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)

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

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.

Comments

Click here to jump to the comments section:

https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com/2014/10/14/kindle-publishing-50-royalties-1500-advance-new/#comments

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.

Comments

Click here to jump to the comments section:

https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com/2014/10/13/kindle-preorder-reviews-look-inside/#comments

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.

Comments

Click here to jump to the comments section:

https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com/2014/09/16/kindle-unlimited-koll-payment-for-august-1-54/#comments

Self-Publishing Expenses Gone Wild!

Editing Cloud

SELF-PUBLISHING EXPENSES

One of the major benefits of self-publishing is that you can do it (virtually) for FREE.

And, if you set a reasonable list price, the royalty rates are very high.

So with high royalties and minimal costs, if you can stimulate any sales at all, you should easily make something.

There is very little risk.

However, the number of authors who are investing big $$$ in self-publishing and who are losing big $$$ because their self-publishing expenses greatly outweigh their profits is staggering.

HOW MUCH DOES SELF-PUBLISHING COST?

It can cost next to nothing:

  • Zero set-up fees at print-on-demand indie publishing companies like CreateSpace.
  • Zero set-up fees at most major e-book publishing services like Kindle Direct Publishing, Nook, and Kobo.
  • Minimal cost to order one or more printed proofs for paperback books.

If it costs you next to nothing, you don’t have to sell many books to start making a profit.

But many authors aren’t spending next to nothing. Many are actually spending big money self-publishing their books.

  • Some are spending hundreds, like $200 to $500. This isn’t too bad, but it will take hundreds of sales just to break even. It’s a risk.
  • I’m amazed by how many spend $1000 to $5000. If they don’t sell thousands of books, it will be a bad investment. If they never sell 100 books, it will be a great loss. It’s a huge risk.
  • Can you believe that some indie authors spend more than $5000, sometimes over $10,000, publishing a single book? That boggles my mind.

INDIE PUBLISHING COSTS

One problem is that there are so many ways to invest money on self-published books.

Many authors are acquiring major expenses:

  • Cover design can cost $100 to $1000 (or more) for a custom cover. You can get one for $50 or less that’s pre-made. Or you can pay $5 and up for images and make your own cover. Or you can find free images that allow commercial use (but if you do, you really want 300 DPI, especially for a print book).
  • Professional illustrations inside the book cost additional money on top of the cover (though sometimes you can negotiate interior illustrations at a discount when purchased with the cover).
  • Editing can cost anywhere from $100 to $2000 (or more), depending on (A) the qualifications and experience of the editor, and (B) the type of editing services that you need. Simple proofreading is the least expensive option. You can even hire this from CreateSpace. If you need help with storyline suggestions, the writing itself, or formatting on top of editing, costs can grow significantly.
  • Book formatting is another major expense that one can invest in. It can be expensive. But you can also do it for free. Especially, if you plan to publish several books, you can save big $$$ by taking the time to learn and do this yourself.
  • Authors also invest in e-book conversion services. Learning to format your own books can save you money twice: once with the print edition, and again with the e-book.
  • You can also publish an audio book with the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX). If you write in a genre that appeals to truck drivers, for example, this can be a compelling option.
  • If you would like to have your book translated to Spanish, French, or Chinese, for example, you can pay good $$$ for translation services. Make sure the language is supported at Amazon before you spend the money! Definitely, do not rely on Google Translate to do this for you (it will be far from satisfactory to translate a book this way).
  • A variety of fees can come with designing a website (though you can get a free website at WordPress and design it yourself). You can register a domain name, pay money to avoid advertisements, upgrade for custom features, pay for web hosting, hire a web designer, or pay for a host of enticing services that many website builders offer.
  • Although much of the most effective marketing can be done by the author for free, there are many marketing expenses that one can acquire: advertising fees, press release distribution, video trailer design, bookmarks, promotional items, contest expenses, bookstore signing fees, etc. If you want to really spend big $$$ on marketing, hire a famous publicist.
  • If you publish with an imprint of your own choosing that isn’t simply your last name, you may need to register a DBA (doing business as) or starting an LLC. You can spend big money if you wish to trademark the name. (Legal Zoom can help with many legal issues, such as filing DBA’s or trademark applications.)
  • Authors can really break the bank publishing with vanity presses. You can publish for free with many self-publishing services, like CreateSpace, Kindle Direct Publishing, Nook Press, Kobo Writing Life, and Smashwords. Traditional publishers, if they accept your proposal, won’t charge you any fees (though maybe it would be worthwhile for you to hire a contract attorney once you receive a legitimate offer). Vanity presses, on the other hand, involve hefty start-up fees.

Even the little expenses can add up. The lower the cost, the easier it is spend the money, but after you pay for several of these, it can get expensive:

  • Paying for printed proofs plus shipping/handling. One proof can cost as little as about $7 if it’s short, black and white, and shipped in the United States. If it’s in color or several pages, the cost goes up, and for international authors, shipping can be quite expensive (Ingram Spark may be an attractive alternative for UK authors).
  • Some publishing services, like Ingram Spark or Lightning Source, charge setup fees.
  • Sometimes setup fees grow if you opt for additional features, like enabling additional sales channels (CreateSpace, though, now offers free Expanded Distribution).
  • It costs $35 (in the US) to register for a copyright. It’s not necessary: Your copyright starts as soon as your work exists in print, whether or not you register. But copyright registration entices many authors, as it’s one extra step toward protecting your rights, and it makes it easier to convince Amazon, for example, that you are indeed the copyright holder, should the question arise.
  • You can spend $9.99 to $575 buying ISBN‘s from Bowker (in the US), for example. (You can also get a free ISBN from CreateSpace, or a free ISBN for your e-book at Smashwords. Don’t use your CreateSpace ISBN for your e-book, and you shouldn’t use your Smashwords ISBN for Kindle, for example. You don’t need an ISBN for Kindle, though, as you’ll receive a free ASIN.) Some of these options are tempting. $9.99 at CreateSpace lets you use your own imprint. Buying in bulk with Bowker lowers your cost if you prefer the benefits of buying your own ISBN directly (or if you’re not publishing at CreateSpace). It can get really expensive if you publish several books, since each edition of your book needs a different ISBN. Then if you make major changes, you’re supposed to create a new edition with a new ISBN (perhaps not necessary with the free CreateSpace ISBN or free Kindle ASIN).
  • How about a Library of Congress Control Number (LCCN)? You can get one from CreateSpace for $25 (but be sure to do this before your proof is approved), for example. Of course, it’s hard for self-published authors to get into libraries…
  • Stocking up for a reading or signing, or to sell in person, requires purchasing several author copies in advance.

HOW MUCH SHOULD YOU INVEST?

If you invest in absolutely everything that you can invest in when self-publishing a book, you could easily spend tens of thousands of dollars. Very few books of any kind will recover such deep expenses.

Is this an expense that really makes sense? That’s a question you should ask yourself every step of the way.

You should try to lay off most of the expenses that I listed above, if at all possible.

Treat it like shopping at the grocery store on a limited budget:

  • Figure your total expense before spending any money.
  • Cross non-essential items off your list.
  • Find cheaper alternatives. (With grocery shopping, you might go with a non-branded alternative. Do the same with your publishing expenses.)
  • Set a reasonable budget. Stay within your budget no matter what.
  • Calculate how many books you must sell just to break even. If there aren’t reasonable prospects for this (do your research!), cross things off your shopping list.
  • If it’s not on your list, don’t buy it.
  • See the money-saving tips that follow. (It’s like shopping for groceries with coupons.)

Here are some money-saving tips:

  • Do all the formatting yourself. There is an abundance of free material (even on my blog) to help with this. When you need help, visit the CreateSpace or KDP community forum and politely ask a specific question. It’s amazing how often a formatting expert replies with a helpful response. Anything that you can do for free, and do reasonably well, will save you big money. Formatting will save you two ways with print and e-book editions. Extra effort spent on your first book will save you much more money in the long run when you publish several more books.
  • Do you really need a LCCN? Indie books are highly unlikely to wind up on library shelves unless you actively market for this channel and have great ideas for how to do this effectively. Throwing money out there and hoping is not a marketing strategy.
  • Market your books yourself for free. Throwing money at advertising isn’t a band-aid for marketing ignorance. The truth is, when it comes to book marketing (which doesn’t work the same as commercial advertising of brands seen on t.v., although branding is important), free and very low cost marketing done by the author tends to be far more effective than paid marketing services.
  • Many people and businesses are eager to accept your money. They definitely profit when you pay them. The more money you invest to self-publish your book, the more likely you’ll wind up in a deficit. They know your hopes and dreams (big sales, good reviews), and they know your fears (no sales, bad reviews, newbie mistakes), and they will use this effectively to sell you things that you don’t really need. Be wary.
  • Keep your expenses to a bare minimum until you have several books out. Don’t break the bank on your first book. (Yes, you want to make a great impression, but settle for making the best impression you can on a low budget. Yes, you can do this.) The more similar books you have out, the more effective marketing tends to be. Plus, if your first few books are getting some steady sales, this will boost your confidence that you can sell books (and it will give you a realistic guide for how much of your expense you can recover).
  • Most expenses can wait until you start making a profit (but not editing, as that will get you some bad reviews). Don’t bother with an audio book or translation, for example, until you’ve earned enough royalties to pay for these services without taking a net loss.
  • Start out with a free WordPress website. Don’t upgrade or pay for any fees until you’re making a profit from your book royalties, though you can grab your domain name in the initial stages, if it’s available.
  • Keep your business expenses to a minimum. In the beginning, you have no idea how many sales you will have. You can register for a DBA if you plan to publish many books, but LLC, trademark , or other expenses can wait until you see how sales are going (though if you want legal advice, you should consult with an attorney).
  • If you know people with great language skills, you may be able to recruit them to help with proofreading (perhaps for a reasonable fee). Especially, if they enjoy your writing, it can be a win-win situation. But don’t be a lazy writer (worrying about mistakes later: the fewer mistakes there are, the easier it will be to eliminate all but a few) and don’t rely on others to catch your mistakes (they are your responsibility). Use text-to-speech to listen to your book: It will help you catch mistakes that you don’t “see.”

WHAT SERVICES DO YOU NEED?

There are only two big expenses that I would recommend considering when you’re just starting out. Most other expenses can wait until you see how things are going.

Don’t dig yourself into a hole. Wait until you’re making a profit, then consider investing some of your profits. This way, you won’t suffer a loss.

These two services can make a huge difference in some cases, and therefore they are well worth considering:

  1. Cover design. It’s critical for marketing to have a cover that (A) appeals to your readers and (B) clearly signifies the precise genre or subject. If you can achieve these two goals yourself, that’s great. If you’re a nonfiction author, making the title clear (and relevant) in the thumbnail is more important than the picture, and thus it’s easier for nonfiction authors to design fairly effective covers by themselves. Most fiction authors who don’t have graphic design skills really need to spend $100 to $300 on a highly effective cover. But if the book is lousy, a great cover won’t sell it. If you have a great novel and don’t excel at graphic arts, then I do recommend finding an artist who can deliver a fantastic cover at a reasonable price.
  2. Editing. Most authors need to pay $50 to $200 for basic proofreading (and they need to do the research to find a proofreader who can do this job quite well). Those mistakes can deter your sales. The last thing you want is a review to complain about mistakes and to have a Look Inside that confirms what the review says. There are writers with excellent language skills, but even they often miss mistakes in their own writing because they read what they intended instead of what’s actually there. Text-to-speech can help to some degree. Use Word’s spellcheck to catch obvious mistakes, but don’t rely on it (there are many mistakes that it will miss). You definitely need additional pairs of eyes that can reliably help you out. Editors might convince you that it’s worth spending $500 to $2000, especially if you need storyline help, better character development, or serious writing help. But it’s a tough call. That’s a huge investment, and many books won’t make that $500 back. When you’re starting out, you really need to save where you can and invest wisely.

WISE INVESTMENTS

You may have heard that it takes money to make money, but what you might not have heard is that many authors are spending more money than they will ever earn from their royalties. By the way, this includes traditional authors, too.

Be smart with your money. Any investment is a risk. Wait until you’re making a profit, then investing some of the profits allows you to experiment with services without suffering a loss.

Be patient. Think long-term. Wait until you have several books out and history of sales to judge by before investing good money to self-publish a new book.

Do your research before investing money on a service. Check out the designer’s portfolio. Contact authors who’ve used their services and discuss their experience. Ask for a free sample (e.g. edit one chapter of your book), and consult help judging the quality. Do a cover reveal at various stages of the design. Seek brutal feedback on your writing and cover in the early stages. Ask questions before purchasing the service. Study your contract.

Remember that throwing money out there and hoping is not a marketing strategy.

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.

Comments

Click here to jump to the comments section:

https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com/2014/09/13/self-publishing-expenses-gone-wild/#comments

Kindle for Kids Just Got Better!

Kids BooksKDP FOR KIDS

Amazon just announced the new KDP Kids website:

  • Visit Amazon’s PR page, http://amazon.com/pr, to read Amazon’s press release about KDP Kids and the Kindle Kids’ Books Creator tool.
  • Visit the new KDP Kids website, https://kdp.amazon.com/kids, to explore the new program and to check out the new Kindle Kids’ Books Creator.

Or keep reading here and I’ll introduce you to them. I might even mention a few things that you can’t find through the above links. 😉

KINDLE KIDS’ BOOK CREATOR

The main thing that I see so far is the new Kindle Kids’ Book Creator tool.

This tool is designed to help children’s authors prepare illustrated books for Kindle.

There are some very convenient, cool features:

  • You can upload a multi-page PDF file. Usually, PDF’s don’t convert well to Kindle, but this is different. This tool was designed to convert children’s paperback PDF files to Kindle-friendly files.
  • Kindle text pop-ups are designed to make the text more readable across all available devices (Kindle Fire tablets, iPads, and cell phones).
  • In addition to PDF, you can upload JPEG, TIFF, PNG, and PPM files. Most of these formats are to upload images.
  • Basically, you can add images, add text, and make the text interactive through pop-ups.
  • The idea was to simplify children’s e-book formatting for Kindle. Rather than work with HTML or CSS, you just conveniently add images and text.
  • You can specify facing pages to improve readability. For example, sometimes a print book is designed so that two facing pages create one larger image.

The Kindle Kids’ Book Creator is available for Windows and Mac. Check to make sure that your computer meets the system requirements.

  • Visit the KDP Kids website (I gave the link above).
  • Click the Get Started button.
  • You can download the tool here, or you can click the Learn More link. This link gives you additional options (e.g. downloading without the previewer) and also includes FAQ’s.

MARKETING POTENTIAL

It’s not just good news for authors.

This is great news for parents, children, and educators, too.

KDP Kids solves the main problem:

  • Authors and publishers have struggled to make illustrated children’s books work well with Kindle. In the past, this either meant not making a Kindle edition at all, or not achieving optimal formatting. Now it’s much easier to properly format an illustrated children’s book, so there will soon be many quality illustrated children’s books on the market. This is your chance to ride the wave! Yes, the key word was quality (which includes editing). It’s not just about the visual design, but KDP authors now have an easy means to make the book interactive through pop-up text.
  • Many parents and educators have preferred print editions for the same reason: It’s been a challenge to find a selection of properly formatted children’s books. Now that it’s easier to make the images and text work better together, with interactive pop-up text, there will soon be many quality, interactive illustrated children’s books on Kindle and the reading experience will be much improved.

Children’s authors can help themselves by advertising these benefits to parents and educators. Show them how KDP Kids will benefit their kids. It’s a chance for you to advertise something other than your book directly, while still branding your image as an author. That is, you can get publicity through this without blatant self-promotion. That’s a nice marketing opportunity.

Let’s take this a step further: Kindle Unlimited is an amazing value for parents. Children get unlimited reading of 600,000 eligible Kindle Unlimited books for $9.99 per month:

  • bedtime stories
  • chapter books
  • early readers
  • homework help

Kindle Unlimited is like having an immense library at your fingertips, with no late fees. You can borrow up to 10 books at a time.

Check out A.J. Cosmo’s author picture on the KDP Kids page. That’s pretty cool, and shows you how even your author photo can do positive marketing. (But if everyone copies the same idea, it will cease to be effective. I’m not saying to copy this idea. I’m saying to let this idea inspire your own creativity.)

NOT JUST FOR CHILDREN

I expect to see new tools on the way, such as a textbook-friendly option for nonfiction.

KDP Kids is just one of 8 new pages that KDP has created. For example, there is KDP Non-fiction: https://kdp.amazon.com/non-fiction. At the bottom of the KDP Non-fiction page, you can find out what the other 6 new pages are.

Kindle is striving to make it easy (and FREE!) for authors to convert their books (even complex ones with images) to Kindle format, and to make it easy and convenient to achieve quality formatting.

The new Kindle Kids’ Books Creator is a giant leap in this direction. I expect to see more coming soon.

QUESTIONS

I received two emails this afternoon regarding KDP Kids. One was the automated announcement; the other was a personal email. I responded to the personal email and received a very quick, polite response. So I replied to that with some technical questions to try and clarify some important points that didn’t seem clear from the press release or FAQ’s. If any of my questions get answered, I’ll post that information on my blog.

I will also be testing this new tool out. If I discover anything valuable, I’ll be happy to share my ‘secrets’ on my blog, too.

So I may have another post or two about KDP Kids later this week.

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.

Comments

Click here to jump to the comments section:

https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com/2014/09/04/kindle-for-kids-just-got-better/#comments

Twice as Nice! Kindle now has Preorders, too!

Twice

Kindle Preorders!

On the same day that Kindle Unlimited downloads are reported to pay $1.81, we discovered that Kindle has enabled preorders for e-books.

Here is the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) help page on this: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A3P7F81795P0RA&ref_=kdp_EB_PREORDER_phl.

Here is how to do it:

  • Log into KDP.
  • Go to your Bookshelf.
  • Add a new book or edit an existing book that you haven’t already published before.
  • Proceed to publish your book as usual.
  • In Step 4, choose “Make my book available for preorder.”
  • Select a date.

Notes:

  • Only new books can be made available for preorder.
  • Customers won’t be able to sample books while they are available for preorder.
  • A new reporting feature tells you about preorders and cancellations.
  • If your preorder creates a long window of slow sales, it could adversely impact your sales rank compared to having all those sales on day one; but if you generate many preorders, your book will come out of the gate running, which may help. Preorders can also help you generate buzz for your new release.
  • You have even more reason to preview your book carefully on every device and get excellent editing. You want your book to be perfect right out of the box. You won’t have the luxury to make many changes. Problems can lead to many early returns and negative reviews.
  • You can make your print book available for preorder using Amazon Advantage. There is a great thread on the CreateSpace community forum with instructions for how to do this.

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.

How Much Will Authors Make w/ Kindle Unlimited?

Unlimited Reading

Read All You Want!

Now readers can, using Amazon’s new Kindle Unlimited. For $9.99 a month, customers in the United States can download and read as many Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select books as they want. There are presently 600,000 titles from which to choose.

The two-million dollar question is: How much money will authors make when a customer downloads their book?

The first part of this answer is ZERO, unless the customer reads past 10% of the book. This is an important point, as many customers will think they are supporting authors they know just by downloading their books. But if they don’t read more than 10% of those books, the author won’t earn any royalty for the trouble.

What about when customers pass the 10% mark—how much will authors make then?

Well, nobody knows for sure. Amazon can’t tell us up front. Amazon is telling us how they will determine this. And we have some data to judge by, such as prior experience with Amazon Prime borrows.

Update: The results are in now. Kindle Unlimited paid $1.81 per borrow/download in July, 2014, much higher than I was expecting.

Amazon Prime Borrows

Let’s take Amazon Prime as a starting point:

  • Historically, KDP Select authors have received about $2 per borrow.
  • The first month of KDP Select was closer to $1.50, and the same for the following holiday season. Amazon created a lot of buzz for Amazon Prime and KDP Select for the first two holiday seasons, and as a result there were more downloads than usual.
  • However, when the per-borrow royalty was low, Amazon increased the KDP Select Global Fund for other months to bring the per-borrow royalty above $2.
  • Thus, for most months, authors have received $2 and change for KDP Select borrows in the Amazon Prime program.

Extrapolating to Kindle Unlimited

Based on this, here is what I expect with Kindle Unlimited:

  • The first month or two of Kindle Unlimited will feature an incredible number of downloads. There will be many new memberships. Customers will be exploring the program. They will want to get their money’s worth. Authors will be helping to promote the program, hoping to get their share of the $2,000,000 KDP Select Global Fund.
  • Thus, I won’t be surprised if, for the first month or two, the per-download royalty is significantly lower than the $2 per-borrow royalty KDP Select authors are accustomed to with Amazon Prime.
  • However, it’s in Amazon’s interest to monitor this closely. If it looks like the per-download royalty will be too low, Amazon may add additional money to the KDP Select Global Fund. Otherwise, many authors may opt out of the program at their earliest opportunity. (Current KDP Select authors can opt out immediately, regardless of when their current 90-day enrollment period ends. Go to your KDP bookshelf, click Learn More, then Learn More again to find a form specifically for this purpose.)
  • So I will be surprised if the per-download royalty gets too low (whatever that may be). Maybe it will be somewhat low the first month, but, if so, I suspect that Amazon would greatly increase the KDP Select Global Fund, trying to reassure authors that it will be much higher in the future. Time will tell.
  • Keep in mind that Amazon has already added $800,000 to the KDP Select Global Fund for July, 2014. This will help to compensate for the additional downloads coming through the new Kindle Unlimited program. The big question is: Will it be enough? My feeling is: Probably not enough to reach $2 per book, but the overall royalties could be higher than usual, depending. (In a moment, we’ll get into the math.)
  • I think it was wise of Amazon to introduce Kindle Unlimited about halfway through July. This first month will be limited in downloads, as half the month was already gone when this began. It also gives Amazon some valuable data to help project the KDP Select Global Fund for August.
  • There is another big difference. With Amazon Prime, customers can only borrow one book per month. Now, with Kindle Unlimited, each customer will be downloading multiple books per month. This will have a profound influence on the total number of downloads.

Kindle Unlimited Math

Now we’ll have some fun with numbers. 🙂

First off, the July, 2014 KDP Select Global Fund was originally $1.2 million. Amazon added $800,000 to the fund to make it $2,000,000. There will be many more downloads through Kindle Unlimited than there have ever been borrows through KDP Select, but the global fund is also larger, which helps to compensate to some extent.

Here is how Amazon will figure the per-borrow (or per-download) royalty:

Borrow Royalty

Note that borrows (through Prime) and downloads (through Kindle Unlimited) are treated equally, so we can use these words interchangeably in the math.

Note also that what I’m calling a ‘download’ is really a download where the customer reads more than 10% of the book. If the customer doesn’t reach 10%, that doesn’t qualify.

Example: The KDP Select Global Fund for July, 2014 is $2,000,000. If there are 1,000,000 downloads in July (including both Kindle Unlimited downloads and Amazon Prime borrows), then the per-download royalty will be $2.00. But if there are 4,000,000 downloads in July, the per-download royalty will be 50 cents (unless Amazon chooses to increase the global fund as a result of more downloads than anticipated).

Amazon is receiving $9.99 per customer per month through Kindle Unlimited. Each additional member provides $10 more that Amazon could use, potentially, to increase the KDP Select Global Fund. So if Kindle Unlimited turns out to be incredibly popular among buyers, all these customers will be providing additional revenue, and Amazon could choose to share some of that revenue with the global fund. If the per-download royalty is too low, many authors will be thinking about opting out. Amazon has good incentive to make the per-download enticing to authors, and Amazon knows that authors are used to making about $2 per borrow through KDP Select.

On the other hand, if an author receives many more downloads than usual, the per-download royalty could be somewhat lower than the traditional $2 and the author could still be earning more royalties overall. Amazon may consider this, so it’s possible for the per-download royalty to be significantly less than $2. Amazon may choose to look at the cumulative royalties that the average KDP Select author is earning, rather than what the per-download royalty is.

Many authors would be okay with having more readers, but making a smaller royalty per book, especially if the overall royalties are greater than normal.

Another important figure is what Amazon is making. Amazon is charging $9.99 per month per customer. The following equation will be highly important to Amazon, and so it will also impact authors:

Selling Price

Again, by ‘download,’ I mean a download where the customer reads more than 10% of the book. Amazon only pays a royalty through Kindle Unlimited when the customer passes the 10% mark.

Example: If the average customer downloads 4 books per month through Kindle Unlimited, Amazon is essentially charging $2.50 per book. In this case, Amazon could afford to pay authors $2 per download and still make a profit of 50 cents per download. But if the average customer downloads 20 books per month, Amazon is effectively charging just 50 cents per book. Amazon isn’t likely to pay authors $2 per download, while only receiving 50 cents per book; they would be losing money.

Amazon might be willing to suffer a short-term loss for long-term gain. But my feeling is, the greater the average number of downloads by customers, the less money authors will make per download.

But at the same time, the greater the average number of downloads by customers, the more each author’s book is likely to be downloaded. It works both ways.

It Really Comes Down to Percentages

More downloads means Amazon will likely pay less money per download.

But more downloads also means that most authors will have more customers than normal.

These two effects will compensate somewhat.

What really matters to an author is each book’s percentage of downloads:

Percentage 2

Remember, the download only counts when the reader gets beyond 10% of the content.

Example: Suppose there are 1,000,000 downloads in the month of July (including Amazon Prime borrows), and suppose your book is downloaded 50 times. Then you would get 0.005% of the July global fund. Since the July, 2014 global fund is presently set at $2,000,000, this book would earn a total royalty of $100 for downloads for the month. (Note that this agrees with a $2.00 per-download royalty.)

Update: The results are in now. Kindle Unlimited paid $1.81 per borrow/download in July, 2014, much higher than I was expecting.

Good for Indie Authors?

Looking at this from the perspective of percentages, this may be good for indie authors who are enrolled in KDP Select.

Probably not all indie authors, but many may benefit from this.

Kindle Unlimited customers may be more willing to try an indie book, since it won’t cost extra money to do so. The $9.99 monthly fee has already been paid, so if the book doesn’t turn out to suit the reader, the customer can easily find another book.

Through Amazon Prime, customers could only borrow one book per month, so they had to choose wisely. Many have favored a book with a higher list price and more pages, and an author they were already familiar with.

Now Kindle Unlimited customers don’t need to choose just one book. This could be a game-changer for some indie authors.

What About Good, Old-Fashioned Sales?

The more customers who join Kindle Unlimited, the fewer customers will be buying books the old-fashioned way.

Once a customer invests $9.99 for monthly reading, the customer may feel less inclined to spend additional money on books that aren’t in the program. Why do that when you can choose from 600,000 books without spending an extra penny? Kindle Unlimited subscribers may occasionally buy a book that’s not in the program, but it will take a compelling reason.

Thus, as more customers join Kindle Unlimited, authors may be receiving more of their revenue through downloads and less revenue through good, old-fashioned purchases. If so, the numbers may compensate. Kindle Unlimited could potentially make up for any lack of sales and then some. The only way to know for sure will be to wait and see.

The number of traditional sales might not even diminish. First, not everyone will join Kindle Unlimited. $120 per year is more than many readers want to commit to for reading.

Also, if Kindle Unlimited succeeds in getting a book more downloads, this may actually lead to improved sales, too. There is such a thing as word-of-mouth publicity. More readers, even with lower royalties, sometimes leads to greater success in the long run. The potential is there.

Another consideration is list price. A higher list price may actually make the book more enticing to Kindle Unlimited, and downloads through Kindle Unlimited will improve the sales rank. This might lead to more ‘sales’ at a higher list price, earning a higher royalty than usual.

It will sure be interesting to see how Kindle Unlimited turns out.

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.

Comments

Click here to jump to the comments section:

https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com/2014/07/19/how-much-will-authors-make-w-kindle-unlimited/#comments

Kindle Unlimited—Good or Bad for Authors?

Read Me

Read Unlimited Kindle E-books

Today, Amazon introduced Kindle Unlimited:

  • For $9.99 per month, a customer can now read (and listen to) an unlimited number of Kindle e-books.
  • There are 600,000 books to choose from. The books are enrolled in KDP Select.
  • All KDP Select books are automatically included. (But authors can opt out of KDP Select by completing a form. See below.)
  • Customers don’t need to be in Amazon Prime to enjoy the benefits of Kindle Unlimited.

You can read more about it at Amazon, including the terms of use: https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=hp_left_v4_sib?ie=UTF8&nodeId=201550610.

Authors can learn more about it at Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), where there is also a new form for those who wish to opt out of KDP Select: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=AA9BSAGNO1YJH.

Is Kindle Unlimited Good for Authors?

In order to participate in Kindle Unlimited, an e-book must be enrolled in KDP Select.

Here are some advantages of enrolling in KDP Select:

  • You will be paid the equivalent of one ‘borrow’ when a customer (A) downloads your Kindle e-book and (B) reads past 10% of the e-book as part of the Kindle Unlimited Program. Historically, a borrow has equated to approximately a $2 royalty.
  • Many customers will be trying out Kindle Unlimited in the coming months. These customers probably won’t be buying books any other way except through Kindle Unlimited for as long as they remain in the program.
  • You can use either Kindle Countdown Deals or free promos (but not both) as a promotional tool. The value of these promotional tools will probably be diminished as any customer who has Kindle Unlimited won’t gain anything from Countdown Deals or freebies. However, there will still be many customers who aren’t in Kindle Unlimited.

The main disadvantage of enrolling in KDP Select is that you must make the e-book edition of your book exclusive to Kindle:

  • Your e-book can’t be published through Nook, Kobo, Smashwords, your own website in PDF, or anywhere else in electronic format as long as your book is enrolled in KDP Select. Amazon is very strict about this and does automatic checks to find e-books violating the terms and conditions.
  • This exclusivity persists for 90-day periods. If you decide to opt out of KDP Select, you must go to your KDP bookshelf and uncheck the box for automatic renewal. Then you must still wait for the 90-day period to end before you’re eligible to publish your e-book elsewhere. (But if you’re presently in KDP Select, there is an immediate opt-out option available right now. See below.)

Is it worth enrolling in KDP Select? That’s the million-dollar question. This was a heated debate prior to Kindle Unlimited.

The only way to really know for sure is to try it both ways. (Note that you can experience lengthy delays and problems trying to unpublish your e-book from other retailers in order to switch back into KDP Select.)

Kindle Unlimited may be a compelling reason to enroll in KDP Select. There will be many authors returning to KDP Select to try it out. There are also authors opting out with the introduction of KDP Select. Everyone is trying to decide which side of the fence has the greener grass. By the way, I’m staying in KDP Select.

  • Many customers will be trying out Kindle Unlimited, so the program will be popular during the early months.
  • Customers in Kindle Unlimited won’t be buying any books that aren’t in the program.

Want out of KDP Select?

Suppose you’re already in KDP Select and you’re thinking, “They didn’t ask me if I wanted to participate in Kindle Unlimited.”

Not a problem. Visit your KDP bookshelf. Click the Learn More link where it mentions Kindle Unlimited. Then there is yet another Learn More link to click. Then you can click the link entitled, “Complete this Contact Us form.”

Complete that form to opt out immediately. You don’t need to wait until your 90-day period ends, but only if you complete and submit this form (so don’t use the usual method of unchecking the box for automatic renewal).

You might want to consider this choice carefully before you opt out.

What about Amazon Prime?

Amazon Prime charges a hefty annual fee (though it turns out to be a little cheaper than 12 months of Kindle Unlimited) and only allows one borrow per month.

Kindle Unlimited costs $9.99 per month, but allows unlimited reading of KDP Select titles.

That one borrow per month pales in comparison. However, there are still many other benefits of Amazon Prime, such as free 2-day shipping.

Customers who bought Amazon Prime primarily to borrow books for free are likely to switch to Kindle Unlimited when their Prime memberships run out.

Customers who bought Amazon Prime for other reasons will probably keep it, whether or not they join Kindle Unlimited.

More Notes about Kindle Unlimited

  • How many books can you really read in a month? That comes out to $120 per year. Would you spend that much in a year on books? $9.99 is a great deal for those who read avidly, but not very enticing for those who don’t.
  • You can’t just horde books. If you cancel your Kindle Unlimited membership, you automatically lose access to all the books you downloaded through the program.
  • Amazon has added $800,000 to the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) fund for July, 2014, bringing the total July fund up to $2,000,000. This will help to compensate for the additional downloads through Kindle Unlimited.
  • Borrows usually pay a little over $2 each per month. When Amazon launches a new program, borrows usually pay $1.50 or less per book for the first month or so, but then Amazon has historically been pretty good at adjusting the KOLL fund so that they pay $2 or more per borrow. However, there will be many more downloads through Kindle Unlimited than there ever were borrows through Amazon Prime, so borrows might pay significantly less than normal, at least in the early months.
  • Kindle Unlimited is presently only available to US customers, but there appear to be plans to expand.
  • You won’t receive any payment for downloads through Kindle Unlimited until a customer passes the 10% mark. Just downloading your book isn’t sufficient. So your friends and family, for example, might think they’re supporting you through the download, whereas they won’t be supporting you at all if they don’t pass the 10% point.
  • Unlike Amazon Prime, you don’t have to return your book before you can start reading another one. However, the terms of use do include a paragraph entitled Restrictions, where Amazon will clearly monitor abuse of the download privilege. Customers must not only download the e-book, but must also pass the 10% point before the book will receive a royalty from the KDP Select Global Fund.
  • Amazon is promoting Audible Audiobooks through Kindle Unlimited. Not only do you get free downloads of KDP Select books, you also get free audiobooks. This will entice audiobook customers to try out Kindle Unlimited.
  • What about those really short books? Now customers can read short books for free (but they can read long books for fee, too), provided the books are in KDP Select and they customer has Kindle Unlimited. A customer might read 2 paragraphs of a very short story and that author will earn just as much of a royalty as if a customer read several chapters of an epic fantasy or perhaps a whole book of an omnibus. But will customers be buying short stories? They might feel it’s a better value to shop for books that are ordinarily priced $5.99 and up and have hundreds of thousands of words. Time will tell.
  • This may be great for children’s books. You can read your child 30 different stories in a month for $9.99, reading one bedtime story every night. Children’s authors should be advertising this benefit to customers. It can help children’s authors sell more e-books through Kindle Unlimited.

What do you think about Kindle Unlimited?

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.

Comments

Click here to jump to the comments section:

https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com/2014/07/18/kindle-unlimited-good-or-bad-for-authors/#comments

Most Valuable Marketing Tools for Self-Published Authors

Tools

1 Word of Mouth

What it can do for you:

  • It can generate sales even when you’ve had a couple of recent unfavorable reviews. What a reader’s buddy tells them about your book carries more weight than what some random stranger writes on your Amazon product page.
  • It doesn’t rely on Amazon to sell your book through search results or customers-also-bought lists. Those can change over time. Word-of-mouth sales can yield traffic during times when Amazon’s marketing isn’t helping your book.
  • It helps your book get discovered. Instead of having to hunt your book down amongst thousands of others in that genre, your book is reaching readers’ ears directly.
  • It lends credibility to your book. Somebody that readers trust is recommending your book.
  • It gets readers interested in your book and puts them in a positive frame of mind at the outset. Readers discovering your book on Amazon often approach it with concern.
  • It can lead to a very long-term chain reaction. A few readers hear good things about your book. It may take weeks for them to buy and read your book. If each of them recommends it to their buddies, the number of readers and recommenders has grown. Many months later, what starts out small can lead to something much bigger.
  • It can build your reputation as an author. This helps not only to sell one book, but to generate interest in your full line of books.

Word-of-mouth sales can be the most valuable, but also the hardest to get.

How to earn them:

  • Your book has to have a wow-factor. When strangers pick up your book and feel impressed with the read, you really have something. Your book’s strengths need to compel readers to want more of that. Give readers more than they expect; much more.
  • Fiction books need to evoke strong emotions in readers; they need to also deliver on readers’ expectations for the genre. Nonfiction books need to fulfill the range and depth of information that readers want; they also need to be well-organized, communicate ideas clearly, and present the information at the right level.
  • You need to shore up your book’s weaknesses. Even if the storyline or characters are incredible, readers find it hard to recommend books with editing, formatting, or other issues. Their reputation is on the line, too, in the recommendation. Your book needs to earn it. You’re charging money for your book; it needs to appear professional.
  • If your book has that wow-factor, get it into the hands of readers. Run promotions, find bloggers who review books in your genre, and find and interact with your target audience. Find experts to read your book and politely request an editorial review or a quote that you can use in your book’s blurb—that’s a professional recommendation that carries weight with some customers.

When the author goes the extra mile to impress readers and produces a book worthy of word-of-mouth praise, this can have a huge impact on the long-term success of the book.

2 The Horse’s Mouth

What’s the next best thing to hearing positive things about a book from a trusted source?

Interacting directly with the author, of course.

Even in today’s world where millions of authors are getting books out there, it’s still a treat to meet and interact with the author.

Why does it matter? This personal interaction can do things that your product page can’t:

  • Show your passion and enthusiasm for your book.
  • Make the reader feel special. Don’t just draw interest in your book. Get interested in your readers, too.
  • There is greater potential to establish credibility as an author.
  • Answer any questions that the reader has.

Of the most common ways for books to sell, personal interactions with the target audience is the one big factor that is most accessible to self-published authors. (The other big factors include shopping the bestseller list, shopping by the name of an established author, browsing through the gigantic haystack of books on Amazon, professional book reviews, and bookstore recommendations.) When you aren’t dealt a good hand, you better play the one good card you do have. If you do play your cards right, you can eventually benefit from the other popular ways that books sell, too.

Think long and hard about where to find your target audience. Go out and interact with them. Charm your potential readers.

While you can reach greater numbers online, interactions in person are more likely to result in sales and reviews.

3 Flash It

Your book needs attention.

Shoppers will be browsing through hundreds of thumbnails in search results. Others will see your cover when they come across your marketing efforts.

Your cover needs to stand out.

It also needs to look the part. If it looks like a mystery, but it’s really a fantasy, your sales will be a bad romance.

A fantastic cover won’t provide long-term success for a lousy book.

But a fantastic cover can have a significant impact on the sales of a quality book.

For a highly marketable book (i.e. there is demand for the book and the content delivers on expectations), investing a modest amount toward a fantastic cover can pay nice dividends in the long run. And what you might lack in terms of financial investment, you can make up for in time. After all, time is money. Take the time to learn the how-to, get feedback, and get it right.

There are no guarantees in the publishing business, but most successful self-published authors credit their covers for being valuable players on their books’ sales teams.

4 Talk to Me, Baby

An effective cover grabs the attention of the target audience and brings shoppers to the product page.

Now it’s time for the only salesperson you have at the point-of-sale to close the deal.

“Who’s that,” you ask? It’s your blurb.

The description of your book isn’t a summary. It’s a sales tool.

The blurb needs to attract attention right off the bat. It needs to engage interest in the first line and hold that interest until the customer clicks to Look Inside.

Many effective blurbs are very concise, especially in fiction. Too much text there can be intimidating. If you’re exploring hundreds of books, you don’t want to read a long description for a book you might not even buy. In nonfiction, you can make important points easy to read by using bullet points (such formatting is possible through Author Central).

If the reader gets bored, it’s no sale. If the blurb doesn’t reinforce the genre depicted by the cover and title, it’s no deal.

Once the blurb generates a click to Look Inside, the Look Inside needs to wow the customer into making the purchase. Like the blurb, the Look Inside needs to engage interest immediately and keep it throughout. It must also look professional and read well.

Finally, the book must deliver on the promise made by the cover, blurb, and Look Inside. Otherwise, you get returns and frustrated readers.

5 Hunt ’em Down

Your book is out there, but who knows it?

You want to find your target audience. The word for this is marketing.

A great cover and blurb help, but first people must find your book. Recommendations are great, but first people must read your book. First, you need to get your book discovered.

Paid advertisements probably won’t be cost-effective for marketing a single book. Unless you have an amazing promotion going on and you supplement the paid advertising with much free marketing. In that case, a BookBub (click the link to learn more) or other type of promotion may come in handy.

There are many free marketing strategies, which are often more effective for books than paid marketing. Blogging, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media sites help you build a following and interact with your target audience. The key words here are target audience, which means posting content that will be relevant for them, using appropriate hash tags, and finding relevant Facebook groups.

Social media is a slow process. Now you go from just getting your book discovered to getting your social media pages discovered. You can do this through months of effective posts, interacting with people in your target audience, and directing readers to your social media pages in an About the Author section in your book. Then you’re kind of going in circles. But your social media helps two ways: You want people to discover you and your book, and you also want to attract fans so you can tell them about your next book when it comes out.

Don’t forget old-fashioned media: newspapers, magazines, television, and radio. Local papers often have column inches to fill and local radio stations may have minutes of air time to fill. Think about what can make you interesting to their audience. You’re selling yourself to sell your book. Learn how to prepare a press release package.

Remember, personal interactions are valuable to self-published (and all) authors. See if you can put together a successful reading or signing. Visit local libraries to see if you can get a paperback copy in circulation there or volunteer to read (appropriate material) to kids or senior citizens (visit a senior citizen center, too). Try to get stocked in local bookstores, and antique and other kinds of stores that sell books, but don’t specialize in books.

You need to work hard to find your target audience. But you can also help your target audience find you. Over time, turn your blog into a content-rich website with nonfiction material (even if you write fiction) that will attract your target audience through search engines. Your goal is to get 100+ visitors daily to your site through relevant search engine queries after a year of posts. That’s a lot of people discovering you and your book. It starts out very slow, but if you do it right, it can be very effective toward long-term success.

6 Can’t Get Enough

It’s easier to market several similar books than it is to market a single book.

It’s also easier to buy a book from someone who looks like a committed writer. When readers try out new authors, they’re looking for someone with the potential to provide a lifetime of good reading. If you just have a couple of books out, there isn’t much potential reward even if the book turns out to be good (i.e. comparing a reader who likes your book to a reader who likes a book by an author who has a dozen books out, this second reader will be enjoying many more books).

You also look like a professional writer when you have several books out.

And then each book that you sell helps to sell your other similar books. A hot promotion on one book helps to sell all your other books. More books, more readers, more recommendations, multi-book sales… If you’re looking to grow your sales, you need to publish a full line of books.

Don’t try to build Rome in a day. Take your time and get your books right. Just look ahead to the future. Your long-term goal is to have several good books that all help one another. It won’t help at all to have several books out unless readers enjoy them.

Chris McMullen

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

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

Comments

Click here to jump to the comments section:

https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com/2014/06/22/most-valuable-marketing-tools-for-self-published-authors/#comments