How to Run a Kindle Giveaway—for Now (for Authors Who’ve Run a Giveaway in the Past)

Images from ShutterStock.

HOW TO RUN AN AMAZON GIVEAWAY FOR A KINDLE EBOOK

As I mentioned in my previous post, presently it seems like you can’t run an Amazon Giveaway for a Kindle eBook…

Because the place on the bottom of the Amazon product page where the Amazon Giveaway option is supposed to be has vanished for Kindle eBooks.

It’s still there for print books and many other products, but not for Kindle eBooks. It disappeared about a week ago.

However…

If you’ve run an Amazon Giveaway for a Kindle eBook in the past.

You can run another Amazon Giveaway for that same Kindle eBook now.

Here’s the “trick” you need:

  • Visit your Amazon Giveaways page (that shows all of your active and inactive giveaways).
  • I have this page bookmarked on my web browser; it comes in handy. Otherwise, visit your Orders, choose Digital Orders, and search for a previous giveaway. Then click the button to View/Manage Giveaways.
  • Find a giveaway for a Kindle eBook that you ran in the past.
  • Look for the gray rectangle labeled Copy this Giveaway.

I just did this and it worked for me. I already received an email stating that my giveaway is now live.

You can check it out here (and you can enter, if you have any interest in an astronomy book):

https://www.amazon.com/ga/p/8e5f16f09254a4b2#ts-dei

Copyright 2018

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

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

Goodreads Giveaways: Important Changes Effective January 9, 2018

Image from ShutterStock.

GOODREADS GIVEAWAY CHANGES

Like many authors and publishers, I have used Goodreads giveaways for years to help with discovery, create buzz, and seek honest reviews for newly released books.

I have been a big fan of the Goodreads giveaway, having written a few articles about it on my blog.

I’m still a fan, but there are some important changes coming January 9, 2018:

  • All KDP authors/publishers will be able to offer eBook giveaways. Previously, this was only open to traditional publishers.
  • It will cost a minimum of $119 to run a Goodreads giveaway. That’s in addition to the cost of purchasing and sending physical copies (if you choose to run a contest for print books). Until now, there has been no fee to run a Goodreads giveaway.
  • Entrants will have the book automatically added to their Want-to-Read lists (which friends potentially see through their update feeds).
  • You will gain additional exposure, as Goodreads will notify the author’s followers and anyone who has already added the book to their Want-to-Read list about the new giveaway.
  • Initially, Goodreads giveaways will only be open to residents of the United States. (This restriction applies to entrants, not to authors.)
  • It’s possible to gain premium placement among Goodreads giveaways by paying $599 (instead of $119) for a Premium Giveaway (instead of a Standard Giveaway).
  • You will need to link an Amazon account to your Goodreads account in order to run a Goodreads giveaway. (You can create a new Amazon account if you don’t already have one.)

Are these changes good or bad?

Like most changes to the publishing world, it will be better for some authors than others.

Let’s start with the bad. There are really only two things that I don’t like:

  • It’s no longer free. Having to spend $119 seems a bit pricey. And if you run a print giveaway, it costs even more, as you must pay for author copies plus shipping and packaging.
  • Only residents of the United States may enter the giveaway, at least initially. It’s not a big issue for me, personally, since most of my book traffic comes from the United States, but I have acquaintances in the United Kingdom and Canada who feel left out.

The real question is this:

Will the benefits of a Goodreads giveaway offset the cost?

Keep in mind that with the changes to the Goodreads giveaway program, it’s possible that it will be more effective now than it has been in the past.

How might it be more effective starting January 9, 2018?

  • There might be less competition from other giveaways, making it easier for readers to discover your book. Not as many authors/publishers will be willing to pay the fee.
  • The giveaway might gain more exposure since the book will be automatically added to Want-to-Read lists, and since Goodreads will notify the author’s followers and anyone who has already added the book to their Want-to-Read list that a giveaway is available for the book.

Note also that the cost of the giveaway has not necessarily increased as much as it may seem.

Starting January 9, 2018, you can run a Standard Giveaway for $119. However, if you choose to run an eBook giveaway instead of giving away print books, you will save on the cost of author copies, shipping, and packaging. I’ve actually paid more than $119 for a Goodreads giveaway when it was FREE: I’ve spent over $50 on author copies and over $80 on shipping for several giveaways, which comes to over $130. In those cases, I would have saved money by paying $119 for an eBook giveaway.

The new cost of the Goodreads giveaway encourages authors/publishers to offer more prizes.

You pay the same $119 fee for a Standard Giveaway, regardless of whether you offer a single book as a prize, or several copies of the same book.

If you only give away one book, $119 is a pretty steep price to pay. However, if you offer several copies of your book, the cost per book drops down dramatically.

Like all paid marketing, Goodreads giveaways are more likely to be cost-effective for authors who write compelling books. If you only sell a few books per month, paying $119 for a giveaway will come at a great loss. If your book sells thousands of copies per year, paying $119 is relatively cheap.

Are you upset that you won’t be able to run a free/inexpensive giveaway?

That’s ridiculous! Of course you can.

You can run an Amazon Giveaway directly from your book’s Amazon product page.

