Kindle Formatting Magic

WORD TO KINDLE FORMATTING MAGIC

I will share some Kindle formatting tips and also introduce my newest book, Word to Kindle Formatting Magic, which is available in both paperback and Kindle editions.

  • Kindle ASIN: B07BL5K6DH
  • 522-page Paperback ISBN: 978194169122

KINDLE DESIGN

The beginning of Kindle design comes from understanding the semi-reflowable nature of eBooks. A typical eBook isn’t quite reflowable in the same way that a scrollable webpage displays (although the Look Inside feature displays that way), but it also doesn’t have a predictable fixed layout like a print book.

Since different customers will read the eBook on a variety of screen sizes and aspect ratios, from cell phones to HD tablets, and since the customer can adjust the type face, font size, background color, and internal margins, you can’t predict which information or how much information will show on any given screen.

The main idea is that a typical eBook doesn’t consist of well-defined pages like a print book does.

This impacts the design of Kindle eBooks in various ways. For example,

  • You need to choose the size and aspect ratio of your pictures wisely so that they look fine on any size screen. You also need to make sure that they look fine on white, black, cream, or green reading backgrounds.
  • A blank line could seem to vanish, since there is always a chance that it will show up at the very top or bottom of the screen.
  • Tall figures may be forced onto the next screen and may leave a lot of white space on the previous screen.
  • Subheadings may happen to fall at the bottom of a screen, unless you apply a page break to them, but a page break may waste a lot of white space on the prior screen.
  • Page numbers don’t make any sense in your eBook. Anywhere your text says something like, “as shown on pages 23-28,” you need to rewrite it.

Another important element of Kindle design is to understand the limitations of what Kindle can and can’t do, especially on older devices, including the limitations of the online and downloadable previewers (for example, in displaying tables, pictures, and special symbols). Following are some examples.

  • Use of the tab key to attempt to control paragraph indentations can be a disaster. The best way to control paragraph indentations is by applying clean paragraph styles (or style definitions) without direct paragraph formatting.
  • Some devices may automatically indent paragraphs that you wish to be non-indented. You have to trick the device into not indenting justified or left-aligned paragraphs.
  • Left alignment may automatically appear justified full unless you go a step beyond Microsoft Word.
  • Kindle’s justification isn’t perfect, although it has improved tremendously with Amazon’s new Enhanced Typesetting. If you try to prevent a runt (or orphan)—a short word at the end of a paragraph appearing on the last line all by its lonesome—with a non-breaking space, if the string of text has more than about 6 characters, you could wind up with an undesirable automatic hyphen or a large gap at the end of the previous line.
  • Bullet points come with a variety of limitations. The bullet symbol itself appears subdued. Negative indents, hanging indents, and multi-level indents pose problems, especially for older devices. Word’s automatic list tools automatically result in a large indent, and if you try to change Word’s indent size, the list looks worse in other ways. Even the simple ordered and unordered list tools with basic HTML have problems. To top this off, lists exaggerate the justification issues.
  • If you know how to avoid widows and orphans in your print book, you need to exercise self-discipline to avoid trying to control them in your Kindle eBook, and accept the fact that occasionally there may be just a few words on the last page of a chapter all by themselves.

Related to this is a degree of quirkiness, meaning that some features (like tables or special symbols) display differently on first or second generation Kindle Fires and older Kindle eReaders than they do on the most recent generation of Kindle devices.

For example, suppose that you wish to incorporate a page break into the paragraph style for the first row of a basic table, in order to prevent the table from starting near the very bottom of a screen (which would otherwise sometimes happen depending on the screen size and customer settings). On first and second generation Kindle Fires, this may result in ghosting, where you see the outline of the table on the screen prior to the table, and on at least one of the early Kindle Fire devices the table itself may appear to get stuck, taking a dozen swipes to advance past the table. It will appear to work fine in the previewer, though (but the previewers don’t display tables accurately for how they will work on all possible devices).

As another example, the most recent Kindle devices and the previewers will show more special symbols than older devices actually support.

A FEW FORMATTING TIPS

Following are a few tips that help to format a Kindle eBook.

  • Use paragraph styles in Word (or call style definitions in HTML) for all paragraph formatting. Do this religiously.
  • Don’t apply direct formatting to an entire paragraph (or more). If you want formatting to apply to an entire paragraph, create a new style for that.
  • A common mistake where direct formatting is applied is to highlight multiple paragraphs and change the settings, or to change the settings on the Paragraph or Font menu in Word and proceed to type one or more paragraphs.
  • Don’t use the tab key in your eBook. Too late? Use the Replace tool to remove every instance of ^t.
  • Avoid blank lines. Use Spacing After with an appropriate paragraph style in places where you need to add vertical space.
  • Keep it simple. If you try to do something complex, it may backfire on one or more devices or apps. You’d hate for part of your book to be totally unreadable on an older device, or for an indent to be huge on a small screen, for example.
  • Be careful not to introduce a worse problem by trying to fix a subtle design issue. Again, keeping it simple is a good Kindle philosophy.
  • When the content of your book is 100% complete (proofreading too), save your Word file as a filtered webpage. If your book includes any pictures, right-click on the resulting HTML file and send it to a compressed zipped folder. Find the image files folder that this process makes and drag it into the compressed zipped folder.
  • You can make some subtle improvements to your HTML file. For example, you can set text-indent to 0 instead of 0.01″ for non-indented paragraphs (but don’t remove the text-indent line or the paragraph may automatically indent). For indented paragraphs, you can change the text-indent to 2em or 3em so that it matches the font size. (Keep your indents small. Word’s default value of 0.5″ is larger than most traditionally published books and would look very large on small screens.)
  • If you know what to look for, the HTML file can help you see formatting that is hidden in Word. (Are you thinking about the Show/Hide button? I’m talking about formatting that’s so hidden that even Word’s Show/Hide button doesn’t reveal it.)

THE STORY BEHIND MY NEW BOOK

My other self-publishing books primarily focus on how to self-publish a paperback book. Although they do mention eBook formatting, the eBook is only a small component of those books.

I wanted to create a guide specifically for Kindle formatting.

When I was thinking about the title, it occurred to me that the behavior of Kindle eBooks as perceived by a new author sometimes seems mysterious (“Why did that happen?”), so I came up with the title, Kindle Formatting Magic. I added two words to make it Word to Kindle Formatting Magic because most authors have access to and familiarity with Microsoft Word, and since Kindle formatting can be very Word friendly (once you learn how to control hidden formatting in Word).

I originally had a 100 to 200-page book in mind. A couple of years back, I hired illustrator Melissa Stevens (www.theillustratedauthor.net) to design the cover. Her design seemed really magical, and it motivated me to try to make the inside of the book as magical as the cover.

I completely reorganized and rewrote the material. I did this a couple of times. At one point, it was going to be two separate volumes. In the end, the paperback edition has 522 pages on 8.5″ x 11″ pages (it’s also available in Kindle format, of course).

A few months ago, I wrote that I had spent 1-2 years working on this book, but a few weeks ago I dug up my old files and discovered that I’ve been working on this book for nearly three years. Time flies!

I spent much time experimenting with Kindle formatting, trying out a feature, uploading the file to KDP, and testing it out. This was very time-consuming, but also enlightening. I took several snapshots and included these pictures in my book to help illustrate many of the issues faced with Kindle formatting.

Much has changed at KDP in the past couple of years. A lot of these changes occurred as I was writing my book, so I had to constantly rewrite sections that I had previously written. For example, the Kindle previewer has been updated to include Auto-Advance, there are new Kindle reading apps, there is a new X-Ray feature, KDP’s print option has expanded, the 127 KB rule for GIF images has been updated, and some of the KDP help pages have been extensively revised.

