Kindle Typesetting Improvements

Image from ShutterStock.

Image from ShutterStock.

KINDLE TYPOGRAPHY

When I turned on my Kindle Paperwhite today, I received a nice surprise.

It automatically downloaded an update: version 5.6.5. When it finished, a note popped up describing new Kindle typesetting improvements.

This is a cool development because Kindle typography has been very limited. The new Kindle typesetting has appeared on various devices over the course of the past several weeks. This is the first time I found a note with the update.

Before you publish a book with the new features in mind, you want to get a feel for how many devices use the new Kindle typesetting engine, as well as how many books implement it. Presently, the new features work for about 500,000 Kindle e-books, but within a year, that should be a few million. (There are nearly 4 million Kindle e-books at the moment.)

So if you publish today, the new features probably won’t matter. But within a year, it appears that they will. (Except for customers using a device—perhaps an older Kindle—which doesn’t support the new engine. It may not have yet even finished rolling out to customers with new devices.)

The new typesetting engine is geared toward an improved reading experience: subtle typography tricks to create faster reading, less eye strain, easier word recognition, and a nicer look to the digital ‘page.’

Following are some of the improvements:

  • Kindle introduced the new Bookerly font. I opened a page where the justification was quite poor, and changing the font to Bookerly. The justification improved tremendously.
  • Justification is supposed to be improved. I didn’t really notice this except with the Bookerly font, though maybe I just don’t have one of the books that fully benefits from the new typesetting engine.
  • There is supposed to be improved spacing and improved character positioning. The Bookerly font may be more Kindle-kerning friendly.
  • One of the new features is hyphenation, which has me concerned. For weeks, I’ve read about Kindle hyphenation that doesn’t hyphenate in the proper breaking positions. However, the note that came with the new typesetting engine claims that it will hyphenate properly. I haven’t yet seen a hyphen, though I checked out several books. So I’m hopeful, but waiting to see it firsthand before I get too excited.
  • There is supposed to be more natural spacing and more words per page (so less clicking or swiping to paginate).
  • Drop caps are supposed to be much improved. I opened every book on my Kindle and downloaded many recommendations and top sellers from Kindle, yet I didn’t see one drop cap. That’s because most e-book formatters have learned to shy away from the drop cap because of formatting problems they’ve discovered in the past. If you happen to know a book that has drop caps that was likely to be among the first to adopt the new typesetting engine, please suggest it in the comments. I’d love to check it out.
  • Another feature was a smart card with smart lookup, which works with the dictionary, Wikipedia, and x-ray. These are great ways to improve vocabulary and comprehension, and to take notes or make flash cards. It’s also great for educational books.

The note said that it had changed the order of my books on my device, showing those with enhanced typesetting first. However, when I checked my book list, the order appeared unchanged. First on the list was a book from 47North, one of Amazon’s own imprints. Yet I didn’t notice the new typesetting features (except for the cool Bookerly font) with this book or any other book that I downloaded today. If you happen to know of a book that definitely works with the new typesetting features, especially one that includes drop caps (but it’s okay if it doesn’t), I’d love to check it out.

Have you received a similar update on your device? Which device? Have you noticed the new features? What do you think of them?

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

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

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

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Amazon’s Incentives for Lower e-book Prices

Low Prices

LOWER PRICES

Amazon and Hachette settled their months-long dispute over e-book prices.

The agreement includes incentives for Hachette when the publisher chooses to deliver lower e-book prices to customers.

Simon & Schuster reached an agreement with Amazon last month, which also included an incentive for delivering lower e-book prices to customers.

How low? That’s a good question.

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) has provided such an incentive for years: e-books prices above $9.99 pay a royalty of 35%, whereas book prices between $2.99 and $9.99 pay a royalty of 70% (minus delivery costs).

The terms are no doubt different for the big publishers. The percentages won’t be the same, for one. But the KDP model offers some idea for what to expect.

Don’t expect bestselling traditionally published e-books to dive down to $2.99 or 99 cents. I’m thinking closer to $9.99.

Who wins?

  • The readers win with more affordable e-book prices. The readers are most important, as the entire business fails to exist without them.
  • The big publishers win with incentives to offer lower e-book prices. In addition to the incentives, it may actually be a more profitable business model; if so, that will be an added bonus.
  • Traditionally published authors win, too. In addition to the publishers’ incentives for lower e-book prices and perhaps reaping greater overall royalties as a result, Hachette titles will now “be prominently features in promotions,” according to a joint statement from Amazon and Hachette.
  • Amazon wins by helping to create more affordable e-books for customers.

There don’t have to be any losers. There is such a thing as a win-win solution, or in this case, a win-win-win-win.

As a reader, I thank Amazon for pushing for this. I realize that not everyone will agree that this is a good thing, and others will question the motivation and the future, but personally I believe this is a good step for the future of e-publishing.

