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Thursday, November 23, 2017

So Long And Thanks For All The Books

A few weeks ago I did something I didn't think I would ever do.

I said goodbye to a job that I not only loved, but that I felt was the absolute perfect role for me.

It wasn't easy.

Starting in October of 2011 I had the role of Director of Self-Publishing and Author Relations for Rakuten Kobo, Inc. It truly did feel like a role that was custom built for me. And not just for the fact that, before I even applied for the job, I met with Kobo's current CEO, Michael Tamblyn to discuss the idea he had of forging a new element of Kobo's business, a platform or tool that made it easier for self-published authors and smaller publishers to publish direct to Kobo's catalog.

I still remember, with a brisk and fresh fondness, how it sounded as if the job Michael was describing was custom made for me.

In some ways I still think it was, because the experience, the ride, of being a part of Kobo and being at the forefront of building Kobo Writing Life, which wasn't just a free publishing platform at www.kobo.com/writinglife, but it was an entire movement and spirit, as encapsulated at www.kobowritinglife.com that gave writers and publishers a place where the craft and business of writing were explored, celebrated and shared openly and freely.

In the six years that I was at Kobo and in the five full years of KWL's operation (it was launched in July of 2012), Kobo Writing Life went on to represent 1 in every 5 books sold at Kobo globally, and 1 in every 4 books sold in the major English language territories.

KWL was a huge success and I had hired the absolute best people to work with me on making it that success. What more could a guy ask for? But I suppose what made saying goodbye really hard was saying it to my amazing colleagues and to the thousands of authors that I was privileged to work with over the year.

Just prior to the public announcement on the KWL Blog ("Thank you, Mark" - Nov 2, 2017), I quickly composed a letter that went to as many of the authors whose emails were easily accessible by a quick-fill in my Outlook email.

The letter was entitled "So Long and Thanks for all the Books" - because, ultimately, KWL was successful because

Below is an excerpt from that email message I sent out:

It was, of course, not an easy decision to come to, because I’m sure most of you already know how much I adore Kobo and the fantastic people on the KWL Team that I have been very fortunate to work with. But, after having the privilege of building Kobo Writing Life, which launched in 2012, to working with the teams at Kobo and with authors around the globe to establish its place as a wonderful success story, and, of course, a world-class platform for publishing to Kobo, it is time for the next phase for both Kobo Writing Life as well as for me, personally. As many of you know, I have always loved my job at Kobo and have always loved interacting and engaging with authors – and I WILL miss that the most. Of course, I won’t be going far, as one of the things I plan on pursing is to double-down on my own writing, which has taken a back seat for the past 6 years. (Yes, I find all of you so inspiring, and the one thing that was perhaps lacking for me was the satisfaction of actually writing more)

And, of course, I couldn’t be leaving “my baby” Kobo Writing Life in better hands. And that is one of the things that gives me great comfort.

Christine Munroe, Senior Manager, Author Performance, will be overseeing the KWL team and I couldn’t be entrusting KWL into more capable hands. She is an experienced and forward thinking publishing professional that I am not only proud to get to work with but am excited to watch help take KWL to the next level of greatness. Many of you likely already know her, and I’m sure if you don’t yet, you’ll soon have that pleasure. 

Below is a quick snapshot of the current KWL team – (yes, I left myself in the picture just for the pleasure of getting to hang around with them for that much longer) -- so when you are emailing them you can get to love them the way that I do. They are an amazing group of people whose hard work, passion and commitment to excellence I have been the “front person” for. I am tremendously proud of this fine group of people who, like many of you, have felt like family.

And, if you don’t have their direct emails, that’s just fine. Please never hesitate to reach out to the KWL team at writinglife@kobo.com – They are an absolutely amazing team who are very responsive to your tickets. Chances are you’ll hear from Laura or Joni or, if your issue is related to Publishing Operations, from Tara and Stephanie. If the message needs to get to someone else on the team, the team works closely together to ensure the right person gets the right question. The average response time, during business hours is usually within 4 hours. They’re top notch, they are experts and they all truly care about authors having a good experience with Kobo.
 
I know that, I, for one, am looking forward to continuing to publish to Kobo via Kobo Writing Life and I have promised the team that I’ll not only be their biggest advocate, but that I will, of course, be an informal author QA person, always eager to offer suggestions about things that make an author’s life easier. That is, of course, the way that we originally built and have continued to maintain Kobo Writing Life. And it’s only going to be getting better thanks to this amazing team and feedback of authors like you.

Lastly, I want to thank you all for writing amazing books, for connecting with me over the years and for providing content for Kobo’s customers in 190 countries. In the same way that I’ll be watching Kobo’s and the KWL Team’s ongoing growth and success, I’ll be watching and cheering you on as well.

Thanks for all that you do. I’m sure I will see you around many of the old familiar places.

Yours in writing,


Mark Lefebvre
Director, Self-Publishing & Author Relations
Rakuten Kobo, Inc.
 

So it wasn't an easy email to write. And leaving Kobo was not an easy thing to do.

But I look back on a truly unique and amazing previous six years and I am appreciative for all that it brought to me and all that it continues to bring to me. Because the connections and friendships and benefit I have personally received from being a part of this amazing company and the incredibly extraordinary movement in the publishing world, have fulfilled me and made me rich in ways that I am still barely able to count.

I am appreciative, and honored and thankful.

So I suppose it might be appropriate, with my US friends in mind, to be thinking in that way during American Thanksgiving.

Okay, now back to some writing. After all, I have a NaNoWriMo novel to finish in less than 7 days (the sequel to A CANADIAN WEREWOLF IN NEW YORK entitled FEAR AND LONGING IN LOS ANGELES), and I also have a contract to co-author my next book for Dundurn (MACABRE MONTREAL). (Of course, there'll be more on both of those things shortly here on this blog which I have been ignoring too much in the past few years)

Love and hugs to you and yours!

[EDIT - If you've worked with me and are interested in sharing a brief "testimonial" on my character, how I've helped or supported you, feel free to make it official:  Show Mark Some Love!]