Kobo President Michael Tamblyn to Indie Authors: You’re on Amazon’s Hit List

Kobo President and Chief Content Officer Michael Tamblyn (@mtamblyn) took to Twitter today to explain why, in his view, indie authors won’t be exempt from the tactics Amazon is using against Hachette in order to squeeze more profit from the publisher’s titles.

Here’s what Tamblyn calls his “32 Notes on Amazon-Hachette-IndyAuthors.”

Learn more: To hear more than 4,480 (140 x 32) characters’ worth of Tamblyn‘s thoughts on these and other issues, join him at Digital Book World 2015.

15 thoughts on “Kobo President Michael Tamblyn to Indie Authors: You’re on Amazon’s Hit List

  1. Mike Coville

    He should be more worried with making his ebook platform a viable option for indie authors to go to. He’s mad if he thinks the big5 will leave him alone after they are successful in bullying Amazon.

    “First they came for Amazon, but I am not on Amazon…”

    1. Chris Reher

      That’s the point. My books ARE available at Kobo. So, now I’m just waiting for them to actually SELL there in a volume that even comes close to Amazon.
      Over 8000 books in my sub-genre, which is Space Opera. That, apparently, currently includes a Sherlock Holmes novel at Kobo. Some sort of tool for visibility or an effective advertising venue would be hugely helpful.

      1. Richard Dean Starr


        You make a VERY valid point about discoverability, not just at Kobo but at ANY online bookseller.

        While Kobo is slowly building sustainable traffic, the fact is that if you ask the average ‘man on the street’ if they’ve heard of Kobo, the answer is a resounding “No.” That’s a problem, and as you pointed out,–one that flows down directly onto authors, hurting their income and pushing them back to Amazon.

        I have come to believe that Kobo really doesn’t think much of the indie author movement. If they did, they would be working overtime to build traffic and deliver the tools and innovative customer experience that Amazon does. I think that makes them foolish and short-sighted, much in the same way that they have effectively ceded the U.S. ebook market to Amazon. I think that the North American ebook market is still in its early growth stages and there is much opportunity for gaining market share through innovation and superior customer experience.

        All that aside, I certainly hope we do better with Ereading.com.

        We are fortunate in that Ereading has a very recognizable, built-in ‘brand’ value, even though we’re actually a startup. The word ‘ereading’ has now become synonymous with digital reading, which has benefited us greatly in terms of traffic—especially since Kobo uses it freely throughout their own website. We receive many newsletter sign-ups each day, all without (purposefully at this stage) doing any marketing or PR. I’m excited about what we’ll see when we go ‘live’ and start receiving publicity as a result of our marketing efforts.

        Supporting indie authors is a major priority for us through our LaunchWords platform. As a writer, as a reader, and as a bookstore owner, I’m grateful that you are non-exclusive with Amazon and that you’re supporting other bookstores.

        1. Sharon E. Cathcar

          Thing is, it depends on where you ask that question. Kobo is the most popular platform in Europe.

          The bottom line is that Tamblyn is correct; when you go with only one platform (Amazon), you are telling people who use other platforms that you don’t want/need them in your audience.

          I am only one person, but I can tell you that my metrics demonstrate a 5:1 ratio of ePub format to .mobi (Kindle). I’m not going to cut off 80 percent of my audience any time soon.

  2. Bridget McKenna

    I’m a bit surprised you published tweets in which Mr. Tamblyn compares Amazon to Nazi genocide without comment. I mean didn’t anyone at DBW find that the slightest bit creepy, disturbing, or just plain wrong?

    1. Alison

      That first they came…was in use before the Nazis. I think it fits perfectly into any type of focused ambition without summoning up visions of murderous jackboots.

  3. Mir

    Yes, all manner of stuff can/may happen in the future. But as long as Amazon is the best place for indies, indies will have a presence there and be grateful for the ease of use and generous division of sales dollars.

    Maybe Kobo could do more to be a BETTER and more competitive place for indies. No matter what Amazon may do, what matters is what is effective and trustworthy and user-friendly. I guess I’m more interested in hearing what Kobo’s plans are to be the bestest ever place for indies, not what its competitor MAY do.

