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Posts tagged ‘KDP Select’

KDP Select or Not?

Yesterday, a FB friend asked whether she should set her new book up on Amazon so it could be “borrowed”. The discussion turned into one a number of people were interested in — in fact, one of the participants asked Sarah if MGC could do a post on KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited from an author’s point of view. Since Sarah is away from home and I didn’t have a topic ready to go this morning, I’m stealing the idea.

I’ve been on the record for some time telling writers that they need to explore how well their books sell on the various different platforms available to us. I know some who sell well on Kobo or Barnes and Noble. Some love Smashwords. But, most of the writers I know have all come to one conclusion: the majority of their sales come from Amazon.

For myself, I had my books on all the major markets for awhile. I used Smashwords first to get into some of them and then moved to Draft2Digital. Of the two companies, I far and away preferred Draft2Digital for ease of use and ease of understanding their reports as well as payment schedules. However, the one thing that was consistent between the two of them was that my Apple sales were almost non-existent. Kobo not much more. B&N I uploaded myself and if I made double digits between them, I had to call it a good month. At the same time, my sales on Amazon were well above 1o to 1. Well above.

So I pulled my novels from the other stores and took them exclusively to Amazon. The first thing I did was sign up with the KDP Select Program. The basic requirement for this program is simple. You agree not to offer your book or short story anywhere else for a period of 90 days. You can set it up so the title is automatically renewed at the end of the 90 day or not. So you aren’t tied into the program if you select it.

The benefits of the program help too. Enrolled titles earn 70% royalties in Japan, India, Brazil and Mexico. You can also choose to enroll your title in the Kindle Unlimited program. More on that in a bit.

Another of the benefits of the KDP Select Program is you can enroll in the Kindle Owners Lending Library (KOLL). What this means is that Prime members can choose to borrow one book a month from the KDP Select books. There is no due date. So they can read the book at their leisure. They can’t borrow another book until that first one is returned. And, as with Kindle Unlimited, you are paid for each “normalized” page read of a book borrowed under KOLL.

Kindle Countdown Deals is another benefit of being enrolled in the KDP Select Program. These are limited time discount deals you can set up.

1) They’re time-based: Not only does this give you more control over how long your book is discounted, but the time remaining for the promotion is visible to customers to increase excitement for the price discount.
2) Customers see the regular price: It’s easy for customers to see the great deal they’re getting, as the regular price is included on the book’s detail page, right beside the promotional price.
3) Royalty rate is retained at lower prices: You will earn royalties based on your regular royalty rate and the promotional price. As a result, if you are using the 70% royalty option, you’ll earn 70% even if the price is below $2.99. (As per the KDP Pricing Page, regular delivery costs apply.)
4) There’s a dedicated website: Customers can discover active Kindle Countdown Deals at http://www.amazon.com/kindlecountdowndeals.
5) You can monitor performance in real time: Your KDP report will display sales and royalties at each price discount side-by-side with pre-promotion performance.

The keys here are that the customers can see they are getting a deal and how long the deal is available for AND you maintain the same royalty rate throughout the sale.

You can also offer your book for free, up to 5 days during the 90 day enrollment period. Note, however, that you receive NO royalties for books downloaded under this promotion.

Then you have Kindle Unlimited. For readers, this is a subscription service that allows them to download up to 10 eligible books at a time without actually buying them. For authors, it is a variation of the KOLL. We get paid not for the number of times a title is downloaded (how it used to be) but for each “normalized” page read. To find out how many “pages” are in your title, you need to go to your Bookshelf. Click on KDP Select Info. Scroll down to Earn Royalties from the KDP Select Global Fund. At the bottom of that section, you will see the number of “normalized” pages for that title.

Now, what does all this mean to an author?

For exclusive rights to your e-book — and it is e-book only, not print or audio — Amazon will automatically enroll you in the KOLL program. From a personal standpoint, I never earned all that much from KOLL. It was great when it first started and I was an early adopter. But as more indies and small presses started taking part, and as some unethical “authors” learned to game the system, the payouts lowered. At that time, everyone earned the same thing. We were paid X-amount per borrow. It didn’t matter how long or short the book or story happened to be. That meant it helped writers of shorter works but penalized those of us who wrote novels. We complained, and so did some readers, and Amazon reworked the payout scheme.

Where my income jumped was with the invention of Kindle Unlimited. I’ll admit I wasn’t sure it would make any difference. After all, how many readers would pay a subscription in order to borrow up to ten books at a time? Then I thought about my reading habits and realized I would save money with KU. First, it meant I’d be more likely to try a new author than before because I wouldn’t be out any money. I could download the book under KU, read until I was hooked or not and then return the book. Second, it is easy. When I go to a book’s product page, I see right there if I can borrow it or if I have to buy it. When borrowing it, I can download it to a specific device just as I can when I purchase it. When I try to download an 11th book, Amazon tells me my limit has been reached and shows me the oldest books borrowed and asks if I want to return it.

From an author’s standpoint, this is a wonderful tool to be used to reach new readers. As noted above, the new rules on payouts are also more fair for writers of longer work than the previous rules were. Yes, folks have gamed the system and Amazon has taken steps to stop it. That is going to happen, be it Amazon or some other entity.

What I have found with the inception of KU is that my normalized pages read has gone through the roof compared to what I used to get under KOLL. My KU payment now ranges anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 of my monthly royalties. It is higher those months when I have a new title out. What I am hearing from readers who contact me is that they see the announcement for the new title and, if it is part of a series they haven’t read, they will borrow the first book under KU and, if they like it, will then buy it and the other books in the series. I get paid for the number of pages read for the borrow as well as for the subsequent sales.

So, how much do we get paid? It varies based on the money in the global fund (and Amazon sends an email each month detailing how much money is there) and how many titles are enrolled as well as how many normalized pages have been read. I did some quick math and it looks like it runs between $0.006 to $0.004? (or 0.6 cents to 0.4) per normalized page. Based on the figures for June, it came in around $0.0492 cents per normalized page (again, assuming my math challenged brain did the math right). That doesn’t seem like much until you start looking at the bottom line — and you realize that is money you probably would not have made had you not enrolled your book in the KU program. (Figures edited to clarify amounts — asg)

Something else I am seeing is that my short stories are not being borrowed under the KU program at nearly the same frequency as my novels. That may be because folks aren’t worried about spending 99 cents and not liking what they bought.

There is one downside to the KU program for both writers and those readers who also post reviews. Amazon’s algorithms place more weight on those reviews written by “verified” purchasers. Right now, they do not view a review from a KU reader as being from a verified purchaser. So those reviews don’t get as much weight. There has been push-back from both authors and KU reviewers about this. Possibly Amazon will change this in the future. I hope so. Until then, just be aware of it.

So, should a writer enroll in KDP Select and KU? That is up to you. I always recommend an author try other outlets before making the decision. Why? Because they may find that their experience is different from what mine has been. However, if you have done your research and have been following the Author Earnings reports, if you have talked to other authors and asked about their experiences — especially if they write in the same genre you do — then you may have enough information to make a decision without taking time to try out other markets.

For me, it has been an easy decision. I make much more from KU earnings than I did from the other outlets combined.

And now for some self-promo:

I am currently working on Dagger of Elanna, the sequel to Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1).

War is coming. The peace and security of the Ardean Imperium is threatened from within and without. The members of the Order of Arelion are sworn to protect the Imperium and enforce the Codes. But the enemy operates in the shadows, corrupting where it can and killing when that fails.

Fallon Mevarel, knight of the Order of Arelion, carried information vital to prevent civil war from breaking out. Cait was nothing, or so she had been told. She was property, to be used and abused until her owner tired of her. What neither Cait nor Fallon knew was that the gods had plans for her, plans that required Fallon to delay his mission.

Plans within plans, plots put in motion long ago, all converge on Cait. She may be destined for greatness, but only if she can stay alive long enough.

Like all my other books, Sword is available for purchase or for download through the Kindle Unlimited program.

What to do?

I’ll admit it. I’ve sort of at a loss for what to write about today. It’s not that I’m having trouble finding topics. It’s that my must has been anything but kind of late. After spending months trying to finish Nocturnal Challenge, I’ve discovered two things. First, the basic outline I had for the novel was really an outline for two novels. That’s bad but not unworkable. The second, and more problematic issue, is one that has had me beating my head against the wall the last few days. It seems my muse, aided and abetted by the lead in Challenge, has decided that I’ve written not only that book but the entire series in the wrong POV. Worse, it now wants to be only first person POV. So, I’ve been fighting and negotiating and, well, pleading with said muse to get her to behave and let me work. No, I’m not changing the POV — at least I don’t think I am. But it has left me with little brain space for anything else.

However, there are a couple of posts I found this morning that I thought might be of interest. The first comes from HuffPo and lists 10 reasons why print books are better than e-books. This isn’t a new topic. After ignoring e-books in the early years, traditional publishers have been arguing that print books are better pretty much from the sale of the first Kindle. Here’s what HuffPo has to say about it.

1. Print books have pages that are nice and soft to the touch. Huffpo goes on to compare reading an e-book with looking at an ATM screen and who wants to curl up in bed with yet another screen? I could be a bit facetious and note that printed pages also can be seen as deadly weapons. Who hasn’t had a paper but before and don’t they hurt? But the truth is, I do miss turning a page. However, the page turns with most tablets now at least simulate a “real” page turn.

2. Print books are better at conveying information. And they have a study, one cited by the Guardian. The source of the cite is enough to make me doubt the veracity of the statement. However, I can say that I know some folks who retain more from e-books while others are the exact opposite. I think it depends on the person and their reading habits.

3. Print books are yours for life. The books you bought in college will still be readable in 50 years. Do you really think that in 10 years your e-reader – or book-reading watch, or virtual reality goggles – will work with today’s e-books? For life or until they fall apart, something they seem to do much sooner than they used to. I have books that are more than 100 years old and have been read by generations of my family. Those books may be a bit battered but they still have their original bindings. Then there are the books printed in the last 10 years or so that seem to fall apart after a short drop to the floor or a simple reading. Yeah, right, a print book will be around for years. As for my e-books. You bet they will work with future tech, at least as long as the books aren’t filled with idiotic DRM. Why? Because I can use programs like Calibre and whatever will follow to convert the original files into something else. I have multiple backups to protect my digital library.

4. Print books are physical reminders of your intellectual journeys. Physical reminders that can’t be carried with you in bulk. My e-books can be loaded onto my phone or tablet or e-book reader — or into the Cloud, onto my PC or whatever — and I can have all of them available no matter where I am.

5. Print books are great to share. I have to give it to HuffPo here. This is the one way printed books are better than e-books. You can simply hand the book over to your friend or family member and they can read it. Of course, whether they return it or not is another matter. Sharing an w-book isn’t as simple, especially if that e-book comes from a traditional publisher. Many of those e-books aren’t shareable, at least not unless you break the DRM in the book and that is illegal to do in many jurisdictions.

HuffPo goes on to note that it is easier to write in the margins of a printed book, a printed book has a cover so others can see what you are reading and that reading a print book is better for your health. Most of us don’t write in the margins of a printed book, unless it is a research or text book. Not everyone wants everyone and their dog to know what they are reading. As for the health claim, that is a two-edged sword. Yes, doctors tell you to turn off electronic devices at least half an hour before going to bed. But ophthalmologists and retinologists tell their patients that reading from e-ink devices like the Kindle is better for their eyes. Then there is the claim that print books are theft-resistant. After all, how many times do you read a report of a car break-in and see that a book was taken? Can you say “tongue-in-cheek”?

But it is this claim by HuffPo that had me shaking my head. According to the article, “Print books are fairer to writers.” You see, publishers pay a lower royalty percentage, according to The Authors Guild, than they do for print books. The problem with that sort of twisted logic is that e-books aren’t responsible for the lower percentage, the publishers are. It also completely ignores the indie movement and the royalties we get for our e-book sales. Not that it surprises me. HuffPo has often showed its bias for the traditional publishing end of the business.

Anyway, you can read the post. I’d love to see what you think about it.

Then there is the second post I wanted to bring to your attention this morning. One of the questions I’m often asked is what is the best method to get your work into the public’s hands. Not everyone is comfortable putting all their eggs into the Amazon basket. I even recommend against it, at least until you see if it is worth the time and effort of publishing your work in other markets. But that begs the question of what is the best way to get your titles out there. Smashwords is the granddaddy when it comes to that. It has been around for years and offers a wider array of sales outlets than just about everyone else out there. But it comes with its own pitfalls, not the least of which is the Meatgrinder, its proprietary conversion tool.

But this post by Alice Sabo echoes issues I have run into with Smashwords. Sabo had used Smashwords and had been part of its “premium catalog”. Basically, if you choose this outlet, your work can be published across various outlets, including Kobo, BN, iBooks and more. That’s great for authors looking for wide exposure. The problem, as Sabo found out, is that some of these markets then distribute your books to other markets. Compounding the problem, Smashwords takes no responsibility beyond sending notice to the original markets if you decide to take down your book. It is left up to you to keep on top of whether or not your book is removed from sale at the original markets you approved of and it is up to you to discover if those same markets have distributed your book in other markets.

The problem with this is that it can, as Sabo discovered — and as I have as well, come back to bite you in the butt. If you decide you want to publish your book as part of the KDP Select program, To be part of the KDP Select program, you have to agree that the title will be exclusive to Amazon. Part of the Terms of Service for the program include a warning that you face having a title pulled and your account suspended if that title is discovered to be on sale elsewhere. Sabo received such a notice and, on a couple of occasions, so have I.

