A blog about writing and self publishing

How do you promote on Kobo?

By Patty Jansen

When other writers hear that I sell quite well on Kobo, the reaction is invariably: how do you do that? I don’t even know how to promote my books there.

Last month, this post appeared on the Kobo Writing Life blog, which details useful sites for ebook promotion. There are also a few Facebook groups that concentrate on Kobo or sites that sell ebooks in EPUB format. Kobo Writing Life and Kobo Indie Ebooks are two I can think of.

Invariably, a lot of these Facebook groups have the same problem in common: they are populated mainly by writers wanting to “promote”. You may sell a copy or two, but those books are bought by someone who came to the site wanting to advertise their own books.


So, maybe we need to step away from that tacky word “promote”.

What does promote mean? Since the start of self-publishing, it has come to mean spam the living daylights out of all your Facebook and Twitter friends, and pay big bucks for advertising that may or may not work, but even if it works, effects are usually very short-lived.

Many people seem to survive on this crash diet of expensive promos and free giveaways and so many of them are becoming disillusioned with the process. It’s a draining and tiring and takes you away from writing.

The reason people give away books is because they want to find people who will champion their fiction. The more copies of your book you have in circulation, the better the chance of finding people who will love your work. If you make your book free, you can give away lots of books. Hang on, only if you can get mentioned on one of the main free and cheap book blogs, which don’t list as many free books as they used to, because of a crackdown on the use of affiliate links for free titles (story too long to recite here). The free spots on those blogs have become competitive, which means that the blogs charge for them. Yes. To advertise a free book.

This may work if you have more books in the series, and you may not lose any money if you make your book 99 cents rather than free, but still…

In my opinion, this is spiralling into all the wrong directions.

Some time, in some industry called the traditional publishing industry (remember that?) someone said something that went like: money flows to the writer. Not to the service providers. I do sometimes pay for advertising, but I’m starting to feel very uneasy about this whole free/cheap book blog money-grabbing business. Feel free to disagree in the comments.


How DO you promote on Kobo? Because Kobo doesn’t offer this crash-course diet of free days, and there are only a few dedicated Kobo book promotion blogs.

The same way as you can let people know about your fiction everywhere else:

1. Write a good book

2. Write a sequel. Make sure you brand books as a series. Make sure you number the volumes.

3. Write another sequel. Make book 1 free if you want, but that’s not really necessary.

4. Talk about your book on your author and Facebook page, Facebook groups and on Twitter. I mean talk about, not spam.

5. The three Be’s: Be there, Be genuine, Be interesting on social media

6. Do a LibraryThing give-away (free), casually give away ebooks to anyone who shows interest in reviewing.

7. Do an occasional guest post on someone else’s blog.

8. Make sure your author website has a page for each book that lists links to all the places where people can buy the book. Remember that if they use Google Chrome with adblocker, people will not see your links if you use affiliate codes.

9. The most important thing is that this process is a constant, low-key affair that need not take you away from the rest of your life for more than 15 minutes a day.

Right. Did I mention the word “Kobo” in any of these points? I did not. Because this method is a one-stop-shop and works everywhere, including on Kobo. I would say especially on Kobo and other sites that are dedicated to selling books. The most valuable thing an author can have is a reader base that’s not linked to any one retailer.



About the Author:

Patty JansenPatty Jansen lives in Sydney, Australia. She loves to write fantasy set in unusual worlds, space opera and realistic science fiction. She has sold short fiction to genre magazines such as Analog Science Fiction and Fact, Redstone SF and Aurealis.

Her novels include Watcher’s Web and Trader’s Honour (Return of the Aghyrians series, with book 3 expected later this year), The Far Horizon (middle grade SF), Charlotte’s Army (military SF) and Fire & Ice, Dust & Rain and Blood & Tears (Icefire Trilogy). Follow Patty’s blog for news on her fiction, her Monday dawn photography project, discussions on science in fiction and digital art.

