How to Write a Book Blurb . . . Maybe . . . I’ve Not Idea What I’m Doing

Helpful tips for that oh-so-difficult-to-write blurb.

Legends of Windemere

Funny from Yahoo Image Search Funny from Yahoo Image Search

I was asked to write a post about writing a book blurb.  At least I think I was since it’s sitting on my topic list with a blogger’s name next to it.  To be fair, I have part of a shopping list on this thing too.  Still need to pick up those eggs.

Now I’ve written several book blurbs and synopsis and one or two of them could even be called good.  The thing is that I truly hate writing these things because they leave me drained and stressed.  Why?  Because there is so much I want to say and I never know what’s the important stuff and what hooks should be used.  Keep this in mind as I tread into the list.  As I said in the title, I don’t always know what I’m doing.  In fact, I had to rewrite all of mine…

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Lending & Borrowing mean different things at Amazon

Image from ShutterStock.

Image from ShutterStock.


Amazon has two completely unrelated Kindle programs which use similar words.

  • borrowing: readers can borrow Kindle e-books through Amazon Prime or Kindle Unlimited.
  • lending: the Kindle Book Lending program allows customers to lend one book to someone else for up to 14 days.

These two programs have absolutely nothing to do with one another.

To make matters potentially more confusing, Amazon uses the word lending in KOLL: Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. In this abbreviation, ‘lending’ does actually refer to Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Prime. But in Kindle Book Lending, the word ‘lending’ means something entirely different.

Both options—borrowing as it relates to Kindle Unlimited and lending as it relates to Kindle Book Lending—appear in different places when you publish an e-book with KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing).

  • The top of the first page of the publishing process has the option to enroll in KDP Select. This includes your book in Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Prime (which are two separate programs).
  • The bottom of the second page of the publishing process has the option to participate in Kindle Book Lending. This has nothing to do with Kindle Unlimited (or Amazon Prime).


This allows a customer to lend the Kindle e-book to one friend or family member for up to 14 days:

  • Each customer can only lend the e-book one time only.
  • The original customer can’t read the book until it’s returned.
  • It can only be loaned for up to 14 days.

Authors have no control over this if they choose the 70% royalty option.

If authors choose the 35% royalty option, then can choose to opt out of Kindle Book Lending.

Since each customer can only loan the e-book to a single person, any possible loss through lending is severely limited.

The Kindle Book Lending option doesn’t affect Kindle Unlimited or Amazon Prime in any way.


Customers can subscribe to Kindle Unlimited for $9.99 per month in the US (the fee is different in the UK).

A monthly subscription to Kindle Unlimited entitles customers to borrow as many Kindle Unlimited e-books as they would like.

Not all e-books participate in Kindle Unlimited. All KDP Select books are included in Kindle Unlimited, plus about 100,000 traditionally published books.

Approximately 1,000,000 of over 3,000,000 Kindle e-books are included in Kindle Unlimited.

Customers can borrow up to 10 books at a time. After that, the customer must return one of the 10 books before borrowing another.

Kindle Unlimited is unrelated to Amazon Prime.

(While Kindle Unlimited now pays authors by the page, customers are not charged by the page. Customers pay $9.99 per month and can then read as many pages of Kindle Unlimited e-books as they would like with no additional charge.)


Customers pay an annual fee to join Amazon Prime.

Amazon Prime offers many benefits, such as free two-day shipping of many eligible products, instant streaming of Amazon Prime videos, and borrowing up to one Kindle e-book per month.

There are about 100,000 Kindle e-books which are available to Kindle Unlimited customers, which are not available for Amazon Prime customers.

Unlike Kindle Unlimited, Amazon Prime customers can only borrow one Kindle e-book per month.

Customers must browse for Amazon Prime e-books using a Kindle device registered to the Prime account. (Before Kindle Unlimited, Amazon Prime customers could shop for Kindle e-books from their pc, mac, or laptop, but now they must shop for Amazon Prime books using a registered Kindle device.)

(In contrast, you don’t need to own a Kindle device to use Kindle Unlimited.)

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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Marketing your book on Father’s Day and other holidays

Images from ShutterStock.

Images from ShutterStock.


Father’s Day and other holidays can be book marketing opportunities.

Did you take advantage of this book marketing opportunity this Father’s Day? You could have.

If not, Independence Day in the US is coming up soon.

So how could Father’s Day be a book marketing opportunity?

Here are a few ways:

  • Your book might make for a nice gift for dads.
  • The father-son relationship may be a significant part of your novel.
  • Your nonfiction book might relate to tools, classic cars, or something that many fathers may enjoy.

