Publishing your novel with Amazon and KDP Select

This post is the forty-eighth in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

During this series, I have covered writing, editing, and formatting your novel for publishing as an e-book. And while I have briefly covered your publishing options, I thought I would take these next three posts to delve a little more into your three biggest options for publishing your e-book.

Of course, I should start with the largest e-book retailer out there – Amazon.

Kindle Direct Publishing is Amazon’s platform for self-publishers. Here you can find all sorts of help on formatting, uploading and marketing your book through Amazon. And with just a click, you can be selling your book in the UK, Japan, Italy and over nine other countries.

You have the choice of either 35% or 70% royalties based on the selling price of your novel.

They also offer a program called KDP Select, which means you exclusively allow Amazon to publish your book. That means it won’t be on Barnes & Noble, I-Tunes or anywhere else. Some authors don’t like the idea of limiting their book to only one retailer, but then again, it is the largest e-book retailer out there so that may not be a bad thing.

Here are some pros and cons of KDP Select.

Pros

As I said your book is available from the largest e-book retailer, and it is also available to Amazon Kindle readers who subscribe to Kindle Unlimited (a program that for $9.99/month allows readers access to over a million titles.) You earn royalties on the number of pages read.

There are several book promotions that you can do with KDP Select, including offering your book for free or as part of a Kindle Countdown Deal, where you can lower the price but keep a higher royalty rate.

You can’t opt out of KDP Select after 90 days, or it will automatically renew for another 90 days. Each set of 90 days allows you to do one promotion – either free days or Kindle Countdown Deals. (More on these promotions and my results with them in the coming weeks.)

You also receive higher royalties on sales to Brazil, Japan, India and Mexico.

Your book participates in the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library program, which allows Prime members to ready one book free each month. Again, you are paid for the pages read.

Cons

The biggest con is cannot publish or offer your book for sale with any other retailer.

You cannot even offer more than 10% of our book’s content anywhere, even your own website.

Readers who typically use other retailers other than Amazon will not be able to purchase your book without having a Kindle app or Kindle for the PC.

You are at the whim of Amazon regarding any changes they make to the program or rules.

All your eggs are in one basket for a minimum of three months. (Remember you must opt out, or it will automatically keep renewing.)

Conclusion

Whether it is worth it to enroll in KDP Select, it depends on the author and situation. New titles might do well in the program. It is simple and an easy option. But if you want more control over promotions and selling price, then KDP Select may not be for you.

Remember you can publish on Amazon and NOT be in KDP. I will say that for all of my books, I have enrolled them for 90 days in KDP Select. Afterwards, I typically pull them out of the program and publish through Smashwords (which will be covered next week). The only exception is my last novel which I left in KDP Select for three rounds because I enjoyed the royalties from Kindle Unlimited.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

#19 – Dealing with Writer’s Block

#20 – Killing a Character in your Novel

#21 – Keeping things realistic in your novel

#22 – Establishing Writing Goals and Developing Good Writing Habits

#23 – Using the five senses and passive voice in your novel

#24 – The benefit of research in fiction writing

#25 – Novella or Novel, Trilogy or Series – decisions for writers

#26 – Avoiding Plot and Character Clichés

#27 – Novel Writing – Endings and Epilogues

#28 – Fantasy Novel Writing – World Building, Dragons, Magic and More

#29 – Finishing your First Draft

#30 – Your Second Draft and Beyond

#31 – Picking Stronger Words and Watching out for Homonyms

#32 – Omitting unnecessary words in your novel

#33 – Beta Reader, Proofreaders and Copy Editors

#34 – Knowing your grammar or at least using a grammar checking program

#35 – Using a Revision Outline during your Novel Editing

#36 – Editing Techniques: Taking a Break and Reading Aloud

#37 – Publishing Options for your book

#38 – Self-publishing an ebook decisions

#39 – Picking Your Book Title and Your Pen Name

#40 – Investing in an eye-catching book cover

#41 – Writing an awesome book blurb

#42 – Deciding on Front Matter for your novel

#43 – Deciding on Back Matter for your novel

#44 – Formatting your eBook for publication

#45 – Pricing your e-book

#46 – Selecting Categories and Keywords to improve your Novel’s visibility

#47 – Book Promotions: Cover Reveal and Pre-Orders

Selecting Categories and Keywords to improve your Novel’s visibility

This post is the forty-sixth in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.

When putting your e-book online, you will need to pick a genre/category and keywords to help categorize and market your novel.

