How/Where Does Your Ad Display on Amazon?

Ad Page

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YOUR AD ON AMAZON

Amazon now allows KDP Select authors to advertise their books on Amazon.com.

The picture above is a screenshot of my desktop. You can see an ad for a Kindle in the bottom right corner.

This ad shows near the top right of the product page, where the buying options are. So when you proceed to buy a book, you see the ad for another there.

The ads come in three sizes:

  • 270 x 150
  • 300 x 250
  • 217 x 128

The display size evidently depends on where your ad appears. Near the buy button is just one of the possibilities.

You can preview your ad in all three sizes before committing to a campaign. This means you can play with the tool without actually using it.

Ad2Ad3Ad4

Worth noting: The last image, i.e. the smallest one, is the one that appears near the purchase button on the product page. This ad also just shows the first few words of the title.

You see a small image of your thumbnail in the ad.

If the thumbnail were larger, it would help with branding better. But that presently is an option.

So if you wish to use this ad to get better branding with impressions, you ideally want a cover thumbnail with:

  • two huge keywords in the title so that they stand out even in this tiny thumbnail
  • a simple, yet striking design, effective at grabbing your target audience
  • details will get lost; busy designs will be too much to convey anything in the thumbnail
  • one main clear image is what you might be able to brand through impressions
  • a good color scheme for your genre and content
  • a very clear instant signal for what kind of book this is (otherwise, you’ll get wasted clicks)

This is more challenging than the usual cover design because the size is reduced compared to normal.

One of the ads only shows the first few words of the title, so a short title that clearly signifies the genre is an advantage. The subtitle doesn’t show.

The ad also shows list price and review info.

ABOUT THE TARGETING

The display might not be what you expect when you choose your targeting.

For example, if you look at the screenshot that I included with this post, you can see an ad for a totally unrelated book. That is, unrelated to the book featured on that product page.

The ad doesn’t just display on the product pages of the interests or products that you target. That’s not how it works.

You don’t tell the ad, “Hey, just show up on the product pages of sci-fi books.”

You can tell the ad, “Find customers who have shopped for sci-fi and fantasy books in the Kindle Store in the past.” This is called interest targeting.

This does NOT restrict the ad to only show on the product pages of sci-fi and fantasy books.

Then what does it do? It shows the ad to customers who have shopped for sci-fi and fantasy books in the Kindle Store in the past. They might be checking out a nonfiction book now, or a romance book, or whatever. As long as they’ve shopped for sci-fi and fantasy in the past, it doesn’t matter what kind of product they are looking at now.

The other kind of targeting is product targeting.

You don’t tell the ad, “Hey, just show up on this book’s product page.”

You tell the ad, “Find people who have viewed these books’ product pages in the past.”

So your ad won’t just show on those books’ product pages. It will show to customers who have viewed those product pages in the past, but it doesn’t matter what kind of product the customer is looking at right now.

It’s fine. It’s showing your book to customers with related interests. It just might not work the way you expect.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

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
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more

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

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How to Assess Your Ad Campaign at Kindle Direct Publishing

Background image from Shutterstock.

Background image from Shutterstock.

KDP AD CAMPAIGN

Amazon recently launched a new tool for KDP Select authors.

  • Find it on your KDP Bookshelf.
  • Look under the KDP Select column.
  • Click the Promote and Advertise link.
  • Click the Create an Ad Campaign button.

Advertising is a risk. You want to monitor your ad campaign at Kindle Direct Publishing.

And you want to know how to assess your risk. I’ll show you what, exactly, to look for.

There is a $100 minimum budget for the ad campaign and you must bid at least 2 cents.

However, once your campaign is up and running, you can click Pause or Terminate if you’re not happy with the results.

(What about the $100 minimum? Good question! They don’t bill you up front. They bill you incrementally as you get clicks. I don’t see how that $100 will get charged if you terminate the ad early, though if this concerns you, perhaps you should contact KDP support before you begin an ad.)

ASSESSING YOUR AMAZON AD CAMPAIGN

If you place an ad, you’ll want to monitor its progress.

IMPRESSIONS

Unless you choose to target your ad based on a small number of similar books, you’ll probably see impressions not too many hours after your ad begins.

That’s kind of cool.

Until you see hundreds of impressions, but no clicks.

But don’t worry. Impressions are free! You only pay for clicks. If I could have 1,000,000 free impressions right now, with zero clicks, I’d take it. Don’t sweat free exposure. Impressions are good.

CLICKS

Then you’ll notice that you’re getting very few clicks from those impressions.

Don’t sweat a tiny percentage of clicks.

You don’t pay for impressions.

You only pay for clicks.

The fewer clicks, the less money you pay.

More impressions per click actually works in your favor. That many more people saw your book without you having to pay extra.

The click-through rate (ctr) may be about 0.1%. That’s 1 click for every 1000 impressions. It varies from book to book, but it’s typical of advertising on the internet to get a ctr of about 0.1%.

Most businesses sweat the ctr because most businesses pay for impressions, not for clicks.

We don’t have to sweat the ctr because we only pay for clicks.

SALES

The number you should sweat is the conversion rate.

Take the # of sales and divide by the # of clicks. That’s your conversion rate.

The conversion rate shows you how well your ad is paying off in the short term.

Sales reporting may be delayed compared to impression and click reporting. So when you look at your ad campaign report, you may have sales on there that you don’t know about.

Also, a customer may click on your ad, but might not buy your book until a later date. The customer was busy doing something else when your ad came along. There is a good chance that the customer will add your book to your cart, if the customer wants to buy it, but wait days or weeks to actually make the purchase.

If the customer buys your book within 14 days of clicking on your ad, the sale will show in your ad campaign report. Thus, sales reporting could be delayed up to 2 weeks.

Multiply your conversion rate by your royalty. Let’s call this Z.

  • If Z is less than your average cost-per-click (CPC), then you’re losing money short-term.
  • If Z is greater than your CPC, then your ad is paying off short-term.

Your ad might not pay off short-term.

But that may be okay.

The question is: How close are you to breaking even short-term?

  • A small short-term loss is likely to be rewarded by long-term gains.
  • If you’re taking a large short-term loss, it may be in your best interest to pause or terminate the campaign.

And what about Kindle Unlimited? Suppose the customer clicks on your ad and reads it through Kindle Unlimited? Will that show up as a “sale” in the ad report? That’s a good question. Unfortunately, at this time, I don’t have the answer. But it’s something to keep in mind.

EXAMPLE

Suppose that you have:

  • $2.99 list price
  • $2 royalty
  • 2-cent bid
  • 300,000 impressions
  • 300 clicks
  • 3 sales

The impressions look great. But just 300 clicks out of 300,000 impressions may freak you out at first. But that’s typical. Remember, impressions are free, it’s the clicks that you pay for. The more impressions, the merrier.

Your conversion rate is the number of sales divided by the number of clicks: 3 sales divided by 300 clicks equals 0.01. Your conversion rate is 0.01 (or 1%).

The quantity I called Z is the conversion rate times your royalty: Z equals 0.01 times $2. In this example, Z equals 2 cents.

Hey, Z equals your bid.

That’s ideal!

Look, it cost you $6 for those 300 clicks. To make 300,000 impressions for a mere $6 would be a great deal.

But you only made 3 sales. However, those 3 sales earned you a royalty of $6.

You broke even. Your 3 extra sales compensated for your investment.

That’s actually very good. If you can break even short-term, it’s worth it for the long-term benefits.

Even a small short-term loss is worth taking for long-term benefits.

Don’t worry about a small ctr (i.e. very few clicks compared to impressions).

Don’t worry if sales are low, as long as your value of Z is comparable to your bid.

