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

 

AMAZON IS A DYNAMIC MARKETING ENVIRONMENT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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

Amazon #PRIMEDAY book savings WOW! #AmazonPrime

SAVE ON BOOKS ON AMAZON PRIME DAY

Prime Day, 2018 has begun. Technically, it is Tuesday, July 17, but it started on the afternoon of Monday, July 16.

Amazon is obviously getting huge traffic right now, so if their website is a little quirky, just be patient or try again later.

Compared to previous Amazon Prime Days, I like this one MUCH, MUCH BETTER.

Why?

Because this year it looks like Amazon wants to sell millions and millions of BOOKS (even more than usual) on Prime Day.

Both print books and Kindle eBooks.

I even saw offers to save money on my books this year, which was nice.

Although my books didn’t appear to be discounted when I checked the current price, I did notice a GREAT SAVINGS opportunity.

First, I’ll show you where to find the SAVINGS for eligible PRINT books:

  • Look to the right of the book cover, on the Amazon product page, just above the description.
  • Look for something like, Save $5.00 on orders of $20.00. Next to it, look for 1 Applicable Promotion to learn more.
  • Of course, it’s Prime Day, so it’s for Amazon Prime customers and Prime eligible products (my books are eligible).
  • You can find this in blue in the picture below.

Now I’ll show you where to find the SAVINGS for eligible KINDLE books:

  • Look at the right side of the Amazon product page, just below the price.
  • Look for something like, Prime Day Promo. Click See Details to learn more.
  • You might get a percentage of the purchase price credited toward your next Kindle eBook (but only for your first eligible purchase).
  • Of course, it’s Prime Day, so it’s for Amazon Prime customers.
  • You can find this in blue in the picture below.
  • My self-publishing boxed set already happens to be on sale for 50% off today (4 books in one). Fortunately, I had remembered to schedule a Countdown Deal for Amazon Prime Day this year.

I hope you find some great books.

Happy reading.

Tell your friends and family how to find Prime Day savings on books.

Write Happy, Be Happy.

Chris McMullen

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

How Does Amazon.com Sales Rank Work?

AMAZON.COM SALES RANK

Amazon assigns a sales rank to every product that has sold at least one time.

The lower the number, the better the product is selling.

For example, a sales rank of 2500 is better than a sales rank of 375,000.

The product that sells the best in its category has a sales rank of 1.

CATEGORY RANKS

Amazon has different ranks for different types of products.

Books are ranked independently from sports equipment and video games, for example.

For a given type of product, there are also category ranks.

For example, a few Books categories include Romance, Children’s, and Science.

A great overall rank is more impressive than a category rank.

For example, a book has to sell quite frequently to rank 500 overall in Books, but can sell much less frequently and still rank 500 in Romance.

A good rank in a broad category is more impressive than a good rank in a subcategory.

For example, a book must sell frequently to rank 100 overall in Science, but can sell much less frequently and rank 100 in Biochemistry.

If a product has never sold, it won’t have a sales rank. (However, if the product was just released recently, there may be a significant delay before its first sale results in a sales rank.)

SALES RANK CHANGES

Amazon sales rank is dynamic.

It fluctuates up and down.

If you look at the sales rank of a product right now, it’s possible that the sales rank happens to be at an all-time low or high for that product.

The current value doesn’t necessarily tell you how well the product usually sells.

A book that usually sells a few copies per day might have an overall sales rank fluctuate between 20,000 and 500,000. Sometimes sales are steadier, sometimes the range is wider, depending on a variety of factors.

For example, during and after a promotion, a product is likely to have a better sales rank than normal. There are seasonal changes. If an author releases a new book, this sometimes helps the author’s other books a little.

There are many reasons that a product that usually sells well might temporarily have a worse rank than usual, or why a product that usually sells less frequently might suddenly have a much better sales rank than usual.

If you really want to judge how well a particular product is selling, monitor its sales rank multiple times over the course of a month.

REPORTING DELAYS

Although Amazon advertises that sales rank is updated hourly, this is not always the case.

It is often fairly up-to-date.

Actually, it’s amazing how well the millions of products are handled.

However, if you happen to purchase a product and expect to see a sudden change in the sales rank, don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t seem as responsive as you had hoped.

Also, a single sale may not have the impact that you expect (unless the rank was previously in the millions). For Kindle eBooks enrolled in KDP Select, there is an additional complication (discussed below).

There are occasionally significant delays. A delay might just happen to coincide when sales rank suddenly becomes important to you. It happens.

MAJOR SALES RANK FACTORS

There appear to be three main factors that affect a product’s sales rank.

  • Recent sales. This is the most important factor. How many copies have sold in the last 24 hours?
  • Sales history. This affects how quickly the sales rank number rises when a product doesn’t sell. A product that has sold frequently in the past has its sales rank climb very slowly when it suddenly stops selling. A product that has hardly ever sold has its sales rank quickly rise up into the millions if it doesn’t sell again soon.
  • Sales frequency. How well has the product sold on average in the past? It seems that Amazon added this factor to help limit the impact that short-term promotions have on sales rank.

What we know for sure. This is what Amazon states on the Amazon Seller Central help pages:

“Sales rank is calculated based on all-time sales of an ASIN/Product where recent sales are weighted more than older sales.”

DO REVIEWS AFFECT SALES RANK?

According to the Seller Central help pages:

“Sales rank is generated based on order data and product reviews are not taken into consideration.”

This suggests that customer reviews do not directly impact sales rank.

You can find many products with a large number of positive reviews with overall sales ranks in the millions, and you can find a few bestselling products with harsh one-star reviews with excellent sales ranks.

Therefore, if customer reviews do have any influence on sales rank, it evidently isn’t significant.

Indirectly, however, customer reviews can influence sales rank. How?

For example, if customer reviews happen to help or hurt a product’s sales, this change in sales frequency will surely affect sales rank.

Note that it’s the change in sales frequency, not the reviews themselves, that cause the significant change in sales rank.

Customer reviews often have virtually no impact on sales, in which case sales rank won’t be influenced by them.

KINDLE RANKS

Kindle eBooks have both ranks in Books and ranks in the Kindle Store, whereas print books only have ranks in Books.

For KDP Select books, Kindle Unlimited introduces a significant complication.

Here is the problem with Kindle Unlimited:

When a customer borrows the Kindle eBook, it counts much like a sale.

However, KDP doesn’t tell you how many times your eBook is borrowed.

KDP only tells you how many pages have been read, which isn’t the same.

If 100 pages are read, you don’t know if 1 customer read 100 pages or if 5 customers each read 20 pages.

If 100 pages read show in your reports today, you don’t know if it was from customers who borrowed your book today or last month.

Why does this matter? Here are a couple of examples.

A Kindle eBook that only sells a few times per week can rank just as well as a book that says a few times per day. How? By getting borrowed a few times per day.

A Kindle eBook’s sales rank might not improve much during a promotion where sales double. Why? Because you don’t know how the rate of borrowing compares to the sales, and you don’t know whether the book is being borrowed more or less during the promotion.

Interpreting the sales rank for a print book and a Kindle eBook is different for two reasons. One reason has to do with Kindle Unlimited, as we just discussed. Another reason is that Kindle eBooks sell much better in certain categories.

So if you’re trying to determine how many sales it takes per day to maintain a sales rank of a particular value, first decide whether you want to know the answer for a print book or a Kindle eBook.

For example, the number of daily sales needed to maintain an overall sales rank of 50,000 is different for a paperback than it is for a Kindle eBook.

For a Kindle eBook enrolled in KDP Select, the answer also depends on how many times per day the book is being borrowed in Kindle Unlimited.

FREE VERSUS PAID RANKS

Kindle eBooks have separate ranks for free books and paid books.

So if your Kindle eBook is free, the rank doesn’t mean the same thing.

There are two ways that this matters:

  • A perma-free book always has a free rank (unless you succeed in raising the price point).
  • A KDP Select free promo shows a temporary free rank, to be replaced with a paid sales rank after the promotion ends.

Unfortunately, when customers get the book for free, this doesn’t count toward the paid sales rank.

So although the free rank may look wonderful during the promotion, when it is replaced by the paid rank after the promotion, sales rank will probably have dropped due to lack of paid sales during the promotion.

However, if the free promo succeeds in generating interest in the book, this can lead to improved sales and eventually help the sales rank.

HOW MANY SALES ARE NEEDED TO MAINTAIN A GIVEN RANK?

That depends.

First, it’s different for every category, and it’s also different for subcategories.

So lets look at the overall sales rank just in Books, for example.

And lets consider just print books (not Kindle eBooks), since they are different.

The answer will still vary a bit. First, there are seasonal changes.

Second, tens of thousands of new books are published every day, and authors are getting better at marketing, so more books are selling.

A major difference comes with sales ranks in the millions. Since there are several million more print books than Kindle eBooks, a sales rank of 2,000,000 indicates a better seller in print than in Kindle, whereas sales ranks under a million probably indicate better sales for Kindle eBooks than print books.

Following are some rough estimates. Remember, these are for print books (not Kindle eBooks). Kindle eBooks work similarly, but the numbers are a little different (and complicated by Kindle Unlimited, which is why my example is for print books instead).

Remember also that it also depends on how well the book has sold in the past. Recent sales aren’t the only factor.

Plus, sales rank isn’t constant. When I indicate a sales rank of 30,000, it might fluctuate between 10,000 and 60,000.

These are overall in all of Books.

  • 100,000 equates to roughly 1 sale per day.
  • 30,000 equates to roughly 3 sales per day.
  • 5,000 equates to roughly 20 sales per day.
  • Ranks between 100,000 and 1,000,000 tend to fluctuate quite a bit, and are indicative of 1 sale every few days. But books that usually have a rank well above 1,000,000 will drop down to this range temporarily after a recent sale. The worse its historical rank, the faster it climbs.
  • Ranks between 1,000,000 and 2,000,000 could mean a couple of different things. It could mean the book used to sell some, but has gone through a dry spell recently; if so, its sales rank will climb very slowly (or it will get a sale and return to a better level). It could happen when a book’s rank was above 2,000,000 but sold in the past few days; if so, its sales rank will climb very rapidly (unless it gets a new sale).
  • Ranks above 2,000,000 probably indicate not much recent activity. Note that there are books that sold fairly well in the past that now have ranks in the millions. In those cases, there just haven’t been any sales for a month or more. Books that rarely sell may have ranks well above 2,000,000 (I have seen 5,000,000, and this number will keep rising).
  • A book has a current steady point. For example, based on its combination of sales history and recent lack of sales, suppose that a book’s steady point is 3,500,000. If it suddenly sells, it will see life in the hundred thousands, and then it will rapidly climb back up to near its old steady point unless a new sales comes soon. Steady points in the low hundred thousands or in the ten thousands tend to be much less steady: Since those books have more frequent sales, any changes to the sales frequency can have a significant impact. With ranks in the millions, you can see huge drops down to the hundred thousands, but they tend to rise back up into their old millions quickly (unless the book stars to see more regular sales).
  • Ranks of 1000, 500, 100, or better can have wildly varying results. The number of sales needed to have an overall sales rank of 100 can be considerably different next month than it is now. I’m not going to quote these numbers since they can change dramatically (plus it’s not as easy to get a book to hold its rank in that range for a long period of time).

I’ve published several books, some in pen names, and can corroborate all of the numbers above (but please read all of my notes above before you try to interpret them too literally).

Note that these numbers will change significantly over time, beyond just the seasonal effects.

Back in 2008, a single paperback sale would cause the overall sales rank in Books to jump to about 50,000, but nowadays a single sale might bring the sales rank to 200,000. (Remember, it also depends significantly on the sales history of the book, not just the recent sale.)

Someday there may be 1,000,000 different books selling once per day on average, and then not all ranks in the millions will be indicative of books that aren’t selling.

Indeed, sales ranks are slipping to 1,000,000 faster than ever when a book doesn’t maintain its sales frequency.

If a newly published book doesn’t generate steady sales, it can plummet to the millions before the author realizes it.

MISPERCEPTIONS

It’s very easy to draw incorrect conclusions based on sales rank numbers.

One common mistake is to conclude that only 100,000 books sell once per day or more.

Wait. Isn’t that what I said in my list above? If an overall sales rank of 100,000 equates to roughly 1 sale per day, then why is it wrong to conclude that only 100,000 books sell once per day or more?

It’s because sales ranks change in time.

If you compare the top 100,000 books today to the top 100,000 books tomorrow or yesterday, there will be thousands of books that crossed this threshold.

Many books sell multiple copies per day when they are released, and then see sales drop off at some point.

Many books that usually only sell 1 copy every few days see a big boost during a short-term promotion.

Over the course of a month, there will be way more than 100,000 books that sold at least 30 copies for the month. That’s because sales ranks are constantly changing. Hundreds of thousands of books will average one sale per day for the month, even though their sales ranks will spend some time above (and below) the 100,000 mark.

Over the course of a year, there will be more than a million (1,000,000) books that sell at least 300 copies for the year (about 1 copy per day on average). A significant number of books sell their 300 copies over a very short period. Almost no books will sell exactly 1 copy per day all year long.

Here are a few more common mistakes that are made trying to interpret sales rank:

  • Forgetting that Kindle Unlimited borrows are very significant for Kindle eBooks in KDP Select.
  • Only looking at the current sales rank, and not looking at the history of sales or how the sales rank changes over time.
  • Looking at category or subcategory ranks, and comparing that number to overall ranks.

If a book has a sales rank of 50,000 right now, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is a consistent seller. It probably means that there were a couple of recent sales, but without monitoring its rank over a longer period of time, you can’t really tell if it sells consistently or infrequently.

If a book has a sales rank of 700,000 right now, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it hasn’t sold well, especially if the book has been published for quite some time. It’s possible that the book sold a few times per day for weeks or even months, and then sales slowly declined. It’s also possible that the book sells once a week or so. Yet another possibility is that the book hardly ever sells, but had a sale in the past few days. Without monitoring the rank over a long period time or knowing the sales history, you can’t tell.

AUTHOR RANK

Amazon also keeps track of author rank in addition to sales rank.

How is author rank different from sales rank?

Author rank adds all of the sales of all of the editions of all of the author’s books (published in that same author name).

If an author publishes multiple books that sell regularly, all of these books help with author rank.

You can see your author rank by signing up for and logging into Amazon’s Author Central.

I pay more attention to my author rank (and my author rank in my pen names) than I do to sales rank.

One of my goals is to improve my average author rank each year.

If you’re at 100,000 now, strive to improve this to 50,000 next year. Try to come up with better ideas, strive to write better, and try to improve your marketing.

If you can get your average author rank down to about 10,000 or better, that’s pretty good.

If you can get your author rank for your name and for a pen name to both be significant, this gives you a little peace of mind: Not all of your eggs are in a single basket.

Just like sales rank, author rank can fluctuate significantly. It can also tail off over time or see sudden spikes. So you have to be careful about interpreting this number (as I mentioned with sales rank).

DO AMAZON GIVEAWAYS AFFECT SALES RANK?

According to 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 suggests that Amazon Giveaways do not affect sales rank.

If sometimes it seems to help, perhaps the effect is indirect. After all, one goal of the giveaways is to create exposure.

TIP FOR AUTHORS

Spend more time writing your books, some time marketing, and much less time monitoring your sales rank.

The new books that you publish and your marketing may help you improve your sales rank by netting more sales.

Simply staring at your sales ranks probably won’t make you feel better unless you get super lucky.

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.

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.

 

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.

What Cool Word Have You Read in a Book Recently?

I was reading The Secret of Spellshadow Manor today by Bella Forrest, when I came across the word

—susurration—

meaning soft murmuring or rustling sounds.

It’s not a word I read or use every day. I enjoy coming across a cool word when it happens once in a while.

I don’t like it when an author goes out of his/her way to use uncommon words. I like the book to read well (for me).

But when the best word to use happens to be uncommon, the ‘best’ word is still the ‘best’ word.

When I don’t recognize the word and the author includes a little clue to help deduce the meaning, I like it even better.

In the case of the book I was reading today, it was great: The book is quite readable, the word felt (to me) like it belonged, and I could tell what it meant from the context.

(If you want to check out Bella Forrest’s—who I expect has never heard of me, and who certainly has no idea that I’m writing this post—novels, I recommend that you start with The Gender Game.)

Please share a cool word that you read in a book recently, including the title and author of the book. Surely, the author deserves a little publicity for helping you enjoy the word.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2017

 

What Makes Shopping for Books so Wonderful? #PoweredByIndie

Background image from ShutterStock.

Background image from ShutterStock.

SHOPPING FOR BOOKS

Consider the following Tale of Two Stores.

You walk into a department store. What do you see? Sony. Levi’s. Apple. Nike. LazyBoy. Everything is branded. You’re in a big business. Many of the products for sale were manufactured by big businesses. Ultimately, people were involved at some stage: design, manufacture, assembly, shipping, merchandising, advertising deals, etc. Much of the work may also have been automated.

Now you walk into a bookstore. Obviously, you see thousands of books. And there are big brands around, if you look closely enough to see the names of the popular publishing houses. Yet the experience is vastly different.

Most of the books were conceived of and written by, to a large extent, a single human being. You’re surrounded by thousands of such works. They share unique experiences. They store knowledge. They weave words together in unique ways.

Shopping for books, and reading, these are very personal experiences.

Think about that the next time you’re browsing for a book to read.

Even if it’s not in a bookstore. At Amazon, for example, when you’re searching for a book in your pajamas, you have millions of books at your fingertips. And each work offers a personal experience for you.

Not all of the books are published by the big publishing houses. Many are published by small, even family run publishing houses.

Well over a million are published by indie authors. When a single author handles not just the writing, but also plays the supervisory roles of cover design judge, editing overseer, interior design judge, marketing coordinator, etc. (perhaps even doing much of this work independently), the experience is arguably even more personal.

I’ve read several indie books lately, and I enjoy that personal touch. From unique chapter headers to the little thank-you notes in the back of the book, I appreciate how their personal touches spread from cover to cover and even show on the product page (not just in the author’s biography, but in the product description and selection of editorial content).

Many indie authors have learned, through experience or by necessity or by motivation (or probably a combination of all of these), a great deal about marketing. One of the points that many authors agree on is that the author himself or herself can become a very strong brand.

That’s because readers aren’t just looking for a story or knowledge.

Readers like to feel a personal connection with the author to some extent. Learning more about the author, the person, the man or woman behind the words, even little personal notes… all of these things can help to enhance such a personal connection. (So, authors, you have the chance to begin this personal experience in your marketing.)

Shopping for books and reading can be personal experiences.

A book is much, much more than a mere product.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2017

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.

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