If your book might make for a nice Father’s Day gift, you have the opportunity to say, basically, “Here’s a Father’s Day gift idea,” instead of another, “Check out my book,” message.

Or you might put your book on sale temporarily and advertise the promotion. You can advertise not just that your book is on sale, but that it would be a nice gift for dads.

Check out this example on Read Tuesday, which collected some Father’s Day gift book ideas.

Some authors use the holidays which best relate to their books to get media coverage through press releases. Local papers are looking for holiday themed articles, and your book’s relevance to a holiday might be a good fit. You don’t know until you try.

But Father’s Day is just one of many holidays:

  • December 31, New Year’s Eve. Great for books that tie into New Year’s resolutions.
  • February 14, Valentine’s Day. This one may be too obvious.
  • March 17, St. Patrick’s Day. Have an Irish theme to your book? Is part of your book set in Ireland?
  • March/April, Easter Sunday. One of many religious holidays.
  • April 1, April Fool’s Day. I suppose you could even use a practical joke as part of your marketing strategy.
  • May 5, Cinco de Mayo. But if you have a book that relates to Mexico in some way, beware that May 5 is not Mexico’s Independence Day (which falls on September 16, another opportunity to market your books a few months later).
  • May, Mother’s Day. Would your book make a nice gift for moms? Does it feature a strong mother-daughter relationship?
  • June, Father’s Day. Covered that earlier.
  • July 4, Independence Day. Patriotic books get a few holidays, including Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day.
  • November, Thanksgiving. It could be a book that relates to the spirit of giving thanks.
  • December 25, Christmas. A huge day in the US for gift giving, even with gifts that don’t directly relate to the religious holiday.

Which days (possibly not on my short list) are the best fit for your books? Those times offer your book marketing opportunities. Look out for them.

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.

Changes to Amazon Customer Reviews

Image from ShutterStock.

Image from ShutterStock.


Amazon is implementing changes to the customer review system in the US.

News of this change was recently announced in this c/net article.

The new customer review system uses a machine learning platform.

What does a machine learning customer review platform mean?

  • The system will gauge which customer reviews are most helpful.
  • The customer review system will be dynamic.
  • The average star rating will be weighted by helpfulness.
  • Verified reviews will have an edge toward helpfulness.
  • Newer reviews will also count more toward helpfulness.
  • Customer voting still impacts helpfulness.

So, exactly, how is this different?

  • Average star rating may change, since it will be weighted by helpfulness. The most helpful reviews will carry more influence.
  • Customer voting isn’t the only factor that affects helpfulness. Newer reviews and Verified reviews will carry more weight. There are probably other factors entailed in the “machine-learning.”
  • Reviews deemed most helpful will have greater visibility on Amazon.
  • The placement of reviews and average star ratings may change more frequently with the new system.

It will probably take time for the new Amazon customer review system to fully roll out and for the machine-learning to make an impact.

Amazon hopes to make the customer review system more useful through these changes.

The emphasis on newer reviews is to keep the information up-to-date. For example, if a product is improved to reflect criticism, newer reviews may reflect those changes, and thus should be more visible.

The emphasis on Verified reviews is in-line with Amazon’s recent lawsuit against alleged fake review websites. Amazon is striving to sustain customer trust in the review system.


Machine-learning may have far-reaching consequences with regard to Kindle book reviews.

That’s because Amazon has more data to analyze:

  • How many pages did the customer read?
  • How much time did the customer spend reading the book?
  • How does the customer’s behavior with this book compare to the customer’s behavior with other books?
  • How many customers return this book?

Changes to customer reviews and to sales rank may both be related to recent changes announced for Kindle Unlimited.

Kindle Unlimited will now pay royalties based on how many pages customers read, effective July 1, 2015.

Royalty reports for Kindle Unlimited will show the number of pages read instead of the number of borrows.

Kindle sales rank may soon be impacted by the number of pages that customers read.

Similarly, machine-learning may look at the number of pages read and related data to help judge which reviews are more helpful.

If so, this would affect all Kindle e-books (not just those in Kindle Unlimited).

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.

Improved Amazon Subcategory Rank

Rank Subcategories


Subcategory ranks at Amazon now extend beyond the top 100 bestsellers in the subcategory.

This is a nice improvement, I think.

Customers see a Kindle sales rank of 500,000 at Amazon and wonder why it’s not selling much.

But how many of the better selling books are completely unrelated to the type of book that the customer is shopping for?

Maybe the book is in a special niche.

