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.

How to Preview Your Kindle eBook #pubtips

PREVIEWING YOUR KINDLE eBOOK

This is a thorough guide to help you preview your Kindle eBook.

Previewing is best done in several stages.

  1. Proofreading the text
  2. Initial preview for obvious issues
  3. Check the images
  4. Check any drop caps
  5. Click every hyperlink (including the table of contents and footnotes)
  6. Check any tables
  7. Scan the entire eBook for formatting issues
  8. Change the background color
  9. Adjust font size, typeface, line spacing, and device margins
  10. Adjust the orientation between portrait and landscape and scan several pages (or the whole eBook)
  11. Test the eBook out on various devices and apps
  12. Scan the eBook one last time before publishing
  13. Try to preview the Look Inside (see the last section of this article)
  14. Download the free sample after publishing
  15. Check the Look Inside once it becomes available
  16. Be your own first customer and scan the entire book
  17. If you publish any revisions, ask KDP to push the updated book onto your device, and check the revision

PROOFREADING

I do my initial proofread on printed paper before most of the formatting is applied. I like to get the text perfected as much as possible before I do most of the formatting.

It’s easier to make changes in the initial stages of formatting. Any text that I can revise before I have two separate editions (paperback and Kindle) means less work to do later. Also, it’s easier to make revisions before I introduce subtle formatting changes (like adding non-breaking spaces).

When the text is completely written, I print out the entire document at home. I read through that slowly, taking my time, putting annotations in the margins.

After I implement all of the revisions, after a good night’s sleep, with a fresh pair of eyes I check all of the revisions. I always catch a few mistakes in the corrections.

Next, I format the paperback version of the book and order a printed proof. When the printed proof arrives, I give it another careful proofread.

Once the Kindle edition is ready, I upload it to KDP and download the converted MOBI file onto my favorite device (either my Paperwhite or Kindle Fire HD, depending on the content) and read through it again.

Re-read the first chapter again with fresh eyes.

Don’t forget to proofread your book description just as carefully as you proofread the book itself.

If you need proofreading help, you can hire a proofreader. But remember, it’s still your responsibility. Your name is on the book.

Word’s spellcheck and Grammarly can help to some extent, but they aren’t foolproof. Text-to-speech software can help, too, but again it isn’t foolproof.

Also consider possible editing that goes beyond simple proofreading. A careful proofread is a minimum, but isn’t always sufficient.

THE ONLINE PREVIEWER

The downloadable previewer is more reliable than the convenient online previewer.

However, there are usually a few obvious mistakes, and it’s convenient to first use the online previewer to catch those obvious mistakes before going to the trouble of using the downloadable previewer.

Open the Kindle eBook with the online previewer and scroll through the beginning of the eBook looking for obvious problems.

Once you’ve corrected the obvious problems starting at the beginning, you should move onto the downloadable previewer.

THE DOWNLOADABLE PREVIEWER

Kindle Previewer 3 (the downloadable previewer) has recently been updated to include some helpful features, like Auto Advance or the option to quickly check every image or link.

Download your MOBI file. If necessary, also download the Kindle Previewer.

  • Adjust the dropdown menu to Images. This makes it convenient to quickly check every picture in your eBook.
  • Adjust the dropdown menu to Drop Caps.
  • Adjust the dropdown menu to Links. Click on every external hyperlink, internal hyperlink, table of contents entry, and footnote to ensure that it works properly.
  • Adjust the dropdown menu to Tables.
  • Make any necessary corrections and then return to the downloadable previewer with the revised MOBI file.
  • Enable the Auto Advance feature. I prefer a slow speed. Check the formatting carefully (the next section has a checklist). Occasionally, you will need to back up a few pages and check them again. Don’t let yourself get caught in a daze where you’re not really paying attention.
  • Adjust the background color to white, then to sepia, then to green.
  • Adjust font size, typeface, line spacing, and device margins. The font size and typeface of your body text should change as you adjust these features (unless you have a rare fixed-format eBook, like a fully illustrated children’s book).
  • Adjust the orientation between portrait and landscape.
  • Try the different devices that the previewer mimics. Even better, sideload your MOBI file onto a few actual devices (there is a section regarding this later in this article).

