More Changes to AMS Advertising—Up and Down Bidding

 

AMS ADVERTISING BIDDING DYNAMICS

The amount of your bid may now change.

This includes ad campaigns that were running prior to April 22, 2019.

There are now three campaign bidding strategies:

  1. Dynamic bids—down only. Your bid is automatically lowered when Amazon predicts that your ad would be less likely to convert to a sale.
  2. Dynamic bids—up and down. Your bid is automatically raised as much as 100% when Amazon predicts that your ad would be more likely to convert to a sale, and lowers your bid when it would be less likely to convert to a sale.
  3. Fixed bids. Your bid is fixed, unless you check one of two boxes that allow Amazon to adjust your bid.

In addition to the bidding strategies, there are now two bid adjust options (which replace the old Bid+):

  1. You may choose to increase your bid by up to 900% to land your ad at the top of search results (first page).
  2. You may choose to increase your bid by up to 900% to land your ad on a product page.

WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR OLD AD CAMPAIGN?

If you launched an ad campaign with AMS prior to April 22, 2019, the bidding strategy was automatically changed to Dynamic bids—down only.

If your ad previously had Bid+ set to on, it now includes a 50% bid adjust for top of search (first page).

MAKING SENSE OF THESE CHANGES

The main idea behind AMS advertising is relevance. When the most relevant ads show to customers, this benefits customers, it benefits Amazon, and it benefits the product being advertised.

AMS has always benefited authors and companies whose advertisements rate high in terms of relevance.

In fact, by rating high in terms of relevance, an ad campaign can actually generate more impressions at a more modest bid.

If an ad creates 2000 impressions and has no sales, from Amazon’s perspective the ad doesn’t seem very relevant to the customers seeing the ad.

If an results in a sale once on average for every 500 impressions, this ad is far more relevant than an ad that creates one sale for every 2000 impressions.

What I’ve said so far has been true for years.

The recent change of introducing bidding dynamics helps to reflect relevance in the amount of the bid itself.

In circumstances where an ad has a history of seeming less relevant, a dynamic bid would lower the bid for less relevant ads.

In circumstances where an ad has a history of seeming more relevant, a dynamic up-and-down bid would raise the bid for more relevant ads.

DON’T GO OVERBOARD

Amazon makes it easy for authors to bid too high.

It’s very common for authors to bid more than they can afford to bid.

If you bid too high, your ad is more likely to result in a short-term loss, and you’re more likely to think that AMS isn’t for you.

First of all, it helps to realize that AMS isn’t just for books. There are many businesses using AMS to advertise many other products.

When you’re selling a product that retails for $100 or more, and where your profit is $10 or more, you can afford to bid $1 or more and you can afford to include a large bid adjust option.

When you’re an author selling a book for $5 with a royalty of $3, you can’t afford to bid $1 or close to it (there may be exceptional circumstances, but very rarely).

If you mostly sell Kindle eBooks, and if your average royalty is close to 70% (if your books include many pictures, your effective royalty is probably much less due to the delivery fee), then you want your ACOS (average cost of sale) to be 70% or less so that you’re not losing money on your ad.

If you mostly sell paperback books, and if your average royalty is close to 30%, then you want your ACOS to be less than 30%. The list price should be higher for a paperback, which helps to offset this lower percentage.

Figure out what your average royalty is, then keep a close eye on your ACOS and strive to keep it below your royalty percentage.

For comparison, my ads (some for books under pen names) generate millions of impressions (combined) in a single month with an ACOS usually around 25%. So it is possible to generate many impressions at a modest ACOS.

My ad campaigns use dynamic bidding—down only. I don’t currently raise my bids. The main reason is that this happened automatically on April 22. But after about a month of data, I don’t yet see a convincing reason to change to up-and-down bidding. I might try it with a future ad and see how it does, but the big downside is that ads will cost more.

I didn’t use Bid+, so I don’t bid extra for placement in search results or on product pages. For a nonfiction book, I would prefer to show high in search results than on a product page. But I also prefer not to pay extra for this.

It’s tempting to bid higher and bid extra. But it costs more. If you can get successful ads at a lower cost, you can run your ads for a much longer period.

The main key to success is relevance. You can actually generate good impressions at a modest bid if your targeting results in high relevance.

Part of relevance is a compelling cover, effective description, helpful Look Inside, amazing content that leads to good reviews, etc. This helps you sell more books for each 1000 impressions, which helps to rate high in terms of relevance.

Part of relevance is effective targeting. I have a knack for researching keywords and keyphrases. I spend time on Amazon typing in keywords and seeing what it suggests (yes, I know this isn’t perfect, but as it turns out, it really helps with brainstorming). I jot down keyword ideas whenever they occur to me. Use your brainstorming techniques. Now I don’t use every keyword (or better, group of related keywords) that comes to mind, but I do have a very long and varied list to begin with.

I suggest trying to bid below a half-dollar, maybe in the 30 to 40 cents range. This may not be enough with a popular broad keyword like “mystery” or with a product page for a popular book. But if you are clever enough to find combinations of keywords that do get searched several times per day, but which aren’t insanely popular, or similar popularity for product page targeting, you can get lower bids to be effective.

But you really want the targeting to be relevant for your book. That’s the most important thing. If the wrong audience is looking at your ad, you will rate poorly in terms of relevance.

