How Does Amazon.com Sales Rank Work?

AMAZON.COM SALES RANK

Amazon assigns a sales rank to every product that has sold at least one time.

The lower the number, the better the product is selling.

For example, a sales rank of 2500 is better than a sales rank of 375,000.

The product that sells the best in its category has a sales rank of 1.

CATEGORY RANKS

Amazon has different ranks for different types of products.

Books are ranked independently from sports equipment and video games, for example.

For a given type of product, there are also category ranks.

For example, a few Books categories include Romance, Children’s, and Science.

A great overall rank is more impressive than a category rank.

For example, a book has to sell quite frequently to rank 500 overall in Books, but can sell much less frequently and still rank 500 in Romance.

A good rank in a broad category is more impressive than a good rank in a subcategory.

For example, a book must sell frequently to rank 100 overall in Science, but can sell much less frequently and rank 100 in Biochemistry.

If a product has never sold, it won’t have a sales rank. (However, if the product was just released recently, there may be a significant delay before its first sale results in a sales rank.)

SALES RANK CHANGES

Amazon sales rank is dynamic.

It fluctuates up and down.

If you look at the sales rank of a product right now, it’s possible that the sales rank happens to be at an all-time low or high for that product.

The current value doesn’t necessarily tell you how well the product usually sells.

A book that usually sells a few copies per day might have an overall sales rank fluctuate between 20,000 and 500,000. Sometimes sales are steadier, sometimes the range is wider, depending on a variety of factors.

For example, during and after a promotion, a product is likely to have a better sales rank than normal. There are seasonal changes. If an author releases a new book, this sometimes helps the author’s other books a little.

There are many reasons that a product that usually sells well might temporarily have a worse rank than usual, or why a product that usually sells less frequently might suddenly have a much better sales rank than usual.

If you really want to judge how well a particular product is selling, monitor its sales rank multiple times over the course of a month.

REPORTING DELAYS

Although Amazon advertises that sales rank is updated hourly, this is not always the case.

It is often fairly up-to-date.

Actually, it’s amazing how well the millions of products are handled.

However, if you happen to purchase a product and expect to see a sudden change in the sales rank, don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t seem as responsive as you had hoped.

Also, a single sale may not have the impact that you expect (unless the rank was previously in the millions). For Kindle eBooks enrolled in KDP Select, there is an additional complication (discussed below).

There are occasionally significant delays. A delay might just happen to coincide when sales rank suddenly becomes important to you. It happens.

MAJOR SALES RANK FACTORS

There appear to be three main factors that affect a product’s sales rank.

  • Recent sales. This is the most important factor. How many copies have sold in the last 24 hours?
  • Sales history. This affects how quickly the sales rank number rises when a product doesn’t sell. A product that has sold frequently in the past has its sales rank climb very slowly when it suddenly stops selling. A product that has hardly ever sold has its sales rank quickly rise up into the millions if it doesn’t sell again soon.
  • Sales frequency. How well has the product sold on average in the past? It seems that Amazon added this factor to help limit the impact that short-term promotions have on sales rank.

What we know for sure. This is what Amazon states on the Amazon Seller Central help pages:

“Sales rank is calculated based on all-time sales of an ASIN/Product where recent sales are weighted more than older sales.”

DO REVIEWS AFFECT SALES RANK?

According to the Seller Central help pages:

“Sales rank is generated based on order data and product reviews are not taken into consideration.”

This suggests that customer reviews do not directly impact sales rank.

You can find many products with a large number of positive reviews with overall sales ranks in the millions, and you can find a few bestselling products with harsh one-star reviews with excellent sales ranks.

Therefore, if customer reviews do have any influence on sales rank, it evidently isn’t significant.

Indirectly, however, customer reviews can influence sales rank. How?

For example, if customer reviews happen to help or hurt a product’s sales, this change in sales frequency will surely affect sales rank.

Note that it’s the change in sales frequency, not the reviews themselves, that cause the significant change in sales rank.

Customer reviews often have virtually no impact on sales, in which case sales rank won’t be influenced by them.

KINDLE RANKS

Kindle eBooks have both ranks in Books and ranks in the Kindle Store, whereas print books only have ranks in Books.

For KDP Select books, Kindle Unlimited introduces a significant complication.

Here is the problem with Kindle Unlimited:

When a customer borrows the Kindle eBook, it counts much like a sale.

However, KDP doesn’t tell you how many times your eBook is borrowed.

KDP only tells you how many pages have been read, which isn’t the same.

If 100 pages are read, you don’t know if 1 customer read 100 pages or if 5 customers each read 20 pages.

If 100 pages read show in your reports today, you don’t know if it was from customers who borrowed your book today or last month.

Why does this matter? Here are a couple of examples.

A Kindle eBook that only sells a few times per week can rank just as well as a book that says a few times per day. How? By getting borrowed a few times per day.

A Kindle eBook’s sales rank might not improve much during a promotion where sales double. Why? Because you don’t know how the rate of borrowing compares to the sales, and you don’t know whether the book is being borrowed more or less during the promotion.

Interpreting the sales rank for a print book and a Kindle eBook is different for two reasons. One reason has to do with Kindle Unlimited, as we just discussed. Another reason is that Kindle eBooks sell much better in certain categories.

So if you’re trying to determine how many sales it takes per day to maintain a sales rank of a particular value, first decide whether you want to know the answer for a print book or a Kindle eBook.

For example, the number of daily sales needed to maintain an overall sales rank of 50,000 is different for a paperback than it is for a Kindle eBook.

For a Kindle eBook enrolled in KDP Select, the answer also depends on how many times per day the book is being borrowed in Kindle Unlimited.

FREE VERSUS PAID RANKS

Kindle eBooks have separate ranks for free books and paid books.

So if your Kindle eBook is free, the rank doesn’t mean the same thing.

There are two ways that this matters:

  • A perma-free book always has a free rank (unless you succeed in raising the price point).
  • A KDP Select free promo shows a temporary free rank, to be replaced with a paid sales rank after the promotion ends.

Unfortunately, when customers get the book for free, this doesn’t count toward the paid sales rank.

So although the free rank may look wonderful during the promotion, when it is replaced by the paid rank after the promotion, sales rank will probably have dropped due to lack of paid sales during the promotion.

However, if the free promo succeeds in generating interest in the book, this can lead to improved sales and eventually help the sales rank.

HOW MANY SALES ARE NEEDED TO MAINTAIN A GIVEN RANK?

That depends.

First, it’s different for every category, and it’s also different for subcategories.

So lets look at the overall sales rank just in Books, for example.

And lets consider just print books (not Kindle eBooks), since they are different.

The answer will still vary a bit. First, there are seasonal changes.

Second, tens of thousands of new books are published every day, and authors are getting better at marketing, so more books are selling.

A major difference comes with sales ranks in the millions. Since there are several million more print books than Kindle eBooks, a sales rank of 2,000,000 indicates a better seller in print than in Kindle, whereas sales ranks under a million probably indicate better sales for Kindle eBooks than print books.

