Amazon Advertising for KDP Authors in 2019

AMAZON ADVERTISING VIA KDP

As of 2019, Amazon modified how their advertising campaigns work, so this seems like a good time for a new article about how to use it.

I started using Amazon’s advertising feature several years ago, when it was first introduced to Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).

Since then, my ads have generated over 100 million impressions. So I have a little experience with how this works.

Advertising is one of many marketing tools. Like most marketing tools, you probably won’t blindly achieve instant success.

And like any paid marketing tool, advertising carries risk. If you aren’t careful, you can spend a lot of money quickly, and you might not recover your investment.

Advertising probably isn’t the solution for a book that isn’t selling on its own. It works better for some books than others, and for some authors than others. The success of the ad depends on a variety of factors.

One big problem is that there are many variables to consider:

  • How much should you bid?
  • How do you target your ads?
  • Is your custom text helping or hurting?
  • Does your cover draw your target audience in effectively?
  • Does your product page sell effectively?

However, if you’re smart about placing your bid, you get some valuable feedback from your ad data. Through trial and error, you can learn how to optimize your ad performance, and the ad metrics can help you determine whether or not running your ad is cost-effective.

There are millions of books, and all of their authors and publishers would love to see those books sell. So there are hundreds of thousands of people and businesses who are willing to place a modest bid to gain valuable advertising space on Amazon. Everyone is asking the key question, “How much can I afford to bid on my book?”

As a result, if your book is in a hot genre like Romance, some ads will place expensive bids for broad keywords. But there may still be hope.

First of all, the highest bid doesn’t necessarily land the impression. Amazon’s algorithm for ad placements uses relevance as an important criteria, so an ad that establishes strong relevance can potentially land impressions with a more modest bid. Secondly, narrower targeting criteria can sometimes help you land impressions with a lower bid.

CHANGES TO AMAZON ADVERTISING

As I mentioned, Amazon changed how their ad campaigns work in 2019.

Amazon is discontinuing Product Display Ads. You can still target by product or by interest, but you’ll need to use one of the other types of ads to do it now. You really aren’t losing anything, in my opinion.

However, if you already have a Product Display Ad running, it will stop running on February 5, 2019. You are able to copy any existing Product Display Ads to one of the other types of ads and run a new one.

Sponsored Product ads now let you target specific products and categories, in addition to keywords. That’s why I said you aren’t really losing anything: Sponsored Product Ads now let you target books basically the same way that Product Display Ads did in the past.

There is now a new type of ad called Lockscreen ads. These appear to be aimed at Kindle eReaders and Kindle Fires. Lockscreen ads allow interest-based targeting.

The dashboard has changed. I’ve tested it out extensively and like it much better. But I had to customize it before I realized that I like it much better now. I’ll discuss how to get the most out of the new dashboard later in my article.

You might also have noticed that the name of Amazon’s advertising service has changed from Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) to Amazon Advertising. Why? Amazon previously had a variety of advertising services with different names, and realized that it would be simpler to have a single name, Amazon Advertising.

There is also an Author’s Guide to the New Amazon Advertising Features. Click here to visit Amazon’s free guide.

RELEVANCE

Successful advertisements tend to develop strong relevance.

You probably understand relevance as a concept. If your book is a good fit for most of the customers who are targeted by the ad, then your ad is highly relevant.

But to Amazon, relevance is more than a concept. It’s also a metric. Amazon’s algorithm is comparing data for thousands of ads, and has instructions for how to determine which ads are more relevant than others.

There are a variety of factors that go into determining relevance. (By the way, Amazon’s algorithm for displaying books in search results and customers-also-bought lists also measure relevance in similar ways.)

One simple and important factor is your click-thru rate (CTR). Amazon is asking the question, “How many people need to see your ad, on average, before they click on it?”

You figure the CTR by comparing the number of clicks (when a customer clicks on the ad to visit the product page) to the number of impressions (when the ad is displayed somewhere on a page that is visible on a customer’s screen).

It’s very common for internet advertising CTR’s to be roughly 1 out of 1000, meaning that on average 1 out of 1000 customers click on the ad. That comes out to 0.1%. Remember, that’s a rough average.

At Amazon, if the CTR is 1 out of 2000 or worse (meaning 0.05% or less), your ad will likely be stopped due to low relevance.

1 out of 1000 (or 0.1%) is relatively common, but it’s average. It isn’t good.

I have placed ads for 13 different books (keeping in mind that some of my books are under pen names or have coauthors) that have individually landed over 1,000,000 impressions.

6 of these ads have CTR’s of 0.3% to 0.45% (1 out of 333 to 1 out of 250), which are rather high. My best CTR is 0.6% (1 out of 167). Only one of my best 13 ads has a CTR as low as 0.1%.

I’ve placed over 100 ads over the years. Only 13 out of those have landed 1,000,000 impressions or more. What I see from my ad reports is that a high CTR is critical towards landing a large number of impressions over a long period.

When you first place your ad, it really helps to generate a strong CTR at the outset. Sometimes when the CTR starts out low, an ad can really struggle to get any impressions. That’s because the metrics suggest that the ad might not rate high on relevance. In this case, it may be better to terminate the ad and start a new one than to simply modify the existing ad campaign.

But CTR is just one factor that Amazon helps to determine relevance.

