My experience with Kobo so far…

Back in mid-November 2012 I decided that I was going to try my hand at self-publishing.

Back then ALL of my e-books had been released through an e-book publisher – Crossroad Press.

I wasn’t unhappy with what Crossroad had done – and continues to do – for my work. I just wanted to take that big old leap into TOTAL self-publishing.

I have since gone on to produce my own e-books – first through the Kobo network and then through Kindle, Nook and Apple. I publish directly to Kobo and Kindle – but rely on D2D for accessing Nook and Apple.

As of last night I sold my 500th Kobo e-book. That’s not a big number – I know that a lot of folks here are selling five hundred or more in a month – but I am still pretty pleased with how this new direction is turning out for me. I’ve figured out a lot of secrets along the way and made up a few myself and I can see the curve is angling upwards in a hopefully happy direction.

I’ve made about $700.00 since November 2012, primarily through my Kobo sales. Kindle, Nook and Apple sales are still pretty negligible. So far I figure it is a matter of numbers. I’ve got several new e-books in the works – but I’m also about halfway through a new YA novel that I am writing with my traditional publisher in mind.

Some folks have asked me why I don’t bother just writing STRICTLY as an independent author.

It’s simple.

I still sell a WHOLE LOT more books through my traditional publisher than I have sold through my independently published works. It’s true that I net as high as seventy percent return on my independent e-book sales – as opposed to the ten or twelve percent royalty that I make from my traditionally published work – but Nimbus does a whole lot more for me than just send me royalties.

They get the books out there across Canada and world-wide. My books – as released by my traditional publisher, Nimbus – reach a heck of a lot of potential readers. They reach more than I can reach with my e-books.

Look at it this way.

I bring out a new e-book tomorrow.

First I’ll post an announcement on my blog. Might reach a couple of hundred potential customers. Then I’ll shout about it over on Facebook. Might reach a couple of thousand potential customers. I might do a couple of guest-blogs or maybe Twitter and reach a couple of thousand more potential customers – but that’s about as far as it goes.

My traditional publisher helps me get my books out into bookstores right across the country. They help me break into school libraries – without having to go through all of that trouble and expense of hiring a cat burglar.

I mean – come on – have you ever tried to get a cat to do ANYTHING you want it to do when it doesn’t really feel like it?

On top of that it was through their efforts that I managed to get to Toronto this year and took those two book tours. They – and the teachers and librarians and bookstore owners – (THANK YOU WOOZLES!) – helped get my novel SINKING DEEPER under the noses of the award committee – which in turn got the book shortlisted for both the Hackmatack and the Silver Birch Awards. Even though I did not win I met an awful lot of cool kids and sold a TREMENDOUS number of copies and I am hoping that my next YA novel will make an even bigger splash.

So far, that hasn’t happened with the e-books. I’m making money and the numbers continue to accumulate – but libraries and schools and award committees are only SLOWLY beginning to look at self-published work. I can’t blame for their reticence. Number one – librarians and schoolteachers and bookstore owners are AWFULLY busy most of the time – so they can be excused for not evolving as hastily as technology has been. And – let’s face it – there is an AWFUL lot of dreck out there in the indie world.

It is the nature of the beast.

So that’s how the numbers fall. My traditional work is STILL the backbone of my business – and that’s what a writer is, at the heart of it.

A freaking business.

So, my business is going pretty well.

I am looking forward to 2014 as being a solidly profitable year.

Let me give you some numbers.

Here’s the breakdown of my Kobo sales since November 2012.

Canada – 297 e-books
United Kingdom – 135 e-books
United States – 36 e-books
New Zealand – 17 e-books
Australia – 9 e-books
Ireland – 4 e-books
Switzerland – 2 e-books
Malaysia – 1 e-book

I don’t know who that Malaysian was – but I hope he wasn’t wearing an eye patch and a peg leg.

Crossroad has sold a few through Kobo – but they don’t show up in that tally. This is STRICTLY my Kobo independently released e-books.

In that same time I have sold about 7000 books through Nimbus.

That’s a fair bit of a difference.

Mind you – there has been some overlap. Some of my Nimbus books have begun to sell in e-book format and they play a role in the Steve Vernon machine. I am hoping – eventually – that my independently sold e-books will help in turn fuel the sales of my Nimbus e-books. I list them all at the back of EVERY one of my Kobo independent releases.

How did I do it?

Well, for starters, I refuse to panic. When the numbers get punky I just get to work on the next release and look ahead to better days. I keep trying to build on what I’ve accomplished. I look for ways to convert one-time readers into full-blown fans.

This isn’t an easy game for any of us writers. We make up the rules daily to a game that is constantly evolving. Last year the game was to throw a football while you run through a field of live alligators with raw rump roasts tied to your feet. This year we’re throwing tennis rackets and in addition to those alligators they’ve sown the field with land mines and woolly tickle-bugs and I’m not going to tell you what we’ve got strapped to our feet.

I try not to worry how this is all going to turn out. Instead I will try to make the best of how it ACTUALLY does turn out.

Anticipation is momentum. Fear is nothing but praying for hurt. Life is a giggle, learn how to grin.

