E-book retailer Kobo finally unveiled plans at BookExpo America for its much-anticipated self-publishing platform. The company will launch Kobo Writing Life, a self-publishing and self-service portal currently in beta, at the end of June with more than 1,600 writers who have signed up for the service.
Kobo is rolling out Kobo Writing Life as a direct competitor to similar self-publishing platforms at Amazon.com and at Barnes & Noble. The new service will use the ePub open standard that will allow e-books published through Kobo Writing Life to be read on a wide range of mobile devices and personal computers. The service is offering independent authors a royalty rate of up to 70% and the ability to set prices for their e-books including to give them away for free.
According to the e-tailer, Kobo Writing Life will provide writers an easy-to-use self-service portal that will give them a variety of marketing and sales tools and help connect them to readers. Through its Kobo Author Notes Progam, the self-publishing platform also provides a layer of social reading functionality that allows an author to embed additional commentary within the book and through its apps. Kobo Writing Life is also integrated with Facebook Timeline. The self-service portal is also said to have a dashboard offering a variety of data that allow an author to track the sales performance of a book across multiple markets and track the impact of promotions and sales. Kobo Writing Life is now in beta with 50 authors testing the system.
At a breakfast roundtable with Kobo executive v-p Michael Tamblyn and Mark Lefebvre, Kobo’s new director of self-publishing and author relations, a group of invited media and authors discussed the launch of the new platform. Authors Belle Andre and Kevin J. Anderson, bestselling self-published authors who also have traditional publishers, were on hand to talk about their individual reactions and publishing experiences to the Kobo platform.
Lefevvre, outgoing president of the Canadian Booksellers Association, is a former bookseller and an author himself and has both self-published and released books through traditional booksellers, a fact touted by Tamblyn who noted the importance of having a author run its self-publihsing program.
The roundtable touched on Kobo Writing Life’s royalty (up to 70% for books priced under $12.99); pricing and data available to authors through the KWL author portal dashboard (among other information, sales data across multiple markets); and Kobo’s international reach. Tamblyn said the new service will allow publishers to sell e-books around the world, adjust prices for local markets or allow authors to selectively release titles in foreign markets they hold the rights for. Anderson, a bestselling novelist with more than 40 books including Tor and Random House, and Andre, who has also published more than 20 book including several with Random House, provided a range of experiences that were, not surprisingly, very supportive of self-publishing and bullish on Kobo Writing Life.
Anderson, a bestselling science-fiction author, spoke of how using self-publishing he’s been able to experiment with pricing and create digital omnimbus editions of his books, something he was not always able to get his traditional publishers to do. Andre, a wildly popular romance writer whose books are published in 9 languages, dismissed concerns about amateurs producing “bad” books and said self-publishing is about making mistakes and learning from them. She also spoke about successfully launching a new line of books under Lucy Kevin, a self-publishing pen name—in response to critics that say its easy for famous authors to self-publish, not so for emerging writers.
Kobo Writing Life will be launched at the end of the month and both Tamblyn and Lefebvre emphasized, that the service is looking to add new services and data outputs after it is launched and authors begin using the service in earnest.
“Kobo Writing Life is another way Kobo is helping to shape the publishing industry,” Michael Tamblyn, executive v-p content & merchandising at Kobo, said “We designed the platform to help authors become better publishers, taking advantage of key insights about customers and sales to help authors improve sales and engage with more readers around the world.”