What Amazon really wants is for a high percentage of customers who see your ad to click on your ad… then explore your product page… then purchase your book… and then be satisfied with your book.

All of Amazon’s algorithms place a premium on customer satisfaction metrics. If you’ve ever sold products via Amazon Seller Central, you should know about this because customer satisfaction metrics help to determine product placement.

The next question to ask is, “How many customers who visit your product page proceed to purchase your book?” Then ask, “How satisfied are customers who purchase this book?” Amazon has a variety of ways to try to establish this (and may also have some methods in place to penalize people from trying to manipulate these metrics for better or worse).

WILL YOUR AD BE RELEVANT?

This partly depends on your targeting. If your choice of keywords, specific products, or categories fits your book to a tee, this greatly helps with relevance. If your keywords and categories are broader than your book, this hurts relevance: Some customers who see the ad won’t be interested.

Targeting is just one factor though. Even with the best imaginable targeting, some books won’t score well with relevance due to their covers, descriptions, Look Insides, reviews, etc.

So before you think about the targeting, you should think about your cover and product page.

Many new authors publish a book with KDP, only see an occasional sale, and incorrectly conclude that nobody is finding their book on Amazon.

The reality is that books with below average marketability have at least 100,000 strangers see the book before they make a purchase. So if you’ve sold 10 copies of your book to total strangers and your book has below average marketability, it’s quite possible that over 1,000,000 have seen your book on Amazon. Most authors have sold at least 10 copies to strangers. Maybe 100, maybe even 1000. Many, many more customers have probably seen your book on Amazon than you realize.

Where am I getting these numbers? I have a lot of experience with Amazon ads, and I’ve discussed these ads with many other authors who’ve tried them. The ad report data helps us determine typical CTR’s and closing rates (where the closing rate is the number of purchases compared to the number of clicks) for books of both good and poor marketability.

Let’s start with the internet average CTR of about 1 out of 1000. A book with poor marketability needs 100 people or more (sometimes much more) to visit the product page to make a single purchase. But only 1 out of 1000 people who see the book will visit the product page. Combine the CTR (1 out of 1000) with the closing rate (1 out of 100) to see that 100,000 people need to see the book to make the purchase. Now if you sell 1000 books at these rates, 100 million people saw your book on Amazon.

But remember, these numbers are for books with poor marketability. Such books don’t sell well on their own, and probably won’t sell well with advertising either. Something about the cover, description, or product page is deterring sales. This poor marketability will lead to low relevance no matter how good the targeting is.

The good news is that there are books with strong marketability that earn much better numbers.

A highly marketable book can earn a closing rate of 10% or higher, where 1 out of 10 people who visit the product page purchase the book. This is well above average, but there are books doing this. Many factors go into this, and it’s really difficult to get each factor right. The first thing is having a cover that really attracts your specific target audience very well (most books don’t have this). Secondly, the description and Look Inside must really seal the deal (few books have this, too). Customer feedback (reviews) also factor into marketability. Ultimately, it takes amazing content (highly informative, or highly engaging, or quite compelling in some other way) to generate the best long-term marketability.

If you happen to have a highly marketable book, if you use ideal targeting, you might get 1 out of 1000 people (instead of 1 out of 100,000 people) who see your book to purchase it. This makes a huge difference. If you can improve the marketability of your book (especially the long-term value through amazing content), you can see a huge increase in sales without even advertising. And if your book is highly marketable, advertising is more likely to work well for your book.

A great thing about Amazon Advertising is that you can use your ad data to see how marketable your book is. Divide the number of impressions by the number of clicks to get the 1 out of ____ number associated with your CTR (or divide the number of clicks by the impressions to get a decimal, then multiply by 100% to make a percentage). Similarly, divide the number of clicks by the number of sales (we’ll discuss this later) to get the 1 out ____ number associated with your closing rate (or divide the sales by the clicks to get a decimal, and multiply by 100% to make a percentage).

A CTR significantly higher than 0.1% is above average, meaning that well fewer than 1000 customers who see your ad click on it.

A closing rate of higher than 10% is way above average, meaning that fewer than 10 customers who click on your ad purchase your book.

A more modest closing rate of 3% to 7% is more attainable. Less than 1% is all too common. If your closing rate is below 1%, there is a significant opportunity to improve the marketability of your book. But is it the cover, description, Look Inside, or the content? Good question, but one well worth examining intently.

If your book has a good closing rate (and that’s a huge “if”), then the success of your ad is determined by how well your targeting fits your specific targeting audience.

TARGETING

There are three main ways to go about targeting your ad:

  • keywords
  • specific products
  • interests

At first, specific products is enticing. I bet you can find dozens of popular books that are fairly similar to your book. It’s possible to target those books.

But there’s a catch. You’re not really targeting those books (unless Amazon has recently changed how this works, which is doubtful since it would make sense for them to publicize this detail if they have).

Rather, you’re targeting customers who have ever shopped for books similar to those sometime in their shopping history.

Let’s say you’ve read hundreds of books, but one time a year ago you happened to visit the product page for a science fiction book. Well, if an ad targets science fiction books, you might see an ad for a science fiction book.

You want the ad to target customers who are shopping for those specific books today. It would be great if it worked that way. And sometimes it does because those customers are, in fact, looking for such books. But it also targets customers for whom your ad may not be relevant.

