Twice as Nice! Kindle now has Preorders, too!

Twice

Kindle Preorders!

On the same day that Kindle Unlimited downloads are reported to pay $1.81, we discovered that Kindle has enabled preorders for e-books.

Here is the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) help page on this: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A3P7F81795P0RA&ref_=kdp_EB_PREORDER_phl.

Here is how to do it:

  • Log into KDP.
  • Go to your Bookshelf.
  • Add a new book or edit an existing book that you haven’t already published before.
  • Proceed to publish your book as usual.
  • In Step 4, choose “Make my book available for preorder.”
  • Select a date.

Notes:

  • Only new books can be made available for preorder.
  • Customers won’t be able to sample books while they are available for preorder.
  • A new reporting feature tells you about preorders and cancellations.
  • If your preorder creates a long window of slow sales, it could adversely impact your sales rank compared to having all those sales on day one; but if you generate many preorders, your book will come out of the gate running, which may help. Preorders can also help you generate buzz for your new release.
  • You have even more reason to preview your book carefully on every device and get excellent editing. You want your book to be perfect right out of the box. You won’t have the luxury to make many changes. Problems can lead to many early returns and negative reviews.
  • You can make your print book available for preorder using Amazon Advantage. There is a great thread on the CreateSpace community forum with instructions for how to do this.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing

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

Advertisements

What the Dreck?

Slush Pile

The Dreaded Slush Pile

Two popular terms among authors and readers make me cringe every time I see them—which is much too frequently. There are some very strong opinions about this subject, too.

  • dreck
  • slush pile

These terms generally refer to the ‘worst’ of the books, but this definition by itself creates some problems.

  • There is more than one way to define the word ‘worst.’ Do you mean editing, subject matter, sales rank, very short books, web content disguised as books, or something else entirely?
  • Thus, some authors take this the wrong way. “Are you talking about my book?”

Any one of these things, by itself, doesn’t necessarily make a book bad:

  • Maybe an author has a fantastic story, but on a low budget, chose not to invest in an editor without knowing if the book would sell. Given a choice, I’d rather have a great story that needs editing over a lousy story with superb editing. (But there are many excellent stores with good editing to choose from, so this isn’t a decision that we really have to make.) My point is that editing alone doesn’t imply that a book is bad.
  • Similarly, if the book simply has poor formatting, it could still have great content. I wouldn’t call a book poor just because it could use some tender-loving formatting care.
  • A miserable sales rank—or no rank at all—doesn’t make a book lousy. Maybe the cover and blurb aren’t attracting attention, but the story is amazing. Perhaps the author didn’t attempt any marketing. Or maybe there is a very tiny audience for the book. These things don’t determine that a book is poor. (Just that the author isn’t getting rich from that particular book. At least not presently—for all you know, it could have sold like hot cakes when it first came out, but just hasn’t sold in recent months.)
  • How about a very short book—just a few pages? If the information is valuable, people will want it. If it’s very well written, what’s the problem? The beauty is that customers can decide if that appeals to them. More people writing short books doesn’t mean that other books won’t sell. It doesn’t mean that shorter books are selling. Kindle Unlimited makes it easier for customers to reach 10% of shorter books, but Kindle Unlimited doesn’t encourage customers to download shorter books. Why borrow ten very short books? Customers spending $120 per year may be more inclined to get the best possible value for their money. But let’s just say that shorter books do start selling more. This means that those books are appealing to customers. If those short books truly are dreck, customers will stop buying them. So if they sell frequently, they must not be dreck just because they’re short.
  • Perhaps you’d like to judge the content as dreck—e.g. certain kinds of romance novels, sales pamphlets, get rich schemes. Return to my last point. If it’s selling and continues to sell, apparently it’s satisfying readers. How can you call something dreck if readers appreciate it? Because if there is something that you’re sure is better, then wouldn’t readers also agree that it’s better and stop buying the ‘dreck’? But again, even if it’s not selling, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the book is bad.
  • There are, indeed, books that we may agree are lousy. Maybe we can judge by the intention of the author. If the author made a poor effort, and was just hoping to turn a quick buck, perhaps that could properly be classified as lousy. If the author tries to deceive readers, does that make the book lousy? If the author recruits dozens of reviews to make a book seem far better than it actually is, when the author knows that nobody would have bought the book otherwise, can’t we call that book lousy?

The worst of the worst, however you want to define them, are important for two good reasons:

  • When a reader experiences a book that turns out far worse than the reader was expecting, it leaves a significant impact on the customer’s reading experience (and it tends to change the customer’s book buying habits).
  • When one of the worst books sells, it frustrates authors who have worked very hard to master their craft and publish a quality book.

Not all mention of the ‘slush pile’ stems from good intentions, though:

  • Some authors feel a sense of superiority and mention the slush pile with a sense of arrogance and disdain. This isn’t expressed as the frustration of an author who worked hard, but comes out as an “I’m better than you” feeling.
  • Some authors feel a sense of inferiority and mention the slush pile to feel better about themselves.
  • It may be in the financial interest of traditional publishers to advertise the slush pile as often as possible, hoping to create a perception that self-published books aren’t worth reading so that more customers will, hopefully, buy traditionally published books.
  • Editors and book formatters may advertise the slush pile, hoping to encourage authors to hire their services. (Editing and formatting are important. I’m not saying you shouldn’t pay for such services, just that this might be one of the motivations for advertising it.)
  • Some readers want to feel superior in terms of what they are reading. For example, they might feel superior reading literary works, and thus denounce everything else as dreck.

Personally, I feel that not enough people read. A greater selection improves the chances that everyone can find a book that he or she would like to read.

Here are some truths about the ‘dreck,’ including reasons that I cringe every time I hear it mentioned. (Am I a hypocrite for mentioning it here? My hope is to help improve the perception, and that some good may come from the following points).

  • Every indie author who mentions the slush pile or dreck is marketing a poor image for indie books, which in turn hurts his or her own sales indirectly. Oops!

  • The worst books aren’t in the way of better books. Lousy books that don’t sell quickly fall in the rankings and fall down into the depths of obscurity. Why worry about lousy books that are hard to find?

  • When a self-published author says derogatory things about other authors’ books, how does that affect his or her image? Brand a positive image for yourself. It might even help your sales.

I’m not saying that we should ignore books that have problems.

Here are some positive ways to address this issue:

  • Don’t advertise lousy books.

  • Don’t use the words ‘dreck’ or ‘slush pile.’

  • Do find a few excellent examples of self-published books and advertise those instead of the bad ones.

  • Don’t put other authors down.

  • Do find indie authors who are producing quality books and bring those authors up.

  • If you know a friend or acquaintance who is a newbie author, offer some helpful tips that will result in a better first book.

  • Occasionally share tips in your social media posts that would help fellow authors produce better books

  • Help motivate self-published authors to perfect their books.

  • Do your best when you self-publish. Do some research. Seek feedback. Don’t view your first book as an experiment. You only get one chance to make a good first impression.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing

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

Comments

Click here to jump to the comments section:

https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com/2014/07/30/what-the-dreck/#comments

How to Cook the Look of Your Book

Total IndieChoosing Your Book’s Style

Consider a few things you know about style and perception:

  • A suit makes a more professional impression, right? Yet many consumers are more apt to trust a t.v. model in blue jeans and a t-shirt.
  • Worn clothes with holes reflect poor quality, yes? But have you ever seen anyone pay extra money for designer jeans that look worn and feature holes? And there is a famous tale where Ed McMahon sat down during a sales pitch, when the clients spotted a hole in the sole of his shoe and things began turn around favorably for him.
  • Would anyone be caught dead wearing outdated fashions? Yes! It happens all the time. Not everyone thinks the same way.

