There are many platforms on which you can self publish your novel as an ebook. I publish on Amazon (for Kindle), Kobo, iBooks. GooglePlay, and Nook.
Whenever I tell people that, though, the next question, at least in the U.S., usually is “What is Kobo?”
Kobo eReaders and Reach
With apologies to Kobo (as no one likes to name the competition), I sometimes tell non-writing friends in the U.S. that it’s Kindle in Canada. But that’s not quite true.
Kobo sells books all over the world. After publishing on Kobo, I sold books in countries I was unfamiliar with before that, such as Wallis & Futuna.
The map to the right shows the countries where Kobo ebooks in my Awakening series have been bought.
Books for Kobo can be read on Kobo ereaders or on Kobo apps, which are listed on Kobo’s website.
The Pluses of Kobo
There are lots of reasons to love Kobo.
Books Books Books: Unlike Amazon, Kobo sells only books and ereaders. No one goes to Kobo to buy a HEPA air filter or a ceiling fan or a pair of sneakers. If someone is on Kobo’s website, it’s to buy books. I suspect that influences the next two pluses.
Kobo readers review more books. On Amazon, roughly .01% of readers who bought The Awakening reviewed it. If I count not only sales but the tens of thousands of free downloads, the ratio is crazy low.
On Kobo, in contrast, over 40% of those who bought The Awakening reviewed it.
I also get a higher read through rate on Kobo. I particularly notice this with The Awakening (Book 1) being free. Everything I've read and my own experience says that on Kindle, many many free books are downloaded and never read. Based on the read through rate, Kobo readers appear far more likely to read a free book and, if they like it, to buy the next book.
If you're unfamiliar with the term, the read through rate is the percentage of people who buy Book 2 in a series after reading Book 1. While you can’t tell exactly who bought, you can see the numbers. For simplicity’s sake, let’s say over the last three months you sold 100 of Book 1 and 50 of Book 2. That would be a read through rate of 50%.
Royalties: As of this writing, for books above $9.99, the royalties are more favorable to authors on Kobo. Most platforms pay a lower royalty (usually around 30%) for books under $2.99 and 65% or 70% on books above $2.99, but drop the royalty rate if the sale price exceeds $9.99.
Kobo doesn’t do that. The percentage remains the same for all books at $2.99 and up.
This is very helpful for box sets. If you have a 7-book series you’re selling as a bundle or box set for $12.99, your royalty would still be 70% on Kobo rather than dropping to a lower percentage.
Promotion: Kobo allows you to offer your ebook free. While it seems counterintuitive, if you have a series, providing your first book free can be a good way to draw readers in, resulting in higher earnings overall. (I’ve had my best three sales months ever this year after switching The Awakening to free.) And even if the earnings are the same, you’ve expanded your reader base.
Amazon will only list your ebook free to price match other platforms. Occasionally this happens automatically, but often you need to request it, and the response always includes a reminder that Amazon is not obligated to let you offer the book free.
Kobo also has on its dashboard options for promotions, including some priced as low as $5. I don’t see huge sales spikes on the days of these promotions, but they help sales for a long time, sometimes for a month or more.
Technology: Kobo’s technology is easy to use. Once you create an account, which is free, you are walked through five simple steps to upload your book. Kobo accepts epub files—the same sort of file accepted by all platforms I’ve used except Amazon. (Amazon requires a mobi file.)
Kobo sales data is easy to see and read. The dashboard, which is where you see your sales information, shows your dollars earned and books sold for the current month and for all time. You can use drop down menus to filter by book.
Author Support: Kobo sends a monthly newsletter with tips for writers. Kobo also has a podcast for authors and very helpful support via email.
Downsides of Kobo (But Not Really)
The only downside of Kobo that I can think of is not intrinsic to Kobo. It’s that Amazon offers many incentives to authors to sell their ebooks exclusively for Kindle. As this is a post about Kobo, I won’t go into those pluses here.
The concern with being exclusive to Amazon is that it’s putting all your eggs in one basket. If you’re working a day job you’re happy with or have another career you enjoy and don’t want to leave, that may be fine.
If you’re striving to earn your living by writing, that’s a tougher call. On the one hand, some authors earn monthly royalties I only dream of through being exclusive to Amazon.
On the other, should Amazon change their incentives or get rid of certain programs completely, those authors could see their earnings drop precipitously. They'd adapt I'm sure, but it would be a challenge. To me, it would be like being a freelancer with only one client. It's not necessarily a bad idea, but it's important to be aware of the risk.
I have my series wide–i.e., I published it on various platforms–and have other ebooks exclusive to Kindle. To give you an idea of earnings per platform, for this year, here’s how my royalties break down into percentages:
1.5% CreateSpace (paperbacks)
7% Audible (audio books)
10.5% Barnes & Noble (Nook)
11.5% Apple (iBooks)
60% Amazon (Kindle)
Keep in mind that your breakdown might be completely different. For me, obviously Amazon is the largest part of what my books earn. (It’s actually 68.5, as CreateSpace and Audible are Amazon-related companies). But I would definitely miss the rest. And should Amazon suddenly change things up, I haven’t cut into all my income.
Questions about Kobo or going wide? Please post them in the comments.
P.S. After writing this post, I came across more great information on Kobo straight from the Director of Self-Publishing and Author Relations, Mark Lefebvre. See Friday's appropriately-titled recommendation More On Kobo if you want to know more.