The holidays are almost here. No doubt this timing helped this dispute reach its conclusion.

FURTHER READING

  • Hugh Howey offers some great insights on this:

http://www.hughhowey.com/amazon-and-hachette-come-to-terms

  • Yahoo Finance:

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/amazon-hachette-end-monthslong-dispute-171616398.html?soc_src=mediacontentsharebuttons&soc_trk=tw

  • CNN Money:

http://money.cnn.com/2014/11/13/media/amazon-hachette-reach-deal/index.html

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.

Please support the Read Tuesday Thunderclap. This will help spread awareness on the morning of Read Tuesday (December 9, 2014). It’s easy to help:

  • Visit http://thndr.it/1CkO2Bg.
  • Click Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr and sign in.
  • Customize the message. (Optional.)
  • Agree to the terms. All that will happen is that the Thunderclap post about Read Tuesday will go out the morning of December 9.
  • (The warning message simply means that Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr need your permission to post the Thunderclap message on December 9. This is the only post that Thunderclap will make.)

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) now available for Kindle pre-order

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Commuter Fiction—Making a Case for Short Kindle e-books?

Short

When I want to shop for something to read on my Kindle, I visit Amazon’s homepage on my PC and click on the Kindle books link. It’s called ‘Kindle books,’ so intuitively what you might expect to see are ‘books,’ right?

After a half hour of searching, I may finally find one that suits my mood. Then I examine the product page closely to learn that it’s 36 pages long. Wait a minute. Is that a book?

Sometimes, I check out the Look Inside of a prospective book. I see the cover, title, copyright notice… where’s the rest? Wow! How short must a book be not to show anything from the first chapter?

A Kindle e-book can have just 12 pages. It can have 6 pages. Is there a lower limit? At 6 pages, I hope there isn’t a title page, copyright page, about the author section, and free sample of another book taking up space inside… I also hope the ‘book’ is self-contained. It would be awfully frustrating to learn that it was really one chapter in a series, where you don’t get any sense of closure until the series is complete.

Of course, despite the fact that all of these ‘books’ are listed under ‘Kindle books,’ they aren’t all books. These Kindle e-books include short stories, booklets, presentations, and novellas, too.

Until recently, I was troubled by the growing number of short e-books. I was thinking, “Don’t customers want good value for their money?” “Are customers getting tricked, buying what they expect to be a book only to discover it’s really a short story?” “Are more authors getting lazier, writing and publishing shorter pieces?”

I understood reasons for the short e-books, but I was still troubled by it.

Customers can easily return e-books if they are dissatisfied. (Many do.) They can also check the page count before purchasing, and read the description carefully. If the Look Inside is brief, that’s a big hint. If they’re getting fooled by short books, they can get their money back or leave a review about it. The customer is certainly protected.

Writers are posting short e-books for a variety of reasons. Some don’t want to commit too much into their self-publishing endeavors, so a short piece is a way to experiment. Some are hoping to see what sort of customer feedback may come for short writing samples before laying their hearts on the line for full-length novels. Some plan to compile short works into an omnibus later on, such that the omnibus will look like a good value. There are other reasons, too. Not all of the reasons may be justified.

It’s not easy to get discovered as a new writer, whether writing full-length novels or short stories. Even 99 cents is a lot of money to invest in for one short story from a relatively unknown author; the story will be over quickly, so just imagine what you’ll spend for several hours of reading buying individual short stories. On the other hand, a full-length novel is a long commitment to make for a reader with a new author.

Is it easier to get readers to try out your short story, enjoy your book, and give your full-length novel a shot? Or is it easier to get new readers to appreciate the value of your full-length novel and commit to that as the first thing they read by you? Neither is ‘easy’ for most authors.

Commuter Fiction

I recently discovered this phrase in the KDP community forum. I like the concept. It’s changing my view of short e-books.

The idea behind commuter fiction is to write a short work that travelers can enjoy at a single sitting on an airplane or bus, for example. If you have a three-hour flight, for example, wouldn’t it be perfect to buy an e-book that you could read in three hours?

Authors and publishers have discovered that there is a market for short fiction, and they’ve responded with a way to make short fiction marketable.

You can call your short story a short story. You can call your novella a novella. You can list the word count. Kindle will estimate the page count. But that might not be the way to market your short e-book.

Consider selling it as commuter fiction. Maybe it would be handy to know approximately how many hours it would take the average reader to finish your e-book. A commuter might be interested in that figure.

Truck drivers have been listening to audio books for years. They buy books by the hour. If a truck driver is going on an eight-hour drive, it would be ideal to have an audio book that lasts eight hours (or four audio books that last two hours each), for example.

The same concept applies to passengers of buses, airplanes, and trains who are reading e-books on Kindles, tablets, laptops, and cell phones. What they would really like to know is how long it will take to read the e-book. Of course, this varies from person to person because we all read at different rates. If they can deduce an average, though, that will help them judge this.

