See the Benefits of an Amazon Giveaway at Digital Book World

Image from ShutterStock.

Image from ShutterStock.

DIGITAL BOOK WORLD

Today, Digital Book World published my article, “The Benefits of an Amazon Giveaway for Kindle.”

“There are several possible benefits to running an Amazon Giveaway for your Kindle ebook: • Increase traffic to your product page: On average, Amazon Giveaways bring more than a 40-percent increase in traffic during…” Click here to continue reading this article at Digital Book World.

If you ordinarily enjoy reading my articles, I hope you will visit Digital Book World (at the link above) to check out this one, too.

In case you haven’t yet discovered Digital Book World, here is a brief sample of what you can find there:

  • The Expert Publishing Blog is packed with a variety of tips from multiple authors.
  • The DBW Daily (under News & Analysis) is a daily newsletter by Daniel Berkowitz. At the bottom of each, you can find helpful links to external articles.
  • The Digital Book Wire (also under News & Analysis) keeps you up-to-date with industry headlines.
  • Discover more helpful ebook publishing content under Features.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2016

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.

How Much Does Amazon Pay Kindle Unlimited ALL-STARS?

All Stars

KDP SELECT ALL-STARS

I researched what Amazon pays KDP Select All-Stars for pages read in Kindle Unlimited.

(My reason for doing this is to estimate how many Kindle Unlimited subscribers there are, but that will be the subject of a coming post.)

If you want to see the Amazon KDP help page where I found my information, it’s right here:

https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A2X66QXB12WV2

Amazon presently pays about one million dollars (perhaps a little more, depending on exchange rates) in KDP Select All-Star Bonuses based on KENP pages read during the month (books must be claimed through Author Central to be eligible):

  • $500,000 is awarded to the top 100 authors for US pages read: $25,000 to the top 10, $10,000 to the 11th thru 20th, $5,000 to the 21st thru 30th, $2500 to the 31st thru 50th, and $1000 to the 51st thru 100th.
  • $90,000 is awarded to the top 100 books for US pages read: $2500 to the top 10, $1000 to the 11th thru 50th, and $500 to the 51st thru 100th. (It pays better to be a top author than to have a top book.)
  • £77,500 is awarded to the top 100 authors for UK pages read: £2000 to the top 10, £1500 to the 11th thru 20th, £750 to the 21st thru 30th, and £500 to the 31st thru 100th. (The US pays much better bonuses than the UK.)
  • £20,000 is awarded to the top 100 books for UK pages read: £500 to the top 10, £250 to the 11th thru 50th, and £100 to the 51st thru 100th.
  • €310,000 is awarded to the top 100 authors for DE pages read: €7500 to the top 10, €5000 to the 11th thru 20th, €3500 to the 21st thru 30th, €2500 to the 31st thru 50th, €1500 to the 51st thru 100th, and €500 to the 100th thru 150th. (Germany pays very well, and even pays 50 additional authors.)
  • €50,000 is awarded to the top 100 books for DE pages read: €750 to the top 10, €500 to the 11th thru 50th, and €250 to the 51st thru 100th.
  • $31,250 is awarded to the top 100 illustrated kids’ books (as Amazon deems eligible) for pages read in the US: $1000 to the top 5, $750 to the 6th thru 10th, $500 to the 11th thru 30th, $250 to the 31st thru 50th, and 150 to the 51st thru 100th.
  • £2500 is awarded to the top 100 illustrated kids’ books (as Amazon deems eligible) for pages read in the UK: £100 to the top 25.

These books and authors are already earning good money for the pages read (many of these are in the millions of pages read per month), and that’s on top of sales.

Amazon obviously throws in this incentive to encourage the top authors to keep their books enrolled in KDP Select.

You’re probably wondering: If Amazon didn’t pay roughly one million dollars in All-Star Bonuses, what impact would that have on the per-page rate? In January, it would have raised the per-page rate from $0.0041 to $0.0043. It’s probably worth it to attract the most read indie authors and books into the program, as they help to attract customers to Kindle Unlimited.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2016

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.

Comments

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Amazon Specifically Mentions Warnings Appearing on Product Pages

Warning

WARNING MESSAGES FOR KINDLE E-BOOKS

I posted more about this a few days ago:

https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com/2016/01/31/warning-messages-for-errors-in-amazon-kindle-e-books/

The only direct evidence we have gleaned from Amazon is on their KDP help pages:

https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A1MMQ0JHRBEINX

This page appears to have updated in the past couple of days.

I and others had read this page carefully and thoroughly when we first noticed the updated KDP help page about a week ago.

But now there appears to be new information on the page:

“A moderate amount of Distracting or Destructive Issues can result in the book remaining available for sale, but with a temporary quality warning displayed on the detail page of the book on Amazon.com until corrections are made.”

There had been mention of Critical Issues previously, and there had been mention of possible removal of the book.

But there hadn’t been mention of Distracting or Destructive Issues. (I updated my post from a few days ago to reflect the new language.)

And there hadn’t been an explicit notice that a quality warning would be displayed on the book’s product page. (We had specifically searched for this language when the product page first updated.)

There has always been a KDP help page mentioning quality issues like formatting. But the page that had been there for years was much shorter and more vague. The current page is much more thorough, mentioning more specific details and consequences.

So it’s not so much a new KDP help page, as a greatly updated one. (Updated at least twice in recent days.)

If you read the recent KDP email newsletter, you will see specific mention that the KDP help pages have recently updated.

It’s not a public announcement from Amazon, describing new quality control practices and consequences, but finally we do have writing from Amazon clearly mentioning quality warnings displayed on product pages for Kindle e-books.

But it doesn’t answer all the questions that we have about this.

They do classify three kinds of issues:

  • Critical Issues result in the removal of the book from sale (until corrections are made). Critical issues render the book incomplete or unusable.
  • Destructive Issues (don’t you love the language?) “prevent the reader from understanding the author’s intended meaning.”
  • Distracting Issues “briefly remove the reader from the author’s world.”

If Destructive or Distracting Issues are deemed “moderate,” the book will remain available for sale, but with a warning message displayed on the product page.

If they are “excessive,” the book will be removed from sale until corrections are made.

Now for the big questions:

  • Exactly what is considered moderate, and what is considered excessive?
  • Exactly what constitutes a Destructive Issue?
  • Exactly what constitutes a Distracting Issue?

The KDP help page mentions a dozen possible issues, such as typos, formatting, duplicated text, problems with links, and even a vague Disappointing Content.

But it doesn’t come right out and say exactly when each of these issues will be deemed Critical, Destructive, or Distracting.

We hope that Amazon will be reasonable in assessing issues, deciding on a course of action, and considering an author’s possible explanation.

I have no reason to expect otherwise.

But it’s hard for writers, especially fiction writers, not to imagine several hypothetical scenarios gone wrong.

If there happen to be any issues with your book, you should receive an email from Amazon KDP, and you should have an opportunity to fix them. Hopefully, you’ll have an opportunity to respond with an explanation, if needed.

In the meantime, the best you can do is keep writing and keep marketing.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2016

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.

Comments

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Warning Messages for Errors in Amazon Kindle e-Books

Quality Control Amazon

KINDLE E-BOOKS WILL HAVE ERROR MESSAGES

This rumor has been going around for a week or so. When I first saw this rumor, my first thoughts were:

  • Where is the PROOF?
  • Why hasn’t Amazon provided any information about this?
  • Let’s get more information, preferably from Amazon itself, before we PANIC and WORRY.

This morning I learned that Amazon HAS provided much updated information about quality issues, right on their KDP help pages:

Click here to view the KDP help page describing error messages.

ACCORDING TO AMAZON KDP

A few quotes from this KDP help page are quite illuminating.

This new quote appearing on the KDP help page provides evidence that, in some cases, Amazon will, in fact, post error messages on the product page:

“A moderate amount of Distracting or Destructive Issues can result in the book remaining available for sale, but with a temporary quality warning displayed on the detail page of the book on Amazon.com until corrections are made.”

The KDP help page includes this quote in the opening paragraph:

  • “If readers tell us about a problem they’ve found in your book, we will make sure you know about it.”
  • So we see that Amazon will be contacting authors/publishers to notify them about problems that readers have reported.

Note that the same sentence also ends by saying that Amazon will “point you in the right direction to get the problem fixed.” This suggests that there won’t be instant action, but that Amazon KDP will contact the author/publisher, giving the author/publisher a chance to resolve the problem.

But if the author/publisher doesn’t resolve the problem, here is the worst-case scenario, also quoted from the KDP help page:

  • “Because Critical Issues significantly impact the reading experience, any Critical Issue will result in the book being removed from sale until the correction is made.”
  • This quote specifically refers to Critical Issues, as determined by Amazon.
  • Authors/publishers will want to communicate with Amazon and work to resolve any issues to Amazon’s satisfaction to avoid CFQI (customers facing quality issues) notices and to avoid having the book removed from sale.
  • Authors/publishers will also want to ensure that formatting, spelling, and grammar are correct before publishing.

I know there is much concern among authors regarding SPELLING mistakes. Take some comfort in this quote from the KDP help page:

  • “Sometimes improper or dialectic spellings are intentionally used by the author. These are not considered errors. Common examples would include character dialogue. Spelling differences which occur between US and British English are not considered errors.”
  • So we shouldn’t be worried about spelling differences between the US and the UK.
  • And we shouldn’t be worried about made-up names.
  • Note that it doesn’t say that a few typos will be considered a Critical Issue. Maybe there are, and maybe there aren’t, cases where typos may be considered a Critical Issue. But the help page doesn’t clarify this. It is clear that Amazon wants you to correct any known typos. But the help page doesn’t spell out exactly what the consequences will be for not fixing them. (Maybe a customers-facing-quality-issues notice. But that’s just speculation right now.)

Here is a sample of the kinds of errors that Amazon is looking at:

  • typos
  • unsupported characters
  • image quality (like unreadable text)
  • table issues (like content that goes off the page on some devices)
  • links (like those that don’t function properly)
  • even “disappointing content” is on the list
  • see the complete list here: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A1MMQ0JHRBEINX

BUT WHAT AMAZON HASN’T SAID (YET)

This KDP help page doesn’t say:

  • that any notices will be posted on the product page (that could happen; it just isn’t mentioned on the help page at this point)
  • except for Critical Issues, what will happen (e.g. if there are a few typos, it doesn’t outline exactly what will or won’t happen)
  • whether or not things like typos can be construed as Critical Issues (maybe they can, maybe not; the help page does mention a few specific Critical Issues, but doesn’t clarify this with regard to spelling)

Will they post error messages on the product page? Under what circumstances will they do this? Under what conditions will they remove a book from sale?

This remains to be seen to some extent. It does state that Critical Issues will result in taking down the book until the issues are resolved. But otherwise, we are left to speculate.

It seems reasonable that Amazon would first contact the author/publisher, allow a reasonable period for the issues to be resolved, and allow for a possible response with a detailed explanation.

A few authors have reported receiving emails from Amazon regarding spelling mistakes. We know that Amazon has sent emails about spelling mistakes for the past few years, but a few authors who have received them recently seem to make it look like the nature of the email has changed recently. But I guess we won’t know for sure until (A) Amazon announces such a change publicly or (B) we happen to receive one of those emails.

ABOUT TYPOS AND SPELLING MISTAKES

Don’t panic yet over all the worst-case scenarios that might pop into your head.

Let’s see how it goes first.

If you’re a UK writer and you’re worried about American readers complaining about differences in spelling (and vocabulary), you shouldn’t be. It says very clearly on the KDP help page that these aren’t considered spelling errors.

If you’re a fantasy author and you’re worried about made-up names for monsters you’ve created, at this point I see no reason for you to panic.

This probably isn’t the same thing as the list of possible spelling mistakes that you receive when you upload your content file. Maybe Amazon will use an automated spellchecker to aid in their assessment, but it won’t be purely automated: The KDP help page specifically refers to mistakes that “readers tell us about,” so readers will be involved to an extent.

It also appears that a human being will be involved from Amazon’s end, to verify the issues and to send an email notification to the author/publisher.

Sure, a human being can misinterpret something. But it won’t do any good to panic now. Let’s not think of all the ways that a human being might misinterpret an author’s intentions.

How many typos is too many? Does it really matter if it’s 5, 15, or 25 typos in 50,000 words?

If Amazon discovers and verifies that there are mistakes in your book, why wouldn’t you fix them? Every typo that gets fixed benefits readers…

IS THIS GOOD OR BAD?

The benefits are clear:

  • Improve customer satisfaction.
  • Improve the perception of Kindle e-books.
  • Improve the self-publishing brand.

In comparison, I think the “bad” may seem relatively minor:

  • In most cases, it just causes a minor inconvenience to the author to make the changes and resubmit.
  • In rare cases, it might be more involved. For example, a richly formatted book created from a PDF using the Kindle Textbook Creator might require more work to fix a few typos.
  • If an author shelled out big $$ for professional e-book conversion and just has a .mobi or epub file to work with, it might not be so easy to fix a few typos. It depends: Some professional formatters are quite reasonable and oriented around author satisfaction.
  • There is possible abuse, but I think overall Amazon will be reasonable. Amazon’s goal is clearly to improve customer satisfaction, but without significantly disrupting the authors who supply valuable content.

Realize that we don’t know all the details yet.

Right now, what we know from Amazon is posted on this KDP help page, and it doesn’t answer every question that we might have.

And some of the rumors out there include details that aren’t addressed on that KDP help page.

It seems reasonable that (except for Critical Issues) Amazon KDP would first notify the author/publisher of the issue, and give the author/publisher a reasonable chance to correct the problem before taking any drastic action.

The customer is paying money for Kindle e-books, and we all want the customers to have positive reading experiences that encourage them to read more Kindle e-books.

And as readers ourselves, we want to have positive reading experiences when we read Kindle e-books.

That seems like a reasonable goal, and I expect Amazon to be reasonable in helping authors reach that goal.

SUGGESTIONS

Find out which email address you have associated with your KDP publishing account. Monitor this email address. Periodically check that you’re not missing important emails in your SPAM filter. If any of your books have quality issues, you should expect to hear something from Amazon KDP.

Periodically check the KDP community forum, Kindle Boards, or another place where authors often share their experiences. This way, you might learn from the experience of any other authors who deal with quality notices from Amazon KDP.

Don’t worry about the what-if’s. Focus on writing and marketing. Try to write, format, and publish the best book you can.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2016

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.

Comments

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Ad Performance Impacts Your Ad’s Chance of Being Shown with Amazon’s AMS

Image from ShutterStock.

Image from ShutterStock.

AMS ADVERTISING: CLICK HISTORY

It’s not just your cost-per-click (CPC) bid that matters.

It’s also your click history.

When you advertise with Amazon Marketing Services (AMS), click history in addition to your CPC bid determine the chances that your ad will be shown to customers.

Amazon’s bidding algorithm for advertising space via AMS takes into account the click-through rate (CTR) as well as the CPC bid.

That should make sense. You only pay for clicks; impressions are free. Also, ads with higher CTR’s and closing rates (sales per click) are more relevant to customers.

Amazon would prefer to show ads that are (A) more relevant for customers and (B) where customers are more likely to click on the ad (and then buy the product, and then be satisfied with their purchase).

A good CTR also helps you. For example, if you’re a self-published author advertising with AMS via KDP Select, a higher CTR and a higher closing rate mean that customers are interested in your book. Those are also the customers who are more likely to purchase and then enjoy your book.

Here are ways to improve the CTR of your ad, and hence improve the chances of your ad being shown to customers:

  • Choose your targeting well so that it’s a good match for your customers. If you target by product or keyword, use keywords that are a good fit for your specific target audience.
  • The ad thumbnail should clearly reveal the nature of the product. For a book, the tiny cover thumbnail that appears in the ad should make the expectations clear.
  • The title of the product and the tag line should both create interest and help to make the nature of the content clear.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

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.

Comments

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Kindle Unlimited: Global Expansion and Impact

Image from ShutterStock.

Image from ShutterStock.

KINDLE UNLIMITED NEWS

Amazon’s payment for Kindle Unlimited KENP pages read has dipped a hair below $0.005 per page.

There is a downward trend for KENP pages read, although is a reason behind the most recent dip, and, as we shall see, there may be good signs to offset this trend.

  • July, 2015: $0.0058
  • August, 2015: $0.0051 (11% drop)
  • September, 2015: $0.0051 (1% drop)
  • October, 2015: $0.0048 (5% drop)

It started in July at $0.0058, likely to match the projections forecast when Amazon shared their pages read data for June.

It dropped 11% from July to August, likely because there were changes in the readership and/or reading habits when the Kindle Unlimited changes were implemented, and perhaps also Amazon was adjusting KENP settings and measurements.

We saw nice stability from August to September. When we finally see some long-term stability, that will be nice. I think we’ll get there.

The drop from September to October has a simple explanation: Amazon expanded Kindle Unlimited globally, introducing it to India. The subscription price is much cheaper in India (around $4 US per month).

This global expansion pulled more readers into Kindle Unlimited, which is a good thing. But the lower subscription price in India effectively lowered the pages read rate by 5%.

That’s about to change. Starting in November, Amazon will pay different pages read rates in different countries. So pages read in India will likely pay less than pages read in the United States, for example.

Does that mean the US pages read rate will rise back up to $0.005 per page? Good question! Maybe it won’t go up, or up much, maybe it will. But hopefully it won’t drop as much next month, if at all.

But I continue to see good news in the data. For example, the KDP Select Global Fund keeps growing:

  • July, 2015: $11.5M
  • August, 2015: $11.8M
  • September, 2015: $12M
  • October, 2015: $12.4M

I see two potentially good points for authors in these numbers:

  • continued increase in the number of Kindle Unlimited subscribers
  • continued increase in the number of Kindle Unlimited pages read

Not everyone is seeing growth, but overall, I’m seeing improved pages read data for my books on average.

Of course, there is another piece of data equally important: 38,500 Kindle Unlimited books added in the last 30 days. There are now over 1.1M books in the program (it was closer to 0.6M when Kindle Unlimited started). There were 85,000 Kindle books added in the last 30 days, so competition for sales is even more fierce than for pages read.

Most authors must keep writing, publishing, and marketing to keep up in the current marketplace. Otherwise, most likely, both sales and pages read will drop.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

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.

Comments

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Kindle Typesetting Improvements

Image from ShutterStock.

Image from ShutterStock.

KINDLE TYPOGRAPHY

When I turned on my Kindle Paperwhite today, I received a nice surprise.

It automatically downloaded an update: version 5.6.5. When it finished, a note popped up describing new Kindle typesetting improvements.

This is a cool development because Kindle typography has been very limited. The new Kindle typesetting has appeared on various devices over the course of the past several weeks. This is the first time I found a note with the update.

