Visit from Mark LeFebvre

Yesterday, I told you about the Stratford Authors blog that I established last fall with a local librarian, Melanie Kindrachuk, to focus on local authors. I mentioned that we’d started to co-host some events with the local library. At the beginning of March, our monthly event featured Mark LeFebvre, the Director of Author Relations at Kobo Writing Life and a published author himself, talking about digitally publishing a book. Here’s the interview Mark did for the SA blog in advance of his appearance.

I met Mark last fall at the World Fantasy Conference in Toronto, after I’d seen him participate in a panel discussion on digital publishing for indie authors there. We subsequently emailed back and forth over some questions I had about the books I’d published directly on KOBO and I invited him to come down here to speak to our group. I halfway expected him to decline (it’s a bit of a drive from Toronto) but he enthusiastically agreed and we booked a date.

Mark’s initial comments were about preparing to digitally publish a book. He made some cautionary remarks about people diving in to digital publishing too soon. He reminded us all that a book needs to be ready to be published, no matter how it’s published: it needs to be professionally edited; it needs to have good cover art; it needs to have strong copy; it needs to be formatted correctly. All of these things help books to be taken seriously, and to succeed.

He also mentioned that most successful digital book authors know their audience really well. He suggested that authors should know their audience and their audience demographics, to better prepare packaging that appeals to the target audience and set prices that make sense to that audience.

Because the topic of digital publishing is so huge, Mark then took questions from the floor to focus his comments.

• He was asked whether KOBO intends to add author pages to the site – he said they had been in the works since KWL launched last July and are still in the works.

• He told us that the search utilities would be vastly improved on KOBO shortly, and that there would be more categories for books.

• He was not so encouraging in response to a question about allowing readers to post reviews directly on the KOBO site. He talked about Kobo’s partnership with Goodreads, expressed great admiration for Goodreads, and essentially didn’t seem to see any reason to duplicate or overlap what they already do so well.

Mark also talked about formatting of digital books, giving a brief overview to attendees. He was quite passionate on the topic of digital book prices increasing, and certain that free books and 99 cent books will become less effective as marketing tools. (Such pricing strategies are already markedly less effective than even six months ago.) We had some questions from people who wanted to embed video in their books and also a graphic novelist in attendance, so he talked about those technical requirements and possibilities for those sorts of works. (I didn’t understand it all!)

Again, I was struck by how generous the exchange of information is between authors and digital publishing portals like Kobo. He was quite direct about the merchandising of books on their site and how books are chosen from all the many titles presented each week for special attention. It was a lively and informative evening.

Mark even brought his skeletons – he writes horror in his life as an author – so maybe it was inevitable that we have a lot of fun. In fact, Mark will be coming back to our monthly event in June to walk our local authors through the process of digitally publishing a book on Kobo.

2 thoughts on “Visit from Mark LeFebvre

  1. Mark was affable and generous with his information. I\’d like some clarification on \’aggregation\’ and how rankings are determined when each platform had a different ISBN. I don\’t think I understood that correctly.

  2. On each platform, Yvonne, each book’s sales and ranking is calculated by the portal’s algorithm. The issue crops up with national bestseller lists that collect data from individual portals, bookstores and Bookscan. There were cases last year of authors whose digital books sales at each portal were not tallied together in consideration for those lists. If they had been, those authors would have made bestseller lists (which would have given them more visibility and possibly more sales). Having all EPUB editions on one ISBN solves that, as the results from each portal will be automatically summed together (since they’re tracked under the same number).

    It is possible that this has been solved anyway, as the bestseller lists are more aware now of the selling power of indie published digital books.

    This is also not a real concern for the vast majority of authors – scuttlebutt is that right now, it takes about 6000 sold units in one week to have a chance of making the USA Today list and about 10,000 for a chance at the NYT. Since those lists are comparative, each week, the actual number will vary depending on what else is available and how many books people are buying. Those two lists are also based on US sales.

    Hope that’s more clear!
    d

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