My book covers the following topics:

  • The basics, like removing tabs, extra line breaks, extra spaces, page numbers, unsupported symbols, etc. One appendix lists every symbol that is fully supported across all devices (there are even notes about correct and incorrect ways to insert supported symbols). A handy checklist helps to ensure that you’ve implemented all of these steps.
  • A detailed guide to using Word’s paragraph styles to format your eBook. There is even a step-by-step tutorial in an appendix at the back of the book to walk you through it with a specific example. I provide several specific recommended paragraph styles commonly used in eBook design. I show you how to create new styles, modify existing styles, deal with hidden styles (like TOC or Footnote), manage your styles (like Disable Linked Styles and what the confusing Automatically Update box really means), and use the Style Inspector to check for common problems.
  • One chapter is devoted to picture size, aspect ratio, format, file size, image design considerations, captions, tables formatted as images, padding, transparency, and everything related to pictures.
  • Multiple sections discuss a variety of Kindle design concepts, like the challenges of formatting bullet points, issues related to left and full alignment, how pictures affect design, the helpfulness but also the dangers of the non-breaking space, and much more.
  • Another chapter shows you how to go a quick step beyond Word. I tried to make this as friendly as possible, even showing how you could be an HTML minimalist. You really don’t need to learn HTML, and that’s the beauty of it. You don’t actually have to write HTML. It’s already written. All you need to do is make small changes to a little of the HTML that’s already there, and I show you exactly which changes to make and how they should look with specific examples (I even have several complete recommended style definitions that you can copy). You can keep this simple and make just a few helpful changes, but for those who want I offer many other optional changes that you can make (for example, how to use media queries to format drop caps that work well across all devices). This chapter shows you how what you do in Word affects the HTML, which helps you learn how to control hidden formatting from Word. For those who want to work more with HTML, I show you the HTML that relates to Kindle formatting to help you better understand your HTML file, which can be helpful if you want to make extensive revisions (this is easily skipped by authors who want to avoid HTML as much as possible).
  • Learn how to preview your Kindle eBook thoroughly using the online previewer, the more reliable downloadable previewer, and actual devices or apps. For example, you can preview your eBook on a PC, laptop, tablet, or cell phone using a free Kindle reading app. Detailed checklists help you with proofreading, editing, and a variety of specific features to look for and test in the way of formatting.
  • A troubleshooting section includes several common Kindle formatting issues with possible solutions. Find detailed explanations whether you used Word exclusively or went beyond Word to use HTML (each issue offers solutions for both cases). This isn’t like a troubleshooting section that you find in the owner’s manual of an electronic device: I tried to make this readable and understandable for everybody.
  • An appendix provides a short sample eBook. Labeled pictures show you which paragraphs have which styles in Microsoft Word, and I included the full HTML for the sample eBook so that you can see the style definitions and everything else.
  • I spent much time testing out various features, and I included several pictures in my book to demonstrate a variety of formatting challenges.
  • For those who would also like to publish a paperback version of their book, I walk you through the steps involved in converting your eBook to a print-ready PDF.
  • Also find valuable tips relating to sales rank, keywords, categories, customer reviews, marketing, promotions, giveaways, and more. (Authors often tell me that the marketing advice that I include in my books on self-publishing is easily worth the price of the entire book. One section is dedicated to marketing and premarketing tips, but a few other sections also relate to marketing.)

YOU COULD WIN A FREE COPY OF MY BOOK

Enter my Amazon Giveaway (which expires at the end of March 24, 2018 in the US), which will have 50 lucky winners. That could be you, and the odds are favorable (as of now, there are about 70 entrants for 50 books, which gives you amazing odds). It’s a sweepstakes, so all 50 books will be given away, and you’ll find out if you win at the end of March 24.

https://www.amazon.com/ga/p/29e81d46a95ba752

I also have a Goodreads giveaway beginning soon with 100 lucky winners which will last for a couple of weeks.

The Goodreads giveaway doesn’t start until March 26 and ends on April 10, 2018. Once March 26 gets here, you can find the Goodreads giveaway at:

https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/278710-word-to-kindle-formatting-magic-self-publishing-on-amazon-with-style

If you buy the paperback version directly from Amazon, after doing so, you will be eligible to purchase the Kindle edition free through MatchBook. You could give the print version as a gift and keep the Kindle edition for yourself, or you might find it handy to have the paperback spread out on your desk while you’re formatting your next book and also have another copy that you can access from your phone or tablet.

If you have a Kindle Unlimited subscription, you can also borrow my book for free. (Amazon Prime customers can also borrow one free book per month.)

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Copyright © 2018

Chris McMullen

Do Something Cool with Your Book Covers

BUILD WITH BOOK COVERS

If you’re an author who has a book cover with visual appeal, here is your chance to raise that visual appeal to a higher level.

Build something cool with your book cover.

Although designing a cover that has strong visual appeal is a challenge, building with a book cover is much easier than it looks.

First of all, you could keep it two-dimensional, and simply use copy/paste to create rectangular blocks. Anything that you can build by stacking together blocks, you could build with your cover.

You don’t have to work with rectangles. You could crop your cover to other shapes.

But even three-dimensional images are relatively easy. There are apps that can help you achieve three-dimensional rotations, and some common picture software programs have this feature built-in.

You could even do this with Word. (Though Word is common and it’s easy to do with Word, one drawback will be limited DPI, in case you’re planning to print the results. You can make the page size 20″ x 20″ in Word with zero margins to maximize the picture size, then later transfer the picture to real picture-editing software to create a smaller image with higher DPI than what Word offers.)

In recent versions of Word, select the picture, go to the Format tab, look for Picture Effects, and choose 3-D Rotation. If you make 3 copies of your cover, you can put the right combination of 3 of the presets together to make a cube. (However, if your cover isn’t square, you’ll need to squeeze the aspect ratio for the “top,” or add a border to the cover to make it square before you start like I did with my astronomy cover above. For rectangular covers, you can make the top piece square after unlocking the aspect ratio in the Size options and then making the width equal the height.)

In the picture above, I rotated my algebra cover two different directions and pasted them together. If I had only used two, I could have added a top or bottom to make a cube, but I wanted to show that the cube isn’t your only option. Use your creativity. You can make anything from dominoes to pyramids.

You can see a pyramid that I created above. That’s the cover for my Kindle Formatting Magic book, which will be published later this month (hopefully), which was designed by Melissa Stevens at www.theillustratedauthor.net. Once you make a box out of your cover, you can use copy/paste and stack the boxes together to make just about anything.

Illustrator Melissa Stevens made the shapes that you see above using a variety of my book covers. She also designed the header for my self-publishing blog using the covers for my self-publishing books. One of the pictures shows a boxed set, which is something you can make when you have a few related books.

Below I have a simple picture of one of my book covers walking down a runway like a model. The judges are holding up scores to judge it (not that there’s much to judge on that cover, as it just consists of text—but that’s a funny thing about covers: especially with nonfiction, something simple like that can be effective).

Another cool thing you can do is take a picture of a city (but be careful, some of the stock photos that you see of big cities have limitations on their usage) and add your book cover to it. For example, Chris the Storyreading Ape (thestoryreadingapeblog.com) made the picture below using the cover for my mathematical puzzle book.

BOOK MARKETING OPPORTUNITY

Of course, the book cover itself can help with (or hinder) book marketing.

But if you make something cool with your book cover, it provides an additional opportunity.

I don’t mean to suggest that if you create a box out of your book cover that your book will suddenly become a bestseller.

