Optimistic Authorship

THE OPTIMISTIC AUTHOR

You can approach your writing with optimism or pessimism—your choice.

(Though complaints, worries, and frustrations may become more of a habit and less of a conscious decision.)

Optimism can be an asset to your authorship.

When you believe that your book will be successful, you are more likely to:

  • motivate yourself to work hard
  • stay focused while writing
  • do the necessary research
  • proofread carefully
  • put time and effort into cover design and formatting
  • put a small investment in cover design or editing
  • make a full effort to market your book
  • find a way to harness your creativity in your marketing

On the other hand, if you are pessimistic about the outcome of your book, you are less likely to put in the work needed to help make your book successful.

Thus, your outlook may pull a pivotal role in the success or failure of your book launch.

Once you start getting sales, if sales are slower than you expected, optimism can carry you through the slow times. If you are optimistic that you can improve your sales, you are more likely to try new marketing ideas and eventually discover strategies that work for you. You will be more likely to write additional books—and put the proper effort into those, too—if you remain optimistic that your writing will take off (and it sometimes takes multiple good books to gain traction). But if you are pessimistic, it’s easy to give up without really putting the effort into it.

The optimistic author will find the good in a bad review, while the pessimistic author will see something bad in a good review. The optimistic author appreciates the neutral review, whereas the pessimistic author is upset that it wasn’t a five-star review.

When a potential customer visits the optimistic author’s social media sites and blog, the customer has a positive experience.

When a potential customer sees complaints and frustration in the author’s social interactions, the customer is seeing publicized negativity.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2017

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Kindle Unlimited: October, 2017 Marks Steady Improvement

KINDLE UNLIMITED PER-PAGE RATE, OCTOBER, 2017

The Kindle Unlimited per-page has continued to increase ever since the inception of KENPC v3.0.

  • October: $0.00456 per page
  • September: $0.00443 per page
  • August: $0.00419 per page
  • July: $0.00403 per page

The KDP Select Global Fund has increased steadily over a much longer period (just a couple of years back, it was half as much).

  • October: $19.7 million
  • September: $19.5 million
  • August: $19.4 million
  • July: $19.0 million
  • June: $18.0 million

Copyright © 2017

Chris McMullen

Book Marketing by the Numbers

Two Valuable Book Marketing Statistics

Consider the following two numbers:

  • 1 out of 1000. That’s a rough estimate of how many strangers will click on a typical link to an Amazon product page.
  • 1 out 40. That’s a rough estimate of how many strangers who visit a product page for a book will purchase the book.

First, we’ll discuss these rates, and then we’ll discuss them in relation to book marketing.

Click-through Rate

The first figure, 1 out of 1000, is called a click-through rate (ctr).

A ctr of 0.1% (which equates to 1 out of 1000) is typical of internet advertising.

I’ve placed over 100 ads for a variety of books under multiple pen names on Amazon itself using Amazon Marketing Services (AMS), and most of my ctr’s fall in the range 0.05% to 0.2% (varying from 1 in 2000 to 1 in 500).

Some books get better ctr’s than others. Here are a few factors that affect the ctr:

  • compelling book cover (if the cover is seen with the link, this can be a strong factor)
  • effective title (conveys content clearly, reinforces cover, concise, and/or catchy)
  • effective branding (recognition of the author name, title, or series, for example)
  • audience targeting (the book appears to be highly relevant to the people who see the link)

Conversion Rate

The conversion rate is the percentage of people who purchase a product after visiting the Amazon product page.

A conversion rate of 2% to 4% (1 out of 50 to 1 out of 25) is relatively common. However, the conversion rate can vary considerably. A few books command conversion rates of 10% (1 out of 10) or more, but there are also a significant number of books with conversion rates well below 1% (1 out of 100).

Some books’ Amazon product pages get better conversion rates than others. Here are a few factors that affect the conversion rate:

  • compelling book cover (draws visual interest)
  • compelling description (arouses curiosity, creates suspense, promises desirable information, and/or reads well)
  • compelling Look Inside (professional appearance, fantastic start to the story, reads well)
  • audience targeting (the description and Look Inside reinforce expectations created by the cover or the information available with the link that brought the customers to the product page)
  • other factors such as customer reviews, author photo, author biography, etc.

Illuminating Example

Consider a book where the author does no marketing whatsoever: The only people discovering the book are shopping on Amazon. In this extreme example, the author didn’t even tell a friend or family member about the book.

The book does get discovered. Maybe the cover and title show up in an occasional keyword search, or maybe a customer discovers it browsing in a subcategory (perhaps using a Last 90 Days search filter). Once the book sells enough, it may also be visible on other books’ customers-also-bought lists.

Let’s suppose that the book sells 1 copy per day on average. Obviously, this number can be much more or much less, but the math is very simple with 1, so it’s a good place to start.

Let’s also go with the rough averages: 1 out of 1000 people who see the cover and title on Amazon click on the link to visit the product page, and 1 out 40 of the people who visit the product page purchase the book.

Wow! With these “rough” averages, there are 40,000 people visiting that book’s product page every day.

But only 1 out of 40,000 who saw the book cover and title actually purchased the book. Another wow!

This number isn’t far-fetched. It’s actually pretty common.

I have much experience advertising books on Amazon through AMS (over 100 ads on a variety of books in multiple pen names), and have discussed advertising statistics with several other authors. Many of the ads show in keyword search results, and others ads show on other books’ product pages. Advertising increases the overall number of impressions (the number of times that customers see the cover and title), but the ctr’s and conversion rates are typical of ordinary customer searches. A ctr of 0.1% (1 out of 1000) and a conversion rate of 2% to 4% (1 out of 50 to 1 out of 25) are rather common.

(I have over 25 ads that individually made over 1,000,000 impressions, so I have plenty of my own data to analyze, but I also interact with many different authors and discuss advertising with some of them.)

There is significant traffic on Amazon. There are millions and millions of customers. And they are seeing covers and titles of many different products. Obviously, the top sellers are seen millions of times per day, but even products that sell once a week are seen roughly 10,000 times per day.

Here is another way to look at this number: For every sale that you get from a complete stranger, roughly 40,000 people saw your cover and title, and roughly 40 people visited your product page. (But it’s a rough estimate. Maybe 100 people visited your product page.)

How to Improve Your Sales

There are two ways to go about this:

  • Work hard to get more impressions (to get more people to see your cover and title).
  • Make your product page more compelling (cover, description, Look Inside, beginning of story, author photo, author biography, etc.).

The first point is saying, if you can get 400,000 impressions per day on average instead of 40,000 impressions per day, you can sell 10 times as many books.

The second point is saying, if you can get 1 out 10,000 people who see your cover and title to buy your book instead of 1 out of 100,000 people, you can sell 10 times as many books.

Really, you want to do both things. If you can make your product page more compelling, it will make all of your book marketing more effective. It’s too common for a book’s Amazon product page to have some kind of deterrent such that only 1 out 100,000 (or worse!) customers who see the cover and title purchase the book. It just takes a few too many typos in the description or first chapter, or a cover or description that is bland, or a description that doesn’t set clear expectations to significantly deter sales.

One little detail can persuade customers to walk away. It takes strong appeal all around to command a killer success rate of 1 out 10,000 or less (customers who see your cover and title and then purchase your book), and this is quite rare. (This figure combines both the ctr and conversion rate together.)

Book marketing is important, too. It starts out slow because you can’t get tens of thousands of people to discover your book every day when you first begin to market your book. You have to start a blog with content that people may search for in the future, set up social media and interact online, find your target audience both online and offline, publish additional books, and look for other ways to get your cover and title out there (local newspaper, guest post on a blog, write an article for a website, podcast, local radio, conference, seminar, etc.) so that you can gradually grow the number of people who discover your book each day.

Another way that book marketing is important is that it can improve your conversion rate. When you have a positive interaction with your target audience (online or in person), those potential customers are more likely to purchase your book, review your book, or ignore reviews already showing on your product page.

On Amazon, only 1 out of 40,000 complete strangers who see your book may purchase it.

When you create positive interactions with your target audience in person, you might sell books to 1 out of 10 potential customers (or better), if you succeed in coming across as knowledgeable, or if you succeed in creating interest in your book or yourself.

When you create positive interactions with your target audience online, it’s probably not as effective as interacting in person, but you can reach many more people online, and online interactions are probably much more effective than marketing to complete strangers on Amazon.

Branding. Branding. Branding.

If 40,000 see your cover and title today, but only 1 of those people actually purchases your book, all is not lost. There is still branding.

39,999 other people who saw your cover, read your title, and saw your author name are potentially “branded” to some degree. These represent potential sales at a future date.

Branding is a very important part of book marketing (and all forms of advertising and marketing).

Your book cover is a visual brand. Your book title is another brand. Even your author name is a brand.

A brand is anything that customers come to recognize through repetition. In general, very few people purchase a product when they first discover it. Most people make a purchase after branding has occurred.

When you see a commercial on t.v., do you hop in the car, drive straight to the store, and purchase the product? If you watch t.v. for a few hours, you probably don’t buy the 100 different products that you saw the same day, right?

But when most people are purchasing a product, whether it’s a toothbrush or toilet paper, they usually prefer a “brand” that they recognize.

Branding is another reason that you should look for effective ways to market your book long-term.

The best brand is one that customers recommend to other people. When you write a book that is so compelling (or a nonfiction book where the information is so helpful), for example, that it generates significant offline recommendations (in addition to online reviews), this can really help your sales soar.

Three Kinds of Marketing Traffic

It’s important to realize that there are three kinds of traffic relevant to book marketing:

  • Shoppers at Amazon.com who happen to see your cover and title (in keyword searches, in subcategory searches, customers-also-bought lists, or ads placed with AMS, for example).
  • People who discover your book off Amazon (blog posts, social media, advertisements, Goodreads, business cards, and any of your other online or offline marketing endeavors).
  • When customers recommend your book to their friends, family members, coworkers, or acquaintances. It takes an exceptional book to garner significant recommendations, but books that achieve this can have their sales really take off.

If your book isn’t selling well enough to strangers at Amazon, your alternative is to try to get people to discover your book elsewhere (both online and offline). Ideally, you want both types of traffic to be significant.

Amazon Measures Your Click-through and Conversion Rates

The algorithm at Amazon knows which books are more likely to lead to clicks and purchases.

Suppose book A and book B are very similar, and suppose that the algorithm knows that 1 out of 500 customers who see book A’s cover will click on it, but 1 out of 2000 customers who see book B’s cover will click on it. Or suppose that 1 out of 20 people who visit book A’s product page will purchase it, but 1 out of 80 people who visit book B’s product page will purchase it.

Which book do you think is likely to display more prominently in customer searches (all else being equal)?

