Ebook Publishing On Kobo With Mark Lefebvre

Amazon is not the only game in town when it comes to ebook publishing.

Yes, they may be the dominant partner in the US and the UK, but in global markets, ebook retailer Kobo is doing some brilliant things. In today’s interview, we get into what Kobo can offer you as an author.

In the intro, I talk about my trip to Hungary where I did some shooting and also some research on an ARKANE novella for next year. I’ve also been doing NaNoWriMo and working on a new crime series, as well as doing a lot of speaking and also launching a new online course – so it’s been a busy month!I reflect on the fact I have created one novel and 5 multimedia products this year – in 2013, I will be focusing much more on the fiction side!

mark lefebvreMark Lefebvre is Director of Self-Publishing & Author Relations at Kobo.com, as well as being an author and editor. You can listen above or watch the interview on YouTube here.

  • Mark started writing when he was 13 and still writes horror/ twilight zone fiction under the name Mark Leslie. He moved into bookselling as he’s passionate about books and publishing. He is traditionally published but also self-publishes his short story collections.

What is Kobo and how does it fit into the publishing ecosystem?

  • Kobo is an ebook seller, original spun off Canada’s largest print retailer, so it has a large use base in Canada. Three years ago the focus was short reads. Read freely is the philosophy. There’s a free app for all platforms and no DRM (digital rights management which locks down ebooks to a retailer). It uses ePub standard so you can read the books on any device that allows ePub.
  • Kobo was bought by Japanese based company Rakuten in early 2012 which gives Kobo an opportunity to expand even more globally. Kobo partners with retailers locally – WHSmith (a high street store), Chapters Indigo in Canada, Borders in the US and now the independent bookstores with the American Publishing Association. We talk about the global reach and ‘kobo speed’ as Kobo is available in over 200 countries. On the wall at Kobo, “if it seems like things are in control, you aren’t going fast enough” (Mario Andretti)
  • Everyone does want to make sure there’s more than one game in town. One overwhelmingly powerful company dominating the market is a bad idea. No one company should have that kind of power. There’s got to be a choice as a reader and an author.

For self-publishers – Kobo Writing Life

  • Kobo Writing Life is now available for self-publishers.  The best thing for me personally is getting paid in my own currency, GBP, electronically to my bank account. Whereas my Amazon USD income still comes by monthly checks which sometimes get lost.
  • The books that sell the best on Kobo are fiction – romance/erotica, thrillers, mysteries, sci-fi. But there’s also been an upsurge in short reads – or long-form articles e.g. a long journalism piece.
  • You used to have to go through Smashwords as an author to get to Kobo so it was an indirect process of publishing, but now it is direct so you can make price changes quickly with no significant wait, as per the Amazon KDP platform.
  • Selling more books on Kobo. Firstly, make sure there’s a link from your website. Many authors just list Amazon. Kobo wants to be a business partner with you as a publisher, a business-person. The Kobo dashboard contains information on where you sell in each market including a map of the world. Kobo is constantly working on their own search algorithm and refining it, as well as merchandising opportunities and lists. Ongoing, Kobo will be adding more possibilities to authors – they are constantly developing so watch this space!

espresso book machinePrinting with the Espresso Book Machine

  • Ebooks are exciting, but print on demand technologies continue to advance. The Espresso Book Machine is a large printer attached to a binder that prints a book in the time it takes to make an espresso. They do have self-publishing options now – very cool! It’s the meeting point between print and digital, and they are partnering with companies like Xerox, LightningSource, Google and ABA in order to expand.

kobo writing lifeYou can find Mark at MarkLeslie.ca

You can publish direct to Kobo at KoboWritingLife

If you have suggestions for Kobo, you can email: writinglife@kobo.com

Do you publish on Kobo? What are your tips for selling more on Kobo? or do you have any questions about this platform? Please do leave a comment below.

