If there's one thing we can always be assured of, it's that marketing tactics and methods will be in a constant state of flux. Fads come and go, social media platforms come and go, advertising runs in cycles. Which is why the Alliance of Independent Authors AskALLi team is running a series of “What Sells Books in 2022” posts to bring you the most up to date tactics and tools for your writing business. This is What Sells Books in 2022: Kobo Writing Life.
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.
Since the launch of Kobo Writing Life in the summer of 2012, a lot has changed in the publishing landscape. Over the past ten years, we’ve seen indie publishing soar to new heights, with thousands of books published every year and Kobo Writing Life titles making up 25% of Kobo’s English language eBook sales. It’s easier than ever before for authors to publish their books and reach a global audience of readers.
However, another big change that we’ve seen over the past ten years is the proliferation of content and the explosion of available entertainment. In 2022, booksellers aren’t competing just for book sales – we’re competing for readers’ attention. We’re competing with podcasts, streaming services, social media and a million other distractions designed to monopolize attention. We’ve also changed the way we consume content. We don’t wait for weekly episodes anymore, and we seldom buy DVD box sets or CDs. We want to consume it all, and fast, and we want to talk about it on social media with everyone else who’s devouring the same content. We’ve had to adapt the way we sell books to keep up with these rapid changes.
One way we’ve done this is by working to reach readers where they are and making sure they can access books in the way that suits their lifestyle. We’ve identified the four different types of readers who engage with Kobo books and worked to make it easy for them all to access the books they want to read.
These are the OG customers, the ones who Kobo was built around. These readers purchase eBooks a la carte, and often read on an eReader device. Some love being able to carry around a light and portable version of their latest read; many appreciate being able to adjust the font sizes to suit them and read comfortably at night. These are engaged and loyal readers.
These are our binge readers with an enormous appetite for stories, who consume voraciously. They enjoy series, have an ever-growing to-read list, and they’re willing to take chances on an author they haven’t heard of. We first started working with those readers in 2017 in the Netherlands and Belgium with the launch of Kobo Plus, and the program was so successful that we’ve now expanded into new regions – readers can now enjoy unlimited reading in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Portugal, France, and Italy. The program does not require exclusivity (again: we think all readers everywhere should be able to read your books) and as such has been a tremendous success with authors and readers alike. We’ve made it easy for authors to opt their books in, and you can select the regions you want at the touch of a button.
Our listeners are multi-taskers. They don’t want to be pulled away from a story for any length of time and as such, they listen while doing other things – commuting, walking, household tasks. Some listen to books to sooth them as they fall asleep. Others use them to learn – diving into non-fiction while on the subway to work. We added the option to publish audiobooks directly to Kobo in 2019, making it easier for indie authors to reach listeners on Kobo.
These readers refer to borrow books from their local library. They are some of our most engaged and passionate readers. They love books and will take recommendations from librarians, and they’re willing to wait in line for the perfect book on hold. Kobo Writing Life partners with OverDrive so that authors and publishers can choose to make their eBooks available to OverDrive’s global network of librarians.
There’s a lot of overlap in these reading types; many of us identify as readers, listeners, and borrowers, for example; but we’re working hard to reach all of them. As passionate booklovers, our priority is making sure that readers are finding stories and engaging with them, in a way that works for them. That’s why we’ve made sure we’re serving all types of readers on Kobo Writing Life, and making it easy for authors to get their books to readers.
Kobo Writing Life is Global
ALLi is a global organization and prides itself on both reaching out and connecting with authors all over the world but also providing information for authors all over the world. Kobo does too. One of the features the AskALLi team loves is their sales map. You can find your sales map in your Kobo dashboard. Here's an example:
Kobo User Guides
Kobo has also created not one but two user guides for ALLi members. The first one focuses on how to produce and market books with Kobo. Inside you'll learn: how to get set up on Kobo, advice on pricing and structure, tips and tricks to increase visibility and more. The other guide specifically looks at distributing to libraries through Kobo. Both guides are completely free to members and can be downloaded by signing into the member website and navigating to: APPROVED SERVICES > KEY PARTNER GUIDES.
ALLi Member Kobo Strategies for Success
We asked our ALLi members how they've had success on Kobo.
- In house promos: Kobo has a promotions tab to let you apply to curated promotions. There are a lot of rejections, but the ones I get are helpful. There is also a new release promo you can submit for, but they need some lead time on. Can't remember exactly, but I want to say 1-2 months. Also, if you email them asking for help promoting – a specific release or something – sometimes they'll do something to help.
- Kobo Plus – it's their subscription reading service except they don't require exclusivity. It ads a nice little boost and hasn't lowered my sales at all.
- Bookbub Featured Deals – simultaneously the easiest and hardest way. When I got my first (after 5 rejections), it boosted my visibility. Now I have constant sales there, and Kobo readers on my Newsletter.
- Targeted Facebook ads – I build my audience, then narrow by platforms where my book is sold. Yes, I'm targeting all my platforms in one ad with a universal link, but it works. I can see direct correlation with new ads.
- Went wide and stayed wide.
- Tell readers that their library can buy your book for them, then they can borrow it through Overdrive.
- Always display Kobo (wide) links when promoting on social media. Consider giveaways that include Kobo brands instead of the go to Zon stuff.
- A lot of newsletter promo services are not geared to a wide audience. Explore different marketing options.
- Targeting wide similar authors helps with building a wide market. Pay attention to who you're targeting/swapping with.
- Kobos dashboard doesn't currently show Kobo Plus reads or audiobook sales. Check monthly reports for sales figures.
- Go to Kobo events at conferences and online. They give you tips and updates. They want you to succeed because if you're making money, then so are they.
“My biggest selling products on Kobo are fiction ebook boxsets. They are easy to promote on the Kobo Promotions tab and represent great value for the reader, and bonus revenue for me. I have a series of ARKANE thriller boxsets, and then boxsets for trilogies. However, I haven't found boxsets work so well for non-fiction.”