This is one more reason to make your product page as compelling as possible. Improve your cover, iron out your description, perfect your Look Inside, and write a quality book that exceeds the customers’ expectations. If you can improve your ctr and conversion rate, not only will you get more sales from the traffic you already have, but you might also get much more traffic.

Improved sales can also get additional exposure through customers-also-bought lists. Amazon’s system tends to reward authors who scrupulously help themselves (by making a more compelling product page, publishing a compelling book, or who generate sales through their own marketing).

You Should Also Measure Your Ctr and Conversion Rate

Amazon’s algorithm knows what your ctr and conversion rate are.

You should figure these rates out, too.

Once you see where you stand, you will have a better idea for how much room you have to improve them.

For example, if you knew that 200 people clicked on a link to your book, but only 1 person purchased your book, you would know that your conversion rate is very low (0.5% in this example).

How are you going to figure these rates out? Amazon doesn’t tell you in your reports, right?

Actually, there is a way. If you advertise a book with Amazon Marketing Services (AMS), the report for your ad campaign will show you the number of impressions, the number of clicks, and the estimated sales for the ad. If you publish a Kindle e-book with Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), you can advertise on AMS via KDP. (Your book no longer has to be in KDP Select in order to take advantage of this.)

Note that advertising carries a risk. The royalties that you earn from your ad might amount to much less than the cost of the ad. Monitor your ad report daily so that you can pause or terminate your campaign if it doesn’t seem to be performing well enough. Although there is a minimum budget of $100 to advertise with AMS, you’re not obligated to spend your entire budget: You can pause or terminate your ad campaign at any time. However, note there are sometimes reporting delays, such that the ad report may continue to accumulate impressions and clicks for a few days after you stop your ad campaign.

If you can afford it, ideally you would like to hundreds of clicks to obtain meaningful results. Note that this data may come at a significant cost, especially if you place a high bid for your ad. For example, if you bid $0.25 per click, it may cost up to $50 to obtain 200 clicks worth of data.

To determine your ctr, divide the number of clicks by the number of impressions. To express this as a percentage, multiply by 100%. For example, if your ad has 100,000 impressions and 120 clicks, your ctr is 0.12%.

Another way to look at it is to divide the number of impressions by the number of clicks. In my example, you would get 833, meaning that on average 1 out of 833 people who saw the book cover and title clicked on the link to visit the Amazon product page.

To estimate your closing rate, you must first estimate the number of sales. The AMS report instead shows your sales as a dollar amount. If you didn’t adjust your list price during your ad campaign, divide the sales amount by your list price to estimate the number of sales. For example, if your list price is $2.99 and your sales column shows $14.95, you had approximately 5 sales during the ad campaign.

To estimate your closing rate, divide the number of sales by the number of clicks. To express this as a percentage, multiply by 100%. In my example, there were 5 sales and 120 clicks, so the closing rate is 4.2%.

Another way to look at it is to divide the number of clicks by the number of sales. In my example, you would get 24, meaning that on average 1 out of 24 people who visited the Amazon product page proceeded to purchase the book.

I like to combine the ctr and closing rate together. Specifically, divide the number of impressions by the estimated number of sales. In my example, there were 100,000 impressions and 5 sales, which means that 1 out 20,000 strangers who saw the ad ultimately purchased the book.

A killer conversion rate (number of sales divided by clicks times 100) is 10% or more. It happens occasionally, but it is quite rare. However, such books tend to sell very well on their own. A conversion rate of 10% or more is something to strive toward. If your conversion rate is 2% or less, your product page has significant room for improvement. Your product page isn’t as effective as it could be. Give your cover, description, Look Inside, and first chapter a close inspection.

Click this link to learn more about advertising on Amazon.

Imagine a mere 1 out of 1000 people who reached the bottom of this article proceeding to click the above helpful link. Well, hopefully the ctr will be better than that for my blog. 😉

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2017

Click here to view my Amazon author page.

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

What to Watch on Amazon Prime Instant Video

AMAZON PRIME INSTANT VIDEO

One of the benefits of Amazon Prime is that you can watch thousands of movies and television shows for free.

But you can’t watch any movie or t.v. show for free.

There are shows worth watching, but you have to sort through them.

The first step is to connect your device via wi-fi. The newest televisions make this easy. Otherwise, check your DVD player. Yet another option is to watch a video on one of your many other devices (PC, Mac, laptop, tablet, iPad, Fire, etc.).

Once you’re connected, and you start enjoying Amazon Prime videos, you’ll eventually reach a point where you’re trying to find another movie or t.v. series to watch.

One problem is that there are a limited number of videos in any category when you browse from your device (such as your smart t.v.). And most of the videos in any one category are usually irrelevant for what you like to watch. When you reach the end of the list, you may wish it kept going—you “know” there are more videos in that category, it just won’t display any more.

An alternative is to search for the video on Amazon’s website on your PC or other device. Once you find the movie or t.v. show that you want to watch, then you can search for it by name on your television, for example.

Which brings up another strange thing about searching for videos to watch on Prime: The search feature probably won’t work as you expect. As I type the first few letters, I see all sorts of strange results, and not the popular show that I’m looking for until I get many more of the letters typed.

I’ve been enjoying Amazon Prime videos for a few years. Let me offer a variety of recommendations to help get you started.

Note: Some of these videos may be rated R. Please check the ratings before you watch (if that concerns you). Although I noted mature content or violence for a few of the shows listed, there is mature content and violence on some of the other shows even though I didn’t mention it (for one, I don’t recall every detail of every show), so you should definitely do a little research if you’re concerned about such things.

I’ll start with t.v. shows. A great thing about these is that if you enjoy the series, it can last for weeks or months (especially when there are several seasons available).

  • Covert Affairs. I thought it was a cool spy series. There are a few seasons, so it will last for a while. I rather liked the characters. As the series progresses, it gets a little too suspenseful, perhaps, where you really feel compelled to watch the next episode.
  • Shaun the Sheep. I felt these were very well done. My daughter and I watched every episode, and we both enjoyed it. If you finish all the series available, there are a few bonus episodes somewhere (for example, there is one with Olympic-like sports that was worth watching). They also have the movie. Those sheep can do anything!
  • Orphan Black. This is a suspenseful sci-fi series that stays engaging throughout. I really enjoyed the variety of roles that the lead actress plays. There is some mature content.
  • Bosch. The title video at the beginning is stunning and worth a look. This is a detective show set in Los Angeles. There is some amazing video from the protagonist’s house in the hills of Los Angeles. The series is engaging and I enjoyed it. Maybe it was a little too real in ways, and a little slow at times.
  • Sneaky Pete. This is one of several Amazon Originals. It was suspenseful and, I thought, rather well done. There is some violence.
  • How I Met Your Mother. This comedy has a good vibe to it. There are several seasons so there is plenty of material. Although the reruns may still be showing somewhere, a great thing about Amazon Prime is that you can watch the entire story unfold in order without missing an episode (with no commercials, of course!).
  • I Love Lucy. Some of the classics in Amazon Prime are enjoyable. Lucy always does something crazy, and it often makes you laugh. The golf episode is absolutely hilarious. Some are funnier than others, but if you only watch one, find the golf episode. Look for Volume 3, Episode 11.
  • Spongebob Squarepants. There are several popular kids t.v. shows, such as this. They also have PBS Kids shows.
  • Family Ties. There are a number of popular comedies and family t.v. shows from one or more decades back that are worth watching. I like the character Alex.
  • The Andy Griffith Show. Another of a number of classics available on Amazon Prime.
  • Humans. I liked this sci-fi concept. Unfortunately, there was just one season available on Prime last I checked.
  • Hunted. Another spy show that I enjoyed, but again just one series last I checked.
  • The Night Manager. I watched it because it features the actor from House. I actually enjoyed it, but there was only one season available when I watched it.
  • Extant. I thought this was a cool sci-fi series with suspense. Maybe things got a little too extreme at some point, but that seems to be the way most series are these days.
  • House of Lies. Definitely some mature content. It was certainly interesting, but grew a bit too wild for my tastes.
  • The Wire. This features a police precinct. It seems very real, and naturally there are both good and bad aspects of realism. It has drugs, violence, and mature moments, as do many cop shows.
  • Defiance. This is another suspenseful, engaging sci-fi series. A couple of the characters were quite intriguing.
  • The Worricker Trilogy. This is one of several PBS shows (they also have Masterpiece Theater). This is an intriguing spy series. It’s a little slow, but just a few episodes.

Now for movies. I’ve come to prefer t.v. series for two reasons. First of all, sometimes I spend an hour trying to find what I want to watch: When I find a series that I like, my hour of research results in dozens of shows, whereas when I find a movie to watch, it only lasts for two hours. Secondly, a single t.v. show lasts between 30 minutes and an hour usually, so it doesn’t demand as much time as a movie. (When I was younger and had more time though, I used to enjoy movies more.) Some of the movies I actually saw in the theater, but I would have watched it on Prime had I not already seen the movie before.

  • Jack Reacher (Tom Cruise).
  • Mission Impossible (Tom Cruise). You can also find the original t.v. series.
  • Spectre (007).
  • Rush Hour (Jackie Chan).
  • The Hunger Games.
  • Hot Pursuit (comedy).
  • Ex Machina (sci-fi).
  • The Spy Next Door (Jackie Chan).
  • The Whistleblower.
  • The Spiderwick Chronicles (kids/family).
  • Ella Enchanted (kids/family).
  • Happy Feet (animated).
  • Ocean’s Twelve.
  • You can also find a number of classics: Ghost, Indiana Jones, Coming to America, The Hunt for Red October, 48 Hours, Braveheart, Star Trek, etc.

Amazon does add new titles to Prime periodically. Usually, when I finish watching a new series, there is new material to sort through.

However, occasionally a few titles disappear from Prime. So if there are several things that you want to watch now, be sure to watch your favorite first, just in case. (So it’s possible that a few of the videos on my list have dropped off of Prime since I wrote this post—but there will probably be some new ones out there by then, too. In my experience, I notice hundreds that get added, but only a rare show that disappears.)

Tip: Try searching on your PC or laptop:

  • From Amazon’s home page, choose Prime Video under Departments and select Included with Prime.
  • This is similar to searching on a t.v., but by clicking on the right arrow at the end of any row, you can scroll faster (the entire row is replaced with a new row).
  • For a few rows, when you reach the end, there will be a See More option, but for most rows there is just a limited number of movies displayed.
  • So there is another option that I like better. Return to the home page. Change All to Amazon Video (look at the top near A, don’t look for V) in the Search field, leave the search field blank, and click the search icon.
  • I did this just now and got 200,000 results. Obviously, that’s too many, but I like this as my starting point.
  • First I click the Included with Prime option. That reduced my results down to 40,000. This way, paid videos won’t get mixed in with the ones that are free with Amazon Prime.
  • There are some interesting options on the left that are worth exploring, such as Mood and Theme. For example, there is Exciting and Feel Good.
  • Also look at the genre and decade options on the left.
  • Another way to filter the results, besides the options on the left, is with the Sort By dropdown menu on the right. This is handy if you want to find New Arrivals.
  • If the various filters on the left aren’t working to your satisfaction, try adding a broad search term in the search field. It might not work quite as you’d expect, but it will help to narrow the search results considerably.

I hope you find some videos that you enjoy watching.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2017

Click here to view my Amazon author page.

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

Author of:

  • The Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks
  • A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers
  • The Visual Guide to Extra Dimensions (on the geometry of the fourth dimension)
  • An Introduction to Basic Astronomy Concepts
  • Physics workbooks
  • and more

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

The Best Place to Self-Publish Your Book (a Fresh Look)

Image used under license from Shutterstock.com.

Where Should You Self-Publish Your Book?

Maybe you’ve written a book. (That’s amazing, by the way.) Maybe you’re thinking about writing a book.

Or maybe you’ve self-published before, and you’re wondering if the option you used is still the best option for you. After all, book publishing is dynamic.

The best place for you to publish depends on which type of book you’ve written and which marketing ideas (if any) you have in mind (or you’re willing to try with earnest).

99.9% of self-published authors should be thinking one main word: AMAZON.

However, there are different ways to go about making your self-published book available on Amazon.

Even if you get most of your sales from Amazon, there are other ways to help supplement the sales that you draw from Amazon. And there are a few self-published authors who are highly successful with other sales channels.

Which Self-Publishing Options are Best for You?

That depends. First of all, there are different types of books that you can publish.

  • E-books. This is the most affordable option for customers. Most self-published novels sell better in digital format, but there are many other types of books that also sell very well as e-books.
  • Paperbacks. There are many nonfiction books, such as guides or educational books, where customers like to highlight and annotate. Paperbacks also make for better gifts. They also provide a few marketing opportunities, like sales to local bookstores or libraries and book signings.
  • Hardcovers. Many parents prefer this for children’s picture books, for example.
  • Both print and digital. Congratulations! You picked the ‘correct’ answer. Maximize your market by publishing your book both in print and as an e-book.

Where should you self-publish your e-book?

  • Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). This is a must. This makes your book available in the Amazon Kindle store, where most customers shop for e-books.
  • The other guys. You could visit Nook Press, Kobo Writing Life, and a host of other places, but it’s much more convenient to choose an e-book aggregator like Smashwords or Draft2Digital.
  • Option (C): Just KDP _or_ KDP + Smashwords (or Draft2Digital). That is the question. You see, Amazon dangles this choice before your eyes, which is called KDP Select. If you enroll your e-book in KDP Select, you’re not allowed to publish your e-book with Nook, Kobo, Smaswhords, Draft2Digital, or anywhere else (unless and until you successfully opt out of KDP Select, and also wait for your current 90-day enrollment period to end). So you must choose: Will you publish your e-book with Amazon KDP only (to reap the benefits of KDP Select), or will you publish your e-book everywhere you can (staying out of KDP Select)? That’s a tough question. We’ll come back to that later.

Where should you self-publish your paperback?

  • CreateSpace. Since this is Amazon’s original print-on-demand self-publishing company, it’s the logical way to make your paperback book available in Amazon. I recommend CreateSpace: There are no setup fees, you can order inexpensive author copies, they offer Expanded Distribution (to sell your book through other channels in addition to Amazon), you can choose to use a free ISBN (if you don’t mind CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform showing up in the publishing field on your Amazon product page), and being an Amazon company—yeah, this is worth repeating—it seems like the logical way to make your paperback book available for sale at Amazon.
  • Kindle Direct Publishing. It’s not just for e-books: You can publish your paperback through KDP, too. That’s convenient, especially for new authors who follow the steps outlined in KDP Jumpstart, Amazon’s new self-publishing guide. However, I still recommend CreateSpace over KDP for the paperback version: CreateSpace lets you order a printed proof (which every author should do), purchase inexpensive author copies, and offers better distribution to channels beyond Amazon.
  • Ingram Spark. This is the main competition for CreateSpace. Ingram Spark is Lightning Source’s self-publishing platform, and Lightning Source has been a major book distributor for several years. One reason that I recommend CreateSpace is that CreateSpace has zero setup fees, whereas it costs more to publish with Ingram Spark. If you have reason to expect significant sales through the international market (perhaps because you’re based in another country and have solid marketing plans there), or if you’ve done ample research and have effective plans for potential sales through local bookstores or libraries, in those cases it may be worth comparing the pros and cons of Ingram Spark and CreateSpace more closely to see whether the possible benefits may outweigh the higher setup fees. If you’re an illustrated children’s author or have other reasons to expect significant hardcover sales, you might like Ingram Spark’s hardcover option.
  • Option (D). There are authors who use CreateSpace for Amazon distribution and who use Ingram Spark for other sales channels (even though CreateSpace offers Expanded Distribution). I generally don’t recommend this, unless you have compelling reasons to expect significant sales through other channels besides Amazon—since, again, Ingram Spark has higher setup fees, whereas CreateSpace lets you publish for free. Before you try this option, search the CreateSpace community forum (or the great wide internet) for discussions about how to pull this off (and the potential pitfalls).
  • There are a few other options. CreateSpace and Ingram Spark are the two major players. Next on the list is Lulu. There are authors who use Lulu. One nice thing about Lulu is that you can sell your book through Lulu’s store: This option may be handy for those authors who can drive significant traffic through their own marketing (though, in general, if you drive traffic to Amazon, customers are more likely to follow through with a purchase, since more customers know and trust Amazon). For the rare author who can move books in person (for example, by selling dozens of copies after a presentation), you can find relatively cheap printing options if you plan to purchase 1000+ books up front: In that case, it’s worth doing some research for inexpensive book printers. If you want to order a few hardcover copies, but don’t need distribution, instead of paying setup fees at Ingram Spark, one possible alternative is to use Nook Press (their hardcover option lets you order author copies, but doesn’t offer print-on-demand distribution).

There is yet another way that you can publish a book: You can make an audio book. For this, I recommend using the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX) to make your book available at Audible.com, Amazon, and iTunes.

KDP Select

Now let’s come back to that critical e-book question: Should you enroll your Kindle e-book in KDP Select?

If you enroll your e-book in KDP Select, you can’t publish your e-book anywhere else. (But you may still publish a print book anywhere you want.) The benefits of enrolling in KDP Select include:

  • Kindle Unlimited. This is the main benefit. Customers who subscribe to Kindle Unlimited (which costs $9.99 per month in the US) can borrow KDP Select books for free. Amazon pays you about $0.004 per page read (although a “page” usually turns out to be significantly more than a typical printed “page”) by Kindle Unlimited customers. Obviously, $0.004 doesn’t seem like much, since it’s just one page (although it’s usually higher, and has occasionally exceeded $0.005), but if your book gets tens of thousands of pages read through Kindle Unlimited, it can really add up. Amazon currently pays over $19,000,000 per month in royalties for KDP Select books borrowed through Kindle Unlimited, so this is a very significant market. But there are also over a million books in Kindle Unlimited competing for pages read.
  • Kindle Countdown Deals. If your book is priced from $2.99 to $24.99 (for $2.99 only, your converted .mobi file size must be below 3 MB), you can run a Kindle Countdown Deal. This lets you put your book on sale for up to 7 days every 90-day enrollment period. The sale price by itself doesn’t always attract the attention you’re hoping for. However, if you find effective ways to promote your sale price, this improves your chances for improved sales. There are several websites that help to promote sale prices, like BookBub and E-reader News Today (note that BookBub is much more expensive, and very difficult to get accepted into).
  • Free book promos. Instead of a Countdown Deal, you could choose to give your book away for free for up to 5 days every 90-day enrollment period. I’m not recommending that you earn zero royalties, just including it as a possible benefit. There are a few authors who use this effectively, especially when they have a compelling first volume for a series of books. Again, to get the most out of this, you usually need to promote the temporary sale price effectively. In this case, you’re hoping that any free copies pay dividends down the road, but there are no guarantees.

The main question is this:

  • Would you earn more royalties through Kindle Unlimited pages read?
  • Or would you earn more royalties from sales through Nook, Kobo, Smashwords, etc.?

That’s basically what it boils down to. There really is no way to know without trying. One option is to enroll in KDP Select for 90 days and see how it goes. (This gives you an extra 3 months to learn how to format your book for Nook, Kobo, Smashwords, or wherever else. Formatting is a little different for other platforms than it is for Kindle.)

Good Luck!

And I mean it. I wish every author success with their publishing endeavors.

My advice is to think long-term. However many sales you make this year, strive to make more sales next year. Keep writing, keep publishing. Enjoy your writing and you’re sure to enjoy the experience.

Learn how to do a little marketing, and try out new marketing ideas periodically. Think long-term with your marketing. The best place to start is with a free blog. I recommend WordPress’s free dot com site. Since you love writing, you’ll surely enjoy blogging. I do. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2017

Click here to view my Amazon author page.

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

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KDP Jumpstart: Amazon’s New Simplified Publishing Guide

STEP-BY-STEP E-BOOK PUBLISHING WITH AMAZON’S KDP JUMPSTART

Amazon introduced a new simplified step-by-step publishing guide called KDP Jumpstart.

It’s designed for new authors, but could help anyone who needs Kindle formatting help.

A nice feature is that the 12-step program is available directly on the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) help page. You can find a link below (or visit Amazon KDP’s help pages and look for KDP Jumpstart near the top left).

https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G202187740

Following the guide, e-book formatting for most books is done through Kindle Create (Amazon’s free reflowable book conversion software). There are two ways to do this:

  • Open Kindle Create and then open a .doc or .docx file.
  • Install the Kindle Create add-on and run it from Microsoft Word. (This option is intended for authors who plan to publish both print and e-book versions through Amazon KDP.)

Kindle Create offers a convenient way to apply paragraph styles without having to learn how to modify and apply styles within Microsoft Word, and without having to learn HTML.

Here are a few things that I like about KDP Jumpstart:

  • It makes self-publishing a Kindle e-book appear relatively quick and easy. The number of steps to follow is kept to an absolute minimum, and the information is very concise.
  • Everyone should take a look at Step 6, which provides a cool visual introduction to book design. Note, however, that the labeled diagrams specifically show paperback designs.
  • The Kindle Create plugin for Microsoft Word is designed to let you design a paperback interior in Word and quickly create an e-book from the paperback file.
  • KDP Jumpstart covers important topics like writing the book description, cover design (review Step 6 before you read Step 9), and how to choose categories and keywords.
  • The guide includes insider tips as well as helpful activities. For example, one activity gives you specific author pages to check out, while another helps you learn how to research browse categories.

I’m not saying it’s the perfect publishing solution, and I’m not saying that all authors should switch to this method. It does look like a good place for new authors to start, and anyone who could use help with Kindle formatting (or who may be looking for a convenient way to go about it) should at least check it out.

Following are a couple of possible cons to consider:

  • Maybe it’s a little too short and simple. There are usually many pitfalls for new authors to learn regarding Kindle formatting. New authors tend to have a few habits that usually cause problems with Kindle formatting, like using the tab key to indent, not using paragraph styles, typing two spacebars after a period, using the Enter key to create blank lines, etc. Perhaps Kindle Create helps with a couple of common habits, but it doesn’t seem like it would be foolproof. I’d like to see the guide mention more common issues for new authors to avoid.
  • I still recommend CreateSpace (Amazon’s original self-publishing company) for paperbacks. It’s convenient that Amazon KDP now offers paperback publishing, but it doesn’t yet appear to be as fully developed as CreateSpace. At CreateSpace, you can order a printed proof (which every author should do), you can order author copies, and you get wider distribution (unless any of this has changed recently).

Regarding the first point, there is more information available in the KDP help pages than what you can find in the simplified publishing guide, if you spend time browsing through the help pages (or try using the search feature). There are also some good discussions regarding formatting and publishing on the KDP community forum (especially, if you use the advanced search feature and change the date range to All Years).

Copyright © 2017

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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Kindle Unlimited: Movin’ on up (September 2017)

KINDLE UNLIMITED PAGES READ, SEPTEMBER, 2017

The Kindle Unlimited per-page rate increased for the second month in a row.

The September, 2017 rate of $0.00443 is a healthy boost over the August rate of $0.00419 and the July rate of $0.00403 per page.

Both of these increases followed the introduction of KENPC v3.0.

The KDP Select Global Fund for September, 2017 is $19.5 million.

Overall, Amazon is paying out more money per month than ever for Kindle Unlimited: The global fund has climbed over 20% over the past year.

That comes to over $200M per year, and that doesn’t even include royalties for ordinary sales—that’s just for pages read through Kindle Unlimited (and to a much lesser extent, Amazon Prime).

Copyright © 2017

Chris McMullen

CreateSpace eStore is Closing Effective October 31, 2017

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CREATESPACE ESTORE IS CLOSING

Beginning October 31, 2017, customers will no longer be able to purchase paperbacks directly from the CreateSpace eStore.

If you have a link to your CreateSpace eStore and a customer clicks on it, the customer will be redirected to the corresponding page at Amazon.com.

According to CreateSpace, the reasons behind the change include:

  • It’s much easier to search for books across Amazon’s site than it is to search for books on CreateSpace.
  • Amazon offers a much better checkout process than CreateSpace does.
  • Amazon offers better shipping options, including Amazon Prime.
  • Amazon sends out tracking notifications for orders placed through Amazon.
  • Amazon’s storefront is a much more familiar interface for customers.
  • Several customers have requested the features described above.

Unfortunately, when a customer clicks on a link to a CreateSpace eStore and is redirected to Amazon, authors will earn Amazon.com royalties (not eStore royalties).

Since Amazon offers all of the features listed above, this will improve the customer shopping experience. However, these features cost more (on average) compared to CreateSpace’s simplified eStore setup, so authors will no longer earn eStore royalties—but see my note below about improved Amazon.com royalties for the next 6 months.

Although authors are losing 20% from their eStore royalties, there are a few benefits which help compensate for this loss:

  • Some customers who would have visited your eStore, but who would not made a purchase through CreateSpace (because they didn’t qualify for free shipping, had to setup a new account with CreateSpace, or didn’t trust CreateSpace like they trust Amazon), might now make a purchase from Amazon. The redirection might help a little with a higher percentage of sales.
  • Some customers who would have purchased one book from your eStore might buy a few of your books on Amazon (because your Amazon page features your author page, or because your other books show up on your customers-also-bought list).
  • When a customer buys your book from Amazon.com after being redirected from your eStore, your Amazon.com sales rank will improve, whereas eStore sales had no effect on sales rank.
  • When a customer buys your book from Amazon.com after being redirected from your eStore, the customer’s review will be a Verified Purchase (except for the rare customer who chooses not to let this designation show), whereas reviews from eStore sales were unverified.

Although the new program goes into effect on October 31, 2017, CreateSpace will be adjusting your Amazon.com royalty for all Amazon.com sales made between November 1, 2017 and April 30, 2018. CreateSpace is calculating what percentage of your sales (for each book) were made through your eStore and through Amazon.com over the past 12 months, and is using that to determine your adjusted royalty for the next 6 months.

So if you drive just as much traffic to your eStore over the next 6 months as you did over the last 12 months, you should earn (on average) about the same royalty as usual until May 1, 2018, at which time your Amazon.com royalty will revert back to normal.

Most authors sell very few books, if any, through their CreateSpace eStores: Those authors are virtually unaffected by this change.

However, there are a few entrepreneurial authors who are fairly successful at driving traffic to their CreateSpace eStores. If you usually get a significant percentage of sales from your CreateSpace eStore, you may wish to consider getting other options into place by May 1, 2018. Following are a few suggestions.

  • Accept payments directly (perhaps through PayPal). Either drop ship from CreateSpace (ordering author copies sent directly to customers, although this process isn’t ideal), or order author copies in bulk and then mail to customers directly (you wind up paying more for shipping/packing this way, but you gain the ability to include a bookmark, business card, or thank-you note and you get to inspect the quality of the book firsthand).
  • Setup a website to replace your eStore. It’s very easy to setup a website that processes payments, though it comes at a cost. Then ship copies via one of the methods mentioned in the previous bullet point.
  • Use Amazon Associates. Change all of your current links to your eStore to Amazon Associates links to Amazon.com. This way, you can earn a commission on all of the traffic that your drive to Amazon. In fact, you earn a commission on anything that the customer buys (within a set time period), so if the customer buys another book instead, you earn a commission for that—or if the customer buys a Kindle Fire HD, you earn a commission on that (which is even better).

Most of my customers purchase their books directly through Amazon.com, so personally I’m not really affected by this change. However, for two of my better-selling titles, I will be earning 61% royalties (instead of the usual 60%), minus the book cost, for the next 6 months—although it’s just 1%, those two titles sell frequently enough for that to add up to a cool, unexpected bonus. (Thank you, CreateSpace and Amazon.)

Copyright © 2017

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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Kindle Unlimited Per-page Rate Back Up for August, 2017

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KENP RATE FOR AUGUST, 2017

Good news: The per-page rate for Kindle Unlimited bounced back up to $0.00419 per page for August, 2017.

It had dropped down to $0.004034 for July, 2017, which was right on the cusp of dipping below $0.004 for the first time ever.

So it’s nice to see it rise back up a bit. It nearly returned to the rate for June, 2017, which was $0.004223.

Of course, it’s all relative. The per-page rate was very close to $0.005 back in February and steadily declined from March thru July.

So it’s also nice to see August at least temporarily break the trend of declining per-page rates.

Also, remember that Amazon KDP introduced KENPC v3.0 just recently.

The KDP Select Global Fund also hit a record high, $19.4 million for August, 2017.

The global fund has steadily risen over a period of years, which shows a strong and growing Kindle Unlimited program.

Copyright © 2017

Chris McMullen

The Kindle Unlimited Rate Drops to Nearly $0.0040 per Page for July, 2017

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KINDLE UNLIMITED PER PAGE RATE FOR JULY, 2017

The per-page rate for Kindle Unlimited dropped down to $0.004034 per page for July, 2017 compared to the rate of $0.004223 per page for June, 2017.

This downward trend has now continued for several months.

  • $0.00497 for February
  • $0.0046 for March
  • $0.00457 for April
  • $0.00433 for May
  • $0.004223 for June
  • $0.004034 for July

The KENP per-page rate is at a current low. It dropped down to $0.00411 eighteen months back in January of 2016 (last year, not this one).

Back in January, 2016, the KENP idea was relatively new and there were many naysayers speculating that the rate would drop below $0.04 per page and never return.

However, it rose well above $0.004 in February, 2016, and continued soaring. While it has fluctuated a little here and there, it has held fairly steady, and approached nearly $0.005 earlier this year.

When it dropped to $0.0046 for March and April, it seemed to be returning to a more modest rate, as the $0.00497 was higher than usual.

When it dropped further to $0.0043 and $0.0042 for June and July, we hoped this might be a temporary downward fluctuation.

But here we come to $0.0040. The big question is: Will it finally drop below $0.0040 per page?

Of course, NOBODY KNOWS! (Well, maybe Jeff Bezos knows.)

We can hope we’ve reached the bottom of a valley, and that the rate will head back up. This happened in January of 2016.

But it’s common for the rate to drop in January for the holiday season, especially with a new version of Unlimited in place (which there was in 2016), and return upward starting in February.

We’re in August now, with the holiday season ahead of us. This is different.

However, there is another big factor involved. Amazon KDP just introduced KENPC v3.0. If you haven’t already done so, you should check the current KENPC’s of your books. You can check your current KENPC from your KDP bookshelf. Click the Promote and Advertise button next your title (or click the … button to find this option, if necessary), and scroll down.

If your KENPC happens to be longer than it had been, that will help compensate for the lower per-page rate. If your KENPC happens to be shorter now, the lower rate will hurt even more if it continues.

There is some good news, however. The KDP Select Global Fund for July, 2017 was $19M, which is a clear million dollars above the $18M payout for June, 2017.

This is part of an upward trend. It was $16.8M back in December, 2016, and $13.5M in December, 2015.

So while the per-page rate has dropped recently, overall Amazon KDP is paying even more in combined Kindle Unlimited royalties.

The problem is that we don’t know what will happen over the next few months. If you did, it would be easy to plan for it.

A couple of months may provide some helpful data, if you can wait.

Personally, I’m content with Kindle Unlimited (as both an author and a customer), but I’m just one author. My KENPC’s are about the same as they were, my pages read are holding fairly steady despite the tens of thousands of new books added to the market each month, I believe that Kindle Unlimited helps my sales indirectly, and I feel that I’m able to derive enough benefits from KDP Select to make it worthwhile for me. These are the things that each author must decide for him- or herself.

The Kindle Unlimited market, for which KDP Select authors see $19,000,000 per month in royalties on top of sales (and this is also on top of All-Star bonuses), draws a very significant indie audience.

However, I am very interested to see what happens to the per-page rate over the next few months.

Have you noticed any change with KENPC? How do you feel about Kindle Unlimited with regard to your books? Your feedback is welcomed and encouraged.

Copyright © 2017

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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