Tips for the New Goodreads Giveaways

GOODREADS GIVEAWAYS

As you may have heard, Goodreads Giveaways have changed.

  • One change is that KDP authors can now give eBooks away.
  • Another change is that it now costs money to create a Goodreads giveaway.

If you’d like to learn more about these recent changes to the Goodreads giveaway program, click here to read my recent article about it.

In my current post, I will offer some tips for making the most of it.

EXPLORING THE GIVEAWAYS

First off, there is the question of how readers will find your giveaway. It’s worth exploring the giveaways as a reader would before you proceed to create a giveaway as an author. This will give you some insight into the process.

Unfortunately, when I visit the homepage at www.goodreads.com, I don’t see any mention of the giveaways there. But that’s okay. Experience shows that thousands of readers already know where to find them.

After I log in, I still don’t see the giveaways out in plain sight. But they are accessible. Hover your cursor over the Browse tab and you will find them fourth on the list. That’s one plausible way for a reader to discover them (aside from the thousands who already know exactly where to go).

Some readers have this page bookmarked in their browser: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway. If anyone uses a search engine to find Goodreads Giveaways, this page will also come up that way.

Once they get there, there are a variety of ways that readers will search for giveaways. Here are some examples. I encourage you to explore these options.

  • By default, you see a list of Featured giveaways. If you were wondering whether or not it may be worthwhile to invest the extra $$$ for a Featured giveaway, browse through this list and check out the stats. Look where it says Availability, and compare the number Requesting to the Start Date. For the amount of money it costs to be Featured, you should have some very high expectations for the number of requests. If you’re not seeing it, I suggest going for a basic giveaway instead.
  • Some readers like to click the Ending Soon tab. Why? Because if they win, they will find out before they forget all about it. If they don’t win, they might still remember the book, and perhaps they will think to go check it out at Amazon. This section is handy for authors, too. Look at the number of requests on the Ending Soon page. This will show you how successful the giveaways tend to be. Today, for example, I see several with 500+ requests and a few with 1000+ requests, but these numbers will vary over time.
  • Another option is Recently Listed. Giveaways get the most exposure on the start date and end date.
  • The last option at the top is Most Requested. Today, I see giveaways that have received over 10,000 requests. These show the potential of a fantastic giveaway (combined with great marketing, and perhaps a great cover or an established name). Back to reality: If you’re thinking about hosting a giveaway, the numbers you see on average under Ending Soon offer more realistic goals.
  • Perhaps the best option is to Browse by Genre. Find the categories over on the right. This way readers can find the kinds of books that interest them. If your book seems to fit into more than one category, I recommend that you explore the giveaways that you see in various categories. This will help you decide where your book fits best, and which categories seem to be more popular.

GIVEAWAY TIPS

(1) Browse through active Goodreads Giveaways.

  • Check out the number of people requesting the book under Availability.
  • Note whether the Format is print book or Kindle eBook.
  • Browse through a few pages of results under Ending Soon to get an idea for the average popularity of a giveaway.
  • Look at the Most Requested books. Try to find some that aren’t popular because of a big author or publisher name. Check out the giveaway descriptions and author biographies: If these giveaways did something right, maybe they will inspire you. Check out the author’s social media pages to see where and how they shared their giveaways (though it may also have been announced via email newsletter).
  • Try to find books similar to yours. A good way to do this is to browse through the categories at the right. How are these giveaways doing? That will help you gauge your giveaway’s potential.

(2) Increase your exposure.

  • You get most of your giveaway traffic on the start date and the end date. However, the days in between matter: The more days your giveaway runs, the more in-between days you will have, and they can really add up. Let’s say your giveaway would get 500 views on the first day, 500 views on the last day, and 50 views per day in between. If you run a giveaway for one week, you get 1250 views, but if you run a giveaway for a month, you get 2400 views, which doubles your exposure. The more days your contest runs, the more views you get. (The drawbacks are that the longer the contest runs, the more people will have forgotten about it, and the longer it takes to get your reviews. However, a contest is primarily about exposure, and longer time equals longer exposure.)
  • Share your giveaway with many of the same ways that you normally market your book. You’re getting double exposure: People are learning about your book and they’re learning about your contest. Share your giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, and your other social media platforms. Share it on your blog or author website (you can start a Goodreads blog, too, by the way). Share it in your email newsletter. Etc.
  • If you advertise on Goodreads (there is an economical self-service option), you can draw additional attention to your giveaway. Of course, this is an additional expense on top of the cost to run the giveaway (and the cost to send out the books if you choose the print option). However, if you occasionally pay for advertising, now is an opportunity to advertise a contest instead of just advertising that you have a book. Again, it’s like a double effect: You’re sending the message that you wrote a book plus the message that people can win a prize.

(3) If you run an eBook giveaway, educate readers and contestants.

  • You don’t have to own a Kindle eBook to read a Kindle eBook that you win through a Goodreads giveaway.
  • Winners can read eBooks using the Kindle Cloud Reader, and Android device (phone or tablet), or iOS device (phone or tablet). (However, there are a few Kindle eBooks, such as those created with the Kindle Textbook Creator or Kindle Kids’ Book Creator, which aren’t available on all devices, notably phones. So if you used one of these publishing tools, you might want to check into the details first.)
  • In your marketing, you can concisely mention how a Kindle eBook can be read even if the winner doesn’t own a Kindle device. There are instructions on Goodreads’ FAQ page, for example: See the second link in Tip #6.

(4) More prizes reduces your overall cost per book, and they make the odds more appealing to contestants.

  • The setup cost is the same whether you offer 1 book or 100 books as the prize. (For a print book, you will also need to purchase author copies and pay for packing and shipping.) The more books you offer, the less the giveaway costs you per book.
  • If you’re offering a print book, I suggest that you not go overboard and offer way too many copies until you gain some experience with how it works and what kind of results you’re able to get. Author copies and shipping can get expensive (and become a hassle at the post office) if you offer a large number of prizes.
  • More prizes also make the contestant feel like the odds are better. Would you rather go to the trouble of entering a giveaway where the odds are 1 in 1000 or where the odds are 20 in 1000?
  • Only a percentage of winners post reviews (and then primarily on Goodreads, not as often on Amazon), so the more prizes you offer, the more reviews you are likely to eventually get. (There is no guarantee that you will get reviews though.)

(5) I.t…t.a.k.e.s…t.i.m.e.

  • The giveaway itself may run for weeks. The longer the giveaway, the more exposure, so if the contest runs for a month or more, you get more views and participation.
  • Reading takes time. Most winners don’t read the book cover to cover instantly. People are busy. They may have other books to read, too. It will take months for some readers to complete the book. (And not everyone may enjoy or appreciate the book enough to read it all the way through.)
  • Reviews take time. People are busy. Even after reading the book, it takes time to write a review.
  • What does this mean? If you publish your book and then run a contest, you should realize that it may take several months to fully realize any results that the giveaway may bring.
  • If, on the other hand, you run a contest months in advance of a book’s release, some readers may be ready to post reviews when the book comes out.
  • Another thing that takes time is packing and shipping books. If you run a print contest, order author copies well in advance (keeping in mind that Murphy’s law might make you waste time getting defective copies replaced by the publisher), and be prepared to spend time (and money) with packing and shipping.

(6) You can include a note with your print book. (But other than that, you’re not supposed to contact winners or entrants.)

  • A short thank-you note that doesn’t violate the Goodreads giveaway terms and conditions is appropriate. (Also check the FAQ’s. Note that it currently has 2 pages.) Note that there are probably reasonable expectations that aren’t specifically mentioned in the posted terms. Use discretion so that you don’t ruin your good standing with Goodreads.
  • You may include a link to your website, blog, Amazon author page, social media, etc. Tip: At Author Central, click on the Author Page tab and create an Author Page URL that will be easier to type than the default URL. For example, I made it so that readers can type amazon.com/author/chrismcmullen to reach my Amazon Author Page, which is easier to type than the default URL which is www.amazon.com/Chris-McMullen/e/B002XH39DS, which includes a hyphen and a jumble of numbers and letters at the end.
  • If you have an appropriate bookmark or business card, you may include it with your book. A nice looking bookmark (that doesn’t look like an advertisement) may actually get used, continually reminding the reader about you or your book, and it’s not too hard to find a place to get these printed economically (they come in handy for many marketing endeavors).
  • After thanking or congratulating the reader, you can politely mention that it would be great if they posted a review. Really, it’s not necessary, as Goodreads already encourages this, and readers loathe to be nagged about reviews (and you’re not allow to bug the winner).
  • Be careful: You want to clearly state that reviewing is optional (it is NOT required by Goodreads), and you want to ask for an HONEST review. Just like Amazon’s terms and conditions, you shouldn’t place any conditions on the review (any review that the winner may choose to write is unconditional).
  • Most readers naturally post a review at Goodreads if they write a review at all. If you’re hoping for a review at Amazon, then you might mention politely (one time) something like this:

Congratulations on winning my Goodreads giveaway. Reviewing is optional, of course. If you decide to write an honest review at Goodreads, Amazon, or anywhere else, I would be very grateful for your time and consideration. Thank you.

(7) It’s nice to hold a prize in your hands.

  • Obviously, it costs you less to send an eBook, but a print book has many advantages for a giveaway. Since there is a setup fee regardless of which format you use, you might want to spend a little more to get the best possible result for your investment.
  • For several years, Goodreads members have become accustomed to winning print books. People who have participated for years may be more likely to enter contests for print books.
  • When you browse through current giveaways, compare the number of requests for print books and Kindle eBooks. See if contests for print books seem to be more popular (all else being equal).
  • Print books provide a marketing opportunity. If your book is engaging enough to get read, it might get read in public. Other people might see your book being read on a bus, train, plane, park bench, restaurant seat, etc. And they might ask that person, “What are you reading?” They’re thinking, “That book sure has captured your interest. Maybe I will enjoy it, too.” So they might indeed ask a stranger about it.
  • You can include a short (appropriate) thank-you note as I mentioned in tip #6 with a print book, but not for an eBook.

(8) Deliver your prizes promptly. You want your winners to be excited about your book. Don’t disappoint them with a longer than necessary wait (for a print book to finally arrive in the mail).

For a print book, use reliable packaging. Make sure the address label can’t possibly fall off. You want the winner to receive your book, and to receive it in excellent condition.

POSSIBLE BENEFITS

Running a Goodreads giveaway comes with an expense. It also comes with possible benefits:

  • A few winners may eventually review your book somewhere. Most likely it will be Goodreads. Occasionally, but far less likely, it is also Amazon (but it won’t show as a Verified Purchase).
  • You should see a lot of activity with your book being marked as to-read. This was always the case, but now it is even more so, since it’s required for entry into the contest. If nothing else, this helps to draw a little interest to your book at Goodreads, as it shows some sign of a little popularity. (Of course, there are many other books that receive hundreds or thousands of to-reads this way. But there are also books that have very few to-reads, and yours won’t if you run a giveaway.)
  • Goodreads will notify your followers about your giveaway. If anyone has marked your book as to-read, Goodreads will notify them, too. This helps draw additional attention to your giveaway. These are new features.
  • Even more people see your book than enter the giveaway. Every time someone sees your book cover, reads your author name, or reads your giveaway or book description, it helps with branding, which is a huge part of marketing. Branding is a very long and slow process. Every little bit helps.
  • Some participants will check our your books and biography at Goodreads. You will get some attention. Maybe not as much as you hoped for, but you do generate a little activity.
  • Hopefully, a few people who saw your book, but who didn’t win it, will visit your book page at Amazon and consider buying it.
  • Between the winners who receive your book and any readers who don’t win but still buy your book, if they enjoy your book enough, they may help to spread the word about it. Word-of-mouth sales are the toughest type of sales to earn, but when you earn it, this can be the best kind of marketing that you can get. There is hope.

The question is whether or not the benefits will outweigh the expense. In regards to that, please read my disclaimer:

DISCLAIMER

Nowhere am I suggesting that a Goodreads giveaway will be successful for you.

Nor am I suggesting that they will be worth the cost for you.

Every book and author is unique, and just like with book sales, results will vary. It will work better for some than for others.

Rather, what I’m saying is this: If you decide to run a giveaway, the above tips are intended to help you make the most of it.

Good luck with your giveaway and with your book.

If you’re a reader and you enter a giveaway, I hope you win and enjoy your prize.

FOLLOW ME AT GOODREADS

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6970004.Chris_McMullen

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2018

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.

Wow: Kindle Unlimited Clears Half a Penny per Page (December, 2017)

KINDLE UNLIMITED UPDATE FOR DECEMBER, 2017

The Kindle Unlimited per-page rate finished 2017 with a Bang, paying over $0.005 per page read ($0.00506394 to be precise).

The per-page rate has climbed above half a penny per-page a few times in the past, but usually it is under $0.005.

Part of the explanation appears to be KENPC v3.0. Amazon KDP introduced the new KENPC calculation when the per-page rate had dropped to the low $0.004’s in July. The per-page rate has climbed steadily ever since.

Part of the explanation may also be that December is a very busy holiday sales month.

The KDP Select Global Fund also increased to $19.9 million. While the KDP Select Global Fund has consistently increased over the life of the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, what’s different now is that for five months the per-page rate and global fund have both increased together. It’s a nice trend.

While it’s nice to see the per-page rate and global fund both rising, be prepared. The per-page rate is generally a bit of a roller coaster ride, and when it peaks above $0.005 per page, it may not last long. Be prepared in case it dips back below $0.005 per page, but be hopeful that it stays above $0.005.

The global fund tends to climb over time (with only an occasional exception), but history suggests that the per-page rate won’t continue to climb forever (though I’d love to see it prove me wrong).

Enjoy it while it lasts, hope it continues, and realize that it has been fairly stable in its oscillation between $0.004 and $0.005 ever since the per-page concept was introduced.

Really, neither the per-page rate nor the global fund are the points to worry about.

The trick is to get more people to read more of your books. 🙂

Copyright © 2018

Chris McMullen

How to Add X-Ray to Your Kindle eBook

X-ray picture licensed from ShutterStock.

X-RAY FOR KINDLE

Authors can add X-ray to their Kindle eBooks via KDP.

Here is how to do it:

  • Visit Kindle Direct Publishing at kdp.amazon.com.
  • After you login, visit your KDP Bookshelf.
  • Hover your cursor over the gray button with three dots (…) near the right of one of your book titles.
  • If available, you will see an option to Launch X-Ray. Click this link.
  • This will open the X-Ray page for your Kindle eBook, but you won’t be able to do anything yet.
  • Click the yellow button to Request X-Ray. The window will automatically close 20 seconds later and return you to your Bookshelf.
  • You should receive an email once X-Ray is prepared for your Kindle eBook. Although it says it can take a few hours, my emails came within minutes.
  • Now you need to return to your KDP Bookshelf and Launch X-Ray again with the gray (…) button. This time you will be able to do something.
  • I recommend the yellow Begin Tutorial button. It’s very quick and pretty effective.
  • Select the items on the left one at a time. If the item is irrelevant or you just don’t want it to show to readers, click No for the first question and it will be excluded. I had to do this for some terms because a few of the terms were not related to my book, but most of the terms were relevant.
  • Each item must be a character (like Harry Potter) or a term (like astrophysics). Check one.
  • Tip: Click the number of occurrences link and it will show you the terms in context. It’s pretty cool and can help you decide if it’s worth displaying to readers.
  • Either write a custom description or choose a relevant Wikipedia article. For many standard terms, it will automatically select a Wikipedia article. Beware that the article might not be a good fit for the term. It’s up to you to read the article to make sure, or select a different article (or instead enter your own custom text).
  • Click the button at the bottom so that it says Item Reviewed if you wish to keep it. Otherwise, select No for the first question. If it doesn’t say Item Reviewed, the changes won’t be published.
  • Sometimes, you may have a few terms linked together for the same item. In this case, if you click Remove, it won’t actually delete the term. What Remove does is separate the term to be its own item (you can find it somewhere on the list at the left, sometimes far from the other item). I had to do this for a few items.
  • Think: Are there any terms or characters that you would like to add which weren’t automatically included? If so, click the Add New Item link at the top of the list on the left. You won’t be able to see occurrences (or know how many there are) until you publish the changes (though once you publish the changes and they finally go live—it didn’t take too long for me, just a few minutes, but it can be longer—then you will be able to see the occurrences).
  • There may be a few standard terms for which you can’t click the button to say Item Reviewed. This happened to me with Albert Einstein, for example. If that happens, don’t worry. It will be included automatically. If you don’t want it included, click No for the first question (as with any other items that you don’t want displayed to readers).
  • MOST IMPORTANT STEP: Click the yellow button at the top right corner to Review and Publish X-Ray. Otherwise, all your effort will be wasted.
  • You should receive an email when the changes go live.
  • After I received my email (it only took minutes for me, but it can take longer), I opened my book on my Kindle Fire HD, and X-Ray was already enabled (even though I had purchased the book months ago, but only enabled X-Ray minutes ago—indeed, it already had definitions that I had just typed). Below I will describe a bit how it works. The picture below shows X-Ray in action.

First, I checked my product page. I scrolled down to Product Details, where I found X-Ray: Enabled. Click the little arrow next to Enabled to see which devices support X-Ray (there is also an elaborate list on one of the KDP help pages that I link to later in this article).

On my Kindle Fire HD 8.9″, when the book is open and the menu ribbon shows at the top of the screen, I see a little rectangle with an X, which is the X-Ray icon. When I click on that X-Ray icon, it opens a page with Notable Clips, People, and Terms. Click either People or Terms. I selected Terms.

One of my terms was Solar System. There were 52 mentions. I clicked on this item on the list. It doesn’t show me the text that I typed for Solar System (not yet). This just shows the paragraph in my book that mentioned that instance of Solar System. I clicked the link called Go to Loc 34 (the number will vary) in the bottom left corner. This brings me to that actual location in my book. Now on my touchscreen device, I placed my thumb on the first S of Solar, held my thumb down for a moment, and rubbed my thumb across the screen to the M in System. This highlighted the term Solar System, and the X-Ray window popped up, showing me the definition that I had typed for it in KDP. You can see it in the picture above. (You can’t see the highlighted term. I had to zoom in or you wouldn’t be able to see the X-Ray text well.)

The picture above shows how the X-Ray tool looks after you access it from your KDP Bookshelf.

Learn more about X-Ray for authors via the following KDP help page:

X-Ray for Authors

Also see the X-Ray Tips and Tricks page at KDP:

X-Ray Tips and Tricks

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2018

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.

Amazon’s Choice

AMAZON RECOMMENDS

For several months now, I’ve seen the Amazon’s Choice label beside select products in search results at Amazon.

So far, I haven’t seen it for book results. For example, I just searched for dictionary, but none were Amazon’s Choice.

Evidently, for the time being, it is just for certain types of products, which doesn’t include books.

Specifically, it appears to be for common everyday items.

As an example, when I searched for toothbrush, one of the top results was labeled as Amazon’s Choice (see the picture for this post).

HOW DO YOU GET YOUR PRODUCT LABELED AS AMAZON’S CHOICE?

According to Amazon’s Seller Central discussions, sellers can’t request this.

Rather, Amazon selects their “choice” based on ratings (not the same thing as reviews), price (“well-priced” products), and Prime shipping.

When you proceed to leave a product review, in addition to rating the product, you sometimes get the chance to rate it based on other criteria.

For example, if you leave a customer review for a pair of pants, you may be able to rate “How does the product fit?”

So if Amazon has data on other types of ratings for a product, it’s possible that the product rating (the stars left with reviews) may not be the only rating to make a difference.

FEATURED PRODUCTS

Obviously, having a product labeled as Amazon’s Choice is a huge advantage.

But it’s not the only way that products get featured on Amazon.

Being the bestseller in a category or subcategory also gets a product featured in search results (even for books).

The Bestseller label that appears in search results is just as prominent as the Amazon’s Choice label.

The Amazon’s Choice label says, “Amazon recommends this product.”

The Bestseller product says, “Customers prefer this product.”

Even the “small guys” can get featured in a variety of ways.

On most product pages, you can find “Customers Also Bought” lists.

When you purchase a product, you find other product recommendations.

In general, Amazon recommends products (via Customers Also Bought lists, for example) that have good ratings, are priced “well” (not necessarily the cheapest, but affordable may help), have a proven track record of organic sales (as opposed to referrals from external websites), and have a history of customer satisfaction (Amazon tracks customer satisfaction metrics, a point that is made clear in the Seller Central help pages).

ADVANTAGE, YES; BUT IT ISN’T EVERYTHING

Obviously, not every customer will go with Amazon’s Choice.

It’s certainly a big advantage for a product to be featured on Amazon (whether it’s Amazon’s Choice, a Customers Also Bought list, or some other way).

But it’s not the only criteria.

In fact, on several occasions I have discovered products that were Amazon’s Choice, but which weren’t the Bestseller in their category.

It is possible for similar products to compete with Amazon’s Choice, at least to a degree.

Sometimes, customers purchase many similar items at once.

I sometimes wind up purchasing Amazon’s Choice, but I sometimes prefer a different product.

I’m a customer who tends to take my time making a decision.

I like to look at a variety of products, then give my favorites a closer inspection.

One thing I like about Amazon’s Choice is that I trust Amazon more than a review left by someone I don’t know.

I still read some reviews to get an idea for the kinds of things that have appealed (or not appealed) to other customers.

But all other things being equal, I’m more apt to trust Amazon’s Choice.

The good news for other sellers is that very often, all other things aren’t equal.

Sometimes another product has a feature that I’m looking for. Sometimes another design appeals to me more.

There are many different factors that go into buying decisions. Amazon’s Choice, though it is prominently placed, is just one factor.

YOUR CHOICE

It’s ultimately your decision.

It’s interesting to compare perspectives.

Do you like Amazon’s Choice as a customer? If you were selling a product on Amazon, how would you feel about it?

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2018

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.

That Book is a Monster

Image licensed from Shutter Stock.

MONSTER BOOK PROJECTS

There is one book that I’m wrapping up now that has grown and grown and grown… turning into a monster.

In a good way. But it has been very time consuming.

It’s a good thing that I really love to write.

That’s why, in 2017, I didn’t blog nearly as much as in previous years. I’ve been busy with a seemingly never-ending project.

Actually, a few very large book projects.

One, which I’m in the process of completing, is Kindle Formatting Magic.

The other is a series of physics workbooks/study guides.

Both projects wound up growing much, much larger than I had originally envisioned.

It has taken much more work than I had planned, but it has been worth it.

If you’re a writer, have you become involved in any monstrous book projects?

Or perhaps as a reader there is a monstrous book or series that you appreciate.

KINDLE FORMATTING MAGIC

You may have noticed that my Kindle Formatting Magic book has been “coming soon” for several months now.

When I first added that note to my blog, the book was nearly complete and I was expecting to publish it in a matter of weeks.

But I realized that I wasn’t happy with the organization of the book.

So I reorganized it and completely rewrote it.

That took a long time, but then I reorganized it and completely rewrote it yet again.

Third time’s a charm.

Now it really is “coming soon,” though by that I mean it’s still a matter of weeks. But this time it will be a few weeks or more, certainly not a year.

The book feels “right” now. It hadn’t before.

Once I finally got it to feel “right” to me, it continued to grow.

I realized that I needed to add a few more chapters beyond what I had intended.

And I have spent a great deal of time putting together over 100 pictures to visually demonstrate important problems and solutions with Kindle formatting.

On top of that, I’ve been editing, revising, re-editing…

Speaking of which, over the course of this project, there have been numerous changes to Kindle Direct Publishing, including the nature of the previewer and Kindle conversion, the steps and organization of the publishing process, and the organization and content of the KDP help pages.

Which has added several revisions to my revisions.

This book has grown into a monster, but I’m taking my time. Having already put so many additional months into this book, I want it to feel as “right” as possible before it hits the market.

Almost done.

It’s a good feeling to be almost done. I’m enjoying it.

Being completely done will be a nice feeling too.

This will be far and above my best formatting book ever.

PHYSICS WORKBOOKS

If I had only been working on my formatting book, I would have finished months ago.

But I also spent much of 2017 completing my series of physics workbooks/study guides.

There are three volumes, each 300 to 500 pages. (This includes space for students to work out the solutions to problems.)

Originally, I planned for my physics workbooks to include problems for students to solve along with answers.

But they grew into so much more.

I added material to each chapter to help students understand the main concepts. I added definitions. I added full step-by-step examples for how to solve similar problems. I added tables to explain the symbols and units relevant to each chapter.

This took much time, but I believe it has made my physics workbooks much more useful.

Many of my physics students have remarked that I can make difficult concepts seem clear, and that I can make the math seem easy.

So I worked hard to try to incorporate this into my physics workbooks.

On top of this, I decided to do more than simply tabulate the answers to the problems at the back of the book.

First, I put the final answer to each problem on the same page as the problem. This way, students don’t have to hunt for answers in the back. They can check if their solution is right or wrong immediately. I want students to gain confidence by solving problems correctly, but if their solution is wrong, I want them to know it so they can seek help.

In the back of the book, I typed up numerous hints to every part of every problem, and give intermediate answers to help students see where they went wrong.

The “hints and intermediate answers” section practically walks the student through the entire solution.

Again, it was much more work than I had originally planned, but I believe it has made my workbooks much better.

Just in case that wasn’t enough, I also typed up full solutions to every problem with explanations, creating three new books.

They aren’t really intended to be solutions manuals, even though they are. These are presented as fully solved examples.

Some students prefer to have fully solved examples to read, while other students prefer to have a workbook to help them practice solving problems.

Then I have two versions of every book, one that includes calculus and one that doesn’t (I call those trig-based).

I finally completed the physics series a few months back, and now I’m finishing up my formatting book.

Sometime early in 2018, I will be able to pursue something new.

It won’t be a book monster. I need a little break from mammoth book projects. I’m looking forward to working on a project that’s more focused.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2017

Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online BooksellersVolume 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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Hope, Fear, and… Shopping for Books at Amazon

SHOPPING AT AMAZON

When browsing for a book (or other product) at Amazon, it’s amazing how much hope, fear, and other emotions factor into the shopping experience.

Whether you’re a customer, an author, or an Amazon seller, it may be worthwhile to take a moment to try to understand the psychology of Amazon sales.

Imagine yourself staring at a book detail page at Amazon.com, considering a book that caught your attention.

There are two types of criteria that may influence whether or not you purchase the book:

  • You may apply logical reasoning.
  • You may be influenced by your emotions.

For most customers, both aspects may factor into the purchase decision. Some customers generally rely much more on one aspect than the other.

It may not even be a conscious decision. Many people are influenced by emotional responses without even realizing it. Sometimes the emotional aspect is subtle. Sometimes it may impact us on a subconscious level.

Also, note that logical reasoning can’t decide everything. Sometimes, after a person who relies heavily on logic applies logic as far as he (or she) can take it, the person still isn’t sure. In that case, the person might use some emotional aspect to break the tie (or flip a coin).

If you’re a customer, you might learn to make wiser buying decisions by trying to understand how various aspects of the product page may influence you emotionally.

If you’re an author or an Amazon seller, you may wish to better understand how sales psychology may benefit you both short-term and long-term. (Note that what benefits you in the short-term may hurt in the long-term. They don’t always go hand in hand.)

A LITTLE SALES PSYCHOLOGY

Let’s break down an Amazon product page, considering how each element may influence a customer’s buying decision.

  • Book cover (or product photo). This may send a strong visual signal, but may also suggest subtle emotional responses. You might think that the main message should be “Look at me,” but it’s actually better for the signal to be “Wow, that looks appealing.” An effective image does more than this: the subtler messages can carry influence. A picture can send a “positive” signal, inspiring the customer be in a better emotional state. A picture can have a “professional” tone. It can strive to earn “trust.” It can say “I look like the type of product you’re looking for.”
  • Reviews. Many reviews (both good and bad) carry marketing influence. Good reviews play on customers’ hopes, while critical reviews play on customers’ fears. Most of the time, it isn’t intentional, but of course there are both good and bad reviews that have been written with the intent of playing on hopes or fears. As a customer, it’s a challenge to glean helpful information from reviews without being influenced on an emotional level. As an author or Amazon seller, you must consider that many customers are skeptical to some extent about customer reviews. One possible fear is that the seller recruited reviews, so if the first 20 reviews are all glowing and the last 10 reviews are mostly bad, that by itself may act to “confirm” a customer’s fear that the seller recruited good reviews for a not-so-good product. In addition to customer reviews, there may be quotes from editorial reviews, and there may be review quotes in the description or Look Inside. There is another important aspect of reviews: If a product page plays on customer hopes by making a product seem better than it actually is, customer reviews help to offset this marketing tactic. Reviews are a strong reason that all authors and sellers should focus on long-term success (writing a great book or delivering a great product helps to get favorable reviews in the long run).
  • Description. Marketing copy is one of the most challenging forms of writing—and the proof of its effectiveness isn’t when several people tell you how impressed they are with what you wrote, but in what percentage of customers who read it proceed to purchase the product. An effective product description must be concise because most customers won’t read a long description in full (and if the description is long, most customers won’t even bother to click the Read More link to see the remainder of it). The few sentences that customers can see before the Read More link appears is valuable real estate: There is so much an author or seller needs to accomplish with a minimum of words. In terms of marketing influence, sellers want to create “customer engagement,” “arouse curiosity,” “inspire interest,” and perhaps even “create a sense of urgency” (but you’re not supposed to mention limited-time offers or pricing here). But the description also needs to provide valuable information about what to expect from the book (or other product). It may also need to create a sense of professionalism and trust. It needs to help create appeal. On top of that, the words need to flow well, be a good fit for expectations, and avoid spelling and grammar mistakes. There is one thing that a description shouldn’t do: It shouldn’t give the story away.
  • Title. Even the title can carry emotional influence. Have you ever read a title that had a little jingle that you got a kick out of, maybe put you in a good mood? The title needs to reinforce the visual message that the book cover (or product phot) sends. With fiction books, very short titles tend to be more effective (1 to 3 words). That’s partly because the eye is drawn to a short title in search results, and partly because many customers just look at the first few words when looking at search results. A title can help to create appeal (or just the opposite). Appeal is an important criteria, since appeal helps to put the customer in a happier state when making a purchase decision.
  • Look Inside. This can be the most valuable real estate on the product page. The customer must already be interested in order to be looking inside. This means that every other aspect of the product page has done its job: Now it’s up to the Look Inside to close the deal. The Look Inside has one important job to do: It just needs to send the message, “This book is everything you hoped it would be—based on the cover, description, title, and reviews—and MORE.” If it sends that message, the customer will almost certainly Buy Now. (But again, if the rest of the book doesn’t live up to the expectations created by the Look Inside, this will be exposed in customer reviews, and fewer customers will Look Inside in the future.) The Look Inside contains visual elements and writing, both of which need to help deliver the right messages. As with the description, the Look Inside must engage the customer and arouse curiosity (but without giving the story away), and like the book cover, the Look Inside needs to send the right visual signals.
  • Bio. A biography (or about me) section is a chance to demonstrate expertise or knowledgeability, but it’s also a chance to show humanity, individuality, and professionalism. For authors, if you can write an interesting biography, that bodes well for having written an interesting story (since very often readers aren’t interested in biographies). A picture that accompanies the biography offers another opportunity to send the right visual message.
  • Colors. There is even a psychology for interpreting colors. For example, a good cover designer selects a color scheme that is appropriate for the subject matter or story. Certain colors are better for attracting males or females, some colors work better for romance while others work better for mystery, some colors suggest professionalism, and some colors convey emotions (like happy or sad). Amazon uses color in text labels, prices, stars, buttons, and other elements of a product page. The prices are in red, which not only stands out well against a white background but may aid in creating a buying impulse (many stores use red for one of these two reasons: let’s assume they are using it for contrast and to catch attention, and if it happens to help a little to create a buying impulse, it’s just a happy bonus for the store).

We humans don’t always make the best decisions. Even humans who spend their lives solving very difficult problems quite skillfully can be prone to making a stupid everyday decision.

If humans tended to be better decision-makers, a lot of successful talk-show hosts would be out of business!

So when you’re shopping for a product, try to think about how you might make a wiser purchase decision. Try to think of which factors may be trying to influence you emotionally. Try to force yourself to rely somewhat more on logical reasoning and somewhat less on emotions.

Or forget it… just act impulsively and enjoy the splurge. You know you want to. 😉

If you’re an author or Amazon seller, try to think about how your Amazon product pages might influence customers emotionally. Don’t try to think of ways that you might take advantage of this in the short run because such ploys tend to backfire in the long run (killing sales later): For example, if the product page plays on the customer’s hope that it’s the most amazing product ever, disappointed customers will post critical reviews (which will play on future customers’ fears) and will return the product (and Amazon uses customer satisfaction metrics in its algorithms).

So you don’t want to oversell a product, making it seem way better than it is. But you do want to make it sound as good as it is. If it does deliver on customer hopes, the product page should show this.

You can also think about how your product page delivers both visually and in words important messages, such as “professional,” “positive,” “trust,” “expertise,” “creative,” or a particular subject matter or topic (like “romance” or “country”).

What is your customer hoping to get from your product? Among these hopes, what does your product actually deliver? You want to show the customer that your product delivers on the right hopes, and you want to disclose when it doesn’t deliver on other hopes.

What does your customer fear he or she may get from your product? You need to apply a similar reasoning here.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2017

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.

WordPress Bloggers: December is the Best Time to Check Your Stats

 

ANNUAL BLOG STATS

If you have a WordPress blog, you’re probably used to checking your daily stats.

There are also weekly, monthly, and yearly stats.

December is the best time of year to check your annual stats because the current year is almost complete.

The yearly stats offer some insight that you don’t really see in the daily or weekly stats.

Visit your WordPress stats right now (in another window) if you wish to follow along as I suggest what you might look for.

I have WordPress open on a browser on my PC. Already logged in, I click the (W) My Sites link near the top left corner of the screen.

Next I select Stats on the left. Then I change from Days to Years near the top right.

My screen presently says Traffic (the alternative is Insights).

Following are some things that you can learn from your annual stats.

SEARCH ENGINGE TRAFFIC

If you get regular search engine traffic, you’re more likely to see significant frequencies for a few search terms. When you look at daily stats, most of the search terms that led to your blog are hidden. But when you add this up for the whole year, you might see a few search terms with multiple hits. It takes about 1000 views on average to get one search term that isn’t hidden, so if you get tens of thousands of views per year, there is a chance of seeing some search terms here, and if you get 100,000 views per year, you might see something significant. (But if most of your views don’t come from search engines, you’ll need more views.)

The most popular search term to reach my blog turns out to be “Amazon.” I see that 35 people reached my blog after searching for “Amazon.” Plus all the times that happened, but the search term was hidden. With 69,477 unknown search terms, it probably happened many more than 35 times.

Even if you only see a search term listed once, it may still be helpful. One of the search terms on my list had a typo. I searched my website for that typo and discovered that same typo in one of my articles. My first inclination was to correct the typo, but then I thought: Wait a minute, somebody accidentally discovered my website because of that typo. So I let that one go. (I wouldn’t make a typo on purpose, of course, but if something good came out of one of my mistakes, I’ll take it.)

HELPFUL POSTS

In December, your yearly stats show you which were the most popular posts and pages for the year. When you check your daily or weekly stats, the top-performing posts and pages can vary. At the end of the year, this can help you assess which of your posts are popular over a long period of time.

Some of my most popular posts for 2017 were written 2-3 years ago. When I write an article, it gets a lot of traffic for a few days, but then the traffic usually drops off. But once in a while, the article starts to gain traffic through search engines. Such articles can remain popular for a long period of time. Your yearly stats can help you find articles that receive regular search engine traffic. If you know which of your posts are more successful long-term, it can help you have more success in the future. Spend some time thinking about why those posts are attracting more search engine traffic than your other posts. There is a valuable lesson to learn here.

WHERE IS EVERYONE COMING FROM?

Check your referrers. In 2017, I had over 150,000 views come from search engines. Over 90% of my blog traffic comes from search engines. If you write helpful, unique content-rich articles, you can net a lot of search engine traffic, which can really help your blog grow long-term.

If you feed your WordPress blog into Twitter and Facebook, you may also see significant traffic coming from your other social media followings. (Note: If you do feed your WordPress blog into both Twitter and Facebook, don’t also feed your Twitter and Facebook posts into one another or back into WordPress—or you run the risk of seeing double or triple posts on at least one social media outlet.) A couple thousand visitors reached my blog through Facebook, but not as many reached my blog from Twitter.

How many people are reading your posts in the WordPress Reader? This stat shows you how many of your followers are reading your posts in the Reader. If you allow people to follow your blog via email (which I do), then not all of your followers will read your posts in the Reader.

Who are your most helpful rebloggers? I owe a huge THANK YOU to TheStoryReadingApeBlog, whose reblogs have generated much traffic to my articles. If you’re an author or blogger, you should follow the StoryReadingApe (a different Chris), who is an amazing supporter of authors and bloggers. If you’re an author, check out the StoryReadingApe’s submission guidelines. I have many other helpful rebloggers (too many to mention everyone, and I apologize if your blog didn’t make my list), many of which are also author supporters: The list includes NicholasRossis, Smorgasboard, Don Massenzio, Kim’s Author Support Blog, and many others.

There’s something similar that can be as effective as a reblog. Sometimes, another blogger writes an article that refers to your post. If that author’s article generates much traffic, and especially if it happens to arouse interest in your website, you can get some helpful traffic this way. As an example, check out the following article by Derek Murphy at Creativindie.com: “How much does the average author earn publishing their book” (it’s an interesting article, by the way). If you read that article, you will see that he quotes an article from my blog (he contacted me in advance of posting the article by the way). I actually received hundreds of visitors to my website from that one article. So I owe another huge THANK YOU to Derek Murphy for that.

When I clicked the View All link at the bottom of Referrers, I discovered a very long list of the many ways that visitors reach my blog. It’s both fascinating and helpful to read that list. I actually had significant traffic reach my blog from the KDP community forum, Kindle Boards, Goodreads, and many other author support forums. (I don’t participate in discussions at Goodreads, and have hardly ever used Kindle Boards, but I was fortunate enough that a few of my articles were referenced during authors’ discussions. It’s cool that some authors know about my blog, and found it helpful enough to mention while talking to other authors.)

CLICKETY CLICK

Do people click on links on your blog? The yearly stats show you which links are getting clicked on the most.

Thousands of people click on a link to Amazon.com on my site.  Of course, there are many reasons for this. I’ve written several articles about various features on Amazon, and sometimes link to a specific page on Amazon that has information about that feature or contains a download for a free Amazon tool. Remember, several people reach my website after searching for “Amazon” in a search engine. They probably reached one of my articles about an Amazon feature or tool, and then clicked on a link in that article to check the feature or tool out at Amazon. But a few visitors may click on a link to one of my books or my Amazon author page. And I’ve had a few guest posts that featured other authors, so hopefully a few of those clicks take readers to their books and their author pages.

Regarding reblogs, under Clicks you can find out how effective your own reblogs of other bloggers are. Or if you reference other websites in your posts, you can see how many of your visitors and followers check out those websites.

INSIGHTS

Now switch from Traffic to Insights, near the top left (but not in the left sidebar). You can find more information here.

Check out your Tags & Categories. This is basically how your blog looks from the outside (perhaps to search engines). Those are the topics you have written about most frequently this year, based on the tags and categories that you’ve used. Is this how you want your blog to be categorized? If not, it might impact how you use tags and categories from now on.

Also check out Comments by Authors. These are the valuable people who have given life to your blog, making your articles interactive, and who have evidently enjoyed communicating with you and/or were really interested in your posts (or in you, perhaps). I owe a huge THANK YOU to Don Massenzio, Chris the StoryReadingApe, Kim’s Author Support Blog, Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt, Nicholas Rossis, Dr. Stone, and countless others (sorry I don’t have space to mention everyone).

Do you let people follow you by email? If so, check out your Follower Totals. This shows how many of your followers follow you by email.

You can get another interesting stat by dividing your total number of Views by the total number of Visitors. This ratio shows you how many pages the average visitor reads on your blog. Do people tend to read one article and leave, or do they tend to stay around and read more articles? Are your articles so helpful that people often read several of them after discovering your blog?

MAYBE YOUR STATS ARE BETTER THAN IT SEEMS

You may have hidden stats.

I do.

I show the full article right on the home page so that nobody has to click a Read More link.

This is convenient for visitors. They can read several full articles, and when they do, I only get credit with a single view (just my homepage).

Some bloggers who have changed their blogs to force readers to click a Read More button have seen an increase in their recorded blog views—but they are almost certainly losing traffic at the same time. The increased frequency of views can be misleading.

I realize that some people don’t like that Read More link. I try to do my visitors a favor, knowing that I myself don’t like to have to click those links (sh: I sometimes X out the site instead).

But that results in hidden traffic. I actually have many more views than are recorded. If someone visits my homepage and reads 5 full articles, I get credited with 1 view instead of 5 (because they don’t have to click anything to read those articles).

Now if I changed my site to force those readers to click a Read More link, when one person visits my homepage, they would have to click (at least) 5 different links to read 5 articles, and I would get credited with 5 views instead of 1.

I would see increased “traffic” according to my daily views. BUT I would be losing traffic—because some visitors won’t bother to click that Read More link.

If 1 out of 3 visitors who would have read 5 articles directly from my homepage walks away, I would get 11 clicks (5 + 5 + 1) from 3 visitors using Read More links, whereas currently I would only get 3 clicks for 3 visitors. Comparing 11 clicks to 3 clicks, it seems like there is more traffic when you use that Read More link. But what really happened is there were 3 visitors each way: When 3 visitors led to 11 recorded views, 11 articles were read, compared to the case when 3 visitors led to 3 recorded views but 15 articles were read. You see, I want to be read more (with hidden views), then to have more recorded views (but actually get read less).

But I prefer to have 3 visitors give me 3 clicks (rather than 11) when all 3 visitors read 5 articles on my homepage (that would make 15 views, with 12 of the views hidden—that is, not recorded).

I don’t want to lose that visitor who walked away because they didn’t want to have to click to Read More. So I’ll take fewer recorded views to have more people read my content.

That’s a personal choice, and not necessarily the best one. If your goal is to get as many recorded views as possible, the Read More link may help with your goal.

There is another advantage of that Read More link: You know your content is really compelling, or at least the beginning of your article did a good job at creating interest, if a lot of people are clicking to Read More.

If you add that Read More link and your views go down, you need to work on the beginning of your articles. There is some helpful information to gain here.

Personally, I get enough views, the number of recorded views doesn’t matter to me. I don’t want a Read More link to discourage one person from reading an article, and I don’t want a Read More link to cause a visitor to not want to return to my site. (Again, I would probably have more recorded views using the Read More link, and it would “seem” like there is more traffic using that feature when there really isn’t. The difference is that the Read More link removes the “hidden” views.)

There are other ways that you may have hidden stats.

For example, if you include a Follow by Email option without a Read More link, your email followers can read your full articles without actually visiting your website. Again, I offer this option out of convenience to my followers. I’m happy to have people read my articles by email (as long as the email came from me—I don’t support plagiarism, of course). I don’t need them to come to my blog to read my articles.

WHAT COOL SEARCH TERMS DID PEOPLE USE TO REACH YOUR BLOG?

I found some good ones on my list. One of my favorites is “funny paragraphs.” Imagine someone entered “funny paragraphs” into Google (or Bing or Yahoo or whatever) and found one of my articles. That wasn’t planned, but it’s a happy coincidence.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2017

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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Kindle Unlimited Per-Page Rate Continues to Rise (November, 2017)

KINDLE UNLIMITED PER-PAGE RATE, NOVEMBER, 2017

Through July, 2017, the Kindle Unlimited per-page rate had been spiraling downward.

But Amazon introduced KENPC v3.0 before it could drop below $0.004 per page.

The per-page rate has steadily climbed since.

  • November: $0.00463 per page
  • October: $0.00456 per page
  • September: $0.00443 per page
  • August: $0.00419 per page
  • July: $0.00403 per page

The KDP Select Global Fund also hit a new record high.

  • November: $19.8 million
  • October: $19.7 million
  • September: $19.5 million
  • August: $19.4 million
  • July: $19.0 million
  • June: $18.0 million

It’s nice to see the per-page rate rising alongside the KDP Select Global Fund.

However, at some point the per-page rate will reach a plateau, whereas the KDP Select Global Fund has risen steadily for years.

I remember the days when the KDP Select Global Fund was below $10M. I remember the people who claimed that $10M would just be the gravy to entice authors into KDP Select, and that it would surely drop once it got settled. But it’s since doubled, continuing to rise.

I also remember every time the Kindle Unlimited rate dropped to near $0.004 per page several people crying the end of the world, that it would drop below $o.004 and never return. But yet again it has bounced back.

The Kindle Unlimited per-page rate is a bit of a roller coaster ride with peaks and valleys. After it peaks and drops a bit, try not to panic. 🙂

Overall, the KDP Select per-page rate has experienced relative stability between $0.004 and $0.005 (occasionally rising slightly over $0.005).

Copyright © 2017

Chris McMullen

Amazon Reviews Now Require a $50 Minimum Customer Spend

NEW $50 MINIMUM FOR AMAZON CUSTOMER REVIEWS

Customers used to be able to write a review at Amazon as long as they had made a purchase.

Amazon now requires customers to spend a minimum of $50 using a valid credit/debit card before they can write a customer review.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=201929730

This is one of several steps that Amazon has made over the years in an effort to improve the customer review system.

Amazon strives for organic customer reviews.

Organic reviews are the best reviews you can get.

For years, Amazon has effectively blocked reviews that are posted by friends and family of authors.

Verified purchase reviews now have an advantage over non-verified reviews when it comes to visibility on Amazon.

Amazon uses machine learning to help determine how prominently a review will display on a product page.

This new $50 minimum customer spend is another of many steps in the right direction.

Amazon’s customer review system has never been (and may never be) perfect, but Amazon is working to make it better.

Remember the days when you walked into a bookstore, and the only reviews you saw were glowing reviews on the back cover and front matter?

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2017

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.