How long are the books that you read? (SURVEY)

Images from ShutterStock

Images from ShutterStock


How long are the books that you read?

Do you read mostly full-length books? novellas? novelettes? short stories? short or long nonfiction books?

The first 4 questions are for fiction; the last 2 are for nonfiction.

The 2 questions about short stories and novelettes exclude children’s, so that we don’t get illustrated children’s picture books mixed up with short stories, for examples. (See my other surveys—there is a link below the surveys—if you’re curious about children’s books.)

View the results after you take the survey.

You can take each survey more than once, if, for example, you have multiple family members using the same computer.

I will leave these polls open indefinitely. The more people who take the survey, the more meaningful the statistics become.

If you missed my other reading surveys, you can check them out here:

These surveys may not be perfect, but any data may be more helpful than no data.

Thank you for participating. 🙂

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

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
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

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

Book Promotion Opportunities for Authors (It’s Free)

Images from ShutterStock

Images from ShutterStock


Marketing books is hard. I will try to help.

I have a few book promotion opportunities for authors.

Participation is FREE.

(1) Meet the Characters

I have a page on my Read Tuesday website called Meet the Characters.

On this page, readers find short creative pieces featuring one of the characters from various books.

The idea is that readers can learn about books without first seeing the cover or price.

Their first taste of the book is a character’s personality and the author’s writing style.

Many authors and readers have expressed positive feedback about this idea.

(If you like the idea, please tell a friend.)

But we need more authors to participate. Signing up is free.

The earlier you participate, the better the reader-to-book ratio works in your favor.

Once submissions grow enough, Meet the Characters will grow onto multiple pages, different pages dedicated to different genres.

This is potentially permanent exposure for your book, which will hopefully grow over time, with just a little work for you to do in the beginning.

I make no promises about results, but I do offer this opportunity at no cost to you.

Learn more about Meet the Characters and how to sign up here:

Meet the Characters

Meet the Characters Follow-Up

(2) Cover Reveal

I’ll be doing cover reveals for a few of my books in the coming weeks.

But why reveal only my own cover?

This is an opportunity to reveal the covers of several books alongside my own.

The first cover reveal will be soon, but if you miss that, don’t worry, there will be others.

Have you done a cover reveal recently? Will you do one soon?

If so, leave a comment. Once you’ve written a post about your cover reveal, leave a link to your post in the comments.

Remember, I’ll be doing multiple cover reveals, so I may not include all of the covers in the same reveal, but may choose to spread them out (it depends on the number).

(3) Book Contests

Similarly, I’ll be running a few Goodreads giveaways.

When I announce my book contest, I could also announce your book contest.

Goodreads giveaways are preferred, but I’ll consider others.

(Amazon Giveaways tend to finish quickly, so they would be hard to work in unless my post happens to be perfectly timed with your giveaway, which is unlikely.)

If you have a Goodreads giveaway that will be open sometime in June, leave a comment to let me know. If it happens to be running when I do one of my contest posts, I’ll include mention of your giveaway in my post.

(4) Special Categories

Many authors feel that their book doesn’t quite fit properly into any one of Amazon’s browse categories.

So I created a Cool & New Books page at Read Tuesday.

This will showcase books which would best be classified by categories not currently listed at Amazon.

Even if your book is getting by with the available categories, but would fit better in a new category that doesn’t exist, you may submit your book.

Here is your chance to stir reader interest in a brand new category.

The first authors to sign up will enjoy the greatest reader-to-book ratio.

Learn more about Cool & New Books and how to sign up here:

Cool & New Books

(5) More Opportunities

I expect to create more opportunities to help authors promote their books.

When they come, I’ll either announce them here on my blog or over on the Read Tuesday blog.

Follow me and follow Read Tuesday (if you don’t already) to stay tuned.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

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
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

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


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Big Bang, Inflation, Steady-State (Marketing Strategies)

Image from ShutterStock

Image from ShutterStock


One of the main book marketing strategies that I see focuses around a Big Bang.

Yet a book marketing strategy that focuses more on consistency may have better long-term potential.

There are benefits and disadvantages of each, which depend on the nature of the book and author.

And recent changes in the dynamic book publishing environment impact the decision for how to market.


The Big Bang book marketing strategy focuses on driving as much traffic as possible to the book’s product page over a short period of time.

Pre-marketing and buzz-building are amped up for a powerful book launch with several early reviews and many early sales.

BookBub and related promotions are utilized to revitalize sales with additional Big Bangs throughout the year.

Email lists for a newsletter and online followings are grown to launch the next book with a Bigger Bang.

New content is released frequently to generate more Big Bangs.


