Writing in the Clouds, Cloud-Based Writing Platforms for Young Writers
by Ng Jun Sheng and Mira R; edited by Edward Goh and Lee Russell

Perhaps, more often than not, we find that the most productive sources of inspiration we receive are the ones that intimate to us the most strongly and the most concretely of possibilities. This, more than anything, was what I felt was conveyed during the session Writing in the Clouds, a session detailing the potential and possibilities of cloud-based writing platforms for young writers. It highlighted, in particular, Kobo Writing Life, a registered e-publishing platform that was created by authors, for authors.

With more than 62 000 authors, 350 000 titles in 167 countries, it is no surprise that Kobo is one of the top two e-Reader companies in the world, coming just a close second to Kindle. The speaker, the company’s marketing representative who conducted the session, started the first half by passing his own Kobo reader around the room; the clean interface and page-by-page reading format was impressive and appeared to have already won the votes of the many young listeners in the room, even before Kobo Writing Life, Kobo’s platform for self-publishing, was introduced.

Shortly after, he provided an overview on the history of publishing and the publishing options available today, with occasional injections of interesting facts. For example, not only does the company have a support for more than 100 languages, but its name “Kobo” is actually an anagram for the word “Book” as well. But the fact which earned the most involuntary giggles from the audience was that the best-selling genre on the site was not just romance, but specifically ‘active’ romances, like erotica! This in turn paved the way for a relaxed, conducive environment to discuss other serious things as well. Things such as royalties, marketing, and the distribution and submission of one’s self-published work were explained to the eager young listeners in the room. This even included a brief section on formatting tips, and more pertinently, the “author services” that Kobo Writing Life offered, which covered the rights of an author. However, the real takeaway was the ease that marked the platform’s self-publishing service.

“It is simple,” the speaker told the room — and he wasn’t kidding. Self-publishing one’s story on Kobo takes only a few steps: First, provide the formal descriptions of your e-book (title, author etc), then upload your e-book (preferably in ePUB format, he highlighted), and finally decide on the price and the location of the e-book. “You can choose not to sell your book in some regions,” he added. “It’s really up to you.”

Other details, such as the metadata and e-ISBN for one’s e-book, may be found on the website itself for the writer’s convenience. The session concluded with helpful links for the audience’s perusal: the Kobo Writing Life website, www.kobowritinglife.com, as well as its e-mail address (writinglife@kobo.com) for those who needed any further clarification.

These in turn helped to dismantle how daunting and impossible the idea of publishing a book or novel might seem, and imparted a sense of control and possibility to the young writers listening – that if they put their words on a page, and collate them into a book, they have the tools and options to carve a space for it and bring it to the world. In fact, the speaker himself emphasized that Kobo Writing Life did not have any age restrictions, much to the delight of the young writers in the room. One of his advice to them was to “Just chill”, because there are so many opportunities out there for them to explore and hone their writing skills, like Kobo.

Indeed, in the context of a Young Writers Festival, sessions such as these are invaluable in intimating to our young writers the options and possibilities of bringing their work to an audience, helping to spur and inspire them to write, and keep on writing.