I am traveling this week, visiting family in Denver. And we went to visit the Tattered Cover independent bookstore.
I like to visit indie bookstores when I travel because it gives me a better idea of the industry as it plays out across the nation. And it’s fun to see all the different ways that people display books.
Here are a couple pics of different areas of this great indie bookstore. Click to see the photos full size.
Tattered Cover Indie Bookstore, Denver, CO.
Tattered Cover, Indie Bookstore, Denver, CO. Children's section.
One of the interesting things at Tattered Cover was the Espresso Book Machine. This is a print-on-demand printer that both prints and binds a book while you watch. I’ve heard of them for several years, of course, but never seen one. It’s large. Watching the pages flip through the printer is fascinating. Tattered Cover Press is the official designation of books printed here.
Espresso Book Machine: POD Printer
Tattered Cover Press print-on-demand Espresso Book Machine.
I also stopped by the Kobo ebook reader section and checked out all of their selection. (Read my recent post about why you should pay attention to Kobo. Hint: It has to do with indie bookstores.) Buy my books in Kobo format!
Of course–one of the best reasons to visit Colorado this time of year is the aspens!
The best reason to visit Denver this time of year: aspens turning golden.
Darcy at Mt. Bierstadt in the Rocky Mountains. We accidently tried this 14er (14,000 ft) hike and because we weren't prepared, we only made it to about 13,000 ft. Great day!
For the last few years, the best options for Indie publishers to publish an eBook have been Kindle, Nook and Apple iBooks. Now, there’s another big competitor on the scene, Kobo Books.
Kobo’s Writing Life opens the market to authors and provides exciting new opportunities. Especially exciting is the collaboration with independent bookstores and the American Bookseller’s Association. Today, Mark Lefebvre, Director of Self-Publishing and Author Relations for Kobo stops by to discuss their new interface for Indies. I met him at a conference in Oregon in July and immediately went home to upload my ebooks to KWL. It was a simple process and I wanted to share this with you.
Mark Lefebvre, Director, Self Publishing & Author Relations, Kobo Writing Life. I met Mark at a conference in Oregon in July, 2013.
Question: At the Oregon conference, I had my first chance to see a Kobo reader and thought it was fantastic. I loved the Kobo Mini’s small size, how it felt in the hand and the clean reading interface. How does the Kobo ebook reader compare to Kindle, Nook and iPads? Is there a color Kobo and do pages rotate from portrait to landscape?
Answer: Well, first of all I should explain that there isn’t a single Kobo reader, but rather a whole family of devices and apps – there’s pretty much a device or app for virtually any type of person, matching their own style and preference in an eReading experience. Yes, this might sound like a sales pitch, but there really is an amazing variety of options available in our devices.
We have e-ink devices such as the Kobo Touch , a 6” Pearl E Ink touchscreen device that the #1 rated device by WIRED magazine, to the Kobo Glo, which, like Touch, can stored up to 1000 eBooks, but has a built-in light that has been proven to be the most even 6” front-lit eReader, allowing comfortable reading day or night.
Kobo Touch eBook Reader
Kobo Glo eBook Reader
Our Kobo mini is the world’s smallest and lightest full-featured eReader with a 5” display, great for reading on the go, as it fits more easily into purses and jacket breast pockets. For die-hard readers who have to have the best of the best in eink reading experiences, Kobo Aura HD provides a premium reading experience for the discerning reader. With a 1440 X 1080 resolution and 265 dpi, along with a unique ergonomic design Aura HD delivers the ultimate crisp and natural feeling reading experience, and the built-in light allows for reading in all levels of light.
Kobo Mini eBook Reader
Kobo AuraHD eBook Reader
Our tablet, the Kobo ARC is a fully certified Android tablet with all of the tablet features that you would expect, such as a 1.5 GHz process and 1 GB of low-power RAM, but designed with the book lover in mind. Apart from the unique Tapestries discovery experience and Kobo’s wonderful Android reading experience (which does auto-rotate from portrait to landscape, unless you set a user preference to lock the screen in place), this is a fully functioning Android environment, meaning you have access to all of the apps available through Android (yes, including apps for competitor eRetailers, so you can read your Kindle and Nook library titles on your Kobo ARC)
Kobo Arc eBook Reader
Apart from the readers, Kobo does have free apps for every single smart-phone operating system, MAC and PC desktops.
