Finding Fonts for Books or Covers (allowing Commercial Use)

 

FONTS FOR BOOKS AND BOOK COVERS

I’ve been using the Adobe Creative Cloud for years now, which includes Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, and many other great tools for publishing books or graphic design.

One of my favorite tools is Adobe’s Typekit. It is included with my Creative Cloud subscription, but you can get Typekit even with a small subscription (you don’t need the whole Creative Cloud to get it).

What’s cool is that Adobe comes right up front and tells you that their fonts permit commercial use, and it clearly states that this includes books (with no limit on the number of sales). If you’re a graphic designer making book covers, for example, the author who purchases your finished product doesn’t need a separate license (provided that the author doesn’t need to edit your design).

With Typekit, you don’t actually install the fonts on your computer. (Note that if you did install the fonts on your computer, the same licensing would no longer apply.)

Rather, you just install the Adobe app, and the Typekit fonts automatically work with Adobe products and Microsoft Word (for other software, there may be limitations; you should look into that if using other programs). Just make sure that you’re logged into the Adobe app before you open Microsoft Word (if that’s what you’re using); otherwise, Word will automatically substitute another font without even telling you. You don’t need to remain online while you work, once you’ve successfully logged into the Adobe app.

There are several great fonts at Typekit.

For the body text of most books, including novels as well as nonfiction, you want a font that reads well. Adobe has some Garamond fonts, including Garamond Premier, and Garamond is one of the popular fonts for novels. You can get an entire family of Garamond fonts, so if you normally feel that Garamond is a bit light, you can find a darker version.

Another good font for body text is Minion, which I was excited to discover was included with Typekit.

If you’re designing an educational book for K-12, you might consider SchoolBook. There are a few other fonts similar to SchoolBook, too.

But there are numerous fonts that would work for body text paragraphs. I have a few tips for searching for fonts for body text:

  • Serif fonts are commonly recommended for body text.
  • Think of letters and punctuation marks that are important to you. I’ve encountered fonts where I didn’t like the lowercase r, the lowercase a, the lowercase f, the uppercase R, the colon, or the curly apostrophe (don’t type a straight apostrophe from your keyboard, that’s different; first get one in Word and then copy/paste), for example. If you may be typing digits, remember to check the numbers, too. Type these in the sample text.
  • Once you narrow it down to a few fonts, add them all. Open a file with plenty of sample text and test each font out. It just takes one letter or punctuation to spoil a font, and you want to catch that before you format an entire book that way.

(For fonts inside of the book, my recommendations are for paperback books. For ebooks, I recommend not trying to embed fonts. But for ebook covers, see below.)

For headings, you might go with a sans serif font. Myriad is a good simple sans serif font, but there are plenty of others to choose from.

For book covers, you might want a very bold font for keywords, such as Azo Sans or Jubilat, to really help the two or three most important words to stand out, especially for a nonfiction book where it’s really important for the cover to spell out the most important words.

For novels, you want to find a font for the book cover that spells out a particular genre, like Lust or one of the script-like fonts for romance. But remember that it’s more important that the font can be read easily on the small thumbnail. If you get carried away, you can wind up sacrificing the readability. Try to avoid having more than three different fonts included on the front cover.

Another option is to search through websites dedicated to free fonts.

Good luck and happy font searching.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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

How Do You Search for Books?

 

INTRODUCTION

It isn’t easy to find the “perfect” book to read, and once you read that book, you need to find another.

This question is important from two different perspectives:

  • Customers want to learn about the best ways to find the books they are likely to enjoy the most.
  • Authors and publishers want to know the different ways that customers might search for their books to aid in their marketing strategies.

I will start out by listing common methods that customers use to search for books.

Then I will share a couple of creative strategies for finding a good book to read.

I hope some of my readers will add helpful comments. Don’t be shy.

HOW CUSTOMERS SEARCH FOR BOOKS

Following are a variety of book-buying habits.

