Branching out beyond Amazon, Learning why Amazon is winning, and Everyone else is second.

I have not been doing this publishing a long time, only since January.  I am brand spanking new in this world.  But I have been in it long enough to know that there is a big love/hate debate around Amazon.  There is big debate when it comes to the exclusivity aspect of the KDP Select program.  Before this goes any further though, I am going to clearly put my name in the I Love Amazon camp, though not necessarily select.   Without them this whole game doesn’t exist.

Now let’s move on.

Trying to broaden my horizons.

I have recently let the exclusivity on Kevin and the Seven Lions lapse, so I can put it up on Nook, Kobo, and iTunes.  Partially in hopes of letting the book go free a little more, and being able to give it away on my own site as well.  I am finding the 5 days of free promos isn’t enough.  And a lot of digital ink has been spilled over that.

Plus, I don’t want all my eggs in one basket.  I would like to have my work available in different places.

Now everything I’ve read says that it is harder to sell outside Amazon.  Okay fine.  This is more about learning, freeing up my work from the exclusivity of Amazon.

Now let me say THAT experience alone of putting the book onto those stores made my love for Amazon grow even more.  Why?  Amazon certainly isn’t perfect, but uploading to Amazon was infinitely easier, and the book went public quicker.

Let’s back up.

Why is it easier?  At least for me it was.  Everyone else is playing for a distant second, and it shows another reason why Amazon is dominating this game.

I created my first paperback in Adobe Indesign CS6.  That occured when I was finalizing the formatting for Kevin and the Seven Lions and I wanted the illustrations to bleed to the edge of the book.  Working with the Word template that I downloaded from the Createspace website, I had no earthly clue how to make the illustrations bleed.  The illustrations had a white border on the edge when formatted in Word.  I hated that look.  I wanted my picture book to look like the ones I read to my students in class, and most of those bleed to the edge of the paper.

The paperback was made and I was happy.  The Kindle version was an after thought for the first book.  But having made the paperback there is this wonderful button in Indesign, called “Export to Kindle.”  Right there next to Export.  Exporting to Kindle gets it’s own button for crying out loud.

Admittedly I didn’t use that button for Seven Lions.  I reformatted the book for an ereader, removing the text from the illustrations and putting the text separate from the illustrations.  Being new, that is where I used Word.  For the second book, Kevin and the Three-Headed Alien, it worked like a charm.  Formatted the book, table of contents and everything.  Clicked “Export to Kindle”, and there it was in Kindle format.  Working perfectly as I tested it on my Kindle Fire.  You’ll note there is no export to Nook, Kobo, ibook, that’s where it got more difficult.

The table of contents on my desktop Kindle previewer, just click and there it was properly formatted.

The table of contents on my desktop Kindle previewer, just click and there it was properly formatted.

EPUB Design

Designing the epub for Seven Lions turned out to be a lot more difficult than I could have imagined.  After all day of trial and error and reading various sites and watching videos, I finally got the Seven Lions epub to look the way I wanted in Adobe Digital Editions.

But let’s go through this experience store by store.

Nook

First store up was Nook.  Setting up an account was quick.  Uploading the book and cover image was easy, setting categories was easy.  You even get more categories than Amazon, good for them.  But here is where things fall apart.  After uploading the actual epub file, Nook does not preview the file.  It simply said “We were unable to upload your file into our editor, but you can still publish the original file you uploaded.”  Ummm…what?

And I say that because 24 hours earlier as a way to practice and double check the book I uploaded the original Word doc that I used at Amazon for Seven Lions.  In that case Nook did give me a preview of the book, and it was there that I realized I wanted to update the book to make it flow better.

But when I uploaded an epub no preview was available.  Why is that?  Same thing happens over at Kobo. And at Kobo I have to download the file, THAT I JUST UPLOADED 60 SECONDS EARLIER, just to double check it.  Seriously folks?  No online previewer?

So at first that was only complaint about Barnes and Noble.

But then again, I am an idiot.  Why exploring the site, I did something silly.

I clicked the wrong button.

Dear Lord in Heaven, do not click this button.

Dear Lord in Heaven, do not click this button.

Why doesn’t that button say “Unpublish Book” or “Delete book” or something like that?  While playing around with the price of the book, trying to make it free, and learning that Nook doesn’t do that, I changed the price to 99 cents to see how it would work.  While clicking around the site I clicked on “Take off Sale.”  Now after playing around trying to learn how make a book free, or change it’s price my tired brain thought “Hey!  That button will take it off sale and send it back to the original price.”

The button doesn’t do that.

THAT BUTTON UNPUBLISHES YOUR BOOK.

Oh…it does that…my bad.

Anyway there is a button that says “Put book back on Sale.”

Great.  Problem solved.

I clicked the problem solving button, and…I get a big purple exclamation mark and the words “Opps…”

I was too confused to make a screen grab.  I may have passed out on the keyboard.  I don’t remember.

Literally something went wrong and all I got was “Opps…” (Funny, Barnes and Noble…funny…)

So I went to chat with a representative from Nook.

Here is the thing about Nook publishing support, they are only available from 9am-9pm Eastern Standard Time Monday through Friday.  So you better hope you don’t have any publishing concerns that happen over the weekend, because you’re on your own there pal.

Monday through Friday.  For a grand total of 60 hours of available customer support.

