A New Form of Book Piracy

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BEWARE OF BOOK PIRATES

Earlier this year, after publishing a new book, I visited Amazon to check it out. When I finished inspecting the Amazon detail page for my new book, I clicked the link by my author photo to visit my Author Central page. And, boy, was I surprised by what I found.

(A little background: Author Central now shows only my Kindle eBooks by default. Customers have to click the Paperback tab to find my paperback books.)

I noticed one of my better selling books near the top of the list. What stood out is that book is only available in paperback. (For good reason. With thousands of math problems, this particular workbook would not be ideal for Kindle.) Yet, there it was on the list of my Kindle eBooks.

At first thought, I had hoped that Amazon was finally starting to show all of my books by default (like they had once upon a time), instead of just the Kindle eBooks. Some of my books are only available in paperback, and so customers can’t find them on my Author page unless it occurs to them to click the Paperback tab.

But I soon realized that it was indeed a Kindle eBook. What a surprise! This book is only available in paperback. How was a Kindle edition of this book on my author page?

I visited KDP just to see with my own eyes that this book wasn’t showing on my Bookshelf in eBook format. Indeed, it was only available as a paperback.

When I explored this mysterious Kindle eBook, it was obvious to me that it wasn’t mine. Yet it had the same title, the same cover, and even my own name listed as the author. Only it wasn’t a book that I had published (or authorized). When I opened the Look Inside, it looked like someone had used OCR to convert my paperback to a Kindle eBook (which is NOT a good way to convert a book to Kindle format, by the way). When I reached the exercises, I immediately saw a problem. The paperback has the exercises arranged in three columns. In this mysterious Kindle edition, the three equations from the three columns merged together, so that a customer wouldn’t be able to tell when one equation stopped and another started. It was a formatting nightmare, rendering the math unreadable. So not only was there a pirated version of my book available for sale, but any customers who purchased the eBook would likely be quite displeased. Yet the book had a sales rank of about 100,000, so people had evidently been buying the book. What is even more incredible is that the list price was exactly the same as the price of the paperback. The publication date showed that the eBook had already been available for a few weeks before I discovered it.

Fortunately, Amazon has a special form for people or businesses to report copyright or trademark infringement. If you published through KDP, visit KDP’s Contact Us page, and when you select the appropriate menu item, it will automatically take you to Amazon’s copyright infringement form.

I’m not a big fan of the form itself. You have to state your problem clearly in 1000 characters or less. I struggled with this because it was my own name on the pirated book, and I wanted to make it very clear that someone else was using my name and content without my permission (to try to avoid confusion). Plus, the form has lawyer-ish language that seems nonspecific to books. One question wants to know if it is a physical item, and, well, it was an eBook. Is that a physical item? There wasn’t an option for a Kindle eBook. Other questions like this ran through my mind.

Unfortunately, it can take an agonizing couple of days to receive a response. I submitted my request on a Saturday, and Monday was a holiday, so this evidently added to my waiting period. Remember those snow and ice storms that some states had earlier this year? Guess what. This book piracy happened to occur at about the same time, so that while I was constantly checking my email for a response and Amazon to see if the pirated book would ever get taken down, at home I was experiencing frequent rolling power outages. It was a nightmare in a nightmare. (Pinching didn’t help.)

After this waiting period, I received a response and the pirated eBook was taken down. (Thank you, Amazon.)

I can’t imagine what the “pirate” was thinking. Somebody invested some time to get the book, OCR the book, and make the Kindle edition (as little effort as that might have been, and as poorly formatted as the result was). What did they expect to gain from this? Amazon doesn’t pay authors for a couple of months after the purchase specifically so that in the case of infringement or other violations of the TOS, the infringing author won’t ever receive one penny. Did the person expect not to get caught? The book used my cover, my name, even got linked to my actual paperback. Kind of hard not to notice. I’m guessing the “pirate” must have done this to several books, not just mine. The copyright team hopefully checked out any other books that person had published when they blocked the book that I reported.

The lesson is to make sure that nobody else is selling your book on any major retailers, such as Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Smashwords, etc.

A more common mosquito-like book piracy problem is to find websites that claim to be selling or giving away unauthorized copies of your book. Often, these websites don’t actually have the book. With all of the viruses, malware, and phishing that plagues the internet these days, my advice is to avoid visiting untrusted websites, avoid clicking links, and avoid downloading files. Hopefully, most customers will be wise enough not to try to obtain books from unknown sites. People shop for books at places they trust, like Amazon. If you find your book being sold or given away, you can issue a takedown notice. Unfortunately, this can become a regular occurrence, taking up a great deal of time and energy.

If you’re an author, I hope you never have your book pirated. I hope you sell enough books that other people “wish” that they had written your book, but I hope they don’t try to actually sell unauthorized copies of your book.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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

Expanded Distribution Has Expanded

EXPANDED DISTRIBUTION

Amazon KDP now offers two Expanded Distribution channels. In addition to the usual Expanded Distribution channel for the US, they have added an Expanded Distribution channel for the UK.

Authors and publishers using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing for paperbacks may now add the Expanded Distribution channel for the UK. Each title must be individually enrolled. To sign up for Expanded Distribution in the UK, find a book on your Bookshelf, and go to Page 3 of the publishing process for the paperback edition (the pricing page). You may need to click an option to show prices in other countries. If your list price is too low, your book won’t be eligible for Expanded Distribution in the UK (unless you’re willing to raise your UK list price). Check the Expanded Distribution royalty amount that is displayed and make sure that you’re comfortable with that royalty. The process isn’t complete until you click the button at the bottom to submit the book for publishing (or for “republishing”). The changes won’t take effect until the book is republished.

Every little bit helps. 🙂

If you had edited your book description through Author Central, beware that the description in your KDP description field (Page 1 of the publishing process) will now overwrite the Author Central description. If this may be an issue for you, copy/paste the HTML version of your Author Central page into the KDP description field before you submit the book for publishing. (If you receive an error message, it might be that the syntax for KDP’s description HTML is different than Author Central’s regarding br for manual line breaks.)

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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

Kindle Unlimited, October, 2019

The Kindle Unlimited Per-Page Rate for October, 2019

$0.0047 is the Kindle Unlimited (KENP) per-page rate for October, 2019.

It’s nearly identical to the rate for September, 2019. (You need more decimal places to see a difference.)

September and October were about 7% better than July and August.

The KDP Select Global Fund reached a new high of $26 million.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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

AMS Advertising: Now in the UK and Germany

Background image from ShutterStock.

AMS ADVERTISING VIA KDP NOW AVAILABLE IN THE UK AND GERMANY

Amazon KDP has its expanded its AMS advertising option to books that are available at Amazon’s UK (United Kingdom) and DE (Germany) stores.

On the one hand, if you are among the first to test this out, you might get ahead of the competition. On the other hand, if a big swarm of authors shows up all at once to test this out, some people may vastly overbid and hog all of the clicks (at an expensive cost) just to test out how it works. So if you’re not getting much activity for several days, my suggestion is to be patient, don’t raise your bid insanely, wait for people to spend more money than they can afford and for the bids to drop down to reasonable values (and then maybe even start a new ad later, which is sometimes better than continuing an unproductive ad).

Note that UK bids are in GBD, not US dollars. You might want to Google a currency calculation to see how much you’re really bidding if you’re used to US currency.

If you already have an AMS account setup for the US, you have to be careful about how to test this out.

Note that existing or even new ads placed in the US will NOT display in the UK or DE. You have to setup new ads using the AMS site specifically for the UK or DE.

Don’t go to Reports. (Because if you reach the UK or DE site that way, it might seem like you have to setup an account from scratch. So try my suggestion first.)

Don’t go to AMS for the US.

Go to your KDP Bookshelf.

Find a book that is live in Amazon UK (or DE).

Hover your cursor over the gray ellipsis (…) button to the right of the title on your KDP Bookshelf.

Click the Promote and Advertise option.

Now select your marketplace.

If you already have an Amazon Author Page setup in the UK, you probably already have an Amazon account setup for the UK. However…

You might need to update a credit card or add billing info for it (even if it is currently working for your US advertising with no problem).

The reason is that Amazon AMS has different sites for advertising in the US, UK, and DE stores. So you might need to do a little work to get your billing info setup.

If you advertise in both the US and the UK, for example, you’ll need to monitor your reports separately at the US and UK sites for Amazon AMS.