Genre/Categories

Every book is categorized by its genre to help readers locate the type of book they enjoy reading. Mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, suspense and western are just a few examples of fiction genres.

And then there are subcategories of genres such as epic fantasy, sword and sorcery, dark fantasy, paranormal and more. It will help you to know your subgenre to pick the category you want your novel to appear under.

Categories

On Amazon, you can initially pick two categories for your book. You should be as specific as possible.

  1. Don’t just say fiction > Fantasy. Go deeper. Fiction > Fantasy > Historical. Your book will still be listed under the general category.
  2. Don’t pick “General” unless your book is a general book about a broad topic.
  3. To be listed under additional subcategories, you sometimes need to list certain keywords.

Yes – this last one means you can actually be listed under more than two categories. Appearing in these extra-subcategories means your book is seen by more people and competes against fewer other titles.

To get listed in these subcategories, you cannot just select them from a drop-down menu. You must select a category AND certain keywords. And you don’t have to guess at what the “secret” keywords are. Amazon gives you a list.

To see a list of keyword choices for all major genres, click here and then click ‘categories with keyword requirements.’

Keywords

So, as you can see from above, keywords are important and are definitely a step you don’t want to skip. Not only can these keywords put your book into subcategories of your genre, they help potential readers find your book.

This means you need to figure out what words readers might use when searching for a book on Amazon. This might take you some research/thought.

One way to check this out is to do a search on Amazon. Type in your genre (fantasy) or type of character (dragon) and see what other suggestions come up in the drop-down menu.

Here are some tips from KDP on selecting your keywords.

  • Combine keywords in the most logical order. Customers search for ‘military science fiction’ but probably not for ‘fiction science military.’
  • Pick useful keywords:
    • Setting (Colonial America)
    • Character types (single dad, veteran)
    • Character roles (strong female lead)
    • Plot themes (coming of age, forgiveness)
    • Story tone (dystopian, feel-good)
  • Keywords to Avoid:
    • Information covered elsewhere in your book’s metadata (title, contributors, etc.)
    • Subjective claims about quality (e.g. “best novel ever”)
    • Time-sensitive statements (“new,” “on sale,” “available now”)
    • Information common to most items in the category (“book”)
    • Spelling errors
    • Variants of spacing, punctuation, capitalization, and pluralization (“80GB” and “80 GB,” “computer” and “computers,” etc.). Exception: Words translated in more than one way (e.g. “Mao Zedong” or “Mao Tse-tung,” “Hanukkah” or “Chanukah”
    • Anything misrepresentative like the name of an author not associated with your book. This kind of information can create a confusing customer experience. Kindle Direct Publishing has a zero-tolerance policy for metadata that is meant to advertise, promote, or mislead.
    • Quotation marks in search terms. Single words work better than phrases, and specific words work better than general ones. If you enter “complex suspenseful whodunit,” only people who type all of those words will find your book. For better results, enter this: complex, suspenseful, whodunit. Customers can search for any of those words and find your book.
    • Amazon program names like as “Kindle Unlimited” or “KDP Select”

Between selecting keywords from Amazon’s chart and suggestions from the drop-down search menu, you should be able to select seven good keywords and have your ebook positioned for buyers to find. And feel free to experiment and change these words to your heart’s content as you find what works.

An easy way to find out which categories your book is currently in is to scroll down to the bottom of the sales page and check where it says ‘Look for Similar Books by Category’. This example shows all the categories my novel, Summoned, is current listed in.

Previous topics

#1 – Deciding to write a novel – Writing Myths

#2 – Three areas to develop before starting to write a novel

#3 – Finding a Story Idea and How to Know if it “good enough”

#4 – Developing Characters for your Novel

#5 – Major characters? Minor Characters? Where does everyone fit in?

