Why You Can’t Trust Negative Reviews (New York Times Article)

 

ONE-STAR REVIEWS—CAN YOU TRUST THEM?

The New York Times recently published the following article (click the link below to read it) entitled,

Why You Can’t Really Trust Negative Online Reviews

The article is fascinating—and not what I was expecting.

From the headline, I was expecting to see research into ulterior motives (like products being slammed by competitors).

Rather, I learned a few things about the habits of people who write both positive and negative reviews.

And it really makes you question whether we should place so much trust on the opinions of a very small percentage of product users.

If you’re going to read Amazon reviews, the article included a few tips to help you utilize them better.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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

A Few Things I Like about Kindle Unlimited (& the May, 2018 per-page Rate)

Image from ShutterStock.

POSITIVE INDICATORS

There are reasons to be positive about Kindle Unlimited:

  • The per-page rate is $0.00454 for May, 2018 for books borrowed through Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Prime, which is almost identical to what it was ($0.00456) in April, 2018.
  • The per-page rate has been quite stable this year, very close to $0.0045 each month since January, 2018.
  • The KDP Select Global Fund made a significant jump, climbing to $22.5 million for May, 2018 (compared to $21.2 million for April, 2018).
  • The KDP Select Global Fund has steadily risen for years: $22.5 million is a new high. (Many people argued with me when the per-page concept was introduced, saying it would quickly drop down way below $10 million.)
  • The Kindle Unlimited market is significant. Amazon is on pace to pay $250,000,000 in royalties for KDP Select eBooks borrowed through Kindle Unlimited (and also Amazon Prime, though Prime is far less significant). That’s in addition to All-Star bonuses and whatever Amazon pays the traditionally published books that participate in the program. That’s a significant share of the eBook market, and since many of the books are KDP Select eBooks, this is a fairly indie-friendly market.

TRY TO STAY POSITIVE

As a general rule, people who are upset about something are more likely to express their opinions (especially strong opinions).

(Beware also that some people who complain loudly have ulterior motives.)

This can make it a challenge to remain positive.

But if you want to remain motivated and improve your chances of reaching your long-term goals, you need to stay hopeful.

(And avoid getting sucked into black holes of complaining and despair.)

If you do get upset about something, channel your feelings and passion into something productive. Find a way to help it motivate yourself, as some successful authors have done by posting rejection letters on their walls.

WHAT I LIKE ABOUT KINDLE UNLIMITED

It’s too easy to get negative.

For example, you could look at the total number of books in Kindle Unlimited, or just the massive number added in the last 30 days.

But every negative has a positive. Instead of thinking of the large number of books as competition, think of how beneficial this is to help attract readers and keep them in the program (which if Amazon can continue to pay $20M per month in royalties and steadily growing, this is obviously working well).

Just like the big mistake that the “foolish” author who bashes the competition makes, similar books really don’t compete against one another. They are really complementary books that can thrive together. Customers read one good book, then want to find similar books. If an author persuades customers not to read similar books, many customers won’t discover that author’s books through those other books.

So here are a few things that I like about Kindle Unlimited (as both an author and a reader):

  • It’s affordable. Many of the books that I read in Kindle Unlimited sell for $5 and up. If I read a mere two books per month, I actually save money. When I’m not super busy with editing my own books, I easily read more than two books per month.
  • Recently, my daughter dragged me into a physical bookstore. I spent more money buying one ordinary novel than it would have cost for my entire monthly subscription to Kindle Unlimited.
  • For the nonfiction and educational books that participate, Kindle Unlimited is a convenient digital library. I wish there was more nonfiction content in the program. My nonfiction books participate, and the amount of nonfiction and educational books in the program is growing. Just imagine if someday, it were more convenient to look something up in a book in Kindle Unlimited than to use a search engine. (With search engines, very often one of the top search results has a nag screen to subscribe to their site. I haven’t even used the site yet to see if it’s worth subscribing to. If it were convenient to look to Kindle Unlimited for the answer, I could bypass some of those nag screens and advertisements, and I would be far less worried about getting a virus or spyware while searching for the answer.) It’s great when Kindle Unlimited has the nonfiction information I’m looking for, and sometimes it does.
  • As an author, I appreciate that each Kindle Unlimited (and Amazon Prime) borrow helps with sales rank (just as much as an ordinary paid sale). Occasionally, a book where sales are starting to taper off sees much extended life through regular borrows. A book with several daily borrows can compete with a book that has several daily sales.
  • I love seeing the number of pages read in my KDP royalty reports. I love knowing that not only did people borrow the book, but they are actually reading much of it, too. With math workbooks, I sometimes worry that people will start solving problems, but then give up. With Kindle Unlimited, sometimes the page count is a pleasant surprise, and shows me that people really are using my workbooks.
  • Conversely, if you’re not getting many pages read, this provides valuable marketing insight. Either your content isn’t as engaging as it could be, or your cover, description, and marketing are attracting the wrong audience for your book. Try changing things up until you finally get more pages read.
  • As I mentioned earlier, Kindle Unlimited is a very large, fairly indie-friendly market. Of course, with a couple million books to choose from, your book might not be among the popular reads, but the potential is certainly there (and not being among the popular reads is problematic with ordinary sales, too: if you can learn to write engaging content and a few effective marketing strategies, Kindle Unlimited can be helpful).
  • Although I don’t believe that KDP Select books are shown any direct favoritism, there appear to be indirect benefits: sales rank (as I mentioned earlier), the Kindle Unlimited filter (so that Kindle Unlimited customers can quickly find participating books: to these customers, many other books don’t even exist), etc.
  • For authors who write longer books, the KENPC is sometimes generous compared to the actual paperback page count, such that if a single customer reads the entire book, the Kindle Unlimited royalty may be higher than the royalty for a paid sale. This is the case with my longer books. (For authors of shorter books, this might seem unfair. But again, I’m trying to find ways to look at the positive, not the negative. I’d rather not open that can of worms—again—right now.)

I try to be pragmatic:

  • Is my experience as a reader better with Kindle Unlimited or without it? In my case, it’s much better. It’s affordable, I have fewer books to search through (I use the Kindle Unlimited filter), and I use it avidly.
  • Do I think that the millions of customers who use Kindle Unlimited are better off because of it? For most of them, I do. It’s affordable, it encourages them to read regularly, and if they are wise in searching for books, there is plenty of engaging content to be found.
  • As an author, do I feel that my books are doing better because of Kindle Unlimited than they would be doing if Kindle Unlimited didn’t exist? Absolutely. My Kindle Unlimited royalties themselves aren’t all that significant: I sell more paperbacks, and actually earn more through Kindle sales than through Kindle Unlimited. Yet I’m convinced of several benefits to Kindle Unlimited, like remaining relevant in sales rank through borrows, the fairly indie-friendly readership, and the help that the Kindle Unlimited filter offers in search results.
  • If you can’t answer yes to the previous question, being pragmatic, the next thing to ask is: As an author, do you feel that your books are doing better in Kindle Unlimited than they would do outside of Kindle Unlimited? Looking at the large number of books already in the program (in most categories), and the large number added to the program each day, it appears that many authors answer yes to this question. (If not, they should pull their books out of the program and publish on other platforms in addition to Kindle. Some do, of course, but the number who don’t is overwhelming.)

A few years ago, many people said that the KDP Select Global Fund would only temporarily be in the $10 million range, and that it would quickly drop down to the $3 million mark. But instead it has steadily risen, and is now up to $22.5 million.

Every time the per-page rate has taken a dip, numerous people have predicted the end of the world, saying that the per-page rate would drop below $0.04 and never return. However, the per-page rate has never dropped below $0.04 in the United States. The couple of times that it has gotten close, it has rebounded. It has fluctuated both up and down several times, it has spent a little time over $0.05, and this year it has been quite stable near $0.045. (Just recently, I read an article about how we’re “lucky” if Kindle pays $0.03 per page read, but that’s a mistake: In the United States, it has never dipped below $0.04 per page.) I’m not saying that it won’t ever drop below $0.04, but several people have been “positive” in the past that it was going to, and that it would never return to its current level, but each time it rose back up instead of falling below this threshold, and we have a couple of years of data now.

Kindle Unlimited appears to be doing much better than some “experts” have claimed it would.

Sure, it would be great if the Global Fund were $30 million and if the page rate were $0.06. But could Amazon afford to pay that? Let’s remember, Amazon collects a small monthly fee, offers free trials, and lets customers read as much as they want. It’s easy to propose the subscription service of your dreams, but much harder for that service to continue long-term and not go out of business. Amazon has a fairly stable per-page rate, a growing Global Fund, a growing number of participating books, and a subscription service that has lasted for a few years. It appears to be a viable program. Viability is important to me.

Copyright 2018

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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

How to Run a Kindle Giveaway—for Now (for Authors Who’ve Run a Giveaway in the Past)

Images from ShutterStock.

HOW TO RUN AN AMAZON GIVEAWAY FOR A KINDLE EBOOK

As I mentioned in my previous post, presently it seems like you can’t run an Amazon Giveaway for a Kindle eBook…

Because the place on the bottom of the Amazon product page where the Amazon Giveaway option is supposed to be has vanished for Kindle eBooks.

It’s still there for print books and many other products, but not for Kindle eBooks. It disappeared about a week ago.

However…

If you’ve run an Amazon Giveaway for a Kindle eBook in the past.

You can run another Amazon Giveaway for that same Kindle eBook now.

Here’s the “trick” you need:

  • Visit your Amazon Giveaways page (that shows all of your active and inactive giveaways).
  • I have this page bookmarked on my web browser; it comes in handy. Otherwise, visit your Orders, choose Digital Orders, and search for a previous giveaway. Then click the button to View/Manage Giveaways.
  • Find a giveaway for a Kindle eBook that you ran in the past.
  • Look for the gray rectangle labeled Copy this Giveaway.

I just did this and it worked for me. I already received an email stating that my giveaway is now live.

You can check it out here (and you can enter, if you have any interest in an astronomy book):

https://www.amazon.com/ga/p/8e5f16f09254a4b2#ts-dei

Copyright 2018

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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

No More Amazon Giveaways for Kindle eBooks?

Images from Shutterstock

KINDLE EBOOK GIVEAWAYS AT AMAZON—GONE?

You can run an Amazon Giveaway for many new products at Amazon.com.

Basically, if you scroll down to the bottom of a product page and see an offer to run an Amazon Giveaway for that product, then that product is eligible.

Amazon Giveaways used to apply to Kindle eBooks.

However, for the past couple of days, I haven’t seen the option to run an Amazon Giveaway for a Kindle eBook at the bottom of product pages for Kindle eBooks.

I still see the option available for print books and other new products.

I checked the giveaway FAQ’s yesterday, and it still stated that you can run giveaways for Kindle eBooks. Yet I didn’t see the option to do so.

Well, I was able to host a giveaway for unclaimed prizes for a previous giveaway. I just couldn’t create a new giveaway for any Kindle eBooks.

UPDATE: There is a trick you can use to run a giveaway for a Kindle eBook, if you’ve ever run a giveaway for that same book in the past: https://chrismcmullen.com/2018/06/13/how-to-run-an-amazon-kindle-giveaway/.

Has anyone else had a similar problem in the past couple of days?

There are a few alternatives:

  • Run an Amazon Giveaway for the print edition, if you have one.
  • Run an Amazon Giveaway for any eligible product. A gift card or popular product can help you generate interest or gain followers.
  • Run a Goodreads Giveaway for the Kindle eBook.

The Goodreads Giveaway option is interesting. At first it seems expensive, but if you give away 100 copies, the cost per book is reasonable.

Plus, you don’t have to pay for the Kindle eBooks: You just have to pay the setup fee. (However, if you choose a print book giveaway instead, then you do have to pay for author copies, shipping, and packaging in addition to the setup fee.)

With an Amazon Giveaway, you can give away just one book, which is an inexpensive way to help generate some interest. You can still do this with a paperback copy, even if the Kindle eBook option isn’t showing.

But if you want to give away a large number of copies, like 100 copies, as some authors do, then Goodreads is reasonably priced (especially if your list price is $2.99 or higher).

Maybe the option for Kindle eBooks will return soon. Or maybe there is a simple explanation for why it’s not showing to me presently. It’s too soon to jump to conclusions. But it’s always wise to pay attention and make plans for “just in case.”

Copyright 2018

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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

KDP Print vs. CreateSpace (Comparing the Little Details)

 

KDP PRINT VS. CREATESPACE PAPERBACKS

I have published dozens of paperbacks with CreateSpace over the years, and have recently published some books (under pen names) with KDP’s new print-on-demand option.

While in many respects the two services are comparable (and both are Amazon companies), there are quite a few little differences.