I’m saying that there are ways that you could use this effectively, depending on your creativity and marketing skills (but even if they’re lacking, you might get a little traffic from it).

The big problem with book marketing is that you want everyone in the world to learn about your book, but it’s really hard to find strangers who are receptive to marketing that basically says, “This is my book, would you please buy it?”

Thousands of authors are blogging, tweeting, interacting on Facebook, advertising, writing articles, and everything else that they can think of that they might be willing to try to help spread the word about their books. Some marketing is more effective than others.

Simply reminding people that you’re an author and that you wrote a book, or simply telling that your book is the best read ever has limited effect.

Authors strive to find other ways to catch readers’ interest, hoping that once the reader becomes interested, they’ll notice that they’re authors and then be willing to check out their books. This is the heart of book marketing, combined with author branding.

So making something cool with your cover is another way to possibly catch readers’ interest with a cool visual display. Getting people to notice that visual display, well that’s another part of marketing, where you try to widen your reach.

You can use your book cover creation in a variety of ways:

  • in a blog, tweet, or post
  • to make a bookmark (a handy marketing tool, something that may actually get used by readers)
  • add it as a secondary picture on your author page
  • wear it on a t-shirt and see if it sparks any conversations about your book

Some authors have the creativity and marketing insight to really take advantage of a strong visual display, but at the very least, it might help get a short spur of interest.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2018

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

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

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

Tips for the New Goodreads Giveaways

GOODREADS GIVEAWAYS

As you may have heard, Goodreads Giveaways have changed.

  • One change is that KDP authors can now give eBooks away.
  • Another change is that it now costs money to create a Goodreads giveaway.

If you’d like to learn more about these recent changes to the Goodreads giveaway program, click here to read my recent article about it.

In my current post, I will offer some tips for making the most of it.

EXPLORING THE GIVEAWAYS

First off, there is the question of how readers will find your giveaway. It’s worth exploring the giveaways as a reader would before you proceed to create a giveaway as an author. This will give you some insight into the process.

Unfortunately, when I visit the homepage at www.goodreads.com, I don’t see any mention of the giveaways there. But that’s okay. Experience shows that thousands of readers already know where to find them.

After I log in, I still don’t see the giveaways out in plain sight. But they are accessible. Hover your cursor over the Browse tab and you will find them fourth on the list. That’s one plausible way for a reader to discover them (aside from the thousands who already know exactly where to go).

Some readers have this page bookmarked in their browser: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway. If anyone uses a search engine to find Goodreads Giveaways, this page will also come up that way.

Once they get there, there are a variety of ways that readers will search for giveaways. Here are some examples. I encourage you to explore these options.

  • By default, you see a list of Featured giveaways. If you were wondering whether or not it may be worthwhile to invest the extra $$$ for a Featured giveaway, browse through this list and check out the stats. Look where it says Availability, and compare the number Requesting to the Start Date. For the amount of money it costs to be Featured, you should have some very high expectations for the number of requests. If you’re not seeing it, I suggest going for a basic giveaway instead.
  • Some readers like to click the Ending Soon tab. Why? Because if they win, they will find out before they forget all about it. If they don’t win, they might still remember the book, and perhaps they will think to go check it out at Amazon. This section is handy for authors, too. Look at the number of requests on the Ending Soon page. This will show you how successful the giveaways tend to be. Today, for example, I see several with 500+ requests and a few with 1000+ requests, but these numbers will vary over time.
  • Another option is Recently Listed. Giveaways get the most exposure on the start date and end date.
  • The last option at the top is Most Requested. Today, I see giveaways that have received over 10,000 requests. These show the potential of a fantastic giveaway (combined with great marketing, and perhaps a great cover or an established name). Back to reality: If you’re thinking about hosting a giveaway, the numbers you see on average under Ending Soon offer more realistic goals.
  • Perhaps the best option is to Browse by Genre. Find the categories over on the right. This way readers can find the kinds of books that interest them. If your book seems to fit into more than one category, I recommend that you explore the giveaways that you see in various categories. This will help you decide where your book fits best, and which categories seem to be more popular.

GIVEAWAY TIPS

(1) Browse through active Goodreads Giveaways.

  • Check out the number of people requesting the book under Availability.
  • Note whether the Format is print book or Kindle eBook.
  • Browse through a few pages of results under Ending Soon to get an idea for the average popularity of a giveaway.
  • Look at the Most Requested books. Try to find some that aren’t popular because of a big author or publisher name. Check out the giveaway descriptions and author biographies: If these giveaways did something right, maybe they will inspire you. Check out the author’s social media pages to see where and how they shared their giveaways (though it may also have been announced via email newsletter).
  • Try to find books similar to yours. A good way to do this is to browse through the categories at the right. How are these giveaways doing? That will help you gauge your giveaway’s potential.

(2) Increase your exposure.

  • You get most of your giveaway traffic on the start date and the end date. However, the days in between matter: The more days your giveaway runs, the more in-between days you will have, and they can really add up. Let’s say your giveaway would get 500 views on the first day, 500 views on the last day, and 50 views per day in between. If you run a giveaway for one week, you get 1250 views, but if you run a giveaway for a month, you get 2400 views, which doubles your exposure. The more days your contest runs, the more views you get. (The drawbacks are that the longer the contest runs, the more people will have forgotten about it, and the longer it takes to get your reviews. However, a contest is primarily about exposure, and longer time equals longer exposure.)
  • Share your giveaway with many of the same ways that you normally market your book. You’re getting double exposure: People are learning about your book and they’re learning about your contest. Share your giveaway on Facebook, Twitter, and your other social media platforms. Share it on your blog or author website (you can start a Goodreads blog, too, by the way). Share it in your email newsletter. Etc.
  • If you advertise on Goodreads (there is an economical self-service option), you can draw additional attention to your giveaway. Of course, this is an additional expense on top of the cost to run the giveaway (and the cost to send out the books if you choose the print option). However, if you occasionally pay for advertising, now is an opportunity to advertise a contest instead of just advertising that you have a book. Again, it’s like a double effect: You’re sending the message that you wrote a book plus the message that people can win a prize.

(3) If you run an eBook giveaway, educate readers and contestants.

  • You don’t have to own a Kindle eBook to read a Kindle eBook that you win through a Goodreads giveaway.
  • Winners can read eBooks using the Kindle Cloud Reader, and Android device (phone or tablet), or iOS device (phone or tablet). (However, there are a few Kindle eBooks, such as those created with the Kindle Textbook Creator or Kindle Kids’ Book Creator, which aren’t available on all devices, notably phones. So if you used one of these publishing tools, you might want to check into the details first.)
  • In your marketing, you can concisely mention how a Kindle eBook can be read even if the winner doesn’t own a Kindle device. There are instructions on Goodreads’ FAQ page, for example: See the second link in Tip #6.

(4) More prizes reduces your overall cost per book, and they make the odds more appealing to contestants.

  • The setup cost is the same whether you offer 1 book or 100 books as the prize. (For a print book, you will also need to purchase author copies and pay for packing and shipping.) The more books you offer, the less the giveaway costs you per book.
  • If you’re offering a print book, I suggest that you not go overboard and offer way too many copies until you gain some experience with how it works and what kind of results you’re able to get. Author copies and shipping can get expensive (and become a hassle at the post office) if you offer a large number of prizes.
  • More prizes also make the contestant feel like the odds are better. Would you rather go to the trouble of entering a giveaway where the odds are 1 in 1000 or where the odds are 20 in 1000?
  • Only a percentage of winners post reviews (and then primarily on Goodreads, not as often on Amazon), so the more prizes you offer, the more reviews you are likely to eventually get. (There is no guarantee that you will get reviews though.)

