The KWL Quill – March 2023 - Kobo Writing Life (2024)

Hello writers!

Like many (OK, probably most) creatives, we love thinking big-picture. But there’s a time and place for blue-sky brainstorming, and a time and place for—to borrow some 90s bestseller lingo—sweating the small stuff. So in this issue, we find ourselves in detail mode, with tips on expository writing and drafting with care, expert advice on the finer points of getting through a first novel, and thoughts from a lawyer on how to structure your writing business. Plus, a deep-dive on cli-fi and tips for BookTok beginners.

But first:

The KWL Quill – March 2023 - Kobo Writing Life (1)

My Writing Life: Amy Stuart on improving a first draft

Thriller author Amy Stuart is all about the build, both in the suspenseful cadence of her bestselling books (the most recent of which, A Death at the Party, came out earlier this month), but also in how she writes them.

Stuart is an iterative writer. Her preferred approach is to bash out quick first drafts—“sort of like 50,000-word outlines”—and then to layer in details, rework plot, strip out excess, and, sometimes, introduce new characters, via multiple revisions.

In a recent episode of The KWL Podcast, Stuart went deep on her drafting philosophy: “You are at the beginning when you finish a draft. You are not halfway through, and you are certainly not close to the end. You have poured the foundation for the house you’re gonna build, but you don’t have a house yet,” she told us. “You have to be able to accept feedback and to really make substantive structural changes to the story.”

Here is more of Stuart’s advice on reworking—and improving—early drafts:

  • Abandon your ego: “The first draft for me is a total mess. It’s important to acknowledge that, and to not be precious or have any ego about that. It’s also about recognizing that the structural changes to the first draft are going to be significant.”
  • Take it piece by piece: “I don’t think you could even count the number of drafts I do. And it’s usually not a beginning to end draft. Sometimes I spend two or three months just working on the beginning, and then switch to the end. But I see it as layering. I’m building something kind of piece by piece, over time. You manifest complexity that way.”
  • Pay attention to pace: “Pacing is all about removing excess stuff that doesn’t need to be there. So, you might write a scene between two characters, and it’s four pages long, but then when you revisit it, the dialogue really only needs to be two pages. And I think this is particularly true of backstory. You can write two pages [in early drafts] and then only a paragraph ends up in the book.”
  • Fill in the gaps: “In this book, for example, there’s a reporter named Julian. He was not in the first draft—and he’s a pretty fundamental character to the book. Because I saw in the first draft, and I thought: ‘Okay, there’s an element of complexity. I need secrets to be divulged. I need information to path around, and I need a character who can facilitate that.’ And I thought, OK, a reporter could do that. And then you figure that out, and then you layer that character in, and then they become quite pivotal to the story because there was something missing in that first draft that you needed to address.”

Hear our full podcast interview with Amy Stuart here.

Read: How to fast-draft your next novel

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Your Business: Protect yourself with limited liability

When you’re building a writing career, creating a legal entity to protect your work might not be at the top of your priority list. (After all, it’s a lot more fun to develop characters than corporate structures.) But there are a lot of reasons to establish your writing business as an official business—even if you’re not yet generating much, or any, income from your work. In our recent podcast interview with attorney and writer Maria Riegger—author of Legal Issues Authors Must Consider—makes the case for setting up a limited liability company (or equivalent) and publishing everything through it. While the specifics of implementing this type of structure vary by jurisdiction, doing so is a low-cost way to better protect your livelihood, Riegger explains:

“To self-published authors who are first starting out: I recommend that you form a limited liability entity as your publishing company, and self-publish your books through the entity. For example, in the U.S., if you are self-publishing under your own name—if [the copyright page of your book] has your name, essentially—you’re self-publishing as a sole proprietorship. If you were ever to be sued, you could possibly have to pay out from your personal assets, if the lawsuit is successful. And that’s what you want to avoid. You want to protect your personal assets and income, and limit your liability to the assets and income of the business. So, to do that you set up a limited

liability entity.”

Hear Our KWL podcast with Maria Riegger.

Please note: The content above, and discussed in this episode of the podcast, should not be used as legal advice. If you have questions related to copyright law and other legal issues surrounding your books, independent publishing, and publishing in general, please contact a legal representative in your area for more information.

Your Craft: How to make exposition fun

Expository writing conveys factual information with clarity and impartiality. It’s the foundation of good journalism and non-fiction writing, and a valuable tool in fiction, as well. Because expository writing is based on facts, it can often feel clinical or dull. But it doesn’t have to. In an expository blog on expository writing, the Reedsy team offers a good example of explaining information with colour and levity:

“Just because expository writing often deals with cold hard facts and processes, it doesn’t mean it should be written unenthusiastically or that it shouldn’t bring out a reaction in the reader. Depending on how much your medium allows it, you can infuse your science-backed claims with a little bit of humor and personality. For example, biologist Robert Sapolsky does it brilliantly in his book Behave:

There are misconceptions as to which ape is our “closest relative.” In my experience, someone who is fond of duck hunting and country music usually votes chimp, but if you eat organic food and know about oxytocin, it’s bonobo. The reality is that we’re equally related to both, sharing roughly 98 to 99 percent of our DNA with each.

“The sentence is fun and engaging to read 一 it invokes a cartoonish image that pokes at the stereotypical right and left-wing voters, but sticks to the facts when it comes down to it, and succeeds in educating the reader about our shared genetics with apes.”

Read: Expository Writing: The Craft of Sharing Information

Your Tools: Your BookTok starter kit

By this point, we all know the power of TikTok in driving interest in authors and their work. (Just ask Colleen Hoover!) But if you’re not yet using the platform, it might feel a bit intimidating, so we’ve rounded up a few tips for BookTok rookies.

  1. Get inspo: TikTok is a unique online experience, with user patterns, stylistic choices, and lingo unlike any other social media platform. (How do I “stitch”? What is a “FYP”?) Spend some time exploring hashtags that might be relevant to your work (like #fantasybooks or #smuttok) to see what your audience responds to. And look to your fellow authors, too: In a recent interview with The Writer, popular BookTok creator Ayman Chaudhary advises studying the TikTok habits of writers you admire before you post a thing. “Get inspiration from them and see how they promote their own books and how, in return, you can do it on your own,” Chaudhary said. “Authors can make their books go viral on their own the same way readers can and vice versa.”
  2. Choose your tools: The beauty of BookTok is that you don’t need much more than a smartphone and decent lighting (via a window or ring light) to create something that looks good. When it comes to editing, TikTok itself offers an array of fun and easy-to-use tools, but there are plenty of other options that might suit you better—many of which are available for free. Book Cave offers a comprehensive rundown for new BookTokers.
  3. Practice, practice, practice: Few people get the hang of TikTok right away. In a post at NetGalley’s We are Bookish blog, writer Kelly Gallucci suggests filming test videos in different locations to check your look and feel, to tinker with editing tools, and to get more comfortable on camera: “Practicing with videos that you don’t intend to publicly post or share helps to take the pressure off of making them perfect, and will set you up with the editing knowledge you need to post your first video.”
  4. Don’t panic: If it all feels a bit overwhelming, there is lots of help available on the app itself. As Emma Quick writes at The Empowered Author: “The great news is that TikTokkers across niches will post tutorials for different trends and transitions, making it easy for you to create smooth-looking videos super easily.”

Read more: How to find your readers

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Your Next Genre: Changemaking cli-fi

The key takeaway from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s final report, released earlier this month, is unsparing: If we want a liveable planet, humanity needs to take urgent climate action. So it’s an apt time to talk about climate fiction, commonly known as cli-fi. Coined by writer Dan Bloom, cli-fi refers to fiction focused on the climate crisis and its effects; it is often (but not always) speculative in nature.

Literature might not seem the most important weapon in the fight against climate change, but when done well, it can help readers connect emotionally to the often-overwhelming concept of climate change and motivate them to change behaviours. “The causes and impacts of climate change are very diverse and their interplay can be quite far-reaching,” explains writer and literary PR agent Nina Greimel at Books Are Our Superpower. “Explaining facts through a narrative helps to better understand the consequences of environmental phenomenons, research results, or political decisions. Stories break up complex mechanisms into digestible portions.”

Want to write cli-fi that makes a difference? Consider the following advice:

  • Use science carefully: The most effective cli-fi stories are based on scientific data, but the most effective cli-fi writers present it judiciously. As tempting as it might be to show your work, too many citations and explanations will overwhelm the narrative—and the person reading it. “How you choose to use the science matters,” explains Ryan Mizzen, who writes children’s picture books (and holds a degree in climate change), in a post at The Writing Cooperative. “If it’s dumped in, you’ll lose the reader.”
  • Prioritize story: In a 2021 Writer’s Digest essay, Marjorie J. Kellogg (author of the cli-fi epic Glimmer) argues that the value of cli-fi is not necessarily to inform readers about the climate crisis—its evidence being abundantly clear and present—but rather to offer digestible insight into how they might deal with it. “A well-told tale, involving characters a reader can identify with, will bring home the reality of climate change, especially to the non-scientist, for whom a listing of dire climate data may seem simply a jumble of numbers,” Kellogg writes. “Nobody wants a sermon. We want to be entertained, but also, perhaps, enlightened.”
  • Offer hope: While many cli-fi stories are dystopian or bleak, there is strong appetite for books in the genre that project optimism and hope. As literary scholar Ted Howell, who teaches cli-fi at Rowan University, explains in this Smithsonian Magazine feature: “It’s helpful to have a vision of the future that is something aspirational—to have more of these hopeful stories of people living in a future but still managing to survive, still managing to thrive and do human things, even though the environment that they live in has changed radically.”

Contemporary Cli-Fi Classics:

Your First Page: Award-worthy advice for first-time novelists

Need a little push to get that first book going? At Literary Hub, writer Martha Anne Toll asked the five finalists for this year’s PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction to share advice for first-time authors. Each answer is enlightening, but we’re particularly fond of this bit of wisdom from Laura Warrell, author of Sweet, Soft, Plenty Rhythm:

“Two parts: first, slow down. Enjoy yourself. Too many writers, including established authors (including me!) hurry to finish their books. But as I get older, I realize the great pleasure in taking the time to enjoy the process. Second, don’t give up, which may sound like some of the hollowest advice people offer each other but I add this qualification: keep working on craft. Savor any feedback that helps make your work better. Read the authors you adore and identify how they do whatever it is you think makes them special. Nurture the gift.”

2023 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction finalists:

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The KWL Quill – March 2023 - Kobo Writing Life (2024)


Is Kobo writing life free? ›

Kobo Writing Life is the free self-publishing portal that lets authors and publishers create, edit, and upload eBooks to Kobo.

How does Kobo pay authors? ›

Kobo offers a standard Independent Publisher Program contract through Kobo Writing Life. You can receive royalty payments from Kobo via EFT (Electronic Fund Transfer) directly in to your bank account. Authors are paid 45 days after the end of each monthly period provided they have met a minimum threshold of $50 USD.

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Just create a Kobo Writing Life account, upload your manuscript, and set the price. We'll add it to the Kobo catalogue within 72 hours and keep it there as long as you want.

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Email us at

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KWL is an outstanding platform, thanks to the ease of uploading and the advanced sales data broken out into an easy-to-understand map that I love." "I just added my first pre-order on KWL. The beautiful interface and user-friendly publishing process were totally frustration-free. I give my experience a 10/10."

Is Kobo still good? ›

If you have no interest in buying into the Amazon ecosystem, Kobo e-readers are a solid option. This waterproof model splits the difference between the entry-level Kindle and the Kindle Paperwhite by giving you a 6-inch screen with adjustable light and color temperature for late-night reading.

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Ebooks are profitable, but simply publishing one is not enough. eBooks are profitable when they are marketed and sold properly with intent. Some authors who use Amazon to publish their ebooks can potentially make $1000+ a month.

Do authors make money from Kobo? ›

Let's look at a book that an author has set at a list price of $9.99. Because the cost is more than $2.99, you will be able to claim 70% in royalties each time your book is sold. However, if your book is in the public domain, no matter what the cost of the book is, you will only be able to claim 20% as royalties.

Can I publish the same book on Amazon and Kobo? ›

Yes, it is generally possible to publish your book on multiple platforms, including Amazon and Kobo, as well as other ebook retailers and distributors. This is known as "wide distribution," and it can help you reach a wider audience and potentially increase your sales.

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Rakuten Kobo
  • Nonfiction.
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How much does it cost to publish a book on Kobo? ›

Frequently Asked Questions. Does Kobo Writing Life cost anything to join? Nope! Plus, Kobo Writing Life will automatically reformat your Word, OpenOffice, or Mobi files into ePubs for free.

What is Kobo writing life? ›

Kobo Writing Life: Helping you reach your readers, wherever they are. If you're a great writer with an entrepreneurial streak, then Kobo Writing Life (KWL) is the place for you. Our mission is to make it easy for you to get your work in front of readers all over the world.

Can you put your own books on Kobo? ›

You can copy non-protected ePub files from your Android phone or tablet to your Kobo Library. Note: PDF files cannot be imported. If your file has Digital Rights Management (DRM) protection, or your file is from a third party, you won't be able to read it on your Kobo Books app with this method.

What is Kobo Plus? ›

With Kobo Plus, you can read and listen to as many eBooks and audiobooks as you want each month for a fixed price. You can read Kobo Plus eBooks on Kobo eReaders and the Kobo Books app.

Does Kobo charge a monthly fee? ›

You won't be charged for the first 30 days. After the free trial period, we'll charge you $9.99 a month for a Kobo Plus Read or Kobo Plus Listen subscription, or $12.99 a month for Kobo Plus Read & Listen, plus any applicable taxes, unless you cancel.

Does Kobo cost money? ›

You can subscribe to Kobo Plus on

After the free trial period, we'll charge you monthly unless you cancel.

Do you have to pay for books on Kobo? ›

You can buy eBooks on your Kobo eReader. All you'll need is a Wi Fi connection and a valid credit card. Once you've completed the checkout process, your book will appear on the Home screen. If you prefer, you can buy books on

What app should I use to write a book for free? ›

The yWriter app is one of the free apps for writing a book. It is designed to help writers organize their projects effectively.


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