Adventures in Self-Publishing – 1.2 the Basics cont. KDP.

 

So, your book is written, edited (hopefully), and you have sourced a decent cover. What are your choices?

KDP – Amazon. The biggest slice of the pie BUT they are known to be a little picky and have the usual issues with big business (don’t care about the little guy – you). Some authors don’t like the big bad Zon’s business practices – but they ARE the biggest marketplace. They are also issues with authors getting account bans because of content violations, multiple accounts or other, vaguer issues.

READ THE FAQ and TOS. You can ONLY have one account. ONE. You can have an account for buying things, and a different login and password for KDP but only the single KDP account. KDP is hot on this, they will close your account. I’ve heard of people sharing computers with separate accounts being caught out. I assume it’s done partially on IP address. There’s a regular feature on people forgetting their login, and accidentally set up a new account. There’s a post on the forum about this at least once a week. Keep your original log in safe – if you do inadvertently set up another account, contact KDP and explain, asking them to remove the duplicate.

There are lots of password safe programmes and apps – you can save your logins there and only need remember the one password to log in. I googled password storage and at least 10 pages of links came up.

Watch out for KDP Select. If you want to sell your e-book anywhere else do NOT join Select.

I will talk about print books in another post.

Content violations: This is a vague term but usually means:

The type of smut – (some erotica is allowed but anything ‘illegal’ or ‘dubious’ will end up in the dungeon (pardon the pun). Amazon is a bit foggy about what is and isn’t allowed so erotica authors do get caught out. You have to tick the ADULT CONTENT criteria. On the subject of covers.- Amazon is pretty lenient but they do not allow nipples, genitals or bare backsides on covers. If you write that sort of material then have your images with a bit of modesty,

Public Domain – PD books are allowed but there are strict criteria. Your version has to be substantially different to what’s already out there. I’ve seen ‘authors’ with hundreds of titles get banned – because they uploaded some version and put the odd comment in here and there. Public domain is a minefield – tread carefully.

https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G200743940 – public domain

https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G200672390 – content guidelines

Plagiarism  – GRRR don’t get me started on this. Basically – did you write what you are submitting? Do you have the copyright? Yes – good then go ahead. No – then crawl off somewhere and stop stealing other authors work.  Just because it was available on the web, or you found it on one of the plethora of pirate sites doesn’t mean it’s yours.

Complaints – if your work is not up to standard and lots of readers complain you MIGHT get a content violation. Usually, Amazon will contact you about this and let you rectify it/remove the book.

Amazon does usually send an email if a book is taken down, or there is an account issue. Check your spam filters too. Respond to what they say promptly, politely and they MAY rectify the issue.

Uploading to KDP is fairly easy. You can use a Word document. It converts it to mobi (or if you have a mobi generator I think you can use that. Check through on the previewer and fix any issues. It usually takes a few days to permeate the stores.

There will be later posts on SMASHWORDS, DRAFT2DIGITAL and LULU.

KDP and Publishing – a Noob’s Guide Part 3

(C)A L Butcher

It never ceases to amaze me how people (often quite intelligent people) don’t bother to read things beyond what they want to see. Where I work (won’t mention the name) I’m forever yelling things like RTFM (read the f*cking manual) as no one has bothered to read past the first line of the email telling them what is needed, and more importantly how and when. And public wise – honestly – read the bloody info!

KDP-wise – check out the forums BEFORE you ask that question that has been asked a thousand times before. I’ve said it before READ THE FAQ. PLEASE. Years ago when I ventured on the Lulu forums as a noob I got totally roasted as I asked noobie questions and certain folks there really were NOT helpful. Anyway general the KDP folks are but it becomes very tedious with newbies asking the same questions as the person 30 seconds before.

Also if you want advice – then don’t fly off the handle if you’re given it and don’t like what you’re told. There are hundreds of threads asking about why books don’t sell, why the reports are ‘lying’, why the big bad Zon are diddling hardworking authors out of their money and mostly it’s bollocks. There are a number of active forum members who are happy to offer advice, point people towards the relevant FAQ area and try and help, but bitching to them as they’ve told you your book needs more work, or you haven’t registered your bank account etc, and getting snarky is likely to piss people off and remove said advice in the future.

So why isn’t your book selling? There are millions of books available on Kindle, and thousands more are uploaded every day. Why should anyone look at, or even find your book, or mine for that matter?