    For all we know, Amazon may come up with the next leap in self-publishing that will knock socks off. We can theorize; we can’t know for certain. I’m rooting for better competition to come along, because that’s best for US (readers, writers), the next big thing–no matter who creates it–that will thrill me as a reader and an indie.

  4. Lynne Cantwell

    Mr. Tamblyn’s comments are simply the “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” argument that’s been around ever since KDP first began — together with a bit of extra fear-mongering by tying it into the Hachette dispute.

    I agree with Mir: if Kobo wants to attract more indie authors, it should concentrate on improving ways for indies to gain visibility and promote their work at Kobo. Smashwords has coupons; Amazon has KDP Select, the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards, and the new Kindle Scout program. B&N and Kobo have…um…somebody help me out here.

    Stop trying to scare us. Instead, be a viable alternative to Amazon. Give us better visibility and better promotional tools.

  5. SpringfieldMH

    7. He claims to read indie authors minds… Concludes they are too stupid too worry about Amazon and pursue alternatives.

    11 and 12. He fails to mention that Hachette and the other big trad pubs found guilty of illegally colluding to fix prices have to renegotiate with Amazon due to the court nullifying the previous contracts they forced on Amazon. And that the court apparently specified that the renegotiations be staggered, one pub at a time, at six month intervals, to try to assure against the big trad publishers again colluding again. Surprise, surprise, Hachette has dragged its heels long enough that Simon & Schuster is now also in negotiations…

  6. Mick Rooney

    Like everyone, he’s worried where Kobo will be in the future. The Nazi reference is deeply questionable. Peeps get too fixated on Amazon. There is always something new around the corner. Someone will eventually come along into the marketplace and do what Amazon do, and do it better. Even Bezos admits this.

    But truthfully, as far as this piece goes to engage discussion, Twitter is a traffic drive and a series of highway sign posts. I’ve had the same conversation with Porter Anderson. Personally, I just don’t feel it’s the forum to support coherent content and debate. Everything becomes a battle between brevity and soundbite. Agree or disagree with Tamblyn, I’ve no idea why he chose this medium as a platform for this piece. It’s like standing at the side of a highway filled with passing cars and using a loud spreaker to deliver your opinions. A few might slow down and rubberneck, most will consider you a crank on a soapbox.

  7. Marsha

    Any indie author who thinks Amazon in a friend is misguided. The “we’re not paying you until someone reads more than 10 % of your book” alone qualifies them as indie-killers. Case in point, I just did a FREE promotion to sell a self-pubbed women’s fiction. Last time I did this, 9 months ago, sales vs lending library was 8 sales to every 1 borrow. I get paid less for a borrow. This month for every 1 sale after FREE promotion, I am getting 6 KLL borrows. Which means I don’t get paid on those books until more than 10% of content is read, and I am making less than 50% of my sold royalty on each KLL borrow.

    And how is an indie writer ever going to audit this arrangment? Are we going ‘to take our word for it’. If we did an audit, would we recieve a list of kindle email addresses showing % read. How is that possible in a country with a right to privacy?

    I am beyond shocked no one is suing over this issue yet.

    And for what its worth, I think in one year 95% of authors will be asked to accept a flat rate royalty around 25 cents if we want to be made available in the eBook subscription library. They’ll remove the 10% read qualification and turn us into what they really want, annonymous streaming product, tailored by genre, thereby guaranteeing the end of traditional publishing houses.

    It’s a nightmare and we’re not waking up to what they are doing.

  8. Tracy

    I have a kobo and I have a kindle. Last night, I went online to Kobo’s store to browse for a book, via my device. The genre selections were impossible to navigate (trying to delve into subgrenes) and I couldn’t find the (indie) author I wanted even with a direct search on their name. Kobo’s president can try to strike fear into the hearts of indie authors all he wants, but he’s the one failing them.

    And Amazon’s model is built around maximizing profits via pricing strategy – that means that indie authors receive MORE money per book (if not per book sold). Yes, future!Amazon may cut royalties – in which case, I hope for the authors’ sakes that Kobo has gotten it’s act together on it’s bookstore – because right now if Amazon is the only game in town, it’s its critics fault.



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