If your bid (CPC) is much larger than Z, then you should worry!

POSSIBLE LONG-TERM BENEFITS

Here’s why it might be worth taking a short-term loss to run an ad campaign at Amazon.

These are some possible long-term benefits:

  • If you generate extra sales through the Amazon ad, if any of those customers enjoy your book enough to recommend it to others, this gives you possible long-term sales growth.
  • One extra sale now might result in many extra sales later, if the customer likes your book enough to want to buy more of your books.
  • A customer who clicks on your ad, but who was busy doing something else at the time, may place your book in the shopping cart and check it out days or weeks later.
  • Customers who saw your ad may recognize your book the next time they see it, and, thinking, “I’ve seen this before,” may be more likely to buy your book through branding.
  • Any extra sales can help improve your sales rank, which can help with exposure in many ways, such as customers-also-bought lists, improved visibility in search results, landing on bestseller lists, etc.

IMPROVING YOUR CHANCES

Following are some factors that go into whether or not your ad will come close to breaking even.

LOWER BID

Just bid 2 cents. What’s wrong with that?

If you pay $100 for 2-cent bids, you’ll get 5000 bids if you spend the entire $100 over the course of the campaign.

If you bid higher, you get fewer clicks and fewer impressions.

Don’t bid higher unless there is some urgency with enough benefit to offset the cost. If you really need to advertise RIGHT NOW for some compelling reason, you might bid more.

Otherwise, what’s the hurry to spend your money?

Whether you spend $100 in 2 weeks or 2 months, it’s still $100 spent, right? My recommendation is to bid 2 cents.

Just take whatever clicks and impressions you’re getting, and be content with that.

Focus on Z and comparing Z to your CPC. If Z is close to your CPC, be happy.

If you raise your bid, it will be harder for Z to compete with your CPC.

HIGHER ROYALTY

A higher royalty means you don’t need as many sales for Z to match your CPC.

If you’re earning 34 cents per book with a 99-cent list price, you need 1 out of 17 clicks to result in a sale just to break even on a 2-cent bid.

If you’re earning $2 per book with a $2.99 list price, you just need 1 out of 100 clicks to result in a sale in order to break even on a 2-cent bid.

The list price does show in the ad. So more customers are likely to click on the ad if the price is more compelling.

But that’s actually not important here.

Why not? That just spends your ad money faster. It’s not how fast you get your clicks that matters. You pay for those clicks whether they come quickly or slowly.

What matters are (A) how likely the customer is to buy the book after clicking and (B) how much royalty you earn for the sale.

Maybe customers are, in general, more likely to buy a 99-cent book than a $2.99 book. But probably not in this case. Remember, they see the price before clicking on the ad. They’ve already factored in the price.

You may get your clicks faster at 99 cents, but that just means that your campaign will end sooner. It doesn’t matter how fast you get your clicks. (Unless you have major URGENCY with benefits that outweigh the added cost.)

COMPELLING PRODUCT PAGE

This is where the $$$ is whether you’re advertising or not.

People are visiting your product page.

One thing running an ad campaign will show you is that only 1 out of 1000 people who glance at your book will check it out, and only 1 out of 100 people who visit the product page will purchase it.

Well, it could be 1 out of 50 who visit your product page make the purchase, or it could be 1 out of 5000 who make the purchase.

The conversion rate is something that you can impact:

  • Did the cover and title shown in your ad signify the correct genre? If not, your conversion rate will be awful.
  • Does your blurb wow the customer? If yes, they’re looking inside. If not, they’re outta here. Typo in the beginning of the blurb? Facepalm!
  • Does the Look Inside magnetize the customer to read the beginning? Does the beginning grab the customer and make the customer want more? Or does it bore the customer, or deliver something that wasn’t expected?
  • Does the Look Inside appear professional?
  • Is your book a great value? Does it appear to exceed the customer’s expectations?
  • Was the book good enough to generate some good, honest reviews? (This is NOT the MAIN point.)

If you have a low conversion rate (sales divided by clicks), one of these areas can be improved.

If you improve your product page and run another ad in the future (or pause it now and resume it after making the improvement), you’ll be able to compare conversion rates and see whether or not the change appears to have any impact. One great thing about these ads is that we get valuable DATA.

One great thing about investing a little money in a KDP campaign ad is that you can find out what your conversion rate is. A rate of 1% is fairly common. If your conversion rate (sales divided by clicks) is much lower than 1%, it may be a sign that you need a more marketable book or a more marketable product page. There is something to improve. Once you make a change, you can run another ad to measure your conversion rate again. This way, ads can help you perfect the marketability of your book and product page.

ABOUT THE AD

The ad is automatic. It includes:

  • your cover thumbnail
  • the first few words of your title
  • the average star rating (shown visually, like ****)
  • the number of reviews
  • the list price

A compelling ad gets you clicks faster, but you’re going to pay the same amount regardless of how fast you get your clicks. Your ad will just run out sooner if you get the clicks faster.

Yet it’s still worthwhile to make a compelling ad:

  • If your thumbnail is more attractive to your target audience, that will help your conversion rate once they reach your product page.
  • The more effective your ad, the better the branding impact your unclicked impressions will make.

However, the ad is pretty small. See this example:

Ad4

It’s just a couple hundred pixels across.

To really stand out and aid with branding so that you benefit from all those unclicked impressions, you need:

  • a cover that’s still visually attractive at super small thumbnail size
  • a cover with a very simple, yet effective design
  • a color scheme that sends the right message
  • 2 HUGE words in your title so they can be read even in mini-mini size
  • a short title so that part of it doesn’t get cut off
  • enough good reviews (getting reviews is NOT the MAIN thing)

Another important factor is targeting. If you choose product targeting and research your product list well, this can improve the effectiveness of your ad.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

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
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more

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

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The Color Thesaurus

Wow. When I clicked the link, it was far more impressive than I was expecting. It’s amazingly comprehensive and useful, and the further you scroll down the more of a visual treat it becomes. You won’t be disappointed. 🙂

Ingrid's Notes

I love to collect words. Making word lists can help to find the voice of my story, dig into the emotion of a scene, or create variety.

One of my on-going word collections is of colors. I love to stop in the paint section of a hardware store and find new names for red or white or yellow.  Having a variety of color names at my fingertips helps me to create specificity in my writing. I can paint a more evocative image in my reader’s mind if I describe a character’s hair as the color of rust or carrot-squash, rather than red.

So for fun, I created this color thesaurus for your reference. Of course, there are plenty more color names  in the world, so, this is just to get you started.

Fill your stories with a rainbow of images!

white

Tan_Revised

yellow

Orange_Revised

Red

pink_Revised

Purple_Revised

Blue

Green

brown

Grey

black

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Tracking Views at Amazon—Finally..?

Image from ShutterStock.

Image from ShutterStock.

TRACKING VIEWS AT AMAZON

Don’t you wish that you could see how many people are viewing your book’s product page at Amazon?

Then you’d be able to see how good your blurb and Look Inside are at closing the deal, or how well a promotion is working.

Well, now you can get tracking data at Amazon.

Amazon marketing services is now available for books enrolled in KDP Select.

For as little as a $100 budget and bids of 2 cents, you can advertise your book on Amazon.

Visit your Bookshelf and click the link under the KDP Select column called Promote and Advertise.

When I did created an advertisement this morning, I received an approval email that said:

  • “Please allow 1 day for clicks/impressions to appear…”
  • “…and 2-3 days for detail page views to appear.”

IMPRESSIONS AT AMAZON

This will show how many impressions are made all together. That’s the number of times that your ad is shown to potential customers.

You don’t pay for impressions that don’t result in clicks. You only pay when someone clicks on your ad.

But every impression helps with branding and discovery.