Question: Tell us about Kobo Writing Life. Why did Kobo establish this new option for Indie publishers and authors?
Answer: Kobo Writing Life was created as a way of removing barriers and allowing authors who wanted to work directly with Kobo to get their indie-published works into our catalog as easily as possible.
Kobo, a very collaborative company, accepts daily feeds from places like Smashwords and BookBaby along with hundreds of other distributors/aggregators, but many authors wanted to be able to connect directly with us and have tighter control over their prices, metadata, etc. So, after spending several months listening to authors (and using the existing platforms available – remember, many of the folks on the Kobo Writing Life [KWL] team are authors and are using the various different DIY platforms available), we designed a portal that would not only meet those needs, but also hopefully give them more insights and access to their data in an intuitive and beautifully designed manner.
We are delighted to hear back not only from authors but smaller publishers, that KWL makes it easy for them to get their eBooks into Kobo’s catalog as well as track their global sales live, so they can focus on what authors and publishers really want to do – create great books.
Question: What is the biggest tip you can tell us about using Kobo Writing Life? Is there a best-practices list somewhere?
Answer: Kobo Writing Life is a tool for authors and publishers to use. In many ways it is not all that different than any other online portal allowing indie publishers to get their books into as many global catalogs as possible.
We created the Kobo Writing Life blog at www.kobowritinglife.com in order to outline spotlights on authors, highlighting various things that they are doing, as well as to share information and insights about KWL, as well as the craft and business of writing (See Darcy’s post about starting your novel on Kobo Writing Life blog here), so that’s a great place to keep your eye out for updated tidbits and info.
But two key bits of advice I would offer (and which apply well beyond Kobo) would be this:
- Be consistent and careful and methodical with your metadata. Metadata is the term used to describe the data that describes your book. This would be the title, subtitle, author name, price, description, series title, subject category, etc. Metadata is critical because it is the data that is used to help customers FIND your work – so it needs to be accurate and clean and speak to your target audience
- Take advantage of EVERY opportunity to make your work available on ALL publishing platforms. This means, ensure your work is available on Kobo, but also Kindle, Nook, iBooks (Apple) as well as other places such as Sony, Smashwords, Diesel and a myriad of other platforms. Maximizing your global customer base and reach is a good long-term strategy that offers an author the broadest possible customer base. You never know, for sure, which platform your next biggest fan might already be reading on, so making your work available as broadly as possible makes it easier for readers to find you. (Darcy’s Note: My first three sales on Kobo went to Australia, Canada and South Africa! Wow. That is a global readership!)
For other tips, see KWL’s Technical Help blog.
Question: Kobo reaches a different market from the other ebook options. Where do you traditionally sell well?
Answer: Kobo’s catalog reaches about 200 countries around the world, and one of the unique ways we reach customers isn’t just through www.kobo.com but also through our regional partner websites. In Canada, for example, our books are not only available via Kobo’s website, but also through www.chapters.indigo.ca and in the UK through WHSmith and indie bookseller websites. The same goes for FNAC in France and Mondadori in Italy and hundreds of other retail partner websites around the world – this helps maximize an author’s exposure to more customers in more countries via multiple channels.
Kobo was born in and calls Canada home, so there’s no denying the fact that we have an incredibly huge reach within Canada. But we are also popular in the UK, Australia and New Zealand and are continuing to grow in the United States. Our partnership with the indie booksellers in the US, for example, means great opportunities for authors, for Kobo and for bookstores.
Question: Explain the new collaboration with the ABA and independent booksellers through Indie Bound. How will this expand markets for Indie publishers?
Answer: Kobo’s partnership with the American Booksellers Association means that independent bookstores across the U.S. can not only sell the line of fantastic Kobo reader devices in their stores, but also have a way of selling content to their customers. Customers interested in purchasing eBooks need not abandon their favorite local bookstore, but, instead, can purchase eBooks via that bookstore’s presence (check out www.indiebound.org) and support their local bookstore while buying eBooks.
One of the things we learned right away with respect to our fantastic partnership with the ABA is that the titles that sell well via the indie bookstore websites closely matches the types of books that would sell well IN that same indie bookstore. Meaning that, instead of a generic global list of bestselling titles, the eBooks that sell well through each of the bookstore websites mimic the types of books that local bookstore would be selling. Meaning, that you get the great flavor and style that the indie bookstores bring to the community, the great local recommendations and personal touch that these cultural community hubs offer the towns in cities they operate in.