You just pay for the selling price of the book. For a print book, you must pay the shipping charges, too. In either case, you will be compensated partly later when you receive your royalty. You can even require entrants to follow you at Amazon. (When you publish a new eBook through KDP, Amazon notifies your Amazon followers of your new release.)

Learn more about the changes to Goodreads giveaways:

  • Click here to see the Goodreads giveaway help page.
  • Click here to read an article by David Wogahn.

Would you like to tell Goodreads how you feel about the new giveaway program?

  • Click here and scroll down to the bottom of the page to find the survey (if it’s still available). Look for “send us feedback” in bold letters.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2017

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

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

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

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

Series Changes with Kindle

Series

Kindle is changing the way that series appear at Amazon:

  • The change will make it easier for customers to see that a given book is part of a series.
  • The change will clearly show the volume number to help customers find the next volume of a series and to read a series in order.
  • The change will show the series name to help customers find all of the volumes of a given series.

Example

You publish an e-book with Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and enter the following information in the publishing fields:

  • Title: Mr. Wrong Feels Oh So Right
  • Series Title: Bad Romance
  • Volume: 3

When people search for your e-book on Amazon, they will see the following in search results:

  • Mr. Wrong Feels Oh So Right (Bad Romance Book 3)

The parentheses show that this book is part of a series. The “Book 3” makes it clear that this is the third volume of a series.

What If

Are you wondering whether it matters if your book is a stand-alone book that could be read all by itself out of sequence?

  • Doesn’t matter. If you publish your book with a series title, your book is part of a series and will include the series title and volume number in parentheses.
  • Anything that comes in multiple volumes will be treated as a series.

Impact

Personally, I like it. When I first published The Visual Guide to Extra Dimensions, volumes 1 and 2, Amazon included Volume 1 and Volume 2 with the title and subtitle in search results.

Several months later, the volume numbers disappeared from search results, and sales did slow a little along with it. Before, it had been very clear that two separate volumes were available. I had contacted CreateSpace and Amazon, and the volume numbers have reappeared and vanished a couple of times.

As a customer, I had trouble buying Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time. It wasn’t clear which volume was which, or how many volumes there were. It seems to make sense to wave a flag that says, “Over here, I’m volume 7, buy me next.”

If Amazon is making this change, it appears that someone high up has realized that either (A) this will help to improve sales by helping customers find the books they are looking for or (B) this will improve the customer buying experience because customers have been buying books that they hadn’t realized were parts of series. Maybe both.

Do you have a series published on Kindle? If so, you might want to check what you have entered under the title, subtitle, series, and volume fields. You can update this information as needed to help improve the transition.

Right now, it seems that Amazon is doing this for Kindle. I’d like to see it for print books, too (which would make sense, as many Kindle editions are linked to print editions).

How do you feel about it?

(Speaking of changes, WordPress seems to have made a nice one recently. Now, I can copy and paste from one of my blog articles to another and it retains formatting and links. I like it.)

Publishing Resources

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles on publishing and marketing by clicking one of the following links:

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

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

Commuter Fiction—Making a Case for Short Kindle e-books?

Short

When I want to shop for something to read on my Kindle, I visit Amazon’s homepage on my PC and click on the Kindle books link. It’s called ‘Kindle books,’ so intuitively what you might expect to see are ‘books,’ right?

After a half hour of searching, I may finally find one that suits my mood. Then I examine the product page closely to learn that it’s 36 pages long. Wait a minute. Is that a book?

Sometimes, I check out the Look Inside of a prospective book. I see the cover, title, copyright notice… where’s the rest? Wow! How short must a book be not to show anything from the first chapter?

A Kindle e-book can have just 12 pages. It can have 6 pages. Is there a lower limit? At 6 pages, I hope there isn’t a title page, copyright page, about the author section, and free sample of another book taking up space inside… I also hope the ‘book’ is self-contained. It would be awfully frustrating to learn that it was really one chapter in a series, where you don’t get any sense of closure until the series is complete.

Of course, despite the fact that all of these ‘books’ are listed under ‘Kindle books,’ they aren’t all books. These Kindle e-books include short stories, booklets, presentations, and novellas, too.

Until recently, I was troubled by the growing number of short e-books. I was thinking, “Don’t customers want good value for their money?” “Are customers getting tricked, buying what they expect to be a book only to discover it’s really a short story?” “Are more authors getting lazier, writing and publishing shorter pieces?”

I understood reasons for the short e-books, but I was still troubled by it.

Customers can easily return e-books if they are dissatisfied. (Many do.) They can also check the page count before purchasing, and read the description carefully. If the Look Inside is brief, that’s a big hint. If they’re getting fooled by short books, they can get their money back or leave a review about it. The customer is certainly protected.

Writers are posting short e-books for a variety of reasons. Some don’t want to commit too much into their self-publishing endeavors, so a short piece is a way to experiment. Some are hoping to see what sort of customer feedback may come for short writing samples before laying their hearts on the line for full-length novels. Some plan to compile short works into an omnibus later on, such that the omnibus will look like a good value. There are other reasons, too. Not all of the reasons may be justified.

