Let’s Scare up Some Sales

Halloween Scrambles Title Page


A few weeks ago, I asked authors if they had any scary, spooky, or Halloween-related books.

I received several inquiries, but thus far only one author has responded with all the info I need.

Since it’s easier to promote a group of similar books than to self-promote a single book, my aim is to do a little promotion with some scary books. Any (positive) exposure helps, right?

If you’re an author of a scary book, if you’re interested in a little (free!) publicity, use the Contact Me form on my blog. Here is what I need:

  • The title of your book (and your author name, of course).
  • The ASIN of the Kindle edition (preferred).
  • Very, very brief text, like 2 short sentences. Just enough to create interest and make someone click on it and go to Amazon to read your full blurb. Not a summary, not a full blurb, just 2 lines to stir interest. (I can just take the first 2 sentence of your blurb and end with dot dot dot, if you wish.)
  • Are you planning any promotions between now and Halloween? If so, please include the dates and sale prices (and where your book will be on sale). If I can time my promotions with your sale, I will.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, 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

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

Kindle Unlimited in the UK



Amazon just launched Kindle Unlimited in the UK (for the amazon.co.uk website).

Now UK customers can subscribe to Kindle Unlimited for £7.99 per month (with a free 30-day trial period).

This allows UK subscribers access to unlimited reading of over 650,000 titles and thousands of audiobooks. This includes all KDP Select titles selling in the UK, plus about 100,000 other titles, such as Harry Potter.

The KDP Select Global Fund for September is presently $3 million. In both July and August, more than $2 million was added to the projected KDP Select Global Fund each month to bring the KOLL payment up to $1.81 and $1.54, respectively, per book read to 10% through Kindle Unlimited.

The introduction of Kindle Unlimited to the UK will increase the borrows for September somewhat, though with only a week remaining in September, this effect will be somewhat limited.

Many KDP Select books will see a surge in borrows in the UK for September and October.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, 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

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

Here’s Your Chance to Support an Author Who Avidly Supports Many Other Authors

Click to support fantasy author Charles E. Yallowitz. It’s easy.

You may have met Charles Yallowitz here at WordPress.

He is a huge supporter of fellow authors. I see him supporting other authors with reblogs, author interviews, group involvement, active comments, and much more. On top of that, he openly shares his marketing and writing tips on his WordPress blog.

I’ve heard newbie authors mention how impressed they were that Charles interacted with them on their new blogs. He was an avid supporter when I launched Read Tuesday last year.

Although Charles is very busy writing and editing his books (and raising a family), he always finds time to support fellow authors.

So here is our chance to do something very small and easy to help show our gratitude.

(By the way, Charles doesn’t know that I’m writing this post. It’ll be a nice surprise.)

Charles has a Thunderclap promotion going on.

It’s very simple. He needs 100 authors to sign up to automatically Tweet or post on Facebook a simple message about his Legends of Windemere fantasy series.

All you have to do is:

  • Click on the picture above, which will take you to Thunderclap.
  • Click the button for Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr. (You can do more than one, if you wish.)
  • Personalize the message that links to his note about his series. (You’ll see the note when you click the picture above, so you won’t have to worry about not knowing what it says—you’ll know what it says.)

It will just take one minute. I know because I just signed up for it with Twitter. 🙂

Your post will only go live if he reaches his goal of 100 supporters.

He only has 45 out of 100 right now. We need 55 more supporters to make his Thunderclap promotion a success.

There are just 11 days left. If it’s a success, your post will go live on October 4.

So, please show your support to a highly supportive author.

If you enjoy fantasy books (sword & sorcery), you might enjoy his series. I’ve read his stories, and love the characters.

Feel free to spread the word about his Thunderclap promotion. You might also look into Thunderclap for your next promotion. It looks like a cool tool.

Here’s a big THANK YOU for any support you can lend.

——Chris McMullen

Unhappy? There’s an App for That!

Unhappy 2

UNHAPPY? There’s an app for that.

CURIOUS? Google it.

TROUBLED? PhotoShop your life.

LONELY? Browse an online dating service.

MARRIED, but BORED? Sh. There’s a site for that, too.

NEED SOMETHING? Buy it online.

GOT JUNK? Sell it on eBay.

KODAK MOMENT? Show it on Instagram.