(5) I.t…t.a.k.e.s…t.i.m.e.

  • The giveaway itself may run for weeks. The longer the giveaway, the more exposure, so if the contest runs for a month or more, you get more views and participation.
  • Reading takes time. Most winners don’t read the book cover to cover instantly. People are busy. They may have other books to read, too. It will take months for some readers to complete the book. (And not everyone may enjoy or appreciate the book enough to read it all the way through.)
  • Reviews take time. People are busy. Even after reading the book, it takes time to write a review.
  • What does this mean? If you publish your book and then run a contest, you should realize that it may take several months to fully realize any results that the giveaway may bring.
  • If, on the other hand, you run a contest months in advance of a book’s release, some readers may be ready to post reviews when the book comes out.
  • Another thing that takes time is packing and shipping books. If you run a print contest, order author copies well in advance (keeping in mind that Murphy’s law might make you waste time getting defective copies replaced by the publisher), and be prepared to spend time (and money) with packing and shipping.

(6) You can include a note with your print book. (But other than that, you’re not supposed to contact winners or entrants.)

  • A short thank-you note that doesn’t violate the Goodreads giveaway terms and conditions is appropriate. (Also check the FAQ’s. Note that it currently has 2 pages.) Note that there are probably reasonable expectations that aren’t specifically mentioned in the posted terms. Use discretion so that you don’t ruin your good standing with Goodreads.
  • You may include a link to your website, blog, Amazon author page, social media, etc. Tip: At Author Central, click on the Author Page tab and create an Author Page URL that will be easier to type than the default URL. For example, I made it so that readers can type amazon.com/author/chrismcmullen to reach my Amazon Author Page, which is easier to type than the default URL which is www.amazon.com/Chris-McMullen/e/B002XH39DS, which includes a hyphen and a jumble of numbers and letters at the end.
  • If you have an appropriate bookmark or business card, you may include it with your book. A nice looking bookmark (that doesn’t look like an advertisement) may actually get used, continually reminding the reader about you or your book, and it’s not too hard to find a place to get these printed economically (they come in handy for many marketing endeavors).
  • After thanking or congratulating the reader, you can politely mention that it would be great if they posted a review. Really, it’s not necessary, as Goodreads already encourages this, and readers loathe to be nagged about reviews (and you’re not allow to bug the winner).
  • Be careful: You want to clearly state that reviewing is optional (it is NOT required by Goodreads), and you want to ask for an HONEST review. Just like Amazon’s terms and conditions, you shouldn’t place any conditions on the review (any review that the winner may choose to write is unconditional).
  • Most readers naturally post a review at Goodreads if they write a review at all. If you’re hoping for a review at Amazon, then you might mention politely (one time) something like this:

Congratulations on winning my Goodreads giveaway. Reviewing is optional, of course. If you decide to write an honest review at Goodreads, Amazon, or anywhere else, I would be very grateful for your time and consideration. Thank you.

(7) It’s nice to hold a prize in your hands.

  • Obviously, it costs you less to send an eBook, but a print book has many advantages for a giveaway. Since there is a setup fee regardless of which format you use, you might want to spend a little more to get the best possible result for your investment.
  • For several years, Goodreads members have become accustomed to winning print books. People who have participated for years may be more likely to enter contests for print books.
  • When you browse through current giveaways, compare the number of requests for print books and Kindle eBooks. See if contests for print books seem to be more popular (all else being equal).
  • Print books provide a marketing opportunity. If your book is engaging enough to get read, it might get read in public. Other people might see your book being read on a bus, train, plane, park bench, restaurant seat, etc. And they might ask that person, “What are you reading?” They’re thinking, “That book sure has captured your interest. Maybe I will enjoy it, too.” So they might indeed ask a stranger about it.
  • You can include a short (appropriate) thank-you note as I mentioned in tip #6 with a print book, but not for an eBook.

(8) Deliver your prizes promptly. You want your winners to be excited about your book. Don’t disappoint them with a longer than necessary wait (for a print book to finally arrive in the mail).

For a print book, use reliable packaging. Make sure the address label can’t possibly fall off. You want the winner to receive your book, and to receive it in excellent condition.

POSSIBLE BENEFITS

Running a Goodreads giveaway comes with an expense. It also comes with possible benefits:

  • A few winners may eventually review your book somewhere. Most likely it will be Goodreads. Occasionally, but far less likely, it is also Amazon (but it won’t show as a Verified Purchase).
  • You should see a lot of activity with your book being marked as to-read. This was always the case, but now it is even more so, since it’s required for entry into the contest. If nothing else, this helps to draw a little interest to your book at Goodreads, as it shows some sign of a little popularity. (Of course, there are many other books that receive hundreds or thousands of to-reads this way. But there are also books that have very few to-reads, and yours won’t if you run a giveaway.)
  • Goodreads will notify your followers about your giveaway. If anyone has marked your book as to-read, Goodreads will notify them, too. This helps draw additional attention to your giveaway. These are new features.
  • Even more people see your book than enter the giveaway. Every time someone sees your book cover, reads your author name, or reads your giveaway or book description, it helps with branding, which is a huge part of marketing. Branding is a very long and slow process. Every little bit helps.
  • Some participants will check our your books and biography at Goodreads. You will get some attention. Maybe not as much as you hoped for, but you do generate a little activity.
  • Hopefully, a few people who saw your book, but who didn’t win it, will visit your book page at Amazon and consider buying it.
  • Between the winners who receive your book and any readers who don’t win but still buy your book, if they enjoy your book enough, they may help to spread the word about it. Word-of-mouth sales are the toughest type of sales to earn, but when you earn it, this can be the best kind of marketing that you can get. There is hope.

The question is whether or not the benefits will outweigh the expense. In regards to that, please read my disclaimer:

DISCLAIMER

Nowhere am I suggesting that a Goodreads giveaway will be successful for you.

Nor am I suggesting that they will be worth the cost for you.

Every book and author is unique, and just like with book sales, results will vary. It will work better for some than for others.

Rather, what I’m saying is this: If you decide to run a giveaway, the above tips are intended to help you make the most of it.

Good luck with your giveaway and with your book.

If you’re a reader and you enter a giveaway, I hope you win and enjoy your prize.

FOLLOW ME AT GOODREADS

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6970004.Chris_McMullen

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2018

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

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

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

How to Add X-Ray to Your Kindle eBook

X-ray picture licensed from ShutterStock.

X-RAY FOR KINDLE

Authors can add X-ray to their Kindle eBooks via KDP.

