Kobo Store Changes: What the #$&*!

koboFor the many of you who may not have noticed, Kobo books (an entity I have much praised in the past) has made some bizarre changes to their online book store that have me stumped (and hopeful that they are merely hallucinations). No one else online seems to be talking about the chances, so I thought I should. I sent the below letter to feedback@kobo.com and now post it here. I’ll let you know if I hear anything in response!
To Whom it May Concern,
I’m curious as to the recent changes from kobobooks.com to the store.kobobooks.com.
As a reader, the new site has lost considerable usefulness in helping me find and decide upon books to read.
As an author and self-publisher, I’m baffled by several changes that seem to be taking Kobo Books in full reverse. I’m hoping these changes are some sort of temporary stop-gap (or a sick joke). Several things have me stumped:
  1. The disappearance of reviews. I realize Amazon purchased Goodreads. I’m hoping this has not forced Goodreads reviews to be removed. This was one advantage Kobo had over Amazon as many people consider GR reviews more reputable than Amazon ones.
  2. The disappearance of star ratings. Even if the Goodreads reviews had to be dropped, why the star ratings?
  3. The disappearance of most of the curated reading lists. The Indie Next list is still around (even though I’ve never been able to figure out what it means, or what the definition of indie is supposed to be for this list), but the rest of them are gone. Reason?
  4. Lastly, the Free list is gone! And so recently after some positive changes to help more free books to be discoverable on Kobo. Seriously? Now the only way to find free books is to do a search and sort by price? Even if I can find one, there are no reviews, star ratings or even rankings (since free books are put at the bottom) for me to use in deciding whether to read the book or not.
I’m still struggling to establish myself firmly as one of the new generation ebook mid-list authors able to make a living entirely from writing novels. But I’m getting there.
From December through May my Kobo sales nearly tripled my Amazon sales every month. This was due to two things:
1.) My free Title Fistful of Reefer (one of ten books/shorts in a series) found its way onto the free list. Over those six months I received over 200 star ratings directly from kobo readers (in addition to ones I had from Goodreads already). Since Writing Life has never been able to track free sales, I have no idea how many copies of the novel were downloaded, but it is safe to assume many more than the number of star ratings.
2.) Another short in this same series, Reefer Ranger, climbed into the top 20 of the Men’s Adventure category list.
These two things instantly boosted the sales of the entire series. Eventually the Men’s Adventure category got purged and my books were tossed out of it. That caused a dip in sales, but readers were clearly still buying the other titles (in order to finish the series) and some were still finding me through my free novel.
Then the free list disappeared. Sales fell off a cliff. I had a handful during the last week or so in June and have had only five in July. My free book is almost impossible to find now. I tried throwing a new free title on the Kobo Book Hub. Of course I can’t tell if anyone downloaded any copies at all. But so far it hasn’t splashed over to the other titles at all.
Just when I was starting to think I could make a real presence on Kobo, the cause has become near hopeless. It’s worse than Barnes and Noble now! I can’t understand the reason for these changes. Currently, when a reader lands on one of my product pages (which I’ve no idea how they would even find me unless I direct them there) all they have to help them decide whether to purchase the book is my professional cover art and product description. Star ratings are gone. Reviews are gone. And as a small fry, I’m never going to be at the top of the rankings, especially if most of the smaller categories are removed from the Writing Life dashboard (which keeps happening).

Bottom line

These changes are forcing me to spend the majority of my efforts on the kindle store. Before these changes I had been a big promoter of Kobo to other indie authors, using my positive numbers as evidence that things might be changing for the better. But if Kobo Books is serious about courting folk like me (which supposedly Kobo is, and Writing Life was supposed to be proof), for the love of competing with Amazon! Please undo the damage as soon as possible and give the small indie author a reason to believe they can get noticed in your store.

But, if you are only interested in courting major, well-established authors and big named books, then by all means continue. I and my ilk will continue to play ball at the only game in town–Amazon.
I would love to hear any and all responses.
About David Mark Brown

Writer. Novelist. Redneck. Granola. Raised on a Texas cattle ranch and schooled at the U of Montana (Berkeley of the Rockies), I am the world’s most self-proclaimed redneck granola and author of optimistic-dystopian dieselpunk, sci-fi thrillers and young adult literature.

Comments

  1. Joey DICristofano says:

    I told you in a previous discussion that that Amazon was going to destroy the competition. Kobo and B&N have been driven to make drastic changes in an attempt to keep their shrinking markets. I’m not happy about it, but Amazon has cornered the e-book market like itunes has music. Another possible avenue lies in grassroots efforts with tiny book stores

    I also would like to, once again, point out Wattpad’s impotence as means to push your product. Case in point: Gavin , who has tons of Wattpad fans and readers, released his book several months ago. The only two reviews for his book on Amazon were written by us.

    • Alas, the prophecy might be coming to pass! But these last actions seem self-inflicted. Perhaps kobo will have something positive to say in its defense.

      And Wattpad! Well, yeah, that’s a whole other disappointment. I just can’t let go! I have a problem…

  2. Jason Croft says:

    That’s nuts! Keep us up to date on responses for sure.

  3. Goodreads reviews more reputable than Amazon? BWAHAHAAHAHAHHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAAHHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!! *snort*

    Ummm…. no. Goodreads is just as bad. They don’t require the reviewer to have read the book. They don’t even wait until the book is available to allow reviews. If you end up on someone’s shitlist, reams of people jump on the bandwagon, resulting in drive-by one-star reviews and snarky commentary. Those of us who try to maintain an ethical and honest review presence are attacked for any ridiculous infraction that can be created or imagined.

    Anyway, sorry to hear about what’s going on over there. That’s horrible. It seems all these sites are just bound and determined to make things as difficult for the Indie author as possible. It’s really a pity. I hope you hear back and they fix this mess.

    • Lol! Well, Katy, I did say “some people think” :)
      But yeah, crap happens everywhere. Overall, I’ve had good luck finding good words on books to read from goodreads. I hope I don’t become the target of a crapstorm!

  4. Tracy Eliason says:

    Hi, I’ve been on hold with Kobo for 20 mins now and Googling this issue when I came across your post/blog. Did you ever receive a response? The whole thing is so annoying. And still no one’s talking about it!

    • Hey, Tracy. I heard back from someone in another department in Kobo. (still haven’t gotten response through comment form). The new website interface is a beta launch. Apparently only 25% of users were selected, so many people are still seeing the old site. There is the slight chance that major issues are still being worked out before being launched more broadly. I will post again in the next couple of days to update the situation with all that I know. I would love to include your voice as well. What things specifically have risen for you?

  5. I would like to see sales rankings again What’s going on? Thank you.

    • Hey Jan, I’ve always been able to see rankings. Are the rankings gone at the moment? Earlier this summer Kobo was running a beta that removed all the reviews, and dropped several curated lists, etc. The lists have been added back on. The reviews will be gone forever, I suspect because of Amazon’s buyout of Goodreads. Kobo plans on creating their own avenue for reviews, but I’m not sure when that will take place. I think the beta has now been launched for most everyone. I’ve noticed many more people chatting about the Kobo store changes now. But rankings should still be intact…

    • Jan, interesting. The rankings are down now. My guess is that it is another tweak they are making. They could go back up in a day or a month, who knows. Kobo doesn’t have quite the manpower of Amazon, so things seem to take a bit longer sometimes. My sales there did rebound a tiny bit in August (compared to July), but I’m still suffering from all the changes that have been going on there. I’m just hoping they’ll get it iron out eventually.

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