In this episode we’re showcasing a live event that we held earlier this year on the KWL Facebook and YouTube pages. KWL Director Tara and Author Relations Manager Joni, got together to talk about everything you need to know to become a Kobo bestseller:
- Why metadata is so important in digital retail
- Tips for thinking with a global mindset
- How subscriptions are increasing author earnings
- An overview of Kobo’s promotional opportunities for eBooks and Audio
- Why library sales continue to soar
Joni works on Kobo Plus, as well as audio and OverDrive promotions. She studied Italian and Spanish language and literature and moved to Toronto from Edinburgh. She mostly reads lit fiction and non-fiction, and loves listening to podcasts.
Tara is the Director of Kobo Writing Life (KWL), Kobo’s independent publishing platform. She leads a team of book lovers who are actively involved in the indie publishing community and always looking for ways to help authors reach a new audience of readers. Tara hosts monthly live events for KWL with author and industry experts and you can sometimes hear her as a guest host on the Kobo Writing Life Podcast.
Transcription provided by Speechpad
Tara: Hey, writers. You’re listening to the “Kobo Writing Life Podcast,” where we bring you insights and inspiration for growing your self-publishing business. We’re your hosts, I’m Tara, and I’m the director of Kobo Writing Life.
Rachel: And I’m Rachel, the promotion specialist at Kobo Writing Life. This week, we are going to showcase a recent live event, How to Become a Kobo Bestseller that was hosted on the KWL Facebook and YouTube pages. Joni and Tara gave their insights and recommendations and then fielded questions from the audience. And we hope you learn a lot and enjoy.
Tara: Hi, everyone. Thanks for joining us for the very first live Q&A of 2022. I’m really happy to be here today and we get to talk about all things Kobo. You’re already telling me where you guys are coming from. It’s great. We see people from Calgary, from Michigan, California, Tennessee, Northern Virginia, Idaho, coming from all over. We are here at very cold Toronto. So I’ll have a little overview of what we’re gonna chat about today. It’s a slightly different format that we have going. So we have a few slides to share. We wanted to make this kind of like a half workshop/half live Q&A. So Joni and I are gonna kind of share some tips and best practices that we have with you guys for maybe the first 20 minutes, and then we can do a Q&A afterwards. So jot your questions into the chat anytime that you’d like, and we’ll pull them at the end and we’ll go through them. So, yeah, thanks very much for everyone for being here and really excited. So if you’re not too sure who I am, my name is Tara and I’m the director of Kobo Writing Life for English language. And Joni, do you wanna introduce yourself too?
Joni: Yeah, I’m Joni. I’m the author relations manager for Kobo Writing Life.
Tara: Awesome. So let’s get started. Oh my God, Tommy’s coming from Norway, way colder there. So yeah, I shouldn’t be complaining.
Joni: Oh, wow.
Tara: You’re up in the Arctic Circle there. All right. Let’s get going. I’m going to share my deck and we’re gonna go through and gonna go over a little overview of how to become a Kobo bestseller. So let’s get started. So we have a few tips. The first tip that I think is really important, and this is especially for, you know, if you’re publishing and selling on Kobo, you are more than likely a wide author. You’re publishing on multiple retailers. So I think it’s really important to get to know each retailer and just to see what aspects that they have if you’re not familiar with. Maybe they’re not your retailer of choice for your personal reading. So you might not know what it looks like for a customer. So I think it’s very important to get to know your retailer. So we’re gonna have a little quick overview of Kobo and what we’re all about.
So Kobo stands for books. Quite literally, it is an anagram of the word book, not quite long enough to get into Wordle, but all the same, still there. Although we could use books, that’s my next…that’s gonna be tomorrow. I already got it today in four, but not great. But yes, so we stand for books. We really try to pride ourselves in being your favorite local bookshop perfected. So with Kobo, we are not trying to get you into our ecosystem to upsell you anything else. We are all about books and the digital reading experience. So, we do ebooks and audiobooks. We don’t quite delve into print, but we try and make the digital experience the best that it can be. So we offer our customers Kobo Super Points. So these are like loyalty points that you earn with every purchase. So then these can be used to redeem books. And we also have VIP readers, which you might not realize. So these are customers that are just the most voracious and avid readers that we have. They pay kind of a membership fee to get double or triple, I’m not even too sure of the amount. They get lots of super points. They get sales that are tailored just to them and a bunch of other perks of being a VIP.
And later in the slides, we’re gonna tell you about how you can kind of try and get your books in front of these readers because these are the ones that I think are really good to get a toe hold on. We also have free apps. It’s just one app that you can read and listen to your ebooks and audiobooks together. And we’re also making really innovative e-readers. So kind of wanted to give an overview of the ones…t’s hard to keep track. Last year, we launched three new devices. So our Kobos have come a very long way. We launched our largest device last year, which was the Kobo Elipsa. It’s a 10-inch sc and it’s the first device ever that Kobo has made. So our Kobo Elipsa is our very first device that has the stylus capabilities. So you can actually take notes. You can mark up your EPUBs and you can take notes that you’d like, and it’s kind of completely integrated with the Dropbox. So there’s a way of kind of just seamlessly sharing files back and forth.
And we didn’t stop there. We also then launched the Kobo Sage later in the year, and also the Kobo Libra 2. And what was unique about the Kobo Sage is that it integrated, we have your ebook experience, your stylus so you can write and mark up your files, and it also integrated audio for the first time for a Kobo device. So with the Kobo Sage, the Elipsa, and the Libra 2, you can actually connect to Bluetooth to listen to your audiobooks as well. So I just kind of wanted to highlight, like, what we’re doing to try and make the reader experience better. And, you know, with the readers that we find that are reading on Kobo devices are really the happiest customers. And these are the ones that we wanna get your books in front of because these are the customers that we should all be seeking out.