It’s not easy to get discovered as a new writer, whether writing full-length novels or short stories. Even 99 cents is a lot of money to invest in for one short story from a relatively unknown author; the story will be over quickly, so just imagine what you’ll spend for several hours of reading buying individual short stories. On the other hand, a full-length novel is a long commitment to make for a reader with a new author.

Is it easier to get readers to try out your short story, enjoy your book, and give your full-length novel a shot? Or is it easier to get new readers to appreciate the value of your full-length novel and commit to that as the first thing they read by you? Neither is ‘easy’ for most authors.

Commuter Fiction

I recently discovered this phrase in the KDP community forum. I like the concept. It’s changing my view of short e-books.

The idea behind commuter fiction is to write a short work that travelers can enjoy at a single sitting on an airplane or bus, for example. If you have a three-hour flight, for example, wouldn’t it be perfect to buy an e-book that you could read in three hours?

Authors and publishers have discovered that there is a market for short fiction, and they’ve responded with a way to make short fiction marketable.

You can call your short story a short story. You can call your novella a novella. You can list the word count. Kindle will estimate the page count. But that might not be the way to market your short e-book.

Consider selling it as commuter fiction. Maybe it would be handy to know approximately how many hours it would take the average reader to finish your e-book. A commuter might be interested in that figure.

Truck drivers have been listening to audio books for years. They buy books by the hour. If a truck driver is going on an eight-hour drive, it would be ideal to have an audio book that lasts eight hours (or four audio books that last two hours each), for example.

The same concept applies to passengers of buses, airplanes, and trains who are reading e-books on Kindles, tablets, laptops, and cell phones. What they would really like to know is how long it will take to read the e-book. Of course, this varies from person to person because we all read at different rates. If they can deduce an average, though, that will help them judge this.

I’m not saying that you should write short e-books. It might be harder to sell than full-length books. (Who knows?) Personally, as a customer, I like to receive a good value for my money. However, there are many customers who behave differently than I do.

What I am saying is this: If you’re going to write a short book, maybe you can improve its marketability by selling it as commuter fiction.

Publishing Resources

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles by clicking one of the following links:

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

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing (236 pages, 8″ x 10″; it’s a real ‘book’)
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing (212 pages, 8″ x 10″; it’s a real ‘book’)

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

Which Should Come First—Kindle or Paperback?

First

Unless you have a book where Kindle formatting is impractical, you should make both Kindle and paperback editions of your book.

Benefits of the Kindle Edition

  • You can make the Kindle edition much more affordable. If your price is $2.99 or higher, you can still draw a high royalty (70% minus delivery costs).
  • Many customers only read e-books.
  • It’s much cheaper for you to send out review copies.
  • There is no extra charge for color.

One reason not to create an e-book is if you have a book where this is impractical, such as a workbook where the reader needs to write down answers.

You should also consider publishing your e-book with Nook, Smashwords, Kobo, etc. The only reason not to do so if you feel that the benefits of enrolling in KDP Select outweigh the benefits of having your e-book available with several e-book retailers.

Benefits of the Paperback Edition

  • Some customers prefer to read print books.
  • Amazon will show your Kindle edition as a percentage off compared to the paperback edition (once the two editions are linked together).
  • Kindle’s new MatchBook program encourages the sale of both editions.
  • It’s convenient to edit your writing with the printed proof.
  • You get to experience the incredible joy of holding your baby in your hands.
  • Local bookstores and other retailers might be willing to stock your book. If nothing else, your friends and family will believe you really are an author.

Which Should You Publish First?

Once you decide to make both Kindle and paperback editions, you must decide which edition to publish first.

Most authors simply publish each edition as soon as it’s ready. Some authors prefer to format e-books and have the Kindle edition ready first; others love the art of formatting pages and have the paperback edition ready first.

That’s not necessarily the best course. Suppose you had both editions prepared, but neither was published yet. What’s the best thing to do? Should you release them simultaneously? Or is there a reason to publish one edition first?

Some authors who plan this—rather than simply first publish whatever happens to be ready first—choose to arrange preorders for the paperback edition using Amazon Advantage. They use preorders as part of their strategy for building buzz for the book’s release, and to help foster a strong sales rank and prospects for early reviews when the book is released. They then release the Kindle edition when the paperback goes live.

Once you have both Kindle and paperback editions available, you can have them linked. This creates an interesting possibility that was recently mentioned in the CreateSpace community forum: If your Kindle edition is available for sale now and linked to a paperback edition that’s on preorder, any reviews left by Kindle customers should, theoretically, show on your paperback’s product page, since the reviews are linked together. (Paperback customers can’t review the paperback edition until it goes live.)

There are two good reasons not to release both editions simultaneously:

  1. You gain visibility by having a book in the Last 30 Days and Last 90 Days categories on Amazon. This is based on your publication date. (Tip: Don’t enter any publication date at CreateSpace. That way, your book’s publication date will be the day you click Approve Proof. This maximizes your book’s visibility with the new release search filters.) Release one book 90 days prior to the other and you get 180 days of new release visibility out of one book.
  2. You have the opportunity to create double-buzz. Build buzz for one edition. Then a month after its debut, you have two months to build buzz for the other edition if it’s going live 90 days after the first.

