KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited in 2019

Image from ShutterStock.

THE KDP SELECT DECISION

Years ago, Amazon introduced KDP Select to authors who publish with Kindle Direct Publishing.

The idea was to create a huge library of Kindle eBooks from which select customers could borrow books for free. Authors are paid a royalty, but not the same royalty as for an ordinary paid sale.

Although the nature of KDP Select has changed over the years, the program has grown tremendously.

Let’s reevaluate the KDP Select decision. Is enrolling your book in KDP Select worth it?

There really is only a single drawback to enrolling a book in KDP Select, but it’s a big one: You’re not allowed to publish the digital version of your book anywhere else (like Smashwords, Nook, or Kobo) while your book is enrolled in KDP Select.

It’s also an important decision because it comes with a commitment. If you change your mind, you must wait until your 90-day enrollment period ends before you opt out. It renews automatically, so you must manually opt out of the automatic renewal. (And you must still wait until the current period ends before publishing the digital version of your book elsewhere.)

So here is the real question:

WHY WOULD AUTHORS GIVE UP THE CHANCE TO PUBLISH THEIR EBOOKS WITH NOOK, KOBO, APPLE, ETC.?

Obviously, you would need to receive some other incentive(s) that are even better than the royalties that you would earn from customers using those other brands of eReaders.

That’s what you need to do. You need to look at the incentives that Amazon KDP offers and consider whether they are good enough for your specific book to make it worthwhile to publish your eBook exclusively with Amazon.

Let’s look at what KDP Select has to offer in 2019.

KDP SELECT INCENTIVES

The main incentive is that by enrolling your eBook in KDP Select, your book would be available to Kindle Unlimited subscribers. (It would also be available to Amazon Prime customers, but Prime customers can only borrow one book per month, whereas Kindle Unlimited subscribers can borrow as many books per month as they please.)

Does this really help?

That depends on your book, but the potential is certainly there.

But first, let me briefly describe Kindle Unlimited. I’m actually a Kindle Unlimited customer myself. Customers pay about $10 per month (in the US) to subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, and this allows them to borrow as many Kindle Unlimited books per month as they would like. They can borrow up to 10 different books at a time, but they can read more than that: They simply need to return one of those 10 books before borrowing another one.

How does Kindle Unlimited have the potential to help authors?

  • Each month, Amazon pays authors of KDP Select books over $20,000,000 in royalties for books read through Kindle Unlimited. That’s in addition to what Amazon pays for royalties for ordinary sales. That figure is staggering. In the beginning, it started at just a few million and has steadily grown to over twenty million. A book that is successful in Kindle Unlimited can draw significant royalties. This are no guarantees, and not all books thrive in the program, but the potential is there, and there are thousands of books that do thrive in the program.
  • That’s a huge customer base. A single customer pays Amazon about $10 per month to subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, and Amazon turns around and pays KDP Select authors over $20,000,000 per month.
  • Although there are a few traditionally published books participating in Kindle Unlimited (those books certainly help to attract customers into the program), many of the books that are doing very well in Kindle Unlimited and the bulk of the books participating in Kindle Unlimited are self-published. This is a fairly indie-friendly audience. If you have a self-published book and are looking for readers who may support indie publishing, Kindle Unlimited has that audience. But again, there are millions of books available to that audience, so there are no guarantees. But there is much potential. (To be fair, Kindle Unlimited isn’t the only significantly indie-friendly audience. Smashwords is another, especially in certain fiction genres.)

There may also be factors that go beyond financial considerations. There are features of Kindle Unlimited that I’m very happy to support:

  • Kindle Unlimited helps to make it affordable to read books. If you read a handful of books per month on average, it’s far cheaper to pay about $10 per month for Kindle Unlimited than it is to buy books individually (unless you only read 99-cent books). Very often, the books that I read are priced $5.99 or above, so all I need to do is average two books per month and I’ve already saved money with my subscription. I strongly feel that more people should read and that they should read more often, and that it should be an affordable habit. Kindle Unlimited encourages this.
  • Kindle Unlimited currently encourages KDP Select authors to engage readers. Kindle Unlimited currently pays authors royalties for Kindle Unlimited borrows based on how many pages customers read. If you write content that engages customers, you will have more pages read. Not everyone is a fan of this, and if you think about every type of book available on the market you might find some cases where it seems unfair, but the concept appeals to me. I like that Amazon is rewarding reader engagement. As a writer, I want to engage my readers. Amazon and I share this common goal.
  • Kindle Unlimited is also a huge library. With fiction, it’s an entertainment base. With nonfiction, it’s a knowledge base. It’s low-cost education. I’m an author of nonfiction books, and I’m glad to have my knowledge available in Amazon’s enormous library.

The potential can be alluring. That’s what attracts authors into the program.

But that’s just the potential. Not all books succeed in the program. Enrolling in KDP Select isn’t the best option for 100% of books.

What you want to know is how well KDP Select will work for your specific book.

However, there are still a couple of other benefits that KDP Select has to offer. Let’s discuss those, and then we’ll get to the issue of weighing the pros versus the cons.

WHAT ELSE DOES KDP SELECT HAVE TO OFFER?

The main thing was Kindle Unlimited. It’s so much the main thing that if Kindle Unlimited doesn’t work out for you, then KDP Select probably isn’t right for you.

But there are other incentives, and if you do enroll, you may wish to take advantage of them.

Well, the one thing that you can manually take advantage of in KDP Select is one promotional tool. Every 90-day period, you can use one of the following promotional tools:

  • Kindle Countdown Deal
  • KDP Select free promo

A Kindle Countdown Deal lets you discount your book (if the list price is at least $2.99 in the US) in such a way that customers can clearly see that the book is “on sale.” (If you simply change the list price on your own, customers who discover your book on Amazon wouldn’t know that the price had been “reduced.”)

This sounds good in principle, and you can get a few sales using this tool, but most authors fail to use the Kindle Countdown Deal as effectively as it can be used. Amazon actually has a landing page for Kindle Countdown Deals right here:

Kindle Countdown Deals

However, that page isn’t easy for customers to find (and the name Countdown Deal isn’t nearly as attractive as it could have been). Plus, there is no guarantee that your book would even be visible on that page.

What you really need is to either have good book marketing skills, a strong active following (of an email newsletter, for example), or to get accepted by BookBub (the most popular option, but also the most expensive), E-reader News Today, or many of the smaller services that help authors promote sale prices.

Instead of running a Kindle Countdown Deal, you could run a KDP Select free promo. The free promo makes your book free during the promotion, and unlike the Countdown Deal, you earn zero royalty during the promotion. (Well, you can technically earn zero royalty during a Countdown Deal. You need to first do the math and see what royalty, if any, you would earn during the Countdown Deal. The larger your file size, there more this may be an issue.) You also get a free sales rank instead of the usual paid sales rank during the free promo, and your paid sales rank has usually slipped considerably once the free promo ends. Unless the free promo works and creates enough interest in your book to result in several sales after the free promo.

But like the Countdown Deal, you probably get much out of the tool unless you find an effective way to promote it. Simply making your book free and doing nothing else won’t likely help much (although this had been effective years ago when it first came out).

There may be something better than these tools that doesn’t require you to do anything at all.

What is that? A boost in sales rank.

How can KDP Select help with your Amazon.com sales rank?

Every Kindle Unlimited (and Amazon Prime) borrow of your book helps your book’s sales rank at Amazon.

Even if the customer hardly reads any pages. A single borrow has the same effect as a single ordinary paid sale.

There is another way to look at it: If you don’t enroll in KDP Select, you won’t have Kindle Unlimited borrows helping your sales rank.

Sales rank helps in various ways with visibility on Amazon.

It’s not as compelling as Kindle Unlimited itself, but it is something to consider.

Every book in Kindle Unlimited that has a sales rank: That sales rank is benefiting from Kindle Unlimited borrows. Whatever the sales rank is, it would be worse without Kindle Unlimited (unless of course the book never gets borrowed at all).

(There used to be another incentive to enroll in KDP Select, but now it’s open to every book, whether it’s enrolled in KDP Select or not. Every book can be advertised with AMS via KDP, whether or not the book is in KDP Select.)

SHOULD YOU ENROLL YOUR BOOK IN KDP SELECT?

Unfortunately, this depends on things that we can’t know for sure.

First of all, how many customers would read your book through Kindle Unlimited?

Even if you knew that, you would then need to figure out how much you would earn in royalties for Kindle Unlimited borrows.

