Changes to Amazon Product Pages, Reviews, Author Central, Etc.

 

AMAZON IS A DYNAMIC MARKETING ENVIRONMENT

Have you noticed a variety of little changes at Amazon recently? Following are some examples.

  • Customer reviews now display in a single column based on helpfulness. Previously, there had been a second column on the right (if you viewed the product page on a PC), giving the most recent reviews significant prominence. Now, the most recent reviews don’t automatically have more prominence than other reviews.
  • Amazon finally fixed the aspect ratio problem associated with Author Central author pages. Previously, when you clicked on an author’s profile at Amazon to open their author page, the cover thumbnails appearing in the top had all been forced into the same narrow aspect ratio, which distorted covers noticeably when they had a distinctly different aspect ratio. Now, if the cover is wider than the default, you get little gray bars at the top and bottom; the cover is no longer distorted.
  • In search results, at the top or bottom of a list, you often find 1-2 books (or other products) with a subtle Sponsored Products label. You also see Sponsored Products on product pages. These are actually paid advertisements, but the way Amazon did this makes them more effective than usual. Especially in search results, they don’t ‘seem’ like advertisements, since they fit right in. Many customers don’t even realize that there is a Sponsored Products label, and even if they do it doesn’t sound like an advertisement. Sponsored Products receive bonus exposure, now that there is a “Sponsored products related to this item” carousel just beneath the “Customers who bought this item also bought” carousel. If you publish a book with KDP, you can run an advertisement for your book via AMS (from KDP); this is available even for paperbacks.
  • There are other labels at Amazon that are changing. The Best Seller labels don’t always include the #1 before them any more, and in some instances they appear in orange, while in other cases they appear in blue. There used to be a #1 New Release label, then it changed to New Release, and today I don’t see new releases highlighted. I’ve also seen other labels, like for items included in a holiday and toy list.
  • Video Shorts display prominently on a product page, showing higher than the customer review section.
  • The options for Amazon Giveaways have changed significantly. There are now only a couple of types of giveaways with fewer options, but now there is less guesswork in setting one up and from the contestants’ point of view, the giveaways are much more standardized and all have a reasonable chance of winning.
  • Some products (even a few traditionally published books) let you clip a coupon. For other books, sometimes the savings are clearly highlighted in search results.
  • Amazon has really been pushing Audible audio books. You can create one using ACX, and even hire a narrator for your book (with the option of splitting royalties instead of paying up front). One of my credit card companies was even incentivizing Audible audio books recently.

What does this mean? Amazon’s website is a dynamic marketing environment for your book (or other product).

For several years, Amazon’s decisions have appeared to aim towards long-term success. A strong part of this has been long-term customer satisfaction.

Obviously, like any business, Amazon wants to earn profits, but unlike some short-sided business practices that I see all too frequently with other companies, Amazon often seems to make a decision based on long-term gains.

Another thing that sets Amazon apart is that, for such an enormous company, it often reacts quickly to change. This makes it a highly dynamic marketplace, compared to a traditionally much slower publishing industry.

These changes tend to favor customer-pleasing content and long-term marketing strategies. A book (or other product) that most customers really enjoy is more likely to be successful in the long run, especially if it gets good exposure in the beginning (an effective marketing campaign that goes beyond Amazon can help with this).

Sometimes, clever people figure out how to take advantage of the system, but since Amazon is dynamic, Amazon often catches onto this and finds way to make a change that hurts those who are trying to take advantage, and is more likely to reward good products long-term. Amazon has always placed a premium on its customer satisfaction metrics, and these metrics continue to evolve.

It pays to visit Amazon every few months (if you’re not already a frequent customer) to see how product pages, searches, etc. are changing. Knowledge is power, and it can impact your marketing decisions.

My recommendation to authors is to focus on writing engaging content that will satisfy your readers (better yet, write such amazing content that it is likely to earn you recommendations and referrals). The engagement part is important because you need customers to start reading and keep reading all the way through. There are so many other books, and so many other forms of entertainment, and your book is competing with those opportunities.

My second recommendation is to focus on long-term marketing strategies. Think long and hard about ways that might help your book continue to sell for many years, or ways to go about marketing that might bring you continued exposure for many years. Content marketing can help with this: For example, post short articles with helpful information (possible even if you write fiction) relating to your book, hoping to catch daily traffic through search engines. Effective long-term marketing strategies tend to be less susceptible to publishing dynamics.

If you tend to favor short-term promotional strategies, you really need to keep up with the latest changes.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides

If You Encounter Problems with the Transition from CreateSpace to KDP…

SOLUTIONS TO COMMON ISSUES WITH KDP PRINT

For most authors using CreateSpace, the transition to Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is smooth.

A simple three-step process helps you make the transition. Your books remain available for sale at Amazon and other distribution channels. Your royalties remain the same (except for royalties in Europe for books under 100 pages). The books are printed in the same facilities used by CreateSpace. The guidelines for interior and cover formatting are nearly identical.

It should be a seamless transition, and for most authors it is.

But when millions of CreateSpace books move to KDP in a short time span, a few unfortunate authors are bound to experience one or more issues.

If you happen to encounter one of the following issues, you might try my suggestion or you might contact KDP for help.

THE COVER WAS REJECTED BECAUSE THE SPINE TEXT WAS TOO LARGE

Unfortunately, if you change your list price, change your keywords, change your categories, or even edit your description at KDP, you must republish your book in order for the changes to take effect.

When you republish your book, KDP reviews your interior and cover files. It’s sort of crazy: If you don’t change your interior or cover files, why does KDP even look at them? They were good enough the first time. But it doesn’t help us to ask this question to ourselves. It does help to be aware that it will happen.

KDP is more strict about the size of your spine text (or more precisely, the distance between your spine text and the spine edges) than CreateSpace was. If you (or your cover designer) tried to make your spine text as large as possible (0.0625″ from the spine edges), it’s relatively common for KDP’s measurement to decide that your spine text is slightly too close to the spine edge. KDP is very picky about this.

If CreateSpace passed your cover file, beware that KDP might reject the very same cover file (even if you didn’t upload a new one) when you attempt to republish your book at KDP.

One way to avoid this is the same way that you can correct the problem: Revise your cover so that the spine text leaves a little extra room (significantly more than 0.0625″) between the spine text and spine edges. If you try to cut it close, there is a good chance that your cover will be rejected during the file review process (which occurs after you press the Publish button, and which prevents the changes from going live).

If you just need to revise your book description, it’s better to create an Author Central account at Amazon and use Author Central instead. However, if you do use Author Central, you should copy and paste the HTML version of your Author Central book description into KDP and save it at KDP. Why? Because if sometime in the future you republish your book at KDP, the KDP description will overwrite the Author Central description (years ago, it was different).

If you’re thinking about revising keywords or categories, consider this decision carefully. If your book has been available for some time, it’s possible that your book has benefited from keyword or category associations that your book may have developed. If you change your keywords or categories, you risk losing such associations. When you’re not getting sales, there isn’t much harm in trying. But if you are getting sales and you lose associations that had been helping you (without your knowledge, of course), it could negatively impact your sales.

YOUR COVER ISN’T SIZED AS EXPECTED

CreateSpace was a little more flexible with the cover size. If your width or height were slightly too small, for example, CreateSpace might adjust it for you. If the cover was oversized, it wasn’t a problem as long as the extra space was intended to be trimmed off and the meaningful content was sized appropriately.

KDP’s previewer checks your cover size and expects it to match KDP’s calculation based on your trim size, page count, page color (white or cream), and interior color (b&w or full color).

If your cover size isn’t what KDP’s previewer expects, you will automatically receive an error and you won’t be able to approve the preview and proceed to the next page of the publishing process until you fix the problem and submit a revised file.

YOU ENCOUNTER FUNCTIONALITY ISSUES WITH KDP’S WEBSITE

If a feature isn’t working properly at KDP, it could be related to your choice of web browser.

Very often, when a feature doesn’t work at KDP’s website, simply changing your web browser will resolve the issue. It’s worth trying.

As with most websites, rarely a feature at KDP may be temporarily down. When a feature is temporarily unavailable (which is rare), it usually shows a message at the top of the screen. However, rarely there may be an issue and no message shows on the screen. In this case, if you try again later, the feature may be functioning as it should.

If the feature still isn’t working after a couple of days and switching web browsers doesn’t help, make sure that your computer and browser specs are sufficient to handle KDP’s website (or whatever feature you are trying to use). If so, try contacting KDP help.

YOU PUBLISHED A BOOK, BUT AN ERROR OCCURRED DURING FILE PROCESSING

CreateSpace could handle relatively complex PDF files.

It turns out that currently KDP can’t handle the same level of complexity as CreateSpace could.

When your PDF turns out to be more complex than KDP can handle, here is what will happen:

  • Your interior file will appear to upload just fine. You will see a green checkmark next to the file.
  • A message will show that your file is being processed. This is normal so far. Don’t panic.
  • A red exclamation mark will appear inside of a triangle next to your interior file and you will see a vague error message asking you to check your file. This isn’t normal. One way for this to happen is if your PDF is too complex.

There are a variety of ways that a PDF can be more complex. It’s not necessarily the size of your file either. It’s more about which features you used when typing and formatting your book, which PDF converter you used, and the choices you made regarding formatting and layout.

A number of features available in Microsoft Word can result in a complex PDF. For example, it’s better to format a picture as a JPEG with image software and insert the picture into Word with the text wrapping set to In Line With Text. It’s much more complex to use Word’s drawing tools. It’s also more complex to use textboxes and WordArt. If you wrap pictures or textboxes in front of text, beside text, or behind text, for example, instead of in line with text, this makes the file more complex.

There are simpler and more complex ways to add ordered and unordered lists, or to add borders, or a variety of other features in Microsoft Word.

Browse through your file and ask yourself which design or formatting choices you may have made which could be making your PDF more complex. What can you do to simplify it (without sacrificing quality).

If you make changes, save the original file as backup. That way, if the revisions don’t help your file get processed at KDP, you will still have your original available.

Try using a different PDF converter. Adobe Acrobat is among the best, but even Adobe’s PDF’s are susceptible to this issue at KDP. Throwing money at the problem won’t guarantee a solution.

Ideally, you should flatten images and embed fonts in your PDF, provided that your PDF converter has these options available.

If you’re unable to solve this problem, try contacting KDP help.

PRINTED PROOFS, AUTHOR COPIES, AND APPROVING THE PROOF

At CreateSpace, when you “approved” your proof you were publishing your paperback. At KDP, it’s different. When you’re looking at your book in KDP’s previewer, clicking Approve doesn’t publish your book. It just lets you proceed to page 3 of the publishing process. As long as you don’t click the Publish button when you get to page 3, your book won’t be published.

If you wish to order a printed proof, you can find this option is you read carefully on page 3 of the publishing process.

You must publish your book before you can order author copies. Once your book is published, you can order author copies from your Bookshelf.

What if you wanted to order author copies without making your book available for sale on Amazon. Well, this is a problem.

You could publish your book, making it available for sale on Amazon, and then unpublish your book after ordering the author copies, but this has disadvantages. For one, your book’s Amazon detail page will already be live. For another, your publication date will be set and you will miss out on valuable potential exposure from the Last 30 Days and Last 90 Days filters on Amazon (when combined with other searches, some self-published books get noticed this way). I recommend NOT setting a manual publishing date: Choose the option that your book’s live on Amazon date will be used. Don’t publish your book until you’re ready for it to be available for sale. This will maximize your book’s exposure.

Another option is to publish another copy of your book with another print-on-demand publisher (or a local printer) that will let you order author copies without making that copy of your book available for sale anywhere. You won’t be able to use the same ISBN for both books, but at least you can get copies (other than printed proofs, which now have a not for resale watermark rendering them unfit for use as author copies) before your book goes live on Amazon. You could even get spiral bound books or hardcover using this option; your author copies could be ‘special.’ Check out Lulu and Barnes & Noble Press (this last option only offers author copies; they don’t currently offer paperback distribution to anywhere, unless you’re among the top sellers of Nook eBooks, though it is expanding). KDP’s main competitor is Ingram Spark, but whereas KDP lets you publish for free, Ingram Spark charges a setup fee.

YOU BELIEVE THAT YOU ARE MISSING ROYALTIES

Of course you are! You had dreams of selling millions of books, right?

(But seriously…)

If you made the transition from CreateSpace to KDP recently, note that it’s relatively common for your royalty reporting to slow down significantly (50% or more) for a few days (perhaps even a week). This happened to me and some other authors that I know, but after 5-7 days the royalties picked back up to normal and made up the difference. Be patient.

Amazon offers a surprisingly transparent royalty reporting system. It’s much better than receiving a single statement in the mail once every 3 to 6 months. You can see royalties show up in your reports throughout the day (provided your book sells multiple times per day). It’s really cool (but be careful not to turn into a stats junkie and waste precious time that you could have spent writing your next book).

However, with this amazing level of transparency, any time a normal delay occurs, if you happen to be aware of the sale (because a customer told you about it), it’s only natural to freak out.

Most of the time, you see a royalty show up in your reports when the book prints, which often occurs the same day, but sometimes takes a few days. If you sell thousands of books, almost all of them will show up in your reports within a few days of the sale.

But there are a variety of exceptions. If a royalty isn’t showing up, it’s most likely one of the following reasons.

  • A family member or friend said, “I bought your book last week,” while secretly thinking, “I didn’t buy your book, but I didn’t want to hurt your feelings by admitting this.”
  • A customer told you that they bought your book, but what you don’t know is that they didn’t buy it new directly from Amazon. Maybe they bought it from another online bookstore. Or maybe they bought it from a third party on Amazon. In this case, it might take 4-6 weeks for the royalty to show through the Expanded Distribution channel.
  • If a customer buys a used copy on Amazon that’s being resold by a previous customer, you won’t receive a royalty for the resale. You already received a royalty when the original customer bought your book (unless, of course, you gave that copy away). Most customers prefer to buy new books, especially if the list price isn’t super high compared to $10. I wouldn’t lose any sleep over the sales of used copies (unless you have a really expensive book).
  • Returns. If a previous customer returns a book and Amazon sells that returned copy to a new customer, you won’t be paid a royalty for the returned copy. Suppose customer X tells you that they bought your book, but you never see the royalty show up in your reports. It’s possible that customer Y bought your book a week ago, then customer Y returned your book, and Amazon resold that book to customer X. In this case, you were already paid this royalty last week. (For paperback books, Amazon doesn’t tell you about returns. You have no way of knowing how many books were returned and how many returned copies have been resold.)
  • Delay. For whatever reason, Amazon occasionally uses a third-party printer to source an order. When this happens, it can take 4-6 weeks for your royalty to show up in your reports.
  • Holidays (or Amazon Prime Day). Amazon sometimes stocks up on select titles for the holidays. When this happens, you won’t see royalties show in you reports as the books are sold. Instead, you see a bulk sale (or a few bulk sales). Sometimes the bulk sale occurs when the books are printed, sometimes it occurs later, sometimes it’s spread over a month or two in installments. Sometimes you even see usual royalties sprinkled in between.

If you happen to know the customer, ask for the printing numbers from the last page of the book. Send these printing numbers in a polite email to KDP. They should be able to use the printing numbers to help track the sale of the book.

YOUR AUTHOR COPIES TOOK LONGER TO ARRIVE

Sometimes, CreateSpace proofs and author copies arrived rather swiftly, even when we took the least expensive shipping option.

It won’t always be that quick.

Suppose you need several copies for an event.

My advice is to schedule the event and order author copies several weeks in advance. I order extra copies, just in case.

What if the shipment is delayed? What if there are defects?

With this in mind, I order author copies so far in advance that if there are defects, there is enough time to replace them, and even if the replacements are defective, there is enough time to replace those too. (If that’s not good enough, you were destined to have a problem, and you have the right to feel infuriated.)

If you don’t allow plenty of extra time, you’re taking a risk. It would be ideal if we could always receive perfect copies right on time. But it’s practical to allow for the worst-case scenario.

I take the cheapest shipping option, but order well in advance. This is my advice.

YOU ENCOUNTER SOME OTHER ISSUE

If your issue isn’t on my list:

  • See if your issue has been discussed in the comments.
  • Try asking your question in the comments.
  • Try searching the KDP community help forum.
  • Try asking your question in the KDP community help forum.
  • Try contacting KDP support.

I wish you luck.

YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH KDP IS JUST FINE (OR BETTER THAN YOU HAD EXPECTED)

Hey, this happens to most authors. Those authors are also far less likely to go online and talk about their “problem.”

Obviously, in this case, what you should do is recommend KDP to other authors. You can hope for good karma: Maybe a customer will like your book and recommend it to a friend.

Actually, KDP is better than CreateSpace in a few ways.

Authors based in Europe appreciate that they can order proofs printed in the UK or continental Europe instead of having their proofs shipped from the USA.

KDP’s Expanded Distribution has even surpassed CreateSpace. For example, I see paperback royalties on my KDP report for Japan, and other countries are on the horizon.

You can now choose 7 sets of keywords (instead of just 5), and there is no longer a 25-character limit per keyword set (but I wouldn’t exceed 50 characters including spaces).

You can now choose 2 browse categories (instead of just 1) without having to contact support, and the categories are more aligned with Amazon’s browse categories (though it’s still not perfect).

KDP’s community forum is different from CreateSpace’s. Is it better? I’m not sure. I haven’t seen spam recently (at least, not at the hours I’ve been checking), which is a good sign. There are helpful community members on both forums.

You can now advertise paperback books with AMS via KDP. This wasn’t possible with CreateSpace. Advertising may not be the magic solution you were hoping for, and it isn’t cost-effective for every book. But it’s nice to have a new tool that wasn’t available previously.

You no longer need to separately login to KDP and CreateSpace to check your Kindle royalties and paperback royalties. Now they show together on the same report.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides

Kindle Unlimited per Page Rate * Increase * for September, 2018

HOW MUCH DID KINDLE UNLIMITED PAY FOR PAGES READ IN SEPTEMBER, 2018?

In September, 2018 Amazon paid $0.00488 per KENP page read for books participating in Kindle Unlimited through KDP Select.

That’s nearly a 10% increase over August, 2018, which paid $0.00449 per page.

This is a nice surprise, as the per-page rate has been very steady for much of 2018.

The KDP Select Global Fund hit yet another record high, this time $23.4 million for September, 2018.

Compare with August ($23.3M), July ($23.1M), June ($22.6M), and May ($22.5M).

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides

Moving from CreateSpace to KDP: Sales, Royalties…

Image from ShutterStock.

FROM CREATESPACE TO KINDLE DIRECT PUBLISHING

As you may know, Amazon is merging its two print-on-demand publishing services. CreateSpace is becoming part of Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).

Originally, KDP was for Kindle eBooks, while CreateSpace was for paperbacks (and videos and even audio).

However, in recent months KDP has added print-on-demand publishing for print books. It has slowly evolved, and now matches CreateSpace in terms of quality, service, and prices (with a few subtle exceptions). Overall, in a few ways, KDP’s print-on-demand is a little above and beyond CreateSpace (it wasn’t originally, but now that it has finished evolving, it is now).

Last week, I transferred my paperback titles from CreateSpace to KDP. It was quick and easy. However, the reporting gave me some anxiety at first, and it took 4 days to catch up. It seemed a bit scary for a few days, but all is fine now.

I SURVIVED THE MERGER BETWEEN CREATESPACE AND KDP AND LIVED TO TELL THE TALE!

Hopefully, you will, too. Be sure to order your survival t-shirt. (Just kidding. But really, if you order a custom-made one, that would be pretty cool.)

DO YOU HAVE TO TRANSFER YOUR TITLES?

Well, on the one hand, if you just sit and wait, it will eventually happen automatically. Maybe at the end of the month, if they’re ready.

On the other hand, if you initiate this yourself, you get the opportunity to login to KDP during the process and basically say, “Hey, this is the exact account on KDP where I want my books to be transferred to.” That’s why I did it myself.

The transfer is very simple. Log into CreateSpace and look for a message asking you to transfer your titles to KDP. It will transfer all of your books in one shot. (Sorry: right now, it’s all or nothing.) It will ask you to use your KDP login, and then you need to agree to the transfer. It will take a couple of minutes.

IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT ROYALTIES

You will basically have a one-month delay in receiving your royalty payments.

If you sell a lot of paperbacks each month, this is going to hurt, especially if you write full time or count on that money for a mortgage note or car payment.

It’s a shame that this most significantly hurts Amazon’s bestselling indie authors of paperback books. If you’re significantly impacted by this delay, I feel for you. I’m not a big fan of it myself. (I did contact support to let them know.)

Why is there a delay?

CreateSpace pays royalties 30 days after the end of the month, but KDP pays royalties 60 days after the end of the month.

So, for example, every royalty that you earn in September from CreateSpace will be paid at the end of October (assuming, of course, you meet the standard criteria for receiving a monthly royalty payment). If you transfer your titles during September, every royalty that you earn from KDP will instead be paid at the end of November.

I have a second important note about royalties later in my article.

WHAT TO EXPECT AFTER YOU TRANSFER YOUR CREATESPACE TITLES TO KDP

You should find all of your titles on your KDP bookshelf.

I counted my CreateSpace and KDP titles before the transfer and wrote them down on a piece of paper.

Amazon actually gave me the same numbers on the screen during the process, which was reassuring.

After the transfer, I checked that all of my titles were there. But there’s a catch. Some of my CreateSpace paperbacks and Kindle eBooks automatically linked together on my bookshelf, but others didn’t. Eventually, I was satisfied that everything showed up.