If your ad isn’t performing well and it’s been a couple of weeks, you can pause or terminate your ad and start a new one. Try different targeting.

Raising the bid isn’t likely the solution to an ad that isn’t performing well because it doesn’t rate well in terms of relevance. But new targeting may help you land more impressions at a modest bid. If you can rate better in terms of relevance, you can land many more impressions.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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

School not Meeting Your Child’s Needs? Amazon May Have a Book for that…

 

SUPPLEMENT THE SCHOOL CURRICULUM

As a teacher and a parent (and before that, a student), I’ve seen the different sides of the classroom experience.

Even with an exceptional teacher at a fantastic school with amazing students, it’s difficult for a class to fully meet the diverse needs and expectations of all the students and their parents.

A school curriculum is (ideally) designed to best meet the needs of the students.

But some students and some parents are looking for material that isn’t part of the curriculum (or isn’t covered as much as they would like).

There are a variety of reasons for this, such as:

  • advanced students looking for more of a challenge
  • parents who want to expose their kids to the way they had learned things
  • material that is no longer taught at many schools (like cursive handwriting)
  • parents who want to improve their teenagers’ chances of getting into a competitive university
  • students who are looking for books with clearer explanations and instructions
  • parents whose kids need extra help
  • students who need more practice
  • adults who wish to self-study or relearn old skills
  • students interested in special topics not taught in schools
  • people who wish to learn a specific skill
  • students who need to prepare for an exam
  • students hoping for a quicker way to learn a topic
  • lifelong learners

Obviously, no single book can meet all of these needs.

You can find some books that meet some of these needs in bookstores, but the market for these different types of books has grown far wider than what you can find in a bookstore.

Many students and parents have turned to Amazon, where teachers, tutors, instructors, and other educators are publishing a fast-growing variety of supplementary books.

Do you wish that your calculus course had included some more challenging problems? Or do you wish that there was a calculus book for people who want to understand what calculus is without having to take the class? Either way, or anywhere in between, you can probably find a book for that.

I published my first book back in 2008, and I have since published several math workbooks as part of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of workbooks. (I’ve also published a few science books.)

It started when I realized that my physics students weren’t as fluent in fundamental algebra and trigonometry skills as they needed to be. I thought to myself, maybe students could benefit from some extra practice.

It turns out that some students (and parents) were looking for such extra practice.

My books have developed considerably over the past decade, as I have come to interact with many parents and students who have used my workbooks. I continue to discover new ways that people would benefit from supplemental workbooks.

I’ve also discovered many other authors who are publishing supplemental material on Amazon. I don’t think of these authors as competitors. Rather, I realize that their books are very helpful. The growing number of supplemental educational books helps to attract students and parents to Amazon, and we all benefit from this.

Most people don’t buy a single educational book. They often buy several books. If not now, at some point in the future they will probably purchase more books. The customers-also-bought lists help customers find additional books, and later on Amazon will show customers recommendations based on previous purchases.

If you’re an educator who is thinking about becoming an author, if you want to write a textbook and have it adopted for classroom use, you probably want to work with a traditional academic publisher. However, if you’re thinking about preparing supplemental material, the road to publishing is simpler in some regards if you use Amazon KDP. At least, you should explore all of your options and decide what seems best for your book.

Either way, the goal is the same: Let’s help students learn. 🙂

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks

Book Giveaways in 2018

Image from ShutterStock.

BOOK GIVEAWAYS

Two of the most popular methods that authors and publishers use to hold contests for book giveaways have changed.

  • Amazon Giveaways have undergone a series of changes.
  • Goodreads Giveaways changed significantly as of January, 2018.

So 2018 is a good time for a new post regarding how to host a book giveaway.

WHY HOST A GIVEAWAY?

A giveaway is one tool that authors and publishers utilize to help with book marketing.

Following are the main goals for a book giveaway.

  • Help create buzz and initial exposure for a new book release.
  • Give the author a chance to call attention (in other forms of marketing) to a contest, rather than always calling attention directly to the book.
  • Hope that some of the winners will write book reviews.
  • Hope that the winners love the book so much that they help with word-of-mouth sales.

When a book is loved so much by an audience that it thrives on word-of-mouth sales, it can really take off. This is the best-case scenario, but often isn’t attained.

Only a percentage of winners will post reviews. A good percentage of Goodreads winners will rate or review the book at Goodreads, but it’s not as common for Amazon or Goodreads winners to review the book at Amazon.

There are a few other possible benefits of running a giveaway.

  • Generate activity. At Goodreads, entrants automatically have your book added to their To-Read lists. (They can undo this, but most don’t.) It helps make your Goodreads book page look more active.
  • Increase your following. At Amazon, you can require entrants to follow you. Note: You don’t have to give away a book. You can run an Amazon Giveaway for a $5 gift card or most other products. For a popular product, you may draw many followers (but keep in mind that most probably won’t be part of your target audience).
  • Help with branding. People see your book cover and read your name. A large part of book marketing involves effective branding. This helps a little.

HOW MUCH DOES A GIVEAWAY COST?

That depends. Of course, it’s free for the entrant. The author or publisher who sets it up does pay a cost.