The steady-state book marketing strategy strives to fuel consistent sales.

Regular sales are favored more than sales spikes.

One main goal is to sustain sales long-term.

Another main goal is to reach a point where sales generate much on their own.


The inflation book strategy is similar to the steady-state strategy.

Emphasis is placed on long-term growth.

It’s not sufficient to sustain sales; the goal is to improve sales annually.

New content is released to help improve sales.

Branding, word-of-mouth, and long-term strategies are applied to generate future sales.


Many successful indie fiction authors that I have met have used the Big Bang book marketing strategy quite effectively.

Traditional publishers often launch their books with a Big Bang.

I have drawn my success in nonfiction with the inflation book marketing strategy.

There are also popular authors who have earned their success with a combination of Big Bang and inflation strategies.

Personally, given a choice, I prefer sales consistency to sales spikes. That’s the key to long-term success.

You aren’t presented with a choice, though. For some books, a Big Bang is more attainable than sales consistency.

But if you can have both sales spikes and annual sales growth, you get the best of both worlds.

Furthermore, some recent changes in book publishing dynamics may shift the balance a little.


If you succeed in generating many sales over a short time, your sales rank can really soar.

This improves your chances of landing on a hot new release or top 100 bestseller list (at least in a subcategory).

Some customers browse through the bestseller lists, so this is your one shot to reach those readers.

Frequent sales help give your book additional exposure through customers-also-bought lists, recommendations, etc.

In can take 100 to 1000 sales to get a review, so the sooner you get your sales, the sooner you get customer reviews.

You also get word-of-mouth exposure sooner, and you can build a fan club faster, which helps you release your new books.

If you have other similar books, a sales spike in one book can feed sales to your other books.


It’s hard to maintain a stellar sales rank, which limits the benefits.

If you generate a lot of early reviews from an early sales spike, once the sales rank drops off, the review-to-sales-rank ratio may arouse customer suspicion. (But you can run new short-term promotions in the future to help revive your sales rank.)

Some of the popular methods of Big Bang book marketing, like BookBub and other advertisements, can be somewhat expensive, which makes Big Bang marketing riskier.

Amazon may have recently changed their algorithm to limit the long-term influence of sales spikes on sales rank.

If you could get many of those same sales distributed more evenly over a longer period (not that this is easy to do: a short-term promotion is easier), such sales consistency might have a better long-term impact on sales rank. (Analyzing which factors impact sales rank is complicated, though, and so this might not actually be quite the case.)

It can take a lot of work over a short period to create a high level of anticipation and to generate many early sales.


Consistent sales over a long period lend better stability to your Amazon sales rank.

This may now also have a stronger long-term influence on your sales rank.

Customer reviews are more likely to seem aligned with sales rank at any given time.

Your book is less susceptible to one untimely influential review, technical problems beyond your control, etc.

If you invest in advertising, you can do it with a long-term promotional plan, risking less per month than with the short-term promotions involved in Big Bang marketing.

There is much long-term potential if you succeed in driving consistent sales over a long period.

Your first few books haven’t dropped off the chart when you release a new book, which makes it easier to help a new release feed sales to your older books.

You spread your work load out over a longer period.


It takes very frequent sales to get the best exposure with bestseller and hot new release lists.

It’s not easy to generate consistent, long-term sales over a long period of time.

You need to find effective, long-term marketing strategies, and it takes dedication and patience to see them through.

Consistent sales over a long period often requires releasing new content periodically.

It takes longer to recover your investment, and more time to grow your sales.

While it would be great to achieve both, you do have to make some decisions that lean one way or the other.

For example, if you tell everyone you know about your new release at the same time, many are likely to buy it on the same day. But if you tell different groups on different days, you might get more consistent sales. Each option has its benefits and drawbacks. (Though if your book will be on sale for a short period, why not be a nice guy or gal and let people you know in on the deal?)

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

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
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

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


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What do you think about the new product pages at Amazon?



You may have noticed that product pages on Amazon now have a new look.

Amazon began rolling these new product pages out about 2 weeks ago at

In the beginning, the old page was sometimes showing; now only the new page appears. This suggests that Amazon has tested this out extensively. Evidently, the new page is working better overall (although some books may be hurt by the new look, on average more books must be benefiting from the new look, otherwise Amazon will revert back to the old look).

That’s the thing:

  • Amazon knows how to sell books.
  • Amazon has sales data.

If sales are down overall, Amazon will quickly change the look again. So the longer the new pages remain, the more we know that the new look is working (at least more often than not).

I saw several variations of the new product page in the first few days when the change was introduced. Amazon was surely testing variations out to see which worked best. The ‘final’ product page must be the variation that was most effective overall.