Note: This article continues after the following pictures.

FORMATTING CHECKLIST

Here are a variety of issues that you should check for when previewing your Kindle eBook.

  • Double cover. Scroll back as far as you can and make sure the cover doesn’t show twice.
  • Indentations. Are they consistent? Are any missing? Do you see any unexpected indentations?
  • Camera icons. These represent missing pictures. If you see a camera icon, there is at least one picture that won’t display in your actual eBook.
  • Image quality. Look for image size, drop shadows (dark lines on at least one edge), aspect ratio, blurriness, pixilation, red-eye, poor scan quality, missing details, hard to read text, and spellcheck marks in text of screenshots.
  • Customer settings. Make sure that your body text changes font size when customers adjust this setting. Also make sure that the size of your body text is consistent throughout your eBook. Similarly, check that your body text changes when customers adjust the typeface and line spacing.
  • Drop caps. Do they look good across all devices? Do they look good when customers adjust display settings (like line spacing and font size)?
  • Background. Adjust the background color from white to black, sepia, and green (where available). Check that the text, pictures, drop caps, and tables look fine across all of the available backgrounds.
  • Line breaks. Do you see any unexpected line breaks? If so, toggle between portrait and landscape and adjust the font size to make sure it’s a persistent issue (and not just a Kindle justification issue).
  • Page breaks. Do you see any unexpected page breaks? For intentional page breaks, if you vary the display settings, sometimes you will see a great deal of white space wasted before the page break. In those cases, ask yourself if it’s a necessary risk or if it could be avoided (for a chapter heading, it’s necessary, and in some other cases, it may also be semi-necessary).
  • Blank pages. Do you see any blank pages?
  • Alignment. Check the horizontal alignment throughout your eBook (center, justified, or left), including headings and pictures, too.
  • Vertical spacing. Is the line spacing consistent throughout your eBook (most Kindle eBooks should have single line spacing from the publishing side, which can be adjusted from the customer side)? Is the space between paragraphs consistent (for most books, most body text should have no space between them in a Kindle eBook)? Check the space between headings and body text, or between pictures and body text (for example) carefully.
  • Content check. Do you see any missing or duplicated text?
  • Formatting. Check boldface, italics, and underlining. Is any missing? Do you see any that wasn’t supposed to be there?
  • Links. Click on every link in your table of contents, footnote, external hyperlink, and internal hyperlink. Does it work as expected?
  • Special symbols. Do they show up on every device that you can preview? Beware that nonstandard symbols may work in available previews, but not display on some older devices.
  • Tables. Do they display properly? The previewers are not as reliable as testing on actual devices, and older Kindle Fires and older Kindle eReaders are more susceptible to problems with tables.
  • Lists. Do bullet points or numbered lists display satisfactorily? There are some inherent challenges with lists, and some features like negative indents or multi-level indents may result in big problems on older devices.
  • Orientation. Switch between portrait and landscape mode.
  • Devices. Test your eBook out on a variety of devices. The previewers mimic some devices, and there are numerous Kindle reading apps for PC’s, Mac’s, tablets, cell phones, etc.
  • Fancy formatting. If you applied any fancy formatting, check that it works properly on all devices, and beware that it may be problematic on older devices.
  • Equations. Note that Word’s built-in equation editor is problematic for Kindle formatting. It’s better to format each equation as a picture.
  • Spelling/grammar. Ordinarily, Word’s spelling and grammar marks shouldn’t show in your Kindle eBook, but in rare cases I have come across this. (They are easy to find and remove if you work with HTML.)
  • Page numbers. If you insert page numbers with Word’s Insert Page Number tool, these shouldn’t show in your Kindle eBook. If you see page numbers in your Kindle eBook, perhaps you typed them manually in your Word document (in which case you need to remove them). (If you have a fixed-format book like a fully illustrated children’s book, with a proper fixed format page numbers are okay.)
  • Comparison. Spend some time browsing through Kindle eBooks (are at least their Look Insides or free samples) and compare their formatting to your formatting.

ACTUAL DEVICES AND KINDLE APPS

The same MOBI file that you used with the downloadable previewer can be used to preview your eBook on an actual Kindle device, and also for Kindle reading apps with non-iOS devices.