  • For an Amazon Giveaway for a Kindle eBook, you pay for the current price of the Kindle eBook plus any applicable tax. (They may not show you the tax when you setup your giveaway, but you may notice that it has been added when you view your orders and then select Digital Orders.) If your book is in KDP Select, you can save money by setting up your Amazon Giveaway while a Countdown Deal is in progress. (This also adds a little exposure to your Countdown Deal.) Note: You can’t receive a refund for unclaimed prizes (but you can run a new giveaway for them, gaining additional exposure, or you can turn them into gift cards to send out).
  • For an Amazon Giveaway for a print book, you pay for the current price of the print book plus estimated shipping charges plus any applicable tax. If your book happens to be on sale when you setup your contest, you will save a little money. Sometime after your contest ends, you will receive a small refund if the actual shipping charges are less than the estimated charges. You will also receive a refund for any unclaimed copies.
  • For a Goodreads Giveaway for a Kindle eBook, you pay a setup fee of $119 for a standard giveaway (or $599 for a premium giveaway). However, you don’t have to pay for the cost of the Kindle eBook on top of the setup fee. When the Kindle eBooks are delivered, you will see free copies of your Kindle eBook show up in your KDP sales reports.
  • For a Goodreads Giveaway for a print book, you pay a setup fee of $119 for a standard giveaway (or $599 for a premium giveaway), and after the contest you must also pay to send the books to the winners (which means you must order author copies in advance, package materials, and be prepared to send the books via media mail, for example, at the post office).

In general, Amazon Giveaways cost less to run.

  • There is no setup fee. You just pay for the cost of the book (plus tax, and plus shipping for a print book).
  • If you choose to give away a small number of books (or just one copy), the cost will be fairly reasonable.

For example, if you have a Kindle eBook on sale for 99 cents, you can run an Amazon Giveaway for one book that costs approximately $1, or you can run a contest for 10 books for about $10.

As another example, if you have a paperback book with a list price of $9.99, you can run an Amazon Giveaway for one book that costs around $20.

However, Goodreads is now quite cost effective for giving away a large number of books. Suppose, for example, that you wish to give away 100 Kindle eBooks.

  • If your book’s current price is $2.99, it would cost $299 plus tax to do this at Amazon (and you may need to setup multiple giveaways for such a large number of prizes).
  • At Goodreads, you could give away 100 copies for a total of $119, which in this example would save you $180 (or more, as Goodreads might not charge you tax on the order).

If you want to give away several copies of your book, hoping for maximum exposure, confident that your story will merit word-of-mouth exposure, Goodreads lets you run a contest for 100 Kindle eBooks at an effective cost of $1.19 per book, which is pretty good.

However, if you want to host a contest for a small number of books, the cost per book is much lower with an Amazon Giveaway.

WHAT HAS CHANGED?

With Goodreads Giveaways:

  • There is now a setup fee. It used to be free.
  • You can now run a contest for Kindle eBooks. It used to be for print books only.
  • The book is automatically added to Want-to-Read lists. This helps make the book’s Goodreads page appear more active.
  • Entrants must currently reside in the United States. Previously, authors or publishers could choose to open participation to a few other countries.

With Amazon Giveaways:

  • There is a little automated exposure now. Before, you had to share the link to your giveaway, or at least tweet about it using the #AmazonGiveaway hashtag. Now there is an option to click Public, which gives you some added exposure. This might include the Amazon giveaway listing page, a daily email, or other placements on Amazon.com.
  • Your manage your giveaways page now shows you the number of hits (people who visit the giveaway page), number of entrants (people who enter the giveaway), and the number of product page visits. For example, for one of my more popular contests, I had 4033 hits, 2424 entrants, and 79 product page visits, but for one of my recent contests, I had 290 hits, 124 entrants, and 13 product page visits.
  • You can’t enter a custom message anymore.
  • You can’t require entrants to follow you on Twitter (but you can still require them to follow you on Amazon).
  • You can require entrants to watch a short video.

HOW MUCH EXPOSURE WILL I GET?

It can vary considerably. There are no guarantees.

A popular giveaway can receive 2000+ views over the course of a week or a month. An unpopular giveaway might not receive 100 views.

I’ve run over a hundred giveaways and the results are quite varied. (Keep in mind that some of my books are under pen names.)

When a book happens to be popular among the giveaway audience, it often pulls 2000 to 3000 views without any marketing on my part.

If a book isn’t attracting the giveaway audience, if the contest isn’t marketed by the author, it can really struggle to pull 200 views.

Many books fall somewhere in between.

Results can vary considerably depending on the genre or subject, whether it’s print or Kindle, cover appeal, and whether the book’s audience matches the giveaway audience.

At Amazon, if you require entrants to follow you or watch a video, you will get somewhat less participation.

Note that the Goodreads giveaway audience is changing with the recent changes to Goodreads giveaways. It used to be exclusively for print books, but now many of the giveaways appeal to Kindle customers.

DO GIVEAWAYS HELP WITH AMAZON SALES RANK?

The first thing to realize is that the answer to this question may have changed over the years.

Amazon appears to contradict itself on this very point (perhaps also due to a change having occurred over time).

Consider this quote from the KDP help pages:

“Activities that may not be an accurate reflection of customer demand, including promotional Amazon Giveaway sales and purchases that are later returned, are not counted towards sales rank.”

