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

 

NOT FOR RESALE (AUTHOR PROOFS)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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

The Kindle Unlimited per-page rate for February, 2019

FEBRUARY, 2019: HOW MUCH DID KINDLE UNLIMITED PAY FOR PAGES READ?

The per-page rate climbed up to $0.00478 for February, 2019, compared to $0.00442 for January, 2019.

This is a nice rebound. As usual, there was a dip for January, but the month after and the months before have been at a relative high.

The KDP Select Global Fund dropped a bit down to $23.5 million. The global fund rarely drops, but this drop probably reflects that there was much more activity in Kindle Unlimited during January than usual following to the holidays. It had been $23.7 million in December, and February is on par with that. The record high of $24.7 million for January had been a big jump.

The per-page rate rose significantly in February, and that’s far more significant than the global fund. My guess is that there were extra free-month trials in January with new Kindles purchased during the holidays, causing January’s figures to be (as usual) an outlier compared to the month before and after.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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

How to Make 3D Text (and the old Preset Gradients) with new Versions of Microsoft Word

 

HOW TO USE WORD 2003 WORDART WITH WORD 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016

In Microsoft Word 2007 and onward, the WordArt and textbox options changed substantially from Word 2003.

Although for the most part I prefer the newer versions of Word’s drawing tools, there are a few features from 2003 that I rather like:

  • I prefer the original 3D text effects (and shape effects) options.
  • I like some of the old preset gradients, such as Fire and Sapphire.

There is a way to use these old drawing tools. Click File > Save As and adjust Save As Type from Word Document to Word 97-2003 Document. This changes the extension from .DOCX to .DOC.

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to use any of the newer features in your Word file if you do that.

But there is a way to enjoy the best of both worlds. Follow these steps:

  • Open a new document.
  • Click File > Options > Advanced and check the box Do Not Compress Images In File (for most recent versions of Microsoft Word for Windows), unless you don’t higher quality for your purposes.
  • Click File > Save As and adjust Save As Type to Word 97-2003 Document.
  • When you finish your picture, convert the file to JPEG format. You get the best results with professional image-editing software like Adobe Photoshop or Gimp. If the program is too primitive (like the basic version of Paint), you might get a significantly pixilated or blurry image. Here is a tip: Make the page size 20″ x 20″ in Word (with zero margins), change the View to Page Width, set the margins to zero, and make very large text and drawings. This way, if you use the snipping tool, you can compensate for the lower resolution snip (which used to be 72 dpi or 96 dpi, but on some new computers with large monitors it is 192 dpi). In the image program, set the dpi to 300 and resize the image to what you really need (probably 8″ or less), and the resulting picture will effectively be much sharper than it would have been had you started with 8″ (or less) in Word. (You want to go 20″ x 20″ in the beginning when you’re making the picture, otherwise you may run into alignment issues or problems with your border being too thin. You’ll want to work with a huge font size, etc.)
  • Now open your actual Word file, which may be .DOCX format. Insert > Picture, find your JPEG picture, and insert it into your Word file. A nice thing about JPEG’s is that they help to keep your Word file from growing too complex and becoming corrupt. I convert most of my pictures and tables into JPEG’s (and save each chapter of my books in separate files) to help deal with memory and complexity (and conversion) issues. It also helps when you can set the Text Wrap to In Line With Text (though occasionally I need one to float In Front of Text).

The newer versions of Microsoft Word do have a few cool WordArt features, like bevels. The following picture was created with a recent version of Word in .DOCX format.

The following picture was created in .DOC format (the Word 97-2003 setting) with a recent version of Word. The picture at the beginning of this article was also created that way.

Creating WordArt in .DOC format (the Word 97-2003 setting) with recent versions of Word for Windows:

  • WordArt and Textboxes are different in this format (whereas they are the same in the newer format).
  • Look on the Insert menu. On the text panel, choose the A button in the middle. Choose one of the presets to serve as a handy starting point.
  • Select the WordArt and go to the Format ribbon.
  • One of the buttons worth noting is the Change Shape option. Play with these options.
  • For 3D effects, click the 3-D Effects button. Play with the Color, Depth, Direction, and Lighting in addition to exploring the options above.
  • The default font, Arial, works quite well with WordArt. If you wish to change the font (right-click the WordArt and choose Edit Text), pick a TrueType font for better results.
  • In .DOC format, resizing the textbox and even changing the aspect ratio can quickly help you find the right look. You don’t have to change the font size.
  • Click Shape Fill > Gradients > More Gradients. Select the Preset option to explore preset gradients like Fire, Gold, Rainbow, and Sapphire (four of my favorites). Note that you can adjust the direction of the gradient, and that some directions look much better than others (it can change the look drastically from what you would expect).
  • Beware the distinction between Shape Effects and Text Effects. If you’re not paying attention, it’s easy to do the wrong one.

Creating WordArt in .DOCX format:

  • Look on the Insert menu. It won’t matter if you begin with a Textbox or if you click the A button in the center of the Text panel and choose one of the options as a starting point.
  • Select the Textbox and go to the Format ribbon.
  • Look at the WordArt styles panel. There are three A buttons in a column. The bottom A button gives you options like Bevel or 3-D Rotation. Under any of these options, at the bottom of the list will be an option with ellipsis (…). Click this and you’ll discover a new option, 3-D Format.
  • If you want to make a 3D rotation, the best thing is to first choose one of the presets, and then try experimenting with the x, y, and z rotation angles. The presets help you get started.
  • Click the top A and select Gradients for the (limited) gradient options.
  • Beware the distinction between Shape Effects and Text Effects. If you’re not paying attention, it’s easy to do the wrong one.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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

Trade Your Coins in for an Amazon Gift Card

LOOSE CHANGE = AMAZON GIFT CARD

I finally filled up a bucket of coins (without having to dip into the savings for some unexpected bill).

I didn’t feel like putting them in coin rolls. The pile was intimidating, and I’d rather put my time into writing.

It turns out you can turn your coins into an Amazon gift card.

With no fee!

For years, I had avoided using Coin Star because I had heard that it charges you a fee.

But it only charges you a fee if you want to trade your coins in for dollars.

I went into my local grocery store with my bucket of change and used Coin Star for the first time.

Then I noticed that I could get an Amazon (or other brand) gift card.

My daughter pointed out that there was no fee if I used the gift card option.

So we came home with an empty bucket and a receipt with a gift card code for Amazon printed on it.

The code worked. And it’s easy to find things you need at Amazon (and even easier to find things you want).

Hey! You can empty your couch and use the coins to buy a book.

Coins = reading.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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

KDP University: Amazon Education for Authors

KDP UNIVERSITY

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

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

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

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

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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

Book Giveaways in 2019

 

BOOK GIVEAWAYS

The two major book giveaway programs have changed considerably in the past couple of years.

One nice feature is that both types of giveaways now offer Kindle eBooks.

Amazon’s giveaway program has undergone several significant changes. It’s convenient and now offers better exposure for authors who don’t already have a large following, but there are now fewer options to choose from. The overall cost can be quite reasonable, especially if you give away a small number of books.

Goodreads’ giveaway program is no longer free. However, it is cost-effective for giving away 100 Kindle eBooks. The print option, while fairly expensive per book, allows you to include the personal touch.

Both programs let you run giveaways in the United States. Goodreads now has an option for Canada for print books. It would be nice to see expansion at least to the United Kingdom and Australia (and any expansion with eBooks).

Obviously, Amazon’s program has Amazon customers, which is nice, but Goodreads’ program consists of many dedicated readers, and Goodreads winners are encouraged to leave reviews (at Goodreads), which is in some ways nicer. There are pros and cons of both programs. Neither program is ideal, and the programs make more sense for some books and authors than for others. The only way to really know for sure is to try it out.

AMAZON GIVEAWAYS

To run an Amazon giveaway in the United States, visit the product page of an item on Amazon.com, scroll down the page below the customer review section, and look for the option to setup an Amazon Giveaway.