A book that ranks 500,000 overall might rank 150 in its subcategory.

When a customer sees 500,000 overall, it can deter sales a bit.

When a customer sees 1,000,000 overall, it can deter sales a lot. In fact, a book can sell once a week or so on average, but as soon as it reaches 1,000,000, often its sales diminish significantly, unless and until it gets a much-needed sale to return to the low 100,000’s. It’s the same book, same cover, same Look Inside, same description, same reviews… but that different sales rank changes some customers’ perceptions.

Not all. Some customers ignore sales rank. Some don’t know what it means. But some do understand sales rank.

But if the customer sees that the book ranks 150 in its subcategory, that has appeal.

So this is a nice change.

It’s one of many improvements that Amazon has made to product pages recently. Amazon has even improved Kindle Unlimited recently.

Amazon could take this a step further:

  • Don’t even show the overall rank unless it’s more likely to drive sales than deter sales.
  • Only show subcategory rank (and possibly category rank) unless overall sales rank will help with sales.

Authors can see overall sales rank from Author Central, so this really isn’t needed on the product pages.

Suppose a book is ranked 500,000 overall and 150 in its subcategory.

Until recently, it only looked like this on the product page:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #500,000 Paid in the Kindle Store

Now it looks like this:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #500,000 Paid in the Kindle Store

#150 in Books > Category > Subcategory

I propose that it should look like this instead:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #150 in Books > Category > Subcategory

In my opinion, this is more likely to drive sales.

Amazon has kind of shot itself in the foot with sales rank.

It used to be that a book selling once a day on average had a sales rank around 50,000.

This number is going up. It could have a sales rank around 200,000 now. Pretty soon, 500,000 might be selling once a day.

But people remember how it used to be. They remember that 500,000 used to be bad. It was bad when there were 1,000,000 Kindle books. But it’s pretty good now that there are 3,000,000 Kindle books.

Amazon doesn’t just want to sell the top 50,000 books. Amazon could improve its sales of books ranked 50,0001 to 3,000,000 by not showing its overall sales rank at all.

Just show the subcategory rank only, unless the overall rank is good enough to help sales. Don’t show customers ranks that are more likely to deter sales.

Yes, if they adopt my idea (doubtful, unless perhaps several others—maybe you—take the time to contact Amazon with the suggestion), customers would learn that if there is no overall rank, that book isn’t one of the top sellers. But they will see the subcategory rank and realize that it’s selling fairly well in its subcategory. They won’t know if the overall rank is 50,001 or 3,000,000 (but the subcategory rank will make it seem more like 50,001 than 3,000,000).

Anyway, it’s just a thought.

I’m a fan of the new subcategory ranks.

Amazon used to show subcategory rank only if the book was in the top 100 in its subcategory. Now subcategory extends way past 100.

I think this is a cool change.

You can probably expect to see continued changes to the product pages as Amazon further tests out ideas that may improve sales.

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.

15 Questions & Answers about the new Kindle Unlimited policy effective July 1

Images from ShutterStock.

Images from ShutterStock.


Kindle Unlimited is changing its policy effective July 1, 2015.

Books borrowed through Kindle Unlimited will now be paid by the number of pages read.

Following are 15 questions and answers about this policy change with Kindle Unlimited.

(Of course, this change only affects borrows through Kindle Unlimited. Ordinary sales are unaffected.)

1 How will this change affect Kindle Unlimited readers?

The change doesn’t directly impact readers, but there may be indirect effects.

  • Customers shouldn’t feel guilty about borrowing too many books. Especially, if you read short books or children’s books, it’s easy to feel guilty about reading one or more books a day. This is no longer an issue. Read as many books as you want. Amazon isn’t losing money if you read 30+ books a month on your $9.99 subscription, and all the authors will get paid based on how many pages you read.
  • The other possible impact depends on which books, if any, enter or exit the Kindle Unlimited library. Some authors of shorter books may pull their books out. Some authors of longer books may put theirs back in. There probably won’t be too much change in the first few months. Historically, books in KDP Select have had a 95% renewal rate, so if much more than 5% of the books drop out, that would be a big surprise. What’s more likely is that authors will wait a few months to see how the new program goes.

2 How will Amazon determine how many pages are read?

Amazon will use a KENPC (Kindle edition normalized page count), which will probably differ from the page count listed on the product page.

You won’t know what your book’s KENPC is until July 1. Then you can find it on the Promote and Advertise page from your Bookshelf.

Amazon will count pages read from your book’s start reading location. (Pages that are reread will only count the first time they are read.)

3 Will longer books have an advantage?

Longer books have more pages, so if a customer reads the whole book, it will pay a higher royalty than a short book.

However, it doesn’t really matter whether you write ten 50-page books or one 500-page book. Once a customer reads all of it, you get paid for the same 500 pages.

What Amazon has really done is remove the advantage that some short books used to have.

If authors of short books compare their new royalties to their old royalties, they are likely to see a significant drop.

However, that’s in the past. The current program treats both short and long books on a more equal footing, rather than giving short books a significant advantage.

4 Will illustrated children’s books and photography books have a disadvantage?

Images will count toward a book’s KENPC, so this should help books that have illustrations, photographs, and charts.

How many words one image will be worth is unknown at this point.

5 Which books will do best in the new Kindle Unlimited program?

What really matters most is content engagement.

That is, does the writing compel most readers to continue reading to the end, and then to want to read more of your books after that?

It doesn’t matter how long the book is. Whether you write four 50-page books or one 200-page book, you get paid the same so long as readers read all of the pages.

Rewarding content engagement is a good thing, surely.

6 How will Kindle Unlimited borrows be reported?

You’ll be able to see the number of pages read in your report.

That’s cool. That’s helpful data that we’ve never had before. Knowing how many pages your customers are reading can help you assess how engaging your content is.

A few authors who are on the fence about this policy change are staying in it initially just for this new data.

Will you be able to see both the number of books borrowed and the number of pages read? I hope so, but this is unknown at this point. (Feel free to place a request with KDP.)

7 What if the customer doesn’t finish your book in one month?

Evidently, you’ll get paid for the pages read each month (even if the customer temporarily stops reading your book and begins reading another, finishing your book later).

There is a neat effect here. Suppose you have a 300-page book. Starting in July, every month 100 customers begin reading your book, but read at a rate of 50 pages per month.

You’ll get paid for 5000 pages read in July, 10,000 pages read in August, 15,000 pages read in September, 20,000 pages read in October, 25,000 pages read in November, 30,000 pages read in December, and 30,000 pages read every month after that.

(Obviously, it’s not realistic that the same number of customers will borrow your book each month and all read at the same rate. It also assumes that every customer will read your complete book.)

But this shows the potential for growth that longer books have.

8 Is Amazon’s example of how the royalties will work realistic?

You can find the example here.

In the example, Amazon assumes a $10,000,000 payout and 100,000,000 pages read.

The payout may be closer to $11,000,000. That part seems reasonable, but was reduced to $10,000,000 to get round numbers.

The 100,000,000 pages read is probably not realistic. With that figure, Amazon would pay about 10 cents per page read.

Amazon probably chose these numbers so they could use nice round numbers in the example, not because it was realistic.

When KDP Select was first announced back in December, 2011, Amazon used a $5 royalty in their example, but in the first month KOLL paid less than $2. So it’s not uncommon for Amazon to overestimate in their example. (It probably has good marketing value for them, too.)

9 How will KDP Select All-Star bonuses be paid beginning July 1, 2015?

The top books and top authors will be awarded based on the total number of pages read through Kindle Unlimited, based on the KENPC (see Question 2).

10 Does the 10% mark matter any more?


11 What about an omnibus or boxed set?

It used to make sense to not include the boxed set in KDP Select because you make more money when customers borrow them individually. (The boxed set must still be exclusive to Amazon if any of the individual volumes are in Select.)

Now it virtually doesn’t matter. If customers read the whole story, you get paid the same whether they borrow the boxed set or the individual volumes.

12 Will authors start padding their stories to make them longer?

Not if they’re smart!

Will people read pages just because they’re there? (And even if they do, will they want to read your next book?)

Pages are more likely to be read if they’re engaging.

If you can add engaging content, well, that’s not quite padding, is it?

13 Should you write short books or long books?

You should write (A) what’s most likely to sell, (B) what’s most likely to get read, and (C) what you’re a good fit to write.

If you write shorter books, you get paid less per book than if you write longer books, but through Kindle Unlimited, either way, it’s how many pages get read that really matters.

If you write a long book, but little of it gets read, those extra pages don’t help.

If you write a short book that gets fully read quite often, the pages will add up.

What length is more likely to sell and then more likely to engage the customer varies widely depending on the genre, category, and specific target audience.

There is no single size that optimizes success across the board. (Some lengths are also much harder to write well than others.)

14 How much will books make in Kindle Unlimited?

That’s the ten million dollar question! Nobody knows.

Amazon paid $10,800,000 in May, 2015, which led to a KOLL payment of $1.35 per book.

When a Kindle Unlimited customer borrows a book, how many pages does that customer read on average?

That’s the real question. If most of your Kindle Unlimited customers read more pages than that, you’ll probably see an improved per-book royalty. If most of your Kindle Unlimited customers read fewer pages than that, you’ll probably see a diminished per-book royalty.

And if your book is 5 pages long, you’re probably not going to be a happy camper no matter what.

15 Should you drop out of KDP Select?

Amazon will pay out more than $100 million dollars in royalties for KDP Select borrows (both Amazon Prime and Kindle Unlimited combined) in 2015.

That’s a huge share of the 2015 e-book market. If you walk out of KDP Select, your book is missing out on this market.

But if you stay in KDP Select, your book is missing out on the Nook, Kobo, Apple, Smashwords, etc. market.

Which market is better for your book? Good question! It varies from one book to another.

Some authors try out KDP Select for 90 days. If unhappy, they opt out. Occasionally that pays off; sometimes it ends up being worse; sometimes it doesn’t make much difference.

The only way to know is to try.

But if you opt out of KDP Select, your sales rank at Amazon may slide (as some authors have experienced) because those KDP Select borrows will no longer help. (Presently, you have more help than you realize, since you get a bump in rank when customers borrow your book but don’t reach the 10% mark.)

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 Giveaways (How to + Chance 2 win)

Images from ShutterStock.

Images from ShutterStock.


This post has two parts:

  1. Quick tips for hosting a book giveaway
  2. Several contests by a variety of authors that you can enter

I’ll give the tips first.

Find the contests that you can enter below. There are many cool books there by different authors.

Entering those contests is quick and easy.

And the last one on the list is free to everyone.

So you’re guaranteed to get at least one free book.


Tip #1 Trust & Convenience

Most readers are familiar with Goodreads and Amazon, and trust these companies. This helps to get reader participation.

Running Goodreads and Amazon giveaways is easy and convenient, provided that you have a print edition (you can publish in paperback for free using CreateSpace). You can quickly setup a Goodreads giveaway from your author dashboard. Find the option to run an Amazon giveaway at the bottom of the print edition’s detail page (US only).

Check out this post for everything you ever wanted to know about Amazon and Goodreads giveaways, and more.

For e-books enrolled in KDP Select, you can run a free promo, but you really need to find websites and bloggers with a large following in your genre or category to really get the most out of the exposure. See tip #2.

Update: When you publish a Kindle e-book through KDP, now you can run an Amazon Giveaway for the e-book.

Tip #2 Promoting the Giveaway

For Amazon giveaways, tweet about it using the #AmazonGiveaway hashtag. Don’t add a photo to your tweet and it will likely be included automatically. I’ve received excellent exposure for a few hours tweeting with this hashtag without including a photo in the tweet.

For Goodreads giveaways, it’s all about the tags that you enter. So here’s what you do first. Visit this Goodreads giveaway page. Look on the right column for the tags and click the More link beneath it. This will show you the 1000 most popular tags in order. Although you can enter several tags (separated by commas), only use tags appropriate for your book.

To help advertise free e-books, you can find a list of promotional websites here.

Tip #3 Group Marketing

Sure, you can mention your own contest on your own blog, social media, or email newsletter.

Or you could get together with 19 other authors, and all of you could promote all 20 contests to your much larger combined following.

It’s a great idea for readers, too. If you learn about one contest, you have to click on the link, login, enter the contest—it’s kind of a hassle, especially when you were busy doing something else when you learned about the contest. And your chance of winning one contest is outrageously slim.

But if you have a list of 20 Goodreads giveaways for related books, a reader can login once, click on all the links in succession, and enter 20 giveaways in about a minute. And your odds of winning are 20 times better. it’s a win-win-win situation.

(That’s not quite what I’ve done. I have a few contests running. I thought that instead of just mentioning my own books only, I could invite others to get a little exposure on my blog. But maybe my example shows you how 20 authors could get together and get a lot more exposure out of their contests.)

Tip #4 Beyond Self-Promo

You could just write one post about your contest. Or a few posts and several tweets about it.

Or you could write posts all month long about other things, and simply mention your contest at the end of your posts.

For example, my current post includes several contests that you can enter (see below), but it also provides tips for running a contest.

Most of my blog’s followers are authors with interests in self-publishing. A hundred or so people might read my post when it comes out. But if one of my posts generates search engine traffic, it can generate hundreds or thousands of views over the course of a year, and from an audience who didn’t previously know who I am. A post that includes tips about a contest has better search engine potential than one that simply promotes a list of books.