So anyway I chatted with a nice person who called themselves Dante.  Click on the pic to see the end part of the chat.

Nook chat

I’ll sum it up. Dante had to forward it to someone more technical than him. Chat over.

I highlighted the last sentence for you.

Nook Chat 2

I can expect to receive a response in 24-48 hours.

I never got a response.

Zero response.

But here is what I did.

Since I no longer trusted Nook.  I just reloaded the book.  That was actually quicker than waiting for nonexistent support.

But then there were TWO copies of Seven Lions for sale in the Nook store.  TWO.  And no one from support had ever contacted me.  And the Nook system didn’t go “HEY!  You already published that book!”  It just let the duplicate book in.

Anyway so that was my Newbie Nook experience.  But seriously it’s like Nook isn’t even trying.  On a side note Ed Robertson wrote about the poor customer service some of the stores, including Amazon, were offering in 2012.

Kobo

So let’s move on to Kobo.  First off let me say I love their lay out and uploading a book was quick and painless.  As I mentioned before they don’t have an online previewer for your book, but whatever.

Publishing to Kobo is a different matter.

I uploaded the book on the evening of July 8.  When you upload to Kobo you get a notice saying the book will be ready in 24-72 hours.  Okay.  Fine.  A bit longer than Nook or Amazon, but okay.

A week later and my book still isn’t published.

Kobo pic

So I looked to contact support after five days. (If this was fiction that would be called foreshadowing…)

All I could find was an email address.  No contact form.

An email address.  Hello 1996.

So I send a polite email, I even send the print isbn number.  But that wasn’t enough.  They couldn’t find my book because of the email address I sent request didn’t match the email on file.

I can’t make this up.

Here is the screen grab just to prove my point.

Silly me.

Silly me.

You see I use gmail to organize different email addresses, and I made the mistake of not telling Kobo which email my account was under.  Because, silly me, I thought my name, the name of the book, and the isbn number was enough.

So I send the correct email back, and then I get a response saying they will let me know when they get a response back from the tech support team.

I am emboldened with confidence.

[Update:  Still not published yet, but I will give Kobo points for trying to find out what is wrong.  Plus the support person I have been emailing me isn’t reading from a script giving me by-the-book answers, which is something Amazon needs to learn.]

[Update #2:  Finally got the book on Kobo, but only after I reuploaded the book.  And of course I never got any response from Kobo about why it took so long.  But currently the book is free on Kobo.  Click here to go and get it.]

iBookstore

Now on to Apple.  Let me say this first about Apple, I describe myself as an Apple agnostic.  I’ve enjoyed their products, I have an old ipod, but I never been a part of the Cult of Apple.  My skepticism began when I used to freelance edit wedding videos on a G4.  Occasionally Final Cut would feel bad and just stop working.  And if you know, when it stopped working it would just disappear.

Disappear.

No warning.  No “Hey things didn’t workout, something is wrong I need to reboot.”  Final Cut would just go away.  And this was during the time of their “It Just Works” campaign. I also used to work in a county that gave imacs to every teacher.  Let’s just say there was a phrase used by the tech people when something went wrong, “Oh, that’s the spinning beachball of death.”

Weren’t they just suppose to work?

So there’s my opinion.

Long story short, I don’t own a mac.

Ergo, I cannot upload directly to the iBookstore.

That’s just nonsense.

I looked into renting time from macincloud.com and see about getting to the iBookstore that way.

I went with Draft2Digital instead.  Online reviews seemed to make it better than Smashwords.  And I have to admit.  It was very easy to upload to Draft2digital.  Of course though after almost a week it was denied from Apple.  But Draft2digital told me WHY it was declined.  I’ve read from others that Smashwords may not even let you know why it was declined.

But here’s my thing about Apple and iPads.  You can read Kindle, Nook, and Kobo books on any Apple device.  So why even go to the trouble of getting into the iBookstore.  If you get into Amazon, any iPad user can still read your stuff.  Apple is making this difficult just to be difficult.

The Takeaway

So here is what I learned from this week.  Amazon isn’t winning the ebook revolution because they are monopolistic and mean.  They’re winning because NO ONE else is even playing the same game.  I don’t want Amazon to be the only game in town, but no one else is even coming close to even getting near Amazon.

I’ve read that Apple has a bigger piece of the ebook pie recently.  But so what?  The whole pie is getting bigger so Amazon’s slice is getting bigger.

When Nook doesn’t even offer support on the weekends, it seems they are on the way out.

When Kobo doesn’t have a form to fill out for support they are too small and new.

And well, Apple is Apple.

To make a sport analogy it’s like Amazon is the New York Yankees and everyone else is playing high school ball.  The other team doesn’t even belong on the same field.

Now I realize this is just MY experience, and I wanted to share.  But I am sure I am not the only one with similar experiences.  Share your experiences in the comments.

3 thoughts on “Branching out beyond Amazon, Learning why Amazon is winning, and Everyone else is second.

  1. Pingback: Kevin and the Seven Lions is free on Kobo | Digital Tiller-The 21st Century is no longer the future

  2. Pingback: Left Amazon Select exclusivity and all I got was this blog post. | Digital Tiller-The 21st Century is no longer the future

  3. Pingback: Left Amazon Select exclusivity and all I got was this blog post. | Digital Tiller-The 21st Century is no longer the future

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *