Monthly Archives: July 2013

Left Amazon Select exclusivity and all I got was this blog post.

I experimented with selling Kevin and the Seven Lions, in the other stores by not renewing the exclusivity to Amazon.  I was hoping to set Kevin and the Seven Lions free and then have Amazon price match.  I learned though that Amazon doesn’t always price match, it’s up to them if they want to.  So that threw a wrench into my plans.

Uploading to the other stores was a big learning event, and I posted here about what I learned.

The argument against Amazon exclusivity is that you want to reach all readers, and you don’t want to have all your eggs in one basket.  I whole heartily agree with that argument.  The problem is the real-world application of the idea.  And after learning what I did, I decided to bring both books back solely to Amazon.

But by staying in the Select program, the Amazon exclusivity part, here is what I get as a writer.  I get 5 days that I can control easily where I can promote a book by giving it away for free, hoping that Amazon price matches another store is unpredictable.  The usefulness of free is really another blog post.  But I would recommend “Free: The future of a radical price” in seeing how free works in improving sales.

Second, the book can also be borrowed from the Kindle Lending Library, which is like a separate store to itself, and a great way for a book to be discovered.  Plus I get paid whenever the book is borrowed under the Kindle Lending Library.  That’s a great deal, considering there is data supporting that people that borrow ebooks end up buying ebooks.  Shocking.

Sometimes I read that Amazon is a monopoly and is beating everyone with monopolistic tactics.  That’s incorrect.  Amazon is winning because their business model is infinitely better than everyone elses.  Not because they are doing illegal things.

So let’s go through this store by store, with my frustrations and some suggestions.

1. Nook

The positives here was that the book was made available fairly quickly, uploading was simple, and Barnes and Noble automatically paired it with the paperback version of the book.  Take note here on this Amazon.

The negatives three big ones.  First the Nook’s days are numbered.  Barnes and Noble just got out of the tablet business and I am still unsure of the future of the Nook.  Is Microsoft going to be making the Nook now?  I don’t know and that’s a problem.

Second, borderline non-existent support, I wrote about this earlier.  Their support for publishers is Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 9 PM New York time.  Seriously.  It’s like they’re not evening trying.  Best of luck if you work during that time or have a problem on the weekend.

Third unable to set to free.  It’s seems in order for a book to be free it needs to be price matched elsewhere.  That’s too clunky.


How about an exclusivity with Nook with 85% commission. Or I thought if I signed an exclusivity with Nook, a local Barnes and Noble would then stock three print copies of the book.  You would have my attention with that deal.

2. Kobo

I had high hopes here, but I think their Kobo Writing Life should still be considered in beta. It’s not ready for prime time.

I really like they’re smooth and quick way to upload a book.  But the problems begin there.  When I first uploaded the book you see a notice saying that it will take 24-72 hours for the book to be published.  72 hours really?  Unfortunately it took almost a week for my book to get published.  And the nice people customer support didn’t know why.  They had to go to their tech support to find out why.  As a side note, I appreciated that they admitted they didn’t know why it wasn’t working.  Amazon support could learn from this, as opposed to just reading a prepared statement back to me.

I had to reupload the book to get it into the store.  And the second time I did it I noticed a little note below the upload button that says “If your book takes longer than 72 hours email us.”  So, apparently this happens enough to warrant a note.  Not good.

I set the book to free and Kobo pretty much turned it free immediately.  Great!

Then I tried to find the book.  Short of typing “Kevin and the Seven Lions” into the search bar it could not be done.  Children and teenage books are listed together.  Great.

But the kicker was that Kobo does not track free downloads.  Let me state that again, Kobo DOES NOT TELL YOU IF YOUR FREE BOOK IS DOWNLOADED.  Ummm…what?!

As a side note there is a category of Indie Next List on Kobo.  Cool!  I thought here are the up and coming self-published people.  I click on the category and a $12 Neil Gaiman book appears at the top of the category, and all the other books in the top ten were over $10.  A $12 ebook does not belong in a category labeled Indies.


More categories are needed, WAY MORE, and more ways for books to be discovered.  Let people track free downloads.  Fix the upload system so book don’t take a week to be available.  Also come up with customer service forms, sending a general email for help doesn’t inspire confidence.

3.  Apple

I went to Apple through Draft2digital.  The book was declined because I linked to the paperback version of the book on Amazon in back matter of the book.  My bad.  Nook or Kobo didn’t care.  But that’s what makes Apple, Apple.

Oh yeah, I also can’t upload straight to Apple because I don’t own a Mac.  I know.  I’m not cool.  Consequently, I can’t set a book to free in the Apple store.   99 cents is the lowest Draft2digital will accept, no free runs accepted.

Apple is just Apple.

Side thought, when you can read Kindle, Nook, and Kobo books on iPads, why does anyone need to go through the ibookstore anyway?


Let me upload through a PC.  It won’t kill you.

4. Smashwords

I got as far as opening an account then I stopped.  When I read the ebook stating the formatting needed for a book I stopped reading and lost interest in Smashwords.


The website looks like it was designed on Geocities.  Seriously, fix that.

P.S. Dear Mark Coker, Heads up, Amazon isn’t your competition, Draft2digital is.

Final thought

Anyway, I am going to stay with the exclusivity program with Amazon for the time being.  It is easier to focus on one store, and when that one store is the biggest store in the world, well that’s not much of a problem for me.


I had written earlier in the year about staying with Amazon and those reasons still apply as well.

Kevin and the Seven Lions is free on Kobo

Okay I finally got Kobo to publish Seven Lions.  See the frustrating drama in getting published outside of Amazon here.

It took almost two weeks to get the book up on Kobo.  Their support while helpful didn’t seem to know why it was taking so long.  So I just reuploaded the book, and magically it got published.  Still no response from the support team on why it was so late.

This experience has made me change my mind about my second book, for the time being I am going to keep it exclusive to Amazon as everyone else can some what difficult to deal with.  The exclusivity with Amazon is only 3 months so I can always change if needed.

Click on the pic to go to Kobo and pick up a free book!

"Kevin and the Seven Lions"

Signed copies of Kevin and the Three-Headed Alien now available

I finally got around to setting up a page for signed copies of Kevin and the Three-Headed Alien.  It awesome how many people I know personally that ask for signed copies of the books.  This is a simple way of doing it.  Plus at times the books are cheaper this way.

You can get the book by click the picture below.

Click here to purchase a signed copy of Kevin and the Three-Headed Alien.

Click here to purchase a signed copy of Kevin and the Three-Headed Alien.

Or you can view the autograph page.

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.


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.


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.


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.]


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.


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 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.

Kevin and the Seven Lions is now on Nook

I let the KDP select exclusivity run out on Kevin and the Seven Lions.  It is now up a Nook.   Kobo and iBooks should be coming soon.  But let me just say a blog post is coming about this experience.  Just uploading the book to Nook, Kobo, and Apple was a quick lesson in why Amazon is winning.  That blog post is coming.  It is a big learning experience.

"Kevin and the Seven Lions"

Anyway here is the link for Seven Lions on Nook.