CLICKS TO YOUR BOOK

Divide your budget by your bid. That’s the minimum number of clicks that you’ll get if your entire budget is used up. (If it’s not used up and you’d like it to be next time, either increase the duration or try a higher bid.)

For example, a $100 budget and 2-cent bid will give you 5000 clicks if the entire budget is used up. (First convert 2 cents to $0.02. Then divide.)

But you’ll get even more impressions. You might get tens of thousands of impressions or more for your $100.

AMAZON CLICK-THROUGH RATE

Compare your clicks to impressions to compute your click-through rate. That is, what percentage of the time do people who see your ad click on it to view your product page?

click-through rate = ( clicks / impressions ) x 100%

The smaller your click-through rate, the less effective your cover is at attracting the audience who is seeing your ad. The problem is either that the cover doesn’t appeal to your audience, or you’re not targeting your ad to your specific audience effectively.

VIEWS AND CLOSING RATE

Amazon will evidently also show how many people are viewing your detail page. This is valuable info that many authors have requested in the past, but never had access to. Now there is a way to get this data.

Compare your sales to views to compute your closing rate. This shows how good your blurb and Look Inside are at sealing the deal once traffic arrives at your product page.

closing rate = ( sales / views ) x 100%

The smaller your closing rate, the less effective your blurb and Look Inside are at selling your book.

TARGETING CUSTOMERS

Amazon Marketing Services offers two ways to target traffic:

  • target by product
  • target by interest

When you choose interest, select the category that’s the best fit for your book. The choices are fairly broad, so unfortunately you’ll also catch some people in the category who aren’t in your subcategory, but the targeting does help to deliver your ad to a narrower audience.

When you choose product, you can find similar books (or relevant products) and target your ad to customers who view those products (or perhaps who have used those products in the past). You can choose multiple products.

BOOK DATA AT AMAZON

KDP Select authors can place an advertisement and, in addition to any benefits of the ad itself, receive valuable sales information regarding their books.

It may be helpful for planning your next book.

It might help establish whether something you’ve changed recently is helping or hurting.

It might help you see how well a promotion is doing.

It’s valuable data that we didn’t have before.

Once you run more than one ad at different times, you have some basis for comparison.

However, this tool may be more effective in the beginning, while it’s still new to customers and other authors.

AMAZON MARKETING SERVICES

Advertising isn’t a band-aid for a book that doesn’t sell on its own.

Advertising isn’t a substitute for learning how to market a book effectively.

Advertising is more helpful for authors who have multiple books out and already have some positive marketing experience.

Advertising is better when you supplement it with free marketing strategies.

Advertising is more effective when it’s targeted well.

Advertising is more effective when your cover is visually attractive to your specific target audience, and when it reveals the genre or subject very clearly.

Advertising may riskier when you have few reviews.

Advertising directly on Amazon.com is potentially much more effective than marketing on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads. Instead of asking people to stop whatever they’re doing with their social media and hop on over to Amazon, now you’re showing your ad to people who are already shopping at Amazon.

Advertising can help you brand a name.

Advertising does carry a risk. Weigh the benefits and risks carefully. The worst-case scenario is that you’re out $100 with little to show for it. Can you afford that risk? What are you doing to supplement the advertising to help minimize this risk?

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

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
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more

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

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Advertise Your Book on Amazon—New Opportunity

Background image from ShutterStock.

Background image from ShutterStock.

ADVERTISE ON AMAZON

There is a new opportunity available to advertise your book on Amazon.

https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A2DJUTY13KIH2C

How would you like to advertise your book directly on Amazon.com?

That would be cool, huh?

What if you could do this on a modest budget?

Even better!

Well, now you can:

  • minimum campaign budget is $100
  • minimum bid is 2 cents
  • pay per click

But there’s a catch:

It’s only open to KDP Select authors.

I think it’s a nice benefit for enrolling in KDP Select, on top of current benefits like Kindle Unlimited.

So if you bid 2 cents, a campaign budget of $100 can net you 5000 clicks.

Higher bids are more likely to result in advertisements being shown and result in clicks. But then you get fewer clicks for your money, also.

I like that the charge is per click. You’re not charged when people see your ad, but don’t click on it.

This helps with branding. However many clicks you get, even more people who didn’t click on your ad saw it, which helps you brand your image.

Another nice feature:

targeting

Amazon will let you target your advertisement to a specific genre, for example. This helps your ad reach a specific target audience.

Compared to advertising on Goodreads, Twitter, or Facebook, advertising on Amazon doesn’t drive traffic to leave one site and visit another. These customers are already on Amazon. That’s cool!

BOOK ADVERTISING

Advertising expenses often don’t produce immediate results for book sales. Unlike paper towels, there are millions of other books to choose from.

Some of the most effective book marketing you can do is free. If you make the most of your free marketing potential, advertising will supplement this.

The more books you have out, the more potential paid advertising has. Then someone who clicks on your ad might buy several of your books instead of just one.

But with a minimum bid of 2 cents and campaign budget of $100, advertising on Amazon isn’t too expensive of a risk. Nobody wants to throw $100 away though. (If you do, feel free to borrow my trash can.)

It’s even more important to have a compelling cover that conveys your genre clearly. This will help you get clicks with your ad.

And it’s even more important to have a great blurb and Look Inside. This will help you close the deal once you get the traffic.

And it’s even more important to have a great book, as good as you can make it. This will give you your best chances when it comes to reviews and recommendations.

Another thing that might be worth doing is waiting until you have several reviews before you advertise. You’d hate for one of your first reviews to be a real stinker shortly after paying for an advertisement.

Last tip: Consider putting your book on sale with a Countdown Deal. Then you have something more compelling than just a link to your book.

HOW TO DO IT

The book you wish to advertise must be enrolled in KDP Select.

Visit your KDP Bookshelf.

Click the Promote and Advertise link under the KDP Select column.

Click the Create an Ad Campaign button.

This will take you to Amazon Marketing Services, but it will say Return to Kindle Direct Publishing at the top of the page.

Select one of your books.

Target your ad by product or by interest.

  • By interest lets you choose one broad category. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to let you select a subcategory.
  • By product lets you target similar books or products on Amazon. Note that if your book already appears on the first page of the Customers Also Bought list, people viewing those books are already seeing your book. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t include those books, especially if they’re highly relevant; the additional ad might make the difference. It’s just something to consider.

You can select multiple interests or products (but not both interests and products). I would select several similar products, but I would only select one interest.

The remaining steps should be straightforward.

If you try it, good luck. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

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
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more

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

Comments

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There’s no I in EYE

Eye I

Image from ShutterStock

 

THERE’S NO I IN EYE

There’s no I in EYE,

But hear it I can’t DENY;

Nor an I to be found in FLY,

For which I must ask: WHY?

I find no C in SEA,

As you can plainly SEE;

When I find no F in GRAPH,

It makes me want to LAUGH.

There are no Y’s in HAWAII’s:

Do you think this is WISE?

I can’t find an A in WEIGH:

“Just the way it is,” say THEY.

Even in names: JESUS has no G,

Nor has JEANNIE. Makes you wonder. Gee!

When there is no E in HUMPTY DUMPTY,

It makes me rather GRUMPY.

Oddly, there’s a Q in queue, but not in CUE,

And it makes no sense that there’s no U in DO.

Even French has no O in L’EAU,

Yet it’s H2O! Go cry in a CHATEAU!

There’s no X in WRECKS or Z in DAISY,

Yet there are two E’S in EYE. How crazy!

Language is nuts when CADE’S CAVE has no K’s.

Enough is enough. I rest my CASE.

Copyright © 2015 Chris McMullen

Educators may use this poem for educational purposes, provided that proper credit is given to the author, Chris McMullen.