Amazon currently pays on average a little under $0.005 per “normalized” page read through Kindle Unlimited. For most books, a “normalized” page turns out to be a little generous, meaning that it probably turns out to be more favorable than what you would call a “page.” But you have to first enroll in KDP Select before you can find out what your KENPC is (that’s the official page count for your book).

$0.005 doesn’t sound like much. You would need 200 “pages” read just to earn $1.

So what really matters is how many pages will be read. There are books with tens of thousands (or hundreds of thousands, or even millions) of pages being read per day. If you write highly engaging content and if your book thrives in Kindle Unlimited, the royalties for pages read can really add up.

Far more important than your book’s page count are reader engagement and the customer appeal of your book (and its cover and product page).

Even if you knew how much your book would earn in royalties from Kindle Unlimited borrows, you would also need to know how much your book would have earned from sales on Nook, Kobo, Apple, etc.

Kindle is the dominant eBook market. If you’re among the few authors with a really good idea and solid marketing plan for how to drive sales to other platforms, that would be a strong incentive to not enroll in KDP Select.

If you have a good idea for how to appeal to Kindle Unlimited, that would be a strong incentive to enroll in KDP Select.

Otherwise, would you rather take your chances with Kindle Unlimited, or take your chances with other retailers?

The only way you can really know for sure is to try it both ways and compare.

Actually, you can try it both ways.

But not at the same time from the beginning.

You could enroll in KDP Select for 90 days. If it’s not going as well as you like, you could opt out before the 90-day term ends. (Be sure to do this successfully.) Once you successfully opt out and once the first 90-day term is up, then you could publish with other retailers.

(Some authors enroll in KDP Select for an entirely different reason: They don’t want to learn how to reformat their eBooks for other retailers.)

Whatever you choose to do, I hope it works out well for you. Good luck.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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

Why Does KDP Put the “Not for Resale” Strip on the Proof Cover?

 

NOT FOR RESALE (AUTHOR PROOFS)

Ever since I made the switch from CreateSpace to KDP Print, when I order a proof copy there is a horizontal “Not for Resale” strip running across the front cover, spine, and back cover.

CreateSpace didn’t add this strip, but KDP does.

(To be clear, this is just for PROOF copies. Once you publish your book, you can order AUTHOR COPIES that don’t have this strip. It’s just the PROOF copies that are affected.)

Sometimes, that strip interferes with part of the cover that I’m trying to proof. In particular, it often prints over words on the spine or back cover.

My solution is to open the PDF of the cover in Photoshop, crop the image to just the back cover, and print the back cover on my home printer. Similarly, I crop the cover to take a magnified close-up of the spine text and print that. (First save a new copy of your cover file so that you don’t accidentally change the original.)

Today, I received a large envelope from Amazon. I was surprised to find a proof copy of one of my books and two pairs of pants in the same package.

That was odd. I placed the orders separately and didn’t expect a KDP proof copy to be delivered with my pants. Even though I have Amazon Prime, I paid shipping on the proof copy from KDP. But Amazon obviously saved money by delivering the products together.

(In fact, with past KDP proofs I had tried to purchase the proof along with other products, but wasn’t able to do it.)

That doesn’t actually bother me. With CreateSpace, I had always paid shipping. It’s no different now. Amazon KDP is evolving, so maybe in the future…

Rather, I realized something important about that “Not for Resale” strip when this happened.

It reminded me that KDP print makes their proof copies, author copies, and Amazon resale copies in the same facilities.

Imagine this scenario, which may have happened with CreateSpace and which could happen with other POD publishers.

Imagine that an author has piles of books at home. These are mostly author copies, but a few proofs are mixed in. The author sells a copy, or maybe gives a copy away, or maybe a family member sells a copy or gives a copy away. Maybe the author forgot to check if it was a proof copy. Or if it’s a friend or relative making the transaction on the author’s behalf, maybe this person doesn’t know to check if it was a proof copy.

Now someday the person who received this proof copy (by mistake, of course, but mistakes happen) decides to sell the book on Amazon.

If it happened to a KDP author, that proof copy would have a clear notice on the cover, and might help to avoid this undesirable scenario.

I appreciate this label. There have been many times when I have been fumbling through dozens of author copies, inspecting the last page to make sure that they weren’t proof copies. This “Not for Resale” label makes it easy to tell proofs from author copies. And now it’s much harder to forget.

How do you feel about this label? I’ve heard a few authors complain about it. I was surprised at first, but have come to appreciate it.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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

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

If You Encounter Problems with the Transition from CreateSpace to KDP…

SOLUTIONS TO COMMON ISSUES WITH KDP PRINT

For most authors using CreateSpace, the transition to Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is smooth.

A simple three-step process helps you make the transition. Your books remain available for sale at Amazon and other distribution channels. Your royalties remain the same (except for royalties in Europe for books under 100 pages). The books are printed in the same facilities used by CreateSpace. The guidelines for interior and cover formatting are nearly identical.

It should be a seamless transition, and for most authors it is.

But when millions of CreateSpace books move to KDP in a short time span, a few unfortunate authors are bound to experience one or more issues.

If you happen to encounter one of the following issues, you might try my suggestion or you might contact KDP for help.

THE COVER WAS REJECTED BECAUSE THE SPINE TEXT WAS TOO LARGE

Unfortunately, if you change your list price, change your keywords, change your categories, or even edit your description at KDP, you must republish your book in order for the changes to take effect.

When you republish your book, KDP reviews your interior and cover files. It’s sort of crazy: If you don’t change your interior or cover files, why does KDP even look at them? They were good enough the first time. But it doesn’t help us to ask this question to ourselves. It does help to be aware that it will happen.

KDP is more strict about the size of your spine text (or more precisely, the distance between your spine text and the spine edges) than CreateSpace was. If you (or your cover designer) tried to make your spine text as large as possible (0.0625″ from the spine edges), it’s relatively common for KDP’s measurement to decide that your spine text is slightly too close to the spine edge. KDP is very picky about this.

If CreateSpace passed your cover file, beware that KDP might reject the very same cover file (even if you didn’t upload a new one) when you attempt to republish your book at KDP.

One way to avoid this is the same way that you can correct the problem: Revise your cover so that the spine text leaves a little extra room (significantly more than 0.0625″) between the spine text and spine edges. If you try to cut it close, there is a good chance that your cover will be rejected during the file review process (which occurs after you press the Publish button, and which prevents the changes from going live).

If you just need to revise your book description, it’s better to create an Author Central account at Amazon and use Author Central instead. However, if you do use Author Central, you should copy and paste the HTML version of your Author Central book description into KDP and save it at KDP. Why? Because if sometime in the future you republish your book at KDP, the KDP description will overwrite the Author Central description (years ago, it was different).

If you’re thinking about revising keywords or categories, consider this decision carefully. If your book has been available for some time, it’s possible that your book has benefited from keyword or category associations that your book may have developed. If you change your keywords or categories, you risk losing such associations. When you’re not getting sales, there isn’t much harm in trying. But if you are getting sales and you lose associations that had been helping you (without your knowledge, of course), it could negatively impact your sales.

YOUR COVER ISN’T SIZED AS EXPECTED

CreateSpace was a little more flexible with the cover size. If your width or height were slightly too small, for example, CreateSpace might adjust it for you. If the cover was oversized, it wasn’t a problem as long as the extra space was intended to be trimmed off and the meaningful content was sized appropriately.

KDP’s previewer checks your cover size and expects it to match KDP’s calculation based on your trim size, page count, page color (white or cream), and interior color (b&w or full color).

If your cover size isn’t what KDP’s previewer expects, you will automatically receive an error and you won’t be able to approve the preview and proceed to the next page of the publishing process until you fix the problem and submit a revised file.

YOU ENCOUNTER FUNCTIONALITY ISSUES WITH KDP’S WEBSITE

If a feature isn’t working properly at KDP, it could be related to your choice of web browser.

Very often, when a feature doesn’t work at KDP’s website, simply changing your web browser will resolve the issue. It’s worth trying.

As with most websites, rarely a feature at KDP may be temporarily down. When a feature is temporarily unavailable (which is rare), it usually shows a message at the top of the screen. However, rarely there may be an issue and no message shows on the screen. In this case, if you try again later, the feature may be functioning as it should.

If the feature still isn’t working after a couple of days and switching web browsers doesn’t help, make sure that your computer and browser specs are sufficient to handle KDP’s website (or whatever feature you are trying to use). If so, try contacting KDP help.

YOU PUBLISHED A BOOK, BUT AN ERROR OCCURRED DURING FILE PROCESSING

CreateSpace could handle relatively complex PDF files.

It turns out that currently KDP can’t handle the same level of complexity as CreateSpace could.

When your PDF turns out to be more complex than KDP can handle, here is what will happen:

  • Your interior file will appear to upload just fine. You will see a green checkmark next to the file.
  • A message will show that your file is being processed. This is normal so far. Don’t panic.
  • A red exclamation mark will appear inside of a triangle next to your interior file and you will see a vague error message asking you to check your file. This isn’t normal. One way for this to happen is if your PDF is too complex.

There are a variety of ways that a PDF can be more complex. It’s not necessarily the size of your file either. It’s more about which features you used when typing and formatting your book, which PDF converter you used, and the choices you made regarding formatting and layout.

A number of features available in Microsoft Word can result in a complex PDF. For example, it’s better to format a picture as a JPEG with image software and insert the picture into Word with the text wrapping set to In Line With Text. It’s much more complex to use Word’s drawing tools. It’s also more complex to use textboxes and WordArt. If you wrap pictures or textboxes in front of text, beside text, or behind text, for example, instead of in line with text, this makes the file more complex.

There are simpler and more complex ways to add ordered and unordered lists, or to add borders, or a variety of other features in Microsoft Word.

Browse through your file and ask yourself which design or formatting choices you may have made which could be making your PDF more complex. What can you do to simplify it (without sacrificing quality).

If you make changes, save the original file as backup. That way, if the revisions don’t help your file get processed at KDP, you will still have your original available.

Try using a different PDF converter. Adobe Acrobat is among the best, but even Adobe’s PDF’s are susceptible to this issue at KDP. Throwing money at the problem won’t guarantee a solution.

Ideally, you should flatten images and embed fonts in your PDF, provided that your PDF converter has these options available.

If you’re unable to solve this problem, try contacting KDP help.

PRINTED PROOFS, AUTHOR COPIES, AND APPROVING THE PROOF

At CreateSpace, when you “approved” your proof you were publishing your paperback. At KDP, it’s different. When you’re looking at your book in KDP’s previewer, clicking Approve doesn’t publish your book. It just lets you proceed to page 3 of the publishing process. As long as you don’t click the Publish button when you get to page 3, your book won’t be published.

If you wish to order a printed proof, you can find this option is you read carefully on page 3 of the publishing process.

You must publish your book before you can order author copies. Once your book is published, you can order author copies from your Bookshelf.

What if you wanted to order author copies without making your book available for sale on Amazon. Well, this is a problem.

You could publish your book, making it available for sale on Amazon, and then unpublish your book after ordering the author copies, but this has disadvantages. For one, your book’s Amazon detail page will already be live. For another, your publication date will be set and you will miss out on valuable potential exposure from the Last 30 Days and Last 90 Days filters on Amazon (when combined with other searches, some self-published books get noticed this way). I recommend NOT setting a manual publishing date: Choose the option that your book’s live on Amazon date will be used. Don’t publish your book until you’re ready for it to be available for sale. This will maximize your book’s exposure.

Another option is to publish another copy of your book with another print-on-demand publisher (or a local printer) that will let you order author copies without making that copy of your book available for sale anywhere. You won’t be able to use the same ISBN for both books, but at least you can get copies (other than printed proofs, which now have a not for resale watermark rendering them unfit for use as author copies) before your book goes live on Amazon. You could even get spiral bound books or hardcover using this option; your author copies could be ‘special.’ Check out Lulu and Barnes & Noble Press (this last option only offers author copies; they don’t currently offer paperback distribution to anywhere, unless you’re among the top sellers of Nook eBooks, though it is expanding). KDP’s main competitor is Ingram Spark, but whereas KDP lets you publish for free, Ingram Spark charges a setup fee.

YOU BELIEVE THAT YOU ARE MISSING ROYALTIES

Of course you are! You had dreams of selling millions of books, right?

(But seriously…)

If you made the transition from CreateSpace to KDP recently, note that it’s relatively common for your royalty reporting to slow down significantly (50% or more) for a few days (perhaps even a week). This happened to me and some other authors that I know, but after 5-7 days the royalties picked back up to normal and made up the difference. Be patient.

Amazon offers a surprisingly transparent royalty reporting system. It’s much better than receiving a single statement in the mail once every 3 to 6 months. You can see royalties show up in your reports throughout the day (provided your book sells multiple times per day). It’s really cool (but be careful not to turn into a stats junkie and waste precious time that you could have spent writing your next book).