So we are coming from Toronto. That is what I said. This is our headquarters. Kind of a virtual headquarters at the moment as we’re all working remotely. But we are, you know, two years in, and maybe we’ll go back to an office. Who knows? But we are here in Toronto for the most part. But we also have colleagues that are working in 10 other countries around the world. It really gives us an opportunity to tailor our bookselling into all the different areas. So we have people on the ground in all these locations to bring their expertise of that local market to Kobo. And then in addition to that, we have localized storefronts, I mean that these are merchandise storefronts in 40 countries and we have 25 retail partners throughout the world as well. So we really have a presence all over the world and all globally. And this just leads to us allowing authors to sell their books everywhere. So you might be wondering how it’s possible to see all of these dots in different places, but it’s because we have such a hold in the market like that, and that we have the local expertise in those areas.
So these are just a little bit few examples of the KWL map that we love to be shared. If you have a map that you’d like to share, you can do that under the #kwlmap. We see these on Twitter. So Joanna Penn shared this last year showing that she has purchases in 162 countries, which is really, really impressive. The bigger the dots, the more purchases that are in those regions. But it’s just showing you that we do have…you know, as an author, you have this just a wealth of customers to really try and reach. All right. So my tip number two, after getting to know your retailer, I think it’s really important to get to know your reader. I know that that’s a question that we get a lot from authors is sort of, you know, where are Kobo readers coming from? How are they reading? What’s their consumption? You know, what are sort of habits that we have that maybe are a little bit different to the other retailers that we see?
So I wanna kind of just talk about this for a little second because we have so many types of digital reader right now. I’m gonna break this into four sections to try and make it a little easier to ingest, I think. So the very first reader that I wanna think of is your traditional e-reader. This person probably has a Kobo device. If not, they read voraciously on their smartphone or their tablet. They buy books, they follow authors, and they’re just a constant reader. They’re probably a VIP customer if they’re really, really into just reading and getting their bargains online. And then the next type of reader that we have is the listener. So this is a person that really likes to listen to books. They might also be a reader, a lot of…you know, if this was a venn diagram, there would be overlaps on these. But somebody that is primarily a listener, they like to listen to audiobooks while they’re doing things to take advantage. They probably really like to learn stuff while they’re listening to audiobooks as well. So that’s just something that we can also kind of tailor too as you’re able to kind of go to both readers and listeners.
And then the next type of reader that we have is our subscriber. So a subscriber is a slightly different type of reader in the fact that they kind of wanna just consume all that they can. So a subscriber could be somebody that’s signed up to Kobo Plus, which is Kobo’s subscription platform. So what we find in terms of habits with the subscribers is that they’re really driven by genre. They tend to be into sort of…you know, we see romance just very well with subscribers, as does thrillers, I think. What did I see? I saw police procedurals doing very well in subscriptions as I was pulling some stats for this. And they just really like serialized content as well. So they like to follow a series from start to completion, but because they’re so into genres, they kind of…they will go to similar authors probably more so than a traditional reader. I think a subscriber would be willing to kind of take a chance on more authors in a similar vein.
And then lastly, but certainly not least is the borrower. So this is a person who is really getting their books from their library. They’re really valuing the library experience and they like to support it locally. I think that this sort of person really follows their authors. They’re probably a little bit more patient. They wait, you know, they might have to wait in a queue or will ask the librarian to get the book for them. And I think it’s sort of…it’s a nice way for people to kind of get in touch with reading is like through a library, it’s a bit more of an experience. They might go in in person and, like, discuss with their librarian what’s the top book for me to be reading right now. Yeah. I think they really pay attention to librarian’s recommendations. So when you think about Kobo, these can all be one reader, but it is broken down into these segments that I think makes a lot of sense. So, again, we have our traditional reader, our listener, our subscriber, and our borrower. I’m gonna slip over to Joni for tip three.
Joni: Awesome. So as a lot of you are aware, it’s not enough just to put your book out into the world if readers can’t find it. So the way that we help readers find your books is via your metadata. So metadata refers to all of the information about your book. So we are talking about the title, author name, all of those very important basic elements to your book, but also series numbers, series name, everything about your book is encompassed in metadata. So this is really, really important. One of the top most important parts of your metadata is obviously your pricing. And something that we find that a lot of authors do is a lot of authors don’t really think too much outside of their country. They think this is where my readers are. I’m in the U.S., probably most of my readers are. With Kobo, that’s not really true. We have listeners and readers coming from all over the world, and we think it’s really, really important that your pricing reflects that.
So we encourage you to make sure that you set custom prices for all of your books. As many of you know, when you put in your local price for your title on Kobo, it will auto-change all of your prices to reflect different currencies, which is great. We recommend that you go in and adjust those to make them a nice rounded price. So we like that 4.99, 5.99 kind of rounded price. It looks better on the storefront and normally, it’s a little bit of a bump for you. So instead of selling your book at 5.36, bump it up to that 5.99 price point. Another way in which metadata can push your sales is by pushing the next book in your series. So it’s really, really important, particularly Tara mentioned subscribers who are voracious readers who want to just…they don’t even want to stop. They want to keep going with whatever they’ve just finished. If your series metadata is entered correctly, then when you finish a book, it will automatically prompt you. Do you want to read book two in the series? Do you wanna read book three? And it can only do that if we know that it’s the same series.
So this is an area where I feel like it’s quite easy to make a little mistake. If you put an extra space somewhere, then our system won’t recognize it as being the same series. So really important that you make sure everything’s lined up. And if you want to check that yourself, you can go to the store. Your series name will show up under the book. If you click on the series name, it should show you all of the books in your series. If there’s one missing, go back in and check your metadata for it. And as we mentioned, if everything is set up correctly, then when you finish the book, your reader will be prompted or you’ll be prompted to purchase the next one in the series.
And next tip is knowing how to get ahead. So knowing how to not just publish and get your book out there, but how to really find success at Kobo. Something that we talk about a lot at Kobo and our CEO has talked about is that indie authors are so open to experimentation. And this is something that we all really love about the community that we work with is that especially compared to traditional publishing, people are so willing to try different things, experiment, and find what works. And you have the agility with self-publishing. You can do those experiments. You can make little changes and you can adjust and constantly be working to see what works for you. And we really love that. We find that indie authors are the first to jump on anything new that we’re bringing in. Whether it be audio or subscriptions, people are always willing to jump in and give it a try.
Tara: Now, also, this was a quote from the “Kobo Writing Life Podcast.” So just a plug for that, where Joni is the host. So if you haven’t listened, you definitely should check out this episode. And also just check out anything else and subscribe, see if there’s anything of interest there.
Joni: Definitely. So Tara briefly mentioned Kobo Plus. This is our subscription program. We launched it in the Netherlands and Belgium in 2017, I believe. And found it was a really, really great way to increase consumption of books, essentially. We believe that we’re reaching a different audience with subscription. So as Tara mentioned, we have readers who are already in the Kobo ecosystem. They’re purchasing books à la carte, but subscription readers want a different experience. And we found that by having books opted into the subscription program, readers were reading more, both à la carte and in the subscription program. So after getting our feet wet in the Netherlands and Belgium and engaging with our audience there, and our audience in the Netherlands, in particular, is very, very engaged. We have a lot of people reading in English. As Tara mentioned, a lot of romance readers in the Netherlands. So once we got familiar with how the subscriptions worked, then we started to bring it wider. So we launched in Canada in 2020, I believe. And now we are in Australia, New Zealand, Portugal, France, and Italy. So we are really going global with Kobo Plus. So we launched in those five regions last year and we are already seeing our numbers increase and readership increase in those countries. So it’s very exciting for us.
And as I mentioned earlier, this tends to be revenue that is earned on top of à la carte purchases. So this graph shows an example author, the red shows their à la carte. So you can see that it’s pretty steady. We typically get those kind of spikes and dips. Spikes around when somebody has a new release. There’ll normally be a little bit of a tail off, but pretty consistent sales. And then the brown on top shows the Kobo Plus revenue. And this is just for Canada. So you can see that this is very typical with Kobo Plus. When you first opt in, not that much happens. It takes a couple of months. People maybe add your book to their library. And then over the course of the next couple of months, more and more people add it to their library and they start reading it. And so you can see that there is exponential growth across Kobo Plus, but it hasn’t really impacted their à la carte sales, which have remained pretty steady. And in this example, they are really outearning what they’re earning for a la carte with Kobo Plus. And this is what we’ve seen across the board.
We also have a lot of opportunities for promotions at Kobo Writing Life. If you are newer, then please let us know that you are new to Kobo Writing Life and that you need a promotions tab. This is integrated into the Kobo Writing Life dashboard, but because at the moment it’s only English language, so it’s not there automatically. You have to request it. So if you are new, let us know. We can turn that tab on for you. And at the moment, the tab includes ebook promotions only. We do a lot of free promotions. We have a free page. And we also do a lot of price drop and promo code promotions. So if you are selling on multiple retailers, which you should be, if you’re on Kobo, then those promo code promotions are ideal for you because you don’t need to worry about price matching. You don’t need to pull your prices down. And you don’t need to change prices across different retailers.
If you are happy to do those price drops, we have a price scheduling tool so you’re able to set up a reduction in price in advance in order to turn those kind of promos. And we also are doing quite a lot of promotions for audiobooks. So these are not yet integrated into the promo tab. So we do individual outreach for each promotion. So if you are interested in audio promos, please send us an email and we can add you to that list to make sure that you hear about any of those promos. Those are typically either Buy More Save More sales or price drop promos. And again, like with everything else at Kobo and with indie publishing, be open to experimenting, try different things. Maybe try putting your first book in a series free for a little while, get it featured on the free page, and see how the read-through goes. See if people are picking up book two, three, four. And just generally be open to experimentation. Change your covers maybe. That’s a big one, but a lot of authors do this. Try rewriting your blurbs, changing up descriptions. All of those kind of things that you can tweak and experiment with until you really find what works for you.
Tara: Awesome. And then our very last tip is to know when to ask questions, which is our little segue into the Q&A portion. So I see some great questions coming in from the chat. So I’m gonna end this slide real quick and gonna ask some of them. So, Joni, let’s stick with promotion seeing as that was the last thing that we sort of talked about there. So we have a question from Kathrine here. So any tips to get into a promo? So I assume you’re meaning ebook promos, Kathrine. So let’s see. Any tips for that, Joni?
Joni: Yeah. So I would say tip number one is have a great cover because we really do look for that. Our merchandising team wants to make sure that the books that go into the promotions look really great on the store. So that’s a really big one. Another one, same thing goes for your series or your description, your blurb, all of that should be perfect before you publish. In terms of getting into the promo itself, we have a lot of competition for promos. So there are a lot, a lot of applications for one spot. So first one is don’t be discouraged if you are rejected for promotion, try again, keep trying because it will happen. And if you are trying to line a promotion up with something specific, if you’ve got a new release or maybe you’re doing a book blurb, so you want to have your book featured while it’s on sale or while it’s free, let us know. We’ve added the little comment section to the promo tools. So if you’re applying for one of those promos and there’s some reason why you think it should be featured in this one, put a little note in, tell us. Leave Rachel a joke. She actually responds to those.
Tara: Yeah, that was really great. We had an author that was adding Harry Potter jokes into their submissions and it got her attention.
Joni: You can’t all do that.
Tara: But like, I don’t know, be creative.
Joni: Yeah, Rachel’s very into buffy pro tip.
Tara: Oh gosh.
Joni: If you really wanna get in there.
Tara: And there was also a question that was posted on the blog prior to this just saying for any paid promos or advertising. They were asking if there was a minimum number of Kobo sales to qualify. And no, not at all. We know that a lot of people are coming wide for the first time, so we’re really not judging your account based on like it’s a brand new account, we’re not gonna give this person a promo. It’s kind of important as well to maybe use that comment box if you are coming wide to tell us because then we know that, okay, you have a reader base, you’ve been selling books, we just need you to be able to sell books on Kobo. So yeah, there’s no minimum number of sales at all. Like Joni said, it’s really just clean metadata, a really good cover, and making sure that it’s the right promo for your book. Not necessarily just applying to everything, just kind of thinking a little bit strategic about it. Ooh, okay. Dale has attention on Stacy’s questions. So I’m gonna pull that up. So any possibility of automatic pretty pricing instead of setting the price in each country separately, Joni.