Reasons:

Promoting and marketing are not Amazon’s job – it’s yours. And it’s hard work, it takes time, patience and a certain degree of luck. There are tons of threads asking for advice on how to go about this. What works for one person might not work for another so there is a lot of trial and error. Here are some of the tactics I use and have used but there are plenty of others:

Author interviews. Get yourself on blogs and spotlights. There are hundreds if not thousands of blogs that will offer interviews, features and spotlights either free or at low cost. (This one for a start).  Obviously, there is some effort in this – you have to search around to find suitable blogs – genre related is better but some people do offer to any genre. Ask the host what their following is – what you get – especially if you are expected to pay.

https://princessofthelight.wordpress.com/ – is a great promotional site. The hosters are friendly and although the author does have to pay, it’s worth the money. At roughly $11.50 a shot, it’s within the budget of newbies.

Get your own blog/website. Currently, we are working on a website to companion the blog and promote my books. It’s useful to have a website – especially if you have more than one book. You can pay, or try and make your own for low cost  Try WordPress.com, Wix.com or squarespace.com. I think a blog of some sort is a must. For a start it allows you to network – and this is really important. Generally, indie authors are a supportive lot and will reciprocate.  Also, a blog is a space for readers and followers to get to know you (ditto author interviews). It’s not just about the books.  Some people say it takes time away from writing – well yes and no. It does take time away from stories but you are still writing, and honing skills. It makes you think about what to write, who your audience is, what is interesting, what isn’t. Of course, many bloggers use their space to share research or topics that interest them. I’m big on research and I think this also gives the reader some confidence that the author knows what they are talking about.

Facebook: It’s worth getting an author/book page on Facebook.

Here’s mine https://www.facebook.com/LightBeyondtheStorm

Recently I took a foundation diploma in social media marketing and one of the modules dealt with Facebook and ads. I haven’t used a paid ad there yet (I may next year) but there are plenty of free groups that allow promotion. Some people say FB isn’t a good platform – I disagree. I’ve bought books directly from FB promotions and I’ve made good friends and good contacts from FB.

Twitter: I wasn’t a fan of Twitter and held off getting an account for some while. Does it help? Yes, I think so. It’s a good platform to get the word out.

Why else might the book not be selling?

It’s crap. Of course ‘crap’ is a relative term but generally, I mean it’s badly formatted, badly written and well, bad. We’ve probably all seen them: those books in which the English language and grammar are distinctly lacking and a plot is absent or scraped from the internet. Now every author thinks their book is great, but it’s worth making sure it’s well written, formatted properly and (preferably) edited.  Do you have a decent cover? A decent synopsis?

KDP don’t have a quality check – that’s your job as well, at least in part. Formatting guidelines can be found here: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A12NQC9HQPI9CA

I find formatting for Kindle a lot easier than the other formats but with a decent knowledge of MSword it’s not that tricky. If you don’t have a good grasp you may be better to hire a formatter. (That might be a service on offer from us next year) or search the interweb for sites.

It’s worth remembering it takes time to build a following. Very few indie authors release a book and it’s a best seller in a week. It can take years.

There’s a particular poster on the KDP forum who tells newbies to write what sells. If you’re like me you can’t simply sit down and say ‘ah romance is hot this week – I’ll write a romance novel’. Well, I can but no one would want to read it. Besides what is popular changes. Tastes change.

It annoys me – substandard ‘popular’ trash uploaded quickly with no care for the reader. There’s a reason indies have a bad rep. Grr.

What I’m rambling about is basically – it takes time, patience and works to sell books. The writing is easy (sort of). Do the best you can with the resources you can spare.

KDP Support Contact https://kdp.amazon.com/contact-us

KDP and Self-Publishing – a noob’s guide

(C)A L Butcher

There are many people who aren’t fans of Amazon for one reason or another, but it has to be said publishing-wise they have a large chunk of the market and should not be ignored.  From my own perspective I sell far more on Amazon than it’s competitor, but of course, there are other authors who’ll tell you they sell well on Barnes and Noble, or Kobo.

I lurk on the KDP forums (Kindle Direct Publishing) and every day the same questions/complaints get posted. It never ceases to amaze me that newbies can’t or won’t read the FAQ and TOS and then whine when they get stung for something they claimed they were unaware of. When you log in or sign up the help and terms pages are handily down the left-hand side and thus, easily accessed. They aren’t hard to find.

https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A32I2OF1510VZV

So here’s a quick breakdown for newbies:

  • Read the FAQ and TOS. Really. This is a contract – you agree to it when you publish there. If you don’t like the terms then don’t sign and don’t publish with KDP. There are other sites – Lulu  https://www.lulu.com/ for example. They publish to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, I-books and, of course, their own site; Smashwords, Draft2Digital and several others. These sites have their own rules too.
  • Payment – make sure you are clear on the terms of payment (which are listed in the FAQ…). No publishing platform is going to pay you the instant you sell that book. If you want that sell from your website – and good luck to you. Amazon’s payment terms are 60 days after the end of the month of sale. So I sell a book in May I get paid at the end of July.  The minimum price you can sell your book for on Amazon is 99c (which is about 77p in the UK). For 99c to $2.98 you receive 35% royalties, between $2.99 and 9.99 that goes up to 70% in most stores. Keep in mind, however, any country without its own base store which must use Amazon.com pay out only 35% – due to taxes and transfer costs apparently.  So some .com sales will show as 70% and some as 35%. Amazon is not trying to con you.  They pay out monthly and with EFT for any amount. There is no minimum. You must supply bank account details. For cheques, they pay out when you hit $100/£100 etc. (per store as these are paid individually for both EFT and cheque) so if you only sell a few now and then in some stores you’ll be waiting a long time. Amazon does not pay to Paypal.For comparison, Smashwords pay out 60% from their own store sales and slightly less from affiliates. They do pay to Paypal but they pay out quarterly for Smashwords sales and the affiliate stores report on different timescales so some appear more quickly than others, which can be confusing.

https://www.smashwords.com/about/supportfaq#Royalties

https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=AE24XS35AM53P

  • If you don’t get paid when you think you should read the FAQ about payment – in case you decided to ignore point 1 and 2. It may be the case the bank details are incorrect (it happens). Check them carefully. You will need an IBAN and BIC for accounts not in the USA, these can usually be found on your statements and are different to your regular account number. If needed your bank can supply them.  If your bank account details look alright then check your sales. Orders and sales are not the same – see my next point. If you need to contact Amazon then use the ‘Contact Us’ link in the bottom right of the screen. Give them time to investigate.
  • Sales and Orders – KDP issue reports (second tab – the one after Bookshelf on your account page). A lot of people get confused here. There is a graph which shows ORDERS. This covers all your titles in all the stores – so everything is lumped in together. It’s on a rolling 30 days so every day it changes slightly. It looks nice but it isn’t actually that useful. Orders do not always turn into sales – payment might not go through, the buyer might change his or her mind or somesuch.  Then we have ‘Month to Date’ report. This shows actual sales. It’s done per store (so Amazon.com, then Amazon.co.uk, then Amazon.de and so on). It also shows refunds, freebies and price matching. This is the most accurate report (usually) and is updated daily (usually). A sale can show up in a couple of hours or a couple of days.  There is the prior six weeks report – which personally I don’t see much use for, and promotions – which reports any promotions you have going.  It is up to you to tall the payments up. They are produced in Excel so download them and add them up (or copy them into Excel and let that do it. There is NOT a running total of sales. Smashwords does this (which is useful) but their reporting is confusing as the affiliate stores report on different time scales and eventually, the reports of books per store get huge.

One thing that comes up a lot  – ‘I know my friend bought the book but the sale isn’t showing up’. Unless they actually show you the sales receipt then you cannot guarantee it was an actual sale. People lie (often with good intentions) and say they have bought the book when they haven’t. They may have downloaded the sample, or are intending to buy it but they haven’t actually done so.  I always buy a copy myself when I publish something – if the sale shows up then it’s all working fine. Honestly, if you think Amazon (or whoever) is trying to diddle you out of your money you probably shouldn’t be doing business with them.

