Kindle tests ebook cover design tool

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For indie authors who have been sweating blood over their ebook cover designs, there’s good news for a quick fix to this frustrating chore.

Digital Book World reports today that Amazon is developing a cover creation tool for its Kindle Direct Publishing platform for self-publishers. According to DBW, the KDP Cover Creator tool is now being tested by a limited number of authors, with full roll out expected soon.

Digital Reader, which broke the news in Nate Hoffelder’s April 3 blog, has screen shots of the beta version and some comments from readers who had tried it.

According to DBW, the Kindle tool will “come with access to thousands of royalty free images in an image gallery and will also allow for users to upload their own art. A variety of pre-programmed layouts, color schemes and fonts will also be included.”

 

Kobo launches self-publishing portal

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Kobo Inc. has introduced a new self-publishing portal for independent authors and publishers.

Unveiled at Book Expo America in New York today, Kobo Writing Life is designed to help writers become the best authors and publishers possible, the company said in a release. The platform is touted as quick and easy-to-use, with features that provide key reader insights and marketing tools to engage with fans on a global scale.

Currently in the beta stage, the portal uses industry standard ePub files, allowing authors to offer their self-published titles for computer, smart phone or whichever e-reader the reader may choose.

The company said authors will be able to use the self-service e-publishing portal at no cost, and will have control over all aspects of publishing, including price setting, advertising and marketing. Royalties are said to be 10 per cent higher than comparable self-publishing platforms.

“When we started working on Kobo Writing Life, the first thing we did was ask authors what they felt was most important in a self-publishing platform,” said Michael Tamblyn, EVP Content & Merchandising, Kobo. “They were incredibly clear: openness, control, great royalties, incredible reporting and global reach. It should be powerful but drop-dead simple. And there should be people running it who care about writers — not like dropping your treasured manuscript into a machine. We can’t wait to see what authors will do with this.”

Kobo Writing Life is being tested by 50 authors in its beta program. It will be available in English at the end of June for the more than 1,600 authors already signed up. Additional languages and country-specific support will be added in the coming year.

Writers who are interested in signing up for Kobo Writing Life are invited to visit www.kobo.com/writinglife.

PayPal backs off ebook censorship

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PayPal, the online payment service, is apparently pulling back from its hard-line ban on processing the sales of ebooks containing themes of rape, bestiality or incest.

According to mid-week reports, PayPal’s revised ban will apply only to potentially illegal images and text-only ebooks containing child pornography themes. In addition, the focus will be on individual books rather than entire classes of books.

Earlier this year, PayPal warned some ebook publishers and distributors that it would “limit” their PayPal accounts unless they removed offerings “containing themes of rape, incest, bestiality and underage subjects.”

The policy was criticized by the Authors Guild, the National Coalition Against Censorship and others, which voiced concern that banks and payment companies may be exerting too much control over what books can be written, published and read.

PayPal had told ebook distributors earlier this year that the original policy was put in place partly because the banks and credit card companies it works with restrict such content. Major credit card companies denied, however, that they would apply such restrictions to lawful material that seeks to explore erotica in a fictional or educational manner.

Indie authors thrive in Kindle Store

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Indie authors are burning up the bestseller e-charts in the United Kingdom, according to a press release this month from Amazon.co.uk.

The company says independent British writers are matching the success of Amazon’s Kindle ebook reader with its Kindle Direct Publishing platform to take top spots in the Kindle Store’s bestseller list.

In the last quarter of 2011, Lancashire novelist Kerry Wilkinson was the Kindle Store’s #1 bestseller with his independently published Locked In, the first book in his Jessica Daniel detective series.

Wilkinson has also released two other books in the series, Vigilante and The Woman in Black, using the Kindle publishing platform and together they have sold hundreds of thousands of copies in the Kindle Store at Amazon.co.uk. Books four and five in the series, Think of the Children and Playing with Fire, are due for release this year.

Also finishing high in the standings was Katie Stephens of Surrey, a self-confessed ‘chick lit’ writer, who saw her debut novel Candles on the Sand become the #5 bestselling book in the Kindle Store in the last quarter.

Kindle was the biggest selling product at Amazon.co.uk in 2011 and sales of Kindle books in the three months following the launch of the all-new Kindle were almost five times higher than the same period in 2010, the company said.

The Kindle Direct Publishing gives writers a free and relatively simple way to self-publish their books for distribution through the Amazon Kindle Store.