Update on Kobo’s WritingLife: A Work in Progress

As I discussed in my last post on my experiences going off of KDP Select, while I was not entirely happy with Kobo’s new indie publication initiative, WritingLife, I was pleased that, unlike Barnes and Noble, the support staff I contacted were very responsive to my communications with them over problems I encountered. So I feel I should point out a positive change that has happened this week. If you read the blog post, you will know I was concerned about with the way Kobo treated free books, and I was glad to discover there is now a 3rd way you can find free books–by clicking on a link that says Search a List of our Latest Free Books.

When I discovered this link and clicked on it this morning, I was surprised to discover that my short story Dandy Detects was listed first. I don’t know why it is at the top of the list. (I am assuming it was not there because I was a squeaky wheel!) I suppose Dandy could have had the most free downloads recently (which would be surprising-given that the #4 and #5 books on the list are short stories by N.Y. Times bestselling authors Jennifer Weiner and Bella Andre) or it could simply be the newest book put on the list, and if so, in time, no matter how popular it is, it will sink. It is also clearly a very abbreviated list, since there are only 172 books listed and most of them still seem to be public domain books. (Whereas if you put in the key word historical mystery and filter for free you get 880 free books-so obviously there are a lot more free books available on Kobo.) But if it is simply list of most recent free books, and Kobo readers can find this list on their devices, this might begin to help create a greater interest in free books from Kobo consumers, and that should help authors use the free promotion option to highlight their books.

However, from the author’s point of view, it is still frustrating to have no idea how many free copies of my story have been downloaded. And, I am assuming that the numbers must not be terribly large since my experience in other ebookstores is that a certain percentage of people who read Dandy Detects for free then immediately buy my other short story, The Misses Moffet Mend a Marriage, which is only 99 cents. But I have had only 1 sale of that book since Dandy went free. I am trying to be patient.

While I am on the subject of Kobo, I did want to add something else positive about Kobo (with a caveat). Kobo permits an author to link to their GoodReads reviews, which is of particular benefit to authors who have just put up a book on the site. In other bookstores like Amazon and Barnes and Noble and iBooks, you have to wait for people who have bought the book in that store to put up reviews, which can take months if not years. But because of Kobo’s policy, Dandy Detects, which has been available on Kobo for only a month, has 88 reviews. The downside of this policy is that there doesn’t seem to be a way for a reader to post a review directly on Kobo (all they can do is give them stars and it is not clear to me how a star rating by a Kobo reader is folded into the GoodReads star ratings.)

This can be a problem because not every author wants to put their books up on GoodReads, particularly when there are competing reader sites like Shelfari and LibraryThing that they may find more compatible. For example, just recently there was a huge controversy over retaliatory reviews on GoodReads that caused some authors to remove their books from this site. See the posts by Vacuous Minx for a discussion of some of these issues. The fact that linking to GoodReads is the only way for a book to get reviews on Kobo would then be a real handicap for these authors (or authors who have suffered a lot of negative reviews in one of these retaliatory wars).

In short, I applaud Kobo for the steps they have taken to be innovative and responsive to authors’ and readers’ needs, but they are definitely still a work in progress. Nevertheless, I am having fun watching the changes unfold.

As always, I would love to hear from all of you, particularly those of you who own Kobo readers or have published with them.

In addition here is some Shameless Blatant Promotion on my two Victorian San Francisco Mysteries now that I am safely back in the KDP Select fold.

Maids of Misfortune will be FREE on KINDLE Monday-Tuesday August 20-21 and

Uneasy Spirits will be FREE ON KINDLE Tuesday-Wednesday August 21-22.

The AUDIOBOOK version of Maids of Misfortune will be discounted to $5.95 (even less to audible.com members) Saturday August 25 to Sunday September 2.

