A new outlet, more haters and other thoughts

In case you guys haven’t figured it out over the last couple of years, I’m not a morning person. I do my best to write my posts the night before they are due to go live but don’t always manage it. That’s exactly the situation I find myself in this morning. No post, not nearly enough coffee to start thinking, and my self-imposed deadline rapidly approaching. So bear with me as I try to find the zombie that took my brain overnight — and I really hope he didn’t chew too much on it — and then type one-handed, the other hand holding the mug of hot coffee that is all that stands between me and unconsciousness.

There’s a new player on the block in the self-publishing/small press publishing front. KOBO has opened its new self-publishing platform, Writing Life, live. I received my e-mail about it last night. I’ll admit that, while I welcome another player in the field, I have concerns as well. To find out what formats you can upload, what possible royalties you can earn, etc., you have to go ahead and sign up for an account with Writing Life. If you read the terms of service, you aren’t supposed to reveal what the royalty terms, etc., are without getting written permission from KOBO. That’s all troublesome to me.

However, what I do like about it is that KOBO is offering writers and small presses the chance to get directly onto their platform instead of having to go through a third party repackager or site like Smashwords. That takes one step out of the process and means you can get your book or short story up much quicker than before.

It also means that, unlike publishing through Barnes & Noble’s PubIt platform, you have another site that offers you international sales opportunities. This is very important, at least in my mind. The more avenues I have to sell my books, or to makes ure NRP’s books are available, the better.

There’s another reason I am cautiously optimistic about this news. With the international outlets and with KOBO’s e-book experience, it does look like it can position itself as a true competitor for Amazon’s KDP program. This is a good thing for authors, not that I expect it to quiet the Amazon haters. But look at it this way — as long as there is another platform out there offering similar royalty terms, offering international sales opportunities and that has a proven e-book store presence, Amazon can’t do too much to put the screws to authors or they will flee to the other platform. Of course, only time will tell.

For more information, you can check out the Writing Life FAQs here.

Speaking of Amazon haters, Facebook was alive with a number of them the last few days. Seems a fellow had put up a number of e-books that he claimed to have written but hadn’t. These books — by authors such as Heinlein, Cherryh, Clark and Scalzi, among others — had titles changed slightly but were not books written by this guy. Scalzi posted a quick blog about it, suggesting we all take part in some public shaming of the man. I’ve got no problem with that. In fact, it was a great way to get the word out about what this crook was doing.

But that wasn’t enough for some folks. No, while they decried what this supposed “author” had done, the fault, according to some of the comments on Scalzi’s blog and a lot of them on Facebook, lay with Amazon. It should do a better job of making sure this doesn’t happen. Every books published through the KDP platform should be checked against the “real” books published by “real” publishers. You see, according to these folks, plagiarism never happened under the old publishing model. Blah, blah, blah.

Let me take a moment to remind these folks that this isn’t anything new and most certainly didn’t begin with Amazon and the KDP platform. I wrote previously about how Little Brown had to pull Assassin of Secrets when it was revealed that the author had plagiarized from a number of spy novels. Then there was How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life in 2006 and the controversy around it. Whole chunks of it were lifted from other books and the howls of plagiarism began within weeks of it hitting the store shelves.

These are just two examples. You can find many others just by googling the topic. So, to all those who want to blame Amazon, get over yourselves. It was happening before Amazon began the KDP program and it happens to “real” publishers too. What’s next? Are you going to demand Amazon fact check everything that comes through the KDP program as well?

I get that there are those who just don’t trust Amazon. They have bought into the “Amazon is evil” argument set out by their publishers or, like me, they are skeptics. I don’t trust Amazon not to try to change the KDP terms to their benefit at some point down the road. Nor would I blame Amazon if it did. Look, Amazon is a company. It’s first priority is making money for its investors. But that doesn’t make it the enemy. What it does is make me remember to keep checking the terms of service for any updates and it leaves the responsibility to me to decide when, if, I move from KDP to another platform.

It is the same responsibility I have to read the Writing Life terms of service and decide if I want to use that new platform to get my books out to a wider audience. I have to ask myself if the ToS is beneficial enough to move away from Smashwords and word directly with KOBO. Remember, you have to look at more than just the financial aspects of the agreement. You have to look at where KOBO will be selling your books, will there be DRM, how much more time will it take to prepare and upload a file to Writing Life as opposed to just uploading to Smashwords and letting them distribute to KOBO for you.

Will I be trying the new platform? Absolutely. I’ll report on it, within the terms of the ToS, later.




15 thoughts on “A new outlet, more haters and other thoughts

  1. I think I saw one of those books but just thought he wanted increased sales by titling his books similar to famous books.

    I’ll agree that it’s stupid to blame Amazon.com but there’s plenty of stupid people out there. [Frown]

    1. There are several “authors” doing the similar title thing. I use put “authors” in quotes because these are the same folks that use pen names similar to the names of the author of the title they are “adjusting”. And yes, there are plenty of stupid people out there.

      1. Well, there are some authors who appear to be doing “parodies” of older works. There’s somebody who uses a pen-name that’s a female version of “Edgar Rice Burroughs” with gender switching of Burroughs’ characters. While I haven’t read those ones if done right, it’s a different matter.

  2. *snort* Stephen Ambrose’s little problem with citing sources loooong predates Amazon. Ditto Charles Dickins and Rudyard Kipling’s battles with US bootlegs of their Crown Copyright works.

    Good to see new publishing options emerging.

    1. Yep. And gee, no one seems to be worrying about that with “real” publishers, only with small press and self-published works. Sigh.

  3. Not blaming Amazon, but it would be an interesting addition to their submission process to do a “plagiarism” check. As a kind of public service to the submitter, you know? See if there is matching text already in the Amazon archives. That’s actually fairly easy for them to build in.

    Although the painful part from their point of view would be trying to figure out what to do if you detect matching text. Refuse the latest entry? But what if the earlier submission was the copy, and this is the real author finally putting up their own stuff? Notify both (all?) the matching text submitters, and let them fight it out? Interesting problem, but not an easy one, which may be a good reason for Amazon to stay away from it.

    1. Another problem/question would be how to sift non-fiction from fiction. If the book has hundreds of quotes, because it is a summary of the current state of the field, or is an edited volume of a third party’s works, how does the program respond vs. a fiction selection that should be almost purely original? What about a fiction smash-up based on an out-of-copyright work that still has copyrighted (annotated or with new introduction and conclusion) editions? As you say, it is a mess that Amazon probably wants to stay well clear of.

    2. Okay, but do you require them to do the same thing for submissions for legacy publishers or only those who submit via KDP? And you can color me skeptical on the real benefits of this sort of thing. I’ve seen how the so-called plagiarism prevention software works on the school level and have seen kids have their papers flagged as plagiarism simply because they used certain buzz words.

      As for the notification issue, this is already something they deal with. They notify the authors/publishers of a title in question and require proof that you are the copyright holder.

      I guess my question is multi-fold: why limit this to Amazon? It isn’t the only site with a self-publishing platform. Also, as I asked above, do you limit the checks to only stuff submitted through the self-publishing platform or do you run every title through it? If no, why not? It is easily proven that the same problems folks bitch and moan about regarding self-publishing are present in legacy published books.

      Sorry, Mike, but putting the burden on Amazon — or anyone else — to check each title before it goes up will have a negative impact on the market. Not only will it delay a title being offered for sale, but it will also have a negative impact on royalties because Amazon will have to get back the expense of checking each title. That will hit the authors. Besides, in the grand scheme of things, when you consider how many books are published via KDP, this is a minor issue at best. Why throw another cog in the works?

      1. Oh, I don’t think anyone should be required to do it. But I suspect it could be added at the right stage for relatively little cost. I know Phoenix offers a plagiarism check to their students (and if I remember correctly, requires that theses and dissertations have a clean check as part of the submission process), and I know other universities are starting to add such checks in various places. I know one university where all final exams go through a plagiarism check. Certainly some of them aren’t very good, but it’s an improving field.

