Episode # 62 – How to Sell More Books on Kobo

In Podcast by Julius S69 Comments

AUTHOR NAME coverMark Leslie Lefebvre is an author and also the director of self-publishing relations at Kobo. Every author I seem to talk to loves Kobo, but struggles to get traction on the platform. In this interview I talk to the man in the know, to find out how you can do better with Kobo.

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Kobo Writing LifeKobo platform for authors. And check out their excellent podcast.

WattpadMark got a story featured on here and saw a vast number of reads. A great place to get beta readers, but you won’t make a ton of money.You can put subsc

NaNoWriMo –  National Novel Writing Month.

Lightning SourceHow Mark got his early books done.

Espresso Book Maker – Very cool video showing an espresso book machine in action!

Kobo Writing Life – The author platform that Mark helped Kobo create. Excellent podcast as well.

Opening Up to Indie AuthorsMark recommends this book for learning about booksellers (free).

Michael RankNon-fiction author interviewed in episode 44

Show notes:

As a Writer

Mark found his eventual position at Kobo because of his background as a writer and bookseller. Mark started as a bookseller and his firneds told him that self publishing was going to kill his career. He had done some stuff in magazines before, but didn’t have any books out.

In 2004 he compiled his previously published fiction into a book and used Lightning Source to print the book. He did this to bring his writing back into circulation because they were no longer available elsewhere.

It was this book, and his self-publishing, that got him a traditional deal to do a non-fiction book. Having already established himself as an author was very beneficial. When he was pitching the book to them, he laid out the business side of things, he made it clear that there would be a demand for the book.

As a Bookseller

Mark had a student bookstore and was the second location in Canada to purchase an espresso book machine. He managed to give students a better deal and paid of the book maker in a very short amount of time. After a time Mark even began selling books to other book stores that were made with the machine.

He started working with Kobo as he realised that ebooks were a great way to get the book around the world without a shipping cost, which was more expensive than printing the books.

Kobo eventually hired him to build a platform for authors and that is what became Kobo Writing Life. This took a while to develop and they are constantly improving it.

“I love Kobo, but I’m not selling on Kobo” and what you can do about it

Amazon has been around for a long time and Kobo is a new platform. People complain that they don’t sell well on Kobo, but Kobo is a new company and is growing. Mark first of all encourages authors to play the long game and understand the risk of having all your eggs in one basket. Kobo doesn’t want you to be exclusive with them, but just not have all your sales through Amazon.

Mark also points out that many authors will just link over to Amazon even if they are on other platforms. This isn’t exactly conductive to making sales on Kobo.

The ‘free first in series’ is a program that Kobo run and if you want to get involved in it, reach out to Mark by commenting below, he’ll be browsing the comments.

What does well on Kobo

  1. Romance
  2. Erotica “active romance”
  3. Thrillers/Mystery BIG DROP
  4. Fantasy

Tends to be that way in all markets.

If you have questions for Mark, please comment below, he’ll hangout in the comments.


Leave a comment below or get in touch with Simon by email at simon@rockingselfpublishing.com

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Julius SEpisode # 62 – How to Sell More Books on Kobo
  • R.M. Prioleau

    Great show. I may be interested in the free first in a series program at Kobo. I have some permafree stories to help bring more interest to my novella.
    I wish the Espresso Book Machine would pick up more steam, but I think the costs has been the kicker as to why there are not many of them around. I would love to have one of those machines at home and print my own books. But the machine costs as much as a house. With all the technology we have now, there’s got to be a more cost-effective way to do this.

    • LOL – I hear you. The EBM is certainly an expensive beast. They, like eBooks, are still on the cusp of the new pioneering field, and I imagine local POD access will become more and more available as the years roll on . . .

      • Doug Solter

        Another great interview, Mark! And I’m so happy to find your podcast, Simon. It’s now in my weekly podcast rotation.

        I don’t know if you’re still monitoring this conversation, Mark, but here’s my Kobo link for the First Free in a Series.


        SKID is a young adult racing romance/action that’s been doing well on that “other” platform but I would love to see it and the new sequel do well on Kobo too! Thank you for being a constant professional and a champion for all authors!

        All the best to both of you!

        • SimonRSP

          Great to hear Doug, thanks for listening 🙂

  • Another fantastic interview. I’m interested in the First Free in a Series. My title “Fallen” is free on Kobo and leads into the rest of my Transformed series. Thanks!

  • Hi Stacey, Hi R.M. – thanks for your interest in First Free in Series.

    I’d like to get you to do two something that’ll get two things. Please post a link to the book you mention that’s FREE on Kobo, and we’ll use that to grab info on it for potential scheduling into the FREE books page on Kobo (we’re about 4 weeks out for this, BTW, so it might be a month before you see your books appear there, and unit sales on the rest of your titles) – the 2nd thing it’ll do is simply increase your SEO – ie, by having yet ANOTHER link to your book at Kobo here on this great podcast blog.


    The costs of the Espresso Book Machine are still high (God, I wish I personally had one in my garage for those quick one-off print jobs I need to do from time to time) – sometimes local print shops can provide a similar quick turn-around printing for POD books

    • SimonRSP

      Thanks for jumping in here Mark :). And thank you for coming on for an interview, it was fantastic to be able to chat to you!

      • I appreciate you having me on your awesome show, Simon. Thanks!

        • EREX

          Mark please could you help direct me on a step to step guide on publishing on kobo from my login

    • Thank you, Mark. The link to my free book is: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/fallen-34

      • Thanks, Stacy. Appreciate the link – and a good looking title too (if I’m allowed to judge) 😉

        • Thanks so much, Mark! Judge away! 🙂

          Also, there is a 9.99 box set that follows Fallen (as well as many singles titles). The box set is here: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/the-transformed-box-set

          • Oooh, our merchandisers love the higher priced books, so thanks for sharing the box set link, too, Stacy! 🙂

          • Hi Mark,

            Is there a way to find out when our will be / was featured? I’m planning on changing my perma-free to a different book, but will wait until after this. Thanks so much! 🙂

          • It looks like THIS one below is scheduled to go live on our free spot on Oct 20th

            (There’s quite a backlog of great titles to feature and we have to try to give every new add a full week in one of the prime spots before it rolls into page 2 or 3 of the carousel of titles)

            Let me know if that’s too far out, and what other title is potentially going free, so we can schedule it out and something else in.

            FYI, our dev team is in the process of building some tools RIGHT INSIDE KWL so that you can request inclusion in such a promo and also specify dates (ie, for limited time price changes, etc) – that way, using the tool itself, you can request it directly more easily and then also see when the live feature is scheduled for

          • Thanks so much for checking, Mark! The one that’s free now is the Prequel and the one I’m going to change is Book 1: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/deception-36

            If you’d be able to switch it for the feature, that would be awesome. If not, I’ll just wait.

            I’m excited that the tool will inside KWL! That will be really useful.

            Thanks again!

    • Bryan

      Hey Mark, thanks for the offer related to First Free in Series.

      Here’s a link to mine:

      And here’s a link to my $8.99 product associated with it :).

      Great interview!

      • Awesome books, Bryan – and it’s always great to add some excellent non-fiction into our free promo page. (I’m trusting there’s a call to action in the first ePub that links to the 2nd book – that always helps the conversion) – and HEY, look at that $8.99 price point. That’s something I can get the merchandisers excited about. 🙂

        • Bryan

          Thanks, Mark!

          I’ll double check today to make sure it’s got a CTA in place. If not, I’ll put up a new version :).

          Exactly! I’m all about making the merchandisers happy :).

          • Bryan

            The CTA is now in place :).

    • Anna Adams

      Hi Mark! Thanks for the great interview and the offer to promote free series-starters. My perma-free young adult book is called A French Girl in New York and it’s the first in a series of five (and counting). Here’s the link
      Thanks again!

      • Hi Anna – thanks for the link. Apologies, but this was a process we were working on 3 years ago. Due to scale-ability, we’ve moved the curation for this process into an internal tool inside the Kobo Writing Life dashboard. I couldn’t find your KWL account doing a quick check, so if you don’t see the PROMOTIONS tab in your KWL account dashboard, simply email writinglife@kobo.com and request one. This does look like a good book to include. 🙂

        • Anna Adams

          Hi Mark! Thanks for answering! I publish on Kobo through Draft2Digital which is why I don’t have a Kobo Writing Life account. Are promotions available to writers who publish through a distributor? I’m worried if I un-publish and publish again it might look bad, but I could do it if necessary.

          • Don’t do the extra work to take it down and republish. Submissions to promos have to come from the publisher – and in this case, D2D is recognized as the publisher. We’re trying to work out a better way to allow those coming indirectly to get the same opportunities (to make it easier for indie authors), but I’m afraid that currently there isn’t an easy way. It’s usually Dan or Kevin from D2D pokes the vendor manager at Kobo and requests some promo space for particular titles – a relatively manual bit of work (but those good folks at D2D DO indeed do that work for authors)

          • Anna Adams

            Thank you so much for your help! I’ll get in touch with D2D on this topic and will let them know you thought A French Girl in New York was worth promoting 😉 Thanks again! Anna

  • What a beautiful interview! I love eharing Mark’s stories about how he grew as a writer. I had book on Kobo that was beginning to sell and I took it down for a reason–now I can put it back up again, so I’m glad. You take pre-orders…right?


    • Hi Alyne – it’d be great to have you back. Yes, you can certainly put up a book for pre-order (guess which Canadian eBook company offered that 6 months before those other “river” guys?) 😉

      When you’re setting it up all you need to do is pick a future pub date – and on the publication screen (final final step, pick the same future date – it’ll ask if you want the pre-order to be available (ie, visible to customers) or hidden (you know in case you’re in the evil clutches of KDP Select – because they will come after you if you try to do pre-order when you’re in Select – just trying to save you some hassle)

      You DO need to have an ePub in place for pre-orders, but you can load a draft version — just make sure that you upload the GOOD version at least 48 hours before the go-live date to make sure that customers who pre-ordered the book get the GOOD and final version of your ePub

    • SimonRSP

      Thanks for listening Alyne 🙂

  • jeffadamsnyc

    Hi Simon. Since I stopped by the page I wanted to say hello since you were discussing the other week that few people came to this page. Sure enough I needed a link, even though I was sitting at the computer when I listened. Great show this week. I’m definitely going to look more at Kobo and its resources.

    • SimonRSP

      Hi Jeff. Ha, awesome, glad to hear people are using the links. Thanks for dropping by 🙂

  • Great interview! I love your story and Kobo has me intrigued.

    I’m currently a non-fiction author, writing fitness, nutrition, and health books. There’s no novel vs novella categorization in non-fiction, but if there were I’d say I have two novels and three novellas (which are shorter, lighter weight, and primary training programs).

    How can a non-fiction, health and fitness author succeed on Kobo? Any success cases or tips?

    Later this year, a coauthor and I are coming out with an anthology-style fitness series, with quarterly issues. Will your first free in series apply to something like this?

    Thanks for the great show, both of you.


    • Thanks, Roland. We’re trying to up the game when it comes to quality non-fiction, so there might be opportunities to spotlight your stuff. That type of book really does well in Jan/Feb as people tend to want to make those positive changes for the coming year. Please post a few links to those books here so we can check them out and look for opportunities for them. (And yes, the first free in series would DEFINITELY appluy to the anthology-style fitness series you’re talking about)

  • Nick_Stephenson

    I can speak from experience – Kobo have been FANTASTIC with promoting indie authors. I’ve you’ve put the time and effort into getting your book polished (and it’s in a popular genre like the ones listed above) Kobo do make an effort to promote you if you get in touch with their merchandising team. Can’t recommend them enough – but you do have to take the first steps and get in touch with them 🙂

    • Thanks for the kind words, Nick – glad that you’ve found some success at Kobo and some new global fans for your work. 🙂

    • SimonRSP

      @Nick_Stephenson:disqus Yep, I’ve heard this from many authors. Great team over at Kobo 🙂

  • Mark, on a side note, by day I work for one of the companies that produced the Espresso Book Machine. It’s great to hear of someone who did well with it! I think colleges are where it really shined.

    • That’s very cool, Roland. Yes, Colleges can take advantage of the machines a lot more quickly because there’s the added benefit of being able to provide custom textbooks to students at a lower price, which creates a great win/win situation.

      • From what I remember, the machine came out way before the indie publishing ‘revolution,’ so there were few indie books in the Espresso catalog back then. I think the major publishers also only put in a few titles, too. I don’t think they were the ones that bookstore customers really wanted, so it wasn’t easy. Schools created their own material and made it happen!

  • Donna Glaser

    Hi Simon and Mark! What a great interview. I’m going to go back and listen again to the info on the mystery/thriller drop. Since that’s my genre I’m more than a little sad that it’s not doing so well. I would be super interested in the Free First program. The first in my my series is titled The Enemy We Know and there are three subsequent books with more to follow. Here is the link: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/the-enemy-we-know I’ve not been able to make much traction on Kobo, but as Mark pointed out, much of my focus has been in leading people to the mighty Zon, which makes it a bit disingenuous on my part to complain about Kobo. Going to take more steps to fix that ASAP. Thanks for all of the great info, Mark! And keep the fabulous interviews coming, Simon. They are appreciated.

    • Thanks, Donna. The drop is, by no means, a sign that Mysteries and Thrillers don’t sell – they do really well – they just don’t sell nearly as well as Romance. Thanks for sharing the link to book one. 🙂

    • SimonRSP

      You’re welcome Donna, I’m glad you liked the interview, Mark was a wonderful guest 🙂

  • Geraldine Evans

    Hi Mark, I have a free mystery on Kobo. It’s the first in a 15-book series. Here’s the link: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/dead-before-morning

  • Hi Mark. I’d love to see the needle move for my series on Kobo. Thanks for the First Free in Series. My series starts here: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/minecraft-adventures-flynn-s-log-1-rescue-island-1

  • MeiLin

    Hi, Mark, great conversation–really, it was fun to listen to. I fear, though, that my take-away is, “get Kobo to notice you,” and that’s about as useful as…well, it’s not that useful. I did see more sales once I got into First Free (thank you for that, by the way), but by more sales I mean six over the course of a couple of months. Of course, I was at zero sales in the months before that, so I’ll take the six I got.

    I link to pages for each of my series that list all retailers including Kobo, because I don’t like all my eggs in one basket. I wish Kobo well. We really need alternatives. And I still have no idea how to get more sales at Kobo. 🙁

    • Glad to hear your sales went up, and yes, going to 6 from 0 is heading in the right direction.

      • Annie Bellet

        So how do you get noticed on Kobo if you don’t have a free first in series? And how if you don’t want to price your Kobo books high and thus force your fans who use Kobo (few though they are at this point) to pay premium for the privilege? I am making hundreds of sales a day on Amazon, a dozen or more a day on BN, same on Apple etc, but yet lucky to get a dozen a month on Kobo (or fewer). Is there something that can be done about that besides raising my Kobo prices and forcing my fans to pay more for that format/reader? I’d really rather not do that to them.

        • Annie – since the contracts you’ve signed with retailers all state the same thing – your price can’t be different across different platforms, we’re not asking you to charge Kobo customers less than Kindle customers. That’s not fair to customers at all. I merely mentioned pricing to make authors aware that a dive towards 99 cent novels isn’t the only option available for authors. The fact that you’re selling a dozen books a month on Kobo is actually a great thing; you’re well ahead of so many other authors already. One of the challenges with discover-ability is that 99% of all the third party marketing platforms point to books on Amazon, so using them for finding new readers doesn’t always lead to more Kobo readers. There aren’t many of those third party companies pointing at Kobo -yet. But the days are young, and like I said, you’re already starting to move the needle on Kobo…..

          • Annie Bellet

            I haven’t done any marketing. That’s what I’m saying. Well, beyond pushing links (including Kobo) at my mailing list, FB, and twitter.

            I just think it is kind of a problem if selling a dozen copies of a book on Kobo is considered a good result. I can’t make rent or even pay a single bill with a dozen copies a month, no matter what the price is. And it is problematic for me as a business person to see a book sell 150+ copies a month on B&N and iTunes, and 4000+ on Amazon, and then see 6 sales of the same book on Kobo. That tells me that either a) the book isn’t visible on Kobo or b) I have no Kobo fans and/or c) Kobo users aren’t interested in that genre or something similar. I know that Kobo is just entering the market and still growing, but it lags so far behind that it feels pretty sad. I’m not in this business to sell a few copies here and there. I’m in this to make a living.

            If the only option for me is to accept Kobo will be a dozen copy a month venue, that seems problematic to me.

          • Annie, you might only be selling over 140 books a year on Kobo right now, but you’re also selling thousands of them overall when you look at all the platforms – that illustrates the importance of selling on multiple locations on not relying on a single retailer for all of your income. If one of them is temporarily low, or another dries up, you still have the other ones adding to your total revenue. Try not to look at an “instead of” approach, but rather an “in addition to” – your Kobo sales, right now, are in addition to the sales from the other platforms, and are to customers who wouldn’t have found you on those other platforms – over time, they tend to continue to grow.

            12 a month is a good start, but it’s just a start. And the answer might be a combination of a, b and c. I had books on Amazon for 6 years before I started to sell more than half a dozen books a year there. Every single additional unit sale on any platform are evidence of finding new readers I wouldn’t already have (although admittedly, Kobo and Amazon account for most of my own sales – but I’m happy to see dribbles come in via B&N and iBooks and some of the other channels)

            As I mentioned to Simon during the interview (prompted by his great question), we’re going to be trying to identify the authors who have found solid success at Kobo and do our best to look for patterns to share what they are doing that helped bring that success. I can’t promise that every author will be a blockbuster seller on Kobo, but one thing I will promise is that we will share this information (via http://www.kobowritinglife.com as well as our author newsletter) because it’s in our best interest to help authors sell more.

          • Annie Bellet

            For what it’s worth, I’ve been on Kobo directly for about 20 months now. I’ve sold 45 books total there. 13 were in August of this year. To me, that’s a problem that might need addressing, since I really don’t want to sell in drips and drabs if I can do anything about it.

            However, it sounds like for the moment, I can’t really do anything about it directly.

            I guess I’ll keep watching the KoboWritingLife site and just have to accept that Kobo isn’t going to be much of a vendor for me until it grows more. 🙂

          • Thanks, Annie – I have to admit that I’m a bit jealous – I had books on Kindle for several years before I hit 45 sales. And with 13 sales in August (compared to 20 in total since you started), that appears to be a gradual rise. (ie 30% of your overall sales were in the past month – looks like a bit of an increase to me)

            (Sorry, but I have a difficult time masking my optimism – my apologies if you find that annoying)

            Hang in there, I’m sure things will continue to grow . . .

          • Annie Bellet

            Well, you have my email if you want details on how I did it. I’m pretty sure my results are replicable since I borrowed/copied the methods of a bunch of other successful indies. 🙂

  • Ari Lessiers

    Hey Simon,
    As you know i follow a couple of Self Pub podcasts religiously, and have heard Mark Lefebvre talk several times before. However this was the first time I’ve heard anything about his fiction and I’m really sold on that wattpad short, not only do I want to go read it but I definitely want to hear about a sequel. So props for letting him talk about his writing!

    • brown nose…

      …but I agree. 😀

      • SimonRSP


        • Ari Lessiers

          Hardly brown nosing since I have no books available anywhere even Kobo. I just think the short on Kobo sounded really gripping. I’d totally buy it if it was a book :p

          • Thanks, Ari – in the realm of completely shameless self-promoting, if you meant the novella thriller EVASION, there is a print copy for sale (I used CreateSpace to make one because so many readers on Wattpad had asked if there was a print version available) –


            ….of course you CAN read the entire thing for free on Wattpad . . .

            [#shameless plug]

    • SimonRSP

      It was a pleasure really, his journey is fascinating. I thought it would be a bit unfair to not talk about his writing… everyone else gets to. Glad that the Wattpad short idea was useful for you 🙂

    • Thanks, Ari. I’m not used to providing my own writing background when I do these interviews – so there’s some solid proof that Simon can draw some really great and unique material out of the folks he interviews. (Thanks, Simon) – but so glad that you like the idea of using Wattpad for a short. Best of luck to you.

  • I just want to chime in and say–LOVE kobo, not just for sales, but I buy books there too! Great trivia contests with coupons!!!

  • Pingback: Ebook Marketing Strategies for 2015 — What Will Work? | Lindsay Buroker()

  • Hi Mark, I’m a little behind on listening. I loved this episode. Not sure if your still watching the thread but you mentioned the Kobo “First Free in Series” and said to post a comment here to get on that list. I have my first book Thread Slivers listed as free on Kobo and the other two books for the trilogy are also on Kobo. I’d love to get added to that list if possible.

    + Leeland

  • Craig A. Price Jr.

    I have a question for you Mark. I notice your novella on Wattpad is also on Amazon and Kobo for $4.99. Since wattpad isn’t an eBook retailer, does it not cause any issues? I’ve “unpublished” most of my novel “The Crimson Claymore” to only 10% (sample). Can I republish them so I can get all my votes/comments back without creating an issue? If I do, should I put the unedited version that is currently in draft form so it’s not exact to my eBook, with a disclaimer saying the editing version is on Amazon, etc?

    With 2.5 million reads, 17,000 votes, and over 1,000 comments, I hate that some of it is hidden from public.



    • EREX

      I got newly registered on kobo. I can’t find the link to publish or upload my ebooks. Please any help will be appreciated. Kindly send me a mail maisonerex@gmail.com. Thanks

  • ikechukwu joseph

    Mark Leslie Lefebvre after listening to this podcast with Simon – these 8 books
    are NOT JUST FREE on KOBO but First book in their series. The first
    two – The last curse (Urban fantasy) and Only You are free on my
    dashboard at time of writing. Hope it show on KOBO page when you
    read. I have 36 books on kobo with only one sale. Thanks for a better