Following are the changes.


The Kindle book description now shows fewer lines before being interrupted by the Read More link.

Remember, Amazon knows how to sell books!

You have to trust Amazon on this.

Most (I didn’t say ‘all’) customers shopping for books aren’t going to spend too much time on most of the product pages.

Therefore, if you have a long blurb, most customers aren’t reading the whole blurb anyway.

This is Amazon’s way of telling authors, “Hey, your description is too long. Whichever part of your description you feel is most important to convey to shoppers, move that before the Read More link.”

If this change were hurting sales more often than helping sales, Amazon would change it back. Amazon sees the overall sales numbers. Amazon knows.


On the Kindle product page, other book formats, such as paperback and audio book, now stand out much better.

However, on the paperback book product page, the available formats appear in a format similar to the old layout.

Evidently, it’s more beneficial, on average, for Amazon to highlight the print and audio book editions on the Kindle page than it is for Amazon to highlight the Kindle edition on the print page.


If you’ve already purchased the print edition from Amazon and visit the Kindle product page, the MatchBook offer is highly visible near the purchase button.

However, if you haven’t already purchased the print edition, the MatchBook offer still fails to jump out at you.

On the print product page, you must scroll way down to product details, then look way over to the right, and it’s rather plain, not jumping out at you.

On the Kindle product page, it’s really tiny and just under the book description. I’ve missed it several times and I know exactly where it is!!

However, if you’ve already purchased the print edition, it’s really easy to find the MatchBook offer on the Kindle edition.

The thing is, authors would like for the MatchBook offer to be more visible to customers who haven’t already bought the book.

Amazon generally knows best, so I suppose I’ll have to trust Amazon here, too.


The purchase options appear larger and are better spread out on the right side of the Amazon product page.

For books in Kindle Unlimited, the buying option looks different depending upon whether or not the customer is a Kindle Unlimited subscriber.

If you’re a Kindle Unlimited subscriber and the book is in Kindle Unlimited, Amazon shows the price as FREE directly beneath the Kindle price.

If you’re not a Kindle Unlimited subscriber and the book is in Kindle Unlimited, you don’t see the FREE price below the purchase price. But it does mention Kindle Unlimited with the option to Learn More.


There are a few different positions where an advertisement may show on an Amazon product page.

For books, an AMS ad is most likely to get noticed if it shows directly below the book description. However, that’s the tiniest ad thumbnail.

A somewhat larger ad (but not the largest) sometimes shows on the right side, below the purchase options. However, unless you have an extremely large monitor, customers won’t notice this ad unless they scroll downward.

Ads may also show down near the customer review section.

But AMS ads placed through KDP only charge for clicks, not impressions, so if the ad doesn’t get noticed, it doesn’t cost the author anything.


Are you frustrated over losing space in the book description? (If the description is too long, part of it is hidden by a Read More link.)

The solution is to visit Author Central.

The From the Author, From the Back Cover, and About the Author sections show much more fully further down the product page. If you have any editorial reviews, these show more fully, too.

Maybe you can find a way to use these sections effectively (without abusing the system, of course).


Have you noticed any other changes to the Amazon product page?

If so, please check that the change is still showing, and leave a comment to let everyone know.

Thank you.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

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
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

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


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Notifying Kindle Customers of Updates (Has Changed)

Image from ShutterStock

Image from ShutterStock


It happens. After you publish a book, you think of a way to improve it. Or you find a typo. Or you view it on a friend’s device and discover a formatting problem. Or a customer notifies you of an issue. Or a customer suggests something in a review that never occurred to you. Or the content of a nonfiction book becomes out-of-date.

For some reason or another, you need to update your Kindle e-book.

That’s the easy part: Simply visit your bookshelf at KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), upload a new content file, preview your book carefully on each device, and publish the revision.

Your old book remains available for sale until the new one goes live, usually within 12 to 24 hours in the US. (If you don’t want the original to remain available in the interim period, simply unpublish the book from your KDP bookshelf.)

Naturally, you want all of your customers to receive your updated edition. You’d also like to notify your customers that a new edition is available.

That’s the hard part.

It’s never been ‘easy,’ but KDP’s policy on notifying Kindle customers of updates has actually changed.

Their policy is clearly customer-oriented, and that’s a good thing.

But it’s not customer-oriented in a way that’s intuitive to most authors. Authors are focused on how their Kindle e-book has improved, and so they tend to focus on how customers would appreciate having the new Kindle edition (or at least knowing that the new edition is available).

However, in many cases, that would actually be less customer-oriented.

Why? Because there is something else to consider.

Many readers:

  • highlight passages in their Kindle e-books
  • place bookmarks in their Kindle e-books
  • record notes in their Kindle e-books

Imagine customers who have spent hours not only reading your e-book, but highlighting, bookmarking, and taking notes in your e-book.

Those customers may become quite frustrated to lose all that hard work simply because your new edition overrides their original.

Therefore, Amazon must weigh the significance of your update and how customers might benefit from that against the possible loss of highlights, bookmarks, and notes.

The result is that KDP now only sends out automatic updates to Kindle customers when the update corrects serious readability issues, such as:

  • overlapping text
  • cutoff images

If the update does not correct a severe readability issue, KDP won’t issue an automatic update for your e-book.

(It’s true that customers can turn updates on or off, but not all customers take the time to do it or know how.)

KDP will ask you to describe the errors, and may ask you to provide the location numbers of the errors (you can read your book on a Kindle device or in the Kindle previewer to find the location numbers).

KDP will examine the errors to determine whether or not they hamper readability severely enough to warrant an update:

  • For destructive or critical errors (as deemed by KDP) replaced by major corrections, KDP will email current customers to let them know that an update exists and provide directions for how to obtain the updated Kindle e-book.
  • For distracting errors (as determined by KDP) replaced by minor corrections, current customers won’t be notified and updates will only be made available to customers who don’t yet own the book.
  • If KDP discovers critical errors that still need to be replaced, they will remove your book from sale until you correct those issues.

Of course, the best thing is to avoid needing an update, but it’s not always possible. Especially, in nonfiction, you can’t always future proof your book because information, technology, and trends are often dynamic.

For books where KDP chooses not to notify customers of updates, the next best thing is to let your following know on your blog, through social media, or via an email newsletter.

In addition to including information about how to follow you in an about the author section of your book, provide a compelling reason for readers to do this (e.g. a free relevant PDF file of something your audience is likely to want, or to learn about possible short-term promotional savings on your future books).

But you also have to balance publicly announcing that you made a mistake versus helping your current readers receive your updates (by contacting KDP to request that the updated edition be sent to their device, or perhaps you could send a copy of your book). If you have an email newsletter where the contact list consists predominantly of people who have purchased your book, then there is less concern about publicizing your mistakes; but if you post on your blog or social media about a mistake, then your mistake receives much exposure (and if you feed your blog or tweets into your Author Central page, current shoppers may see it).

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

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
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

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


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Advertising on Amazon with AMS via KDP: Research, Experience, & Tips

Advertising Research

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KDP now lets indie authors advertise their KDP Select books directly on through AMS (Amazon Marketing Services).

I’ve now placed 36 different ads through AMS on over a dozen books in multiple author names, with different targeting and bids from 2 cents to $1.01 per click. So I have quite a bit of firsthand experience with this. Although I publish nonfiction, I’ve also discussed AMS with several fiction authors who have used it—including some who love it, some who hate it, and more with mixed feelings. Many of these authors have shared their AMS numbers.


Well, not ‘easy.’

Marketing books is never easy. But advertising books on Amazon through AMS, like other marketing tools, has potential; the trick is learning how to use the tool effectively, and whether or not this tool is a good fit for you and your books.


  • Prime real estate. Your ad shows directly on Amazon product pages, where customers are already shopping for books. You’re not trying to make people leave one site to visit another.
  • Optional product targeting. You can hand-pick specific books (and even movies and other products, if applicable) to target. This allows you to tailor your targeting to your unique book.
  • Budget-friendly. Although you must set an advertising budget of at least $100, you’re not committed to spend one penny. You can pause or terminate your AMS ad campaign at any time. (However, the ad report does not show in real-time, so when you pause your campaign, the expenses may be higher than you realize. If you bid low, this won’t be an issue, but if you bid very high, you can be out of budget before you realize it.)
  • Free impressions. You only pay for clicks. If 2,000 people see your ad, but nobody clicks on the ad, you don’t pay a penny.
  • Product page data. The AMS ad report shows impressions, clicks, detail page views, and sales generated through the ads. This lets you see what percentage of traffic to your product page actually buys your book. Even in the worst case that your ad is an utter failure, learning your sales-to-clicks ratio can help you assess the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of your book’s product page at selling your book to your target audience.
  • Improving. AMS at KDP is improving. For example, you can now enter a phrase designed to catch interest and at least one of the possible ad locations shows this as an orange headline directly above your ad.


