pink glitter publishing Emma Baird

The Kobo Experiment part one #amwriting

""My books are on Amazon, of course they are, but what if I stopped focussing on making Amazon the bee all and end all, and took a punt on life outside the mighty behemoth?

In the UK as in many other countries Amazon is blamed for destroying the high street and the old model of business. It’s a Darwinism type principle (only the fittest survive), but you could argue that too many regulators have moved too slowly to put the requisite checks and balances in place.

I use the site so moral objections come with that all-encompassing qualifier, “yes, but…” I buy from it, I sell books there and I read the reviews before I purchase things. A qualifier for the first part of that sentence—I try to sell books on Amazon.

It’s almost impossible these days without splashing out on Amazon ads, thanks to the algorithm changes they have made. Bear in mind this charge is on top of the commission Amazon takes on each sale.

Still, it is worth remembering that it’s easier to be a big fish in a smaller pond. Almost everyone agrees that if you want to sell books on Amazon, we’re now in pay to play territory. Advertise, or die; your book thrust into the seventh, eighth, ninth page of rankings. They’re the pages so few people bother with. (And dear reader, it is worth checking them out— the ranking is more to do with advertising spend than anything else).

One huge irony is that even if you make a book free (the first in a series so you can persuade people to then buy the rest of the books in that series) is you still need to advertise that book, as ‘free’ doesn’t give you the same visibility it used to.

Downloads of my books world-wide.

What if you hang out in the little ponds? My first e-reader was a Kobo. My husband, he of the intense research before you buy fame, reckoned a Kobo was a better bet than a Kindle. You could use it to get library books. I agreed. It’s lack of advertising (well, apart from books), the long battery life, the eye/head/mental health type screen are additional bonuses.

And, shock horror, Kindle and Amazon aren’t as widespread as you might think. Look beyond the US and the UK and you see a healthy e-book market that doesn’t just want the mobi. docs (Amazon only) but screams for epub files (what every other e-book reader uses).

To be clear, I don’t intend to take my books off Amazon–just to concentrate any marketing efforts elsewhere.  So far, a £3 promotion I ran on Kobo has resulted in more than 625 downloads of my free book in more than 40 countries. In the digital world, this is nothing but we small folks save the website address in our favourite buttons and update every day just so we can watch the number increase. The next step is to work out what can you get from a free promotion:

  • One, make sure there are links to all your other paid books in there
  • Ditto, a sign-up for a mailing list
  • Third, a teaser for the next book.

You can still use social media for a bit of ‘advertising’. But as a writer, I identify (as most of us will) as an introvert. Self-promotion on social media platforms—blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram et al—makes me feel as if I need three weeks in a solitary retreat. One where I beg the universe to reveal my higher calling and release me from the grubby modern-day world of non-stop self-promotion.

So far, she has come up with—make white chocolate raspberry cake! The people want to eat cake! Closely followed by, still not cleaned that silver platter you inherited? Pity, your sister would have done it by now had she been given it. Be the best owner of a cat there has ever been.

cat sleeping on laptop

The best owners let their cats do this.

Apart from the latter the inner voice hasn’t been one hundred percent helpful.

My mission for the rest of 2019 is—not to bother with Amazon Advertising, work out what I can do on Kobo and share the results with you.

This week I’m… #writerslife #amwriting

This week, I’ve:

Found out more about the Tudors… My friend bought me a couple of tickets for events at the annual Aye Write festival, a reading and writing festival that takes part in Glasgow every March/April. We’re both big Tudor fans; the fact that none of them were nice people and some of them downright dreadful doesn’t deter us.

portrait of Mary Queen of Scots

The first talk was by the historian and broadcaster, Kate Williams, discussing Elizabeth and Mary, the rival queens. Throughout her life, Mary was betrayed by those around her—from her half-brother, the lords at court, her husbands and finally Elizabeth herself. Kate Williams pointed out that Mary adopted many of the same statesmanship practices as Elizabeth and yet they didn’t work in Scotland for various reasons. The historian felt her mother’s sending her to France as a young girl was the first mistake, and if she had a time machine Kate Williams said she would have gone back to the 16th Century and stopped Mary going to England after her lords revolted against her.

Henry VIII

The second event focused on Henry VIII and the men around him, where writer Tracy Borman argued the king wasn’t “the one dimensional monster” he is often portrayed as. I’m not convinced, but her talk was fascinating and I loved her suggestion that Henry’s father was a long-lasting influence on his son. Fact fans—Henry VIII died on what would have been his father’s 90th birthday.

Friends, I’m not terrible cultured. I love book events because they are… er, short. Yes, and thought-provoking too but my focus isn’t required for too long and I have been to few book launches or events that I haven’t found worthwhile. I like hearing a writer read his or her own work as it adds something special to the experience. Some years ago, I heard the late author Andrea Levy read from The Long Song and it was spine-tingling.

Bird-watching in the Levengrove Park. So far, no-one’s told the weather spring is upon us. The daffodils have poked their heads out only to find themselves battered to bits by wind and rain. However, on Sunday the rain and winds took a well-deserved rest, and I took myself to the local park nearby for a bid-watching session organised by the local rangers. Since taking up bird-feeding last year, I’ve discovered a new-found appreciation for the birds of this fair island, whose numbers have nose-dived in recent years. As usual, humankind and its greedy acquisition of everything around us, is to blame.

Book sales

And finally, I’ve saved the best bit for last—selling books. In the last week, I’ve sold 107 copies of Ten Little Stars. Some qualifiers dear friends; the book is free. I paid £3 for a promotion deal on Kobo*. But I think any writer will tell you, the currency of readers often feels more precious than hard cash. I’m not that altruistic. My long-term aim is to be able to write full-time and make an income from it. I have four books for sale and only one of them has made me money so far. My years of not selling fiction don’t discourage me—visibility is my main problem—but the 107 sales in one week are gratifying. The Kobo dashboard tells me the bulk of them are in Canada (home of Kobo), but I’ve sold in 19 other countries too—from Latvia to Turkey, Australia to South Africa, the Philippines, the UK, Spain and others.

I’m one year older this week. Inside, my eighteen-year-old self survives though she objects to the wrinkles and grey hair, and sometimes pipes up, “Still, Emma? You keep doing this and have yet to get the message it doesn’t work?” To celebrate, Sandy and I went to Inverary for the night, travelling through snow-topped hills and past sun-danced lochs, ate sublime food at the Inverary Inn and drank wine. As birthdays go, it was hard to beat.

*Dear other writers—Kobo promotions and ads are three hundred times easier and more effective than Amazon ads.