You could release the Kindle edition first. At the same time, setup preorders for the paperback edition. Arrange the paperback edition to go live 90 days after the release of the Kindle edition. Make the publication date of the paperback edition when it goes live, so you get a total of 180 days visibility in the Last 90 Days category.

If you’re one of those authors who can publish two books per year, you can use this method to always have a book listed under Last 90 Days.

Publishing Resources

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles by clicking one of the following links:

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

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

Kindle Countdown to the New Year

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I love KDP’s new Kindle Countdown Deal tool. I did a couple of preliminary tests with it when it first came out in November, 2013. I used it with several e-books on Read Tuesday, December 10. I even ran a couple of free promos on Read Tuesday so I could compare the results to the Countdown Deals. I used the Countdown Deal once again after Christmas, when e-book sales are usually on the rise.

What is it?

Let’s begin with what it isn’t. It’s not a cure-all for any e-book that doesn’t sell. If your e-book isn’t selling, the Countdown Deal probably isn’t the answer. Instead, you need to reassess whether the content, writing, and packaging are marketable. At least one of these areas needs to be improved to get your book selling.

If you have a marketable book, the Countdown Deal can help to stimulate sales. A short-term sale price can help you create added interest in your book, especially if you market the promotional price effectively.

Here are the main details of the new Kindle Countdown Deal:

  • If your Kindle e-book is priced from $2.99 to $24.99 in the US or £1.93 to £14.99 in the UK, you can put your e-book on sale for as little as one hour or as many as 7 days consecutively in a 90-day KDP Select enrollment period. (Many e-books with a $2.99 price in the US have a UK price below £1.93. If so, you need to republish and raise the UK price to £1.93 before running a Countdown Deal in the UK.)
  • Customers will see both the sale price and the list price during the promotion, so they will know exactly how much they are saving. There will also be a countdown timer, showing customers when your sale ends, which helps to create a sense of urgency.
  • The sale price must be at least $1.00 off in the US and £1.00 off in the UK and must end with .99.
  • Your e-book must be enrolled in KDP Select, which requires publishing the e-book edition of your book exclusively with Kindle. Your e-book must be enrolled in Select for at least 30 days before you can run a Countdown Deal.
  • If you change your list price, you must wait 30 days before running a Countdown Deal. You must also wait 14 days after the promotion to change your list price.
  • You must schedule your Countdown Deal at least 24 hours in advance of the day on which your promotion would begin. You need 24 hours notice to cancel a Countdown Deal.
  • Note that you can only run a single Countdown Deal in a 90-day enrollment period, even if your first Countdown Deal didn’t use the full 7 days. (This is in contrast to the free promo, where you can run up to five separate one-day promotions or use them all at once.)
  • If your book is on the 70% royalty plan, you will still earn 70% after subtracting the delivery fee even if your sale price is $0.99 or $1.99. However, if you have a large file size, which is typical if there are several images, you might actually earn more money during the Countdown Deal on the 35% royalty plan. In fact, your royalty could be zero on the 70% plan. Unfortunately, KDP doesn’t show you in advance what your Countdown Deal royalty will be; you need to figure this out yourself. On the 70% royalty plan, subtract the delivery fee (find this in Step 2 of the publishing page) from the promotional price, then multiply by 0.7. Compare this to 0.35 times the promotional price for the 35% royalty rate. You can switch plans by republishing before (it must go live 24 hours before the day your promotion starts) and again after the promotion (but then you earn 35% for sales for a day before and the period after your promotion while your e-book is being republished).

Comparing the Countdown Deal to the free promo

Kindle’s Countdown Deal solves many problems that the free promo suffers from:

  • Since customers are paying money for your e-book, most of your customers will actually read your e-book. A huge problem with the free promo is that many people who take the e-book for free never get around to reading it.
  • Since customers are paying money for your e-book, most shoppers will actually read your blurb, check out reviews, and explore the Look Inside prior to making a purchase. Another huge problem with the free promo is that many shoppers don’t bother seeing if the e-book actually appeals to them since it’s free.
  • Customers are more likely to be in your e-book’s specific target audience. This means they are more likely to have reasonable expectations for your genre. The free promo attracts customers from outside your genre, who then compare apples to oranges. This sometimes shows up in critical reviews.
  • Unfortunately, there are many outspoken individuals who strongly loathe freebies. Some, with mean spirits, actually ‘buy’ freebies with the preconceived idea of slamming them. By running a Countdown Deal, your e-book won’t attract the freebie haters, and if someone does wish to slam the e-book, at least they must make the purchase first if they want it to show as an Amazon Verified Purchase.
  • You earn royalties during the Countdown Deal. You don’t earn one penny during a free promo. The hope of the free promotion is that some customers will actually read the e-book, like it, and help spread the word. It’s a big risk. The Countdown Deal has the same benefits, without the risk. Sales during the Countdown Deal affect your paid sales rank, whereas a free promo only affects your free sales rank. Your paid sales rank actually slides during a free promo, but will most likely rise during a Countdown Deal.
  • There are fewer freebies saturating the market with the introduction of the Countdown Deal. There are also fewer Kindle e-books priced at 99 cents and $1.99 because those e-books aren’t eligible for a Countdown Deal. More Kindle e-books now have a regular price of $2.99 and higher. This helps everyone create a better perception of value. Those e-books that are on sale during a Countdown Deal can only be on sale for up to one week out of 90 days, so most of the time they are not cheap.
  • Websites that link to Kindle e-books through Amazon Associates are discouraged from promoting freebies, but have an incentive to promote Countdown Deals. It would be smart to search for sites that promote Countdown Deals for your genre. It’s a win-win situation, since they can earn money through Amazon Associates by promoting your e-book.