This states clearly that Amazon Giveaways do not count towards sales rank.

However, consider this quote from the Amazon Giveaway FAQ’s:

“Using giveaways to manipulate sales rank (i.e. by creating multiple giveaways for the same ASIN, rather than creating one bulk giveaway).”

If, as the KDP quote suggests, giveaways don’t impact sales rank, how could creating multiple giveaways for the same ASIN manipulate sales rank?

Perhaps the giveaway FAQ’s page is simply a little outdated. Maybe the giveaways used to impact sales rank, but now they don’t.

Nonetheless, I often see a boost to sales rank after hosting a giveaway. But the effect may be indirect.

The giveaway generates activity on your Amazon product page, it gets customers interested in your book, and it may result in a couple of sales of its own. Thus, if you see your sales rank improve during the giveaway, it’s possible that this occurred indirectly due to that added interest and not directly from the giveaway itself.

For Kindle eBooks enrolled in KDP Select, sales rank is even more complicated. That’s because every Kindle Unlimited borrow helps with sales rank, but your reports don’t show you when your book is borrowed (they instead show how many pages are read, which may occur weeks or months after the actual borrow).

Goodreads giveaways are different. If you run a Goodreads giveaway for a Kindle eBook, when the contest ends, the books show up as free books in your reports, not as paid sales. Amazon has separate ranks for free book promos and paid sales, so Goodreads giveaways definitely do not impact paid sales rank directly (though again their can be indirect benefits). (If you run a free book promo with KDP Select, your free rank looks great during the promo, but that isn’t a paid sales rank. Once the promo ends, it will be replaced by a paid sales rank.)

SHOULD I DO A PAPERBACK OR EBOOK GIVEAWAY?

If either edition is likely to offer a better reading experience, or if either edition is more likely to be appreciated by the customer, that’s the edition I recommend.

For example, if the Kindle edition has color illustrations while the print edition is black and white, I would prefer the Kindle edition.

As a counterexample, if parents are more likely to read an illustrated kids’ book to their children in print format, I would prefer a paperback or hardcover.

If you’re giving away a large number of copies, it’s much more economical to create an eBook giveaway.

If you want to include a brief thank-you note or bookmark, go with a print edition.

WHAT ABOUT OTHER COUNTRIES?

To enter a Goodreads or Amazon Giveaway, the entrant must be in the United States.

HOW CAN I WIN A FREE BOOK?

Enter for a chance to win my latest book, 50 Challenging Algebra Problems (Fully Solved).

https://www.amazon.com/ga/p/1b25ef65c4b48278#ln-en

Explore the Amazon Giveaways page.

https://www.amazon.com/ga/giveaways

Explore the Goodreads giveaways page.

https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway

TIP

Spend a little time as a customer exploring giveaways before creating a giveaway as an author.

For example, at Goodreads, this will help you get ideas for writing an effective contest description, and it will show you which types of giveaways tend to be more popular.

If you’re thinking about paying extra for a premium giveaway, spend some time researching active giveaways to see whether or not the premium placement seems to be bringing in the kinds of results that you would expect. If you find premium giveaways on the main landing page that have been out for over a week, but don’t have several thousand views, it’s not likely to expect huge results for your own contest.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Copyright © 2018

Chris McMullen

Author of:

  • Kindle Formatting Magic (new release)
  • A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon (also part of a Boxed Set)
  • The Improve Your Math Fluency series of workbooks (algebra, fractions, arithmetic, trig, long division, and more)

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

 

How to Make an Index (for a Nonfiction Print Book)

HOW TO MAKE AN INDEX

Having made an index for several different nonfiction print books over the years, I have a set of suggestions for how to create an index.

I prefer to do this manually. When I use the search tool that comes with an online article (or an eBook), I’m often disappointed. It easily pulls up every match of the word, which isn’t always helpful. If the word is used 200 times, I must then sort out which of the 200 are most relevant.

Also, search tools are sometimes too literal. For example, if I want to find information in a book relating to the moon, when I type the word “moon” in the search, it won’t show me pages where the author wrote the word “lunar” (unless the author also happened to write the word “moon” on the same page).

A manual index has the potential to be much more helpful than an automatically created one.

  1. I get out a blank spiralbound notebook with at least 26 leafs.
  2. Write the letter A at the top of the first leaf, B at the top of the second leaf, etc. (A book consists of leafs. Each leaf has two pages, one on the front and one on the back of each leaf.)
  3. If you might have several terms starting with a common letter (I always get a ton of I’s, P’s, and S’s, for example), you might save an extra leaf for these, just in case.
  4. I open the PDF for my print book’s interior on my computer and set my blank spiralbound notebook on my desk in front of my computer monitor.
  5. With fresh, relaxed eyes (which requires several short breaks to maintain), I go through my PDF file slowly, one page at a time.
  6. For each page of my PDF, there are typically a variety of keywords that I wish to include in my index.
  7. I write each keyword down in my spiralbound notebook on the leaf corresponding to its first letter. This helps me sort out the keywords, and helps me find repeated keywords easily.
  8. Next to the keyword, I write down the page number. Some keywords may show up on several pages. For my most popular keywords, I may need 2-3 lines in my notebook to record all of the relevant page numbers.
  9. I go page by page through my PDF, writing down keywords and corresponding page numbers in my notebook.
  10. When deciding on keywords, try to think in practical terms. Which keywords will readers want to search for in your index? Is there enough content on the page relating to that keyword to include that page in the index for that term?
  11. What other words or phrases might readers search for? It’s kind of like word association. For example, one reader might search for “left alignment” in the index, while another might search for “ragged right,” where both readers are actually looking for the same topic. An index works well when customers can find what they’re looking for easily.
  12. On a related note, consider that a single term sometimes has different meanings. For example, the word “sale” could refer to the purchase of a product (we had a lot of sales today) or it could mean that the price is reduced (that t.v. is on sale). Some readers might look for “sales” in an index hoping to find pages that will show how to improve sales (that is, to sell more products), while other readers might look for “sales” hoping to learn about promotional pricing. One set of readers will be disappointed unless the index has separate entries for both (like “sales, selling” versus “sales, discounts”).
  13. Write down the page numbers carefully. Double-check each one after you write it.
  14. Once I’ve written down all of the terms in my notebook, I type them in a blank Excel file on my computer. Excel is handy for this as it can quickly alphabetize the entries for you.
  15. I type the keywords in the left column. I type the corresponding page numbers in the second column.
  16. Be very careful when typing the page numbers for each term. If a customer searches for a term on page 57, for example, and the term isn’t there, this will create a frustrating customer experience. Take your time and keep your eyes rested and fresh (with plenty of short breaks).
  17. When a keyword appears on consecutive pages, you can consolidate the page numbering, like 38-44. An alternative is to write ff for forth-following, but I prefer to list the starting and ending pages. As a reader, I like to know when the last page comes, so there isn’t any detective work needed from the reader’s end. (Also, keep in mind that not all readers will know what the ff stands for.)
  18. What if a keyword appears on several pages, but one of the pages is likely the most relevant match? You could put this page number in boldface, for example, so that it stands out.
  19. If there is a figure or table corresponding to a keyword and you feel that this will be helpful for the reader, you could write something like 48(fig) or 48(tab), or even just 48(f) or 48(t), though in the latter case, fewer readers will realize what you mean.
  20. If a page has a definition for a word, you might write something like 32(def).
  21. If a keyword appears in a footnote, you might write 124(fn), but beware of the potential ambiguity. Readers may wonder whether you mean page 124 in a footnote, or footnote 124 (on some other page), unless you write something like 124(fn 15).
  22. Once my index is typed up, I let Excel sort the data for me. Highlight the columns. Click on the Data tab. Click on the Sort icon. Adjust the Sort By column if necessary. (If it doesn’t come out right, press the Undo button.)
  23. Actually, back up a step. I recommend that you copy and paste all of your information into a new Excel file before you sort it. This way, if you later discover some issue with the sorting that you didn’t notice right away, you have your original to fall back on.
  24. I copy and paste the table into Word (or whatever software you’re using). You might prefer to do this as plain text and then reformat it. I usually prefer to format my index as two columns.
  25. As you can see in the picture for my post, I type each letter of the alphabet at the top of the list of keywords that start with that letter.
  26. Browse through the index sections of a variety of traditionally published print books. This will help you see the different design possibilities, and will help you adopt your own unique style.
  27. Test your index out before you publish your book.

This seems like more work than it is. The hardest part is just to get started. I usually spend a few days on it, though only a couple of hours per day, so that I can keep my eyes fresh and stay focused. After spending months writing the book, a few days for the index isn’t much.

Note that an eBook ordinarily doesn’t include an index. That’s because eReaders have a Search tool (though I mentioned earlier that this isn’t foolproof).

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Copyright © 2018

Chris McMullen

Author of:

  • Kindle Formatting Magic (new release)
  • A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon (also part of a Boxed Set)
  • The Improve Your Math Fluency series of workbooks (algebra, fractions, arithmetic, trig, long division, and more)

That Book is a Monster

Image licensed from Shutter Stock.

MONSTER BOOK PROJECTS

There is one book that I’m wrapping up now that has grown and grown and grown… turning into a monster.

In a good way. But it has been very time consuming.

It’s a good thing that I really love to write.

That’s why, in 2017, I didn’t blog nearly as much as in previous years. I’ve been busy with a seemingly never-ending project.

Actually, a few very large book projects.

One, which I’m in the process of completing, is Kindle Formatting Magic.

The other is a series of physics workbooks/study guides.

Both projects wound up growing much, much larger than I had originally envisioned.

It has taken much more work than I had planned, but it has been worth it.

If you’re a writer, have you become involved in any monstrous book projects?

Or perhaps as a reader there is a monstrous book or series that you appreciate.

KINDLE FORMATTING MAGIC

You may have noticed that my Kindle Formatting Magic book has been “coming soon” for several months now.

When I first added that note to my blog, the book was nearly complete and I was expecting to publish it in a matter of weeks.

But I realized that I wasn’t happy with the organization of the book.

So I reorganized it and completely rewrote it.

That took a long time, but then I reorganized it and completely rewrote it yet again.

Third time’s a charm.

Now it really is “coming soon,” though by that I mean it’s still a matter of weeks. But this time it will be a few weeks or more, certainly not a year.

The book feels “right” now. It hadn’t before.

Once I finally got it to feel “right” to me, it continued to grow.

I realized that I needed to add a few more chapters beyond what I had intended.

And I have spent a great deal of time putting together over 100 pictures to visually demonstrate important problems and solutions with Kindle formatting.

On top of that, I’ve been editing, revising, re-editing…

Speaking of which, over the course of this project, there have been numerous changes to Kindle Direct Publishing, including the nature of the previewer and Kindle conversion, the steps and organization of the publishing process, and the organization and content of the KDP help pages.

Which has added several revisions to my revisions.

This book has grown into a monster, but I’m taking my time. Having already put so many additional months into this book, I want it to feel as “right” as possible before it hits the market.

Almost done.

It’s a good feeling to be almost done. I’m enjoying it.

Being completely done will be a nice feeling too.

This will be far and above my best formatting book ever.

PHYSICS WORKBOOKS

If I had only been working on my formatting book, I would have finished months ago.

But I also spent much of 2017 completing my series of physics workbooks/study guides.

There are three volumes, each 300 to 500 pages. (This includes space for students to work out the solutions to problems.)

Originally, I planned for my physics workbooks to include problems for students to solve along with answers.

But they grew into so much more.

I added material to each chapter to help students understand the main concepts. I added definitions. I added full step-by-step examples for how to solve similar problems. I added tables to explain the symbols and units relevant to each chapter.

This took much time, but I believe it has made my physics workbooks much more useful.

Many of my physics students have remarked that I can make difficult concepts seem clear, and that I can make the math seem easy.

So I worked hard to try to incorporate this into my physics workbooks.

On top of this, I decided to do more than simply tabulate the answers to the problems at the back of the book.

First, I put the final answer to each problem on the same page as the problem. This way, students don’t have to hunt for answers in the back. They can check if their solution is right or wrong immediately. I want students to gain confidence by solving problems correctly, but if their solution is wrong, I want them to know it so they can seek help.

In the back of the book, I typed up numerous hints to every part of every problem, and give intermediate answers to help students see where they went wrong.

The “hints and intermediate answers” section practically walks the student through the entire solution.

Again, it was much more work than I had originally planned, but I believe it has made my workbooks much better.

Just in case that wasn’t enough, I also typed up full solutions to every problem with explanations, creating three new books.

They aren’t really intended to be solutions manuals, even though they are. These are presented as fully solved examples.

Some students prefer to have fully solved examples to read, while other students prefer to have a workbook to help them practice solving problems.

Then I have two versions of every book, one that includes calculus and one that doesn’t (I call those trig-based).

I finally completed the physics series a few months back, and now I’m finishing up my formatting book.

Sometime early in 2018, I will be able to pursue something new.

It won’t be a book monster. I need a little break from mammoth book projects. I’m looking forward to working on a project that’s more focused.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2017

Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online BooksellersVolume 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.<<<<
gt;

Optimistic Authorship

THE OPTIMISTIC AUTHOR

You can approach your writing with optimism or pessimism—your choice.

(Though complaints, worries, and frustrations may become more of a habit and less of a conscious decision.)

Optimism can be an asset to your authorship.

When you believe that your book will be successful, you are more likely to:

  • motivate yourself to work hard
  • stay focused while writing
  • do the necessary research
  • proofread carefully
  • put time and effort into cover design and formatting
  • put a small investment in cover design or editing
  • make a full effort to market your book
  • find a way to harness your creativity in your marketing

On the other hand, if you are pessimistic about the outcome of your book, you are less likely to put in the work needed to help make your book successful.

Thus, your outlook may pull a pivotal role in the success or failure of your book launch.

Once you start getting sales, if sales are slower than you expected, optimism can carry you through the slow times. If you are optimistic that you can improve your sales, you are more likely to try new marketing ideas and eventually discover strategies that work for you. You will be more likely to write additional books—and put the proper effort into those, too—if you remain optimistic that your writing will take off (and it sometimes takes multiple good books to gain traction). But if you are pessimistic, it’s easy to give up without really putting the effort into it.

The optimistic author will find the good in a bad review, while the pessimistic author will see something bad in a good review. The optimistic author appreciates the neutral review, whereas the pessimistic author is upset that it wasn’t a five-star review.

When a potential customer visits the optimistic author’s social media sites and blog, the customer has a positive experience.

When a potential customer sees complaints and frustration in the author’s social interactions, the customer is seeing publicized negativity.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2017

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

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.

Positive Authorship

Image from ShutterStock

Image from ShutterStock

POSITIVE MARKETING

Authors, would you like to:

  • Put more readers in a good mood for your book.
  • Attract a more positive audience.
  • Make a powerful impression as an author.
  • Enjoy authorship.
  • Feel productive, creative, and energized.
  • Be part of a happier, more supportive ambiance.

The answer is simple: Foster positivity.

  • What better way to attract positive readers than to show yourself as happy in your role as author?
  • Positive people, likely to be in a good mood shortly after discovering your book through your marketing—will those people be attracted to authors who themselves radiate positivity, or will they want to read books by authors who complain, criticize, or show their frustration?
  • If you can be a rare author who handles all the struggles of authorship—from critical reviews to slow sales to technical computer challenges—with a positive, uplifting personality, more than helping to brand you as a professional author, you may even stand out as extraordinary—the kind of person other people want to surround themselves with because your presence makes their lives seem better.
  • Don’t you feel better yourself when you spread positivity among others? A smile goes a long way—so far that it comes all the way back around to you.
  • Do you feel more productive, energized, and creative when you’re complaining, criticizing, or feeling frustrated, or when you have a positive outlook?
  • Help bring about success by being positive about the future and making the most of what may come. The path to success starts by visualizing it. Negativity steers the course towards failure.
  • Spread positivity toward others and you may find yourself part of a happier, more supportive ambiance.
  • Surround yourself with positivity, and strive to bring out the best in any situation.
  • Don’t let ’em bring you down.

But carrying this out can be challenge. Especially for authors.

  • Writers can’t escape criticism. Even the best writing has its critics. Check out your favorite popular author and you may be amazed to see one-star reviews tearing your favorite popular books apart. People have many different opinions. No book can please everyone. The challenge is learning how to deal with it, and not letting it affect you negatively.
  • Editors are in the habit of identifying what’s wrong. That’s their job: find the mistakes. When we self-edit, we adopt this mindset. After several hours, we get into a critical, what’s-wrong with-this mindset. As writers, we interact with professional editors, who spend most of their time finding faults in writing. That critical nature sometimes spreads into the lives of writers, through personal interactions or on writing or publishing discussion forums.
  • One way to succeed as an author is to think of how to write a better book. You see what’s already on the market. You try to do something that you believe is better. A danger in this is carrying this too far, into the I’m-better-than-you mentality. Remember, just because you think your idea is better in some way doesn’t mean that (a) it’s better in all ways or that (b) everyone else will agree that it’s better. Maybe ‘better’ is the wrong word. You’re providing an alternative. Your idea caters to a new audience.
  • Authors have to deal with jealousy. Imagine working hard for years. You’ve studied, you’ve learned much about writing and publishing. You’ve written several books. You’ve poured so much time into it. Then you see other authors who seem to find easy, early success. Doing many of the things you’ve come to learn are ‘mistakes.’ Wouldn’t you feel jealous? Many authors do feel jealous, and they act on it, spreading negativity as a result.
  • Different authors have different beliefs and opinions, which sometimes clash. Some authors feel strongly about KDP Select, for it or against it. Some authors feel strongly that there are too many short works, while obviously those who thrive on short works feel quite defensive when others express views against short works. There are many strong debates in the publishing industry. Just imagine how much more (or how much better) we, collectively, could write if so much of our energy weren’t zapped into these whirlpools of opinion.
  • Sales fluctuate, so no matter how good your sales are, you’ll go through some valleys. And when you start out, sales tend to start out slow. Things can get very slow. It’s one more thing you can feel frustrated about.
  • Self-published authors encounter frustrating formatting issues. All authors encounter frustrating technology issues, like possible data loss (have you backed up your files lately?).
  • The publishing industry is constantly changing. This makes many writers very anxious about the future. Combine this with anxiety over sales, reviews, and everything else, and writing is an anxious lifestyle. But you can learn to accept and deal with that.

But authorship shouldn’t be a challenge:

  • We write because we enjoy it, right? So enjoy writing.
  • Force yourself to see the fun in storytelling, character development, researching something new, trying out a different genre, exploring where an idea takes you, and the many other things that make writing so much fun.
  • Train yourself to respond positively to all the negative triggers, like criticism or rants from other people, recognizing the negativity and replacing it with thoughts of things that make writing fun.
  • Exercise and a healthy diet may help you deal with stress better. Some exercise may be in order if you’re spending much time in a chair writing. More sunlight may help, too. Interact with real people, in the flesh. Mixing your life with your writing life is a difficult balancing act.
  • If you focus on the negative, you can always find some reason to be unhappy. Either sales are slow, or you heard some criticism, or you hear others complaining, or some change in the publishing industry has you anxious, etc. There is always something. However, if you focus on the positive, you can always find some reason to be happy. It’s a conscious choice. You can find the positive if you train yourself to search for it. If nothing else, you enjoy writing, right? (If not, maybe that’s the problem.)

Foster a positive ambiance not only for yourself, but also for:

  • your readers
  • new readers you’re trying to attract through marketing
  • current fans going to check you out online
  • fellow writers part of your online circles
  • your social media reach
  • yourself, as the positivity you spread often comes back to you

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

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

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

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

Survey about Reading Habits (How do YOU Read?)

Image from Shutterstock

Image from Shutterstock

READING SURVEY

How do you prefer to read books?

How often do you read?

Authors, would you like to know your readers’ habits?

Readers, would you please participate in a quick survey?

I’ll leave the survey up indefinitely, so anyone who finds it can take it. Just look at the top of my blog anytime you wish to find it (look for the Surveys button).

Here are the original survey questions:

You’ll see the results after you answer each question. Select the best answer.

Please take the survey.

And tell your friends.

And spread the word.

Authors everywhere will LOVE you for it. 🙂

After you vote, you can even share a specific question with Facebook and Twitter. Or you can share the post itself (with all questions included).

Copyright © 2015 Chris McMullen

Great Time for Authors to Shop for Promotional Supplies

Author Michelle Proulx’s cool bumper sticker.

CYBER MONDAY

Black Friday. Cyber Monday. It’s a great time to enjoy holiday savings.

But not just for t.v.’s, clothes, and gifts.

Authors can find great deals on promotional supplies, too.

It’s a great time to order bookmarks, posters, business cards—even domain names.

Look for great deals at Vista Print, for example.

Don’t get so busy shopping for gifts that you forget to look for great deals on author supplies.

I discovered author Michelle Proulx’s bumper sticker recently and thought it was pretty cool.

Michelle is currently running a successful IndieGoGo campaign, which includes this bookmark in the Swag Bag option.

http://michelleproulx.com/2014/11/29/perk-spotlight-imminent-danger-bumper-sticker

The featured book, Imminent Danger, is a great read. If you enjoy space opera, look for its re-release: It will be worth the wait.

Read Tuesday

Imagine a Black Friday type of event just for book lovers.

You don’t have to imagine it. It’s called Read Tuesday, and it’s free: www.readtuesday.com.

Chris McMullen

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

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • Boxed set (of 4 books for the price of 2) now available for both Kindle and paperback

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

Word Is Good Enough

Good Word

MICROSOFT WORD

If you’re self-publishing, Microsoft Word is good enough.

Whether you’re publishing a print-on-demand paperback through CreateSpace or an e-book through Kindle Direct Publishing, for example, it’s possible to create a well-formatted book using Microsoft Word.

Of course, it’s also possible to create a document that looks rather unprofessional, but that’s possible with any software. Word can produce excellent results, but it’s necessary to first learn how to make Word do this.

Some ‘experts’ like to advertise that Word isn’t good enough. There are a few simple explanations for this:

  • They may not be aware of all the little tricks that are possible in Word (like kerning and tracking, or how to prevent Word from compressing your images). Once somebody prefers different software over Word, there is no longer any incentive to master Word. So why should people who prefer other software become and remain up-to-date on all the little tricks that Word can do?
  • They may not be aware that each version of Microsoft Word has become more compatible with Kindle and CreateSpace, for example (partly from improvements in Word and partly from improvements from the publishing platforms). When Word 2007 first came out, .docx files led to formatting issues compared to .doc, but now .docx files from 2010 or 2013 in many cases work better than .doc files. Those who learned to prefer .doc in the early days may have not continued to test .docx over the years.
  • They may have an ulterior motive. Somebody who earns a living formatting books might want to advertise that Word is unsatisfactory. Some people may have a financial interest in another software program.
  • Authors or publishers who don’t use Word may wish to sell the brand that their books are better. A professional looking book does have better formatting, but all that matters is how it looks to the customer, not the process by which it was created. The truth is that if you master Word formatting, you can produce excellent formatting with it.
  • A couple of features are more convenient in other software programs, like creating different headers or page numbers in different sections. There is a straightforward way to do this in Word, but it just doesn’t seem straightforward until you learn how to do it. On the other hand, sometimes other tools that should be easy to use in other software programs don’t seem intuitive.
  • There are a couple of subtle improvements that can be made by using other software programs. For example, you can gain better control of images and you can work with em’s or percentages instead of pts in an e-book by working with HTML. If these subtleties are important to you, it doesn’t mean that you must work with different software. For example, you can save a Word file as a filtered webpage and then make these subtle improvements directly. Similarly, if you need a PDF file for your print-on-demand paperback, you can find a Word to PDF converter and print to PDF (using the convenient Save As PDF option leads to images with less than 200 DPI—but this is just one of several steps needed to avoid images with less than 300 DPI).

Microsoft Word doesn’t make formatting foolproof. For example, if you use tabs, your e-book could be a disaster (but if you simply learn how to use First Line Indent instead, and research other ways to produce good formatting—or avoid poor formatting—this won’t be a problem).

But it does provide a convenient method of formatting self-published books, and it can lead to good formatting for those who learn how to use it well.

There are many points in its favor:

  • fairly economical
  • very accessible
  • easy to get help (free tutorials from Microsoft, numerous online tutorials on Google, knowledgeable Word users on author community forums, etc.)
  • excellent formatting is possible (doesn’t matter that it was really designed as a word processor, it has grown to include the features needed to format a book quite well)
  • most features are very intuitive (and it’s easy to find helpful tutorials for anything that isn’t)
  • flexible for self-publishing as it serves as a great starting point for both print and e-book publishing
  • use of the built-in styles on the top of the Home ribbon make it easy to convert from print to e-book or vice-versa (those styles are also imperative if you want to achieve reliable e-book formatting from Word)

There are good alternatives to Word for those who prefer something else.

For print publishing, Adobe InDesign is considered by most to be top of the line. It’s not nearly as intuitive as Microsoft Word, but if you take the time to learn it, this will only be an issue for your first book. Serif Page Plus and Scribus are two other publishing software programs. Open Office is a free open-source alternative to Word.

There are a variety of alternatives for e-books, such as Jutoh, Atlantis, Calibre, and Sigil. Many of the alternatives are actually begun in Word using the styles and then improved with other software programs, even by some experts who are in the habit of faulting Word.

Read Tuesday

Imagine a Black Friday type of event just for book lovers.

You don’t have to imagine it. It’s called Read Tuesday, and it’s free: www.readtuesday.com.

Chris McMullen

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

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • Boxed set (of 4 books for the price of 2) now available for both Kindle and paperback

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

Comments

Click here to jump to the comments section:

https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com/2014/11/29/word-is-good-enough/#comments