In my case, one such notice came when Amazon’s bots discovered one of my titles on a pirate site. All it took to clear that problem up with Amazon was to send a take down notice to the site and then send Amazon an email saying I had done just that and noting that the site was a pirate site and I had never given it permission to list my book.

However, on the two occasions when pirate sites weren’t involved, it was problem getting take down notices generated through the Smashwords system. When you take a title off sale at Smashwords, it looks automatic. Sure, the small print says it can take time to promulgate through the expanded market. Like Sabo, I waited a month or more between removing my books for sale from Smashwords and then enrolling in KDP Select. Both times, a month or two later, I received an email from Amazon saying that it had found my book for sale elsewhere and I had to either remove my book from the Select program or remove it from sale at the other sites.

Once, the offending site was BN. A simple e-mail to them, sent after receiving an email from Smashwords that they had done all they could and they were not responsible for how long it took one of the external markets to remove a title, took care of the issue. Within 48 hours, my title was no longer for sale on BN.com. Kobo, on the other hand, was another matter. It took several weeks before I managed to get my book taken down there. If I remember correctly, there were several emails back and forth where Kobo basically said it would only remove the book after receiving word to do so from Smashwords. Smashwords said they had sent notice. Kobo said they had no record of such a notice. Finally, I sent them a copy of what Smashwords had sent them, suggested they remove my title ASAP and then waited. All in all, it took almost three months to get the title off of Kobo. Amazon, however, was more than reasonable, in my opinion. While the book couldn’t be part of the Select program during that time, Amazon did not take any other action. It was enough that I kept them in the loop about what was going on.

I’m not saying this will automatically happen if you use Smashwords — or any other aggregater — but it is something I suggest you keep in mind.

Now I’m going to go find another cup of coffee and start the daily wrestling match with my muse.

 

 

Digital Sunday

Next week, we’ll begin the Pacing Workshop, lead by Sarah but assisted by some of the rest of us. In the meantime, I’m supposed to find something to blog about today. The only problem is that my brain has gone on vacation. It’s mean that way. You see, it does this to me sometimes, leaving my body behind to do mundane things like clean the house while it lazes on a beach somewhere. It really isn’t fair. So, today’s post is going to be a mirror of latest installment in the digital publication workshop I’ve been conducting elsewhere. This installment is on how to publish to Amazon’s KDP platform.

Comments are always welcome. If you’d like more information about the workshop, leave a comment below.

* * *

No matter how you feel about Amazon, this is a platform you can’t ignore. You can publish on it using Smashwords — and, as I suggested with PubIt, you might want to compare your sales of short stories (or anything priced under $2.99) via the Smashwords premium catalog with sales directly through Amazon to see where you get the most money for your time investment — or you can go straight to Amazon through the KDP platform.

Let’s start with the actual creation of a KDP account and the upload process. We’ll discuss how to prepare a file to be uploaded below.

Go to the KDP site. You can use your already existing Amazon account to sign in or you can set up a new account. If you are publishing under a DBA or pen name, I recommend setting up a new account under the DBA/pen name. My reason for this is simple: if you want to comment on the Amazon boards, any of the Amazon boards, under your professional persona, you will have the account set up.

Click “Sign up” under “don’t have an Amazon account”. On the next page, input the email address you want associated with your KDP account and then select “I am a new customer”. Now click the “sign in with our secure server” button. On the next page, fill in your name and select your password. Click “create account”.

When you are taken to the next page, you will first see a pop-up with the Terms of Service for KDP. Read them, read them again and then read them again. Once you are comfortable accepting them, click “Agree”. Repeat with the Terms of Service for Amazon European Union websites. You are now on your bookshelf page. You should see a yellow box at the top right of the page warning that your account information is incomplete. There is a link in the box you can click to take you to the next page where you can start entering the necessary information. Click “update now”.

Basically now, it is simply filling in the information. You will need the appropriate banking information as well as your taxpayer ID number (this can be your social security number, your DBAs EIN, etc). You can choose whether to receive your royalties via direct deposit or paper check. My advice, set up your banking information, including account number and routing number and accept payment via direct deposit. You will be paid quicker this way because you aren’t waiting for the mail and because you are paid via direct deposit once you earn $10 in royalties. You will not be paid via check until you have earned $100 in royalties (or pounds/euros).

Please, double and triple check your routing and account numbers to be sure they are entered correctly. You will save yourself some headaches that way.

Also be sure to tell them if you are wanting your funds from overseas sales sent to you in dollars or pounds/euros. For your own ease of accounting, choose dollars. Note that if you are receiving payment via check, you will receive your payments in the currency of the point of sale.

Once you have set up your account information click “save”. Once you get the message that your account has been set up, you can click “bookshelf” at the top of the page and go back to that page you were first taken to when you signed in.

To add a book or short story to your bookshelf, click “add new title”.  You will be taken to a new page, the first of two you have to fill out for you submission.

This first page is your details page. This is where you will enter the title, enter series information if the title is part of a series, description or blurb, language, ISBN (not required), publisher and date of publication.

Confirm that the title is not public domain (assuming you are only putting up your own work). Click “add categories” and select from the list that pops up. This is as important as your key words that you will enter next to help readers find your book or short story when they do a search for a particular genre or key word.

Next up is uploading your book cover. To review Amazon’s requirements, you can go here. Basically, your image needs to be in JPEG/JPG or TIFF format and a minimum of 1000 pixels long on the longest side. The ideal height/width ratio is 1.6 and Amazon recommends a length of 2,500 pixels on the longest side.

Click “browse for image”, find it on your computer and then click upload. Preview your image in the preview window on the KDP page. If you are satisfied, move on. Otherwise, make any edits or changes you need to make and then repeat.

Next up is the uploading of your novel or short story. First you have to choose whether or not you want to apply DRM. Then you will browse for the file to upload and upload it. Once it is uploaded, you can preview it in the Kindle emulator on the page — do so. It gives you a good idea of how your title will appear in e-ink format. But you can also download the mobi file and preview it in your Kindle app or on your Kindle. Please, please, please, do this because it will let you see if your links work and will let you see that your active table of contents is present. If there are any problems, go back and fix them and then re-upload your file.

File formats that you can upload are: DOC, DOCX, EPUB, MOBI, RTF, HTML, PDF and TXT. My recommendation is that you upload a MOBI file since this is the format the Kindle reads and you will face fewer conversion errors this way. My next preference for upload is EPUB. But absolutely, positively do not use a PDF upload file.

No matter what file you use to upload, be sure to check every page in the MOBI file you can download. I’m speaking from personal experience here. I was uploading a file last night for a client and had to change it three times because it would not properly upload the linked tabled of contents at the beginning of the book. It didn’t matter that the ToC worked in the MOBI or EPUB files I tried uploading. There was some glitch in the system that made it not work in the Amazon file. So I finally just took the ToC out, let my client know and promised to try again later. And no, I’ve never had this issue before.