#6 – Developing the Setting for your Novel

#7 – The importance of developing conflict in your novel plot

#8 – To Outline or not to outline 

#9 – The importance of a story arc

#10 – The importance of tension and pace

#11 – Prologue and opening scenes

#12 – Beginning and ending scenes in a novel

#13 – The importance of dialogue…and a few tips on how to write it

#14 – Using Internal Dialogue in your novel

#15 – More dialogue tips and help with dialogue tags

#16 – Knowing and incorporating back story into your novel

#17 – Hinting at what is to come with foreshadowing

#18 – Tips for writing different scenes in your novel

#19 – Dealing with Writer’s Block

#20 – Killing a Character in your Novel

#21 – Keeping things realistic in your novel

#22 – Establishing Writing Goals and Developing Good Writing Habits

#23 – Using the five senses and passive voice in your novel

#24 – The benefit of research in fiction writing

#25 – Novella or Novel, Trilogy or Series – decisions for writers

#26 – Avoiding Plot and Character Clichés

#27 – Novel Writing – Endings and Epilogues

#28 – Fantasy Novel Writing – World Building, Dragons, Magic and More

#29 – Finishing your First Draft

#30 – Your Second Draft and Beyond

#31 – Picking Stronger Words and Watching out for Homonyms

#32 – Omitting unnecessary words in your novel

#33 – Beta Reader, Proofreaders and Copy Editors

#34 – Knowing your grammar or at least using a grammar checking program

#35 – Using a Revision Outline during your Novel Editing

#36 – Editing Techniques: Taking a Break and Reading Aloud

#37 – Publishing Options for your book

#38 – Self-publishing an ebook decisions

#39 – Picking Your Book Title and Your Pen Name

#40 – Investing in an eye-catching book cover

#41 – Writing an awesome book blurb

#42 – Deciding on Front Matter for your novel

#43 – Deciding on Back Matter for your novel

#44 – Formatting your eBook for publication

#45 – Pricing your e-book

Buying ads to sell your book

Publishing a book and then hoping someone will stumble upon it and buy it will result in very few sales. To be successful you will need to market your book. This is an ongoing process that usually begins before you publish.

One option for marketing is to buy advertisements. There are a variety of places where you can advertise – Amazon, Goodreads, Facebooks, Book/Reader websites such as BookBub, Kindle News Daily and Ereader News Daily (and many more).

Some websites offer you a banner ad at the top of their website or perhaps a listing on their “special” or “deal section.” And some even will include your information in their e-mail newsletter. Other sites will offer advertising based on a Cost-per-Click program. This is where you have an advertisement (sometimes just copy and sometimes with an image) and you only pay for the people who click on the link in your ad.

In April, I chose to pay for adverting to promote my last KDP Select free promo for The Heir to Alexandra. I spent $15 ($5 a day) to appear on Digital Book Today’s website and $15 to appear in E-Reader News Today’s e-mail newsletter and on their website for one day. I feel that the E-Reader News ad, in particular, was especially beneficial and saw the most downloads on the day of my ad. (See all my results here.)

Of course in my instance, I was giving away a book. Advertising for a book in which someone has to part with their hard-earned dollars is quite different. Many people will download a free book if it only slightly interests them. They will not do the same when they must pay for the book. In that case, your ad must hook the reader into purchasing your book.

If you are going to purchase an ad on any of website, I would suggest you research whether this will help you reach your target market of readers. It doesn’t help to just advertise your books to readers. You need to get it in front of those that actually might read your book.

Some websites such as BookBub send out emails to those people who indicated they like a certain genre. So if you write fantasy, your ad will only go to Fantasy readers. (Click here for a review of advertising with BookBub.)

But let’s take a moment and talk about the other method of advertising – Cost-per-Click programs (CPC). Sites such as Goodreads, Facebook, Amazon, and Google all offer this type of program.

The good thing about most CPC programs is generally it is easy to target readers of your book genre. You can even narrow it by location, age, or gender. This means your ad reaches the people most likely to buy your book.

With CPC, you only pay for the ads where someone clicks on your link. Typically, you set a budget of how much you are willing to spend either per day or for the length of your campaign. Most of the places also let you decide how much you will pay per click but be warned in most cases the lower the amount you “bid” the less your ad will be displayed.

And in some cases like Goodreads, they determine how often your ad is shown based on the initial response to your ad. So if no one clicks on it, you get charged nothing but Goodreads won’t show your ad as much. The ads with more clicks in the first few hundred impressions are shown more frequently. Each ad gets a fresh start the next day.

One indie author reported her book was listed at $2.99. When she tried a bid of 10 cents per click, she didn’t get many responses and moved up to 50 cents a click which increased her click-through rate. But to break even on the cost of her advertisement, at least one person out of every four would have to buy her book. In other words, if she didn’t hook a fourth of the readers, she wouldn’t break even and certainly wouldn’t be making money from her advertising effort.

On Facebook, you can run campaigns to promote your page or to sell your book. Here is a link to a report about getting likes (and how it isn’t worth it).

You can, however, run ads to sell your book but many authors have tried this and even when trying to give a book away for free reported that advertising on Facebook didn’t do well.

Just as a note, on July 8, Facebook announced that they updated their cost per click to only include clicks to websites and apps and not include likes, shares or comments.