Question: What is your favorite book that is ONLY available on Kobo? Please give us links to the Kobo desktop, iPad, iPhone, and Android apps so we can read it right away, too!
Answer: It’s never fair to any bookseller for their favorite book or author – there are simply TOO MANY great books and authors to follow.
A great thing that people SHOULD check out is the list of FREE titles available through the Kobo Writing Life community. There is virtually something for everybody on this list and a great way to discover a great new writer.
FREE Kobo titles
These titles aren’t exclusive to Kobo, but since Kobo Writing Life allows authors to make their books free at ANY time for as long as they want (without the same restrictive exclusivity clause that some other eRetailers impose for the same benefit), sometimes they are free at Kobo and not at some other places.
I should also mention one thing I am very proud about is the fact that Kobo Writing Life allows indie published authors the ability to set up their books for pre-order, meaning you might be able to pre-order an indie author’s title from Kobo before it is available at most other eRetailers.
But if you want me to try to call out something that is currently exclusive to Kobo, one that I quite enjoyed is the special “Inferno” tie-in linked short stories that J.F. Penn wrote as part of a major “The Descent” contest that Kobo ran just prior to Dan Brown’s latest big release. Fans of Dan Brown or James Rollins are likely to enjoy the wonderful “Easter Egg” references and enriched links to Dante’s classic work within the pages of J.F. Penn’s A THOUSAND FIENDISH ANGELS – three wonderfully intriguing tales called Sins of the Flesh, Sins of Treachery and Sins of Violence.
This is a great way to check out J.F. Penn’s writing so you can enjoy her riveting ARKANE series featuring Dr. Morgan Sierra who is much more than a female “Indiana Jones.”
Here’s <"a href="http://www.kobo.com/ereaders?___store=canada_english_cad&style=onestore">a link to the various readers and free APPs
(Kobo is available on all devices and computers, so you don’t need to own a Kobo to enjoy them.)
Thanks, Mark. Kobo and Indie Bound are exciting places for writers today. We appreciate you sharing your expertise with us.
Darcy’a Note: One of the cool things about Kobo is its partnership with the American Booksellers Association and IndieBound. You can find all my Kobo eBooks at the Kobo website here
. But I’d rather you shop at That Bookstore in Arkansas by following these links:
Find the Kobo eBook at That Bookstore's Website
Shop Locally! Thanks for supporting That Bookstore in Blytheville, AR
Intrigued and want to learn more? SelfpublishingPodcast.com did a 1 1/2 hour conversation with Mark that is available on YouTube (rated PG13!).
If you can’t see this video, click here.
*Before we begin I want you all to be sure to come back next week when the amazing Aubrey Poole, Editor from Sourcebooks
will join us to provide a more in depth look at why having a publisher is a good idea. But now for our Indie experts!
A post from Susan Kaye Quinn on Debunking Some Indie Publishing Myths, combined with Lisa Gail Green’s posts on Indie vs. Traditional kicked off a discussion between Susan Kaye Quinn and Laura Pauling (both indie authors with the Indelibles author group) on indie publishing myths, publishing middle grade, and the new hybrid author. For a peek behind the curtain at the real experience of indie authors today, check it out…
There are too many self-pub books; mine will be lost in the pile!
|Laura Pauling|Laura: Sue’s post
is a great list of myths (about indie publishing). (There are) so many more too when it comes to why authors self publish and quality issues. But Lisa has definitely covered some major ones. :) We're never doomed unless we quit trying.
Susan: I’ve been countering some myths on the blogosphere lately, so I collected them into a post. Interestingly, I’ve heard less lately about the “all SP (self-published) books are trash” meme – maybe I’m just hanging out with the cool kids now.
Laura: I see the knocks on quality about SP from posts in the traditional world; usually people who don't know much about it or who really don't know how to find the well written books. I just walk away. :)
You have to publish fast to be a successful indie author.
And I agree, the whole rush, rush thing is slightly exaggerated. A career will not be made or broken based on that factor. Does rushing books to market help? If they’re quality. And it helps get the author to a point in his/her career where they could be full time, but it's not the determining factor.