17 Responses to “How do you promote on Kobo?”

  1. Yoly

    I agree with most of what you say here, Patty. Most folks would never be willing to work 2000-4000 hours then give their work away for free–or worse, pay to have it given away. This is a bad trend; readers who only download free books will never be the fan base you’re looking for, either, because they often don’t read a large portion of the books they download. That’s not to say that a reader is bad for downloading a free book, but readers who *only* download free books are doing authors a disservice. I’ve also noticed that these readers rarely give reviews, and if they do, their reviews tend to be lower–perhaps because they have cheapened the value (and hard work) of books in general. It is difficult in this paradigm to become visible, but I also agree that spamming your friends doesn’t work. Good advice here.

  2. Angel Payne

    Amen. To every word. Is it harder to build a fan base when you’re charging a decent amount of money for your book? Hell, yes. But WRITE A BOOK THAT’S WORTH IT. As Olivia Pope has so eloquently said, “Earn me!” To earn a reader who willingly shells out the money for your book is hard, hard, HARD work–but they are worth it. Sit down at the computer. Open a vein. Bleed profusely. The next day, do the same thing. There’s no easy way around this. Learn your craft. Improve upon it with every book. Period.

  3. R.M. Prioleau

    Agree with your points, Patty! I think the more effort you put into selling yourself, the more successful you will be at getting noticed.

  4. Ted Campbell

    Ted Campbell replying. I published 3 books on KOBO, all are selling but not @ the volume I was hoping for. Here’s an interesting thing I noticed. Two of my books are trucking-related, the 3rd is what I call a love-story – murder mystery. The “Truck” books are being picked up by the intended audience who occassionally purchase the other one. When I get feedback I hear words like “Murder Never Sleeps in Cottage Country” is a great read – couldn’t figure out whodunnit ’til the last two pages. The light came on!. Now I’m writing sequels to “Murder” using a truck themed title. “Murder never drives a Peterbilt” has similarities to the Cottage Country book but I think I can develop a following. Thanks for the tip. By the way my business card uses the title Novelist – published on KOBObooks.com and has URL’s on the back.
    Seeya and thanks. TED

  5. John David

    “The Business of Self-Publishing”

    To pay, or not to pay for publishing services, that is the question.

    From my own experience . . .

    Few to no sales without a “professionally designed” cover.

    A few more sales once professional covers are in place.


    I highly recommend that self-publishers learn how to do their own cover art and design, if only for the simple economics of the equation. Paying for a cover may simply not make sense.

    My series of children’s bedtime stories, for example. I paid $50 each ( X 3) to have good covers produced for the trilogy. The titles sell for $1.99.

    The math on this (at a 35% royalty) means that I needed about 80 sales of EACH title just to break even on the cover investment, or about 240 sales for the series.

    Self-publishing is a business, first and foremost. Writers need to remember that. Will your title sell if you spend a bunch of money on it?


    Will it sell if you do not?


    The key is knowing when to spend and when to save. In my example, I should have produced my own covers, and used the money elsewhere, on my other, more “profitable” work. Fortunately for me, I am quite capable as an editor and proofreader, even for my own work, so I do not spend anything there.

    On that note, I am also a professional narrator. Part of that process is “auditioning” for the work. Here’s a tip for any aspiring narrators:

    DON’T send a note to a Pulitzer prize winning writer offering to correct the terrible editing/proofreading in their audition script.

    Should there be a comma pause after “military?” . . . for the military, of wealth and grace . . . Should the “99s of Biloxi” be continued as plural? (99 degrees, 99 percent humidity) Should it read “$50 OR less,” rather than “OF less?”

    (My suggested corrections are included in the above quote).

    The lesson here? Apparently Mr. Prize Winner paid SOMEONE or several someones to “edit” his work. Was it money well spent? Well, if results are any measure . . .