9 Replies to “Update on Kobo’s WritingLife: A Work in Progress”

  1. Have you tried searching for your name on the Kobo website or in the Kobo App? Spoiler Alert: You won’t find it. As best I can tell, none of the Writing Life writers show up if you search for their names, but the trad pubbed authors do. I sampled five names from the first page of books on the Writing Life list. I searched using the app and the web site. Searching for “Locke” in the app returns exactly one result, “Septimus”, by Will J. Locke. Searching for “Locke on the website gave me 39 results, including, at number 5, the ever-popular “Tuberculosis in Massachusetts” published in 1908 by the Sixth International Congress of Tuberculosis and edited by Edwin Allen Locke. I would recommend that you report this to the tech support folks for Writing Life. I’m sure it is just an oversight because searching for words in the titles of Writing Life books works as you would expect.

    As an IT architect, I’m baffled as how this issue happened. It is hard to figure what scenario creates a situation where this could occur. Perhaps Writing Life data is stored seperately from other data and an ETL process is failing.

    1. I’m glad u mentioned this because i’ve found the same priblem when i search a new title of mine my dahboard says is published but won’t show up in any search.

      This then also keeps me from being able to link to the Kobo listing for my book from my Books site pg.

      I’ve reported it more than once. No responce, but I’m still hopeful ๐Ÿ˜‰

      1. Update on my listing problem with Kobo.


        First, a very helpful lady I was able to reach by phone, has forwarded my info request to the epublishing arm for review tomorrow when they return (off on weekends.)

        Second, in reviewing my file, again ๐Ÿ˜‰ , I noticed that the publication date was set for the 22nd, which is next week, so I changed it to a current date.

        I can’t recall putting that date in, but, it’s always possible. If so, I owe some very sincere and pubic apologies to the Kobo folk.

        Hopefully, tomorrow sometime, I’ll have an answer from the appropriate department.

        Thanks ya’ll,


    2. Dear William,

      I don’t think this is a problem that is specific to WritingLife authors. When I put in Penny, for Louise Penny’s books and Crombie, for Deborah Crombie’s books (both traditionally published authors), similar short odd list of books comes up, neither with their books listed.

      If I put in my entire name, or just put up Louisa Locke I do come up in the search.

      Even more oddly, when my husband used firefox (I was using Safari), and put in just Locke he came up with a much longer list of books (we didn’t go through page to page to see if I was there.)

      It does suggest that Kobo’s searching mechanism isn’t as well developed (compared to Amazon and Barnes and Noble-both which produced my books when I searched with just the term Locke).

      I will, however, write and ask if they could explain how the search box works with author names.

      Mary Louisa

      1. Experimenting a little more has left me more confused. Kobo’s search function is totally broken. Search for the last name of any top selling author and the first 10 results don’t show them. I tried James, Meyer, King, Patterson, and the top three names from their top 50 ebooks and none of the authors you expect show up on the first results page. Grisham did show up as the third book listed and the first two books referenced him in the title. Search for Rowling and only 10 results are returned None of the actual Harry Potter books show up. Several books about Rowling are listed. An interview of Rowling shows up. And the 10th book on the list is Stephen King’s Misery.

        So, to recap, if I search for King there are 62 books that show up before the first book by Stephen King shows up (Thinner). Well, there is a Stephen King book at 13th place on the list, but it is by Stephen A. King (Reggae, Rastafari, and the Rhetoric of Social Control). But if I search for Rowling, I get a Steve King book as a result.

  2. The Kobo search engine just plain doesn’t work. Unlike William Ockham, I only see my books (I am an Indie author) when I put in my name. I write books about Astrology. I put “Astrology Suzanne White” in the search box and I get fiction – including The Hunger Games. I put in “Suzanne White Astrology” and I get White Lies, Vision in White and more Hunger Games.
    I wrote to them about it. I thought I was alone in this misery. We must keep bothering them. Not just to be first on the recent freebie list. But to let them know we are paying attention. As someone said, they are most receptive and helpful. At least they’re trying.

    Thanks Mary Louisa and co. for keeping us all up to speed. Cheers, Suzanne White

  3. Thanks for keeping us up to date on your experiences in this writing world. I had kobo on the backburner, still thinking about it, but still have a way to go before I get to it. Goodreads, I am not liking it nor spend much time on it as I find the site somewhat cumbersome ,could just be my tech challenges and lack of patience. But I am thinking about the kdpselect. I enjoy your blog. Much success to you with your novels

Leave a Reply