  • You can give away print books, Kindle eBooks, Amazon gift cards, and most products on Amazon.
  • Amazon giveaways are fairly cheap. For a Kindle eBook, you just pay the current sales price (plus sales tax). If there happens to be a Countdown Deal in progress, it costs you even less. For a print book, you must also pay the shipping charges (though if you have Prime, you might notice a sweet reduction in the cost, as of early 2019).
  • The best new feature is at the bottom. Under Discoverability, choose Public to have your giveaway included in the dedicated Amazon Giveaway pages. For authors who don’t already have a large following, this helps strangers discover your work.
  • You can visit the Amazon Giveaway page here: https://www.amazon.com/ga/giveaways. There are currently 147 pages with 3500 giveaways. Not every product gets optimal exposure, but since many giveaways do result in hundreds of entrants (without added exposure), people are finding products here. There is an option to subscribe to the giveaways.
  • There are currently only two types of giveaways: Lucky Number Instant Win and First-come, First-served. If you’re hoping for exposure from Amazon, choose Lucky Number Instant Win.
  • The downside to Lucky Number Instant Win is that Amazon has greatly restricted the options for the odds of winning. Amazon will give you a few options, which varies depending on the product, and you must select one of the options. For many Kindle eBooks, the options are 100, 200, and 300. For some paperbacks, the options are 400 to 600.
  • If you’re hoping to give away a large number of products, you either need an extremely popular giveaway, or you need to have a large following of your own and then pick First-come, First-served.
  • Unfortunately, KDP books aren’t eligible for a discount, and the giveaway dashboard doesn’t show the number of sales. These options are for Amazon Sellers who sell products through Amazon Seller Central. Feel free to email KDP support and request that they add an option to discount KDP published books in Amazon Giveaways. It would be great if they did this.
  • You can gain valuable data by checking your giveaway dashboard. Divide the number of Hits by the number of Entrants. The smaller this number, the greater the percentage of people who checked out your giveaway proceeded to enter the contest. Divide the number of Hits by the number of Product Page Visits. The smaller this number, the greater the percentage of people who checked our your giveaway visited your product page. If 1 out of 2 people enter your contest, that’s much better than if 1 out of 10 people do. Similarly, if 1 out of 10 people visit your product page, that’s much better than if 1 out of 50 people do. These ratios tell you something about the marketing appeal of your cover and title (but it also depends on how well your book appeals to the giveaway audience, which isn’t a good fit for all books).

GOODREADS GIVEAWAYS

To run a Goodreads giveaway in the United States (or Canada for a print book), login to Goodreads and visit your Author Dashboard. One way is to scroll down to Your Giveaways and click the word giveaway where it says, “Listing a giveaway…” Note that your book (including the edition you need, paperback or Kindle) must first exist on Goodreads (if not, visit the FAQ’s to learn how to properly ask the librarians to add your book).

  • You can give away print books or Kindle eBooks (provided that you published through Amazon KDP). Print books are sometimes appreciated better, and they allow you to include the personal touch. However, giving away 100 Kindle eBooks is quite cost effective. For Kindle eBooks, you don’t need to pay for the books (you just need to pay the setup fee). For print books, you must purchase author copies and ship them yourself (or have each author copy directly shipped to each different address).
  • Check out the Goodreads giveaway page here: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway. Compared to Amazon Giveaways, I like that it’s much easier to sort and search.
  • Your Goodreads followers and anyone who has already added your book to their Want to Read list receive notifications that your giveaway is available.
  • Your book will be marked as Want to Read by entrants (unless they undo this).
  • Approximately two weeks after the giveaway ends, winners receive an email reminding them to rate and review the book. They aren’t required to do this, but this does help. A percentage of reviews generally show up at Goodreads (but not nearly as many are likely to show at Amazon).
  • For a print giveaway, you can include a brief thank-you note. You can state that any review at Goodreads, Amazon, or anywhere else will be appreciated, but reviewing is optional (and you should note this in your request). You want to keep it short and simple. You don’t want to sound like you’re harassing the winners, or that you expect a certain star value (since each of these are violations of the policy, and likely will upset the recipients). The best thing is to simply ask for honest feedback.

