Amazon KDP Supports Indie Authors—and You Can, too, through New Year’s Resolutions #PoweredByIndie

Book Butterfly

Image from ShutterStock.

WRITING RESOLUTIONS

First, a little history: Amazon KDP celebrated Indie Publishing Month a few months back. At the time, they featured a special landing page for indie books, and encouraged authors to use the #PoweredByIndie hashtag with relevant social media posts.

With the new year, Amazon Kindle is again supporting indie authors. This time, it’s through New Year’s writing resolutions.

For one, Amazon created a landing page for indie authors’ writing resolutions and recommendations for indie books (it’s worth exploring, as the page includes many books and audio books geared toward writing and publishing):

http://www.amazon.com/newyearnewstories

Also check out the Amazon KDP Facebook page this month (or any month, as you can often find publishing tips there):

http://www.facebook.com/KindleDirectPublishing

Finally—and this is where YOU come in—Amazon is encouraging indie authors to use the #PoweredByIndie hashtag on relevant social media posts, namely your own writing resolutions and indie book recommendations.

This is a great time to show your support for indie publishing.

  • What are your writing resolutions for the new year?
  • Which indie books would you recommend?

Help readers discover #GreatContent (another cool hashtag) among the world of indie books.

HAPPY 2017!

Chris McMullen

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)

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Advertising: Amazon vs. Goodreads

Image from ShutterStock.

Image from ShutterStock.

ADVERTISING e-BOOKS

Since KDP introduced Advertising Marketing Services (AMS) for KDP Select books earlier this year, I’ve placed 50 ads on a variety of nonfiction Kindle e-books.

I’ve also placed over a dozen ads with Goodreads. It’s interesting to compare the two options for advertising e-books.

AUDIENCE

There are two great things about advertising right on Amazon’s website or on a Kindle device (both are possible with AMS via KDP):

  • Many of the customers who see your ad are already shopping for other books, i.e. they are looking for books to read, they have their wallets out, and they are ready to spend money.
  • Since they are already on Amazon, your ad isn’t interrupting some other activity and trying to persuade customers to leave one site to visit another.

If you advertise at Goodreads with a link to your Amazon product page, you’re asking readers who were busy doing something else at Goodreads to stop what they were doing and visit another site all together.

You could instead advertise at Goodreads with a link to your book’s Goodreads page or a giveaway page, but if your ultimate goal is a sale, that’s an indirect way to go about it.

However, the way the self-service advertising options are presently setup, Goodreads ads seem to have an advantage with branding. We’ll return to this important point later.

TARGETING

The targeting options are considerably different with Amazon and Goodreads advertisements.

Amazon offers two kinds of targeting with AMS via KDP:

  • Interest targeting competes for ads based on category. Amazon has recently improved interest targeting by adding subcategories. Some books do fall nicely into one of those subcategories, but those subcategories are still too broad for other books, especially in nonfiction.
  • Product targeting lets you search for specific books or other products by keyword. Amazon has an advantage here, as Goodreads doesn’t offer keyword targeting, nor does Goodreads let you target specific books, nor does Goodreads let you target other products besides books (like movies).

Goodreads also offers two main kinds of targeting:

  • Goodreads also has categories to choose from, but these tend to be very broad.
  • I prefer not to select any categories, but to target by author instead. Visit Amazon and search for very popular books that your specific target audience is likely to read. Then enter those author names at Goodreads to target readers of those authors.

A great thing about Goodreads is that when you target specific authors, they will show your ad to Goodreads readers who have given those authors high ratings.

Imagine if you could target customers at Amazon who rated similar books 4 or 5 stars. You have to love Goodreads for this option.

I try to avoid other targeting options at Goodreads, such as gender, age, or country, since some accounts may not have selected an option.

COST

Advertising with AMS via KDP requires a minimum $100 budget. You’re not required to spend your whole budget: You can pause or terminate your ad at any time. But if you bid high, you could blow through your budget quickly without knowing it because the ad report sometimes has significant delays.

I find that I can get very low-cost advertisements with effective results at Amazon. I have several ads with average CPC bids of a dime or less.

In comparison, I find that I must bid much higher at Goodreads.

My strategy with AMS is to bid very low in the beginning, and always wait at least 3 days before raising my bid, knowing that the ad report can be delayed. When I do raise my bid, I only raise it a little. I’m in no hurry, but after a few weeks, I finally start to generate impressions, clicks, and sales at a good rate, and my strategy minimizes my expenses (and lets me opt out before spending too much, if necessary).