Amazon offers their Kindle Direct Publishing ads that will promote your book across Amazon and on Kindle E-readers. Campaigns start as low as $100 and are on the CPC plan. Your ads can appear on product pages as well as on the Kindle screen saver or as a banner on the Kindle home screen.

You can also do CPC ads on search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo. If you hadn’t noticed, whenever you perform a search, the top results are sometimes from paid advertisers. For tips to writing a Google Ad, click here.

google ads

Now I don’t know if any of these CPC ads help sell books or not. But if nothing else you may get some exposure. Remember that often people have to see something multiple times before they take the time to look into it and in the case of looking at books, hopefully make a purchase.

For another author’s opinion on whether pay per click ads work to sell books, click here.

 

 

KDP Select free book promo results

HeirAlexandria_ebookcoverI posted about trying out Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select back in January before I released my fourth full-length fantasy novel The Heir to Alexandria. It would be my second time trying the Kindle program. (I first tried it with my short story The Search.)

KDP Select is a program where you sell your e-book exclusively on Amazon. As part of the perks, you can either offer your book free for up to five days or offer it at a discount using their Kindle Countdown promotion. Your agreement with Amazon lasts 90 days, and then you can choose whether to renew your enrollment in the program or not.

Now some authors don’t like the program for its exclusivity as not all readers have a Kindle. You could be losing or angering some fans who have a different e-reader. By choosing to be exclusive to Amazon, you are in a sense putting all your eggs in one basket (though a really good basket as Amazon is the largest e-book retailer).

Now my thought about this is that I would only use the program for the initial 90 days and then release my e-book in other formats at Barnes & Noble, Kobo store, I Tunes and all the other e-book retailers after that. I don’t have such a following (yet) that I need to worry about angering my fans by only using Amazon for a short period.

So now let’s get on to my results from using KDP Select’s free book promotion.

First Free E-book Offer

I was really busy when my book came out at the end of January that I didn’t get a chance to offer it for free until March. Research showed that Tuesday and Wednesday would be best for a free promotion. So I picked March 10-11, which was during my kids’ Spring Break vacation from school.

Figuring out how to get the word out about your free book is always complex. I of course announced it on my blog, and my Tribber team helped spread the word. I also listed it on Independent Author Network‘s and World Literary Cafe’s free book sections. Many other websites won’t list your free book if you don’t have the required amount of reviews (typically 20 or more 4 or 5 star reviews) so I didn’t have a lot of other options.

Here is the breakdown from my first two free days…

March 10 – 65 books

March 11 – 11 books

Total free books – 76

Now that wasn’t as good as a result as I would have wanted. But my April was set to be really busy in the beginning and many websites, in addition to the review requirements, want notice of up to weeks in advance.

Second Free E-book Offer

So for my second set of free days, I decided to purchase a few advertisements. I spent $15 ($5 a day) to appear on Digital Book Today‘s website. I also applied to be on E-Reader News Today‘s email and website. (They have to approve you.) For only $15 I would be on Wednesday’s e-mail list and on their homepage. So in addition to these and my previous efforts, this time my free days would also happen during the A to Z challenge when my blog would be getting more traffic.

Here is the breakdown of my second set of free days…

April 21 – 234 books

April 22 (day of E-Reader News Ad) – 1769 books

April 23 – 737 books

Total free books – 2740

top 100 - 82During the free promotion and the week after, I received three new reviews and sold five copies of The Search, two copies of Summoned (Book 1 of my trilogy), one copy of Quietus (Book 2 of my trilogy), and five copies of my trilogy box set. This is in comparison to only one box set sold during my March free promo.

#1 fantasyDuring the free promo, I also rose in sales rank. The Heir to Alexandria got as high as 82 on Kindle’s top 100 free list. It also stayed at number 1 in Epic Fantasy for a whole day.

So do I regret offering my hard work for free? Not at all. I am pleased with the results. I gained reviews and sales. And hopefully as more people read my free book, I will get more of both.

(Really, a free book promo only benefits an author who has other books to offer.)

Of course now my deal with Amazon is over. I have since published my novel on Smashwords and soon it will be available at more e-book retailers.

 

Pre-Orders: Are they worth it?

When I published my first three novels, setting up a pre-order was not available to self-published authors. Since then, both Amazon and Smashwords have begun offering pre-orders.

This means up to three months before your release, you can already start selling books. Now for established authors, this might be a big advantage. The success for small-scale authors is typically not as good.

Smashwords

Smashword offers you the pre-order option which means your pre-order will be on their affiliates – Kobo Store, iTunes and Barnes & Noble.

There are several benefits to this. Because you determine the pre-order time period and launch date in advance, you are certain your book will be available on the release date rather than waiting for your book to go up at the respective retailers whenever it filters through Smashwords’ approval process.

This will help you in marketing as you will already have your purchase links available for blogs featuring your new release or to post on your own website.

But one of the biggest benefits is that all pre-orders get credited all at once on your launch date. This can pop your novel into the bestseller list for those respective stores. This of course adds to your exposure to potential readers. You can read more about this on Smashwords’ blog.

Amazon

preorder amazonUnlike the method used by Smashwords, Amazon counts any pre-order sales immediately. This will affect your books ranking during the course of the pre-order and not have as big of an impact on launch day. For this reason, some authors feel it dilutes their sales during launch week and adversely affects chart position during what some consider a crucial period.

Another plus for doing pre-orders through either company is that reviewers can star leaving reviews (although not as verified purchases) before your book is released.

Now remember that if you are doing a pre-order, your book must be ready to upload to the respective sites. You can always upload a different version before launch day but remember that the first 10% to 20% of your book will be offered as a sample so you will want to make sure your work is well edited prior to uploading.

Are pre-orders worth it for new, unknown authors?

It makes sense that established authors would have the best possibility to sell their books as a pre-order. The Smashword blog suggests that with the appropriate marketing, a less established author can do well with pre-orders and see their book crack the top 10 or top 20 of their genre list if they can steadily collect some pre-orders.

While this may be true, I am not sure how many pre-orders (beyond friends and family) most newbie authors can accumulate. I know that I never pre-order a book, and if I did, it would probably be for an author in which I know what I am getting. (In other words, an established, popular author.)

So, The Heir to Alexandria, will be released next week. I did not offer it as a pre-order. I don’t feel I have the fan following needed to make pre-orders worth it with only three other full-length novels to my name. (I have read numerous places that authors need three to five books under their belts before they really begin to get traction.) Now perhaps after this, with the next book, I might give it a try.

If you want to read some more of the pros and cons of pre-orders, check out this blog.

Buying the kids’ Halloween Costumes

Anyone who knows me knows I am a planner. We will never be the family on Halloween still trying to find a discount costume. For as much as I like a bargain, I won’t want to wait until the last minute.

Who am I kidding? Like I said – planner here! I won’t even be waiting a week before Halloween to purchase the kids’ costumes. We had our costumes bought in the middle of September. No, we didn’t rush out and buy them as soon as stores started stocking them. I purchased them online. I have done this the past few years and love it.

Not only can I find a costume in the size I want (without running all over the town to find that size), but I get it at an awesome price which is lower than our local stores. I have bought them off E-bay (brand new), Amazon or Walmart’s website and usually saved 20-30% off the normal retail price. Add in the free shipping and these costumes are always great deals.

IMG_2465Now if I was a crafty-type momma, I would be making my kids unique costumes. But I am too busy for that and frankly, not that crafty. I did make a pirate costume for Jase’s third-grade performance. I just cut up some clothes we already had and added a $2 eye patch. Of course, he lost the eye patch the day before the performance, so we added a maroon pirate scarf for his head. I thought it turned out great. But this is the extent of my craftiness. I don’t sew but can use scissors!

So this year, Jase originally said he wanted to be a knight. But while looking online, he saw an ARF Trooper. For those of you not up to snuff on your Star Wars knowledge, an Advanced Recon Force trooper (or simply ARF Trooper) was used to scout enemy positions and sometimes to carry out surprise attacks. They wear special camouflaged armor. Jase being a big Clone Wars/Star Wars fan fell in love with this costume. It came in early enough that he even wore it to the Alamo City Comic Con at the end of September.

CIMG3400Now Lexie, on the other hand, has changed her mind a few times. For a while, she wanted to be a pink Power Ranger. But she kept coming back to Queen Elsa (from the movie Frozen – in case you have been hiding under a rock or don’t have kids). She received a Queen Elsa costume for her birthday. Originally, I was just going to buy her the wig/hair piece that she wanted. And then while on E-bay I saw a different Elsa dress I liked. It was cheap as it came from China, and they sold it with a tiara, wand and Elsa hair braid. Perfect. Lexie loves it. And she too wore it to the Comic Con and people raved about it.

So this year we are all set for Halloween. Now it is just a matter of not letting them ruin their new costumes and not losing any of the pieces like we did on that pirate costume. There are only 18 more days until the big candy-hauling night.