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Shaking Things Up, Pt. 2

Last week, I wrote about how I was considering shaking things up, at least a few things, in my professional life. Specifically, I’d been considering taking an underperforming series off-sale, do a quick re-edit and then rebrand it before doing a re-launch. Well, I’ve made the decision, started the process and have been looking beyond just the re-launch into what I can do to help boost sales across the board (hopefully without spending too much money in the process).

The first thing, after making the decision to re-launch a book or series, is to decide when to take the original version off-sale. The series I’m going use as the test subject is in the Kindle Unlimited program. That meant I needed to be sure I wasn’t going to run afoul of any obscure section of Amazon’s Terms of Service. After checking to see when the books would be up for renewal in the program, I composed an email to KDP Support.

(For those who aren’t aware of it, you do NOT want to use regular Amazon support when you have a question about your KDP published books. Go to your Author Central account and use the help function there. You can either email or phone Support. E-mail is the slower way to get a response, sometimes taking up to a full day. The advantage, however, is that you have a paper trail of the response. Also, don’t be surprised if KDP Support calls you after your email to discuss your issue. I’ve emailed them maybe half a dozen times and I can think of three times when I’ve received a call within six hours of my original email.)

Anyway, I emailed KDP Support to see if I needed to wait until my books aged off of KU before taking them off-sale and publishing the new version. The answer was no. We can unpublished a book at any time. And, yes, I do have that answer in writing.

That means the next question is when to take the books off-sale. I’ve decided on that date and on the publication date of the relaunch of the first book of the series. The other books will follow in either two or three week increments. I haven’t figured out which yet. Of course, me being me, I’m actually leaning toward three to four week increments. I will make that final decision by the end of this week. Hopefully. I’m still doing my research.

What will the relaunch entail? First of all, it will mean releasing the books as “new” releases. That means I’ll be losing my reviews. The books will have new covers, updated blurbs, new keywords and categories. The blurbs will also have to note the books were previously released but these are new editions with new material.

It will also mean doing some advertising. That’s what scares me the most. It is money spent and no guaranteed return on investment. Yes, you do hear my knees knocking and my wallet trying to close and lock. That, too, requires some research into the best ROI.

Things I do have control over are simple. What software am I going to use in getting my books ready for relaunch? Word processor or the equivalent — check. In this case, I’m using Word because that’s what the base file was written in. Conversion and formatting program — check. Vellum. I’ve been using it for several books now and absolutely love it for formatting both print and e-books. None of that is any different from what I’ve been doing (with the exception of the current WiP that is being written in Scrivener).

Where I deviate from the norm is with the addition of two new pieces of software to my process. The first is ProWritingAid. This program can be used as a plug-in for Word (Windows only) or you can use it as a standalone program for both Mac and Word. Personally, I prefer the standalone program because it is more customizable than the plug-in.

What I like about ProWritingAid is that it gives you much ore than the standard spellcheck/grammar check of your word processing program. It does that. It also looks for inconsistencies in spelling or capitalization. It will point out if you start sentences with the same word or phrase too close together. It points out overuse of the passive tense. And there is so much more. I ran it on the first book of the series I’m relaunching and was surprised by what it caught. There were a couple of spelling errors, errors Word (nor my beta readers or proofreader) didn’t catch because the words were technically spelled correctly but were the wrong words for the context. It pointed out sentences that would be strengthened by a quick rewrite or by the use of “action” verbs. In short, it showed me I’ve gotten into a a couple of habits writing I’d been unaware of — until then.

The second new piece of software is one I’ve already begun testing with other books. It does nothing when it comes to the actual composition or formatting of your manuscript. It does, however, have everything to do with how you classify your book once you upload it to the various online platforms. That software? KDPRocket.

OMG, I love this program. It has already paid for itself after just a week or two of use. KDPRocket is a nifty piece of software that lets you find the best keywords — and categories — for your work. Sure, you need to have some basic knowledge of both before starting. Then you need to invest the time to use the program properly. There are some excellent tutorials on the site or you can check out Youtube, so I’m not going to go into detail here. Simply put, you put in a descriptive word or phrase for your book, hit search and it returns different search terms that have been typed into Amazon and Google that relate to your term. But you get more. You get the number of times in the last month those terms have been used, average monies made by titles using each term, age of those titles, etc.

Once you find a term you want to know more about, you can click on it and you will be taken to a new tab. This one will give you the top ten (iirc) sellers using that specific term. The information that gives you is age of the title, earnings, whether the key word is in the title of the book, the subtitle, monies made, etc. You can then click on a specific title and see what categories it is listed in.

All that sounds well and good but how does it do anything more than what you can do by using the Amazon keyword list?

Simple, it helps you find the sub-genres your book fits in that have a smaller competition pool. This is important because you want, for marketing purposes, to break into the Top 10 of a genre/sub-genre. More than that, you want to become the No. 1 best seller in your genre/sub-genre. Then you get the “best seller” label on Amazon and that will drive sales.

As I noted in an earlier post, I have used KDPRocket to tweak the keywords for several of my books. The result? My sales and KU reads have increased — and not just on the books I tweaked. That is a good thing, a very good thing. If I manage to improve sales by simply tweaking keywords, what will happen by tweaking categories?

