Kobo Writing Life Podcast – Episode 023 with Michael Rank


Listen in as KWL Director Mark Lefebvre interviews nonfiction author Michael Rank, whose titles include HISTORY’S WORST DICTATORS and FROM MUHAMMED TO BURJ KHALIFA: A Crash Course in 2,000 Years of Middle East History. Mark and Michael discuss Michael’s podcast, History in Five Minutes, self-publishing from a nonfiction author’s perspective, and the challenges and rewards of translating self-published titles. Michael shares his thoughts about:

  • His History in Five Minutes podcast, where Michael works to share stories about things that challenge our assumptions about the past, and the people who “shouldn’t be there” in a moment of history, according to our idea of that era of history.
  • Utilizing the podcast to develop a readership, connect with fans, and promote his books.
  • “Think global, act local.” There are many opportunities for independent authors to go broad and deep: broad, by reaching a global audience through online sales and translations; and deep, by cultivating relationships with niche and local readers.
  • Michael recommends trying Babelcube for their translation services.
  • Through Babelcube, translators earn a share of royalties, so they are invested in your success. Michael has worked with translators to get help with foreign marketing, for example, through translating reviews, Facebook posts, or tweets.
  • It is important to educate yourself about writing and self-publishing, but mistakes and failures are inevitable as you work through the process of publishing. Accept and learn from these failures, and find the opportunities that work best for you. The podcast worked well for Michael, but he tried many other things along the way that did not.
  • Similarly, find a writing schedule that works for your life and goals. As a PhD candidate, Michael knows that he can realistically only write for one to two hours per day.

Following the podcast interview, KWL US Manager Christine Munroe shares an exciting update: for the second year in a row, KWL is sponsoring NaNoWriMo! Starting November 1, hundreds of thousands of writers will endeavour to write 50,000 words within one month. Several KWL and Kobo staff members are participating this year, carrying on our KoBoWriMo tradition. We’ll keep the KWL blog updated with the trials and tribulations of our fearless WriMos, the great prizes we are offering this year, and more. Stay tuned!

Michael Rank is a doctoral candidate in Middle East history. He has studied Turkish, Arabic, Persian, and Armenian, but can still pull out a backwater Midwestern accent if need be. He has also worked as a journalist in Istanbul where he reported on religion and human rights.



Michael’s My Writing Life feature on our blog.

Find his titles on Kobo here.

The History in Five Minutes podcast – you can also subscribe via iTunes.

Connect with Michael on his website or Goodreads.

If you enjoy this podcast and would like to automatically download episodes as they go live – even before the show notes are posted to the Kobo Writing Life blog – subscribe to the RSS feed via your favourite pod-capturing platform (such as iTunes) using the RSS feed link: RSS feed for Kobo Writing Life Podcast.

My Speech at the SilverWood Books Open Day


We loved sharing the stage with Debbie Young at the recent SilverWood Books Open House – here are her thoughts and the text of her amazing talk, right from Debbie’s blog.

Originally posted on Debbie Young's Writing Life:

Photo of Debbie centre stage at the open day waving her book in the air

Shameless self-promotion of my handbook for authors, “Sell Your Books!” Photo copyright http://www.rebeccamillar.com

A post to follow up the recent Open Day at Foyles Bristol bookshop, organised by the author services company SilverWood Books

Last Saturday I was very pleased to be the opening speaker in SilverWood Books‘ autumn Open Day, which offered a great line-up of experts on writing and self-publishing. Thanks to the generous support of Foyles’ Bristol branch, SilverWood’s publishing director and her wonderful team were able to provide the event free of charge, creating a rare opportunity for a valuable learning experience affordable even to the most impoverished aspiring author.

This was a characteristically generous move from SilverWood, which not only helps authors self-publish beautiful books to a professional standard, but also offers lots of free information and advice on their website’s Learning Zone. They also publish, through their SilverWood Originals imprint, a range of…

View original 2,417 more words


Frankfurt LogoKobo Writing Life is delighted to take part in Frankfurt Book Fair and to support the Fair’s International Self-Publishing and Author program on this occasion.


The program includes:

  • Tours through Hall 8.0, with stops at key self-publishing companies
  • Face-to-face meetings with publishing professionals, service providers and fellow authors
  • Industry discussions on global self-publishing trends
  • Seminars with how-to advice and best practices for authors
  • Networking receptions for authors, publishers, service providers and agents

KWL is thrilled to offer 10 free tickets for KWL authors. Tickets can be ordered on the website: http://www.buchmesse.de/en/Focus_on/more_topics/self-publishing/ by entering the promotional code SelfPublishing14Kobo before proceeding with registration.