  • Bad reviews – they happen. Deal with it. Someone somewhere won’t like your book. It will have too much sex/not enough, too much violence/not enough, too much world building/not enough and so on. Some folks say what they think and damn the consequences. Remember reviews are for readers not authors and any vindictive review is going to appear as just that – vindictive. Give readers some intelligence, many will just scan the reviews for ones which have a similar view to themselves, or look for key points. There isn’t much the author can do. Don’t respond, don’t attack the reviewer (at least not in public). Move on. Do you like every book you read? No. I thought not. Amazon’s review policy is what it is. You can’t change it no matter how much you shout.
  • Reviews. Amazon has cracked down on reviews as of late. Many authors complain about reviews being removed – there is not much to do about it. If Amazon deems there is a relationship between reader and reviewer then there is a chance that review will go. How Amazon finds out or thinks it finds out is anyone’s guess. Theories are same IP addresses (so living in the same household), facebook friends, and such like. Officially family and friends are not eligible to review your book as it’s deemed a biased review.  It is a bit zealous – someone who shares a group with you on facebook or happens to know someone you know might get their review removed. Then again they might not. There’s not really any rhyme or reason to it. Only the actual reviewer can request the review to be reinstated.
  • Contacting Support. If you have a problem then us the ‘contact us’ link. You will need to be logged in with the correct email account you originally used to sign up. If not Amazon will not help (after all you could be someone else). Support usually get back to you within 24 hours. Now often the replies are ‘check the FAQ here’ or similar and a bit…vague. If this is the case reply back on the same ticket and ask for clarification. It might take a bit of back and forth so be patient and polite. Getting abusive to the KDP reps is going to get you nowhere.
  • If you make changes to your manuscript, such as fixing typos or whatever and reupload it don’t unpublish. Just upload it to the current ASIN and mark it in the edition with a code (I put V3+date) so I can check on the look inside. Readers who have already bought the book will NOT automatically get the update, even if they have the auto update enabled.  If the changes are substantial you can ask Amazon to push out the new copy and then readers who already own it can download it if they wish. It’s a pain to do and the changes really do need to be pretty major – new chapters or such like. It’s not worth doing for the odd stray typo.  The auto updater not working is a known bug which Amazon don’t seem keen to fix. Oh and don’t bother deleting the book from your kindle and re-buying it. That doesn’t work (trust me on this I have tried).  I think I’ve been sent an email about twice for all the books I own stating there was updated content (and both really needed it – one was pretty much unreadable).
  • KDP Select. This confuses a lot of people. Basically KDP SELECT is the promotional aspect of KDP publishing. You can easily publish to KDP without being in Select. KDP Select has some strict rules and people how transgress then risk at best having their books removed from the program and at worst having their account terminated.

If you opt to enter KDP Select by ticking the little box you CANNOT offer the digital version of your book ANYWHERE else. So not on your blog, not on Barnes and Noble, not anywhere else. KDP will find out, the big bad Zon check. You are locked into a 90-day term (rolling unless you uncheck the box) and even if you leave early then you are bound by this. I know an author who flouted this and Amazon threatened to close her account unless she removed the books from the other sites until the term expired.  What does Select actually offer? Promotional tools. All the advertising such as the 5 days Free, Countdown deals and the Amazon ads are only available to Select. Your book will also be in the KENP program (basically, someone in the Amazon Prime program can borrow your book for a couple of weeks and you get paid per page read.). There are lots of complaints about this new system as authors used to get a percentage of the KDP fund if their book was borrowed – so a 200-page novel would get the same as a 40-page novel. Pages read favours longer books, and is, arguably, fairer.  Some authors do quite well on this scheme.  Do I use it? Not really. I’ve had freebies for Warrior’s Curse, and a Countdown for Stolen Tower but neither netted much traction. That said I did little to actually promote them.  As promotional tools, they CAN be useful – but it must be remembered for the free books many people download them BECAUSE they are free. Reviews are even less likely and many authors and readers believe it degrades authors and their books. (See my guest posts on Mythic Scribes.)

Great Free Book Debate – the Readers

Great Free Book Debate – the Authors

More to follow another day.

 

Happy writing.

 

 

 

 

The Great Free Book Debate – Part 2 – the Authors

These posts grew from an argument on the KDP forums about authors offering their books for free as a marketing strategy. It is a contentious issue, to say the least and many authors feel it devalues indies and their books. The previous guest post on Mythic Scribes covered the point of view of the readers, this particular post covers the authors’ points of view.

So does it work as a strategy? I think it is safe to say the jury is out on that one… It can work, but not for everyone and not with just one book. Perhaps with other marketing ploys it can benefit but unless a reader states he or she got the book free it is hard to tell. There are certainly some folks who like to fill up their Kindles with freebies which won’t get read. And there are certainly some books which are trash, paid for or otherwise. But there are readers who will download a free book and then purchase a full-priced book by that author, and there are authors who have seen good results with KDP Select and other free promotions.

Smashwords give the ability to create coupons and these can be given to individual readers as gifts, prizes or for review copies. In my opinion these are easier to control and thus work better than a blanket freebie day.  Another thing to consider – KDP Select limits the author to publishing their e-book on Amazon only – in return for entry into Amazon Prime, the freebie promotional tool, and now Kindle Countdown (which allows an author to discount their books for a limited time. I haven’t used this one but from what I’ve seen from other authors this too has mixed results.

So what do the authors think of KDP and the free promotions? Well as it would be rude to simply post the guest post here, you will have to see for yourself…

http://mythicscribes.com/marketing/great-free-book-debate-authors/

And here is the link to the reader one https://libraryoferana.wordpress.com/2013/11/24/the-great-free-book-debate-part-1/

http://mythicscribes.com/marketing/the-great-free-book-debate-the-readers/