My experience

I ran a Countdown Deal on several e-books during Read Tuesday, a Black Friday type of sale just for books on Tuesday, December 10. I actually ran my promotions from December 9 to December 11. I sold more e-books on average on the 9th and 11th, but had the greatest surge in sales on the 10th, the day in which Read Tuesday was being promoted. On December 10, my sales of e-books for the month doubled what they had done all together from the 1st to the 9th. Several other authors also ran Countdown Deals on Read Tuesday. Of those who have shared their results with me, all but one had similar successes, and some had a far better yield than I had.

A Countdown Deal can be highly effective for a marketable e-book that is promoted effectively.

I ran a couple of free promos on December 10, also, so that I could compare the two programs. I did get a few sales of those e-books after the free promos ended, but those sales paled in comparison to the Countdown Deals.

In early November and late December, I also tested the Countdown Deal on a couple of other e-books (you can only run one Countdown Deal on a given e-book in its 90-day enrollment period in KDP Select). On these occasions, I didn’t promote the sale. I did this with one of my better sellers, with the result of increasing the sales frequency by a factor of 3.4. Trying this also with a couple of e-books that ordinarily don’t sell much, I confirmed that a Countdown Deal isn’t the solution to an e-book that lacks marketability.

You still need to promote your sale

You will certainly get the most out of your Countdown Deal if you effectively market your promotion. As already mentioned, you should search online for websites that actively promote Countdown Deals. If they use Amazon Associates, they have an incentive to help you promote your e-book, so don’t be too shy to search and ask.

There are also several websites that specialize in announcing e-book promotions, e.g. by emailing readers who are subscribed to daily newsletters. For example, check out these sites: BookBub, Ereader News Today, Kindle Books & Tips, Book Gorilla, Book Blast, and Pixel of Ink. You want to learn about stats to help you with your decision. For example, the BookBub pricing page provides data for subscribers by genre, average downloads, and average sales.

The exclusivity drawback

You must enroll your Kindle e-book in KDP Select in order to take advantage of the Countdown Deal tool. This requires publishing your e-book exclusively with Kindle during the 90-day enrollment period. You can’t publish your e-book with Smashwords, Nook, Kobo, Apple, or any other e-readers besides Kindle during this period. However, you may publish a paperback edition of your book with CreateSpace, for example; the exclusivity clause only pertains to electronic versions of your book.

It’s also possible to initially enroll in KDP Select, then 90 days later opt out and publish your e-book with every e-reader. This allows you to test the water; the 90-day period also gives you a chance to prepare your e-book for the other e-reader formats.

Some e-books sell very well on Nook, Kobo, Sony, or Apple, while others sell primarily on the Kindle. The only way to know for sure is to try it out. If your e-book sells very well with Nook, for example, you probably don’t want to enroll in KDP Select. However, if your e-book rarely sells anywhere but Kindle, you might as well take advantage of the program. Select also has other benefits, like earning royalties on borrows from Amazon Prime members.

Attention, Amazon: You need a Countdown Deal for CreateSpace paperbacks, too

It would be very cool to have a Countdown Deal for CreateSpace paperbacks. This would solve a major problem. The Expanded Distribution channel limits how low you can set the list price for a CreateSpace paperback. If you want to run a short-term promotion, you can simply lower your list price temporarily. However, if you have Expanded Distribution, you might need to temporarily disable it in order to make a compelling sale price.

Amazon and CreateSpace could get together, potentially, and create a Countdown Deal that only lowers the Amazon sale price, but not the list price or Expanded Distribution price, during the promotion. If you like this idea, please feel free to contact Amazon and CreateSpace with your suggestion. The more authors who suggest this, the more likely they will consider the idea.

Presently, the Countdown Deal only applies to Kindle in the US and UK. Hopefully, they will add this to Australia, Canada, and other websites for Kindle sales soon.

Happy 2014

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles by clicking one of the following links:

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

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

Huge Kindle e-book Sale as Part of Read Tuesday, 12/10

Huge Sale

Read Tuesday, December 10

My books will be on sale starting Monday, December 9 and ending at 11:00 p.m. PST on Wednesday, December 11 as part of Read Tuesday, a Black Friday type of sale just for books.

Both my Kindle e-books and my paperbacks will be on sale. Most will be 40 to 80% off (one will be free).

Click here to see a list of all my Kindle e-books with links to both Amazon US and Amazon UK (the latter appear at the bottom of the list). This includes my e-books on:

  • self-publishing
  • astronomy
  • chemistry
  • math flash cards

My paperback books will be on sale for 40% off at CreateSpace, an Amazon company. Click here to get discount codes valid at CreateSpace. This includes my books on:

  • self-publishing
  • math fluency (arithmetic, algebra, fractions, trig)
  • astronomy
  • chemistry
  • physics
  • chess log books
  • golf stats

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Hundreds of books by hundreds of authors will be on sale on Read Tuesday.

View a sample of participating books and authors by clicking one of the links below:

Give the gift of reading this holiday season. If you would like to learn more about gifting e-books, click here to read a helpful article by Misha Burnett.

Love books? Check out Read Tuesday, a Black Friday event just for books (all authors can sign up for free) on Tuesday, December 10: website, Facebook page, Twitter

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Volume 1 (formatting/publishing) and Volume 2 (packaging/marketing), Facebook page, Twitter

Volumes 1 and 2 will be on sale on December 9 thru 11 as part of Read Tuesday on December 10. These books haven’t been on sale all year, so this is a rare opportunity. The Kindle edition of Vol. 1 will be $1.99 (60% off from $4.99) in the US and 1.99 pounds (37% off from 3.14 pounds) in the UK, while Vol. 2 will be $0.99 (80% off from $4.99) in the US and 0.99 pounds (70% off from 3.25 pounds) in the UK. The paperbacks will also be 40% off ($5.99 instead of $9.99) at CreateSpace:

Updating a Book at CreateSpace or Kindle Direct Publishing

Update

Today I will share my experience of updating books at Amazon. I recently updated Volume 1 of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers at CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). The paperback now includes a comprehensive 18-page index, and both the paperback and eBook include minor updates (such as mention of recent changes at CreateSpace, Amazon, and Kindle and correcting a few minor typos).

If you need to revise your interior or cover file at CreateSpace, first study your sales rank history (you want to know the time of the sales, not the time that the royalties report) to help choose the time where you’re least likely to sell books. Your book will be unavailable for sale while the new file is being reviewed, so you don’t want it to interfere with sales (unless your revision is more urgent, then you just have to do it immediately).

It takes approximately 12 hours for your files to be reviewed. The biggest concern is how Murphy’s law will get you:

  • One way is for CreateSpace to make changes to your cover, even when you didn’t change the cover file and it had been perfect. The best thing to do is resubmit your files for review and hope the next reviewer doesn’t make changes to your cover. This is another 12 hours. But if you call, they put in a request to research the problem, and this can take a couple of days (and may not even resolve the problem). There is, unfortunately, a worst-case scenario where your book is offline for several days. You just have to cross your fingers and hope it doesn’t happen to you. Let me add that this rarely happens, so most likely it won’t be an issue. I didn’t mean to scare you. Just prepare for the worst, then if something does happen, you won’t be surprised by it.
  • Another way is for you to make a minor revision, which winds up causing major changes to the layout of your book. You see, revising a phrase on page 3 could cause a crazy page break on page 8. Take the time to scroll page by page through your book in the Digital Proofer to ensure that there aren’t any crazy layout problems and you might be able to avoid this problem.
  • Then there is conservation of typos, whereby you introduce a new typo in the process of correcting others.
  • Finally, there is the Doh! moment when you click Approve Proof and suddenly remember something else that you should have done.

Very often, your book is again available for sale in 12 to 24 hours after uploading the revised file.

A crazy thing is that you can actually order the paperback directly from Amazon after the revision and receive the older version. This evidently happens when they already have your older version stocked in their warehouse (e.g. if there was a returned copy to resell or if they had ordered some in advance to stock up).

What I like about KDP is that your previous edition remains available for sale while your new eBook is in the process of publishing. This way you don’t miss out on any sales in the meantime.

I put a note on the copyright page indicating when the eBook was last updated. This way, when I viewed the Look Inside at Amazon, I knew I was looking at the updated version.

I like the way the Look Inside turned out. The Look Inside when viewing on a PC is the greatest formatting challenge. I went into the HTML in my effort to perfect this. The indents look large on the PC, but that’s because I set them to a percentage instead of a value in inches. That way, the indents will look fairly reasonable from a cell phone to an iPad.

Another thing to consider is updating the description. I updated the paperback description from CreateSpace, using the basic HTML that’s allowed to create linebreaks, boldface, italics, and bullets. I used Author Central to do this for the eBook. The paperback description begins with a note about the new index that has been added.

The paperback was ranked around 14,000 on Amazon, but has now dropped down to 45,000. It’s amazing what a 16-hour window of no availability can do to sales rank. On the other hand, the eBook edition jumped up to 40,000 from the 100,000’s. I guess when the paperback wasn’t available, people decided to go with the eBook (ordinarily, I sell many paperbacks for each eBook that sells).

For those who may have purchased the original paperback without the index, there is a free index available in PDF format online: https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com/index-for-a-detailed-guide/

Now I need to work on an index for Volume 2.