Here is how to do it:

  • Visit Kindle Direct Publishing at kdp.amazon.com.
  • After you login, visit your KDP Bookshelf.
  • Hover your cursor over the gray button with three dots (…) near the right of one of your book titles.
  • If available, you will see an option to Launch X-Ray. Click this link.
  • This will open the X-Ray page for your Kindle eBook, but you won’t be able to do anything yet.
  • Click the yellow button to Request X-Ray. The window will automatically close 20 seconds later and return you to your Bookshelf.
  • You should receive an email once X-Ray is prepared for your Kindle eBook. Although it says it can take a few hours, my emails came within minutes.
  • Now you need to return to your KDP Bookshelf and Launch X-Ray again with the gray (…) button. This time you will be able to do something.
  • I recommend the yellow Begin Tutorial button. It’s very quick and pretty effective.
  • Select the items on the left one at a time. If the item is irrelevant or you just don’t want it to show to readers, click No for the first question and it will be excluded. I had to do this for some terms because a few of the terms were not related to my book, but most of the terms were relevant.
  • Each item must be a character (like Harry Potter) or a term (like astrophysics). Check one.
  • Tip: Click the number of occurrences link and it will show you the terms in context. It’s pretty cool and can help you decide if it’s worth displaying to readers.
  • Either write a custom description or choose a relevant Wikipedia article. For many standard terms, it will automatically select a Wikipedia article. Beware that the article might not be a good fit for the term. It’s up to you to read the article to make sure, or select a different article (or instead enter your own custom text).
  • Click the button at the bottom so that it says Item Reviewed if you wish to keep it. Otherwise, select No for the first question. If it doesn’t say Item Reviewed, the changes won’t be published.
  • Sometimes, you may have a few terms linked together for the same item. In this case, if you click Remove, it won’t actually delete the term. What Remove does is separate the term to be its own item (you can find it somewhere on the list at the left, sometimes far from the other item). I had to do this for a few items.
  • Think: Are there any terms or characters that you would like to add which weren’t automatically included? If so, click the Add New Item link at the top of the list on the left. You won’t be able to see occurrences (or know how many there are) until you publish the changes (though once you publish the changes and they finally go live—it didn’t take too long for me, just a few minutes, but it can be longer—then you will be able to see the occurrences).
  • There may be a few standard terms for which you can’t click the button to say Item Reviewed. This happened to me with Albert Einstein, for example. If that happens, don’t worry. It will be included automatically. If you don’t want it included, click No for the first question (as with any other items that you don’t want displayed to readers).
  • MOST IMPORTANT STEP: Click the yellow button at the top right corner to Review and Publish X-Ray. Otherwise, all your effort will be wasted.
  • You should receive an email when the changes go live.
  • After I received my email (it only took minutes for me, but it can take longer), I opened my book on my Kindle Fire HD, and X-Ray was already enabled (even though I had purchased the book months ago, but only enabled X-Ray minutes ago—indeed, it already had definitions that I had just typed). Below I will describe a bit how it works. The picture below shows X-Ray in action.

First, I checked my product page. I scrolled down to Product Details, where I found X-Ray: Enabled. Click the little arrow next to Enabled to see which devices support X-Ray (there is also an elaborate list on one of the KDP help pages that I link to later in this article).

On my Kindle Fire HD 8.9″, when the book is open and the menu ribbon shows at the top of the screen, I see a little rectangle with an X, which is the X-Ray icon. When I click on that X-Ray icon, it opens a page with Notable Clips, People, and Terms. Click either People or Terms. I selected Terms.

One of my terms was Solar System. There were 52 mentions. I clicked on this item on the list. It doesn’t show me the text that I typed for Solar System (not yet). This just shows the paragraph in my book that mentioned that instance of Solar System. I clicked the link called Go to Loc 34 (the number will vary) in the bottom left corner. This brings me to that actual location in my book. Now on my touchscreen device, I placed my thumb on the first S of Solar, held my thumb down for a moment, and rubbed my thumb across the screen to the M in System. This highlighted the term Solar System, and the X-Ray window popped up, showing me the definition that I had typed for it in KDP. You can see it in the picture above. (You can’t see the highlighted term. I had to zoom in or you wouldn’t be able to see the X-Ray text well.)

The picture above shows how the X-Ray tool looks after you access it from your KDP Bookshelf.

Learn more about X-Ray for authors via the following KDP help page:

X-Ray for Authors

Also see the X-Ray Tips and Tricks page at KDP:

X-Ray Tips and Tricks

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2018

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

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

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

Self-Publishing Education & Textbooks on Kindle via Amazon KDP

Pattern Puzzles

KINDLE FOR EDUCATION & TEXTBOOK AUTHORS

Amazon recently added a quote from me to their KDP website for Education & Textbooks. Check it out here:

https://kdp.amazon.com/edu

(Thank you, Amazon.)

I started out self-publishing print books with CreateSpace in 2008. Back then, Kindle wasn’t a very good fit for most textbooks.

Textbooks tend to have many pictures, equations, bullet points, and other kinds of rich formatting, which makes the transition from print to Kindle a challenge.

Amazon’s solution to this problem is the Kindle Textbook Creator.

The main benefit of the Kindle Textbook Creator is convenience. It’s actually PDF friendly, and preserves the layout of your print book.

It’s good for textbooks and other books with many images or rich formatting. (It’s not good for a novel.)

The trade-off for convenience is that since one printed page fits on the Kindle screen, and since many customers have a fairly small screen, the e-book is designed to work with pinch-and-zoom, and it won’t be available on all devices.

There are other factors to consider, too. For example, using the Kindle Textbook Creator allows you to embed audio or video, which is great for educational books (but these features will only be available to customers who read your book on a third-generation or newer Kindle Fire device).

I have a free article on using the Kindle Textbook Creator:

https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com/2015/01/23/how-to-use-amazons-new-kindle-textbook-creator-tutorial/

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2016

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

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

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

Comments

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How Much Does Amazon Pay Kindle Unlimited ALL-STARS?

All Stars

KDP SELECT ALL-STARS

I researched what Amazon pays KDP Select All-Stars for pages read in Kindle Unlimited.

(My reason for doing this is to estimate how many Kindle Unlimited subscribers there are, but that will be the subject of a coming post.)

If you want to see the Amazon KDP help page where I found my information, it’s right here:

https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A2X66QXB12WV2

Amazon presently pays about one million dollars (perhaps a little more, depending on exchange rates) in KDP Select All-Star Bonuses based on KENP pages read during the month (books must be claimed through Author Central to be eligible):

  • $500,000 is awarded to the top 100 authors for US pages read: $25,000 to the top 10, $10,000 to the 11th thru 20th, $5,000 to the 21st thru 30th, $2500 to the 31st thru 50th, and $1000 to the 51st thru 100th.
  • $90,000 is awarded to the top 100 books for US pages read: $2500 to the top 10, $1000 to the 11th thru 50th, and $500 to the 51st thru 100th. (It pays better to be a top author than to have a top book.)
  • £77,500 is awarded to the top 100 authors for UK pages read: £2000 to the top 10, £1500 to the 11th thru 20th, £750 to the 21st thru 30th, and £500 to the 31st thru 100th. (The US pays much better bonuses than the UK.)
  • £20,000 is awarded to the top 100 books for UK pages read: £500 to the top 10, £250 to the 11th thru 50th, and £100 to the 51st thru 100th.
  • €310,000 is awarded to the top 100 authors for DE pages read: €7500 to the top 10, €5000 to the 11th thru 20th, €3500 to the 21st thru 30th, €2500 to the 31st thru 50th, €1500 to the 51st thru 100th, and €500 to the 100th thru 150th. (Germany pays very well, and even pays 50 additional authors.)
  • €50,000 is awarded to the top 100 books for DE pages read: €750 to the top 10, €500 to the 11th thru 50th, and €250 to the 51st thru 100th.
  • $31,250 is awarded to the top 100 illustrated kids’ books (as Amazon deems eligible) for pages read in the US: $1000 to the top 5, $750 to the 6th thru 10th, $500 to the 11th thru 30th, $250 to the 31st thru 50th, and 150 to the 51st thru 100th.
  • £2500 is awarded to the top 100 illustrated kids’ books (as Amazon deems eligible) for pages read in the UK: £100 to the top 25.

These books and authors are already earning good money for the pages read (many of these are in the millions of pages read per month), and that’s on top of sales.

Amazon obviously throws in this incentive to encourage the top authors to keep their books enrolled in KDP Select.

