Kobo Writing Life is the self-publishing arm of Kobo and it launched in 2012. The e-books that authors submit are stacked side by side with titles from major publishers. Mark Lefebvre theDirector of Self-Publishing & Author Relations sat down with Good e-Reader to give a status update and to let authors know some of the exciting things that are happening.
Many new authors are not familiar with the Kobo ecosystem and what Writing Life can do for them. Mark gave the lowdown on what the platform can do for indies. “In a nutshell, KWL offers you a place to publish your eBook for free to Kobo’s catalog. You get to keep 70% for any title priced $2.99 or higher. There’s no CAP on that 70%, which means authors who want to do great value box sets of multiple copies of their books, can offer their readers a good deal without having to give up on margin. (Kindle drops the royalties to 35% if you price above $9.99).”
“Also, via Kobo Writing Life, you’re not dealing with a faceless corporation. Yes, we have automated tasks and efficiencies so that authors can easily DIY their way all through the publishing process. But if authors need to contact a real human, they can. We’ve re-launched with a new ticketing system that has allowed us to be more efficient than ever before and offer more personalized responses to authors concerns. We also have a new community and forum where authors can easily find answers to popular questions.”
“Part of the mandate of the KWL Team isn’t just to help authors with publishing, but to also help educate and inform authors on the craft and business of publishing. It’s great that we offer free tools to publish, but it’s just as important to us that we ensure they understand the economics of business, best practices for authors, etc. That’s why we have also partnered with trusted companies to offer author services for cover design, editorial support, purchasing ISBNs at a discount (for US authors through Bowker), audiobook production (via ListenUp), etc. KWL offers great price optimization tools so that authors can control their prices in 15 currencies. Again, as mentioned above, we do our best to help educate and inform authors of the importance of the global markets.
Kobo Writing Life has been a massive success for the company and over the course of the past six years over 550,000 titles were published. On a weekly basis, KWL has been averaging between 1,000 to 1,500 new titles every week, so the annual title count increase in a year is somewhere between 50,000 to 75,000. This doesn’t count self-published titles being added through 3rd party self-pub aggregators like Draft2Digital, Smashwords, Pronoun, and Streetlib. Kobo does not track the exact title count through these companies, but it is estimated they contribute an extra 25,000 e-books per year.
Writing Life is constantly evolving and over the last few years they added a pre-order system, author pages and the ability to track free downloads. Mark elaborated about some of the features that did not make the daily news cycle. “We have added far more author services support over the past few years. We initially avoided those paid services because of the history of some other companies out there who seem to exist merely to exploit authors and sell them things they don’t need. But, over time, we realize that there are a multitude of beginning authors who don’t know where to go to get trusted services, so we have a person on the KWL team, Hufsa, dedicated to working with potential partners to secure a discount for KWL authors on services and so we can direct them to people who are going to provide quality service and trusted service.”
“In terms of the systems themselves, we continue to iterate and optimize the KWL dashboard based on ongoing KWL user feedback, and have recently launched a survey to our most active KWL users to learn what they like, what they don’t like, what they want more of, what new things they’d find more valuable. We use the results of those surveys to help us prioritize the 18+ month backlog of tasks/upgrades and updates we want to implement.” Mark also mentioned that they are currently BETA testing a new print on demand service for Canadian and US authors.