Self-publishing: about selling on non-Amazon platforms

This morning I was listening to the Creative Penn podcast in which Joanna talks to Mark Levefre, the director of Kobo Writing Life.

Kobo has a special place for me, because it was the first platform where I started selling more than coffee money. That was pure luck, but lately I have been selling quite well on all non-Amazon platforms, and in the interview, Mark confirmed a few points that I had also noticed about selling on non-Amazon platforms.

Anyone who knows me will also know that I am a big proponent of being “wide”, meaning: selling on all retailer platforms where possible. This is the opposite of being in Amazon’s Select program, which requires you to be exclusive.

That’s not to say that I don’t play with Amazon’s toys every now and then. I like poking things to see what happens.

But it means that the bulk of my work will be available everywhere I can make it available.

A good many people complain about not selling much outside Amazon, so here are some of my thoughts about selling on non-Amazon platforms.

Other platforms are about the global reader. In many countries in the world, you can’t even access Amazon. Those people can only buy at Kobo or Google Play. Last months sales from Google Play featured countries as varied as Poland, Ireland, the Philippines, Switzerland, Finland, New Zealand and Argentina. There are many more people reading in English outside the US than there are inside it.

Other platforms are about commitment. I’m a Kobo reader. When I go to someone’s page on Kobo and I see a half-arsed selection of just a couple of their minor titles there, I know that that author is not committed to selling to me. I go and find another author.

Other platforms are about slow building and few spikes. It takes a long time to build up a sales history on some platforms. If you flip-flop in and out of Select, you start from scratch each time. Once your books have built up this sales history, they will sell themselves pretty much without your involvement.

Other platforms are about tailoring. I can’t comprehend why writers do their best to optimise their listings on Amazon, and then just plunk their books on other retailers (with the same blurb and same keywords as on Amazon), and expect the books to sell, without making ANY effort whatsoever to tailor their books to the site, and often without having looked at the site and what makes it tick.

If you have no real commitment and spend no effort advertising your books on other sites, you can’t expect to sell.

But, some people say, if I take my books out of the Select program, I make so much less money!

That may be true for some (it certainly wasn’t for me), but selling everywhere is not primarily about money. It’s about security, because if you’re exclusive with Amazon and don’t show consistent commitment to other sites, then when Amazon sneezes, you’ll be in bed with glandular fever for six months.

Selling on other platforms is also about taking control of your audience. It’s about learning to create your own sales rather than relying on retailer algorithms to do it for you (or, all of a sudden, to stop doing that for you overnight).

To try to go wide out of panic after a sudden downturn is the absolute worst time to do it. You can’t be in a hurry when you go wide. You need a lead time before you see the significant benefits.

Soldier’s Duty snippet and miscellaneous news

Soldiers Duty lowBecause I can! A random snippet from Chapter 3 of Soldier’s Duty. Expected date of release: October 2013. Don’t miss it. Sign up for my new release newsletter.

As soon as her shift finished and the relief from the Yellow shift arrived, Izramith sprinted to the change room where she left her anonymous guard personality behind and became Izramith again.

On the civilian side of the cubicles, a group of women sat talking on the benches in the change room. They fell quiet when Izramith came out of the cubicle and crossed the floor to hang up her uniform.

The women were all from the Blue shift and a mix of old and new faces. One of them whispered in another’s ear and that woman glanced sideways at Izramith.

“Really? How many did it say again? More than a hundred?” She stopped at Izramith’s glare and averted her eyes.
She must be a recruit joined at the most recent intake, because Izramith didn’t know her. The other, older, woman of course was Nayani, who never had anything nice to say about anyone.

The women remained quiet while Izramith put her heavy guns in her locker, shut the door with a clang and walked to the entry.

“The rumours are wrong, by the way,” she said standing at the door into the security lock. “There were a thousand.”

She opened the security lock’s door, stepped in and closed the door again.