Following are some rough estimates. Remember, these are for print books (not Kindle eBooks). Kindle eBooks work similarly, but the numbers are a little different (and complicated by Kindle Unlimited, which is why my example is for print books instead).

Remember also that it also depends on how well the book has sold in the past. Recent sales aren’t the only factor.

Plus, sales rank isn’t constant. When I indicate a sales rank of 30,000, it might fluctuate between 10,000 and 60,000.

These are overall in all of Books.

  • 100,000 equates to roughly 1 sale per day.
  • 30,000 equates to roughly 3 sales per day.
  • 5,000 equates to roughly 20 sales per day.
  • Ranks between 100,000 and 1,000,000 tend to fluctuate quite a bit, and are indicative of 1 sale every few days. But books that usually have a rank well above 1,000,000 will drop down to this range temporarily after a recent sale. The worse its historical rank, the faster it climbs.
  • Ranks between 1,000,000 and 2,000,000 could mean a couple of different things. It could mean the book used to sell some, but has gone through a dry spell recently; if so, its sales rank will climb very slowly (or it will get a sale and return to a better level). It could happen when a book’s rank was above 2,000,000 but sold in the past few days; if so, its sales rank will climb very rapidly (unless it gets a new sale).
  • Ranks above 2,000,000 probably indicate not much recent activity. Note that there are books that sold fairly well in the past that now have ranks in the millions. In those cases, there just haven’t been any sales for a month or more. Books that rarely sell may have ranks well above 2,000,000 (I have seen 5,000,000, and this number will keep rising).
  • A book has a current steady point. For example, based on its combination of sales history and recent lack of sales, suppose that a book’s steady point is 3,500,000. If it suddenly sells, it will see life in the hundred thousands, and then it will rapidly climb back up to near its old steady point unless a new sales comes soon. Steady points in the low hundred thousands or in the ten thousands tend to be much less steady: Since those books have more frequent sales, any changes to the sales frequency can have a significant impact. With ranks in the millions, you can see huge drops down to the hundred thousands, but they tend to rise back up into their old millions quickly (unless the book stars to see more regular sales).
  • Ranks of 1000, 500, 100, or better can have wildly varying results. The number of sales needed to have an overall sales rank of 100 can be considerably different next month than it is now. I’m not going to quote these numbers since they can change dramatically (plus it’s not as easy to get a book to hold its rank in that range for a long period of time).

I’ve published several books, some in pen names, and can corroborate all of the numbers above (but please read all of my notes above before you try to interpret them too literally).

Note that these numbers will change significantly over time, beyond just the seasonal effects.

Back in 2008, a single paperback sale would cause the overall sales rank in Books to jump to about 50,000, but nowadays a single sale might bring the sales rank to 200,000. (Remember, it also depends significantly on the sales history of the book, not just the recent sale.)

Someday there may be 1,000,000 different books selling once per day on average, and then not all ranks in the millions will be indicative of books that aren’t selling.

Indeed, sales ranks are slipping to 1,000,000 faster than ever when a book doesn’t maintain its sales frequency.

If a newly published book doesn’t generate steady sales, it can plummet to the millions before the author realizes it.

MISPERCEPTIONS

It’s very easy to draw incorrect conclusions based on sales rank numbers.

One common mistake is to conclude that only 100,000 books sell once per day or more.

Wait. Isn’t that what I said in my list above? If an overall sales rank of 100,000 equates to roughly 1 sale per day, then why is it wrong to conclude that only 100,000 books sell once per day or more?

It’s because sales ranks change in time.

If you compare the top 100,000 books today to the top 100,000 books tomorrow or yesterday, there will be thousands of books that crossed this threshold.

Many books sell multiple copies per day when they are released, and then see sales drop off at some point.

Many books that usually only sell 1 copy every few days see a big boost during a short-term promotion.

Over the course of a month, there will be way more than 100,000 books that sold at least 30 copies for the month. That’s because sales ranks are constantly changing. Hundreds of thousands of books will average one sale per day for the month, even though their sales ranks will spend some time above (and below) the 100,000 mark.

Over the course of a year, there will be more than a million (1,000,000) books that sell at least 300 copies for the year (about 1 copy per day on average). A significant number of books sell their 300 copies over a very short period. Almost no books will sell exactly 1 copy per day all year long.

Here are a few more common mistakes that are made trying to interpret sales rank:

  • Forgetting that Kindle Unlimited borrows are very significant for Kindle eBooks in KDP Select.
  • Only looking at the current sales rank, and not looking at the history of sales or how the sales rank changes over time.
  • Looking at category or subcategory ranks, and comparing that number to overall ranks.

If a book has a sales rank of 50,000 right now, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is a consistent seller. It probably means that there were a couple of recent sales, but without monitoring its rank over a longer period of time, you can’t really tell if it sells consistently or infrequently.

If a book has a sales rank of 700,000 right now, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it hasn’t sold well, especially if the book has been published for quite some time. It’s possible that the book sold a few times per day for weeks or even months, and then sales slowly declined. It’s also possible that the book sells once a week or so. Yet another possibility is that the book hardly ever sells, but had a sale in the past few days. Without monitoring the rank over a long period time or knowing the sales history, you can’t tell.

AUTHOR RANK

Amazon also keeps track of author rank in addition to sales rank.

How is author rank different from sales rank?

Author rank adds all of the sales of all of the editions of all of the author’s books (published in that same author name).

If an author publishes multiple books that sell regularly, all of these books help with author rank.

You can see your author rank by signing up for and logging into Amazon’s Author Central.

I pay more attention to my author rank (and my author rank in my pen names) than I do to sales rank.

One of my goals is to improve my average author rank each year.

If you’re at 100,000 now, strive to improve this to 50,000 next year. Try to come up with better ideas, strive to write better, and try to improve your marketing.

If you can get your average author rank down to about 10,000 or better, that’s pretty good.

If you can get your author rank for your name and for a pen name to both be significant, this gives you a little peace of mind: Not all of your eggs are in a single basket.

Just like sales rank, author rank can fluctuate significantly. It can also tail off over time or see sudden spikes. So you have to be careful about interpreting this number (as I mentioned with sales rank).

DO AMAZON GIVEAWAYS AFFECT SALES RANK?

According to the KDP help pages:

“Activities that may not be an accurate reflection of customer demand, including promotional Amazon Giveaway sales and purchases that are later returned, are not counted towards sales rank.”

This suggests that Amazon Giveaways do not affect sales rank.

If sometimes it seems to help, perhaps the effect is indirect. After all, one goal of the giveaways is to create exposure.

TIP FOR AUTHORS

Spend more time writing your books, some time marketing, and much less time monitoring your sales rank.

The new books that you publish and your marketing may help you improve your sales rank by netting more sales.