Volume 1 eBook: http://amzn.com/B00AA5CJ7C

Volume 1 paperback: http://amzn.com/1480250201

Volume 2 eBook: http://amzn.com/B00CSDUP66

Volume 2 paperback: http://amzn.com/1484037243

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 1 (formatting/publishing) and Vol. 2 (packaging/marketing), Facebook page, Twitter

Check out Read Tuesday (a Black Friday event just for books): website, Facebook page, Twitter

Testing out Amazon’s new Kindle Countdown Deal

Cover Pages

I’m trying out Amazon’s new Kindle Countdown Deal for a couple of my lesser-known books. I’ll save the great deals for Read Tuesday. 🙂

The ‘proper’ way to do this would be to plan it much further in advance, build buzz for your promotion, promote it actively the day of (and maybe the day before, too), and recruit help promoting your discount (this is why you need to plan far in advance) from bloggers, websites, and any of your contacts willing to help you spread the word among your target audience. You might even consider investing in an advertisement that would get you plenty of exposure among your target audience.

However, the tool is also new, so although the books that are taking advantage of the countdown deal already haven’t had time to plan for the promotion, they may be getting a lot of initial traffic from the many people who are checking it out. Once this effect wears off, you’ll definitely need to plan ahead and promote effectively to get the most out of this.

I chose a couple of my lesser-known books that don’t tend to sell well for my experiment. Partly, I wanted to save my more popular books to help, in a tiny way, entice a little Read Tuesday traffic. Also, sometimes an experiment on a book that ordinarily doesn’t sell well on its own can provide a revealing marketing outcome.

One of the two books I chooe had been in free promos in years past, so I’ll be able to compare those results to the results of the Countdown.

Who else is testing out this Countdown Deal in the near future? (Not everyone is eligible. First, you need to be enrolled in KDP Select. If you’re just joining or rejoining KDP Select, you must wait 30 days. Even if you’re already in KDP Select, if you changed your list price in the last 30 days, you must wait, too. If your enrollment is expiring or renewing soon, that may also affect when you’ll next be eligible. Your list price must be between $2.99 and $24.99 in the US, for example, in order to be eligible.)

If you’re testing it out this week, I’d like to hear about it. Maybe I can find an excuse to mention it in a relevant post. And the combination of my data with your experience might be relevant for a future post. So if you’d like me to possibly discuss your promotion and your experience with it, please let me know.

The two books I’m trying out are:

(1) Formatting Pages for Publishing on Amazon with CreateSpace, Chris McMullen, B00BGPK70G, February, 2013. This book is geared specifically toward using Microsoft Word 2010 to format a paperback book for publishing with CreateSpace. It’s a short, concise book (104 pages in print, but the paperback version is 5″ x 8″ and divided into several chapters and includes figures, so the written content is much less). One reason that it doesn’t sell well is that my Detailed Guide is a better value, being much more detailed. Also, I don’t market the Formatting Pages book. I’m curious to see if the Countdown tool has any impact on a book that ordinarily doesn’t sell much.

(2) Far Out Multiplication Flash Cards 1-12 (Decorated with Solar System Photos), Chris McMullen and Carolyn Kivett, January, 2012. This flash card set is a book, not a game. The first half of the book consists of 1 x 1 thru 12 x 12 in order with the answer immediately following the question. The first half is designed for kids to practice and memorize. The second half has the cards shuffled, still with the answer following the question. Here, kids test their memory by checking the answer on the next page. The cards are visually decorated with solar system photos. There are two reasons that this book doesn’t sell much. First, I have another multiplication flash card book that has 11 reviews, while this one has none, so naturally people tend to buy the one that has all the reviews. Second, this book used to be more expensive than my other multiplication book, so the other multiplication book has a history of more sales (the other book is also part of a complete set). They are now the same regular price, so this book is actually the better value because it goes up to 12 x 12 instead of 10 x 10.

In the past, this flashcard book always did well with the free promo (over a thousand books in the good old days when KDP Select was new, and hundreds in later months), so I have something to compare it with. The free promo generally resulted in a boost of sales afterward. So I’ll be able to compare the overall effect on royalties, too.

Both of these books are presently $2.99 in the US and will be 99 cents during the Countdown promotion. The Countdown will be all day on Tuesday, November 5, Pacific Daylight Time (PDT).

In the UK, the price will be 0.99 pounds (I actually had to raise the price of one book slightly to make it eligible).

Both books have pictures, so the delivery fee is 50 to 60 cents on each book. This is important because my royalty during the promotion would actually be higher at 35% than at 70%. KDP doesn’t show you what your royalty would be during the promotion. So it’s worth checking your delivery fee and doing the math first. You’d hate to learn later that you were making one penny per sale!

So I first changed the royalty rate to 35% and republished. You can add the Countdown Deal while it’s republishing (check the box and select the Actions button on your Bookshelf). Note that you must change your royalty option at least 24 hours before your promotion begins.

Here is what you should do:

  • First try to create a Countdown Deal to see what dates you’re allowed to choose. This way you won’t waste your time for a promotion that you’re not allowed to schedule.
  • Next, check your delivery fee.
  • Now calculate your royalty at the promotional price. Subtract the delivery fee and then multiply by 0.7, like ($0.99 – $0.60) x 0.7 = $0.27. (If you don’t normally earn 70%, skip this step and the next step.)
  • Compare this with what you would make at 35%. If 35% gives you a higher royalty, you must change your royalty rate at least 24 hours prior to the start of your promotion.
  • Finally, schedule your promotion. Be sure to choose the start and end times in addition to the dates. See how many hours your promotion will last before you confirm. It would be very easy to accidentally make your promotion last just one hour without even realizing it!