If any titles didn’t match up and link together (that is, paperback and corresponding eBook), you can do this manually, but it’s optional. This has nothing to do with having their product pages linked. It’s just the convenience of having them together on your bookshelf.

It didn’t take long before my CreateSpace royalties showed up at KDP.

At the bottom of the Sales Dashboard, these show separately in the bottom 4 rows, so you can see what you’ve earned at KDP versus what you’ve earned at CreateSpace. But up higher in the graphs, the CreateSpace and KDP data are lumped together (unless you choose a specific marketplace from the dropdown menu).

A nice thing about the Sales Dashboard graph is that you can easily compare your average daily paperback sales from before and after the transfer.

(If your CreateSpace royalties for the month show a higher figure at CreateSpace than they do at KDP after the transfer, don’t worry. CreateSpace will pay you what CreateSpace says they owe you, not KDP, so if KDP shows that your CreateSpace royalties are a bit less, it really doesn’t matter. What I think happens is that KDP captures your CreateSpace royalty balance when you initiate the transfer, and if CreateSpace reports a few more royalties after that, CreateSpace will show a slightly higher figure for the month.)

ANOTHER IMPORANT NOTE ABOUT ROYALTIES

When I transferred my CreateSpace titles to KDP, my royalties at CreateSpace had been coming in steadily throughout the morning.

Almost immediately after the transfer, CreateSpace stopped reporting new royalties. I can still see my royalties in my reports from before the transfer (though presumably that option won’t be around much longer), but no new royalties are showing up at CreateSpace.

That was expected. But what was unexpected was how slowly paperback royalties started coming in at KDP after the transfer.

The first day was very slow compared to normal. The second day was about half a normal day for me. The third day was much slower than that. I was worried.

But later in the third day, sales started to pick up a bit. Then I noticed something cool. The royalties from the two previous days were slowly growing.

When I woke up on the fourth day, the third day was close to a normal day for me, and the two previous days had grown considerably. The fourth day turned out to be much better than the previous days.

It took about 4 days in all for royalties to catch up with their usual behavior.

So if royalties seem very slow compared to normal (about half or less than usual), don’t worry. Give it 4 days or so and see if things eventually catch up. Write down the number of sales that you have at the end of each of the first few days, so that you can see if those numbers grow on subsequent days (mine did).

The Sales Dashboard histogram will help you compare daily sales before and after the transfer.

A FEW COOL THINGS

When I checked out the Historical report and saw my life-to-date numbers, including CreateSpace, it was pretty cool. I didn’t realize that my lifetime royalties added up that high.

After the transfer, I still see Expanded Distribution showing up at CreateSpace.

If you want, you can use AMS via KDP to run an advertisement for a print book. We didn’t have the option to do that at CreateSpace.

European authors can order both printed proofs and author copies printed from the UK or continental Europe. That’s convenient.

Expanded distribution at KDP now matches CreateSpace. Actually, it surpasses it. For example, there is now distribution to Australia, with Mexico coming soon.

You can select two browse categories during the publishing process, whereas with CreateSpace you had to email support to request a second category. Also, the browse categories line up with Amazon’s browse categories better than from CreateSpace (though it still doesn’t seem perfect).

You can enter up to 7 keywords instead of 5, and you don’t have a 25-character limit. (By the way, you can enter several keywords in each of the 7 keyword fields.)

THE GRASS THAT ISN’T GREENER

Not everything is necessarily better.

For shorter paperbacks available in the UK and continental Europe, the royalties are a little less with KDP than they had been with CreateSpace.

If you use Cover Creator, you’ll find that it’s not quite the same.

Proof copies have a band that state Not for Resale across the cover. Though actually I like this, as it makes it easier to tell my proofs apart from my author copies.

New titles will say Independently Published instead of CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. Previously published titles are unaffected.

KDP’s community forum is somewhat different than CreateSpace’s. (Ironically, when I visited CreateSpace’s community forum the other day, there wasn’t any spam, now that it’s about to lose its relevance.)

But the main things are the same or better, such as printing quality, printing locations, US royalties, etc.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides

CreateSpace and KDP Are Merging

CREATESPACE MERGES WITH KDP

It’s a logical business decision.

The one significant change has to do with when royalty payments are made. See the section entitled Royalties towards the end of this article.

In 2008 I published my first book with CreateSpace, and in 2009 I published my first Kindle eBook.

When I was learning about publishing with Kindle, I asked myself the following question:

Why does Amazon use a different company for publishing eBooks than it does for publishing paperbacks?

It seemed like it would be convenient for authors and cost-effective for Amazon to have a single self-publishing service.

This is finally happening in 2018.

This is the way it should be, and should have been all along.

THIS IS GOOD FOR AUTHORS

It benefits authors for CreateSpace to merge with KDP.

  • It’s convenient to check royalty reports at a single location.
  • It’s convenient to have a single account for logging in.
  • It’s convenient to publish both paperback and digital editions at the same site.
  • Migrating titles from CreateSpace to KDP will actually improve Expanded distribution, with Amazon Australia, Japan, and Mexico as examples.
  • Migrating titles from CreateSpace to KDP offers the option to advertise paperback books through AMS.
  • Authors based in Europe will be able to order proof copies and author copies printed in Europe, which will save time and money.

NOTHING TO FEAR

You shouldn’t be worried about CreateSpace merging with KDP.

You probably aren’t losing anything.

You’re probably gaining a few little things.

Overall, this is better.

The few losses have already occurred months ago. That’s now in the past.

  • It’s been a year since CreateSpace discontinued the CreateSpace storefront (called an eStore) whereby customers could purchase books directly through CreateSpace. Few authors sold books through their eStores (almost all sales came through the Amazon.com sales channel instead, while a few came through Expanded Distribution). The few authors who were significantly affected by this change have already had to adapt.
  • It’s been months since CreateSpace discontinued their paid services. If you really need to pay for editing or illustration services, for example, even when CreateSpace offered these services, in many ways you were better off shopping for freelance services instead.

You really aren’t losing anything:

  • Your paperback books will still be available for sale through the Amazon.com sales channel.
  • Your paperback books will still be available for sale through Amazon’s European sales channels.
  • If you enabled Expanded Distribution, your paperback books will still be available through the Expanded Distribution channel. (In previous months, KDP print’s Expanded Distribution wasn’t quite as wide as CreateSpace, but things have changed. KDP’s Expanded Distribution is actually on par with CreateSpace now.)
  • KDP print now offers Expanded Distribution through Canada, Japan, and Australia (with Mexico coming soon).
  • The one significant difference has to do with when KDP issues royalty payments. (See the section entitled Royalties below.)
  • KDP has a community help forum (much like CreateSpace has).

THE QUALITY WILL BE THE SAME

According to Amazon:

“On KDP, your paperbacks will still be printed in the same facilities, on the same printers, and by the same people as they were on CreateSpace.”

Over the past few months, I’ve already migrated some of my CreateSpace titles over to KDP.

I haven’t observed any difference in quality.

ROYALTIES

The royalties paid for KDP paperbacks are virtually identical to the royalties paid for CreateSpace paperbacks.

One exception has to do with very short books sold through Amazon UK and Amazon EU. If you have a very short book that sells through the UK and EU channels, you may wish to compare the printing fees and royalty rates between KDP print and CreateSpace. Visit the KDP help pages for paperback printing fees here: https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G201834160.

There is one significant difference between KDP and CreateSpace: That has to do with when royalty payments are made.

  • CreateSpace pays for royalties 30 days following the end of the month. For example, at CreateSpace you get paid on September 30 for royalties earned in August.
  • KDP pays for royalties 60 days following the end of the month. For example, at KDP you get paid on October 30 for royalties earned in August.

From now on, Amazon will pay royalties based on KDP’s royalty payment schedule.

This means you will see a one-month delay for CreateSpace royalty payments once the transition begins.

It looks like we’ll still be paid on September 30 for CreateSpace royalties earned in August.

But after August, you can expect a one-month delay.

WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO DO?

Amazon is making updates that will allow you to move your entire CreateSpace catalog to KDP in a few easy steps.

You can already move books one title at a time. My advice is to wait until you can transfer your entire catalog at once in a few easy steps, instead of manually transferring titles. However, if you still want to do this, log into KDP, add a paperback book, and check the bottom box to indicate that the book has already been published at CreateSpace. KDP will then automatically transfer your book’s information to KDP while you wait (just a couple of minutes). If you do this, if you had Expanded Distribution at CreateSpace, double-check that this box is checked on page 3 of the publishing process.

In a few weeks, Amazon will begin automatically transferring titles.

My advice is to be looking for the option coming soon that will allow you to move your entire catalog in just a few steps. Will this option show up at KDP or CreateSpace? Look for it at the top of your member dashboard at CreateSpace. I saw a message there earlier, but not it’s gone, so it will probably show intermittently for a while (and possibly not always in the same place).

During the transition, your books will remain available for sale and you will continue to earn royalties.

Your reviews will stay intact, and your sales rank history will remain. (There may be a little fluctuation in sales rank during the transition, but if so, it’s temporary and then it should behave as usual. This may be the case if you migrate a title manually. Perhaps by transferring your entire catalog with the new option the transition will be seamless.)

After the titles are transferred, log into KDP, visit your bookshelf, open one of the titles, and visit page 3. Make sure that Expanded Distribution is checked or unchecked as you prefer. Just in case this changes on you, you don’t want to be caught by surprise. I’m not saying it should change: It just seems like a wise precaution.

GOOD NEWS ABOUT INDIE PUBLISHING

According to Amazon’s email announcement on the consolidation of CreateSpace and KDP:

More than 1000 authors earn more than $100,000 per year from their work with CreateSpace and KDP.

When you think about it, that’s actually a pretty large group.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The number grows rapidly when you ask how many earn more than $10,000 per year, and even more rapidly for earning more than $1000 per year.

It’s a positive indicator. Use it as motivation. If others have done it, so can you.

This good news about indie publishing means that you shouldn’t be worried about the merger. It’s not a sign of difficult times coming for indie authors. (But no matter how good the times are, it’s always wise to have a back-up plan in mind, just in case.)

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides

Kindle Unlimited Pages Read KENP per-page Rate for July, 2018

JULY, 2018 KINDLE UNLIMITED PAGES READ:

For July, 2018 the Kindle Unlimited per-page rate was $0.00449.

Compared to June ($0.0046), May ($0.00454), and April ($0.00456), it is just slightly less for July. The last few months show that the KENP rate is holding fairly steady.

While the per-page rate has been steady, the KDP Select Global Fund has risen steadily for years.

In July, 2018, it hit another record high, coming in at $23.1 million.

Compare with June ($22.6M), May ($22.5M), and April ($21.2M).

In just 3 months, Amazon has paid out an extra 9% in royalties for Kindle Unlimited borrows through KDP Select.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides

How to Add Expanded Distribution to KDP Print Books

EXPANDED DISTRIBUTION

KDP’s print option now includes an Expanded Distribution channel.

