The New KDP Community Forum


Amazon recently updated the community help forum at Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).

It seems like it has gone unchanged forever, until now. I can remember visiting it 9 years ago.

What has changed?

  • The look is different. The layout and design changed significantly.
  • The forum topics have been consolidated into a single column. These used to be divided into separate groups.
  • The recent announcements are easy to find and (for now) they are updated. Presently, I see announcements regarding the latest version of the Kindle Previewer (which now has a helpful Auto-Advance View and a Thumbnail Pane), the KDP Select Global Fund for the past two months, and an announcement about taxes.
  • The search option has changed. After doing a search, there used to be an advanced option. Also, the search used to default to the current year only (which severely limited the number of useful search results early in the year). I miss the advanced search options, but also remember that the old search tool suffered some problems. I haven’t used the new search tool enough yet to determine if it is more effective. But I do have a tip: After doing the search, click Discussions or click View More in order to see more than just a handful of search results.

The new KDP community forum is just one of numerous changes that Amazon has rolled out recently.

  • The KDP help pages have been gradually changing. For example, Amazon finally got rid of the 127 KB information regarding GIF images (they are no longer automatically converted to JPEG simply due to this number), and several new help pages have been added (little by little) regarding the new KDP paperback option. The KDP help pages continue to improve.
  • As I mentioned earlier, Amazon recently introduced a new version of the downloadable Kindle Previewer, making it a much more convenient way to thoroughly preview a Kindle eBook.
  • On a related note, the Kindle reading apps (for PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android, etc.) have also been updated (and consolidated into fewer options—for example, there is now one app for iOS).
  • You can now add X-Ray to your Kindle eBook: I have a detailed how-to article about X-Ray right here.

I love these improvements. However, I’m on the verge of publishing a book called Kindle Formatting Magic. I expected to publish my book today, but as I ran it through the previewer one more time to check that all of the hyperlinks work properly, I discovered the new KDP community help forum, which meant that I had to revise all of my tips regarding how to use the KDP community search tool effectively (and I had to revise both the paperback and Kindle versions).

It’s like deja-vu. When I was testing my book on various Kindle reading apps, I discovered that they have been updated, which meant more revisions to my book. For weeks, I’ve been discovering new features (like X-Ray) and have been revising my book repeatedly so that it would be fully up-to-date when I publish it.

But it’s a good thing. Had I published a couple of months ago, I’d be revising and republishing. Now it looks like the timing might turn out well: Hopefully, most of the changes to Amazon will have already been completed just as I’m about to publish, so perhaps my book will be not only be fully updated when I press the publish button, but maybe it will stay that way for a while without constant revisions on my part.

Maybe tomorrow Kindle Formatting Magic will hit the market. Soon, definitely, very soon.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Copyright © 2018

Chris McMullen

Kindle Unlimited Bounce Back, February, 2018

Image from ShutterStock.


The Kindle Unlimited per-page rate rebounded to $0.00466 for February, 2018 after having dropped down to $0.00448 for January, 2018.

The KDP Select Global Fund for February, 2018 is $20 million. Although this is a drop from January’s $20.9 million, it’s still the second best payout ever.

I look at the $20,000,000 per month and see a significant market for Kindle eBooks borrowed and read through Kindle Unlimited (and Amazon Prime).

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Copyright © 2018

Chris McMullen

Update to Amazon’s Downloadable Kindle Previewer 3


Amazon KDP’s most recent update to the downloadable Kindle Previewer 3 (version 3.20) includes some nice improvements.

  • Auto-Advance View with adjustable speed allows click-free previewing.
  • Thumbnail Pane with adjustable size shows you several pages at once.

If you haven’t used the downloadable Kindle Previewer recently, a few other features are worth noting.

In particular, just above the Thumbnail Pane, if your Kindle eBook supports Enhanced Typesetting, you can adjust View All to one of the following:

  • Pages
  • Images
  • Links
  • Tables
  • Drop Caps

The View All option provides a convenient way to quickly check all of your hyperlinks, inspect all of your images, or find your drop caps.

Some other helpful features have been around for a long time now.

  • Change the background from white to black, sepia, or green (though green isn’t available for iOS). What is relatively new is the green background.
  • Try out different fonts that customers can select, such as Bookerly or Caecilia, along with different font sizes. The new type faces were introduced with Kindle’s new Enhanced Typesetting feature (which has been out for a while now).
  • Switch between portrait and landscape mode (this has always been available).
  • Though one thing that may seem backwards at first is that the device type is limited to tablet, phone, and Kindle ereader. Even the online previewer has limited the device types. If you own a few devices (or can borrow them), nothing beats testing your MOBI or AZK file out on an actual device. For those devices that you don’t have, the tablet, phone, and ereader options are designed to mimic the general experience. (If you upload your converted MOBI file to a Kindle Fire, look for your book under Documents instead of Books.)
  • To preview on IOS, as in the past you need to download the AZK file. Click File > Export and adjust Save as Type from MOBI to AZK. You will need to use iTunes on the iOS device.

The two newest features, Auto-Advance View and the Thumbnail Pane have me especially excited.

In the picture above, you can see a preview of my newest book, Kindle Formatting Magic, which will be published in just a few days. Since the print version has 500 pages, I was very grateful for the Auto-Advance View. It is saving me from a tremendous amount of manual clicking. (I still do some manual clicking, of course, but this is a huge time-saver for me.) It’s also nice to see several pages at once in the Thumbnail Pane.

The prior versions of the Kindle Previewer wasted most of the space on my monitor. The Thumbnail Pane finally utilizes my screen space much more effectively.

I also appreciate the options to quickly find all of my hyperlinks, images, and drop caps using the View All option. I go from one hyperlink to the next, click on it, and check if it works. That is really handy.

My preview isn’t complete until I test my book out on several devices, but I always spend the most amount of time with the downloadable Kindle Previewer (considered to be more reliable than the convenient online previewer), so these updates are wonderful for me. Thank you, Amazon.

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.

Check out the new Amazon Author Central Pages at Audible (for Audio Books) + a couple of tips


Author pages created via Amazon’s Author Central now automatically feed into (an Amazon company for audio books).

You can see a screenshot of my Audible author page above.

When I visit Audible’s home page,

it shows me a few best sellers, but doesn’t offer any obvious way to search for audio books.

What the site wants is for me to sign in with my account to initiate a 30-day free trial.

But I’m not ready to begin a trial. That’s nice to know, but why not wait until you’re ready to begin your trial?

So here is a way around this problem:

  1. Scroll down to the bottom of Audible’s home page.
  2. Click the New Releases link (even if you don’t want to explore New Releases).
  3. Now you will see a search field at the top right corner. This will let you search the entire store, not just new releases.

I followed those steps to search the entire Audible store for audio books without having to login with an account.


If so, here is another handy tip for you.

When I searched for my audio book (Why Do We Have to Go to School?) and clicked the link to open its Audible page, I got a ridiculously long URL:

Of course, I could have shortened it on my blog because I can make the Text to Display different from the full URL, but I wanted to show you how ridiculously long that URL is.

There is a simple way to shorten it without having to create a special link or apply HTML.

The trick is to find your ASIN. It’s already there. If you look at the long URL above, you will see the following ASIN (just after Audiobook):


Copy and paste this ASIN. Next, copy and paste the beginning of the Audible URL, which is and join them together. When I do this, I get the following short link, which works:

That’s a handy short link to use to share your Audible audio book page.

There is a similar trick at Amazon for print books and Kindle eBooks. First find your ISBN or ASIN, and join this to like my example below. But my example below ‘looks’ different from my example above. When I placed my ISBN, 1512044288, at the end of to make the URL, it automatically turned into the Kindle Instant Preview for the Kindle edition (even though I used the ISBN for the print edition—the two editions are linked together at Amazon, so it doesn’t matter). I don’t see a URL below: Instead I see a picture of the front cover, a Buy on Amazon button, a Share button, and a button to click to see a Free Preview (but since this is a print replica book created with the Kindle Textbook Creator, it just says that the preview isn’t available—if you have a reflowable Kindle eBook, like most eBooks, you would instead see a free preview).

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.

‘You Can’t Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too’


We ate out at a nice restaurant last night.

(I won’t say which one. Normally, everything is great, so I don’t want to call negative attention to it.)

The ambiance, meals, and service were wonderful as usual—but towards the end…

Waiters and waitresses routinely ask if we would like dessert. The restaurant gets an add-on sale and since the bill is higher, the waiter or waitress is likely to receive a somewhat larger tip.

Most of the time we decline though, partly since dessert isn’t the healthiest part of the meal.

However, the chocolate cake at this restaurant is delicious, so we placed an order.

About ten minutes later, we still haven’t received our cake.

Then suddenly our waiter walks past our table holding a chocolate cake high over his shoulder.

Wait a minute. Did one of his other tables place a dessert order just before we did?

The waiter rounds a corner, reaches for something with his free hand, and pulls out a fork.

Oh, maybe he was just getting an extra fork in case we needed it.

That’s when I see him poke the fork into the cake and eat a bite out of it.

My brain is racing. I don’t like confrontation.

He didn’t put the used fork back into the cake for a second bite. The fork that was used never returned to the cake.

I reasoned that the cake must still be okay then.

At least he did this out in the open where I could watch the whole thing. (Just imagine what they do in the back room when you have no idea what’s going on. Actually, let’s just imagine that never happens.)

In fact, once the cake arrived, I couldn’t see a place on the cake where a bite was missing. Maybe, just maybe, there had been an excess piece of frosting sticking out and he used his fork to make the cake look nicer. (Of course, there were better ways to go about that.)

Later on, I realized that it would have been hilarious if I had had the courage to ask, “Did our cake taste yummy?”

(Their cake really is irresistible!)

So we ate the cake. We didn’t complain. We did gain a nice story to tell.

It’s not quite over though.

When he brings the bill, he does a second thing that I’ve never seen a waiter or waitress do.

He mentions that there is a spot for the tip on the credit card receipt. He only used 3-4 words (I forget exactly which ones) and his voice was quiet, but the point was clear.

(Wait. Do you mean the free bite of cake wasn’t enough of a tip?)

As an author, I’ve been trying to think of a proper analogy. Just imagine that you visit a bookstore, purchase a book, and then the cashier reads the first page of the book, rips it out, and hands you your purchase.


It’s almost ready. I’m working hard every day to put the finishing touches on it.

Looking back through my old files (and my first WordPress post announcing it), I see that I’ve been working on it for 3 years.

After two major overhauls, it weighs in at over 500 pages on 8.5″ x 11″ sheets of paper (obviously, it will also be available for Kindle).

I’m so close. The cover looks fantastic, and I want the inside to make the reading experience just as magical as the cover.

This book is a big part of the reason that I haven’t blogged much recently, nor much towards the end of last year.

I have several good posts lined up though. As soon as I press that golden Publish button, several articles will start coming out.

Today, for example, I was polishing up the index for the print edition, and I realized I have some advice for how to put one together.

Chris McMullen, author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of workbooks

Kindle Unlimited per-page rate for January, 2018

Background image from ShutterStock.


In January, 2018 the Kindle Unlimited per-page rate was $0.00448.

It has dropped down a bit, after a steady climb for several months, which culminated in a brief appearance above half a penny per page ($0.00506) in December, 2017.

It isn’t unusual for the per-page rate to drop from December to January:

  • December, 2016 paid $0.00524, dropping to $0.00457 for January, 2017.
  • December, 2015 paid $0.00461, dropping to $0.00411 for January, 2016.
  • Prior to that, KDP Select didn’t use the per-page model, yet it was still common for January’s royalties to drop compared to December.

So you shouldn’t PANIC. This is normal.

Why does January typically pay less than December? Amazon sells a ton of Kindle devices for the holidays, and many customers try their free month of Kindle Unlimited. More customers are probably reading a high volume of pages at this time, too. Whatever the reason, the per-page rate is still looking good compared to six months ago, when it had dwindled down close to $0.004 per page. Amazon introduced KENPC 3.0 and the per-page rate recovered nicely. It’s still up 12% over that low point.

On a related note, the KDP Select Global Fund hit a record high, $20.9 million, the first time it has ever climbed over $20 million, and up a clear million from December.

So even though the per-page rate is down, Amazon still paid a million more dollars in royalties for Kindle Unlimited (and Amazon Prime) borrows of KDP Select books (and that’s on top of what they paid for sales, and also on top of the All-Star bonuses which are awarded separately).

Two years ago, January, 2016, the per-page rate had dropped down to what was at the time a record low (and it has since only returned to that point once). In comparison, January, 2018 is looking pretty good. While it has taken a typical drop from December, bear in mind that December was at a relative high, a rare appearance above $0.005. It’s more that December was unusually high than January is atypically low.

Write more books, write engaging content, learn effective long-term marketing strategies, and little fluctuations in per-page rates will hardly seem to matter.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Copyright © 2018


Chris McMullen

How to Format a Textbook or Workbook for Kindle


I’ve published several workbooks and a few textbooks in both print and Kindle, and I’ve written a few detailed articles about using Amazon’s free Kindle Textbook Creator.

Today’s article adds something new: I’m using my experience to compare three different methods of formatting a textbook or workbook as a Kindle eBook.

Let’s suppose that you wrote a textbook or workbook using Microsoft Word and have already formatted it as a print-ready PDF, and now you wish to convert it to an eTextbook for Kindle.

There are three viable ways to go about this:

  1. Simply run your PDF through Amazon’s free Kindle Textbook Creator. Like magic, in a few moments you will have a KPF file that you can preview within the Kindle Textbook Creator and then upload to KDP. This is by far the most convenient option for the author or publisher. However, a book that looks good on paper and runs through the Kindle Textbook Creator is often inconvenient to read, especially on smaller screens, and the eTextbook won’t be available across all devices. If the customer must pinch-and-zoom frequently to read the text, this will become tedious quickly.
  2. Modify your Word file and create a new PDF file optimized for the Kindle Textbook Creator. This isn’t as convenient for the author, but it’s not too inconvenient, really. Once you convince yourself that it’s worthwhile and get started, it isn’t that bad. The benefit is that it can improve the customer’s reading experience. Back in Word, you can set all of your page margins to zero, since that just wastes space on a Kindle device. As a result, it makes the text slightly easier to read. If it’s viable, you can consider significantly increasing the font size and reformatting the pages to accommodate the change (as it will alter the page layout significantly). If the text is large enough, customers may be able to read your eTextbook on more devices without using pinch-and-zoom. Also, if you have images that include text, see if it may be viable to make the text larger in those images.
  3. Create a reflowable eTextbook. Most Kindle eBooks are reflowable. The few exceptions include fully illustrated children’s books, comic books, and richly formatted eTextbooks. All novels and text-heavy nonfiction books are reflowable eBooks, meaning that the customer can adjust the font size, font style, and line spacing. If it’s formatted well, this can make for the optimal reading experience. The main reason that eTextbooks are often formatted as fixed-format rather than reflowable format is that it’s much more convenient to run a PDF through the Kindle Textbook Creator than it is to reformat a textbook as a reflowable eBook. Plus, a richly formatted textbook presents more formatting challenges: If you don’t navigate the reflowable Kindle design challenges well (including bullet points, equations, callouts, sidebars, multiple columns, tables, figures, and page layout), any formatting mistakes can make the result worse than what you would get with the Kindle Textbook Creator.


In my first example, I will compare options 1 and 3.

My most recent math workbook, Fractions Essentials Workbook with Answers, includes 20 chapters and 256 pages.

Each chapter begins with a concise review of essential concepts and fully-solved examples with explanations.

There are several equations that wouldn’t format well in Kindle without turning them into pictures.

Every chapter ends with a set of practice exercises.

At the back of the print edition is an answer key with the answer to every problem plus intermediate steps, hints, and explanations.

This definitely qualifies as a richly formatted textbook.

I formatted this book two different ways:

  • I ran my print-ready PDF through Amazon’s free Kindle Textbook Creator.
  • I converted my Word document into a reflowable eBook using the same methods described in my Word to Kindle Formatting Magic book (to be published later in February, 2018, hopefully). I also moved the answers to the end of each chapter instead of putting them all at the back of the book. This makes it easier for the reader to find the answer key in the eBook (and I also added each chapter’s answer key to the active table of contents).

After creating both versions of the eTextbook, I decided to publish the reflowable version.

Above, you can see two sample pages of the preview of the KPF file shown in the Kindle Textbook Creator.

Here are a few features that I like about the version I created with the Kindle Textbook Creator (shown above):

  • It was quick and convenient for me to make.
  • The pages are well-defined. Sometimes, it’s nice to control the page layout and make content “fit” on a page. An entire problem set or example can be made to fill all of the space on a page.
  • I can refer to figures, equations, or sections by page number (like “see page 94”).
  • The Look Inside would look fine on Amazon, basically showing how the book looks on printed pages.

Here are a few features that I don’t like about the Kindle Textbook Creator version (shown above):

  • It’s inherently much harder to read. On many devices, some of the content requires using pinch-to-zoom, which would be inconvenient for customers.
  • Customers can’t adjust the font size, font style, or line spacing. This is the main limitation with trying to make a fixed format book easily readable.
  • The eTextbook wouldn’t be available on all devices. This limits your audience (and occasionally upsets customers).
  • It’s not as easy to make hyperlinks work. Plus, the last time I tested internal hyperlinks (like for an active table of contents), the hyperlinks didn’t work in the published eTextbook. Device navigation does work though (and you can enter the table of contents for device navigation directly in the Kindle Textbook Creator). Unfortunately, a few customers are used to finding a page of clickable hyperlinks, and either don’t know how to find device navigation or don’t want to do that (or have an older device).
  • It’s black and white. (But that’s my fault and would have been easy to fix. I could easily change the pictures to color in Word and create a new print-ready PDF.)

Above, you can see two sample pages of the preview of the converted MOBI file in the KDP previewer.

Here are a few features that I like about the reflowable version (shown above):

  • It’s easy to read on any device with any size screen.
  • For any equation that was too complex to simply type on Kindle, I reformatted the equation as a picture so that it would be easily readable across all devices (you can see the large equations in the picture above).
  • Customers can adjust the font size, font style, and line spacing to their liking. You can see this in the picture below, where I show the effect of adjusting the font size. The customer can’t do that when you use the Kindle Textbook Creator.
  • It’s available on every device, so any customer who owns a Kindle device, Android tablet, Android phone, PC, laptop, Mac, iPad, or iPhone can read the eTextbook.
  • Creating all kinds of hyperlinks, internal and external, is easy. Both kinds of hyperlinks work, and you can easily make an active table of contents with clickable hyperlinks.
  • A few pictures show in color on devices with color displays. Since I took the time to reformat all of the pictures for Kindle, I added color shading to the pie slices.

Here are a few features that I don’t like about the reflowable version (shown above):

  • It took much more time to format the eBook (but it wasn’t insurmountable).
  • Depending on the display size and the reader’s choice of font size, font style, and line spacing, you never know when a page break may occur. This can begin a new example at the bottom of a screen, or it can leave a lot of blank space when a large figure doesn’t fit on the current page, for example. Overall, I think it came out well in many cases, but this is the main design challenge with the reflowable format: You can’t control the pagination or page layout nearly as well as you can with fixed format.
  • The pictures don’t scale with font size. (It is possible to do that with SVG images, but not all devices support SVG, so you have to do that with media queries, which entails extra work, and even then some customers will still see it without scalable images.)
  • I had to find any references to specific page numbers and find another way to say where that section, figure, table, or equation is. (You could achieve this with hyperlinks though.)
  • Since I made equation pictures large enough to read on any device, in the Look Inside feature at Amazon, and with the default font settings of certain devices, I don’t like how the equation pictures have text that is much larger than the font size. As you can see below, in some cases it is more pronounced than others: It varies with the customer’s choice of font size. But I felt that easy readability on any device was important: That was a major benefit of choosing the reflowable layout.


This example will compare eTextbooks made using all three options:

  1. Simply run your PDF through Amazon’s free Kindle Textbook Creator.
  2. Modify your Word file and create a new PDF file optimized for the Kindle Textbook Creator.
  3. Create a reflowable eTextbook.

This time, instead of adding sample pictures of each case to my article, I will include a link to an example at Amazon.

You can explore Amazon’s Look Inside for free, or you can read the free sample using a free Kindle app (like Kindle for PC or Kindle for iPad) or a Kindle device. The free sample will let you better preview how it looks as an eBook. (You don’t need to buy the book to see how it looks.)

For Option 3, you can click the Free Preview button in the picture. Unfortunately, for Options 1 and 2, this button doesn’t work in Amazon’s Free Preview picture. However, you can view the free preview by clicking the hyperlink below the figure to visit Amazon and then viewing Amazon’s Look Inside.

Note that the Look Insides of Options 1 and 2 look fine when you view them on a PC, laptop, or other device with a large screen.

However, if you read these eBooks on most Kindle devices or the actual eBooks with one of Amazon’s free reading apps, then the text for Option 1 is much harder to read.

The text for Option 3 is easy to read on any device or app, though it doesn’t come out as good in the Look Inside. That’s one of the misleading quirks of Amazon’s Look Inside feature displaying a Kindle eBook as a scrollable webpage on a PC or laptop display. It’s surprising that they don’t show all Kindle Look Insides for reflowable eBooks using Page Flip or the way that you see Option 3 when you click the Free Preview button. While that isn’t perfect, it portrays a reflowable eBook more realistically.

Option 1: Simple PDF conversion using the Kindle Textbook Creator.

For the following book, I took the print-ready PDF and simply ran it through the Kindle Textbook Creator with minimal changes.

This is the most convenient option for the author, but it’s not as easy for the customer to read.

Trigonometry Essentials Practice Workbook with Answers

Option 2: Optimized Word file for the Kindle Textbook Creator before creating a PDF.

For the following book, I zeroed the page margins, changed the page size and aspect ratio, and significantly enlarged the font size. After this, it took some time to improve the page layout.

Then I ran the new PDF file through the Kindle Textbook Creator.

The result is easier to read across all devices without having to pinch-and-zoom.

However, as with all fixed format eBooks, the customer can’t adjust the font size, font style, or line spacing, and with the Kindle Textbook Creator, the eTextbook isn’t available across all devices and apps.

Learn or Review Trigonometry: Essential Skills

Option 3: Converted Word file to reflowable format.

For the following book, which I just published two days ago, I invested a great deal of time converting my Word document to a reflowable Kindle eBook (following the instructions in my book, Word to Kindle Formatting Magic, to be released later in February, 2018, hopefully).

It wasn’t as convenient for me, but the result is readable across all devices, the eBook is available across all devices, and the customer can adjust the font size, font style, and line spacing. Plus, there is an active table of contents with clickable hyperlinks that work.

Fractions Essentials Workbook with Answers

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.

Do Something Cool with Your Book Covers


If you’re an author who has a book cover with visual appeal, here is your chance to raise that visual appeal to a higher level.

Build something cool with your book cover.

Although designing a cover that has strong visual appeal is a challenge, building with a book cover is much easier than it looks.

First of all, you could keep it two-dimensional, and simply use copy/paste to create rectangular blocks. Anything that you can build by stacking together blocks, you could build with your cover.

You don’t have to work with rectangles. You could crop your cover to other shapes.

But even three-dimensional images are relatively easy. There are apps that can help you achieve three-dimensional rotations, and some common picture software programs have this feature built-in.

You could even do this with Word. (Though Word is common and it’s easy to do with Word, one drawback will be limited DPI, in case you’re planning to print the results. You can make the page size 20″ x 20″ in Word with zero margins to maximize the picture size, then later transfer the picture to real picture-editing software to create a smaller image with higher DPI than what Word offers.)

In recent versions of Word, select the picture, go to the Format tab, look for Picture Effects, and choose 3-D Rotation. If you make 3 copies of your cover, you can put the right combination of 3 of the presets together to make a cube. (However, if your cover isn’t square, you’ll need to squeeze the aspect ratio for the “top,” or add a border to the cover to make it square before you start like I did with my astronomy cover above. For rectangular covers, you can make the top piece square after unlocking the aspect ratio in the Size options and then making the width equal the height.)

In the picture above, I rotated my algebra cover two different directions and pasted them together. If I had only used two, I could have added a top or bottom to make a cube, but I wanted to show that the cube isn’t your only option. Use your creativity. You can make anything from dominoes to pyramids.

You can see a pyramid that I created above. That’s the cover for my Kindle Formatting Magic book, which will be published later this month (hopefully), which was designed by Melissa Stevens at Once you make a box out of your cover, you can use copy/paste and stack the boxes together to make just about anything.

Illustrator Melissa Stevens made the shapes that you see above using a variety of my book covers. She also designed the header for my self-publishing blog using the covers for my self-publishing books. One of the pictures shows a boxed set, which is something you can make when you have a few related books.

Below I have a simple picture of one of my book covers walking down a runway like a model. The judges are holding up scores to judge it (not that there’s much to judge on that cover, as it just consists of text—but that’s a funny thing about covers: especially with nonfiction, something simple like that can be effective).

Another cool thing you can do is take a picture of a city (but be careful, some of the stock photos that you see of big cities have limitations on their usage) and add your book cover to it. For example, Chris the Storyreading Ape ( made the picture below using the cover for my mathematical puzzle book.


Of course, the book cover itself can help with (or hinder) book marketing.

But if you make something cool with your book cover, it provides an additional opportunity.

I don’t mean to suggest that if you create a box out of your book cover that your book will suddenly become a bestseller.

I’m saying that there are ways that you could use this effectively, depending on your creativity and marketing skills (but even if they’re lacking, you might get a little traffic from it).

The big problem with book marketing is that you want everyone in the world to learn about your book, but it’s really hard to find strangers who are receptive to marketing that basically says, “This is my book, would you please buy it?”

Thousands of authors are blogging, tweeting, interacting on Facebook, advertising, writing articles, and everything else that they can think of that they might be willing to try to help spread the word about their books. Some marketing is more effective than others.

Simply reminding people that you’re an author and that you wrote a book, or simply telling that your book is the best read ever has limited effect.

Authors strive to find other ways to catch readers’ interest, hoping that once the reader becomes interested, they’ll notice that they’re authors and then be willing to check out their books. This is the heart of book marketing, combined with author branding.

So making something cool with your cover is another way to possibly catch readers’ interest with a cool visual display. Getting people to notice that visual display, well that’s another part of marketing, where you try to widen your reach.

You can use your book cover creation in a variety of ways:

  • in a blog, tweet, or post
  • to make a bookmark (a handy marketing tool, something that may actually get used by readers)
  • add it as a secondary picture on your author page
  • wear it on a t-shirt and see if it sparks any conversations about your book

Some authors have the creativity and marketing insight to really take advantage of a strong visual display, but at the very least, it might help get a short spur of interest.

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.

Recent Changes to CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing Paperbacks

CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing

Recent Updates to Paperback Features

Amazon has recently added new features to KDP’s paperback self-publishing option:

  • You can now order printed proofs from KDP. This is a vital step toward ensuring that your book is ready to publish.
  • You can similarly order author copies from KDP. This makes it viable to stock your book in local stores and libraries, and creates marketing opportunities like advance review copies, paperback preorders (through Amazon Advantage), press release packages, paperback giveaways, and book signings.
  • UK and Europe authors should be particularly excited, as KDP introduced a new feature that you can’t get at CreateSpace: author copies and proofs printed and shipped from Europe.

The first two changes simply bring KDP up to speed to make it a viable alternative to CreateSpace and Ingram Spark.

But the last change offers authors in the United Kingdom and continental Europe something that they can’t get from CreateSpace.

Meanwhile, CreateSpace has also experienced some changes:

  • CreateSpace will be eliminating paid services in a few months. I don’t see this as an issue really, as I’ll explain below.
  • Links to the CreateSpace eStore now redirect traffic to Most authors are completely unaffected by this, as most authors get almost all of their paperback sales from anyway. The rare author who was capable of not only generating traffic to their eStore but who could also get many of those customers to overcome the CreateSpace shopping hurdles (like having to create a new account and pay for shipping) will need an alternative, such as BookBaby’s BookShop, Lulu’s storefront, or their own website with payment features.
  • Books automatically receive distribution to (Canada) within 30 days if the sales channel is enabled. This isn’t that new (although it’s not as well-known as it could be), but I mention it because it’s a distinct advantage that CreateSpace currently retains over Kindle Direct Publishing.

Regarding CreateSpace’s paid services, in many ways it was always better to find a third party. Some third parties offer a portable file or a finished product that lets you edit your own file in the future, whereas CreateSpace’s services required paying for corrections in the future. Some third parties are also more flexible, offer economic (or even free) samples of their work, and offer better communication with the actual editor or designer. If you do thorough homework on finding a third party, it may turn out better than what CreateSpace offered. The main advantage CreateSpace had for their paid services (like copyediting or cover design) was the backing of Amazon’s name and their satisfaction guarantee. If you’re looking for paid services from a print-on-demand publisher, one option is BookBaby.

Does this mean that KDP is the better POD option now?

It depends on your needs.

Here are advantages that Kindle Direct Publishing currently has over CreateSpace:

  • Convenience: You can use a single account, you get consolidated reporting for both paperbacks and Kindle eBooks, and the setup of both print and Kindle editions occurs on the same site.
  • UK and Europe: You can order printed proofs and author copies and have them printed and shipped from within Europe. This feature isn’t available at CreateSpace, though hundreds of authors have asked for it.
  • Japan: You gain distribution to (Japan).

Here are advantages that CreateSpace retains over KDP:

  • Distribution to other countries: CreateSpace offers better Expanded Distribution. For one, CreateSpace offers distribution to Canada (and those sales are reported and paid as sales, not at the lower Expanded Distribution royalties, which is a nice bonus) and to Mexico.
  • Distribution to bookstores: CreateSpace offers expanded distribution to bookstores and non-Amazon websites. KDP doesn’t provide this option yet.

So which is better for you?

  • Most self-published authors sell almost all of their paperback copies on In that case, KDP is now the better option.
  • If you ordinarily get significant sales through the Expanded Distribution channel, I would hold off on migrating your titles to KDP.
  • If you’re new to the self-publishing industry, I now recommend KDP over CreateSpace unless you have solid, thoroughly researched plans to use CreateSpace’s Expanded Distribution effectively to get your book stocked in local stores or libraries (though selling author copies rather than using the Expanded Distribution channel is in some cases the better way to achieve this—in that case, KDP works just fine, and gives you an advantage if you reside in the UK or continental Europe).
  • If you reside in the United Kingdom or continental Europe, KDP has the advantage of printing and shipping proofs and author copies from within Europe.

Another consideration is the future:

  • KDP has been adding features to their POD service, while CreateSpace recently removed the eStore option and will soon eliminate paid services.
  • It looks increasingly like KDP will eventually become CreateSpace’s equal sister company. (Perhaps the two companies will be consolidated, or perhaps all CreateSpace titles will migrate to KDP. I’m not worried about that, as I expect KDP to accommodate the transition well. They’ve gotten some experience with authors who have already made the transition.)

Kindle Direct Publishing is now one of the three major print-on-demand services, two of which are Amazon companies:

Ingram Spark is the main alternative to using an Amazon company. CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing provide the natural feed to, and most indie authors sell their paperbacks primarily on For the rare author who has thoroughly researched effective ways to take advantage of bookstore and library distribution possibilities, Ingram Spark may offer better worldwide distribution, and for the author who has a significant following outside of the United States, Ingram Spark may have an advantage. CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing offer a more natural feed to, and they also make self-publishing more affordable (Ingram Spark has higher setup fees).

Two alternatives to the Big Three include BookBaby and Lulu. If you’re looking for paid services or if you’re one of the rare authors who could make effective use of an eStore, these options may be worth considering. For example, check out BookBaby’s editing options and BookBaby’s BookShop.

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.

Tips for the New 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.


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, 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: 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.


(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 to reach my Amazon Author Page, which is easier to type than the default URL which is, 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.


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:


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.


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.