The moral of this story? I’d gotten confident I knew the ins and outs of indie publishing and forgot the first rule: Things change. It might be the provisions of the Terms of Service for Amazon and other retailers. It might be how genres and sub-genres are defined. It might be trends in how readers search for books. As writers, we need to keep on top of those changes.

Oh, and for those of you who, like me, have sometimes put additional material at the end of your books, please check to make sure you are in compliance with the latest rules from Amazon. Those blurbs from other works, free preview chapters, etc., might add up to more than 10% of your “book”. If they do, you need to look hard at what you can delete or pare down. The current rule is that bonus content should not be more than 10% of your book. I realized when I started this updating and review of my titles that I had several books that now violate the rule. That is being corrected even as we speak.

And now it’s time for me to get back to work. I’d love to hear your thoughts about how to keep your work, especially your older titles, “fresh”. Also, what steps do you take or programs/apps do you use to help stay on top of changes in Amazon and the other outlets when it comes to categories, key words, searches, etc.?

  1. Good tips, especially for the bonus content,

    August 21, 2018
  2. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard #

    Which series is this? [Curious]

    August 21, 2018
    • Hehehehe. Not telling. (runs)

      Seriously, I’ll be making an announcement when I have the new cover art. I’ll announce it here and on my blog. FWIW, it isn’t Honor & Duty.

      August 21, 2018
      • Sorry, didn’t see this before I posted.

        August 21, 2018
    • Unless she has a psuedonym or series that isn’t on her website, I’d say the “Hunters” series. It fits 3 books, out for a while with nothing new.

      August 21, 2018
      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard #

        That’s what I suspect.

        August 21, 2018
  3. mrsizer #

    About content-at-the-end, I’ve noticed two different types of “endings”.

    1. After the last page of the last chapter, turning the page brings up the “Before you go” page. One can go back and read the end matter, if desired.
    2. One must page through all the end matter before that page comes up.

    I much prefer the first. Often, the end matter is a preview of the next book. That’s dandy when one is waiting for the next book to be published. If it has already been published, it’s annoying.

    There must be some sort of marker that gets inserted. Any idea what/how to do this?

    I’ve also noticed three types of “next book” pages:
    1. Next in Series with See In Store link.
    2. Also By – even when there is a Next in Series, it’s not explicitly linked.
    3. Next in Series with an Open link (when one has it already).

    1 and 3 are not the same thing. I’ve had series that do one or the other, but not both. #2 is very annoying because the next book in Also By may or may not be the next in the series.

    How does one tie a series together so it does 1 and 3 but not 2?

    RTFM is an acceptable answer, if it’s well documented somewhere.


    August 21, 2018
    • My guess on how the “Before you go” page comes up before the end of all material in the “book” is that the author or publisher has inserted the “end” tag or some variation of it in the html coding that is the heart of all e-books. I need to find an example where that happens and look at the coding to be sure. (This also assumes we are referring to the same thing when we say “before you go”).

      Your “Also By” (or #2) should be at the beginning of the book. It should also have active links to the store where the book was bought from (ie, if bought from Amazon, all links should go to Amazon, BN to BN, etc).

      Your “Next in Series” should have a link to the store page if the book has been published. Most of the online stores have rules against linking to pages that aren’t specific to that store.

      To tie the series together, you can do it as part of the “Also by” — I do it that way in the beginning of a book. Series titles are listed together. At the end of the book, you can do basically the same thing, naming the series, the book title (with link to the specific store page) and a very brief blurb if you want.

      August 21, 2018
  4. Uncle Lar #

    The other day I brought up Heinlein’s five rules for successful writers, one of which was never rewrite except at editorial request. Of course that was in the far distant past when your first step after creating a product was to slip it past the gatekeepers and into the hands of someone who might actually pay you to print it.
    Amanda’s theories on taking an under performing series and spiffing it up a bit to meet current market requirements seemed to fly in the face of Heinlein’s rule.
    But when asked to help out with the current work in progress I could not but come to the conclusion that it was being significantly improved from the new attention being paid to it.
    And this morning it finally occurred to me that truly there is no conflict with Heinlein’s rule as she is doing the changes at the request of the primary editor of the material, herself.
    And no, not going to say what that material is, just that when it’s released readers will benefit from all her extra work. Based on what I’ve seen so far a very good story is being significantly improved.

    August 21, 2018
    • Thanks, Uncle Lar. I hope you still think so when I send you the full updated mss.

      August 21, 2018
  5. 23 skidoo

    August 21, 2018
  6. Draven #

    Well, one way to keep it ‘fresh’ is not to do a ‘woke’ rewrite. Things are proving… get woke, go broke.

    August 22, 2018
    • Oh hell no. In fact, I came across a passage in the book that could be read as SJW virtue signaling. After wondering what the hell I’d been thinking, I rewrote the passage. For one, if I went “ewwww”, you guys would as well. For another, EWWWWWWWWW! How in the hell did that come from my mind?

      August 22, 2018
      • Uncle Lar #

        How could it not kiddo?
        It’s all those kiss and tell hard left political screeds you insist on punishing yourself with. Over time their phraseology has to have an effect on you.

        August 22, 2018
        • But I wrote this BEFORE I started reading them. Sniffle.

          August 22, 2018

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