Selling Books At Kobo And Publishing News With Mark Lefebvre

We’re lucky to have more than one option to distribute and sell our books globally as self-published authors, and today I’m focusing on Kobo.

In the intro, I talk about the launch party for Deadly Dozen (valid until March 8), 12 mystery/thrillers for just 99c (or equivalent). Plus, the royalty change at ACX and updates on my own writing.

mark lefebvreMark Lefebvre is Director of Self Publishing and Author Relations at Kobo. He also writes horror and dark humor under Mark Leslie.

  • How Kobo differentiates itself by being a collaborative partner with leading booksellers around the world. Kobo Writing Life was the first to offer payment in the author’s currency, which Amazon KDP then picked up. It’s great to have a comparison service, a challenger to keep everyone honest!
  • We also discuss the scheduling of promotions which you can do on Kobo, and can help you get visibility, as well as making sure the promotions start on time. It’s not dependent on being exclusive, and you can be free on Kobo at any time. [I use free on Kobo to get Amazon to price-match for permafree]. The Kobo Writing Life team mine the scheduled promos for gems and great deals for customers.

What do the Kobo merchandising team look for?

  • Obviously you need the best book you can write, plus a book cover that is aimed at your target audience. It’s
    kobo mark lefebvre jf penn

    J.F.Penn with Mark Lefebvre at the Kobo booth, London Book Fair 2013

    also important to think of the perspective of the booksellers’ curation process. Kobo is a bookseller and will make more money on higher priced products, or on pleasing customers with deep discounts. Mark also mentions the networking potential of being a ‘real person,’ so definitely say hi to the Kobo Writing Life team at conferences.

  • Kobo Next is a list of new authors and new books for people to discover. The authors and books that make it there are handpicked, and are proposed to merchandising teams.

Kobo News: Sony, new CEO & global expansion

  • We talk about the potential for global growth in 2014-2015, as well as translation deals, for example, what Kobo are doing with Bella Andre/Lucy Kevin. Plus, pricing by different territories, critical to seeing update in other economies.

On balancing two author brands

kobo writing lifeIf you’re not on Kobo yet, check out , which also has a blog and podcast for authors. [I’m on the next episode!]

You can find Mark on twitter @MarkLeslie and his fiction blog here.

Publishing And Marketing Tips For The Apple iBookstore With Mark Coker From Smashwords

As much as I love Amazon and KDP, it’s important to remember that they are not the only publishing option for authors.

smashwords appleAs ebooks move far beyond the mature markets of the US and UK in 2014, I think all authors should be aware of the other platforms that compete, and in some cases, dominate.

A few weeks ago, Mark Coker did a presentation for the Alliance of Independent Authors on the opportunities for publishing and marketing in the Apple iBookstore.

It’s a long video but well worth watching if you’re not making many sales on iBookstore, because there are things you can do to maximize your chances of sales. I’ll certainly be making some changes myself based on Mark’s talk.

Watch the video below, or here on YouTube.

Here’s some of my key takeaways from the video:

  • On the Apple eco-system, the iBooks app is downloaded more then the Kindle app and the Apple hardware devices have a far more hardware penetration into markets than Amazon’s Kindle. iBookstore is now in 51 countries and on every Apple device.
  • Different books break out at different times on different platforms. Apple has a more human-powered marketing approach vs Amazon’s automated algorithms. This can mean some opportunities for marketing that aren’t just based on sales spikes. Apple’s team are looking to find new books to please their readers and they find them through many different methods.
  • There is no restricted free period on Apple and no price-matching. Free books have 91x more downloads than paid books on Apple and iBookstore promote free more because they are primarily a hardware company, wanting to keep readers in their eco-system.
  • For Apple sales, try using the Widgetbuilder and tools that link directly to your Apple sales page. How do you expect to sell anything if you’re not directing people there.

I’ve been a fan of Mark Coker for years. You can check out an early interview I did with him in 2010 here. We were raving about the exciting times in publishing several years ago, and Mark’s site Smashwords continues to explode with exciting news every few weeks and more opportunities for indies.

I’d love to hear any comments you have about iBookstore. Have you had sales success on iBooks? Have you used any of the Smashwords functionality for Apple? Do you have any iBookstore specific marketing tips? Please do leave a comment below.

Introducing Libiro. The New Ebook Store For Indie Authors

The current publishing eco-system changes every week right now, and there are new opportunities around every corner. This expanding marketplace is only a good thing for authors, and some enterprising types are taking it further.

LibiroFantasy author, Ben Galley, has just started Libiro, an ebook store for indie authors and in today’s article, he tells us a bit about it.

Amazon is a beast. We all know it. A beast of sheer size and might. It’s also quite a friendly beast, where authors are concerned. Via Amazon’s useful and simple Kindle Direct Publishing platform, authors have the chance to upload directly to the Kindle store, set their own price, and have the choice of taking part in programs such as Kindle Select and MatchBook.

Essentially what Amazon provides is an alternate route to market – the ability to bypass the publishers and compete with the best of them.

And that’s exactly what its mammoth marketplace is – a competition.

A competition for sales, and ultimately, that coveted No.1 spot. The title of bestseller.

Without going into too much depth about how the cryptic Amazon algorithms work, books rise and fall on the rankings due to several key factors:

1)      Sales

2)      Reviews – both starred and written

3)      And the competition

The three really go hand in hand. Sales may rise thanks to a glowing review. More sales increases the capacity for reviews. More reviews come in. More sales occur, and the chain reaction goes on until, hypothetically, you’re at the No.1 spot. The problem is that everybody – every author and publisher – is doing the same thing. Every hour, every day, in each genre, for each book, little battles are being fought. This is why competition plays a big role in rankings.

The fact of the matter is that we don’t all have the same promotional skills or marketing punch.

Competing alongside the traditionally published authors might be no sweat for some indies, but unachievable for others (at the moment anyway – we’re all constantly improving!) The problem we authors face is that publishing houses have a long reach and very deep pockets. Very few indies, if any, have the budget to match that of a publishing house. This is why we rely on interacting on social media, sourcing reviews, clever pricing, and the pure quality of our books, rather than paid ads, bookshop POS material, and billboards. Even though indies actually garner a closer relationship with readers than most traditional authors, thanks to our marketing techniques, it’s still hard work to stand out.

These are the unfortunate problems with Amazon and KDP – over-crowding, and the way that traditional is usually favored over indie.

This is why I decided to create an eBook store just for us.

Libiro is a brand new store exclusively for indie books by indie authors. We exclude traditional books because it removes the traditional competition, and at the same time it promotes the concept of indie books and self-publishing, while offering the reader a dedicated, easy-to-browse store at which to shop.

Libiro offers indie authors an 80% royalty as standard – no matter what book, what price, or what country you’re from. This means that you aren’t just selling to an intrigued and interested market, but that you’re actually making more money per sale.

We’ve also got some exciting ideas in the pipeline too – marketing tools for authors, hopefully some sales analytics, and also a new eBook discovery tool that we’re quite excited about.

Empowering authors. That’s really what Libiro is all about.

I’m immensely proud to have launched it, and also very excited to see what the platform can do for authors in the future. It’s already been a great first month for us, so here’s to many more!

Of course, Libiro isn’t the only store that can help you sell more books.

Different readers like to use different stores, and so that’s why it’s wise to distribute to as many stores as you can. Kobo is a great store, and very similar to KDP in the fact they have an eBook publishing platform called Kobo Writing Life. Barnes & Noble is another important store, as is iBooks. You could even try using an eBook distributor like Smashwords or BookBaby, and publish to multiple stores at once. Try them all out! It’s important for accessing the whole spectrum of the market, not just the Kindle-users. Just remember to stay consistent in your information and pricing – perhaps keep a master document with all the information stored in one place. That always helps me.

If you want to see what Libiro is all about, then you can find it at

Please do leave any questions about the site or any comments below. I’d love to hear what you think about this opportunity.

ben galleyBio: At 25, Ben Galley is a young self-published author from sunny England. He is the author of the epic and gritty fantasy series The Emaneska Series. He has released four books to date, and doesn’t intend to stop any time soon.

Ben is also incredibly zealous about inspiring other authors and writers. He also runs the popular advice site Shelf Help, where he offers advice about writing, publishing, and marketing. Ben can be found being loquacious and attempting to be witty on Twitter (@BenGalley) or at



Why And How To Use MultiMedia To Enhance Your Ebooks

Recent surveys have shown that children are reading more and engaging with digital devices.

ElearningThey are true digital natives. But I’m 38 and while extremely comfortable with technology, I’m still part of the generation that was raised on print. I think our minds are trained to what we’ve always known so we can be resistant about the possibilities.

The enhanced e-book has been discussed for a while now, but hasn’t gone mainstream, while at the same time apps have exploded. How can we shift into using multimedia in our books? In this guest post, Harry Guinness from Bawdy Zebra explores some options.

A book no longer has to be printable.

The very idea of what makes a book is beginning to change; are eBooks still “books”? What about eBooks that would never work as print books, say ones with hundreds of pictures? If they’re still “books”, what happens if you start to include video? For years instructional books have come with companion DVDs, why not just include it in the text itself?

The technology is out there to begin creating books with more photographs than words, and even videos, slideshows and interactive web content like twitter streams. 

Now not every book should begin including photos and videos – that would be ridiculous. For example, I have a soft spot for epic fantasy (I finished the last book of the Wheel of Time in a single seventeen hour sitting; if you know what that means, I’m judging you, as well as myself!), and not for a second do I think the inclusion of reams of photos or videos would add much to my enjoyment. Likewise, a lot of fiction really won’t benefit by adding such content directly into the text – but there are still options. Here are five points on why, or how you could begin to add multimedia content to your books.

1. It costs you practically nothing.

A few years ago if you said you were going to release a book with close to one hundred full-size colour photos for the price of Big Mac Meal you would have been laughed at. But that’s what we did, it’s just not printed on paper! The additional expense of adding photos in particular is minimal. The camera in your iPhone is more than capable to take stunning photos – especially of landscapes – so why not add a few.

2. It adds to the readers experience.

This is more of a non-fiction point, but if you are writing a biography or a travelogue or anything else really, it is the perfect opportunity to include photos and videos. Nothing adds more to the experience of a travel book as photos of the stunning vistas – except perhaps an interactive 360 degree panorama. If it’s a biography, instead of just including a few pictures in the centre, litter the book with relevant photos, include videos of famous performances and speeches even!

3. Build it into the book.

I think there is a serious market for an enterprising mystery writer to write a book that builds photos and videos and audio segments into the story. I genuinely think that someone is going to have a huge hit on their hands with a book like that and if you want to have a shot and that, come, talk to me. I am interested in doing business with you!

4. Use it to make the readers see you.

In so many books, the author becomes a secondary consideration after the characters. I can’t begin to list the number of books I’ve read where the authors name is forgotten as soon as I put it down while the characters live on in my head. Why not have it that instead of a written introduction, as soon as the reader opens your book they are treated to a video of you thanking them for buying it. Suddenly the author becomes significantly more memorable.

5. More and more people are reading on these devices, make use of them.

The number of tablets out there is going up and up and by extension, the number of people reading on them. These devices all have features that are not being utilized. Differentiate yourself from the competition and use them! Don’t be left playing catch up in a few years.

If you want to see a simple example of whats beginning to be possible, please check out There Are Other Rivers by Alastair Humphreys, I worked with Alastair to create an unprintable version of his book! Go to for more information.

What do you think about multimedia in books? Is it just for kids books or textbooks? How can it be used with fiction? Please do leave your thoughts or questions in the comments below.


Harry Guinness is the founder of Bawdy Zebra (, a new multimedia publishing company; he worked with Alastair Humphreys ( to produce the best possible version of There Are Other Rivers available! You can get it for the iPad here ( or in loads of other formats – including dead tree – here (

Bawdy Zebra has a load more exciting content in the works and you can find out more on Harry’s blog (http//

Top image: BigStockPhoto E-learning concept

How EBook Readers Shop And The Importance Of Sampling

An author at a conference recently asked me for tips on publishing on the Kindle and then said that he didn’t actually read books on digital devices.

ebookreaderssamplingI was kind of gob-smacked because how else are you going to know if there are problems until you start getting 1 star reviews?

When you publish a print book, don’t you buy it immediately to test the process and the quality? So why not do the same for ebooks?

If you’re going to digitally publish, I believe you should own an e-reader, even if just to test how your book looks. They aren’t expensive anymore so there is no excuse.

It’s also important to understand how ebook readers shop, because they are the high-volume readers, the ones who will make up the bulk of your digital sales.

How do ebook readers shop for books?

I read around 95% digitally, on a Kindle Paperwhite and through the Kindle app on my iPhone. I don’t own every device but I certainly test the .mobi format on Kindle and the ePub format on my desktop reader and my iPad and iPhone. I am also a voracious reader, getting through 3-5 books per week, more on holidays. Not having a TV helps!

This is how I shop:

a) I hear about a book on twitter, or I see one at a physical bookstore, or see a review somewhere, or find something I like in the Amazon store Top rankings for categories I like. I surf for fun in the Last 30 Days area.

b) If the book is available as an ebook, I download the sample right away and put it into a collection marked Samples. If the book isn’t available as an ebook, 99% of the time I won’t buy it unless it is an author I am committed to. I have other Collections on my Kindle marked ‘To Read’ which are books I have bought but haven’t started yet, “Reading” for ones I am reading now and “Make Notes On / Review” for those I want to revisit to write notes on or review on Amazon & Goodreads.

c) In between books I am currently reading, I go through my samples. If I make it to the end of the sample, I will usually buy the book because I am hooked. If I don’t, I delete the sample. No sale. I usually give a book 3 clicks of my Kindle before I delete it. Harsh, maybe, but life is too short to read books that don’t call to you.

So your marketing efforts, your book cover, your book description and reviews have helped your book get this far, but it is the sample that leads me to buy. I probably delete 60-75% of my samples so I have a harsh approach, but I don’t think I am an untypical example of a high volume ebook reader (although if you are one also, I’d love to know what you think in the comments!)

Make sure your sample makes the reader want to buy

Your book has to start with something that hooks the reader.

This isn’t new advice – if you want an agent, the first page has to hook them, and readers of print in bookstores may browse the first page, but because there are so many ebooks available, readers are increasingly unforgiving if a book doesn’t fit what they are looking for.

Here’s some tips:

  • Get into the meat as soon as possible. Put all the acknowledgements and extra stuff at the back, not within the sample. I was severely annoyed recently to download an Angela Carter anthology of short stories to find that the entire sample was an essay about her work and the stories didn’t come until later. I looked for a better version.
  • During the editing process, make sure you pay particular attention to what will hook the reader. If non-fiction, what is the problem you’re solving. If fiction, why would the reader read on? What have you caught their attention with? What loops have you opened mentally that they must close?
  • Make sure the formatting is excellent and easy to read throughout. I have deleted samples straight away when they start with coding errors. It denotes a lack of respect for the reader. This is why you need to test and curiously this has happened with more traditionally published books than indie. Seriously, one book was entirely formatted in Bold. Did no-one even check it? (Make sure this doesn’t happen to you!)
  • If non-fiction, DO include the table of contents. If fiction, your chapters don’t really add anything so aren’t so necessary.

What other suggestions do you have for improving samples? How do you shop for ebooks? Please leave your comments in the notes below.