How you should target your book depends on the circumstances.

For most nonfiction books that provide information that customers are likely to search for, I recommend using Sponsored Product ads and manually entering dozens of highly relevant keywords (and putting much thought into researching and brainstorming your keyword list). Ideally, the keyword would be highly relevant for your book.

For fiction books in popular categories that tend to sell much better as eBooks, I would first experiment with Lockscreen ads.

But here’s a secret: You’re not restricted to placing a single ad for a book.

And you don’t know which type of ad will work best.

So you can run a few different ad campaigns, trying different types of ads with different targeting, and let your ad report data help you determine which type of ad seems to work best for you.

But you have to be careful not to bid too high, as you’d hate to spend way more money than you intended in a short amount of time, only to realize later that the ads weren’t very effective. With a modest bid, you can generate valuable data at a relatively low cost, and once you have the data, you can experiment with your ads and hopefully figure out how to get it ‘right.’

GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR AD REPORTS

When I first checked the new ad reports, it was missing information that I wanted to see, and it was including information that I didn’t care about.

So I clicked the option to customize it. Look for a button called Columns. When you click it, one of the two options is Customize Columns. This is the magic button.

When you finally click on Customize Columns (not just Columns) correctly, a window will pop up.

I like to look at Impressions, Clicks, Clickthrough rate (CTR), Spend, Cost-per-click (CPC), Orders, Sales, and Advertising cost of sales (ACOS).

Notice that new column: Orders! Now you can see how many books were ordered instead of trying to divide your sales figure by the cost of your book (which gets complicated when you offer promotional pricing and don’t know when the book sold exactly).

Unfortunately, if your Kindle eBook is enrolled in KDP Select, the ads still don’t have a column for Kindle Unlimited KENP Pages Read. That’s a shame. But it means your ad is probably doing a little better than the sales data suggests. Surely, it’s impacting pages read to some extent.

Next, I clicked on the Date Range button. The Lifetime option is cool if, like me, you’ve been running ads for years. When I looked at my Lifetime Spend total, I almost went into a state of shock, but then I noticed my Lifetime Sales Total, and that was a pleasant surprise.

But the Last 30 Days is much more meaningful. This option shows you how your ads have performed recently, which is most relevant to the question, “What should I do now?”

Then I clicked on a column to sort the data. I don’t like that I have to click twice to sort from highest to lowest, but that’s just the way it is. I like to look at the ACOS column and make sure that no ad has a percentage above my comfort zone. I like to sort by the Spend column to quickly monitor which ads are costing me the most money. But unless you have more than 10 ad campaigns, you probably don’t need to do as much sorting as I do.

A nice change is that there are a few changes that you can make to several ads very quickly. For example, you can manually adjust the budget for several ads at once, instead of having to adjust them individually. If you ever have dozens of ad campaigns, you’ll be thanking Amazon for this feature.

The copy button at the far right comes in handy. It lets you make a new ad campaign just like a previous one, and then just modify what you already have instead of starting over from scratch.

HOW IS YOUR AD DOING?

The first thing you should note is that there may be significant reporting delays.

It would be great if we could get the data almost instantaneously, but it often doesn’t work that way.

Amazon clearly states that ad campaign data may be delayed by 12 hours.

But there have been many times over the past several years where some of the ad data was delayed by a few days, and occasionally even a week or two.

It pays to be patient. Even if you terminate an ad, it may continue to generate data (including costs) for a few days afterward.

And if you impatiently raise your bid, you may come to regret it. I suggest not raising your bid more than once per day, and not to raise it more than a dime at a time.

Once you have 1000’s of impressions, 100’s of clicks, and dozens of sales, you have some meaningful data.

Is your CTR significantly higher than 0.1%? If yes, that’s a good sign. If no, try improving your targeting.

(Divide your CTR by 100% to convert it to a decimal. Now divide 1 by that decimal. If this number is significantly lower than 1000, that’s good. For example, 0.2% becomes 0.002, which becomes 1 out of 500. This is good because 500 is less than 1000.)

Divide your Clicks by your Orders. If this number is less than 10, that’s amazing. Many of my best-performing ads are in this range. If this number is around 20, that’s pretty good and better than the average book (but it may not be better than the average advertised book). If this number is around 100 or higher, that’s not so good. Either you made mistakes with your targeting, or you should reexamine your cover, description, Look Inside, and content. There is room for improvement somewhere. Ideally, you want about 1 out of 10 customers who visit your product page to buy your book; you don’t want it to take 1 out of 100 customers on average.

The average cost of sale (ACOS) figure is very important. Compare your ACOS to your royalty percentage. Figure out what your royalty is when you sell a single book. Divide that by the list price for your book. Multiply by 100% to make a percentage. (Example: Your eBook list price is $2.99 and your royalty is $2.00. Divide $2 by $2.99, then multiply by 100% to get 67%. Example 2: Your paperback list price is $9.99 and your royalty is $3.00. Divide $3 by $9.99, then multiply by 100% to get 30%.) If your royalty percentage is higher than your ACOS, your ad is earning a short-term profit. This is good. You should keep your ad running as long as this persists. If your math is right, you’ll be earning more royalties from your ad than you’re spending on your ad campaign (but watch your numbers closely just to be sure, and continue to monitor the progress of your ad).

If your ACOS is comparable to your royalty percentage, your ad is roughly breaking even. I would continue running the ad in this case. Why? Because there are other benefits to advertising, such as branding, future sales by the same customer, selling other books now to the same customer, sales rank boost, and potential word-of-mouth sales (for a book with amazing content, this can be a huge long-term asset).

If your ACOS is much higher than your royalty percentage, your ad is losing money short-term. There are possible long-term benefits (see the previous paragraph for examples). If your overall royalty income (from all of your books on all platforms) exceeds your overall expenses (royalties and other publishing and marketing expenses), you can afford to run your ad since you’re playing with the house’s money (so to speak). Is the short-term advertising loss worth the possible long-term gains? Tough question. If the advertising expense is small compared to your overall royalty income (perhaps because you have several other books), it’s easier to take this loss.

But if you’re losing money overall, you need to have a compelling reason to keep running your ad. Maybe you have other short-term goals and are willing to lose money short-term for those other goals.

You can pause or terminate your ad at any time (even if you haven’t spent $100 yet; there is no minimum to stop advertising).

Maybe the solution is to try a new ad, changing your ad type or your targeting. Sometimes, it takes experimentation to get your ad just ‘right.’ But it also depends on how marketable your book and product page are, as I discussed earlier.

Or maybe the solution is to lower your bid. Yes, if you lower your bid, your ad probably won’t make as many impressions, but if you lower your bid enough, you might be able to afford the ACOS. Remember, the bid isn’t the only factor in landing impressions. If Amazon determines that your ad is performing very well in terms of relevance, you can earn significant impressions with a lower bid.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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

Moving from CreateSpace to KDP: Sales, Royalties…

Image from ShutterStock.

FROM CREATESPACE TO KINDLE DIRECT PUBLISHING

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

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

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

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

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

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

DO YOU HAVE TO TRANSFER YOUR TITLES?

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

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

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

IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT ROYALTIES

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

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

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

Why is there a delay?

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

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

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

WHAT TO EXPECT AFTER YOU TRANSFER YOUR CREATESPACE TITLES TO KDP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ANOTHER IMPORANT NOTE ABOUT ROYALTIES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A FEW COOL THINGS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE GRASS THAT ISN’T GREENER

Not everything is necessarily better.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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

CreateSpace and KDP Are Merging

CREATESPACE MERGES WITH KDP

It’s a logical business decision.

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

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

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

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

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

This is finally happening in 2018.

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

THIS IS GOOD FOR AUTHORS

It benefits authors for CreateSpace to merge with KDP.

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

NOTHING TO FEAR

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

You probably aren’t losing anything.

You’re probably gaining a few little things.

Overall, this is better.

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

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

You really aren’t losing anything:

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

THE QUALITY WILL BE THE SAME

According to Amazon:

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

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

I haven’t observed any difference in quality.

ROYALTIES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO DO?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GOOD NEWS ABOUT INDIE PUBLISHING

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

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

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

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

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

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

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

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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

How to Add Expanded Distribution to KDP Print Books

EXPANDED DISTRIBUTION

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

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

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

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

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

KDP lets you advertise paperback books through AMS.

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

IMPORTANT NOTE

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

Go to the pricing page.

Check the box to enroll in the Expanded Distribution channel.

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

Unfortunately, you have to “republish” your book.

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

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

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

Write Happy, Be Happy.

Chris McMullen

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

KDP Print vs. CreateSpace (Comparing the Little Details)

 

KDP PRINT VS. CREATESPACE PAPERBACKS

I have published dozens of paperbacks with CreateSpace over the years, and have recently published some books (under pen names) with KDP’s new print-on-demand option.

While in many respects the two services are comparable (and both are Amazon companies), there are quite a few little differences.

DIGITAL PREVIEWS AND PRINTED PROOFS

There are several differences relating to printed proofs:

  • With KDP print, you don’t have to go through the manual file review process before you can order a printed proof. If you know what you’re doing, this saves 12 to 24 hours, but if you have a big mistake in your PDF files, CreateSpace’s manual file review would help to flag the issue before you waste time and money on a printed proof. However, both offer digital proofing tools to help catch mistakes before you order a printed proof.
  • KDP’s version of an interior reviewer is comparable to CreateSpace, but it appears to be friendlier for more web browsers. Also, whereas CreateSpace first offers an interior reviewer before file review and then a digital proofer after the file review, KDP print consolidates this into a single digital preview tool (accessible prior to file review).
  • A cool thing about previewing at KDP is that you can preview how your cover looks (back, spine, and front) before going through the file review process. With CreateSpace, you must first go through file review (12 to 24 hours, usually) before seeing the option for the digital proofer.
  • For authors residing in Europe, the most notable difference is that you can have a printed proof shipped from the UK, Germany, France, Spain, or Italy instead of the US if you use KDP print, whereas CreateSpace sends all author proofs from the United States.
  • The KDP printed proof has a not-for-resale watermark on the cover, whereas the CreateSpace proof simply indicates that it is a proof copy on the last page inside the book.
  • A funny thing about KDP is that you must first request the option to purchase a printed proof, then wait for an email to come that will take you to Amazon to order your proof. (Unfortunately, you can’t use Prime to get free shipping.) With CreateSpace, you just click to purchase a proof, without having to wait around for an email to come.
  • KDP print is much more finicky about the spine text, ensuring that it’s at least 0.0625″ from the spine edges. CreateSpace occasionally lets this slide if you’re close, and if you violate this, CreateSpace will often adjust your cover for you. KDP print will almost always make you revise your cover on your own until it meets this requirement to the letter. If you have a book just over 100 pages, you’ll have to really shrink your spine text down to meet this requirement. For a book under 100 pages, it’s a non-issue as spine text isn’t allowed, and for a book with a much larger page count, you should have plenty of space for your spine text. It’s just for books with 100 to 150 pages where this can be tricky.