    Nope. The moral is, paying for something does not guarantee quality or performance. NOBODY is as invested in YOUR work as YOU are. If you are going to self-publish, learn the business, ALL of it.

    Discover and use every FREE resource that you can. Swap proofreads with other writers, editing for cover design, formatting for . . . whatever.

    I cannot count the number of times I have been told about the “hundreds” of dollars some aspiring writer paid to have their terrible work “edited.” Don’t pay any editor who does not guarantee their work. Don’t pay before reviewing it. Don’t pay if you are not happy.

    Ultimately, it is your name on the cover. Your name that will be remembered for shoddy or great work.

    Like I always tell my daughter . . .

    When you finish a job . . . walk away proud.

    If you do, people will notice.

    If you don’t, they will notice that, too.


    • kobowritinglife

      Great points, John, and perhaps something worth re-purposing as its own blog post.

      We have to mention this, since you’re posting this on a Kobo affiliated blog, you should note that Kobo Writing Life pays 45% at the lower end (unlike that “world’s longest river” place which offers 35%) and our 70% payment is also broader than that other place too. Pricing between $1.99 to $12.99 USD gets you 70% – that also changes the math slightly, but it’s worth noting because every penny counts when running your publishing business.

  6. Spanish Teacher-Olga (@learnspanish4lf)

    Very interesting views. I agree totally with Patty. People that download free ebooks the most the time don’t read them. You must charge something to make people interested in your book. I don’t buy expensive ebooks neither read all the free ones. I am an author of a Series, and one day some guru in helping authors with their worries said to me something like that: “My dear nothing for free, nothing, everything must have a price. Everything is for sale”. He changed my mind and I agreed. I wanted to give a few ebooks of my series for free and now I think is not a good idea. I give for free tips that they are in my ebooks and my Social Media fans really appreciated. Although I just start it and sold only a few. Its important in Facebook and Twitter for people to know your ebooks and also its important to dedicate time to your new writing. Writing is therapeutic. People appreciate that you are making an effort and your time and something in compensation needs to come to you: money. Write about things that you know and you are confident, this brings magnetism to readers that like what you have written. Passion in writing goes also inside the ebook. I am glad I end up in this page. Thanks.

  7. Joy Bassetti Kruger

    Hi Patty, I agree that writers have to stop giving their work away for free. I’ve felt this way for some time, but after reading you blog, I’m going to take all my short stories off a local South African site, -that actually begged me to list my stories with them.
    Some of the books and short stories have as many as ten thousand clicks each, so times that by eight, which is the number of books I have listed and it comes to quite a BIG number. The only problem is that according to the powers that be, I’ve only sold three books.
    Now, what are the odds that after around sixty thousand clicks, or people that actually showed some interest in purchasing the books, only three people would actually pay for them and receive them in the end. Logic tells me there is something fishy going on.
    I suspect they are creaming off money and telling me and others BIG stories.
    What do you think?
    Best regards,

  8. Mark Chapman

    I agree with so many of the points – except that I’ve downloaded hundreds of free books, and a few of them have led me into whole series of the author’s books – which I later bought. I wouldn’t have bought all of these books if they’d been a couple of $ each ($0.99 perhaps).

    I write books too, and I don’t want to undervalue my books. But with an unknown author (like me) it might be a good idea to sometimes offer free books.

  9. Karl Heck

    Do you know how I can request an author? I don’t write but love to read my favorite author has many titled on Kindle but I dont want to buy a Kindle.

    • Kobo Writing Life

      Hi Karl, we would suggest contacting the author about making their books available on Kobo.

  10. Francine Zane

    Might I also add that going with a small pub doesn’t guarantee the quality of edits/covers will miraculous be better than what you can do, barter to have done or do yourself. Additionally, letting some of those small houses out there loose with your baby is the equivalent of a slow death over an open flame.

    Do the best job you can. Make producing a good story the goal and priority use of your time.


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