KDP Print vs. CreateSpace (Comparing the Little Details)

 

KDP PRINT VS. CREATESPACE PAPERBACKS

I have published dozens of paperbacks with CreateSpace over the years, and have recently published some books (under pen names) with KDP’s new print-on-demand option.

While in many respects the two services are comparable (and both are Amazon companies), there are quite a few little differences.

DIGITAL PREVIEWS AND PRINTED PROOFS

There are several differences relating to printed proofs:

  • With KDP print, you don’t have to go through the manual file review process before you can order a printed proof. If you know what you’re doing, this saves 12 to 24 hours, but if you have a big mistake in your PDF files, CreateSpace’s manual file review would help to flag the issue before you waste time and money on a printed proof. However, both offer digital proofing tools to help catch mistakes before you order a printed proof.
  • KDP’s version of an interior reviewer is comparable to CreateSpace, but it appears to be friendlier for more web browsers. Also, whereas CreateSpace first offers an interior reviewer before file review and then a digital proofer after the file review, KDP print consolidates this into a single digital preview tool (accessible prior to file review).
  • A cool thing about previewing at KDP is that you can preview how your cover looks (back, spine, and front) before going through the file review process. With CreateSpace, you must first go through file review (12 to 24 hours, usually) before seeing the option for the digital proofer.
  • For authors residing in Europe, the most notable difference is that you can have a printed proof shipped from the UK, Germany, France, Spain, or Italy instead of the US if you use KDP print, whereas CreateSpace sends all author proofs from the United States.
  • The KDP printed proof has a not-for-resale watermark on the cover, whereas the CreateSpace proof simply indicates that it is a proof copy on the last page inside the book.
  • A funny thing about KDP is that you must first request the option to purchase a printed proof, then wait for an email to come that will take you to Amazon to order your proof. (Unfortunately, you can’t use Prime to get free shipping.) With CreateSpace, you just click to purchase a proof, without having to wait around for an email to come.
  • KDP print is much more finicky about the spine text, ensuring that it’s at least 0.0625″ from the spine edges. CreateSpace occasionally lets this slide if you’re close, and if you violate this, CreateSpace will often adjust your cover for you. KDP print will almost always make you revise your cover on your own until it meets this requirement to the letter. If you have a book just over 100 pages, you’ll have to really shrink your spine text down to meet this requirement. For a book under 100 pages, it’s a non-issue as spine text isn’t allowed, and for a book with a much larger page count, you should have plenty of space for your spine text. It’s just for books with 100 to 150 pages where this can be tricky.

CATEGORIES AND KEYWORDS

KDP print has an advantage in terms of categories and keywords:

  • KDP print lets you enter keywords in up to 7 different fields, without imposing a strict limit on the character count (though I would avoid going over 50 characters, including spaces). CreateSpace only lets you enter 5 keywords (or phrases), and each one is restricted to 25 characters (including spaces).
  • KDP print lets you choose two Amazon browse categories, from the same category list that you see when you publish a Kindle eBook. If you publish both paperback and Kindle editions at KDP, this makes it easy to choose the same categories for both editions of your book. CreateSpace only lets you choose a single BISAC category, and the list doesn’t correspond as well with the actual categories that you see at Amazon (though even KDP’s categories don’t match that perfectly). If you contact CreateSpace, you can request to add your book to a second category, but that’s inconvenient, takes time, and may be completely undone if you republish your book (requiring another request later).

DISTRIBUTION

CreateSpace offers better expanded distribution, but very few self-published books see a significant benefit from this.

  • The main advantage is that CreateSpace automatically distributes to Amazon Canada and pays the same royalty for Canadian sales as for US sales. That’s great if your book happens to sell many copies in Canada, but for many books that sell mainly at Amazon.com (the US site), this is a minor detail.
  • CreateSpace’s expanded distribution includes online bookstores, including Barnes & Noble (online, not physical stores), the Book Depository, and many other websites. Again, this sounds great, as authors are hoping to sell books worldwide, but the reality is that most self-published books sell primarily through Amazon.
  • It’s very unlikely for your self-published book to get stocked by any national bookstore chain simply from the expanded distribution option. You can pretty much count on it NOT happening. Your best bet is to sell a few author copies to local stores that you approach in person with a well-researched press release kit, but expanded distribution really doesn’t affect this.
  • KDP print includes distribution to Amazon Japan (you get to set a royalty specifically for Japan, in addition to European countries), but otherwise CreateSpace offers much wider distribution through expanded distribution channels.

KDP print may improve their expanded distribution options in the future. (But will they add online bookstore distribution? Amazon really doesn’t want you selling your title on BN.com or Book Depository, right?) It would be nice to see them add Amazon Canada, Australia, Brazil, Mexico, and India. They have these options available for Kindle, and they already have Japan available for paperbacks, so we can hope…

ADVERTISING

This is interesting.