        Multi-fold questions — No, I think anyone who does publishing might want to consider doing this. I’d recommend they apply it to all submissions. As to why — plagiarism is a subtle poison in publishing. Better to get it early if possible.

        Making sure the copy you get is “clean” — that’s one of the added benefits that Amazon and others can offer, if they want to. A plagiarism check, a virus check, a format check… all added “benefits”. See

        1. But that still begs the question of how do you determine what is plagiarism. Sorry, Mike, but I know too many kids and college students who have been bitten by the anti-plagiarism software and who actually didn’t plagiarize anything. They’d used key buzz words or had quotes and the software popped them out. As someone asked upthread, how do you differentiate between fiction and non-fiction then.

          Then you have the pass down effect of the cost of such a program. If you apply it to everyone, including the major publishers, who is going to pay for it? I’ll tell you who, the authors and the public. The publishers won’t. They will make sure they recover the cost and it will be rolled into the “you get x-amount of royalties to be determined after we take out all our costs”.

          I’m sorry, but this isn’t a new issue. It has been around as long as publishing in any form ha been around. Adding additional hoops to jump through isn’t going to make it go away. What will will be if authors and publishers actually go after those committing the plagiarism in ways that hurt them — ie, attack their pocketbook.

  4. If you want Amazon, or any other site, to check for plagiarism and other problems, you have to be willing to pay for it in some way. There’s only so much that can be programmed to operate automatically. If there is to be more detailed monitoring of submissions, it’s going to require real people, and that costs money. Are you willing to accept a lowered royalty rate? Or pay a fee for each book you submit?

    1. Absolutely. And you have to set out what percentage of quoting in a non-fiction book becomes plagiarism, etc. As I noted above, that is a cost the publishers will pass on to two sectors, the authors and the buying public. And, to answer your question, I’m not willing to accept a lowered royalty rate or pay a fee for each book I submit, at least not when there are other alternatives available to me.

  5. “I received my e-mail about it last night. I’ll admit that, while I welcome another player in the field, I have concerns as well. To find out what formats you can upload, what possible royalties you can earn, etc., you have to go ahead and sign up for an account with Writing Life. If you read the terms of service, you aren’t supposed to reveal what the royalty terms, etc., are without getting written permission from KOBO. That’s all troublesome to me.”

    I quote from Matthwew Iden’s post – http://matthew-iden.com/2012/07/10/kobo-the-heavyweight-challenger/

    “The numbers below were sent to me from Kobo’s support team. While the numbers for the U.S.and Canada aren’t anything special, check out the thresholds for Great Britain, the Eurozone, andAustralia:

    Kobo vendors will receive a 70% or 45% royalty rate on each eBook sold through Kobo Books, depending on the price of their eBook and the territory in which the eBook is sold. eBooks that are priced according to the following pricing rules are eligible to receive a 70% royalty rate.

    Currency Pricing Rule
    CAD $2.99 – 12.99 CAD
    USD $2.99 – 12.99 USD
    GBP £0.99 – 7.99 GBP
    AUD $0.99 – 11.99 AUD
    EUR €0.99 – 12.99 EUR
    HKD $7.99 – $99.99 HKD

    See what I’m seeing? First, a 45% royalty rate, presumably for the lowest priced titles.

    Second, an incredibly low threshold for the 70% royalty rate in all the other sample markets (the Hong Kong dollar trades roughly at .12:1.00, so it may look high, but $7.99 HKD is only $1.03 USD). This is very good news indeed: 70% royalties on books priced at roughly $1.50 USD at the high end (GBP) to just over $1 USD at the low (AUD, HKD).”

    The part about free day (go read the post, I feel I’ve quoted enough) and format are all good news.

    1. Dave, those are basically the figures I read but I wasn’t going to quote them without a secondary source, so thanks. I will say the ToS is a bit vague about how the levels work. So I’m hoping to see a clarification soon.

      Let’s just say I am looking forward to seeing if KOBO does turn into real competition for Amazon’s KDP program. If it does, it will be nothing but good for authors and small presses.

Comments are closed.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: