What I Learned About Kobo Writing Life

Mark Lefebvre, Director of Self-Publishing and Author Relations at kobo, didn’t just come to chat with us at The Toronto Indie Publishing Meetup, he brought us solid information about e-books sales, and he didn’t sugar coat it. Despite indie-publishing potentially throwing book sales wide open, a small number of authors still make a big chunk of the change, just like in the traditional publishing world.

But there is good news: a fair number of authors are making some extra coin, even if it’s not quit-your-day-job income. We’re talking a few grand a year, and they get to keep ownership of their work, which means if they can build a following, it could eventually translate into more income than they would ever make from a traditional publisher.

Mark used the example of a short story an author wanted to sell for $250. After ten years, while there were offers to publish it with little or no payment, the author finally self-published it. Within three years it had made $300. Not a living wage, but more than any magazine was willing to pay. Better yet, it’s still earning a trickle of income, which could go on for years.

Here’s some of the lessons I took from last night’s meet up:

  1. Write and write some more. The more you write, the better your writing will be, and the more product you’ll have out there earning income.
  2. A good cover and a good synopsis might get flagged for promotion by kobo. That doesn’t mean all books will get promoted, but your novel won’t get noticed if the cover is cheap.
  3. Making the first book in a series free will help your sales, even if not as much as in the early days of the e-book market wa-a-a-y back in 2011. The algorithms have changed so that you can’t join the club of paid best sellers just because your book is free for a few days.
  4. Pricing at 99 cents won’t make Amazon or kobo any money (maybe 5 cents per book after bank charges, etc) so they’re unlikely to promote you novel.
  5. Readers are funny when it comes to pricing. In one case study, an author raising his price from $1.99 to over $2.99 actually quadrupled his sales. In another study, a romance author who was selling well raised her prices from $4.99 to $5.99. After a week and a half of lower sales on Amazon, she discovered that not only did her Amazon and kobo sales bounce back to pre-price increase levels, her iBook sales went up. Yes, up!
  6. $1.99 is a dead price point. Oops. I’ll be raising the price for Sacrifice the Living on Amazon tonight. I also have to adjust its price on kobo.
  7. I need to get all my books up on kobo, especially my anthology of previously published Canadiana short stories.
  8. I should be writing romance novels. They’re by far the biggest sellers. SF is way down there, and horror isn’t even on the chart.

mark_meetup_crowdMark was an entertaining and informative speaker, delivering statistics about e-book sales that we could really use. I wish Amazon would share their knowledge of reader habits with us.

If you want to learn more about what Mark had to say, you can find a lot of the information in this excellent blog post.

I must shamefully confess that the most forehead slapping thing I learned from Mark is that kobo is an anagram for book. It was staring me in the face all these years. Why did I not see that? Sherlock Holmes, I am not. I see, but I do not observe. Good thing I’m a writer and not a detective.

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