Now think about some things you may have heard regarding self-publishing:

  • Don’t include the word ‘by’ on the cover or the words THE END on the last page.
  • Justify full. Don’t use ragged right.
  • Times New Roman looks amateurish.
  • Show more, tell less.
  • We could make a really long list. Some designers are very picky.

There are reasons for these perceptions:

  • There are beautifully designed books that are recognized as top brands, like a Mercedes of books.
  • Some of the perceptions reflect what is typical of many traditionally published books.
  • Book designers want to sell their services, so they want authors to believe that they can’t design books well enough on their own.
  • Publishers, agents, and traditionally published authors want consumers to prefer traditionally published books, so they want to market the perception that their books are better.

Is It Really Better, or Is It a Matter of Style?

Here’s the funny thing.

Many readers may actually prefer to buy books that look a little self-published.

Who is your target audience?

  • If you expect to receive a lot of support from the millions of indie supporters—which include indie authors and their friends, family, acquaintances, coworkers, fan base— then you should design your book around people who will support self-publishing. They expect your book to look a little self-published. They expect your book to list CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform as the publisher; heck, many indie supporters specifically search for CreateSpace on Amazon, since they know they are supporting indie authors when they buy CreateSpace books (or when they buy Kindle e-books for which the paperback is a CreateSpace book).
  • Most readers who prefer model books buy traditionally published books. Starting your own imprint that nobody’s ever heard of isn’t likely to drive those readers away from the Big 5 publishers. (Though it is possible to come out with dozens of professional looking books and establish a significant small publisher label. If that’s your long-term goal, keep that in mind as you read this article, as things may be somewhat different for you.)
  • If your book is an apple, maybe you’ll have more success by making it look like a delicious apple, instead of trying to make it look like an orange. Even if you do persuade people to buy your orange, as soon as it tastes like an apple, your marketing will backfire. That is, dress your indie book up as an indie book and play the indie card; trying to make it look like something it’s not may actually backfire.

There are several reasons that indie supporters might prefer their books to look a little self-published.

  • If it reads a little self-published, it might be easier for indie supporters to read. Much of this audience isn’t looking for Pulitzer-Prize-winning fiction. Rather, they’re looking for easy reading, easy comprehension, vocabulary they can make sense of, and grammar that makes sense to them. Sometimes, the rules of grammar seem like they’re wrong when they’re right. For example, it’s correct to say, “It is I,” and incorrect to say, “It is me,” because conjugations of the verb “to be” take a subject instead of an object. But if you know and follow this rule, it might upset much of the indie support system.
  • Not everyone has the same style. People who favor the style of traditionally published books are more likely to favor those books. People hoping for something different are more likely to support indie books.
  • If your Look Inside appears too professional, it might seem that you’re already successful. Some readers are hoping to find a diamond in the rough—i.e. one that doesn’t look like a diamond, but turns out to be. They’d like to support someone who could use a boost.
  • If your Look Inside appears too good, it might be confused for a published book. Not by people looking for published books; they know the real thing when they see it. But by people looking to support books that appear to be self-published; they might get confused by the difference. (Naturally, there will be some exceptions.)
  • If your book has a bunch of five-star reviews early on, it may deter indie support. Traditionally published books are expected to have a lot of five-star reviews, and they send out hundreds of advance review copies to get them; their customers expect it. Indie supporters expect to see some criticism, and know that reviews are hard to come by (and that’s OK). While many readers will support indie authors, many change their attitude where they suspect abuse of the review system (keep in mind they are suspicious of critical reviews, too). Many stellar reviews, with no bad ones, without a sales rank (relative to the publication date) to suggest many sales, arouses customer suspicion.
  • If your book has a bunch of review quotes, you’re playing the same game as traditionally published authors. Readers of traditionally published books know those quotes will be there, but tolerate it. A great thing about indie books is that you often don’t have to put up with that. Talk about hand-picking just the best reviews, this common game among traditional publishers takes that to an extreme.

Notice what I didn’t say. I didn’t say that you could make your book very self-published. I didn’t say that editing, cover design, formatting, and such aren’t important.

I’m saying it’s okay to be different in some ways, but there are some ways where being different can really kill your sales. It’s important to learn the difference.

Don’t Take This the Wrong Way

There are, of course, very important exceptions:

  • The cover is vital. When I say it’s okay to look a little self-published, I mean in every way except for the actual ‘look.’ The cover absolutely has to please your target audience. It doesn’t need to be a cover cliché—like a hunk on a romance cover—but it does need to appeal to the style of your potential readers. Cover appeal is critical. Not everyone wears the same kind of clothing, but everyone has a sense of style and wears clothes that appeal to them. Design a cover that appeals to nobody and you’ll sell books to… nobody. (But you can get away with more in nonfiction. For example, it’s very important for the keywords of nonfiction books to stand out well, and this can make up for otherwise looking a little self-published. For fiction, visual appeal can be everything.)
  • Consistency is key. The most important factor in the design and writing of your book is consistency. Whether you use justified or ragged right isn’t as important as consistent formatting. If some paragraphs are justified, while others are ragged right, that book won’t appeal to anyone. Your book needs to have a definite style.
  • Editing does matter. It’s not so much about having perfect grammar, as it is about (A) having consistency, (B) knowing which rules you can or can’t break, and (C) not having many obvious mistakes. If you’re a writer, everyone who knows the difference between “your” and “you’re,” for example, will expect you to know such basic rules, too. The subtle rules you can get away with to some extent. Occasional mistakes are okay; frequent mistakes can be a disaster. And often the mistakes are far more frequent than the author realizes.
  • Bookstores are different. If getting bookstores to stock your book is important to you, then it’s very important to bring a highly professional looking book with you.
  • Image is everything. You’re trying to gain publicity, so you must be careful not to get negative publicity. For example, one of the big no-no’s is commenting on reviews. Reacting emotionally in the comments section can destroy your reputation even among indie supporters. You don’t have a free license to do whatever you want, if you wish to sell books successfully.

There are some highly popular self-published books (I won’t name names, but I bet you can think of a few) that gained their success while looking a bit self-published. There are some highly professional looking self-published books that are struggling to get by. Just making the book look professional isn’t, by itself, a sales magnet. Just like a salesman with a hole on the sole of his shoe, sometimes it might be best to look a little self-published. Not a lot. Just a little. In the right places.

Be Proud of Who You Are

  • I’m an indie, and I know it.
  • I’m proud to be an indie.
  • I wear the indie badge.
  • See my name. It’s right there.
  • I wear the name proudly, but I wear it well, too.
  • I work hard at it. I’m not lazy.
  • I strive to do my best. I learn more each day.
  • But I have my own style. And that’s okay.
  • I don’t go overboard.
  • I don’t try to be what I’m not.
  • I simply carry out my own style as best I can.
  • It’s not a solo act.
  • We indies are a team.
  • We support one another. Scrupulously, of course.
  • We hear your criticism. It motivates us to do even better.
  • Go, indies!