Strange Magic (the Movie)—and Marketing

Images from ShutterStock.

Images from ShutterStock.

STRANGE MAGIC

We saw the movie Strange Magic this weekend.

http://strangemagicmovie.com

And in addition to enjoying the movie very much… it got me thinking about marketing.

If you want to learn more about marketing, it helps to see and consider the marketing around you.

Not everything translates directly into book marketing, though. For example, paid advertising tends to be much more effective for paper towels than for books; and no wonder, there aren’t millions of paper towel rolls to choose from.

However, many of the main concepts do translate:

  • easily reading the brand on the label
  • visually appealing to the target audience
  • effective use of color in the packaging
  • text on the product label that not only informs, but sells
  • creating brand name recognition through just the right amount of repetition

Strange Magic, the movie, begins with a bright, colorful scene with a fairy flying. This was visually appealing for the target audience. With books, you want to show your target audience right off the bat (who may be reading the Look Inside as prospective shoppers) that this is very much what they were looking for. You want the beginning to put them in a good mood. Make the audience relax and enjoy the book, rather than thinking critically. Compel the audience to keep reading.

Sitting in the theater, we’d already bought our tickets, so it’s not quite the same thing as the Look Inside of a book, where customers may still be deciding. But if you ever produce a movie, you don’t want people walking out of the theater, and you want everyone to enjoy the movie enough to recommend it, so it’s still important to start out on a positive note. This movie had a great visual beginning.

Another thing you need when you write a book is to have elements of your book that really stand out. Something noteworthy (in a good way!) that may elicit recommendations. Strange Magic has an amazing soundtrack. I don’t normally notice the music much in the theater. This movie had many great tracks; good variety, too. Most played for a short duration, but the movie was packed with great music. That’s a cool feature, where if the audience likes it (a big IF whether producing a movie or writing a book), they might tell other people they know. “Hey, you gotta check this out.” Authors strive to put compelling features in their books. If it’s compelling enough to share with friends, it might lead to valuable recommendations.

Rather than, “That was a great book,” you’re hoping for, “Check this book out because…” An amazing feature can make a difference. The strengths of a book may sell it, but only if the weaknesses don’t prevent the readers from recommending it. Shore up the weaknesses and make the strengths wow. In long-term marketing, content is king.

The movie also has a unique style, artistically. The hairstyles are distinct, and they work. You have to create a distinctive brand, like Sherlock Holmes; something that distinguishes your brand from others. When you write a book, something must define your distinct style (in a good way!). It may be subtle. (If it’s drastic, you take a huge risk.)

The storyline sends a positive message, too. You can see the message as a byline right on the poster: “Everyone Deserves To Be Loved.” Strange Magic is a kids’ movie, but it must also appeal to parents, as they’re the ones who will buy the tickets. And parents (or grandparents) are likely to watch the movie with them. Similarly, books need great storylines, and children’s books need to not only appeal to children, but to parents, too. I enjoyed the storyline very much. So did my daughter.

I also like the title font on the movie poster. The words STRANGE MAGIC are written in a large font, it’s easy to read, the color works well and makes it really stand out, and the style fits the genre. The title font is very important on the packaging. With books, the font on the cover’s thumbnail may be even more important.

The movie poster’s visual image is pretty busy, and doesn’t reflect the bright, colorful imagery shown in the beginning. But maybe it would have been a mistake to base the poster design on the imagery from the movie’s beginning. That may have looked more girlish, whereas the movie isn’t intended just for girls. Similarly, with books, a cover should be striking, but even if it’s quite striking, it will fail if it doesn’t attract the precise target audience. The latter is more important than the former.

If you haven’t seen Strange Magic yet, I recommend it. My daughter does, too.

Copyright © 2015 Chris McMullen

How to Market Fiction Books (Show, don’t Tell)

aliens

Images combined from ShutterStock. Space Age font from mickeyavenue.com/fonts/spaceage.

 

FICTION BOOK MARKETING

I meet many amazing fiction writers here at WordPress. I’d like to see you sell more books.

Not by telling you what you should do. Though I have several book marketing posts that do just that.

But by showing you. I’m going to take the plunge and write, publish, and market fiction.

I’ve written, published, and marketed a variety of nonfiction books. So this will be a change.

More than that, I will show you how I go about the planning, writing, publishing, and marketing. Every step of the way.

I hope you’ll see that I do some things different. I hope you wonder, “Why didn’t I think of that?” (But if you do, it won’t be too late.) Or, “Oh, I want to try that, too.” I’ll also carefully consider the many decisions that authors must make as they write, publish, and market, and share my reasoning with you. Maybe this will help other writers with their decisions.

TIMELINE

I’m not going to rush. I don’t have any deadlines. I’m not trying to get a book out in one month or six.

I realize that time is on my side. I’m setting my goals long-term.

For one, I need time:

  • planning
  • research
  • writing
  • revising
  • editing
  • pre-marketing

Since I believe that this idea is worth writing, my goal is to try and do it ‘right.’

You want exposure for your book, right? So don’t rush. Take your time to help gain exposure along the way. It may pay off in big ways in the long run.

I don’t want the marketing to be an afterthought. If it’s worth writing, it’s worth finding readers.

My timeline is continued progress. I’ll show you that progress as I show you how I strive to make my book marketable, and strive to market my book.

This blog will remain focused on helping authors on their writing and publishing journeys. I’ll only mention my fiction books in posts that aim to show fiction book marketing firsthand. I’ll be adding a separate website to promote my fiction books.

I will try not to over-post on this blog. I’ll try to mix it up with my usual variety of posts.

CHALLENGE

Are you working on a book, too?

We can pursue our writing, publishing, and marketing journeys together. Follow along.

Wondering what to do with your book?

Struggling to make decisions?

Not sure what direction to head?

I’ll be facing these same questions along the way. I’ll show you how I made my decisions, which may help you make yours. Of course, you might not make the same choices, but that’s okay.

CONTENT

As you may have noticed, I’m trying not to reveal too much today.

I plan to reveal more as my journey unfolds, so that you can see my decisions as I make them and explain why I did what I did.

Though the cover pic for this post provides a hint. Not quite. Don’t take the pic too literally. Just a hint.

My next post will reveal the topic, why I chose that topic, and the important issue of my writing goals. I’ll try to show you what’s important about it. And this will already include some book marketing ideas. It’s never too early to start thinking about marketing.

Remember, you’re not advertising. You’re not marketing for immediate sales (think of those, if you get them, as a sweet bonus). You’re trying to attract readers. You’re showing that your book is worth marketing. You’re not trying to shove your book down peoples’ throats. You’re trying to get discovered, in subtle ways, branding an image for yourself, not tattooing your book on readers’ foreheads though. You’re trying to establish yourself as a professional writer. You’re trying to convey your passion for your book.

Your best bet is to think long-term.

CONFIDENCE & HUMILITY

I’m confident in my idea. I have to be. Otherwise, why bother? Get that self-confidence. Motivate yourself. You can do it. I believe it. But you’re the one who needs to believe it. Before your readers will.

Convince yourself that you have the:

  • relevant background
  • writing ability
  • storytelling ability
  • special ingredient readers will appreciate
  • right elements to make your book marketable

I’ll get more specific in another post, when I give reasons to believe in my project.

But you have to balance confidence with humility. It’s a tough combination, yet an important one.

Readers want you to believe in yourself and your book, but they don’t want you to come across as overconfident or egotistical. This is vital to your marketing.

STARTING OUT

In a way, I’m starting out as a new author. A new fiction author.

I’ve published and sold many books as a nonfiction author. But fiction is different.