BOOK MARKETING

Why run a book giveaway?

  • The contest gives you a chance to send a marketing message other than, “Check out my book.” Your message is more like, “Enter for a chance to win a free book.” There is potential here. Some authors are more effective at marketing than others, and thus are more apt to take advantage of this potential than others.
  • The real hope is for word-of-mouth sales. Few books (percentagewise) succeed at this, but for those that do, it’s well worth it. When a book has that magical content and really spreads well by word-of-mouth, every copy you can get into the hands of readers can really pay dividends months in the future. The best way to get word-of-mouth sales has to do with choosing your content wisely and preparing it just right. If you manage to do that, then giveaway copies help to jumpstart sales.
  • It can take several months for word-of-mouth sales to come (and for some books, it never happens). In the meantime, you want to create buzz about your book. You would love to have people talking about your book. Your giveaway and the marketing you do to help promote your giveaway can help with this. Some authors are successful at creating buzz, which helps to generate early sales.
  • Another hope is to get some reviews. Goodreads winners are pretty good at posting reviews at Goodreads (not nearly 100% obviously, but the ratio is often far better than random buyers who read the book), but it’s less common for them to also review the book at Amazon (though it’s great when they do). You’re getting review potential, and the Goodreads reviews are helpful (since readers at Goodreads are looking for books to read).
  • You gain some exposure. Several people who previously didn’t know about your book have seen your title, your name, and your cover. It’s a small part of the branding process.

If all you do is run a giveaway, and you don’t do anything to promote your giveaway, in many cases you probably wouldn’t feel like you got enough out of it.

If you promote the giveaway effectively, and if you also do much other marketing (and premarketing) to help launch your book, and if your content is spectacular, then you are far more likely to reap the benefits of the giveaway.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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

Make Your Copyright Page Pop

FORMATTING THE COPYRIGHT PAGE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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

December, 2018 Kindle Unlimited Royalty for Pages Read

WHAT DID KINDLE UNLIMITED PAY PER PAGE FOR DECEMBER, 2018?

2018 closed out at $0.00487 per page with December’s Kindle Unlimited per page rate (KENP read).

This returns it to the values it had for September ($0.00488) and October ($0.00484).

Although it is a drop from November ($0.0052), the Kindle Unlimited per-page rate seldom clears half a penny per page. Based on its behavior for the past few years, the November amount is more of a sweet bonus than an expectation.

The per-page rate is still in the $0.0048’s, and has been at least at that level for 4 consecutive months, which is a relative high.

The KDP Select Global Fund for December, 2018 was $23.7 million. (It was $23.6 million for November and $23.5 million for October.)

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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

Amazon Advertising for KDP Authors in 2019

AMAZON ADVERTISING VIA KDP

As of 2019, Amazon modified how their advertising campaigns work, so this seems like a good time for a new article about how to use it.

I started using Amazon’s advertising feature several years ago, when it was first introduced to Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).

Since then, my ads have generated over 100 million impressions. So I have a little experience with how this works.

Advertising is one of many marketing tools. Like most marketing tools, you probably won’t blindly achieve instant success.

And like any paid marketing tool, advertising carries risk. If you aren’t careful, you can spend a lot of money quickly, and you might not recover your investment.

Advertising probably isn’t the solution for a book that isn’t selling on its own. It works better for some books than others, and for some authors than others. The success of the ad depends on a variety of factors.

One big problem is that there are many variables to consider:

  • How much should you bid?
  • How do you target your ads?
  • Is your custom text helping or hurting?
  • Does your cover draw your target audience in effectively?
  • Does your product page sell effectively?

However, if you’re smart about placing your bid, you get some valuable feedback from your ad data. Through trial and error, you can learn how to optimize your ad performance, and the ad metrics can help you determine whether or not running your ad is cost-effective.

There are millions of books, and all of their authors and publishers would love to see those books sell. So there are hundreds of thousands of people and businesses who are willing to place a modest bid to gain valuable advertising space on Amazon. Everyone is asking the key question, “How much can I afford to bid on my book?”

As a result, if your book is in a hot genre like Romance, some ads will place expensive bids for broad keywords. But there may still be hope.

First of all, the highest bid doesn’t necessarily land the impression. Amazon’s algorithm for ad placements uses relevance as an important criteria, so an ad that establishes strong relevance can potentially land impressions with a more modest bid. Secondly, narrower targeting criteria can sometimes help you land impressions with a lower bid.

CHANGES TO AMAZON ADVERTISING

As I mentioned, Amazon changed how their ad campaigns work in 2019.

Amazon is discontinuing Product Display Ads. You can still target by product or by interest, but you’ll need to use one of the other types of ads to do it now. You really aren’t losing anything, in my opinion.

However, if you already have a Product Display Ad running, it will stop running on February 5, 2019. You are able to copy any existing Product Display Ads to one of the other types of ads and run a new one.

Sponsored Product ads now let you target specific products and categories, in addition to keywords. That’s why I said you aren’t really losing anything: Sponsored Product Ads now let you target books basically the same way that Product Display Ads did in the past.

There is now a new type of ad called Lockscreen ads. These appear to be aimed at Kindle eReaders and Kindle Fires. Lockscreen ads allow interest-based targeting.

The dashboard has changed. I’ve tested it out extensively and like it much better. But I had to customize it before I realized that I like it much better now. I’ll discuss how to get the most out of the new dashboard later in my article.

You might also have noticed that the name of Amazon’s advertising service has changed from Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) to Amazon Advertising. Why? Amazon previously had a variety of advertising services with different names, and realized that it would be simpler to have a single name, Amazon Advertising.

There is also an Author’s Guide to the New Amazon Advertising Features. Click here to visit Amazon’s free guide.

RELEVANCE

Successful advertisements tend to develop strong relevance.

You probably understand relevance as a concept. If your book is a good fit for most of the customers who are targeted by the ad, then your ad is highly relevant.

But to Amazon, relevance is more than a concept. It’s also a metric. Amazon’s algorithm is comparing data for thousands of ads, and has instructions for how to determine which ads are more relevant than others.

There are a variety of factors that go into determining relevance. (By the way, Amazon’s algorithm for displaying books in search results and customers-also-bought lists also measure relevance in similar ways.)

One simple and important factor is your click-thru rate (CTR). Amazon is asking the question, “How many people need to see your ad, on average, before they click on it?”

You figure the CTR by comparing the number of clicks (when a customer clicks on the ad to visit the product page) to the number of impressions (when the ad is displayed somewhere on a page that is visible on a customer’s screen).

It’s very common for internet advertising CTR’s to be roughly 1 out of 1000, meaning that on average 1 out of 1000 customers click on the ad. That comes out to 0.1%. Remember, that’s a rough average.

At Amazon, if the CTR is 1 out of 2000 or worse (meaning 0.05% or less), your ad will likely be stopped due to low relevance.

1 out of 1000 (or 0.1%) is relatively common, but it’s average. It isn’t good.

I have placed ads for 13 different books (keeping in mind that some of my books are under pen names or have coauthors) that have individually landed over 1,000,000 impressions.

6 of these ads have CTR’s of 0.3% to 0.45% (1 out of 333 to 1 out of 250), which are rather high. My best CTR is 0.6% (1 out of 167). Only one of my best 13 ads has a CTR as low as 0.1%.

I’ve placed over 100 ads over the years. Only 13 out of those have landed 1,000,000 impressions or more. What I see from my ad reports is that a high CTR is critical towards landing a large number of impressions over a long period.

When you first place your ad, it really helps to generate a strong CTR at the outset. Sometimes when the CTR starts out low, an ad can really struggle to get any impressions. That’s because the metrics suggest that the ad might not rate high on relevance. In this case, it may be better to terminate the ad and start a new one than to simply modify the existing ad campaign.

But CTR is just one factor that Amazon helps to determine relevance.

What Amazon really wants is for a high percentage of customers who see your ad to click on your ad… then explore your product page… then purchase your book… and then be satisfied with your book.

All of Amazon’s algorithms place a premium on customer satisfaction metrics. If you’ve ever sold products via Amazon Seller Central, you should know about this because customer satisfaction metrics help to determine product placement.

The next question to ask is, “How many customers who visit your product page proceed to purchase your book?” Then ask, “How satisfied are customers who purchase this book?” Amazon has a variety of ways to try to establish this (and may also have some methods in place to penalize people from trying to manipulate these metrics for better or worse).

WILL YOUR AD BE RELEVANT?

This partly depends on your targeting. If your choice of keywords, specific products, or categories fits your book to a tee, this greatly helps with relevance. If your keywords and categories are broader than your book, this hurts relevance: Some customers who see the ad won’t be interested.

Targeting is just one factor though. Even with the best imaginable targeting, some books won’t score well with relevance due to their covers, descriptions, Look Insides, reviews, etc.

So before you think about the targeting, you should think about your cover and product page.

Many new authors publish a book with KDP, only see an occasional sale, and incorrectly conclude that nobody is finding their book on Amazon.

The reality is that books with below average marketability have at least 100,000 strangers see the book before they make a purchase. So if you’ve sold 10 copies of your book to total strangers and your book has below average marketability, it’s quite possible that over 1,000,000 have seen your book on Amazon. Most authors have sold at least 10 copies to strangers. Maybe 100, maybe even 1000. Many, many more customers have probably seen your book on Amazon than you realize.

Where am I getting these numbers? I have a lot of experience with Amazon ads, and I’ve discussed these ads with many other authors who’ve tried them. The ad report data helps us determine typical CTR’s and closing rates (where the closing rate is the number of purchases compared to the number of clicks) for books of both good and poor marketability.

Let’s start with the internet average CTR of about 1 out of 1000. A book with poor marketability needs 100 people or more (sometimes much more) to visit the product page to make a single purchase. But only 1 out of 1000 people who see the book will visit the product page. Combine the CTR (1 out of 1000) with the closing rate (1 out of 100) to see that 100,000 people need to see the book to make the purchase. Now if you sell 1000 books at these rates, 100 million people saw your book on Amazon.

But remember, these numbers are for books with poor marketability. Such books don’t sell well on their own, and probably won’t sell well with advertising either. Something about the cover, description, or product page is deterring sales. This poor marketability will lead to low relevance no matter how good the targeting is.

The good news is that there are books with strong marketability that earn much better numbers.

A highly marketable book can earn a closing rate of 10% or higher, where 1 out of 10 people who visit the product page purchase the book. This is well above average, but there are books doing this. Many factors go into this, and it’s really difficult to get each factor right. The first thing is having a cover that really attracts your specific target audience very well (most books don’t have this). Secondly, the description and Look Inside must really seal the deal (few books have this, too). Customer feedback (reviews) also factor into marketability. Ultimately, it takes amazing content (highly informative, or highly engaging, or quite compelling in some other way) to generate the best long-term marketability.

If you happen to have a highly marketable book, if you use ideal targeting, you might get 1 out of 1000 people (instead of 1 out of 100,000 people) who see your book to purchase it. This makes a huge difference. If you can improve the marketability of your book (especially the long-term value through amazing content), you can see a huge increase in sales without even advertising. And if your book is highly marketable, advertising is more likely to work well for your book.

A great thing about Amazon Advertising is that you can use your ad data to see how marketable your book is. Divide the number of impressions by the number of clicks to get the 1 out of ____ number associated with your CTR (or divide the number of clicks by the impressions to get a decimal, then multiply by 100% to make a percentage). Similarly, divide the number of clicks by the number of sales (we’ll discuss this later) to get the 1 out ____ number associated with your closing rate (or divide the sales by the clicks to get a decimal, and multiply by 100% to make a percentage).

A CTR significantly higher than 0.1% is above average, meaning that well fewer than 1000 customers who see your ad click on it.

A closing rate of higher than 10% is way above average, meaning that fewer than 10 customers who click on your ad purchase your book.