Susan: Getting quality books out quickly helps for the same reason that being 10 years down the road in my career would help – I’d have more to sell. But I don’t see a good way to short-cut that process – you have to actually write the books and earn the fans along the way.
|Susan Kaye Quinn|I try to insulate myself from the indie naysayers of the world – it doesn’t help to listen to people who are dissing what I’m doing. I’ll let them play in their sandbox and I’ll play in mine. Laura:
I know what you mean. I'm attending and volunteering at NESCBWI (New England Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) this spring. I have to seriously debate whether it's worth my $$ in the future. Ansha Kotyk is presenting and will be able to sell her self-published book in the bookstore and sign, so I'm curious to see how that goes for her. :)
Have you decided what to do with your middle grade? Query? I'm torn about the future. I'll continue to write and self publish some companion novels to promote my middle grade that's out. And I have another idea for a series, that I'll self publish. I’ll see what happens.
Susan: Everything I see still tells me that middle grade indie books struggle. Writing and publishing really are two separate functions in my brain – I write what I love, then figure out the best way to publish. Speaking of: has your small press (Pugalicious) gotten good reviews/distribution for your MG novel about the Mayans? Has that opened any doors you wouldn’t have had with self-pub?
Laura: Honestly, publishing with the small press has certain advantages. Pugalicious Press did fantastic job with editing and cover design. I had a one-hour phone conversation with a marketing specialist. I think it also opens doors for certain contests, if a writer cares about that. I could submit for the bigger awards.
But, over all, in all honestly, it doesn't help as far as distribution. But, let's say, a book took off, then it would be much easier to get into bookstores b/c bookstores would see your book as traditionally published. So it has the potential to open doors that I wouldn't have self-publishing.
I think querying a middle grade would be much easier knowing I was writing and self-publishing other works. That my career didn't hinge on that one manuscript. Middle grade is really hard, even though everyone clamors for it. But, there is a certain freedom knowing that if they're not interested I can go with a small press or self publish. It frees me to write for me, not for them or what I think they're looking for. I don't think I realized how much that influenced me until I started self publishing.
Susan: This is SO true – and it’s really hard to explain it to people until they’ve self-pubbed and seen it for themselves. There’s an unrestrained variety in self-pub. You’re not locked into what publishers see as having high sales potential.
Laura: I think some authors truly feel that self-publishing is giving up the dream. I guess if you want to be published traditionally, than it could be. But underlying what we've been told for years, is the dream of reaching readers, of possibly making an income. That's never been more possible than it is today.
Susan: I think it’s definitely ok to pursue the dream (of traditional publishing). In fact, I think it’s imperative that you do so, if that’s your dream, until it plays out, whatever the outcome. Laura:
I do understand writers not wanting to take on all the aspects of self-publishing, so ultimately it's their choice. But I see traditional publishing just as stressful and time consuming as far as the business aspect, worrying about selling through and the huge pressure (along with excitement) that comes with release.
I'm so interested to see what the next couple of years bring, but I see over and over again that 2013 is the new normal. The gold rush is over. Now it's about self-published authors playing it smart, seeing the long tail, producing good work, improving craft, and sticking to a schedule. And most importantly, not giving up. If something isn't selling well - try something else.
What do you think of the hybrid author these days? Advantages/disadvantages?
Susan: I’m not sure I know what a hybrid author is any more. I thought I knew – it was an author who was trad-pubbed then went indie or who was an indie success and got plucked from the bestseller list and offered a contract from the big six. These days, I think less and less in terms of publication route and more in terms of distribution, intellectual property, and opportunities. I just finished putting out a live-action trailer that has helped me connect with film agents who might be interested in shopping film rights. I’m working on an audio version of Open Minds where I’ll be revenue sharing with the narrator. And I’m exploring possibly translations to other language. Meanwhile, indie superstars like Hugh Howey and Colleen Hoover are negotiating print-only deals with publishers. All these things used to be only available to trad-pub authors, but now I see this as the true future for hybrid publishing – managing your intellectual property through all the most effective channels (trad-pub for print, indie for e-rights, film agents or indie producers for the film world, indie collaborations for things like graphic novels, audio books, and translations into foreign languages). Indie publishing is a whole new business model, and authors are still feeling out all the pathways to success. It’s a brave new world. Still.
START YOUR NOVEL
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The Math adds up to one thing: a publishable manuscript.
Download a sample chapter on your Kindle
Periodically, I have to refocus. What am I doing with my time? Is that what I want to do with my time? What have I accomplished this year? It’s one of those times for me and I need to refocus big time.
It’s easy to be swept up in Social Media: Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube, and even dipping my toes into doing a podcast for the Ultimate Shrunken Manuscript. My head is full of social media how-tos and tips. This fall, I am planning a series, 30 Days to an Author’s Platform. (If you have questions or suggestions, please add them to the comments!)
But I haven’t written much fiction lately.
The reasons are complicated:
- I am feeling vulnerable, worrying that the publishing world doesn’t like my stories and won’t like this next one, if I write it. (How many of you are with me on THAT one?)
- The industry is changing in confusing ways. Possibilities abound that even a year ago were unthinkable. Read this interesting post about the emotional stages a writer goes through on the journey of becoming an indie writer or a hybrid writer. (Is that a new term for you? A hybrid author is someone who publishes with traditional publishers and self-publishes other stories. I am already a hybrid author–where do I go from here?)
- Of course, there are personal and family situations ongoing that always affect our writing. But that’s personal.
But in the end, writers write.
If I am a writer of fiction and nonfiction, then I must write. Forget the fear, forget the market, forget the personal issues. What story must I tell next?
But, what if I wanted to cross genres and write an adult novel instead? What if I wanted to write a mystery, instead of fantasy? What if I wanted to write a picture book that I know no one will buy, but I just want to tell it? No, no, no. Wrong questions.
What is the next story that I need to tell? Tell it. Get the words on paper.
THEN, worry about marketing and the reaction of the world to what I write. Come on, Darcy. Write. And if YOU need a cheerleader, I say this to you, too. Write!
What I’ve Done to Get Back to Writing
My writing office in the attic of a 3-story Victorian house.
But you want something practical? OK, here’s a couple things I’ve done.
- Encourage writing by changing the environment. Cleared off my desk. Instead of a crush of papers and notes about social media tasks, there’s nothing there but what I need to write fiction.
- Encourage writing by changing the environment. I have also decided not to check email or online accounts in the mornings.
- Encourage writing by enlisting friend’s help. I decided to attend a Master Class in July, partly to reconnect with some writing friends and get pumped up with new ideas. I expect that I will be challenged, provoked, angered, delighted and more. I will come back writing stronger than ever.
- Encourage writing by setting goals. I plan to have a new series plotted by September 1.
- Encourage writing by learning/trying something new. Because I want to write a series, I have bought a couple new books and I am working through the worksheets. Karen S. Weisner’s book, Writing the Fiction Series: The Complete Guide for Novels and Novellas has worksheets that lay out the process of doing a series. Are they perfect? No. Are they useful? Definitely. I don’t have to think as hard about structure and what to do next. It automates the process, so I can focus on the stories. The worksheets are getting me going and will keep me going for a while. And I’ll try her other book, First Draft in 30 Days.
- Asking for encouragement. Ok. Encourage away. And encourage ALL your other writing friends this week, too. I am sure they need it, too. Just like you do. We can do it. Let’s write!
This week, I’ve let writers tell their own stories of alternate publishing. Today, I tell my story. This is part 8 of 8.
Alternate Publishing Series TOC
Write Revise a Novel
In 1999, I started teaching the novel revision retreat, unknowingly kicking off a fad in writing retreats of addressing a whole novel, not just a chapter of a scene. I became known for the shrunken manuscript technique, which enables writers to “see” their entire novel at once. The success of the retreat was gratifying, with many writers seeing their debut novels come out and establish their careers.
Novel Revision Retreat in a Book: Uncommon Ways to Revise
There was always a workbook, but it was a work in progress for about eight years. Then, it was time to look for a publisher for it. But here’s the problem: most publishers go for the beginning writer market. It makes sense. For every 1000 writers who set out to write an entire novel, about 100 make it. Of those, perhaps 10 will realize the need for revision and perhaps one would actually buy a book about revision. The market was small and publishers like Writer’s Digest couldn’t successfully publish it.
But given my built in audience and the buzz surrounding the retreats, I thought I could publish it and make money doing it. I established Mims House, a niche publisher, named after the Historic Quapaw District house where I have my office. From the Blue House, I published, NOVEL METAMORPHOSIS: Uncommon Ways to Revise. As expected, it hasn’t sold thousands, but it has sold hundreds–over a thousand copies–and continues to sell at a steady pace, intermingled with spikes when I teach a retreat and participants go home and tell friends about the book. (Word of Mouth is still the best way to sell bo