Book Giveaways in 2018

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BOOK GIVEAWAYS

Two of the most popular methods that authors and publishers use to hold contests for book giveaways have changed.

  • Amazon Giveaways have undergone a series of changes.
  • Goodreads Giveaways changed significantly as of January, 2018.

So 2018 is a good time for a new post regarding how to host a book giveaway.

WHY HOST A GIVEAWAY?

A giveaway is one tool that authors and publishers utilize to help with book marketing.

Following are the main goals for a book giveaway.

  • Help create buzz and initial exposure for a new book release.
  • Give the author a chance to call attention (in other forms of marketing) to a contest, rather than always calling attention directly to the book.
  • Hope that some of the winners will write book reviews.
  • Hope that the winners love the book so much that they help with word-of-mouth sales.

When a book is loved so much by an audience that it thrives on word-of-mouth sales, it can really take off. This is the best-case scenario, but often isn’t attained.

Only a percentage of winners will post reviews. A good percentage of Goodreads winners will rate or review the book at Goodreads, but it’s not as common for Amazon or Goodreads winners to review the book at Amazon.

There are a few other possible benefits of running a giveaway.

  • Generate activity. At Goodreads, entrants automatically have your book added to their To-Read lists. (They can undo this, but most don’t.) It helps make your Goodreads book page look more active.
  • Increase your following. At Amazon, you can require entrants to follow you. Note: You don’t have to give away a book. You can run an Amazon Giveaway for a $5 gift card or most other products. For a popular product, you may draw many followers (but keep in mind that most probably won’t be part of your target audience).
  • Help with branding. People see your book cover and read your name. A large part of book marketing involves effective branding. This helps a little.

HOW MUCH DOES A GIVEAWAY COST?

That depends. Of course, it’s free for the entrant. The author or publisher who sets it up does pay a cost.

  • For an Amazon Giveaway for a Kindle eBook, you pay for the current price of the Kindle eBook plus any applicable tax. (They may not show you the tax when you setup your giveaway, but you may notice that it has been added when you view your orders and then select Digital Orders.) If your book is in KDP Select, you can save money by setting up your Amazon Giveaway while a Countdown Deal is in progress. (This also adds a little exposure to your Countdown Deal.) Note: You can’t receive a refund for unclaimed prizes (but you can run a new giveaway for them, gaining additional exposure, or you can turn them into gift cards to send out).
  • For an Amazon Giveaway for a print book, you pay for the current price of the print book plus estimated shipping charges plus any applicable tax. If your book happens to be on sale when you setup your contest, you will save a little money. Sometime after your contest ends, you will receive a small refund if the actual shipping charges are less than the estimated charges. You will also receive a refund for any unclaimed copies.
  • For a Goodreads Giveaway for a Kindle eBook, you pay a setup fee of $119 for a standard giveaway (or $599 for a premium giveaway). However, you don’t have to pay for the cost of the Kindle eBook on top of the setup fee. When the Kindle eBooks are delivered, you will see free copies of your Kindle eBook show up in your KDP sales reports.
  • For a Goodreads Giveaway for a print book, you pay a setup fee of $119 for a standard giveaway (or $599 for a premium giveaway), and after the contest you must also pay to send the books to the winners (which means you must order author copies in advance, package materials, and be prepared to send the books via media mail, for example, at the post office).

In general, Amazon Giveaways cost less to run.

  • There is no setup fee. You just pay for the cost of the book (plus tax, and plus shipping for a print book).
  • If you choose to give away a small number of books (or just one copy), the cost will be fairly reasonable.

For example, if you have a Kindle eBook on sale for 99 cents, you can run an Amazon Giveaway for one book that costs approximately $1, or you can run a contest for 10 books for about $10.

As another example, if you have a paperback book with a list price of $9.99, you can run an Amazon Giveaway for one book that costs around $20.

However, Goodreads is now quite cost effective for giving away a large number of books. Suppose, for example, that you wish to give away 100 Kindle eBooks.

  • If your book’s current price is $2.99, it would cost $299 plus tax to do this at Amazon (and you may need to setup multiple giveaways for such a large number of prizes).
  • At Goodreads, you could give away 100 copies for a total of $119, which in this example would save you $180 (or more, as Goodreads might not charge you tax on the order).

If you want to give away several copies of your book, hoping for maximum exposure, confident that your story will merit word-of-mouth exposure, Goodreads lets you run a contest for 100 Kindle eBooks at an effective cost of $1.19 per book, which is pretty good.

However, if you want to host a contest for a small number of books, the cost per book is much lower with an Amazon Giveaway.

WHAT HAS CHANGED?

With Goodreads Giveaways:

  • There is now a setup fee. It used to be free.
  • You can now run a contest for Kindle eBooks. It used to be for print books only.
  • The book is automatically added to Want-to-Read lists. This helps make the book’s Goodreads page appear more active.
  • Entrants must currently reside in the United States. Previously, authors or publishers could choose to open participation to a few other countries.

With Amazon Giveaways:

  • There is a little automated exposure now. Before, you had to share the link to your giveaway, or at least tweet about it using the #AmazonGiveaway hashtag. Now there is an option to click Public, which gives you some added exposure. This might include the Amazon giveaway listing page, a daily email, or other placements on Amazon.com.
  • Your manage your giveaways page now shows you the number of hits (people who visit the giveaway page), number of entrants (people who enter the giveaway), and the number of product page visits. For example, for one of my more popular contests, I had 4033 hits, 2424 entrants, and 79 product page visits, but for one of my recent contests, I had 290 hits, 124 entrants, and 13 product page visits.
  • You can’t enter a custom message anymore.
  • You can’t require entrants to follow you on Twitter (but you can still require them to follow you on Amazon).
  • You can require entrants to watch a short video.

HOW MUCH EXPOSURE WILL I GET?

It can vary considerably. There are no guarantees.

A popular giveaway can receive 2000+ views over the course of a week or a month. An unpopular giveaway might not receive 100 views.

I’ve run over a hundred giveaways and the results are quite varied. (Keep in mind that some of my books are under pen names.)

When a book happens to be popular among the giveaway audience, it often pulls 2000 to 3000 views without any marketing on my part.

If a book isn’t attracting the giveaway audience, if the contest isn’t marketed by the author, it can really struggle to pull 200 views.

Many books fall somewhere in between.