Joni: That would be nice.
Tara: It’s a dream. Yes, we would love that. We do prompt you into what we think would be a nice currency to kind of let you know, but yes. That is definitely on our wishlist and we will bring it back to the team for sure. All right. I am gonna keep going. Sorry. I should be better at pulling all of these questions now…
Joni: How do writers get paid for subscription and library borrows? That is a great question.
Tara: Okay. Yeah.
Joni: So library’s easier. So I’m gonna start there. Library purchases, you earn 50% of the library price that you have set. And for your library price, when you opt into OverDrive, you do need to set a specific price for the library. And that should always be a little bit more than your retail price because the library will purchase it once and be able to lend it out forever. So you want to make sure that you’re getting some value out of that while also making sure that your book is affordable to libraries. So same price as a mass-market paperback is normally what we would guide you to. And then there’s a second option for libraries. If they are not sure about your book or they’ve never heard of you as an author, but they’ve had a request, they can purchase the book for one single lend. So when they do that, they pay 10% of the library price that you’ve set. They lend it out one time. And then if they get lots of requests, then typically they will purchase the book for their catalog. So there’s two different ways. You’ll either see a 50% earning or a 10%.
As for Kobo Plus, rather than page reads, we pay based on minutes read. So we reward authors when readers really engage with the text. So that means that you are being paid for rereads, you’re being paid for every time that a person is reading your book at all. And that means there’s no minimum. If they only read two or three pages, that will get added to the buildup of minutes that we’re paying for. And in terms of amount, it varies every month because it depends on how many books are being read that month. So we aggregate the total minutes read. So however much time people spend reading books, all of those minutes make up one number, which is a little bit different every month. And then…
Tara: And per geo.
Joni: And per geo. Great point. Now that we’re everywhere.
Tara: It was much easier when it was just the Netherlands.
Joni: Exactly. And then in terms of the amount paid, that is based on how many subscribers are subscribing in a given month, that makes up the total amount that we have to pay. Does that explain it, Tara?
Tara: I think so. It’s basically a revenue share model, like, similar to how other subscriptions work, but the difference being that we’re tracking by minute. And it allows us to treat audiobooks and ebooks exactly the same, which is a good segue into Erin’s question which is about when will audiobooks be added to Kobo Plus? That is hopefully coming soon. Not all of our regions that we have Kobo Plus have audiobooks and ebooks. At Kobo, we like to, you know, I kind of highlighted where in the world that we are, where we have people on the ground, but we like to take what we call a globally local view of bookselling. So we don’t really wanna just roll out Kobo Plus just as we do it in Canada in every single geo because that won’t work. You know, bookselling is a little bit more nuanced than that. So not everywhere has the exact same audio and ebook.
However, we would like to get there. So we are at least offering the Kobo Writing Life audiobooks into the Kobo Plus geos where they are coming. So you can definitely subscribe to our newsletter. That’s where we will announce a lot of kind of development updates. And then another sort of development update question, are there plans to update the Kobo dashboard with pre-orders and subscription numbers? So yeah, if you’re not too sure about your Kobo Plus sales at all, you can find them right now in your monthly invoices that are under…if you’re on Kobo Writing Life, you go to My Account. There’s a dropdown and go to Payment Information. And this is where you’ll see all of your invoices and all of your payment history. So each month you’ll get one regular invoice that captures audio, ebooks, and library, and then we have a separate subscription one.
So we’re currently working on adding this to the dashboard and hope to have it soon. And we are rolling out new features. We have a kind of early stages beta at the moment that does include pre-order numbers, Whitney. So we’re hoping to roll this out to a larger base of people very soon and having it be the default dashboard. So I would say just keep an eye again on our newsletter and our social where we’ll announce any updates that are coming. But yes, we wanna give you guys as much data and as much control as possible. So yeah, we’re working ferociously on that at the moment, I think.
Joni: Somebody asked about box sets and that’s a really great question that we didn’t mention. Yes, box sets are absolutely worth doing. I think they do really, really well on Kobo Plus, which to me that was surprising because it doesn’t…because I figured you’ve got the books anyway, but no, people who are in Kobo Plus don’t wanna exit out of their book and go find the next one, they wanna keep reading. So if you have a series or like a completed series, or even if you have the first three finished, put them in a box set, especially if the content already exists, and price it high enough that you are still making money on it. You do not need to offer a big discount when you bundle three books together on Kobo because Kobo readers will pay for it. So I recommend absolutely if you can, put your books into a box set, like opt them into Kobo Plus, and set a high price, reasonably high.
Tara: Yeah. And hi, William. Thanks for joining and for the great question and send hi to Shayla as well. Nice to see you here. Questions about Kobo Plus sales data. I think that we just got…there was a question there about metadata that I wanna go up to Joni that I’m gonna hit you up on.
Tara: So Rebecca had, I just listed a prequel at 0.5 and it showed up last when I clicked on the series name, and then it renumbered to zero. Oh, that’s interesting. It should show up as the very first one. So basically, what we allow when you’re setting the series number with your series is that you can add the option for a prequel. So you can have 0 or 0.5 or 1.5, 2.5, etc., for any sort of like novellas in between that you wanted to add. If there’s anything with the numbering, Rebecca, send the team an email at email@example.com and we’ll reorder them and make sure they’re correct. But yes, just to flag with everyone that yeah, you can add the 0.5 and the 0. It’s a great way of making sure that your series is all together. You also don’t have to add a number. What I would say for like with a box set, we get that question sometimes kind of like, “What number do I add for my box set?”
So for a box set, I would just leave it blank. And at least you have your series information and those will all be linked together anyway on our website because we are using the numbers to, like, prompt the next book. So once a customer finishes book one, we’re gonna let them know that book two is available. So yeah, that’s a kind of good way. So with the box set, I think you can just leave it as its own series without a specific number. What are your thoughts, Joni, box set numbers?
Joni: No, I agree with you. Yeah, that makes sense.
Tara: Cool. We had a question that came up beforehand. And I was curious, I’m gonna ask Joni about this as well. Always heard that you have to have a long pre-order in order to get an editor’s attention on Kobo, or that it helps with visibility. What are your opinions on, like, time length that’s ideal for a pre-order?
Joni: I don’t believe that there’s any value in having a particularly long pre-order period. I think it is good to have a pre-order period because it means that our merch team will see it. And it’s just generally great for your rankings and your visibility on the store if people are buying your book on pre-order, but I don’t think there’s any advantage to having a really long pre-order period.
Tara: Yeah, I don’t think so either. With Kobo, we don’t have a time period. So you can set it out as far as you like, and it’s the same with audiobooks. So you can set them out. I think get your books up there. We’ve actually noticed a few authors do it as their books are available on Kobo and nowhere else on pre-orders. So if they have those dedicated readers that find them, it’s sort of like a bit of an Easter egg that it’s like, “Oh, in 18 months from now, you’re releasing this?” But obviously, make it realistic, make sure you kind of hit it out. We don’t penalize for changing the dates on pre-orders. So we’re not gonna cancel it or anything if you switch the date to move them out. The customer will get a note that the date has changed. Obviously, we would kind of, you know, don’t keep doing it because you wanna kind of make sure you’re giving the customer the book that they’re ordering to not disappoint them. But you can switch the date if you like as well.
Okay. I’m gonna go back to the numbers with Corinne, “I have a series series of connected, but not officially numbered books. Do you recommend using numbers in order to utilize the automated prompt to build in your system?” I think so, Corinne. If it’s the same series, I would for sure. You can clarify that it’s not necessarily serialized in your description, but I would take advantage of that definitely to kind of number them. Like, what do you think, Joni?
Joni: Yeah, I would do them in the order that you write them and you can always say these are standalones. They don’t have to be read sequentially, but definitely, yeah. I would put them like that just to prompt. And let readers know that, “Hey, this isn’t the only one.”
Tara: Thanks, Liese, for the I love your notes of dipping the quill. We’ll send those back to the team. Especially as we’re updating the dashboard, we like to put, like I said, little Easter eggs around the place. So like that you enjoy those. I think you’ll do that. Is there a way to link related series, i.e., spinoffs? If it’s the same series name, you can use that. But it’s definitely something we’re thinking about in terms of collections of series. So say, for instance, if you have lots of series that are based on a family or something, so you have like series one is the Tara family series, series two is the Joni family series, but they live in the same Kobo world. So you might wanna have like a Kobo series of Joni…
Joni: Like The Sims.
Tara: Yeah, like The Sims. Yeah. You know, where’s Bella? So yeah, we’ve been thinking about how can we capture that collection in a way that is kind of letting the readers know. So we don’t have anything kind of as automated. I would say use the series name, use your description for that, and try, you know, really optimize to let the readers know. Yeah. I think that that would be sort of my best advice there. Oh, William, Shayla says hi. Hi. Question, timeline on allowing pre-orders without a placeholder file. Yes, we know that that can be sort of maybe a discouragement for putting up a long pre-order. So if you’re not too sure, this means that when you’re publishing a book on Kobo, you do have to load a file, even if it’s a pre-order. So a lot of people put placeholder files in there. So, William, it’s on our to-do list. I don’t have a defined timeline for it right now, unfortunately. But yes, thank you for bringing it up and we will definitely flag again.
What I think is interesting about it is that it does sort of give a little bit of an opportunity for you to sort of reach out to that reader that is, you know, pre-ordering your book. You don’t necessarily have to put the first chapter or like your actual book file. You know, quite often, the books aren’t ready when you’re putting a pre-order up for such a long time. So we have some authors that use this as an example, or as an opportunity to, like, write a letter to the reader, like, you can maybe tell them something about it. Kind of in a similar way that like, say if you’re on like Patreon and you’re writing a post and you’re sort of…yeah, I would maybe use it as that because we don’t really have any limitation on size. We just need a file. So yeah, I think that that’s a good sort of way to make maybe a not ideal situation and spin it into like a positive marketing tool.
Joni: We have a question from Laurel, “Can you go over which type of promos work for which kinds of author goals?” This is a great question. So I think the author goal is typically the same as ours. We wanna sell more books to more readers. In terms of which types of promos, I would say free promos do very, very well on Kobo, but with specific goals. So if you have one single book and you’re trying to get off the ground, it’s not the greatest plan to get that book away for free, unless…I don’t know, some people do that for a short time. That’s fine. But typically you do want to be making some money on your writing.
However, if you are looking at…if you’re releasing a new book in a series, making that book free first in series or making the first book in the series free for a short time to bring some attention to your new release is a great way of doing it. We find it works really, really well. The free page on Kobo, I believe is our most highly trafficked page. We get a lot of hits and a lot of searches for free. And because Tara kind of mentioned with Kobo Plus, it’s the same thing, there’s no risk. They’ll add the book to their library. They might not read it right away, but when they do read it, they might fall in love with this series or this book, or you as an author and pick up the rest of your book. So we find free is a really great one. Other particularly effective sales, the Buy More Save Mores do really, really well. Those sales are not in the promotions tab at the moment. We do them the same ways…
Tara: Yes, they are.