Badge

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing

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

Comments

Click here to jump to the comments section:

https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com/2014/07/28/how-to-cook-the-look-of-your-book/#comments

Kindle Unlimited & Marketing Strategies (for A-L-L Authors)

Unlimited Books

Kindle Unlimited Affects Every Author

Whether or not your books participate in Kindle Unlimited, this new Amazon program impacts how you should market your books.

Kindle Unlimited allows Amazon customers to read an unlimited number of books—with 600,000 to choose from—for a monthly fee of $9.99. You can learn more about Kindle Unlimited by clicking here.

Some authors are for it; others are against it. Either way, it changes the effectiveness of traditional marketing strategies, and will bring about new marketing opportunities.

Complaining doesn’t help. Cheering only helps a little. Realizing how this impacts marketing, planning for it, and making the most of it right out of the box—that can give you a marked advantage.

When a new and big program comes out, there are always some authors who take advantage of it. Months later, you hear success stories. Then many other authors try those things, but it doesn’t work quite as well.

It isn’t months later yet (unless you happen to be reading this post many months after it was written). Here is your opportunity.

Changes to Marketing Strategies

Part of your potential readership will be in Kindle Unlimited, but part won’t be. That’s why every author will be affected by this.

Some marketing strategies that used to be effective may become less effective now.

Here are some book marketing strategies that may lose their effectiveness:

  • Promotional prices. Whether it’s a Kindle freebie, permanent free price-match, Kindle Countdown Deal, MatchBook offer, temporary price change, or a Smashwords discount code, it won’t look attractive to thousands of readers who have access to Kindle Unlimited. Even if you aren’t in Kindle Unlimited, some of your potential readership is. Thus, Kindle Unlimited may dampen the effectiveness of promotional pricing.
  • Omnibus. A boxed set won’t have the same value to a customer with a subscription for unlimited reading. Kindle Unlimited authors should remove the omnibus from KDP Select; it only has value to readers who aren’t in the program. Again, since thousands of your potential customers are now in Kindle Unlimited, it will impact the effectiveness of the boxed set.
  • Series. Many series authors make the first book free or 99 cents. That’s not such a good value in the Kindle Unlimited program. If the series isn’t in Kindle Unlimited, a low price of the first book won’t appeal to as many readers as it has in the past. If the series is in Kindle Unlimited, a higher price may seem like a better value to those customers.
  • Low prices. Many 99-cent, $1.99, and $2.99 books have appealed to readers through low prices. They’re cheap, so it’s easier to take a chance on them. But in Kindle Unlimited, higher price-points may be more attractive, as more expensive books won’t cost customers more money; they want to get a better value. Some of your potential readers are in Kindle Unlimited, others aren’t. Fewer customers overall will now be attracted to lower prices.
  • Advertising. In the past, you could advertise a promotional price effectively through BookBub, E-reader News Today, and many other paid and free advertising services. These may lose their effectiveness with many customers moving to subscription pricing. Higher prices may be perceived as a greater value, without the added cost, to Kindle Unlimited customers. There will be fewer customers attracted to promotional pricing.
  • Sales rank. Books in the Kindle Unlimited program that are receiving downloads will benefit in terms of sales rank. This gives books that thrive in the Kindle Unlimited program an advantage over books that aren’t in the program.
  • Reviews. You might think that Kindle Unlimited customers will tend to be more satisfied, since a book that doesn’t suit their needs won’t be a waste of money—just go out and get another book. However, like KDP Select freebies, many customers will stop reading the blurbs and Look Insides and just download books without knowing what to expect, and, unfortunately, Kindle Unlimited books will occasionally receive some crazy reviews from these customers. Every book eventually gets some crazy reviews; maybe reviews where the customer clearly didn’t pay attention are better than some other critical reviews. And once a bad review is posted, it sometimes deters other would-be reviewers from piling it on.
  • Traffic. Kindle Unlimited books may take away traffic from books that aren’t in the program, in addition to helping to boost the sales ranks of books that are in the program. Books that aren’t in Kindle Unlimited need to become more effective at reaching customers who aren’t in Kindle Unlimited.
  • Print books. Customers who prefer print books are less likely to subscribe to Kindle Unlimited. Authors who aren’t in KDP Select may now want to market their print books somewhat more.

Kindle Unlimited Marketing Opportunities

Once you understand how marketing strategies are impacted by Kindle Unlimited, you can take this into consideration with your planning.

Here are some suggestions for how to market books enrolled in KDP Select in the Kindle Unlimited era:

  • New groups. Start a new group on Facebook in your genre specifically for Kindle Unlimited readers and/or authors. Or join a new group. There is a new Kindle Unlimited target audience. You want to find ways to reach this audience. Be among the first to do this effectively and it will be a sweet advantage for you.
  • Advertising. Look for new clubs and advertising services specifically geared toward Kindle Unlimited. It won’t be about sale prices, it will be about matching books to readers. It might be a new release email newsletter for Kindle Unlimited customers. Perhaps editors selectively screen submissions for quality content. There are many possibilities. You could even start such a service yourself (which gives you added publicity). The time is ripe.
  • Children’s books. Children’s authors should be marketing the potential of Kindle Unlimited to parents and teachers. Parents may not have realized how easy it would be to read a different bedtime story every night from a huge collection for just $9.99 per month. That’s a steal. Since kids’ books tend to be short (but not cheap), parents and children (and teachers) can really get their money’s worth out of Kindle Unlimited. Parents are likely to read books by authors who help them realize what a value this is.
  • Holiday gifting. This is one promotion that will still appeal to Kindle Unlimited customers. Since they still have to buy gifts for friends and family, promotional pricing for gifts will entice all readers. So you can still market promotional pricing toward gifts. Be sure to mention the gift part in your promotions. Kindle Unlimited subscribers will see the promotional price and think, “No big deal,” until the gift part reminds them, “Oh, yeah, that will cost me money.” Check out Read Tuesday, a Black Friday type of event just for books. This will be a great opportunity to gift e-books for the holidays.
  • Pricing. Consider raising your price. It won’t deter Kindle Unlimited customers; it may help establish higher value. However, keep in mind that if the price seems higher than the book is worth, customers (even in Kindle Unlimited) are more likely to feel dissatisfied (i.e. they didn’t receive the expected value), perhaps leaving a critical review. Rather, if your book is currently priced lower than it’s value based on how the market has been prior to Kindle Unlimited, you may want to reconsider this. Remember that you will still have readers who aren’t in Kindle Unlimited. Also, any downloads you get through Kindle Unlimited will help your sales rank, so you may not have to sweat your sales rank with a higher list price. There are a lot of things to consider regarding price (you can always try out a price change temporarily to see how it works). You might keep your UK and other countries’ prices low, since Kindle Unlimited is presently only available to US customers.
  • Paperbacks. A higher Kindle price may make your paperback look somewhat more enticing, too. Previously, a low Kindle price versus a high paperback price made the Kindle edition seem like a better deal—and it still will to customers who aren’t in the program—but the lower price won’t attract Kindle Unlimited customers. For some books, this might be a good time to push more paperback sales to customers who aren’t in Kindle Unlimited. In fact, some of the readers who won’t be joining Kindle Unlimited are those who prefer print books.
  • Opportunity. Kindle Unlimited is new. There are many opportunities to creatively market your book specifically to these customers. My list may help you get started, but surely I haven’t thought of everything. Put your thinking cap on and you may be among the first to try out and effectively use a new book marketing strategy.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing

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

Comments

Click here to jump to the comments section:

https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com/2014/07/20/kindle-unlimited-marketing-strategies-for-a-l-l-authors/#comments

How Much Will Authors Make w/ Kindle Unlimited?

Unlimited Reading

Read All You Want!

Now readers can, using Amazon’s new Kindle Unlimited. For $9.99 a month, customers in the United States can download and read as many Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select books as they want. There are presently 600,000 titles from which to choose.

The two-million dollar question is: How much money will authors make when a customer downloads their book?

The first part of this answer is ZERO, unless the customer reads past 10% of the book. This is an important point, as many customers will think they are supporting authors they know just by downloading their books. But if they don’t read more than 10% of those books, the author won’t earn any royalty for the trouble.

What about when customers pass the 10% mark—how much will authors make then?

Well, nobody knows for sure. Amazon can’t tell us up front. Amazon is telling us how they will determine this. And we have some data to judge by, such as prior experience with Amazon Prime borrows.

Update: The results are in now. Kindle Unlimited paid $1.81 per borrow/download in July, 2014, much higher than I was expecting.

Amazon Prime Borrows

Let’s take Amazon Prime as a starting point:

  • Historically, KDP Select authors have received about $2 per borrow.
  • The first month of KDP Select was closer to $1.50, and the same for the following holiday season. Amazon created a lot of buzz for Amazon Prime and KDP Select for the first two holiday seasons, and as a result there were more downloads than usual.
  • However, when the per-borrow royalty was low, Amazon increased the KDP Select Global Fund for other months to bring the per-borrow royalty above $2.
  • Thus, for most months, authors have received $2 and change for KDP Select borrows in the Amazon Prime program.

Extrapolating to Kindle Unlimited

Based on this, here is what I expect with Kindle Unlimited:

  • The first month or two of Kindle Unlimited will feature an incredible number of downloads. There will be many new memberships. Customers will be exploring the program. They will want to get their money’s worth. Authors will be helping to promote the program, hoping to get their share of the $2,000,000 KDP Select Global Fund.
  • Thus, I won’t be surprised if, for the first month or two, the per-download royalty is significantly lower than the $2 per-borrow royalty KDP Select authors are accustomed to with Amazon Prime.
  • However, it’s in Amazon’s interest to monitor this closely. If it looks like the per-download royalty will be too low, Amazon may add additional money to the KDP Select Global Fund. Otherwise, many authors may opt out of the program at their earliest opportunity. (Current KDP Select authors can opt out immediately, regardless of when their current 90-day enrollment period ends. Go to your KDP bookshelf, click Learn More, then Learn More again to find a form specifically for this purpose.)
  • So I will be surprised if the per-download royalty gets too low (whatever that may be). Maybe it will be somewhat low the first month, but, if so, I suspect that Amazon would greatly increase the KDP Select Global Fund, trying to reassure authors that it will be much higher in the future. Time will tell.
  • Keep in mind that Amazon has already added $800,000 to the KDP Select Global Fund for July, 2014. This will help to compensate for the additional downloads coming through the new Kindle Unlimited program. The big question is: Will it be enough? My feeling is: Probably not enough to reach $2 per book, but the overall royalties could be higher than usual, depending. (In a moment, we’ll get into the math.)
  • I think it was wise of Amazon to introduce Kindle Unlimited about halfway through July. This first month will be limited in downloads, as half the month was already gone when this began. It also gives Amazon some valuable data to help project the KDP Select Global Fund for August.
  • There is another big difference. With Amazon Prime, customers can only borrow one book per month. Now, with Kindle Unlimited, each customer will be downloading multiple books per month. This will have a profound influence on the total number of downloads.

Kindle Unlimited Math

Now we’ll have some fun with numbers. 🙂

First off, the July, 2014 KDP Select Global Fund was originally $1.2 million. Amazon added $800,000 to the fund to make it $2,000,000. There will be many more downloads through Kindle Unlimited than there have ever been borrows through KDP Select, but the global fund is also larger, which helps to compensate to some extent.

Here is how Amazon will figure the per-borrow (or per-download) royalty:

Borrow Royalty

Note that borrows (through Prime) and downloads (through Kindle Unlimited) are treated equally, so we can use these words interchangeably in the math.

Note also that what I’m calling a ‘download’ is really a download where the customer reads more than 10% of the book. If the customer doesn’t reach 10%, that doesn’t qualify.

Example: The KDP Select Global Fund for July, 2014 is $2,000,000. If there are 1,000,000 downloads in July (including both Kindle Unlimited downloads and Amazon Prime borrows), then the per-download royalty will be $2.00. But if there are 4,000,000 downloads in July, the per-download royalty will be 50 cents (unless Amazon chooses to increase the global fund as a result of more downloads than anticipated).

Amazon is receiving $9.99 per customer per month through Kindle Unlimited. Each additional member provides $10 more that Amazon could use, potentially, to increase the KDP Select Global Fund. So if Kindle Unlimited turns out to be incredibly popular among buyers, all these customers will be providing additional revenue, and Amazon could choose to share some of that revenue with the global fund. If the per-download royalty is too low, many authors will be thinking about opting out. Amazon has good incentive to make the per-download enticing to authors, and Amazon knows that authors are used to making about $2 per borrow through KDP Select.

On the other hand, if an author receives many more downloads than usual, the per-download royalty could be somewhat lower than the traditional $2 and the author could still be earning more royalties overall. Amazon may consider this, so it’s possible for the per-download royalty to be significantly less than $2. Amazon may choose to look at the cumulative royalties that the average KDP Select author is earning, rather than what the per-download royalty is.

Many authors would be okay with having more readers, but making a smaller royalty per book, especially if the overall royalties are greater than normal.

Another important figure is what Amazon is making. Amazon is charging $9.99 per month per customer. The following equation will be highly important to Amazon, and so it will also impact authors:

Selling Price

Again, by ‘download,’ I mean a download where the customer reads more than 10% of the book. Amazon only pays a royalty through Kindle Unlimited when the customer passes the 10% mark.

Example: If the average customer downloads 4 books per month through Kindle Unlimited, Amazon is essentially charging $2.50 per book. In this case, Amazon could afford to pay authors $2 per download and still make a profit of 50 cents per download. But if the average customer downloads 20 books per month, Amazon is effectively charging just 50 cents per book. Amazon isn’t likely to pay authors $2 per download, while only receiving 50 cents per book; they would be losing money.

Amazon might be willing to suffer a short-term loss for long-term gain. But my feeling is, the greater the average number of downloads by customers, the less money authors will make per download.

But at the same time, the greater the average number of downloads by customers, the more each author’s book is likely to be downloaded. It works both ways.

It Really Comes Down to Percentages

More downloads means Amazon will likely pay less money per download.

But more downloads also means that most authors will have more customers than normal.

These two effects will compensate somewhat.

What really matters to an author is each book’s percentage of downloads:

Percentage 2

Remember, the download only counts when the reader gets beyond 10% of the content.

