Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Big Fat #Kobo Fail: Full Version & Finale #publishing

In the past year, I'd been focusing on Kobo as the only ebook retailer that could potentially rival Amazon (for me, at least. I feel like B&N have given up, iTunes is unfathomable to me without a Mac, Smashwords is still an archaic mess, I don't sell much at ARe and their weird rebate thing confuses me, and Google Play...complicated and prone to random price drops that can screw up your pricing on Amazon with their price match thing). No, Kobo looked like a good alternative and they were clearly on a drive to improve.

I've been published direct there since I released my SFR short Terms and Conditions Apply back in 2012. I was there just because I could be. With only the one short story up and being relatively unknown, I didn't sell much and their payment terms (you had to make $100 to get paid) meant I didn't even get the few pennies I'd earned. But I was okay with that. I was new, naïve, had only two titles - the main one being with a publisher - and those few pennies weren't going to make much difference. It was just being there.
Things changed in 2015 when my main publisher - Breathless Press - closed. I was already in the process of re-releasing my debut novel Keir after the rights reverted back to me, and suddenly I had five more titles homeless. In a moment of madness I decided to go ahead and re-release all but one of those on top of Keir. That's five books in one month. Crazy, right?
But it got done, and in the process I discovered Kobo had made changes to their payment policy. You still only got paid if you earned a minimum $100 a month but now, if you didn't make that threshold, you would get paid every six months regardless. Woot!
Now, this is still pretty slow compared to most retailers. Amazon pays me monthly regardless, even if two months in arrears ie in August I got paid the royalties earned in June. Draft2Digital pays me every month as long as I make a minimum $10 (right now that gets me paid once every two months, but still good). Smashwords and ARe pay me quarterly (which was also the standard for most of my publishers). But six months is still better than nothing, right?

Since I'd never been paid, I contacted Kobo to point this out and promptly received a payment. It was pennies but it was still payment! Thanks to my newly self-pubbed titles I started to earn a bit more (only just into double figures but it was going the right way). Even though I marked November as the next payment point (six months), I received my second royalty payment promptly in October.
Come 2016 I asked to access the newly launched authors promotions options and ran my first in May, seeing a good boost. I focused more on buying my books there rather than Amazon, and using my Kobo sales links for my own books in preference to Amazon's. While I still didn't sell as well there as Amazon, it was getting better.

But in May 2016 I realised I hadn't been paid as per the six months regardless. Theoretically that should have happened in April as I last got paid in October, but I figured well, first payment was May 2015 - maybe I get paid May and October.  Either way, I decided I'd best email them. After the usual wait (I find Kobo are slower/less responsive than Amazon) I received an apology and the assurance that I'd been added to the June payments and would be paid end of May. Uh, what? Not quite sure how that made sense, but I assumed that meant I'd get paid by the end of June at least.

No royalties showed up in May. June came and went, with no sign of Kobo royalties, so I emailed them again. They apologized again and assured me I would get paid in July.

I didn't.

At this point I was getting quite stressed and rather distressed about the whole thing. I've never had any issue with any retailer or publisher over royalty payments. My book sales had been dropping steadily across the board since July 2015, and by now I was struggling to find money for essential edits. I wasn't even making a living wage (if you want to know my true income, I generally make $30 a month. That's $1 a day essentially. Still think authors earn enough for it to be okay to pirate their books? Piffle. This is why I'm going back to a day job...if I can even get one). I had a decent amount sitting in my Kobo account, enough to almost pay for a cover or a chunk of editing on another book. I needed and wanted that money, and it was legally owed to me, so not getting it despite numerous promises was making me edgy and frustrated. It was a simple enough ask after all.

I'm not going to detail every communication I had from Kobo. I received numerous apologies and promises of payment by email, followed by a sudden silence. At that point I chased the Kobo Help account on Twitter and received more meaningless apologies but at least started getting emails again. I was offered a Kobo ereader which I damn well took - I figured worse case scenario I could always sell the ereader to cover the non-payment of royalties, though I fully didn't expect one to turn up any more than the money owed.

Surprise - the ereader arrived on the 27th of July. The royalties still didn't.

By now I was meant to be into the second week of my long summer break and instead I was still chasing Kobo for payment. While the money owed wasn't anywhere near enough to justify taking legal proceedings to get it, the amount was enough that it would make a significant difference to my publishing finances. After more empty apologies and promises to pay, and even assurances that a certain payment system had issued the payment at the end of July, still nada.