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  1. says

    I’m publishing also on Kobo via Smashwords and it’s not bad, though they often have some issues with the website (disappearing book covers, like it’s happening in these days, sometimes disappearing books… fortunately it happened only with a free one of mine and it was restored in a little time). Of course you don’t sell as much as on Amazon (and on Apple), not even nearly, at least not in Italy, though it recently teamed up with the biggest Italian publisher, so something is about to change on the market (Christmas will be crucial about that).
    Anyway I think it’s a very good alternative to Amazon as it gives you the chance to cover the epub market, too.

  2. says

    Like Carla, I am distributing through Smashwords to Kobo. They have sold over a hundred copies of one my stories, so their readers are available to download eBooks from any publisher.
    It will be interesting to see what the holiday season does for eBooks, compared to last year.
    With a new one (We All Die!) coming out soon, I am hoping a lot of copies are purchased for Christmas.
    Thanks for the article, great read.

  3. says

    How about new authors and publishers are having good scope to sell thier stuff in KOBO? i’ve been trying to sell some of my own ebooks takes very long to sell 1 copy unless i have some good reviews

  4. says

    For those wishing to see their work made available in the Kobo store you don’t have to go through Smashwords alone. Untreed Reads also gets your work into the Kobo store as well as Sony, iTunes, B&N and many many others including public libraries.

    If you are looking for a distributor alone, to get you into Kobo and all those others, I would definitely recommend Untreed Reads as an alternative. They’re fast, efficient and professional.

    I’m definitely happy to see my work on the Kobo site and on the kiosk screen at Chapters-Indigo.

  5. says

    Joanna – as a follow-up to our conversation, I wanted to share a third-party website I recently found which is dedicated to helping authors promote their free and bargain titles (usually $4.99 and under) at Kobo.

    It seems pretty slick and pretty inclusive, and definitely worth a look.


  6. says

    I have to say, I LOVE Kobo Writing Life. You’re right – it really does have a slick interface, it’s easy to use and though I had some upload issues several months back, I’ve not had any troubles since. I was really interested to hear about the book espresso too….I’m with CreateSpace, but moving to LightningSource and being able to use that distribution network sounds an amazing feature to be able to access.


    • says

      Just to throw in my .02: A few weeks ago I and another author I know had trouble getting our perfectly formatted epubs to load on Kobo Writing Life. We contacted one of the reps and received THE BEST customer service from any of the online distributors I’ve worked with. No muss, fuss, and no wait. I was thoroughly and happily impressed. Thanks Kobo.

    • says

      Hi John:

      Just to be clear – Kobo Writing Life doesn’t have any sort of Print on Demand option at this point. Services for authors are completely digital. However, personally, I have used Lightning Source to create two POD books that distribute to Amazon, B&N, Chapters/Indigo and all major book retailers everywhere. Decent services at a fair price.

  7. says


    Writing Life is still a work in progress, and I appreciate that. I also appreciate a strong competitor to Amazon, which can only be good for the ecosystem in the long run.

    Two pet peeves:

    Contrary to what you say above, kobo does offer a DRM option, and everytime I change a price, I have to double check this setting, because it defaults to DRM mode. *grr* This is annoying.

    I would really like to see free download stats. In what countries is there interest in my work? This is potentially useful marketing data. Right now only sales data is reported.

    Anyway, keep the pedal to the medal. Love the Andretti quote.


    • says

      Thanks, JMP, for understanding it’s a new product, and continually being revised. That is greatly appreciated. In the past 12 hours, for example, we just launched phase 1 of the dashboard enhancements — allowing the user more opportunity to customize the sales data you are seeing.

      Yes, Kobo does offer DRM as an option. We had too many authors who were afraid and wanted DRM available – and since it’s an option we give to major publishers, it’s something we want to give to indie publishers as well. The DRM switch bug is on the chart of revisions to be fixed. And the default should be to No-DRM, allowing the user to select it if they wish.

      Tracking free downloads is definitely on the KWL development team’s roadmap. It’s actually difficult to retrieve this data because it’s not stored the same way sales are. And I don’t yet have an estimate on when we’ll have that option for users – but it’s certainly something we’re aware of and working on.

      Thanks so much for the feedback. User feedback continues to help us improve KWL.

    • says

      I agree, Mark.And glad that you mentioned it. This very topic I noticed myself upon changing my book price. Now it appears not available in any searches I’ve done.

  8. says

    Really enjoyed the interview – and thank you Mark L. for posting the epubdeals link. I’m an author on writinglife, and that link is much appreciated!

    Also, I was wondering if Kobo will offer an affiliate program directly from the Kobo site the way Amazon does? Going through Linkshare has some problems as it can take a week before new uploaded books are shown in the linkshare affiliate site.

    • says

      Hi K.W. Glad you like the link. I have already taken advantage of their services myself. :) They were easy to work with. It’ll be nice to see more of those third party daily deal services that send readers to buy KWL author titles at Kobo.

      Just yesterday I met with the affiliate manager at Kobo and we’re looking at how we might be able to incorporate affiliate links to Kobo easily through KWL — make it a single click option for authors direct from your catalog within Kobo Writing Life, so you don’t need to go to multiple places. We’ve just started scoping out the specifications and are trying to see how to fit that into our development plans for 2013.

  9. Lavinia says

    Hi. Amazon.com published my ebook w Kindle. Now I would like to have it published by Kobo. I have been unable to find a contact. Can you help?

  10. Ester Shifren says

    Hi Joanna
    What a pleasure it is to always find you when I’m looking for important information. I’ve just created my ebook and am looking at all the options. Today is the deadline for entering Dan Poynter’s global ebook awards and I pushed my formatter to finish in time for me to enter. Hoping it will work out. I’ll watch the video. So busy in a nice way! Best always and thanks.

  11. says

    I always know I can find info on this blog about e-publishing! I’ve just made my non-fiction book available via Smashwords. I have heard it’s better to publish direct with Kobo rather than through Smashwords these days. Is there a particular reason for this? Anyone have experience with both? Thank you!

    • says

      It’s about control Liz and direct access. With Kobo Writing Life, you can make changes to price, description, cover, file contents etc and the changes are done quickly and directly. They also pay directly by bank transfer to the author’s account (and for us, in GBP, yeah!)
      If you go through Smashwords, it’s another 3rd party in between you and the customer.
      You want it to be YOU -> Kobo -> Customer
      not YOU -> Smashwords -> Kobo -> Customer
      I recommend using KDP and Kobo direct and then Smashwords/BookBaby for the rest.
      US people should also go direct to NookPress, but that’s not open to non-US authors.
      Hope that makes sense!

      • says

        Thanks – that makes sense! I have some spare time today so had better go and do the thing … or do I have to wait until the Smashwords version disappears from Kobo before re-adding it direct?

          • says

            Liz – you might as well get started creating your book on KWL, so that you’re ahead of the game in terms of having direct control. At the same time, begin the process of delisting your book from SW via their handy “Channel Manager” on the left nav of the SW dashboard.

            If it takes more than a few days for them to remove the book, feel free to email writinglife@kobo.com and our team can co-ordinate with the folks who deal with Smashwords data feeds on our side to see what the delay might be. (We do receive a daily feed from SW – but sometimes there are issues or delays that crop up – any time data flows from point A to point B that Murphy fellow’s laws can kick in)

            FYI, I have oodles of respect for Mark Coker and as an author I also use Smashwords to get into Nook, since I’m not an American and iBooks, because it’s just easier, and places like Sony, Diesel, etc, because Smashwords is a great “one stop for multiple locations” place — As Joanna suggests, going direct to Amazon and direct to Kobo makes sense if you want the tightest control. But listing on Smashwords and distributing to as many markets/eRetailers as possible is a good strategy for maximum global exposure.

  12. says

    I was just looking at going direct with Kobo but i can’t find anywhere what percentage they take. I have no issue with them taking a cut, because they have to make a living, but the fact they’re not prepared to be up front about how much it is puts me right off. I think i will just stick with the Smashwords route for now.

  13. says

    Uploaded my book to KOBO, but haven’t got any confirmation back. Once the book is uploaded, what next? Any marketing suggestions? I’m a bit confused with the next step.

  14. Hemanth km says

    I am a new publisher (author) I am planning to sell my ebooks on kobo and I have question? How do I get paid on monthly basics?to my bank ac ? How does kobo publishes my ebook? Please answer me.


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