  1. Browse bestseller lists. This is highly popular. The idea is that there should be some good books on these lists. Fortunately, for authors who aren’t yet this popular, this is just one of many methods that customers use. If you write an amazing book and succeed in marketing, then you might benefit from this method. Until then, focus on the other methods.
  2. Browse subcategories. This is also common. I’ve scrolled several pages through subcategories, so you don’t always need to land at the top to get noticed. But if your book is way back even in a very narrow category, there is still hope. How? Because some customers will combine methods, like first choosing a subcategory and then searching for specific keywords.
  3. Enter keywords. This is handy when you’re looking for a certain type of book that isn’t easy to find just by browsing a subcategory. If you want to find a calculus workbook with answers, you could type that phrase into the search instead of browsing through all calculus books (which will start out mainly with textbooks). If you want to find a mystery set in a certain era or location, you could use a search instead of browsing all mystery books. Authors and publishers need to choose their keywords wisely; spend much time brainstorming before finalizing these.
  4. Look for new releases. This doesn’t just help bestselling new releases. Many new releases get noticed when customers search for books some other way (like using keywords) and then click Last 30 Days or Last 90 Days on Amazon to help filter the results. It’s surprisingly common how many books sell fairly well for three months and then see a significant decline in sales, often because the Last 90 Days filter suddenly stops helping. You want to find effective marketing strategies before the three months are up to help the book succeed long-term.
  5. Book reviews. Not just those on Amazon product pages. If you find someone who regularly reviews books in your favorite genre who proves to be fairly reliable in their criticism, you suddenly hit the jackpot. It’s not uncommon for publishers to seek out bloggers with large followings who regularly review books, offering advance review copies. I know that some of my followers either review books on their blogs or have had their books reviewed on various blogs. If you’re reading this, you’re invited to leave a comment.
  6. Word of mouth. If you read a great book, do your friends, relatives, neighbors, acquaintances, and coworkers a favor: Tell them about the book. Great stories are meant to be shared. I love it when book titles come up in conversations.
  7. Book marketing. This isn’t so much about the customer looking for the book, as the authors striving to help customers discover their books. Customers discover books through marketing, so it can work. Often, it’s in the form of branding. A customer might see a book cover a few times over the course of months, then one day the customer is browsing for a book to read, remembers seeing that cover, and finally checks it out.
  8. Stores. While Amazon is amazingly popular and convenient, there are still bookstores and customers do browse through the shelves. If you have a paperback book, put together a press release kit and see if local bookstores (and other stores that sometimes carry books) may be interested in purchasing author copies directly from you at a discounted price. A customer who discovers your book in a store might wind up buying more of your books online in the future.
  9. Advertisements. Amazon does this very well. Over the past few years, many ads have been sprinkled onto product pages and search results, but these are fairly inobtrusive. For example, in search results the ads practically blend in with the other books on the list. Many customers do click on ads that interest them. The trick for authors and publishers is not to overspend for their ads, and to use ads just as one of several forms of effective marketing. It also takes a great cover, product page, and Look Inside to get the most out of the ad space.
  10. Indie books. I’ve self-published several books, as have over a million other authors. Like most authors, I’m also an avid reader. When I read, I often search for books by other indie authors. I like to support the idea of self-publishing and the companies (like Amazon and Smashwords) that have been instrumental in making this possible. Many other indie authors (and their friends and family) also search for indie books.
  11. Subscriptions and promotions. For example, many readers subscribe to BookBub, which provides a few recommendations for discounted books every day.
  12. Series, sets, anthologies, similar books. It can take a long time to find a really good book to read. If you can find a set of books to read, or a really long book to read, you are rewarded as a reader for your effort to find that book; you get more material to enjoy reading.
  13. What other methods can you think of?

A COUPLE OF CREATIVE WAYS TO FIND A GOOD BOOK

I have a couple of creative suggestions. These may not be popular yet, but perhaps one will be worth considering. Especially if you’ve spent hours using common methods, but weren’t satisfied with the results.

  1. Suppose that you find a thorough customer review on Amazon, the review really resonates with you, and after reading the book you feel that the comments were spot-on. Well, duh! You need to go back to that review, click on that customer’s name, and see what other reviews that customer has written.
  2. Interact with a variety of authors, see their personalities and their character, and see how well they write informal posts on social media. It’s surprisingly easy to interact with authors in this digital age. Sometimes, once you’ve “met” an author before reading a book, you read the book differently than you otherwise would have. A positive outlook can actually help you enjoy a book more. I’ve read some books this way, and it has often worked well for me.
  3. If you can think of any creative strategies to search for books, I’d like to hear them.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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

More Changes to AMS Advertising—Up and Down Bidding

 

AMS ADVERTISING BIDDING DYNAMICS

The amount of your bid may now change.

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

There are now three campaign bidding strategies:

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

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

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

WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR OLD AD CAMPAIGN?

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

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

MAKING SENSE OF THESE CHANGES

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DON’T GO OVERBOARD

Amazon makes it easy for authors to bid too high.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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

School not Meeting Your Child’s Needs? Amazon May Have a Book for that…

 

SUPPLEMENT THE SCHOOL CURRICULUM

As a teacher and a parent (and before that, a student), I’ve seen the different sides of the classroom experience.

Even with an exceptional teacher at a fantastic school with amazing students, it’s difficult for a class to fully meet the diverse needs and expectations of all the students and their parents.

A school curriculum is (ideally) designed to best meet the needs of the students.

But some students and some parents are looking for material that isn’t part of the curriculum (or isn’t covered as much as they would like).

There are a variety of reasons for this, such as:

  • advanced students looking for more of a challenge
  • parents who want to expose their kids to the way they had learned things
  • material that is no longer taught at many schools (like cursive handwriting)
  • parents who want to improve their teenagers’ chances of getting into a competitive university
  • students who are looking for books with clearer explanations and instructions
  • parents whose kids need extra help
  • students who need more practice
  • adults who wish to self-study or relearn old skills
  • students interested in special topics not taught in schools
  • people who wish to learn a specific skill
  • students who need to prepare for an exam
  • students hoping for a quicker way to learn a topic
  • lifelong learners

Obviously, no single book can meet all of these needs.

You can find some books that meet some of these needs in bookstores, but the market for these different types of books has grown far wider than what you can find in a bookstore.

Many students and parents have turned to Amazon, where teachers, tutors, instructors, and other educators are publishing a fast-growing variety of supplementary books.

Do you wish that your calculus course had included some more challenging problems? Or do you wish that there was a calculus book for people who want to understand what calculus is without having to take the class? Either way, or anywhere in between, you can probably find a book for that.

I published my first book back in 2008, and I have since published several math workbooks as part of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of workbooks. (I’ve also published a few science books.)

It started when I realized that my physics students weren’t as fluent in fundamental algebra and trigonometry skills as they needed to be. I thought to myself, maybe students could benefit from some extra practice.

It turns out that some students (and parents) were looking for such extra practice.

My books have developed considerably over the past decade, as I have come to interact with many parents and students who have used my workbooks. I continue to discover new ways that people would benefit from supplemental workbooks.

I’ve also discovered many other authors who are publishing supplemental material on Amazon. I don’t think of these authors as competitors. Rather, I realize that their books are very helpful. The growing number of supplemental educational books helps to attract students and parents to Amazon, and we all benefit from this.

Most people don’t buy a single educational book. They often buy several books. If not now, at some point in the future they will probably purchase more books. The customers-also-bought lists help customers find additional books, and later on Amazon will show customers recommendations based on previous purchases.

If you’re an educator who is thinking about becoming an author, if you want to write a textbook and have it adopted for classroom use, you probably want to work with a traditional academic publisher. However, if you’re thinking about preparing supplemental material, the road to publishing is simpler in some regards if you use Amazon KDP. At least, you should explore all of your options and decide what seems best for your book.

Either way, the goal is the same: Let’s help students learn. 🙂

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks

Kindle Now Has Scrolling Options

 

NOW YOU CAN READ A KINDLE EBOOK BY SCROLLING DOWNWARD

Some formatters used to say that a Kindle eBook is scrollable like a webpage.

But until now, that wasn’t quite right. You used to paginate your way through a Kindle eBook by advancing onto the next “page.”

But Kindle eBooks also weren’t like print books. When you changed the font size, line spacing, or read the book on a different device, the “pages” became significantly different.

However, now on supported devices it is possible to scroll down through a Kindle eBook just like you scroll through an article on a website online.

In the settings, look for the Continuous Scrolling option, shown below for my Kindle Fire.

If you’d rather paginate your way through the eBook, just disable the Continuous Scrolling option and it will function just like it always has.

This new feature is important to authors and publishers who use KDP for a couple of reasons.

Some readers will now scroll through your eBook, whether you like it or not.

So let’s give a little thought to how this may impact eBook design.

  • You want to add Space After to the last paragraph of a chapter (or section) that ordinarily precedes a page break. The page break is removed in Continuous Scrolling, so if you want to have space between the last paragraph of your chapter and the chapter heading that follows, you want to add Space Before to the last paragraph. Ideally, you should do this through paragraph styles or HTML. In HTML, create and apply a style definition that adds a bottom margin to the paragraph. If you’re using Word, create a body text paragraph that adds space after. I use a variety of paragraph styles that add space after: One is like the normal body paragraphs, one is for non-indented paragraphs, one is for the last point of a list, and another is for centered paragraphs. (By the way, since the Look Inside scrolls like a webpage, this is a handy tip to help create a little vertical separation in your Look Inside.)
  • With ordinary pagination, you could control page breaks and prevent information from showing on a screen sooner than you’d like (although some devices like Kindle for PC allow two pages to show on the screen at once). Suppose, for example, that you have an eTextbook with problems followed by answers or solutions. Ordinarily, you could place the answer or solution on the next “page” so that students could try it first, then check their work. However, if they scroll through the eBook now, they may stumble into the answers before reading the problems. Of course, once the student gets used to this, they can scroll more carefully if they don’t wish for this to happen. But it is something to consider as an author or publisher.
  • On the other hand, you can’t design your eBook with the assumption that everybody will scroll through it. Some readers will still be paginating like always.

Can you think of any other ways that this new scrolling feature may impact Kindle eBook design?

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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

KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited in 2019

Image from ShutterStock.

THE KDP SELECT DECISION

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

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

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

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

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

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

So here is the real question:

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

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

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

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

KDP SELECT INCENTIVES

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

Does this really help?

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

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

How does Kindle Unlimited have the potential to help authors?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT ELSE DOES KDP SELECT HAVE TO OFFER?

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

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

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

  • Kindle Countdown Deal
  • KDP Select free promo

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

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

Kindle Countdown Deals

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

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

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

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

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

What is that? A boost in sales rank.

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

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

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

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

Sales rank helps in various ways with visibility on Amazon.

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

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

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

SHOULD YOU ENROLL YOUR BOOK IN KDP SELECT?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Actually, you can try it both ways.

But not at the same time from the beginning.

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

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

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

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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

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

 

NOT FOR RESALE (AUTHOR PROOFS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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

January, 2019: What Did Kindle Unlimited Pay Per KENP Page Read?

WHAT DID KINDLE UNLIMITED PAY PER PAGE FOR JANUARY, 2019?

In January 2019, Kindle Unlimited paid $0.00442 for each KENP page read through KDP Select.

This is down 9% compared to December, but it isn’t unusual.

It’s fairly common for Amazon to pay more for Kindle Unlimited pages read before and during the holidays, and then to take a dip when the new year starts.

The royalties for pages read varies from $0.004 to $0.005 (and rarely a little over $0.005) per page.

When it’s near (or above) $0.005 per page read, you have to realize that it’s better than usual and enjoy it while it lasts.

When it’s around $0.0045 per page, this is roughly normal. Actually, most of 2018 was significantly above $0.0045, which shows that the per-page rate has been better than usual for several months, but if you go back a few years and examine all the data, you’ll see a few periods where it dropped down close to $0.004 per page.

You can count on it to fluctuate a bit. You can’t expect it to be the same every month.

However, you can count on the KDP Select Global Fund. It hit a new record high of $24.7 million, a clear million above December’s payout of $23.7.

The global fund steadily rises (and the very few times it hasn’t, it was only a very slight drop).

When Amazon switched to paying per page read for Kindle Unlimited borrows (and to a much lesser extent, borrows through Amazon Prime), the KDP Select Global Fund was around $10 million. Over the past few years since the change, the global fund has steadily risen to nearly $25 million.

This shows that the Kindle Unlimited audience is significant and is growing, and that there is enough content worth reading to sustain the program (and the amount of content continues to increase, except for a few specific subcategories).

Amazon is paying nearly $25 million per month (a pace for $300 million per year) just for pages read through Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Prime for KDP Select. That’s a huge chunk of royalties for a huge audience. There are also a million authors and millions of books participating in the program, and the most popular books are drawing a larger share of these royalties. But the potential is there if you can successfully engage the Kindle Unlimited audience.

That’s what I like about the pages read system. Maybe it doesn’t seem like much per page, and if you don’t have many pages read it won’t add up to much. But if you see significant pages read data for your book, you know that you’re successfully engaging customers. You want people to read your book, not just buy it. When you see those pages read, you know that your book is being read. That’s why we write books, after all. So that people will read them.

And for the books that really engage Kindle Unlimited readers well, the authors and publishers can be well-rewarded for their reader engagement.

There are a few cases where this program might not seem quite equitable, and if you think hard enough about it you might find something you don’t like. It does provide a good value to avid readers, and it does revolve around the idea of reader engagement, which are a couple of pluses that I do like. (No matter what Amazon does, it’s not going to please everyone. But with the payout rising from $10 million to nearly $25 million since the change, it seems to be working well enough to draw in many more readers as well as authors.)

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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

KDP University: Amazon Education for Authors

KDP UNIVERSITY

Amazon is offering a session on “What KDP authors & publishers should know about taxes” on Thursday, February 7, 2019, from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. Pacific time.

Visit the KDP University to register for this or other events. Click the Learn More link under Webinars. Select an event. Click Register. Fill out the form and press Submit.

Check out the upcoming events, such as “Developing a Promotional Strategy” on February 28 or “How to create, review, & optimize your Amazon Advertising campaign” on March 7.

At KDP University, you can find a variety of resources for authors who are self-publishing, including videos and formatting guides.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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

Make Your Copyright Page Pop

FORMATTING THE COPYRIGHT PAGE

The copyright is the most boring page in the book. Readers tend to skim through them. Self-published authors tend to spend more time on other obvious design concerns, like the cover.

A short, sweet, and plain copyright page will suffice.

I’ve written dozens of books (mostly math workbooks, but a few science books and even books about self-publishing), and today I felt a bit bored with the typical copyright page.

So I gave it a little thought and tried something different. In the picture above, I put my copyright ‘paragraphs’ into 3D blocks of assorted sizes and then stacked them together. It’s different, anyway.

I’m using blocks for headers, too, so these blocks will fit in with the rest of the design. The algebra and word problems were the easy part of this book, so I put some time into the design. It’s not as plain as my original math workbooks.

My books have progressed in other ways, too. My earliest math workbooks simply provided hundreds (or even thousands) of problems with answers. They were plain-looking, no fluff workbooks, but some of my favorite comments were from parents, stating that their kids felt like they were doing ‘real’ math.

With my most recent books, I include full solutions in addition to answers. This is helpful for some parents, but also helps the student who arrives at a different answer. Sometimes the ‘different’ answer turned out to be equivalent to the book’s answer: For example, 1/squareroot(3) is the same as squareroot(3) / 3 (if you rationalize the denominator). Unfortunately, some online algebra programs don’t rationalize the denominator, so in rare cases, students believed that the book was ‘incorrect’ (just because I took the extra time to rationalize the denominator, factor out perfect squares, and all the other work that math instructors prefer to make answers look tidy), not realizing that the book’s answer was equivalent to theirs. By working out the full solution (with explanations) in the back of the book, I hope to eliminate some confusion.

Back to the copyright page. It’s part of the front matter. Even if a reader quickly flips past the copyright page, a potential buyer does catch a glimpse of it. I’d much rather have a prospective buyer think, “Hey, that looks pretty cool,” than something else. (A poorly formatted copyright page, or any other section of the front matter, sends the opposite message. You really don’t want the buyer thinking, “Yuck.”)

Every little bit helps. The cover doesn’t sell the book. The cover can attract readers to check the book out. The description can entice readers to Look Inside. But it’s the Look Inside that plays a pivotal role in the closing rate: What percentage of customers who visit the product page actually purchase the book?

For a typical book, just 1 out of 1000 (or more) customers who see the book’s cover will actually visit the product page, and just 1 out of 100 or so customers who visit the product page will purchase the book. I’m not talking about bestsellers. I’m talking about an average book that sells once a week or so to a stranger. You put these ratios together, and it takes 100,000 strangers to see the book to make a purchase. Such traffic is at Amazon. But if 100,000 people see your book in one week, you really want more than just 1 of those customers to purchase the book.

Here is the folly of the typical newbie author. They see it the other way around. The newbie author who is only selling 1 copy or so per week, on average, to strangers incorrectly concludes that there isn’t much traffic seeing that book on Amazon. Actually, 100,000 or more people probably see that book per week. Don’t blame Amazon. Blame the cover, description, Look Inside (and then most important of all, is the content wonderful enough to earn recommendations? that’s the key to long-term success).

A book that will sell like hot cakes has such a good cover (and relevance to the target audience) that 1 out of a few hundred (instead of a thousand) customers who see the cover will check it out, and will have a compelling description and Look Inside such that 1 out of 10 (or better) customers who see the book purchase the book. First of all, this book sells much better because the click-thru rate and closing rate are much better. But then Amazon rewards these metrics, which give the book enhanced visibility. And then if the content lives up to customers’ expectations, word-of-mouth recommendations will give this book long-term success.

So self-published authors strive to find cover appeal, write great descriptions, and provide compelling content at the beginning of the book. But those other sections of front matter, they matter too. Look how hard we worked to perfect this book for you. We even put time and effort into the boring copyright page. That’s they kind of message you want to send.

You want some of your front matter to pop. For a novel, it probably won’t be the copyright page. For some nonfiction books or children’s books, even the copyright page can pop. Why not?

Unfortunately, sometimes Amazon ‘skips’ pages of the Look Inside for print books. I’ve occasionally had a pretty cool picture somewhere in the front matter that didn’t show in the Look Inside. But when the customer opens the book at home, it will be a nice surprise.

Strive to perfect the entire book. That way it won’t matter which pages show up in the Look Inside.

If you want to see a copyright page that really POPS, check out this book by Victoria Kann.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/0061781266

If you make illustrated books and you have amazing drawing skills, this should be right up your alley.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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