Authors: Have Your Manuscript Ready for a… Surprise?

Cover Problems Pic


It appears that Amazon is launching a new publishing program. Look for an announcement to come in the next couple of weeks.

The reason for this article is just to give a heads-up. If you happen to have a novel in the works and this program may be of interest to you, you have a chance to get your manuscript and packaging in gear.

The terms may not (but may) interest bestselling published authors or thriving self-published authors, but may attract midlist published authors and many self-published authors.

Evidently, the program will include Amazon-featured marketing. This is likely to draw huge interest, assuming that it means more than the usual customers-also-bought lists and such. For example, if it includes featured placement or small ads, that could make an incredible difference. Amazon will have a vested interest in these books, so there is compelling reason for Amazon to include featured marketing in the offer.

You might be wondering, “How do we know about this?”

  • Amazon sent an email to select authors, notifying them about the program. The email included a link to an Amazon page, allowing authors to sign up for additional emails.
  • The Digital Reader and Publisher’s Weekly made initial announcements about this program on September 22, 2014.
  • Amazon sent a follow-up email this morning.
  • (Well, if you want to be a pessimist, you’ll ‘know’ if and when Amazon makes an official announcement.)

Update: The program is now live. It’s called Kindle Scout:

It will begin with just the following genres:

  • romance
  • mystery
  • thriller
  • science fiction
  • fantasy

This new Amazon publishing program will be like a publishing deal for Kindle. The terms are better than many traditionally published terms, though the royalty rate isn’t as high as self-publishing with KDP.

  • $1500 advance. (Many indie authors are already excited.)
  • 50% royalties for e-books. (20% less than self-publishing, but it includes Amazon-featured marketing, which may easily make up the difference.)
  • A 45-day exclusivity period and easy rights reversions (unlike many traditional publishing contracts that make reversions difficult to come by). (There are some conditions. You’ll want to read these carefully when the program launches.)
  • Amazon only wants exclusive rights for e-books and audio in all languages. You get to keep the print rights (so you can self-publish with CreateSpace and keep 100% of your usual print royalties.)

What exactly is Amazon-featured marketing?

That’s the big question. If it included on-site advertising, that would be awesome. If it just means customers-also-bought lists and the usual benefits of publishing with KDP, then it would be a dud. (Basically, you’d be trading 20% of your royalties for a $1500 advance.)

The Digital Reader defined Amazon-featured marketing to mean enrollment in KOLL and Kindle Unlimited (well, you could get that by self-publishing!) and eligibility for targeted emails and promotions. This sounds great, except for that tricky word, “eligibility.” You’d hate to get no extra on-site publicity or featured placement at all.

Well, Amazon would have a vested interest in the success of books in this program. It seems reasonable to expect Amazon-featured marketing to be more than what’s merely automatic with KDP. I think we need to wait for the program to launch and see how it goes.

Get ready!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Complete manuscript. (Never before published. Or self-published, I suspect, but you can ask Amazon for clarification.)
  • 500 character (or less) book description. (Does that include spaces? Probably.)
  • One-liner (45 characters or less) to grab interest.
  • Biography and picture.

Any author who’s interested in this program (even if you’re unsure), has a chance to get ready. Advance preparation could make the difference.

If you prepare now and decide later that it’s not for you, what have you lost? Everything you prepared will still serve its purpose when you instead self-publish or traditionally publish your book.

Here’s what I recommend:

  • Finish your manuscript. This is required.
  • Perfect the first 3000 words. This part will be publicly visible. Voting will be based on this. You want to show your best stuff early, and grab attention right off the bat.
  • Get a great cover that fits your book well. This will surely make a difference in catching interest. It will make a difference in selling the book, too, if published.
  • Perfect the blurb. Don’t summarize the book. Arouse interest. Keep it short.
  • Perfect your one-liner. Observe the character counts.
  • Get ample feedback on your cover, one-liner, title, blurb, and first 3000 words.
  • Build interest in your book and create buzz. Voting is involved in the process. (Not sure how this will be regulated or applied.)
  • I’m thinking minimal front matter (just whatever the program requires, if anything). It’s about creating interest in your story and selling your idea.

Effective marketing skills will surely help. You need good packaging (cover, blurb, look inside) and the ability to create interest in your book.

There will be a brief Q&A opportunity with readers to sell your story (and the story behind you coming up with the story—you know, like all those amazing success stories you read about).

Good luck!

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing

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


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To Pre-Order, or not to Pre-Order

Pre Order


Finally, Kindle has a pre-order option.

But should you use it?

That’s a good question!