You’re probably wondering: If Amazon didn’t pay roughly one million dollars in All-Star Bonuses, what impact would that have on the per-page rate? In January, it would have raised the per-page rate from $0.0041 to $0.0043. It’s probably worth it to attract the most read indie authors and books into the program, as they help to attract customers to Kindle Unlimited.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2016

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

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

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

Comments

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Book + Hook = Sales (Marketing Recipe for Authors)

Book Hook

BOOK MARKETING TIPS

Is your book full of hooks?

If you don’t understand the question, don’t worry. I’ll explain it shortly.

After I ask a different question.

Why did you read this article?

I realize that you haven’t committed yet. At any moment, you could walk away.

And so could customers when they check out your book. Remember that.

The hooks make the difference:

  • Did the title or image with this post grab your attention?
  • Did it make a promise, like more book sales?
  • Obviously, the beginning held your interest long enough for you to reach here.

YOUR BOOK NEEDS HOOKS

What is a hook?

A hook is something that catches your potential reader’s attention, arouses a reader’s curiosity, or engages your reader’s interest, for example. Anything that encourages potential customers to read your book effectively serves as a hook.

Your book should have several hooks:

  • Your title can actually have three hooks. (1) One hook comes from making a catchy title, a phrase that snaps the customer out of a trance. (2) Another hook conveys what the book is about, so when the customer reads the title, the customer knows the genre or subject. Be sure to put the right bait on your hook. (3) Any keywords in your title, subtitle, or series name help to hook readers through keyword searches. But you must balance this with 1 and 2. Also, shorter titles tend to sell better in fiction.
  • Your cover is another hook. For every 1000 or so customers that see your book cover, 1 may actually check out your book. It could be 1 out of 100. Or it could be 1 out of 10,000. But the difference can be huge. A cover also has multiple hooks. (1) What kind of book is this? That’s what every customer wants to know without having to work for it. Make it so easy that a customer can tell at a glance. (2) Even subconsciously. The right color scheme and font actually impact shopping behavior. It’s worth a little research. (3) Reinforce the title by making the most important keywords stand out even on a tiny thumbnail.
  • Your blurb is all about hooks. A customer reading your blurb is not committed. Not even to the first line. (1) The first line of your blurb can send 90% of your potential customers out the door. It’s your pick-up line. Pick this book up, please. But you have to be subtle. You need to arouse curiosity. Wake the customer from a trance, but use language the customer wants to hear. Make your blurb the dream date the customer has been yearning for. (2) You need to reinforce the subgenre or subcategory. The customer isn’t sure what kind of book this is. The title and cover create expectations. Don’t forget to make this clear in the blurb. Early in the blurb. (3) Concise is your friend, especially for fiction. Short sentences. Short blurb. Yet containing all the info the customer wants to know: What subgenre (implicit, but clear)? Engaging content (show it by example). What features will sell your book? Make these features—no, make the benefits of these features—clear, but be concise. For nonfiction, bullet points help break a long description into easy to identify points. (4) Cut out the material that customers don’t need to know, so only the hooks remain. For example, does the customer really need to know the names of multiple characters when just checking the book out? (5) Whatever material remains, make it seem more engaging. Trim and engage. Repeat. (6) Don’t spoil fiction. Definitely, don’t give away the ending. But don’t give away anything if you can avoid it. You don’t want the customer to feel like he or she already knows what will happen at some stage. Not knowing can help you sell books. There are words for this: Curiosity. Suspense. They are sales tools.
  • Your Look Inside is that last hook between the customer and a sale. Or walking away. And again, it should be full of hooks. Minimize the front matter to essentials that help sell your book, so the customer can reach the “hooks” without distraction. (1) The opening line is like the first line of your blurb. Many shoppers don’t get past that first line. (2) The customer isn’t committed to your book. The beginning needs to arouse curiosity and engage interest. Come out with your best stuff. Will a non-committed shopper read a lengthy build-up? You want the beginning to be so good that the customer clicks the magic Buy Now button. (3) Send a consistent message. The title and cover create expectations for a particular subgenre or subcategory. The blurb must reinforce the same message. And the Look Inside must also make this clear. Tell the customer (implicitly), “Yes, you’re in the right place. Now please make yourself at home.” (4) What will sell your book? Suspense? Curiosity? Fascination with a character? Language that flows well? Comb through your Look Inside to remove stuff that may inhibit sales, so that what remains will hook the reader.
  • It doesn’t end there. You don’t just want a purchase. You want the reader to continue onto the next chapter. You want the book to deliver on its promise so that the customer is already hooked on your next book. So that the customer helps you hook new readers. Word-of-mouth hooks are among the best hooks in the business. And the hardest to get.
  • Even the back matter can contain a hook: A captivating sample of one of your other books.
  • Let me back up a bit. Wise choice of keywords (or keyphrases) and categories can help you throw more hooks out into the sea of readers.
  • Hooks are everywhere. If people discover your blog, you want your blog to hook new readers, right? Well, then, your blog needs to be full of hooks. All of your marketing should have hooks. Even a catchy strapline—a phrase or sentence that helps create interest in your book (and also convey the right expectations)—can be used anywhere, even in daily conversations.

PRACTICE HOOKING (!)

(I really hope you don’t take this the wrong way!!)

Practice hooking your readers.

A great place to practice is with social media.

Every blog post, tweet, or Facebook post is an opportunity to practice hooking readers.

Learn how to write a title that achieves all of its three goals.

Learn how to find images that attract the right audience.

Learn how to say a lot in a little by learning how to use tweets effectively.

Social media offers a great way to practice, experiment, and learn the art of hooking readers.

But also practice from the other side. Practice getting hooked. Practice trying not to get hooked, and find yourself getting hooked despite that.

Check out successful books. Books that don’t sell because of name recognition or preexisting fan bases. Find new indie books that grow quickly, for example. Discover books with great hooks.

That can help you learn the art of hooking readers. See what kinds of hooks other authors use to hook their readers.

MARKETING WITH BOOK HOOKS

Think of writing as fishing.

You’re just one of millions of fishermen.

  • Location matters. You want to fish in a spot where there are plenty of fish. So you want to write a book that will attract readers. So write it with the customer in mind. What does the customer want? This question impacts your choice of topic, how you begin your book, how you write your book, how you package your book, etc.
  • There are a million fishing poles out there. You need lures and bait that will attract fish to you. Your title, cover, blurb, and Look Inside need effective hooks.
  • Authors wait patiently for readers to find their books. You need readers. You need them to discover your book. You need them to want to read your book once they discover it. The hooks on your product page and the hooks in your online and offline book marketing all help readers discover your book and decide to read it.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

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

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

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

Comments

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Follow Authors at Amazon (Hear all about it)

Amazon Follow

FOLLOWING AUTHORS AT AMAZON

A really cool thing happened to me recently.

I received an email from Amazon a week or two ago.

I almost deleted it. At first, I thought it was an advertisement for a book. I get those a lot.

But I noticed the subject line and realized it was different.

The email subject was: A Question about Your Book “Learn or Review Trigonometry: Essential Skills.”

My first thought was to wonder what was wrong. But it was good news, not bad.

The question was, “Would you like to share this release with your Amazon Followers?”

You bet I would! (Too bad I don’t have that many Amazon followers. But I’ll take what I can get.)

The email included a picture of my book cover, the title, and Yes and No buttons. I clicked Yes.

I published this book on June 10. I received the email from Amazon on June 26, a little over two weeks after the publication date. I responded Yes on the 26th.

According to Amazon, “…you may be invited by Amazon Follow to share a personal message about an upcoming release to your followers.”

It’s available by invitation only. I’ve published dozens of books, and this was my first invitation. (Maybe I deleted a few others!! At least, this was the first invitation that I noticed.)

If you receive an invitation, when you click the Yes button, you must compose a message for your followers.

At 1:07 a.m. this morning, I received an email from Amazon. That’s about a week after I clicked Yes.

The subject states that I have 1 new update from people I follow on Amazon. Inside the email, there is:

  • One of my pictures from my author page, but not the default main image. How and why they chose the image, I have no idea.
  • Text: “Chris McMullen released and wrote a personal message about Learn or Review Trigonometry: Essential Skills.”
  • A See More button.

When I click the See More button, I come to an Amazon page with:

  • the same author page picture
  • my name as a hyperlink (click on it and you visit my author page)
  • the message I had composed
  • the cover thumbnail
  • the title of the book as a hyperlink (to visit the product page)
  • the list price
  • and the review count (0 reviews as of now)

One thing I regret is that the Look Inside still hasn’t activated, even though the book has been out for a few weeks. Usually, the Look Inside shows up quickly, but this time it seems to be stuck. It’s odd that Amazon didn’t check this out and either delay my message until it was resolved or speed up the Look Inside process. (The Kindle edition doesn’t have a Look Inside because I used the Kindle Textbook Creator, but if the print Look Inside shows up, that should show up with the Kindle edition, too.)

FOLLOW AUTHORS ON AMAZON

First, if you’re an author, whether you’ve self-published or traditionally published, you should follow yourself at Amazon.

That way, if you ever get the chance to send a message to your followers, you’ll get to see firsthand what it looks like from the other side.

Next, you should visit the author pages of your favorite authors at Amazon and follow them.

Amazon might let you know when their new books come out.

Visit the author’s Author Central page. From any of the author’s books, if the author has an Amazon author page, you can find a link to it with their picture and biography on the book’s product page.

Once you reach the author page, click the large yellow Follow button under the author’s picture.

LEARN OR REVIEW TRIGONOMETRY

Paperback: http://amzn.com/1941691021

(Has a #1 new release tag, though the sales rank is around 300,000 right now. Nice thing about some nonfiction categories is that you don’t have to sell dozens of books per day to get extra exposure, though there was a magical day a couple of weeks back where it sold 15 copies.)

Kindle: http://amzn.com/B0106X7NL4

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

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

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

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

Comments

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How the hashtag do #Authors use Twitter? #pubtips

Images from ShutterStock.

Images from ShutterStock.

TWITTER FOR AUTHORS

Almost all authors know about Twitter.

Few authors feel that they really know how to use it.

Some authors believe that Twitter isn’t as effective for book marketing as it once was.

Other authors believe Twitter isn’t for them.

Yet many authors do use Twitter quite effectively.

One important note is that there isn’t just one way to use Twitter.

So you can find the right combination of tips to fit your needs and personality.

Twitter Tip #1: Make the Most of Hashtags

What you want is a hashtag that your target audience actually checks out. Otherwise, your hashtag is wasted.

This takes some research. But the research is worth it because once you find an effective, relevant hashtag, you can use it not just for your current tweet, but for hundreds of related tweets in the future.

Many authors simply throw a hashtag sign (#) in front of any relevant word that seems to come to mind: #romance #mystery #book #kindle #actionpacked.

That’s just guesswork. Are readers in your target audience actually searching for tweets with those hashtags?

Find a variety of relevant potential hashtags and check them out. Look at the tweets that you find there. Is the content that you see there likely to draw in an audience? Next consider the Twitter users who made those tweets. If the best content is coming mostly from the same source, there is no reason for people to search for that hashtag: They can simply follow that one user and get all the best content that way. But if good content is coming from multiple sources, it would be easier to get that content by searching the hashtag than paying close attention to every tweet coming from a few different users.

But even if there is great content there, it’s possible nobody in your audience is actually searching for that hashtag. A little trial and error on your part may help you find gauge the effectiveness of a hashtag, as you can monitor your tweet engagement (you also need the kind of tweets likely to generate that activity).

If there is good content, but it’s drowned out by poor content, that’s a problem, too. It takes time to find a great set of hashtags, but it’s worth it if you do. (But keep in mind that those might not remain effective forever.)

Find authors with books similar to yours who appear to be using Twitter effectively. Check out the hashtags that they’ve used.

Note the #pubtips hashtag that I used for this post (publishing tips). I first learned about this hashtag when I saw Amazon KDP use it in a tweet with a publishing tip. Check it out here (you can learn a lot, as it’s packed with publishing tips):

https://twitter.com/hashtag/pubtips

You can even help inspire readers to regularly search for a particular hashtag. For example, you might get together with several other authors in the same genre, and come up with an idea for semi-weekly tweets likely to attract those readers. You might be able to get readers in the habit of checking out tweets in a particular hashtag. You have to put on your creative hat, and think of what kinds of tweets would draw in your audience. Something simple that you and others could do, which readers would appreciate.

Twitter Tip #2: Don’t Overdo the Hashtags

Two hashtags per tweet is a good rule of thumb.

#Nobody #will #read #a #tweet #that #looks #like #this #########!

Twitter Tip #3: Find Twitter All-Stars

Find and follow authors (both in and out of your genre) who appear to be using Twitter effectively.

You can learn a great deal about Twitter just watching from the sidelines for a couple of months. But you have to get good seats.

Beware that not everyone with a huge following is using Twitter effectively.

So look beyond the follower count. Also pay attention to engagement, as well as you can judge it from your perspective. If the content happens to engage you, especially when you were just checking it out to see how it’s done, you definitely want to pay close attention to those tweets.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Do they include links? Are the links in the beginning? at the end? somewhere else? What kinds of links are they?
  • Do they include images? How often do the tweets include images? What kinds of images? Is there text in the images? (Even pay attention to size, color schemes, and font styles.) What aspect ratio do they use? pixel count? (Right-click on an image to check out its properties.)
  • Which hashtags do they use? How many hashtags do they include in a typical tweet? Are any of these hashtags relevant for any of your tweets? In what context is each hashtag used?
  • How often do they tweet? How often do they retweet? How often do they self-promote? (If ever.) Do they ever draw up a new tweet to help promote someone else rather than simply retweet? If so, in which situations. Do they ever click the Twitter share button to tweet about relevant articles that they discover online?
  • How do they make effective use of that very limited character count? What kinds of words are they using, and where are they putting them?
  • Observe Twitter etiquette with regard to tweet frequency, direct messages, retweets, thank you’s, etc.

Twitter Tip #4: Get Started

You don’t have to turn into a Twitter pro overnight.

The first step is just to get started with something. Otherwise you’ll never get there. It will continue to be a nagging feeling that maybe you could (or should) be using Twitter more than you are now.

I’m not one of the Twitter pros yet. (When you find one, you’ll know the difference.) But I’ve taken the plunge, I’ve grown a following, I’ve followed many authors, I’ve done a ton of research on how to use Twitter (haven’t yet applied it all, but I’m getting there)… and that’s the way marketing works. You keep trying to improve and learn and try new things, and some of it will pan out. I started out with a simple WordPress blog a couple of years ago, and now I have a respectable following and average about 300-400 views per day. It functions as a content-rich website now, with most of my traffic coming from search engines, but it didn’t start out that way.

So if you want Twitter, or your blog, or any other aspect of marketing to work for you, the first thing is to take that first step and get it started.