A more modest closing rate of 3% to 7% is more attainable. Less than 1% is all too common. If your closing rate is below 1%, there is a significant opportunity to improve the marketability of your book. But is it the cover, description, Look Inside, or the content? Good question, but one well worth examining intently.

If your book has a good closing rate (and that’s a huge “if”), then the success of your ad is determined by how well your targeting fits your specific targeting audience.

TARGETING

There are three main ways to go about targeting your ad:

  • keywords
  • specific products
  • interests

At first, specific products is enticing. I bet you can find dozens of popular books that are fairly similar to your book. It’s possible to target those books.

But there’s a catch. You’re not really targeting those books (unless Amazon has recently changed how this works, which is doubtful since it would make sense for them to publicize this detail if they have).

Rather, you’re targeting customers who have ever shopped for books similar to those sometime in their shopping history.

Let’s say you’ve read hundreds of books, but one time a year ago you happened to visit the product page for a science fiction book. Well, if an ad targets science fiction books, you might see an ad for a science fiction book.

You want the ad to target customers who are shopping for those specific books today. It would be great if it worked that way. And sometimes it does because those customers are, in fact, looking for such books. But it also targets customers for whom your ad may not be relevant.

How you should target your book depends on the circumstances.

For most nonfiction books that provide information that customers are likely to search for, I recommend using Sponsored Product ads and manually entering dozens of highly relevant keywords (and putting much thought into researching and brainstorming your keyword list). Ideally, the keyword would be highly relevant for your book.

For fiction books in popular categories that tend to sell much better as eBooks, I would first experiment with Lockscreen ads.

But here’s a secret: You’re not restricted to placing a single ad for a book.

And you don’t know which type of ad will work best.

So you can run a few different ad campaigns, trying different types of ads with different targeting, and let your ad report data help you determine which type of ad seems to work best for you.

But you have to be careful not to bid too high, as you’d hate to spend way more money than you intended in a short amount of time, only to realize later that the ads weren’t very effective. With a modest bid, you can generate valuable data at a relatively low cost, and once you have the data, you can experiment with your ads and hopefully figure out how to get it ‘right.’

GETTING THE MOST OUT OF YOUR AD REPORTS

When I first checked the new ad reports, it was missing information that I wanted to see, and it was including information that I didn’t care about.

So I clicked the option to customize it. Look for a button called Columns. When you click it, one of the two options is Customize Columns. This is the magic button.

When you finally click on Customize Columns (not just Columns) correctly, a window will pop up.

I like to look at Impressions, Clicks, Clickthrough rate (CTR), Spend, Cost-per-click (CPC), Orders, Sales, and Advertising cost of sales (ACOS).

Notice that new column: Orders! Now you can see how many books were ordered instead of trying to divide your sales figure by the cost of your book (which gets complicated when you offer promotional pricing and don’t know when the book sold exactly).

Unfortunately, if your Kindle eBook is enrolled in KDP Select, the ads still don’t have a column for Kindle Unlimited KENP Pages Read. That’s a shame. But it means your ad is probably doing a little better than the sales data suggests. Surely, it’s impacting pages read to some extent.

Next, I clicked on the Date Range button. The Lifetime option is cool if, like me, you’ve been running ads for years. When I looked at my Lifetime Spend total, I almost went into a state of shock, but then I noticed my Lifetime Sales Total, and that was a pleasant surprise.

But the Last 30 Days is much more meaningful. This option shows you how your ads have performed recently, which is most relevant to the question, “What should I do now?”

Then I clicked on a column to sort the data. I don’t like that I have to click twice to sort from highest to lowest, but that’s just the way it is. I like to look at the ACOS column and make sure that no ad has a percentage above my comfort zone. I like to sort by the Spend column to quickly monitor which ads are costing me the most money. But unless you have more than 10 ad campaigns, you probably don’t need to do as much sorting as I do.

A nice change is that there are a few changes that you can make to several ads very quickly. For example, you can manually adjust the budget for several ads at once, instead of having to adjust them individually. If you ever have dozens of ad campaigns, you’ll be thanking Amazon for this feature.

The copy button at the far right comes in handy. It lets you make a new ad campaign just like a previous one, and then just modify what you already have instead of starting over from scratch.

HOW IS YOUR AD DOING?

The first thing you should note is that there may be significant reporting delays.

It would be great if we could get the data almost instantaneously, but it often doesn’t work that way.

Amazon clearly states that ad campaign data may be delayed by 12 hours.

But there have been many times over the past several years where some of the ad data was delayed by a few days, and occasionally even a week or two.

It pays to be patient. Even if you terminate an ad, it may continue to generate data (including costs) for a few days afterward.

And if you impatiently raise your bid, you may come to regret it. I suggest not raising your bid more than once per day, and not to raise it more than a dime at a time.

Once you have 1000’s of impressions, 100’s of clicks, and dozens of sales, you have some meaningful data.

Is your CTR significantly higher than 0.1%? If yes, that’s a good sign. If no, try improving your targeting.

(Divide your CTR by 100% to convert it to a decimal. Now divide 1 by that decimal. If this number is significantly lower than 1000, that’s good. For example, 0.2% becomes 0.002, which becomes 1 out of 500. This is good because 500 is less than 1000.)

Divide your Clicks by your Orders. If this number is less than 10, that’s amazing. Many of my best-performing ads are in this range. If this number is around 20, that’s pretty good and better than the average book (but it may not be better than the average advertised book). If this number is around 100 or higher, that’s not so good. Either you made mistakes with your targeting, or you should reexamine your cover, description, Look Inside, and content. There is room for improvement somewhere. Ideally, you want about 1 out of 10 customers who visit your product page to buy your book; you don’t want it to take 1 out of 100 customers on average.

The average cost of sale (ACOS) figure is very important. Compare your ACOS to your royalty percentage. Figure out what your royalty is when you sell a single book. Divide that by the list price for your book. Multiply by 100% to make a percentage. (Example: Your eBook list price is $2.99 and your royalty is $2.00. Divide $2 by $2.99, then multiply by 100% to get 67%. Example 2: Your paperback list price is $9.99 and your royalty is $3.00. Divide $3 by $9.99, then multiply by 100% to get 30%.) If your royalty percentage is higher than your ACOS, your ad is earning a short-term profit. This is good. You should keep your ad running as long as this persists. If your math is right, you’ll be earning more royalties from your ad than you’re spending on your ad campaign (but watch your numbers closely just to be sure, and continue to monitor the progress of your ad).

If your ACOS is comparable to your royalty percentage, your ad is roughly breaking even. I would continue running the ad in this case. Why? Because there are other benefits to advertising, such as branding, future sales by the same customer, selling other books now to the same customer, sales rank boost, and potential word-of-mouth sales (for a book with amazing content, this can be a huge long-term asset).

If your ACOS is much higher than your royalty percentage, your ad is losing money short-term. There are possible long-term benefits (see the previous paragraph for examples). If your overall royalty income (from all of your books on all platforms) exceeds your overall expenses (royalties and other publishing and marketing expenses), you can afford to run your ad since you’re playing with the house’s money (so to speak). Is the short-term advertising loss worth the possible long-term gains? Tough question. If the advertising expense is small compared to your overall royalty income (perhaps because you have several other books), it’s easier to take this loss.

But if you’re losing money overall, you need to have a compelling reason to keep running your ad. Maybe you have other short-term goals and are willing to lose money short-term for those other goals.

You can pause or terminate your ad at any time (even if you haven’t spent $100 yet; there is no minimum to stop advertising).

Maybe the solution is to try a new ad, changing your ad type or your targeting. Sometimes, it takes experimentation to get your ad just ‘right.’ But it also depends on how marketable your book and product page are, as I discussed earlier.

Or maybe the solution is to lower your bid. Yes, if you lower your bid, your ad probably won’t make as many impressions, but if you lower your bid enough, you might be able to afford the ACOS. Remember, the bid isn’t the only factor in landing impressions. If Amazon determines that your ad is performing very well in terms of relevance, you can earn significant impressions with a lower bid.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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