Kobo Writing Life: Opening Its Doors

As many of you already know (if you signed up for the author alert), e-reader maker and e-book distributer Kobo has just finished beta-testing its self-publishing platform, Writing Life and released it upon a suspecting world.

As I mentioned in last week’s post, this is an important step for independent authors everywhere because, unlike many other competitors of Amazon, Kobo is perhaps the best-positioned globally to make a splash in the digital book market. It has major market share in a handful of countries that Amazon has shown little interest in (France, Canada) and was recently acquired by Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten, providing much needed financial backing—and an Asian focus to their interests–to the Canadian/Japanese e-book company.

And competition is good. Even the most fervent of Amazon supporters realize that monopolies make corporations stagnant and arrogant. Healthy competition spurs innovation in both technology as well as business and often increases benefits to its suppliers in an effort to keep them happy, productive…and on their side. Monopolies are bad; oligopolies are better.

Roll out the red carpet…we’re talking royalty
One minor hiccup to my reporting, however: Kobo’s royalty rate, while still exemplary, was given to me in error. Listed below are the actual rates as given to me by Mark Lefebvre, Kobo’s Director of Self-publishing and Market Relations:

…I wanted to let you know that the terms info you have posted is almost correct.  Our standard 70% applies to books priced between $1.99 and $12.99 USD, and all the rest (high as you want or as low as $0.99) get 45%. You can also go to $0.00 at any time you wish for promotional opportunities.

However, some of the values ($1.99 in US and CAN) for example, are even better – that is, they offer authors a higher % at a lower rate.  But some of the others in global currencies are a bit higher than the $1 US and $1.99 US values that you had nicely cheered about.  


CAD – Canadian dollar $1.99 – 12.99 CAD
USD – US dollar $1.99 – 12.99 USD
GBP – British Pound £1.99 – 7.99 GBP
AUD – Australian dollar $1.99 – 11.99 AUD
EUR – Euro  €1.99 – 12.99 EUR
HKD – Hong Kongdollar $15.99 – $99.99 HKD
NZD – New Zealanddollar $1.99 – $12.99 NZD

Epistolary Announcement
In case you didn’t sign up for Kobo’s Writing Life alert, here’s the letter that many of us received yesterday:

The wait is over — we are pleased to inform you that Kobo Writing Life, Kobo’s DIY author and publisher portal is now out of its Beta testing period!

You can create a Kobo Writing Life account as a single-sign on from your existing Kobo reader account at the following address:


If you happen to already have an existing publisher account with Kobo, there is the ability, within the registration process, to identify your existing accountID. Please take the time to do this as it will help us with migrating your existing titles in to your new Kobo Writing Life account (but please note that the process to migrate any pre-existing titles over will take several weeks)

Bring us your Word, Open Office or mobi files for conversion into the ePub standard; or bring your pre-formatted ePub files and upload them easily. Then enter your metadata, set your price for various currencies, and when you’re ready, hit publish to bring your eBook to Kobo customers around the globe.  Inside the Learning Centre you’ll find our FAQ and User Guide as well as a handy video that walks you through the publishing process.  And the dashboard will allow you to track your sales in near-real time from every global region you choose to make your titles available in.

We spoke to authors around the world before designing and building Kobo Writing Life and more than 50 authors were involved in the Beta testing, uploading books and using our sales tracking dashboard to check on how their books were doing. We incorporated their feedback and advice and the result is what you’ll find on our website: a DIY portal designed with authors needs and desires at the forefront.

Create your Kobo Writing Life account today and publish your work for all the world to see!

Yours in the love of reading, and writing,

Mark Lefebvre

The Platform
I was asked to beta-test the platform over the weekend and was impressed with the work flow, the look, and the straightforward manner in which the user interface was built (for instance, there are only three buttons to choose from, Dashboard, eBook, Learning Centre; while there are many more choices in the flow, all of them peel off from those three simple choices).

If there’s interest, I’ll do a more critical review of the platform, its advantages, and its shortcomings. Of course, you could simply register and take it from there. Let me know what you think in the Comments section.

For the future
There will be many questions arising from the release of KWL. I thought I’d outline a few:

  • How will Amazon price matching work now that you can instantly make your title free at any time, for any length of time? Then bounce it back to paid? Will sales be taken away/recalculated retroactively?
  • FREE doesn’t really cut it any more as a leading promotional tool. Will KWL listen to a common author rant about coupons and discounts? Promotion will be more important than ever in the future and robust, flexible promotional tools will mean the difference between success and failure for many writers.
  • How will Mark Coker and Smashwords respond? SW is still the only way for non-U.S. residents to get their books onto the Nook and, in many cases, into iTunes, but the market is shrinking fast for SW.
  • Will Kobo be content to follow Amazon’s voodoo model of Top 100 lists and also-boughts, or will they woo writers away by making their ranking systems more transparent?
  • What will happen in Asia this year and next? Kobo has already launched the Kobo Touch in Japan and plans to increase their e-book offerings substantially in 2013. Is this the doorway to the rest of the continent, or will e-reader preference remain fractured for the short and medium term?

Kobo Writing Life: There’s room for improvement, but there’s also a lot to like, and its success could be a game-changing event in the future digital books.


Writer of crime fiction, psychological drama, and dark humor.

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Posted in Epublishing News
8 comments on “Kobo Writing Life: Opening Its Doors
  1. yoga-adan says:

    matthew, did you notice if the new info had data how the threshold for direct pmt, ie, i think i saw it was $100 in royalties, or, if not met by 6 mths, paid at that time

    • Matthew Iden says:

      Hi Adan – Yes, you’ve got it right. It’s laid out in the Terms of Service:

      Kobo will make payment to Publisher and provide associated sales reporting on a monthly basis, with all payments and reports to be made within forty-five (45) days following the end of the applicable month. Kobo may accrue and withhold payments until the total amount due is $100.

      • yoga-adan says:

        i think that they will go ahead and pay the author, even if less than $100, at the six month period, is great; i have several “small” accrued amts at a couple places i’ll probably never receive

        kudos to kobo 😉 sorry ’bout that 😉

        thanks matt

  2. Wo3lf says:

    Thanks for the insightful article, as always. I received the letter too and have now registered. I’m still busy with my short though, but aim to publish the end of July, early August. I’m a really slow writer!

    Writing Life is a beautiful site and it feels uncomplicated. I love the colours their using. I look forward to publishing through them. The royalty scale too seem to be aimed at making things as simple as possible. I notice that it is very similar to Amazon, but just a little bit more favourable, ever so slightly. 😉

    • Matthew Iden says:

      Hi Woelf – thanks for the comments. The royalty scale (even the updated/more accurate one) is especially interesting at lower cost levels: just yesterday, I released a novella for $1.99, which seems about the upper limit. On Amazon, that nets me $.60, on Kobo, $1.39. Huge difference for those in-between titles!

  3. Wo3lf says:

    Rereading my comment I see I used “their” instead of “they’re”. I hate it when that happens. Out of interest, who do you use as an editor, Matt?

  4. Wo3lf says:

    Thanks, Matt. Appreciate it.

    As for Kobo entering the fray like this, I feel a tinge of excitement akin to receiving a wrapped present for Christmas. Sure, there is a chance I might not like the toy itself, but the anticipation is pretty neat.

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