CATEGORIES AND KEYWORDS

KDP print has an advantage in terms of categories and keywords:

  • KDP print lets you enter keywords in up to 7 different fields, without imposing a strict limit on the character count (though I would avoid going over 50 characters, including spaces). CreateSpace only lets you enter 5 keywords (or phrases), and each one is restricted to 25 characters (including spaces).
  • KDP print lets you choose two Amazon browse categories, from the same category list that you see when you publish a Kindle eBook. If you publish both paperback and Kindle editions at KDP, this makes it easy to choose the same categories for both editions of your book. CreateSpace only lets you choose a single BISAC category, and the list doesn’t correspond as well with the actual categories that you see at Amazon (though even KDP’s categories don’t match that perfectly). If you contact CreateSpace, you can request to add your book to a second category, but that’s inconvenient, takes time, and may be completely undone if you republish your book (requiring another request later).

DISTRIBUTION

CreateSpace offers better expanded distribution, but very few self-published books see a significant benefit from this.

  • The main advantage is that CreateSpace automatically distributes to Amazon Canada and pays the same royalty for Canadian sales as for US sales. That’s great if your book happens to sell many copies in Canada, but for many books that sell mainly at Amazon.com (the US site), this is a minor detail.
  • CreateSpace’s expanded distribution includes online bookstores, including Barnes & Noble (online, not physical stores), the Book Depository, and many other websites. Again, this sounds great, as authors are hoping to sell books worldwide, but the reality is that most self-published books sell primarily through Amazon.
  • It’s very unlikely for your self-published book to get stocked by any national bookstore chain simply from the expanded distribution option. You can pretty much count on it NOT happening. Your best bet is to sell a few author copies to local stores that you approach in person with a well-researched press release kit, but expanded distribution really doesn’t affect this.
  • KDP print includes distribution to Amazon Japan (you get to set a royalty specifically for Japan, in addition to European countries), but otherwise CreateSpace offers much wider distribution through expanded distribution channels.

KDP print may improve their expanded distribution options in the future. (But will they add online bookstore distribution? Amazon really doesn’t want you selling your title on BN.com or Book Depository, right?) It would be nice to see them add Amazon Canada, Australia, Brazil, Mexico, and India. They have these options available for Kindle, and they already have Japan available for paperbacks, so we can hope…

ADVERTISING

This is interesting.

According to the KDP help pages, the option to use AMS to advertise KDP books is limited to ebooks. I also contacted KDP support to inquire about this option and was told the same thing.

BUT… If you proceed to run a Sponsored Product ad, you can find your KDP paperback books at the end of the list, and it will let you set up and submit an AMS ad for your paperback book. (However, a product display ad specifically states that it is only for ebooks right where you see this option from AMS.)

Most authors sell more Kindle ebooks than paperbacks, in which case it would make more sense to advertise the Kindle edition. In that case, it doesn’t matter whether you use KDP or CreateSpace for the paperback edition.

However, for the author who sells more paperbacks than ebooks (or for a book that wouldn’t be a good fit for Kindle, like an adult coloring book or a puzzle book), if you would like to advertise your book with AMS, you must use KDP’s print option (not CreateSpace). An alternative is to use Amazon Advantage (but then you would lose the major benefit of print-on-demand).

MAKING CHANGES

Ideally, you would perfect your book before you publish and never make any changes. But in practice, there can be a number of reasons to make changes:

  • Adjust your price.
  • Revise your description.
  • Change keywords or categories.
  • Update your cover.
  • Correct typos.
  • Keep the material current in a dynamic marketplace.

With CreateSpace, any changes to your interior file or cover file require going through the file review process, which basically unpublishes your book for 12 to 24 hours (at least: if you run into problems with that and have to go through the process multiple times, your book could be unavailable for sale for days).

At KDP, it works much like it does when you republish a Kindle ebook: You go through file review when you click the yellow Publish Your Paperback Book button. If you pass the file review, the new files simply override the old ones.

What I like about CreateSpace is that you can revise your list price, description, categories, and keywords without republishing your book, whereas any changes at KDP require republishing. (However, the best place to revise your description is through Author Central, but be sure to copy/paste the updated HTML version of your Author Central description into KDP. That way, if you ever republish your KDP book, the description won’t revert back to the original KDP description.)

LOOK INSIDE

In my experience, the Look Inside usually becomes available almost instantly with KDP print, whereas this often takes days at CreateSpace. It can vary considerably at CreateSpace: I’ve rarely seen it same day (or nearly so), and have occasionally seen it take well over a week.

If you’re launching your book with a strong marketing push, that Look Inside can be a valuable sales tool. I want it to be available as soon as possible. KDP print has the advantage here.