Results can vary considerably depending on the genre or subject, whether it’s print or Kindle, cover appeal, and whether the book’s audience matches the giveaway audience.

At Amazon, if you require entrants to follow you or watch a video, you will get somewhat less participation.

Note that the Goodreads giveaway audience is changing with the recent changes to Goodreads giveaways. It used to be exclusively for print books, but now many of the giveaways appeal to Kindle customers.

DO GIVEAWAYS HELP WITH AMAZON SALES RANK?

The first thing to realize is that the answer to this question may have changed over the years.

Amazon appears to contradict itself on this very point (perhaps also due to a change having occurred over time).

Consider this quote from 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 states clearly that Amazon Giveaways do not count towards sales rank.

However, consider this quote from the Amazon Giveaway FAQ’s:

“Using giveaways to manipulate sales rank (i.e. by creating multiple giveaways for the same ASIN, rather than creating one bulk giveaway).”

If, as the KDP quote suggests, giveaways don’t impact sales rank, how could creating multiple giveaways for the same ASIN manipulate sales rank?

Perhaps the giveaway FAQ’s page is simply a little outdated. Maybe the giveaways used to impact sales rank, but now they don’t.

Nonetheless, I often see a boost to sales rank after hosting a giveaway. But the effect may be indirect.

The giveaway generates activity on your Amazon product page, it gets customers interested in your book, and it may result in a couple of sales of its own. Thus, if you see your sales rank improve during the giveaway, it’s possible that this occurred indirectly due to that added interest and not directly from the giveaway itself.

For Kindle eBooks enrolled in KDP Select, sales rank is even more complicated. That’s because every Kindle Unlimited borrow helps with sales rank, but your reports don’t show you when your book is borrowed (they instead show how many pages are read, which may occur weeks or months after the actual borrow).

Goodreads giveaways are different. If you run a Goodreads giveaway for a Kindle eBook, when the contest ends, the books show up as free books in your reports, not as paid sales. Amazon has separate ranks for free book promos and paid sales, so Goodreads giveaways definitely do not impact paid sales rank directly (though again their can be indirect benefits). (If you run a free book promo with KDP Select, your free rank looks great during the promo, but that isn’t a paid sales rank. Once the promo ends, it will be replaced by a paid sales rank.)

SHOULD I DO A PAPERBACK OR EBOOK GIVEAWAY?

If either edition is likely to offer a better reading experience, or if either edition is more likely to be appreciated by the customer, that’s the edition I recommend.

For example, if the Kindle edition has color illustrations while the print edition is black and white, I would prefer the Kindle edition.

As a counterexample, if parents are more likely to read an illustrated kids’ book to their children in print format, I would prefer a paperback or hardcover.

If you’re giving away a large number of copies, it’s much more economical to create an eBook giveaway.

If you want to include a brief thank-you note or bookmark, go with a print edition.

WHAT ABOUT OTHER COUNTRIES?

To enter a Goodreads or Amazon Giveaway, the entrant must be in the United States.

HOW CAN I WIN A FREE BOOK?

Enter for a chance to win my latest book, 50 Challenging Algebra Problems (Fully Solved).

https://www.amazon.com/ga/p/1b25ef65c4b48278#ln-en

Explore the Amazon Giveaways page.

https://www.amazon.com/ga/giveaways

Explore the Goodreads giveaways page.

https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway

TIP

Spend a little time as a customer exploring giveaways before creating a giveaway as an author.

For example, at Goodreads, this will help you get ideas for writing an effective contest description, and it will show you which types of giveaways tend to be more popular.

If you’re thinking about paying extra for a premium giveaway, spend some time researching active giveaways to see whether or not the premium placement seems to be bringing in the kinds of results that you would expect. If you find premium giveaways on the main landing page that have been out for over a week, but don’t have several thousand views, it’s not likely to expect huge results for your own contest.

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 Make an Index (for a Nonfiction Print Book)

HOW TO MAKE AN INDEX

Having made an index for several different nonfiction print books over the years, I have a set of suggestions for how to create an index.

I prefer to do this manually. When I use the search tool that comes with an online article (or an eBook), I’m often disappointed. It easily pulls up every match of the word, which isn’t always helpful. If the word is used 200 times, I must then sort out which of the 200 are most relevant.

Also, search tools are sometimes too literal. For example, if I want to find information in a book relating to the moon, when I type the word “moon” in the search, it won’t show me pages where the author wrote the word “lunar” (unless the author also happened to write the word “moon” on the same page).

A manual index has the potential to be much more helpful than an automatically created one.