In a couple of ways, I do have an advantage:

  • I have experience with writing, publishing, and marketing.
  • I have a nonfiction following, which is better than no following at all.

But even newbie authors can help to offset this:

  • Who says you can’t start building a following before you publish? Nobody! Start thinking of ways to build an audience for your book.
  • You can learn from the experience of others. Many authors share their experiences and provide helpful tips. Do some research.

Still, I need to build a new following. My fiction books will have a different target audience. (Well, of course, I’d be honored to have you read my book, too.)

I’ll show you how I go about this.

I’m not looking for a one-hit wonder. I plan to publish several similar books, perhaps in a series (that will be one of the decisions I must carefully consider). Obviously, not publishing all at once. It will take time to get there. But time is on our side, if we would simply let it play on our team. 🙂

I HOPE IT HELPS

I hope that my effort to not only write, publish, and market my fiction books, but also to show how I do it and my reasoning along the way will help other authors.

Maybe it will provide some helpful ideas.

Maybe it will help with motivation.

Maybe it will offer inspiration.

I hope it helps in some way.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

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
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more

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

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How to Use Amazon’s New KINDLE TEXTBOOK CREATOR (Tutorial)

KTC

KINDLE TEXTBOOK CREATOR

Amazon just released a new FREE self-publishing tool for Kindle, called the Kindle Textbook Creator (KTC).

  • Press release: (It actually mentions my name. So cool!) It’s worth reading as it describes how e-textbooks can help with highlighting, notes, flashcards, dictionary look-up, and portability of the book. These are features that students may appreciate (and so being aware of them may help you sell your book).
  • Kindle Textbook Creator homepage: This is where you can download the free tool and learn about system requirements. You can find FAQ at the bottom, too.
  • KDP EDU: This is a new site that KDP launched specifically for educators. It’s a lead-in to the Kindle Textbook Creator.

The new Kindle Textbook Creator creates a print replica file. Print replica is a basic fixed format designed to preserve the layout of a print book with a rich format.

Print replica is becoming increasingly popular among e-textbooks because it is a convenient way to reformat a richly formatted textbook for Kindle.

Textbooks often have numerous equations, diagrams, multiple columns, footnotes, and many other rich formatting features.

While reflowable Kindle e-books are better, in general, it can be a very tedious—or costly, if you hire a professional conversion service—for a richly formatted textbook.

The Kindle Textbook Creator makes it quick, convenient, and easy to convert a textbook to Kindle format. Regarding the conversion process itself, this tool is like waving a magic wand. There is virtually nothing to do. (But my free tutorial, in this article, will show you exactly what to do.)

I had the opportunity to beta-test this tool before it was released. I’ve also already published two books with this tool and have more in the works.

Want to jump straight to the tutorial? Scroll down and you’ll find it. It should be pretty easy to find if you scroll far enough. Look for the heading, Kindle Textbook Creator Tutorial.

WHAT DOES THE KINDLE TEXTBOOK CREATOR DO?

It creates a fixed format book, called print replica, for select Kindle devices.

The Kindle Textbook Creator also makes it super easy to convert textbooks to Kindle format. It really doesn’t get any easier than this. I’ve used many different tools and converted by hand, but I’ve never seen anything so simple when it comes to Kindle conversions.

What’s more amazing is that it’s designed to convert PDF files to Kindle format. PDF files are infamous for difficult conversion to reflowable format, but convert very well and easily to print replica format with the Kindle Textbook Creator. This is perfect for richly formatted print books. Just open the PDF file in the Kindle Textbook Creator and be amazed at how easily it converts to print replica format.

It only works on devices that support pinch-and-zoom (which I believe all happen to be color): Kindle Fire, Kindle Fire HDX, iPad, Android tablets, and smart phones. It will also work on PC’s and Macs.

The pinch-and-zoom feature is the key: If you simply turned each page of a print book into a picture and uploaded those images, the Kindle e-book would be very difficult to read on most devices. Pinch-and-zoom allows the user to zoom in up to 400%, and then use a finger to scroll around on the page. This way, the Kindle e-book functions sort of like reading the printed version of the book.

Since e-books created with the Kindle Textbook Creator will only work on devices that support pinch-and-zoom, by using this tool you can prevent customers from buying your richly formatted e-book from devices where the reading experience would be most challenging.

BENEFITS OF THE KINDLE TEXTBOOK CREATOR

  • Convenience. Convert your richly formatted book to print replica format for Kindle very quickly and very easily. It easily gets five stars for convenience.
  • Easy preview. This tool has a built-in preview. You don’t even have to upload your book to KDP to preview it on each device. That’s awesome!
  • PDF friendly. That’s right. Kindle usually isn’t PDF friendly, but the Kindle Textbook Creator is effective and efficient at creating a print replica format from a PDF file.
  • No HTML needed. Ordinarily, you would need to know HTML and CSS to create a fixed format book. This tool allows anyone to create a Kindle book from a PDF file without any HTML knowledge.
  • Layout control. If you have a richly formatted print layout that you’d like to preserve with the Kindle edition, this tool will preserve that layout for you.
  • Rich formatting. If you have rich formatting that you don’t want to lose in the conversion to Kindle, this tool will keep that for you, too.
  • Vertical centering. It vertically centers each page on the Kindle device automatically. (You can’t do this by uploading a Word document to KDP. You would have to work with HTML, and separate that into HTML pages, or convert to epub which does the same.)
  • Targeted devices. Books converted with the Kindle Textbook Creator only work on devices that have pinch-and-zoom and support color, so if you have a book that you don’t want to be read on black-and-white devices or which don’t support pinch-and-zoom, this is one way to target just devices with pinch-and-zoom.
  • Navigation. This tool supports navigation from the Kindle menu. In Word, for example, you can use bookmarks (Insert > Bookmark) to add navigation; be sure that this functionality is maintained in the conversion to PDF. Note: Bookmarks and hyperlinks won’t be clickable in a book made with the Kindle Textbook Creator. Rather, the bookmarks from your PDF will translate into chapters in the Kindle menu, i.e. inserting those bookmarks adds navigation from the Kindle menu. Update: The latest version of the Kindle Textbook Creator now supports hyperlinks (provided that you upload a PDF with fully functional hyperlinks).
  • PowerPoints & more. PowerPoints (popular with educators, for example) can now conveniently be converted to Kindle format. Just save as PDF first (you can even Insert > Bookmark to add navigation for the NCX). Formats that didn’t convert easily or well to Kindle format in the past can now be converted with ease.
  • Amazon now lets you insert audio and video with the Kindle Textbook Creator.

DRAWBACKS OF THE KINDLE TEXTBOOK CREATOR

  • Digital features. You can’t add pop-up text or hyperlinks. If you want clickable links, you must use a reflowable format (or use HTML and CSS to create a fixed format book, which is a lot more work). Update: The latest version of the Kindle Textbook Creator now supports hyperlinks (provided that you upload a PDF with fully functional hyperlinks). If you want pop-up text, an alternative is Amazon’s free Kindle Kids’ Book Creator tool. (However, the full launch will include additional features, such as audio and video. See the FAQ on the KTC homepage for more info. But interactivity doesn’t appear to be on the near horizon.) The Kindle Kids’ Book Creator also has an HTML view mode, which allows you to edit the HTML. The Kindle Textbook Creator doesn’t presently allow you to use HTML (its goal is to provide a convenient solution for those who wish to avoid learning HTML). Amazon now lets you insert audio and video with the Kindle Textbook Creator.
  • Fixed font size. Unlike reflowable e-books, the user won’t be able to adjust the font size. Most print books’ pages would have unreadable text if viewed with a Kindle device or tablet or cell phone. This will force the customer to pinch-and-zoom, then scroll around, to read the text. It’s not the ideal reading experience, especially if there are numerous pages of text that will likely be read while zoomed in and scrolling. You have to weigh the pros with the cons. (Or you could make a very large version of your print edition and simply convert that instead.)
  • No Look Inside. Yet. It may be coming soon. Presently, books created with the Kindle Textbook Creator don’t show a Look Inside. However, I’ve been told that this feature is coming. In the meantime, customers can still try a free sample from Kindle Fire devices. And if you have a print edition, once the Kindle and print product pages link together (this is automatic if the title, subtitle, and author names match exactly in spelling and punctuation; but if they don’t link, visit Kindle Direct Publishing and use the Contact Us option), customers can simply visit the print edition’s product page to see inside. Update: As of December, 2015, KTC published books are beginning to generate an automatic Look Inside for the Kindle edition.
  • Limited devices. Your e-book won’t work on devices that don’t support pinch-and-zoom. It won’t work on Kindle e-Ink devices. If you go to the trouble to convert your book to reflowable format, it will be available on more devices, which widens your market.
  • Text-based. If your book is primarily text-based, like a novel, the Kindle Textbook Creator is not for you. Create a simple reflowable format instead. If you have equations, charts, graphs, or other features that make the formatting more complex and you’d like a simple, efficient solution to preserving those features, then the Kindle Textbook Creator is for you.

KINDLE PACKAGE FORMAT

The Kindle Textbook Creator doesn’t export a .mobi format. It exports .kpf format, short for Kindle Package Format.

You can only upload .kpf files directly to Kindle Direct Publishing. You can’t publish them elsewhere (not even at Amazon Vendor Central).

Kindle Direct Publishing will accept your .kpf file when you upload it. It won’t let you export this as HTML or download it as a .mobi file after conversion. (So if you were hoping to get the result as a .mobi file and then look at the .mobi file with Calibre, for example, well, it won’t be so simple. All you get is .kpf. Also, the terms and conditions prohibit you from publishing KTC-created e-book with another platform besides Kindle.)

Note that the only input format accepted is PDF. Most print books require PDF format, so for most authors who have already published a print book, this shouldn’t be a problem. However, it’s very easy to convert Word or other formats to PDF. For example, Word 2007 and up have built-in Save As PDF features, and there are many free PDF converters available on the web (but have a good anti-virus program and find software from trusted sources and get it straight from the source).

SHOULD YOU USE THE KINDLE TEXTBOOK CREATOR?

That depends on the nature of your book and what your needs are.

Consider these questions to aid your decision:

  • Do you have a textbook, supplemental educational materials, a PowerPoint, or other book with a richly formatted layout?
  • Do you want a very quick and easy (and FREE) way to convert to Kindle?
  • Do you mind if the book will only be available on devices that support pinch-and-zoom?
  • Do you mind not having pop-up text?
  • Does your book have features like equations, charts, graphs, or rich formatting features, or does it consist mostly of text?
  • Do you want the option to insert audio or video?

It suits these kinds of books well:

  • Textbooks. Especially complex ones with many diagrams, equations, and rich layout or formatting.
  • PowerPoints. This is great for educators who wish to convert their PowerPoint lectures to digital books. (You may first want to change the aspect ratio. Not necessarily, but worth considering. A 3:4 aspect ratio is probably close enough.)
  • Supplemental educational materials that wouldn’t format well as (or easily be converted to) reflowable Kindle e-books, such as course notes or study guides.
  • Amazon now lets you insert audio and video with the Kindle Textbook Creator.
  • Other print books with a rich layout or formatting, except as noted below.

It doesn’t suit these types of books:

  • A novel. You should definitely make a reflowable book instead. That’s pretty simple for a basic novel. I have a detailed FREE tutorial on how to do that here.
  • An illustrated children’s book. Consider the free Kindle Kids’ Book Creator tool.
  • A comic book. Consider the free Kindle Comic Creator.
  • Mostly text. If your book mostly consist of text, make a reflowable book instead. That’s pretty easy for a book that mostly consists of text.

WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO FORMAT YOUR KINDLE E-BOOK?

The optimal way to format a Kindle e-book involves using HTML and CSS in either a reflowable format or a fixed format. Reflowable is generally best, except for books that really require a fixed layout.

But just using HTML and CSS doesn’t guarantee that a Kindle e-book will be formatted well. There is a formatting art to sizing images best and for designing a good layout for a Kindle e-book. And if you really want the book to look optimal on all devices, you can use media queries. It can get complex, and it’s not easy to pull off.

It’s like printed books. Typographers know about kerning, widows, orphans, tracking, scaling, and a host of tricks for optimal formatting. The art of typography, whether printed or digital, can get highly complex, and very tedious to implement if you go all-out.

If you just stick with the basics, formatting can be much simpler and the results can still be pretty good. If you try to implement the advanced techniques without really mastering the art, it’s also possible to do more harm than good.

Print or digital, you can get pretty good results yourself, without too much effort, by learning and applying basic principles. This saves time, effort, learning, and expense (as professional conversions can be pricey).

What the Kindle Textbook Creator does is provide a FREE, convenient, and quick way to convert a PDF into a Kindle e-book. It’s not designed to be the Cadillac of book formatting. But it’s such a simple tool to use, it would only take a few minutes to find out if it suits your needs.

If you have a simple book like a novel, you should take a few minutes to learn how to format that as a reflowable format in order to provide a much better reading experience for novels. If you have a textbook or richly formatted book, the Kindle Textbook Creator is a simple solution for PDF to Kindle conversions (whereas other methods of converting PDF to Kindle, such as a direct upload to KDP, often don’t translate well to Kindle).

Do you have compelling reason to expect numerous sales? If so, investing time or money to create a professional reflowable design may pay dividends down the road. For books where sales may be scarce, or where you don’t know what to expect, it might not be worth the risk. You’d hate to pour weeks into formatting or hundreds of dollars into professional conversion only to see dismal sales. Using a free tool reduces this risk.

Here is another way to look at it: The Kindle Textbook Creator lets you quickly and easily produce a digital version of an educational text, so that you can spend more time writing and less time formatting.

Also, see my tips toward the end of this article for improved formatting and marketing with books created by the Kindle Textbook Creator. (But if you’re interested in reflowable layout, check out my free tutorial. If you want to use advanced HTML and CSS features, you’ll need to supplement that with an HTML tutorial from Google.)

KINDLE TEXTBOOK CREATOR TUTORIAL

Download the Kindle Textbook Creator tool (it’s FREE) from Kindle Direct Publishing:

https://www.amazon.com/ktc

PDF FILE

First, you need to convert your book to PDF. If you don’t already have a PDF file for your book, you’ll need to convert it first. Many programs, like Word (2007 and up), PowerPoint, PhotoShop, etc. offer a Save As PDF (or Export As PDF) option. There are also many free PDF converters online (make sure your anti-virus software is up-to-date, find a trusted source, and download directly from the source—of course, anything you download from the internet is at your own risk).

You can (and should) include an active table of contents. In Word or PowerPoint, for example, use Insert > Bookmark to add hyperlinks (choose Place in the Document) and link them to your table of contents entries. Ensure that these bookmarks are preserved when you Save As PDF. (That’s the case with the built-in option in Word, but with other converters, you must check the settings.)

Note that the links won’t be clickable. The point of adding the bookmarks to the PDF is to help the Kindle device create navigation. Customers will be able to navigate through the book using the Kindle menu if you bookmark the table of contents. Update: The latest version of the Kindle Textbook Creator now supports hyperlinks (provided that you upload a PDF with fully functional hyperlinks).

Get your PDF exactly the way you want it. You won’t be able to reformat your file with the Kindle Textbook Creator (except for adding pages, changing page order, or deleting pages), so if there is anything you want to change in your PDF, do it now.

NEW BOOK VS. OPEN BOOK

Open the Kindle Textbook Creator. (When I installed it, an icon appeared on my desktop and it also showed up on the Start menu.)

Go to File > New Book. Find the PDF file of your book on your computer.

Note that New Book is for opening a PDF, whereas Open Book is to open a .kcb file. (When you save a file with the Kindle Textbook Creator, it creates a new folder with a .kcb file.)

SAVING PROGRESS

Use File > Save Book to save your progress. This creates a folder with the .kcb file in it (along with a resources folder).

PAGES PANEL & DOCUMENT WINDOW

When you open a file (or when you use New Book to open your PDF), you’ll see thumbnails of all your pages on the left (the Pages Panel), and you should see the current page in the main workspace (the Document Window).

Note: Occasionally, the current page doesn’t show in the Document Window. When that happens, try highlighting a different page in the Pages Panel, then going back to that page (by again selecting the page from the Pages Panel).

VIEW/ZOOM

Go to View to adjust the view in the Document Window. I normally use the Fit to Window option, but you may want to zoom in more for a close-up once in a while.

ADD, REMOVE, OR REORDER PAGES

Really, there is only one thing you can do with the Kindle Textbook Creator in the way of formatting: Add pages, remove pages, and reorder pages.

But that’s okay. If you want to reformat your book, the logical thing to do is make another PDF. For example, just go back to your source file (e.g. Word or PowerPoint), reformat your file, and make a new PDF.

The Kindle Textbook Creator is designed for easy conversion from PDF to Kindle print replica format. It isn’t designed for reformatting the PDF.

Go to Edit to insert pages, remove pages, or change the order of pages. Just grab a thumbnail (on the left) and drag it to reposition it. You can highlight several pages and drag a group of pages instead of moving them one at a time. Click thumbnails on the Pages Panel while holding down the Ctrl button on your keyboard to select multiple pages; then you can drag them.

If you want to add a page, you first need to make that page into PDF, then you can insert it. You can’t insert jpegs, for example. But you can convert the jpeg to PDF and then insert it.

Note: Sometimes the arrow keys on the keyboard work for navigation, but not always. If the keyboard arrow keys don’t seem to be working, just click on what you want with the mouse.

If you want to drag one or more pages far, you must drag your cursor to the top or bottom of your view of the Pages Panel and position it carefully at the top or bottom. Until you get your cursor in the right position, it won’t seem like anything is happening. Once you hit the sweet spot, it will zoom along. Short drags are more obvious (so in the worst case, you can just drag it a few pages, then drag it a few more pages, etc. and you’ll eventually get there).

Remember, you can delete or insert pages. This is helpful, for example, if you’d like to create a new page for your book explaining that your book works with pinch-and-zoom. You just have to create the PDF for that page first (which is easy to do, for example, from Word).

LANDSCAPE IMAGES?

Watch out for any pages that need to be rotated into landscape view (see the tips section later in this article).

PREVIEW

When you’re happy with the page order, click on the Preview button. You can find the Preview button way over to the right side of the screen, near the top right corner.

This opens two new windows:

  • a smaller inspector window to switch devices, control navigation, or zoom.
  • a preview window that simulates the actual device.

With the inspector, you can select the following devices:

  • Kindle Fire HDX
  • Kindle Fire HDX 8.9″
  • iPad
  • Android tablet

The other devices are grayed out. Books created with the Kindle Textbook do not work on the grayed out devices. Exception: It will work on smart phones, PC’s, and Macs.

Note: The online previewer at KDP is different. The online previewer includes devices where the book won’t actually be available. The previewer that is built into the Kindle Textbook Creator, on the other hand, grays out devices that won’t support the e-textbook (except for smart phones, PC’s, and Macs—it will work on those). It won’t work on Kindle e-Ink devices.

You can zoom in up to 400% using the inspector window.

While you are zoomed in, place your cursor within the preview window, grab part of the screen, and drag the mouse to scroll around on the screen.

Actual customers will achieve the zoom and scroll effects using the pinch-and-zoom feature of the device. The preview lets you simulate this effect with the zoom setting and grab-and-drag with your mouse.

The inspector window also lets you advance from one page to another, or type in a number (and press Enter) to jump to a specific page. (The percentage may help authors who enroll in KDP Select predict where that critical 10% mark is for Kindle Unlimited, though it’s possible that the actual 10% mark in the end product won’t correspond exactly.)

Note: Sometimes the arrow keys on the keyboard work for navigation, but not always. If the keyboard arrow keys don’t seem to be working, just click on the arrows on the inspector window with your mouse.

Simply click on the X at the top right of the preview window to close the preview.

PACKAGE

When your file is ready to publish, first you need to package it for publishing.

If you haven’t already done so, click Save. This creates a folder with the .kcb file in it (along with a resources folder).

Click the Package button at the far right of the screen, or use File > Package for Publishing.

This converts your .kcb file to a .kpf file (Kindle package format).

You upload the .kpf file to Kindle Direct Publishing.

KEEPING TRACK OF THE KINDLE FILE TYPES

You begin with a PDF file. You uploaded that with File > New Book.

When you save a book with the Kindle Textbook Creator, using File > Save, this creates a folder. Inside that folder, you find a .kcb file and a resources folder.

When your .kcb file is ready to publish, you click the Package button at the far right (or File > Package for Publishing). This creates a .kpf file (Kindle Package Format).

The .kpf file is what you want to upload to Kindle Direct Publishing.

(You don’t get a .mobi file when you use the Kindle Textbook Creator. Use the .kpf file instead.)

PUBLISHING YOUR KINDLE E-TEXTBOOK

Visit Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP):

http://kdp.amazon.com

Login to KDP. If you already have an Amazon account, you can just use that.

Visit your Bookshelf.

Click the Add New Title button on the left.

Complete all of the fields.

Step 6 at the bottom is where you upload the .kpf file that the Kindle Textbook Creator made. (Don’t upload the .kcb file. You want .kpf.)

It may take a while, depending on your computer and browser (and internet traffic at the time). If you have functionality issues, try switching browsers (e.g. from Explorer to FireFox or Chrome); make sure that your browser is up-to-date.

If you receive an error message, try again. (I received error messages a few times while I was beta testing. That might be cleared up by now. I was able to resolve the issue simply by trying again.)

PROBLEMS

If you encounter problems, visit the KTC homepage and scroll to the bottom of the FAQ. There is currently a link to provide feedback.

If you have an issue with uploading the .kpf file to KDP, sometimes just trying again resolves the issue. Otherwise, try switching browsers (e.g. Explorer to FireFox or Chrome) and make sure that your browser is up-to-date.

UPDATE

Amazon now lets you insert audio and video with the Kindle Textbook Creator.

KTC SHORTCUTS

The Kindle Textbook Creator supports keyboard shortcuts.

WINDOWS

Ctrl + N to begin a new book with an existing PDF.

Ctrl + O to open an existing project (a .kcb file).

Ctrl + W to close the book.

Ctrl + S to save the book (.kcb format).

Ctrl + Shift + S to save as a new filename (.kcb format).

Ctrl + Shift + P to package the book for publishing (.kpf format).

Ctrl + Z to undo the last change.

Ctrl + Shift + Z to redo the change.

Delete to delete the current page from the Pages Panel.

Ctrl + = to zoom in.

Ctrl + – to zoom out.

Ctrl + 0 (zero) to fit to window (zoom).

Ctrl + 2 to fit to the page width (zoom).

MAC

The keyboard shortcuts are the same as for Windows, but use CMD instead of Ctrl.

KINDLE TEXTBOOK CREATOR FORMATTING AND MARKETING TIPS

READABILITY

If you’re a Kindle owner (or if you’re reading a Kindle e-book on an iPad or smart phone, for example), readability is important.

The longer the book and the more challenging it is to read the text, the more important readability becomes.

What kind of book do you have? Will reading one page of the PDF be difficult to do on the screen of any of the supported devices? If so, how many pages are like this?

If a customer has to read hundreds of pages, and if that customer has to pinch and zoom, and then scroll around the page to read it, that can become frustrating fast.

If it’s a shorter book, say 40 pages, reading one book that way isn’t too bad.

Or maybe most of the pages can be read well, and pinch, zoom, and scroll is only needed on selected pages. That’s much more readable.

Or maybe users will mainly need to just focus on one page at a time. Imagine students consulting the e-textbook to find homework problems on their smart phones, for example. With limited reading at one sitting, pinch, zoom, and scroll isn’t a problem.

But extended, continuous reading like that could become frustrating.

Who is your target audience? Students who already spend a great deal of time on cell phones might adapt to this reading experience better than others.

What is gained from the Kindle edition that may permit a small sacrifice in readability? Imagine an expensive print textbook that a student really needs. By making the e-textbook available, the student gains a much more affordable alternative. (The Kindle edition also makes it easy to highlight, collect notes from the textbook, study, read anywhere and on multiple devices, and look up words with a dictionary or Wikipedia. Students may not think of these things on their own, but you could use them as selling points.)

But any customer who is frustrated with the reading experience can still say so in a review.

So if there may be a convenient way of improving the reading experience, why not do it?

One way is to make the print larger, such that it can be read without zooming on all of the supported devices.

This entails creating a new PDF, and it may involve some changes to the layout. Ask yourself if you can change the font size in the source file and adjust the layout without much trouble. You don’t need to go overboard (e.g. in print, if you adjust kerning, tracking, widows, orphans, etc., this can be very time-consuming). It might not be too hard to increase the font size for body text and adjust the layout just enough so it’s reasonably presentable. You don’t want to publish a mess, of course; it needs to still look nice.

FONT SIZE

Is the font already large enough to read the converted e-book on all of the supported devices? It’s really easy to upload your current PDF. Then you can try to gauge how it looks. While the Kindle Textbook Creator has a built-in previewer, it might be worth testing it out on the same devices with KDP’s online previewer (the display size may be more realistic there). Nothing beats the actual device, of course, so after you publish, try to find out how your book looks on a variety of devices.

If you have a size 12 font in your PDF file, that may turn out to be too small to read on many devices without having to pinch-and-zoom and then scroll through every page.

The larger the font size, the more likely the book will be easier to read on more devices.

If you’re publishing PowerPoint lectures, if those lectures were displayed in a large classroom and students at the back of the class were able to read them, there is a much better chance that your font size is already large enough.

To increase the font size, go back to your source file (Word, PowerPoint, or whatever). If you use Select All, this will also impact headings and other text. (If you used Word’s built-in styles, changing the font size of each style is a piece of cake. Keep that in mind for future projects.) One way or another, you can increase the size of body text (and probably headings, too). You’ll probably have to adjust your layout somewhat to make it look more presentable (e.g. move figures around).

You don’t necessarily need to adjust the font size of all the text. It depends. If you have figures, you could leave the text as it is and customers can pinch-and-zoom for a better view. The fewer pictures you have, the less of an issue that will be (but then it’s also less work to adjust your images, since you have fewer of them).

Try to get feedback from customers you interact with, as that will help you gauge features that may or may not be worth improving. It’s best to have it perfect before you publish, but it’s always worth thinking of how it could be better.

LANDSCAPE

Every image needs to have the correct orientation in your digital book. In print, you can rotate an image 90 degrees and the customer can simply rotate the book to view it correctly, but this doesn’t work in Kindle. If you rotate a Kindle 90 degrees, the image rotates with it, so it’s either always correct or never correct (and the latter is quite frustrating to customers).

In the example below, I want Saturn to appear in landscape. In the print edition, I would do that by rotating Saturn 90 degrees. But in the Kindle edition, I had to rotate Saturn back. If you want it to have landscape orientation, it needs to look like landscape in the Pages Panel. If you’re facing your computer screen and you don’t have to twist your neck to see it right, that’s how it should look.

Test it out in the preview. The best thing is if you can try an actual Kindle device.

KTC Landscape

LOOK INSIDE

Amazon’s Look Inside feature can be a powerful selling tool. (But it can also be a sales detractor. The potential is there, however.)

Unfortunately, books created with the Kindle Textbook Creator presently do not display a Look Inside. I was informed that this may change soon.

Update: As of December, 2015, KTC published books are beginning to generate an automatic Look Inside for the Kindle edition.

Don’t count your chickens until they hatch, though.

With that in mind, don’t rely on the Look Inside to come later. What if it doesn’t? And what about now?

In the meantime, customers can download the free sample to their actual Kindle device. Many customers instead shop on Amazon and send the book to their device if they make a purchase.

Make a print edition and get it linked to the Kindle edition. That way, customers can visit the print edition’s product page to get some idea of what to expect. That’s better than nothing.

ADD INSTRUCTIONS

Not all customers understand their devices well.

Your book has pinch-and-zoom. Amazon will mention the print replica format on the product page.

Yet some customers won’t realize that they can pinch the screen to zoom in on images, or that once they do so they can then scroll around on the page.

It doesn’t hurt to help educate your customers.

What can you do? Create a page that briefly explains that this book is equipped with pinch-and-zoom. Briefly describe what this means.

Even better if you can use a picture to illustrate this. (Marketing tip: Use a picture from one of your other books and you get yourself a little exposure for another book.)

Make sure that these instructions show up past the start position. When a customer opens a new book in a Kindle device, it doesn’t start at the very beginning. Often, it jumps straight to Chapter 1. If you put this note on the page after Chapter 1’s beginning, customers are more likely to find it. (Is it worth interrupting the text? Good question. You have to decide that.)

Note that reading on smaller screens, like some smart phones, is optimized if the device is read in landscape orientation. (If this point is critical for your specific book, it might also be worth mentioning in a brief note.) Students often read with cell phones, but have the habit of holding the device in portrait orientation.

EXPLORE YOUR OPTIONS

I know, you’re eager to try this new tool out and publish your book.

But there is something so very simple that you can do to try and improve your book’s chances for success.

Browse through the educational market in the Kindle store for print replica books. Try these books out. See how they work. See what other authors and publishers have done.

When is the font size too small? Which books are more readable? Why? Look for possible features that you hadn’t thought of.

List things you like. List things you don’t like. If you were a student, what would you prefer?

After you publish, view your book on a variety of devices to find out exactly how well it came out. Get feedback from your audience.

EXAMPLE

Here are two of my shorter books (40 to 50 pages) where I converted the PDF of the print edition to Kindle using the Kindle Textbook Creator.

These are just the basic conversion (presently; I may improve them further), so you can see how this came out. Ask yourself if you might have changed the layout and design to make them more readable. The astronomy book has a larger font; the book on the fourth dimension is much smaller (though that book is largely visual, and was designed for the reader to spend time contemplating the images on each page, i.e. not to be read straight through).

You don’t actually have to buy these books to check them out. If you have a supported device (not just Kindle Fire, but also smart phone, tablet, Kindle for PC, Kindle for Mac), try downloading the free sample.

Full Color Illustrations of the Fourth Dimension: Tesseracts and Glomes

 

Basic Astronomy Concepts Everyone Should Know (With Space Photos)

For comparison, I have a more detailed astronomy book in reflowable format. Back then, I had actually uploaded a Word file (if I ever revise this book, I’ll go into the HTML and make some improvements).

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

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