  • Competition. Many other authors bid high (often, much higher than they should), which can make it challenging to get impressions with an affordable bid, especially in competitive genres. However, there are ways to deal with this (like wise targeting).
  • Tiny thumbnail. The ads show a tiny image of your cover thumbnail. The ads come in a few different sizes, but many book covers are difficult to make out in the ads. (Obviously, if you design a cover that stands out well and is easy to read at this tiny size—possible, as I’ve seen it done—you have a distinct advantage.) So although impressions are free (you only pay for clicks), possible branding benefits from those impressions are somewhat limited.
  • Click-throughs. The CTR (click-through rate) can vary considerably from one book to another, but often it’s in the ballpark of 0.1%. That is, for every 1000 times your ad displays, 1 person will click on your ad. This isn’t really a downside though, since you only pay for clicks; impressions where the customer ignored your ad don’t cost you a penny.
  • Closing rate. The closing rate and your average CPC show whether or not your ad is a success or failure. The closing rate is your sales-to-click ratio. The books with the most marketable product pages and wise targeting can achieve a closing rate of 10% or better, but some books achieve a much lower closing rate.
  • Not real time. The ads do not show in real time; there are often delays of several hours (or more). So you must be patient and wise. Too many authors conclude prematurely that nothing is happening, so what do they do? They raise their bids to make something happen. That’s a great way to lose money fast.
  • Targeting. Take time to target wisely. This is one thing you have much control over, but you have to take the time to do the research. And when things don’t seem to be working, this is one area you can try to improve. The more frequently your ad shows to customers who are likely to be interested in your book, the better your chances of achieving a better closing rate.
  • Stoppage. Your AMS can actually be stopped due to low relevance by Amazon. Low relevance is either a sign of poor targeting, or a product page that has room for improvement (cover, blurb, Look Inside, even the book idea comes into play here). Your ad is likely to be stopped due to low relevance if your CTR is well under 0.1%. If only 1 out of 3000 people who see your ad click on it, there is a good chance that your ad will be stopped. If your ad is stopped, you can create a new ad, but be sure to strive for more relevant targeting.


I placed my first ad through AMS on January 29, 2015, shortly after the program was launched at KDP. I have now placed 36 different ads through AMS on several different books under a few different author names.

In February and early March, I had bid too high (upwards of $1 per click). But my primary goal was to get valuable data, even if that meant cutting into my ROI.

Most of my early ads were making many impressions (as many as 461,673 impressions). I received as many as 661 clicks (on an ad with 108,689 impressions). Most of my CTR’s (click-through rates) were in the neighborhood of 0.1% (1 in 1000), though I had a few above 0.5%, but also a few below 0.05%. But the CTR really doesn’t matter, since you only pay for clicks. (Well, it does matter now: If your CTR is well below 0.1%, there is a good chance that your ad will be stopped for low relevance.) From my numbers and stats that other authors have shared, 0.05% (1 in 2000) to 0.5% (1 in 200) is typical; if your CTR is below this, you can probably improve it through targeting (well, your cover matters, too).

I had a few ads with a closing rate (sales to clicks) of 10% or more, but most of my ads had closing rates below 10%. I had some closing rates of just a few percent. This stat is very important, as it determines how much you can afford to bid and whether or not your short-term ROI (return on investment) is worthwhile. With a variety of books, success rates, and targeting strategies, I’ve learned some ways to help improve my closing rates (reflected in my more recent ads). I’ve met a few other authors who achieved closing rates above 10%, but many more authors with closing rates closer to 5% or less.

I’ve placed 12 new ads since April 19, 2015, with wiser bids and targeting, based on my prior experience. The new ads are much more successful in terms of short-term ROI. I now have more ads where the short-term royalties exceed the amount spent on the ad. I also have some slower-running ads that are getting very cheap exposure. For example, I have one ad that’s been running for 31 days, which has cost me a total of $2.16, but has generated 177,537 impressions, 73 clicks, and already returned over $4 in royalties. That’s not much in terms of sales for a whole month of advertising, but look, that’s not bad for having invested a whole two dollars. I have some ads generating activity with as little as 2-cent bids. A low bid may not make many impressions (though occasionally it does), but it’s also more likely to earn a short-term return rather than a loss (and if it earns a loss, imagine how much you would have lost bidding high).

Another thing that I’ve seen are indirect benefits. Many other authors have seen similar indirect benefits. Several authors have seen an increase in borrows. A couple authors reported an increase in borrows, then a decrease in both sales and borrows when the ad stopped, and a return when a new ad was run. A few series authors have reported improvement in other books in the series. But not all authors have seen such improvements; indirect benefits are not guaranteed.

I sell about 9 paperbacks for every Kindle e-book, overall (I have a few books where it’s the other way around). When I ran my ads in February and early March, I saw a substantial increase in related paperback books. I toned down my advertising significantly in late March and early April (I had been bidding upwards of $1 per click; I stopped some of my ads, and lowered my bids in others). My paperback sales declined. Around April 19, I placed several new ads (remember, the ads are for Kindle e-books), but with lower bids, and I’ve seen sales of paperback books improve again.

I’ve tried a variety of targeting strategies. I only used category targeting for a couple of ads, and didn’t generate many impressions that way. The problem is that every other book with the same targeting category is competing for the exact same list of books. Product targeting seems to give you an edge, even when all of the books on your list seem to fit into the same broad category. But product targeting also lets you select specific books outside your genre or category, and even other kinds of products, like movies. I’ve tried compiling narrow lists of 50 books, long lists with 1000 books, books of very popular and very similar products, movies and other products likely to interest my target audience, and lists of books that aren’t too popular and which are more likely to appeal to an indie audience. There are a lot of possibilities when it comes to targeting.

If you select fewer than 50 products, it will be tough to make impressions (unless you pick some hugely popular products, even then, you have to outbid others). If you target movies or other products likely to interest your target audience, but they only interest a small fraction of your audience, this can greatly diminish your CTR, putting you in danger of low relevance (so your ad may be stopped), especially if those movies or other products are hot items. You really have to judge your target audience well to make the most of your targeting (you can go back and change product targeting; but if you select category targeting, the only way to change it is to pause your ad and start a new one). If you target books where the readers are more likely to actually purchase your book once they reach your product page, this can help your conversion rate. It pays to spend extra time contemplating the probable habits and interests of much of your target audience (and it may take some trial and error).

But you probably don’t care so much about my experience, as what I’ve learned from it. So let me move onto tips and suggestions, based on my experience with AMS.


  • Create a short catch-phrase likely to interest your target audience (and sound relevant to the subgenre, subcategory or content) to use for your headline. Don’t simply copy your title into the headline. This shows above your ad (when the headline displays).
  • Click the option to display your ad as quickly as possible (don’t let Amazon spread it out evenly). Unless you’re overbidding, it’s hard to make impressions, so get as many as you can.
  • Change the month of the end date. Set the end date as far into the future as the system will let you (several months). You can end it anytime manually.
  • Choose product targeting instead of interest targeting. Check the box to include similar products.
  • Devote some time to research books (and perhaps other products, like movies) to target. Think about whether the majority of the target audience for those books (or products) is likely to be interested in your book. Browse for similar books and products on Amazon before you start working on your ad campaign so that you have ideas ready. Select a minimum of 50 books, perhaps several hundred is better, but it really depends on your book and audience.
  • Some of the books you target need to be popular enough for your ad to show enough times to make impressions. Some need to be not too popular, otherwise you’ll be consistently outbid (or you’ll be overpaying). Select several less popular books too, as there may be less competition for those ads.
  • Enter specific keywords, even key-phrases, highly relevant to your book, in order to help find more books like yours. Try a variety of keywords and phrases, but remember that relevance is key.
  • Relevance matters when targeting, not only to get the most out of your ad (you want it to sell once you get traffic), but also to prevent your ad from being stopped.
  • Bid low to begin with. You can always raise your bid later. If you do, only raise it a little at a time.
  • Don’t raisee your bid more than once in a 48-hour period (better yet, wait at least 1 week). Stats don’t show in real time, but can actually be delayed by several hours (even more than a day). Don’t let your impatience squander your money.
  • Be patient. What’s the hurry? Why pay $1 to spend your money fast, possibly with little to show for it? Let your ad run for weeks, or even months, if necessary. The most common way to lose money with AMS is to bid too high too fast.
  • Remember that there are many other authors, and their bids and targeting change over time. So if you aren’t getting many impressions now, a few weeks from now when other ads run out, you might get more. Sometimes, simply waiting out higher bidders can help you generate impressions at a lower cost.
  • Remember that you can go back and change product targeting. Try to find wiser ways to target effectively before yielding to the temptation to raise your bid.
  • Keep an eye on your ad report. You can lose a lot of money fast if you’re not careful. Out of the blue, an ad that had been going slow can start getting several clicks. If you’re spending tens of dollars, but not generating sales, stop your ad before you lose more money. Try to improve your ad before running it again.
  • Look at your short-term ROI (return on investment). Compare your royalties (the report shows sales instead; you have to figure this out) to the money spent so far. If you’re losing money (more than you wish to risk), pause the ad. You can try changing your targeting. Try bidding less. Something isn’t working, so either stop the ad or try to improve it. (Or if it’s only a small loss, maybe indirect or long-term benefits will offset this; that’s a tough decision that you have to make.)
  • If your closing rate (# of sales divided by # of clicks) times your royalty exceeds your average CPC, your ad is making money; if not, your ad is losing money short-term. Example: 100 clicks, 8 sales, royalty $2.10, average CPC is 15 cents. Divide 8 sales by 100 clicks to get 0.08. Multiply 0.08 by $2.10 to get $0.168. This exceeds the average CPC of $0.15, so this ad is yielding a short-term ROI (so any indirect or long-term benefits will be gravy).
  • Bidding much less can improve your short-term ROI. If you’re losing significant money short-term, first try lowering your bid significantly. Your impressions, clicks, and sales rates may go down, too, but your short-term ROI is likely to be better. It’s better to make a small profit at a slow rate, than to lose money at a fast rate. Only bid what you can afford to bid.
  • The alternative to lowering your bid is improved targeting (or improving your product page and Look Inside). In some cases, it may take a combination of a lower bid and improved targeting. And we know that not every book can be saved, so the same is true with ads. Sometimes, it’s just not in the cards.
  • If your CTR (clicks divided by impressions) is less than 0.05% (1 in 2000), your ad is in greater danger of being stopped due to low relevance. Try changing your product targeting. (If it does get stopped, you can start a new ad, but again you’ll want to try to improve your product targeting.)
  • If you plan on using this in the future, when designing your next cover, strive for a layout and color scheme that will catch attention even at this tiny ad thumbnail size (and still look good as a regular thumbnail and also full-size).
  • You’re not obligated to spend your whole ad campaign budget. You can pause or terminate your ad at any time.
  • Imagine you’re at a casino. If you’re having bad luck, get out fast! Walking away when you’ve lost $15 is a lot better than losing $100.
  • Don’t place ads for multiple books simultaneously, unless you can do so with significantly different targeting.
  • If you have multiple books or plan to run multiple ads, change the name of your ad campaign to help you remember which book the ad is for. The default names aren’t helpful at all.
  • Create an ad with limited, focused targeting. After getting appreciable data, stop the ad. Start a new ad with different, but still limited, focused targeting. Compare your results. You can learn a lot with brief controlled experiments like this.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