Joni: They are. Tara, I didn’t know. That’s great news. So yeah, Buy More Save More, the way it works is that it’s typically buy two books, get one free or similar. And it really gives readers, particularly those voracious binge readers, an opportunity to load up on books and read a whole lot. So I find that when I’m going over promo results, those ones tend to be really, really highly featured. And the same with the box set sales because I think we talked about pricing box sets. We don’t have a maximum price cap on box sets. So, again, you can price a little bit higher. And so a 40% discount on a quite highly-priced box set or a larger box set is still a decent price. So still good for author earnings. I think those are also really good. What would you…
Tara: Yeah, and the VIP promos, I think. I mean, now we’re just listing all of the promos that are available. But I think those ones do…those three that we’ve just mentioned perform very well. We do box set promotions pretty regularly, so we update the promo tab on a weekly basis. So one tip that I would have is to, you know, set a reminder maybe every two weeks, every month, depending on how busy you are and how much you’re balance…you know, maybe you are dedicated to writing for this month and you’re not focusing as much on the marketing. But just set a reminder to go in on a regular basis to just see what’s available, and yeah, just to kind of apply and see what suits. But also let us know, like Joni mentioned, the free page can be a great means of kind of pushing read-through into other books. So if you have a BookBub or a free Booksie, or anything like that, it’s great to let us know and then we can try and put eyes on it on our side as well because I think that that’s…yeah, we already know if you’re getting attention on your book and we wanna make sure you’re getting attention on the Kobo side too.
Joni: And BookBubs do very, very well for our authors. So I know that they’re hard to get, but they are definitely worth doing, especially on Kobo. I think we’ve had a lot of authors, especially when they’re new to Kobo find that having a BookBub and just getting all those clicks to their book and then increasing the rankings on the Kobo store is really, really valuable.
Tara: There’s a question from Stephen that mentions that, so your series is on Kobo, but by different distributor, and how to put the series in the Kobo domain, which I think you mean Kobo Writing Life. But we had a similar question to that prior as well that, you know, if my books are published by Ingram, are they automatically here? What I would say is if you’re using an aggregation and that’s how you want to get to Kobo, awesome. Make sure that you are distributing to Kobo in whatever aggregator you’re using. But if possible, come direct with us because of these opportunities that we’ve talked about. So the promotions that we’ve mentioned are just for Kobo Writing Life authors. We really control that sort of part of the business. So these opportunities are something that, yeah, just go to our direct ones, but we are also happy to just see books on Kobo full stop, but it would be great if you come direct with us too.
And yes, Graham had a similar, can I add these to Kobo? Yes, if you have the rights to your books, you can upload them and publish them to us. You always retain the works. But the only thing that I would keep in mind is to just potentially ensure that you don’t have duplicates of your titles going up because we actually did some surveys and found that when there’s two versions of the same book, the customer actually will purchase neither because they’re not too sure what is going on. They’re like different pricing, there’s two of the same title. It’s kind of confusing. So I would always just ensure that you kind of just have one book going up.
Joni: Richard Murray is asking about group of authors collaborating on one book. And this is something that, yeah, a lot of our authors do. We don’t really have any part in that. Essentially, you would find a group of authors typically that have a similar type of book to yours whose readers might also like enjoy your books and then work together, publish, like you can put all your books into…Oh, is this a different question? No.
Tara: Oh, is it not the same question?
Joni: It’s a similar question. So yeah, we have a few anthologies of books that an author has published with other authors, and really it’s just the same process as publishing any other book. You would need to figure out how you’re managing earnings on that and whose account it’s going up through. And sometimes people will create a separate collaborative account that they can all log into to keep that book separate from your individual books. But yeah, this is something a lot of our authors do and have great success with.
Tara: Yeah. And one thing to flag as well is that if you’re publishing books in different means, so say, for instance, you, I don’t know, for whatever reason sold the rights to book one of your book. So it’s on Kobo, but you actually don’t control it. But if you’re writing in like say book two, we still will link them. We’re not going to separate the books because they’ve been published in different ways. Customers don’t, unless they’re diehard, really pay attention to how books are being published. So we just wanna surface them as like here’s this author’s backlog of books. And we’re kind of still gonna link them even if they’re coming through different sources.
Joni: Yeah. And that’s the same for…to answer that question that’s up there now. If an author one does the first book, author two does the second, as long as your series name is exactly the same, it will still link on the store.
Tara: So a question here we should ask Rachel. I don’t know if she’s watching.
Joni: Yes. Rachel would be furious.
Tara: Do the people get mad if we’re submitting a whole bunch at the same time? Unless like in the…read the description of the promo. It might ask, you know, only submit 10 at a time. If it doesn’t, I’d say go nuts. Maybe Rachel will be furious at me, but I think that’s fine. Yeah.
Joni: Yeah. And in that case, there is sometimes a limit to how many books we can feature. And if you do submit a ton of books, sometimes they won’t all be accepted for the promo. That’s my only caveat, but I think it’s fine to submit them.
Tara: So a good question here from Erin. I know that we don’t do paperback sales. So what does the print ISBN spot on the upload page do and does it serve a purpose? It does. It actually is a way of connecting with…so some of our partners are brick and mortar stores. So, for example, with Chapters Indigo in Canada and say Booktopia in Australia. So the print ISBN is actually really important to our partners. And that’s why we use it. So when we’re sending our feed of metadata, my favorite thing, when we’re sending it through, it allows our partners to connect your print book, your ebook, and your audio, if you have it, all in one place. So without that print ISBN, it’s really hard for us to connect them all together and you might have separate, like, listings of the same thing. But yeah, so it’s basically just telling our partners, “Hey, this is the same book. These are just the different formats.” Question, Joni, I’m gonna ask about audio. Can we upload Findaway directly to Kobo, or is it better to go direct?
Joni: So you can submit via Findaway. That’s fine. They distribute just like…So the way it works with Findaway is it’s the same as if it was coming from Simon & Schuster or Penguin or any other publisher, it goes through a separate system with a different team. So yes, they will go up to Kobo. No problem there at all. The disadvantage is that you are working with Findaway, that is the publisher, and you cannot go into the Kobo dashboard yourself and make adjustments on your side. You need to do them all through Findaway. Same with promotions, any kind of…I don’t have anything to do with promotional features for books that are uploaded either traditionally or through an aggregator. So if your book is through Findaway, you can’t take part in our audio promotions. A lot of the time, you will have promo opportunities available because obviously, our merch team is working with distributors and publishers, but the ones through Kobo Writing Life, your books need to be direct.