IMPRESSIONS > CLICKS > SALES

Both services charge by the click. Impressions are free. Click-through rates (ctr) can be quite low (clicks divided by impressions): You might get 0.1% (1 click for every 1000 impressions), which is typical of much online advertising these days. But the ctr doesn’t really matter, since those impressions are free. Every impression helps with branding; you only pay for clicks.

While I often generate impressions at a good rate with AMS with average CPC bids of 10 cents or less, I often must spend 50 cents or more to generate impressions at a good rate at Goodreads.

AMS seems better for generating sales directly, while Goodreads seems better for branding, generating activity at Goodreads (followers at Goodreads, getting on to-read lists), and generating interest in a Goodreads giveaway. That branding issue is big.

BRANDING

Most companies who pay big money for advertisements don’t expect to generate immediate sales from it; they use advertisements to help with branding.

When you drive by a billboard, see a commercial on television, or hear an advertisement on the radio, do you stop what you were doing and race over to the store to buy a product that sounds great? Probably not.

But the next time you’re shopping for a product, see if you favor products you’ve heard of before. If so, branding has worked on you. And even if it didn’t work on you, it does work on the majority of consumers.

It’s not easy to break even in the short-term from advertising. The bigger goal is long-term, through branding.

That said, I do have some advertisements through AMS that have paid for themselves or brought a profit short-term, and I have benefited indirectly through more sales of paperbacks, similar books, and Kindle Unlimited pages read. This is partly because I apply a low bidding strategy, and partly because these ads aren’t asking customers to stop doing one thing to start doing another (they’re already shopping for books on Amazon).

But I also feel that I get better branding out of Goodreads, and this is an important long-term goal. However, you don’t want to lose too much short-term with branding hopes. Unlike AMS, it’s not as easy to gauge short-term ROI at Goodreads. You can see how much the ad is costing you, and you can see the clicks, but you don’t know how many of those clicks lead to sales.

If you use AMS, you can find out what your conversion rate is (sales divided by clicks). If it’s around 1% to 3%, that’s pretty low; if it’s 8% or higher, that’s pretty good. But if you spend too much on your clicks, or draw a low royalty, you can still lose out even with a nice conversion rate. You want to look at your royalties earned compared to money invested, but also want to consider possible indirect benefits like Kindle Unlimited borrows, print sales, sales of similar books, and potential for future sales through branding.

TAG LINE

Both AMS and Goodreads let you enter a short tag line. This is text that will appear alongside your ad to help generate interest. Goodreads lets you enter a longer tag line.

Put some time and thought into how to use this valuable advertising space. It can make a big difference.

FACTORS

Advertising isn’t for all books. It probably won’t be the cure for a book that isn’t selling.

Here are some factors that can impact the effectiveness of an advertisement:

  • content has a significant audience
  • wise targeting choices
  • wise bidding strategy
  • tiny thumbnail of cover attracts target audience
  • how likely blurb, Look Inside, price, reviews, etc. help in closing the deal
  • how much royalty you will earn for each sale
  • effectiveness of your tag line

OTHER ADS

There are many places to advertise on the internet.

Ideally, you want to be able to target readers, namely your specific target audience. You want to generate impressions and clicks at a good rate, but with little cost.

Some services, like Bookbub, E-reader News Today, and a host of similar sites, can help to advertise short-term promotional prices. In this case, the short-term promotion can help create a compelling impulse to buy now. But you need an external promotional service that can help your book reach its specific target audience to get the most out of this strategy.

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.

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Check Your KDP Dashboard. Cool New Feature.

New 2

Finally!

Visit your Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) bookshelf and check out the new, totally amazing Sales Dashboard.

It may not help you get more sales, but it will make it easier to track what sales you do get:

  • The best feature may be the running totals at the bottom (under the chart), showing you exactly how much you’re making in each country (well, borrows can’t be figured into this since). Change the period from the last 30 days to month-to-date and click the update report button to see how much you’ve made in each country this month.
  • A graph shows you your sales over a period of time. This will help to keep track of which days are better or worse for sales and how a promotion impacts your sales frequency.
  • For KDP Select authors, the graph shows borrows separately from sales (and if you do a freebie, those are shown separately, too). Uncheck a box at the bottom of the chart for any data you don’t want to see.
  • The left filter lets you see all marketplaces together, or you can pick a specific country.
  • You can also see data for a specific book rather than all titles.
  • Note that the report defaults by showing you data for the last 30 days. If you prefer to see what you’ve sold just this month, for example, change this to month-to-date. There are 5 time periods to choose from.
  • You can also create your own time period by using the calendars.
  • Click the button at the right (Update Report) when you wish to make a change.
  • Try the button at the bottom called Generate Report. This gives you a customizable Excel table.

I’d like to see one more thing in this report: Why not add a column at the bottom showing the total number sold in each country? If you’d also like to see this, send KDP an email. They won’t know if this may be a popular feature unless they hear from you.

What do you think of the new report?

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

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Author Central Description Reverting to KDP when Republishing

Blurb Formatting

Blurb Formatting

The image with this post shows that your Amazon description can include blank lines, boldface, and bullets. It can also include italics and numbered lists.

One way to do this is by formatting your book’s blurb through Author Central:

Not only does Author Central allow you to edit and format your Amazon product description, but it also provides a preview of what to expect—a feature that Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) doesn’t offer.

Republishing Issues

It used to be that once you edited your book’s description at Author Central, it would become the only means of revising it in the future.

However, this has changed recently, and it’s causing some problems with Kindle e-books.

Presently, if you republish a Kindle e-book at KDP, the product description automatically reverts to whatever is entered at KDP.

So what’s the problem?

Suppose you just want to do something simple, like change your Kindle list price. You have to go into step 2 of the publishing process and “publish” your e-book again. When the price change takes effect (usually in about 12 hours for the US site), the formatting changes with it. That is, your Author Central formatting is stripped and replaced with your original plain KDP formatting.

If you’re just changing your price, it may not even occur to you that your description could change, too.

(At this time, CreateSpace paperbacks do not seem to be affected. However, it may be worth checking this, just in case things change.)

Solution

Before you republish a Kindle e-book, do the following:

  1. Visit Author Central.
  2. Find your book. Be sure to select the Kindle edition.
  3. Click the button to edit the product description.
  4. Click the HTML option.
  5. Copy and paste all of the code into Notepad.
  6. Save this file.

After you republish your Kindle e-book:

  1. Wait for the book to go live. (KDP usually sends an email.)
  2. Return to Author Central.
  3. Open the HTML version of your Kindle book blurb.
  4. If you see the old version there, replace it with the HTML that you saved in Notepad.
  5. Check several hours later to see if it took effect.
  6. Remember to check Amazon UK, too.

Rarely, you can get locked out of your Author Central description. This has happened once to me, and a simple email to Author Central resolved the issue.

Side Note

The best place to format the book description for CreateSpace paperbacks is at CreateSpace.

Why? Because if you use basic HTML at CreateSpace, the formatting will carry over to your eStore, BN.com, and some of the other online retailers that may pick up your book through the Expanded Distribution channel.

If you want to see an example of a CreateSpace paperback with HTML formatting in the Barnes & Noble product description, click here (then scroll down).

You don’t need to know HTML: Simply copy/paste the HTML from your Author Central description into your CreateSpace description. Be sure to remove the space from the <br /> tag, as CreateSpace and Author Central are inconsistent with this.

Important: After inserting HTML into your CreateSpace description, immediately run over to your eStore to view the description. If there are any problems (like a boldface tag that isn’t closed), you’ll be able to catch it and resolve the problem swiftly.

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

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A Glitch in the New Kindle Series Changes?

Prequel

Kindle is in the process of changing the way that Kindle series books are displayed in Amazon.com search results, as I recently posted (click here if you missed it). Basically, search results will look like:

Book Title: Subtitle (Series Title Book Number)

For example, a search result might look like:

It Wasn’t the Butler (Guess Whodunit Book 2)

I recently came across an interesting question about this on the Kindle community forum:

https://kdp.amazon.com/community/thread.jspa?messageID=715460

It’s a good question: What happens with prequels, novellas, and short stories that relate to the series?

Authors want to include the series title to help readers find all the books that relate to a series, but authors don’t want to include volume numbers for prequels, novellas, and short stories.

If it’s not really a volume of the series, that volume number may be misleading—especially for a novella or short story, where it’s not another “book” of the series.

Presently, a series title and volume number are required on series books.

Maybe a prequel could be book 0 or i, but will Kindle allow these numbers? Good question!

Many authors use short stories and novellas to hook readers on a series. You don’t want those to be numbered volumes, but do want to make it clear that it’s part of the series so that if the reader enjoys the book, it’s easy to find the series (or to help someone who has read the series find the supplemental content).

I hope Kindle will have a good solution to this problem.

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

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Kindle Countdown to the New Year

54321

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.

Chance to Improve a Kindle Pricing Issue

Change

When you run a Kindle Countdown Deal, if you have a paperback edition linked to the Kindle edition, the paperback product page shows the regular list price of the Kindle edition, and not the sale price.

Why not? Wouldn’t showing the sale price improve the chances of getting a sale?

Is Amazon trying to push paperback sales? Does Amazon figure that customers who have a Kindle will check out the Kindle page anyway, then when they see the even lower price, this will help stimulate a sale? Is Amazon hoping the customer will buy both editions, taking advantage of MatchBook? Or did Amazon simply overlook this pricing issue?

Would you rather have the paperback product page show the sale price of the Kindle edition?

If you’d like to see a change, the best way to proceed is to voice your opinion. Be clear and concise, and avoid triggering KDP’s auto-responses (e.g. if you mention that your paperback edition is published with CreateSpace, KDP might send you a message that you need to contact CreateSpace).

I contacted KDP to point out this issue and suggest changing it to show the sale price of the Kindle edition on the paperback page. Their response stated that the paperback product page shows the regular Kindle price because the CountDown Deal is not presently available for paperbacks. (What does that have to do with the price of tea in China?) KDP did say that they understand the issue and will forward my suggestion to their business team, who can make such decisions.

I’ve submitted dozens of suggestions to Amazon, CreateSpace, Kindle, and AuthorCentral over several years. A few of them have actually been implemented. To be clear, they didn’t implement my suggestion. Several other customers made a similar suggestion. That’s the key. One voice is likely to be lost in the wind. When changes have occurred, I’ve heard from many other customers who had submitted similar suggestions. So if you want to improve the chances of a change occurring, you must voice your own opinion.

Do you have other suggestions? If you keep them to yourself, they probably won’t make a difference. (Don’t make all of your suggestions at once. Spread them out here and there.) Here are a few other things that you might consider:

  • A total at the bottom of the KDP month-to-date sales report.
  • Consolidating KDP sales reports for other countries into a single report.
  • Showing the subtitle in the cart at CreateSpace so you can see exactly what you’re buying (if you have multiple books with similar titles and only the ending is different, you can’t tell which it is when checking out).
  • Give us the option of 35% or 70% on CountDown Deals without having to republish a couple of days in advance (if you have a large file size, you might actually draw a larger royalty from a CountDown Deal at the 35% rate).
  • Show us what the royalty will be while we’re scheduling a CountDown Deal (you’d hate to find out later that you only made one penny per sale, for example). (I love math, so this doesn’t bother me, but I’m thinking this would be convenient for some.)
  • Allow UK authors to order proofs from CreateSpace printed from the UK instead of the US (Amazon UK orders are fulfilled that way, so why not proofs?). (Again, this doesn’t affect me as I live in the US.)
  • Any other issues you come across and would like to see improvement. Tell others about the issue and encourage them to send in suggestions if they feel the same way.

Don’t flood Amazon with tons of suggestions all at once. Please don’t tell them that I sent you. 🙂 I didn’t. You have a mind of your own. Do what you feel is best.

Love books? Check out Read Tuesday, a Black Friday event just for books (all authors can sign up for free) on Tuesday, December 10: website, Facebook page, Twitter

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Volume 1 (formatting/publishing) and Volume 2 (packaging/marketing), Facebook page, Twitter

Volumes 1 and 2 will be on sale on December 9 thru 11 as part of Read Tuesday on December 10. These books haven’t been on sale all year, so this is a rare opportunity. The Kindle edition of Vol. 1 will be $1.99 (60% off from $4.99) in the US and 1.99 pounds (37% off from 3.14 pounds) in the UK, while Vol. 2 will be $0.99 (80% off from $4.99) in the US and 0.99 pounds (70% off from 3.25 pounds) in the UK. The paperbacks will also be 40% off ($5.99 instead of $9.99) at CreateSpace:

Updating a Book at CreateSpace or Kindle Direct Publishing

Update

Today I will share my experience of updating books at Amazon. I recently updated Volume 1 of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers at CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). The paperback now includes a comprehensive 18-page index, and both the paperback and eBook include minor updates (such as mention of recent changes at CreateSpace, Amazon, and Kindle and correcting a few minor typos).