Example: Suppose there are 1,000,000 downloads in the month of July (including Amazon Prime borrows), and suppose your book is downloaded 50 times. Then you would get 0.005% of the July global fund. Since the July, 2014 global fund is presently set at $2,000,000, this book would earn a total royalty of $100 for downloads for the month. (Note that this agrees with a $2.00 per-download royalty.)

Update: The results are in now. Kindle Unlimited paid $1.81 per borrow/download in July, 2014, much higher than I was expecting.

Good for Indie Authors?

Looking at this from the perspective of percentages, this may be good for indie authors who are enrolled in KDP Select.

Probably not all indie authors, but many may benefit from this.

Kindle Unlimited customers may be more willing to try an indie book, since it won’t cost extra money to do so. The $9.99 monthly fee has already been paid, so if the book doesn’t turn out to suit the reader, the customer can easily find another book.

Through Amazon Prime, customers could only borrow one book per month, so they had to choose wisely. Many have favored a book with a higher list price and more pages, and an author they were already familiar with.

Now Kindle Unlimited customers don’t need to choose just one book. This could be a game-changer for some indie authors.

What About Good, Old-Fashioned Sales?

The more customers who join Kindle Unlimited, the fewer customers will be buying books the old-fashioned way.

Once a customer invests $9.99 for monthly reading, the customer may feel less inclined to spend additional money on books that aren’t in the program. Why do that when you can choose from 600,000 books without spending an extra penny? Kindle Unlimited subscribers may occasionally buy a book that’s not in the program, but it will take a compelling reason.

Thus, as more customers join Kindle Unlimited, authors may be receiving more of their revenue through downloads and less revenue through good, old-fashioned purchases. If so, the numbers may compensate. Kindle Unlimited could potentially make up for any lack of sales and then some. The only way to know for sure will be to wait and see.

The number of traditional sales might not even diminish. First, not everyone will join Kindle Unlimited. $120 per year is more than many readers want to commit to for reading.

Also, if Kindle Unlimited succeeds in getting a book more downloads, this may actually lead to improved sales, too. There is such a thing as word-of-mouth publicity. More readers, even with lower royalties, sometimes leads to greater success in the long run. The potential is there.

Another consideration is list price. A higher list price may actually make the book more enticing to Kindle Unlimited, and downloads through Kindle Unlimited will improve the sales rank. This might lead to more ‘sales’ at a higher list price, earning a higher royalty than usual.

It will sure be interesting to see how Kindle Unlimited turns out.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing

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

Comments

Click here to jump to the comments section:

https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com/2014/07/19/how-much-will-authors-make-w-kindle-unlimited/#comments

Kindle Unlimited—Good or Bad for Authors?

Read Me

Read Unlimited Kindle E-books

Today, Amazon introduced Kindle Unlimited:

  • For $9.99 per month, a customer can now read (and listen to) an unlimited number of Kindle e-books.
  • There are 600,000 books to choose from. The books are enrolled in KDP Select.
  • All KDP Select books are automatically included. (But authors can opt out of KDP Select by completing a form. See below.)
  • Customers don’t need to be in Amazon Prime to enjoy the benefits of Kindle Unlimited.

You can read more about it at Amazon, including the terms of use: https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=hp_left_v4_sib?ie=UTF8&nodeId=201550610.

Authors can learn more about it at Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), where there is also a new form for those who wish to opt out of KDP Select: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=AA9BSAGNO1YJH.

Is Kindle Unlimited Good for Authors?

In order to participate in Kindle Unlimited, an e-book must be enrolled in KDP Select.

Here are some advantages of enrolling in KDP Select:

  • You will be paid the equivalent of one ‘borrow’ when a customer (A) downloads your Kindle e-book and (B) reads past 10% of the e-book as part of the Kindle Unlimited Program. Historically, a borrow has equated to approximately a $2 royalty.
  • Many customers will be trying out Kindle Unlimited in the coming months. These customers probably won’t be buying books any other way except through Kindle Unlimited for as long as they remain in the program.
  • You can use either Kindle Countdown Deals or free promos (but not both) as a promotional tool. The value of these promotional tools will probably be diminished as any customer who has Kindle Unlimited won’t gain anything from Countdown Deals or freebies. However, there will still be many customers who aren’t in Kindle Unlimited.

The main disadvantage of enrolling in KDP Select is that you must make the e-book edition of your book exclusive to Kindle:

  • Your e-book can’t be published through Nook, Kobo, Smashwords, your own website in PDF, or anywhere else in electronic format as long as your book is enrolled in KDP Select. Amazon is very strict about this and does automatic checks to find e-books violating the terms and conditions.
  • This exclusivity persists for 90-day periods. If you decide to opt out of KDP Select, you must go to your KDP bookshelf and uncheck the box for automatic renewal. Then you must still wait for the 90-day period to end before you’re eligible to publish your e-book elsewhere. (But if you’re presently in KDP Select, there is an immediate opt-out option available right now. See below.)

Is it worth enrolling in KDP Select? That’s the million-dollar question. This was a heated debate prior to Kindle Unlimited.

The only way to really know for sure is to try it both ways. (Note that you can experience lengthy delays and problems trying to unpublish your e-book from other retailers in order to switch back into KDP Select.)

Kindle Unlimited may be a compelling reason to enroll in KDP Select. There will be many authors returning to KDP Select to try it out. There are also authors opting out with the introduction of KDP Select. Everyone is trying to decide which side of the fence has the greener grass. By the way, I’m staying in KDP Select.

  • Many customers will be trying out Kindle Unlimited, so the program will be popular during the early months.
  • Customers in Kindle Unlimited won’t be buying any books that aren’t in the program.

Want out of KDP Select?

Suppose you’re already in KDP Select and you’re thinking, “They didn’t ask me if I wanted to participate in Kindle Unlimited.”

Not a problem. Visit your KDP bookshelf. Click the Learn More link where it mentions Kindle Unlimited. Then there is yet another Learn More link to click. Then you can click the link entitled, “Complete this Contact Us form.”

Complete that form to opt out immediately. You don’t need to wait until your 90-day period ends, but only if you complete and submit this form (so don’t use the usual method of unchecking the box for automatic renewal).

You might want to consider this choice carefully before you opt out.

What about Amazon Prime?

Amazon Prime charges a hefty annual fee (though it turns out to be a little cheaper than 12 months of Kindle Unlimited) and only allows one borrow per month.

Kindle Unlimited costs $9.99 per month, but allows unlimited reading of KDP Select titles.

That one borrow per month pales in comparison. However, there are still many other benefits of Amazon Prime, such as free 2-day shipping.

Customers who bought Amazon Prime primarily to borrow books for free are likely to switch to Kindle Unlimited when their Prime memberships run out.

Customers who bought Amazon Prime for other reasons will probably keep it, whether or not they join Kindle Unlimited.

