Kindle Book Update

BOOK UPDATES

One challenge with nonfiction books is keeping the content up-to-date.

As an example, I’m currently in the process of updating my self-publishing guides.

I just updated my Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon, Volume 1 (the Kindle edition is on sale on Black Friday, thru Cyber Monday). The others will be updated soon (and I’ll add a note to the description once they are).

As you may have heard, CreateSpace recently merged with Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). As a result, I needed to update all of my self-publishing guides. A few of them mention CreateSpace over a hundred times, so it hasn’t been a ‘simple’ update.

I also noticed a few other things that needed updating, like mention of the CreateSpace eStore option (which is no longer available) and changes to Kindle Unlimited.

For a variety of reasons, I’ve updated dozens of my books over the years. A few of my books have required several updates.

It’s a great feature of self-publishing: Amazon makes it fairly quick and easy to keep your content up-to-date.

I have some tips for doing this.

  • Keep a list of the most recent filename for each of your books. If you spend the next few years publishing multiple books, this list will save you time finding your most recent files. Type the list on your computer, backup the file, and print out a hard copy, just in case. (You can find the name of your most recent content file at KDP, unless you originally published the book with CreateSpace, then you’re out of luck if your book has already transitioned to KDP. Don’t rely on Amazon to keep your file info.)
  • Store your most recent editable files (by that I mean your Word file, not your PDF or MOBI file) in multiple places, like on a computer and on a jump drive, just in case something happens to one of the files.
  • Amazon is generally pretty flexible in letting you simply revise the files of the existing book (paperback or Kindle), even if you have fairly extensive revisions. If your current edition is selling well, it makes sense to simply update the files. If you publish a new edition as a new book on your KDP bookshelf, your book will start over with sales rank, keyword relevance, customers also bought lists, reviews, etc. (though perhaps by request you can get reviews transferred, but I would ask beforehand, just to be sure).
  • If your current edition isn’t doing well (in terms of sales or reviews), then it may be better to start over with a new edition. You can simply unpublish your original edition. (Note that paperback editions remain on Amazon forever, just in case a previous customer wishes to resell a used copy.)
  • If the update is significant, mention it in your description. If the update may be a selling point (or if it may make what had been an outdated book into an updated book), mention it at the beginning of your description, like UPDATED IN NOVEMBER, 2018. You can even make a starburst (like the one you see on the picture for my article) to call attention to the update on your cover (my starburst was designed by Melissa Stevens at theillustratedauthor.net).
  • Some problems you may not wish to call attention to. Maybe you corrected a few little typos or mistakes, which nobody else has pointed out in reviews. If so, you probably wouldn’t want to mention this.
  • However, if a review is quite visible on your product page and calls attention to a problem that has since been fixed, you may wish to note this in the book description. (It’s generally much better to revise your description than to comment on the review directly.)
  • Think twice before revising categories or keywords. If any of your original categories or keywords have succeeded in establishing relevance at Amazon (note that you may not realize this if it has happened), revising your categories or keywords may lose this potentially valuable relevance. Maybe you have established some relevance and don’t realize its value: If you’re getting any sales now, changing categories or keywords comes with a risk. My advice is generally not to change these if you’re content with sales. If you’re not getting sales, then there really is no harm in trying, and in that case maybe new categories or keywords will help out.
  • Check your corrections carefully. It’s amazing how easy it is to introduce a new mistake when you’re making a few little corrections.
  • Getting the updated Kindle edition of a book doesn’t work the way we might expect. It generally doesn’t automatically update. Why not? Because customers would lose notes, highlights, and annotations, which could be really frustrating for some customers. If a customer sees that the new edition is available (or if the author wants to check out the latest edition), just buying the book again won’t solve the problem (not if it’s bought on the same account as the original): Amazon automatically finds the original version and delivers that (even if you remove the book from your device first). You can visit Manage Your Content and Devices from your Amazon account and check if there is an Update Available flag present: This lets you manually update the book. Under Preferences, you can also find an option for Automatic Book Updates. If you still don’t get the most updated version, you need to contact Amazon and ask them to “push” the latest version onto your device.
  • It may help to educate your customers. If you post information about your update on your blog, for example, you can tell customers how to get the latest edition of your Kindle eBook.
  • At KDP’s Contact Us option, there is an option to request to have Amazon notify customers of your book update. A message there indicates that this is generally reserved for major problems, like when some of the content was unreadable. But it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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

Changes to Amazon Product Pages, Reviews, Author Central, Etc.

 

AMAZON IS A DYNAMIC MARKETING ENVIRONMENT

Have you noticed a variety of little changes at Amazon recently? Following are some examples.

  • Customer reviews now display in a single column based on helpfulness. Previously, there had been a second column on the right (if you viewed the product page on a PC), giving the most recent reviews significant prominence. Now, the most recent reviews don’t automatically have more prominence than other reviews.
  • Amazon finally fixed the aspect ratio problem associated with Author Central author pages. Previously, when you clicked on an author’s profile at Amazon to open their author page, the cover thumbnails appearing in the top had all been forced into the same narrow aspect ratio, which distorted covers noticeably when they had a distinctly different aspect ratio. Now, if the cover is wider than the default, you get little gray bars at the top and bottom; the cover is no longer distorted.
  • In search results, at the top or bottom of a list, you often find 1-2 books (or other products) with a subtle Sponsored Products label. You also see Sponsored Products on product pages. These are actually paid advertisements, but the way Amazon did this makes them more effective than usual. Especially in search results, they don’t ‘seem’ like advertisements, since they fit right in. Many customers don’t even realize that there is a Sponsored Products label, and even if they do it doesn’t sound like an advertisement. Sponsored Products receive bonus exposure, now that there is a “Sponsored products related to this item” carousel just beneath the “Customers who bought this item also bought” carousel. If you publish a book with KDP, you can run an advertisement for your book via AMS (from KDP); this is available even for paperbacks.
  • There are other labels at Amazon that are changing. The Best Seller labels don’t always include the #1 before them any more, and in some instances they appear in orange, while in other cases they appear in blue. There used to be a #1 New Release label, then it changed to New Release, and today I don’t see new releases highlighted. I’ve also seen other labels, like for items included in a holiday and toy list.
  • Video Shorts display prominently on a product page, showing higher than the customer review section.
  • The options for Amazon Giveaways have changed significantly. There are now only a couple of types of giveaways with fewer options, but now there is less guesswork in setting one up and from the contestants’ point of view, the giveaways are much more standardized and all have a reasonable chance of winning.
  • Some products (even a few traditionally published books) let you clip a coupon. For other books, sometimes the savings are clearly highlighted in search results.
  • Amazon has really been pushing Audible audio books. You can create one using ACX, and even hire a narrator for your book (with the option of splitting royalties instead of paying up front). One of my credit card companies was even incentivizing Audible audio books recently.

What does this mean? Amazon’s website is a dynamic marketing environment for your book (or other product).

For several years, Amazon’s decisions have appeared to aim towards long-term success. A strong part of this has been long-term customer satisfaction.

Obviously, like any business, Amazon wants to earn profits, but unlike some short-sided business practices that I see all too frequently with other companies, Amazon often seems to make a decision based on long-term gains.

Another thing that sets Amazon apart is that, for such an enormous company, it often reacts quickly to change. This makes it a highly dynamic marketplace, compared to a traditionally much slower publishing industry.

These changes tend to favor customer-pleasing content and long-term marketing strategies. A book (or other product) that most customers really enjoy is more likely to be successful in the long run, especially if it gets good exposure in the beginning (an effective marketing campaign that goes beyond Amazon can help with this).

Sometimes, clever people figure out how to take advantage of the system, but since Amazon is dynamic, Amazon often catches onto this and finds way to make a change that hurts those who are trying to take advantage, and is more likely to reward good products long-term. Amazon has always placed a premium on its customer satisfaction metrics, and these metrics continue to evolve.

It pays to visit Amazon every few months (if you’re not already a frequent customer) to see how product pages, searches, etc. are changing. Knowledge is power, and it can impact your marketing decisions.

My recommendation to authors is to focus on writing engaging content that will satisfy your readers (better yet, write such amazing content that it is likely to earn you recommendations and referrals). The engagement part is important because you need customers to start reading and keep reading all the way through. There are so many other books, and so many other forms of entertainment, and your book is competing with those opportunities.

My second recommendation is to focus on long-term marketing strategies. Think long and hard about ways that might help your book continue to sell for many years, or ways to go about marketing that might bring you continued exposure for many years. Content marketing can help with this: For example, post short articles with helpful information (possible even if you write fiction) relating to your book, hoping to catch daily traffic through search engines. Effective long-term marketing strategies tend to be less susceptible to publishing dynamics.

If you tend to favor short-term promotional strategies, you really need to keep up with the latest changes.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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

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

SOLUTIONS TO COMMON ISSUES WITH KDP PRINT

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

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

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

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

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

THE COVER WAS REJECTED BECAUSE THE SPINE TEXT WAS TOO LARGE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YOUR COVER ISN’T SIZED AS EXPECTED

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

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

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

YOU ENCOUNTER FUNCTIONALITY ISSUES WITH KDP’S WEBSITE

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

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

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

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

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

CreateSpace could handle relatively complex PDF files.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PRINTED PROOFS, AUTHOR COPIES, AND APPROVING THE PROOF

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

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

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

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

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

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

YOU BELIEVE THAT YOU ARE MISSING ROYALTIES

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

(But seriously…)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YOUR AUTHOR COPIES TOOK LONGER TO ARRIVE

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

It won’t always be that quick.

Suppose you need several copies for an event.

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

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

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

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

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

YOU ENCOUNTER SOME OTHER ISSUE

If your issue isn’t on my list:

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

I wish you luck.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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

Looking for CreateSpace? What’s the Best Alternative Now?

 

THE BEST PLACE TO PUBLISH A PRINT-ON-DEMAND BOOK

For 10 years, I have heartily recommended CreateSpace for self-publishing a paperback book.

But now if you visit CreateSpace, you will be directed elsewhere.

So what is the best place for print-on-demand now?

The two major options are Amazon KDP and Ingram Spark. There are a couple of other options, such as Lulu and BookBaby.

AMAZON KDP

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is Amazon’s original self-publishing service.

kdp.amazon.com

Although it used to be exclusively for Kindle eBooks, it has recently expanded to offer paperbacks.

It has also evolved so that it either matches or surpasses CreateSpace in the most significant ways.

CreateSpace didn’t disappear. Rather, CreateSpace simply merged with KDP.

KDP’s paperbacks print on the same facilities used by CreateSpace.

You get the same quality with KDP as you could expect from CreateSpace.

Since KDP is Amazon’s company, KDP is the natural feed for Amazon sales, and most indie authors sell the vast majority of their books on Amazon.

KDP lets you self-publish for FREE. (But I do recommend investing in one printed proof before publishing.) KDP’s main competitor, Ingram Spark, charges a setup fee.

KDP is also the most convenient option. When you finish self-publishing your paperback, you can self-publish a Kindle eBook edition with the same publishing service.

The distribution is slightly better with KDP than it was with CreateSpace (now that KDP added Canada distribution and Expanded Distribution, and is expanding to other countries like Australia, Japan, and Mexico—actually, I already sold a book in Japan).

KDP offers a free ISBN option.

You can now advertise paperbacks on Amazon by publishing with KDP.

As with CreateSpace, the free Expanded Distribution channel will get your book into the Ingram catalog, and if you use the free ISBN option you may get into Baker & Taylor.

The royalties are the same (except for sales in Europe for books under 100 pages).

Authors based in Europe can now have proofs printed from the UK or continental Europe instead of in the states.

If an author was looking forward to using CreateSpace, in principle KDP should seem just as compelling.

For most authors, I recommend checking out KDP’s print option first.

INGRAM SPARK

Ingram Spark and KDP are the two main print-on-demand companies.

www.ingramspark.com

Ingram has been a major distributor in the publishing business for decades and the Ingram catalog is famous in the publishing industry.

Ingram does charge a setup fee, and you may spend more ordering proofs or author copies (depending).

Some successful illustrated children’s authors who self-publish sell hardcovers well. For a print-on-demand hardcover, I recommend Ingram Spark.

(If you just want hardcover author copies and don’t need to sell them print-on-demand, another option is Nook Express. Note that Barnes & Noble’s Nook Express doesn’t currently offer print-on-demand with distribution; it’s currently for ordering author copies. However, Nook Express has been growing and expanding recently, so perhaps this will change in the future.)

A few indie authors who thoroughly research how to format their books with stores in mind, how to prepare an effective PR kit, and how to approach bookstores in person effectively may find it beneficial to self-publish with Ingram Spark. Most indie authors struggle with bookstore sales unless they sell author copies in person to local stores, in which case you could have these printed at KDP. But if you’re among the few who can get bookstores (and other types of stores that sell books, which can be valuable) to order directly from Ingram’s catalog, you might be able to set a discount to help with this (they could order from Ingram through KDP’s Expanded Distribution, too, but there you can’t control the discount).

Authors who aren’t based in the US and who expect significant sales in certain countries through Ingram’s distribution channels might benefit from Ingram Spark.

These are a few examples where Ingram Spark’s print-on-demand option makes sense compared to KDP.

Though I will say, in general, Ingram seems attractive with its potential distribution. But getting into the catalog is the easy part. Getting stores to order through those distribution channels is the hard part. Even KDP will get you into the Ingram catalog through the Expanded Distribution option. And if you’re worried about KDP’s imprint name showing as Independently Published, simply buying your own ISBN from Bowker (in the US at least) will solve that problem (and let you create your own imprint name).

OTHER OPTIONS

BookBaby is an interesting option for both print-on-demand paperbacks and for eBooks.

www.bookbaby.com

BookBaby has a big advantage for authors who are already planning to invest a significant amount of money on a variety of publishing services, such as formatting or editing.

Among eBook aggregators and distributors, BookBaby also stands out in terms of its Kindle offering (with a KDP Select option).

I generally encourage new self-published authors to try to learn formatting on their own and to keep their overall publishing costs to a minimum. You have no way of knowing whether you will sell enough copies to recover your costs, and many new books don’t sell particularly well, so it makes sense not to risk too much when starting out.

Also, if you wind up publishing several books, and most successful indie authors do, think of how much you could save in the long run by learning how to do some of the work, like formatting, on your own.

However, if you do need to hire professional services, BookBaby offers a variety of paid services in addition to what appear to be competitive distribution options.

BookBaby also posts a satisfaction guarantee on their website.

I featured an inspirational story on author Cheryl Holt on my blog last year. Cheryl is one example of a top author using BookBaby. (But of course, there are no guarantees that you will have success, regardless of how you choose to publish. My example just shows that it can be done.)

Another print-on-demand option which has been around for years is Lulu. You might find Lulu to be more expensive for a typical paperback, but you might also discover some publishing options at Lulu that are hard to find elsewhere. For example, suppose you wish to order author copies with spiral binding.

www.lulu.com

If you were among the few authors who could have benefited by directing customers to the CreateSpace eStore, Lulu or BookBaby’s BookShop may be of interest to you (but you may have to use BookBaby for all of your distribution channels, and you may need a minimum investment to publish with BookBaby).

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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

Moving from CreateSpace to KDP: Sales, Royalties…

Image from ShutterStock.

FROM CREATESPACE TO KINDLE DIRECT PUBLISHING

As you may know, Amazon is merging its two print-on-demand publishing services. CreateSpace is becoming part of Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).

Originally, KDP was for Kindle eBooks, while CreateSpace was for paperbacks (and videos and even audio).

However, in recent months KDP has added print-on-demand publishing for print books. It has slowly evolved, and now matches CreateSpace in terms of quality, service, and prices (with a few subtle exceptions). Overall, in a few ways, KDP’s print-on-demand is a little above and beyond CreateSpace (it wasn’t originally, but now that it has finished evolving, it is now).

Last week, I transferred my paperback titles from CreateSpace to KDP. It was quick and easy. However, the reporting gave me some anxiety at first, and it took 4 days to catch up. It seemed a bit scary for a few days, but all is fine now.

I SURVIVED THE MERGER BETWEEN CREATESPACE AND KDP AND LIVED TO TELL THE TALE!

Hopefully, you will, too. Be sure to order your survival t-shirt. (Just kidding. But really, if you order a custom-made one, that would be pretty cool.)

DO YOU HAVE TO TRANSFER YOUR TITLES?

Well, on the one hand, if you just sit and wait, it will eventually happen automatically. Maybe at the end of the month, if they’re ready.

On the other hand, if you initiate this yourself, you get the opportunity to login to KDP during the process and basically say, “Hey, this is the exact account on KDP where I want my books to be transferred to.” That’s why I did it myself.

The transfer is very simple. Log into CreateSpace and look for a message asking you to transfer your titles to KDP. It will transfer all of your books in one shot. (Sorry: right now, it’s all or nothing.) It will ask you to use your KDP login, and then you need to agree to the transfer. It will take a couple of minutes.

IMPORTANT NOTE ABOUT ROYALTIES

You will basically have a one-month delay in receiving your royalty payments.

If you sell a lot of paperbacks each month, this is going to hurt, especially if you write full time or count on that money for a mortgage note or car payment.

It’s a shame that this most significantly hurts Amazon’s bestselling indie authors of paperback books. If you’re significantly impacted by this delay, I feel for you. I’m not a big fan of it myself. (I did contact support to let them know.)

Why is there a delay?

CreateSpace pays royalties 30 days after the end of the month, but KDP pays royalties 60 days after the end of the month.

So, for example, every royalty that you earn in September from CreateSpace will be paid at the end of October (assuming, of course, you meet the standard criteria for receiving a monthly royalty payment). If you transfer your titles during September, every royalty that you earn from KDP will instead be paid at the end of November.

I have a second important note about royalties later in my article.

WHAT TO EXPECT AFTER YOU TRANSFER YOUR CREATESPACE TITLES TO KDP

You should find all of your titles on your KDP bookshelf.

I counted my CreateSpace and KDP titles before the transfer and wrote them down on a piece of paper.

Amazon actually gave me the same numbers on the screen during the process, which was reassuring.

After the transfer, I checked that all of my titles were there. But there’s a catch. Some of my CreateSpace paperbacks and Kindle eBooks automatically linked together on my bookshelf, but others didn’t. Eventually, I was satisfied that everything showed up.

If any titles didn’t match up and link together (that is, paperback and corresponding eBook), you can do this manually, but it’s optional. This has nothing to do with having their product pages linked. It’s just the convenience of having them together on your bookshelf.

It didn’t take long before my CreateSpace royalties showed up at KDP.

At the bottom of the Sales Dashboard, these show separately in the bottom 4 rows, so you can see what you’ve earned at KDP versus what you’ve earned at CreateSpace. But up higher in the graphs, the CreateSpace and KDP data are lumped together (unless you choose a specific marketplace from the dropdown menu).

A nice thing about the Sales Dashboard graph is that you can easily compare your average daily paperback sales from before and after the transfer.

(If your CreateSpace royalties for the month show a higher figure at CreateSpace than they do at KDP after the transfer, don’t worry. CreateSpace will pay you what CreateSpace says they owe you, not KDP, so if KDP shows that your CreateSpace royalties are a bit less, it really doesn’t matter. What I think happens is that KDP captures your CreateSpace royalty balance when you initiate the transfer, and if CreateSpace reports a few more royalties after that, CreateSpace will show a slightly higher figure for the month.)

ANOTHER IMPORANT NOTE ABOUT ROYALTIES

When I transferred my CreateSpace titles to KDP, my royalties at CreateSpace had been coming in steadily throughout the morning.

Almost immediately after the transfer, CreateSpace stopped reporting new royalties. I can still see my royalties in my reports from before the transfer (though presumably that option won’t be around much longer), but no new royalties are showing up at CreateSpace.

That was expected. But what was unexpected was how slowly paperback royalties started coming in at KDP after the transfer.

The first day was very slow compared to normal. The second day was about half a normal day for me. The third day was much slower than that. I was worried.

But later in the third day, sales started to pick up a bit. Then I noticed something cool. The royalties from the two previous days were slowly growing.

When I woke up on the fourth day, the third day was close to a normal day for me, and the two previous days had grown considerably. The fourth day turned out to be much better than the previous days.

It took about 4 days in all for royalties to catch up with their usual behavior.

So if royalties seem very slow compared to normal (about half or less than usual), don’t worry. Give it 4 days or so and see if things eventually catch up. Write down the number of sales that you have at the end of each of the first few days, so that you can see if those numbers grow on subsequent days (mine did).

The Sales Dashboard histogram will help you compare daily sales before and after the transfer.

A FEW COOL THINGS

When I checked out the Historical report and saw my life-to-date numbers, including CreateSpace, it was pretty cool. I didn’t realize that my lifetime royalties added up that high.

After the transfer, I still see Expanded Distribution showing up at CreateSpace.

If you want, you can use AMS via KDP to run an advertisement for a print book. We didn’t have the option to do that at CreateSpace.

European authors can order both printed proofs and author copies printed from the UK or continental Europe. That’s convenient.

Expanded distribution at KDP now matches CreateSpace. Actually, it surpasses it. For example, there is now distribution to Australia, with Mexico coming soon.

You can select two browse categories during the publishing process, whereas with CreateSpace you had to email support to request a second category. Also, the browse categories line up with Amazon’s browse categories better than from CreateSpace (though it still doesn’t seem perfect).

You can enter up to 7 keywords instead of 5, and you don’t have a 25-character limit. (By the way, you can enter several keywords in each of the 7 keyword fields.)

THE GRASS THAT ISN’T GREENER

Not everything is necessarily better.

For shorter paperbacks available in the UK and continental Europe, the royalties are a little less with KDP than they had been with CreateSpace.

If you use Cover Creator, you’ll find that it’s not quite the same.

Proof copies have a band that state Not for Resale across the cover. Though actually I like this, as it makes it easier to tell my proofs apart from my author copies.

New titles will say Independently Published instead of CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. Previously published titles are unaffected.

KDP’s community forum is somewhat different than CreateSpace’s. (Ironically, when I visited CreateSpace’s community forum the other day, there wasn’t any spam, now that it’s about to lose its relevance.)

But the main things are the same or better, such as printing quality, printing locations, US royalties, etc.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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

How to Add Expanded Distribution to KDP Print Books

EXPANDED DISTRIBUTION

KDP’s print option now includes an Expanded Distribution channel.

It may not (yet) be equivalent to CreateSpace’s Expanded Distribution, but it’s another big step in the right direction.

When KDP print originally rolled out, CreateSpace was a much better option.

Since then, KDP has added printed proofs and author copies.

(For authors based in Europe, KDP offers a huge advantage: You can order proofs and author copies printed in Europe.)

KDP lets you advertise paperback books through AMS.

CreateSpace automatically distributes to Canada and pays the same royalties as the US for Canadian sales, which is nice.

IMPORTANT NOTE

If you already published a paperback book using KDP print before the Expanded Distribution option became available, your book isn’t included in Expanded Distribution yet.

Go to the pricing page.

Check the box to enroll in the Expanded Distribution channel.

(This checkbox is quirky. Make sure you only click there once, and make sure it stays checked.)

Unfortunately, you have to “republish” your book.

As usual, it may take a couple of months for your books to become available to the entire Expanded Distribution market.

You might see third-party sellers offer your book within a day or so. First of all, they don’t actually have your book in stock: Their plan is to order a copy and ship it through their Expanded Distribution partner if your book sells. Second of all, in my experience, the presence of third-party sellers on your product page is far more likely to help with sales than it is to compete with your Amazon.com sales channel (unless your book has a much higher price than is typical of most authors using KDP print and CreateSpace). Those new and used offers make your book look more popular than it would without them, yet most customers will order directly through Amazon.

Expanded Distribution helps some books, but not all books. What you get is availability to other channels. Whether or not that leads to additional sales depends in large part on the nature of your marketing and your book. (Don’t expect physical bookstores to order your book this way unless you approach them and succeed in making arrangements, and even then your best bet is to order author copies to sell to them directly.)

Write Happy, Be Happy.

Chris McMullen

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

Book Giveaways in 2018

Image from ShutterStock.

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)

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)

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