If you need to revise your interior or cover file at CreateSpace, first study your sales rank history (you want to know the time of the sales, not the time that the royalties report) to help choose the time where you’re least likely to sell books. Your book will be unavailable for sale while the new file is being reviewed, so you don’t want it to interfere with sales (unless your revision is more urgent, then you just have to do it immediately).

It takes approximately 12 hours for your files to be reviewed. The biggest concern is how Murphy’s law will get you:

  • One way is for CreateSpace to make changes to your cover, even when you didn’t change the cover file and it had been perfect. The best thing to do is resubmit your files for review and hope the next reviewer doesn’t make changes to your cover. This is another 12 hours. But if you call, they put in a request to research the problem, and this can take a couple of days (and may not even resolve the problem). There is, unfortunately, a worst-case scenario where your book is offline for several days. You just have to cross your fingers and hope it doesn’t happen to you. Let me add that this rarely happens, so most likely it won’t be an issue. I didn’t mean to scare you. Just prepare for the worst, then if something does happen, you won’t be surprised by it.
  • Another way is for you to make a minor revision, which winds up causing major changes to the layout of your book. You see, revising a phrase on page 3 could cause a crazy page break on page 8. Take the time to scroll page by page through your book in the Digital Proofer to ensure that there aren’t any crazy layout problems and you might be able to avoid this problem.
  • Then there is conservation of typos, whereby you introduce a new typo in the process of correcting others.
  • Finally, there is the Doh! moment when you click Approve Proof and suddenly remember something else that you should have done.

Very often, your book is again available for sale in 12 to 24 hours after uploading the revised file.

A crazy thing is that you can actually order the paperback directly from Amazon after the revision and receive the older version. This evidently happens when they already have your older version stocked in their warehouse (e.g. if there was a returned copy to resell or if they had ordered some in advance to stock up).

What I like about KDP is that your previous edition remains available for sale while your new eBook is in the process of publishing. This way you don’t miss out on any sales in the meantime.

I put a note on the copyright page indicating when the eBook was last updated. This way, when I viewed the Look Inside at Amazon, I knew I was looking at the updated version.

I like the way the Look Inside turned out. The Look Inside when viewing on a PC is the greatest formatting challenge. I went into the HTML in my effort to perfect this. The indents look large on the PC, but that’s because I set them to a percentage instead of a value in inches. That way, the indents will look fairly reasonable from a cell phone to an iPad.

Another thing to consider is updating the description. I updated the paperback description from CreateSpace, using the basic HTML that’s allowed to create linebreaks, boldface, italics, and bullets. I used Author Central to do this for the eBook. The paperback description begins with a note about the new index that has been added.

The paperback was ranked around 14,000 on Amazon, but has now dropped down to 45,000. It’s amazing what a 16-hour window of no availability can do to sales rank. On the other hand, the eBook edition jumped up to 40,000 from the 100,000’s. I guess when the paperback wasn’t available, people decided to go with the eBook (ordinarily, I sell many paperbacks for each eBook that sells).

For those who may have purchased the original paperback without the index, there is a free index available in PDF format online: https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com/index-for-a-detailed-guide/

Now I need to work on an index for Volume 2.

Volume 1 eBook: http://amzn.com/B00AA5CJ7C

Volume 1 paperback: http://amzn.com/1480250201

Volume 2 eBook: http://amzn.com/B00CSDUP66

Volume 2 paperback: http://amzn.com/1484037243

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 1 (formatting/publishing) and Vol. 2 (packaging/marketing), Facebook page, Twitter

Check out Read Tuesday (a Black Friday event just for books): website, Facebook page, Twitter

Promote Your Kindle Countdown Deal or Select Free Promo (or Other Book Sale)

On Sale

The writer who carves a masterpiece out of words and publishes the book faces a new challenge:

  • how to help the target audience discover the book

As there are millions of books to choose from, this is no easy task.

One way to try to help stimulate sales is to put the book on a temporary sale, e.g. through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).

  • Amazon has a new Countdown Deal available for books enrolled in KDP Select. This allows for a temporary reduction in price and shows customers how much they are saving and when the sale ends.
  • The older KDP Select free promo option is another alternative. (Note that you can’t mix and match Countdown Deals and free promos for the same book in a given 90-day enrollment period.)
  • Books that aren’t enrolled in KDP Select can still have a temporary price reduction by simply republishing at the new list price.

Everyone likes a sale. It’s great to save money.

But there’s a catch: The sale won’t attract buyers if customers don’t know about the sale.

You still have the problem of discovery. Just putting your book on sale through a Kindle Countdown Deal, KDP Select free promo, or other temporary price reduction isn’t enough:

  • A temporary sale, all by itself, probably won’t help much with getting your book discovered.

Nevertheless, a temporary price reduction can be effective if you succeed in spreading news about the sale:

  • Instead of just promoting your book, promoting that your book is temporarily on sale may generate more interest. That is, it can help make your marketing more effective.
  • Any promotions that you do to spread the news about your sale may be amplified by people in your target audience who become interested in your book.
  • If people develop interest in your book, the looming deadline may help to generate sales.
  • Sales that you may generate as a result of placing your book on sale can help improve your book’s visibility through sales rank, customers-also-bought associations, and customer reviews.

(Note that KDP Select free promos generate a free rank instead of a paid rank, but any subsequent sales once the free promo ends will help boost the paid rank.)

It all comes down to getting your book’s sale discovered by your target audience.

The usual marketing strategies—blogging, Twitter, Facebook, press release, building buzz, interacting with your target audience, readings, guest blogs, etc.—can help with discoverability. Instead of just promoting your book, you’ll be promoting the temporary sale of your book, which may help to generate more interest than your usual marketing.

Also, if you’ve been branding an image, prospective buyers who may have been considering your book might be sold when they see that your book is now on sale.

However, you probably want to use this golden opportunity to try and go beyond your usual marketing reach. For example, you might want to consider if a low-cost advertisement may be cost-effective.

Don’t focus solely on projections for how many people may view your advertisement. It’s also important to consider:

  • What fraction of the people who view your advertisement are in your specific target audience? They are more likely to make the purchase, appreciate your book, and leave a review.
  • How marketable is your book? Will the cover and blurb make the genre clear and appeal to your specific target audience?

If you have a highly marketable book in terms of both packaging and content—i.e. it will both attract and please a significant target audience—then it may be worth advertising at a site that can show your advertisement to your specific target audience.

One popular site is BookBub, but there are other options, like 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. There are also sites to help you promote seasonal events. For example, check out Read Tuesday, designed to help stimulate holiday sales.

With a Kindle Countdown Deal or temporary price reduction, you earn royalties during the sale. Your hope is that these immediate sales and a possible increase in sales following the sale will recover your investment and then some, but as with any investment, there is always a risk.

In contrast, a KDP Select free promo doesn’t yield any royalties during the sale. Here, the hope is that if you succeed in creating interest for your book during the promo, then enough people will read the book (only a percentage who download it for free will eventually read it, and some will be from outside your target audience) and recommend it to others. That’s a big IF, and it doesn’t always work out that way. A successful free promo can lead to a significant improvement in sales, but not necessarily (it was more common in the early days of KDP Select, but still happens now; a highly marketable book and an effective promotion improve your chances).

A nice feature of the new Kindle Countdown deal is that any sales made during your promotion improve your paid sales rank, whereas your sales rank slides during a KDP Select free promo.

Publishing Resources

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

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

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Testing out Amazon’s new Kindle Countdown Deal

Cover Pages

I’m trying out Amazon’s new Kindle Countdown Deal for a couple of my lesser-known books. I’ll save the great deals for Read Tuesday. 🙂

The ‘proper’ way to do this would be to plan it much further in advance, build buzz for your promotion, promote it actively the day of (and maybe the day before, too), and recruit help promoting your discount (this is why you need to plan far in advance) from bloggers, websites, and any of your contacts willing to help you spread the word among your target audience. You might even consider investing in an advertisement that would get you plenty of exposure among your target audience.

However, the tool is also new, so although the books that are taking advantage of the countdown deal already haven’t had time to plan for the promotion, they may be getting a lot of initial traffic from the many people who are checking it out. Once this effect wears off, you’ll definitely need to plan ahead and promote effectively to get the most out of this.

I chose a couple of my lesser-known books that don’t tend to sell well for my experiment. Partly, I wanted to save my more popular books to help, in a tiny way, entice a little Read Tuesday traffic. Also, sometimes an experiment on a book that ordinarily doesn’t sell well on its own can provide a revealing marketing outcome.

One of the two books I chooe had been in free promos in years past, so I’ll be able to compare those results to the results of the Countdown.

Who else is testing out this Countdown Deal in the near future? (Not everyone is eligible. First, you need to be enrolled in KDP Select. If you’re just joining or rejoining KDP Select, you must wait 30 days. Even if you’re already in KDP Select, if you changed your list price in the last 30 days, you must wait, too. If your enrollment is expiring or renewing soon, that may also affect when you’ll next be eligible. Your list price must be between $2.99 and $24.99 in the US, for example, in order to be eligible.)

If you’re testing it out this week, I’d like to hear about it. Maybe I can find an excuse to mention it in a relevant post. And the combination of my data with your experience might be relevant for a future post. So if you’d like me to possibly discuss your promotion and your experience with it, please let me know.

The two books I’m trying out are:

(1) Formatting Pages for Publishing on Amazon with CreateSpace, Chris McMullen, B00BGPK70G, February, 2013. This book is geared specifically toward using Microsoft Word 2010 to format a paperback book for publishing with CreateSpace. It’s a short, concise book (104 pages in print, but the paperback version is 5″ x 8″ and divided into several chapters and includes figures, so the written content is much less). One reason that it doesn’t sell well is that my Detailed Guide is a better value, being much more detailed. Also, I don’t market the Formatting Pages book. I’m curious to see if the Countdown tool has any impact on a book that ordinarily doesn’t sell much.

(2) Far Out Multiplication Flash Cards 1-12 (Decorated with Solar System Photos), Chris McMullen and Carolyn Kivett, January, 2012. This flash card set is a book, not a game. The first half of the book consists of 1 x 1 thru 12 x 12 in order with the answer immediately following the question. The first half is designed for kids to practice and memorize. The second half has the cards shuffled, still with the answer following the question. Here, kids test their memory by checking the answer on the next page. The cards are visually decorated with solar system photos. There are two reasons that this book doesn’t sell much. First, I have another multiplication flash card book that has 11 reviews, while this one has none, so naturally people tend to buy the one that has all the reviews. Second, this book used to be more expensive than my other multiplication book, so the other multiplication book has a history of more sales (the other book is also part of a complete set). They are now the same regular price, so this book is actually the better value because it goes up to 12 x 12 instead of 10 x 10.

In the past, this flashcard book always did well with the free promo (over a thousand books in the good old days when KDP Select was new, and hundreds in later months), so I have something to compare it with. The free promo generally resulted in a boost of sales afterward. So I’ll be able to compare the overall effect on royalties, too.

Both of these books are presently $2.99 in the US and will be 99 cents during the Countdown promotion. The Countdown will be all day on Tuesday, November 5, Pacific Daylight Time (PDT).

In the UK, the price will be 0.99 pounds (I actually had to raise the price of one book slightly to make it eligible).

Both books have pictures, so the delivery fee is 50 to 60 cents on each book. This is important because my royalty during the promotion would actually be higher at 35% than at 70%. KDP doesn’t show you what your royalty would be during the promotion. So it’s worth checking your delivery fee and doing the math first. You’d hate to learn later that you were making one penny per sale!

So I first changed the royalty rate to 35% and republished. You can add the Countdown Deal while it’s republishing (check the box and select the Actions button on your Bookshelf). Note that you must change your royalty option at least 24 hours before your promotion begins.

Here is what you should do:

  • First try to create a Countdown Deal to see what dates you’re allowed to choose. This way you won’t waste your time for a promotion that you’re not allowed to schedule.
  • Next, check your delivery fee.
  • Now calculate your royalty at the promotional price. Subtract the delivery fee and then multiply by 0.7, like ($0.99 – $0.60) x 0.7 = $0.27. (If you don’t normally earn 70%, skip this step and the next step.)
  • Compare this with what you would make at 35%. If 35% gives you a higher royalty, you must change your royalty rate at least 24 hours prior to the start of your promotion.
  • Finally, schedule your promotion. Be sure to choose the start and end times in addition to the dates. See how many hours your promotion will last before you confirm. It would be very easy to accidentally make your promotion last just one hour without even realizing it!

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 1 (formatting/publishing) and Vol. 2 (packaging/marketing)

Planet Flash Cards Multiplication Cover Thumbnail