by Cheri Allan
If you’re a busy writer whose idea of due diligence is analyzing the relative hotness of random shirtless fireman memes on Facebook, I’ll make this message short and sweet: if ever you have the opportunity to have Kobo promote or feature your book(s), don’t stop for coffee, DO IT! But for those whose eyes aren’t already glazing over with the thought of discussing sales numbers and analytics, let’s forget the coffee for a minute while I tell you how Kobo marketing opportunities increased my books’ visibility and gained them traction in a crowded marketplace.
I write romance, which accounts for over half of all paperback fiction and more than a third of all e-book fiction sales. (Woot!) But writing a book in a popular genre and getting it read are two very different things as most authors will tell you.
I released my first in series in August of 2014, my second in October 2014 and my third in April of 2015. For various reasons (we’ll call them “life” and “laziness”) I chose to enroll the first two titles in KDP Select after sales at Smashwords made me wonder why I’d wasted two days of my life nuking and meatgrinding my manuscript to within an inch of my sanity. I had barely a handful of sales through Smashwords up to that point, and Amazon seemed to be doing fine for me, so why make life complicated?
Things were acceptable if not stellar sales-wise (but what did I really know?) until I noticed something the more established authors had already begun to report: Kindle Unlimited borrows appeared to be cannibalizing my Amazon paid sales. As I watched the red line sink below the blue on my KDP sales chart, I knew I wasn’t doing myself any favors by keeping all my eggs in one basket. Not only was each KU borrow earning me less than each paid sale–there was no guarantee month to month what I’d earn on each borrow.
So, as I neared the release of book three in my series, I pulled the first two titles out of Select and got busy broadening my availability. I soon had accounts established and my titles up on five platforms: Amazon, Nook, iBooks, Google Play and, of course, Kobo.
Then I watched what happened.
Initially my sales appeared fairly unchanged. Whereas I had, quite obviously, earned nothing on other platforms when I was exclusive to Amazon, now that I was no longer in Select, that pattern more or less continued. I began to wonder whether I’d traded the security of Kindle borrows (and whatever Amazon might throw my way each month) for the uncertainty of wider availability and the sound of crickets chirping. Sure my books were out there, but they appeared to be hiding remarkably well from the non-kindle readers in the world. And while I had moderate success putting titles on deep discount and promoting on the usual e-reader marketing sites and Facebook promo pages, those readers appeared to be almost exclusively kindle owners living in the U.S. How could I reach beyond that pool of readers?
That’s when I contacted the Kobo Writing Life team and explained that I was looking for ways to increase my books’ visibility. With a new release and good reviews on previous titles, the KWL team graciously put my third book on the schedule for inclusion in Kobo Next. Then I submitted book two for inclusion in the June 30%-off sales promotion and was accepted.
The results speak for themselves.
Watch what happened to sales of All or Nothing (my newest release) when it was featured in Kobo Next starting in July. The percentage of total Kobo sales compared to Amazon sales jumped to nearly twice what they’d been the previous month. Not only that, but the 25% figure in June? That’s a direct result of ancillary sales from having another book in the series, Stacking the Deck, featured in Kobo’s June 30%-off promo.
Here’s what happened with Stacking the Deck when it was included in Kobo’s 30%-off sales promotion. Here, Kobo sales outpaced kindle sales by a significant margin.
And while I’ll be the first to point out that those percentages didn’t carry over into July when the promo ended, the July chart looks a whole lot more balanced than the May chart did!
<chirp, chirp> That’s right. I believe those continued sales in July are what other authors call “gaining traction.”
So, what’s the take-home message? Each time Kobo has included one of my titles in a special promotion or feature, its sales haven’t just increased, they have challenged the notion that Amazon is the biggest player out there. Not only have my Kobo sales met or exceeded Amazon sales during each promo period for those titles, my market reach broadened as well.
Here’s a table of total countries sold to during the months of June and July for each book:
Or, as Kobo likes to show it:
You don’t have to be a genius to do the math on this one. The world is a big place. Why limit your marketing and sales when other retailers can expand your reach?
Now I don’t know about you, but I’m more than happy to gain visibility and stretch my readership ‘round the world through Kobo. So do yourself a favor and see what the good folks at Kobo Writing Life can do to help boost your visibility! Then get your cup of coffee. In that order. 😉
Cheri Allan writes hopeful, humorous contemporary romances. She lives in a charming fixer-upper in rural New Hampshire with her husband, two children, two dogs, three cats and an excessive amount of optimism. She’s a firm believer in do-it-yourself, new beginnings and happily-ever-afters, so after years of wearing suits, she’s grateful to finally put her English degree to good use writing romance. The first three books in her Betting on Romance series, Luck of the Draw, Stacking the Deck, and All or Nothing are all available on Kobo.
You can find out more about her on her website and Facebook.
Super article! I’m in Kobo as well as the others. My sales aren’t that great but then I don’t put much effort into it either. I also believe it’s best to spread your work around. I once went to a swim meet and four of us mothers were on our e-readers. I was the only one with a Kindle! Random sample, but just goes to show the world isn’t Kindle exclusive.
Thank you! I was astounded by the results. It reassured me that broadening my availability was a good move for me. I was also pleased to see that my Kobo sales were largely international, which told me I wasn’t somehow cannibalizing KDP sales (which are mostly U.S.).
Thanks, Cheri, for an informative and helpful post. I used to have my books in all the venues you mentioned (Amazon, Smashwords, Kobo, Nook etc.) and found that I hardly made any sales on the non-Amazon sites. So I went the way many authors did and put my series into Amazon Select. At first, it was a successful move, but, as you experienced, things changed and I’m ready to branch out again. You just inspired me to do it! Have a great day. Christa
Sounds good, but no one mentioned how much this self-promotion costs.
Cheri, thanks for this report. You got me very interested in Kobo Next, so I started looking for it. And I was pleasantly surprised to discover my very own “Letter from Alabama” listed among the up-and-coming non-fiction books. 🙂
This was a very interesting article to me. I’m a firm believer in keeping my books available widely, I have a lot of international sales outside of Amazon with my books. For this reason, I’d love to gain more traction on Kobo. Also, a lot of people read on their mobile phones these days, so Kindles aren’t the only way people read ebooks at all anymore!
Thanks, Cheri, for proving what I already believed was possible. I haven’t been able to get into a Kobo promotion yet but clearly it makes a difference. We’re in this for the long haul, and getting our books into other countries is a good step. For now, before my Kobo sales become more active, I’m committed to making my books available on multiple platforms because that’s where the readers are. Excluding those readers does not sit well with my personal values.
Cheri, your sales number may be good with Kobo but as a finance person, what counts is not in the number of sales but what royalty you received per book. Of course if the price is low > you would get big sales numbers > and then the author gets very little. So, what is the use of it? It is called in economics: sales and demand theory. The comparisons should be in the royalty received per book and not in the number of sales of book. At the end of the day it is about what goes into our pockets. Cheers.
I am glad to see this “program”, “event”, “promotion” worked for you. However, I am more curious as to how you found it. I have never been able to find any link, nor any reference, to such things on the KWL website, not to mention the cost or co-op arrangements required. What does it take to have your work included in a “weekend sale”? Perhaps it’s by invitation only, in which case it would be nice to know the criteria one must meet to be invited. In fact this is the first I’ve heard any promotion that such opportunities exist.
I’m sure the promotions work if you can afford/find them. were you ever featured on Kobo Next and if so, how did you manage that? And what did it cost?