A new Kobo rep took over and sent me a screen shot of the payment issued. I still didn't receive it. They then said the payment company had issued 'the wrong type of payment'. Really. That's about convincing as the excuses given by our British Rail system for delays, like leaves on the line. Wrong type of payment?! Funny, because none of my details had changed and that same banking system had worked perfectly fine twice before. If any changes were responsible for the error, it was all happening at Kobo's end and not mine.

TBH, come 12th August with still no sign of payment despite Kobo's screen shot of payment being issued (BTW, 1st rep said 30th July, 2nd rep said 26th July so they couldn't even get their dates right), I began to feel like Kahmunrah in this scene from Night At The Museum 2 (except I still didn't get the combination aka royalties, and it took weeks instead of minutes). As in 'OMG, I can't believe it...'
On the 19th of August I accessed my bank account, more to double check my spending budget rather than in any real expectation of a payment from Kobo. To my surprise, it was finally there as of the 18th. Colour me amazed, and forgive me for not feeling the least bit grateful since this was four months late. I emailed the Kobo person who had been dealing with it to say that it had arrived, but didn't thank them. Do they qualify for a thanks after taking four months to actually do their job?! I didn't think so. I got an automated out-of-office response...and that was the last I heard from them to date.

Final upshot: yeah, I got a (very nice) Kobo ereader out of it but it doesn't replace the time and stress I went through trying to get money damn well owed to me (and during my 'holiday' too), and for that reason I'm unlikely to ever go back to Kobo direct. I'm not even sure I want to buy my ebooks there any more even with a flash new ereader to put them on, when other authors may be getting hit the same way. So much for Kobo being a viable alternative to Amazon. Maybe I'll just go back to ordering print from my local indie bookshop or charity shops...

In the meantime, I have The Bones of the Sea still up there as it's a freebie (because I don't have to chase for any payment on that one), and Gethyon is up on pre-order via Draft2Digital (which will ensure me getting paid monthly providing I hit $10 each time). The other titles will slowly return via the same distributor, or you can get Kobo compatible epub versions from ARe/Omnilit and Smashwords. I'm not sure if Kobo owe me any remaining monies, and frankly I don't care. I'm done. *walks away*

Gethyon officially releases in just two days (though you can pre-order it everywhere now)!! Woot! I'm so happy to be putting this back out, especially with all the new and improved content, and the shiny new cover. And last week I got the second print proof...and it was perfect. So print will be available shortly. You can download a free sample from Goodreads, and if you read the previous edition, see if you can spot the changes. ;) And if you bought the original and would like the new version, just hit me with your request.

A Scifi Adventure Novel
B&N | Kobo | iBooks
Abandoned. Hunted. Out of control.

Gethyon Rees had always felt at odds with the universe, and hoped for an escape among the stars. But discovering he has the ability to cross time and space with just a thought brings more problems than it solves: a deadly bounty hunter who can follow him anywhere, the unwelcome return of Tarquin Secker--the mother who abandoned him--and an ancient darkness that seeks him and all those with his talents. 

When an unforgivable act sets him on the run, it'll take more than his unearthly powers to save his skin and the lives of those he cares about. It'll take a sacrifice he never expected to have to make.

A science fiction adventure novel previously published by BURST (Champagne Books), and part of the Travellers Universe. A 2014 SFR Galaxy Award Winner for Most Awesome Psychic Talent and a 2015 EPIC eBook Awards finalist in the Science Fiction category. Also now includes the SF short story The Bones of the Sea


  1. I'm still chasing them for payment too. And I've been in TWO promos where I was PROMISED payment in 45 days, regardless of whether or not I hit the threshold. I have the sales reports with the terms printed right there for anyone to see.

    My new series is going on Kobo through D2D. The promotions stuff and ability to see which countries I'm selling in isn't worth it.

    1. I also tracked down an email address for Mark and am copying him on the email I'm composing right now. Which includes a link to this post.

    2. I'm sorry you're having the same issue. I really thought Kobo was going somewhere and wanted to support them, but I'm not going to waste my time and energy further on a company that can't even get a payment out once every six months. It's not worth the stress.

  2. Sorry about the bad experience, Pippa. My books are only on Amazon, and examples like this remind me why my agent made that choice.

    1. Yeah, I can understand that. But when you hear about Amazon arbitrarily deleting author accounts because it's been hit by a scammer or an algorithm, staying wide at least gives some back up that way. It's a shame setting up an ebook retail site would be so complicated. I'm half tempted to try it.


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