Wish me luck and watch me run.

yours in storytelling,

Steve Vernon


9 responses to “My experience with Kobo so far…

  1. My Kobo sales are very consistent. I don’t sell any books there at all. Mwah ha hahargh!

    What you say kind of bears out what I’ve always thought though, that trad publishing is better at some things and e-publishing for others but that, if you’re doing reasonably well, you probably end up making about the same amount of cash via either method. Is that right or am I way off base there?




    • Are you right?

      Well – like everything in this world, mileage will vary.

      Some folks get married forever. Some folks are serial divorcees.

      I know quite a few independent e-book writers who sell one or two thousand copies a month. Some sell way more. You get into those numbers and the profit from indie-publishing can really make a difference.

      BUT – the traditional publisher still has access to venues that indie publishers can’t access. Schools, libraries, bookstores -a great percentage of these book-selling venues are still more receptive to traditionally-published work. That is changing – but it will be a long time yet before traditional books lose that powerful edge that they have over e-books.

      But it’s like everything.

      Heck, even money is gradually becoming irrelevant as more and more people buy their groceries, their houses and even their coffee with cards and codes and even cell phones.

      The world is changing.

      The market is changing.

      Evolution is inevitable.

      But it’s not going to happen nearly as quickly as some folks would have you believe.


      • I’m absolutely with you there, it’s not going to happen fast and what you say about Libraries etc is so true. I’m finding that, myself. I’d love a trad deal to get that bit but I have so little time that I’d rather spend it writing and producing books than sweating blood over query letters which will be tossed into the bin unread.

        And I say I sell zilch on Kobo at the moment but, that’s not the way I intend it to stay! 😉




  2. Trust you to worry about the one Malaysian, never a word for me with still 131 of yours to go in the UK.
    Everything you say makes a great deal of sense though I’m jealous of the 500 books a month, just now I’d settle for that a year ! Perhaps I’m part of the dreck out there.
    I think you’re fortunate to have found a traditional publisher, not because your work doesn’t warrant it, but because they’re in very short supply these days.Most seem to want quite a financial commitment except for the big ones. Some seem to want you to do all the promotions yourself as if we don’t do enough already.
    It will always be the case that certain genres sell better than others, and obviously your work shows that quality still sells, but some of us are stuck in the Indie world now and struggling to improve the ebook sales since placing physical books in shops is almost impossible.
    I hope you keep having success Steve and it continues to increase book on book.
    Stick with your publisher, it sounds like they’re doing a sterling job.


    • Hey David – actually that 500 a month was 500 e-books sold since November 2012 – so I’m not quite the huge success that you imagine me to be – but I’m working on it.


  3. I do not have a clue how to sell on Kobo. Since publishing Yseult in December, I’ve sold a whopping 4 copies. Doesn’t make me very inclined to put more books up, seems like more trouble than it’s worth. 😦

    About 95% of my sales are through Amazon, with a few at B&N and the Apple store.


  4. Hey Ruth.

    Well, there’s two schools of thought. Right now I prefer to market my books to as many avenues as possible – Kobo, Kindle, Nook, Apple – as many as I can reach.

    I’ve tried the Kindle Select – but it didn’t do ANYTHING for me.

    If you are doing REALLY well on Kindle it might make sense to see if going Kindle Select would do even better for your work.

    BUT if you aren’t going Select, then what does it hurt to put some more of your work out on Kobo? Maybe Yseult isn’t selling – but your next book will catch fire and draw big sales and entice new readers into hunting down your older work.

    As I say – mileage will vary. I’m making about 95% of MY sales from Kobo – and Kindle is just sort of sitting there in the mud like a hunk of turtle turd, plopped into bottom-mud. I sell one book today on Kindle and I’m going to celebrate.

    There is nothing like a tasteful analogy…



  5. Jenni Townsend

    Hi Steve
    Are you able to make sense of the kobo ratings. I have 3 ratings in different sections for my book. 21,181 and 2699. Are these good ratings ie, do these ratings equal good sales?
    Jenni Brisbane Australia


    • Hi Jenni.

      I’m afraid I can’t enlighten you all that much regarding the Kobo ratings. They puzzle me as well. I do know that it takes very little sales to bounce you up in the ratings. You sell three copies of MY HUNGARIAN ROMANCE WITH A WEREWOLF BILLIONAIRE tomorrow and all of a sudden you are the number one best seller. At the end of the day I have decided to not worry too much about Kobo OR Kindle ratings. At the end of the day the biggest reliable barometer of your own ability to sell books shows up in your bank account once a month. I sell ten dollars worth of Kobo books this month – well, that sucks. I sell hundred dollars worth of Kobo books next month – then I figure I must be doing something right and I try and do more of it. I am afraid I cannot give any better advice than that.

      I will tell you that I have done better than usual with my getting involved with the Kobo promotion feature. If you don’t have that Promotions feature on your dashboard, I’d recommend contacting the folks at Kobo Writing Life and asking if you might possibly qualify. It has been in the beta test for quite awhile and I think they might be agreeable to adding folks to it.

      Hope that helps. Any other question you have let me know. I don’t always know the right answer but I’ll do my best.


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