According to the KDP help pages, the option to use AMS to advertise KDP books is limited to ebooks. I also contacted KDP support to inquire about this option and was told the same thing.

BUT… If you proceed to run a Sponsored Product ad, you can find your KDP paperback books at the end of the list, and it will let you set up and submit an AMS ad for your paperback book. (However, a product display ad specifically states that it is only for ebooks right where you see this option from AMS.)

Most authors sell more Kindle ebooks than paperbacks, in which case it would make more sense to advertise the Kindle edition. In that case, it doesn’t matter whether you use KDP or CreateSpace for the paperback edition.

However, for the author who sells more paperbacks than ebooks (or for a book that wouldn’t be a good fit for Kindle, like an adult coloring book or a puzzle book), if you would like to advertise your book with AMS, you must use KDP’s print option (not CreateSpace). An alternative is to use Amazon Advantage (but then you would lose the major benefit of print-on-demand).

MAKING CHANGES

Ideally, you would perfect your book before you publish and never make any changes. But in practice, there can be a number of reasons to make changes:

  • Adjust your price.
  • Revise your description.
  • Change keywords or categories.
  • Update your cover.
  • Correct typos.
  • Keep the material current in a dynamic marketplace.

With CreateSpace, any changes to your interior file or cover file require going through the file review process, which basically unpublishes your book for 12 to 24 hours (at least: if you run into problems with that and have to go through the process multiple times, your book could be unavailable for sale for days).

At KDP, it works much like it does when you republish a Kindle ebook: You go through file review when you click the yellow Publish Your Paperback Book button. If you pass the file review, the new files simply override the old ones.

What I like about CreateSpace is that you can revise your list price, description, categories, and keywords without republishing your book, whereas any changes at KDP require republishing. (However, the best place to revise your description is through Author Central, but be sure to copy/paste the updated HTML version of your Author Central description into KDP. That way, if you ever republish your KDP book, the description won’t revert back to the original KDP description.)

LOOK INSIDE

In my experience, the Look Inside usually becomes available almost instantly with KDP print, whereas this often takes days at CreateSpace. It can vary considerably at CreateSpace: I’ve rarely seen it same day (or nearly so), and have occasionally seen it take well over a week.

If you’re launching your book with a strong marketing push, that Look Inside can be a valuable sales tool. I want it to be available as soon as possible. KDP print has the advantage here.

LINKING PRINT AND KINDLE EDITIONS

If you set it up properly from your KDP bookshelf, you will already have your paperback and ebook editions linked together on your bookshelf so that KDP “knows” that the two editions go together. Linking should be quick and easy at KDP.

If you publish the paperback with CreateSpace and the ebook with KDP, you must wait up to 72 hours for the two editions to automatically link together. Supposedly, if the title, subtitle, and author fields match exactly in spelling and punctuation, they will link automatically, but it does take time. Recently, I’ve had a problem with the editions not linking at all, and having to contact KDP support after 72 hours to request the link (perhaps my problem has occurred when I use my own imprint name and ISBN with CreateSpace).

PUBLISHER NAME

If you take the free ISBN option, then:

  • CreateSpace paperbacks will show “CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform” under the publisher name at Amazon.
  • KDP print paperbacks will show “Independently Published” under the publisher name at Amazon.

Maybe many customers won’t notice the name in the publishing field, but CreateSpace has a little advantage here. There are millions of self-published authors. If you count their family members, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances, you will find several million customers who support self-published books. How do you find a self-published book to read? One way is to include the word “CreateSpace” (without the quotes) along with other keywords in a search at Amazon. There are customers who do this (I’ve discovered a number of books myself with this very method, even when I’m really shopping for a Kindle ebook, since I can find the Kindle edition from the paperback product page).

KDP print’s “Independently Published” sounds much more vague.

On the other hand, if you get your own ISBN, you can use your own imprint name, and then it makes no difference whether you use CreateSpace or KDP print. Either way, it will list your imprint name at Amazon. US authors can purchase ISBN’s from Bowker (at MyIdentifiers) for example. The cost is reasonable if you buy in bulk, but expensive if you just need one ISBN. (Don’t waste any ISBN’s on ebooks. Amazon gives you a free ASIN, and if you publish ebook editions elsewhere, an aggregator like Smashwords will offer a free ISBN for ebook stores that require one. Also, don’t use free ISBN’s anywhere other than where they are intended to be used.)

QUALITY AND PRICE

These are identical.

If you have a small sample size, you may experience statistical anomalies, making one service seeming much better or worse than the other. I’ve ordered thousands of author copies from CreateSpace over the years (often over a thousand copies per year), so I’m very experienced with what to expect in terms of quality and typical variations at CreateSpace. I haven’t ordered nearly as many copies from KDP print, but so far the quality is comparable.

List prices and royalties are the same (except that CreateSpace distributes to Canada and pays US royalties for Canadian sales).

CONVENIENCE

KDP wins in terms of convenience.

After you publish one edition (paperback or Kindle), when you add the second edition to the same title on your bookshelf (instead of adding a brand new book), it automatically populates the title, author name, description, keywords, and categories.

You also see the royalties for both editions on your KDP reporting pages, instead of monitoring paperback and ebook royalties from two different websites (with two different accounts).

Copyright 2018


CHRIS MCMULLEN

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

KDP Select Global Fund and Per-page Rate for April, 2018

Image from ShutterStock.

WHAT DID KINDLE UNLIMITED PAY FOR PAGES READ IN APRIL, 2018?

The Kindle Unlimited per-page rate increased slightly to $0.00456 for April, 2018 (compared to $0.00449 for March, 2018).

KENP read has been fairly stable in 2018, varying between $0.00448 (January) and $0.00466 (February) per normalized page read.

The KDP Select Global Fund continues to rise, reaching $21.2 million for April, 2018.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Copyright © 2018

Chris McMullen

How Does Amazon.com Sales Rank Work?

AMAZON.COM SALES RANK

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

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

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

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

CATEGORY RANKS

Amazon has different ranks for different types of products.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SALES RANK CHANGES

Amazon sales rank is dynamic.

It fluctuates up and down.

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

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

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

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

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

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

REPORTING DELAYS

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

It is often fairly up-to-date.

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

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

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

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

MAJOR SALES RANK FACTORS

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

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

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

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

DO REVIEWS AFFECT SALES RANK?

According to the Seller Central help pages:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KINDLE RANKS

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

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

Here is the problem with Kindle Unlimited:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FREE VERSUS PAID RANKS

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

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

There are two ways that this matters:

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

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

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

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

HOW MANY SALES ARE NEEDED TO MAINTAIN A GIVEN RANK?

That depends.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These are overall in all of Books.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MISPERCEPTIONS

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

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

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

It’s because sales ranks change in time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AUTHOR RANK

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

How is author rank different from sales rank?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DO AMAZON GIVEAWAYS AFFECT SALES RANK?

According to the KDP help pages:

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

This suggests that Amazon Giveaways do not affect sales rank.

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

TIP FOR AUTHORS

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

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

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

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Copyright © 2018

Chris McMullen

Author of:

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

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

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.

 

Kindle Unlimited Per Page Rate for March, 2018

Background image from ShutterStock.

KINDLE UNLIMITED PAGES READ FOR MARCH, 2018

In March, 2018 the Kindle Unlimited per-page rate was $0.00449.

That’s nearly identical to what it was for January, 2018 ($0.00448), but down a little compared to February, 2018 ($0.00466).

The per-page rate is showing relative stability at the beginning of 2018.

The KDP Select Global Fund reached a record high of $21 million for March, 2018, a nice rise from February, 2018 ($20 million), and slightly higher than January, 2018 ($20.9 million).

 

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Copyright © 2018

Chris McMullen

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)

How to Preview Your Kindle eBook #pubtips

PREVIEWING YOUR KINDLE eBOOK

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

Previewing is best done in several stages.

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

PROOFREADING

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

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

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

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

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

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

Re-read the first chapter again with fresh eyes.

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

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

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

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

THE ONLINE PREVIEWER

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

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

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

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

THE DOWNLOADABLE PREVIEWER

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

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

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

Note: This article continues after the following pictures.

FORMATTING CHECKLIST

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

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

ACTUAL DEVICES AND KINDLE APPS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PREVIEWING THE LOOK INSIDE

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

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

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

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

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

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

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Copyright © 2018

Chris McMullen

Author of:

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

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

Kindle Formatting Magic

WORD TO KINDLE FORMATTING MAGIC

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

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

KINDLE DESIGN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A FEW FORMATTING TIPS

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

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

THE STORY BEHIND MY NEW BOOK

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

I wanted to create a guide specifically for Kindle formatting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

My book covers the following topics:

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

YOU COULD WIN A FREE COPY OF MY BOOK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Copyright © 2018

Chris McMullen

The New KDP Community Forum

KDP COMMUNITY FORUM UPDATE

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

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

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

What has changed?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Copyright © 2018

Chris McMullen

Kindle Unlimited Bounce Back, February, 2018

Image from ShutterStock.

KINDLE UNLIMITED KENP READ FOR FEBRUARY, 2018

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

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

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

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Copyright © 2018

Chris McMullen