Once you are satisfied with the file you’ve uploaded, click “save and continue”. You will be taken to the second page, the Rights and Pricing page.

Decide where you want Amazon to sell your e-book. Your default should be “worldwide rights – all territories”. Unless you’ve sold your e-book somewhere, then you should click this. After all, you want your e-book out there with the widest market available. However, if you want to limit where it is sold, click “individual territories” and then choose where you want it sold.

Next up is where you choose your royalties. Basic rule of thumb is that if your e-book is priced from $0.99 to $2.98, your royalty rate will be 35%. For titles priced $2.99 and up, you will receive 70% royalty (less a minimal fee for transferring it to the customer. This is usually just a few cents per sale).

Enter your price under “list price” and next to “amazon.com” and it will compute for you what your estimated royalty will be per royalty level.

In each row beneath the “amazon.com” price listing, choose whether you want the Amazon UK, etc., prices automatically based on the US price or not. If you choose not to, then you will set prices in those stores as well.

As with PubIt, KDP pays 60 days after the close of the month of sales, as long as you have the magic number of $10 in royalties if you are being paid via direct deposit, $100 if you are being paid by check.

Kindle book lending will automatically be active.

Once you click that you confirm you have the right to publish this book, and then click “save and publish”, your e-book will be submitted. It usually takes a day or so for the title to show up on Amazon. Don’t panic if the book shows up with pricing, etc., but no description for the first day. That happens sometimes but will be automatically corrected.

When you go back to your bookshelf, the title you just uploaded will be grayed out until it the e-book is “live”. Once it is live, you can edit any information you might need to — including updating the description if you misspelled something, etc.

Once your e-book is live, there is one thing you must do, in my opinion, to help yourself. Go to Amazon’s Author Central page. If you don’t have an Amazon account set up for your author name, do so now. Then sign into Author Central using that Amazon account. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail here, because I’ll touch on Author Central later, but read the intro page and then go to the Books tab. Click the “add more books” button and search for the e-book you want to add. When you find the cover for it in the window that pops up, click “This is my book”. If there is a problem with your selection, Amazon will tell you then and there — ie, if you are an author in an anthology and not listed by the publisher on the detail page, then you can’t add the book.

Author Central is important because it allows you to give the reader information about yourself, can be used to mirror your blogs and tweets and can show the reader your other work available through Amazon. Since it is free, use it. (This is why some author’s names are hyperlinked on a book’s page and some aren’t.)

The next thing to consider with Amazon KDP is if you want to go into the KDP Select Program. There are goods and bads about the program. The bad is that you can’t sell or give away your e-book anywhere else during the 90 days that you are in the program (and you will be automatically renewed in the program if you don’t opt out). So that does decrease your market presence.

The good about the program is two-fold. First, this is the only way you can easily take your e-book for free on Amazon. Every 90 days you are allowed to offer your e-book for free. You can split the days up or run them all together. As long as you make sure there are at least 31 days (61 days for other sites) between different free offerings of the same title, you will be listed on sites such as E-Reader IQ as a freebie. You can check out exactly what the different site requirements are. Better yet, you don’t have to do anything to get your e-book listed on E-Reader IQ or several other sites. For an idea of some of the sites available, simply go to the kindle discussion boards at Amazon.com.

These listings and the discussion that can start on the Kindle boards about your books is free promotion. Yes, each free download is money you aren’t earning, but you have to ask yourself if you’d have earned that money anyway. But there are some consequences from the free downloads that a lot of the naysayers about the program don’t consider. The first is that you will get reviews. Reviews, especially good ones that aren’t obvious sock-puppet reviews will bring in more readers. Second, it does create word of mouth and word of mouth drives sales. This pushes your e-book up the different ranking lists on Amazon and that, in turn, will drive sales.

But there is something else KDP Select offers that helps. Amazon Prime members can borrow books offered for free. You get paid for these “loaners”. Each month Amazon sets up a fund for just this purpose. What I’ve seen so far is that the payment for the loans will be much more than you’d earn as royalties for anything in the 35% royalty range. While it might not be as much as you’d make under the 70% royalty option, don’t let that keep you from using it. What Amazon is seeing is that a lot of the Prime members who borrow a book turn around and then buy it when they turn the book back in. So, you have the potential of being paid twice for that e-book. Not bad.

For more information about KDP Select, click on the KDP Select tab at the top of the page in your bookshelf.

The reports tab will take you to a page you need to be familiar with, but a page that can drive you crazy if you obsess. This is the page where you can see your up-to-date sales, sales for the prior six months and your prior months’ royalties. It is very, very important that when you receive your royalty statements from Amazon, you check these. Please note that when you go to one of the report pages, you will automatically be taken to the Amazon.com sales. But you can use the drop box to choose to see reports from Amazon UK, Amazon DE (Germany), Amazon FR (France), Amazon ES (Spain) and Amazon IT (Italy).

The community tab will take you to the KDP discussion boards where you can ask any questions you have, talk about what you are doing, etc. This is a good resource, especially if you are having formatting problems.

What file format should you upload?

As noted above, you have a wide variety of formats you can upload. My recommendation, however, is to upload a MOBI file for the simple reason that you will run into fewer conversion problems that way. So, how do you get a MOBI file?

There are two basic programs most folks use. The first is Mobipocket Creator. This is a good, but not great, program imo.

The second, and the program that I use, is Calibre. Like Mobipocket Creator, it is a free program. Unlike Mobipocket Creator, it is frequently updated. Once installed, open the program. The first time through, you will be asked a few questions about how you want Calibre to respond. This is mainly because Calibre is an ebook management system. However, it is also a pretty damned good conversion program.

Click on “Add books” and find the EPUB file you created using Sigil and click “open”. If you look at the bottom right corner, you will see the whirly wheel. That’s your clue that the file is being imported. Once done, highlight the book, click the “edit metadata” icon above and make sure the metadata is how you want it. Be sure to save an changes you make.

Now you are ready to convert to MOBI. Click on the book title again. Now click on the “convert books” icon above. A new window will open. In the upper right corner is a drop box labelled “output format”. Select MOBI. Click “okay”. Wait for the conversion to take place.

Once the book is converted, you can check it using the MOBI emulator built into the program. My recommendation is that you check it, page by page, either on your Kindle or in your Kindle App. You will find the file (for windows at least) in Calibre Library in your My Documents file, unless you specified a different path at install. If you are satisfied with how the file looks, then you can use this to upload to KDP. If there are problems, note where they are and go back to correct them. You can do this either by editing the HTML code or editing your epub file and reconverting.

You can load your Calibre files onto your Kindle or tablet (or other ereader) by syncing them viz USB.

Like Amazon or not, it is a major market for self-published authors and small presses. Take advantage of it and of all the tools it offers you.

*   *   *

Book 1 in the Nocturnal Lives Series

Now for the promotional spiel. Nocturnal Origins (Book 1 of the Nocturnal Lives Series) can be purchased through Amazon. Nocturnal Serenade (Book 2) and Nocturnal Haunts (a novella set in the Nocturnal Lives world) can be purchased through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and the Naked Reader Press webstore. And, because I was rightly chastised by someone for not pointing this out, authors get a larger slice of the pie if you buy your copies from the NRP store. Finally, as always, there is no DRM added to any of the Naked Reader Press titles.

The Road to Digital Publication – Part 8

Fist off, I want to thank Sarah for stepping in last weekend to give us that wonderful post on covers. For those of us who have been brought up shopping for books in bookstores, or even at the local grocery store or Walmart, covers have often played a role in getting us to pick up a book to read the blurb or skim the first few pages. Covers are still an important part of marketing your e-book, although perhaps in different ways. That said, if you have a generic cover that doesn’t catch the reader’s eye when they go to the product page or see it in the “If you liked this, you’ll like that” recommendation list, folks won’t click through to buy your e-book. The same can be said if your cover screams “Amateur!”. So, if you haven’t read Sarah’s post, please do so.

Today will be the next to the last post in this series. Next week, I’ll do a quick wrap up and try to answer any questions you might have. So, if there are any topics I haven’t covered, leave a comment and I will do my best to cover it next week.

Now, on with the post. . . .

I’m not going to do a lot on titles, mainly because I think Sarah is going to do a blog post about them, but do have a couple of thoughts. First, your title needs to clue your reader into the genre of your e-book. Let me begin by saying I am the absolute worst at coming up with titles for my own books. Nocturnal Origins titled itself. I didn’t try to change it because it did what I wanted it to. It cued the reader into the fact that this was a book with supernatural overtones. Now, I’ll admit it might, on its own, make the reader think vampire but not necessarily. Added with the cover art, it was pretty obvious (at least to me) that this was an urban fantasy (or contemporary fantasy) with shapeshifters.

One thing I do when settling on a title, either for myself or for Naked Reader Press, is check to see what else has that title. Just because there’s another book or a song or movie with the same title doesn’t mean I automatically toss out a title. But, I do look to see how many items have the title and if any are the same genre and have bad reviews. Yep, I worry about the stink of something rubbing off on my work.  Also, if there are too many things with the same title, I worry about my e-book being lost in the search engine if the person making the query doesn’t add qualifiers to it.

Another thing to keep in mind, with an e-book, you are working with limited real estate, so to speak, when it comes to displaying your title. So shorter is better. You can have a sub-title, ie: Book One in the XYZ Series, or a further descriptor of the book. But it will become muddled on the e-book thumbnail, which is the first thing your potential reader sees. So, keep that always in the back of your mind and go back to read Sarah’s post on covers.

The next thing to consider is pricing. Yes, yes, I know. There is no consensus on this. There are those who say you should never sell anything longer than a short story for less than $2.99 and a novel should never be sold for less than $4.99. On the other hand, you have buyers who won’t spend more than $0.99 for anything, no matter what the length, from a self-published author.

Now, before you start thinking you can get past that prejudice by forming a DBA and having your own “publishing company”, let me add a word of warning. If you are doing this, and I do advocate it, you have to choose a name that sounds legitimate. Don’t use your own name. Don’t add .com at the end of the “house” name. If you write vampire stories, don’t name it Blood and Fang Press (Yes, I have seen something similar). Don’t call it My E-book Press (and, again, I have seen something similar). Remember, folks buying e-books are usually pretty internet savvy and they will and do google a publisher to see if it is legitimate or not. Not must screams amateur more loudly than naming your “publishing company” along those lines, especially if someone googles it and finds there is no website for the “company”.

Along this line as well — yes, Sarah, I’m talking to you here — if you put your work up on Smashwords and you have a DBA you are using, be sure to have a page for your press. Just as you have an author page there, you need a “house” profile page. This is especially important if, like Sarah, you have multiple pen names. That way, if someone searches for one of your pen names, they will see a live link for the Press as well and can click on it to see all the titles you have published, no matter how many pen names you’ve used. This works as well for Amazon and, I assume, for B&N, although its search engine leaves a lot to be desired.

Back to pricing. My recommendation for those who have not yet garnered a following, is simple. Short stories are $0.99. Novellas are $1.99 or $2.99. For all of these, be sure to note in the product description that they are short stories or novellas. It is amazing the number of folks who will give negative reviews because they liked the plot but it was too short. They wanted more. You will really get this if you are seen to be overpricing for your work. First novels should be no more than $4.99 and my gut feeling is they should be no more than $2.99. Note, I said first novels. And, before I hear the cries that first novels published through NRP are priced higher, they are. But we aren’t having to fight the uprising in some quarters against self-published authors. Yes, I know this does fly in the face of advice given by others, and I’m not saying it’s wrong. What I am saying is that right now, with the abundance of books and short stories being offered for free through the KDP Select Program on Amazon, you are having to fight to get your just released e-book into the hands of readers being offered hundreds of freebies every day.

Does that mean I think you should immediately offer your new title in the the KDP Select Program. Not only no, but hell no. The program, which is offered to anyone who is publishing their work through Amazon KDP has some downsides. The first is that you can’t offer your titles anywhere else during a 90 day period. My recommendation is to put your work out in as many markets as possible to start. See where the bulk of your sales happen over a period of months. While the vast majority of my sales come from Amazon, it isn’t always the case. So don’t go into the program without doing your homework first.

Also, based on personal experience and on talking with other writers and readers, there’s a trend I’m seeing. Because of the number of titles being offered each day, a lot of people are simply skipping over those titles that 1) are easily identifiable as self-published by new authors, and/or 2) have no reviews, and/or 3) the product description is poorly written or formatted. So, make sure you have legitimate purchaser reviews up, favorable ones, before putting your e-book into the program. By legitimate, I mean from people who have actually read the book and who don’t have the same last name as you. Sock puppets are usually discovered pretty quickly and have been known to be reported to Amazon.

As for product descriptions, well, those are difficult and I’m not sure there is a good rule of thumb. When it is a short story, say that. Give the reader warning. If it is a short story that also appears in a collection or anthology, note that. If you are putting out a collection, list the short stories with a brief description of each title. Note I say brief. Give enough of a synopsis, whether for a novel or for a short story, to give the reader a flavor for what the e-book is about, but don’t give too much detail because there will be those who will expect the book to be exactly like you’ve described. AND they will give you a negative review if they feel your description mislead them.

For example, the description for Ellie Ferguson’s Wedding Bell Blues mentions how the main character has to deal with, among other things, the best man for her sister’s wedding who is very handsy. There is a review that knocks us because that reader expected the best man to play a major part in the story and he doesn’t. We threw that bit into the description, not because we meant he was a major player but because it helped set the scene for the distractions the main character was having to deal with. In other words, he was a gnat she’d usually swat but couldn’t just then because of her sister’s upcoming nuptuals.