LINKING PRINT AND KINDLE EDITIONS

If you set it up properly from your KDP bookshelf, you will already have your paperback and ebook editions linked together on your bookshelf so that KDP “knows” that the two editions go together. Linking should be quick and easy at KDP.

If you publish the paperback with CreateSpace and the ebook with KDP, you must wait up to 72 hours for the two editions to automatically link together. Supposedly, if the title, subtitle, and author fields match exactly in spelling and punctuation, they will link automatically, but it does take time. Recently, I’ve had a problem with the editions not linking at all, and having to contact KDP support after 72 hours to request the link (perhaps my problem has occurred when I use my own imprint name and ISBN with CreateSpace).

PUBLISHER NAME

If you take the free ISBN option, then:

  • CreateSpace paperbacks will show “CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform” under the publisher name at Amazon.
  • KDP print paperbacks will show “Independently Published” under the publisher name at Amazon.

Maybe many customers won’t notice the name in the publishing field, but CreateSpace has a little advantage here. There are millions of self-published authors. If you count their family members, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances, you will find several million customers who support self-published books. How do you find a self-published book to read? One way is to include the word “CreateSpace” (without the quotes) along with other keywords in a search at Amazon. There are customers who do this (I’ve discovered a number of books myself with this very method, even when I’m really shopping for a Kindle ebook, since I can find the Kindle edition from the paperback product page).

KDP print’s “Independently Published” sounds much more vague.

On the other hand, if you get your own ISBN, you can use your own imprint name, and then it makes no difference whether you use CreateSpace or KDP print. Either way, it will list your imprint name at Amazon. US authors can purchase ISBN’s from Bowker (at MyIdentifiers) for example. The cost is reasonable if you buy in bulk, but expensive if you just need one ISBN. (Don’t waste any ISBN’s on ebooks. Amazon gives you a free ASIN, and if you publish ebook editions elsewhere, an aggregator like Smashwords will offer a free ISBN for ebook stores that require one. Also, don’t use free ISBN’s anywhere other than where they are intended to be used.)

QUALITY AND PRICE

These are identical.

If you have a small sample size, you may experience statistical anomalies, making one service seeming much better or worse than the other. I’ve ordered thousands of author copies from CreateSpace over the years (often over a thousand copies per year), so I’m very experienced with what to expect in terms of quality and typical variations at CreateSpace. I haven’t ordered nearly as many copies from KDP print, but so far the quality is comparable.

List prices and royalties are the same (except that CreateSpace distributes to Canada and pays US royalties for Canadian sales).

CONVENIENCE

KDP wins in terms of convenience.

After you publish one edition (paperback or Kindle), when you add the second edition to the same title on your bookshelf (instead of adding a brand new book), it automatically populates the title, author name, description, keywords, and categories.

You also see the royalties for both editions on your KDP reporting pages, instead of monitoring paperback and ebook royalties from two different websites (with two different accounts).

Copyright 2018


CHRIS MCMULLEN

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

The New KDP Community Forum

KDP COMMUNITY FORUM UPDATE

Amazon recently updated the community help forum at Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).

https://www.kdpcommunity.com/s/?language=en

It seems like it has gone unchanged forever, until now. I can remember visiting it 9 years ago.

What has changed?

  • The look is different. The layout and design changed significantly.
  • The forum topics have been consolidated into a single column. These used to be divided into separate groups.
  • The recent announcements are easy to find and (for now) they are updated. Presently, I see announcements regarding the latest version of the Kindle Previewer (which now has a helpful Auto-Advance View and a Thumbnail Pane), the KDP Select Global Fund for the past two months, and an announcement about taxes.
  • The search option has changed. After doing a search, there used to be an advanced option. Also, the search used to default to the current year only (which severely limited the number of useful search results early in the year). I miss the advanced search options, but also remember that the old search tool suffered some problems. I haven’t used the new search tool enough yet to determine if it is more effective. But I do have a tip: After doing the search, click Discussions or click View More in order to see more than just a handful of search results.

The new KDP community forum is just one of numerous changes that Amazon has rolled out recently.

  • The KDP help pages have been gradually changing. For example, Amazon finally got rid of the 127 KB information regarding GIF images (they are no longer automatically converted to JPEG simply due to this number), and several new help pages have been added (little by little) regarding the new KDP paperback option. The KDP help pages continue to improve.
  • As I mentioned earlier, Amazon recently introduced a new version of the downloadable Kindle Previewer, making it a much more convenient way to thoroughly preview a Kindle eBook.
  • On a related note, the Kindle reading apps (for PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Android, etc.) have also been updated (and consolidated into fewer options—for example, there is now one app for iOS).
  • You can now add X-Ray to your Kindle eBook: I have a detailed how-to article about X-Ray right here.

I love these improvements. However, I’m on the verge of publishing a book called Kindle Formatting Magic. I expected to publish my book today, but as I ran it through the previewer one more time to check that all of the hyperlinks work properly, I discovered the new KDP community help forum, which meant that I had to revise all of my tips regarding how to use the KDP community search tool effectively (and I had to revise both the paperback and Kindle versions).

It’s like deja-vu. When I was testing my book on various Kindle reading apps, I discovered that they have been updated, which meant more revisions to my book. For weeks, I’ve been discovering new features (like X-Ray) and have been revising my book repeatedly so that it would be fully up-to-date when I publish it.

But it’s a good thing. Had I published a couple of months ago, I’d be revising and republishing. Now it looks like the timing might turn out well: Hopefully, most of the changes to Amazon will have already been completed just as I’m about to publish, so perhaps my book will be not only be fully updated when I press the publish button, but maybe it will stay that way for a while without constant revisions on my part.

Maybe tomorrow Kindle Formatting Magic will hit the market. Soon, definitely, very soon.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Copyright © 2018

Chris McMullen

Update to Amazon’s Downloadable Kindle Previewer 3

KINDLE PREVIEWER 3 RECENTLY UPDATED

Amazon KDP’s most recent update to the downloadable Kindle Previewer 3 (version 3.20) includes some nice improvements.

  • Auto-Advance View with adjustable speed allows click-free previewing.
  • Thumbnail Pane with adjustable size shows you several pages at once.

If you haven’t used the downloadable Kindle Previewer recently, a few other features are worth noting.

In particular, just above the Thumbnail Pane, if your Kindle eBook supports Enhanced Typesetting, you can adjust View All to one of the following:

  • Pages
  • Images
  • Links
  • Tables
  • Drop Caps

The View All option provides a convenient way to quickly check all of your hyperlinks, inspect all of your images, or find your drop caps.

Some other helpful features have been around for a long time now.

  • Change the background from white to black, sepia, or green (though green isn’t available for iOS). What is relatively new is the green background.
  • Try out different fonts that customers can select, such as Bookerly or Caecilia, along with different font sizes. The new type faces were introduced with Kindle’s new Enhanced Typesetting feature (which has been out for a while now).
  • Switch between portrait and landscape mode (this has always been available).
  • Though one thing that may seem backwards at first is that the device type is limited to tablet, phone, and Kindle ereader. Even the online previewer has limited the device types. If you own a few devices (or can borrow them), nothing beats testing your MOBI or AZK file out on an actual device. For those devices that you don’t have, the tablet, phone, and ereader options are designed to mimic the general experience. (If you upload your converted MOBI file to a Kindle Fire, look for your book under Documents instead of Books.)
  • To preview on IOS, as in the past you need to download the AZK file. Click File > Export and adjust Save as Type from MOBI to AZK. You will need to use iTunes on the iOS device.

The two newest features, Auto-Advance View and the Thumbnail Pane have me especially excited.

In the picture above, you can see a preview of my newest book, Kindle Formatting Magic, which will be published in just a few days. Since the print version has 500 pages, I was very grateful for the Auto-Advance View. It is saving me from a tremendous amount of manual clicking. (I still do some manual clicking, of course, but this is a huge time-saver for me.) It’s also nice to see several pages at once in the Thumbnail Pane.

The prior versions of the Kindle Previewer wasted most of the space on my monitor. The Thumbnail Pane finally utilizes my screen space much more effectively.

I also appreciate the options to quickly find all of my hyperlinks, images, and drop caps using the View All option. I go from one hyperlink to the next, click on it, and check if it works. That is really handy.

My preview isn’t complete until I test my book out on several devices, but I always spend the most amount of time with the downloadable Kindle Previewer (considered to be more reliable than the convenient online previewer), so these updates are wonderful for me. Thank you, Amazon.

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.

Kindle Unlimited per-page rate for January, 2018

Background image from ShutterStock.

KINDLE UNLIMITED PER-PAGE RATE FOR JANUARY, 2018

In January, 2018 the Kindle Unlimited per-page rate was $0.00448.

It has dropped down a bit, after a steady climb for several months, which culminated in a brief appearance above half a penny per page ($0.00506) in December, 2017.

It isn’t unusual for the per-page rate to drop from December to January:

  • December, 2016 paid $0.00524, dropping to $0.00457 for January, 2017.
  • December, 2015 paid $0.00461, dropping to $0.00411 for January, 2016.
  • Prior to that, KDP Select didn’t use the per-page model, yet it was still common for January’s royalties to drop compared to December.

So you shouldn’t PANIC. This is normal.

Why does January typically pay less than December? Amazon sells a ton of Kindle devices for the holidays, and many customers try their free month of Kindle Unlimited. More customers are probably reading a high volume of pages at this time, too. Whatever the reason, the per-page rate is still looking good compared to six months ago, when it had dwindled down close to $0.004 per page. Amazon introduced KENPC 3.0 and the per-page rate recovered nicely. It’s still up 12% over that low point.

On a related note, the KDP Select Global Fund hit a record high, $20.9 million, the first time it has ever climbed over $20 million, and up a clear million from December.

So even though the per-page rate is down, Amazon still paid a million more dollars in royalties for Kindle Unlimited (and Amazon Prime) borrows of KDP Select books (and that’s on top of what they paid for sales, and also on top of the All-Star bonuses which are awarded separately).

Two years ago, January, 2016, the per-page rate had dropped down to what was at the time a record low (and it has since only returned to that point once). In comparison, January, 2018 is looking pretty good. While it has taken a typical drop from December, bear in mind that December was at a relative high, a rare appearance above $0.005. It’s more that December was unusually high than January is atypically low.

Write more books, write engaging content, learn effective long-term marketing strategies, and little fluctuations in per-page rates will hardly seem to matter.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Copyright © 2018

 

Chris McMullen

Recent Changes to CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing Paperbacks

CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing

Recent Updates to Paperback Features

Amazon has recently added new features to KDP’s paperback self-publishing option:

  • You can now order printed proofs from KDP. This is a vital step toward ensuring that your book is ready to publish.
  • You can similarly order author copies from KDP. This makes it viable to stock your book in local stores and libraries, and creates marketing opportunities like advance review copies, paperback preorders (through Amazon Advantage), press release packages, paperback giveaways, and book signings.
  • UK and Europe authors should be particularly excited, as KDP introduced a new feature that you can’t get at CreateSpace: author copies and proofs printed and shipped from Europe.

The first two changes simply bring KDP up to speed to make it a viable alternative to CreateSpace and Ingram Spark.

But the last change offers authors in the United Kingdom and continental Europe something that they can’t get from CreateSpace.

Meanwhile, CreateSpace has also experienced some changes:

  • CreateSpace will be eliminating paid services in a few months. I don’t see this as an issue really, as I’ll explain below.
  • Links to the CreateSpace eStore now redirect traffic to Amazon.com. Most authors are completely unaffected by this, as most authors get almost all of their paperback sales from Amazon.com anyway. The rare author who was capable of not only generating traffic to their eStore but who could also get many of those customers to overcome the CreateSpace shopping hurdles (like having to create a new account and pay for shipping) will need an alternative, such as BookBaby’s BookShop, Lulu’s storefront, or their own website with payment features.
  • Books automatically receive distribution to Amazon.ca (Canada) within 30 days if the Amazon.com sales channel is enabled. This isn’t that new (although it’s not as well-known as it could be), but I mention it because it’s a distinct advantage that CreateSpace currently retains over Kindle Direct Publishing.

Regarding CreateSpace’s paid services, in many ways it was always better to find a third party. Some third parties offer a portable file or a finished product that lets you edit your own file in the future, whereas CreateSpace’s services required paying for corrections in the future. Some third parties are also more flexible, offer economic (or even free) samples of their work, and offer better communication with the actual editor or designer. If you do thorough homework on finding a third party, it may turn out better than what CreateSpace offered. The main advantage CreateSpace had for their paid services (like copyediting or cover design) was the backing of Amazon’s name and their satisfaction guarantee. If you’re looking for paid services from a print-on-demand publisher, one option is BookBaby.

Does this mean that KDP is the better POD option now?

It depends on your needs.

Here are advantages that Kindle Direct Publishing currently has over CreateSpace:

  • Convenience: You can use a single account, you get consolidated reporting for both paperbacks and Kindle eBooks, and the setup of both print and Kindle editions occurs on the same site.
  • UK and Europe: You can order printed proofs and author copies and have them printed and shipped from within Europe. This feature isn’t available at CreateSpace, though hundreds of authors have asked for it.
  • Japan: You gain distribution to Amazon.co.jp (Japan).

Here are advantages that CreateSpace retains over KDP:

  • Distribution to other countries: CreateSpace offers better Expanded Distribution. For one, CreateSpace offers distribution to Canada (and those sales are reported and paid as Amazon.com sales, not at the lower Expanded Distribution royalties, which is a nice bonus) and to Mexico.
  • Distribution to bookstores: CreateSpace offers expanded distribution to bookstores and non-Amazon websites. KDP doesn’t provide this option yet.

So which is better for you?

  • Most self-published authors sell almost all of their paperback copies on Amazon.com. In that case, KDP is now the better option.
  • If you ordinarily get significant sales through the Expanded Distribution channel, I would hold off on migrating your titles to KDP.
  • If you’re new to the self-publishing industry, I now recommend KDP over CreateSpace unless you have solid, thoroughly researched plans to use CreateSpace’s Expanded Distribution effectively to get your book stocked in local stores or libraries (though selling author copies rather than using the Expanded Distribution channel is in some cases the better way to achieve this—in that case, KDP works just fine, and gives you an advantage if you reside in the UK or continental Europe).
  • If you reside in the United Kingdom or continental Europe, KDP has the advantage of printing and shipping proofs and author copies from within Europe.

Another consideration is the future:

  • KDP has been adding features to their POD service, while CreateSpace recently removed the eStore option and will soon eliminate paid services.
  • It looks increasingly like KDP will eventually become CreateSpace’s equal sister company. (Perhaps the two companies will be consolidated, or perhaps all CreateSpace titles will migrate to KDP. I’m not worried about that, as I expect KDP to accommodate the transition well. They’ve gotten some experience with authors who have already made the transition.)

Kindle Direct Publishing is now one of the three major print-on-demand services, two of which are Amazon companies:

Ingram Spark is the main alternative to using an Amazon company. CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing provide the natural feed to Amazon.com, and most indie authors sell their paperbacks primarily on Amazon.com. For the rare author who has thoroughly researched effective ways to take advantage of bookstore and library distribution possibilities, Ingram Spark may offer better worldwide distribution, and for the author who has a significant following outside of the United States, Ingram Spark may have an advantage. CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing offer a more natural feed to Amazon.com, and they also make self-publishing more affordable (Ingram Spark has higher setup fees).

Two alternatives to the Big Three include BookBaby and Lulu. If you’re looking for paid services or if you’re one of the rare authors who could make effective use of an eStore, these options may be worth considering. For example, check out BookBaby’s editing options and BookBaby’s BookShop.

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)

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