The copyright is the most boring page in the book. Readers tend to skim through them. Self-published authors tend to spend more time on other obvious design concerns, like the cover.

A short, sweet, and plain copyright page will suffice.

I’ve written dozens of books (mostly math workbooks, but a few science books and even books about self-publishing), and today I felt a bit bored with the typical copyright page.

So I gave it a little thought and tried something different. In the picture above, I put my copyright ‘paragraphs’ into 3D blocks of assorted sizes and then stacked them together. It’s different, anyway.

I’m using blocks for headers, too, so these blocks will fit in with the rest of the design. The algebra and word problems were the easy part of this book, so I put some time into the design. It’s not as plain as my original math workbooks.

My books have progressed in other ways, too. My earliest math workbooks simply provided hundreds (or even thousands) of problems with answers. They were plain-looking, no fluff workbooks, but some of my favorite comments were from parents, stating that their kids felt like they were doing ‘real’ math.

With my most recent books, I include full solutions in addition to answers. This is helpful for some parents, but also helps the student who arrives at a different answer. Sometimes the ‘different’ answer turned out to be equivalent to the book’s answer: For example, 1/squareroot(3) is the same as squareroot(3) / 3 (if you rationalize the denominator). Unfortunately, some online algebra programs don’t rationalize the denominator, so in rare cases, students believed that the book was ‘incorrect’ (just because I took the extra time to rationalize the denominator, factor out perfect squares, and all the other work that math instructors prefer to make answers look tidy), not realizing that the book’s answer was equivalent to theirs. By working out the full solution (with explanations) in the back of the book, I hope to eliminate some confusion.

Back to the copyright page. It’s part of the front matter. Even if a reader quickly flips past the copyright page, a potential buyer does catch a glimpse of it. I’d much rather have a prospective buyer think, “Hey, that looks pretty cool,” than something else. (A poorly formatted copyright page, or any other section of the front matter, sends the opposite message. You really don’t want the buyer thinking, “Yuck.”)

Every little bit helps. The cover doesn’t sell the book. The cover can attract readers to check the book out. The description can entice readers to Look Inside. But it’s the Look Inside that plays a pivotal role in the closing rate: What percentage of customers who visit the product page actually purchase the book?

For a typical book, just 1 out of 1000 (or more) customers who see the book’s cover will actually visit the product page, and just 1 out of 100 or so customers who visit the product page will purchase the book. I’m not talking about bestsellers. I’m talking about an average book that sells once a week or so to a stranger. You put these ratios together, and it takes 100,000 strangers to see the book to make a purchase. Such traffic is at Amazon. But if 100,000 people see your book in one week, you really want more than just 1 of those customers to purchase the book.

Here is the folly of the typical newbie author. They see it the other way around. The newbie author who is only selling 1 copy or so per week, on average, to strangers incorrectly concludes that there isn’t much traffic seeing that book on Amazon. Actually, 100,000 or more people probably see that book per week. Don’t blame Amazon. Blame the cover, description, Look Inside (and then most important of all, is the content wonderful enough to earn recommendations? that’s the key to long-term success).

A book that will sell like hot cakes has such a good cover (and relevance to the target audience) that 1 out of a few hundred (instead of a thousand) customers who see the cover will check it out, and will have a compelling description and Look Inside such that 1 out of 10 (or better) customers who see the book purchase the book. First of all, this book sells much better because the click-thru rate and closing rate are much better. But then Amazon rewards these metrics, which give the book enhanced visibility. And then if the content lives up to customers’ expectations, word-of-mouth recommendations will give this book long-term success.

So self-published authors strive to find cover appeal, write great descriptions, and provide compelling content at the beginning of the book. But those other sections of front matter, they matter too. Look how hard we worked to perfect this book for you. We even put time and effort into the boring copyright page. That’s they kind of message you want to send.

You want some of your front matter to pop. For a novel, it probably won’t be the copyright page. For some nonfiction books or children’s books, even the copyright page can pop. Why not?

Unfortunately, sometimes Amazon ‘skips’ pages of the Look Inside for print books. I’ve occasionally had a pretty cool picture somewhere in the front matter that didn’t show in the Look Inside. But when the customer opens the book at home, it will be a nice surprise.

Strive to perfect the entire book. That way it won’t matter which pages show up in the Look Inside.

If you want to see a copyright page that really POPS, check out this book by Victoria Kann.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/0061781266

If you make illustrated books and you have amazing drawing skills, this should be right up your alley.

Write Happy, Be Happy

## Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides

# December, 2018 Kindle Unlimited Royalty for Pages Read

## WHAT DID KINDLE UNLIMITED PAY PER PAGE FOR DECEMBER, 2018?

2018 closed out at \$0.00487 per page with December’s Kindle Unlimited per page rate (KENP read).

This returns it to the values it had for September (\$0.00488) and October (\$0.00484).

Although it is a drop from November (\$0.0052), the Kindle Unlimited per-page rate seldom clears half a penny per page. Based on its behavior for the past few years, the November amount is more of a sweet bonus than an expectation.

The per-page rate is still in the \$0.0048’s, and has been at least at that level for 4 consecutive months, which is a relative high.

The KDP Select Global Fund for December, 2018 was \$23.7 million. (It was \$23.6 million for November and \$23.5 million for October.)

Write Happy, Be Happy

## Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides

# Amazon Advertising for KDP Authors in 2019

As of 2019, Amazon modified how their advertising campaigns work, so this seems like a good time for a new article about how to use it.

I started using Amazon’s advertising feature several years ago, when it was first introduced to Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).

Since then, my ads have generated over 100 million impressions. So I have a little experience with how this works.

Advertising is one of many marketing tools. Like most marketing tools, you probably won’t blindly achieve instant success.

And like any paid marketing tool, advertising carries risk. If you aren’t careful, you can spend a lot of money quickly, and you might not recover your investment.

Advertising probably isn’t the solution for a book that isn’t selling on its own. It works better for some books than others, and for some authors than others. The success of the ad depends on a variety of factors.

One big problem is that there are many variables to consider:

• How much should you bid?
• Is your custom text helping or hurting?
• Does your product page sell effectively?

There are millions of books, and all of their authors and publishers would love to see those books sell. So there are hundreds of thousands of people and businesses who are willing to place a modest bid to gain valuable advertising space on Amazon. Everyone is asking the key question, “How much can I afford to bid on my book?”

As a result, if your book is in a hot genre like Romance, some ads will place expensive bids for broad keywords. But there may still be hope.

First of all, the highest bid doesn’t necessarily land the impression. Amazon’s algorithm for ad placements uses relevance as an important criteria, so an ad that establishes strong relevance can potentially land impressions with a more modest bid. Secondly, narrower targeting criteria can sometimes help you land impressions with a lower bid.

As I mentioned, Amazon changed how their ad campaigns work in 2019.

Amazon is discontinuing Product Display Ads. You can still target by product or by interest, but you’ll need to use one of the other types of ads to do it now. You really aren’t losing anything, in my opinion.

However, if you already have a Product Display Ad running, it will stop running on February 5, 2019. You are able to copy any existing Product Display Ads to one of the other types of ads and run a new one.

Sponsored Product ads now let you target specific products and categories, in addition to keywords. That’s why I said you aren’t really losing anything: Sponsored Product Ads now let you target books basically the same way that Product Display Ads did in the past.

There is now a new type of ad called Lockscreen ads. These appear to be aimed at Kindle eReaders and Kindle Fires. Lockscreen ads allow interest-based targeting.

The dashboard has changed. I’ve tested it out extensively and like it much better. But I had to customize it before I realized that I like it much better now. I’ll discuss how to get the most out of the new dashboard later in my article.

You might also have noticed that the name of Amazon’s advertising service has changed from Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) to Amazon Advertising. Why? Amazon previously had a variety of advertising services with different names, and realized that it would be simpler to have a single name, Amazon Advertising.

There is also an Author’s Guide to the New Amazon Advertising Features. Click here to visit Amazon’s free guide.

## RELEVANCE

You probably understand relevance as a concept. If your book is a good fit for most of the customers who are targeted by the ad, then your ad is highly relevant.

But to Amazon, relevance is more than a concept. It’s also a metric. Amazon’s algorithm is comparing data for thousands of ads, and has instructions for how to determine which ads are more relevant than others.

There are a variety of factors that go into determining relevance. (By the way, Amazon’s algorithm for displaying books in search results and customers-also-bought lists also measure relevance in similar ways.)

One simple and important factor is your click-thru rate (CTR). Amazon is asking the question, “How many people need to see your ad, on average, before they click on it?”

You figure the CTR by comparing the number of clicks (when a customer clicks on the ad to visit the product page) to the number of impressions (when the ad is displayed somewhere on a page that is visible on a customer’s screen).

It’s very common for internet advertising CTR’s to be roughly 1 out of 1000, meaning that on average 1 out of 1000 customers click on the ad. That comes out to 0.1%. Remember, that’s a rough average.

At Amazon, if the CTR is 1 out of 2000 or worse (meaning 0.05% or less), your ad will likely be stopped due to low relevance.

1 out of 1000 (or 0.1%) is relatively common, but it’s average. It isn’t good.

I have placed ads for 13 different books (keeping in mind that some of my books are under pen names or have coauthors) that have individually landed over 1,000,000 impressions.

6 of these ads have CTR’s of 0.3% to 0.45% (1 out of 333 to 1 out of 250), which are rather high. My best CTR is 0.6% (1 out of 167). Only one of my best 13 ads has a CTR as low as 0.1%.

I’ve placed over 100 ads over the years. Only 13 out of those have landed 1,000,000 impressions or more. What I see from my ad reports is that a high CTR is critical towards landing a large number of impressions over a long period.

When you first place your ad, it really helps to generate a strong CTR at the outset. Sometimes when the CTR starts out low, an ad can really struggle to get any impressions. That’s because the metrics suggest that the ad might not rate high on relevance. In this case, it may be better to terminate the ad and start a new one than to simply modify the existing ad campaign.

But CTR is just one factor that Amazon helps to determine relevance.

All of Amazon’s algorithms place a premium on customer satisfaction metrics. If you’ve ever sold products via Amazon Seller Central, you should know about this because customer satisfaction metrics help to determine product placement.

The next question to ask is, “How many customers who visit your product page proceed to purchase your book?” Then ask, “How satisfied are customers who purchase this book?” Amazon has a variety of ways to try to establish this (and may also have some methods in place to penalize people from trying to manipulate these metrics for better or worse).

This partly depends on your targeting. If your choice of keywords, specific products, or categories fits your book to a tee, this greatly helps with relevance. If your keywords and categories are broader than your book, this hurts relevance: Some customers who see the ad won’t be interested.

Targeting is just one factor though. Even with the best imaginable targeting, some books won’t score well with relevance due to their covers, descriptions, Look Insides, reviews, etc.

Many new authors publish a book with KDP, only see an occasional sale, and incorrectly conclude that nobody is finding their book on Amazon.

The reality is that books with below average marketability have at least 100,000 strangers see the book before they make a purchase. So if you’ve sold 10 copies of your book to total strangers and your book has below average marketability, it’s quite possible that over 1,000,000 have seen your book on Amazon. Most authors have sold at least 10 copies to strangers. Maybe 100, maybe even 1000. Many, many more customers have probably seen your book on Amazon than you realize.

Where am I getting these numbers? I have a lot of experience with Amazon ads, and I’ve discussed these ads with many other authors who’ve tried them. The ad report data helps us determine typical CTR’s and closing rates (where the closing rate is the number of purchases compared to the number of clicks) for books of both good and poor marketability.

Let’s start with the internet average CTR of about 1 out of 1000. A book with poor marketability needs 100 people or more (sometimes much more) to visit the product page to make a single purchase. But only 1 out of 1000 people who see the book will visit the product page. Combine the CTR (1 out of 1000) with the closing rate (1 out of 100) to see that 100,000 people need to see the book to make the purchase. Now if you sell 1000 books at these rates, 100 million people saw your book on Amazon.

But remember, these numbers are for books with poor marketability. Such books don’t sell well on their own, and probably won’t sell well with advertising either. Something about the cover, description, or product page is deterring sales. This poor marketability will lead to low relevance no matter how good the targeting is.

The good news is that there are books with strong marketability that earn much better numbers.

A highly marketable book can earn a closing rate of 10% or higher, where 1 out of 10 people who visit the product page purchase the book. This is well above average, but there are books doing this. Many factors go into this, and it’s really difficult to get each factor right. The first thing is having a cover that really attracts your specific target audience very well (most books don’t have this). Secondly, the description and Look Inside must really seal the deal (few books have this, too). Customer feedback (reviews) also factor into marketability. Ultimately, it takes amazing content (highly informative, or highly engaging, or quite compelling in some other way) to generate the best long-term marketability.

If you happen to have a highly marketable book, if you use ideal targeting, you might get 1 out of 1000 people (instead of 1 out of 100,000 people) who see your book to purchase it. This makes a huge difference. If you can improve the marketability of your book (especially the long-term value through amazing content), you can see a huge increase in sales without even advertising. And if your book is highly marketable, advertising is more likely to work well for your book.

A great thing about Amazon Advertising is that you can use your ad data to see how marketable your book is. Divide the number of impressions by the number of clicks to get the 1 out of ____ number associated with your CTR (or divide the number of clicks by the impressions to get a decimal, then multiply by 100% to make a percentage). Similarly, divide the number of clicks by the number of sales (we’ll discuss this later) to get the 1 out ____ number associated with your closing rate (or divide the sales by the clicks to get a decimal, and multiply by 100% to make a percentage).

A CTR significantly higher than 0.1% is above average, meaning that well fewer than 1000 customers who see your ad click on it.

A closing rate of higher than 10% is way above average, meaning that fewer than 10 customers who click on your ad purchase your book.

A more modest closing rate of 3% to 7% is more attainable. Less than 1% is all too common. If your closing rate is below 1%, there is a significant opportunity to improve the marketability of your book. But is it the cover, description, Look Inside, or the content? Good question, but one well worth examining intently.

If your book has a good closing rate (and that’s a huge “if”), then the success of your ad is determined by how well your targeting fits your specific targeting audience.

## TARGETING

• keywords
• specific products
• interests

At first, specific products is enticing. I bet you can find dozens of popular books that are fairly similar to your book. It’s possible to target those books.

But there’s a catch. You’re not really targeting those books (unless Amazon has recently changed how this works, which is doubtful since it would make sense for them to publicize this detail if they have).

Rather, you’re targeting customers who have ever shopped for books similar to those sometime in their shopping history.

Let’s say you’ve read hundreds of books, but one time a year ago you happened to visit the product page for a science fiction book. Well, if an ad targets science fiction books, you might see an ad for a science fiction book.

You want the ad to target customers who are shopping for those specific books today. It would be great if it worked that way. And sometimes it does because those customers are, in fact, looking for such books. But it also targets customers for whom your ad may not be relevant.

How you should target your book depends on the circumstances.

For most nonfiction books that provide information that customers are likely to search for, I recommend using Sponsored Product ads and manually entering dozens of highly relevant keywords (and putting much thought into researching and brainstorming your keyword list). Ideally, the keyword would be highly relevant for your book.

For fiction books in popular categories that tend to sell much better as eBooks, I would first experiment with Lockscreen ads.

But here’s a secret: You’re not restricted to placing a single ad for a book.

And you don’t know which type of ad will work best.

But you have to be careful not to bid too high, as you’d hate to spend way more money than you intended in a short amount of time, only to realize later that the ads weren’t very effective. With a modest bid, you can generate valuable data at a relatively low cost, and once you have the data, you can experiment with your ads and hopefully figure out how to get it ‘right.’

When I first checked the new ad reports, it was missing information that I wanted to see, and it was including information that I didn’t care about.

So I clicked the option to customize it. Look for a button called Columns. When you click it, one of the two options is Customize Columns. This is the magic button.

When you finally click on Customize Columns (not just Columns) correctly, a window will pop up.

I like to look at Impressions, Clicks, Clickthrough rate (CTR), Spend, Cost-per-click (CPC), Orders, Sales, and Advertising cost of sales (ACOS).

Notice that new column: Orders! Now you can see how many books were ordered instead of trying to divide your sales figure by the cost of your book (which gets complicated when you offer promotional pricing and don’t know when the book sold exactly).

Unfortunately, if your Kindle eBook is enrolled in KDP Select, the ads still don’t have a column for Kindle Unlimited KENP Pages Read. That’s a shame. But it means your ad is probably doing a little better than the sales data suggests. Surely, it’s impacting pages read to some extent.

Next, I clicked on the Date Range button. The Lifetime option is cool if, like me, you’ve been running ads for years. When I looked at my Lifetime Spend total, I almost went into a state of shock, but then I noticed my Lifetime Sales Total, and that was a pleasant surprise.

But the Last 30 Days is much more meaningful. This option shows you how your ads have performed recently, which is most relevant to the question, “What should I do now?”

Then I clicked on a column to sort the data. I don’t like that I have to click twice to sort from highest to lowest, but that’s just the way it is. I like to look at the ACOS column and make sure that no ad has a percentage above my comfort zone. I like to sort by the Spend column to quickly monitor which ads are costing me the most money. But unless you have more than 10 ad campaigns, you probably don’t need to do as much sorting as I do.

A nice change is that there are a few changes that you can make to several ads very quickly. For example, you can manually adjust the budget for several ads at once, instead of having to adjust them individually. If you ever have dozens of ad campaigns, you’ll be thanking Amazon for this feature.

The copy button at the far right comes in handy. It lets you make a new ad campaign just like a previous one, and then just modify what you already have instead of starting over from scratch.

The first thing you should note is that there may be significant reporting delays.

It would be great if we could get the data almost instantaneously, but it often doesn’t work that way.

Amazon clearly states that ad campaign data may be delayed by 12 hours.

But there have been many times over the past several years where some of the ad data was delayed by a few days, and occasionally even a week or two.

It pays to be patient. Even if you terminate an ad, it may continue to generate data (including costs) for a few days afterward.

And if you impatiently raise your bid, you may come to regret it. I suggest not raising your bid more than once per day, and not to raise it more than a dime at a time.

Once you have 1000’s of impressions, 100’s of clicks, and dozens of sales, you have some meaningful data.

Is your CTR significantly higher than 0.1%? If yes, that’s a good sign. If no, try improving your targeting.

(Divide your CTR by 100% to convert it to a decimal. Now divide 1 by that decimal. If this number is significantly lower than 1000, that’s good. For example, 0.2% becomes 0.002, which becomes 1 out of 500. This is good because 500 is less than 1000.)

If your ACOS is comparable to your royalty percentage, your ad is roughly breaking even. I would continue running the ad in this case. Why? Because there are other benefits to advertising, such as branding, future sales by the same customer, selling other books now to the same customer, sales rank boost, and potential word-of-mouth sales (for a book with amazing content, this can be a huge long-term asset).

But if you’re losing money overall, you need to have a compelling reason to keep running your ad. Maybe you have other short-term goals and are willing to lose money short-term for those other goals.

You can pause or terminate your ad at any time (even if you haven’t spent \$100 yet; there is no minimum to stop advertising).

Maybe the solution is to try a new ad, changing your ad type or your targeting. Sometimes, it takes experimentation to get your ad just ‘right.’ But it also depends on how marketable your book and product page are, as I discussed earlier.

Or maybe the solution is to lower your bid. Yes, if you lower your bid, your ad probably won’t make as many impressions, but if you lower your bid enough, you might be able to afford the ACOS. Remember, the bid isn’t the only factor in landing impressions. If Amazon determines that your ad is performing very well in terms of relevance, you can earn significant impressions with a lower bid.

Write Happy, Be Happy

## Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides

# Sweet Holiday Surprise: Kindle Unlimited Clears Half a Penny

## THE NOVEMBER, 2018 KENP PER-PAGE RATE

The Kindle Unlimited per-page rate has been doing well for most of 2018.

For example, it was \$0.00484 for October and \$0.00488 for September.

And this was followed by a Sweet November with \$0.0052 per KENP page read.

The Kindle Unlimited per-page rate has cleared half a penny per page a few times, but it has been rare.

There have been times where it was on the verge of dropping below \$0.004 per page (but in every case it came back up before dropping below that threshold).

So it’s nice to see the Kindle Unlimited rate at a relative high during the Black Friday month of November.

The KDP Select Global Fund is also at a relative high of \$23.6 million (compared to \$23.5 million for October and \$23.4 million for September).

Write Happy, Be Happy

## Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides

# Kindle Book Update

One challenge with nonfiction books is keeping the content up-to-date.

As an example, I’m currently in the process of updating my self-publishing guides.

I just updated my Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon, Volume 1 (the Kindle edition is on sale on Black Friday, thru Cyber Monday). The others will be updated soon (and I’ll add a note to the description once they are).

As you may have heard, CreateSpace recently merged with Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). As a result, I needed to update all of my self-publishing guides. A few of them mention CreateSpace over a hundred times, so it hasn’t been a ‘simple’ update.

I also noticed a few other things that needed updating, like mention of the CreateSpace eStore option (which is no longer available) and changes to Kindle Unlimited.

For a variety of reasons, I’ve updated dozens of my books over the years. A few of my books have required several updates.

It’s a great feature of self-publishing: Amazon makes it fairly quick and easy to keep your content up-to-date.

I have some tips for doing this.

• Keep a list of the most recent filename for each of your books. If you spend the next few years publishing multiple books, this list will save you time finding your most recent files. Type the list on your computer, backup the file, and print out a hard copy, just in case. (You can find the name of your most recent content file at KDP, unless you originally published the book with CreateSpace, then you’re out of luck if your book has already transitioned to KDP. Don’t rely on Amazon to keep your file info.)
• Store your most recent editable files (by that I mean your Word file, not your PDF or MOBI file) in multiple places, like on a computer and on a jump drive, just in case something happens to one of the files.
• Amazon is generally pretty flexible in letting you simply revise the files of the existing book (paperback or Kindle), even if you have fairly extensive revisions. If your current edition is selling well, it makes sense to simply update the files. If you publish a new edition as a new book on your KDP bookshelf, your book will start over with sales rank, keyword relevance, customers also bought lists, reviews, etc. (though perhaps by request you can get reviews transferred, but I would ask beforehand, just to be sure).
• If your current edition isn’t doing well (in terms of sales or reviews), then it may be better to start over with a new edition. You can simply unpublish your original edition. (Note that paperback editions remain on Amazon forever, just in case a previous customer wishes to resell a used copy.)
• If the update is significant, mention it in your description. If the update may be a selling point (or if it may make what had been an outdated book into an updated book), mention it at the beginning of your description, like UPDATED IN NOVEMBER, 2018. You can even make a starburst (like the one you see on the picture for my article) to call attention to the update on your cover (my starburst was designed by Melissa Stevens at theillustratedauthor.net).
• Some problems you may not wish to call attention to. Maybe you corrected a few little typos or mistakes, which nobody else has pointed out in reviews. If so, you probably wouldn’t want to mention this.
• However, if a review is quite visible on your product page and calls attention to a problem that has since been fixed, you may wish to note this in the book description. (It’s generally much better to revise your description than to comment on the review directly.)
• Think twice before revising categories or keywords. If any of your original categories or keywords have succeeded in establishing relevance at Amazon (note that you may not realize this if it has happened), revising your categories or keywords may lose this potentially valuable relevance. Maybe you have established some relevance and don’t realize its value: If you’re getting any sales now, changing categories or keywords comes with a risk. My advice is generally not to change these if you’re content with sales. If you’re not getting sales, then there really is no harm in trying, and in that case maybe new categories or keywords will help out.
• Check your corrections carefully. It’s amazing how easy it is to introduce a new mistake when you’re making a few little corrections.
• Getting the updated Kindle edition of a book doesn’t work the way we might expect. It generally doesn’t automatically update. Why not? Because customers would lose notes, highlights, and annotations, which could be really frustrating for some customers. If a customer sees that the new edition is available (or if the author wants to check out the latest edition), just buying the book again won’t solve the problem (not if it’s bought on the same account as the original): Amazon automatically finds the original version and delivers that (even if you remove the book from your device first). You can visit Manage Your Content and Devices from your Amazon account and check if there is an Update Available flag present: This lets you manually update the book. Under Preferences, you can also find an option for Automatic Book Updates. If you still don’t get the most updated version, you need to contact Amazon and ask them to “push” the latest version onto your device.
• It may help to educate your customers. If you post information about your update on your blog, for example, you can tell customers how to get the latest edition of your Kindle eBook.
• At KDP’s Contact Us option, there is an option to request to have Amazon notify customers of your book update. A message there indicates that this is generally reserved for major problems, like when some of the content was unreadable. But it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Write Happy, Be Happy

## Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides

# The Kindle Unlimited per-Page Rate Holds Steady in October, 2018

## THE KINDLE UNLIMITED KENP PER-PAGE RATE FOR OCTOBER, 2018

In October, 2018 Amazon paid nearly the same amount per KENP page read as it did in September, 2018 for KDP Select books participating in Kindle Unlimited (and Amazon Prime):

• October, 2018 = \$0.00484 per KENP page read
• September, 2018 = \$0.00488 per KENP page read

Both are significantly above the rate of \$0.00449 for August, 2018 (which had been approximately the steady level for much of 2018).

The KDP Select Global Fund increased yet again:

• October, 2018 = \$23.5 million
• September, 2018 = \$23.4 million

Write Happy, Be Happy

## Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides

# Changes to Amazon Product Pages, Reviews, Author Central, Etc.

## AMAZON IS A DYNAMIC MARKETING ENVIRONMENT

Have you noticed a variety of little changes at Amazon recently? Following are some examples.

• Customer reviews now display in a single column based on helpfulness. Previously, there had been a second column on the right (if you viewed the product page on a PC), giving the most recent reviews significant prominence. Now, the most recent reviews don’t automatically have more prominence than other reviews.
• Amazon finally fixed the aspect ratio problem associated with Author Central author pages. Previously, when you clicked on an author’s profile at Amazon to open their author page, the cover thumbnails appearing in the top had all been forced into the same narrow aspect ratio, which distorted covers noticeably when they had a distinctly different aspect ratio. Now, if the cover is wider than the default, you get little gray bars at the top and bottom; the cover is no longer distorted.
• There are other labels at Amazon that are changing. The Best Seller labels don’t always include the #1 before them any more, and in some instances they appear in orange, while in other cases they appear in blue. There used to be a #1 New Release label, then it changed to New Release, and today I don’t see new releases highlighted. I’ve also seen other labels, like for items included in a holiday and toy list.
• Video Shorts display prominently on a product page, showing higher than the customer review section.
• The options for Amazon Giveaways have changed significantly. There are now only a couple of types of giveaways with fewer options, but now there is less guesswork in setting one up and from the contestants’ point of view, the giveaways are much more standardized and all have a reasonable chance of winning.
• Some products (even a few traditionally published books) let you clip a coupon. For other books, sometimes the savings are clearly highlighted in search results.
• Amazon has really been pushing Audible audio books. You can create one using ACX, and even hire a narrator for your book (with the option of splitting royalties instead of paying up front). One of my credit card companies was even incentivizing Audible audio books recently.

What does this mean? Amazon’s website is a dynamic marketing environment for your book (or other product).

For several years, Amazon’s decisions have appeared to aim towards long-term success. A strong part of this has been long-term customer satisfaction.

Obviously, like any business, Amazon wants to earn profits, but unlike some short-sided business practices that I see all too frequently with other companies, Amazon often seems to make a decision based on long-term gains.

Another thing that sets Amazon apart is that, for such an enormous company, it often reacts quickly to change. This makes it a highly dynamic marketplace, compared to a traditionally much slower publishing industry.

These changes tend to favor customer-pleasing content and long-term marketing strategies. A book (or other product) that most customers really enjoy is more likely to be successful in the long run, especially if it gets good exposure in the beginning (an effective marketing campaign that goes beyond Amazon can help with this).

Sometimes, clever people figure out how to take advantage of the system, but since Amazon is dynamic, Amazon often catches onto this and finds way to make a change that hurts those who are trying to take advantage, and is more likely to reward good products long-term. Amazon has always placed a premium on its customer satisfaction metrics, and these metrics continue to evolve.

It pays to visit Amazon every few months (if you’re not already a frequent customer) to see how product pages, searches, etc. are changing. Knowledge is power, and it can impact your marketing decisions.

My recommendation to authors is to focus on writing engaging content that will satisfy your readers (better yet, write such amazing content that it is likely to earn you recommendations and referrals). The engagement part is important because you need customers to start reading and keep reading all the way through. There are so many other books, and so many other forms of entertainment, and your book is competing with those opportunities.

My second recommendation is to focus on long-term marketing strategies. Think long and hard about ways that might help your book continue to sell for many years, or ways to go about marketing that might bring you continued exposure for many years. Content marketing can help with this: For example, post short articles with helpful information (possible even if you write fiction) relating to your book, hoping to catch daily traffic through search engines. Effective long-term marketing strategies tend to be less susceptible to publishing dynamics.

If you tend to favor short-term promotional strategies, you really need to keep up with the latest changes.

## Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides

# If You Encounter Problems with the Transition from CreateSpace to KDP…

## SOLUTIONS TO COMMON ISSUES WITH KDP PRINT

For most authors using CreateSpace, the transition to Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is smooth.

A simple three-step process helps you make the transition. Your books remain available for sale at Amazon and other distribution channels. Your royalties remain the same (except for royalties in Europe for books under 100 pages). The books are printed in the same facilities used by CreateSpace. The guidelines for interior and cover formatting are nearly identical.

It should be a seamless transition, and for most authors it is.

But when millions of CreateSpace books move to KDP in a short time span, a few unfortunate authors are bound to experience one or more issues.

If you happen to encounter one of the following issues, you might try my suggestion or you might contact KDP for help.

## THE COVER WAS REJECTED BECAUSE THE SPINE TEXT WAS TOO LARGE

Unfortunately, if you change your list price, change your keywords, change your categories, or even edit your description at KDP, you must republish your book in order for the changes to take effect.

When you republish your book, KDP reviews your interior and cover files. It’s sort of crazy: If you don’t change your interior or cover files, why does KDP even look at them? They were good enough the first time. But it doesn’t help us to ask this question to ourselves. It does help to be aware that it will happen.

KDP is more strict about the size of your spine text (or more precisely, the distance between your spine text and the spine edges) than CreateSpace was. If you (or your cover designer) tried to make your spine text as large as possible (0.0625″ from the spine edges), it’s relatively common for KDP’s measurement to decide that your spine text is slightly too close to the spine edge. KDP is very picky about this.

If CreateSpace passed your cover file, beware that KDP might reject the very same cover file (even if you didn’t upload a new one) when you attempt to republish your book at KDP.

One way to avoid this is the same way that you can correct the problem: Revise your cover so that the spine text leaves a little extra room (significantly more than 0.0625″) between the spine text and spine edges. If you try to cut it close, there is a good chance that your cover will be rejected during the file review process (which occurs after you press the Publish button, and which prevents the changes from going live).

If you just need to revise your book description, it’s better to create an Author Central account at Amazon and use Author Central instead. However, if you do use Author Central, you should copy and paste the HTML version of your Author Central book description into KDP and save it at KDP. Why? Because if sometime in the future you republish your book at KDP, the KDP description will overwrite the Author Central description (years ago, it was different).

If you’re thinking about revising keywords or categories, consider this decision carefully. If your book has been available for some time, it’s possible that your book has benefited from keyword or category associations that your book may have developed. If you change your keywords or categories, you risk losing such associations. When you’re not getting sales, there isn’t much harm in trying. But if you are getting sales and you lose associations that had been helping you (without your knowledge, of course), it could negatively impact your sales.

## YOUR COVER ISN’T SIZED AS EXPECTED

CreateSpace was a little more flexible with the cover size. If your width or height were slightly too small, for example, CreateSpace might adjust it for you. If the cover was oversized, it wasn’t a problem as long as the extra space was intended to be trimmed off and the meaningful content was sized appropriately.

KDP’s previewer checks your cover size and expects it to match KDP’s calculation based on your trim size, page count, page color (white or cream), and interior color (b&w or full color).

If your cover size isn’t what KDP’s previewer expects, you will automatically receive an error and you won’t be able to approve the preview and proceed to the next page of the publishing process until you fix the problem and submit a revised file.

## YOU ENCOUNTER FUNCTIONALITY ISSUES WITH KDP’S WEBSITE

If a feature isn’t working properly at KDP, it could be related to your choice of web browser.

As with most websites, rarely a feature at KDP may be temporarily down. When a feature is temporarily unavailable (which is rare), it usually shows a message at the top of the screen. However, rarely there may be an issue and no message shows on the screen. In this case, if you try again later, the feature may be functioning as it should.

If the feature still isn’t working after a couple of days and switching web browsers doesn’t help, make sure that your computer and browser specs are sufficient to handle KDP’s website (or whatever feature you are trying to use). If so, try contacting KDP help.

## YOU PUBLISHED A BOOK, BUT AN ERROR OCCURRED DURING FILE PROCESSING

CreateSpace could handle relatively complex PDF files.

It turns out that currently KDP can’t handle the same level of complexity as CreateSpace could.

When your PDF turns out to be more complex than KDP can handle, here is what will happen:

• Your interior file will appear to upload just fine. You will see a green checkmark next to the file.
• A message will show that your file is being processed. This is normal so far. Don’t panic.
• A red exclamation mark will appear inside of a triangle next to your interior file and you will see a vague error message asking you to check your file. This isn’t normal. One way for this to happen is if your PDF is too complex.

There are a variety of ways that a PDF can be more complex. It’s not necessarily the size of your file either. It’s more about which features you used when typing and formatting your book, which PDF converter you used, and the choices you made regarding formatting and layout.

A number of features available in Microsoft Word can result in a complex PDF. For example, it’s better to format a picture as a JPEG with image software and insert the picture into Word with the text wrapping set to In Line With Text. It’s much more complex to use Word’s drawing tools. It’s also more complex to use textboxes and WordArt. If you wrap pictures or textboxes in front of text, beside text, or behind text, for example, instead of in line with text, this makes the file more complex.

There are simpler and more complex ways to add ordered and unordered lists, or to add borders, or a variety of other features in Microsoft Word.

Browse through your file and ask yourself which design or formatting choices you may have made which could be making your PDF more complex. What can you do to simplify it (without sacrificing quality).

If you make changes, save the original file as backup. That way, if the revisions don’t help your file get processed at KDP, you will still have your original available.

Try using a different PDF converter. Adobe Acrobat is among the best, but even Adobe’s PDF’s are susceptible to this issue at KDP. Throwing money at the problem won’t guarantee a solution.

Ideally, you should flatten images and embed fonts in your PDF, provided that your PDF converter has these options available.

If you’re unable to solve this problem, try contacting KDP help.

## PRINTED PROOFS, AUTHOR COPIES, AND APPROVING THE PROOF

At CreateSpace, when you “approved” your proof you were publishing your paperback. At KDP, it’s different. When you’re looking at your book in KDP’s previewer, clicking Approve doesn’t publish your book. It just lets you proceed to page 3 of the publishing process. As long as you don’t click the Publish button when you get to page 3, your book won’t be published.

If you wish to order a printed proof, you can find this option is you read carefully on page 3 of the publishing process.

You must publish your book before you can order author copies. Once your book is published, you can order author copies from your Bookshelf.

What if you wanted to order author copies without making your book available for sale on Amazon. Well, this is a problem.

You could publish your book, making it available for sale on Amazon, and then unpublish your book after ordering the author copies, but this has disadvantages. For one, your book’s Amazon detail page will already be live. For another, your publication date will be set and you will miss out on valuable potential exposure from the Last 30 Days and Last 90 Days filters on Amazon (when combined with other searches, some self-published books get noticed this way). I recommend NOT setting a manual publishing date: Choose the option that your book’s live on Amazon date will be used. Don’t publish your book until you’re ready for it to be available for sale. This will maximize your book’s exposure.

Another option is to publish another copy of your book with another print-on-demand publisher (or a local printer) that will let you order author copies without making that copy of your book available for sale anywhere. You won’t be able to use the same ISBN for both books, but at least you can get copies (other than printed proofs, which now have a not for resale watermark rendering them unfit for use as author copies) before your book goes live on Amazon. You could even get spiral bound books or hardcover using this option; your author copies could be ‘special.’ Check out Lulu and Barnes & Noble Press (this last option only offers author copies; they don’t currently offer paperback distribution to anywhere, unless you’re among the top sellers of Nook eBooks, though it is expanding). KDP’s main competitor is Ingram Spark, but whereas KDP lets you publish for free, Ingram Spark charges a setup fee.

## YOU BELIEVE THAT YOU ARE MISSING ROYALTIES

Of course you are! You had dreams of selling millions of books, right?

(But seriously…)

If you made the transition from CreateSpace to KDP recently, note that it’s relatively common for your royalty reporting to slow down significantly (50% or more) for a few days (perhaps even a week). This happened to me and some other authors that I know, but after 5-7 days the royalties picked back up to normal and made up the difference. Be patient.

Amazon offers a surprisingly transparent royalty reporting system. It’s much better than receiving a single statement in the mail once every 3 to 6 months. You can see royalties show up in your reports throughout the day (provided your book sells multiple times per day). It’s really cool (but be careful not to turn into a stats junkie and waste precious time that you could have spent writing your next book).

However, with this amazing level of transparency, any time a normal delay occurs, if you happen to be aware of the sale (because a customer told you about it), it’s only natural to freak out.

Most of the time, you see a royalty show up in your reports when the book prints, which often occurs the same day, but sometimes takes a few days. If you sell thousands of books, almost all of them will show up in your reports within a few days of the sale.

But there are a variety of exceptions. If a royalty isn’t showing up, it’s most likely one of the following reasons.

• A family member or friend said, “I bought your book last week,” while secretly thinking, “I didn’t buy your book, but I didn’t want to hurt your feelings by admitting this.”
• A customer told you that they bought your book, but what you don’t know is that they didn’t buy it new directly from Amazon. Maybe they bought it from another online bookstore. Or maybe they bought it from a third party on Amazon. In this case, it might take 4-6 weeks for the royalty to show through the Expanded Distribution channel.
• If a customer buys a used copy on Amazon that’s being resold by a previous customer, you won’t receive a royalty for the resale. You already received a royalty when the original customer bought your book (unless, of course, you gave that copy away). Most customers prefer to buy new books, especially if the list price isn’t super high compared to \$10. I wouldn’t lose any sleep over the sales of used copies (unless you have a really expensive book).
• Returns. If a previous customer returns a book and Amazon sells that returned copy to a new customer, you won’t be paid a royalty for the returned copy. Suppose customer X tells you that they bought your book, but you never see the royalty show up in your reports. It’s possible that customer Y bought your book a week ago, then customer Y returned your book, and Amazon resold that book to customer X. In this case, you were already paid this royalty last week. (For paperback books, Amazon doesn’t tell you about returns. You have no way of knowing how many books were returned and how many returned copies have been resold.)
• Delay. For whatever reason, Amazon occasionally uses a third-party printer to source an order. When this happens, it can take 4-6 weeks for your royalty to show up in your reports.
• Holidays (or Amazon Prime Day). Amazon sometimes stocks up on select titles for the holidays. When this happens, you won’t see royalties show in you reports as the books are sold. Instead, you see a bulk sale (or a few bulk sales). Sometimes the bulk sale occurs when the books are printed, sometimes it occurs later, sometimes it’s spread over a month or two in installments. Sometimes you even see usual royalties sprinkled in between.

If you happen to know the customer, ask for the printing numbers from the last page of the book. Send these printing numbers in a polite email to KDP. They should be able to use the printing numbers to help track the sale of the book.

## YOUR AUTHOR COPIES TOOK LONGER TO ARRIVE

Sometimes, CreateSpace proofs and author copies arrived rather swiftly, even when we took the least expensive shipping option.

It won’t always be that quick.

Suppose you need several copies for an event.

My advice is to schedule the event and order author copies several weeks in advance. I order extra copies, just in case.

What if the shipment is delayed? What if there are defects?

With this in mind, I order author copies so far in advance that if there are defects, there is enough time to replace them, and even if the replacements are defective, there is enough time to replace those too. (If that’s not good enough, you were destined to have a problem, and you have the right to feel infuriated.)

If you don’t allow plenty of extra time, you’re taking a risk. It would be ideal if we could always receive perfect copies right on time. But it’s practical to allow for the worst-case scenario.

I take the cheapest shipping option, but order well in advance. This is my advice.

## YOU ENCOUNTER SOME OTHER ISSUE

If your issue isn’t on my list:

• Try searching the KDP community help forum.
• Try contacting KDP support.

I wish you luck.

## YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH KDP IS JUST FINE (OR BETTER THAN YOU HAD EXPECTED)

Hey, this happens to most authors. Those authors are also far less likely to go online and talk about their “problem.”

Obviously, in this case, what you should do is recommend KDP to other authors. You can hope for good karma: Maybe a customer will like your book and recommend it to a friend.

Actually, KDP is better than CreateSpace in a few ways.

Authors based in Europe appreciate that they can order proofs printed in the UK or continental Europe instead of having their proofs shipped from the USA.

KDP’s Expanded Distribution has even surpassed CreateSpace. For example, I see paperback royalties on my KDP report for Japan, and other countries are on the horizon.

You can now choose 7 sets of keywords (instead of just 5), and there is no longer a 25-character limit per keyword set (but I wouldn’t exceed 50 characters including spaces).

You can now choose 2 browse categories (instead of just 1) without having to contact support, and the categories are more aligned with Amazon’s browse categories (though it’s still not perfect).

KDP’s community forum is different from CreateSpace’s. Is it better? I’m not sure. I haven’t seen spam recently (at least, not at the hours I’ve been checking), which is a good sign. There are helpful community members on both forums.

You can now advertise paperback books with AMS via KDP. This wasn’t possible with CreateSpace. Advertising may not be the magic solution you were hoping for, and it isn’t cost-effective for every book. But it’s nice to have a new tool that wasn’t available previously.

You no longer need to separately login to KDP and CreateSpace to check your Kindle royalties and paperback royalties. Now they show together on the same report.

## Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides

By chrismcmullen

# Just Write & Just Dance

## JUST DANCE 2019

I love to write, but I know that I also need to exercise every week.

I have discovered a way to exercise that I really enjoy: dancing.

Specifically, I like to dance along to a game called Just Dance (by Ubisoft).

I had never really thought of myself as a dancer before. In fact, I hadn’t danced until I discovered the game.

My daughter was dancing to the game, and I thought to myself: Wow, that’s a pretty good workout.

And it was. I was out of breath after a few dances, while my daughter never even broke a sweat. It showed me just how out of shape I had become.

So I started dancing. This was with Just Dance 2015. A few days ago, they released Just Dance 2019.

Just Dance has turned dancing into a sport. You receive typically 100 to 200 individual scores for various moves during the dance. Possible scores are X, OK, Good, Super, and Perfect. (The Super is relatively new, introduced in 2018.)

You also receive an overall score. When you start out, it feels good to see Perfects. When you see an X or OK, if you are at all competitive, you try to figure out what you did wrong. If you remember your overall score, you try to do better next time.

The most recent versions of the game also have a World Dance Floor where you can dance along with hundreds of players from across the world and see how your score compares on a leaderboard.

There is even an annual Just Dance World Cup. The first stage of qualifying is done online, and you can compete from your living room. (Currently, this stage usually comes in the summer, and then in the following months there are national qualifiers, and sometime after the new year there is a world cup event.)

Whether you dance just casually or competitively, it can be really fun.

You also get a good workout. So you can have fun and exercise at the same time.

(If you want to hear more about Just Dance 2019 specifically, see the last section of this article. Next I will describe platforms and how the game works, and then I will discuss the PS4 camera which can be tricky to use.)

## PLATFORMS AND PLAYING MODES

There are two basic ways to play Just Dance:

• hands-free, where you strive to nail every detail of the full-body choreography (available only with Xbox and PS4)
• with a remote or cell phone in your hand, where you still strive to do the full-body choreography right, but with more emphasis obviously placed on the right hand (available with Xbox, PS4, Nintendo Switch, and Wii U; there is also Just Dance Now for PC players)

Either way, you see a dancer on the screen and you try to do exactly the same thing that you see in sync with that dancer. If you do it perfectly, that dancer would be just like your reflection in a mirror.

It’s easiest to get started when you play with a remote, since it’s easier to get one major body part to do the right thing than it is to get your whole body to do the right thing. However, the game designers are pretty clever, and to some extent that remote can sense when you’re not doing the full-body choreography quite right even though the measurement is made based on your right hand.

More competitive players seem to hit nearly perfect scores across more dances using Xbox One with Kinect, which is hands-free dancing (camera-based) that judges your whole body’s motion. You can take an X or OK on harder moves over something rather subtle, even if the rest of your body is doing great, so when you’re first learning the game, it’s a bit easier to get frustrated when you don’t realize what you’re doing wrong. But once you finally turn a few X’s into Perfects, you learn a few things about what you used to do wrong, and you feel like a problem-solver, which makes the game intriguing. If you can get every part of your body from head to toe in sync with the dancer, you can hit some amazing scores with camera dancing.

PS4 also has a camera, but it’s not quite as easy to setup as Xbox Kinect, and if you don’t have your camera setup properly, it can be somewhat frustrating. I have several tips below that will help you setup the PS4 camera properly if want to try this platform and mode. PS4 also has PS move controllers if you prefer to play with a remote (but in that case you must buy both the camera and the move controllers). With any platform, you can connect a phone (so you’re not obligated to buy a camera or remote), and your friends can play with you with their phones, too.

The multiplayer experience is best with a remote, phone, or with Xbox Kinect.

If you visit the World Dance Floor enough, you will discover that there are phenomenal players from around the world using every platform (it’s not just Xbox producing the best scores; a large number of players who hit top scores across most of the dances seem to use Xbox, but I know players on every platform who hit top scores across most of the dances). When you see somebody hit an amazing score on a hard dance, it shows you that it’s possible; it can be motivating sometimes.

Each dance has a maximum possible score of 13,333 points. If you score above 2,000, you get 1 star, above 4,000 is 2 stars, above 6,000 is 3 stars, above 8,000 is 4 stars, and above 10,000 is a 5-star performance (very good). In 2017, they introduced superstars for 11,000. In 2018, they introduced megastars for 12,000. The top players hit 13,000 on many of the dances (but so far there isn’t any special name for this).

By the way, the Just Dance World Cup online qualifiers usually adjust the scores to help ensure fairness across all of the platforms. So, for example, it might be better to master a platform where the scores tend to be a bit lower and be #50 in the world on that platform than it to use a platform where the scores tend to be very high and be #300 in the world on the easier platform. No matter which platform you choose, it’s not easy to master all of the dances, some dances will seem very hard, and you’ll find some phenomenal players who seem to be amazing at every dance.

## HOW TO SETUP THE PS4 CAMERA FOR JUST DANCE

The setup of the PS4 camera can make a big difference in score, especially if you dance well.

Simple things like shadows, adverse lighting conditions, or confusion with objects in the background can give you X’s and OK’s even if you’re dancing well enough to hit Perfects.

It can seem inconsistent because it might affect certain moves but not others.

Xbox Kinect is very easy to use: It’s not picky about most of the details that follow. The PS4 camera is very picky. (Unless you prefer to use PS Move in conjunction with the PS4 camera: In that case, most of the following details won’t matter.)

Following are several tips for how to optimize your Just Dance experience if you choose to use the PS4 camera (hands-free).

• Ideally, you should place a light directly above and behind the t.v. (When you’re watching the t.v., the light should be on the other side of it, in the narrow space between the t.v. and the wall.) I found a set of 3 photography lights with stands that rise up to 6 ft. for a good price at Amazon, and I currently place one of these directly behind the t.v. I have a photography umbrella attached to the light so that the light doesn’t blind me when I look at the t.v. (Make sure that the light can’t fall and that the umbrella or lampshade doesn’t make contact with the bulb: You don’t want a fire hazard.)
• Turn all other room lights off. Close the blinds. Close the curtains. You can even add fabric or aluminum foil. You don’t want a lot of daylight coming in. I even close the doors to the room. Side lights and back lights are especially problematic. If you use an overhead light instead of a light behind the t.v., or if your light is off-center with the t.v., you will get a diagonal shadow that causes problems. With overhead lighting, the shadow can also make it harder for the camera to sense that your feet are apart and get your leg angles right.
• Place the camera on top of the t.v., ideally at least 5 feet off the ground. (You could potentially use a tripod, if you can get your t.v., t.v. stand, tripod, and light positioned properly, without any danger of the light falling and causing a fire.) Make sure that the camera is level. Be very careful not to touch the lenses when you setup your camera.
• Why should the light be behind the t.v. and directly above its center? Because if you put the camera on top of the t.v., then the camera won’t see your shadow. By placing the light above (and behind) the camera, that’s the one place that you can put the light and not have the shadow cause problems. (It’s a geometry problem: Your body hides the shadow behind it relative to the light source.)
• You also don’t want direct light entering the camera. (That’s why I put the light both behind and above the camera.)
• Make sure that the camera and t.v. aren’t blocking the light from reaching your whole dance area. A lightbulb about a foot above the camera (and slightly behind it so that the light doesn’t enter the lens) should do it, but you want to view it from the side and trace out the angle to be sure).
• Bright white bulbs are ideal (not yellowish). A white lampshade is better. You’re supposed to have “ample” light, though I seem to get good results with a single bright photography lamp with the umbrella blocking the light. Too little light and you won’t get good facial recognition. But too much light and what should be colors (like yellow, green, and orange) will turn white in the video feed (and this can be a problem, too).
• In my experience, it’s best to wear clothes with solid bright colors (like yellow, green, orange). Avoid patterns like stripes, or even rather solid outfits that have a dark line showing (like some exercise clothes do) and dance with a dark background. Solid bright colors are good (provided they don’t add those dark borders). Unfortunately, wearing dark clothes against a light background didn’t work nearly as well for me, which is a problem because many rooms have off-white walls. It’s not too hard to make a dark background though. I’ve seen it done by hanging dark (but lightweight) fabrics on the wall. There are photography backgrounds that measure 10 feet by 10 feet (though 10 feet wide may be a little too short for a few dances; I used dark blankets to extend mine).
• I also have a very large dark rug on top of my carpet.
• Try to make all of the seams as seamless as possible. That is, if two fabrics hang beside one another, you want that edges where they join to appear seamless. The same goes for the background connecting to the floor.
• Wear exercise clothes that show your arm and leg angles clearly. They should fit tight enough that a bent leg shows clearly, but not so tight as to hamper your movement. You’re probably going to sweat a lot if you dance much, so they should also be able to handle this well.
• Blacks, whites, browns, tans, beiges, and grays don’t seem to work as well for clothes. These may be confused with shadows or lighting issues. I try to wear bright green, yellow, or orange pants and shirts. White shoes seem to be fine. (I haven’t had much luck when trying to wear red. Maybe it just wasn’t my lucky color. Ha.)
• If you really want to go overboard, you can wear long sleeves and costume gloves (matching bright color), and add a blue sleeveless shirt (because yellow, green, and orange don’t contrast well for the camera, as bright colors tend to look much the same in the video feed). The bright sleeves might help the camera detect your arms better, and the blue sleeveless shirt aids in contrast when your hands or arms are in front of your shirt from the camera’s point of view. Though it can get hot in a hurry if you dance with sleeves and gloves, so you need excellent A/C, a ton of water, and to really be in shape. It’s certainly safer and more comfortable not to wear sleeves and gloves. You’d hate to pass out from heat exhaustion when you’re supposed to be having fun. (If you’re hitting about the same score with or without the sleeves, definitely don’t bother with the sleeves.)
• When you first install your camera and turn the game on, it’s confusing. The PS4 expects you to be sitting down apparently, and doesn’t know that you bought the camera to dance. Don’t bring a chair in. Just squat a bit to get your head in the right position for the initial setup.
• Study the live video feed that you see in the camera setup (or later, where you go to add facial recognition data, or when you first turn on the PS4 and it’s looking to see who you are). Your arms should appear a different color than your chest, otherwise the camera might not detect your hands/arms when they point at the screen or are placed across your chest, for example.
• When you first use the camera in game play with Just Dance, stand upright. Don’t squat.
• Before the dance begins, don’t just stand like a statue when you’re trying to get the camera to recognize you. Walk left to right a couple of feet and back, wave your arms slowly, shake a leg. Watch the body-outline picture that you see (which, unfortunately, your face will partially block: by walking slowly right/left, you can glimpse your foot in the adjacent slot). Make sure that it has the shape of a human (no missing arms or legs, no funny blobs attached to your head or feet, two distinct legs showing when your feet are apart). If you see problems here, it can cause problems with your scoring.
• Occasionally, you see a hole (or a couple of holes) inside of your body-outline picture. Walk right/left a few steps (while facing the same way towards the camera). If the hole stayed behind and doesn’t disappear when you return, you need to clean the camera lenses with appropriate cloth and cleaner. If the holes move with you, it’s an issue with your clothing (some material may be reflective, or maybe it’s the shape or curvature). If the hole disappears when you place your hand on it, it’s proof that the problem is your clothing.
• Ideally, you should stand around 10 feet from the camera, and you should be able to dance in an area 6 feet to 13 feet from the camera (because some dances require you to move forward or backward if you want to hit perfect scores).
• Before the dance begins, when you’re trying to get the camera to recognize you, walk forwards a couple of steps with your arms raised high and jump. You want your entire body-outline picture to remain in the camera’s field of view, from your shoes on the floor to your hands up high. Otherwise, you need to adjust the angle of your camera (without touching the lens area). As you walk left/right through your dancing area, note whether your body-outline picture tends to do some something strange in a particular location. There can be an object in the background causing confusion for the camera.
• If the camera obviously stops picking you up and you’re suddenly taking X on every move through a variety of different types of moves, look up at the body-outline picture at the top of the screen and see if anything is strange about it. Stop the dance, close the game. Closing the game is the best way to get the camera to refresh properly. I like to go add new facial recognition data (without deleting the old data) so it can see how I looked when the problem happened.
• That camera can continue tracking you between songs and eventually the picture can degrade. Picking up a towel and wiping sweat in front of the camera can potentially confuse it, or coming in contact with furniture. If after dancing to multiple songs the body-outline picture seems to be deteriorating (always check this at the beginning of a dance; you can also see this at the top of the screen during the dance, but ideally you should be focused on the choreography and not this picture), the most reliable way to correct the problem is to close the game and reopen it.
• Use the newer model PS4 camera. There is an older model for the PS4; it doesn’t work as well.
• My setup isn’t the only one that can work fairly well. If you watch YouTube videos of Just Dance streams, you can find other setups that seem to work well. However, make sure that you’re watching a video made with PS4 and not Xbox One (because Xbox One works well almost regardless of the color of your clothes and the background and the placement of your lights).
• The PS4 camera may not be perfect, but on almost all of the dances, my PS4 score is within 300 points of my Xbox One score (and that’s probably a reflection of the fact that I’m far more experienced with Xbox, and may not have anything to do with the PS4 camera not being as good), and some of my PS4 scores are actually better than my Xbox One scores. It’s reasonable to hit megastars on virtually every dance on every platform as long as your whole body is closely mimicking the dancer that you see on the screen.
• If your setup is fairly good and you’re hitting X’s or OK’s on moves, you’re making some mistake. Occasionally, it turns out to be what seems to be a rather subtle detail, but usually it’s something that you either missed or just didn’t pull off quite right. It can be technique, timing, synchronization, too fast, too slow, or something else (like the coordination between two different body parts, or maybe even things like smoothness or control). I bet the game designers spend time thinking about what the best dancers do well that other dancers don’t do quite as well and incorporate these details into the scoring of some of the moves. Each move is scored differently, so if you experiment and decide that something doesn’t matter, well, it might turn out to matter with some other move (I know this first-hand). It’s really hard to make your whole body copy the dancer on the screen perfectly, so when you see an X or OK, it’s most likely because you didn’t dance quite as well as the game expects.

## JUST DANCE 2019 REVIEW

The newest edition of Just Dance has been out for a few days, and I already love it.

These are the best choreographies of any Just Dance, in my opinion.

There are some really cool moves this year. Watch the preview for One Kiss and watch where she lifts off her jacket. The extreme dances have some cool moves, too: For example, Finesse Extreme has two gold moves bouncing off the floor. I don’t remember so many cool moves in any previous version of the game.

So far, the dances have been more comfortable and enjoyable. In the past, there have always been some dances with moves that feel somewhat uncomfortable or seem to wear unnecessarily on the knees or back. There have also been many very high-energy dances where I’m trying to catch my breath after the song ends. This year, everything has been more comfortable and I’ve retained energy to dance more even after the most energetic dances.

There are several popular songs in 2019, like New Rules and No Tears Left to Cry, but even songs that I’ve never heard of before have turned out to be fun to dance to, such as Narco and Water Me (two of my favorites).

It’s also family friendly. Kids will surely love the Pac Man dance and Un Poco Loco. There is also a separate Kids Mode with special dances just for kids.

This year, on the song selection menu you see the Dancer of the Week for each song (the best score of the week so far for that song) instead of the usual global and country leaderboards. At first I missed the old leaderboards, but this is growing on me. I like seeing who is doing well, and having some (usually unrealistic) score to strive towards. If you really want to see how you compare with other dancers, visit the World Dance Floor.

## Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks, science books, and self-publishing guides

# Looking for CreateSpace? What’s the Best Alternative Now?

## THE BEST PLACE TO PUBLISH A PRINT-ON-DEMAND BOOK

For 10 years, I have heartily recommended CreateSpace for self-publishing a paperback book.

But now if you visit CreateSpace, you will be directed elsewhere.

So what is the best place for print-on-demand now?

The two major options are Amazon KDP and Ingram Spark. There are a couple of other options, such as Lulu and BookBaby.

## AMAZON KDP

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is Amazon’s original self-publishing service.

kdp.amazon.com

Although it used to be exclusively for Kindle eBooks, it has recently expanded to offer paperbacks.

It has also evolved so that it either matches or surpasses CreateSpace in the most significant ways.

CreateSpace didn’t disappear. Rather, CreateSpace simply merged with KDP.

KDP’s paperbacks print on the same facilities used by CreateSpace.

You get the same quality with KDP as you could expect from CreateSpace.

Since KDP is Amazon’s company, KDP is the natural feed for Amazon sales, and most indie authors sell the vast majority of their books on Amazon.

KDP lets you self-publish for FREE. (But I do recommend investing in one printed proof before publishing.) KDP’s main competitor, Ingram Spark, charges a setup fee.

KDP is also the most convenient option. When you finish self-publishing your paperback, you can self-publish a Kindle eBook edition with the same publishing service.

The distribution is slightly better with KDP than it was with CreateSpace (now that KDP added Canada distribution and Expanded Distribution, and is expanding to other countries like Australia, Japan, and Mexico—actually, I already sold a book in Japan).

KDP offers a free ISBN option.

You can now advertise paperbacks on Amazon by publishing with KDP.

As with CreateSpace, the free Expanded Distribution channel will get your book into the Ingram catalog, and if you use the free ISBN option you may get into Baker & Taylor.

The royalties are the same (except for sales in Europe for books under 100 pages).

Authors based in Europe can now have proofs printed from the UK or continental Europe instead of in the states.

If an author was looking forward to using CreateSpace, in principle KDP should seem just as compelling.

For most authors, I recommend checking out KDP’s print option first.

## INGRAM SPARK

Ingram Spark and KDP are the two main print-on-demand companies.

www.ingramspark.com

Ingram has been a major distributor in the publishing business for decades and the Ingram catalog is famous in the publishing industry.

Ingram does charge a setup fee, and you may spend more ordering proofs or author copies (depending).

Some successful illustrated children’s authors who self-publish sell hardcovers well. For a print-on-demand hardcover, I recommend Ingram Spark.

(If you just want hardcover author copies and don’t need to sell them print-on-demand, another option is Nook Express. Note that Barnes & Noble’s Nook Express doesn’t currently offer print-on-demand with distribution; it’s currently for ordering author copies. However, Nook Express has been growing and expanding recently, so perhaps this will change in the future.)

A few indie authors who thoroughly research how to format their books with stores in mind, how to prepare an effective PR kit, and how to approach bookstores in person effectively may find it beneficial to self-publish with Ingram Spark. Most indie authors struggle with bookstore sales unless they sell author copies in person to local stores, in which case you could have these printed at KDP. But if you’re among the few who can get bookstores (and other types of stores that sell books, which can be valuable) to order directly from Ingram’s catalog, you might be able to set a discount to help with this (they could order from Ingram through KDP’s Expanded Distribution, too, but there you can’t control the discount).

Authors who aren’t based in the US and who expect significant sales in certain countries through Ingram’s distribution channels might benefit from Ingram Spark.

These are a few examples where Ingram Spark’s print-on-demand option makes sense compared to KDP.

Though I will say, in general, Ingram seems attractive with its potential distribution. But getting into the catalog is the easy part. Getting stores to order through those distribution channels is the hard part. Even KDP will get you into the Ingram catalog through the Expanded Distribution option. And if you’re worried about KDP’s imprint name showing as Independently Published, simply buying your own ISBN from Bowker (in the US at least) will solve that problem (and let you create your own imprint name).

## OTHER OPTIONS

BookBaby is an interesting option for both print-on-demand paperbacks and for eBooks.

www.bookbaby.com

BookBaby has a big advantage for authors who are already planning to invest a significant amount of money on a variety of publishing services, such as formatting or editing.

Among eBook aggregators and distributors, BookBaby also stands out in terms of its Kindle offering (with a KDP Select option).

I generally encourage new self-published authors to try to learn formatting on their own and to keep their overall publishing costs to a minimum. You have no way of knowing whether you will sell enough copies to recover your costs, and many new books don’t sell particularly well, so it makes sense not to risk too much when starting out.

Also, if you wind up publishing several books, and most successful indie authors do, think of how much you could save in the long run by learning how to do some of the work, like formatting, on your own.

However, if you do need to hire professional services, BookBaby offers a variety of paid services in addition to what appear to be competitive distribution options.

BookBaby also posts a satisfaction guarantee on their website.

I featured an inspirational story on author Cheryl Holt on my blog last year. Cheryl is one example of a top author using BookBaby. (But of course, there are no guarantees that you will have success, regardless of how you choose to publish. My example just shows that it can be done.)

Another print-on-demand option which has been around for years is Lulu. You might find Lulu to be more expensive for a typical paperback, but you might also discover some publishing options at Lulu that are hard to find elsewhere. For example, suppose you wish to order author copies with spiral binding.

www.lulu.com

If you were among the few authors who could have benefited by directing customers to the CreateSpace eStore, Lulu or BookBaby’s BookShop may be of interest to you (but you may have to use BookBaby for all of your distribution channels, and you may need a minimum investment to publish with BookBaby).

## Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides

By chrismcmullen