How to Self-Publish Your Book on Kobo

Here’s another tutorial for my friends in The Book Lounge. I decided at the last minute to publish direct to Kobo (rather than distributing through Lulu, Smashwords, or Draft2Digital), because they have a lot of promotional opportunities for indie authors and I didn’t want to miss out. Plus, their monthly statements give breakdowns of income by book, so it wouldn’t be hard at all for my math-challenged brain to calculate percentages for my creative team. 😉

I love Kobo. Before I got accepted to the small press I was with from 2015-2016, I was an indie author and Kobo was my most productive “honeypot”—my moneymaker. So I was pretty bummed when I found out that my publisher didn’t distribute to Kobo. Now that I’ll be back in the indie world, I’m excited to have those books available on Kobo again.

To get started with Kobo, you’ll need an account with Kobo Writing Life (also known as KWL). (They also have an extremely helpful blog under the same name, as well as a kick-ass podcast—both of which are packed to the brim with marketing tips for indies.)

Once you’re logged in and have submitted any required account, payment, and tax information, it’s time to get your books rolling.

Go to the eBOOKS tab in your dashboard. Your books will be organized by pen name, if you have any. Click on the green “Create New eBook” button.

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 6.21.23 PM

Step 1: Describe Your eBook

This will take you to the first of four steps toward publishing your ebook. This is pretty self-explanatory; Kobo has the slickest dashboard, publishing process, and user interface of all the ebook retailers. I can’t sing their praises enough.

The first screen is all of your book’s information: title, cover, series name (if applicable), blurb or description, etc. There are two sections you’ll need to pay close attention to.

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 6.22.36 PM

Is this the first time you’re publishing your book? You’ll want to choose the yes radio button and select the original publication date—only if you’re re-publishing, of course. If you’re publishing a new book, you can leave the default no selected.

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 6.27.44 PM

Edit categories. This is where you’ll choose your book’s genre(s). Kobo allows you to select up to three. This is important because later, when you’re submitting to promotions, you’ll want to make sure your book’s categories match the promotion you’re submitting to.

Step 2: Add eBook Content

Now it’s time to upload your actual ebook file. Kobo is pretty flexible and accepts a wide variety of formats. Personally, I prefer ePub ebooks, formatted using Vellum. That’s a whole other post, though. You can even upload a properly formatted .doc or .docx, if you’re more comfortable with using something like MS Word.

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 6.30.05 PM

After you’ve selected your file, hit the green Upload button. Kobo will validate your file for you, making sure it will work properly with the Kobo e-reader or app.

If you don’t have any issues, go on to Step 3. If there are issues, read the information that Kobo provides carefully. Usually it’s a quick fix on your end, but you can also contact them and sometimes they can help, depending on the issue.

Step 3: Choose Content Rights

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 6.34.38 PM

You are given the option of enabling DRM, which basically locks down your ebook; readers won’t be able to transfer it between devices. Some people use DRM because they are concerned about pirating. Personally, I don’t think DRM stops pirates. It does, however, hinder genuine readers, so I don’t enable DRM. You can do a Google search to research the pros and cons.

You can also choose where to distribute your book. Kobo has an extremely enthusiastic worldwide customer base. I’m usually selling books in countries all around the world, like South Africa and Canada, which is incredibly exciting. Kobo does really well globally, whereas I’ve noticed Amazon (KDP) is hit or miss.

Step 4: Set the Price

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 6.38.17 PM

This part can get a bit tricky. It can be a huge pain in the butt to convert currencies. I don’t like to use the automatic conversion, because currencies change very rapidly and your book could end up listed under a weird price point, like 407 yen. That’s not an attractive price to customers. 399 or an even 400, for example, would be better.

The method I use is pretty simple. I enter my book’s price in US dollars, leaving the override price switch off. Then I go down the line, taking each automatically converted price into account. I switch override on and get as close as I can to the converted amount, but at a more retail-friendly price.

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 6.48.49 PM

For example, if my book is $4.99 USD and converts to $6.54 in Australian dollars, I override it to $6.99 AUD. (In a recent podcast, Kobo’s Mark Lefebvre [AKA Mark Leslie] explained that Australian customers are used to paying higher price points, so it’s best to round up rather than down. My initial instinct might be to round down to $5.99 AUD, but I’ll test using Mark’s advice; I can always change it later if I’m noticing the book isn’t moving.)

(Note: In the Kindle dashboard, I would round down for a book being sold in India, as Indian customers are used to paying less in rupees for ebooks.)


Finally, choose the date you’d like your book to go live. You can also allow pre-orders (if your book is being published on a future date). For example, you can set the calendar to June 1st. Your book will appear in the Kobo store but won’t actually be available until that date. In the meantime, you can collect pre-orders and, once it’s been approved, you can set a promo price.

A Word on Kobo Promotion


A correction: Kobo’s promotions are currently in beta, and actually aren’t available to all indie authors. I apologize!

You can still run sales by lowering your book’s price as you would in KDP (Amazon), then advertising it everywhere. I strongly recommend doing a $0.99 or free promotion across all retailers, then advertising with places like BookBub.

You can do a week-long promotion, advertising with a different place every day. Do a Google search for places you can advertise with, or stay tuned for my list!

When I first started out on Kobo, a select group of indie authors were on an exclusive promo opportunity list. Eventually, Kobo rolled this out to all indie authors. You can now access and submit to upcoming promos under the PROMOTIONS tab.

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 7.30.30 PM

Every month, Kobo’s merchandising team lists upcoming promotions you can submit to. Some of these are site-wide and open to all indie authors; you just submit your book and Kobo takes care of the rest. Others are more selective and have specific criteria you must adhere to. Read each promotion’s information carefully before submitting to save yourself time.

There is no longer an email alert with upcoming promotions, so it’s up to you to check this tab regularly.

You can also organize your own sale. Once it’s live, there’s a big gray “set promo price” button under your book’s Set the Price section. You can choose your book’s sale price in all currencies and how long the promo lasts.

You can also access the promotions tab under the Promote Your eBook section after your book is live.

Kobo ebook ducks in a row! All of my ex-Booktrope books will be available in the Kobo store on June 1st.
Kobo ebook ducks in a row! All of my ex-Booktrope books will be available in the Kobo store on June 1st.


I hope this tutorial was helpful to you. Please comment below and let me know if you have any questions. If you’d like to leave me a little tip for my time (it took me about two hours to put this post together), feel free to buy me a coffee or buy one of my books. If you’re strapped for cash but would still like to thank me, a heartfelt comment is plenty! 😊 Feel free to share this post, too.

Thanks for reading. See you next time!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *