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Pharmacy Residency Podcast

Jun 20, 2018

Christine Munroe is Director at Kobo Writing Life at Rakuten Kobo Inc. She leads the Kobo Writing Life business team, driving the global growth of Rakuten Kobo’s digital self-publishing platform. She joined KWL when the platform was in its infancy. KWL is now a multimillion-dollar cornerstone of Kobo’s content catalog. Prior to joining Kobo, she was a foreign book scout and literary agent in New York. She spends her career helping authors to reach international readers.

Full Transcript:

welcome to the pharmacy leaders podcast
with your host Tony Guerra the pharmacy
leaders podcast is a member of the
pharmacy podcast network with interviews
and advice on building your professional
network brand and a purposeful second
income from students residents and
innovative professionals
welcome to the pharmacy leaders podcast
today I have Kristine Monroe who leads
the Kobo writing life business team she
drives the global growth of Rakuten did
I shoot I did I should've asked you how
to pronounce that
it's Rakatan every like Midwestern
American says it that way all the
draft2digital guys say Rakuten so that
was totally fine for me to hear it that
right Rakuten alright so we'll start
again hey welcome to the pharmacy
leaders podcast today I have Kristine
Monroe who leads the Kobo writing life
business team she drives the global
growth of racket ins Kobo digital self
publishing platform
she joined KWL when the platform was
just in its infancy and it is now a
multi-million dollar cornerstone of
Cobos content catalog
prior to joining Kobo she was a foreign
book scout and literary agent in New
York and she spent her career helping
authors reach international readers so
welcome to the pharmacy leaders podcast
ok thanks so much for having me
well I always ask this just to get a
little idea of who you are and where
you're from but everyone's
entrepreneurial Road is a little bit
different what kind of led you to the
job that you're in now oh that's a
really interesting question um so
throwing it way back I've always just
been an obsessive reader and as a kid I
always told my my immigrant parents for
them that I wanted to be a reader for a
living and they're like good luck with
that I shove it in their face every
chance so I was a die-hard English major
went to grad school for English you know
on that reading
but I I started to get a bit sick of the
academic side of it wanted to be more
practical and got interested in the
publishing business so I moved to
Manhattan and started in the publishing
industry there my first job was at a
literary agency reading the slush pile
and as its beloved lean own and say no
to everyone and that was a really
sobering experience for me to think you
know who made who makes these decisions
in terms of content getting out into the
world Who am I as this 20 to 23 year old
intern to say no to somebody who's taken
the time and effort to write an entire
book and just then self-publishing was
starting to rise up in in the world of
digital publishing so from there I did
get into global write so I was an
international book scout for several
years meaning um you have clients based
in abroad and Scout the North American
market for them to say you know these
books are on submission to editors this
week this editors gonna buy this one you
should buy it for Germany for this price
because XYZ so that was truly
professional reading at its its finest
and a really awesome job for any young
people looking to break into the
publishing industry but I got this
opportunity to join Kobo self-publishing
platform as it was really launching in
the US and I grabbed it so I've been
with Kobo for over five years now and
just took over running the
self-publishing platform in the fall but
I've always been on the self pub team so
that's been my my focus at Kobo and I
love it it's awesome so are you at the
Vancouver base or I know my audiobooks
go through Wilmington where are you
actually physically based
so physically I am sitting in Toronto so
our head workers are actually here we
are have a big building in Toronto and
Liberty Village and we do have a couple
offices all over the place in Rakatan
obviously has their own headquarters all
over the world okay I said Vancouver
anyway I'm not wrong wrong wrong part of
the planet the same country I got the
country right that's terrible they say
Americans are terrible at you I just
I've got five college degrees all right
so let's move on from that what I want
to talk to you about is how accessible
it is to be self-published now so I know
you're 108 episode and congratulations
on getting past a hundred that's always
a milestone my cast was vivica a fox who
is a celebrity and I think many people
think I could never do that
but what I wanted to talk about was to
podcast episodes one with mr. W who made
math guides and then Charlotte Leonetti
who is a high school senior in Chicago
so generally can you talk maybe a little
bit about someone who would be like mr.
W or as a pharmacist has something to
share in nonfiction and how they can use
the Cobo platform to kind of take what
they know packaged it into a book and
then get it to a worldwide audience
absolutely so if you are in that
situation it's very straightforward you
would write whatever you'd like to write
we don't have length requirements so
let's you start up a word doc and write
it I would highly recommend getting a
professional editor there are a million
ways to find one of those online but set
aside definitely a little bit of money
to do that and then get a cover designer
we do work with an organization called
read C that's based in Europe they have
kind of an online platform for
matchmaking authors and service
providers and I really trust them they
vet their the resources extremely
closely so that that's not a place
that's going to take advantage of a new
but you could also look at comp titles
in your genre so let's say if you're a
pharmacy author look at another book
that's similar to the one you want to
write figure out who the editor was or
the cover designer and see if they're
willing to do a freelance project within
your budget so once you have those two
things ready to go you would go to Coba
comm slash writing life you set up an
account which is free and you would
upload your cover and your book
we accept word docx docx and epub is our
main format that you know it's fairly
industry standard at this point that
books come to us in and you enter a
little bit of data about the book the
title subtitle if you have one series
info author name and click publish
I should mention you can do that in any
language of your choice
Kobo authors have now published in a
hundred and ten languages which is more
easy yes you can choose which
territories you went to public L in
North America you could actually just
unselect North America and self publish
everywhere else that's kind of a cool
opportunity and after you hit publish
the book typically goes live to the Cobo
store within a few hours so at that
moment your book is available for sale
at the price you want around the world
and just to give a little extra info
about Kobo how it works is we originally
were part of chapters indigo which is if
you're American lent you can think of it
as like Barnes & Noble or borders it's
it's an online and physical bookstore
chain the major one in Canada but then
we broke off and became independent but
we started building that kind of
relationship with other retailers around
the world so we have thousands of global
partners where we power their ebook
store and so they don't have to build
that up from scratch so like mondo Dorie
and snack are some big examples in
Europe and in the US we actually partner
with the American Booksellers
Association so Indy
bookstores can sell ebooks with the Kobo
platform so when you click publish all
of that to say on Kobo your book
actually goes live to a whole bunch of
online retailers where global shoppers
are used to shopping and that makes a
couple of super unique in terms of
global reach a lot of our authors are
selling in like 60 70 countries which
was unheard of as of ten years ago so
this is pretty awesome yeah well tell me
a little bit about that change so you
were actually in New York at the
publishing house you know being the
Guardian and the one first 1% of the 1%
however small it was um so tell me how
this is kind of maybe if you have a
success story or - you know I it's crazy
I've sold I think oh gosh I think we're
at 12,000 audiobooks in the last year
and a half and and now that though
checks come in and I don't know I was
just thinking about it and and talking
with my wife and I was like wow you know
the receipts I get from books now come
into the bank account so you actually
wouldn't have to worry about the
mortgage the the car or anything it just
keeps coming in if you can tell me a
little bit about maybe some success
story or - that of an author that just
kind of changed their lives by having
this platform and this ability yeah
there are a lot that's what I love about
this job
most honestly what I love are the
authors who actually already were
traditionally published or you know
we're just writing in their free time
but had a day job and just kind of
cruised along on getting a little bit of
money from their writing and then with
self-publishing we're able to make it a
full-time living and in a lot of cases
actually hire their spouses or friends
out of their day jobs to be their
business partner or run their social
media so we have hundreds of those or
thousands of those examples of authors
who are now making a full-time living
from their writing one of the Giants in
indie publishing is marie force her
top-selling series was rejected by
every single romance publisher and now
it's sold something like 4 million
copies through self-publishing let's
talk about that category for just a
second yeah
at a different how do I put it
audio book seller where they just made
it very inexpensive to get romance
novels can you tell me a little bit
about how the we didn't talk about this
a little bit how the the money works or
a percentage works or things like that
with the book okay so for ebook the the
royalty structure Commission structure
is you get 70% for any sale for an
e-book price 299 and higher income no
limit so we see actually a lot of
nonfiction authors and academics
focusing on us and other similar
retailers without that cap because you
get the 70% no matter how high you go so
we actually have a couple new academic
authors every single year who will
publish their their course pack or their
their textbook and you know pull in a
couple hundred sales and that's several
thousand dollars boom it's the the
limits are are really restrictive in
terms of the amount of time because one
of those academic books and I can tell
you I've written for Elsevier it can
take you know two years yeah and then
you're told you know you're gonna get
ten bucks you're like what that's crazy
so so tell me I'm a little bit about
maybe so these academics that are coming
in because many of the listeners that we
have are working at the pharmacy schools
and things like that um how would
somebody set up course pack to be part
of their class or something like that or
is it just kind of the same if there's
no is it just more about picking the
category yeah it is truly exactly the
same and then you would just share that
that link with your students um and and
go from there
and then the other coolest thing is like
you can actually potentially experiment
with some online marketing and do some
cheap targeted Facebook ads to try to
reach people who aren't necessarily
taking your specific class that might
just want to learn like we we have some
profs writing about song writing for
example and that's obviously a really
huge appeal to all kinds of people so
you could start trying to reach that
kind of niche outside of whatever you're
specifically teaching and then with
audio I should mention
so for Kobo writing like my area of the
business specifically we are working on
building audio uploading direct within
the platform it today in May 2018 does
not exist yet but it is the next project
on our roadmap but you can come into the
Kobo store through a bunch of different
ways find a way being one of them listen
up audio and a bunch of other audio
distributors you know and then there's
also the classic publishers Blackstone
tantor a bunch of other opportunities ok
all right so how would somebody so I I
guess I didn't really understand so how
would somebody upload an audio book do
they have to go through a traditional
publisher do they send it in how does
that work exactly
so right now you'd have to go through
some kind of distributor but one really
good one I would consider would be find
away they're very much like if you're
familiar with aggregators like
draft2digital so they're helping yeah
yeah audio producers distribute to all
kinds of different platforms and and
then your titles would go for sale on
Kobo very soon thereafter ok awesome
ok all right well let's talk about the
specific categories that you see so your
in terms of readership because I my wife
reads exclusively ebooks I listen to
exclusively audiobooks tell me a little
bit about the eBook platform and then
the print book platform in terms of
getting you know an e-book out there and
then a print book and then the advantage
of maybe doing
all three yeah so I should mention we do
not as Kobo do print at all completely
yeah so that's a differentiator we have
never done print that we very much focus
on ebooks and audiobooks like the
digital reading experience so there are
tons of other poto options as if you're
considering that as an author but we
don't we don't play in that in that
field if you would but I would recommend
looking at it a lot of authors do still
see sales there and with p OD are taking
less of a risk of you know manufacturing
costs or warehouse returns all of that
stuff but for the advantages I would
absolutely say obviously e-book is the
most affordable way to get your book out
there into the market and then audio you
just have to consider production costs
and if you think you you're gonna get
the return on your investment I think
you would have a lot more expertise in
terms of when to make that decision and
and what the market looks like for each
genre my print books actually make a
fraction of the other ones it's not it's
negligible so yes it's kind of like I do
it just because I don't know I just
because it's true I don't have a good
reason the money comes from the audio
book then maybe a fifth from the
electronic and then it's just kind of
like gas money with the print yeah
that's just that's just kind of the
reality of how we are now yeah well I
guess you know just a couple of maybe
concluding questions what advice would
you have for an author that thinks I
can't do it someone who says oh my gosh
you know I I just I couldn't write a
book I couldn't do it and you know it's
just you know people that have got an
English degree I mean we both have
English degrees but even with English
degrees write books you know I don't
write books or celebrities write books
or they have somebody else write books
what advice would you have to somebody
that maybe has a little bit of negative
self-talk in terms of publishing yeah
great question actually because even the
most successful authors have that you
know I deal with authors who are
multimillionaires and they still have
that self-doubt the whole time so I
think what's kind of hidden from a
readers experience is the the draft and
editing process and how rough those
copies can really look and how much you
can really improve a book from from when
you get it onto paper to when you would
get it into the hands of readers so -
never underestimate the power of a
helpful editor or just getting the draft
on paper and seeing where it takes you
so I would say everyone if you feel you
have a story to tell then you have an
obligation to yourself to tell it and
and see where that journey takes you
it's so important to take time to be
creative to do the things that have
meaning for us and set those goals so I
just encourage you to do it there has
never been an easier time to be an
author in the world you know seriously
thinking back through history has never
been easier to reach a global audience
with your story and your words so take
advantage of it it's exciting and it's
inspiring and the community is there to
help you there's some million awesome
podcasts out there you could get every
single piece of information you want
probably from this podcast right so it's
just like there are way more reasons to
do it than not to do it so maybe make a
list of the pros and cons and that
decision could be made for you you know
I agree with you and I I guess as a
final question maybe I'll kind of go a
little bit with Joanna pen story I've
followed her for quite a long time and
and I think she was in New Zealand when
she created like I want to say a 2,000
or 400 vote I can't remember the exact
number but she made a bunch of print
books and that was her kind of thing to
sell and then she's gone on this road of
e-books and and become a tremendously
successful uh multi six-figure author
and you know she she's very targeted
with with her you know three groups of
books that she sells but as a niche
author who sells within you know
pharmacology space or chemistry space
how do you then
how are you niche to the world I guess
is the the question that I have so in
the US I know exactly what conferences
to go to who to go see and who to talk
to but how do you spread a niche to the
world I guess it's just kind of
overwhelming to me at the same time as
it's a wonderful opportunity well I
think it's something pretty easy to
experiment with you know we're we're
step one is get it out there into the
world and step to start trying to do
some targeted ads there are like the
Facebook platform is one example ways to
just target other countries and very
quickly measure the results and see like
is there something here in going in
Germany and try and find those groups
online and start their targeting and and
measuring the return on your marketing
investment and yeah I'm not a subject
matter expert necessarily more about
marketing and and you know we say our
platforms so important yeah but it's
just I have an American platform and I
guess what I'm asking is how does one
start developing an international
platform yeah I would say you're
American platform is your international
platform you know you have the the
basics you know you have a website you
have content and you just have to start
small by by getting your books out there
and for example Kobo to get to the place
where readers are looking for their
books and just start thinking globally I
think that mind shift is actually the
most crucially important step to not
just think about who's finding your book
on Amazon to think there are billions of
people around the world and and just by
putting your book on retailers where
those people are shopping
you are obviously increasing your
chances of finding a fan who or a person
interested in that subject who then
we'll do the word-of-mouth work for you
which is obviously the most valuable
thing you could have isn't it yeah yeah
it sounds like well Google is a search
engine but it sounds like Kobo is a
search engine of readers mm-hmm it's a
really great it sounds like it's a
really great place to be yeah I know
your time is really valuable Christine
and I really appreciate you being on the
pharmacy leaders podcast thank you so
much for having me it was great to take
a time to chat on the subject I don't
usually talk about so that was cool
thank you for listening to the pharmacy
leaders podcast with your host Tony
Garrett be sure to share the show with a
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