You probably don’t have the same audience as I do, but you can similarly mention your contest as part of posts on other subjects.


These contests are easy to enter.

Most of these are Goodreads giveaways. So you could login to Goodreads once, click on the contest links in succession, and quickly enter as many of these contests as interest you.

The more contests you enter, the better your chances of winning. Good luck.

And the last one is simply free. You’re guaranteed to get that book free (unless you discovered this article after Wednesday, June 17, 2015, probably according to Amazon Pacific time).

Cursive Handwriting for Math Lovers by Julie Harper and Chris McMullen

a Goodreads giveaway; expires June 30, 2015

You can also win it through an Amazon Giveaway here

Try both and you improve your chances of winning.

Learn or Review Trigonometry: Essential Skills by Chris McMullen

a Goodreads giveaway; expires July 15, 2015

Why Do We Have to Go to School? by Chris McMullen

a Goodreads giveaway; expires July 7, 2015

Also, see the last contest on this list below.

Weary of Running by Adrienne Morris

a Goodreads giveaway; expires June 20, 2015

from the author: “Weary of Running is about Cadet Buck Crenshaw and his less than successful life at West Point Military Academy in the 1880’s.”

The Legend of Dust Bunnies, a Fairy’s Tale by Michelle R. Eastman

a Goodreads giveaway; expires July 4, 2015

a children’s picture book

from the author: “It’s the story of a dust fairy who doesn’t quite fit in with the others… This story will have families looking at dust bunnies in a different light and may give kids an excuse NOT to clean their rooms!”

Island in the Clouds by Susan M. Toy

a Goodreads giveaway; expires June 21, 2015

also, see the author’s blog here for additional contest info

Ridgetop by Carol Ervin

a Goodreads giveaway; expires July 4, 2015

thriller, suspense

Time Shifters + 3 more books by Shanna Lauffey

contest hosted by the author through Facebook and Twitter

Blood and Bane: The Dragon Sage Chronicles by CK McKee, narrated by Wendy Anne Darling

audio book

10 free Audible codes to give away (US & UK codes)

Wacky Stories (10 Short Stories for Kids) by Julie Harper, narrated by Michael Pauley

audio book

25 free Audible codes to give away (US & UK codes)

M.J. Moore is looking for submissions for an anthology from Canadian residents

Find out more here.

This last one is FREE via Kindle Tuesday, June 16 and Wednesday, June 17, 2015 (probably Amazon Pacific time).

Why Do We Have to Go to School? by Chris McMullen

Not a contest. It’s just free for two days.

I guarantee that you will enjoy this book. If not, please let me know, and I’ll happily gift you another book (not necessarily my own).

Where else will you find a guarantee like this? (Especially, a guarantee when you’re getting a FREE book.)

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.

* Kindle Unlimited is on FIRE *

Images from ShutterStock.

Images from ShutterStock.


Kindle Unlimited has me excited:

  • Amazon is implementing major improvements (depending on your perspective) to how the program works for authors.
  • The KDP Select Global Fund continues to grow. The current amount and Amazon’s projections for the next two months are looking nice.
  • Amazon released some favorable news about how Kindle Unlimited is doing so far in 2015.


Amazon is changing how authors are paid for Kindle Unlimited borrows.

The new policy goes into effect July 1, 2015. June, which is already underway, won’t be affected by these changes.

How is Kindle Unlimited policy changing?

  • Authors will now be paid based on the total number of pages read through Kindle Unlimited (evidently, Amazon Prime, too).
  • Authors will not be paid based on the total number of borrows.
  • The magic 10% mark will become irrelevant.
  • Beginning July 1, every book will have a Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count (KENPC), which may differ from the estimated page count that you see on your Amazon product page.
  • The KENPC will be used to count how many pages a Kindle Unlimited customer reads. It will count from the start reading location when the customer opens the book.
  • The KDP Select Global Fund for the month will be divided by the total number pages read through the Kindle Unlimited program.
  • Every book enrolled in Kindle Unlimited will be paid based on this ratio.
  • You can see an example here, worked out by Amazon. (The numbers are probably not quite realistic.)
  • All-Star books and KDP Select authors will be awarded based on the total number of pages read through Kindle Unlimited.

Of course, this has no bearing on ordinary sales, only books borrows through Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Prime.

What does this mean?