Besides this offer, KWL authors can benefit from a 10% discount with the promo code Self-Publishing14Discount10.  Tickets are on sale at: www.book-fair.com/selfpublishing.


Friday, 10 October at 1:40 pm: Industry Hard Talk: Authors Today and Where we are headed Tomorrow

Speakers include Michael Tamblyn (President and Chief Content Officer, Kobo Inc.), Gareth Howard (CEO, Authoright), Amanda Ridout (CEO, Head of Zeus)

Friday, 10 October at 2:40 pm: From Inspiration to Discovery: A Step-by-step Guide

Speakers include Colin Eustace (General Manager, Barnes & Noble S.A.R.L.), Patrick Brown (Director of Author Marketing, Goodreads)

Friday, 10 October at 3:40 pm: The Literary Agent’s Wish List: 10 Things we would like to say to every emerging Writer

Speakers include Cathryn Summerhayes (literary agents, William Morris Endeavor), Sophie Lambert (literary agent, Conville & Walsh)

Saturday, 11 October at 10:30 am: Self-Publishing Process: Step-By-Step Best Practices

A discussion with self-publishing expert Alison Baverstock that will address how authors can structure their publishing process in order to get the most out of their work.

Saturday, 11 October at 1:00 pm: Mini-Ignite! Session on Self-Publishing Start-ups

Moderated by Publishing Perspectives editor-in-chief, Edward Nawotka, this session will highlight up-and-coming start-ups working in self-publishing.

Saturday, 11 October at 1:30 pm: Self-Publishing Success with Kobo Writing Life: Tips & Tricks on Digital Self-Publishing

A presentation by Kobo Writing Life’s European Manager Camille Mofidi on the fundamentals of digital self-publishing and how to grow an international audience as an independent author.

For more information about the 2014 Frankfurt Book Fair, as well as the International Self-Publishing & Author Program, download the Authors Guide to the Frankfurt Book Fair: http://bit.ly/authorguide-FBF-09-2014


Kobo Writing Life will also be hosting authors’ talks and workshops on the Kobo booth (Hall 8.0 – G39) during the fair.

Come and meet us on this occasion to talk about your books or learn more on self-publishing!

Schedule for Frankfurt_fromthe videoloop Final Version (2)

Open Day Writing Competition


SilverWood - Open Day 2014 CMYK REV logo


To celebrate the 2014 Writing & Self-Publishing Open Day, Kobo Writing Life and SilverWood Books are delighted to announce an exciting new writing competition.

The Open Day Writing Competition is geared towards original, unpublished or self-published, fictional, English language manuscripts.  The manuscript submitted must be the entrant’s own work, and the entrant must own the copyright to all work in its entirety.

One Winner and one Runner Up will be selected by a dedicated review panel on the basis of the combined strength of the synopsis and the single chapter submitted.

The First Prize will be a SilverWood-produced ebook published with KWL. The Runner Up will receive a new Kobo Aura H2O as prize.

Entrants are to submit a single page synopsis (no longer than 500 words) of the plot of the book they would like to publish along with first chapter (no longer than 5,000 words). Entries must be submitted as a single Word document containing synopsis and first chapter with page 1 being the title page containing the entrant’s full contact details, title of work and author name.

To enter the competition and submit your manuscript please use this form

The deadline to enter the Open Day Writing Competition is on December 31st, 2014

Authors can read here the full Terms and Conditions of the Open Day Writing Competition




 About SilverWood Books 

SilverWood Books provides self-funding authors with professional publishing services – expertly produced print and ebooks, designed, formatted and finished to the highest publishing industry standards. SilverWood works with a range of individual authors and organisations, including poets, novelists, financial institutions, mainstream authors and charitable enterprises.

SilverWood’s ebook conversion service ensures that each book is carefully laid out and formatted by hand (taking care to preserve features which can be lost in auto-conversion, such as page breaks, indents, italic or bold text, and correct line spacing). Files can be passed directly to the author for upload to Kobo Writing Life. Hardback and paperback editions are prepared and published with the same care and expertise as they would be in a mainstream publishing house. For more information please visit www.silverwoodbooks.co.uk.

Every Word I Write Is Genius and Other Things I Was Wrong About

By Shayna Krishnasamy

red penI write long. It’s what I do. My sentences aren’t tight. The meander and go off topic and then veer back. I can make a sentence go on for a whole page. I overuse commas. I love asides and parentheses and em dashes. When I’m writing a first draft, or even a second, I can get a little out of control. And then I have to take out the red pen. That’s when the agony begins.

A big part of being a writer has nothing to do with writing. No, I’m not talking about marketing plans or query letters or blogs. I’m talking about editing, re-writing, re-plotting, and cutting, cutting, cutting. If you write long, like me, the editing process will inevitably involve lots of red ink and teeth grinding and dramatic sighs as you try to wrestle your manuscript into submission. The bad news: It’s very possible that paragraph you love is next on the chopping block. The good news: There’s a way to handle the chop without sobbing uncontrollably.

Here are my top 4 tips for surviving the editing process.

Don’t Believe In Your Own Genius

Remember that part in Fight Club where Tyler Durden says, “You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake”? Well, keep that line in mind, because you’re going to be saying it to your manuscript pretty soon. Editing becomes a whole lot easier if you let go of the idea that every word you write is the best, most unique, most wonderful thing ever. Writers do most of their work in a bubble with little outside encouragement, months of hunching over a laptop in some forgotten basement, alone, frantically plotting and typing and hoping. Of course it’s important to be positive and buck yourself up while you’re toiling away in your own personal diamond mine, but don’t take it too far. Telling yourself the words on your page are going to blow everyone away might make you feel great while you’re writing the first draft, but it can really mess with your head when it comes to tearing your manuscript apart and taping it back together down the line. So, don’t put your book on too high of a pedestal, unless you want it to hit you on the head on the way back down.

Stop Looking Back

5034760960_2a16bf717c_oWhen I was writing the first draft of my first book I got into the bad habit of obsessively re-reading the chapters I’d already written and tweaking them to perfection. I know this was a bad habit because when it came time to edit out paragraphs, or whole scenes, I found it really painful. All that tweaking and polishing gave the text a sheen of permanency. After a while I couldn’t imagine certain scenes being written any other way. Like a movie you’ve watched a hundred times until you have the lines memorized, the dialogue I’d written seemed familiar and meant to be.

Editing that book was like murdering my pets.

We’ve all heard the tried and true writer’s rule, “Kill your darlings.” I believe in this rule. Some of the scenes I loved in that first book had to come out due to a plot shift, and some paragraphs had to be cut because the heroine wasn’t sad anymore, but angry, so her sorrowful flashback to the day her beloved childhood friend died no longer made sense. We all have to lose some gems during the editing process, but the loss doesn’t have to be agonizing. If you want to cut down on the pain, wait until your final draft to make your book perfect.

Make Sure You’re Sure

As much as it might pain you to cut characters or sub-plots out of your book, it can hurt even more to realize you have to put them back. Nobody likes to find out that they went through a torturous ideal for nothing, so it’s a good idea to make sure you have all your plot changes mapped out before you begin to avoid editing haphazardly. Or if you write in parts like me, at least be sure you’ve got all of Part One figured out before you take out your red pen. Realizing you don’t have to kill off Uncle Pete might sound like an amazing gift, until you realize that due to other plot or character adjustments you have to re-write all his scenes anyway. Writing a novel takes long enough as it is, don’t lengthen that process with indecision.

I Hit Save, Right?

I hope this goes without sayingdelete in the digital age in which we live, but don’t ever edit your manuscript without first saving a copy separately. I know I just cautioned against changing your mind, but it’s possible you’ll decide to keep the brilliant paragraph you just deleted. You don’t ever want to find yourself in the position of having to rewrite any part of your book from memory. Not only do I periodically email myself a copy of my manuscript (just to be safe), I also save a version of it before I begin each new draft (just to be doubly safe), and instead of deleting long passages I move them to the very end of my document for easy access (just to be triply safe). Some writing programs save drafts for you automatically, but it doesn’t hurt to take these precautions yourself. Trust me, I once lost a portion of the book I was writing as my final assignment for a university creative writing course due to sloppy saving. It’s not fun.


For all the writers out there currently in the middle of an edit, I feel your pain. Keep in mind that those darlings you’re killing right now will probably be a distant memory by the time your book is well and truly finished. And if they’re not, you can always slap a book cover on top and self-publish them as a companion title to your book, creating some extra income! Now there’s a great reason to edit with enthusiasm, if I ever heard one.

my photoShayna Krishnasamy is a Montreal author of literary and young adult fiction by night and the merchandiser for Kobo Writing Life by day. Shayna’s books are available on Kobo.

Click here to visit Shayna’s website!


How To Grab That Coveted Online Audience

By Adam Dreece

Adam Dreece twitter-back3

There’s nothing like finding readers live tweeting your book as they read it, or finding them promoting your book to their friends. It’s one of those things that a couple of months ago, I looked at other authors on Twitter and wondered just how they did it, and could I do it? Now I’m watching it happen and have cracked a 1000 Twitter followers of my own.

I created my twitter account in February, and when I released my first book, The Yellow Hoods: Along Came a Wolf (Book 1) at CalgaryExpo in April, I had maybe 50 followers. At my booth, I figured out how to connect with people, but online I was still a couple months away from that. In June, something clicked. By early August, as I approached 600 highly engaged followers, I realized I’d figured some things out.

Understand Brand

My books (Along Came a Wolf, Breadcrumb Trail) are my products. They are part of a series, The Yellow Hoods, which is my product line, and Adam Dreece is the brand. In my case, my Adam Dreece brand is about smart, young adult fiction that’s layered for adults, has strong female characters and sees people as complex and human. The Yellow Hoods is adventure fiction in a world that is undergoing the beginning of a Steampunk revolution. You’d expect book 3 to follow that pattern as it is in the same product line.

Online, everything you post or blog, defines your brand. You should be conscious of what you post and tweet and how you engage people, because it affects your brand.

When people engage with you, they come to know you but more importantly, they come to understand your brand. If they like that brand, they will want it to be a part of that. They could mean buying your book, but that could also be advocating your book, posting tweets about it, blogging about it. They don’t have to be buying it to be ultimately helping sales.

Starting Out

I didn’t The Yellow Hoods: Along Came a Wolf (Book 1)have my brand all figured out when I started. I needed to start engaging people first. I followed a couple of good hashtags (#amwriting, #amreading) and started replying to people’s tweets. I ended up getting a good group of people to chat with, and they followed me and I them.

I quickly learned not to follow everyone back, but rather to check and see if they actually engage with people. I did this by looking at their timelines and then tweeting to them, asking them a question. If they engaged with me, I followed. If they didn’t, I might try again later. Some people are just interested in broadcasting to followers, I’m not interested in being broadcast at. It doesn’t help me build a following and audience.

Through trial and error, I came to understand when people were online (very important to time your tweets so that they have a chance of seeing them), and what would engage them. I then thought about how this communicated who I was and thus how people would interpret my brand.

Providing Value

A core part of building the audience is understanding the value that you can bring to them. When you engage people, it should be about items where you are providing value, as oppose to “I know what you mean” or “Oh, I’ve been there.” There’s room for those type of social ‘chit-chat’ parts, but it won’t likely build you a following. Providing insight into your books, your author’s journey, will. No matter where you are on your author’s journey, there are thousands of people hoping to get to where you are, and thousands ahead of you. I had to get over the idea that I had nothing to say about what someone could go through.

Using your blog is a key item to provide additional value, allowing you to break out of your 140 character prison. I try to blog at least once a week, and while it’s a huge time commitment in addition to working my full time job, having a 3 kid family and trying to write my next book, I do it with my readers in mind because I want to continue to provide them value. If I can’t provide a new blog entry, then I tweet a previous one as some people either may have missed it, or opted not to read it the first time around.

Another way that I provide value is that I answer questions and help people on their author’s journey. This often helps me come up with blog articles, which I then tweet, which then gets me more questions, creating a virtuous circle.

The Traps

Twitter and other social media can quickly start filling the lonely hole in a person, and then become an addictive time sink. This can consume your valuable time,The Yellow Hoods: Breadcrumb Trail (Book 2) taking you away from writing and promotion, but it can also make you forget the boundary between who you are as a person, and who you are as a brand and author. It’s an important thing to not lose sight of.

Another trap is always socializing with the same group of people, which can alienate other followers. You are engaging as an author, not someone just looking to hang out with friends, so keep that in mind. You want to meet people, engage with them, answer their questions, and be mindful when you’re playing favorites.


There’s a lot of things that we have to do as indie authors, and one of those is owning and building the relationship with our audience. There are other social networks out there, like Facebook, however I’ve abandoned that as they algorithmically determine what people see and don’t see, even if they Liked my page.

It’s hard work, and takes time every day, but it is well worth it. If you have any questions, give me a shout on Twitter.

Adam DreeceAdam Dreece is a Calgary author of layered young adult fiction. His first series is The Yellow Hoods, which is emergent Steampunk laced with fairy tales for depth. His books are available on Kobo.

Click here to visit Adam’s website, or find him on Twitter or Google+.

One Horn to Rule Them All: The Story Behind the Purple Unicorn Anthology

When Kevin J. Anderson visited Kobo’s Toronto HQ, he told us about the origins and production behind ONE HORN TO RULE THEM ALL, an anthology published by Wordfire Press, which Kevin runs with his wife Rebecca Moesta. This story is part lesson in professionalism, part demonstration of how efficient the publishing process can be, and we’re excited to share details about how it all came together.

UnknownWhat makes this anthology especially great? First, the stories are wonderful—you can buy the collection on Kobo here. Second, all profits from sales go towards scholarships for the Superstars of Writing Seminars. So you get to buy a great anthology AND support a wonderful cause.

We sent some questions along to Kevin, Rebecca, and the anthology’s editor, Lisa Magnum, who were kind enough to share details about unicorns, editing, and more.

KWL: Where did the idea for the anthology come from?

Rebecca: [Kevin and I have] been giving a Writing Professionalism workshop together since at least 2004, where we tell the class that they always have to do their best work on any piece, even if it’s, say, a purple unicorn anthology. You have to do the best purple unicorn story you can possibly do. That became a joke, year after year, and people kept threatening to do a purple unicorn story for our imaginary anthology. And now we’ve finally done it.

Kevin: When we gave our lecture at last year’s Superstars Writing Seminar and told the story about the purple unicorns, one of the other instructors was Lisa Mangum, editor for Shadow Mountain Books. She was so captivated by the idea that she proposed making it happen for real, and she volunteered her services as editor. One of our other instructors, renowned artist and author James Artimus Owen, volunteered to do the cover, and we published it ourselves at WordFire Press.

KWL: How did you choose which stories to feature?

The WordFire Press table at DragonCon, where the team sold copies of ONE HORN TO RULE THEM ALL to raise money for a Superstars scholarship.

The WordFire Press table at DragonCon, where the team sold copies of ONE HORN TO RULE THEM ALL to raise money for a Superstars scholarship.

Lisa: I had one month to read them all, select the final contents, edit them all, and prepare the file for publication. I started reading right away. Each story was assigned to one of three folders: Yes, No, or Maybe. For that first cut, I didn’t worry about word counts or genre. I just picked the stories that I felt were the ones with the strongest voices, the most imaginative settings, and the most creative inclusion of a purple unicorn… Once I had identified the stories I wanted to include, and made sure I was okay on my word count, I started looking at the genres. I wanted a good variety between first and third person POVs as well as a wide sampling of genres: noir, sci-fi, fantasy, contemporary, humor, etc. I organized the stories so that there was a good mix between long stories and short stories as well as a balance to the genres.

KWL: This anthology progressed really quickly from concept to finished books in six months, with the bulk of the work happening within the span of four weeks this summer. Can you map out the timeline from story submission to publication?

Rebecca: Lisa set the deadline as July 1, and she chose her final stories by July 15. She asked for some rewrites and asked the contributors to complete revisions in a few days, and everyone did so. We gave the manuscript to our proofing team and then to our production team for formatting as both print and eBook. Meanwhile, James Owen was working on the cover—but he wanted to include a key image from every single story in his art, so he couldn’t even compose the piece until he knew what the stories were. We received some truly outstanding work from our people, especially Vivian Trask, Quincy Allen, Keith Olexa, Sam Knight, Peter Wacks, and David Boop.

Kevin: We really wanted to have this book ready for two big upcoming conventions—DragonCon in Atlanta and Salt Lake City Comic Con… James delivered his final artwork when our production team was ready to send the book to print and upload—and we sent the finished book to press by August 10, less than four weeks after Lisa selected the stories. We received our finished printed copies in hand by August 25, just in time to drive them out to Atlanta for Dragoncon.

KWL: Are there any drawbacks to such a quick turnaround?

Kevin: The traditional pace of publishing and distribution is glacial, usually taking a year or more to produce and release a book, and that’s how many of the traditional review outlets are set up, too. If you can’t send a book to a standard review publication 3-4 months in advance of release, then they won’t review it…but when WordFire has a book to that stage, we’re ready to put it on sale! So, we have to decide if we want to lose 3-4 months of sales in order to hope somebody might review it. Fortunately, a lot of other review platforms will review a book, even after it’s published. And we certainly didn’t want to lose all the sales on the table at those two big conventions! In those two weekends, we sold enough copies from our own table to fund an entire scholarship to Superstars.

We love this example of teamwork, which demonstrates how publishers and authors can work together (at super speed) towards a shared goal.  Do you have any great stories of collaboration, or unique approaches to publishing? Share them in the comments!


To help fund additional Superstars Scholarships, buy ONE HORN TO RULE THEM ALL on Kobo. Interested in attending Superstars 2015? Registration for the conference, taking place Feb. 5-7, 2015, in Colorado Springs, is available here. This year’s special guests include Hugh Howey, Toni Weisskopf (Baen Books), and a representative from Kobo Writing Life.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,206 other followers

%d bloggers like this: