In this episode, we’re showcasing a live event that we held earlier this year on the KWL Facebook page and on our YouTube channel. Kobo Writing Life director Tara and author relations manager Joni got together to talk about everything you need to know to boost your backlist sales.
It’s important to revisit your backlist and review opportunities for promotions, cover refreshes, metadata updates, and more! With backlist buying trends on the rise, there is no time better than today to give some attention to your backlist books and locate more sales opportunities. We cover:
- Why metadata is so important
- When you should rethink your covers
- Promotional opportunities for your backlist
- Tips for creating box sets and bundles that sell
- And much more!
For more advice on boosting your backlist, check out these previous posts and podcast episode:
- Looking to give your backlist books a refresh? Follow this guide
- KWL Podcast #171 – Making Your Backlist Work for You with Zoe York
- Making the most out of offering free content to your readers
Joni Di Placido is the Author Relations Manager at Kobo Writing Life, and co-hosts the Kobo Writing Life podcast. She works directly with indie authors to help them sell eBooks and audiobooks worldwide. She grew up in Edinburgh and studied Italian and Spanish at the University of St Andrews, before moving to Toronto. If she’s not reading, you can find her teaching fitness classes, or complaining bitterly about Canadian winters.
Tara runs Kobo Writing Life (KWL), Kobo’s independent publishing platform. As a subject matter expert in all aspects of indie publishing, her aim is to make KWL the greatest and most user-friendly self-publishing platform available and always looking for ways for indies to reach a new audience of readers.
Transcription by www.speechpad.com
Rachel: 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 Rachel, the promotion specialist at Kobo Writing Life.
Tara: I’m Tara, the director of Kobo Writing Life. This week, we’re gonna showcase a recent live event that was hosted on Kobo Writing Life’s Facebook and YouTube pages. And this event was all about how to boost your backlist. I sat down and chatted with Joni, and we made our recommendations and then we also fielded some questions from the audience. So, we hope you get something out of it and enjoy this chat.
Rachel: Hey writers, it’s Rachel, up top with a little housekeeping before we dive into today’s episode. We just wanted to let you know that the KWL podcast will be taking a brief hiatus over the holidays, and we will be back with new episodes starting January 10th 2023. We hope everyone has a wonderful and safe holiday season, and we wish you all of the best and happy writing in 2023.
Tara: Hello, how is everybody doing today? I hope everyone’s having a wonderful time wherever you are in the world. I’m really excited to get to chat to you guys and do a Kobo Live, a very specific Kobo Live Q&A. Bringing back my wonderful colleague, Joni. Hi, Joni.
Joni: Hi, hi.
Tara: Let us know in the chat where you all are coming from. And if you’re watching this at a later time, that’s wonderful. Great to see you guys as well. So, we’re gonna be talking all about your backlist, and all about what you can do to help boost your backlist and sell more books. So, we’re gonna do a little bit of a presentation at the start, and then we can do an open Q&A at the end. So, yeah, I think it’ll be a good thing. Do you have anything you wanted to add, Joni, or should we dive right into the slides?
Joni: Let’s jump right in.
Tara: All right, let’s go. So, we’re gonna be talking about how to boost your backlist. So, let’s start, in particular, with talking about, you know, what is your backlist? I’m sure, as authors, you’re hearing talk about this all the time. So, if you’re kind of new to independent publishing, we wanted to tell you a bit about, like, what your backlist is and how it’s defined. So, your frontlist is what we sort of refer to as your latest releases or books that were published within a year. So, anything that you’ve published in the last 12 months would be something that you’d consider your frontlist titles. And then your backlist titles are older than that. Sometimes people refer to their midlist, but for the sake of this presentation, I thought it was easiest to keep it to frontlist and backlist. So, anything that is older than a year or has been published for over a year.
I was looking at some of our Kobo Writing Life stats, and over 50% of sales from Indie authors come from their backlist titles. So, this is really what you kind of wanna be aiming to get to when you’re writing, is to be constantly promoting these books, and not just your frontlist to make sure that you’re kind of really having a good revenue stream that’s broad throughout your titles and that you’re earning as much as possible. And then the last point is to say the pandemic reading habit has really led to an increase in readers’ devouring their backlist. We saw an increase overall with people reading, and a lot of people reading new digitally. So, it was a really great opportunity for readers to discover new authors. And what they love to do when they discover new authors is to go through and devour their backlist and just kind of keep going with all the books that are there. So, this has all been positive overall.
So, we have five tips that we’re gonna go through that we think are really important for you to leverage your backlist. And I’m gonna talk to the first one here, which is make metadata your friend. Which is, I feel like I’m always talking about metadata on this, maybe not even just on this, but on the podcast. But metadata really is key to selling books digitally as customers can’t really, like, browse the aisles, and like, pick a book up, and flick through and see. So, it’s all about how you’re presenting your book within the metadata itself. So, this is an example book that I’ve published, purely about metadata. So, when you’re in your Kobo Writing Life account, in the Describe Your Ebook section, is where you add all your metadata details. And what I really wanted to highlight is just the series information.
So, this is very key for your backlist. When we’re referring to backlist titles, this is usually for books that are in a series. It can also be standalones, but a lot of the stuff that we’re gonna be talking to would talk to series. That’s where we kind of see Indie authors leaning toward publishing. So, you wanna make sure that your series name is entered here, and that it’s entered exactly the same on each book that you have. Because this is what’s gonna link it together. Sometimes we find instances of authors accidentally putting in like two spaces, or a full stop, or, you know, the ampersand instead of and, or something like that. So, you wanna make sure that you’re putting them identical in each book because then that’s gonna tell our system that this is the same series. And then you also wanna make sure that you’re including the volume number, because this again, is gonna order them on our website, and it’s really, really important to have the correct volume numbers there.
We do sometimes see examples of authors sort of entering their series but forgetting about the number. And while we will link it on the site, it won’t kind of flow through for the customers as well as it can be when the number is there. So, you wanna be able to enter your volume number. We let you enter decimals. So, say you have a novella that’s between series, you can enter 1.5, 2.5, and we also accept a zero. So, if you had a prequel, you know, sometimes there’s a prequel novella, you could do a 0.5, it’s great, you can include that there.
So, I just wanted to show you… So, this is where your series information is gonna be displayed on kobo.com if you weren’t familiar with it. So, you can see right away that it’s gonna be book 1, and it’s highlighting the series, trying to encourage people to click through. And rather looking at my pretty dull sample book, I wanted to show you an example of an Indie author that has their series information really well and how on Kobo, we’re trying to, like, lead the customer to the next book in the series.
So, I’m gonna look at Penny Reid’s, “Winston Brothers” series. So, I hope you guys can see this. You can always make the screen a little bit bigger if our examples are a bit small. So, in this example, the customer is typing in the “Winston Brothers.” And in the dropdown, you actually see the option on Kobo that you can search by a book, insert the title of your book. You could search by an author, or you could search the series itself. And then we also have, on the search results page, an added area for series. So, we really wanna try and offer as much search options as possible for the customers and really showing them that this is a series altogether. So, again, without that metadata, we don’t know that this is a series. So, it’s really key to enter that correctly and enter the numbers as well.
And then on the product page itself, when you click through, if you scroll down, we have a little area that shows more in this series. So, customers can easily see the other books that are there. I really like these covers because they sort of speak to the same series. I mean, I’m just a sucker for the cross-stitch style covers that Petty does, I think they’re awesome, but it really shows you that you can link through to the different books that are there. And then also when a customer is reading on their app or their e-reader, we’re actually prompting them to the next book as well. So, outside of what our store is seeing, the customers are getting alerts to let them know that there’s another book or a book being released in a series that they’re interested in too. So, again, that all comes down to entering the right metadata, so we can tell the customer what the series is, or like what the information is about. So, tip two, I’m gonna jump over and leave it to Joni. Do you wanna take this one?
Joni: Sure. So, we love talking about promotions. We have, as you know, a lot of promotional opportunities on Kobo. So, let’s chat a little bit about how we can use those to promote your former books or your backlist. Seems to be that the time to start promoting your backlist is when you’re about three books into a series. That seems to be the sweet spot for a good time to start those promotions. It’s also really important to think about your frontlist titles as well. So, we want to make sure that if you’re pulling up those backlist titles, that they are in support of frontlist sales. So, we’re looking at same genre, same pen name if you use different pen names, and also if it’s the latest one in a series, it’s a good time to start promoting the previous books in that series as well.
So, some ways that you can do that, one of the big ones is to discount book one, or sometimes make book one free. As you all know, seasoned Kobo people, free does super, super well on Kobo. So, if you are releasing a new book in a series, a lot of authors will take advantage of the free page and they’ll put the first book in the series free temporarily, get some interest in that. and that’s gonna lead to sales to read through sales. And it’s a good time to kinda line that up with the release of a new book in the series. And then there’s a lot of external avenues you can take. We’ve got BookBub, is really, really popular. When you have a BookBub, let us know about it. We always love to hear when you’ve got other promotions going on so that we can give you a little bit of extra featuring on our site. Written Word Media has a ton of different options. We have a podcast where we talk to them about all of the different things that you can do.
Tara: Recently. The podcast just came out …
Joni: Very recent podcast, yeah.
Tara: So, the “Kobo Writing Life Podcast,” if you’re not a subscriber, you should subscribe. Joni’s selling herself short here, she did a great interview with Written Word Media about all their stuff.
Joni: Yeah. They were fantastic. And we learned a ton because they have really put the work into researching how to promote books so that authors can do a little bit less on that side of it.
Tara: Yeah, and Written Word Media might not be familiar. They’re the people behind, like, Freebooksy, Bargain Booksy. I think it’s Red Feather Romances, right? Yeah, in case you weren’t too sure who Written Word was.
Joni: And then we also offer a lot of promotions on the Kobo site. So, we’ll talk a little bit more Oh, we love that you love the promotions, Paul. So, we have, as we talked about the free page, we have the Daily Deal spot, which is a very highly featured position on the site. So, we alternate between traditionally published books and we have some Indie spots in there too. And that is a book that is discounted for a short time, and it has a prominent spot on the Kobo site. And then the Double Daily Deal is slightly less prominent, a little bit further down the page. It’s a little bit cheaper to apply for, and there’s more spots for KWL authors. So, there’s lots of different options as well as all of the different…the genre promos that we do. We do a lot of like box set promos, and 40% off, VIP promos, that kind of thing.
Another thing that you can do is make sure that your back matter is up to date. So, make sure that the end of your book links to the next one, and that you’re telling readers. You’re doing some kind of call-to-action at the back of your book and telling them where to go, similar to metadata. So, if you are familiar with Kobo, hopefully, you are also familiar with the Promotions tab. If you’re newer to Kobo, this is a tab that is available only for English-language authors. So, the important thing to know about it is that we don’t activate it on every account because we don’t know, when you sign up, where you’re coming from, what language you’re writing in. So, once you’ve set up an account, it’s really important to shoot us an email, writing email@example.com, and say, “Can I please have the Promotions tab?” And then we’ll turn that on for you.
So, that gives you an opportunity to submit to all of the various promotions that we have on site. We switch it up pretty often. So, it’s worth checking in monthly, at the very, very least, to see what promotions we have available. We always, always have free spots, we always have daily deals, and then we also always have a rotating list of different promotions that we do. So, we’ll do romance, mystery, thriller, we’ll do box set promos, we’ll do promos, like, seasonal promos, Mother’s Day, the holiday, whatever’s going on at the time, we’ve got a promo for it. We’ve also added, quite recently, a little comment box, and this is really for you to give us a little bit more information that we can’t see just by looking at your book. So, you might wanna say, “There’s a new book in my series coming out, so I want to promote the first one.” Or, “This book has a BookBub right now on these dates in these regions, please choose it for the promotion.” And if you have absolutely nothing to say, then leave Rachel a joke.
Tara: She’s been getting riddles, she’s been getting very good riddles in the comments here, which we enjoy seeing.
Joni: Yeah, we’re quite easily motivated by things like that.
Tara: That’s very easy to sway your book to the top of the list.
Joni: So, this is what it looks like on the site where there’s a few different examples of the kind of promos that we do. As you can see, we’ve got banners at the top. This one is from our free page, which is, in case you do not know, free is the most search term on Kobo. So, that page gets a ton of traffic, and authors get really, really good read through from free first in series. So, that first half of the page, you’ve got your first in series. So, we’ve got carousels for each different genre, but then we also have one featured spot for each genre on the free page. And then, you can see on the opposite side of the page, you’ve got the Daily Deal feature. So, that one, I think Paul said earlier, that one can lead to a ton of sales. It’s very prominent on the site. It’s a really, really good opportunity. So, you can see on it that we cross out the original price. Readers can easily see if they’re getting a good discount. And that spot is typically only one day. So, it’s a good time to put your book out there and people will jump on it.
Tara: And a good way of leveraging if you have also a BookBub or something to be able to tie in the promotions with something you’re already discounting. I find that it can be even more beneficial then because you’re already getting eyes on your book, but we just wanna make sure you get all the Kobo eyes on your book.
Joni: Absolutely. And we are also, we try to make it really obvious to readers, when you do have a price drop on by, you can see at the bottom there, you’ve got a little 60% off. We’ve crossed out the original price to show the sale price, and that just helps readers to know that, “Oh, I better get on this fast because I’m getting a deal here.” So, this is a really great tip for wide authors, which, hopefully, you are, if you are tuned into this. One of the things to know about Kobo readers is that they love to read in box sets, they love bundles, and they’re willing to pay a little bit more for that longer set. So, we do not price cap any of our books. So, you can bundle as many as you like, and you can price it at whatever price you like.
We don’t cap it like some of the other retailers do. So, we recommend bundling. We’ve seen duets, but typically three books or more in a series, put them in a box set. You’ve already got the content, so it’s easy to do. So, we’ll talk about different ways to create covers, but essentially, all you need is to put a new book cover on that box set and then use the content that you’ve already got.
One thing that you should know is that you want to make sure that your book file is easy to navigate. So, that EPUB file, you want to make it easy for the readers, the table of content should be set up so that readers can find their way into the book that they’re reading at that time. You earn 70% on every sale over 299 as with all of the other books. So if you want to bundle 10 books into a box set and price it really high, you have absolute freedom to do that. We also do a lot of box at sales. So, you can offer editor a higher price and then offer your readers good discount on it too.
So, covers, super, super important on Kobo. We know that people judge books by covers. So, one thing that we do see a lot of are the 3D box set covers. And on the store, they look a lot smaller because there is so much white space around them because of the 3D image, and it’s fine, it’s just not great. It doesn’t look as good with all the other books. It’s not as eye-catching, it’s smaller on the screen. So, we advise that you do a flat cover and you avoid that 3D and white space look.
So, there’s a few different ways you can do this. If you don’t have it in your budget or your time budget to create a whole new box set cover, what this person’s done is they just put a little sticker on and said this is one image. They’ve, obviously, adjusted the text to say it’s a box set and they’ve put little sticker that says books 1, 2, 3. It doesn’t stand out super, super well, but you’ll see in the metadata, that it’s a box set you’ll see in the pricing, and it’s really subtle, and the cover looks great. Bella Andre here has got all of her different covers, the smaller book covers, but she’s made a box set cover on its own. So, she’s got the big featured image at the top and then the little book covers below.
And this is another way that you can do. If you like the 3D cover, but we don’t wanna give all that white space. Joanna Penn has got hers set up so that she’s still got that 3D box set, it still looks like physical books, but she’s got a background image. So, it still stands out on the store, it looks really great among the other books, and that’s another option. Love Skye Warren and the torsos here. We’ve got small images or a collage of different books from the series. And then Toni Anderson’s done something kind of similar to the others. She’s got the flat covers, she’s got a background image customized for the box set, and again, it’s gonna stand out really, really nicely on the store. So, there’s a ton of different ways that you can do this. Play around with it and just keep thinking about what’s it gonna look like on store on a white screen next to a bunch of other books. That’s the most important thing, you want your book to stand out.
Tara: Yeah, and we are not strict on what we take. These are just preferences to sort of what catches our eye. But I know there’s some retailers that kind of flat-out won’t take just the 3D box that covers. We do accept them, but this is just what we kind of find sells a little bit better.
Joni: Best practices. And again, we do a lot of box set promotions. These ones tend to do really, really, really well. So, if you have box sets or if you’re thinking, if you’ve got a series of three books or more, think about bundling them up because these are some of our most successful promotions on Kobo. Kobo readers love a deal, and they love to read voraciously. Another thing about box sets that I think gets overlooked is that they do very, very well in our subscription program just because they’re easy, people can keep reading, they don’t need to stop the flow and get out and go find the next book. So, if you have those box sets, make sure that you are opting them into Kobo Plus also.
Tara: And that is a great segue into tip four, which is to opt into Kobo Plus. So, if you’re not familiar with Kobo Plus, it is Kobo subscription reading service, and it’s available in… So, the main English language geos are Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. And then the more international ones are the Netherlands, Belgium, Portugal, France, and Italy. So, it is a revenue-share model where you as an author are being paid by the minutes that your books are being read. And we’re finding that it really leads to an increase in author revenue overall as it’s reaching a whole new audience of readers. The subscription reader is not necessarily the same person that is going to go and purchase that book a la carte. However, they will devour a book when they have sort of no stopping them, really.
Joni: And you’ll get paid… If people re-read your book, you get paid for those re-reads. So, we really try and reward authors for readers engaging with their books.
Tara: Totally, totally. That’s a great point. So, how Kobo Plus can boost your backlist. So, I was doing a little bit of research for this talk, and we found that it’s about 25% of books that are added to a user’s library in Kobo Plus, are the first in a series, which is really enticing. It’s like this type of reader wants to start at the beginning and go through the entire series that they have. They wanna devour that backlist of titles. So, that’s something to really keep in mind when you’re opting books into Kobo Plus, that you wanna make sure it’s kind of part of your promotion strategy around your backlist, as well as making sure that you’re hitting this type of reader. As Joni mentioned, yeah, box set and bundles are hugely popular. They’re often at the top of our books that are being read, primarily, I think because it’s more minutes as well, and because you’re getting paid for each minute. It’s, you know, you’re getting paid for each value of the book the same as if they would have downloaded book by book.
But a lot of Kobo readers add their box sets and bundles as a means of convenience. So, just having all of the books in one spot, maybe it’s better on their Kobo, they can just hit all books in one area, but with Kobo Plus, you are getting paid for all of these reads. And, yes, you’re getting paid by the minute, including your re-reads. And, Paul, you’re giving some great comments. I’m just gonna pop this up, that Kobo Plus has added 33% to his total sales with Kobo, which is really wonderful to hear and something that we are definitely seeing overall, that it’s adding to author revenue, what they’re earning, and especially in the newest geos, five of those geos were launched last year. So, it’s definitely a market that’s very quickly growing. And I just wanted to highlight here as well, if you’re not a Kobo Plus subscriber, you don’t always see actually what we’re doing on the other side of really pushing a series within Kobo Plus.
So, we have a lot of spaces around, you know, enticing readers to start a new series, starting their trials, and making sure that we’re kind of, like, hooking them in on the start of a series to go through. So, we have, sort of, you can see a suggestion there for Susan Stoker’s book. And also, we have different areas of Kobo Plus Author of the Month, which can be a great opportunity for a whole number of series, especially a focus on backlist, to be very much highlighted in front of this audience. And we have a little Start a Series banner there as well, lower. And, yeah, there’s just… Anything else that I missed with Kobo Plus there, Joni? I feel like that…
Joni: No, I think you covered it.
Tara: Great. It was really interesting to see that so many people are picking up book ones and book zeros as they’re going through. So, it’s definitely something to keep in mind when you’re wanting to highlight your backlist of titles. So, then that really leads through to the last tip that I have that is really just to keep writing. I know this is sort of maybe a silly thing because you’re a writer, obviously, you’re gonna keep writing, but the more books you have, the more books you can promote. So, it might be hard at the beginning to think about getting to a spot where you have three or more books to start selling through to your backlist, but just keep going, keep writing away, and then you’re always, always gonna be sort of re-looking at those books and everything. So, yeah, that is the last piece of advice that I have. So, we are really interested to take just kind of like an open Q&A for a little bit of the time that we have left. I see there’s some questions coming through, but please jot the questions in the chat, and Joni and I will pick them through. So let me get rid of this.
Brenda: I have one for you, Tara.
Tara: Oh, yeah? Oof, should I be scared?
Brenda: No. For box sets, should they add in a volume number with a decimal for box sets?
Tara: That’s an interesting question. Oh, yes, that question there from Brenda. What I’ve sort of seen for box sets is that if you’re adding a volume number, it interrupts the flow of the series in the metadata that’s shown on the store. So, what I would sort of do…this is maybe the one instance when I would tell you to enter the series name and not actually enter the number as well. So, I would maybe just enter the series name so that it is sort of linked together, or you could have it as a zero if you really wanna entice those readers through. I think it depends, Brenda, on, like, the number of box sets you’re doing. So, say if you have a 12-book series, and you’re bundling them 3x3x3, maybe a box that does make sense then to be 3.5, or then your next box that is 6.5, or etc. So, yeah, I think that’s a good means of categorizing it and using your metadata to really help you sell books.
Joni: Yeah, also I suppose if you don’t have a prequel or a novella, you could do the 0.5 and then have it pop up to the top. So, if people are looking for book one or whatever, they might say, “Oh, I might as well get one, two, and three.”
Tara: Yeah, yeah. I’d be worried, though, because it’s a great opportunity later to add a prequel novella if you wanted to not. I mean, you can always edit that spot. That’s the great thing about Indie publishing, is that you have the control, and can edit all of these things, but yeah, a zero isn’t a bad place to start, and then it can pop to the top, especially when you’re searching.
Joni: Did we discuss when Kobo Plus will be available in the U.S.?
Tara: No, we didn’t. So, our kind of… I don’t wanna say that English isn’t right than the other ones. But our main English geos right now, are Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. So, there’s no immediate date for the U.S., but I would say to always just keep an eye on Kobo’s socials, whether it’s Kobo Writing Life or Kobo itself where we always make announcements of things. So, yeah, it’s definitely something that I think, you know, consumers are used to having subscription services to consume media now and not just books. I think it just really makes sense. So, yeah, I would say kind of stay tuned for any sort of expansion, but no set dates at the moment.
Joni: And I would also say that Australia and New Zealand is a really, really big market and it’s growing, and if you are thinking about growing your readership, don’t forget about that region because we have only just launched Kobo Plus there, and I think that it’s gonna go really well. So, keep that in mind when you’re thinking about where to spend your ad money and where to target, and which readers you’re looking at. Like, just to keep in mind that Australian and New Zealand’s pretty big, and they’re pretty keen readers.
Tara: That’s a great point. Especially because… So we launched them in November, I believe it was, October, November?
Joni: It’s very recent.
Tara: So, it’s very early days there. And we have a really strong partnership in Australia with Booktopia where we are powering their ebooks and their audiobooks, whereas they would be really well known for their print version. So, I think digital reading is kind of interesting in Australia because of book pricing tends to be more expensive given the just the size of that country, that it’s hard to get books delivered. So, digital reading, I think, has such a huge opportunity to just grow even more, and yeah, we’re seeing really positive results coming from Kobo Plus so far. So, I’m really intrigued to see when we have like a full year worth of data to see how that’s going. And the same with New Zealand, I feel like they’re so far at the bottom of the world that it’s sometimes often forgotten about, but, man, there’s so many readers there as well, and really great way to promote your book. So, speaking of let’s get this up. Do Kobo Plus books work well in Kobo promotions?
Joni: Definitely. We’re not siloing off Kobo Plus from Kobo. So, anything that you have on the store will be featured a la carte on the store as normal. But if you opted into Kobo Plus, it will also have that little button underneath in Kobo Plus regions that says Read for Free on Kobo Plus. And it will be visible if you filter your sales, or sorry, your search to Kobo Plus. So, it’s not different. Anything that you have in Kobo Plus, you can apply to any promotions, you can sell as normal in the Kobo store. If you’re in the U.S., like, you’re not going to be in Kobo Plus anyway. So, you’re only gonna be a la carte. So, I don’t think it’s helpful to think of them as being separate. Think of Kobo Plus as just being an additional opportunity for revenue, rather than something different and you can absolutely take part in all the promotions. And we want you to do that.
Getting picked as the monthly featured author. This one is a little more of a merchandise question, but really, our merchandising team separate to Kobo Writing Life, will be looking for an author of the month. I do not think it’s always Kobo Writing Life, they’re looking at different authors. So, they’ll come to our team sometimes, and they’ll say, “Hey, we need an author for this month. This is the kind of thing we’re looking for, do you have anyone?” So, that’s where it’s really useful to sort of stay in touch with us. Anything like reaching out to us, like, when you have BookBubs, applying to promotions regularly, just getting your covers in front of our merch team is a good way of being front of mind when we’re asked for those authors, because that is kind of how it works. They ask us like, do you have anyone in mind? The people that we have in mind are the people we see regularly. So…
Tara: Absolutely. And I think at the moment, base a lot of this over kind of popularity of the books in Kobo Plus. But as we expand and kind of grow and these areas kind of get their footing a bit more with the market there, we definitely wanna see if we can explore some promotions with Kobo Plus, specifically.
Joni: Yeah, and if you’re new to Kobo or you’re new to going wide, particularly, it is worth sending us an email just to say like, “Hi, I’m new to Kobo, I’ve been selling for x number of years elsewhere, but this is my Kobo debut.” And that does, like, I keep people in mind when I know that that’s the case for them because you often already have a backlist, right? So, it’s a great opportunity for us to have a new author with a decent number of books already ready to go.
Tara: Awesome. And then, Paul, you just got some excellent comments and questions today. I’m gonna keep pulling them up. Do Kobo Plus reads push up your book in the regular store listings? Yes, I believe they do affect your rankings, depending on the geo. So, it’s because our rankings are based, not just on sales, it’s also based on the temperature. And what we mean by temperature, is about how well your book is being searched how well, how many times you as an author are being searched for, or if books are being clicked through. So, all of this goes into play with how we’re ranking your book in our store. So, when it comes to Kobo Plus reads, people are adding your book to their library, this definitely does affect the popularity and well how things will kind of rank in the store itself. So, yeah, that’s a great question, and something that I always forget to mention. Jessica has a question about the cons of Kobo Plus, Joni. Can you think of any?
Joni: Honestly, no. I think that you’re leaving money on the table, essentially, if you don’t opt in. You can always opt out, and it’s an immediate opt-out. If you don’t wanna be in there for whatever reason, you can just deselect the Kobo Plus button, you can deselect it for specific regions. As far as, like, if I was doing it, I would absolutely… I don’t really see any reason not to, at least give it a try, and if you decide it’s not working for you, then no commitment.
Tara: I guess we… Again, we did this the last time we talked as well, Joni, we forgot to hammer it. It’s non-exclusive. So, it’s definitely, you’re not being tied to Kobo Plus with just publishing on Kobo. You can publish your books in Kobo Plus and then still have them available on as many retailers as you’re publishing on. So, like, Joni said, you’re essentially leaving money on the table by not taking advantage of it. I think one con is that maybe you might see a little decline in a la carte sales in different regions, but that is more than made up for by the revenue that you are earning from the Kobo Plus reads. So, like Paul mentioned, having a 33% increase. So, yeah, that might be the only sort of negative that I can see immediately.
Joni: That’s true, yeah.
Tara: Let us know if there’s any more questions. Betty’s asking if the video will be available later. Yes, it will. And if you’re just joining us now, we had a little presentation at the beginning just talking about backlist tips. So, feel free to go through, if you have any questions at all, you can always email the team at firstname.lastname@example.org. And we’re happy to help you with any kind of additional questions that come through.
Joni: Rebecca have a good question about audio promos. Thank you, Rebecca.
Tara: Oh, I missed that one, sorry.
Joni: We absolutely are doing a lot more audio promos. One thing that we are trialing right now is having a permanent buy more, save more romance feature. So, we know that it’s frustrating to go in and manually drop your prices for audio and we also know that romance readers are particularly voracious. So, we wanted to create a permanent promo spot on the Kobo store where those very, very loyal and binge-hungry romance readers can go and they can always get a deal on audiobook romances. So, we’re gonna trial this in May for the first time, and the idea is that we will switch up the titles every month.
So, you will, probably, if you’re on the audiobook promo list, you will have had an email from me. You will have had two, one about the spring sale, but with all genre, and one about audiobook romances. So, I know that can be a little confusing. So, it’s good to clear it up now. So, that’s gonna be something we’re gonna do every month. If you missed it this month, no big deal, we’re gonna do it again in June, and July. So, if that is something that you’re interested in, and if you have audiobooks direct with Kobo, and they aren’t romance books, then we’re gonna be doing that every month. So, you can reach out to me about that. I’m excited…
Tara: That’s real exclusive news. We haven’t announced yet about that. So, that was great that you got to share.
Joni: So, that’s something that we’re gonna try out. I’m excited to do that. And we take part in a lot of the merge sales. So, we always have stuff going on with audiobooks. And if you do have audiobooks, and they’re direct with Kobo, and you’re not hearing about promotions, email me, email@example.com, and I will make sure that I’m including you on those lists.
Tara: And if you have a Kobo Writing Life account but you don’t see audiobooks and you have some audiobooks to publish, you can also email the team as we’ll give access. We’re kind of just manually adding it at the moment before we roll it out to everyone else. We’re still fixing some bugs and tweaks, but yeah, you can definitely ask us for access there. And audiobooks is really, really growing, and Joni’s been doing some great work with the promotions, and we hope to eventually have it in the promotions tool. But in the meantime, we can kind of just take your submissions through email.
Joni: We’ve got a question about how to see rankings on Kobo sites. So, under your book, it’ll show you, number, whatever, in this subgenre category. So, it is right there. I will say that I would like you not to get hung up on your rankings on the store because they are so dynamic. They are so specific to the day, and the region, and the genre that you’re looking at. They change constantly, and they’re not really correlated to sales. So, they really are… So, if your book is in a very, very niche subcategory, then it might be number one on the Kobo store in, I don’t know, ball sports at the 1920s. And it’s not necessarily even sold anything, it’s just that there’s very few books in that category, and somebody clicks on it that day. It’s great to be able to see that you’re number three in romance today in the U.S. or whatever it is that you’re clicking on, but just, I think authors sometimes get very, very caught up in the importance of rankings, and it’s not as important as you think it is. Would you agree with that, Tara?
Tara: No, absolutely. I’m still laughing at your ball sports in the 1920s. How was that just so fresh in your mind? But yeah, no I absolutely would agree that, yeah, not to get too caught up in it, it is nice when they’re there, but there are so many factors that go into the ranking, not just the sales themselves. Though it is nice to keep track of it and, you know, let us know if you’re ever hitting number one on your genre. That’s always really fun to see.
Joni: Yeah. And it is like any kind of, when you have a BookBub or anything that’s increasing clicks to the store, it does push up your rankings, and that is helpful. But just, it doesn’t mean everything, and it doesn’t always relate to sales. It really is just about people clicking through and looking at it, and it’s great when you’re getting traffic to your book.
Tara: And so, Barbara, you said you’re seeing ranks on your laptop but not on your phone. I’m not too sure what phone you’re using, but that might be due to… If you’re on iOS, you can’t purchase directly in the app. So, we don’t have as much information through. It’s sort of like a bare-bones, like, synopsis title and things like that, and I think you can see ratings. But if you go to your browser where the customer would do the purchasing, you can be able to see the ranking there, or you should anyway. But yeah, that’s a good kind of… I just sort of said ratings there as well. I think ratings are something that can be really important to backlist too. Joni, what do you think about that?
Joni: Absolutely, yeah. And it’s always worth asking your readers, putting that CTA at the end of your books, like, please go write my book on Kobo. If they’re reading it on a Kobo device or a Kobo app, then they will get prompted, just leave the star rating. And actually, that’s something that we might as well talk about because when you go on kobo.com on desktop and leave a review, you have to write something. But if you’re doing it on your phone or your device, it just gives you the option to do the stars. And so, sometimes people email in…
Tara: Your phone, you have to write it, it’s just the device.
Joni: You have to write it, it’s just the device, okay, good to know. So, sometimes people write in, and they say, “How is it possible that my book has a starred rating but not a written review?” That’s how it’s when it’s done from a Kobo, then they just leave the stars.
Tara: That is a great point, yeah. Because we do get that question a lot where somebody thinks that they’re sort of missing a written review, and I totally get it, because you wanna have that review showing up on your page. But yeah, our devices all sort of work a little bit differently. So, some of them have the option to only leave the star rating, which I’m guilty of lazily only doing the stars.
Joni: I do too.
Tara: I know. And I know I should write a review. So, I have to get a bit better at that. But yeah, gotta get the authors that I’m reading to train me to do that. Brenda said, “Some great tips, especially how to use the comments.” Thanks, Brenda. Yeah, she’s referring to the comments in the Promotions tab. Definitely take advantage of this. I can’t remember the best riddle that Rachel’s got, like, have you?
Joni: I don’t know. But secret tip for anyone watching, Rachel is abnormally obsessed with Buffy. So, use that information wisely.
Tara: If there’s a Buffy joke that you can add to your promotion, you’ll definitely get her attention.
Joni: Yeah, it’s good because I think that we get a lot of permissions for promos. So, if you’re just looking with a sea of covers and you don’t have any context, then it’s very difficult to choose anyway. But it’s really, really helpful to have that little bit of extra information if we know like, oh, this is a new release, or this is has a BookBub deal, then it’s easier for us to make those decisions and to give you a little bit of extra support.
Tara: Yeah. And, absolutely. Or like even something as, you know, you might not even think this, but if this is the first time that you ever discounted this book, like, that’s really key for us to know. Because we kind of make sure that we are adding things, you know, making sure that they’re on the… We have discounted lists that are throughout the store even outside of the promotions. So, yeah, it’s always good for us to know that sort of stuff. And I think you’ve already mentioned, like, for authors that are coming wide for the first time, because we know that you can, you know, you can sell books on other platforms, we just wanna make sure that you can find your Kobo readers. So, it’s great for us to sort of know that, and as much information as you can give us is always super helpful.
But also, don’t take it too personally if you are not getting accepted. Just down to the sheer volume that we have. But we’ll always try and have a number of promotions available. And we try to balance them between… Most of them are promo code promotions, I think, at this point. Some of them will be price-drop. We try to steer away from the price drop just because we know that you guys don’t like it as it means that you have to drop your prices on all the different retailers. And it can be very difficult to juggle that, you know, with the different timing, there might be a retailer that’s having a delay, and you wanna make sure that your books are discounted. So, our focus is really on having promo code promotions, and a buy more, save more is when say a customer has… I always get this the wrong way around, buys three books for the price of two books or something like that, right? Like a bundle, yeah.
Joni: Buy one, get another one for you, that kind of thing.
Tara: Yeah. So, then whenever you’re applying for these promotions, you don’t have to do anything with your pricing, or discounting, and it doesn’t affect your other retailers because it all happens at checkout for the customer itself. So, on the Promo tab, there’s lots of information, but I just wanted to highlight, that we try and steer away from any price drop ones just to make it as easy as possible. Elizabeth has a comment, “Really enjoying the first Q&A.” Thanks so much for joining us. Are there any plans for Kobo to allow asset list pre-orders? It’s definitely on our wish list, for sure, it’s something that we get asked a lot. So, we would like to get there eventually. I don’t have a timeline, but it’s definitely on our wish list. But what I would say, as a general rule of thumb, I’d upload your finished file, like, I think we say two days, but I would do it at least four days before your on-sale date just to make sure that it gets ingested into our system correctly.
Because you just wanna make sure that the other file doesn’t go live by accident. But I’d also try and use the, you know, what you upload as a kind of marketing tool. You don’t necessarily have to put a book or a book chapter because we don’t have a limit to how far ahead you can set a pre-order. You might not have written the book yet, you know, but you have an idea of this next book in the series. So, if your book is a year out or something, you could just upload a simple word doc just to kind of having, you know, a letter to the reader, or just something that alerts them, like, “Hey, this book is about this,” sort of like, an expanded blurb. Or just use it as an opportunity to really talk to the person that’s pre-ordering your book. Because those are really your super fans because they’re already lining up the titles that they wanna get. So, yeah, I would definitely take advantage of that space and then make sure you’re uploading the correct file at least four days, if not longer than that. Whenever it’s ready, honestly, I would just upload it. I know you have a lot to juggle, and you might forget, but I would just make sure to do that. Anything to add there, Joni?
Joni: No, I think you covered everything.
Tara: Nice. And I would say as well that we have, like, I think it is quite a high number of, like, customers for Kobo Writing Life titles do pre-order their books. So, I definitely, if you’re kind of considering whether or not to put a pre-order up, say if you’re moving wide for the first time, I would definitely say to put a pre-order up, for sure. The minimum, I dunno, people do it within a month, but you could do it out. We have some authors that actually have their pre-orders on Kobo before any other retailer. And it’s almost like a little exclusive for those customers that are kind of really dedicated to that reader, that they know that kind of, like, this book’s actually coming out a year-and-a-half from now, and I get to like have little, you know, make sure it’s ordered. So, I would definitely take advantage of the pre-orders for your marketing.
Joni: We also like it because it helps us to keep an eye on new releases and events.
Tara: That’s a great point.
Joni: We do keep a list of what’s coming out. So, the pre-orders really, really help the merch team to track when releases are coming out.
Tara: Yeah, and it also really boosts your rankings, as we’ve been talking about rankings, because the customers aren’t charged until date of the pre-order. So, that means that all of your sales go on one day and it really boosts them up. So, you’ll also see this reflected on your dashboard as well that you’ll see kind of, like, the sales on that day of the pre-order. So, it can be a really, really great way to sort of boost the sales as your book’s being released. So, when you upload a file to Kobo Writing Life, there’s always a preview option available, and it defaults to the first 5% of the file that’s being uploaded. So, that’s why if you had a pre-order and say if you were uploading approved version that is going to the editor, you might not wanna actually put that up because the customers can read the first 5%. So, that’s why I would suggest using a placeholder file where you’re kind of just have kind of a message direct to your readers to let them know a little bit about the book.
Joni: Thank you to Paul for pointing out that we can change pre-order dates without being penalized. Doing everything for us here. Pointing out, forgetting to say that, yeah, that’s great.
Tara: That is a great point, yeah. So, what happens from a customer perspective? So, say for, you know, life happens and you have to push out a pre-order by a month. And so, the customers will just get an alert that the date has changed, nothing will cancel, it doesn’t affect their flow at all. They’ll only still purchase the book on whatever the new date is that you’ve set. So, yeah, thanks for flying that, Paul. And then your other comment about real-time reporting on Kobo Plus and pre-orders, well, we actually have a dashboard version that is in beta at the moment. If anyone is interested in getting access to this, you can email the team at firstname.lastname@example.org. It doesn’t have Kobo Plus yet, but we’re working on that. But it does include pre-order stats. So, we know it was probably asset lists, pre-orders, and pre-order numbers are probably the top two requested features that we have.
So, we’re really excited to be able to roll that out. So, if anyone is interested again, just email email@example.com. And yeah, Paul, I love it, you love Kobo, it’s great, you know? I swear we’re not paying you. These are great comments. But yeah, if there’s anything we missed, you can definitely email the team. I hope you guys found it helpful. What also would be helpful is, is there anything that you’d like us to cover in a Q&A like this? These live on Facebook and YouTube so you can access at any time. So, yeah, you can definitely let us know if there’s an area of interest that you really wanna dive into or something that you’d like to do a Q&A about. Yeah, we’re always open to suggestions. Kat loves the dashboard and the map. Thanks so much. Yeah, the map is one of our favorite features. We love when authors sort of tweet out the map and we can see the areas where they’re selling. It really just does go to show that Kobo is such a global retailer that you’re gonna be able to see sales in the number of areas. I think Joanna Penn has sales in like 160 countries on her Kobo Writing Life map.
Joni: I can absolutely not name 160 countries, I’m gonna tell you right now. No, we really do sell everywhere. You’d be surprised at where your readers are coming from.
Tara: Nice. This is a great question, Jessica. On average, where do authors see the most of their sales on Kobo? Is it Kobo Plus? Is it libraries?
Joni: So, it depends on the author, like, this is different for everyone. I would say, on average, I do believe most of them are still ebook a la carte. We do have a couple of authors that are phenomenal in libraries. We have others that are, you know, are big Kobo Plus people, but I would say the majority, on average, eBook a la carte still.
Tara: Yeah. But Kobo Plus is definitely growing, like, with Paul mentioning the 33% of his income now, like that’s not uncommon to see. And then libraries making up a good chunk, and yeah, we haven’t really even touched on library sales as well. So, if you are interested in getting your books to the library system via OverDrive, you can do that really easily with Kobo Writing Life. And also, Joni runs the library promotion. So, Joni…
Joni: Yeah. And I will say if you do not have your books opted into libraries, you should go and do it today. It’s so worth it, it’s such a great opportunity to reach some very, very engaged readers. It requires very little effort on your part. If you go into your dashboard, if you find the book under the Rights and Distribution section, you can see an area next to Kobo Plus where you can opt into OverDrive and then it will prompt you to set a library price. Library price, we always recommend that it’s a bit higher than your retail price because the library’s purchasing one copy typically, and that makes it available in OverDrive’s catalog, and you’ll start seeing library sales come through. I cannot say enough good things about the library. I think that it’s a really, really great way for YouTube reach readers. Library readers tend to be big readers who talk about books, librarians like to talk about books. So, if that’s an opportunity that you haven’t taken yet, I would definitely jump on that.
Tara: Yeah, and we also have the Cost per Checkout option. So, I know sometimes authors are a little bit hesitant about pricing their libraries a little bit higher. Because, you know, the idea is like you want your librarian to really be interested in this book for a lower price. But we also have the option for a librarian to buy the book for like a one-time option for 10% of the price. So, you can keep that in mind when you are pricing, that there’s kind of two options for different sales to go through. Paul asked, is there a way to see which books are bought by libraries? Yeah, you definitely can. It’s not on our dashboard yet, but that’s to come in a later version of this new and wonderful dashboard that I’m referring to. But at the moment, you’ll be able to see them on your monthly sales invoices. So, you can find these if you go to My Account on Kobo Writing Life. There’s a dropdown at the top called My Account. And then go to Payment Information, and you’ll see your invoices there. You’ll have a separate invoice just for Kobo Plus, but within the other invoice, your library titles be there. So, you can find it by, I think, on the Title field, it expands …
Joni: It is, it doesn’t make a lot of sense but it is under Title, yeah. So, that…
Tara: You could filter by COGS too.
Joni: That’s true. But let’s keep it simple, it’s under Title. And then if you expand, like Tara said, if you expand the Title, it’ll say OverDrive, and it’ll say the Library branch. So, it actually, like, once you’ve expanded that, it’s quite easy to see. It’s just that I wouldn’t think to look under the book title for OverDrive. So, it’s a little contradicting.
Tara: But yeah, just do some filtering on your Excel invoices, and yeah, you’ll see them there. And then just another thing to add that Joni mentioned, the OverDrive promotions. Yeah, do you wanna comment on that?
Joni: Yeah. So, OverDrive runs promotions that are targeted at librarians. They are only librarians, so it affects your library price, and typically, I get you to submit by email, and you send me a list of ISBNs and the percentage discount that you want to offer OverDrive. So, OverDrive asks for anything from 25% to 50% of the library price. You don’t need to do anything, you don’t touch your dashboard. All you do is send me an email that says, “ISBN, I want to offer 50% off.” And then I submit that list to OverDrive and then they put it in their librarian-focused emails. So, OverDrive typically does at least monthly sales. Not all of them are appropriate for us because, obviously, they have a slightly different audience, but I submit to all of the ones that we can.
And then we also do some on our side where we say, “Okay. Well, we are finding that this genre is particularly popular. So, let’s gather titles for this particular thing.” And then submit them, and OverDrive will also feature those. So, yeah, that’s something that it’s again, it’s a mailing list. So, if you are not getting those emails, let me know, and I’ll set you up. Just make sure, please make sure that your books are opted into OverDrive. Because they’re not always, but yeah, I’ll make sure they’re opted in directly through Kobo Writing Life. And then we can put you on that email and you can start taking part.
Tara: And it’s sort of similar to how we said about the author of the month with Kobo Plus. It’s kind of about, like, building that relationship that we have with the authors, and we’re seeing what’s doing well in libraries and different things like that. So, when, for instance, OverDrive do come or want to do a sale with us, that we kind of, top of mind, have these authors that we think will be great fits for that sort of stuff.
Joni: Hmm. Yeah, that’s true. And then there’s authors also that do… Like, library readers are a little bit different. I think every audience that we work with is a little bit different. So, there’s authors that just do so well in the libraries. And we don’t really know what it is, it’s just some kind of library magic.
Tara: Totally, totally agree. Brenda’s asking, “Where’s the map on my dashboard?” So, if you go to your Kobo Writing Life account and click on Dashboard, if you scroll down, the Map is sort of just lower on the page. So, you’ll see it there. You might have to filter your Calendar to see that there’s a sale, but yeah, you can definitely see it there. And also, our new dashboard has the map as well. It was very briefly gone, but we made sure that we included it in the newest dashboard as well. Elizabeth has another question. Let’s see, more granular book categories, you would love to see them, or at least an explanation of what subgenres categories are available. This is a great question or comment. More so, Elizabeth, we are going to be updating things. We’re actually kind of beta-testing things at the moment with Thema.
So, Kobo is gonna be starting ingesting sort of Thema categories that really let you get super granular. They’re a bit more detailed than… So, how it works right now is that we have just kind of category trees that you see on your Kobo Writing Life dashboard where it’s sort of like the main category and then it goes down into the different sub-categories. But on the back end, these are all tied to BISAC codes, which is sort of like the industry standard for the different categories. They add new BISAC codes every year, which always surprised me before I started working in this, but makes sense when you think about it when there was that year that they had to add coloring books because people got really obsessed and there was no category to put coloring books into. So, stuff gets added all the time.
So, it takes a little bit of work for us to then also update our system. So, what we’re hoping to do is kind of update our BISAC, but then also introduce Thema categories, which are sort of, they’re almost more like tags. They’re, like, genre tags, and that’s how they’ll work on the store. Depending on where you’re located, you might see some on the Kobo store. But yeah, definitely on top of our mind to add more features because we wanna make sure customers can get really in-depth with, you know, some of our readers have really specific niches that they’re looking for. And yeah, I can understand that we might not offer something as thorough at the moment. But yeah, definitely will be coming. And yeah, I think that’s sort of time. Thank you, Ken, for the comment that you enjoyed the presentation.
Thanks for all the questions, guys. This has been really wonderful, and thanks for joining us live. Always a good time to be able to bounce these questions back and forth. And, Joni, thank you for joining me and answering all of these questions as well. Yeah, we hope you guys have a wonderful rest of the day wherever you are. And again, if you wanted to email us about anything that we brought up, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org. And thanks so much, and we’ll see you again soon. We’ll have another live chat in May with… Our guest is to be announced yet. So, keep an eye on our social and make sure you’re on our newsletters where you can get all of the updates. So, thanks so much, guys. Bye-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 Wharton with production assistance by Terrence Abrahams. Editing is provided by Kelly Robotham and our theme music was 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.