I think if you have the bandwidth to do it, it’s always worth going direct just to give you that little bit of extra control, be able to go in, make adjustments, know that they’ll happen quickly, be able to take part in promos when you want to. I think it’s worth doing, but ultimately, it’s your business and you know how much time you have to spend on each retailer.
Tara: Totally. Totally. Yeah. It is a time balance. Like, sometimes it’s easier to just have one place to push them out for. But yeah, it definitely depends on your planning. So we question here that Laurel has about explaining what a double daily deal is and how it differs. I think that’s a great question, actually. Because I think sometimes we forget that and we say these acronyms and words and forget them. So yeah, Joni, do you wanna tackle a daily deal and a double daily deal?
Joni: Yeah. So we have…I want the website in front of me now, but I believe you can go to ebooks, and then there’s a deals page. And on that, there’s featured books that change either weekly or monthly, or daily when it comes to the daily deal. And so often we have a mix of traditionally published and indie published books in those spots. So essentially, it is a featured spot for one day. The daily deal is very prominently featured. I think we do one or two a month for Kobo Writing Life. And then the double daily deal is also just a one single day price drop and it just comes a little bit further down on the page. So you scroll and then it’s also featured. It’s large, it’s not in a carousel. It’s on its own and it’s got a description and then the price drop. Different to Buy More Save More in that Buy More Save More is a scheduled sale that typically lasts between like two and four weeks maybe. And it will be a lot of books altogether. And if, you know, somebody buys two, gets a third free, or I don’t know, something like that. You buy more, you get a bit of a discount. This is a single book price drop and it’s one book only being featured. I hope that explains it.
Tara: It sure does. Rashid has a couple of questions about payments. I think the easiest way Rashid would be to email firstname.lastname@example.org, and they’ll help you out and we can investigate anything that’s going on there. But yeah, our payments are sent every month to the details that you’ve entered.
Joni: Yeah. And we are paying globally. So if there is an issue with your payment, it happens, it’s fixable. Just send us an email directly with your details because we can’t really get into individuals.
Tara: Laurel, I’m just taking all your questions. Thank you. I’m just throwing them all on the side here. Are audiobooks produced with AI, like on Google Play, for example, allowed on Kobo? That’s a really interesting question. We don’t have any restrictions I think at the moment, but what I would say is to really make it clear to the customer that this is an AI book. That it’s not a narrator. So if you’re publishing your audiobook on Kobo Writing Life, you can enter in the narrator field like those details or just have it very clearly in the description. It’s interesting because it’s not quite there, the technology yet. It’s so close for AI to be very good. We actually had a meeting not that long ago kind of everyone on the audio side of the business where we were trying to test whether we could guess an AI or a narrator. And quite often people got them wrong, but…
Joni: I was surprised because I’m kind of a hater. Like, I was like, I don’t believe this, but I got a couple of them wrong. So I will say that I would appreciate it if when you upload an audiobook, you did put your narrator because a lot of authors leave it blank. And I think it’s not a required field, but it helps me, it helps the merchandisers. Some authors do love a particular narrator, and so they’ll click on that name. It’s just another aspect of discoverability. So if you know your narrator’s name, please put it in when you upload your audiobook. Thank you.
Tara: Also, some people follow the narrators. They go to different types of books that they potentially wouldn’t read and follow them around. So, yeah, I think it’s really important to put your narrator there for sure. Question from WL, “Are you aware of an author doing well by being only with Kobo?” So that’s a good question. We get questions about exclusivity with Kobo sometimes. It’s sort of against the Kobo Writing Life ethos. Like, we don’t ask for exclusivity. I don’t think we’ve yet mentioned that with Kobo Plus actually. That’s bad of us. There’s no exclusivity with the subscription program at all. You can publish your book on as many platforms as possible and still be part of Kopo Plus. You can take your book down if you like. There’s no kind of restrictions. We’re trying to give as much power to the author as possible. So yeah, I think, you know, it can be thought of as like, “Oh, if my book is only with Kobo, it can be a great marketing tool.” But what we found is that our customers are sort of…I just think with authors, it’s better to publish widely.
It’s the reason that, you know, people don’t wanna go with one retailer is, you know, for if there’s any changes or something happens that you’re losing your source of income. So I think it’s the same sort of idea with only publishing on Kobo. I mean, there are certainly times that we do do that with, you know, some of our Kobo originals might be exclusive for a certain period as a marketing tool. But in general, we kind of encourage you to be on as many platforms as possible.
Joni: Yeah. And I think like Tara said, it is part of our ethos. We really do…It is important for us that readers are getting their hands on books, wherever that is. So I think it’s really important that as an author, you’re getting your books into the hands of as many readers as possible, and that means putting them on all the retailers that you can.
Tara: Yeah, for sure. Richard has a comment about what are our thoughts and the links to an ebook from the Kobo app. I imagine it to be linked to a browser, but what about from a Kobo device or in an ebook? You can definitely add links to an ebook. I would just make sure that you’re testing them to see if they’re working. There’s a lot of ebook creation tools that automate the links really well, like Draft2Digital…is it their books to read or their universal links? They have a really easy way of updating your end matter and making sure that the links are correct. I’m sure that Vellum has something very similar as well. So, yeah, I do think it’s worthwhile taking a look at. And that might be something that if you’ve been publishing with Kobo for a while, say your book came up a few years ago, it might be worth going back in and seeing like, “Actually, where am I linking? Am I linking to a website that I’m not using anymore?” I think that’s good practice. I know it can be quite annoying to have to do that on each book and multiple retailers. That’s why it is very handy to use a tool like Draft2Digitals.
Joni: But to your point also, yes, it works nicely from the Kobo app if you’re reading on an iPad or a desktop or whatever. But you’re right, on an e-reader device, it’s not a great experience. It’s not really built to have a web browser. So yeah, you can do it, but you’re right, that it’s not ideal.
Tara: No. It will still open if you’re on Wi-Fi, but yeah, it’s not as clean-cut.
Joni: It’s not the nicest experience.
Tara: Yes. Right. Well, we’re coming down to the end of our hour here. I’m gonna scroll to see if there’s any other questions. Did any point pop up, Joni, to you either? Please throw them in the chat.
Joni: There are so many questions. Thank you.
Tara: I know. Thank you, guys. This has been really a really chatty crowd. I like the questions. I like the jokes.
Joni: Oh, did we talk about this? KWL authors seeing royalties coming specifically from Kobo Plus. Those are on a separate sales report which you can find under my account, payment information. And then you’ll see your regular monthly sales reports and then there’s a subreport. And we are working on the dashboard.
Tara: Yeah. We’re working on finding a way to make these a bit more accessible so you can see in real-time. So yeah, I would go into your sales reports to find this information and they usually go up toward the end of the month. So December should be up now, I think.
Joni: And then why published directly? We talked about this with regards to audio, but it really is same thing for ebooks. You can do it, absolutely, go through an aggregator, but you won’t have the same level of control and we can’t help you directly with your books. If you email us about any kind of issue, it’s really got to go through Findaway not us. And I do believe that their earnings are a little bit better. Your overall earnings will be better because the aggregator’s not taking a cut.
Tara: Yeah. But absolutely take advantage of the team that we have here. That’s one thing that I like to say. We really live and breathe the indie publishing community and, you know, books, in general. So I think it’s really important to not be afraid to ask us questions. And we were saying in the presentation to, you know, experiment and kind of be agile and willing to change things. Some of our most successful promotions came because an author approached us and said, “I wanna do this.” And we said, “Okay, great. We’ll try it.” It was great. Then we continue it. So, don’t be afraid to ask questions or give us suggestions for things like that about what you wanna see. Maybe there’s a new tactic that’s working in the author marketing that we haven’t even seen yet. These things move really fast and indies are so innovative with digital publishing. Yeah, don’t be afraid to talk to us.
Joni: Definitely. Susie is asking about promotions and marketing with Kobo Plus, which is a really great question. We don’t have any direct Kobo Plus promotions right now. We are working on it, but at the moment, it’s really more organic and algorithmic on Kobo Plus. I would say that letting your readers know directly that your books are available like readers in Canada, readers in Australia, New Zealand, regions where Kobo Plus is available, let them know that your books are there, but at the moment, it’s almost kind of a good thing because you can opt your books in and just let them do their thing while you’re still doing marketing on the a la carte side.
Tara: Absolutely. Stephen had a question about the sources for metadata for Kobo Writing Life. Yeah, so your question is about authors talk about adding metadata through their ebook files. If you’re with like a traditional publisher and that’s how you’re uploading to Kobo through our FTP system, you definitely would be adding your metadata there. It’s really good for accessibility and everything like that. If you’re creating your EPUBs yourself, sure, you can add that. With Kobo Writing Life, we try and make it as easy as possible. So it really is just open text fields where we’re getting the data that you can enter there. So you don’t have to worry about an Excel or an ONIX file or anything like that. But yeah. So thanks for that question and just jump on all the metadata stuff because, you know…
Joni: Yeah. It’s your area of expertise.
Tara: Oh, nice. And then Erin, I’m gonna flag this and just highlight you there that you’re doing a TikTok live at 4 Eastern about being wide. So if anyone is interested in joining that, I’m just…
Joni: You all need to pressure Tara to get on board with TikTok because we’re all booked on it.
Tara: I haven’t joined yet. I just don’t know if I can have another time suck. I know that I should. Even my dad is sending me TikToks right now and I’m like, oh, come on.
Joni: How embarrassing for you. No, it is a time suck. Don’t do it.
Tara: But I like it. I wanna get some Kobo Writing Life TikToks going. So, Joni…
Joni: No. I’m a consumer only.
Tara: Thanks. Well, anything else? Let me see. Is there any other last questions before we end for the day? This has been really great and we’ll certainly do another one. We plan on having some sort of…we’re gonna do some more author Q&As for these events, but we can definitely do a Kobo-focused one in the future too.
Joni: Regarding pre-order sales on the dashboard, are we able to activate that for people who email us, or is that beta closed for the moment?
Tara: Yeah. Send us an email. We can do it.
Joni: Send us an email, email@example.com, and put my name on it and I’ll activate it for you.
Tara: Perfect. Yeah. Seeing as it was your idea, you can do that. All right. Well, oh, yeah. Kathrine says indie publishing is great on TikTok. All right, sold. We’re gonna have to do it now. All right. The last question that came through here about audiobooks and narrators.
Joni: Oh, that’s a great, excellent point. Thank you for that. Okay. I’ll pass that on.
Tara: We should default to always have the narrator field, I guess, right?
Joni: Yes. We should. We should.
Tara: Yeah. And this is why things are still in beta. So thank you, Rose. These are good feedback that we can give back as always. Yeah. Richard, thank you for your kind words. And thanks for everyone for joining. I think that was kind of all I wanted to share right now. Anything last that you wanted to mention, Joni?
Joni: No, this was great. Thank you so much for coming and asking us questions.
Tara: Yeah. If you have any suggestion…
Joni: Tara and I.
Tara: No. And if you have any suggestions about anything that you’d like us to cover on a little workshop like this, let us know and we can definitely get that done. So have a wonderful rest of day everyone. And yeah, thanks for the great engagement. Bye.
Joni: Thank you. Bye.
Rachel: Thank you for listening to the “Kobo Writing Life Podcast.” If you’re enjoying this podcast, please be sure to rate, review, and subscribe. And if you’re looking for more tips on growing your self-publishing business, you can find us at kobowritinglife.com, and be sure you are following us on socials. We are @KoboWritingLife on Facebook and Twitter, and @kobo.writing.life on Instagram.
Tara: This episode was hosted by Tara Cremin and Joni Di Placido. Produced by Laura Granger and Rachel Warden with production assistance by Terrence Abrahams. Editing is provided by Kelly Robotham and our theme music is composed by Tear Jerker. If you’re ready to start your self-publishing journey, sign up at kobo.com/writinglife. Until next time, happy writing.