So, shorter can be better, as long as you give a fair feel for the novel or short story. Also, you don’t want to give too much away. Think of it as what you’d see in the TV Guide if it was a TV show. Or as if you are giving a 30 second pitch for it.

One more thing to remember, not everyone will be reading the blurb on their computers. Many will read it on their smart phones, tablets and e-readers. So keep in mind they may not continue paging forward if the description is too long.

Finally, keep on top of any changes in the “contracts” you agree to wherever you sell your e-books. Don’t do as someone I read the other day who openly admitted she’d violated the terms of her contract with Amazon by offering her titles free on other sites but not there. Why had she done this? Because she couldn’t figure out how to offer them for free before the KDP Select Program began. She obviously couldn’t be bothered to call or e-mail Amazon. Nor could she be bothered to simply google the question or ask on fb or her blog. She simply violated the terms of her contract. Now, it’s true Amazon doesn’t usually take action against an author who does this. However, if an author makes a habit of it — and if they are very public in telling people what they are doing — Amazon can and will send an email telling you to either abide by your contract with them or remove your title from their catalog. Instead of violating the terms of her agreement, all she had to do was lower the price elsewhere, then report the lower price to Amazon (there’s a handy button on every product page where you can report a lower price). It will usually lower the price and then put it back to normal when you ask them to (yes, there are times when this doesn’t happen, but not often.)

Just as you are responsible for knowing the terms of any contract you sign, and knowing if that contract has been amended, you have the same responsibility with regard to the contracts with Smashwords, B&N, Apple and Amazon.

As I said, I’d like to wrap up this series next weekend. So if you have anything you want me to discuss, leave a comment to that effect. Later, after the series is older, I’ll pull it together, edit it into an easily navigable format and make it available either here or on my blog. I’ll let you know when it happens.

So, the floor is yours. And before I get accused of not promoting my own material, go buy Nocturnal Origins or its sequel, Nocturnal Serenade. Please. My doggie and kitteh need food 😉

More thoughts on Amazon

(For those looking for the next installment of The Road to Digital Publishing, it will be posted Sunday.)

This past Saturday, I posted about how frustrated I have gotten with folks who lay all the blame for the problems of the publishing and bookselling industries at the feet of Amazon. In the course of the post, I admitted that I do agree that Amazon has had a hand in the situation both industries find themselves in, but I don’t believe it is the only reason they are there. Like so many businesses, publishing has suffered from bloat and over-confidence and a disconnect from what what the buying public wants. Worse, as technology has changed, making it easier for authors to connect with their readers and to bring out their work on their own, instead of showing their authors “the love”, publishers have tried to tie authors to them with more and more onerous contractual terms. Add in the fact that, as Dave said yesterday, a lot of the value added services publishers offered has gone by the wayside and, well, it’s no surprise authors are looking for alternatives. After all, most of us want to be able to write what we want and be paid a reasonable amount for it.

I have about as much patience for those who cry “foul” and accuse Amazon of trying to put the big box bookstores out of business as I do those for those who say Amazon is trying to put publishers out of business. These same folks stood by and watched as the big box stores came into town and put the mom and pop bookstores out of business. They loved the fact these new stores offered more selections at lower prices than the indie bookstore they’d been shopping at for years. And, wow, you could get coffee and a danish at these new stores as well. It was book buyer heaven.

And yes, the sarcasm meter is going off the chart right now.

What made these big box stores work in the beginning was the fact they were new and were able to offer lower prices because they could purchase in bulk. Also, the didn’t over-build. For those of you old enough to remember, think about it. Borders, the first of these new stores, didn’t build at every mall in town. They made sure the stores weren’t too close together. Even when Barnes & Noble moved in, you didn’t find them located too close together. But, as the economy improved and flourished, greed set in and expansion plans grew with the immediate in mind and not the long term. Instead of stores being five or ten miles apart, they were suddenly — in some instances — only a mile or two apart. Too close for long term growth, especially once the economy started taking hits.

Then along came Amazon into this mix. Without physical stores, it was able to under-sell the bookstores. Oh the cries of foul that rose. Why? Because it was doing exactly what the big box stores had done to the small locally owned stores.  But still Amazon and publishers were able to get along because Amazon was selling their books, making them money.

The end of the love affair between Amazon and the major legacy publishers came with the agency pricing model. And, guys, look, this wasn’t something Amazon did. This came from an agreement these same publishers made with Apple that they wouldn’t let their e-books be sold anywhere else for less than they were sold through Apple. For Amazon and its customers, it meant an increase in the price of many of the best selling e-books.  Amazon tried to hold out. Why? Because its customers had told it they wanted prices to remain low.

Oh, the hue and cry when the battle began. How dare Amazon remove the “buy” button from certain publishers’ e-books. Authors screamed and gnashed their teeth.  Publishers talked about how evil Amazon was. Finally, Amazon’s customers said, “Let us choose if we want to pay more than $9.99 for an e-book.” And Amazon caved.

But let’s look at this. Did Amazon do anything wrong when it removed the “buy” button? Not really. This is no different from the local grocery store removing stock from the shelves as it negotiates a new contract with its supplier, or the local clothing store doing the same thing. Amazon is a retailer. It can choose what it does and does not sell and, frankly, it should be able to choose what it sells those items for and should be able to put those items “on sale” from time to time if it wants.

Amazon still feels the fall-out from its decision to agree to the agency pricing model. Purchasers of e-books are still asking why they have to pay as much for an e-book as they do for a physical book and they often choose not to buy that e-book. They also wonder why Amazon doesn’t “give” them the e-book if they can prove they’ve purchased a hard copy of the book. They simply don’t get the fact that these are not decisions that are in Amazon’s hands. Prices and the giving away of e-books is up to the publisher.

Now there’s a new hue and cry going up about Amazon, one that’s happened since I wrote Saturday’s post. Once more, its detractors are yelling that Amazon is The Big Evil. Not only is it trying to take over the publishing world by having its own imprints for print books but, gasp, it is now planning to open its own bookstore. How dare it! This is proof it is trying to force bookstores out of business.

Sigh.

What little I’ve been able to find about this is that Amazon is planning to open a test store in Seattle to see if there is a market. This isn’t going to be a big box store. No, it is going to be a niche store that will focus on Amazon imprints, the kindle and kindle fire. In other words, it will be a store that will promote its own brand. Can anyone say Apple Store?

Now, before anyone starts going on about how this just shows why we shouldn’t trust Amazon, let me reiterate, I don’t trust them, at least not completely. However, as an author and as an editor for a small press, Amazon has been a friend. It has opened up an avenue of sales I wouldn’t have had.  It is easy to get titles up on Amazon for sale, much easier than with Apple where you have to have certain hardware to be able to directly upload to the Apple store. Otherwise, you have to use a re-packager of some sort.

And, unlike some who say the new KDP Select program is just one more way to rip off authors, at least in these early days of the program I have to disagree. First of all, no matter what anyone says, the program is optional. You don’t have to take part. However, if you do, you are committing to an exclusive 90 period where you will only sell that title on Amazon. That’s the downside. It means you aren’t getting your title out in as many markets as possible.

The upside is that you can choose to take your title for free on Amazon for five days during that 90 day period. Yes, free. Yes, I encourage doing that sort of promotion. Why? Because it will get people to try your book or short story who might not otherwise. Let’s face it, folks like to get something for nothing. Much as I hate losing a sale, I have seen that this will drive sales. Without going into exact numbers — simply because I don’t have permission from the author to do so — Naked Reader Press took Wedding Bell Blues for free for five days the end of December/first of January. Free downloads for the book were in the four-to-five digit range. Unit sales for the book last month after it came off the free list are in the mid-four digit range. “Loans” of the book were in the 500 – 600 range. We’re waiting to see how many dollars that will translate into. But let’s just say the bump in sales, the fact the book hit the top 10 in multiple categories while it was free and was in the top hundred paid books for awhile once it went off being free helped propel sales as well.

Another benefit of the enrolling Wedding Bell Blues in the program is that Ellie’s short story sales have also increased. That helps Ellie because it means more money in her pocket and it encourages her to write more. Let’s face it, we all like knowing people are buying what we write.

Another or NRP’s books went free today. B. Quick, a mystery by C. S. Laurel, was one of the first e-books NRP published. The sequel, Quick Sand, and a short story featuring the same characters, Quick Change Artist, went on sale in most major e-book markets last week. All three titles have sold well, but we think they will sell better after B. Quick‘s free promotion on Amazon. So far, downloads for B. Quick are in the triple digit area and we have seen an increase in sales for the other two titles. That means word of mouth, even through the “printed” form of linking the books on Amazon, works.

Will this work, or work as well, for everyone? No. Genre, day of the week, pricing after something comes off free and any number of other factors will all play a part. However, this is a program that can benefit indie writers and small presses. Yet Amazon is being demonized for this program as well because they are “blackmailing” authors to use the program. No, they are giving us an option. It is up to use to choose whether to take part or not.

Do I trust Amazon to always look out for my interests? Hell, no. But, for now, they offer me more options and more control of my work than does B&N through PubIt and its reporting program is so much easier to follow and deal with than Smashwords. It is also the bull in the china shop in that it is where the vast majority of my sales occur. So I’d rather work with it, keeping my eyes open and always watching the fine print, than go out crying about how it is trying to ruin the industry.

Sorry, but the industry has done its best to ruin itself. It’s time for publishers, booksellers and authors to all pull on their big boy pants and re-evaluate their own business plans and customer service departments/experience and decide whether to try to maintain the status quo or move forward, adapting to new demands and new technology.

The Road to Digital Publishing – Part 4

by Amanda S. Green

You have your short story or novel written. You have it formatted for conversion. Now you’re ready to look at the different outlets where you can put it up for sale. The only problem is, they all have their own contracts or “agreements” and so much boilerplate it’s hard to tell up from down. Don’t worry. We all feel that way and I’ll give you a couple of general guidelines to follow shortly. However, before I do, I have to put in the disclaimer that none of this constitutes legal advice. I repeat, this is not legal advice. It never has been and never will be. Please, read the agreements yourself and make your own decisions.

The basic rule of thumb is that you can’t sell your work on any platform for less than you are selling it on any other platform. In other words, if you have your work for sell through Amazon’s KDP, Barnes & Noble’s PubIt and through Smashwords, you have to price your work at the same price. Otherwise, you are in violation of your contract.

In the past, that meant that if you wanted to take a title for free, you could do so on Smashwords (the only platform for ages that allowed you to do so), and then you had to report the lower prices to the other outlets so they could match it. Whether they did or didn’t was then up to them. The problem is that by initially taking your product free, you were in violation of your agreements with Amazon and B&N. It was a sore spot with a lot of authors who wanted to be able to take titles for free for a limited period of time for promotional purposes.

Smashwords is no longer the only site that allows authors to offer their work for free. Amazon has introduced its KDP Select program. Basically, this means an author who places a title into the Select program can offer that title for free for a total of 5 days every 90 day period the title is in the program. Titles in the program are also available for free “loan” to Amazon Prime members. Titles earn a percentage of the “pot” for every time it is “borrowed”. This month the “pot” is $700,000. Last month, the pot was $500,000 and the average payout, iirc, was over a dollar per time a title was borrowed. Confused yet?

The downside, if you want to call it that, is that you can not offer your title anywhere else for as long as it is in the KDP Select program. I can hear the cries of “foul” now as well as the gnashing of teeth about the loss of potential sales through other outlets. However, if your titles are like mine, the vast majority of sales come from Amazon. So, the possibility of being able to increase those sales is something to consider.

Now, I’m not advocating taking every title into the program. For one thing, I’m not sure how effective the program will be in the long run. For another, you need to find out where your sales come from. I know of folks who sell more through B&N than anywhere else or through Smashwords — and I’m talking Smashwords itself and not their premium catalog that distributes to BN, Diesel, Kobo, Sony and Apple.

There’s also a possible trend I’m following. It seems, at least so far, that the program of taking titles free for a few days works best for novels when it comes to increasing sales afterwards.  Not only am I seeing the increase in sales, in one occasion a triple digit percentage increase in sales, for the title that had been free, but also in sales of short stories. The other title has seen increased sales, but in more modest numbers. Part of that is because of the different genres involved. Part may be because of the days the titles were offered for free as well as the number of days they were offered.  Both are just part of what I’m tracking to see if I can spot trends.

As I said, I’m not advocating taking everything into this new program. But for promotional purposes, it does seem to be working, at least in the short term.

I’ll talk more about contracts later. I know I promised to do a comprehensive post on them today but I am still going through the updates at Amazon not only to their contract language, but also to their style guide. Let me finish that and then I’ll do a more complete compare and contrast.

Pricing: Generally, what you need to remember is you can’t charge less than 99 cents nor more than $99.99.

Barnes & Noble: You will receive a 40% royalty for all sales where the price is $0.99 – $2.98. You will receive a 65% royalty for sales where the price is $2.99 or higher.

Amazon: You will receive a 35% royalty for all sales where the price is $0.99 – $2.98. You will receive a 70% royalty for sales where the price is $2.99 or higher. There is a minimal transmittal fee for the 70% rate based on the size of the file but it is usually no more than a few cents per transaction.

Smashwords: I’m just going to quote from their FAQ. ” For sales at the Smashwords.com retail store,  (Sales price minus transaction fee) multiplied by .85 =proceeds to author/publisher. The earnings-share rate for sales originated by affiliate marketers is 70.5% net. For most retail distribution partners, Smashwords pays the author/publisher 60% of the suggested list price you set for your book. These rates vary by retailer for sales outside the US.   Apple, Barnes & Noble and Diesel are 60% of retail price, though for Apple’s UK, France, Germany and Australian bookstores, Apple deducts a Value Added Tax (VAT) from your sales price, so your actual earnings share = 60% of (Retail price – VAT). Kobo is also 60% for books priced between $.99 and $12.99 for US and Canadian dollar-denominated sales. Sales in other currencies at Kobo are at 38% list.” Basic translation — you may get more for short stories but may not for longer works. It just depends on the fees that are taken out when and where in the process.

So, how much to you price your work for? There is no correct answer and if you ask three people, you will get four different answers. All I can tell you is that my thoughts on the matter are changing. For new authors, or authors who haven’t built a following yet, I recommend short stories going up at 99 cents. By this, I mean stories of no more than 7,000 words. anything from 7,000 to 12,500 words, $1.99.  If you have something that is 25,000 words or less, price it at $2.99. You might want to even price your first novel at $2.99 and then increase the price with subsequent novels.

The reason I say this for authors who haven’t been out there making a name for themselves is that there is a huge backlash going on right now when it comes to “indies” or self-published authors. This is especially true on Amazon because of the new Select program. What’s happened is that hundreds of titles a day being offered for free. These are titles most folks would never have bought but, because they are free, readers are picking them up, seeing all the errors and posting about it. So, when it comes to buying new e-titles, they are then looking at the price and they won’t pay a lot for a new author. The converse side is they are also not willing to pay 99 cents for a novel because it screams “self-published”. So avoid that by pricing it at $2.99 and give yourself the higher royalty payment at the same time.

The best advice I can tell you is to follow the best seller lists on Amazon and BN. See what the prices are. See what the genres are. See if you can spot a trend.

I’ll be back Tuesday with more on this and more, especially on the agreements with the different outlets. Apologies for not having it all done today, but family obligations have cut dramatically into my time the last week and a half. Fortunately, things are looking better…fingers crossed.

An experiment in progress

by Amanda S. Green

Last month Naked Reader Press made the decision to take one of its titles into the new KDP Select Program. For those who don’t know what the Select Program is, it is basically a gamble. It allows small publishers and self-published authors to take their titles for free for a period of up to five days every three months. It also allows the titles enrolled in the program to become part of the Prime lending library. Prime members can borrow one book a month for no fee and there is no due date. The gamble is that to be part of the program, you can’t sell the title through any other outlet, including your own website, and you don’t know what your cut of the monies put into the lending program will be until after the fact.

There’s another gamble with the program as well — will the readers be able to even find your title when you take it free? This was a real concern for us because the number of free books offered each day have gone from single digits to low/mid double digits to hundreds each day. For example, there are approximately 350 new free titles today. So, instead of jumping right into the program when it was announced, those of us at NRP watched and waited and looked for trends.

What we saw confirmed, in a very unscientific way, my suspicions. Those books that seemed to move up in the free book rankings were those with titles that looked like book titles and not descriptions (see my comments on titles here). Books that had good reviews moved up the charts. Books with catchy descriptions moved up the charts. In other words, books (and short stories) where the small press or self-published author took the time to make the listings look professional did the best.

So, the bosses and I sat down and talked. The benefits of taking a title into the program were clear — exposure for the book as well as for any other titles by that author. The drawbacks — the book would only be available on Amazon for at least 90 days. More than that, there was no guarantee the novel taken into the program would sell. Since we are here to make money for our authors, we still hesitated.

Then I got a call from one of our authors who’d read about the program and wanted to know if we were going to try it. I’ll be honest. Ellie’s call surprised me. Not because she wanted to know if we were considering the program but because she wanted to know if we’d consider putting her novel, Wedding Bell Blues, in it. Instead of answering — because, frankly, I wasn’t sure what the answer would be — I asked her why she wanted to put WBB into the program. After all, WBB was selling well in most of our outlets. Her answer surprised me because it showed she’d given the idea a lot of thought before calling. She wanted to use the program to help promote her next book which will be coming out in February.

This is where I have to admit it’s a book I hadn’t heard about before. Why? Because she pitched the book right there on the phone. We already had several books from her under contract. But, as writers everywhere know, sometimes plots grab you and won’t let go. That’s what happened with Ellie. So she’d been spending every free moment writing this book and hoping we’d want it. If not, she was going to put it out herself. Needless to say, we wanted it.

Anyway, back to the conversation. Her proposal was that we take WBB into the program and see how it worked. If it didn’t work, no harm and no foul since it was her idea. If it did, well, that would be good for all and it would, hopefully, help build interest in the new book.

So, we took  Wedding Bell Blues into the program. And held our collective breath, especially when we started seeing other bloggers talking about how the program was a no-win proposition for writers and publishers. Now, after two weeks in the program — and after five days of the title being free — I can report that it has been anything but a no-win situation for us. While it hurts the capitalist in me (shh– I said the dreaded C word) to give away anything for free, I know that is also the best form of promotion. And it seems to have worked. I’m not going to get into exact numbers, but I can tell you that WBB not only hit the Top 100 free e-books on Amazon, it made it to 119 on the paid chart (it may have gone higher and I missed it). It has consistently been in the Top 10 Police Procedurals and Romantic Suspense. It has pushed the sales of Ellie’s two short stories, Free Surprise in Every Box and Predator or Prey. The increased sales of WBB have more than made up for any sales we’ve lost by taking the title off-sale in other outlets.

Based on this, we’re going to be taking two more titles into the program over the next few days. Both are the first books in different series. The first will by my own Nocturnal Origins. Origins has a wonderful new cover — thanks, Sarah! — and will include new material. It will be promoting Nocturnal Serenade that will be coming out later this month. A short story in the same universe, Nocturnal Haunts, will be coming out next month.

The next book going into the program will be C. S. Laurel’s B. Quick. As with Origins, it will have some new material included. The sequel, Quicksand, will also be out later this month. Quick Change Artist, a novella, will also be coming out in the next few weeks.

As you can see, none of these titles are new. Why? First, we want everyone to have a chance to grab our titles in their preferred formats, without having to go through converting them. For another, well, we’re figuring most readers are like us. When hit with hundreds of new titles to choose from each day, their eye automatically goes to those titles with favorable reviews. Let’s face it, new titles don’t have reviews.

There will be other titles going into the program over the next several months, assuming the trend we’ve seen with Wedding Bell Blues continues. As I said, we’re here to make money for our authors, not take it out of their pockets. If the increased sales trend doesn’t continue, we won’t continue with the program. However, like Amazon or not, they are the elephant in the e-book world and most of our sales do come from there. So, if we can increase sales there, we owe it to our authors to try.

As with just about everything in publishing these days, nothing is set in stone. I’ll report back on how the experiment goes. However, for now, I really, really like what I’m seeing and Ellie is ecstatic with the increased sales she’s seeing. But only time will tell. . . .