More Notes about Kindle Unlimited

  • How many books can you really read in a month? That comes out to $120 per year. Would you spend that much in a year on books? $9.99 is a great deal for those who read avidly, but not very enticing for those who don’t.
  • You can’t just horde books. If you cancel your Kindle Unlimited membership, you automatically lose access to all the books you downloaded through the program.
  • Amazon has added $800,000 to the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) fund for July, 2014, bringing the total July fund up to $2,000,000. This will help to compensate for the additional downloads through Kindle Unlimited.
  • Borrows usually pay a little over $2 each per month. When Amazon launches a new program, borrows usually pay $1.50 or less per book for the first month or so, but then Amazon has historically been pretty good at adjusting the KOLL fund so that they pay $2 or more per borrow. However, there will be many more downloads through Kindle Unlimited than there ever were borrows through Amazon Prime, so borrows might pay significantly less than normal, at least in the early months.
  • Kindle Unlimited is presently only available to US customers, but there appear to be plans to expand.
  • You won’t receive any payment for downloads through Kindle Unlimited until a customer passes the 10% mark. Just downloading your book isn’t sufficient. So your friends and family, for example, might think they’re supporting you through the download, whereas they won’t be supporting you at all if they don’t pass the 10% point.
  • Unlike Amazon Prime, you don’t have to return your book before you can start reading another one. However, the terms of use do include a paragraph entitled Restrictions, where Amazon will clearly monitor abuse of the download privilege. Customers must not only download the e-book, but must also pass the 10% point before the book will receive a royalty from the KDP Select Global Fund.
  • Amazon is promoting Audible Audiobooks through Kindle Unlimited. Not only do you get free downloads of KDP Select books, you also get free audiobooks. This will entice audiobook customers to try out Kindle Unlimited.
  • What about those really short books? Now customers can read short books for free (but they can read long books for fee, too), provided the books are in KDP Select and they customer has Kindle Unlimited. A customer might read 2 paragraphs of a very short story and that author will earn just as much of a royalty as if a customer read several chapters of an epic fantasy or perhaps a whole book of an omnibus. But will customers be buying short stories? They might feel it’s a better value to shop for books that are ordinarily priced $5.99 and up and have hundreds of thousands of words. Time will tell.
  • This may be great for children’s books. You can read your child 30 different stories in a month for $9.99, reading one bedtime story every night. Children’s authors should be advertising this benefit to customers. It can help children’s authors sell more e-books through Kindle Unlimited.

What do you think about Kindle Unlimited?

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing

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

Comments

Click here to jump to the comments section:

https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com/2014/07/18/kindle-unlimited-good-or-bad-for-authors/#comments

Get the Most out of Kindle MatchBook

Matchbook 2

Cover design by Melissa Stevens at http://www.theillustratedauthor.net.

Is Kindle MatchBook Working for You?

If you have a print edition (e.g. through CreateSpace) and Kindle edition for the same book, you may be eligible to participate in the Kindle MatchBook program. (Scroll down to learn more about what MatchBook is and how to participate.)

Authors who are eligible almost always check the box to enroll in the MatchBook program. Why not? Nothing really to lose, but you might generate a few extra sales.

But many authors aren’t getting as much out of this valuable marketing tool as they could be.

If the only thing you do with MatchBook is check that box to participate and select a MatchBook price, you probably won’t get much out of the program.

Why not? Because most people aren’t going to see the offer, and many who do won’t fully realize how beneficial it can be.

  • You can’t see the offer from the Kindle e-book’s product page (unless you’ve already bought the paperback edition). So if the customer was shopping for the Kindle edition, the customer will just buy the Kindle edition without even realizing that MatchBook was a possibility.
  • It’s not very visible on the paperback product page. There’s a little note about it on the right-hand side a ways down, overlooked by most customers.
  • You can only see the MatchBook offer on Kindle e-book’s product page in the following circumstances: (1) the book is participating in the MatchBook program (2) the customer has already bought the print edition from Amazon (3) the customer is presently logged in, using the same account used to purchase the print edition (4) the MatchBook offer is the lowest available price to the customer (e.g. if your book happens to be free or on sale for a price lower than the MatchBook price, then the MatchBook offer won’t be shown).

Among those few customers who do see the MatchBook offer, many won’t realize on their own how they could really benefit from it.

This doesn’t mean that Kindle MatchBook is of little importance and can only add on rare sales.

Rather, it means, just like almost everything else about selling books, you have to learn and apply effective marketing strategies to get the most out of the tool. (The same is true, by the way, regarding freebies and Countdown Deals: Effective promotional strategies help to get the most out of these tools; simply running the promotion might turn out to be a dud, but effective marketing can yield significant results.)

Let me first back up and give an overview of what the Kindle MatchBook program is, then I’ll provide some concrete suggestions for how to take advantage of this promotional opportunity.

What Is Kindle MatchBook?

Kindle MatchBook is a promotional tool available to authors who have both print and Kindle editions of the same book.

The author or publisher can then choose to enroll the Kindle edition in the MatchBook program. A promotional price is set for the MatchBook offer.

When a customer buys the print edition of the book from Amazon, that customer becomes eligible for the MatchBook offer. The customer can then buy the Kindle edition at a special price.

Essentially, the MatchBook program provides an incentive to customers to buy both print and Kindle editions of the same book: Buy both editions and save.

If you would like to learn more about Kindle MatchBook, follow this link to the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) help page for MatchBook:

https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=AVJCUBZXDNUM4

How to Get the Most out of Kindle MatchBook

One way to inspire more MatchBook sales is to learn some effective techniques to sell more paperback books. The more paperback books you well, the greater the chances of customers discovering and taking advantage of the MatchBook offer. I sell 8 to 15 times as many paperback books as e-books, and every month some of my Kindle purchases are through MatchBook.

Obviously, some types of books tend to sell better in paperback than others. Many kinds of nonfiction books, for example, tend to sell better in print; many fictional works sell much better as e-books.

But even with books that tend to sell better as e-books, there are still many customers who prefer printed books to e-books. There is a market for print books. You just need to find ways to tap into this market.

Here are some ideas to help you think of ways to market your paperback books:

  • When you include a link to your book, do you only link to the Kindle edition? Well, try including two links, one marked ‘Kindle’ and the other marked ‘paperback.’
  • Or include just the link to the paperback. Yeah, it’s the higher price. Think about it. The customer is considering buying a $13.25 paperback. Then they see there is a Kindle edition for $3.99. Having just seen and considered a $13.25 paperback, your $3.99 e-book looks like great savings.
  • Do a book signing. Gee, customers will need to buy some print editions in order to get their autographs. You make a higher royalty when you sell author copies. Customers who buy author copies aren’t eligible for MatchBook, but these paperback sales may help inspire more sales (see my point about how print sales help with marketing below).
  • Get local bookstores to stock your book. Get the local library to keep a copy of your book. Again, these won’t be eligible for MatchBook, but can help inspire more paperback sales (even on Amazon, through the marketing effect of having more paperback books out there).
  • Perhaps you can find a local or online book club that uses print books to use your book. There are many ways to use your creativity to help market your books; what you really need to do is get your brain churning and focus on where to find your target audience.
  • Use MatchBook to help inspire more paperback sales. It’s an incentive to buy both editions. Buy the paperback and get a discount on the Kindle edition. You just need to let people know about it. (See below for ideas.)

You might be wondering whether or not you want to sell more paperbacks. Suppose you’re making a $4 royalty for Kindle sales and a $3 royalty for paperback sales. That Kindle sale seems better, doesn’t it? (Well, maybe you didn’t price your paperback high enough.) There are other things to consider. For example, if you sell more paperbacks, your paperback sales rank will improve. Plus, you’d ideally like to sell both paperbacks and Kindle editions together using MatchBook. Finally, there is a marketing benefit to selling more paperbacks:

  • Paperbacks are good marketing tools. Every paperback you sell can potentially be seen by a customer reading the book on a bus, or lying on a coffee table when friends come over. If you have an amazing cover, this can really pay dividends. “Hey, what’s that book you’re reading?”