BORED at WORK? Facebook will take care of that.


LOVE to WRITE? Self-publish with Amazon.

LOVE CRAFTS? Check out Etsy.

Reality is seriously lacking.

Virtual reality’s got everything.

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen

To Pre-Order, or not to Pre-Order

Pre Order


Finally, Kindle has a pre-order option.

But should you use it?

That’s a good question!


Making a Kindle e-book available for pre-order is easy:

  • Find this option in Step 4 when you publish with KDP. This is now called the Select Your Book Release Option.
  • Choose, “Make my book available for pre-order.”
  • Select a date. You can schedule your pre-order up to 90 days in advance of the release date.
  • You must upload a draft of your completed book at the time that you schedule your pre-order.
  • In Step 6, declare whether this is your draft or your final version.
  • Enter the description, choose your categories and keywords, upload a cover and the draft of your book, choose a price, and go through all of the usual steps to publish a book with KDP.
  • Click the “Submit for pre-order” button on page 2 of the publishing process.


The deadline for uploading and submitting the final version of your book is 10 days before the release date.

  • Upload the final version of your book at least 10 days before the release date. KDP will give you the precise date.
  • Check the option in Step 6 to indicate that this is your final version. Go onto page 2 and press the button to submit your pre-order.
  • Since this is your ‘final’ version, you shouldn’t expect to be able to make any further changes until your book goes live.
  • If you fail to upload your final version by the deadline, (1) your pre-order will be cancelled, (2) Amazon will notify customers that you didn’t publish your book, and (3) you will lose your pre-order privileges for one year.

You must be releasing a new book in order to take advantage of the pre-order option. Public domain books aren’t eligible.


Here are ways that books can potentially benefit from pre-orders:

  • Scheduling a pre-order gives you a product page with your cover and description (but no Look Inside) for up to 90 days prior to the release date. This gives you something to link to when you proceed to build buzz for your book’s coming release.
  • You can preview how your description looks on the actual product page prior to the book’s release. Visit Author Central to update your description.
  • Your pre-order will show in Amazon search results. This helps customers discover your pre-order, and can help you build search visibility prior to your book’s launch.
  • Your book will show up in the Coming Soon filter (which appears beside the Last 30 Days and Last 90 Days filters). This gives your book a little extra exposure.
  • If you have other books, customers who discover your pre-order may also become interested in those books.
  • If you have an existing fan base, your following may give your book some initial support through pre-order sales.
  • If you succeed in generating many pre-order sales, your book can develop a strong sales rank to help give it some early momentum.
  • The more pre-order sales you make, the more customers who will read your book shortly after its release, which helps you get early reviews from actual customers. (Note that customer reviews can’t be posted until the book goes live.)
  • Highly successful pre-orders can gain additional exposure as Hot New Releases.

More than anything else, a pre-order provides you with a tool that you can use to help create buzz for your upcoming book. But much like sales, it takes effective marketing skills to reap the benefits.


Not everything is golden in the pre-order world:

  • Sales rank is a double-edged sword. If you don’t succeed in generating many pre-order sales, a history of slow sales may hurt your book’s visibility.
  • If you upload a draft, what happens if some unexpected event comes up and prevents you from perfecting your book before the deadline (10 days before the release date)? That would be a disaster.
  • Deadlines can be quite stressful. Are you prepared for this?
  • There is a worst-case scenario. You may have read about an author on the KDP community forum whose draft evidently went live instead of the final version of the book. That would be a nightmare.

There is a simple solution to the last three points:

  • Don’t schedule your pre-order until you already have a ‘final’ version of your book.
  • This removes all the worry from pre-orders.


Whether or not you should schedule a pre-order for your Kindle book depends:

  • Do you have a large fan base? If so, these fans may help you with pre-order sales.
  • Do you have amazing promotional plans for creating buzz for your book? If so, this may also help with pre-order sales.
  • Is your book already finished? If not, I suggest perfecting your book before you schedule your pre-order.
  • Are you a new author? If you don’t have reason to expect pre-order support, it may be best not to do this. A history of slow or no sales can hurt sales rank.
  • Are you mostly relying on Amazon to sell the pre-order for you? If that doesn’t happen (there is much competition, and pre-orders don’t have a Look Inside), sales rank may count against you.


You can schedule your pre-order up to 90 days in advance of the release date.

But that doesn’t mean you should.

  • The longer the pre-order duration, the more pre-order sales you must drive to build and maintain a strong sales rank.
  • You need a really large fan base or very powerful promotion in order to really benefit from a long pre-order duration.
  • If you schedule a pre-order for one month and just have a few sales, it won’t give you a very good sales rank.
  • If you schedule a pre-order for 10 days and generate many sales during this period, it will give you a healthy sales rank starting out.

Personally, I feel that some authors are going about this the wrong way:

  • I see some authors making the pre-order duration 30 to 90 days for the wrong reason: to give themselves more time to perfect their books.
  • Yes, they should take all the time they need to perfect their books. But they should do this before scheduling the pre-order.
  • More sales in less time gives you a better sales rank.
  • Now if you can really drive strong pre-order sales (large fan base or killer promotion), a high frequency of early pre-orders may help you drive more pre-orders and maintain this for a longer duration.

Gee, you could come up with a temporary, introductory low price and advertise the daylights out of this. If you have effective marketing skills, you can run a successful pre-order promotion.


If you publish a print-on-demand paperback with CreateSpace, for example, you can schedule pre-orders through Amazon Advantage.

Visit the CreateSpace community forum. There is a very helpful, detailed post on how to do this by forum member Desire Success.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, 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

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


Click here to jump to the comments section:


Epic Giveaway for a Kindle Paperwhite

I discovered author Angela Kulig on the KDP community forum.

When I checked out her website, I was a AMAZED to see an epic giveaway featuring a Kindle Paperwhite.

Wow! Now that’s a giveaway.

I guess that’s how you celebrate having 25,000 Twitter followers.

Double wow! I’m blessed to have 3,000 followers here at WordPress (here are 3,000 THANK YOU’s for all 3,000 of you). 25,000 is incredible.

(By the way, Angela has no idea that I’m writing this post.)

You might want to enter Angela’s contest. If you’d like a chance to win a Kindle Paperwhite. (Just click the picture for this post.)

You might want to check out Angela’s social media pages while you’re at it.

What are you planning for your 25,000 follower celebration?

I tell you, if I reach 25,000 followers, that would excite me enough to give a similar epic giveaway. 🙂 Heck, I’m already very excited with 3,000.

I remember when I had 3 followers, and 30, and 300. I thought it would take decades to reach 3,000 here at WordPress. But it didn’t!

Wherever you are, you’ll probably get much further along faster than you think.

Want to create your own contest? Well, you don’t have to give away a Paperwhite. At least, not until you reach 25,000 followers, apparently. 🙂

Check out Rafflecopter: http://www.rafflecopter.com. (Be sure to check out all the details before you sign up for a giveaway. It would probably be wise to enter a few contests first, and to find a few authors who’ve done this and ask them about it.)

You know what else would be wise? Starting with small prizes and learning how to do that with mild success before working your way up to larger prizes. The greater the prize, the greater your risk.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, 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

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


Click here to jump to the comments section:


What Size Is Best for the Kindle Book Cover?


You must choose both the size and the shape of your Kindle book cover:

  • What aspect ratio is best?
  • How many pixels should each dimension be?


You might think that the aspect ratio depends on the device. Not so fast! Which matters more?

  • How the cover appears among other thumbnails.
  • How the cover looks on the device itself.

Note that customers won’t even see the cover on the device until they buy the book. (And even then, the ‘start’ location will bypass the cover.)

Therefore, it seems more important to consider how the cover looks as a thumbnail.

So here is my suggestion:

  • Choose an aspect ratio that will look great as a thumbnail when customers are shopping.
  • Choose the pixel dimensions based on the device(s) that you’re targeting.

Of course, the dimensions must match the aspect ratio. The second point really means, “How many pixels should the height be?” (Once you know the aspect ratio and height, the width follows.)


How do customers shop for Kindle books?

That’s the question that determines what aspect ratio will work best for the thumbnail.

Really, you want to ask how ‘your target audience’ will shop for Kindle books. That’s even better than knowing the general answer.

However, with most target audiences, customers shop for Kindle books a few common ways:

  • Even when customers own a Kindle device, they often prefer to browse for Kindle books at Amazon.com. It’s convenient, there are more options, you see more results on the screen, and you can send the book wirelessly to your device.
  • Many customers also browse for Kindle books on the device itself, which may be a Fire tablet or an iPad, for example. These thumbnails can be quite small, and on some devices they will show in grayscale.
  • Other customers will first see your Kindle book cover on your blog, advertised promotion, giveaway, bookmark, or other marketing tool.

What does this mean? It means that your Kindle book cover has to look good with a variety of possibilities in mind:

  • It should look great as a thumbnail at Amazon.com.
  • It should still look great as a smaller thumbnail on a Fire, iPad, iPhone, etc.
  • It should still look great as a black and white thumbnail on a Paperwhite, Kindle DX, etc.
  • It should also look great as a thumbnail on your website, in an advertisement, in a contest, on a bookmark, etc.

Actually, that’s only half the battle:

  • You want your book cover to look great all by itself.
  • You also want your book cover to be effective when it appears among several other thumbnails.

The thumbnail isn’t the only thing that matters. The full-size image matters, too.

But nobody will even check out your full-size image until the thumbnail does its job.

Once you find a design that works for your thumbnail, then you work toward perfecting the full-size image.


So how do you decide what works best?

Go shopping. You don’t have to buy anything. Go window shopping:

  • Browse Kindle book covers at Amazon.com on your pc or laptop.
  • Also browse Kindle book covers on a Fire tablet. Borrow one, if necessary.
  • Also browse Kindle book covers on a black-and-white Kindle device.

Here are some important considerations (remember to look at the Kindle editions):

  • Note books where the title was very easy to read.
  • Note books where the central image really stood out.
  • Note books that had very clear titles and strong central images.
  • Note books where the cover looked great in color, but not in grayscale.
  • Note books where the cover looked great in grayscale, too.
  • What’s most common among books very similar to yours?

This will help you choose a font style and size that read well even in small thumbnails.

This will also help you choose a color scheme that creates great contrast both in color and in grayscale.

But we still have the issue of selecting the best aspect ratio.

So here are more points to consider:

  • Which aspect ratios look better to your eye? Does wider or narrower look better? (What you really want to know is, “Which looks better to your target audience?”)
  • Do wider or narrower covers seem out of place among other thumbnails?
  • Is it easier to read the title on wider or narrower thumbnails?


Let’s begin with Amazon’s recommendation.

The KDP help pages recommend an aspect ratio of 1.6 for your cover. This means that the height is 60% larger than the width.

  • This is ideal for fitting the cover in a Fire device. But no customers will see how it looks on your device until the thumbnail draws them in. So it’s more important to choose the right aspect ratio for your thumbnail than for the device.
  • On the other hand, multitudes of authors are using Amazon’s recommended 1.6 aspect ratio for their covers. So your cover may seem out of place (perhaps not in a good way) if you choose a different aspect ratio.

Amazon has recently raised its suggestion for pixel size to 4500 pixels on the longest side.

If you want an aspect ratio of 1.6 and 4500 pixels for the height, your cover should be 2813 x 4500 pixels.

Amazon will actually accept up to 10,000 pixels on the longest side, but that may be overkill.

A smaller cover may be fine, as most devices don’t have more than 2000 pixels across their screens. (Perhaps Amazon’s recommendation is partly looking toward the future.)

So 1250 x 2000 pixels or 1563 x 2500 pixels may be sufficient, at least until higher-resolution devices become much more common.

However, Amazon’s recommendation receives some criticism, such as:

  • An aspect ratio of 1.6 is very narrow.
  • It’s much narrower than most traditionally published print books, with which most readers are familiar with.
  • There is less room across on which to place your title. Wider covers make it easier to achieve a very readable title.
  • If you also publish in print, you probably can’t just use the front cover of your print book for your Kindle book if you wish to have an aspect ratio of 1.6.

Thus, other aspect ratios are also fairly popular.

An aspect ratio of 1.5 may have some merit:

  • It’s not as narrow as Amazon’s recommendation.
  • It provides a little more width for the title.
  • It matches the aspect ratio of the fairly popular 6″ x 9″ book (which is convenient if you publish a paperback of this size at CreateSpace, for example).
  • It will only be a little wider than the multitude of covers that follow Amazon’s recommendation, so it probably isn’t wide enough to seem out of place.

For an aspect ratio of 1.5, your cover could be 3000 x 4500, 1667 x 2500, or 1333 x 2000, for example.

If 1.5 doesn’t seem wide enough for you, a wider alternative is an aspect ratio of 1.33. This matches a printed 6″ x 8″ book, for example.

(Of course, inches are irrelevant to e-book cover design. What matters is the pixel count.)

An aspect ratio of 1.33 is wide enough to stand out among the popular 1.6 (and not necessarily in a good way, although to some it seems better—mostly, it may seem out of place if it’s badly outnumbered in thumbnail searches: that’s the key point, see what’s common among Kindle books very similar to yours). Going even wider than 1.33 is risky. Especially, landscape covers tend to stand out like a sore thumb.

For an aspect ratio of 1.33, your cover could be 3383 x 4500, 1880 x 2500, or 1504 x 2000.


As you can see above, I used a picture of the Kindle book cover (as seen on the Paperwhite) for Julie Harper’s new release, Reading Comprehension for Girls, for this post. The cover was designed by Melissa Stevens (at theillustratedauthor.net).

It includes 48 fun short stories divided in 3 parts. Each story is followed by 4 multiple choice questions; answers can be found in the back. The print edition has 130 pages.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, 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

How to Create Letterhead



As you can see, I recently ordered letterhead that matches the theme of my blog and my self-publishing books. (My website header and book covers were designed by artist Melissa Stevens.)

There are two ways to do this:

  • Design your own letterhead and have it printed from a printing service like Overnightprints.com. (That’s what I used, but there are a number of good services to choose from.)
  • Add a header and watermark to a Word document and print the letter on your own color printer at home. (It’s worth using quality paper for this.) You may not be able to have the header extend all the way to the edges this way, as most home printers don’t print to the page edges (but you could use a cutter to trim the excess off, if this is the appearance you’re going for. This wasn’t an issue for my design, though).


If you already have your own website, the design concept can be incredibly simple:

  • Just use the header from your website as the header for your letterhead.
  • If you have a logo, you can use that for the watermark.

If you’re ordering from a printing service, check their specifications for letterhead. You may need to make your pages slightly larger than standard letter size and allow for bleed, or their specifications might not allow your header to extend to the page edges. If bleed is allowed, you simply change your paper size to match the specs, then size your header to extend all the way to the oversized edges (they will trim it down to size after printing).


In Microsoft Word 2010:

  • Go to Page Layout and select Watermark.
  • Choose Custom Watermark.
  • Choose Picture Watermark.
  • Select your picture (e.g. a logo).
  • You can rescale it. Select washout.

Note that the watermark can interfere with the reading experience. If your intention is very brief text, like a congratulations or thank-you note, this won’t be as much of an issue. Otherwise, you don’t want the watermark to detract from the reading or make the text hard to read.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, 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

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

How to Optimise your Guest Author Blog Post Promotional Opportunities

Great advice from a great supporter of authors. 🙂

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

While I cannot speak for other bloggers on this topic, I suspect that similar advantages may be gained by using the following tips and suggestions when invited to appear as a guest on any blog:


Always read any conditions and/or requirements pertaining to the host blog, follow them and check everything before you send your submission. Especially any hyperlinks you provide.

This will minimise any research and correspondence time between you and your host.

Some blogs (like mine) schedule their posts in advance (up to two months in advance in my case), so requests to change your article, even only slightly, can be problematic.


Never forget that a guest post is your opportunity to touch base with potential readers, other authors and even possible future friends (WordPress visitors are especially friendly and I have found them to be always willing to help other authors and bloggers…

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Always wanted to write a romance novel?

Great contest opportunity from Harlequin.

readful things blog

Always wanted to write a romance novel? Well here is your chance. With this amazing contest from Harlequin you now have the opportunity, along with the ultimate author’s publishing prize up for grabs. Check out the information below and then go to the so you think you can write website to join up.

So you think you can write

You can see the itinerary for the Harlequin boot-camp, online conference, events here.

Rules and regulations for the contest can be found here.

Ready to take up the gauntlet? Then click on the image below to join up now. Good luck!

So you think you can write join3

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