by Bruce Fottler
Remember Kobo? They’re the Canadian eBook retailer where many of us distribute our titles through Smashwords or D2D. Since I could count on one hand how many books I’ve sold there, I wanted to bring some life to this lethargic retail channel.
My first step was to withdraw my books from the Smashwords Kobo channel and deal directly with Kobo Writing Life. What I thought would be a hassle was actually a surprisingly smooth process. Smashwords withdrew my titles from Kobo within 24 hours, and I found the Kobo Writing Life setup/upload interface simple and straightforward. I had my titles entered and uploaded within a day. It took another day for them to go live, which is similar to the Kindle Direct process.
My second step was to access a special promotions program which is still in beta. I emailed a request to their author services department to get a special promotion tab activated on my Kobo dashboard. They promptly granted my request, which opened up a variety of promotion options. Some of these options charge an upfront fee while others cut your royalty by 10% for the promotion period.
I submitted one of my titles to their Deals Page Spotlight promotion (costing 10% in royalties). The setup was easy. My only complaint was that they lacked a ‘set price based on USD price’ option for foreign purchasers, which sent me after an on-line currency converter to help set prices for each territory.
Once completed, the promotion request went into review status. Kobo accepted my title a few days later (they do decline titles) and it went live at 9:00am EST on the first day of the promotion period.
This particular promotion was displayed in two places:
1. Kobo-Next-For-Less Page. According to Kobo: “This is a curated page, as selected by merchandisers at Kobo, of some of the best titles published through Kobo Writing Life that are priced at $4.99 or less. Every two weeks, we rotate in six new titles in each genre category, so that a title will be featured on the first/main page for at least two weeks and then will rotate to the next page in the carousel for the next several weeks. This page is featured in banners around the world every month.”
I entered the URL that Kobo provided and saw my title displayed on the first segment of the banner carousel. However, I couldn’t find a way to link into this page from the main Kobo page, which left me wondering how customers would ever find it. I made an inquiry to their author services department, and they sent me a banner image that supposedly ran on their site. I rarely ran across this banner, and never on their main page.
2. Deals Page. According to Kobo: “Our Deals page is one of the most-frequented pages on site as it is the home of all of our active deals. Your titles will be added into lists next to eBooks and authors from major publishing houses. These lists are automatically sorted by popularity – so the more people looking at and buying your books, the higher in the lists they will appear. We encourage you to promote your titles to help them get as much visibility as possible!”
This page is directly accessed through the main Kobo page. However, my title started on the third segment of the banner carousel. In order to see it, you’d have to click twice on the next arrow. A week later, my title dropped off the carousel altogether. I guess it wasn’t popular enough to stay at the back of the carousel line-up.
So, how did my promotion perform? It failed to generate a single sale during the two-week run.
Was it a bad time of year to promote? Maybe customers simply weren’t interested in my title? It’s difficult to tell lacking any page-traffic data, however I think there was a rather obvious underlying problem: The promotion simply failed to garner significant visibility.
Their Kobo-Next-For-Less Page was an elusive find, and while the Deals Page had far more traffic potential, their guidelines turned it into a Catch-22 promotion. Unless I actively promoted their promotion (a request that baffled me), I couldn’t hope to gain enough popularity to move my title to the first, and far more visible segment of the banner carousel.
In conclusion, while I commend Kobo for offering promotion options, and appreciate the responsiveness of their author services department, I think their program has room for improvement. A successful promotion hinges on visibility, which they seem stingy about giving.
Since exiting a finance career in a world of cubicles, Bruce Fottler has written and published five novels. He has also dabbled in writing, producing, and directing film shorts. For more on Bruce, check out his Amazon Author Page or his Goodreads Author Page.
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