DIGITAL PREVIEWS AND PRINTED PROOFS

There are several differences relating to printed proofs:

  • With KDP print, you don’t have to go through the manual file review process before you can order a printed proof. If you know what you’re doing, this saves 12 to 24 hours, but if you have a big mistake in your PDF files, CreateSpace’s manual file review would help to flag the issue before you waste time and money on a printed proof. However, both offer digital proofing tools to help catch mistakes before you order a printed proof.
  • KDP’s version of an interior reviewer is comparable to CreateSpace, but it appears to be friendlier for more web browsers. Also, whereas CreateSpace first offers an interior reviewer before file review and then a digital proofer after the file review, KDP print consolidates this into a single digital preview tool (accessible prior to file review).
  • A cool thing about previewing at KDP is that you can preview how your cover looks (back, spine, and front) before going through the file review process. With CreateSpace, you must first go through file review (12 to 24 hours, usually) before seeing the option for the digital proofer.
  • For authors residing in Europe, the most notable difference is that you can have a printed proof shipped from the UK, Germany, France, Spain, or Italy instead of the US if you use KDP print, whereas CreateSpace sends all author proofs from the United States.
  • The KDP printed proof has a not-for-resale watermark on the cover, whereas the CreateSpace proof simply indicates that it is a proof copy on the last page inside the book.
  • A funny thing about KDP is that you must first request the option to purchase a printed proof, then wait for an email to come that will take you to Amazon to order your proof. (Unfortunately, you can’t use Prime to get free shipping.) With CreateSpace, you just click to purchase a proof, without having to wait around for an email to come.
  • KDP print is much more finicky about the spine text, ensuring that it’s at least 0.0625″ from the spine edges. CreateSpace occasionally lets this slide if you’re close, and if you violate this, CreateSpace will often adjust your cover for you. KDP print will almost always make you revise your cover on your own until it meets this requirement to the letter. If you have a book just over 100 pages, you’ll have to really shrink your spine text down to meet this requirement. For a book under 100 pages, it’s a non-issue as spine text isn’t allowed, and for a book with a much larger page count, you should have plenty of space for your spine text. It’s just for books with 100 to 150 pages where this can be tricky.

CATEGORIES AND KEYWORDS

KDP print has an advantage in terms of categories and keywords:

  • KDP print lets you enter keywords in up to 7 different fields, without imposing a strict limit on the character count (though I would avoid going over 50 characters, including spaces). CreateSpace only lets you enter 5 keywords (or phrases), and each one is restricted to 25 characters (including spaces).
  • KDP print lets you choose two Amazon browse categories, from the same category list that you see when you publish a Kindle eBook. If you publish both paperback and Kindle editions at KDP, this makes it easy to choose the same categories for both editions of your book. CreateSpace only lets you choose a single BISAC category, and the list doesn’t correspond as well with the actual categories that you see at Amazon (though even KDP’s categories don’t match that perfectly). If you contact CreateSpace, you can request to add your book to a second category, but that’s inconvenient, takes time, and may be completely undone if you republish your book (requiring another request later).

DISTRIBUTION

CreateSpace offers better expanded distribution, but very few self-published books see a significant benefit from this.

  • The main advantage is that CreateSpace automatically distributes to Amazon Canada and pays the same royalty for Canadian sales as for US sales. That’s great if your book happens to sell many copies in Canada, but for many books that sell mainly at Amazon.com (the US site), this is a minor detail.
  • CreateSpace’s expanded distribution includes online bookstores, including Barnes & Noble (online, not physical stores), the Book Depository, and many other websites. Again, this sounds great, as authors are hoping to sell books worldwide, but the reality is that most self-published books sell primarily through Amazon.
  • It’s very unlikely for your self-published book to get stocked by any national bookstore chain simply from the expanded distribution option. You can pretty much count on it NOT happening. Your best bet is to sell a few author copies to local stores that you approach in person with a well-researched press release kit, but expanded distribution really doesn’t affect this.
  • KDP print includes distribution to Amazon Japan (you get to set a royalty specifically for Japan, in addition to European countries), but otherwise CreateSpace offers much wider distribution through expanded distribution channels.

KDP print may improve their expanded distribution options in the future. (But will they add online bookstore distribution? Amazon really doesn’t want you selling your title on BN.com or Book Depository, right?) It would be nice to see them add Amazon Canada, Australia, Brazil, Mexico, and India. They have these options available for Kindle, and they already have Japan available for paperbacks, so we can hope…

ADVERTISING

This is interesting.

According to the KDP help pages, the option to use AMS to advertise KDP books is limited to ebooks. I also contacted KDP support to inquire about this option and was told the same thing.

BUT… If you proceed to run a Sponsored Product ad, you can find your KDP paperback books at the end of the list, and it will let you set up and submit an AMS ad for your paperback book. (However, a product display ad specifically states that it is only for ebooks right where you see this option from AMS.)

Most authors sell more Kindle ebooks than paperbacks, in which case it would make more sense to advertise the Kindle edition. In that case, it doesn’t matter whether you use KDP or CreateSpace for the paperback edition.

However, for the author who sells more paperbacks than ebooks (or for a book that wouldn’t be a good fit for Kindle, like an adult coloring book or a puzzle book), if you would like to advertise your book with AMS, you must use KDP’s print option (not CreateSpace). An alternative is to use Amazon Advantage (but then you would lose the major benefit of print-on-demand).

MAKING CHANGES

Ideally, you would perfect your book before you publish and never make any changes. But in practice, there can be a number of reasons to make changes:

  • Adjust your price.
  • Revise your description.
  • Change keywords or categories.
  • Update your cover.
  • Correct typos.
  • Keep the material current in a dynamic marketplace.

With CreateSpace, any changes to your interior file or cover file require going through the file review process, which basically unpublishes your book for 12 to 24 hours (at least: if you run into problems with that and have to go through the process multiple times, your book could be unavailable for sale for days).

At KDP, it works much like it does when you republish a Kindle ebook: You go through file review when you click the yellow Publish Your Paperback Book button. If you pass the file review, the new files simply override the old ones.

What I like about CreateSpace is that you can revise your list price, description, categories, and keywords without republishing your book, whereas any changes at KDP require republishing. (However, the best place to revise your description is through Author Central, but be sure to copy/paste the updated HTML version of your Author Central description into KDP. That way, if you ever republish your KDP book, the description won’t revert back to the original KDP description.)

LOOK INSIDE

In my experience, the Look Inside usually becomes available almost instantly with KDP print, whereas this often takes days at CreateSpace. It can vary considerably at CreateSpace: I’ve rarely seen it same day (or nearly so), and have occasionally seen it take well over a week.

If you’re launching your book with a strong marketing push, that Look Inside can be a valuable sales tool. I want it to be available as soon as possible. KDP print has the advantage here.

LINKING PRINT AND KINDLE EDITIONS

If you set it up properly from your KDP bookshelf, you will already have your paperback and ebook editions linked together on your bookshelf so that KDP “knows” that the two editions go together. Linking should be quick and easy at KDP.

If you publish the paperback with CreateSpace and the ebook with KDP, you must wait up to 72 hours for the two editions to automatically link together. Supposedly, if the title, subtitle, and author fields match exactly in spelling and punctuation, they will link automatically, but it does take time. Recently, I’ve had a problem with the editions not linking at all, and having to contact KDP support after 72 hours to request the link (perhaps my problem has occurred when I use my own imprint name and ISBN with CreateSpace).

PUBLISHER NAME

If you take the free ISBN option, then:

  • CreateSpace paperbacks will show “CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform” under the publisher name at Amazon.
  • KDP print paperbacks will show “Independently Published” under the publisher name at Amazon.

Maybe many customers won’t notice the name in the publishing field, but CreateSpace has a little advantage here. There are millions of self-published authors. If you count their family members, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances, you will find several million customers who support self-published books. How do you find a self-published book to read? One way is to include the word “CreateSpace” (without the quotes) along with other keywords in a search at Amazon. There are customers who do this (I’ve discovered a number of books myself with this very method, even when I’m really shopping for a Kindle ebook, since I can find the Kindle edition from the paperback product page).

KDP print’s “Independently Published” sounds much more vague.

On the other hand, if you get your own ISBN, you can use your own imprint name, and then it makes no difference whether you use CreateSpace or KDP print. Either way, it will list your imprint name at Amazon. US authors can purchase ISBN’s from Bowker (at MyIdentifiers) for example. The cost is reasonable if you buy in bulk, but expensive if you just need one ISBN. (Don’t waste any ISBN’s on ebooks. Amazon gives you a free ASIN, and if you publish ebook editions elsewhere, an aggregator like Smashwords will offer a free ISBN for ebook stores that require one. Also, don’t use free ISBN’s anywhere other than where they are intended to be used.)

QUALITY AND PRICE

These are identical.

If you have a small sample size, you may experience statistical anomalies, making one service seeming much better or worse than the other. I’ve ordered thousands of author copies from CreateSpace over the years (often over a thousand copies per year), so I’m very experienced with what to expect in terms of quality and typical variations at CreateSpace. I haven’t ordered nearly as many copies from KDP print, but so far the quality is comparable.

List prices and royalties are the same (except that CreateSpace distributes to Canada and pays US royalties for Canadian sales).

CONVENIENCE

KDP wins in terms of convenience.

After you publish one edition (paperback or Kindle), when you add the second edition to the same title on your bookshelf (instead of adding a brand new book), it automatically populates the title, author name, description, keywords, and categories.

You also see the royalties for both editions on your KDP reporting pages, instead of monitoring paperback and ebook royalties from two different websites (with two different accounts).

Copyright 2018


CHRIS MCMULLEN

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

KDP Select Global Fund and Per-page Rate for April, 2018

Image from ShutterStock.

WHAT DID KINDLE UNLIMITED PAY FOR PAGES READ IN APRIL, 2018?

The Kindle Unlimited per-page rate increased slightly to $0.00456 for April, 2018 (compared to $0.00449 for March, 2018).

KENP read has been fairly stable in 2018, varying between $0.00448 (January) and $0.00466 (February) per normalized page read.

The KDP Select Global Fund continues to rise, reaching $21.2 million for April, 2018.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Copyright © 2018

Chris McMullen

How Does Amazon.com Sales Rank Work?

AMAZON.COM SALES RANK

Amazon assigns a sales rank to every product that has sold at least one time.

The lower the number, the better the product is selling.

For example, a sales rank of 2500 is better than a sales rank of 375,000.

The product that sells the best in its category has a sales rank of 1.

CATEGORY RANKS

Amazon has different ranks for different types of products.

Books are ranked independently from sports equipment and video games, for example.

For a given type of product, there are also category ranks.

For example, a few Books categories include Romance, Children’s, and Science.

A great overall rank is more impressive than a category rank.

For example, a book has to sell quite frequently to rank 500 overall in Books, but can sell much less frequently and still rank 500 in Romance.

A good rank in a broad category is more impressive than a good rank in a subcategory.

For example, a book must sell frequently to rank 100 overall in Science, but can sell much less frequently and rank 100 in Biochemistry.

If a product has never sold, it won’t have a sales rank. (However, if the product was just released recently, there may be a significant delay before its first sale results in a sales rank.)

SALES RANK CHANGES

Amazon sales rank is dynamic.

It fluctuates up and down.

If you look at the sales rank of a product right now, it’s possible that the sales rank happens to be at an all-time low or high for that product.

The current value doesn’t necessarily tell you how well the product usually sells.

A book that usually sells a few copies per day might have an overall sales rank fluctuate between 20,000 and 500,000. Sometimes sales are steadier, sometimes the range is wider, depending on a variety of factors.

For example, during and after a promotion, a product is likely to have a better sales rank than normal. There are seasonal changes. If an author releases a new book, this sometimes helps the author’s other books a little.

There are many reasons that a product that usually sells well might temporarily have a worse rank than usual, or why a product that usually sells less frequently might suddenly have a much better sales rank than usual.

If you really want to judge how well a particular product is selling, monitor its sales rank multiple times over the course of a month.

REPORTING DELAYS

Although Amazon advertises that sales rank is updated hourly, this is not always the case.

It is often fairly up-to-date.

Actually, it’s amazing how well the millions of products are handled.

However, if you happen to purchase a product and expect to see a sudden change in the sales rank, don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t seem as responsive as you had hoped.

Also, a single sale may not have the impact that you expect (unless the rank was previously in the millions). For Kindle eBooks enrolled in KDP Select, there is an additional complication (discussed below).

There are occasionally significant delays. A delay might just happen to coincide when sales rank suddenly becomes important to you. It happens.

MAJOR SALES RANK FACTORS

There appear to be three main factors that affect a product’s sales rank.

  • Recent sales. This is the most important factor. How many copies have sold in the last 24 hours?
  • Sales history. This affects how quickly the sales rank number rises when a product doesn’t sell. A product that has sold frequently in the past has its sales rank climb very slowly when it suddenly stops selling. A product that has hardly ever sold has its sales rank quickly rise up into the millions if it doesn’t sell again soon.
  • Sales frequency. How well has the product sold on average in the past? It seems that Amazon added this factor to help limit the impact that short-term promotions have on sales rank.

What we know for sure. This is what Amazon states on the Amazon Seller Central help pages:

“Sales rank is calculated based on all-time sales of an ASIN/Product where recent sales are weighted more than older sales.”

DO REVIEWS AFFECT SALES RANK?

According to the Seller Central help pages:

“Sales rank is generated based on order data and product reviews are not taken into consideration.”

This suggests that customer reviews do not directly impact sales rank.

You can find many products with a large number of positive reviews with overall sales ranks in the millions, and you can find a few bestselling products with harsh one-star reviews with excellent sales ranks.

Therefore, if customer reviews do have any influence on sales rank, it evidently isn’t significant.

Indirectly, however, customer reviews can influence sales rank. How?

For example, if customer reviews happen to help or hurt a product’s sales, this change in sales frequency will surely affect sales rank.

Note that it’s the change in sales frequency, not the reviews themselves, that cause the significant change in sales rank.

Customer reviews often have virtually no impact on sales, in which case sales rank won’t be influenced by them.

KINDLE RANKS

Kindle eBooks have both ranks in Books and ranks in the Kindle Store, whereas print books only have ranks in Books.

For KDP Select books, Kindle Unlimited introduces a significant complication.

Here is the problem with Kindle Unlimited:

When a customer borrows the Kindle eBook, it counts much like a sale.

However, KDP doesn’t tell you how many times your eBook is borrowed.

KDP only tells you how many pages have been read, which isn’t the same.

If 100 pages are read, you don’t know if 1 customer read 100 pages or if 5 customers each read 20 pages.

If 100 pages read show in your reports today, you don’t know if it was from customers who borrowed your book today or last month.

Why does this matter? Here are a couple of examples.

A Kindle eBook that only sells a few times per week can rank just as well as a book that says a few times per day. How? By getting borrowed a few times per day.

A Kindle eBook’s sales rank might not improve much during a promotion where sales double. Why? Because you don’t know how the rate of borrowing compares to the sales, and you don’t know whether the book is being borrowed more or less during the promotion.

Interpreting the sales rank for a print book and a Kindle eBook is different for two reasons. One reason has to do with Kindle Unlimited, as we just discussed. Another reason is that Kindle eBooks sell much better in certain categories.

So if you’re trying to determine how many sales it takes per day to maintain a sales rank of a particular value, first decide whether you want to know the answer for a print book or a Kindle eBook.

For example, the number of daily sales needed to maintain an overall sales rank of 50,000 is different for a paperback than it is for a Kindle eBook.

For a Kindle eBook enrolled in KDP Select, the answer also depends on how many times per day the book is being borrowed in Kindle Unlimited.

FREE VERSUS PAID RANKS

Kindle eBooks have separate ranks for free books and paid books.

So if your Kindle eBook is free, the rank doesn’t mean the same thing.

There are two ways that this matters:

  • A perma-free book always has a free rank (unless you succeed in raising the price point).
  • A KDP Select free promo shows a temporary free rank, to be replaced with a paid sales rank after the promotion ends.

Unfortunately, when customers get the book for free, this doesn’t count toward the paid sales rank.

So although the free rank may look wonderful during the promotion, when it is replaced by the paid rank after the promotion, sales rank will probably have dropped due to lack of paid sales during the promotion.

However, if the free promo succeeds in generating interest in the book, this can lead to improved sales and eventually help the sales rank.

HOW MANY SALES ARE NEEDED TO MAINTAIN A GIVEN RANK?

That depends.

First, it’s different for every category, and it’s also different for subcategories.

So lets look at the overall sales rank just in Books, for example.

And lets consider just print books (not Kindle eBooks), since they are different.

The answer will still vary a bit. First, there are seasonal changes.

Second, tens of thousands of new books are published every day, and authors are getting better at marketing, so more books are selling.

A major difference comes with sales ranks in the millions. Since there are several million more print books than Kindle eBooks, a sales rank of 2,000,000 indicates a better seller in print than in Kindle, whereas sales ranks under a million probably indicate better sales for Kindle eBooks than print books.

Following are some rough estimates. Remember, these are for print books (not Kindle eBooks). Kindle eBooks work similarly, but the numbers are a little different (and complicated by Kindle Unlimited, which is why my example is for print books instead).

Remember also that it also depends on how well the book has sold in the past. Recent sales aren’t the only factor.

Plus, sales rank isn’t constant. When I indicate a sales rank of 30,000, it might fluctuate between 10,000 and 60,000.

These are overall in all of Books.

  • 100,000 equates to roughly 1 sale per day.
  • 30,000 equates to roughly 3 sales per day.
  • 5,000 equates to roughly 20 sales per day.
  • Ranks between 100,000 and 1,000,000 tend to fluctuate quite a bit, and are indicative of 1 sale every few days. But books that usually have a rank well above 1,000,000 will drop down to this range temporarily after a recent sale. The worse its historical rank, the faster it climbs.
  • Ranks between 1,000,000 and 2,000,000 could mean a couple of different things. It could mean the book used to sell some, but has gone through a dry spell recently; if so, its sales rank will climb very slowly (or it will get a sale and return to a better level). It could happen when a book’s rank was above 2,000,000 but sold in the past few days; if so, its sales rank will climb very rapidly (unless it gets a new sale).
  • Ranks above 2,000,000 probably indicate not much recent activity. Note that there are books that sold fairly well in the past that now have ranks in the millions. In those cases, there just haven’t been any sales for a month or more. Books that rarely sell may have ranks well above 2,000,000 (I have seen 5,000,000, and this number will keep rising).
  • A book has a current steady point. For example, based on its combination of sales history and recent lack of sales, suppose that a book’s steady point is 3,500,000. If it suddenly sells, it will see life in the hundred thousands, and then it will rapidly climb back up to near its old steady point unless a new sales comes soon. Steady points in the low hundred thousands or in the ten thousands tend to be much less steady: Since those books have more frequent sales, any changes to the sales frequency can have a significant impact. With ranks in the millions, you can see huge drops down to the hundred thousands, but they tend to rise back up into their old millions quickly (unless the book stars to see more regular sales).
  • Ranks of 1000, 500, 100, or better can have wildly varying results. The number of sales needed to have an overall sales rank of 100 can be considerably different next month than it is now. I’m not going to quote these numbers since they can change dramatically (plus it’s not as easy to get a book to hold its rank in that range for a long period of time).

I’ve published several books, some in pen names, and can corroborate all of the numbers above (but please read all of my notes above before you try to interpret them too literally).

Note that these numbers will change significantly over time, beyond just the seasonal effects.

Back in 2008, a single paperback sale would cause the overall sales rank in Books to jump to about 50,000, but nowadays a single sale might bring the sales rank to 200,000. (Remember, it also depends significantly on the sales history of the book, not just the recent sale.)

Someday there may be 1,000,000 different books selling once per day on average, and then not all ranks in the millions will be indicative of books that aren’t selling.

Indeed, sales ranks are slipping to 1,000,000 faster than ever when a book doesn’t maintain its sales frequency.

If a newly published book doesn’t generate steady sales, it can plummet to the millions before the author realizes it.

MISPERCEPTIONS

It’s very easy to draw incorrect conclusions based on sales rank numbers.

One common mistake is to conclude that only 100,000 books sell once per day or more.

Wait. Isn’t that what I said in my list above? If an overall sales rank of 100,000 equates to roughly 1 sale per day, then why is it wrong to conclude that only 100,000 books sell once per day or more?

It’s because sales ranks change in time.

If you compare the top 100,000 books today to the top 100,000 books tomorrow or yesterday, there will be thousands of books that crossed this threshold.

Many books sell multiple copies per day when they are released, and then see sales drop off at some point.

Many books that usually only sell 1 copy every few days see a big boost during a short-term promotion.

Over the course of a month, there will be way more than 100,000 books that sold at least 30 copies for the month. That’s because sales ranks are constantly changing. Hundreds of thousands of books will average one sale per day for the month, even though their sales ranks will spend some time above (and below) the 100,000 mark.

Over the course of a year, there will be more than a million (1,000,000) books that sell at least 300 copies for the year (about 1 copy per day on average). A significant number of books sell their 300 copies over a very short period. Almost no books will sell exactly 1 copy per day all year long.

Here are a few more common mistakes that are made trying to interpret sales rank:

  • Forgetting that Kindle Unlimited borrows are very significant for Kindle eBooks in KDP Select.
  • Only looking at the current sales rank, and not looking at the history of sales or how the sales rank changes over time.
  • Looking at category or subcategory ranks, and comparing that number to overall ranks.

If a book has a sales rank of 50,000 right now, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is a consistent seller. It probably means that there were a couple of recent sales, but without monitoring its rank over a longer period of time, you can’t really tell if it sells consistently or infrequently.

If a book has a sales rank of 700,000 right now, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it hasn’t sold well, especially if the book has been published for quite some time. It’s possible that the book sold a few times per day for weeks or even months, and then sales slowly declined. It’s also possible that the book sells once a week or so. Yet another possibility is that the book hardly ever sells, but had a sale in the past few days. Without monitoring the rank over a long period time or knowing the sales history, you can’t tell.

AUTHOR RANK

Amazon also keeps track of author rank in addition to sales rank.

How is author rank different from sales rank?

Author rank adds all of the sales of all of the editions of all of the author’s books (published in that same author name).

If an author publishes multiple books that sell regularly, all of these books help with author rank.

You can see your author rank by signing up for and logging into Amazon’s Author Central.

I pay more attention to my author rank (and my author rank in my pen names) than I do to sales rank.

One of my goals is to improve my average author rank each year.

If you’re at 100,000 now, strive to improve this to 50,000 next year. Try to come up with better ideas, strive to write better, and try to improve your marketing.

If you can get your average author rank down to about 10,000 or better, that’s pretty good.

If you can get your author rank for your name and for a pen name to both be significant, this gives you a little peace of mind: Not all of your eggs are in a single basket.

Just like sales rank, author rank can fluctuate significantly. It can also tail off over time or see sudden spikes. So you have to be careful about interpreting this number (as I mentioned with sales rank).

DO AMAZON GIVEAWAYS AFFECT SALES RANK?

According to the KDP help pages:

“Activities that may not be an accurate reflection of customer demand, including promotional Amazon Giveaway sales and purchases that are later returned, are not counted towards sales rank.”

This suggests that Amazon Giveaways do not affect sales rank.

If sometimes it seems to help, perhaps the effect is indirect. After all, one goal of the giveaways is to create exposure.

TIP FOR AUTHORS

Spend more time writing your books, some time marketing, and much less time monitoring your sales rank.

The new books that you publish and your marketing may help you improve your sales rank by netting more sales.

Simply staring at your sales ranks probably won’t make you feel better unless you get super lucky.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Copyright © 2018

Chris McMullen

Author of:

  • Kindle Formatting Magic (new release)
  • A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon (also part of a Boxed Set)
  • The Improve Your Math Fluency series of workbooks (algebra, fractions, arithmetic, trig, long division, and more)

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

Book Giveaways in 2018

Image from ShutterStock.

BOOK GIVEAWAYS

Two of the most popular methods that authors and publishers use to hold contests for book giveaways have changed.

  • Amazon Giveaways have undergone a series of changes.
  • Goodreads Giveaways changed significantly as of January, 2018.

So 2018 is a good time for a new post regarding how to host a book giveaway.

WHY HOST A GIVEAWAY?

A giveaway is one tool that authors and publishers utilize to help with book marketing.

Following are the main goals for a book giveaway.

  • Help create buzz and initial exposure for a new book release.
  • Give the author a chance to call attention (in other forms of marketing) to a contest, rather than always calling attention directly to the book.
  • Hope that some of the winners will write book reviews.
  • Hope that the winners love the book so much that they help with word-of-mouth sales.

When a book is loved so much by an audience that it thrives on word-of-mouth sales, it can really take off. This is the best-case scenario, but often isn’t attained.

Only a percentage of winners will post reviews. A good percentage of Goodreads winners will rate or review the book at Goodreads, but it’s not as common for Amazon or Goodreads winners to review the book at Amazon.

There are a few other possible benefits of running a giveaway.

  • Generate activity. At Goodreads, entrants automatically have your book added to their To-Read lists. (They can undo this, but most don’t.) It helps make your Goodreads book page look more active.
  • Increase your following. At Amazon, you can require entrants to follow you. Note: You don’t have to give away a book. You can run an Amazon Giveaway for a $5 gift card or most other products. For a popular product, you may draw many followers (but keep in mind that most probably won’t be part of your target audience).
  • Help with branding. People see your book cover and read your name. A large part of book marketing involves effective branding. This helps a little.

HOW MUCH DOES A GIVEAWAY COST?

That depends. Of course, it’s free for the entrant. The author or publisher who sets it up does pay a cost.

  • For an Amazon Giveaway for a Kindle eBook, you pay for the current price of the Kindle eBook plus any applicable tax. (They may not show you the tax when you setup your giveaway, but you may notice that it has been added when you view your orders and then select Digital Orders.) If your book is in KDP Select, you can save money by setting up your Amazon Giveaway while a Countdown Deal is in progress. (This also adds a little exposure to your Countdown Deal.) Note: You can’t receive a refund for unclaimed prizes (but you can run a new giveaway for them, gaining additional exposure, or you can turn them into gift cards to send out).
  • For an Amazon Giveaway for a print book, you pay for the current price of the print book plus estimated shipping charges plus any applicable tax. If your book happens to be on sale when you setup your contest, you will save a little money. Sometime after your contest ends, you will receive a small refund if the actual shipping charges are less than the estimated charges. You will also receive a refund for any unclaimed copies.
  • For a Goodreads Giveaway for a Kindle eBook, you pay a setup fee of $119 for a standard giveaway (or $599 for a premium giveaway). However, you don’t have to pay for the cost of the Kindle eBook on top of the setup fee. When the Kindle eBooks are delivered, you will see free copies of your Kindle eBook show up in your KDP sales reports.
  • For a Goodreads Giveaway for a print book, you pay a setup fee of $119 for a standard giveaway (or $599 for a premium giveaway), and after the contest you must also pay to send the books to the winners (which means you must order author copies in advance, package materials, and be prepared to send the books via media mail, for example, at the post office).

In general, Amazon Giveaways cost less to run.

  • There is no setup fee. You just pay for the cost of the book (plus tax, and plus shipping for a print book).
  • If you choose to give away a small number of books (or just one copy), the cost will be fairly reasonable.

For example, if you have a Kindle eBook on sale for 99 cents, you can run an Amazon Giveaway for one book that costs approximately $1, or you can run a contest for 10 books for about $10.

As another example, if you have a paperback book with a list price of $9.99, you can run an Amazon Giveaway for one book that costs around $20.

However, Goodreads is now quite cost effective for giving away a large number of books. Suppose, for example, that you wish to give away 100 Kindle eBooks.

  • If your book’s current price is $2.99, it would cost $299 plus tax to do this at Amazon (and you may need to setup multiple giveaways for such a large number of prizes).
  • At Goodreads, you could give away 100 copies for a total of $119, which in this example would save you $180 (or more, as Goodreads might not charge you tax on the order).

If you want to give away several copies of your book, hoping for maximum exposure, confident that your story will merit word-of-mouth exposure, Goodreads lets you run a contest for 100 Kindle eBooks at an effective cost of $1.19 per book, which is pretty good.

However, if you want to host a contest for a small number of books, the cost per book is much lower with an Amazon Giveaway.

WHAT HAS CHANGED?

With Goodreads Giveaways:

  • There is now a setup fee. It used to be free.
  • You can now run a contest for Kindle eBooks. It used to be for print books only.
  • The book is automatically added to Want-to-Read lists. This helps make the book’s Goodreads page appear more active.
  • Entrants must currently reside in the United States. Previously, authors or publishers could choose to open participation to a few other countries.

With Amazon Giveaways:

  • There is a little automated exposure now. Before, you had to share the link to your giveaway, or at least tweet about it using the #AmazonGiveaway hashtag. Now there is an option to click Public, which gives you some added exposure. This might include the Amazon giveaway listing page, a daily email, or other placements on Amazon.com.
  • Your manage your giveaways page now shows you the number of hits (people who visit the giveaway page), number of entrants (people who enter the giveaway), and the number of product page visits. For example, for one of my more popular contests, I had 4033 hits, 2424 entrants, and 79 product page visits, but for one of my recent contests, I had 290 hits, 124 entrants, and 13 product page visits.
  • You can’t enter a custom message anymore.
  • You can’t require entrants to follow you on Twitter (but you can still require them to follow you on Amazon).
  • You can require entrants to watch a short video.

HOW MUCH EXPOSURE WILL I GET?

It can vary considerably. There are no guarantees.

A popular giveaway can receive 2000+ views over the course of a week or a month. An unpopular giveaway might not receive 100 views.

I’ve run over a hundred giveaways and the results are quite varied. (Keep in mind that some of my books are under pen names.)

When a book happens to be popular among the giveaway audience, it often pulls 2000 to 3000 views without any marketing on my part.

If a book isn’t attracting the giveaway audience, if the contest isn’t marketed by the author, it can really struggle to pull 200 views.

Many books fall somewhere in between.

Results can vary considerably depending on the genre or subject, whether it’s print or Kindle, cover appeal, and whether the book’s audience matches the giveaway audience.

At Amazon, if you require entrants to follow you or watch a video, you will get somewhat less participation.

Note that the Goodreads giveaway audience is changing with the recent changes to Goodreads giveaways. It used to be exclusively for print books, but now many of the giveaways appeal to Kindle customers.

DO GIVEAWAYS HELP WITH AMAZON SALES RANK?

The first thing to realize is that the answer to this question may have changed over the years.

Amazon appears to contradict itself on this very point (perhaps also due to a change having occurred over time).

Consider this quote from the KDP help pages:

“Activities that may not be an accurate reflection of customer demand, including promotional Amazon Giveaway sales and purchases that are later returned, are not counted towards sales rank.”

This states clearly that Amazon Giveaways do not count towards sales rank.

However, consider this quote from the Amazon Giveaway FAQ’s:

“Using giveaways to manipulate sales rank (i.e. by creating multiple giveaways for the same ASIN, rather than creating one bulk giveaway).”

If, as the KDP quote suggests, giveaways don’t impact sales rank, how could creating multiple giveaways for the same ASIN manipulate sales rank?

Perhaps the giveaway FAQ’s page is simply a little outdated. Maybe the giveaways used to impact sales rank, but now they don’t.

Nonetheless, I often see a boost to sales rank after hosting a giveaway. But the effect may be indirect.

The giveaway generates activity on your Amazon product page, it gets customers interested in your book, and it may result in a couple of sales of its own. Thus, if you see your sales rank improve during the giveaway, it’s possible that this occurred indirectly due to that added interest and not directly from the giveaway itself.

For Kindle eBooks enrolled in KDP Select, sales rank is even more complicated. That’s because every Kindle Unlimited borrow helps with sales rank, but your reports don’t show you when your book is borrowed (they instead show how many pages are read, which may occur weeks or months after the actual borrow).

Goodreads giveaways are different. If you run a Goodreads giveaway for a Kindle eBook, when the contest ends, the books show up as free books in your reports, not as paid sales. Amazon has separate ranks for free book promos and paid sales, so Goodreads giveaways definitely do not impact paid sales rank directly (though again their can be indirect benefits). (If you run a free book promo with KDP Select, your free rank looks great during the promo, but that isn’t a paid sales rank. Once the promo ends, it will be replaced by a paid sales rank.)

SHOULD I DO A PAPERBACK OR EBOOK GIVEAWAY?

If either edition is likely to offer a better reading experience, or if either edition is more likely to be appreciated by the customer, that’s the edition I recommend.

For example, if the Kindle edition has color illustrations while the print edition is black and white, I would prefer the Kindle edition.

As a counterexample, if parents are more likely to read an illustrated kids’ book to their children in print format, I would prefer a paperback or hardcover.

If you’re giving away a large number of copies, it’s much more economical to create an eBook giveaway.

If you want to include a brief thank-you note or bookmark, go with a print edition.

WHAT ABOUT OTHER COUNTRIES?

To enter a Goodreads or Amazon Giveaway, the entrant must be in the United States.

HOW CAN I WIN A FREE BOOK?

Enter for a chance to win my latest book, 50 Challenging Algebra Problems (Fully Solved).

https://www.amazon.com/ga/p/1b25ef65c4b48278#ln-en

Explore the Amazon Giveaways page.

https://www.amazon.com/ga/giveaways

Explore the Goodreads giveaways page.

https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway

TIP

Spend a little time as a customer exploring giveaways before creating a giveaway as an author.

For example, at Goodreads, this will help you get ideas for writing an effective contest description, and it will show you which types of giveaways tend to be more popular.

If you’re thinking about paying extra for a premium giveaway, spend some time researching active giveaways to see whether or not the premium placement seems to be bringing in the kinds of results that you would expect. If you find premium giveaways on the main landing page that have been out for over a week, but don’t have several thousand views, it’s not likely to expect huge results for your own contest.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Copyright © 2018

Chris McMullen

Author of:

  • Kindle Formatting Magic (new release)
  • A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon (also part of a Boxed Set)
  • The Improve Your Math Fluency series of workbooks (algebra, fractions, arithmetic, trig, long division, and more)

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

 

Kindle Unlimited Per Page Rate for March, 2018

Background image from ShutterStock.

KINDLE UNLIMITED PAGES READ FOR MARCH, 2018

In March, 2018 the Kindle Unlimited per-page rate was $0.00449.

That’s nearly identical to what it was for January, 2018 ($0.00448), but down a little compared to February, 2018 ($0.00466).

The per-page rate is showing relative stability at the beginning of 2018.

The KDP Select Global Fund reached a record high of $21 million for March, 2018, a nice rise from February, 2018 ($20 million), and slightly higher than January, 2018 ($20.9 million).

 

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Copyright © 2018

Chris McMullen

How to Make an Index (for a Nonfiction Print Book)

HOW TO MAKE AN INDEX

Having made an index for several different nonfiction print books over the years, I have a set of suggestions for how to create an index.

I prefer to do this manually. When I use the search tool that comes with an online article (or an eBook), I’m often disappointed. It easily pulls up every match of the word, which isn’t always helpful. If the word is used 200 times, I must then sort out which of the 200 are most relevant.

Also, search tools are sometimes too literal. For example, if I want to find information in a book relating to the moon, when I type the word “moon” in the search, it won’t show me pages where the author wrote the word “lunar” (unless the author also happened to write the word “moon” on the same page).

A manual index has the potential to be much more helpful than an automatically created one.

  1. I get out a blank spiralbound notebook with at least 26 leafs.
  2. Write the letter A at the top of the first leaf, B at the top of the second leaf, etc. (A book consists of leafs. Each leaf has two pages, one on the front and one on the back of each leaf.)
  3. If you might have several terms starting with a common letter (I always get a ton of I’s, P’s, and S’s, for example), you might save an extra leaf for these, just in case.
  4. I open the PDF for my print book’s interior on my computer and set my blank spiralbound notebook on my desk in front of my computer monitor.
  5. With fresh, relaxed eyes (which requires several short breaks to maintain), I go through my PDF file slowly, one page at a time.
  6. For each page of my PDF, there are typically a variety of keywords that I wish to include in my index.
  7. I write each keyword down in my spiralbound notebook on the leaf corresponding to its first letter. This helps me sort out the keywords, and helps me find repeated keywords easily.
  8. Next to the keyword, I write down the page number. Some keywords may show up on several pages. For my most popular keywords, I may need 2-3 lines in my notebook to record all of the relevant page numbers.
  9. I go page by page through my PDF, writing down keywords and corresponding page numbers in my notebook.
  10. When deciding on keywords, try to think in practical terms. Which keywords will readers want to search for in your index? Is there enough content on the page relating to that keyword to include that page in the index for that term?
  11. What other words or phrases might readers search for? It’s kind of like word association. For example, one reader might search for “left alignment” in the index, while another might search for “ragged right,” where both readers are actually looking for the same topic. An index works well when customers can find what they’re looking for easily.
  12. On a related note, consider that a single term sometimes has different meanings. For example, the word “sale” could refer to the purchase of a product (we had a lot of sales today) or it could mean that the price is reduced (that t.v. is on sale). Some readers might look for “sales” in an index hoping to find pages that will show how to improve sales (that is, to sell more products), while other readers might look for “sales” hoping to learn about promotional pricing. One set of readers will be disappointed unless the index has separate entries for both (like “sales, selling” versus “sales, discounts”).
  13. Write down the page numbers carefully. Double-check each one after you write it.
  14. Once I’ve written down all of the terms in my notebook, I type them in a blank Excel file on my computer. Excel is handy for this as it can quickly alphabetize the entries for you.
  15. I type the keywords in the left column. I type the corresponding page numbers in the second column.
  16. Be very careful when typing the page numbers for each term. If a customer searches for a term on page 57, for example, and the term isn’t there, this will create a frustrating customer experience. Take your time and keep your eyes rested and fresh (with plenty of short breaks).
  17. When a keyword appears on consecutive pages, you can consolidate the page numbering, like 38-44. An alternative is to write ff for forth-following, but I prefer to list the starting and ending pages. As a reader, I like to know when the last page comes, so there isn’t any detective work needed from the reader’s end. (Also, keep in mind that not all readers will know what the ff stands for.)
  18. What if a keyword appears on several pages, but one of the pages is likely the most relevant match? You could put this page number in boldface, for example, so that it stands out.
  19. If there is a figure or table corresponding to a keyword and you feel that this will be helpful for the reader, you could write something like 48(fig) or 48(tab), or even just 48(f) or 48(t), though in the latter case, fewer readers will realize what you mean.
  20. If a page has a definition for a word, you might write something like 32(def).
  21. If a keyword appears in a footnote, you might write 124(fn), but beware of the potential ambiguity. Readers may wonder whether you mean page 124 in a footnote, or footnote 124 (on some other page), unless you write something like 124(fn 15).
  22. Once my index is typed up, I let Excel sort the data for me. Highlight the columns. Click on the Data tab. Click on the Sort icon. Adjust the Sort By column if necessary. (If it doesn’t come out right, press the Undo button.)
  23. Actually, back up a step. I recommend that you copy and paste all of your information into a new Excel file before you sort it. This way, if you later discover some issue with the sorting that you didn’t notice right away, you have your original to fall back on.
  24. I copy and paste the table into Word (or whatever software you’re using). You might prefer to do this as plain text and then reformat it. I usually prefer to format my index as two columns.
  25. As you can see in the picture for my post, I type each letter of the alphabet at the top of the list of keywords that start with that letter.
  26. Browse through the index sections of a variety of traditionally published print books. This will help you see the different design possibilities, and will help you adopt your own unique style.
  27. Test your index out before you publish your book.

This seems like more work than it is. The hardest part is just to get started. I usually spend a few days on it, though only a couple of hours per day, so that I can keep my eyes fresh and stay focused. After spending months writing the book, a few days for the index isn’t much.

Note that an eBook ordinarily doesn’t include an index. That’s because eReaders have a Search tool (though I mentioned earlier that this isn’t foolproof).

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Copyright © 2018

Chris McMullen

Author of:

  • Kindle Formatting Magic (new release)
  • A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon (also part of a Boxed Set)
  • The Improve Your Math Fluency series of workbooks (algebra, fractions, arithmetic, trig, long division, and more)

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