  1. I get out a blank spiralbound notebook with at least 26 leafs.
  2. Write the letter A at the top of the first leaf, B at the top of the second leaf, etc. (A book consists of leafs. Each leaf has two pages, one on the front and one on the back of each leaf.)
  3. If you might have several terms starting with a common letter (I always get a ton of I’s, P’s, and S’s, for example), you might save an extra leaf for these, just in case.
  4. I open the PDF for my print book’s interior on my computer and set my blank spiralbound notebook on my desk in front of my computer monitor.
  5. With fresh, relaxed eyes (which requires several short breaks to maintain), I go through my PDF file slowly, one page at a time.
  6. For each page of my PDF, there are typically a variety of keywords that I wish to include in my index.
  7. I write each keyword down in my spiralbound notebook on the leaf corresponding to its first letter. This helps me sort out the keywords, and helps me find repeated keywords easily.
  8. Next to the keyword, I write down the page number. Some keywords may show up on several pages. For my most popular keywords, I may need 2-3 lines in my notebook to record all of the relevant page numbers.
  9. I go page by page through my PDF, writing down keywords and corresponding page numbers in my notebook.
  10. When deciding on keywords, try to think in practical terms. Which keywords will readers want to search for in your index? Is there enough content on the page relating to that keyword to include that page in the index for that term?
  11. What other words or phrases might readers search for? It’s kind of like word association. For example, one reader might search for “left alignment” in the index, while another might search for “ragged right,” where both readers are actually looking for the same topic. An index works well when customers can find what they’re looking for easily.
  12. On a related note, consider that a single term sometimes has different meanings. For example, the word “sale” could refer to the purchase of a product (we had a lot of sales today) or it could mean that the price is reduced (that t.v. is on sale). Some readers might look for “sales” in an index hoping to find pages that will show how to improve sales (that is, to sell more products), while other readers might look for “sales” hoping to learn about promotional pricing. One set of readers will be disappointed unless the index has separate entries for both (like “sales, selling” versus “sales, discounts”).
  13. Write down the page numbers carefully. Double-check each one after you write it.
  14. Once I’ve written down all of the terms in my notebook, I type them in a blank Excel file on my computer. Excel is handy for this as it can quickly alphabetize the entries for you.
  15. I type the keywords in the left column. I type the corresponding page numbers in the second column.
  16. Be very careful when typing the page numbers for each term. If a customer searches for a term on page 57, for example, and the term isn’t there, this will create a frustrating customer experience. Take your time and keep your eyes rested and fresh (with plenty of short breaks).
  17. When a keyword appears on consecutive pages, you can consolidate the page numbering, like 38-44. An alternative is to write ff for forth-following, but I prefer to list the starting and ending pages. As a reader, I like to know when the last page comes, so there isn’t any detective work needed from the reader’s end. (Also, keep in mind that not all readers will know what the ff stands for.)
  18. What if a keyword appears on several pages, but one of the pages is likely the most relevant match? You could put this page number in boldface, for example, so that it stands out.
  19. If there is a figure or table corresponding to a keyword and you feel that this will be helpful for the reader, you could write something like 48(fig) or 48(tab), or even just 48(f) or 48(t), though in the latter case, fewer readers will realize what you mean.
  20. If a page has a definition for a word, you might write something like 32(def).
  21. If a keyword appears in a footnote, you might write 124(fn), but beware of the potential ambiguity. Readers may wonder whether you mean page 124 in a footnote, or footnote 124 (on some other page), unless you write something like 124(fn 15).
  22. Once my index is typed up, I let Excel sort the data for me. Highlight the columns. Click on the Data tab. Click on the Sort icon. Adjust the Sort By column if necessary. (If it doesn’t come out right, press the Undo button.)
  23. Actually, back up a step. I recommend that you copy and paste all of your information into a new Excel file before you sort it. This way, if you later discover some issue with the sorting that you didn’t notice right away, you have your original to fall back on.
  24. I copy and paste the table into Word (or whatever software you’re using). You might prefer to do this as plain text and then reformat it. I usually prefer to format my index as two columns.
  25. As you can see in the picture for my post, I type each letter of the alphabet at the top of the list of keywords that start with that letter.
  26. Browse through the index sections of a variety of traditionally published print books. This will help you see the different design possibilities, and will help you adopt your own unique style.
  27. Test your index out before you publish your book.

This seems like more work than it is. The hardest part is just to get started. I usually spend a few days on it, though only a couple of hours per day, so that I can keep my eyes fresh and stay focused. After spending months writing the book, a few days for the index isn’t much.

Note that an eBook ordinarily doesn’t include an index. That’s because eReaders have a Search tool (though I mentioned earlier that this isn’t foolproof).

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.

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

That Book is a Monster

Image licensed from Shutter Stock.

MONSTER BOOK PROJECTS

There is one book that I’m wrapping up now that has grown and grown and grown… turning into a monster.

In a good way. But it has been very time consuming.

It’s a good thing that I really love to write.

That’s why, in 2017, I didn’t blog nearly as much as in previous years. I’ve been busy with a seemingly never-ending project.

Actually, a few very large book projects.

One, which I’m in the process of completing, is Kindle Formatting Magic.

The other is a series of physics workbooks/study guides.

Both projects wound up growing much, much larger than I had originally envisioned.

It has taken much more work than I had planned, but it has been worth it.

If you’re a writer, have you become involved in any monstrous book projects?

Or perhaps as a reader there is a monstrous book or series that you appreciate.

KINDLE FORMATTING MAGIC

You may have noticed that my Kindle Formatting Magic book has been “coming soon” for several months now.

When I first added that note to my blog, the book was nearly complete and I was expecting to publish it in a matter of weeks.

But I realized that I wasn’t happy with the organization of the book.

So I reorganized it and completely rewrote it.

That took a long time, but then I reorganized it and completely rewrote it yet again.

Third time’s a charm.

Now it really is “coming soon,” though by that I mean it’s still a matter of weeks. But this time it will be a few weeks or more, certainly not a year.

The book feels “right” now. It hadn’t before.

Once I finally got it to feel “right” to me, it continued to grow.

I realized that I needed to add a few more chapters beyond what I had intended.

And I have spent a great deal of time putting together over 100 pictures to visually demonstrate important problems and solutions with Kindle formatting.

On top of that, I’ve been editing, revising, re-editing…

Speaking of which, over the course of this project, there have been numerous changes to Kindle Direct Publishing, including the nature of the previewer and Kindle conversion, the steps and organization of the publishing process, and the organization and content of the KDP help pages.

Which has added several revisions to my revisions.

This book has grown into a monster, but I’m taking my time. Having already put so many additional months into this book, I want it to feel as “right” as possible before it hits the market.

Almost done.

It’s a good feeling to be almost done. I’m enjoying it.

Being completely done will be a nice feeling too.

This will be far and above my best formatting book ever.

PHYSICS WORKBOOKS

If I had only been working on my formatting book, I would have finished months ago.

But I also spent much of 2017 completing my series of physics workbooks/study guides.

There are three volumes, each 300 to 500 pages. (This includes space for students to work out the solutions to problems.)

Originally, I planned for my physics workbooks to include problems for students to solve along with answers.

But they grew into so much more.

I added material to each chapter to help students understand the main concepts. I added definitions. I added full step-by-step examples for how to solve similar problems. I added tables to explain the symbols and units relevant to each chapter.

This took much time, but I believe it has made my physics workbooks much more useful.

Many of my physics students have remarked that I can make difficult concepts seem clear, and that I can make the math seem easy.

So I worked hard to try to incorporate this into my physics workbooks.

On top of this, I decided to do more than simply tabulate the answers to the problems at the back of the book.

First, I put the final answer to each problem on the same page as the problem. This way, students don’t have to hunt for answers in the back. They can check if their solution is right or wrong immediately. I want students to gain confidence by solving problems correctly, but if their solution is wrong, I want them to know it so they can seek help.

In the back of the book, I typed up numerous hints to every part of every problem, and give intermediate answers to help students see where they went wrong.

The “hints and intermediate answers” section practically walks the student through the entire solution.

Again, it was much more work than I had originally planned, but I believe it has made my workbooks much better.

Just in case that wasn’t enough, I also typed up full solutions to every problem with explanations, creating three new books.

They aren’t really intended to be solutions manuals, even though they are. These are presented as fully solved examples.

Some students prefer to have fully solved examples to read, while other students prefer to have a workbook to help them practice solving problems.

Then I have two versions of every book, one that includes calculus and one that doesn’t (I call those trig-based).

I finally completed the physics series a few months back, and now I’m finishing up my formatting book.

Sometime early in 2018, I will be able to pursue something new.

It won’t be a book monster. I need a little break from mammoth book projects. I’m looking forward to working on a project that’s more focused.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2017

Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online BooksellersVolume 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.<<<<
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Hope, Fear, and… Shopping for Books at Amazon

SHOPPING AT AMAZON

When browsing for a book (or other product) at Amazon, it’s amazing how much hope, fear, and other emotions factor into the shopping experience.

Whether you’re a customer, an author, or an Amazon seller, it may be worthwhile to take a moment to try to understand the psychology of Amazon sales.

Imagine yourself staring at a book detail page at Amazon.com, considering a book that caught your attention.

There are two types of criteria that may influence whether or not you purchase the book:

  • You may apply logical reasoning.
  • You may be influenced by your emotions.

For most customers, both aspects may factor into the purchase decision. Some customers generally rely much more on one aspect than the other.

It may not even be a conscious decision. Many people are influenced by emotional responses without even realizing it. Sometimes the emotional aspect is subtle. Sometimes it may impact us on a subconscious level.

Also, note that logical reasoning can’t decide everything. Sometimes, after a person who relies heavily on logic applies logic as far as he (or she) can take it, the person still isn’t sure. In that case, the person might use some emotional aspect to break the tie (or flip a coin).

If you’re a customer, you might learn to make wiser buying decisions by trying to understand how various aspects of the product page may influence you emotionally.

If you’re an author or an Amazon seller, you may wish to better understand how sales psychology may benefit you both short-term and long-term. (Note that what benefits you in the short-term may hurt in the long-term. They don’t always go hand in hand.)

A LITTLE SALES PSYCHOLOGY

Let’s break down an Amazon product page, considering how each element may influence a customer’s buying decision.

  • Book cover (or product photo). This may send a strong visual signal, but may also suggest subtle emotional responses. You might think that the main message should be “Look at me,” but it’s actually better for the signal to be “Wow, that looks appealing.” An effective image does more than this: the subtler messages can carry influence. A picture can send a “positive” signal, inspiring the customer be in a better emotional state. A picture can have a “professional” tone. It can strive to earn “trust.” It can say “I look like the type of product you’re looking for.”
  • Reviews. Many reviews (both good and bad) carry marketing influence. Good reviews play on customers’ hopes, while critical reviews play on customers’ fears. Most of the time, it isn’t intentional, but of course there are both good and bad reviews that have been written with the intent of playing on hopes or fears. As a customer, it’s a challenge to glean helpful information from reviews without being influenced on an emotional level. As an author or Amazon seller, you must consider that many customers are skeptical to some extent about customer reviews. One possible fear is that the seller recruited reviews, so if the first 20 reviews are all glowing and the last 10 reviews are mostly bad, that by itself may act to “confirm” a customer’s fear that the seller recruited good reviews for a not-so-good product. In addition to customer reviews, there may be quotes from editorial reviews, and there may be review quotes in the description or Look Inside. There is another important aspect of reviews: If a product page plays on customer hopes by making a product seem better than it actually is, customer reviews help to offset this marketing tactic. Reviews are a strong reason that all authors and sellers should focus on long-term success (writing a great book or delivering a great product helps to get favorable reviews in the long run).
  • Description. Marketing copy is one of the most challenging forms of writing—and the proof of its effectiveness isn’t when several people tell you how impressed they are with what you wrote, but in what percentage of customers who read it proceed to purchase the product. An effective product description must be concise because most customers won’t read a long description in full (and if the description is long, most customers won’t even bother to click the Read More link to see the remainder of it). The few sentences that customers can see before the Read More link appears is valuable real estate: There is so much an author or seller needs to accomplish with a minimum of words. In terms of marketing influence, sellers want to create “customer engagement,” “arouse curiosity,” “inspire interest,” and perhaps even “create a sense of urgency” (but you’re not supposed to mention limited-time offers or pricing here). But the description also needs to provide valuable information about what to expect from the book (or other product). It may also need to create a sense of professionalism and trust. It needs to help create appeal. On top of that, the words need to flow well, be a good fit for expectations, and avoid spelling and grammar mistakes. There is one thing that a description shouldn’t do: It shouldn’t give the story away.
  • Title. Even the title can carry emotional influence. Have you ever read a title that had a little jingle that you got a kick out of, maybe put you in a good mood? The title needs to reinforce the visual message that the book cover (or product phot) sends. With fiction books, very short titles tend to be more effective (1 to 3 words). That’s partly because the eye is drawn to a short title in search results, and partly because many customers just look at the first few words when looking at search results. A title can help to create appeal (or just the opposite). Appeal is an important criteria, since appeal helps to put the customer in a happier state when making a purchase decision.
  • Look Inside. This can be the most valuable real estate on the product page. The customer must already be interested in order to be looking inside. This means that every other aspect of the product page has done its job: Now it’s up to the Look Inside to close the deal. The Look Inside has one important job to do: It just needs to send the message, “This book is everything you hoped it would be—based on the cover, description, title, and reviews—and MORE.” If it sends that message, the customer will almost certainly Buy Now. (But again, if the rest of the book doesn’t live up to the expectations created by the Look Inside, this will be exposed in customer reviews, and fewer customers will Look Inside in the future.) The Look Inside contains visual elements and writing, both of which need to help deliver the right messages. As with the description, the Look Inside must engage the customer and arouse curiosity (but without giving the story away), and like the book cover, the Look Inside needs to send the right visual signals.
  • Bio. A biography (or about me) section is a chance to demonstrate expertise or knowledgeability, but it’s also a chance to show humanity, individuality, and professionalism. For authors, if you can write an interesting biography, that bodes well for having written an interesting story (since very often readers aren’t interested in biographies). A picture that accompanies the biography offers another opportunity to send the right visual message.
  • Colors. There is even a psychology for interpreting colors. For example, a good cover designer selects a color scheme that is appropriate for the subject matter or story. Certain colors are better for attracting males or females, some colors work better for romance while others work better for mystery, some colors suggest professionalism, and some colors convey emotions (like happy or sad). Amazon uses color in text labels, prices, stars, buttons, and other elements of a product page. The prices are in red, which not only stands out well against a white background but may aid in creating a buying impulse (many stores use red for one of these two reasons: let’s assume they are using it for contrast and to catch attention, and if it happens to help a little to create a buying impulse, it’s just a happy bonus for the store).

We humans don’t always make the best decisions. Even humans who spend their lives solving very difficult problems quite skillfully can be prone to making a stupid everyday decision.

If humans tended to be better decision-makers, a lot of successful talk-show hosts would be out of business!

So when you’re shopping for a product, try to think about how you might make a wiser purchase decision. Try to think of which factors may be trying to influence you emotionally. Try to force yourself to rely somewhat more on logical reasoning and somewhat less on emotions.

Or forget it… just act impulsively and enjoy the splurge. You know you want to. 😉

If you’re an author or Amazon seller, try to think about how your Amazon product pages might influence customers emotionally. Don’t try to think of ways that you might take advantage of this in the short run because such ploys tend to backfire in the long run (killing sales later): For example, if the product page plays on the customer’s hope that it’s the most amazing product ever, disappointed customers will post critical reviews (which will play on future customers’ fears) and will return the product (and Amazon uses customer satisfaction metrics in its algorithms).

So you don’t want to oversell a product, making it seem way better than it is. But you do want to make it sound as good as it is. If it does deliver on customer hopes, the product page should show this.

You can also think about how your product page delivers both visually and in words important messages, such as “professional,” “positive,” “trust,” “expertise,” “creative,” or a particular subject matter or topic (like “romance” or “country”).

What is your customer hoping to get from your product? Among these hopes, what does your product actually deliver? You want to show the customer that your product delivers on the right hopes, and you want to disclose when it doesn’t deliver on other hopes.

What does your customer fear he or she may get from your product? You need to apply a similar reasoning here.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2017

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.

NY Published Author Successfully Transitions to Self-Publishing: The Amazing Story of Cheryl Holt

After Writing 24 Books for New York Publishers, Cheryl Holt Adds 24 More by Self-publishing

This amazing, inspiring author success story needs to be shared throughout the indie publishing community.

I was very fortunate to interview Cheryl Holt, who had written 24 books for New York publishers and then successfully transitioned to self-publishing.

You can hear Cheryl’s story straight from her, and there is much that you can learn from her answers to my questions.

(1) What have you done to help market your self-published books? Was this a viable option when you were traditionally published?

When I wrote for the NY companies, I was “just” a paperback romance writer, so I got very little marketing assistance from my publishers. The biggest thing they did for me was to always buy me an ad in a romance trade magazine, Romantic Times, when I had a book released. Otherwise, I was pretty much on my own as far as handling any marketing. So from the very beginning, I had to devise my own marketing strategies, and I’ve continued to use those old tried-and-true ones as well as latching on to new ones that technology has made available.

I market my self-published books in exactly the same way that I marketed my books that were published by the NY companies. My biggest marketing tool, and the one I spend the most time on, is growing my mailing list. I started my mailing list with my very first release, and I constantly work on it. I have sign-up forms posted all over my web site, and I run contests several times a year, where I give away autographed print copies of my novels as the prize. The entrants’ email addresses are added to my mailing list. I work on the list constantly; I work on it everyday. The number one way to sell something (in any field) is through direct marketing to your dedicated customer base. So I keep track of my readers, and when I need to notify readers about a new release, that’s where I start. They’re loyal and voracious, and they’ve been very kind to me in sticking with me through all my career ups and downs. I’m always so grateful to them, and they’re the first to hear about everything that’s happening with me and my books.

There have been changes to my marketing that have come over the years. I have a Facebook fan page, and a Twitter account, but I don’t use them for personal postings. I simply post about my books, what’s coming, and what’s happening. I’ve always had a web page, ever since it became a “thing” that people could have (around 1999). I’m meticulous about keeping it updated. My readers like to know what’s coming next and when it’s coming, so I try to make it easy for them to log on and quickly see what’s happening. If you’d like to take a peek, the URL is www.cherylholt.com.

When I have a book coming, (in the month before the release date) I do a ton of promo to get myself noticed. I do blog tours at the big romance reader sites, I run contest giveaways, I do interviews, I buy banner ads, I buy spot ads, I do reader promotion at reader sites. I’ve even hosted Facebook parties with lots of guest authors and prize giveaways.

The main problem for self-published authors is that we’re being buried by a wave of content that’s swept over all of us. So it’s a hundred times harder to get noticed than it was ten years ago. There are so many books out there now, and even with my name recognition and dedicated fan base, it’s an enormous and exhausting challenge to get people to notice that I have a book coming.

For example, this was the first year since 2005 that I didn’t produce a book trailer for my new series. The web is so overloaded with video content that it’s just about impossible to justify the expense of creating a book trailer. Even with expanded distribution by a video company, any video is thrown into a sea of millions of other videos. So I’ve stopped doing them.

But otherwise, each and every year, I do more promo. It’s a constant battle to stay ahead of the game, and that hasn’t changed with self-publishing. I’m doing more and different types of promo, and I’m using more intense marketing than ever before.

(2) What advice would you offer new authors who are just learning the self-publishing ropes?

My biggest advice would be to read all about self-publishing and to learn as much as you can about it before you jump into it. And once you get going, keep reading and keep learning. The publishing industry—both on the NY end of it and in the self-publishing world—is changing so fast, and you have to keep up, or you’ll get crushed in the wave of what’s happening.

I heartily advise people to join a writer’s group (both a local one and a national one). At the local one, you can hang with other writers once a month and listen to how they’re working and adapting to this strange, new world we’re in. There are also big national groups you can join in various genres, such as Romance Writers of America or Sisters in Crime. You’ll get a monthly newsletter that contains articles about markets, trends, and changes.

If you can afford it, try to attend a big national writer’s conference. They’re always held once a year. Take all the classes and chat with other writers so you can absorb some of what they’ve figured out.

There are publishing companies, such as Writer’s Digest Books, that publish tons of “how to” books about writing, publishing, and book marketing, particularly e-book, self-published marketing. Start buying them and reading them.

Go out on the web and find some good blog sites (how about Chris McMullen’s blog?!) and other sites where authors provide guidance and advice. If you’re a tech dummy, as I am, find companies that can help you figure out how to format and publish on your own. I always use BookBaby to format and distribute my novels. I met them in the vendor’s room at a national writer’s conference, when I was first trying to figure out how I could start publishing my own books. I had no idea how to do that, and it seemed really complicated. I’m not much of a computer person, and all the processes seemed beyond my ability to figure out. At one on-line site, I was told to read their 85-page formatting manual before I tried to post anything! It was all so bewildering.

When I talked to the Book Baby book rep, he said, “We can do all that for you.” I about fainted. It had never occurred to me that there were companies out there that could provide exactly the sort of services I needed.

There are all kinds of companies now that help authors get their books published. When I first started writing novels, the web wasn’t a “thing” yet. I lived in a little town in rural Oregon, and I staggered around for years, trying to figure out how to start. It’s so much easier now to get information. Join a writer’s group! Attend regularly! Find several good blog sites, read them religiously, and absorb every bit of advice that’s offered! Read books about marketing and trends! Do some research and find companies that can help you. Read, read, read. Learn, learn, learn.

That’s always the best advice. Learn—and get smarter and better.

(3) When you made the switch from writing for NY publishers to self-publishing, what changes (if any) did you make to your writing?

I started writing manuscripts in the late 1990s, and my first books were published in 2000. For a decade, I wrote for various NY publishers, and I was a genre paperback writer. When I started out, paperbacks were really long. I’m dating myself, but do you remember books like SHOGUN? They were massive in length. So my first novels were really long, but “book length” was a factor that changed significantly in the decade that I wrote for those NY companies. And that’s precipitated the biggest changes to my current writing.

Book length is measured by word count, and my early novels were around 110,000 words. But starting about 2004, the price of paper shot up dramatically, so the NY publishers responded by shortening the length of books that they published. This caused a significant abbreviation of the size of novels, but it also caused authors to adopt major stylistic changes in our writing as we had to be able to tell much more story in a much shorter span of pages. Authors had to cut descriptive prose and tell the story using more dialogue. This brought us fast, fleet stories that were much easier (quicker) to read, but for many readers, they’ve gotten much less satisfying.

My early paperbacks were around 110,000 words, and when I finished writing for those NY companies a decade later, my books had to be between 80,000 and 85,000 words. That’s a considerable drop in book length, which brought about significant changes stylistically, so my early NY-published books are very different from the later ones.

I liked writing longer novels, and my biggest NY sales came in the beginning of my career when books were much longer and I was able to write long, emotional stories. I’m great at using emotion and drama, and I feel like I’m better at a longer length—and that my readers enjoy a deeper, more satisfying emotional story. So I’ve gone back to writing long books. With my self-publishing of e-books, I don’t have to worry about the price of paper or of page length. I’m typically writing books that are 120,000 words now, and my readers seem to really enjoy the longer length. I’m able to give them a “bigger”, more involved story with more in-depth characters and interesting plots.

My longest books, the ones I’ve published on my own, have been my biggest sellers in my career.

Cheryl Holt’s Story: The Transition from NY Publishers to Self-publishing

BookBaby author Cheryl Holt made a name for herself, as well as a respectable living, writing historical romance novels, first for a dedicated paperback publisher, then for several big mass market publishers. Her books did well, though Holt often had to come to terms with market forces beyond her control, that didn’t light her creative fire.

Holt had started writing as a young mother in her 40s. At home with small children, she wanted something to do, something that earned some money. She landed on novel writing. “I was clueless about how the money worked, or how the business worked,” she admits. Inspired by stars like John Grisham, she drew on her legal training to craft her first books. Her forays into suspense didn’t pan out, so she decided to look elsewhere.

“The romance companies back then used to find their new talent among moms who were at home and writing to earn a bit of extra money. They were essentially paperback mills who ran romance book clubs. They bought straight from the writer. ‘I’ll sell these romances,’ I told myself, ‘then I’ll go back.’”

Her seventh manuscript, a Regency-era romance, finally sold. Holt didn’t go back, but dug in, writing and editing steamy tales in the car, at soccer practices and swim lessons, whenever she had a few spare moments. She discovered something she never suspected: She could write really, really good love stories.

At the time, romances ran longer and readers devoured elaborate storylines. “When I was starting and reading, historical romances were just massive,” Holt recalls. “They had wild love stories, when the heroine was, say, taken to harem after being kidnapped by pirates. I’m not a particularly romantic person, but I got hooked on them. Romance readers have certain things they love, but I didn’t know what they were. I had no preconceived notions. Readers loved that.”

Holt’s unconventional takes on the genre led to her selling book after book to publishers. One of her early books sold out nationwide due to a hot cover that connected with fans, and soon she built herself a sizeable following. As tastes changed, Holt learned the hard way to adapt. By 2000, erotic romance was the rage, and Holt wrote what publishers asked for. But her readers longed for the sweeping romantic tales that had launched her career.

“Books were getting shorter, more erotic,” Holt says. “It was leaning toward pornographic really fast. I wasn’t into that. My sales were starting to fall. My hardcore fans kept asking why everything was vampires and erotica, instead of real love stories.”

Then 2008 hit, the economic downturn that kicked the legs out from under many mass publishers. Holt had a deal in place, but her publisher faced a daunting reality: the overwhelming majority of bookstores closed as the economy faltered, stores where her publishers had banked on selling Holt’s work. “They wrote me off as a loss,” she sighs.

Holt found herself unemployed, with a family and a mortgage in Los Angeles, one of many workers in their 50s looking for a job, any job. She was so discouraged, she thought she’d never bother with writing again, though writing had been her profession for years. “The recession cut a swath through the ranks of paperback writers,” she says. “I took it personally. The universe was telling me to go get a real job, but there were no jobs.”

Time passed, however, and Holt noticed that fans were still out there, hoping for new reads from their favorite authors. Kindle came onto the scene, and Holt began to reconsider. “I asked myself if I should start over. I was good. I was popular, but the companies didn’t really care. We writers were a dime a dozen in their eyes. There was no chance to go back that way.”

Self-publishing beckoned. The project management and production side of things still seemed daunting, however. Then, at a romance conference, she ran into some people from BookBaby, who helped her see how simple publishing her work independently could be.

After writing 24 novels for publishers, Holt has put out 24 of her own, letting her own interests and fan response determine when and how she publishes her work. An example: She gave her readers all three books in a trilogy at once, where a traditional publisher would have doled the books out over several years.

Like love, an independent career is not as easy as it seems at first. It takes work. Holt still struggles to find the right supporting team, and income isn’t what it once was during paperback publishing’s heyday. But Holt is glad she’s still able to write and reach readers, now on her own terms. “It’s a blessing to be on my own. My best sellers are ones that the publishers rejected,” she laughs. “My Lord Trent trilogy, for example, have been best-selling books of all.”

You can find out more about BookBaby and their recent Independent Authors Conference.

More about Novelist Cheryl Holt

CHERYL HOLT is a New York Times, USA Today, and Amazon “Top 100” bestselling author who has published forty-eight novels.

She’s also a lawyer and mom, and at age forty, with two babies at home, she started a new career as a commercial fiction writer. She’d hoped to be a suspense novelist, but couldn’t sell any of her manuscripts, so she ended up taking a detour into romance where she was stunned to discover that she has a knack for writing some of the world’s greatest love stories.

Her books have been released to wide acclaim, and she has won or been nominated for many national awards. She is considered to be one of the masters of the romance genre. For many years, she was hailed as “The Queen of Erotic Romance”, and she’s also revered as “The International Queen of Villains.” She is particularly proud to have been named “Best Storyteller of the Year” by the trade magazine Romantic Times BOOK Reviews.

She lives and writes in Hollywood, California, and she loves to hear from fans.

Visit her website at www.cherylholt.com.

Follower her on Facebook.

Check out her latest series:

Forever Yours by Cheryl Holt

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2017

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)

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

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

Self-Publishing Education & Textbooks on Kindle via Amazon KDP

Pattern Puzzles

KINDLE FOR EDUCATION & TEXTBOOK AUTHORS

Amazon recently added a quote from me to their KDP website for Education & Textbooks. Check it out here:

https://kdp.amazon.com/edu

(Thank you, Amazon.)

I started out self-publishing print books with CreateSpace in 2008. Back then, Kindle wasn’t a very good fit for most textbooks.

Textbooks tend to have many pictures, equations, bullet points, and other kinds of rich formatting, which makes the transition from print to Kindle a challenge.

Amazon’s solution to this problem is the Kindle Textbook Creator.

The main benefit of the Kindle Textbook Creator is convenience. It’s actually PDF friendly, and preserves the layout of your print book.

It’s good for textbooks and other books with many images or rich formatting. (It’s not good for a novel.)

The trade-off for convenience is that since one printed page fits on the Kindle screen, and since many customers have a fairly small screen, the e-book is designed to work with pinch-and-zoom, and it won’t be available on all devices.

There are other factors to consider, too. For example, using the Kindle Textbook Creator allows you to embed audio or video, which is great for educational books (but these features will only be available to customers who read your book on a third-generation or newer Kindle Fire device).

I have a free article on using the Kindle Textbook Creator:

https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com/2015/01/23/how-to-use-amazons-new-kindle-textbook-creator-tutorial/

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2016

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

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

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

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Indie Author Earnings: Should You Be Worried?

Background image from ShutterStock.

Background image from ShutterStock.

INDIE AUTHOR EARNINGS (3rd Quarter, 2016)

The October, 2016 edition of the Author Earnings Report is out, and the surprising activity has sparked much speculation and debate.

Whereas the indie share of the e-book market has steadily climbed in the past, this last quarter of 2016 has shown a marked drop.

As a physicist, when I look at this data, what I see are several data points of continued growth, and a single point of decline. Thinking statistically, one data point isn’t significant.

These data points are a little different, though, when you consider that each “data point” consists of 3 months of data (it’s a quarterly report, roughly).

So the combined sales for three consecutive months show indie author earnings losing a significant share of the e-book market.

Three months is a long time in the e-book publishing industry.

And we’re heading into the big fourth quarter.

So if we could learn anything from the data, or if we could uncover a reason behind the drop, we might be able to use that information to make smarter publishing and marketing decisions this coming quarter.

Still, it’s a big IF, and the information begins with one data point. It’s not much to go on. But it’s the reason for ample speculation and debate on the topic.

ANY IDEAS?

If you simply read the comments on the Indie Author Report, or read any of the many articles that have been written on the topic, you’ll encounter possible explanations.

When I looked at the first graph of the Author Earnings Report, what instantly caught my eye was significant growth in the earnings of Amazon published e-books. Amazon actually has its own imprints (which are by invitation only, last time I checked). For indie authors, you can publish with Amazon if you land a deal with Kindle Scout.

The Indie Author Earnings Report actually discusses this very point. According to the report, KindleFirst had several bestsellers during the quarter, and there appears to be improvement among most of the Amazon published e-books (on average). (By Amazon published, I don’t mean KDP, I mean Amazon’s imprints, Kindle Scout, etc.)

Personally, I think it’s good for Amazon’s imprints to be doing well. I’ve read some of their e-books myself, and so I know that there are good books in there.

Amazon seems to think long-term, and this why Amazon seems to place a premium on customer satisfaction. If Amazon published e-books take a larger share of the e-book market and if this improves overall customer satisfaction, then it would help Amazon maintain (perhaps even grow) its large customer base. Presently, Amazon published books are in limited supply, so you shouldn’t run for the hills worried that they will suddenly saturate and dominate the marketplace. Amazon published e-books have shown a more up-and-down behavior (compared to previous steady growth of the indie share) in the past, too, so we really need more data to see if this will simply drop back down or if it’s really a new trend.

Another thing I see is Kindle Unlimited. Over the past three months, Amazon paid out $45 million in royalties for pages read of KDP Select books. (That’s in addition to royalties for sales, it’s on top of whatever Amazon pays for Harry Potter and other traditionally published books in Select, and it’s in addition to the All-Star bonuses. The $45 million is for KDP Select books, which Harry Potter is not part of, and Amazon published books might also be separate from it, though this last point I’ve never inquired about or considered until recently.)

That $45 million (it was paid as $15 million per month) over the past quarter is significant, and it’s separate from royalties for sales. There are significant indie royalties in the KDP Select Global Fund.

And guess what: Amazon published e-books are part of Kindle Unlimited. So if Amazon published e-books start pulling in more customers, this is good for Kindle Unlimited (which has shown continued growth, with the Global Fund rising from $10 to $15 million per month over the past year or more, and with the payout holding fairly steady just under half a penny per page read).

BEST SELLERS

One thing to remember is that bestsellers hold a significant share of the marketplace. As bestselling e-books switch from indie to traditional to small publisher to Amazon imprints, each share of the e-book marketplace can show a big swing.

For the millions of e-books that aren’t bestsellers, or aren’t even close to being bestsellers (and I’m talking overall bestsellers, or major category bestsellers, not subcategories), what’s true of the e-book market on average is less likely to be directly related to your own sales.

Another thing I know from interacting with authors regularly over the years is that EVERY SINGLE MONTH there is a large group of indie authors loudly complaining about how sales or borrows have suddenly dropped off in dramatic fashion. No doubt you’ll hear the stories from such a group this month, too, only now it will be natural to try to tie it to the latest author earnings report.

If you happen to be seeing a drop this month, it could be completely unrelated to whatever else is going on in the e-book marketplace. It’s very common for sales to drop off after 30 days, after 90 days, or on one random month where the algorithm throws in one of its change-ups that suddenly affects your books.

The best thing is to keep writing, keep marketing, learn new ways to market, thing long-term, and try your best to stay positive and productive (which will be your advantage over anyone who doesn’t).

AMAZON IS ACTIVELY PROMOTING INDIES. YES, RIGHT NOW.

I can offer some proof of this point.

Visit www.amazon.com/poweredbyindie. This dedicated Amazon page (at least for October, 2016) says Powered By Indies at the top.

Amazon is sponsoring #PoweredByIndie and has invited indie authors to participate this October. (I received an email about this from Amazon, and if you subscribe to KDP announcements, you probably did, too.)

Over the past years, Amazon has regularly highlighted stories of successful indie authors.

It appears to me that Amazon wants many indie authors to succeed, and no doubt many indie books have benefited from Amazon’s internal marketing and Amazon’s algorithm. Amazon tweaks their internal marketing (like customers-also-bought lists) and their algorithm periodically (the latter is usually intended to improve customer satisfaction in various ways, and is sometimes responsive to attempts to manipulate the algorithm). Even if Kindle sales are down for indie authors overall this last quarter, I still see Amazon as being very indie-friendly (compared to the much of the publishing industry, Amazon is rolling out the red carpet to indies).

Again, this is just a single data point. I’ll wait for more data, and I’ll continue to focus on writing and marketing, which will serve me well regardless of the future of the e-book market.

Good luck!

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2016

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

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

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

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Kindle Unlimited vs. the Naysayers #PoweredByIndie

Images from ShutterStock

Images from ShutterStock

KINDLE UNLIMITED: CURRENT STATUS

Back in January, Kindle Unlimited had taken a little dip (which happens every holiday season), and the naysayer propaganda was in full force.

It’s now October. For the year 2016, Kindle Unlimited has beaten the propaganda.

  • Paying $0.00497 per KENP page read for September, Kindle Unlimited has been amazingly stable since February.  That’s 8 months strong.
  • Presently at a relative high of nearly half a penny per Kindle page read, the payout hasn’t suffered the continual drop that had been predicted. There have been some pleasant jumps, and not just with the September payout.
  • Here’s another cool fact: There are now 1.4 million books enrolled in Kindle Unlimited. There were 860,000 books enrolled in February, 2015.  That’s an increase of over half a million books in 1.5 years (a 60% increase). Remember all the stories about indie authors running for the hills? The data shows otherwise.
  • My favorite number is $15.9 million. That’s the KDP Select Global Fund for September, 2016, another of many record highs. Amazon continues to pay more and more money in Kindle Unlimited royalties. Amazon will pay close to $200,000,000 in royalties for Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Prime borrows for the year 2016 (that’s aside from the royalties for the sales of those books; we’re just talking borrows), and that’s in addition to what they pay for All-Star bonuses (that’s right, the All-Star bonus isn’t taken out of the Global Fund, it’s paid in addition to it; I asked KDP about this specific point).

$200 million in royalties for Kindle Unlimited pages read in one year: That’s a significant share of the e-book market, and a rather indie-friendly share, too.

The continued rise in the KDP Select Global Fund and a fairly stable payout of just under a half-penny per page (though it will probably take its usual dip in December and January, and then likely return next February) suggest that the Kindle Unlimited customer base continues to grow. A great sign.

With 1.4 million books to choose from, with nearly 50,000 added just in the last 30 days, there is also growing competition for this customer base. The way to deal with the increased competition is to keep writing, try to write better, and try to improve your marketing skills. Competition is a good sign. It helps to bring in more customers, and it shows that this market is worth competing for. Good writing and marketable ideas help to provide good long-term prospects.

Celebrate Great Indie Writing with the #PoweredByIndie Hashtag in October, 2016

You can find some great indie writing in Kindle Unlimited, for example.

Many of those 1.4 million books were self-published. There are 100,000 or so traditionally published books in the mix, too; it’s not exclusive to self-publishing. But indie authors have really helped to make Kindle Unlimited strong enough to attract and grow a significant customer base.

Kindle Unlimited, in a strong way, really is #PoweredByIndie. But we must also give credit to Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Amazon’s imprints, and other great titles, too, to help attract customers. It’s great writing that attracts customers, regardless of how it is published.

Strive for great writing and good things are bound to happen.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2016

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

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

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

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Celebrate Great Indie Writing #PoweredByIndie

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CELEBRATE GREAT INDIE BOOKS

Indie authors often support one another.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a giant company with huge marketing power took a month to highlight many wonderful indie authors?

We all know that Amazon gave indie authors a chance when they opened the self-publishing door. And Amazon occasionally highlights indie author success stories.

But now Amazon is actually celebrating great indie books for the month of October.

Check out Amazon’s Powered By Indie page:

  • Visit www.amazon.com/poweredbyindie.
  • Note the image text: Celebrating great writing.
  • There are 4905 Kindle e-books listed, including 154 new releases (and 5 coming soon).
  • Only about 1/3 are in Kindle Unlimited.

YOU, too, can celebrate great indie writing:

  • Use the #PoweredByIndie hashtag when you post related tweets (select stories will be shared).
  • This is a great time to post a list of indie books that you’ve enjoyed.
  • Or post what you love about being an indie author.
  • Share Amazon’s Powered By Indie webpage with other authors (and readers).
  • Read, read, read. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2016

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

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

  • 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.

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