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Kobo’s Mark Lefebvre on common digital publishing pitfalls

13 May 2016

From Chris Meadows via TeleRead:

At BookExpo America today, I took the chance to attend a panel given by Mark Lefebvre, Director of Kobo Writing Life, on common digital publishing pitfalls. Lefebvre addressed a number of common mistakes digital publishers make, and how Kobo could help avoid them.

The first such mistake had to do with cover design. Given that e-book cover art is typically viewed in much smaller thumbnail form, fine print isn’t going to work well. he showed examples of covers that had been optimized for mobile, with the author’s name in big letters at the top and the title slightly smaller below. This makes them clearly visible even when the image is thumbnailed.

. . . .

The second pitfall had to do with pricing. Lefebvre explained that many publishers price their e-books too high, in order to try to protect the windowing of their print prices. Hence, their e-books end up at the same price as or higher than the print version. This doesn’t play well with consumers, who tend to feel that much of the value of the book resides in the dead tree matter, though in actuality much more of it is in the content itself.

On the other hand, many independent publishers make the opposite mistake, and often undervalue their work—pricing it at 99 cents or otherwise too low. This tends to turn off many Kobo customers who’ve gotten burned by bargain-basement books that haven’t been very good—though pricing down to 99 cents on daily deals can be an exception.

One interesting point Lefebvre made regarding price is that, since Kobo is global, it sells in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, and elsewhere, in addition to the US. And customers in some of those regions—such as Australia and New Zealand—are used to paying more for e-books, so publishers can afford to price their e-books higher there.

. . . .

Another interesting note to come out of the talk was that Kobo’s arranged a partnership with fellow Rakuten-owned company Overdrive, to allow self-published authors to opt their Kobo books into Overdrive’s library e-book service. It plans to turn that option on within a few months.

Link to the rest at TeleRead


17 Comments to “Kobo’s Mark Lefebvre on common digital publishing pitfalls”

  1. “PG says almost anybody can sell almost anything that’s legal on Amazon”.

    And almost anybody can sell anything almost illegal on Amazon (or at least on KDP) !

  2. Felix J. Torres

    Yeah, because aussie and NZ ebook buyers can’t do math and won’t notice when they’re being gouged…

    Do these folks have their common sense surgically removed when they become publishing execs?

    • Those of us who noticed now shop at Amazon.com.

      Seriously, I bought a Kobo the week they were available. Then their prices rose by 25% overnight. The Kindle became available here shortly after, and I don’t think I’ve bought an ebook anywhere but Amazon since.

      • Big publishers (and even some medium/smaller publishers) are (deliberately?) killing sales on Kobo and possibly other outlets in favour of Amazon. I’ll use the example of the newest Martha Wells book that PG blogged about recently. I happen to really like Martha Wells, prefer Epub, and wanted the book.

        I followed the link to Amazon and found her book was $11 for the ebook there. I wanted the epub file, so I searched Kobo. The ebook there was $28. I’d intended to buy the Rakshura short stories last year, and they were too high then. They had only come down to $16 dollars on Kobo, but were $7.17 on Amazon. There is no way that can be attributed to the price difference between American and Canadian dollars. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this kind of difference, and it isn’t the first time I’ve walked away from a book because of it.

  3. Always nice to hear a Canadian telling publishers that they should consider gouging Canadians.

    • I don’t read it that way at all. 4.99 USD isn’t 4.99 CAD. He’s just stating the bleeding obvious. Add 1 for Canada. So 4.99 USD is 5.99 CAD and Canada is still getting a small discount.

      Or are my conversions wrong?

      • Felix J. Torres

        He’s not talking currency conversion.

        He’s referring to the local (protected) publishing cartels charging much higher prices for the same content than American or even European publishers. As a result it is cheaper to buy Pbooks from the UK and pay to have them shipped to the antipodes than it is to buy local.

        He is saying indies should play along with the cartels instead of using the pricing disparity as a competitive advantage to secure more readers for their brand.

        • Thanks Felix. So this is Trad talk… why am I reading this again? Since when has copying Trad been a good business decision?

  4. Well, that explains why I’ve been doing so well in Australia through iBooks lately. I’m not trying to price-gouge.

  5. I price my ebooks at the same USD number for Australia and NZ. So USD3.99 = AUD3.99 or NZD3.99. Why not?

    On my [increasingly infrequent] trips back to Australia, I am always annoyed at having to pay $30 or more for a paperback, where the US or UK cost is likely to be half of that, or less.

  6. Guys. Guys! Library access!!! *dances like Snoopy*

    Yeah, “they are used to paying more.” And also used to not buying many books, the poor blighters! I’ll keep my books the same price everywhere, because I’m not cruel. Or a legacy publisher, but I repeat myself…

    • Library access yay, but…

      Overdrive is not a well regarded service. It’s the de facto only service, but that doesn’t mean librarians want to bring it home to meet the parents. Part of it is the ridiculous terms publishers choose to offer through Overdrive, but part of it is Overdrive itself. It’s a clunker.

      With J A Konrath’s ebooks for libraries project and a couple of similar projects at various stages of development we are on the verge of at least one easy to use, low cost alternative for libraries to source and provide ebooks. Then Overdrive is toast.

      • I am really hoping Konrath’s project takes off–but I haven’t heard anything for over a year, the website hasn’t updated… And when I tried to sign up when it was announced I was turned down. I know they wanted high-octane big names for the initial drive, so perhaps later.

        Right now Overdrive *is* in libraries, and if that’s my only option (and I can set my book prices to reasonable levels for libraries) I’ll go with them. My focus is on getting into libraries, period.

        • The hold up on the Konrath project is the libraries. Apparently it is a very long process to get through the approval process for adopting a new service. I can’t find the relevant post, it’s not in any of the obvious places, but I did read they are ready to roll out testing on the technical side.

    • We already have easy library access to OverDrive, Baker & Taylor and host of other library services through Smashwords and StreetLib, and some of us have been make good sales through digital libraries for the past five years or more.

  7. the Other Diana

    When I raised my prices by a dollar, my sales stopped.

    Free in first is the only way to get eyes on stuff via KOBO.

    At least, that’s the only thing that worked for me.

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