by Katie Cross
When I decided to go off KDP Select my sales pretty much plummeted and took my ego with it. Just kidding. No I’m not. #sorrynotsorry
Some days I would see (with KU borrows) up to 5 sales per day. (In previous weeks there had been up to 5-7 per day. It may not seem like much, but for an indie, it’s pretty awesome/typical.) I left KDP Select the 1st or 2nd of April.
Here’s a chart to show you the change that happened in my sales on Amazon once I left. (This is for my YA fantasy novels Miss Mabel’s School for Girls and Antebellum Awakening. The green line is my free novella The Isadora’s Interviews.)
As you can see, I had up to 4 day stretches without any sales or activity. (It gets uglier as April goes on).
I was determined to find a way to increase sales without Amazon.
I couldn’t believe that, as an indie, I couldn’t use other platforms to find readers. Amazon definitely marketed my book more when I was exclusive, and I worried what pulling away from that would mean. But not so worried that I wanted to stay.
I googled it and looked into different methods, but didn’t really find anything that I could wrap my head around.
Enter Kobo Writing Life.
I met Mark Lefebvre, the Director of KWL, at a conference. I pulled him off to the side and grilled him for about 45 minutes about how Kobo can do for me what Amazon was (at the time) doing. IE- selling my books.
(side note: Here’s a great post on Ebook Publishing on Kobo that he did on The Creative Penn with Joanna Penn.)
Know what he said?
He said, “Don’t go through Smashwords. Upload directly through Kobo Writing Life. We can get you promo opportunities that way. If you upload directly, I will see it.”
So I said, “Okay. I’ll try anything.”
The Results of Directly Uploading to Kobo
God bless Smashwords, but using them has been a bit of a nightmares so it didn’t take too much convincing to get me on Kobo Writing Life. I pulled my books from Kobo through Smashwords and waited.
The moment Miss Mabel’s School for Girls was off KDP Select (as in the very day) I had it uploaded on Kobo to get it through the system. Mark hooked me up and shortly afterwards we had MMSFG on Kobo Next.
To say I was excited for the visibility is an understatement. Note: you don’t have to have an “in” to get on Kobo Next. Mark just helped me out because I networked with him and because he’s awesome. I thought this would give me a huge boost once I got on Kobo and increase my sales.
My Sales On Kobo
Drumroll please . . .
As you can see . . . I sold 2 copies of MMSFG on April 14th and gave away ~3 free copies of TII while listed on Kobo Next.
After a frustrating week or two of no movement, I emailed Mark, and he said, “Calm down, padawan. Be patient. It takes time.” So I took a deep breath, relaxed, and went on my way.
Then this happened:
The quick demographics of my sales (5/13-5/31)on Kobo:
Pretty awesome that I can see where my books are going. Even more awesome? I’m finally in a strong Canadian market. (Love you guys up north!)
Want to know how that sudden spike in sales happened? Read on.
Promo Opportunities at Kobo
Mark helped me get on Kobo Next, which didn’t work out for me the way it has for others. (And that’s fine. It’s life. We all skid our knees. I’ve moved on.) But then (because I’m enrolled in KWL) I got an email asking if I wanted to be involved in a 35% off promotion. Not from Mark, as an aside.
Duh. Of course I signed up. Who cares about decreased royalties? I want visibility and presence. Amazon never gave me an option like this. I’ve had other offers from Kobo since this one, for the record.
While my sales were still averaging 1-2 per day on Amazon, that doesn’t really matter as much now because I’m starting to see sales on Kobo. And I’m not stuck on JUST Amazon with nothing else to try.
Is 2-3 per day on Kobo a big deal? Not necessarily. It certainly isn’t 50-150 per day the way some authors do.
But it’s still awesome.
Because that means people are getting the book. I’ve embraced the fact that being an indie author takes time, and selling up to 17 books in one day on a platform outside Amazon? #love.
About the Author:
Katie Cross loves cookies, weight lifting, and talking about her indie author experience.
Visit her website KCrossWriting to see more posts on analytics and statistics of her journey. When she’s not running in the mountains with her two vizslas, she’s writing YA fantasy stories about dragons, castles, magic, and kick !@#*($ females who don’t need a man to save them.
You can find Katie:
On her writing website: www.kcrosswriting.com
On Twitter: @kcrosswriting
On Facebook: www.facebook.com/katiecrosswriting
And on her official book website: www.missmabels.com
Congratulations, Katie! It’s always heartening to see other writers trying to focus on platforms other than Amazon and succeeding. I’ve not managed to gain traction myself but your story gives me hope! I hope it encourages other writers to leave KDP Select and join the other platforms too.
And isn’t that sales map great? I think it’s the best thing about the dashboard.
There are so many awesome things about the Kobo dashboard, seriously. The map is really fun because you look at it and can instantly understand where the sales are hitting the best!
Your day will definitely come, James. Kobo is obviously on the ball and putting authors first. I’ve been in this game for a couple years now, and you gain more traction as you go. Best of luck!
Thanks so much for this post, Katie! I took mine off KDP select and put it on Smashwords. Lots of sample downloads but no sales. Was thinking about Kobo but haven’t done anything about it as I feel like I’m beating a dead horse. I will now give this a try, thanks to you! In your opinion, should I take mine off of Smashwords, or should I just leave it there?
Definitely take it off Smashwords and then upload to Kobo through Kobo Writers Life. That way they can communicate with you more and you get awesome opportunities you won’t get through Smashwords. That’s what I did and it’s helping me so far!
Excellent! Thanks, Katie. I’ll give it a try!
My sales have been dead on Kobo Writing Life for months and don’t know what to do. My stuff moves on Amazon, Apple, and on Google Play but I’m at my wits end on Kobo. Am I missing something? Thanks for the post, Katie. I’ll check that Joanna Penn link.
Inspiring post. I sympathize with you about Amazon Select. Similar experience. Still on Amazon, but not exclusive. I plan on using Kobo more for my next book. Thanks for sharing!
It’s nice to hear it’s working for you. I published my first novel on Kobo January 18 of this year and so far no sales. Since then I’ve uploaded to Amazon and Smashwords and again no sales (although Smashwords does have a great feature letting you know how many sample downloads have occurred so far; something that I wish Kobo did). I’d love to be contacted like you were for that promo. I even tried putting it on sale for .99 for a few weeks and still nothing. I find it very difficult to find my book through browsing their site and really only find it by typing the title or my name. I’ve been a Kobo fan since the early days and only purchase ebooks with them (being Canadian I like I can pay in my currency) so I’m a big fan as a reader. In the meantime, moving ahead on my next novel. Good luck to everyone!
Congrats! I’ll admit I’m scratching my head here trying to figure out a welcome and surprising sales spike on Kobo. I took my first two books in series out of Select when I published my third in April, and I uploaded directly to as many vendors as I could. Still, Amazon continues to be the lion’s share of sales on any platform even during sales events–until yesterday. I’ve sold more books to Canadian Kobo buyers in the last 24 hours than I have in 2 MONTHS. It’s fantastic but a bit bewildering, because while I’ve signed up for their author promos, I cannot find that my books are listed anywhere special that would explain this sudden sales increase. Not going to complain. I’m just going to thank my lovely Canadian readers! 😉 I only wish I knew what triggered this interest so I can keep the magic flowing! LOL
Katie – the same thing happened to me. I did upload directly to Kobo and have been involved in their sales ever since. I love their site because it’s the easiest to upload to and whenever I’ve written to Shayla ( she’s a sweetie 🙂 I’ve always gotten an answer……and….my sales are rising every month on Kobo. I, too, met Mark at a conference, went to his workshop and was captivated by his zest and plans for the future.
Indie writers abandoning KDP Select due to the fundamental revision in how “borrows” are compensated may provide an influx of books for competing e-reading platforms such as Kobo. It’s good to see that an indie can get some traction and start making sales here. That hasn’t been my experience. I’ve been using KWL for over two years and have never had a sale through Kobo. I now have a short story available for free through Kobo, but have been able to give away, on average, about two per month. Individual results will definitely vary! I hope you continue to see success with your titles here, and for the sake of readers everywhere I hope (perhaps in vain) that “exclusivity” will burn itself out.
Amazon never gave you the chance to run a promotion? You were in KDP Select. You could have run a Countdown deal and reduce your price to 99c for a number of days.
It took me several years to gain traction on Kobo, but now it’s surpassed Barnes and Noble as my second best sales channel (I upload directly to Kobo – no aggregator). Since KDP Select was an absolute bust for me, staying on all platforms (including Kobo) has become a no-brainer. If KDP Select is killing it for you then you probably want to stay where you are. If not, there’s no reason not to be on Kobo. It might just take some time before you see results.
Katie thank you for a very encouraging article. I have one book and some short stories on Kobo, no big sales spikes but more than Amazon. My debut novel is almost ready, just waiting for cover design and I am going nuts trying to figure out the best way to market. One thing I do know, I would like my book sales to be generated from Canada and in Canadian currency, I am not a fan of Amazon but I keep being told it is the only way to sell books. I have been wondering what I can do to generate sales through Kobo and if Kobo had any programs to help authors boost sales. Your article and author’s comments have given me food for thought and, just maybe, I can sell ebooks using Kobo as my prime sales channel.
Kobo Next seems intriguing. I’ve just uploaded my novels to KWL and as I did on Amazon … I sit and wait for a sale. Being at the bottom of the slush pile is frustrating – especially when I know I have good reads with 5 star reviews. I’ve love a strong Canadian fan base. None of the promos from KDP select brought a sale. Free for 3 days ( that’s when I got on the chart and watched it climb). Then countdown – which doesn’t work at all!!! Now I’ve read your journey and I would like to know HOW TO GET MY NOVELS ON KOBO NEXT … IT WOULD BE GREAT TO GAIN THE EXPOSURE AS A NEW AUTHOR.
Could you explain in a bit more detail what you mean by “I pulled my books from Kobo through Smashwords and waited.” I wrote to Kobo and this is their reply:
“Unfortunately, Kobo Next is exclusively for KWL titles, so your books would only be considered for placement there if sold through us directly. Our sincere apologies for the inconvenience.”
I would like to increase my sales via Kobo Next but don’t know how to?
I uploaded my first novel “Waiting on Zapote Street: Love and Loss in Castro’s Cuba” to Kobo Writing Life a couple of months ago (and the Spanish version a month ago). No sales yet. I published the same book in Amazon at the end of February. Between Amazon, one book signing event, and sales of my book at the gift store of the hospital where I work and at a couple of speaking events, I have sold close to 250 copies. However, over the past month, I did not have any e-book sales at Amazon and have sold ten to twelve paperbacks, only after heavy advertisement at various Facebook sites. My book has 22 five-star reviews at Amazon (U.S.). I sold one copy in Germany, but I cannot seem to break into any other international market. Any suggestions? I am working on my second book (an anthology) hoping to use it in cross-marketing. I am open to suggestions. Thank you!
I really love this post. Your experience is so common among indie authors. It’s always nice to see an author I can connect to in terms of struggling with sales. Yes, it’s always nice to hear from the 1% bestsellers, but I like to hear from authors like me who are struggling and trying to make it to that point. So glad that Kobo worked for you! May you have many more sales!