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
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

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


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Author Central INDIA

Image from ShutterStock

Image from ShutterStock


Amazon’s Author Central is now available in India.

Authors can now setup free author pages for Amazon India.

But unlike the UK, France, Germany, and Japan, this is really, really easy.

In fact, it’s automatic.

Once you setup Author Central in the US, it automatically propagates your Author Central page to India.

If you already have Author Central in the US, your author page should already show in India.

Would you like to check if your author page shows up at Amazon India?

If so, use this link: Once there, search for one of your books. Scroll down the product page and you should eventually find your author photo on the left-hand side.

Note that the Author Central info appears farther down the page than usual, below the review section.

Don’t have an Author Central account yet?

You should. It’s free. Visit to setup a free Author Central account at Amazon’s US site. Your author page will automatically show up in India, too.

Want to setup Author Central in other countries?

It’s not available in every country. The following list shows where it is available (but for the US, look above).

Every author should setup an author page in the US and the UK, at a minimum.

In the UK, France, Germany, and Japan, you should be able to log into Author Central with your US account info, and it should eventually pull up your books once you get it set up.

Not every feature from the US translates into the other Author Central sites. For example, you can feed your WordPress blog into the US site, but not into the UK site.

While it may pull up your list of books, you may need to input your biography or photos. Check and see what shows up, and then add anything that’s missing.

Works written in English show up under foreign authors in France, Germany, and Japan.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

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
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

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

Doing a Cover Reveal Soon? Done one Recently?

Curtains from ShutterStock. Kindle Formatting Magic cover designed by Melissa Stevens.

Curtains from ShutterStock. Kindle Formatting Magic cover designed by Melissa Stevens at


You can catch a glimpse of a cover reveal that I’ll be doing soon (for a book on Kindle Formatting Magic).

This gave me an idea: Why just reveal my own cover?

This is an opportunity for me to reveal other authors’ recent covers alongside my own.

I actually have a couple of new books coming out soon (including one with mathematical puzzle patterns), so I’ll have a couple of cover reveals coming in the next few weeks.

Have you done a cover reveal recently?

Will you be doing a cover reveal soon?

If so, let me know.

Just leave a comment on this post with a link to your cover reveal.

I don’t need your image file; I’ll just use WordPress’s option to link to your image, so that clicking the image leads to your cover reveal post.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

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
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

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

What Did Kindle Unlimited Pay for April, 2015?

KU Trends 3


In April, 2015, Kindle Unlimited paid $1.36 per Kindle Unlimited borrow read to 10% (and all Amazon Prime borrows). Looking at the graph above, Kindle Unlimited appears to have leveled off at about $1.40. (But there is a more fascinating number, which I’ll throw out in a few paragraphs.)

$1.40 doesn’t look like much compared to $2 in the days of Amazon Prime only (i.e. no Kindle Unlimited), and if you have a book priced $2.99 or higher, $1.40 is small compared to your royalty for purchases (in most cases).

That’s not the way I look at it. I was getting few borrows when it was Amazon Prime only, and my borrows have shot way up with Kindle Unlimited (without a corresponding sacrifice in sales). I’m earning much more with $1.40 per Kindle Unlimited borrow than I was when I was receiving $2 per Prime borrow.

But the more interesting number, in my opinion, is $9,800,000.

Amazon added a whopping $6,800,000 to their initial commitment of $3,000,000, bringing the KDP Select Global Fund up to nearly $10 million for April, 2015.

KU Trends 3b

The graph above is a good sign for Kindle Unlimited readers and KDP Select authors, in my opinion.

It means that the audience for Kindle Unlimited books has grown substantially and continues to grow.

The KDP Select Global Fund is increasing significantly because there are more Kindle Unlimited subscribers and more books being borrowed and read to 10% through the program.

Amazon paid $9,800,000 in KOLL royalty shares for April, 2015. That money goes to authors who had books enrolled in KDP Select.

Many KDP Select books are benefiting from this increasing payout. Obviously, not all books are, but many are. The potential is there, and many authors are benefiting from it.

The cost is exclusivity. But here’s the question: With the KDP Select Global Fund steadily rising from $2,000,000 to $9,800,000 over the past 9 months, would your book earn more money from Kindle Unlimited than it would from other retailers. It’s always been a tough question that can vary from book to book and author to author (and can only be truly known by trying it both ways), but it seems that the pool for KDP Select books is growing (it’s increased fivefold in 9 months).

Another interesting trend involves the number of books in Kindle Unlimited (about 100,000 of those are from small traditional publishers and are not part of KDP Select):

  • There are 963,814 books in Kindle Unlimited as of May 15, 2015.
  • There were 864,164 books in Kindle Unlimited as of February 17, 2015. This number has risen 12% in 3 months.
  • 43,407 new Kindle Unlimited books have been published in the last 30 days. (That’s about the same figure from February 17.)
  • 87,910 new Kindle e-books have been published in the last 30 days. Nearly 50% are enrolling in KDP Select.
  • There are about 3,000,000 Kindle e-books in all. About one-third are in Kindle Unlimited (whereas about one-half of new releases are opting in).
  • 334,615 of the Kindle Unlimited books are considered short reads (which, by the way, go up to 100 pages). That’s 35%.
  • 13,458 of the books published in Kindle Unlimited in the last 30 days are short reads. That’s 31%. The ratio of short works entering into Kindle Unlimited is actually decreasing, since 31% is less than 35% (contrary to popular myth—we now have proof that it’s not being flooded with short books, but that the percentage of short books in Kindle Unlimited is going down).

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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Recommendations for Book Covers

Cover Recs


Every week, I receive several questions from authors about publishing and marketing.

One of the most common requests is recommendations for book covers.

I designed all of my own covers until I met Melissa Stevens. She can pull off some amazing effects that I can’t, and she is very knowledgeable about PhotoShop and cover design. Melissa has designed my recent covers.

But hiring an illustrator for a custom cover isn’t easy. First, you have to find a capable illustrator who meets your budget.

A more affordable option is to browse for ready-made covers. But it’s not easy to find the right cover pre-made.

And in either case, you want assurances about quality and you want to make sure you have the rights to use the images as you intend.

So what many authors search for are recommendations from other authors.

There is only one designer who I have firsthand experience with. Yet I would like to help authors explore options in multiple price ranges.

YOU can help with that. If you’ve ever hired an artist to design a cover, or if you’ve ever purchased a pre-made cover, and if you found the result worth recommending, PLEASE take a moment and recommend that artist, website, or service in the comments section. Other authors will appreciate the time you took.

In addition to providing a link, please also explain what you liked about the cover, artist, or service, or why you’re recommending it. This will be even more helpful.

(But please don’t self-promote in the comments section. Recommend a service or artist with which you are not affiliated.)

Thank you. 🙂


How to Find and Hire a Cover Artist

Finding and Using Stock Photos

Which Fonts Should You Use?

Kerning Fonts

Cover Design Checklist

The Importance of Color in Cover Design

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

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.


Click here to jump to the comments section: