Kobo Writing Life Podcast (general)

Episode 88 of the Kobo Writing Life Podcast isn't the more typical interview, but rather, KWL's Director, Mark Lefebvre, outlining five strategies that successful authors use to build their sales, raise their author profile and get readers to sign up their author mailing lists with Free eBooks.

First, Mark talks about the updates to FREE tracking.

If you've been paying attention to the updates in the Notification header of the Kobo Writing Life dashboard (which link to this VERY HANDY - hint, hint, nudge, nudge - part of the KWL Community) throughout July, you may have noticed that the Web team and the KWL Team have been working at revisions to the broken free tracking that we've been dealing with for quite a while.

Currently FREE TRACKING is being refreshed and updated. But in the meantime, there's something important you should know about the FREE DOWNLOADS numbers you're seeing.

The most important has to do with PREVIEWS.  First, please don't worry, we are NOT giving your non-free books away.

At Kobo, readers have the opportunity to preview the first 5% of eBooks. Whenever an ePub file is loaded into Kobo's database, the catalog generates a unique new ePub file that is comprised of the first 5% of that full eBook, then it tacks on a final page with a "BUY Button" for the full book into the end of that ePub.

And whenever a customer clicks on the "Save Preview" button on a book's item page, it adds that preview ePub file to that customer's library. Since there isn't currently any filtering that distinguishes the preview ePub file from the full ePub file, it appears as if that eBook was given to a customer, and is tracked as a "free download" in the dashboard. 

(The KWL, Web and UX Teams will be adjusting and fixing this, but having that information can be extremely valuable, because it allows you to see how many customers have PREVIEWED your book. IE, if you have a huge number of PREVIEWS but not a huge number of sales, that could tell you something important about the conversion from free preview to sales)

1) First Free eBook in Series (Perma-Free)

Although this isn't a new practice, it continues to be something that works quite nicely for authors looking to increase their sales and author profile at Kobo.

Authors can set any book on Kobo to free at any time for as long as they want with no restrictions and no requests for exclusivity.

The concept is creating a funnel to get a lot of people to grab the first book for free and hopefully converting them into buyers because the worlds, characters, settings and situations they are reading about in your series are so compelling that they HAVE to keep on reading.

Below are some stats that are typical of the conversion rate from FREE to SALES via studies done on multiple different first book in series promos.


2) Free Book/Novella/Novelette Kept Perma-Free that ISN'T the first in the Series

The same technique used above can be used for other books in the series (rather than the first book), or perhaps for interstitial stories in the series universe.

Remember that, with Kobo Writing Life, you can enter Series metadata using decimals. IE, imagine you have a novella that takes place between Books 1 and 2 in your series. Entering 1.5 into the Volume Number value in your Series metadata connects those book. (See this post on how that works at KWL)

3) Free related/connected Short Story hook into a novel or series

Mark shares a personal anecdote about using a short story to entice readers to want to learn more or explore more about characters that appear in a full novel.

His example is how the FREE short story, This Time Around, a 10,000 word short story, has been successful at helping new readers discover his main character Michael Andrews, who is a werewolf attempting to live a normal life in the midst of one of the world's largest metropolitan centers in the novel A Canadian Werewolf in New York.

4) A Free eBook that is a stand alone novel / NOT part of a series

For those of you who do NOT have series books, don't despair. There is still a correlation between the "funnel" of free eBooks and readers going on to buy more books by the same author (rather than books in the same series)

Mark shares how his friend Sean Costello, a thriller/horror writer he works closely with, uses free to build a readership, not based on the book being part of a series, but based on readers discovering the voice of a brilliant author who they feel compelled to read more books from.

Costello's SQUALL has garnered almost 3300 reviews on Kindle and more than 800 reviews on Kobo with a 4 star average.

Again, good news for authors who don't write series books. Free works for gaining new readers and selling more eBooks for you too.  :)


5) Using FREE eBooks for Newsletter sign-ups

While it's great that retails can help authors sell more using algorithms and targeted emails to their customers making recommendations, it is important for authors to get readers to sign up to their author newsletter.

Folks like Nick Stephenson (Your first 10,000 Readers) and Mark Dawson (Self Publishing Formula) have been helping authors use techniques to help get readers signed up for their newsletter mailing lists which allow authors to better control their own success. (Being able to let your best fans know when you have a new release or have a promotional price available has a direct correlation with sales success)

The way this works (and you can get FAR BETTER details by clicking the links above), authors set up a newsletter sign up at the end of their eBooks or via targeted social media ads (Facebook, etc) and when a customer signs up, they can get a free eBook sent to them from the author. These are typically eBooks that are NOT free on the various retail websites. So these readers who become newsletter subscribers get something of value directly from the author which helps built brand trust and loyalty.

Other authors, such as M.L. Buchman don't ever make their eBooks free nor do they give free eBooks away. But, instead, they create unique, fresh and interesting new stories and content specifically FOR their best fans, via either an author newsletter or directly on their own websites. (They will sometimes release this material via regular retail channels at a later date) This ensures that their best fans get access to reading fresh and exiting new material before anybody else can read it.


That, in a nutshell, are just five different ways that authors are using FREE to help build their sales and their author brands.

We would love to share more strategies that work well, so if you have a strategy that works for you, please free free to share that in comments on this podcast's show notes on the KWL Podcast web page under Episode 88.


Related Links:

Free eBooks on Kobo - curated from KWL titles and updated weekly. You can apply to be featured via the PROMOTIONS tab, which is currently in beta release. If you don't have it, simply request it by emailing writinglife@kobo.com


Direct download: KWL_Podcast_EP_088_FiveStrategiesUsingFree.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:49am PST

KWL Podcast Episode 87 – Perils, Pitfalls & Perseverance with Eve Silver


Episode 87 of the Kobo Writing Life podcast features a keynote address from When Words Collide’s 2016 Guest of Honour, Eve Silver. She is a national bestselling author of books for adults and teens, has won the Ontario Library Association’s “Forest of Reading White Pine Award” and has been praised for her “edgy, steamy, action-packed” books, darkly sexy heroes and take-charge heroines.

Eve is introduced by Randy McCharles, When Words Collide chair, and who happens to also be a successful author.

In her keynote talk from When Words Collide, Eve talks about:

  • Writing her first book at the age of 9
  • The first form-letter rejection she received at that same age, which crushed her “little writer’s heart”
  • A short story she wrote at the age of 16 for a high school assignment which led to a teacher calling out her talent
  • The next teacher she encountered who wasn’t as fond of the fiction Eve was writing for her homework assignments and how that represented the second time her “little writer’s heart” was crushed
  • The first romance novel she wrote, which was a historical romance novel
  • Advice from her parents that writers don’t make any money, which led to her university degree in science
  • Her supportive husband who recognized that her heart was never in science, but in writing
  • The writing course she took, which re-ignited the spark in her “littler writer’s heart”
  • The manuscript that shall remained buried in her back-yard
  • The fact that if you are a writer, you write, no matter how many times your “little writer’s heart” is crushed
  • The regular process of submission, rejection, submission, rejection that Eve persisted through
  • An important look at the sixteen editors from seven different publishing houses she has worked with (and how most of them had originally rejected her in her early attempts) – but she persisted
  • The fact that writing and publishing is a business and the importance of not holding grudges
  • The post-apocalyptic trans-Siberian trucker romance novel that she originally couldn’t sell, but which did eventually sell and went on to receive a stared review in Publishers Weekly and was chosen as Library Journal’s best genre fiction for that year
  • Doing what you have to do in order to keep writing – because writers write and authors sacrifice
  • The challenge of getting rid of the “doubt weasel” that can sit on a writer’s shoulder
  • The fact that writing isn’t just what you do, but it’s who you are


Mark then shares a few thoughts on the concept of what can happen to the “little writer heart” with all the types of rejection (either from publishers or from lack of sales), as well as a reminder about the important theme in Eve’s message, that writers write, no matter what.


Links of Interest:

Eve Silver's Website

Eve Silver's Books on Kobo

When Words Collide Website

Direct download: KWL_Podcast_EP_087_PerilsPitfallsandPerseverance_with_EveSilver.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:33pm PST

Episode 86 features an interview with international bestselling author Catherine Coulter, about one of her most recent titles, Insidious.


In the interview, Mark and Catherine talk about:

  • The question Catherine’s sister asked her at a family reunion back in the 1990’s that inspired the her first romantic suspense novel, The Cove (which became the first book in her FBI series)
  • The devious nature involved by the author when writing in a series where each book can be read and enjoyed as a stand alone novel
  • The reason why, when most books in the series are set about 2 weeks apart from one another, there’s a 5-year time-lag between Books 2 and Books 3 in the series
  • The benefits of moving between writing different types of genres as really great exercises for the brain
  • The cross-over in Catherine’s fan base who read both Historical Romance and Romantic Suspense
  • As a self-confessed “pantser” the fact that about 98% of Catherine’s writing is discovery and the backward-building that she does in the re-writing
  • How her husband is her first editor
  • Catherine’s preference for writing dialogue over setting descriptions (as well as her penchant for humor)
  • How it is a wonderful time to be a writer and Catherine’s favorite advice for beginning writers


After the interview, Mark gives a bit of an update on Kobo Plus


Links of interest

Catherine Coulter’s Website

Catherine Coulter on Facebook

Catherine Coulter’s Books on Kobo

KWL's Instagram Account

Direct download: KWL_Podcast_EP_086_CatherineCoulter.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:22pm PST

Episode 85 of the KWL Podcast contains an interview with Scacchi Koul conducted by Johanna Schneller about Scacchi’s new book One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter.

Please note that this interview contains adult language which might not be appropriate for all listening audiences.

In the interview, Johanna and Scaachi talk about:

  • The story behind Scacchi’s Twitter profile picture
  • How Scacchi inherited her sense of humor from her father and the role humor has played in her life
  • How men always get to be “complicated” while women are “difficult”
  • The sixth grade writing assignment that might have been the spark to Scacchi’s writing career
  • How “sitting in a room pouring out bitterness” might be the only possible job she could have based on her skill set
  • How most of the content of the book is taboo to her family
  • The topic of “shaking up complacent white media” and a discussion about the fiery debate in the Canadian literary community over race, representation and free speech after a short column titled “Winning the Appropriation Prize” was published in early May
  • The right amount of time required before writing something; the concept of comedy being just tragedy after time.
  • Scacchi’s concern over having just the right balance of humor for this book and the interesting back and forths between writer and editor
  • The use of “being arranged” as a verb when referring to arranged marriages
  • How The Walrus was a magazine that changed Scaachi’s life and made her want to be a writer, and how, with recent events, all that has changed in a significant way
  • The writers who mattered to Scaachi
  • How Scaachi went into writing because she thought it might help other people feel less lonely


Scaachi Koul's Website: scaachi.com/odwabdanotwm

Scaachi Koul on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Scaachi

Scaachi Koul at BuzzFeed - scaachi.koul@buzzfeed.com


Other Links of Interest:  The Appropriation Prize Controversy

Direct download: KWL_Podcast_EP_085_ScaachiKoul.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:11pm PST

Episode 84 contains the third and final installment of interviews that took place at RT (Romantic Times) Booklovers Convention in Atlanta this year. This time the interviews are from Sinead McElhinney, PR Coodinator for Kobo, who was interacting with dozens of authors and romance readers at the conference.

Featured interviews include chats with the two authors who write under the name Christina Lauren and with Ella Quinn.

Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings, the dynamic duo co-authors who make up the NYT and USA Today bestselling author Christina Lauren. In their chat, they discuss the process of co-authoring and how it has evolved in the past 8 years as well as the personal closeness/friendship that is the foundation for their authoring partnership.

 Ella Quinn is a USA Today Bestselling author of smart and spicy regency romances. In her chat with Sinead, she shares a bit about the incredible amount of research on the customs, the manners and the buildings for the worlds she writes about in her historical novels. She explains how, while those elements are important in the realism, that the love story and the characters are what should be front and center in the reader’s mind.

Mark then talks with Sinead about what she does at Kobo (a bit of a behind the scenes look), and how her role in PR is related to engaging in social media and in person interactions with publishers, with authors and with readers.


Direct download: KWL_Podcast_EP_084_RTBooklovers2017_Part3.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:42am PST

This episode continues from where episode 82 left off with KWL’s recent live interviews with attendees from RT Booklovers Convention in Atlanta, Georgia in early May 2017. RT (Romantic Times) Booklovers brings more than 3,500 fans and between 600 to 800 authors together for a celebration of romance novels.

Mark Lefebvre, Director of Kobo Writing Life, interviewed authors and industry folks about various topics. In Part 2, we share Mark’s chats with:


Meredith Wild

  • A new series of collaborative novels launching in September, starting with Meredith’s novel Misadventures of a City Girl and the fun writing experimentation that led to it
  • Advice that Meredith would offer to beginning writers who are just getting started on their writing journey
  • How Meredith allowed herself some “time off from writing” during this particular conference

Stephanie Bond

  • Stephanie’s latest release in the Body Movers Series, 8 Bodies is Enough
  • The things that Stephanie loves about RT, which is one of her favorite conferences
  • A forthcoming project, Temp Girl, and the temporary tattoos that Stephanie is giving out to fans at the conference

Liliana Hart

  • The forthcoming book (due out May 23rd) in a brand new series (Gravediggers) from Pocket Books entitled The Darkest Corner which is a mix between her J. Graves and the MacKenzie Family series (combining thriller and romance)
  • The unique position of being a hugely successful indie author who is also working with a major publisher and making the best out of both worlds
  • How Liliana writes all the time, including sequestering herself in a hotel room or even as a passenger in the car while touring to events like RT


Stephanie Phillips from SBR Media Literary Agency


Mark Coker from Smashwords

  • A sneak peek at the annual RT Smashwords survey that explores the aggregated sales data across all the retail platforms, including:
    • Which price points get the most sales / which price points get the most income
    • What impact does a pre-order have on sales related to different genres
    • A deep dive into series, including the effect of free as series starters
  • As of the time of this posting, the 2017 report hasn’t been made live, but here is a link to the 2016 and 2015 report, chock-full of great insights and info for authors


Diane and Dante from ListenUp Audiobooks

  • Diane’s role at ListenUp in assisting indie authors in the production of their audiobooks, including the initial discussion, finding the right narrator and getting the book distributed if the author chooses that option
  • Dante’s role as audio engineer and technical director, including working directly with the voice talent and the post recording production to ensure top-quality audio product
  • KWL authors can get $100 off per hour by following this link, navigating to “Get Started” and entering the promo code “Kobo” http://www.listenupindie.pub/
Direct download: KWL_Podcast_EP_083_RTBooklovers2017_Part02.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:15pm PST

KWL was recently in Atlanta, Georgia attending RT Booklovers Convention. Considered the Book Lover Event of the year, RT (Romantic Times) Booklovers brings more than 3,500 fans and between 600 to 800 authors together for a celebration of romance novels.

Mark Lefebvre, Director of Kobo Writing Life, was on site interviewing authors and industry folks about various topics on writing, reading and promotions. The RT Booklovers interviews have been broken into more than one episode. In Part 1, we share Mark's chats with:

Helen Hardt

  • Her latest novel, Surrender; her penchant for ending her series books with cliffhangers and the direct relation with her pre-order success; A teaser regarding her forthcoming MISADVENTURES series; some advice for beginning writers

Jeff Adams & Will Knauss

  • Jeff's new release Somewhere on Mackinac and its relation to the classic film Somewhere in Time; their publisher Dreamspinner Press and collaborating on a novel; Jeff and Will's Big Gay Fiction Podcast

Julia Kent

  • Her most recent novel, Shopping for a CEO's Wife in the bestselling romantic comedy SHOPPING series of novels; the pseudonym that Julia writes romantic suspense and pulse-pounding fiction under: Meli Raine

Chloe from Written Word Media

  • Opportunities for writers looking for promotions for their reduced price and free ebook titles; more places where writers can get great tips and advice

Dan from Draft2Digital

  • The free universal link tool that D2D has released for authors, making it simpler than ever before to be all inclusive when linking to retail websites where people can buy their books.




Direct download: KWL_Podcast_EP_082_RTBooklovers2017_Part01B.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:12pm PST

KWL Director Mark Lefebvre speaks with former college professor Gilian Baker about her new novel Blogging is Murder. In the discussion, the two explore:

  • The transition from teaching academic writing and literature for twenty years to the challenge of writing; first approached through blogging and ghost-writing
  • Her original blogging experience, which was created for college students who were reluctant writers
  • How her daughter managed to convince Gillian to join NaNoWriMo one year after long and enjoyable discussions about writing
  • How long the idea of Jade and her world had sat in the back of Gillian’s mind before she sat down to write the book
  • Elements that helped to make the characters in the story very real for readers; in particular the old woman character of Phyllis who is often called out by reviewers as a favorite character
  • What the novel has to say about cybersecurity, identity-theft and online transactions and the tips available on Gillian’s Blog regarding that. (http://gilianbaker.com/2017/01/23/cyber-security-tips-hackers/)
  • The differences and similarities between academic writing, ghost-writing and fiction writing


After the interview, Mark discusses the age-old advice of “Write What You Know” that is not only often shared with writers, but also debated among writing circles. He points out a few examples of authors who have drawn from their personal experience and passions, including a few of his own personal examples, including using “things he knew” in both novels as well as non-fiction titles.

Mark then asks the listeners on their own thoughts on the “write what you know debate” that people can answer either in the comments below or on the Kobo Writing Life Community Forum


Gilian Baker is a former writing and literature professor who finally threw in the towel and decided to just show ‘em how it’s done. She has gone on to forge a life outside of academia by adding blogger & ghostwriter to her CV. She currently uses her geeky superpowers only for good to entertain cozy mystery readers the world over. When she’s not plotting murder, you can find her puttering in her vegetable garden, knitting in front of the fire, snuggled up with her husband watching British mysteries or discussing literary theory with her daughter.

In her next life, she fervently hopes to come back as a cat, though she understands that would be going down the karmic ladder. She lives in Flagstaff, Arizona with her family and their three pampered felines.


Links of Interest


Gillian Baker’s Website: www.gilianbaker.com

Gillian Baker on Twitter: @gillianbaker

Gillian Baker on Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/GilianBakerAuthor/



Direct download: KWL_Podcast_EP_081_BloggingIsMurder_with_GilianBaker.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:02pm PST

Kobo was delighted to recently host Emily Schultz in a “Kobo in Conversation” chat in the Kobo Café a few weeks ago while she was coming through Toronto on a book tour. Kobo Merchandiser Nora Parker interviewed Emily. In the interview, Emily and Nora talk about:

  • The fact that Emily had started working on this novel before her previously released novel The Blondes
  • The rum-runner history in Emily’s family and the different manner by which they traversed the water to conduct their rum running in the winter and summer
  • How the story of a relative who was lost during one of these winter-time runs crashing through the ice helped to inspire Emily’s desire to explore this narrative
  • The explosions of culture, literature, music and sexuality in the 1920s.
  • The contrast and clash of society being both “open” and “closed” during the Prohibition Era
  • Various methods of research, including old photographs, documentaries, silent films and novels written from that time period
  • The concept of justice in the novel and the line “you never get caught for what you think you’re going to” that encapsulates that
  • Elements of “the person who is not who they appear to be” in particular relation to religion
  • The balance of mixing the “true” with the “fictional” in this historical novel
  • The additional balance of being an author of fiction being a founder and senior editor of Joyland (http://www.joylandmagazine.com/) magazine
  • Pairing oneself with other writers in particular locales to help ensure a slightly larger crowd at an author event
  • The fun of onomatope words that came from the jazz scene of the time

Mark then highlights a few things from the interview with Emily that he wanted to call attention to. In particular, the research that she conducted for the Prohibition era time period the novel was set in as well as the manner by which she collaborated with local writers when traveling on a book tour.

There is a reminder of the Kobo Plus Subscription service available through Kobo in the Netherlands and Belgium with Kobo’s retail partner, BOL which is open to Kobo Writing Life authors via the “Rights and Distribution” tab.


Emily’s Website - http://www.emilyschultz.com/

Emily on Twitter: https://twitter.com/manualofstyle?lang=en

Joyland Magazine - www.joylandmagazine.com/

Direct download: KWL_Podcast_EP_080_EmilySchultz.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:29am PST

Julie Czerneda, an international bestselling science fiction and fantasy author from Canada, was one of the Author Guests of Honour at the 2016 When Words Collide conference which takes place in Calgary each year in late summer.  

When Words Collide is an annual non-profit festival designed to bring readers and writers together in a celebration of the written word. Up to 10 tracks of programming, beginning at 1 PM on Friday and running through 5 PM Sunday, offer informational, educational, and social activities covering a wide spectrum of literature including Mystery, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, Historical, Literary, Script-writing, Poetry, Comics, and Non-fiction. Roughly 650 readers, writers, editors, publishers, agents, and artists attend with over 200 presenters.

Kobo Writing Life has been a proud sponsor of When Words Collide for the past several years and are delighted to present one of the inspiring keynote talks from 2016 by Julie Czerneda addressing the “Dreamers” who were there attending the conference.

Julie’s keynote talk at When Words Collide addresses the world of dreamers and dream-weavers who are completely at home when at a book-related conference and how putting readers and writers together matters. That the things they revel in matters.

Julie Czerneda has written more than 20 books in multiple series, including The Trade Pact Universe, The Clan Chronicles, The Web Shifters Series,  Night’s Edge,  Stratification and The Reunification Series, with THE GATE TO FUTURE’S PAST (Book 2 in the series) being her most recent novel. (Look for Book 3, TO GUARD AGAINST THE DARK in the fall of 2017)

After the keynote talk by Julie, Mark talks to Julia Nethersole who oversees the Author Support Community at Kobo about some of the most common questions that authors write in to writinglife@kobo.com as well as some insights about better self-service tools and an author community forum that has recently been created to help authors help themselves as well as another way to connect with others from the community.

Direct download: KWL_Podcast_EP_079_JulieCzerneda_OnDreamers.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:32pm PST