Before you publish a book with the new features in mind, you want to get a feel for how many devices use the new Kindle typesetting engine, as well as how many books implement it. Presently, the new features work for about 500,000 Kindle e-books, but within a year, that should be a few million. (There are nearly 4 million Kindle e-books at the moment.)

So if you publish today, the new features probably won’t matter. But within a year, it appears that they will. (Except for customers using a device—perhaps an older Kindle—which doesn’t support the new engine. It may not have yet even finished rolling out to customers with new devices.)

The new typesetting engine is geared toward an improved reading experience: subtle typography tricks to create faster reading, less eye strain, easier word recognition, and a nicer look to the digital ‘page.’

Following are some of the improvements:

  • Kindle introduced the new Bookerly font. I opened a page where the justification was quite poor, and changing the font to Bookerly. The justification improved tremendously.
  • Justification is supposed to be improved. I didn’t really notice this except with the Bookerly font, though maybe I just don’t have one of the books that fully benefits from the new typesetting engine.
  • There is supposed to be improved spacing and improved character positioning. The Bookerly font may be more Kindle-kerning friendly.
  • One of the new features is hyphenation, which has me concerned. For weeks, I’ve read about Kindle hyphenation that doesn’t hyphenate in the proper breaking positions. However, the note that came with the new typesetting engine claims that it will hyphenate properly. I haven’t yet seen a hyphen, though I checked out several books. So I’m hopeful, but waiting to see it firsthand before I get too excited.
  • There is supposed to be more natural spacing and more words per page (so less clicking or swiping to paginate).
  • Drop caps are supposed to be much improved. I opened every book on my Kindle and downloaded many recommendations and top sellers from Kindle, yet I didn’t see one drop cap. That’s because most e-book formatters have learned to shy away from the drop cap because of formatting problems they’ve discovered in the past. If you happen to know a book that has drop caps that was likely to be among the first to adopt the new typesetting engine, please suggest it in the comments. I’d love to check it out.
  • Another feature was a smart card with smart lookup, which works with the dictionary, Wikipedia, and x-ray. These are great ways to improve vocabulary and comprehension, and to take notes or make flash cards. It’s also great for educational books.

The note said that it had changed the order of my books on my device, showing those with enhanced typesetting first. However, when I checked my book list, the order appeared unchanged. First on the list was a book from 47North, one of Amazon’s own imprints. Yet I didn’t notice the new typesetting features (except for the cool Bookerly font) with this book or any other book that I downloaded today. If you happen to know of a book that definitely works with the new typesetting features, especially one that includes drop caps (but it’s okay if it doesn’t), I’d love to check it out.

Have you received a similar update on your device? Which device? Have you noticed the new features? What do you think of them?

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, 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.

Comments

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Amazon’s Incentives for Lower e-book Prices

Low Prices

LOWER PRICES

Amazon and Hachette settled their months-long dispute over e-book prices.

The agreement includes incentives for Hachette when the publisher chooses to deliver lower e-book prices to customers.

Simon & Schuster reached an agreement with Amazon last month, which also included an incentive for delivering lower e-book prices to customers.

How low? That’s a good question.

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) has provided such an incentive for years: e-books prices above $9.99 pay a royalty of 35%, whereas book prices between $2.99 and $9.99 pay a royalty of 70% (minus delivery costs).

The terms are no doubt different for the big publishers. The percentages won’t be the same, for one. But the KDP model offers some idea for what to expect.

Don’t expect bestselling traditionally published e-books to dive down to $2.99 or 99 cents. I’m thinking closer to $9.99.

Who wins?

  • The readers win with more affordable e-book prices. The readers are most important, as the entire business fails to exist without them.
  • The big publishers win with incentives to offer lower e-book prices. In addition to the incentives, it may actually be a more profitable business model; if so, that will be an added bonus.
  • Traditionally published authors win, too. In addition to the publishers’ incentives for lower e-book prices and perhaps reaping greater overall royalties as a result, Hachette titles will now “be prominently features in promotions,” according to a joint statement from Amazon and Hachette.
  • Amazon wins by helping to create more affordable e-books for customers.

There don’t have to be any losers. There is such a thing as a win-win solution, or in this case, a win-win-win-win.

As a reader, I thank Amazon for pushing for this. I realize that not everyone will agree that this is a good thing, and others will question the motivation and the future, but personally I believe this is a good step for the future of e-publishing.

The holidays are almost here. No doubt this timing helped this dispute reach its conclusion.

FURTHER READING

  • Hugh Howey offers some great insights on this:

http://www.hughhowey.com/amazon-and-hachette-come-to-terms

  • Yahoo Finance:

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/amazon-hachette-end-monthslong-dispute-171616398.html?soc_src=mediacontentsharebuttons&soc_trk=tw

  • CNN Money:

http://money.cnn.com/2014/11/13/media/amazon-hachette-reach-deal/index.html

Read Tuesday

Imagine a Black Friday type of event just for book lovers.