How did you write and format your eBook? If you used a PC, you can use the Kindle for PC reading app. Similarly, if you used a Mac, Android tablet, or just about any other device, there is a Kindle reading app that you can use to preview your book for that device.

Therefore, there must be at least one electronic device that you already own which you can use to preview your Kindle eBook.

For iOS devices, you will need to export the AZK file from the downloadable previewer. Install the iOS Kindle reading app on your iOS device, close the reading app, open iTunes, and add the AZK file to the reading app (click on the picture of the device near the top left of iTunes).

The AZK file will probably surprise you. Worry less about indentations, alignment, and heading sizes with the AZK file, and focus more on readability and complete content.

Next turn to family, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances. Who owns an actual Kindle device? They might not mind you putting your book on their device: If they get to read your book for free and you get to preview your book on their device, that might be a fair trade.

Since neither the online nor downloadable previewers show your book exactly how it will look across every possible device (especially older eReaders, but even older generation Fires), it’s helpful if you can test your eBook out on multiple devices.

Unfortunately, a few subtle features can be different in the actual published book than they appear when you preview your MOBI file on an actual device or app. It happens. That’s why it’s wise to be your own first customer after you publish and quickly check everything once again.

Note that Kindle reading apps by default show your Kindle eBook in a narrow column that mimics the Kindle Fire (see below). When a customer attempts to make this wider, it may turn into two or three narrow columns, not really getting wider. A customer has to select single column format to be able to make it one column so as not to waste much of the display area. Realize that some customers will read with the default settings, and some customers may not be aware of how to adjust these settings. Thus, even if a customer has a device with a relatively square aspect ratio (compared to Kindle Fire), like an iPad, the customer might still see pictures on a narrow column.

PREVIEWING THE LOOK INSIDE

Amazon KDP doesn’t offer a proper preview of how the actual Look Inside will look.

However, the Look Inside depicts as a scrollable webpage, whereas Kindle devices and apps show it paginated (in a semi-reflowable format).

The Look Inside doesn’t consist of pages, so it doesn’t respect page breaks.

The Look Inside also interprets the instructions for your Kindle eBook a bit differently than the way it displays on actual devices or apps.

Which file format did you upload to KDP? If you uploaded a Word DOC or DOCX file, open your file in Word and change View to Web Layout. This will show you how your Word document looks as a scrollable webpage, which will at least help mimic the scrollable nature of the Look Inside. Sometimes, this reveals missing space between the last paragraph of a chapter and the chapter heading that follows, for example (creating a paragraph style that adds Spacing After for the last paragraph of each chapter can help with this).

If you uploaded a HTML file (or if you used HTML at some stage during your formatting process), you can view it with a web browser. (But don’t edit your HTML file or save your HTML file that way. Notepad, Notepad++, and Sigil may be used for working with HTML for your eBook, but some HTML editors are not Kindle friendly.) Again, you can check how it scrolls and make sure there are no vertical spacing issues.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Copyright © 2018

Chris McMullen

Author of:

  • Kindle Formatting Magic (just published)
  • 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 Formatting Magic

WORD TO KINDLE FORMATTING MAGIC

I will share some Kindle formatting tips and also introduce my newest book, Word to Kindle Formatting Magic, which is available in both paperback and Kindle editions.

  • Kindle ASIN: B07BL5K6DH
  • 522-page Paperback ISBN: 978194169122

KINDLE DESIGN

The beginning of Kindle design comes from understanding the semi-reflowable nature of eBooks. A typical eBook isn’t quite reflowable in the same way that a scrollable webpage displays (although the Look Inside feature displays that way), but it also doesn’t have a predictable fixed layout like a print book.

Since different customers will read the eBook on a variety of screen sizes and aspect ratios, from cell phones to HD tablets, and since the customer can adjust the type face, font size, background color, and internal margins, you can’t predict which information or how much information will show on any given screen.

The main idea is that a typical eBook doesn’t consist of well-defined pages like a print book does.

This impacts the design of Kindle eBooks in various ways. For example,

  • You need to choose the size and aspect ratio of your pictures wisely so that they look fine on any size screen. You also need to make sure that they look fine on white, black, cream, or green reading backgrounds.
  • A blank line could seem to vanish, since there is always a chance that it will show up at the very top or bottom of the screen.
  • Tall figures may be forced onto the next screen and may leave a lot of white space on the previous screen.
  • Subheadings may happen to fall at the bottom of a screen, unless you apply a page break to them, but a page break may waste a lot of white space on the prior screen.
  • Page numbers don’t make any sense in your eBook. Anywhere your text says something like, “as shown on pages 23-28,” you need to rewrite it.

Another important element of Kindle design is to understand the limitations of what Kindle can and can’t do, especially on older devices, including the limitations of the online and downloadable previewers (for example, in displaying tables, pictures, and special symbols). Following are some examples.

  • Use of the tab key to attempt to control paragraph indentations can be a disaster. The best way to control paragraph indentations is by applying clean paragraph styles (or style definitions) without direct paragraph formatting.
  • Some devices may automatically indent paragraphs that you wish to be non-indented. You have to trick the device into not indenting justified or left-aligned paragraphs.
  • Left alignment may automatically appear justified full unless you go a step beyond Microsoft Word.
  • Kindle’s justification isn’t perfect, although it has improved tremendously with Amazon’s new Enhanced Typesetting. If you try to prevent a runt (or orphan)—a short word at the end of a paragraph appearing on the last line all by its lonesome—with a non-breaking space, if the string of text has more than about 6 characters, you could wind up with an undesirable automatic hyphen or a large gap at the end of the previous line.
  • Bullet points come with a variety of limitations. The bullet symbol itself appears subdued. Negative indents, hanging indents, and multi-level indents pose problems, especially for older devices. Word’s automatic list tools automatically result in a large indent, and if you try to change Word’s indent size, the list looks worse in other ways. Even the simple ordered and unordered list tools with basic HTML have problems. To top this off, lists exaggerate the justification issues.
  • If you know how to avoid widows and orphans in your print book, you need to exercise self-discipline to avoid trying to control them in your Kindle eBook, and accept the fact that occasionally there may be just a few words on the last page of a chapter all by themselves.

Related to this is a degree of quirkiness, meaning that some features (like tables or special symbols) display differently on first or second generation Kindle Fires and older Kindle eReaders than they do on the most recent generation of Kindle devices.

For example, suppose that you wish to incorporate a page break into the paragraph style for the first row of a basic table, in order to prevent the table from starting near the very bottom of a screen (which would otherwise sometimes happen depending on the screen size and customer settings). On first and second generation Kindle Fires, this may result in ghosting, where you see the outline of the table on the screen prior to the table, and on at least one of the early Kindle Fire devices the table itself may appear to get stuck, taking a dozen swipes to advance past the table. It will appear to work fine in the previewer, though (but the previewers don’t display tables accurately for how they will work on all possible devices).

As another example, the most recent Kindle devices and the previewers will show more special symbols than older devices actually support.

A FEW FORMATTING TIPS

Following are a few tips that help to format a Kindle eBook.

  • Use paragraph styles in Word (or call style definitions in HTML) for all paragraph formatting. Do this religiously.
  • Don’t apply direct formatting to an entire paragraph (or more). If you want formatting to apply to an entire paragraph, create a new style for that.
  • A common mistake where direct formatting is applied is to highlight multiple paragraphs and change the settings, or to change the settings on the Paragraph or Font menu in Word and proceed to type one or more paragraphs.
  • Don’t use the tab key in your eBook. Too late? Use the Replace tool to remove every instance of ^t.
  • Avoid blank lines. Use Spacing After with an appropriate paragraph style in places where you need to add vertical space.
  • Keep it simple. If you try to do something complex, it may backfire on one or more devices or apps. You’d hate for part of your book to be totally unreadable on an older device, or for an indent to be huge on a small screen, for example.
  • Be careful not to introduce a worse problem by trying to fix a subtle design issue. Again, keeping it simple is a good Kindle philosophy.
  • When the content of your book is 100% complete (proofreading too), save your Word file as a filtered webpage. If your book includes any pictures, right-click on the resulting HTML file and send it to a compressed zipped folder. Find the image files folder that this process makes and drag it into the compressed zipped folder.
  • You can make some subtle improvements to your HTML file. For example, you can set text-indent to 0 instead of 0.01″ for non-indented paragraphs (but don’t remove the text-indent line or the paragraph may automatically indent). For indented paragraphs, you can change the text-indent to 2em or 3em so that it matches the font size. (Keep your indents small. Word’s default value of 0.5″ is larger than most traditionally published books and would look very large on small screens.)
  • If you know what to look for, the HTML file can help you see formatting that is hidden in Word. (Are you thinking about the Show/Hide button? I’m talking about formatting that’s so hidden that even Word’s Show/Hide button doesn’t reveal it.)

THE STORY BEHIND MY NEW BOOK

My other self-publishing books primarily focus on how to self-publish a paperback book. Although they do mention eBook formatting, the eBook is only a small component of those books.

I wanted to create a guide specifically for Kindle formatting.

When I was thinking about the title, it occurred to me that the behavior of Kindle eBooks as perceived by a new author sometimes seems mysterious (“Why did that happen?”), so I came up with the title, Kindle Formatting Magic. I added two words to make it Word to Kindle Formatting Magic because most authors have access to and familiarity with Microsoft Word, and since Kindle formatting can be very Word friendly (once you learn how to control hidden formatting in Word).

I originally had a 100 to 200-page book in mind. A couple of years back, I hired illustrator Melissa Stevens (www.theillustratedauthor.net) to design the cover. Her design seemed really magical, and it motivated me to try to make the inside of the book as magical as the cover.

I completely reorganized and rewrote the material. I did this a couple of times. At one point, it was going to be two separate volumes. In the end, the paperback edition has 522 pages on 8.5″ x 11″ pages (it’s also available in Kindle format, of course).

A few months ago, I wrote that I had spent 1-2 years working on this book, but a few weeks ago I dug up my old files and discovered that I’ve been working on this book for nearly three years. Time flies!

I spent much time experimenting with Kindle formatting, trying out a feature, uploading the file to KDP, and testing it out. This was very time-consuming, but also enlightening. I took several snapshots and included these pictures in my book to help illustrate many of the issues faced with Kindle formatting.

Much has changed at KDP in the past couple of years. A lot of these changes occurred as I was writing my book, so I had to constantly rewrite sections that I had previously written. For example, the Kindle previewer has been updated to include Auto-Advance, there are new Kindle reading apps, there is a new X-Ray feature, KDP’s print option has expanded, the 127 KB rule for GIF images has been updated, and some of the KDP help pages have been extensively revised.

My book covers the following topics:

  • The basics, like removing tabs, extra line breaks, extra spaces, page numbers, unsupported symbols, etc. One appendix lists every symbol that is fully supported across all devices (there are even notes about correct and incorrect ways to insert supported symbols). A handy checklist helps to ensure that you’ve implemented all of these steps.
  • A detailed guide to using Word’s paragraph styles to format your eBook. There is even a step-by-step tutorial in an appendix at the back of the book to walk you through it with a specific example. I provide several specific recommended paragraph styles commonly used in eBook design. I show you how to create new styles, modify existing styles, deal with hidden styles (like TOC or Footnote), manage your styles (like Disable Linked Styles and what the confusing Automatically Update box really means), and use the Style Inspector to check for common problems.
  • One chapter is devoted to picture size, aspect ratio, format, file size, image design considerations, captions, tables formatted as images, padding, transparency, and everything related to pictures.
  • Multiple sections discuss a variety of Kindle design concepts, like the challenges of formatting bullet points, issues related to left and full alignment, how pictures affect design, the helpfulness but also the dangers of the non-breaking space, and much more.
  • Another chapter shows you how to go a quick step beyond Word. I tried to make this as friendly as possible, even showing how you could be an HTML minimalist. You really don’t need to learn HTML, and that’s the beauty of it. You don’t actually have to write HTML. It’s already written. All you need to do is make small changes to a little of the HTML that’s already there, and I show you exactly which changes to make and how they should look with specific examples (I even have several complete recommended style definitions that you can copy). You can keep this simple and make just a few helpful changes, but for those who want I offer many other optional changes that you can make (for example, how to use media queries to format drop caps that work well across all devices). This chapter shows you how what you do in Word affects the HTML, which helps you learn how to control hidden formatting from Word. For those who want to work more with HTML, I show you the HTML that relates to Kindle formatting to help you better understand your HTML file, which can be helpful if you want to make extensive revisions (this is easily skipped by authors who want to avoid HTML as much as possible).
  • Learn how to preview your Kindle eBook thoroughly using the online previewer, the more reliable downloadable previewer, and actual devices or apps. For example, you can preview your eBook on a PC, laptop, tablet, or cell phone using a free Kindle reading app. Detailed checklists help you with proofreading, editing, and a variety of specific features to look for and test in the way of formatting.
  • A troubleshooting section includes several common Kindle formatting issues with possible solutions. Find detailed explanations whether you used Word exclusively or went beyond Word to use HTML (each issue offers solutions for both cases). This isn’t like a troubleshooting section that you find in the owner’s manual of an electronic device: I tried to make this readable and understandable for everybody.
  • An appendix provides a short sample eBook. Labeled pictures show you which paragraphs have which styles in Microsoft Word, and I included the full HTML for the sample eBook so that you can see the style definitions and everything else.
  • I spent much time testing out various features, and I included several pictures in my book to demonstrate a variety of formatting challenges.
  • For those who would also like to publish a paperback version of their book, I walk you through the steps involved in converting your eBook to a print-ready PDF.
  • Also find valuable tips relating to sales rank, keywords, categories, customer reviews, marketing, promotions, giveaways, and more. (Authors often tell me that the marketing advice that I include in my books on self-publishing is easily worth the price of the entire book. One section is dedicated to marketing and premarketing tips, but a few other sections also relate to marketing.)

YOU COULD WIN A FREE COPY OF MY BOOK

Enter my Amazon Giveaway (which expires at the end of March 24, 2018 in the US), which will have 50 lucky winners. That could be you, and the odds are favorable (as of now, there are about 70 entrants for 50 books, which gives you amazing odds). It’s a sweepstakes, so all 50 books will be given away, and you’ll find out if you win at the end of March 24.

https://www.amazon.com/ga/p/29e81d46a95ba752

I also have a Goodreads giveaway beginning soon with 100 lucky winners which will last for a couple of weeks.

The Goodreads giveaway doesn’t start until March 26 and ends on April 10, 2018. Once March 26 gets here, you can find the Goodreads giveaway at:

https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/278710-word-to-kindle-formatting-magic-self-publishing-on-amazon-with-style

If you buy the paperback version directly from Amazon, after doing so, you will be eligible to purchase the Kindle edition free through MatchBook. You could give the print version as a gift and keep the Kindle edition for yourself, or you might find it handy to have the paperback spread out on your desk while you’re formatting your next book and also have another copy that you can access from your phone or tablet.

If you have a Kindle Unlimited subscription, you can also borrow my book for free. (Amazon Prime customers can also borrow one free book per month.)

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Copyright © 2018

Chris McMullen

The New KDP Community Forum

KDP COMMUNITY FORUM UPDATE

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

https://www.kdpcommunity.com/s/?language=en

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.

KINDLE UNLIMITED KENP READ FOR FEBRUARY, 2018

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

KINDLE PREVIEWER 3 RECENTLY UPDATED

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

AUDIBLE AUTHOR PAGES

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

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

When I visit Audible’s home page,

https://www.audible.com

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 Amazon.com 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.

ARE YOU AN AUTHOR?

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:

https://www.audible.com/pd/Teens/Why-Do-We-Have-to-Go-to-School-Audiobook/B0114RR08M?ref=a_a_search_c3_lProduct_1_1&pf_rd_p=e81b7c27-6880-467a-b5a7-13cef5d729fe&pf_rd_r=1RT6R6GKVHXDMZP5B2VX&

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):

B0114RR08M

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

https://www.audible.com/pd/B0114RR08M

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 https://www.amazon.com/dp/ like my example below. But my example below ‘looks’ different from my example above. When I placed my ISBN, 1512044288, at the end of https://www.amazon.com/dp/ 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’

‘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.

SO WHERE IS MY KINDLE FORMATTING MAGIC BOOK?

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