Donald L. Hughes
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The debate about what is best, a print book or an ebook, will probably go on for a century. Remember, there were plenty of people who liked scrolls and thought the newfangled page turning device called a book would never last.
Going forward, readers will not have the emotional attachment to printed books as does the current generation. The smell of a book that so many seem to value, and the sentimentality toward print books will fade as the convenience and versatility of ebooks becomes the norm.
Ebooks are here to stay. You don’t need a dedicated ebook reader anymore since apps, which work on any smartphone, tablet or computer, are freely available. Also, reading on these devices as opened the audiobook market for the average author and readers/listeners. That alone is a revolutionary development.
Walmart-Kobo Partnership Opens Wider Market
Amazon has been the only game in town since they pioneered a system of ebook marketing in 2007. However, that may be changing now since Walmart has entered into a partnership with the Japanese owned (formally Canadian company), Rakuten Kobo.
People can now buy over 6 million ebooks at Walmart online and buy an audiobook for as little as $9.99.
In addition, Walmart is offering digital book gift cards at their 3,500 Walmart stores. People standing in Walmart checkout lines will be able to buy the cards and have something tangible to give as a gift. Giving an ebook as a gift never had much impact because of its spectral digital nature, but an easily purchased physical gift card changes the game.
The Walmart-Kobo partnership will be a boon to competition. That means more opportunity for Christian authors who take advantage of it.
Break Free from Amazon?
Amazon is the #1 ebook marketing platform in the universe. They standardized ebooks, ebook readers and ebook distribution and are the market leaders. Why would anyone want to abandon such an important marketplace?
There is no need to leave Amazon. However, the company has become manipulative in the way they do business with authors and so it is good to explore other options. The key way that Amazon manipulates authors is through their Kindle Select program. There is no reason for authors to buy in to that option if there is competition like the Walmart–Kobo partnership.
The question for authors has always been whether to go, “deep” or “wide.” To go deep means that you sign up with Kindle select and give Amazon exclusive rights to sell your book. To go wide means that you reject Kindle Select and sell your book in as many places as possible.
In times past, I always recommended that people stick with Amazon. In my own research I found that roughly 10% of my effort went into selling on Amazon and I received 90% of my sales from them. I tried other selling platforms, and found they took 90% of my time, but I only received 10% of my income from them.
I no longer recommend exclusivity with Amazon. A few authors may get huge income by signing up with Kindle Select, but most authors get minimal benefits. Giving away free ebooks for five days each 90 days is no longer effective for most authors. The Kindle Select countdown program only works if you have a huge mailing list to garner interest from potential readers. Of course, with Kindle Select, someone can possess your book on their computer or device, but you only get paid for the pages they actually read. Also, if readers jump around in the book, or do other things Amazon doesn’t like, the author may be banned from Amazon without advanced notice.
So, Amazon has stacked the deck against authors. That’s why the Walmart-Kobo partnership is a breath of fresh air.
In my view, authors are committing literary suicide by signing up for Kindle Select. Yes, put your books on Amazon, just don’t be tempted by Kindle Select and the exclusivity it demands.
You can have your book on Amazon as well as any other bookselling site as long as you do not sign up for Kindle Select. My recommendation is that you “go wide” since Walmart has opened a huge new market for ebooks.
How to Get Your Book in the Walmart System
It used to be complicated to “go wide.” The best system used to be SmashWords, an aggregator that made your ebook available on a wide range of bookselling platforms, including Kobo. However, many people found that system far too complicated and income from it was typically small.
Today, the site of choice is called Draft2Digital. You upload your edited Word manuscript and it automatically converts your file into the MOBI format for Amazon and the EPUB format for everywhere else.
The people at Draft2Digital offer lots of support, but the process is so simple that you probably won’t need it. Once your file has been processed, you get to choose where you want your book to appear for sale. Current choices include Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks, Scribd, Playster, OverDrive, Tolino and 24Symbols. The company is currently negotiating to add Google Play and Ingram.
There is no fee to upload your ebook and Draft2Digital only takes a modest percentage (10%) of your sales. But they do all the work automatically for you to “go wide” in minutes. They even give you all the free ISBNs you need for the various platforms at no cost if you don’t have your own.
Take Action, But Follow These Tips
In my view, every Christian author should use Draft2Digital to take immediate advantage of the Walmart-Kobo partnership and to reach a wider audience. Upload your book, select Kobo and any other platforms you select and that’s all the effort it takes on your part.
Here are two important tips:
- If you already have an Amazon KDP account, use it. Don’t go through Draft2Digital in that case. But by all means, do not sign up for KDP Select. You do not want to give exclusive marketing rights to Amazon if you intend to sell your book at Walmart or elsewhere.
- Draft2Digital will put your book on the Apple iBook store if you select it. All the platforms charge a fee for selling books, but Apple charges an outrageous 30% on top of other fees. Draft2Digital allows you to price books differently for each platform, if you wish, so I add 30% to my Apple iBook price to try to mitigate their excessive fee.
The Walmart-Kobo deal is great for Christian authors and others. The best way for you to get sales from their online store and gift cards is through Draft2Digital.
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