It may not (yet) be equivalent to CreateSpace’s Expanded Distribution, but it’s another big step in the right direction.

When KDP print originally rolled out, CreateSpace was a much better option.

Since then, KDP has added printed proofs and author copies.

(For authors based in Europe, KDP offers a huge advantage: You can order proofs and author copies printed in Europe.)

KDP lets you advertise paperback books through AMS.

CreateSpace automatically distributes to Canada and pays the same royalties as the US for Canadian sales, which is nice.

IMPORTANT NOTE

If you already published a paperback book using KDP print before the Expanded Distribution option became available, your book isn’t included in Expanded Distribution yet.

Go to the pricing page.

Check the box to enroll in the Expanded Distribution channel.

(This checkbox is quirky. Make sure you only click there once, and make sure it stays checked.)

Unfortunately, you have to “republish” your book.

As usual, it may take a couple of months for your books to become available to the entire Expanded Distribution market.

You might see third-party sellers offer your book within a day or so. First of all, they don’t actually have your book in stock: Their plan is to order a copy and ship it through their Expanded Distribution partner if your book sells. Second of all, in my experience, the presence of third-party sellers on your product page is far more likely to help with sales than it is to compete with your Amazon.com sales channel (unless your book has a much higher price than is typical of most authors using KDP print and CreateSpace). Those new and used offers make your book look more popular than it would without them, yet most customers will order directly through Amazon.

Expanded Distribution helps some books, but not all books. What you get is availability to other channels. Whether or not that leads to additional sales depends in large part on the nature of your marketing and your book. (Don’t expect physical bookstores to order your book this way unless you approach them and succeed in making arrangements, and even then your best bet is to order author copies to sell to them directly.)

Write Happy, Be Happy.

Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides

What did Amazon pay for Kindle Unlimited pages read in June, 2018?

JUNE, 2018 KINDLE UNLIMITED PAGES READ:

$0.0046 per page is how much Amazon paid for Kindle Unlimited pages read in June, 2018.

This is a slight improvement over May ($0.00454) and April ($0.00456). It has been fairly steady this year.

$22.6 million is the KDP Select Global Fund for June, 2018.

This is a slight improvement over May ($22.5 million) and April ($21.2 million).

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides

Why You Can’t Trust Negative Reviews (New York Times Article)

 

ONE-STAR REVIEWS—CAN YOU TRUST THEM?

The New York Times recently published the following article (click the link below to read it) entitled,

Why You Can’t Really Trust Negative Online Reviews

The article is fascinating—and not what I was expecting.

From the headline, I was expecting to see research into ulterior motives (like products being slammed by competitors).

Rather, I learned a few things about the habits of people who write both positive and negative reviews.

And it really makes you question whether we should place so much trust on the opinions of a very small percentage of product users.

If you’re going to read Amazon reviews, the article included a few tips to help you utilize them better.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides

A Few Things I Like about Kindle Unlimited (& the May, 2018 per-page Rate)

Image from ShutterStock.

POSITIVE INDICATORS

There are reasons to be positive about Kindle Unlimited:

  • The per-page rate is $0.00454 for May, 2018 for books borrowed through Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Prime, which is almost identical to what it was ($0.00456) in April, 2018.
  • The per-page rate has been quite stable this year, very close to $0.0045 each month since January, 2018.
  • The KDP Select Global Fund made a significant jump, climbing to $22.5 million for May, 2018 (compared to $21.2 million for April, 2018).
  • The KDP Select Global Fund has steadily risen for years: $22.5 million is a new high. (Many people argued with me when the per-page concept was introduced, saying it would quickly drop down way below $10 million.)
  • The Kindle Unlimited market is significant. Amazon is on pace to pay $250,000,000 in royalties for KDP Select eBooks borrowed through Kindle Unlimited (and also Amazon Prime, though Prime is far less significant). That’s in addition to All-Star bonuses and whatever Amazon pays the traditionally published books that participate in the program. That’s a significant share of the eBook market, and since many of the books are KDP Select eBooks, this is a fairly indie-friendly market.

TRY TO STAY POSITIVE

As a general rule, people who are upset about something are more likely to express their opinions (especially strong opinions).

(Beware also that some people who complain loudly have ulterior motives.)

This can make it a challenge to remain positive.

But if you want to remain motivated and improve your chances of reaching your long-term goals, you need to stay hopeful.

(And avoid getting sucked into black holes of complaining and despair.)

If you do get upset about something, channel your feelings and passion into something productive. Find a way to help it motivate yourself, as some successful authors have done by posting rejection letters on their walls.

WHAT I LIKE ABOUT KINDLE UNLIMITED

It’s too easy to get negative.

For example, you could look at the total number of books in Kindle Unlimited, or just the massive number added in the last 30 days.

But every negative has a positive. Instead of thinking of the large number of books as competition, think of how beneficial this is to help attract readers and keep them in the program (which if Amazon can continue to pay $20M per month in royalties and steadily growing, this is obviously working well).

Just like the big mistake that the “foolish” author who bashes the competition makes, similar books really don’t compete against one another. They are really complementary books that can thrive together. Customers read one good book, then want to find similar books. If an author persuades customers not to read similar books, many customers won’t discover that author’s books through those other books.

So here are a few things that I like about Kindle Unlimited (as both an author and a reader):

  • It’s affordable. Many of the books that I read in Kindle Unlimited sell for $5 and up. If I read a mere two books per month, I actually save money. When I’m not super busy with editing my own books, I easily read more than two books per month.
  • Recently, my daughter dragged me into a physical bookstore. I spent more money buying one ordinary novel than it would have cost for my entire monthly subscription to Kindle Unlimited.
  • For the nonfiction and educational books that participate, Kindle Unlimited is a convenient digital library. I wish there was more nonfiction content in the program. My nonfiction books participate, and the amount of nonfiction and educational books in the program is growing. Just imagine if someday, it were more convenient to look something up in a book in Kindle Unlimited than to use a search engine. (With search engines, very often one of the top search results has a nag screen to subscribe to their site. I haven’t even used the site yet to see if it’s worth subscribing to. If it were convenient to look to Kindle Unlimited for the answer, I could bypass some of those nag screens and advertisements, and I would be far less worried about getting a virus or spyware while searching for the answer.) It’s great when Kindle Unlimited has the nonfiction information I’m looking for, and sometimes it does.
  • As an author, I appreciate that each Kindle Unlimited (and Amazon Prime) borrow helps with sales rank (just as much as an ordinary paid sale). Occasionally, a book where sales are starting to taper off sees much extended life through regular borrows. A book with several daily borrows can compete with a book that has several daily sales.
  • I love seeing the number of pages read in my KDP royalty reports. I love knowing that not only did people borrow the book, but they are actually reading much of it, too. With math workbooks, I sometimes worry that people will start solving problems, but then give up. With Kindle Unlimited, sometimes the page count is a pleasant surprise, and shows me that people really are using my workbooks.
  • Conversely, if you’re not getting many pages read, this provides valuable marketing insight. Either your content isn’t as engaging as it could be, or your cover, description, and marketing are attracting the wrong audience for your book. Try changing things up until you finally get more pages read.
  • As I mentioned earlier, Kindle Unlimited is a very large, fairly indie-friendly market. Of course, with a couple million books to choose from, your book might not be among the popular reads, but the potential is certainly there (and not being among the popular reads is problematic with ordinary sales, too: if you can learn to write engaging content and a few effective marketing strategies, Kindle Unlimited can be helpful).
  • Although I don’t believe that KDP Select books are shown any direct favoritism, there appear to be indirect benefits: sales rank (as I mentioned earlier), the Kindle Unlimited filter (so that Kindle Unlimited customers can quickly find participating books: to these customers, many other books don’t even exist), etc.
  • For authors who write longer books, the KENPC is sometimes generous compared to the actual paperback page count, such that if a single customer reads the entire book, the Kindle Unlimited royalty may be higher than the royalty for a paid sale. This is the case with my longer books. (For authors of shorter books, this might seem unfair. But again, I’m trying to find ways to look at the positive, not the negative. I’d rather not open that can of worms—again—right now.)

I try to be pragmatic:

  • Is my experience as a reader better with Kindle Unlimited or without it? In my case, it’s much better. It’s affordable, I have fewer books to search through (I use the Kindle Unlimited filter), and I use it avidly.
  • Do I think that the millions of customers who use Kindle Unlimited are better off because of it? For most of them, I do. It’s affordable, it encourages them to read regularly, and if they are wise in searching for books, there is plenty of engaging content to be found.
  • As an author, do I feel that my books are doing better because of Kindle Unlimited than they would be doing if Kindle Unlimited didn’t exist? Absolutely. My Kindle Unlimited royalties themselves aren’t all that significant: I sell more paperbacks, and actually earn more through Kindle sales than through Kindle Unlimited. Yet I’m convinced of several benefits to Kindle Unlimited, like remaining relevant in sales rank through borrows, the fairly indie-friendly readership, and the help that the Kindle Unlimited filter offers in search results.
  • If you can’t answer yes to the previous question, being pragmatic, the next thing to ask is: As an author, do you feel that your books are doing better in Kindle Unlimited than they would do outside of Kindle Unlimited? Looking at the large number of books already in the program (in most categories), and the large number added to the program each day, it appears that many authors answer yes to this question. (If not, they should pull their books out of the program and publish on other platforms in addition to Kindle. Some do, of course, but the number who don’t is overwhelming.)

A few years ago, many people said that the KDP Select Global Fund would only temporarily be in the $10 million range, and that it would quickly drop down to the $3 million mark. But instead it has steadily risen, and is now up to $22.5 million.

Every time the per-page rate has taken a dip, numerous people have predicted the end of the world, saying that the per-page rate would drop below $0.04 and never return. However, the per-page rate has never dropped below $0.04 in the United States. The couple of times that it has gotten close, it has rebounded. It has fluctuated both up and down several times, it has spent a little time over $0.05, and this year it has been quite stable near $0.045. (Just recently, I read an article about how we’re “lucky” if Kindle pays $0.03 per page read, but that’s a mistake: In the United States, it has never dipped below $0.04 per page.) I’m not saying that it won’t ever drop below $0.04, but several people have been “positive” in the past that it was going to, and that it would never return to its current level, but each time it rose back up instead of falling below this threshold, and we have a couple of years of data now.

Kindle Unlimited appears to be doing much better than some “experts” have claimed it would.

Sure, it would be great if the Global Fund were $30 million and if the page rate were $0.06. But could Amazon afford to pay that? Let’s remember, Amazon collects a small monthly fee, offers free trials, and lets customers read as much as they want. It’s easy to propose the subscription service of your dreams, but much harder for that service to continue long-term and not go out of business. Amazon has a fairly stable per-page rate, a growing Global Fund, a growing number of participating books, and a subscription service that has lasted for a few years. It appears to be a viable program. Viability is important to me.

Copyright 2018

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides