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.