with the somewhat recently bankrupted Borders–I didn’t know it still existed. I have to say that Kobo is my favorite interface for uploading and viewing reports for your books. The reach that Kobo gives you is fantastic–it covers a large amount of countries with all the same royalties and BETTER royalties than Amazon. Amazon has been steadily adding more countries to their selling base, but they are using their “KDP Select” ploy on the royalties for those new countries. What I mean by this is, normally where you would make 70% royalties you only make 35% unless you enroll in Select. They also dropped their royalties for books priced under 2.99 to 35% totally instead of 40%. That might not seem like a large drop, but when you have a book selling for $1.99 or less it’s annoying in itself because you don’t make much anyways. Let’s compare the e-book venues I have mentioned:

Amazon Pros:

  • Kindle appears to be one of the most popular selling e-readers on the market–I have the Fire myself and I know it’s a quality product at a great price
  • Easy upload
  • Easy choices for what countries you want to sell in
  • Choice of DRM
  • Choice of allowing “sharing” or “lending” of your novel for up to 14 days to other readers
  • You can download the mobi file onto your computer for easy sharing with those that win in raffles, R2R in book groups, etc.
  • 70% Royalties on all books priced over $2.99
  • Print on Demand options with subsidy CreateSpace (which I have had few problems with)
  • The cross selling that happens on the book page for “suggestions” and “other readers who bought this also bought”. This gives your book more visibility. I was kind of freaked out when the under “other books like this” I saw 50 Shades of Gray because that’s 50 Shades Darker than wrong. There is nothing about my books or writing that in any way reflects E.L. James. You know why I’ll take it? If someone buys my book because it shows up under one of the most popular selling books–that’s pretty sweet!

Amazon Neutral Points:

  • Reaches: USA, India, France, DE (Denmark?), ES (Spain?), Italy, Japan and Canada The reason for the ? is because it only says that and the shorthand isn’t one that can be clarified on a Google Search
  • Reports are able to be downloaded in Excel, but frankly the report setup sucks, so I don’t use it at all
  • Easy reviewing of reports with one click, but the reports take at least 3 days to update
  • Amazon doesn’t tell you were your sales occurred (what country)
  • Amazon only shows reviews posted on their websites
  • KDP newsletter, sometimes helpful, sometimes not–it honestly seems to be a giant advertisement for KDP Select

Amazon Cons:

  • KDP Select, that’s right I said it. KDP Select is a con. Why? Because it means I have to remove my book from the shelves of all other vendors until the three months is up. For three months no one that has a Nook, Kobo, tablet or other e-reader can buy my book because pretty much the only e-reader that supports Amazon’s mobi files are Amazon’s e-readers. This speaks strongly to the creation of a monopoly, which doesn’t set well with me
  • You can’t sell your books for free unless you use the above mentioned select
  • The recent, without notification (I’m sure I clicked something that said that I agree that they don’t have to notify me, but it still would have been nice for a quick e-mail. They e-mail me enough times a week to try to get me to sign up for KDP Select) change of royalties under the $2.99 range from %40 to %35
  • Price matching issues. I’ve had this every single time I’ve run a promotion where I lowered the price on all venues. I update the regular selling price on all of the venues besides Amazon first, and then I update Amazon to the regular, higher price. I watch and two hours later Amazon has decided to price match to an imaginary store because guess what, all the other stores are already showing the updated price and THEY still price matched. I then have to email them to correct it, and they chastise me with some generic form letter e-mail that it wasn’t that when they looked at it. Well, yes, machine or human, whatever you are, it was. I checked first
  • No capability to “gift” your book for free even though you’re the author. That’s right if I want to send my novel via Amazon to a reader for free I have to pay for it. Granted I get some of it back, but I still have to give them either 65% or 30% for it
  • Kindle is no longer available at major retailers like Target. It is still available at Staples–I think
  • Amazon is now becoming notorious for removing good reviews from their website if they deem that you have too many five stars
  • The algorithm that made KDP Select so great, the one that placed your book on lots of lists when it was free and got you attention was changed so that the second you are out of KDP Select all your sales reset so you aren’t on those lists anymore

B&N Pros:

  • This is the next most popular e-reader. I know a lot of people who love the paper flipping feature of their Nooks.
  • Easy upload (not as easy as Amazon though)
  • Categories are better than Amazon for genre
  • Choice of DRM
  • The interface of the system is better looking and easier to manage than Amazon
  • Easy to understand reports that show monthly, daily and yesterdays sales
  • Ability to add editorial reviews to the book description

B&N Neutral Points:

  • They have a flat royalty of 40% no matter what your price point is (Oh, look at that it used to be 45%). I say this is neutral because at least you know what you get no matter what

B&N Cons:

  • I honestly don’t sell many books on here. I don’t know if it’s because Amazon has already taken a hold of the market or what. It seems maybe Amazon is better at publicizing their self-pubbed works
  • Awesome “grab-me” button to display on your website
  • There isn’t a “books like” or any other cross promotion features like Amazon has
  • Fewer reviews get posted on here
  • Availability is restricted to USA and newly added UK
  • No print book capability

Google Play Pros:

  • Another way to reach more readers
  • The steady expansion of their product line
  • You get money from ads

Google Play Neutral Points:

  • The Google Play website is “eh” as far as navigatibility
  • Reaches: US, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, Brazil, Australia, India, UK, Canada, Italy, Spain, France, Russia and Germany (you may be thinking that should be a pro–wow!, look at the cons and you will know why this is a neutral point)
  • Shows some but not all reviews from Goodreads. This is nice because a lot of readers just post reviews on Goodreads and not anywhere else

Google Cons:

  • It’s almost impossible to figure out what website and where to sign up as a publisher or author
  • I had to bookmark the sign-on page because it’s so deeply hidden in their website
  • Takes FOREVER to load
  • I understand it’s a Beta, but it’s so archaic!
  • You have to activate and set sales prices for every single individual territory; unlike Amazon or Kobo there is no easy select all, pre-load for the US conversion button. Thus, anytime you update the price you have to update it a trillion times and try to figure out what the conversion rate is yourself and with the system being so slow and outdated it takes forever
  • I can’t even figure out what my royalties are, which isn’t too bad because I haven’t sold anything on there!
  • The upload system is awful. You first have to upload it to the “preview” system so that readers can preview a certain amount of the book, then you have to go into a different section to put it up for sale. All other sites you are able to upload your cover easily as a secondary file–here nope!
  • Setting up payment accounts was a total pain
  • No cover page shows
  • You can’t rate the books unless you have Goodreads, which not everyone has or wants to go through the trouble of setting up to review books
  • Help tools stink
  • Getting a hold of someone is astoundingly difficult
  • They have the right, and enforce it, to lower the price of your book without your consent or previous notification. You still get royalties as if it was priced at the price you selected, though, so that was the “plus” I was told about when I emailed them to ask why one of my novels was at the odd price of $3.19 instead of $3.99. Okay, that’s well and good, but NOT when Amazon is so strictly and absolutely employing their price matching strategy–meaning, all of a sudden these two websites could be going at it with each other on the pricing of your book in trying to monopolize the market
  • No print book capability

Kobo Pros:

  • Oh, Kobo how you have become my new favorite. They proved how the little things can really matter with this awesome email that made my day:

Congrats!

  • Easy, super easy, sign up
  • Easy, super easy, upload
  • Great genre category choices
  • Integrates with Goodreads reviews, but ALSO allows the reader to rate the book 1-5 stars. (There isn’t a review feature)
  • Ability to rate books 1-5 stars without writing a review. This is a nice feature because not every reader has the time, nor wants to write a long-winded or even short review
  • Instant upload–like two seconds and WALA!
  • Converting of files–if you only have mobi, no problem–they will convert it, if you have word, pdf, epub–no problem they upload that, too!
  • Large selection of e-readers at different price points
  • Easy, user friendly buying website. They sell e-readers and e-books and that’s it. They have a target market and they stick to it. They don’t have too many hands in too many pots. They can be the expert this way
  • Kobo Writing Life Dashboard is amazing–why? Reports are easy to view, sales are easy to view, you can see what countries your sales are in and this map made my day because it proved something: I AM reaching readers ALL over the globe thanks to them (AUSTRIA! AWESOME!):
  • Country SalesDRM and Graphics Rights are available
  • Extending your reach is based on the payment form, not the country: US dollar, Australian dollar, Canadian dollar, Euro, British Pound, Japanese Yen, Hong Kong Dollar, New Zealand Dollar. This means a huge reach
  • Kobo is working on extending it’s market and it’s reach. It seems to be a company that has a lot of growth potential and is getting there. I’ve sold 6 copies this month on there, where I sold 2 on BN, a far larger company
  • Royalties are: 70% from 2.99 and 40% for all lower. It’s the same for all countries, too. No monopoly there.
  • You can sell your book for FREE, no strings attached. Click SELL FOR FREE and you’re good
  • Great monthly newsletter
  • Great Blog–it helped me find PressBooks!

Kobo Neutral Points:

  • It had some difficulty uploading my latest book because it’s illustrated, but the work around was to use the mobi file. (I still haven’t figured out the work around for BN). I am still waiting for the file to be approved because if you do a mobi upload they have to approve it somehow on their end where epub is instant. I’m not sure if Word and PDF are because I had the epub for my novels so I didn’t try

Kobo Cons:

  • I’m obviously a fan of their e-book processing. I haven’t used their e-readers, so I am not sure how they are. Have you? Let me know how the quality is
  • No print book function, but no one but Amazon has this either. It doesn’t bug as much with them because as I said, they are an e-marketplace period

That’s the end of my rant–did it help you at all? I hope so because it took a long time to write!!! Do you have any pros and cons to add that would help other readers and authors?

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17 responses to “Extending Your Reach

  1. I’m reconsidering, because I was going to use Smashwords, which uploads to absolutely EVERYTHING. However, they also get a cut of the action. I have to find out how much that is. Maybe doing each platform separately is the way to go. Hmmm . . .

    P.S. – Your website looks amazing, by the way

    • I’ve heard some good things about Smashwords, but the only way I heard about it was from fellow authors, and not readers. That makes me wonder how many readers actually access it. While going between each one is a bit tedious–I know that I am hitting the main site that readers of Kindles, Nooks, Kobos, Googler Tabs go to.

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  3. Reblogged this on Savvy Writers & e-Books online and commented:
    .
    You have published your novel! Congrats! You have it on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, now what’s next? Both of these retailers are great and will give you a generous reach to all over the world, but they don’t get everyone or to every device.
    Robert Niles has written an article: Which online retailers do the best job of helping sell your eBooks? http://www.ojr.org/ojr/people/robert/201112/2036/
    and Jane Friedman gives advice: 10 Questions to Ask Before Committing to Any E-Publishing Service

    http://janefriedman.com/2012/02/10/10-questions-epublishing/

    Cassandra Giovanni wrote a great blog post, in detail, about the pro’s and con’s of several online retailers and her experience about uploading her books, categories, interface, sales reports etc. Recommend this blog for every writer / author publisher!

  4. DE? Deutchland i.e. Germany ES? España i.e Spain – you need to get out more. Not everyone out there speaks English.

    Interesting post though. I’ve personally had zero success with Kobo, although my books sell consistently on Amazon. I opted out of KDP Select last December, and yes, there was an almost immediate drop in sales. Amazon obviouisly don’t like taking risks. Given their dominant market position, they could remove the exclusivity clause from KDP Select and more writers would probably use it. I’ve found that Amazon has not got its mind around the concept of ‘marketing’, as evidenced by review removal amongst other issues. In the long run, that’s going to backfire on them – I know of many writers, some household names, who are disatisfied with the big A – that’s not good. These days, authors are active on social media sites and word gets around. Amazon is very slow to react and when they eventually do, they might be just a little too late.

    • Thank you for that clarification. I actually did Google DE and ES. Your explanation makes sense; I’m not sure why the Google search didn’t come up with that explanation.
      As for Amazon, their review removal is certainly a hot button for my self-published authors, but then again they had to remove tagging because many were abusing this feature. Amazon has it’s benefits, but it’s detriments, as do all.

  5. Nice comparison! Even though my book is on Amazon, B&N, Google Play, and Kobo, I found a good deal of information that I didn’t know about these venues! I had the same experience with Google Play as you and I’m not on Apple for the same $125 reason. Kobo has been the best, I agree! Readers can buy my Kobo book through independent bookstores and I like that, well, as long as the bookstore has an agreement with Kobo.

  6. I’ve looked tat B&N and Smashwords in the past, but stuck to Amazon because the sales volume just doesn’t seem to be there. Kobo is a platform I’m interested in pursuing though – so it’s good to hear it’s pretty straightforward.

    Some bits about Amazon that maybe aren’t entirely obvious.

    1) Your KDP Dashboard reports fro Month to Date sales are actually provided store by store. The “View report for:” dropdown allows you to pick which store sales you are interested in seeing. Only India and US are rolled together because Amazon did a braindead manuever and uses amazon.com to sell to both countries.

    2) Your Author Central site ( https://authorcentral.amazon.com ) gives you a different view including sales rankings, books, and reviews. This is a bit ridiculous since content you put in here about your book description can and will override the description you provide via KDP when publishing. (Also you can never delete the content here, so your description can be magically stuck old school style because Author Central doesn’t support markup like KDP does.)

    3) Amazon will not in any way expose actual customers to you. Which can make any kind of follow on sale and offering difficult at best. Likewise you can’t ask for feedback when a return occurs (though I just presume returns on ebooks are largely examples of people buying, copying the ebook off their Kindle, and then returning so they can get the book for free).

    4) The algorithm used by Amazon to compress JPGs for covers is the most lossy hateful compression ever. I can take the same image and compress it locally and it will look fine. Upload it to Amazon and get a blob. Seriously. Very annoying.

    5) You can add another 4-6% to your royalty by using links through the Amazon Affiliate program ( http://affiliate-program.amazon.com/ ). Sign up is free, there’s a standard format for the links you can easily discern, you can set up as many “campaigns” (link references) as you want to distinguish customer sources, and you can then use a URL shortener like http://Bit.ly to provide a clean URL for your web sites and blogs. Affiliate reporting also exposes what people bought during the same session after clicking your link – so you may get 4-6% of a competitor’s sale.

    6) KDP Select is a good option when you have many books for sale. You enroll one book in KDP Select, pick and promote your free days, and make sure your other books are referenced within that freebie book and available. You don’t make money off of a free book – nor should you expect people will pay for a book they know might be free again unless they are a diehard fan. But you do sell some subset of your other books to that audience without needing to enroll any other titles in KDP Select.

    Hope that helps!

    • Thanks for the additional comments. I was aware if these things as well, but some other readers may not be aware. Although, I must say I’ve had no such issue with cover or jpeg files, even with a fully illustrated novel. I’ve also never had issues viewing the reports– I just find it tedious compared to the other formats available so that’s probably why I didn’t realize the excel files broke it down by country. I don’t even bother to look at them anymore. I just use the six-weeks dashboard. I don’t mind the lack of follow-up with customers because I understand it due to privacy laws, and returns, while they do stink, seem to occur because the “buy with one-click” button is easy to click more than once. I’ve done it before myself and returned my extra copy. I do agree that returns a day later are a bit frustrating because some are able to read fast enough that they can read it and then return. I have faith, for the most part, most people don’t think like this, though.

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