You don’t have to imagine it. It’s called Read Tuesday, and it’s free: www.readtuesday.com.

Please support the Read Tuesday Thunderclap. This will help spread awareness on the morning of Read Tuesday (December 9, 2014). It’s easy to help:

  • Visit http://thndr.it/1CkO2Bg.
  • Click Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr and sign in.
  • Customize the message. (Optional.)
  • Agree to the terms. All that will happen is that the Thunderclap post about Read Tuesday will go out the morning of December 9.
  • (The warning message simply means that Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr need your permission to post the Thunderclap message on December 9. This is the only post that Thunderclap will make.)

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, 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
  • Boxed set (of 4 books) now available for Kindle pre-order

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Commuter Fiction—Making a Case for Short Kindle e-books?

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When I want to shop for something to read on my Kindle, I visit Amazon’s homepage on my PC and click on the Kindle books link. It’s called ‘Kindle books,’ so intuitively what you might expect to see are ‘books,’ right?

After a half hour of searching, I may finally find one that suits my mood. Then I examine the product page closely to learn that it’s 36 pages long. Wait a minute. Is that a book?

Sometimes, I check out the Look Inside of a prospective book. I see the cover, title, copyright notice… where’s the rest? Wow! How short must a book be not to show anything from the first chapter?

A Kindle e-book can have just 12 pages. It can have 6 pages. Is there a lower limit? At 6 pages, I hope there isn’t a title page, copyright page, about the author section, and free sample of another book taking up space inside… I also hope the ‘book’ is self-contained. It would be awfully frustrating to learn that it was really one chapter in a series, where you don’t get any sense of closure until the series is complete.

Of course, despite the fact that all of these ‘books’ are listed under ‘Kindle books,’ they aren’t all books. These Kindle e-books include short stories, booklets, presentations, and novellas, too.

Until recently, I was troubled by the growing number of short e-books. I was thinking, “Don’t customers want good value for their money?” “Are customers getting tricked, buying what they expect to be a book only to discover it’s really a short story?” “Are more authors getting lazier, writing and publishing shorter pieces?”

I understood reasons for the short e-books, but I was still troubled by it.

Customers can easily return e-books if they are dissatisfied. (Many do.) They can also check the page count before purchasing, and read the description carefully. If the Look Inside is brief, that’s a big hint. If they’re getting fooled by short books, they can get their money back or leave a review about it. The customer is certainly protected.

Writers are posting short e-books for a variety of reasons. Some don’t want to commit too much into their self-publishing endeavors, so a short piece is a way to experiment. Some are hoping to see what sort of customer feedback may come for short writing samples before laying their hearts on the line for full-length novels. Some plan to compile short works into an omnibus later on, such that the omnibus will look like a good value. There are other reasons, too. Not all of the reasons may be justified.

It’s not easy to get discovered as a new writer, whether writing full-length novels or short stories. Even 99 cents is a lot of money to invest in for one short story from a relatively unknown author; the story will be over quickly, so just imagine what you’ll spend for several hours of reading buying individual short stories. On the other hand, a full-length novel is a long commitment to make for a reader with a new author.

Is it easier to get readers to try out your short story, enjoy your book, and give your full-length novel a shot? Or is it easier to get new readers to appreciate the value of your full-length novel and commit to that as the first thing they read by you? Neither is ‘easy’ for most authors.

Commuter Fiction

I recently discovered this phrase in the KDP community forum. I like the concept. It’s changing my view of short e-books.

The idea behind commuter fiction is to write a short work that travelers can enjoy at a single sitting on an airplane or bus, for example. If you have a three-hour flight, for example, wouldn’t it be perfect to buy an e-book that you could read in three hours?

Authors and publishers have discovered that there is a market for short fiction, and they’ve responded with a way to make short fiction marketable.

You can call your short story a short story. You can call your novella a novella. You can list the word count. Kindle will estimate the page count. But that might not be the way to market your short e-book.

Consider selling it as commuter fiction. Maybe it would be handy to know approximately how many hours it would take the average reader to finish your e-book. A commuter might be interested in that figure.

Truck drivers have been listening to audio books for years. They buy books by the hour. If a truck driver is going on an eight-hour drive, it would be ideal to have an audio book that lasts eight hours (or four audio books that last two hours each), for example.

The same concept applies to passengers of buses, airplanes, and trains who are reading e-books on Kindles, tablets, laptops, and cell phones. What they would really like to know is how long it will take to read the e-book. Of course, this varies from person to person because we all read at different rates. If they can deduce an average, though, that will help them judge this.

I’m not saying that you should write short e-books. It might be harder to sell than full-length books. (Who knows?) Personally, as a customer, I like to receive a good value for my money. However, there are many customers who behave differently than I do.

What I am saying is this: If you’re going to write a short book, maybe you can improve its marketability by selling it as commuter fiction.

Publishing Resources

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles by clicking one of the following links:

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

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing (236 pages, 8″ x 10″; it’s a real ‘book’)
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Kindle Countdown to the New Year

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I love KDP’s new Kindle Countdown Deal tool. I did a couple of preliminary tests with it when it first came out in November, 2013. I used it with several e-books on Read Tuesday, December 10. I even ran a couple of free promos on Read Tuesday so I could compare the results to the Countdown Deals. I used the Countdown Deal once again after Christmas, when e-book sales are usually on the rise.

What is it?

Let’s begin with what it isn’t. It’s not a cure-all for any e-book that doesn’t sell. If your e-book isn’t selling, the Countdown Deal probably isn’t the answer. Instead, you need to reassess whether the content, writing, and packaging are marketable. At least one of these areas needs to be improved to get your book selling.

If you have a marketable book, the Countdown Deal can help to stimulate sales. A short-term sale price can help you create added interest in your book, especially if you market the promotional price effectively.

Here are the main details of the new Kindle Countdown Deal:

  • If your Kindle e-book is priced from $2.99 to $24.99 in the US or £1.93 to £14.99 in the UK, you can put your e-book on sale for as little as one hour or as many as 7 days consecutively in a 90-day KDP Select enrollment period. (Many e-books with a $2.99 price in the US have a UK price below £1.93. If so, you need to republish and raise the UK price to £1.93 before running a Countdown Deal in the UK.)
  • Customers will see both the sale price and the list price during the promotion, so they will know exactly how much they are saving. There will also be a countdown timer, showing customers when your sale ends, which helps to create a sense of urgency.
  • The sale price must be at least $1.00 off in the US and £1.00 off in the UK and must end with .99.
  • Your e-book must be enrolled in KDP Select, which requires publishing the e-book edition of your book exclusively with Kindle. Your e-book must be enrolled in Select for at least 30 days before you can run a Countdown Deal.
  • If you change your list price, you must wait 30 days before running a Countdown Deal. You must also wait 14 days after the promotion to change your list price.
  • You must schedule your Countdown Deal at least 24 hours in advance of the day on which your promotion would begin. You need 24 hours notice to cancel a Countdown Deal.
  • Note that you can only run a single Countdown Deal in a 90-day enrollment period, even if your first Countdown Deal didn’t use the full 7 days. (This is in contrast to the free promo, where you can run up to five separate one-day promotions or use them all at once.)
  • If your book is on the 70% royalty plan, you will still earn 70% after subtracting the delivery fee even if your sale price is $0.99 or $1.99. However, if you have a large file size, which is typical if there are several images, you might actually earn more money during the Countdown Deal on the 35% royalty plan. In fact, your royalty could be zero on the 70% plan. Unfortunately, KDP doesn’t show you in advance what your Countdown Deal royalty will be; you need to figure this out yourself. On the 70% royalty plan, subtract the delivery fee (find this in Step 2 of the publishing page) from the promotional price, then multiply by 0.7. Compare this to 0.35 times the promotional price for the 35% royalty rate. You can switch plans by republishing before (it must go live 24 hours before the day your promotion starts) and again after the promotion (but then you earn 35% for sales for a day before and the period after your promotion while your e-book is being republished).

Comparing the Countdown Deal to the free promo

Kindle’s Countdown Deal solves many problems that the free promo suffers from:

  • Since customers are paying money for your e-book, most of your customers will actually read your e-book. A huge problem with the free promo is that many people who take the e-book for free never get around to reading it.
  • Since customers are paying money for your e-book, most shoppers will actually read your blurb, check out reviews, and explore the Look Inside prior to making a purchase. Another huge problem with the free promo is that many shoppers don’t bother seeing if the e-book actually appeals to them since it’s free.
  • Customers are more likely to be in your e-book’s specific target audience. This means they are more likely to have reasonable expectations for your genre. The free promo attracts customers from outside your genre, who then compare apples to oranges. This sometimes shows up in critical reviews.
  • Unfortunately, there are many outspoken individuals who strongly loathe freebies. Some, with mean spirits, actually ‘buy’ freebies with the preconceived idea of slamming them. By running a Countdown Deal, your e-book won’t attract the freebie haters, and if someone does wish to slam the e-book, at least they must make the purchase first if they want it to show as an Amazon Verified Purchase.
  • You earn royalties during the Countdown Deal. You don’t earn one penny during a free promo. The hope of the free promotion is that some customers will actually read the e-book, like it, and help spread the word. It’s a big risk. The Countdown Deal has the same benefits, without the risk. Sales during the Countdown Deal affect your paid sales rank, whereas a free promo only affects your free sales rank. Your paid sales rank actually slides during a free promo, but will most likely rise during a Countdown Deal.
  • There are fewer freebies saturating the market with the introduction of the Countdown Deal. There are also fewer Kindle e-books priced at 99 cents and $1.99 because those e-books aren’t eligible for a Countdown Deal. More Kindle e-books now have a regular price of $2.99 and higher. This helps everyone create a better perception of value. Those e-books that are on sale during a Countdown Deal can only be on sale for up to one week out of 90 days, so most of the time they are not cheap.
  • Websites that link to Kindle e-books through Amazon Associates are discouraged from promoting freebies, but have an incentive to promote Countdown Deals. It would be smart to search for sites that promote Countdown Deals for your genre. It’s a win-win situation, since they can earn money through Amazon Associates by promoting your e-book.

My experience

I ran a Countdown Deal on several e-books during Read Tuesday, a Black Friday type of sale just for books on Tuesday, December 10. I actually ran my promotions from December 9 to December 11. I sold more e-books on average on the 9th and 11th, but had the greatest surge in sales on the 10th, the day in which Read Tuesday was being promoted. On December 10, my sales of e-books for the month doubled what they had done all together from the 1st to the 9th. Several other authors also ran Countdown Deals on Read Tuesday. Of those who have shared their results with me, all but one had similar successes, and some had a far better yield than I had.

A Countdown Deal can be highly effective for a marketable e-book that is promoted effectively.

I ran a couple of free promos on December 10, also, so that I could compare the two programs. I did get a few sales of those e-books after the free promos ended, but those sales paled in comparison to the Countdown Deals.

In early November and late December, I also tested the Countdown Deal on a couple of other e-books (you can only run one Countdown Deal on a given e-book in its 90-day enrollment period in KDP Select). On these occasions, I didn’t promote the sale. I did this with one of my better sellers, with the result of increasing the sales frequency by a factor of 3.4. Trying this also with a couple of e-books that ordinarily don’t sell much, I confirmed that a Countdown Deal isn’t the solution to an e-book that lacks marketability.

You still need to promote your sale

You will certainly get the most out of your Countdown Deal if you effectively market your promotion. As already mentioned, you should search online for websites that actively promote Countdown Deals. If they use Amazon Associates, they have an incentive to help you promote your e-book, so don’t be too shy to search and ask.

There are also several websites that specialize in announcing e-book promotions, e.g. by emailing readers who are subscribed to daily newsletters. For example, check out these sites: BookBub, Ereader News Today, Kindle Books & Tips, Book Gorilla, Book Blast, and Pixel of Ink. You want to learn about stats to help you with your decision. For example, the BookBub pricing page provides data for subscribers by genre, average downloads, and average sales.

The exclusivity drawback

You must enroll your Kindle e-book in KDP Select in order to take advantage of the Countdown Deal tool. This requires publishing your e-book exclusively with Kindle during the 90-day enrollment period. You can’t publish your e-book with Smashwords, Nook, Kobo, Apple, or any other e-readers besides Kindle during this period. However, you may publish a paperback edition of your book with CreateSpace, for example; the exclusivity clause only pertains to electronic versions of your book.

It’s also possible to initially enroll in KDP Select, then 90 days later opt out and publish your e-book with every e-reader. This allows you to test the water; the 90-day period also gives you a chance to prepare your e-book for the other e-reader formats.

Some e-books sell very well on Nook, Kobo, Sony, or Apple, while others sell primarily on the Kindle. The only way to know for sure is to try it out. If your e-book sells very well with Nook, for example, you probably don’t want to enroll in KDP Select. However, if your e-book rarely sells anywhere but Kindle, you might as well take advantage of the program. Select also has other benefits, like earning royalties on borrows from Amazon Prime members.

Attention, Amazon: You need a Countdown Deal for CreateSpace paperbacks, too

It would be very cool to have a Countdown Deal for CreateSpace paperbacks. This would solve a major problem. The Expanded Distribution channel limits how low you can set the list price for a CreateSpace paperback. If you want to run a short-term promotion, you can simply lower your list price temporarily. However, if you have Expanded Distribution, you might need to temporarily disable it in order to make a compelling sale price.

Amazon and CreateSpace could get together, potentially, and create a Countdown Deal that only lowers the Amazon sale price, but not the list price or Expanded Distribution price, during the promotion. If you like this idea, please feel free to contact Amazon and CreateSpace with your suggestion. The more authors who suggest this, the more likely they will consider the idea.

Presently, the Countdown Deal only applies to Kindle in the US and UK. Hopefully, they will add this to Australia, Canada, and other websites for Kindle sales soon.

Happy 2014

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles by clicking one of the following links:

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

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