For authors who live in the UK or DE, or whose work is highly relevant for these countries, you are probably eager to test this out.

Otherwise, first ask yourself if you have any books that may be a good fit for this audience. If they expect one thing, but get something else entirely because your book is a much better fit for the United States, the ad probably won’t work out.

If you have regular sales in the UK and also some good reviews in the UK, then you have some reason to believe that your book may be a decent fit for the UK audience.

Search for AMS on the search bar on my blog. I have several articles on advertising with AMS (including one specifically about changes in 2019).

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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

Kindle Unlimited: What was the KENP rate for July, 2019?

KINDLE UNLIMITED PAGES READ FOR JULY, 2019

The KENP rate for pages read in Kindle Unlimited in July, 2019 was $0.00439.

It’s a small drop (roughly 5%) compared to June’s rate of $0.00464.

However, Amazon actually paid out more royalties overall in July than in June.

That’s because the KDP Select Global Fund rose from $24.9 million to a record $25.6 million.

Perhaps Amazon Prime Day had a small impact. If, for example, Amazon sold many Kindle ereaders, there may be new customers using their free month of Kindle Unlimited.

Whatever the reason, the per-page rate does tend to vary a bit, although it has been relatively stable for much of 2019.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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

Kindle Unlimited Pages Read Rate for May, 2019

MAY, 2019 KINDLE UNLIMITED PER PAGE RATE

For May, 2019, the KENP per-page rate for pages read through Kindle Unlimited was $0.00466.

This is nearly identical to what it was in April, and is a small improvement over March.

In May, the KDP Select Global fund climbed up to $24.6 million.

The Global fund was $24.1 in April and $24.0 million in March.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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

More Changes to AMS Advertising—Up and Down Bidding

 

AMS ADVERTISING BIDDING DYNAMICS

The amount of your bid may now change.

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

There are now three campaign bidding strategies:

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

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

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

WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR OLD AD CAMPAIGN?

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

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

MAKING SENSE OF THESE CHANGES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DON’T GO OVERBOARD

Amazon makes it easy for authors to bid too high.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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

KDP Help Pages Continually Improving

 

THE KDP HELP PAGES

Every few months for the past 11 years I’ve spent time browsing through the KDP help pages.

They have evolved considerably over the years.

When CreateSpace first merged with KDP, there was very little information on the KDP help pages regarding paperback formatting and submission requirements.

Now the paperback submission guidelines for Kindle Direct Publishing are far more complete.

Visit KDP. Log in. Look for the Help link at the top of the page.

kdp.amazon.com

There is ample information organized in the Help topics that appear in the left column.

For example, for paperback formatting:

  • Look under Prepare, Publish, Promote
  • Click Prepare Your Book
  • Select Format Your Manuscript
  • Below the first list, look for Paperback Submission Overview.
  • Now you will find several topics, from templates (which I don’t recommend, but can be handy) to fonts.

Even Amazon Kindle’s Build Your Book has evolved over the years. This formatting guide used to be solely for Kindle, but now there is also a version for paperback formatting. The paperback version is available for Microsoft Word, Word for Mac, and even Pages for Mac.

If you spend some time browsing through the help pages, you can find some cool info. For example, check out both the Promote Your Book and Tools and Resources sections under Prepare, Publish, Promote.

One of the most valuable KDP help pages is found under Prepare, Publish, Promote > Publish Your Book > Enter Book Details > Choose Browse Categories. This page has the secret keywords needed to unlock special categories.

Another thing that has evolved considerably is Amazon’s list of recommended services. This list used to be just for Kindle conversion services, but has since been expanded to include editing, cover design, formatting, and translation. Find this list under Prepare, Publish, Promote > Getting Started > Before You Start Publishing > Publishing Service Providers & Resources.

Want to know more about advertising with AMS? Click Prepare, Publish, Promote > Promote Your Book > Kindle Merchandising Programs > Advertising for KDP Books.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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

April 2019’s KENP per-page-read rate for Kindle Unlimited

KINDLE UNLIMITED: APRIL 2019’S PER-PAGE RATE

$0.004665 was the per-page rate for pages read through Kindle Unlimited in April of 2019.

This is an improvement over March’s rate of $0.00451.

$24.1 million was the KDP Select Global fund for April of 2019.

This was nearly identical to March’s figure of $24 million.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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