Making a Kindle e-book available for pre-order is easy:

  • Find this option in Step 4 when you publish with KDP. This is now called the Select Your Book Release Option.
  • Choose, “Make my book available for pre-order.”
  • Select a date. You can schedule your pre-order up to 90 days in advance of the release date.
  • You must upload a draft of your completed book at the time that you schedule your pre-order.
  • In Step 6, declare whether this is your draft or your final version.
  • Enter the description, choose your categories and keywords, upload a cover and the draft of your book, choose a price, and go through all of the usual steps to publish a book with KDP.
  • Click the “Submit for pre-order” button on page 2 of the publishing process.


The deadline for uploading and submitting the final version of your book is 10 days before the release date.

  • Upload the final version of your book at least 10 days before the release date. KDP will give you the precise date.
  • Check the option in Step 6 to indicate that this is your final version. Go onto page 2 and press the button to submit your pre-order.
  • Since this is your ‘final’ version, you shouldn’t expect to be able to make any further changes until your book goes live.
  • If you fail to upload your final version by the deadline, (1) your pre-order will be cancelled, (2) Amazon will notify customers that you didn’t publish your book, and (3) you will lose your pre-order privileges for one year.

You must be releasing a new book in order to take advantage of the pre-order option. Public domain books aren’t eligible.


Here are ways that books can potentially benefit from pre-orders:

  • Scheduling a pre-order gives you a product page with your cover and description (but no Look Inside) for up to 90 days prior to the release date. This gives you something to link to when you proceed to build buzz for your book’s coming release.
  • You can preview how your description looks on the actual product page prior to the book’s release. Visit Author Central to update your description.
  • Your pre-order will show in Amazon search results. This helps customers discover your pre-order, and can help you build search visibility prior to your book’s launch.
  • Your book will show up in the Coming Soon filter (which appears beside the Last 30 Days and Last 90 Days filters). This gives your book a little extra exposure.
  • If you have other books, customers who discover your pre-order may also become interested in those books.
  • If you have an existing fan base, your following may give your book some initial support through pre-order sales.
  • If you succeed in generating many pre-order sales, your book can develop a strong sales rank to help give it some early momentum.
  • The more pre-order sales you make, the more customers who will read your book shortly after its release, which helps you get early reviews from actual customers. (Note that customer reviews can’t be posted until the book goes live.)
  • Highly successful pre-orders can gain additional exposure as Hot New Releases.

More than anything else, a pre-order provides you with a tool that you can use to help create buzz for your upcoming book. But much like sales, it takes effective marketing skills to reap the benefits.


Not everything is golden in the pre-order world:

  • Sales rank is a double-edged sword. If you don’t succeed in generating many pre-order sales, a history of slow sales may hurt your book’s visibility.
  • If you upload a draft, what happens if some unexpected event comes up and prevents you from perfecting your book before the deadline (10 days before the release date)? That would be a disaster.
  • Deadlines can be quite stressful. Are you prepared for this?
  • There is a worst-case scenario. You may have read about an author on the KDP community forum whose draft evidently went live instead of the final version of the book. That would be a nightmare.

There is a simple solution to the last three points:

  • Don’t schedule your pre-order until you already have a ‘final’ version of your book.
  • This removes all the worry from pre-orders.


Whether or not you should schedule a pre-order for your Kindle book depends:

  • Do you have a large fan base? If so, these fans may help you with pre-order sales.
  • Do you have amazing promotional plans for creating buzz for your book? If so, this may also help with pre-order sales.
  • Is your book already finished? If not, I suggest perfecting your book before you schedule your pre-order.
  • Are you a new author? If you don’t have reason to expect pre-order support, it may be best not to do this. A history of slow or no sales can hurt sales rank.
  • Are you mostly relying on Amazon to sell the pre-order for you? If that doesn’t happen (there is much competition, and pre-orders don’t have a Look Inside), sales rank may count against you.


You can schedule your pre-order up to 90 days in advance of the release date.

But that doesn’t mean you should.

  • The longer the pre-order duration, the more pre-order sales you must drive to build and maintain a strong sales rank.
  • You need a really large fan base or very powerful promotion in order to really benefit from a long pre-order duration.
  • If you schedule a pre-order for one month and just have a few sales, it won’t give you a very good sales rank.
  • If you schedule a pre-order for 10 days and generate many sales during this period, it will give you a healthy sales rank starting out.

Personally, I feel that some authors are going about this the wrong way:

  • I see some authors making the pre-order duration 30 to 90 days for the wrong reason: to give themselves more time to perfect their books.
  • Yes, they should take all the time they need to perfect their books. But they should do this before scheduling the pre-order.
  • More sales in less time gives you a better sales rank.
  • Now if you can really drive strong pre-order sales (large fan base or killer promotion), a high frequency of early pre-orders may help you drive more pre-orders and maintain this for a longer duration.

Gee, you could come up with a temporary, introductory low price and advertise the daylights out of this. If you have effective marketing skills, you can run a successful pre-order promotion.


If you publish a print-on-demand paperback with CreateSpace, for example, you can schedule pre-orders through Amazon Advantage.

Visit the CreateSpace community forum. There is a very helpful, detailed post on how to do this by forum member Desire Success.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing

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


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Learn Much about Self-Publishing by… Blogging

Blog First

Hands-on Self-Publishing Experience

Blogging at WordPress can teach you more about self-publishing than you might realize.

Think about this, and strive to get the most out of it.

It would be wise to blog before self-publishing for the hands-on experience every authorpreneur needs to be successful.

But even if you’ve already self-published, it’s not too late to make the connection between blogging and indie publishing.

Here are several ways that blogging at WordPress can help you become a more successful authorpreneur:

  • Crafting the title. You have to write titles for your blog articles, so you get plenty of experience trying out titles and seeing how much attention your posts get. The title is a very important part of your book. Without blogging, most authors would have no experience or practice writing titles and seeing what interest they stimulate. Study the titles of articles from popular bloggers.
  • Content popularity. Writing about different topics, you can see which seem to be more popular or less popular among bloggers. The best way to learn what people like is through first-hand experience.
  • Keywords and categories. Gain experience choosing categories and tags for your articles at WordPress. You’ll need to choose categories and keywords when you publish. For your blog, you can type phrases in Google to see how popular they are, and for your book, you can try phrases out at Amazon’s home page. When you come across popular blog articles similar to what you write, check out the tags and categories that they used.
  • Cover design. Preparing or linking to images in your posts gives you some feedback regarding how to attract an audience visually. You also see images that evidently attract much attention to popular blog articles. The more you prepare your own images, the more you learn little tips.
  • Look Inside. In the WordPress reader, people only see a short sample. Bloggers strive to learn how to use the beginning of the article to create interest in the article. Similarly, at Amazon, you need to write an engaging blurb and Look Inside.
  • Writing practice. Blogging offers writing practice for self-published authors. You can even try out a new style or genre, with real readers to offer feedback.
  • Build your brand. At WordPress, you strive to build your blogging brand. This will carry over to becoming an authorpreneur, where you need to develop brands as an author and for your books.
  • Learn about marketing. You get firsthand experience trying to market your blog, which will carry over to book marketing. You get to see what other authors do in the way of marketing. Plus, blogging helps you build helpful relationships that can help you with your marketing when your book comes out. Some of your followers will serve as your initial fan base, too.
  • Monitor traffic. WordPress shows several stats that help you analyze your blog traffic. This can help give you a sense of the potential of your blog to help with marketing—a small percentage may be your initial fan base, but more importantly, the search engine traffic helps you see what frequency of outside visitors discover your website daily. The number of likes per post gives you some idea of your active following, which can pale in comparison to your total following; the search engine traffic is the number with the greater potential.
  • Get support. Relationships that you build on WordPress can support you with advice, reblogs, feedback, and more when you begin your self-publishing journey.
  • Explore formatting options. You have to format your posts here at WordPress. As you try new things in your articles, you gain some formatting experience. An e-book formats much like a webpage.
  • Test an idea. Got an idea that you want to test out? Try a sample on your blog and get some feedback.
  • Meet your audience. A thin slice of your WordPress following will include readers from your target audience. These interactions are golden.
  • Device management. Over time, you happen to view your blog from your pc, laptop, a friend’s iPad, a cell phone, etc. This gives you some idea about how various things format on different devices. That’s good experience for the challenge of formatting e-books that read well across all devices.
  • Analyze stats. Stats at Amazon are pretty limited—royalties, sales rank, reviews. You get many more stats here at WordPress—countries, views, likes, follows, shares, comments, etc. Such data can be valuable. You could even make a graph of your blog views for the month and compare it with your sales graph to see if there may be any correlation.
  • Website development. Indie publishers need to have websites, Facebook author or book pages, author profiles, etc. The experience you gain transforming your blog into a website will help you anytime you need to create a webpage or website.
  • SEO. You write articles hoping to pull in traffic from search engines. You gain experience with SEO as you try out categories, experiment with how to include keywords in headings and body text, etc.
  • Grow a following. You’ll develop a following here at WordPress. Setup an author page at Facebook and link to it at the end of your posts, and feed your WordPress posts into Facebook (but don’t also feed Facebook into WordPress or you’ll get double posts). Similarly, feed your blog into Twitter (but don’t feed from Twitter to WordPress or Facebook, or again you’ll get double or triple posts). Create profiles at Google Plus and LinkedIn, and your WordPress traffic can help you grow a following everywhere.
  • Build connections. Meet fellow authors, editors, graphic designers, small publishers, and more in your WordPress interactions. Indie authorship is a supportive community, for the most part.
  • Create buzz. When you release a book, your blog will help you create buzz for it.

Of course, there are many other benefits to blogging. For example, you can make some great online friends, and you can find some excellent material to read for free here at WordPress. Arguably, friendships and great reading material are the BEST parts of WordPress.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing

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


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