Leaning against the side wall, she closed her eyes while the scanner traced her body. Instead of a single beam of light crawling over her skin, she saw a flaming aircraft plummeting from the sky. She heard soldiers screaming. Once again, she was overcome by horror when she realised that the craft would crash in the rebel camp. And she could do nothing to stop it. It fell and fell. A giant chunk broke off. Voices around her cheered. Someone clapped her on the shoulder, but she stared at the unfolding horror, wanting to stop the fall, wanting to move away all those people who had done nothing except to be born to the wrong parents–

The light came on in the security dock. Izramith wiped sweat from her face. She must try harder to keep these awful memories away. Indrahui was in the past, gone, finished. She would never go back there.

shiftingrealitythumb Also, if you’re in Australia or New Zealand: get Shifting Reality on Kobo for 30% off this weekend. Click here. Use code 30WINTER13

Kobo Aussie Reads!

So, what am I doing in between Hugh Mackay and Kylie Ladd?

No idea, but HERE I AM!!

In the Kobo Aussie Reads section for July (screenshot only, no link, since it probably won’t work outside Australia):

Kobo Aussie reads July2013

How do you promote on Kobo?

FacebookheaderWhen other writers hear that I sell quite well on Kobo, the reaction is invariably: How do you do that? I don’t even know how to promote my books there?

Last month, this post appeared on the Kobo Writing Life blog. There are also a few Facebook groups that concentrate on sites other than Amazon. Kobo Writing Life and Kobo Indie Ebooks are two I can think of.

Invariably, a lot of these sites have the same problem in common: they are populated mainly by writers wanting to “promote”. You may sell a copy or two, but those books are bought by someone who came to the site wanting to advertise their own books.


So, maybe we need to step away from that tacky word “promote”.

What does promote mean? Since the start of self-publishing, it has come to mean spam the living daylights out of all your Facebook and Twitter friends, and pay big bucks for advertising that may or may not work, but even if it works, effects are usually very short-lived.

Many people seem to survive on this crash diet of expensive promos and free days and so many of them are becoming disillusioned with the process. It’s a draining and tiring and takes you away from writing.

The reason people do this is because they want to find people who will champion their fiction. The more books you have in circulation, the better the chance of finding people who will love your work. With free days in Select, Amazon offers an easy way to give away lots of books. Hang on, only if you can get mentioned on one of the main blogs, which don’t list as many free books as they used to, because of an Amazon crackdown in affiliate links (story too long to recite here). The free spots on those blogs have become competitive, which means that the blogs charge for them. Yes. To advertise a free book.

This may work if you have more books in the series, and it may not lose you any money if you discount your book a lot but don’t make it free, but still…

In my opinion, this is spiralling into all the wrong directions.

Some time, in some industry called the traditional publishing industry (remember that?) someone said something that went like: money flows to the writer. Not to the service providers. I do sometimes pay for advertising, but I’m starting to feel very uneasy about this whole free/cheap book blog money-grabbing business. You can bite me in the comments.


(yes, and I totally know that I exceeded the maximum number of allowable instances of “some” in that first sentence)


How DO you promote on Kobo? Because Kobo doesn’t offer this crash-course diet.

The same way as you can let people know about your fiction everywhere else:

1. Write a good book

2. Write a sequel. Make sure you brand books as a series. Make sure you number the volumes.

3. Write another sequel. Make book 1 free if you want, but that’s not really necessary.

4. Talk about your book on your author and Facebook page, and on Twitter. I mean talk about, not spam.

5. The three Be’s: Be there, Be genuine, Be interesting

6. Do a LibraryThing give-away (free), casually give away ebooks to whoever shows interest in reviewing.

7. Do an occasional guest post.

8. Make sure your author website has a page for each book that lists links to *all the places* where people can buy the book. Remember that if they use Google Chrome with adblocker, people WILL NOT SEE your links if you use affiliate codes.

9. The most important thing is that this process is a constant, low-key affair that need not take you away from the rest of your life for more than 15 minutes a day.

Right. Did I mention the word “Kobo” in any of these points? I did not. Because this method is a one-stop-shop and works everywhere. The most valuable thing an author can have is a reader base that’s not linked to any one retailer. Just in case one of them spits a dummy on you or goes broke.

Patty writes hard Science Fiction, space opera and fantasy. Her latest book is Trader’s Honour, in the space opera series The Return of the Aghyrians. If you’d like to be kept up-to-date with new releases, remember to sign up for Patty’s new release newsletter.