A couple of weeks ago, Kobo came out with some new terms and conditions for their Kobo Writing Life program. Under the new terms, the list price for a book (not the sales price) cannot be higher than it is elsewhere.
This throws a kink in the works, since the only way I’ve ever gotten traction on Kobo is by taking advantage of their promotions, like the half off box set sales or the 30% off monthly sales. The problem, of course, is that Amazon has the same clause in their TOS, and if you undercut the Amazon price they will 1) match the lower price, and 2) send you a nastygram threatening to close your account if you don’t change your prices to comply.
(This is also the reason why my books are not on Google Play Books. Google will arbitrarily drop the prices of your books, sometimes setting the price to free without any prior warning, leading to a loss of income on Amazon when they price match your books.)
Until now, the way I’ve gotten around that is by pricing my books a little higher on Kobo so that I can drop the price for the promotional sales. But it does feel a little weird to have the same product at a different price on different sites. If I were a Kobo reader, that would turn me off (hence the change in their TOS).
At the same time, it’s come to my attention that unless your book has an ISBN, Kobo will not distribute your books to the many local ebookstores that they partner with. You can still publish on Kobo, but your books won’t go any further.
In the United States, ISBNs are insanely expensive. If you buy them one at a time, it costs $125 for each one. You can get them as low as $1.50 each, but you have to buy 1,000 at a time.
Until now, I haven’t really bothered with ISBNs. Most ebook publishing platforms don’t require them, and for those that do, you can publish through a distributor like Draft2Digital who will assign you an ISBN for free. The catch is that the publisher on record for the free ISBN will be D2D, but that doesn’t impact your publishing rights at all.
(Print also requires ISBN, but CreateSpace also gives you an option for a free CreateSpace-assigned ISBN, which is what I’ve been doing for print.)
In short, by publishing my books directly to Kobo without providing my own ISBNs, my reach is greatly limited. I can publish to Kobo via D2D and get the extra reach, but then I’ll lose access to the promotions tab, which is pretty much the only way to get my books in front of Kobo readers. But that doesn’t matter anyway, since I can’t price my books on Kobo higher than they are on Amazon, and if I drop the price on Kobo for a sale, Amazon will start sending nastygrams.
So here’s my new strategy:
- I’m going to pull all of my books out of Kobo Writing Life and go through Draft2Digital instead. There really is no advantage to staying all-in with KWL anymore, and the added benefit of the D2D ISBNs is enough to convince me to go through them.
- At the same time, I’m going to create some Kobo-exclusive bundles to take advantage of the KWL promotions tab. If the bundle doesn’t appear on Amazon, then it doesn’t matter how I price it on Kobo because there’s nothing for Amazon to match. At the same time, the contents of the bundle are still available as individual books, so my Amazon readers lose nothing.
- For my single-title books, the price on Kobo will be the same as the price on Amazon. For the Kobo-exclusive bundles, the list price will be higher, but they’ll also be on sale more often which should bring more attention to my single-title books.
The biggest downside I can see is that my Kobo royalties will be split between D2D and KWL. To offset this, I’ll have to publish a variety of Kobo-exclusive bundles. Here are some of the ones I have in mind:
- Bringing Stella Home and Heart of the Nebula, in one double-novel.
- Desert Stars and Stars of Blood and Glory, in one double-novel.
- The complete Star Wanderers series, with Brothers in Exile.
- A first-in-series bundle, with Outworlder, Brothers in Exile, and Bringing Stella Home.
- The first Sons of the Starfarers omnibus (I-III). This means I will take it down from Amazon.
So that’s the plan. I probably won’t announce these new bundles to my email list, since most of my subscribers are Kindle readers and I don’t want to be too spammy. But I will announce them here.