I’m not saying that you should write short e-books. It might be harder to sell than full-length books. (Who knows?) Personally, as a customer, I like to receive a good value for my money. However, there are many customers who behave differently than I do.

What I am saying is this: If you’re going to write a short book, maybe you can improve its marketability by selling it as commuter fiction.

Publishing Resources

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles by clicking one of the following links:

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

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing (236 pages, 8″ x 10″; it’s a real ‘book’)
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing (212 pages, 8″ x 10″; it’s a real ‘book’)

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

Kindle Countdown to the New Year

54321

I love KDP’s new Kindle Countdown Deal tool. I did a couple of preliminary tests with it when it first came out in November, 2013. I used it with several e-books on Read Tuesday, December 10. I even ran a couple of free promos on Read Tuesday so I could compare the results to the Countdown Deals. I used the Countdown Deal once again after Christmas, when e-book sales are usually on the rise.

What is it?

Let’s begin with what it isn’t. It’s not a cure-all for any e-book that doesn’t sell. If your e-book isn’t selling, the Countdown Deal probably isn’t the answer. Instead, you need to reassess whether the content, writing, and packaging are marketable. At least one of these areas needs to be improved to get your book selling.

If you have a marketable book, the Countdown Deal can help to stimulate sales. A short-term sale price can help you create added interest in your book, especially if you market the promotional price effectively.

Here are the main details of the new Kindle Countdown Deal:

  • If your Kindle e-book is priced from $2.99 to $24.99 in the US or £1.93 to £14.99 in the UK, you can put your e-book on sale for as little as one hour or as many as 7 days consecutively in a 90-day KDP Select enrollment period. (Many e-books with a $2.99 price in the US have a UK price below £1.93. If so, you need to republish and raise the UK price to £1.93 before running a Countdown Deal in the UK.)
  • Customers will see both the sale price and the list price during the promotion, so they will know exactly how much they are saving. There will also be a countdown timer, showing customers when your sale ends, which helps to create a sense of urgency.
  • The sale price must be at least $1.00 off in the US and £1.00 off in the UK and must end with .99.
  • Your e-book must be enrolled in KDP Select, which requires publishing the e-book edition of your book exclusively with Kindle. Your e-book must be enrolled in Select for at least 30 days before you can run a Countdown Deal.
  • If you change your list price, you must wait 30 days before running a Countdown Deal. You must also wait 14 days after the promotion to change your list price.
  • You must schedule your Countdown Deal at least 24 hours in advance of the day on which your promotion would begin. You need 24 hours notice to cancel a Countdown Deal.
  • Note that you can only run a single Countdown Deal in a 90-day enrollment period, even if your first Countdown Deal didn’t use the full 7 days. (This is in contrast to the free promo, where you can run up to five separate one-day promotions or use them all at once.)
  • If your book is on the 70% royalty plan, you will still earn 70% after subtracting the delivery fee even if your sale price is $0.99 or $1.99. However, if you have a large file size, which is typical if there are several images, you might actually earn more money during the Countdown Deal on the 35% royalty plan. In fact, your royalty could be zero on the 70% plan. Unfortunately, KDP doesn’t show you in advance what your Countdown Deal royalty will be; you need to figure this out yourself. On the 70% royalty plan, subtract the delivery fee (find this in Step 2 of the publishing page) from the promotional price, then multiply by 0.7. Compare this to 0.35 times the promotional price for the 35% royalty rate. You can switch plans by republishing before (it must go live 24 hours before the day your promotion starts) and again after the promotion (but then you earn 35% for sales for a day before and the period after your promotion while your e-book is being republished).

Comparing the Countdown Deal to the free promo

Kindle’s Countdown Deal solves many problems that the free promo suffers from:

  • Since customers are paying money for your e-book, most of your customers will actually read your e-book. A huge problem with the free promo is that many people who take the e-book for free never get around to reading it.
  • Since customers are paying money for your e-book, most shoppers will actually read your blurb, check out reviews, and explore the Look Inside prior to making a purchase. Another huge problem with the free promo is that many shoppers don’t bother seeing if the e-book actually appeals to them since it’s free.
  • Customers are more likely to be in your e-book’s specific target audience. This means they are more likely to have reasonable expectations for your genre. The free promo attracts customers from outside your genre, who then compare apples to oranges. This sometimes shows up in critical reviews.
  • Unfortunately, there are many outspoken individuals who strongly loathe freebies. Some, with mean spirits, actually ‘buy’ freebies with the preconceived idea of slamming them. By running a Countdown Deal, your e-book won’t attract the freebie haters, and if someone does wish to slam the e-book, at least they must make the purchase first if they want it to show as an Amazon Verified Purchase.
  • You earn royalties during the Countdown Deal. You don’t earn one penny during a free promo. The hope of the free promotion is that some customers will actually read the e-book, like it, and help spread the word. It’s a big risk. The Countdown Deal has the same benefits, without the risk. Sales during the Countdown Deal affect your paid sales rank, whereas a free promo only affects your free sales rank. Your paid sales rank actually slides during a free promo, but will most likely rise during a Countdown Deal.
  • There are fewer freebies saturating the market with the introduction of the Countdown Deal. There are also fewer Kindle e-books priced at 99 cents and $1.99 because those e-books aren’t eligible for a Countdown Deal. More Kindle e-books now have a regular price of $2.99 and higher. This helps everyone create a better perception of value. Those e-books that are on sale during a Countdown Deal can only be on sale for up to one week out of 90 days, so most of the time they are not cheap.
  • Websites that link to Kindle e-books through Amazon Associates are discouraged from promoting freebies, but have an incentive to promote Countdown Deals. It would be smart to search for sites that promote Countdown Deals for your genre. It’s a win-win situation, since they can earn money through Amazon Associates by promoting your e-book.