The real ‘trick‘ to inspiring more MatchBook sales is to turn this into a promotional tool:

  • With all the marketing you already do, just add a brief note at the end of it to the effect of, “Get the Kindle edition for 99 cents (or whatever it is) when you buy the paperback from Amazon first.” Or you can shorten it something like, “Kindle MatchBook price: 99 cents,” then describe briefly what the customer needs to know about MatchBook in a footnote or endnote.
  • Even better, advertise an incentive for customers to buy both the paperback and Kindle edition together through MatchBook. Show customers how this can be handy. For example, you can buy the paperback edition as a gift and read the Kindle edition for yourself.
  • That’s perfect for Christmas and birthdays. Advertise this during the holiday season: “Give a great gift and keep a copy for yourself.” Mention how MatchBook allows you to gift the paperback and keep a Kindle edition for yourself at a discounted price. MatchBook is a great Christmas marketing tool.
  • This year, one way authors can participate in Read Tuesday (a holiday marketing opportunity—it’s free—that I created; it’s like a Black Friday just for books) is by making the MatchBook price free. I’ll promote the gift potential that MatchBook provides as part of the Read Tuesday marketing. Check out www.readtuesday.com. (It still has the 2013 info there, but that will update in the coming weeks. I have some new ideas for making Read Tuesday even better, and it started with a nice bang last year.)
  • Set the MatchBook price to FREE for a limited time. Run this as a promotion and spread the news: “For two weeks only, you can get the Kindle edition free through MatchBook when you buy the paperback edition.”
  • A free MatchBook offer (even if it’s temporary) can help you stimulate more paperback sales. Provided that you advertise the offer. (If you want to improve your paperback sales rank or take advantage of some of the marketing that paperback sales bring, MatchBook can help you do it.)
  • When you interact with people in your target audience (something you should be doing as part of your marketing anyway), mention how they can take advantage of MatchBook and show them why this may be useful (i.e. mention the gift idea).

MatchBook isn’t the magical tool that will do all the work for you and end your marketing woes all by itself.

But MatchBook does have amazing potential as a marketing tool. You really don’t have to do additional marketing to take advantage of MatchBook. You just need to briefly mention the MatchBook potential in the marketing you already do.

Some authors excel at making the most of the free marketing tools at their disposal. You could be one of those authors. What it really takes is the determination and motivation to succeed at it.

Check your MatchBook royalty on Page 2 of the publishing process at KDP. Make sure you’re happy with the royalty (and realize that this will be in addition to the paperback royalty.)

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing

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

Comments

Click here to jump to the comments section:

https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com/2014/07/17/get-the-most-out-of-kindle-matchbook/#comments

Formatting the Look Inside

Look Inside

Amazon’s Look Inside

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) offers previews for how your e-book may look on the Kindle, Kindle Fire, Kindle Fire HD, Paperwhite, iPad, iPhone… but not the Look Inside.

Yet prospective customers checking out your book on Amazon see your book’s Look Inside before making the purchase.

The Look Inside can significantly impact sales.

At the same time, Kindle authors tend to experience more formatting issues with the Look Inside than on the Kindle, Kindle Fire, and most other devices.

In fact, it’s not uncommon for a book to look great on a Kindle device, but format incorrectly in the Look Inside.

This problem plagues indie authors self-publishing their books on Kindle. Once they finally master Kindle formatting, the Look Inside is the last big hurdle.

In this article, we’ll explore how to format for the Look Inside. One example we’ll examine in detail is how to create non-indented paragraphs that don’t indent in the Look Inside.

Why Doesn’t the Look Inside Format Right?

Well, the technical answer involves a discussion about what is “right.” The Look inside is ultimately generated by a program following instructions. In the end, the Look Inside is “right.”

It often seems like the formatting is wrong when the author compares the original Word file with the Look Inside.

Some of the formatting that may look right in Word can get lost in translation on the way to the Look Inside.

The Look Inside sees a set of HTML instructions generated from the Word file.

Note: Even though you may submit a Word document to KDP, what the device reads is a set of HTML instructions that tell it what to display—ultimately, your submitted file is converted into a mobi file, which essentially contains a set of HTML instructions based on the Word file that you submit.

Often, what the Look Inside displays from reading those instructions differs from what Word displays on the screen.

What a Kindle, Kindle Fire, iPhone, iPad, Kindle for PC, and the Look Inside display on the screen can vary from the same set of HTML instructions generated from a Word file.

The Look Inside interprets the HTML more strictly, which is why the formatting is hardest to get right for the Look Inside.

From Word to Kindle

Kindle doesn’t see the Word document the way you do. It sees a set of HTML instructions.

The beginning of the HTML defines a set of styles used in your Word file. For example, there is a style for heading, subheading, titles, and a Normal style for the paragraphs of your body text.

Kindle (or iPad, or whatever device is being used) displays the different parts of your book according to these different styles.

If you highlight all or part of a paragraph and change the formatting of that text in Word, this carries over into the HTML.

Then the HTML says something to the effect, “Use the normal style, but change the indent size and add italics.”

This is where the Look Inside problems can begin. The Look Inside may format according to the style, and disregard some of those exceptions created by highlighting selected paragraphs. Other issues can arise from unclosed HTML tags.

The HTML generated from a Word file can get pretty messy, with all sorts of style exceptions built into the HTML, with <span> tags dispersed throughout, and with font settings redefined within the paragraph blocks. (You don’t want the file to define font size or style within the paragraph blocks. Not only can this cause formatting problems, but the device user expects to have control over these settings.)

Microsoft Word’s Styles

Much of the problem can be resolved by using Microsoft Word’s built-in style functions religiously. Modify the heading, subheading, title, and Normal styles to suit your needs.

Then make a new style that’s essentially a copy of the Normal style for paragraphs that need to be non-indented. I’m going to call this the NoIndent style just to give it a name.

When you’re modifying the styles, click on the Format button and adjust the Paragraph settings, too. Set the First Line indent for the Normal Style. It might be something like 0.2″ (since the common 0.5″ would be really large on a device with a small screen, especially an iPhone or the basic Kindle). Don’t use the tab key at all (and don’t use the spacebar to create indents). For the NoIndent style, set First Line to 0.01″.

Notes:

  • I specifically have Microsoft Word 2010 for Windows in mind. (Other versions may function similarly, though they can lead to important differences.)
  • If you set First Line to “none” or zero, it won’t work. Use 0.01″. (If you try to make it too small, it won’t take.)
  • Go to Special in the paragraph menu to find First Line, then set the By value next to it.
  • You see all the styles at the top of the screen, on the right side of the toolbar, in the home tab.
  • Right-click a style to modify it. When modifying the style, click the Format button to find the font and paragraph menus.
  • You can even build pagebreaks into the styles. Click Format, select Paragraph, then click the Line and Page Breaks tab. There is an option to pagebreak before. If you have pagebreaks that aren’t respected, try this (but realize that a Look Inside displayed as a single, scrolling page isn’t going to implement this).
  • To create a new style (for NoIndent, for example), click on the funny icon in the bottom-right corner of the styles menu on the home tab (the little icon is below the A’s where it says “Change Styles”). This will pull up a new window on the right side of the screen. Find the three buttons at the bottom of this window. Click the left button.

Apply the styles to sections of your document one by one. You can highlight a section and click the style, or you can place your cursor in a paragraph and click a paragraph style from the menu.

You want every block of text in your file to be associated with a particular style.

Except when you have to have different styles in the same paragraph (e.g. you wish to italicize, boldface, or underline specific text, or create subscripts or superscripts), you want the style to dictate the formatting. Go into the Font and Paragraph menus when modifying each style to create the formatting you want there. Don’t use the font and paragraph tools on the menu at the top of the screen to make these adjustments (except to adjust specific text, with something like italics, within the paragraph).

For example, set the linespacing in the paragraph menu by adjusting the style itself and applying the style to the text. Don’t do it by highlighting text and setting the linespacing.

Be sure to check the font menu when modifying each style (from the Format button). If you go into Advanced, you may find that Word’s defaults have adjusted the kerning for selected styles (you may or may not agree with these settings, so you should check them out). The font color should be automatic except when you need to apply a specific color to selected text.

You want to have a larger font size for headings and subheadings than the normal text, but you want to achieve this by setting the font size within each style. If you select text and apply a font size or style to the selected text, this causes problems when an e-reader interprets the HTML instructions for your file.

Check the “Automatically Update” box when modifying each style if you want changes to that style to be applied to text that has already been set to that style.

Word’s styles can get mixed up. What you want to do is start with a document as clean as possible (in the worst-case scenario, this can be achieved by cutting and pasting your document into Notepad and then back into Word). Then apply one style to every section to avoid any mix-ups.

Don’t select text and set specific font styles (e.g. Georgia). Don’t select whole paragraphs and set linespacing, indents, or other paragraph options. Instead, apply a specific style to those paragraphs. Make the paragraph adjustments in the style (for every paragraph of that style in your document), and apply the style to the paragraphs rather than modifying the paragraphs through the toolbar at the top of the screen (except by clicking the styles, like Title or Normal, found on that toolbar).

How to Create Non-Indented Paragraphs

Let’s work through a concrete example that plagues the Look Insides of many Kindle e-books.

Most traditionally published books don’t indent the first paragraph of each chapter. Popular novels do indent paragraphs, but not usually the first paragraph of the chapter. Check out several popular traditionally published print books. If you understand what I mean by “not indenting the first paragraph of the chapter” (see the two pictures below) you should observe that this is very common among those books.

Examine the two examples that follow. The first example has all of the paragraphs indented. The second example doesn’t indent the first paragraph of the chapter. The second example is very common among traditionally published books. However, it can be a challenge to implement this on the Look Inside. (Many traditionally published books put the first few words in CAPS in e-books, instead of using drop caps, as drop caps can format improperly on some devices. Tip: If you write fiction where this is common, try putting the first few words of your blurb in CAPS, too. I’ve seen this done effectively in the blurbs of some popular traditionally published books.)

IndentedNot Indented

Even if the first paragraph appears non-indented on the Kindle device, it may still appear indented on the Look Inside. But there are ways to get this right.

Let me illustrate the wrong ways first. Definitely, don’t use the tab key to indent some paragraphs, thinking this will correctly distinguish between which paragraphs are or aren’t indented. This might seem intuitive, but it doesn’t work (there will be inconsistencies). Similarly, don’t use the spacebar to create indents; it doesn’t work either.

Here is another wrong way. Better, but still wrong. If you highlight the first paragraph, click on the funny little icon in the bottom-right corner of the paragraph group on the home tab, change Special to First Line, and set By to 0.01″, it might not work. It will work on the screen and may work on most devices, but may not work on the Look Inside.

Here’s the problem. You can see the problem firsthand by looking at the HTML. You don’t need to know anything about HTML to peek at it and learn what’s going on. If you want to see Word’s HTML, Save As a filtered webpage (you want the one called Webpage, Filtered). Click Yes to the question that pops up. Find this new file on your computer (e.g. it might be in My Documents; it will be wherever you just saved it to). Right-click this HTML file and Open With Notepad.

When I adjusted the first paragraph’s indent the wrong way, as I outlined two paragraphs ago, the paragraph tag for the first paragraph looks like this:

<p class=MsoNormal style=’text-indent:.7pt’>

Compare this with the second paragraph:

<p class=MsoNormal>

You don’t have to know HTML to see the difference. Each paragraph sets the style to Normal. The first paragraph says to indent 7 points (0.01 inches).

The style=’text-indent:7pt’ setting will tell some devices to ignore the Normal style and indent the first paragraph 7 points (very little).

But the Look Inside may not accept this override. The Look Inside sees that you’re using the Normal style, which was previously defined to indent 0.2″. There are two different sets of instructions.

The better way is to provide a single set of instructions. That leaves less to interpretation.

This time, instead of highlighting the first paragraph and changing First Line from the home tab, I’m going to define a NoIndent style. I’ll do this by creating a new style based on the Normal style, and give it the name NoIndent (the last bullet in the section above called Microsoft Word’s Styles explains how). Then I’ll modify the NoIndent style (again, look for the bullets in the previous section for instructions). While modifying the NoIndent style, click Format, choose Paragraph, and set First Line there.

Now I simply place my cursor anywhere in the first paragraph and click the NoIndent style from the home tab. Prest-o, Change-o!

This time, the paragraph tag for the first paragraph looks like this:

<p class=MsoNoIndent>

Now this paragraph only has one set of instructions. When Amazon’s Look Inside reads the Kindle e-book, the class=MsoNoIndent statement will tell it to indent the paragraph according to the previously defined NoIndent style, which says to indent just 0.01 inches.

You can improve on this. Find the style definition for the NoIndent style in the beginning of the HTML file. Change 7pt or 0.01in (whichever it says) to 0 (that’s the number zero, not the letter O). This doesn’t work in Word, but it does work in the HTML file.

Notes:

  • Don’t open the HTML file in Word. Use Notepad to examine and modify the HTML.
  • If you have images in your file, you want to create a compressed zipped folder as explained in Amazon’s free guide, Building Your Book for Kindle.
  • Also look for span tags that include font definitions. If you remove these, be sure to remove the closing tags, too, which look like </span>. The Find tool can help you locate these.
  • Search for text-indent with the Find tool to see if any paragraphs are indenting through this setting instead of through a style definition.
  • Seemingly endless italics, boldface, or underline that’s not intended to be there may be caused by unclosed <i>, <b>, or <u> tags. For example, <i>italics</i> makes the word “italics” appear italicized. If the closing tag, </i> is missing (or typed incorrectly), the italics will keep going and going and going…
  • Other things you might look for are images. For example, instead of specifying the width and height in pixels, for large pictures that you’d like to fill the screen, you might remove the current width and height statements and replace them with width=”100%” (don’t set both the width and height this way; just set the width; however, if you have really skinny pictures, i.e. skinnier than the Kindle Fire, you might prefer to set the height instead of the width).

Chris McMullen

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

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing

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

Comments

Click here to jump to the comments section:

https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com/2014/05/18/formatting-the-look-inside/#comments