However, with this amazing level of transparency, any time a normal delay occurs, if you happen to be aware of the sale (because a customer told you about it), it’s only natural to freak out.

Most of the time, you see a royalty show up in your reports when the book prints, which often occurs the same day, but sometimes takes a few days. If you sell thousands of books, almost all of them will show up in your reports within a few days of the sale.

But there are a variety of exceptions. If a royalty isn’t showing up, it’s most likely one of the following reasons.

  • A family member or friend said, “I bought your book last week,” while secretly thinking, “I didn’t buy your book, but I didn’t want to hurt your feelings by admitting this.”
  • A customer told you that they bought your book, but what you don’t know is that they didn’t buy it new directly from Amazon. Maybe they bought it from another online bookstore. Or maybe they bought it from a third party on Amazon. In this case, it might take 4-6 weeks for the royalty to show through the Expanded Distribution channel.
  • If a customer buys a used copy on Amazon that’s being resold by a previous customer, you won’t receive a royalty for the resale. You already received a royalty when the original customer bought your book (unless, of course, you gave that copy away). Most customers prefer to buy new books, especially if the list price isn’t super high compared to $10. I wouldn’t lose any sleep over the sales of used copies (unless you have a really expensive book).
  • Returns. If a previous customer returns a book and Amazon sells that returned copy to a new customer, you won’t be paid a royalty for the returned copy. Suppose customer X tells you that they bought your book, but you never see the royalty show up in your reports. It’s possible that customer Y bought your book a week ago, then customer Y returned your book, and Amazon resold that book to customer X. In this case, you were already paid this royalty last week. (For paperback books, Amazon doesn’t tell you about returns. You have no way of knowing how many books were returned and how many returned copies have been resold.)
  • Delay. For whatever reason, Amazon occasionally uses a third-party printer to source an order. When this happens, it can take 4-6 weeks for your royalty to show up in your reports.
  • Holidays (or Amazon Prime Day). Amazon sometimes stocks up on select titles for the holidays. When this happens, you won’t see royalties show in you reports as the books are sold. Instead, you see a bulk sale (or a few bulk sales). Sometimes the bulk sale occurs when the books are printed, sometimes it occurs later, sometimes it’s spread over a month or two in installments. Sometimes you even see usual royalties sprinkled in between.

If you happen to know the customer, ask for the printing numbers from the last page of the book. Send these printing numbers in a polite email to KDP. They should be able to use the printing numbers to help track the sale of the book.

YOUR AUTHOR COPIES TOOK LONGER TO ARRIVE

Sometimes, CreateSpace proofs and author copies arrived rather swiftly, even when we took the least expensive shipping option.

It won’t always be that quick.

Suppose you need several copies for an event.

My advice is to schedule the event and order author copies several weeks in advance. I order extra copies, just in case.

What if the shipment is delayed? What if there are defects?

With this in mind, I order author copies so far in advance that if there are defects, there is enough time to replace them, and even if the replacements are defective, there is enough time to replace those too. (If that’s not good enough, you were destined to have a problem, and you have the right to feel infuriated.)

If you don’t allow plenty of extra time, you’re taking a risk. It would be ideal if we could always receive perfect copies right on time. But it’s practical to allow for the worst-case scenario.

I take the cheapest shipping option, but order well in advance. This is my advice.

YOU ENCOUNTER SOME OTHER ISSUE

If your issue isn’t on my list:

  • See if your issue has been discussed in the comments.
  • Try asking your question in the comments.
  • Try searching the KDP community help forum.
  • Try asking your question in the KDP community help forum.
  • Try contacting KDP support.

I wish you luck.

YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH KDP IS JUST FINE (OR BETTER THAN YOU HAD EXPECTED)

Hey, this happens to most authors. Those authors are also far less likely to go online and talk about their “problem.”

Obviously, in this case, what you should do is recommend KDP to other authors. You can hope for good karma: Maybe a customer will like your book and recommend it to a friend.

Actually, KDP is better than CreateSpace in a few ways.

Authors based in Europe appreciate that they can order proofs printed in the UK or continental Europe instead of having their proofs shipped from the USA.

KDP’s Expanded Distribution has even surpassed CreateSpace. For example, I see paperback royalties on my KDP report for Japan, and other countries are on the horizon.

You can now choose 7 sets of keywords (instead of just 5), and there is no longer a 25-character limit per keyword set (but I wouldn’t exceed 50 characters including spaces).

You can now choose 2 browse categories (instead of just 1) without having to contact support, and the categories are more aligned with Amazon’s browse categories (though it’s still not perfect).

KDP’s community forum is different from CreateSpace’s. Is it better? I’m not sure. I haven’t seen spam recently (at least, not at the hours I’ve been checking), which is a good sign. There are helpful community members on both forums.

You can now advertise paperback books with AMS via KDP. This wasn’t possible with CreateSpace. Advertising may not be the magic solution you were hoping for, and it isn’t cost-effective for every book. But it’s nice to have a new tool that wasn’t available previously.

You no longer need to separately login to KDP and CreateSpace to check your Kindle royalties and paperback royalties. Now they show together on the same report.

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

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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Kindle Publishing 50% royalties $1500 advance NEW

Kindle Press

KINDLE SCOUT

Amazon launched a new program for Kindle authors called Kindle Scout, which gives you the opportunity to publish through Kindle Press.

The program has some nice incentives:

  • $1500 advance
  • 50% royalties on e-books (25% on audio books and 20% on translations)
  • Amazon-featured marketing
  • A variety of circumstances enable easy rights reversions
  • You retain the right to publish in print

Sure, 50% is less than the 70% you can get with KDP, but you don’t get a $1500 advance with KDP and KDP is self-publishing; this is a step up.

Sure, you can sometimes get more than a $1500 advance from a traditional publisher, but 50% royalties are HUGE compared to traditional publishing.

Here are a few important notes:

  • Presently open to US authors (often, if an Amazon program is successful, they expand to the UK)
  • Currently accepting submissions for: romance, fantasy, sci-fi, mystery, thriller (visit the site and click the “Let us know” link where genres are listed to make a request)
  • Must be a complete manuscript with at least 50,000 words, never before published (if it’s been available on Smashwords or Amazon, it’s considered published)
  • Readers check out covers and Look Insides and nominate their favorites
  • You’ll need an excellent cover, title, one-liner, description, and Look Inside; it will be competitive

Learn more at the official website: https://kindlescout.amazon.com/submit.

Read Tuesday

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

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

Halloween Reading

Looking for some spooky books to read this Halloween month?

https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com/scary-books

Chris McMullen

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

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • Boxed set (of 4 books) now available for Kindle pre-order

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

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Kindle Preorder Reviews & Look Inside

Pre Order

KINDLE PRE-ORDERS

On my previous post on Kindle pre-orders, it didn’t occur to me to mention how to get around two important obstacles:

  • Book reviews: The book isn’t live yet, so how can customers review it?
  • Look Inside: Kindle pre-orders don’t show a Look Inside, so how can customers preview it?

Fortunately, there are solutions to both problems.

PRE-ORDER REVIEWS

Kindle customers can’t review your Kindle pre-order because they haven’t received the Kindle e-book yet.

But there are two ways around this problem.

  • Publish a print edition, e.g. with CreateSpace. Launch the print edition first. Once the print edition is live on Amazon, customers can review the print edition.
  • Send out advance review copies. Enter editorial reviews for your book through Author Central. Generally, these should be from sources that may command respect from customers, such as an indie magazine or an expert in the field.

Two questions to ask yourself before you do this:

  • Do you really need reviews?
  • Will you be able to get reviews in time for them to matter?

I kind of like not having any reviews on the Kindle pre-order. Those are the only few weeks where you won’t be sweating your reviews! Enjoy them while they last.

Nobody can post a good review (unless you use the print edition suggestion), but nobody can post a bad review either. Here’s your chance to get several sales without reviews influencing customers.

(Don’t worry about authors trying to take advantage with books that stink. If they don’t deliver on customers’ expectations, there will be a flurry of returns and bad reviews when the book goes live.)

Do you really need reviews? Too many authors seem to be review-crazy. I think they see many other books with several reviews. Plus, when a book isn’t selling, a natural question is whether or not having some reviews would help.

But let’s look at this from the customer’s perspective. Suppose a book has 5 to 20 glowing five-star reviews. That might seem suspicious, like those reviews were recruited by friends and family.

(This brings me to another point. Amazon is pretty effective at blocking friend and family reviews, so if you’re planning to get people you know to leave reviews for your Kindle pre-order, you’ll probably be disappointed if you go to all this trouble just for that.)

Customers are familiar with the variety of reviews that usually include some crazy remarks typical of Amazon products. The best way to get reviews may be the natural variety of good, bad, and neutral reviews that come from strangers who discover your book and feel strongly enough about it, one way or the other, to share feedback.

Will you be able to get reviews in time for them to matter? If you’re relying on the sale of paperback books to get reviews to show up on your product page, first you need several people to read those books. Will you be able to sell many paperbacks by the time your Kindle pre-order is ready? Or do you plan to send out advance review copies?

PRE-ORDER LOOK INSIDE

Unfortunately, pre-orders don’t show a Look Inside at Amazon. That’s tough because the Look Inside can be a valuable selling tool.

Fortunately, there are ways around this, too:

  • A print edition works for this, too, as customers can view the Look Inside of the print edition. (I guess you could even mention this in the Kindle description.)
  • Include a sample at the end of your description. Heck, you get 4000 characters. Use them. Put the beginning of your story at the end of your description.
  • Post the Look Inside portion of your book in PDF form on your author website.

PRE-ORDER SALES

Something else that may matter is that Kindle pre-orders get a sales rank (once you get a sale).

Better sales rank helps with exposure on Amazon, and shows customers (who look for it) how well (or poorly) your pre-order is selling.

If you can get many pre-orders, these help you cultivate a healthy sales rank before your book is actually released. But if you struggle to get pre-orders, you already have a history of no sales when your book goes live.

For your pre-order to be worthwhile, you need to launch your pre-order with ideas for how to get initial sales.

Authors who’ve published previous books and who have grown a fan base have a clear advantage if they are able to effectively announce their pre-orders to their fans.

Give readers an incentive to visit your author website. Mention this reason in your book (e.g. something free that they will find there). Then give them a reason to follow you (e.g. something else they can get for free, like a short story or nonfiction booklet). You can start an email newsletter with such an incentive, for example.

Once you have a fan base and a way to announce your new releases to them, this can help you stimulate pre-order sales.

Chris McMullen

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

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • Boxed set (of 4 books) now available for Kindle pre-order

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

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Kindle Unlimited KOLL Payment for August, 2014 = $1.54

Unlimited Books

KOLL Payment for August, 2014

Kindle Unlimited downloads read to 10% and Amazon Prime borrows paid $1.54 for August.

This is down considerably from $1.81 for July.

Update: Kindle Unlimited paid $1.52 in September, nearly the same as August, but dropped down to $1.33 for October. It’s back up to $1.39 for November, 2014 and further up to $1.43 in December, 2014.

However, there is, in fact, a precedent for this:

  • Amazon Prime paid $1.70 for its debut month.
  • Amazon Prime paid $1.60 for its second month.
  • Since then, Amazon Prime has steadily paid closer to $2.

So, like Prime, the first two months of Kindle Unlimited are somewhat lower than the usual $2 KOLL payment.

I think another month of data will be useful.

One big difference is that Kindle Unlimited subscribers can download many books, whereas Prime customers can only read one book per month.

With this in mind, it’s amazing that Kindle Unlimited has actually paid close to $2 per download read to 10%.

There is more to gain through Kindle Unlimited than through Prime, since any customer can read multiple books through the program.

Another advantage is that Kindle Unlimited downloads help your sales rank whether or not the book is read to 10%.

Kindle sales rank is also getting more competitive. It takes more sales or downloads than ever to maintain the same sales rank. That’s because many KDP Select books are receiving sales rank books through Kindle Unlimited.

There are also KDP Select books whose sales ranks are sliding despite getting Kindle Unlimited downloads, simply because many other books are getting even more downloads.

Just imagine how much those sales ranks would slide without Kindle Unlimited there to give it those beneficial downloads.

Though, if sales rank is sliding, opting out of select may still be enticing, even if the book is benefiting from some downloads. Opting out of Select opens up other doors, like Nook and Kobo.

I’m staying in Select though. I’m seeing a boost, overall, compared to the way it was before. Every book is different though.

It might be worth waiting a month before opting in or out.

Though, if you wish to opt out, you must uncheck a box from your bookshelf to disable automatic renewal AND you must wait for the 90-day period to pass before publishing elsewhere.

Chris McMullen

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

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing

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

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