Remember, you don’t have to build Rome in a day. You can take small steps and still eventually get there:

  • If you haven’t already done so, sign up for Twitter and setup your profile.
  • You can feed your WordPress blog posts (or Facebook posts) into Twitter. This will help give you some content at Twitter to help attract an initial following. It also helps connect an author who prefers WordPress or Facebook, for example, to potential followers who prefer Twitter. Let people follow you from their favorite platform. (But watch out for possible double or triple posts. For example, don’t both feed WordPress into Twitter and Twitter into WordPress—just do one or the other.)
  • When you come across an article that’s relevant for your audience, use the Twitter share button to tweet it. This will give you something different to share on Twitter.
  • Follow authors who appear to use Twitter effectively. This may help you learn some handy tips and build up the confidence to take a bigger plunge.
  • Then you can gradually start to apply various tips that you’ve learned.

Twitter Tip #5: Search for Twitter Help

This is the information age. Take advantage of it.

Use a search engine to find helpful Twitter tips for authors.

Here are a few to help you get started:

Check out the comments for my blog post. You might find some valuable tips there. If you have any Twitter tips, feel free to share them in the comments.

If you leave a comment with a tip, please include your Twitter handle (@you) so people can check out how you use Twitter.

Twitter Tip #6: Use Twitter Analytics

Measure tweet engagement, check out follower demographics, and more.

Using Twitter actually gets you an abundance of information (that can help you market better as well as better understand your audience).

And it’s free:

https://analytics.twitter.com/about

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

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

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more

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

Comments

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Research & its Value for all Authors

Image from Shutterstock

Image from Shutterstock

RESEARCH FOR AUTHORS

Every author can benefit from research in multiple ways.

Research isn’t just for nonfiction authors. It’s not just for the content of the book.

There are many kinds of research relevant for authors, including:

  • Researching the mechanics of grammar or style, or the art of storytelling, for example.
  • Researching historical, geographic, language, or other elements relevant to your plot.
  • Researching how people react to names, places, and ideas you’re thinking about using in your book.
  • Researching how beta readers react to your story.
  • Researching the potential market for your book concept.
  • Researching reader expectations for your genre.
  • Researching helpful marketing strategies.
  • Researching publication tips, like writing the blurb or designing the cover.
  • And, of course, researching content for nonfiction, educational books, or historical fiction.

Here are some examples of how research can help:

  • Any kind of research can be a helpful marketing point.
  • It demonstrates your motivation to write your book well.
  • Character sketches, idea bubbles, maps, etc. make for nice bonus material on your website.
  • Writing-related research helps show readers that a great deal of work goes into preparing a book.
  • It helps you develop a professional image as an author.
  • Research helps strengthen your author biography.
  • It gives you useful content to post on your blog or author website.
  • Bits and pieces of research here and there can help you build buzz or create a content-rich website.

Many of the things writers already do and take for granted can be presented as a form of research. And when presented as research, they can make a favorable impression upon potential readers.

PERCEPTION

The last fantasy and sci-fi novels that I read were immediately followed by about the author sections, and in each case the author section each author mentioned a great deal of research that had gone into preparing the book.

In one case (Jeff Wheeler’s Legends of Muirwood), even though it was a fantasy novel, I was intrigued to learn that the basis for much of the magic in the book related to Medieval Europe. It wasn’t just random. Most chapters of the book begin with a fictional “quote,” while the author’s note at the back begins by describing the author’s passion for collecting quotes.

In the other case, (Bob Mayer’s Area 51 series) the author had blended actual events with fiction. The author also demonstrated how the military component has authenticity and described his obsession with mythology.

Reading about how these authors had done their homework just after I finished reading their books:

  • It made me more eager to check out the next book in the series.
  • It made it easier for me to recommend their books to others.
  • It left a favorable impression just as I was about to head over and review the book.

Does your book involve other cities? Don’t you have to research the layout of the city? Don’t you have to research the culture, lingo, and accents?

Does your book involve a military component? Don’t you have to research the military? Don’t you have to research the technology?

How do readers know if your book is realistic? Showing that you did your homework helps. It can also help inspire reader interest.

Showing that you’ve done your research also helps to create a positive perception about you and your book. It helps you build a strong brand as an author.

Marketing that perception helps you play to your strengths. Have you done anything to master the art of writing or storytelling? Do you have firsthand experience regarding the setting of your book? Do you have any expertise relevant to any of the subjects involved of your book? If you do, it may pique a reader’s interest.

MARKETABILITY

Some research can help you make your book more marketable:

  • Keyword research. Visit Amazon.com and start typing keywords into the search field. You’ll see popular searches. Note that the results are different depending on whether you search within all departments, books, the Kindle store, a category, or a subcategory, for example. Results are also different for searches on Kindle devices. You should try a variety of possibilities. You want keywords that are specific (to help you stand out better), popular (so they get searched for), and highly relevant for your book (so you don’t get overlooked in search results).
  • What to write. Search for books that you might be a good fit to write. See what’s selling, what’s not. See if the market’s already flooded, or if there is a need that you can fill.
  • Packaging ideas. When you search for similar books, you come across a variety of covers and blurbs. These can help you get ideas (but don’t be a copycat), and can help you gauge what customers expect to see (though there isn’t just one kind of cover that signifies a particular genre). Follow other authors and you can learn some of their marketing ideas.
  • Content expectations. Read similar books to learn what readers are accustomed to in your subgenre (that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to do the same; but there are some features that most readers of a subgenre strongly want, so that can be helpful to know).

MY RESEARCH

I publish nonfiction, including math and science books. My background is physics, which I teach. I do all sorts of research for my books.

But, as you may know, I also have a sci-fi series that I’m working on. I’m in the beginning stages, and as I come across publishing decisions that I must make—like research—I’m sharing these experiences on my blog (with all the other kinds of posts that ordinarily write here). The image that I included with this post gives a subtle visual clue (though it will be set in modern times).

I’m doing much research to help write my series, such as:

  • Researching actual scientific data that may relate to extraterrestrial visitations of earth (in the past or present). Puma Punku in Bolivia, for example, has some fascinating finds. Most of such “evidence” isn’t necessarily “conclusive,” but can seem compelling and I find it fascinating. I want to know what my audience might know, and I want to make possible connections (after all, it’s fiction) that seem both deep and plausible.
  • Researching differences between writing fiction and nonfiction. I’ve been writing nonfiction avidly; obviously, fiction is quite different. I read a ton of fiction, especially sci-fi, fantasy, and classics, which will help. But writing isn’t quite the same as reading. For example, if there is a fight in my novel, I’ll need to describe the fight scene. (Fantasy author Charles Yallowitz gave me a great suggestion for this: Research some choreography.)
  • Researching sci-fi books in my subgenre that my readers are likely to be familiar with. I’ve already read some, but I’ve found several others. It’s kind of cool that the series that I’m writing is helping to fuel my own reading list.
  • And much more. I’ll save much of my research, including the details. It’s not just for writing the series, but much of it also figures into my marketing plans. You’ll see if you follow along.

CHANCE TO WIN 4-BOOKS-IN-1 ON SELF-PUBLISHING

You can win my 4-books-in-1 paperback book on Self-Publishing with Amazon.

This is an Amazon Giveaway hosted by Amazon. If you win, Amazon will fulfill the order and ship your prize directly to you. Click the following link for your chance to win. Every 300th entrant will win. Up to two winners.

https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/3f7daee9a66b9548

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Ends the earlier of Mar 25, 2015 11:59 PM PDT, or when all prizes are claimed. See the Official Rules at http://amzn.to/GArules.

READING SURVEY

If you haven’t already done so, please participate in a survey on how people read books. The more participation we get, the more meaningful the results will be.

Here is one question, for your convenience. (If you’ve already answered this before, please don’t answer it a second time.)

You can find more questions here:

https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com/surveys

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

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

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more

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

Comments

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