My experience

I ran a Countdown Deal on several e-books during Read Tuesday, a Black Friday type of sale just for books on Tuesday, December 10. I actually ran my promotions from December 9 to December 11. I sold more e-books on average on the 9th and 11th, but had the greatest surge in sales on the 10th, the day in which Read Tuesday was being promoted. On December 10, my sales of e-books for the month doubled what they had done all together from the 1st to the 9th. Several other authors also ran Countdown Deals on Read Tuesday. Of those who have shared their results with me, all but one had similar successes, and some had a far better yield than I had.

A Countdown Deal can be highly effective for a marketable e-book that is promoted effectively.

I ran a couple of free promos on December 10, also, so that I could compare the two programs. I did get a few sales of those e-books after the free promos ended, but those sales paled in comparison to the Countdown Deals.

In early November and late December, I also tested the Countdown Deal on a couple of other e-books (you can only run one Countdown Deal on a given e-book in its 90-day enrollment period in KDP Select). On these occasions, I didn’t promote the sale. I did this with one of my better sellers, with the result of increasing the sales frequency by a factor of 3.4. Trying this also with a couple of e-books that ordinarily don’t sell much, I confirmed that a Countdown Deal isn’t the solution to an e-book that lacks marketability.

You still need to promote your sale

You will certainly get the most out of your Countdown Deal if you effectively market your promotion. As already mentioned, you should search online for websites that actively promote Countdown Deals. If they use Amazon Associates, they have an incentive to help you promote your e-book, so don’t be too shy to search and ask.

There are also several websites that specialize in announcing e-book promotions, e.g. by emailing readers who are subscribed to daily newsletters. For example, check out these sites: BookBub, Ereader News Today, Kindle Books & Tips, Book Gorilla, Book Blast, and Pixel of Ink. You want to learn about stats to help you with your decision. For example, the BookBub pricing page provides data for subscribers by genre, average downloads, and average sales.

The exclusivity drawback

You must enroll your Kindle e-book in KDP Select in order to take advantage of the Countdown Deal tool. This requires publishing your e-book exclusively with Kindle during the 90-day enrollment period. You can’t publish your e-book with Smashwords, Nook, Kobo, Apple, or any other e-readers besides Kindle during this period. However, you may publish a paperback edition of your book with CreateSpace, for example; the exclusivity clause only pertains to electronic versions of your book.

It’s also possible to initially enroll in KDP Select, then 90 days later opt out and publish your e-book with every e-reader. This allows you to test the water; the 90-day period also gives you a chance to prepare your e-book for the other e-reader formats.

Some e-books sell very well on Nook, Kobo, Sony, or Apple, while others sell primarily on the Kindle. The only way to know for sure is to try it out. If your e-book sells very well with Nook, for example, you probably don’t want to enroll in KDP Select. However, if your e-book rarely sells anywhere but Kindle, you might as well take advantage of the program. Select also has other benefits, like earning royalties on borrows from Amazon Prime members.

Attention, Amazon: You need a Countdown Deal for CreateSpace paperbacks, too

It would be very cool to have a Countdown Deal for CreateSpace paperbacks. This would solve a major problem. The Expanded Distribution channel limits how low you can set the list price for a CreateSpace paperback. If you want to run a short-term promotion, you can simply lower your list price temporarily. However, if you have Expanded Distribution, you might need to temporarily disable it in order to make a compelling sale price.

Amazon and CreateSpace could get together, potentially, and create a Countdown Deal that only lowers the Amazon sale price, but not the list price or Expanded Distribution price, during the promotion. If you like this idea, please feel free to contact Amazon and CreateSpace with your suggestion. The more authors who suggest this, the more likely they will consider the idea.

Presently, the Countdown Deal only applies to Kindle in the US and UK. Hopefully, they will add this to Australia, Canada, and other websites for Kindle sales soon.