Simply staring at your sales ranks probably won’t make you feel better unless you get super lucky.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Copyright © 2018

Chris McMullen

Author of:

  • Kindle Formatting Magic (new release)
  • A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon (also part of a Boxed Set)
  • The Improve Your Math Fluency series of workbooks (algebra, fractions, arithmetic, trig, long division, and more)

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

How to Preview Your Kindle eBook #pubtips

PREVIEWING YOUR KINDLE eBOOK

This is a thorough guide to help you preview your Kindle eBook.

Previewing is best done in several stages.

  1. Proofreading the text
  2. Initial preview for obvious issues
  3. Check the images
  4. Check any drop caps
  5. Click every hyperlink (including the table of contents and footnotes)
  6. Check any tables
  7. Scan the entire eBook for formatting issues
  8. Change the background color
  9. Adjust font size, typeface, line spacing, and device margins
  10. Adjust the orientation between portrait and landscape and scan several pages (or the whole eBook)
  11. Test the eBook out on various devices and apps
  12. Scan the eBook one last time before publishing
  13. Try to preview the Look Inside (see the last section of this article)
  14. Download the free sample after publishing
  15. Check the Look Inside once it becomes available
  16. Be your own first customer and scan the entire book
  17. If you publish any revisions, ask KDP to push the updated book onto your device, and check the revision

PROOFREADING

I do my initial proofread on printed paper before most of the formatting is applied. I like to get the text perfected as much as possible before I do most of the formatting.

It’s easier to make changes in the initial stages of formatting. Any text that I can revise before I have two separate editions (paperback and Kindle) means less work to do later. Also, it’s easier to make revisions before I introduce subtle formatting changes (like adding non-breaking spaces).

When the text is completely written, I print out the entire document at home. I read through that slowly, taking my time, putting annotations in the margins.

After I implement all of the revisions, after a good night’s sleep, with a fresh pair of eyes I check all of the revisions. I always catch a few mistakes in the corrections.

Next, I format the paperback version of the book and order a printed proof. When the printed proof arrives, I give it another careful proofread.

Once the Kindle edition is ready, I upload it to KDP and download the converted MOBI file onto my favorite device (either my Paperwhite or Kindle Fire HD, depending on the content) and read through it again.

Re-read the first chapter again with fresh eyes.

Don’t forget to proofread your book description just as carefully as you proofread the book itself.

If you need proofreading help, you can hire a proofreader. But remember, it’s still your responsibility. Your name is on the book.

Word’s spellcheck and Grammarly can help to some extent, but they aren’t foolproof. Text-to-speech software can help, too, but again it isn’t foolproof.

Also consider possible editing that goes beyond simple proofreading. A careful proofread is a minimum, but isn’t always sufficient.

THE ONLINE PREVIEWER

The downloadable previewer is more reliable than the convenient online previewer.

However, there are usually a few obvious mistakes, and it’s convenient to first use the online previewer to catch those obvious mistakes before going to the trouble of using the downloadable previewer.

Open the Kindle eBook with the online previewer and scroll through the beginning of the eBook looking for obvious problems.

Once you’ve corrected the obvious problems starting at the beginning, you should move onto the downloadable previewer.

THE DOWNLOADABLE PREVIEWER

Kindle Previewer 3 (the downloadable previewer) has recently been updated to include some helpful features, like Auto Advance or the option to quickly check every image or link.

Download your MOBI file. If necessary, also download the Kindle Previewer.

  • Adjust the dropdown menu to Images. This makes it convenient to quickly check every picture in your eBook.
  • Adjust the dropdown menu to Drop Caps.
  • Adjust the dropdown menu to Links. Click on every external hyperlink, internal hyperlink, table of contents entry, and footnote to ensure that it works properly.
  • Adjust the dropdown menu to Tables.
  • Make any necessary corrections and then return to the downloadable previewer with the revised MOBI file.
  • Enable the Auto Advance feature. I prefer a slow speed. Check the formatting carefully (the next section has a checklist). Occasionally, you will need to back up a few pages and check them again. Don’t let yourself get caught in a daze where you’re not really paying attention.
  • Adjust the background color to white, then to sepia, then to green.
  • Adjust font size, typeface, line spacing, and device margins. The font size and typeface of your body text should change as you adjust these features (unless you have a rare fixed-format eBook, like a fully illustrated children’s book).
  • Adjust the orientation between portrait and landscape.
  • Try the different devices that the previewer mimics. Even better, sideload your MOBI file onto a few actual devices (there is a section regarding this later in this article).

Note: This article continues after the following pictures.

FORMATTING CHECKLIST

Here are a variety of issues that you should check for when previewing your Kindle eBook.

  • Double cover. Scroll back as far as you can and make sure the cover doesn’t show twice.
  • Indentations. Are they consistent? Are any missing? Do you see any unexpected indentations?
  • Camera icons. These represent missing pictures. If you see a camera icon, there is at least one picture that won’t display in your actual eBook.
  • Image quality. Look for image size, drop shadows (dark lines on at least one edge), aspect ratio, blurriness, pixilation, red-eye, poor scan quality, missing details, hard to read text, and spellcheck marks in text of screenshots.
  • Customer settings. Make sure that your body text changes font size when customers adjust this setting. Also make sure that the size of your body text is consistent throughout your eBook. Similarly, check that your body text changes when customers adjust the typeface and line spacing.
  • Drop caps. Do they look good across all devices? Do they look good when customers adjust display settings (like line spacing and font size)?
  • Background. Adjust the background color from white to black, sepia, and green (where available). Check that the text, pictures, drop caps, and tables look fine across all of the available backgrounds.
  • Line breaks. Do you see any unexpected line breaks? If so, toggle between portrait and landscape and adjust the font size to make sure it’s a persistent issue (and not just a Kindle justification issue).
  • Page breaks. Do you see any unexpected page breaks? For intentional page breaks, if you vary the display settings, sometimes you will see a great deal of white space wasted before the page break. In those cases, ask yourself if it’s a necessary risk or if it could be avoided (for a chapter heading, it’s necessary, and in some other cases, it may also be semi-necessary).
  • Blank pages. Do you see any blank pages?
  • Alignment. Check the horizontal alignment throughout your eBook (center, justified, or left), including headings and pictures, too.
  • Vertical spacing. Is the line spacing consistent throughout your eBook (most Kindle eBooks should have single line spacing from the publishing side, which can be adjusted from the customer side)? Is the space between paragraphs consistent (for most books, most body text should have no space between them in a Kindle eBook)? Check the space between headings and body text, or between pictures and body text (for example) carefully.
  • Content check. Do you see any missing or duplicated text?
  • Formatting. Check boldface, italics, and underlining. Is any missing? Do you see any that wasn’t supposed to be there?
  • Links. Click on every link in your table of contents, footnote, external hyperlink, and internal hyperlink. Does it work as expected?
  • Special symbols. Do they show up on every device that you can preview? Beware that nonstandard symbols may work in available previews, but not display on some older devices.
  • Tables. Do they display properly? The previewers are not as reliable as testing on actual devices, and older Kindle Fires and older Kindle eReaders are more susceptible to problems with tables.
  • Lists. Do bullet points or numbered lists display satisfactorily? There are some inherent challenges with lists, and some features like negative indents or multi-level indents may result in big problems on older devices.
  • Orientation. Switch between portrait and landscape mode.
  • Devices. Test your eBook out on a variety of devices. The previewers mimic some devices, and there are numerous Kindle reading apps for PC’s, Mac’s, tablets, cell phones, etc.
  • Fancy formatting. If you applied any fancy formatting, check that it works properly on all devices, and beware that it may be problematic on older devices.
  • Equations. Note that Word’s built-in equation editor is problematic for Kindle formatting. It’s better to format each equation as a picture.
  • Spelling/grammar. Ordinarily, Word’s spelling and grammar marks shouldn’t show in your Kindle eBook, but in rare cases I have come across this. (They are easy to find and remove if you work with HTML.)
  • Page numbers. If you insert page numbers with Word’s Insert Page Number tool, these shouldn’t show in your Kindle eBook. If you see page numbers in your Kindle eBook, perhaps you typed them manually in your Word document (in which case you need to remove them). (If you have a fixed-format book like a fully illustrated children’s book, with a proper fixed format page numbers are okay.)
  • Comparison. Spend some time browsing through Kindle eBooks (are at least their Look Insides or free samples) and compare their formatting to your formatting.

ACTUAL DEVICES AND KINDLE APPS

The same MOBI file that you used with the downloadable previewer can be used to preview your eBook on an actual Kindle device, and also for Kindle reading apps with non-iOS devices.

How did you write and format your eBook? If you used a PC, you can use the Kindle for PC reading app. Similarly, if you used a Mac, Android tablet, or just about any other device, there is a Kindle reading app that you can use to preview your book for that device.

Therefore, there must be at least one electronic device that you already own which you can use to preview your Kindle eBook.

For iOS devices, you will need to export the AZK file from the downloadable previewer. Install the iOS Kindle reading app on your iOS device, close the reading app, open iTunes, and add the AZK file to the reading app (click on the picture of the device near the top left of iTunes).

The AZK file will probably surprise you. Worry less about indentations, alignment, and heading sizes with the AZK file, and focus more on readability and complete content.

Next turn to family, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances. Who owns an actual Kindle device? They might not mind you putting your book on their device: If they get to read your book for free and you get to preview your book on their device, that might be a fair trade.

Since neither the online nor downloadable previewers show your book exactly how it will look across every possible device (especially older eReaders, but even older generation Fires), it’s helpful if you can test your eBook out on multiple devices.

Unfortunately, a few subtle features can be different in the actual published book than they appear when you preview your MOBI file on an actual device or app. It happens. That’s why it’s wise to be your own first customer after you publish and quickly check everything once again.

Note that Kindle reading apps by default show your Kindle eBook in a narrow column that mimics the Kindle Fire (see below). When a customer attempts to make this wider, it may turn into two or three narrow columns, not really getting wider. A customer has to select single column format to be able to make it one column so as not to waste much of the display area. Realize that some customers will read with the default settings, and some customers may not be aware of how to adjust these settings. Thus, even if a customer has a device with a relatively square aspect ratio (compared to Kindle Fire), like an iPad, the customer might still see pictures on a narrow column.

PREVIEWING THE LOOK INSIDE

Amazon KDP doesn’t offer a proper preview of how the actual Look Inside will look.

However, the Look Inside depicts as a scrollable webpage, whereas Kindle devices and apps show it paginated (in a semi-reflowable format).

The Look Inside doesn’t consist of pages, so it doesn’t respect page breaks.

The Look Inside also interprets the instructions for your Kindle eBook a bit differently than the way it displays on actual devices or apps.

Which file format did you upload to KDP? If you uploaded a Word DOC or DOCX file, open your file in Word and change View to Web Layout. This will show you how your Word document looks as a scrollable webpage, which will at least help mimic the scrollable nature of the Look Inside. Sometimes, this reveals missing space between the last paragraph of a chapter and the chapter heading that follows, for example (creating a paragraph style that adds Spacing After for the last paragraph of each chapter can help with this).

If you uploaded a HTML file (or if you used HTML at some stage during your formatting process), you can view it with a web browser. (But don’t edit your HTML file or save your HTML file that way. Notepad, Notepad++, and Sigil may be used for working with HTML for your eBook, but some HTML editors are not Kindle friendly.) Again, you can check how it scrolls and make sure there are no vertical spacing issues.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Copyright © 2018

Chris McMullen

Author of:

  • Kindle Formatting Magic (just published)
  • A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon (also part of a Boxed Set)
  • The Improve Your Math Fluency series of workbooks (algebra, fractions, arithmetic, trig, long division, and more)

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

Kindle Formatting Magic

WORD TO KINDLE FORMATTING MAGIC

I will share some Kindle formatting tips and also introduce my newest book, Word to Kindle Formatting Magic, which is available in both paperback and Kindle editions.

  • Kindle ASIN: B07BL5K6DH
  • 522-page Paperback ISBN: 978194169122

KINDLE DESIGN

The beginning of Kindle design comes from understanding the semi-reflowable nature of eBooks. A typical eBook isn’t quite reflowable in the same way that a scrollable webpage displays (although the Look Inside feature displays that way), but it also doesn’t have a predictable fixed layout like a print book.

Since different customers will read the eBook on a variety of screen sizes and aspect ratios, from cell phones to HD tablets, and since the customer can adjust the type face, font size, background color, and internal margins, you can’t predict which information or how much information will show on any given screen.

The main idea is that a typical eBook doesn’t consist of well-defined pages like a print book does.

This impacts the design of Kindle eBooks in various ways. For example,

  • You need to choose the size and aspect ratio of your pictures wisely so that they look fine on any size screen. You also need to make sure that they look fine on white, black, cream, or green reading backgrounds.
  • A blank line could seem to vanish, since there is always a chance that it will show up at the very top or bottom of the screen.
  • Tall figures may be forced onto the next screen and may leave a lot of white space on the previous screen.
  • Subheadings may happen to fall at the bottom of a screen, unless you apply a page break to them, but a page break may waste a lot of white space on the prior screen.
  • Page numbers don’t make any sense in your eBook. Anywhere your text says something like, “as shown on pages 23-28,” you need to rewrite it.

Another important element of Kindle design is to understand the limitations of what Kindle can and can’t do, especially on older devices, including the limitations of the online and downloadable previewers (for example, in displaying tables, pictures, and special symbols). Following are some examples.

  • Use of the tab key to attempt to control paragraph indentations can be a disaster. The best way to control paragraph indentations is by applying clean paragraph styles (or style definitions) without direct paragraph formatting.
  • Some devices may automatically indent paragraphs that you wish to be non-indented. You have to trick the device into not indenting justified or left-aligned paragraphs.
  • Left alignment may automatically appear justified full unless you go a step beyond Microsoft Word.
  • Kindle’s justification isn’t perfect, although it has improved tremendously with Amazon’s new Enhanced Typesetting. If you try to prevent a runt (or orphan)—a short word at the end of a paragraph appearing on the last line all by its lonesome—with a non-breaking space, if the string of text has more than about 6 characters, you could wind up with an undesirable automatic hyphen or a large gap at the end of the previous line.
  • Bullet points come with a variety of limitations. The bullet symbol itself appears subdued. Negative indents, hanging indents, and multi-level indents pose problems, especially for older devices. Word’s automatic list tools automatically result in a large indent, and if you try to change Word’s indent size, the list looks worse in other ways. Even the simple ordered and unordered list tools with basic HTML have problems. To top this off, lists exaggerate the justification issues.
  • If you know how to avoid widows and orphans in your print book, you need to exercise self-discipline to avoid trying to control them in your Kindle eBook, and accept the fact that occasionally there may be just a few words on the last page of a chapter all by themselves.

Related to this is a degree of quirkiness, meaning that some features (like tables or special symbols) display differently on first or second generation Kindle Fires and older Kindle eReaders than they do on the most recent generation of Kindle devices.

For example, suppose that you wish to incorporate a page break into the paragraph style for the first row of a basic table, in order to prevent the table from starting near the very bottom of a screen (which would otherwise sometimes happen depending on the screen size and customer settings). On first and second generation Kindle Fires, this may result in ghosting, where you see the outline of the table on the screen prior to the table, and on at least one of the early Kindle Fire devices the table itself may appear to get stuck, taking a dozen swipes to advance past the table. It will appear to work fine in the previewer, though (but the previewers don’t display tables accurately for how they will work on all possible devices).

As another example, the most recent Kindle devices and the previewers will show more special symbols than older devices actually support.

A FEW FORMATTING TIPS

Following are a few tips that help to format a Kindle eBook.

  • Use paragraph styles in Word (or call style definitions in HTML) for all paragraph formatting. Do this religiously.
  • Don’t apply direct formatting to an entire paragraph (or more). If you want formatting to apply to an entire paragraph, create a new style for that.
  • A common mistake where direct formatting is applied is to highlight multiple paragraphs and change the settings, or to change the settings on the Paragraph or Font menu in Word and proceed to type one or more paragraphs.
  • Don’t use the tab key in your eBook. Too late? Use the Replace tool to remove every instance of ^t.
  • Avoid blank lines. Use Spacing After with an appropriate paragraph style in places where you need to add vertical space.
  • Keep it simple. If you try to do something complex, it may backfire on one or more devices or apps. You’d hate for part of your book to be totally unreadable on an older device, or for an indent to be huge on a small screen, for example.
  • Be careful not to introduce a worse problem by trying to fix a subtle design issue. Again, keeping it simple is a good Kindle philosophy.
  • When the content of your book is 100% complete (proofreading too), save your Word file as a filtered webpage. If your book includes any pictures, right-click on the resulting HTML file and send it to a compressed zipped folder. Find the image files folder that this process makes and drag it into the compressed zipped folder.
  • You can make some subtle improvements to your HTML file. For example, you can set text-indent to 0 instead of 0.01″ for non-indented paragraphs (but don’t remove the text-indent line or the paragraph may automatically indent). For indented paragraphs, you can change the text-indent to 2em or 3em so that it matches the font size. (Keep your indents small. Word’s default value of 0.5″ is larger than most traditionally published books and would look very large on small screens.)
  • If you know what to look for, the HTML file can help you see formatting that is hidden in Word. (Are you thinking about the Show/Hide button? I’m talking about formatting that’s so hidden that even Word’s Show/Hide button doesn’t reveal it.)

THE STORY BEHIND MY NEW BOOK

My other self-publishing books primarily focus on how to self-publish a paperback book. Although they do mention eBook formatting, the eBook is only a small component of those books.

I wanted to create a guide specifically for Kindle formatting.

When I was thinking about the title, it occurred to me that the behavior of Kindle eBooks as perceived by a new author sometimes seems mysterious (“Why did that happen?”), so I came up with the title, Kindle Formatting Magic. I added two words to make it Word to Kindle Formatting Magic because most authors have access to and familiarity with Microsoft Word, and since Kindle formatting can be very Word friendly (once you learn how to control hidden formatting in Word).

I originally had a 100 to 200-page book in mind. A couple of years back, I hired illustrator Melissa Stevens (www.theillustratedauthor.net) to design the cover. Her design seemed really magical, and it motivated me to try to make the inside of the book as magical as the cover.

I completely reorganized and rewrote the material. I did this a couple of times. At one point, it was going to be two separate volumes. In the end, the paperback edition has 522 pages on 8.5″ x 11″ pages (it’s also available in Kindle format, of course).

A few months ago, I wrote that I had spent 1-2 years working on this book, but a few weeks ago I dug up my old files and discovered that I’ve been working on this book for nearly three years. Time flies!

I spent much time experimenting with Kindle formatting, trying out a feature, uploading the file to KDP, and testing it out. This was very time-consuming, but also enlightening. I took several snapshots and included these pictures in my book to help illustrate many of the issues faced with Kindle formatting.

Much has changed at KDP in the past couple of years. A lot of these changes occurred as I was writing my book, so I had to constantly rewrite sections that I had previously written. For example, the Kindle previewer has been updated to include Auto-Advance, there are new Kindle reading apps, there is a new X-Ray feature, KDP’s print option has expanded, the 127 KB rule for GIF images has been updated, and some of the KDP help pages have been extensively revised.

My book covers the following topics:

  • The basics, like removing tabs, extra line breaks, extra spaces, page numbers, unsupported symbols, etc. One appendix lists every symbol that is fully supported across all devices (there are even notes about correct and incorrect ways to insert supported symbols). A handy checklist helps to ensure that you’ve implemented all of these steps.
  • A detailed guide to using Word’s paragraph styles to format your eBook. There is even a step-by-step tutorial in an appendix at the back of the book to walk you through it with a specific example. I provide several specific recommended paragraph styles commonly used in eBook design. I show you how to create new styles, modify existing styles, deal with hidden styles (like TOC or Footnote), manage your styles (like Disable Linked Styles and what the confusing Automatically Update box really means), and use the Style Inspector to check for common problems.
  • One chapter is devoted to picture size, aspect ratio, format, file size, image design considerations, captions, tables formatted as images, padding, transparency, and everything related to pictures.
  • Multiple sections discuss a variety of Kindle design concepts, like the challenges of formatting bullet points, issues related to left and full alignment, how pictures affect design, the helpfulness but also the dangers of the non-breaking space, and much more.
  • Another chapter shows you how to go a quick step beyond Word. I tried to make this as friendly as possible, even showing how you could be an HTML minimalist. You really don’t need to learn HTML, and that’s the beauty of it. You don’t actually have to write HTML. It’s already written. All you need to do is make small changes to a little of the HTML that’s already there, and I show you exactly which changes to make and how they should look with specific examples (I even have several complete recommended style definitions that you can copy). You can keep this simple and make just a few helpful changes, but for those who want I offer many other optional changes that you can make (for example, how to use media queries to format drop caps that work well across all devices). This chapter shows you how what you do in Word affects the HTML, which helps you learn how to control hidden formatting from Word. For those who want to work more with HTML, I show you the HTML that relates to Kindle formatting to help you better understand your HTML file, which can be helpful if you want to make extensive revisions (this is easily skipped by authors who want to avoid HTML as much as possible).
  • Learn how to preview your Kindle eBook thoroughly using the online previewer, the more reliable downloadable previewer, and actual devices or apps. For example, you can preview your eBook on a PC, laptop, tablet, or cell phone using a free Kindle reading app. Detailed checklists help you with proofreading, editing, and a variety of specific features to look for and test in the way of formatting.
  • A troubleshooting section includes several common Kindle formatting issues with possible solutions. Find detailed explanations whether you used Word exclusively or went beyond Word to use HTML (each issue offers solutions for both cases). This isn’t like a troubleshooting section that you find in the owner’s manual of an electronic device: I tried to make this readable and understandable for everybody.
  • An appendix provides a short sample eBook. Labeled pictures show you which paragraphs have which styles in Microsoft Word, and I included the full HTML for the sample eBook so that you can see the style definitions and everything else.
  • I spent much time testing out various features, and I included several pictures in my book to demonstrate a variety of formatting challenges.
  • For those who would also like to publish a paperback version of their book, I walk you through the steps involved in converting your eBook to a print-ready PDF.
  • Also find valuable tips relating to sales rank, keywords, categories, customer reviews, marketing, promotions, giveaways, and more. (Authors often tell me that the marketing advice that I include in my books on self-publishing is easily worth the price of the entire book. One section is dedicated to marketing and premarketing tips, but a few other sections also relate to marketing.)

YOU COULD WIN A FREE COPY OF MY BOOK

Enter my Amazon Giveaway (which expires at the end of March 24, 2018 in the US), which will have 50 lucky winners. That could be you, and the odds are favorable (as of now, there are about 70 entrants for 50 books, which gives you amazing odds). It’s a sweepstakes, so all 50 books will be given away, and you’ll find out if you win at the end of March 24.

https://www.amazon.com/ga/p/29e81d46a95ba752

I also have a Goodreads giveaway beginning soon with 100 lucky winners which will last for a couple of weeks.

The Goodreads giveaway doesn’t start until March 26 and ends on April 10, 2018. Once March 26 gets here, you can find the Goodreads giveaway at:

https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/278710-word-to-kindle-formatting-magic-self-publishing-on-amazon-with-style

If you buy the paperback version directly from Amazon, after doing so, you will be eligible to purchase the Kindle edition free through MatchBook. You could give the print version as a gift and keep the Kindle edition for yourself, or you might find it handy to have the paperback spread out on your desk while you’re formatting your next book and also have another copy that you can access from your phone or tablet.

If you have a Kindle Unlimited subscription, you can also borrow my book for free. (Amazon Prime customers can also borrow one free book per month.)

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Copyright © 2018

Chris McMullen

The New KDP Community Forum

KDP COMMUNITY FORUM UPDATE

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

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

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

What has changed?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Copyright © 2018

Chris McMullen

Kindle Unlimited Bounce Back, February, 2018

Image from ShutterStock.

KINDLE UNLIMITED KENP READ FOR FEBRUARY, 2018

The Kindle Unlimited per-page rate rebounded to $0.00466 for February, 2018 after having dropped down to $0.00448 for January, 2018.

The KDP Select Global Fund for February, 2018 is $20 million. Although this is a drop from January’s $20.9 million, it’s still the second best payout ever.

I look at the $20,000,000 per month and see a significant market for Kindle eBooks borrowed and read through Kindle Unlimited (and Amazon Prime).

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Copyright © 2018

Chris McMullen

Update to Amazon’s Downloadable Kindle Previewer 3

KINDLE PREVIEWER 3 RECENTLY UPDATED

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

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

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

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

  • Pages
  • Images
  • Links
  • Tables
  • Drop Caps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2018

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

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

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

Kindle Unlimited per-page rate for January, 2018

Background image from ShutterStock.

KINDLE UNLIMITED PER-PAGE RATE FOR JANUARY, 2018

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

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

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

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

So you shouldn’t PANIC. This is normal.

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

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

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

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

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

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Copyright © 2018

 

Chris McMullen

How to Format a Textbook or Workbook for Kindle

FORMATTING A TEXTBOOK FOR KINDLE

I’ve published several workbooks and a few textbooks in both print and Kindle, and I’ve written a few detailed articles about using Amazon’s free Kindle Textbook Creator.

Today’s article adds something new: I’m using my experience to compare three different methods of formatting a textbook or workbook as a Kindle eBook.

Let’s suppose that you wrote a textbook or workbook using Microsoft Word and have already formatted it as a print-ready PDF, and now you wish to convert it to an eTextbook for Kindle.

There are three viable ways to go about this:

  1. Simply run your PDF through Amazon’s free Kindle Textbook Creator. Like magic, in a few moments you will have a KPF file that you can preview within the Kindle Textbook Creator and then upload to KDP. This is by far the most convenient option for the author or publisher. However, a book that looks good on paper and runs through the Kindle Textbook Creator is often inconvenient to read, especially on smaller screens, and the eTextbook won’t be available across all devices. If the customer must pinch-and-zoom frequently to read the text, this will become tedious quickly.
  2. Modify your Word file and create a new PDF file optimized for the Kindle Textbook Creator. This isn’t as convenient for the author, but it’s not too inconvenient, really. Once you convince yourself that it’s worthwhile and get started, it isn’t that bad. The benefit is that it can improve the customer’s reading experience. Back in Word, you can set all of your page margins to zero, since that just wastes space on a Kindle device. As a result, it makes the text slightly easier to read. If it’s viable, you can consider significantly increasing the font size and reformatting the pages to accommodate the change (as it will alter the page layout significantly). If the text is large enough, customers may be able to read your eTextbook on more devices without using pinch-and-zoom. Also, if you have images that include text, see if it may be viable to make the text larger in those images.
  3. Create a reflowable eTextbook. Most Kindle eBooks are reflowable. The few exceptions include fully illustrated children’s books, comic books, and richly formatted eTextbooks. All novels and text-heavy nonfiction books are reflowable eBooks, meaning that the customer can adjust the font size, font style, and line spacing. If it’s formatted well, this can make for the optimal reading experience. The main reason that eTextbooks are often formatted as fixed-format rather than reflowable format is that it’s much more convenient to run a PDF through the Kindle Textbook Creator than it is to reformat a textbook as a reflowable eBook. Plus, a richly formatted textbook presents more formatting challenges: If you don’t navigate the reflowable Kindle design challenges well (including bullet points, equations, callouts, sidebars, multiple columns, tables, figures, and page layout), any formatting mistakes can make the result worse than what you would get with the Kindle Textbook Creator.

EXAMPLE 1: REFLOWABLE VS. KINDLE TEXTBOOK CREATOR

In my first example, I will compare options 1 and 3.

My most recent math workbook, Fractions Essentials Workbook with Answers, includes 20 chapters and 256 pages.

Each chapter begins with a concise review of essential concepts and fully-solved examples with explanations.

There are several equations that wouldn’t format well in Kindle without turning them into pictures.

Every chapter ends with a set of practice exercises.

At the back of the print edition is an answer key with the answer to every problem plus intermediate steps, hints, and explanations.

This definitely qualifies as a richly formatted textbook.

I formatted this book two different ways:

  • I ran my print-ready PDF through Amazon’s free Kindle Textbook Creator.
  • I converted my Word document into a reflowable eBook using the same methods described in my Word to Kindle Formatting Magic book (to be published later in February, 2018, hopefully). I also moved the answers to the end of each chapter instead of putting them all at the back of the book. This makes it easier for the reader to find the answer key in the eBook (and I also added each chapter’s answer key to the active table of contents).

After creating both versions of the eTextbook, I decided to publish the reflowable version.

Above, you can see two sample pages of the preview of the KPF file shown in the Kindle Textbook Creator.

Here are a few features that I like about the version I created with the Kindle Textbook Creator (shown above):

  • It was quick and convenient for me to make.
  • The pages are well-defined. Sometimes, it’s nice to control the page layout and make content “fit” on a page. An entire problem set or example can be made to fill all of the space on a page.
  • I can refer to figures, equations, or sections by page number (like “see page 94”).
  • The Look Inside would look fine on Amazon, basically showing how the book looks on printed pages.

Here are a few features that I don’t like about the Kindle Textbook Creator version (shown above):

  • It’s inherently much harder to read. On many devices, some of the content requires using pinch-to-zoom, which would be inconvenient for customers.
  • Customers can’t adjust the font size, font style, or line spacing. This is the main limitation with trying to make a fixed format book easily readable.
  • The eTextbook wouldn’t be available on all devices. This limits your audience (and occasionally upsets customers).
  • It’s not as easy to make hyperlinks work. Plus, the last time I tested internal hyperlinks (like for an active table of contents), the hyperlinks didn’t work in the published eTextbook. Device navigation does work though (and you can enter the table of contents for device navigation directly in the Kindle Textbook Creator). Unfortunately, a few customers are used to finding a page of clickable hyperlinks, and either don’t know how to find device navigation or don’t want to do that (or have an older device).
  • It’s black and white. (But that’s my fault and would have been easy to fix. I could easily change the pictures to color in Word and create a new print-ready PDF.)

Above, you can see two sample pages of the preview of the converted MOBI file in the KDP previewer.

Here are a few features that I like about the reflowable version (shown above):

  • It’s easy to read on any device with any size screen.
  • For any equation that was too complex to simply type on Kindle, I reformatted the equation as a picture so that it would be easily readable across all devices (you can see the large equations in the picture above).
  • Customers can adjust the font size, font style, and line spacing to their liking. You can see this in the picture below, where I show the effect of adjusting the font size. The customer can’t do that when you use the Kindle Textbook Creator.
  • It’s available on every device, so any customer who owns a Kindle device, Android tablet, Android phone, PC, laptop, Mac, iPad, or iPhone can read the eTextbook.
  • Creating all kinds of hyperlinks, internal and external, is easy. Both kinds of hyperlinks work, and you can easily make an active table of contents with clickable hyperlinks.
  • A few pictures show in color on devices with color displays. Since I took the time to reformat all of the pictures for Kindle, I added color shading to the pie slices.

Here are a few features that I don’t like about the reflowable version (shown above):

  • It took much more time to format the eBook (but it wasn’t insurmountable).
  • Depending on the display size and the reader’s choice of font size, font style, and line spacing, you never know when a page break may occur. This can begin a new example at the bottom of a screen, or it can leave a lot of blank space when a large figure doesn’t fit on the current page, for example. Overall, I think it came out well in many cases, but this is the main design challenge with the reflowable format: You can’t control the pagination or page layout nearly as well as you can with fixed format.
  • The pictures don’t scale with font size. (It is possible to do that with SVG images, but not all devices support SVG, so you have to do that with media queries, which entails extra work, and even then some customers will still see it without scalable images.)
  • I had to find any references to specific page numbers and find another way to say where that section, figure, table, or equation is. (You could achieve this with hyperlinks though.)
  • Since I made equation pictures large enough to read on any device, in the Look Inside feature at Amazon, and with the default font settings of certain devices, I don’t like how the equation pictures have text that is much larger than the font size. As you can see below, in some cases it is more pronounced than others: It varies with the customer’s choice of font size. But I felt that easy readability on any device was important: That was a major benefit of choosing the reflowable layout.

EXAMPLE 2: REFLOWABLE VS. KINDLE TEXTBOOK CREATOR VS. OPTIMIZED KTC

This example will compare eTextbooks made using all three options:

  1. Simply run your PDF through Amazon’s free Kindle Textbook Creator.
  2. Modify your Word file and create a new PDF file optimized for the Kindle Textbook Creator.
  3. Create a reflowable eTextbook.

This time, instead of adding sample pictures of each case to my article, I will include a link to an example at Amazon.

You can explore Amazon’s Look Inside for free, or you can read the free sample using a free Kindle app (like Kindle for PC or Kindle for iPad) or a Kindle device. The free sample will let you better preview how it looks as an eBook. (You don’t need to buy the book to see how it looks.)

For Option 3, you can click the Free Preview button in the picture. Unfortunately, for Options 1 and 2, this button doesn’t work in Amazon’s Free Preview picture. However, you can view the free preview by clicking the hyperlink below the figure to visit Amazon and then viewing Amazon’s Look Inside.

Note that the Look Insides of Options 1 and 2 look fine when you view them on a PC, laptop, or other device with a large screen.

However, if you read these eBooks on most Kindle devices or the actual eBooks with one of Amazon’s free reading apps, then the text for Option 1 is much harder to read.

The text for Option 3 is easy to read on any device or app, though it doesn’t come out as good in the Look Inside. That’s one of the misleading quirks of Amazon’s Look Inside feature displaying a Kindle eBook as a scrollable webpage on a PC or laptop display. It’s surprising that they don’t show all Kindle Look Insides for reflowable eBooks using Page Flip or the way that you see Option 3 when you click the Free Preview button. While that isn’t perfect, it portrays a reflowable eBook more realistically.

Option 1: Simple PDF conversion using the Kindle Textbook Creator.

For the following book, I took the print-ready PDF and simply ran it through the Kindle Textbook Creator with minimal changes.

This is the most convenient option for the author, but it’s not as easy for the customer to read.

Trigonometry Essentials Practice Workbook with Answers

Option 2: Optimized Word file for the Kindle Textbook Creator before creating a PDF.

For the following book, I zeroed the page margins, changed the page size and aspect ratio, and significantly enlarged the font size. After this, it took some time to improve the page layout.

Then I ran the new PDF file through the Kindle Textbook Creator.

The result is easier to read across all devices without having to pinch-and-zoom.

However, as with all fixed format eBooks, the customer can’t adjust the font size, font style, or line spacing, and with the Kindle Textbook Creator, the eTextbook isn’t available across all devices and apps.

Learn or Review Trigonometry: Essential Skills

Option 3: Converted Word file to reflowable format.

For the following book, which I just published two days ago, I invested a great deal of time converting my Word document to a reflowable Kindle eBook (following the instructions in my book, Word to Kindle Formatting Magic, to be released later in February, 2018, hopefully).

It wasn’t as convenient for me, but the result is readable across all devices, the eBook is available across all devices, and the customer can adjust the font size, font style, and line spacing. Plus, there is an active table of contents with clickable hyperlinks that work.

Fractions Essentials Workbook with Answers

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.

Wow: Kindle Unlimited Clears Half a Penny per Page (December, 2017)

KINDLE UNLIMITED UPDATE FOR DECEMBER, 2017

The Kindle Unlimited per-page rate finished 2017 with a Bang, paying over $0.005 per page read ($0.00506394 to be precise).

The per-page rate has climbed above half a penny per-page a few times in the past, but usually it is under $0.005.

Part of the explanation appears to be KENPC v3.0. Amazon KDP introduced the new KENPC calculation when the per-page rate had dropped to the low $0.004’s in July. The per-page rate has climbed steadily ever since.

Part of the explanation may also be that December is a very busy holiday sales month.

The KDP Select Global Fund also increased to $19.9 million. While the KDP Select Global Fund has consistently increased over the life of the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, what’s different now is that for five months the per-page rate and global fund have both increased together. It’s a nice trend.

While it’s nice to see the per-page rate and global fund both rising, be prepared. The per-page rate is generally a bit of a roller coaster ride, and when it peaks above $0.005 per page, it may not last long. Be prepared in case it dips back below $0.005 per page, but be hopeful that it stays above $0.005.

The global fund tends to climb over time (with only an occasional exception), but history suggests that the per-page rate won’t continue to climb forever (though I’d love to see it prove me wrong).

Enjoy it while it lasts, hope it continues, and realize that it has been fairly stable in its oscillation between $0.004 and $0.005 ever since the per-page concept was introduced.

Really, neither the per-page rate nor the global fund are the points to worry about.

The trick is to get more people to read more of your books. 🙂

Copyright © 2018

Chris McMullen

How to Add X-Ray to Your Kindle eBook

X-ray picture licensed from ShutterStock.

X-RAY FOR KINDLE

Authors can add X-ray to their Kindle eBooks via KDP.

Here is how to do it:

  • Visit Kindle Direct Publishing at kdp.amazon.com.
  • After you login, visit your KDP Bookshelf.
  • Hover your cursor over the gray button with three dots (…) near the right of one of your book titles.
  • If available, you will see an option to Launch X-Ray. Click this link.
  • This will open the X-Ray page for your Kindle eBook, but you won’t be able to do anything yet.
  • Click the yellow button to Request X-Ray. The window will automatically close 20 seconds later and return you to your Bookshelf.
  • You should receive an email once X-Ray is prepared for your Kindle eBook. Although it says it can take a few hours, my emails came within minutes.
  • Now you need to return to your KDP Bookshelf and Launch X-Ray again with the gray (…) button. This time you will be able to do something.
  • I recommend the yellow Begin Tutorial button. It’s very quick and pretty effective.
  • Select the items on the left one at a time. If the item is irrelevant or you just don’t want it to show to readers, click No for the first question and it will be excluded. I had to do this for some terms because a few of the terms were not related to my book, but most of the terms were relevant.
  • Each item must be a character (like Harry Potter) or a term (like astrophysics). Check one.
  • Tip: Click the number of occurrences link and it will show you the terms in context. It’s pretty cool and can help you decide if it’s worth displaying to readers.
  • Either write a custom description or choose a relevant Wikipedia article. For many standard terms, it will automatically select a Wikipedia article. Beware that the article might not be a good fit for the term. It’s up to you to read the article to make sure, or select a different article (or instead enter your own custom text).
  • Click the button at the bottom so that it says Item Reviewed if you wish to keep it. Otherwise, select No for the first question. If it doesn’t say Item Reviewed, the changes won’t be published.
  • Sometimes, you may have a few terms linked together for the same item. In this case, if you click Remove, it won’t actually delete the term. What Remove does is separate the term to be its own item (you can find it somewhere on the list at the left, sometimes far from the other item). I had to do this for a few items.
  • Think: Are there any terms or characters that you would like to add which weren’t automatically included? If so, click the Add New Item link at the top of the list on the left. You won’t be able to see occurrences (or know how many there are) until you publish the changes (though once you publish the changes and they finally go live—it didn’t take too long for me, just a few minutes, but it can be longer—then you will be able to see the occurrences).
  • There may be a few standard terms for which you can’t click the button to say Item Reviewed. This happened to me with Albert Einstein, for example. If that happens, don’t worry. It will be included automatically. If you don’t want it included, click No for the first question (as with any other items that you don’t want displayed to readers).
  • MOST IMPORTANT STEP: Click the yellow button at the top right corner to Review and Publish X-Ray. Otherwise, all your effort will be wasted.
  • You should receive an email when the changes go live.
  • After I received my email (it only took minutes for me, but it can take longer), I opened my book on my Kindle Fire HD, and X-Ray was already enabled (even though I had purchased the book months ago, but only enabled X-Ray minutes ago—indeed, it already had definitions that I had just typed). Below I will describe a bit how it works. The picture below shows X-Ray in action.

First, I checked my product page. I scrolled down to Product Details, where I found X-Ray: Enabled. Click the little arrow next to Enabled to see which devices support X-Ray (there is also an elaborate list on one of the KDP help pages that I link to later in this article).

On my Kindle Fire HD 8.9″, when the book is open and the menu ribbon shows at the top of the screen, I see a little rectangle with an X, which is the X-Ray icon. When I click on that X-Ray icon, it opens a page with Notable Clips, People, and Terms. Click either People or Terms. I selected Terms.

One of my terms was Solar System. There were 52 mentions. I clicked on this item on the list. It doesn’t show me the text that I typed for Solar System (not yet). This just shows the paragraph in my book that mentioned that instance of Solar System. I clicked the link called Go to Loc 34 (the number will vary) in the bottom left corner. This brings me to that actual location in my book. Now on my touchscreen device, I placed my thumb on the first S of Solar, held my thumb down for a moment, and rubbed my thumb across the screen to the M in System. This highlighted the term Solar System, and the X-Ray window popped up, showing me the definition that I had typed for it in KDP. You can see it in the picture above. (You can’t see the highlighted term. I had to zoom in or you wouldn’t be able to see the X-Ray text well.)

The picture above shows how the X-Ray tool looks after you access it from your KDP Bookshelf.

Learn more about X-Ray for authors via the following KDP help page:

X-Ray for Authors

Also see the X-Ray Tips and Tricks page at KDP:

X-Ray Tips and Tricks

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.