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 1 (formatting/publishing) and Vol. 2 (packaging/marketing)

Planet Flash Cards Multiplication Cover Thumbnail

Kindle Countdown Deals—Better than the Original KDP Select?

Countdown

Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) sent out an email announcement today about the new Kindle Countdown Deals—a new promotional tool for KDP Select users.

This looks very promising. It will entice some authors who’ve left to switch back to KDP Select; and any who have been contemplating leaving KDP Select may be swayed to stay.

The drawbacks to the KDP free promo are well-known:

  • You don’t earn any royalties for your promotion.
  • The freebies affect your free rank, but not your paid rank. So your sales rank goes up while your book is free.
  • Changes in Amazon Associates’ policies have greatly discouraged sites from promoting the freebies.
  • People who loathe the KDP Select freebies can take out their frustrations by leaving one-star reviews, and they don’t even have to buy or read the book to do this and get it to show as an Amazon Verified Purchase.
  • Many customers from outside your target audience are attracted to the free price; since they aren’t familiar with your genre, they’re less likely to leave a favorable review.
  • When the book is free, many shoppers won’t bother to read the description and check out the free sample, so they are more likely to be disappointed with your book.
  • An abundance of freebies and 99-cent books makes it difficult to create the perception of value.

The new Kindle Countdown Deals solves these problems:

  • Your book won’t be free—but it will be at least $1.00 less than the list price. So you don’t have to worry about not earning royalties during your promotion.
  • You can even earn 70% if your sale price is lower than $2.99, but you do have to contend with the usual delivery fee. Your book must have the 70% option to begin with, of course, for this to apply.
  • Websites can promote your discounted book through Amazon Associates without having to worry about the penalty for linking to freebies.
  • You will have paid sales during the promotion, so this should affect your sales rank, unlike free promotions.
  • If anyone wants to slam your book, at least they’ll have to pay for it if they want it to show as an Amazon Verified Purchase.
  • Shoppers are more likely to read your description and check out the Look Inside, so they are less likely to be frustrated with a book that’s really not for them (provided that your packaging is clear).
  • Customers are more likely to be in your target audience since they actually have to pay for your book.
  • There won’t be as many free books because many authors who ordinarily use the free promotion tool will be using the countdown tool instead (you must choose one or the other for any 90-day period). Similarly, many of the books that are always 99 cents will now be $2.99 or higher for 83 out of every 90 days. Amazon has given everyone an incentive to choose a higher list price.

Here are some more notes about the new countdown tool:

  • You can use the tool for up to 7 out of every 90 days, with as many as 5 price increments.
  • You can only schedule one Countdown Deal per 90-day enrollment period. (You can schedule one in the US and another in the UK). Unlike the free promo, you can’t run two or more separate sales. The only way to use all 7 days is to use them all at once. See https://chrismcmullen.wordpress.com/2013/12/07/kindle-countdown-deal-limit-one-per-90-days/
  • The regular list price must be between $2.99 to $24.99 (or 1.99 to 14.99 pounds).
  • The promotion can be as short as one hour or as long as one week.
  • You must wait 30 days after joining KDP Select and since you last changed your regular list price.
  • It looks like you can schedule the promotion without having to republish (like you do for ordinary price changes).

Some people are infamous for complaining about too many free and 99-cent books. Some of these people are already talking about how the new countdown program will drive even more books to the bottom. But that’s crazy!

The new countdown program encourages the books at the bottom price point to move up!

The minimum regular list price must be $2.99 in order to be eligible. The books that participate in the countdown won’t be free. The books that are 99 cents through the countdown program will only be 99 cents for 7 out of every 90 days. Right now they are 99 cents for 90 out of 90 days.

Many authors are already doing special short-term promotions. Now there is a tool for this, they can earn 70% instead of 35% royalties during their promotions, and all customers will see the discount at Amazon, even if they hadn’t heard about the author’s promotion.

If you have several pictures and your book is on the 70% option, the delivery fee may be significant. What you want to determine is whether your royalty would be greater at 70% or 35% for the discounted price (because of the delivery fee, if the file size is large, it may actually be greater at 35%). Note that you can’t change the royalty plan during the promotion or for fewer than 24 hours prior to the promotion. So you must change this, if needed, 24 hours before the promotion (and then change it back afterward, if desired). This would be the case if you normally earn a greater royalty at 70%, but would earn a better royalty at 35% during the promotion. If you have several pictures, you should check into this.

You still need to promote your sale if you want the promotional tool to be effective. Just dropping the price won’t have nearly the impact as effectively marketing the promotion.

This also looks like a great tool for Read Tuesday—a Black Friday type of event just for books.

Click the following link to learn more about the new countdown tool:

https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help?topicId=201298260&ref_=pe_445910_34749920

Publishing Resources

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles on publishing and marketing by clicking one of the following links:

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

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