Happy 2014

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles by clicking one of the following links:

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

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

Updating a Book at CreateSpace or Kindle Direct Publishing

Update

Today I will share my experience of updating books at Amazon. I recently updated Volume 1 of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers at CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). The paperback now includes a comprehensive 18-page index, and both the paperback and eBook include minor updates (such as mention of recent changes at CreateSpace, Amazon, and Kindle and correcting a few minor typos).

If you need to revise your interior or cover file at CreateSpace, first study your sales rank history (you want to know the time of the sales, not the time that the royalties report) to help choose the time where you’re least likely to sell books. Your book will be unavailable for sale while the new file is being reviewed, so you don’t want it to interfere with sales (unless your revision is more urgent, then you just have to do it immediately).

It takes approximately 12 hours for your files to be reviewed. The biggest concern is how Murphy’s law will get you:

  • One way is for CreateSpace to make changes to your cover, even when you didn’t change the cover file and it had been perfect. The best thing to do is resubmit your files for review and hope the next reviewer doesn’t make changes to your cover. This is another 12 hours. But if you call, they put in a request to research the problem, and this can take a couple of days (and may not even resolve the problem). There is, unfortunately, a worst-case scenario where your book is offline for several days. You just have to cross your fingers and hope it doesn’t happen to you. Let me add that this rarely happens, so most likely it won’t be an issue. I didn’t mean to scare you. Just prepare for the worst, then if something does happen, you won’t be surprised by it.
  • Another way is for you to make a minor revision, which winds up causing major changes to the layout of your book. You see, revising a phrase on page 3 could cause a crazy page break on page 8. Take the time to scroll page by page through your book in the Digital Proofer to ensure that there aren’t any crazy layout problems and you might be able to avoid this problem.
  • Then there is conservation of typos, whereby you introduce a new typo in the process of correcting others.
  • Finally, there is the Doh! moment when you click Approve Proof and suddenly remember something else that you should have done.

Very often, your book is again available for sale in 12 to 24 hours after uploading the revised file.

A crazy thing is that you can actually order the paperback directly from Amazon after the revision and receive the older version. This evidently happens when they already have your older version stocked in their warehouse (e.g. if there was a returned copy to resell or if they had ordered some in advance to stock up).

What I like about KDP is that your previous edition remains available for sale while your new eBook is in the process of publishing. This way you don’t miss out on any sales in the meantime.

I put a note on the copyright page indicating when the eBook was last updated. This way, when I viewed the Look Inside at Amazon, I knew I was looking at the updated version.

I like the way the Look Inside turned out. The Look Inside when viewing on a PC is the greatest formatting challenge. I went into the HTML in my effort to perfect this. The indents look large on the PC, but that’s because I set them to a percentage instead of a value in inches. That way, the indents will look fairly reasonable from a cell phone to an iPad.

Another thing to consider is updating the description. I updated the paperback description from CreateSpace, using the basic HTML that’s allowed to create linebreaks, boldface, italics, and bullets. I used Author Central to do this for the eBook. The paperback description begins with a note about the new index that has been added.

The paperback was ranked around 14,000 on Amazon, but has now dropped down to 45,000. It’s amazing what a 16-hour window of no availability can do to sales rank. On the other hand, the eBook edition jumped up to 40,000 from the 100,000’s. I guess when the paperback wasn’t available, people decided to go with the eBook (ordinarily, I sell many paperbacks for each eBook that sells).

For those who may have purchased the original paperback without the index, there is a free index available in PDF format online: https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com/index-for-a-detailed-guide/

Now I need to work on an index for Volume 2.

Volume 1 eBook: http://amzn.com/B00AA5CJ7C

Volume 1 paperback: http://amzn.com/1480250201

Volume 2 eBook: http://amzn.com/B00CSDUP66

Volume 2 paperback: http://amzn.com/1484037243

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 1 (formatting/publishing) and Vol. 2 (packaging/marketing), Facebook page, Twitter

Check out Read Tuesday (a Black Friday event just for books): website, Facebook page, Twitter

Testing out Amazon’s new Kindle Countdown Deal

Cover Pages

I’m trying out Amazon’s new Kindle Countdown Deal for a couple of my lesser-known books. I’ll save the great deals for Read Tuesday. 🙂

The ‘proper’ way to do this would be to plan it much further in advance, build buzz for your promotion, promote it actively the day of (and maybe the day before, too), and recruit help promoting your discount (this is why you need to plan far in advance) from bloggers, websites, and any of your contacts willing to help you spread the word among your target audience. You might even consider investing in an advertisement that would get you plenty of exposure among your target audience.

However, the tool is also new, so although the books that are taking advantage of the countdown deal already haven’t had time to plan for the promotion, they may be getting a lot of initial traffic from the many people who are checking it out. Once this effect wears off, you’ll definitely need to plan ahead and promote effectively to get the most out of this.

I chose a couple of my lesser-known books that don’t tend to sell well for my experiment. Partly, I wanted to save my more popular books to help, in a tiny way, entice a little Read Tuesday traffic. Also, sometimes an experiment on a book that ordinarily doesn’t sell well on its own can provide a revealing marketing outcome.

One of the two books I chooe had been in free promos in years past, so I’ll be able to compare those results to the results of the Countdown.

Who else is testing out this Countdown Deal in the near future? (Not everyone is eligible. First, you need to be enrolled in KDP Select. If you’re just joining or rejoining KDP Select, you must wait 30 days. Even if you’re already in KDP Select, if you changed your list price in the last 30 days, you must wait, too. If your enrollment is expiring or renewing soon, that may also affect when you’ll next be eligible. Your list price must be between $2.99 and $24.99 in the US, for example, in order to be eligible.)

If you’re testing it out this week, I’d like to hear about it. Maybe I can find an excuse to mention it in a relevant post. And the combination of my data with your experience might be relevant for a future post. So if you’d like me to possibly discuss your promotion and your experience with it, please let me know.

The two books I’m trying out are:

(1) Formatting Pages for Publishing on Amazon with CreateSpace, Chris McMullen, B00BGPK70G, February, 2013. This book is geared specifically toward using Microsoft Word 2010 to format a paperback book for publishing with CreateSpace. It’s a short, concise book (104 pages in print, but the paperback version is 5″ x 8″ and divided into several chapters and includes figures, so the written content is much less). One reason that it doesn’t sell well is that my Detailed Guide is a better value, being much more detailed. Also, I don’t market the Formatting Pages book. I’m curious to see if the Countdown tool has any impact on a book that ordinarily doesn’t sell much.

(2) Far Out Multiplication Flash Cards 1-12 (Decorated with Solar System Photos), Chris McMullen and Carolyn Kivett, January, 2012. This flash card set is a book, not a game. The first half of the book consists of 1 x 1 thru 12 x 12 in order with the answer immediately following the question. The first half is designed for kids to practice and memorize. The second half has the cards shuffled, still with the answer following the question. Here, kids test their memory by checking the answer on the next page. The cards are visually decorated with solar system photos. There are two reasons that this book doesn’t sell much. First, I have another multiplication flash card book that has 11 reviews, while this one has none, so naturally people tend to buy the one that has all the reviews. Second, this book used to be more expensive than my other multiplication book, so the other multiplication book has a history of more sales (the other book is also part of a complete set). They are now the same regular price, so this book is actually the better value because it goes up to 12 x 12 instead of 10 x 10.

In the past, this flashcard book always did well with the free promo (over a thousand books in the good old days when KDP Select was new, and hundreds in later months), so I have something to compare it with. The free promo generally resulted in a boost of sales afterward. So I’ll be able to compare the overall effect on royalties, too.

Both of these books are presently $2.99 in the US and will be 99 cents during the Countdown promotion. The Countdown will be all day on Tuesday, November 5, Pacific Daylight Time (PDT).

In the UK, the price will be 0.99 pounds (I actually had to raise the price of one book slightly to make it eligible).

Both books have pictures, so the delivery fee is 50 to 60 cents on each book. This is important because my royalty during the promotion would actually be higher at 35% than at 70%. KDP doesn’t show you what your royalty would be during the promotion. So it’s worth checking your delivery fee and doing the math first. You’d hate to learn later that you were making one penny per sale!

So I first changed the royalty rate to 35% and republished. You can add the Countdown Deal while it’s republishing (check the box and select the Actions button on your Bookshelf). Note that you must change your royalty option at least 24 hours before your promotion begins.

Here is what you should do:

  • First try to create a Countdown Deal to see what dates you’re allowed to choose. This way you won’t waste your time for a promotion that you’re not allowed to schedule.
  • Next, check your delivery fee.
  • Now calculate your royalty at the promotional price. Subtract the delivery fee and then multiply by 0.7, like ($0.99 – $0.60) x 0.7 = $0.27. (If you don’t normally earn 70%, skip this step and the next step.)
  • Compare this with what you would make at 35%. If 35% gives you a higher royalty, you must change your royalty rate at least 24 hours prior to the start of your promotion.
  • Finally, schedule your promotion. Be sure to choose the start and end times in addition to the dates. See how many hours your promotion will last before you confirm. It would be very easy to accidentally make your promotion last just one hour without even realizing it!

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 1 (formatting/publishing) and Vol. 2 (packaging/marketing)

Planet Flash Cards Multiplication Cover Thumbnail

Kindle Countdown Deals—Better than the Original KDP Select?

Countdown

Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) sent out an email announcement today about the new Kindle Countdown Deals—a new promotional tool for KDP Select users.

This looks very promising. It will entice some authors who’ve left to switch back to KDP Select; and any who have been contemplating leaving KDP Select may be swayed to stay.

The drawbacks to the KDP free promo are well-known:

  • You don’t earn any royalties for your promotion.
  • The freebies affect your free rank, but not your paid rank. So your sales rank goes up while your book is free.
  • Changes in Amazon Associates’ policies have greatly discouraged sites from promoting the freebies.
  • People who loathe the KDP Select freebies can take out their frustrations by leaving one-star reviews, and they don’t even have to buy or read the book to do this and get it to show as an Amazon Verified Purchase.
  • Many customers from outside your target audience are attracted to the free price; since they aren’t familiar with your genre, they’re less likely to leave a favorable review.
  • When the book is free, many shoppers won’t bother to read the description and check out the free sample, so they are more likely to be disappointed with your book.
  • An abundance of freebies and 99-cent books makes it difficult to create the perception of value.

The new Kindle Countdown Deals solves these problems:

  • Your book won’t be free—but it will be at least $1.00 less than the list price. So you don’t have to worry about not earning royalties during your promotion.
  • You can even earn 70% if your sale price is lower than $2.99, but you do have to contend with the usual delivery fee. Your book must have the 70% option to begin with, of course, for this to apply.
  • Websites can promote your discounted book through Amazon Associates without having to worry about the penalty for linking to freebies.
  • You will have paid sales during the promotion, so this should affect your sales rank, unlike free promotions.
  • If anyone wants to slam your book, at least they’ll have to pay for it if they want it to show as an Amazon Verified Purchase.
  • Shoppers are more likely to read your description and check out the Look Inside, so they are less likely to be frustrated with a book that’s really not for them (provided that your packaging is clear).
  • Customers are more likely to be in your target audience since they actually have to pay for your book.
  • There won’t be as many free books because many authors who ordinarily use the free promotion tool will be using the countdown tool instead (you must choose one or the other for any 90-day period). Similarly, many of the books that are always 99 cents will now be $2.99 or higher for 83 out of every 90 days. Amazon has given everyone an incentive to choose a higher list price.

Here are some more notes about the new countdown tool:

  • You can use the tool for up to 7 out of every 90 days, with as many as 5 price increments.
  • You can only schedule one Countdown Deal per 90-day enrollment period. (You can schedule one in the US and another in the UK). Unlike the free promo, you can’t run two or more separate sales. The only way to use all 7 days is to use them all at once. See https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com/2013/12/07/kindle-countdown-deal-limit-one-per-90-days/
  • The regular list price must be between $2.99 to $24.99 (or 1.99 to 14.99 pounds).
  • The promotion can be as short as one hour or as long as one week.
  • You must wait 30 days after joining KDP Select and since you last changed your regular list price.
  • It looks like you can schedule the promotion without having to republish (like you do for ordinary price changes).

Some people are infamous for complaining about too many free and 99-cent books. Some of these people are already talking about how the new countdown program will drive even more books to the bottom. But that’s crazy!

The new countdown program encourages the books at the bottom price point to move up!

The minimum regular list price must be $2.99 in order to be eligible. The books that participate in the countdown won’t be free. The books that are 99 cents through the countdown program will only be 99 cents for 7 out of every 90 days. Right now they are 99 cents for 90 out of 90 days.

Many authors are already doing special short-term promotions. Now there is a tool for this, they can earn 70% instead of 35% royalties during their promotions, and all customers will see the discount at Amazon, even if they hadn’t heard about the author’s promotion.

If you have several pictures and your book is on the 70% option, the delivery fee may be significant. What you want to determine is whether your royalty would be greater at 70% or 35% for the discounted price (because of the delivery fee, if the file size is large, it may actually be greater at 35%). Note that you can’t change the royalty plan during the promotion or for fewer than 24 hours prior to the promotion. So you must change this, if needed, 24 hours before the promotion (and then change it back afterward, if desired). This would be the case if you normally earn a greater royalty at 70%, but would earn a better royalty at 35% during the promotion. If you have several pictures, you should check into this.

You still need to promote your sale if you want the promotional tool to be effective. Just dropping the price won’t have nearly the impact as effectively marketing the promotion.

This also looks like a great tool for Read Tuesday—a Black Friday type of event just for books.

Click the following link to learn more about the new countdown tool:

https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help?topicId=201298260&ref_=pe_445910_34749920

Publishing Resources

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles on publishing and marketing by clicking one of the following links:

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

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Kindle MatchBook has Launched at Amazon (Updated)

Just Launched

Update: It looks like Amazon has updated Kindle MatchBook to display an advertisement about Kindle MatchBook on the top of the page for print books, where there is a corresponding Kindle edition enrolled in the MatchBook program.

Note: As of October, 2019, the Matchbook program has been canceled.

Today Amazon launched the new Kindle MatchBook program. There is an advertisement for it on Amazon’s homepage, presently, and a very brief email was sent out to authors who had already signed up for it.

The idea behind the MatchBook program is to allow customers who purchase a print edition of the book to receive a significant discount off the Kindle edition of the same book (it may even be free).

MatchBook only applies to books where the same edition is available both in Kindle and in print (i.e. paperback or hardcover).

Not all books are in the MatchBook program. The publisher (or author, if self-published) must manually enroll the book in the program. Some publishers may opt not to do this. The discount is also at the publisher’s discretion, provided that it is a minimum of 50% off the Kindle edition’s list price (and must be free, 99 cents, $1.99, or $2.99).

You can learn more about the new Kindle MatchBook program by clicking the following link, which goes to a Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) page:

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

If the Kindle edition offers MatchBook, you’ll see one of three things near the top of the Kindle edition page:

  • Nothing at all if you already own the Kindle edition. Why frustrate you by showing you that you could have bought it for less by waiting for MatchBook to come out? If you want to see the MatchBook offer, log out of Amazon first.
  • An offer to buy the Kindle edition at the discounted MatchBook price if you already own the print edition of the same book.
  • A note that you could buy the Kindle edition at the discounted MatchBook price if you also purchase the print edition if you don’t already own the print edition.

There are a few important things to note here:

  • If you try to give the book as a gift, you must pay the full list price. Apparently, the MatchBook price doesn’t apply to gifting. That’s too bad, as it would be a nice incentive for someone to buy the print edition to keep and the Kindle edition to gift. However, you can keep the Kindle edition and give the print edition away as a gift (or try to resell it used, perhaps).
  • It looks like you can only buy one Kindle edition at the MatchBook price. This may help to prevent possible abuse.
  • The print edition page now includes an advertisement about the MatchBook program at the top of the page if the Kindle edition of the same book is enrolled in the MatchBook program.

A cool thing about MatchBook for authors is that if you ordinarily earn the 70% royalty rate on a sale, you still earn 70% if the MatchBook price is below $2.99.

Note that if you make the MatchBook price free, MatchBook sales won’t affect your book’s paid sales rank. Instead, they will affect your book’s free rank. This is what KDP told me after a week of research. If you discover otherwise, please share the news. 🙂 (It will be interesting if your book toggles between free and paid sales ranks with a free MatchBook price, since some customers will still be buying the book at the list price because they don’t own the print edition.)

It doesn’t look like the month-to-date sales report will help you see how many MatchBook sales you have, but you should be able to see it in the six-week report. Unfortunately, it will be a while before any MatchBook sales appear in a six-week report since the program started today.

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 1 (formatting/publishing) and Vol. 2 (packaging/marketing)

Gifting ebooks outside the US: Any Problems?

Present

We received a new comment on Misha’s article about how and why to gift an e-book today. It relates to gifting ebooks at Amazon outside the US.

Does anyone know if this is a problem? For example, suppose you live in the UK and wish to gift a Kindle ebook to a friend who also lives in the UK. What’s the best solution?

MatchBook and Kindle Sales Rank (A Hard-to-Get Answer)

When I went to enroll my books in Kindle MatchBook—a new program from Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP); you can learn more about MatchBook by clicking this link—an important point occurred to me:

  • Will the MatchBook sales improve your Kindle sales rank?
  • If so, if you make the MatchBook price free, will that also affect your sales rank?

Note: As of October, 2019, the Matchbook program has been canceled.

Here’s why it’s important: If the MatchBook freebies would improve your Kindle sales rank, that would serve as an incentive to offer print customers a free Kindle edition.

I checked my email, the September KDP newsletter, and the information about MatchBook available from a link on my KDP bookshelf (which all boiled down to the same information), and this point wasn’t clarified. I then posted this as a question in the KDP community forum; there was some interest in the answer, but nobody there apparently knew the answer, either.

Next, I contacted KDP. They responded in a day, but only to tell me that they needed 5 more days to figure out the answer. (!) Today, KDP responded (yep, today was day number five).

If I was informed correctly, 99 cent, $1.99, and $2.99 MatchBook sales will improve your Kindle sales rank, whereas free MatchBook sales will instead count toward your free sales rank.

Wait a minute. Something seems strange here.

When you make an e-book free through KDP Select, the book is free all day. During this time, the e-book has a free sales rank. When the free promotion ends, the e-book returns to the paid sales rank.

But MatchBook won’t be free all day! People can buy your Kindle e-book at any time. So if one customer “buys” your e-book for free through MatchBook, three seconds later someone else might pay for it at the Kindle sales price.

What’s going to happen? Will the book have a free sales rank and a paid sales rank at the same time? Will your book be ranked among freebies and paid books simultaneously?

It seems it may be so, based on what I’ve been told. (Or your book could toggle back and forth between the free and paid sales ranks with every free or paid purchase.)

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 1 (formatting/publishing) and Vol. 2 (packaging/marketing)