  • If one customer reads a 10-page short story and another customer reads a 500-page novel completely, they no longer pay equal royalties through Kindle Unlimited. In my example, the 500-page novel will receive 50 times as much royalty as the 10-page story.
  • If a customer only reads 5 pages of your book, you get paid based on 5 pages, not based on the total length of your book.
  • You no longer have to worry about customers reaching the magic 10% mark. Well, you do have to worry about how many pages they read.
  • List price doesn’t factor into it. It doesn’t matter whether your list price is 99 cents or $9.99; it only matters how much the customer reads when borrowing through Kindle Unlimited.
  • Short books no longer have an advantage by getting customers to reach the 10% mark sooner (since the 10% mark no longer matters).
  • Authors of short books are likely to see a huge drop in their Kindle Unlimited royalties.
  • Authors of very long books for which customers tend to read most of the book are likely to see a huge improvement in their Kindle Unlimited royalties.
  • A page is a page is a page. Quality only factors into it insofar as it entices the customer to keep reading more pages. All pages (as determined through KENPC) pay the same in Kindle Unlimited.


KOLL borrows paid $1.35 for May, 2015, which is right on target for how KOLL has paid in 2015.

However, moving forward, this really doesn’t matter. Starting in July 2015, KOLL will pay by the number of pages read through Kindle Unlimited, and so the payout will change dramatically.

But there is good news!

  • While the KOLL borrow didn’t change much, the KDP Select Global Fund continues to grow.
  • Amazon added a whopping $7.8 million to the $3 KDP Select Global Fund, bringing the payout to $10.8 million for May, 2015.
  • Amazon projects a KDP Select Global Fund in excess of $11 million for both July and August (when the new program terms take effect).
  • That huge $11,000,000 payout for July and August will be divided up based on page count, not the number of books borrowed.


And that’s not all!

  • Guess how much KDP Select authors are making just from their Kindle Unlimited borrows for the first half of 2015? $60,000,000! That’s huge. KDP Select is a very significant share of the e-book market. (If you read any reports of how e-book sales are down, look closely to see if they are ignoring Kindle Unlimited. They shouldn’t be, but some companies like to do just that.)
  • Total royalties of KDP Select authors are approximately double compared to last year. Kindle Unlimited continues to grow.
  • Each month, at least 95% of the KDP Select books enrolled in Kindle Unlimited renew their enrollment. (I can confirm this independently, as I’ve checked on it myself.)

Kindle Unlimited isn’t for every book, and it requires giving up exclusivity, but it’s looking better and better. All of my books are enrolled in Kindle Unlimited. I’m a Kindle Unlimited subscriber myself and read several full-length novels per month.

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.

How to Market a Book with a Blog

Image from ShutterStock. Space Age font from

Image from ShutterStock. Space Age font from


My self-publishing blog currently has 150,000 views, with 350 to 550 views per day, and 5990 followers.

Most of my blog traffic comes from search engines, so it functions as a content-rich website.

A blog can be a highly effective marketing tool if you can draw in hundreds of visitors per day.

People discovering your blog through search engines don’t already know about your book, so this can be great exposure for your book.

It’s not just for nonfiction books.

In fact, I just launched a new blog for a science fiction series that I’m working on, called Alien Curiosity.

You can check it out here, in case you want to see what my blog for a coming fiction series looks like:

Feel free to follow my Alien Curiosity blog to see how I use it.

Note that I launched my blog months in advance of when I will release my science fiction series.

My goal is to have hundreds of visitors discovering my Alien Curiosity blog before I publish the first volume.


Realize that you have two separate audiences:

  • There is your current audience of followers and fans, who are likely to give your post initial views, likes, comments, and occasional shares.
  • Then there is your future audience who may discover your post through search engines.

Both audiences are important:

  • Fans and followers make your blog lively and interactive through likes, comments, and shares, and followers who are genuinely interested in your writing can give you initial support when you launch a new book.
  • Search engine visitors are people in your target audience who don’t already know about your book, which gives your blog a very wide and powerful reach.

Choose your content with both audiences in mind:

  • Prepare content that is likely to draw in search engine visitors from your target audience (so the content needs to be relevant to your book and its audience).
  • But the content also needs to interest and engage your current following (and that audience may be somewhat different from the audience for your book; many may be bloggers themselves, so you may share common writing interests, for example).

How to interpret your blogging stats:

  • In the early months, views, likes, follows, and shares will probably be scarce. Even the best blogs often start out very slow. Don’t sweat this data.
  • You start with zero followers, just like everyone else. It will take time, many posts, and even marketing your own blog (include a link in your book along with a reason to visit—it works both ways) to slowly gain traction. Don’t sweat the beginning.
  • The key is that blog stats can accelerate after months of blogging. If you can get your blog stats to steadily grow, this is a positive indicator.
  • Once you have several posts, look at the visitors you’re getting (or not getting) from search engines. If your search engine traffic is steadily growing (even if slowly), your blog has excellent long-term potential.

Your blog has two goals:

  • Slowly build a following and grow your views, likes, comments, and shares.
  • Strive to get 100+ daily visitors to find your blog through search engines (and don’t stop there). 100 daily visitors means that 3000 people who didn’t know about your book are discovering your blog every month.

Remember, these are long-term goals. It doesn’t happen overnight.

To help grow your following, be interactive. Find blogs that interest you. Read those blogs, like them if you enjoy them, leave comments, and reblog those that may be relevant for your followers.

To help gain search engine traction:

  • Content is king and will survive longer than the latest SEO tactics. Write good content that will attract your target audience. (For fiction books, you can still find relevant nonfiction content to blog about.)
  • You needn’t post every day. Once weekly can work. Posts needn’t be lengthy. Around 1000 words can work. (But there isn’t just one size that works. Some bloggers are highly effective with a very short daily post, others are effective with much longer, less frequent posts. But if you write very long posts, you really need great content to attract readers.)
  • Choose 3-5 broad categories that fit your article well. Choose 3-5 specific tags that are perfect fits for your article. For example, I wrote a post about Amazon & Goodreads giveaways. My categories were quite broad (yet relevant): Amazon, books, contest, giveaway, and Goodreads. My tags were much more specific: Amazon giveaway, book contest, free books, and Goodreads giveaway. I like for the tags to extend the categories by adding one or two words to make a keyphrase. But that’s not the only way to do it: See this WordPress example.
  • Start typing keyphrases into the Google search field and it will pull up popular matches. You at least want to make sure that your keyphrase is searched for daily. (Google also has apps to help you judge popularity. But you also have to consider, would you rather be on page 12 of the most popular keyphrase, or page 2 of a less popular one that’s still searched hundreds of times per day?)
  • The keywords and keyphrases that you used for categories and tags should appear quite naturally in the content of your post. Your post should have headings or subheadings. Chances are that one or more of these headings can include those keywords; other keywords will fit into the body text. First and foremost, your post needs to read well (and definitely not like a jumble of keywords). And you don’t want to overdo it. (Google can smell a rat.) The keywords and keyphrases should be a natural fit for your content, and if so, it should be easy to use them in a natural way.
  • Write your post so that it’s skim-friendly. That’s right, most people don’t read every blog article in its entirety, but skim through it. They skim to pick up the main points, to see how much the article interests them, and to decide which parts to read. They might read all of it, but you can’t count on everyone reading every article in its entirety. So make it skim-friendly. Use headings and subheadings to help organize your content. Use bullet points. Use boldface, italics, and color. But use them sparingly so that it’s effective. You can even use images as a visual aid.
  • Every post should have at least one relevant image. That visual appeal helps people decide which articles in their WordPress Reader to check out. You can also use the images for your posts to brand your image as a blogger; you just need a consistent style.

Be patient. You can’t build Rome in a day, not even a blog about Rome. 🙂

Many bloggers give up after a few months, not realizing that their blog stats may accelerate at some point. (If you stick with it, the dropout rate actually works in your favor.)

Do research:

  • Check out other blogs. See how other bloggers use their blogs effectively. There are many different ways to do it well. You can find great ideas just by checking out other blogs and interacting with other bloggers.
  • Try to learn a little SEO. It’s not really about knowing the latest trends, but about finding things that are likely to work long-term. Those who try to use SEO to fool Google often plummet way down the lists once Google catches on. Those who have great content are likely to rise to the top over time. But there are ways to help present great content in a way that’s search engine friendly, and those are the subtle tips you’re looking for.

Some variety is okay for your blog. Sometimes, when you explore something new for your blog, it winds up being better than what you were doing before.

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.

Any Authors Running a Contest?

Images from ShutterStock

Images from ShutterStock


Do you have any contests or giveaways, such as a Goodreads giveaway, presently underway or planned to launch soon?

If so, please let me know.

I’ll be happy to mention your giveaway when I mention my own giveaways (which will be soon).

If you have a cover reveal coming soon, or recently posted, I may also have a chance to mention that.

For a giveaway or contest, just leave a comment with a link to your giveaway.

For a cover reveal, once you have a post revealing your cover, leave a comment with a link to your cover reveal post.

It only seems logical. Why mention just my own contest instead of several?

But I just need to know what those other contests are so that I can mention them.

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.