Helping authors publish

Category: Marketing

Minimum list price for Kindle books

I recently organised a multi-author sale. Several authors (including myself) agreed to reduce the price of one or more of their ebooks to $0.99/£0.99 for a week. I created a page on my website listing the books with links to where they could be bought. Everyone agreed to promote the sale to their newsletter or pay towards a Facebook advertising campaign. So far so good.

I got an unpleasant surprise on the eve of the sale, when I went to reduce the price of one of my books to the required $0.99/£0.99. Amazon wouldn’t let me reduce the price to less than $1.99/£1.25. These minimum prices have been in place since at least 2017, but they don’t get talked about very much, so they’re easy to miss.

The book that I was trying to reduce the price on contains a lot of images, and the file size is about 7MB, much larger than the typical ebook. Kindle books of between 3MB and 10MB have a minimum price of $1.99, even on the 35% royalty option. Kindle books larger than 10MB have a minimum price of $2.99 on the 35% royalty option.

Most ebooks won’t be affected by this, but books with large numbers of images and ebook box sets might be. If you’re planning to run a sale, check the minimum price for your book before you publicise the sale price. In my case, I was able to work around the issue. Since I have multiple books published, I was able to simply put a different book in the sale, one with a file size small enough to allow me to reduce the price as required. This neatly illustrates one of the advantages of having multiple books published — greater flexibility.

The full details of the price limits for different sizes are on the list price requirements page at KDP Help.

How to Create and use Reading Lists

Draft2Digital’s Reading Lists allow you to create curated collections of books. You can showcase your own books, or create a list of recommended books in a genre or around a subject. Reading Lists use Universal Book Links (UBLs), so refer to my UBL article if you don’t know how to create them.

Create a Reading List

Log in to your Books2Read account. Hover over the “Link Tools” link at the top-right of the screen, then click “Reading Lists”. To create a new list, click on the “Make a New Reading List” button.

Reading List details page
Entering details

Enter details on the left of the screen. To the right is a preview. Under the “Details” header, you will need to add a name. You can optionally add a tagline. Then open the “Choose Header Image” section. You can choose an image from the drop-down list, or upload your own. Optionally, choose a colour overlay to add, click the bar to choose the colour’s opacity.

Add search terms and BISAC classifications in their sections. These will help the list’s discoverability.

The advanced options allow you to force clicks to a single store, bypassing the book’s UBL page. This is useful when compiling a list of books enrolled in KDP Select, since the books will only be available on Amazon.

You can set a custom link, one that is easier to remember or read out on a podcast.

Add Carousels and Books

When the list details are all filled in, click the “Add Books” button. Carousels are used to organise books in lists. If you have multiple series for instance, you could have a carousel for each series.

Entering the carousel name and description
Entering the carousel name and description

The new page has fields for the carousel name and description. Both can be left empty if preferred.

Adding books to a reading list carousel
Adding books to a carousel

After entering these, click the green box labelled “Click to add books.” This will bring up a search box, which will search your UBLs. You can add multiple books at a time. Select the books you want to add, then click “Add selected books”.

To remove books, click the dustbin icon, select the books to remove, and click “Remove selected books”. To add more books, click the plus icon. Re-order the book covers by dragging and dropping.

To add a new carousel, click “Add carousel” at the bottom of the page. Add books to the new carousel in the same way as the first one. Click “Manage carousels” at the bottom of the page to remove or re-order the carousels.

Using the Reading List

Reading list link
Reading list link

When you’re happy with the layout, click the “Save and continue” button at the top. The last page shows the reading list’s link, and a “Copy link” button, which will copy the link to your clipboard. It also has buttons to share the link to Facebook or Twitter.

If you have multiple series, a reading list is a useful way of showcasing all of them on a single page, with a carousel for each series.

Another option is to list related books or a list of recommended books. I have a Cold War reading list, which includes several of my own books and books by other authors. Because universal book links support affiliate links, you can earn affiliate commission even when a reader buys another author’s book.

What to do if Amazon Discounts Your Book

Every now and then, Amazon discounts one of my paper books. Sometimes the discount is so steep that the price is less than author copies cost me. This can happen to any indie author, and it can be disconcerting, but there’s no need to worry. Here are some ways you can take advantage of the situation.

First, it’s important to note that you will be paid the normal amount for every copy sold, regardless of the price the customer pays. In this article, I’ll use an example book that has a printing cost of $5, with a normal list price of $10, and a royalty of $1.

Option 1: Tell People

If you were running a sale, you’d tell people about it, so do the same in this situation. The only difference is that it’s not something you planned. It’s still a bargain, though, so email your mailing list and post on social media. Even your fans that already own a copy or prefer ebooks might want to buy a copy to give as a present.

In this option, your readers get a bargain, and you get your standard royalty ($1 in the example book) from every sale, but the lower price could lead to more sales.

There’s no way to predict how long such a discount will last. Make sure you make that clear — you don’t want your readers to think that you’ve lured them into a bait & switch.

Option 2: Buy Some Yourself

Sometimes Amazon drops the price to less than the cost of author copies, in which case you can get a double benefit by buying copies yourself. Not only do you get copies at a reduced price, you also get your usual royalty.

Taking the above example, if the price has been reduced to $4, you can buy it for a dollar less than the usual price of $5. This is a bargain in and of itself, but you also get a dollar in royalties, making the effective price just $3.

If you have a way to sell them, or use them as prizes, this is a great opportunity to get them at a lower price than usual.

Create and Edit Universal Book Links

A Universal Book Link (commonly referred to as a UBL) is a short link that will go to a web page showing links to all the stores where the ebook or audiobook can be bought. When the user clicks on any of the links, they will go to their local site if the store has one. Such a link is useful in all sorts of situations, but especially on social media, where a long list of links looks clunky at best.

This post will explain how to set up a Universal Book Link for any book (even if you are not the book’s author).

Screenshot of Books2Read login form
The Books2Read login form

You will need to login at books2read.com/authentication/login. Use your Draft2Digital account to log in if you have one. If you don’t, click on the I need to register a new account link to create an account. Any books published with Draft2Digital will automatically have an UBL already, which you can find on the book details page. See below for instructions on how to add affiliate codes or edit the link.

Create the Link

Screenshot of Universal Book Link page, showing where to paste a link
Paste a link here and Books2Read will find all the other links automatically

Once logged in, you will see a box labelled “Paste a link to your book”. Copy a link from Amazon or another store into this box and click “Make My Universal Link”.

Screenshot of a newly-created universal book link
Creating a Universal Book Link

Books2Read will contact all the supported ebook and audiobook sites to find your book. The book cover will appear along with the title and author name, and the list of sites to the right will update as it is found at each site. Your new Universal Book Link will replace the link you entered under the book details, and a “Copy Link” button will appear. Click this button to copy the link to your clipboard. Then you can paste the link into an email, social media post, etc.

Rename the Link

Screenshot of universal book link page, showing the link tools
Creating a better link name

By default, the link is made up of an odd set of letters and numbers, which is difficult to remember or read out on a podcast. You can set a custom link name by clicking on “Custom name your URL” and entering a new name into the box. This must be unique, so the system will check it is available as you type. Once you have a custom name that you are happy with, click on the green SAVE.

Affiliate Codes

If you have an affiliate account at Amazon or other retailers, you can add your affiliate codes at Books2Read, and the code will be added every time a reader clicks on any of your UBL links. To do this, click on “Affiliate Codes”, then “Manage My Affiliate Codes”.

This will take you to a page where you can enter your affiliate code for each store. Amazon has separate codes for each country’s store, so if you have affiliate codes for the other stores, click the “Show Amazon’s regional affiliate options” link to enter those.

Editing the Link

If you later need to edit an existing UBL, log into Books2Read and click “Link Tools” in the top bar, then “UBL Dashboard”. Your existing links will be listed. Click on the book title that you wish to edit, and you will go back to the same screen that you used to create it. Clicking the “Rescan for Links” button will cause Books2Read to search the stores for the book again. If necessary, you can also paste the link directly into the store’s entry on the right.

Using the Link

Screenshot of a Universal Book Link page
The Universal Book Link in action

Above is the Universal Book Link page, as a reader sees it. UBL pages are responsive, and look good on phone and tablet screens, as well as full-size monitors.

Use the link in emails, social media, and anywhere else that you normally share links. If the book has an audiobook edition, audiobook links will be listed below the ebook links. UBLs are also used to create reading lists.

A Missed Opportunity

One reason some authors choose to independently publish their book is the greater royalties they get on each sale. Another reason, more important to some, is keeping control over the publishing and the marketing. Traditional publishers are good at what they do, but they can’t know the book as deeply as the author does, and that can lead to missed opportunities.

Cover of First to Fight by Roger Moorhouse
A missed marketing opportunity

I recently noticed an example of a missed opportunity by a traditional publisher. First to Fight by Roger Moorhouse is a non-fiction book about the German-Polish war in 1939, that marked the start of the Second World War in Europe. It’s currently available for pre-order, and will be released on 5th September 2019.

Anniversaries and Marketing

The book covers the German war with Poland, which began on the 1st September 1939, when Germany invaded Poland. That invasion led to Britain and France declaring war on Germany on 3rd September. The first and third of September 1939 will be very familiar dates to anyone even remotely interested in the book’s subject matter. If the publisher had chosen a release date just two or four days earlier, the book’s release would have coincided with the eightieth anniversary of one of those events.

For non-fiction books, anniversaries of important events can be a useful marketing hook. The start of the Second World War was a huge historic event, and the 80th anniversary is bound to get some media attention. Having the book’s release date coincide with that could have given the release a useful marketing boost.

I had a quick look at a few other books by the same publisher. They were all released on Thursdays, suggesting that the publisher has a policy of releasing on Thursdays. There are probably good reasons for that policy, but I suspect a little flexibility on their part would have paid dividends. An independent author would have been able to take advantage of this opportunity without any difficulty.

Images, Resolution, and DPI

If you’re an author, you should be comfortable with words, but you’re probably less familiar with images, especially technical issues such as resolution and DPI (dots per inch). For most authors, this isn’t a problem most of the time. But if you’re dealing with images in print books or on merchandise, you may come across a phrase such as “Images must have a resolution of at least 300dpi”. This article will help you understand these terms and their importance, so that you can select suitable images for print books and printed items such as bookmarks.

Digital Image Sizes

Digital images are made up of pixels, and so their size is given as pixels wide and pixels tall. By zooming in, you can see the individual pixels that make up the image, and instead of looking smooth, edges start to look rough and jagged.

The word "Pixels" as an image
The image viewed normally
An image of the word "Pixels", zoomed in to the top of the letter e, to show the pixels.
The same image, zoomed in to the top of the letter e

See the images above. The first one is the image viewed normally, the second one shows the top of the letter “e”, zoomed in so that individual pixels start to become visible.

Printing

Example image, 300 pixels wide and 600 pixels tall

When printing, each pixel in the digital image becomes a dot of ink on the page, hence the term “dots per inch”. A lower resolution image has a smaller number of dots to distribute, and so has less detail. When printing images that are to be viewed at a close distance, such as book covers and bookmarks, the resolution should be at least 300dpi. In other words, there should be 300 pixels for every inch in the printed image.

As an example, an image that is 300 pixels wide and 600 pixels tall, printed at a size of one inch wide and two inches tall, would look good. In this example there are 300 pixels for every inch of printed image. If it were printed at two inches wide and four inches tall, the 300 pixels of width would be spread over two inches, so each inch would only have 150 pixels. Viewed at a typical reading distance, the image would appear indistinct and low quality. If you’re printing something like a poster that will be viewed from a greater distance, you may be able to use a lower resolution, but your printer will be able to advise on this.

Taking book covers as another example, a common size is six inches wide and nine inches tall. For the cover image to be 300dpi, it needs to be (6 x 300) pixels wide and (9 x 300) pixels tall. This equates to 1,800 pixels wide and 2,700 pixels tall. If the image was 600 pixels wide and 900 pixels tall, it would have a resolution of only 100dpi when printed at 6” x 9”.

Resizing

It may seem like a simple matter to take a small image and resize it to make it large enough to print at high resolution. Image editing software makes this easy, but won’t always give good results. A small image simply doesn’t have the same amount of information as a larger image. When resizing in this way, the software adds pixels in a process called interpolation, but the results are often of poor quality.

On the other hand, if you have a large file such as a print book cover, you might want to resize it to a smaller version for posting on the web. This works well, but make sure that you use “Save as” to save the small version as a new file. It’s important to keep the large original because you can’t use the small version to recreate the large one.

Also, note that JPEG (.jpg or .jpeg) files are lossy. Every time you save a file in this format, some information is lost and cannot be restored. For this reason, always keep the original file and work from that.

Acknowledgements

My thanks to Henry Hyde for checking the technical details, and Glory Ralston for checking the advice was understandable. Any remaining issues are my responsibility.

How to Set up Local Links to Ebook Stores

Screenshot showing message that UK users get when shopping for Kindle books on Amazon.com: "Kindle titles are available for UK customers on Amazon.co.uk."
UK readers can’t buy Kindle books from the US store

It’s generally considered good practice to link to all the stores where a given ebook is available. What is not always understood is that users in different countries should ideally be directed to their own stores. For example, a reader in the UK should be sent to a UK store where the vendor has one, with prices in British pounds. A user in Canada, on the other hand, would want prices in Canadian dollars.

In some cases, vendors insist on readers buying from their local store. Amazon, for instance, won’t allow British users to buy from Amazon.com. So, if you link to your book on Amazon.com, your British readers will have to go to Amazon.co.uk and find it there in order to buy it.

Universal Book Links

You may be familiar with Draft2Digital’s Universal Book Links (UBL). If you have a Draft2Digital account, or create an account at books2read.com, you can create universal book links. These links take the reader to a page that lists all the stores where the ebook can be bought. A less well-known benefit is that when the user clicks on the link, they will go to their local site if the store has one.

Universal book links are useful in some circumstances, but they require an extra click on the part of the reader, and every extra click is a point where a sale can be lost. If you have space to list individual stores, you can still take advantage of UBL’s ability to send a reader to their local site.

Screenshot showing the right-click menu used to get the Amazon link from a Books2Read page
Getting the Amazon link from a Books2Read page

To do this, set up your book’s universal book link as normal, then go to the universal book link page. Right-click on the store that you want a link for, and click “Copy link address” or “Copy Link Location”. The link will have a “?store=” bit at the end, e.g.

https://books2read.com/u/bzppKZ?store=amazon

Use that link instead of a standard one, and your reader will go straight to the local version of the store, without seeing the universal book link page.

Kobo & Apple Links

For Kobo and Apple links, there is another way to create localised links, without setting up a universal book link. For Apple Books, simply insert “geo.” between the “https://” and “itunes.apple.com”, so that your link looks something like this:

https://geo.itunes.apple.com/gb/book/the-losing-role/id1058016165

This works with audiobooks as well as ebooks. The reader will be taken to their local Apple Books store.

For Kobo, there are two options. You can use a link like this, with your own ISBN at the end:

https://www.kobobooks.com/search/search.html?q=9781466105478

This works even if you didn’t use an ISBN when uploading the book. In this case, the Kobo book page will show an ISBN starting with 123, which can be used.

The other option is to remove the country and language code from your book’s link. This is an example Kobo link, with the country code (gb) and language code (en) in bold:

https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/operation-nimrod

If we remove the country code and language code, we get:

https://www.kobo.com/ebook/operation-nimrod

This link will redirect the reader to their local Kobo site.

WordPress Plugin

This is, of course, all really quite technical, and if you have a lot of links on your website, changing them all could be time-consuming. I’ve written a free WordPress plugin that you can use to do this automatically. It’s available from the WordPress plugin directory, or you can search for “Local Links Robin Phillips” in the WordPress plugins screen. It will automatically edit your links on the fly, so all of your existing links will be localised, as well as any that you add in the future.

Introduction to Book Marketing

If you want to sell books, you will need to market them. This post will give you a head start on book marketing. It is not intended to be a comprehensive guide, but just an introduction.

For self-publishers, book marketing is a long-term activity. Your book will be available at online retailers for ever, unless you decide to take it off sale. You don’t need to make a big splash at launch.

Have a Good Product

Before you start, make sure that you have a good product. Your book should be properly edited, have a professional cover, and have a solid description. If you don’t have these three in place, time and effort spent on marketing will be wasted.

Write More Books

If you only have one or two books, the best thing you can do to sell more books is to write more books. It’s hard to hear, but it’s good advice nonetheless. Having multiple books means that you can experiment, and every time someone reads one book and enjoys it, they might buy all of your other books. This is especially true if you write a series — anyone that enjoys the first book is likely to buy the next one.

Set up a Website

If you haven’t done so already, set up an author website. Ideally use your name as the URL, but if it isn’t available, try adding something like “author” or “books”. Make sure that your website has a way for people to sign up to your mailing list.

I recommend WordPress, since it is easy to update, widely supported, and there are lots of themes, so you can make it look the way you want it to.

Set up a Mailing List

Use a service such as Aweber, MailChimp, or Seva to create a mailing list. Whenever you have news (a new book, a sale, whatever), email your list and tell them about it. These are people that have specifically chosen to hear from you, so they’re more likely to buy your next book.

Add an “About the Author” section

Make sure that your book has an “About the Author” section at the back. Include links to your website, mailing list, and your other books. When you release a new book, update this section in all your other books to add a link to the new book. When a reader gets to the end of your book, these links give them a chance to immediately buy more of your books. If they enjoy your writing, they’ll want to buy more of your books. Make it easy for them to do so.

Set up Your Page on Author Central

Log in to Amazon Author Central using your Amazon login details, and fill in as much information as possible. Make sure that all of your books are listed. If any are missing, use the “Add more books” button to claim them.

Do the same at Author Central UK. There are some slight differences, but Amazon UK will use this information, so it’s worth taking the time to set up both.

Set up a Facebook Author Page

Set up a Facebook page under your author name. This is not the same as your personal profile. It is designed for fans to follow, and allows you to post things of interest to your fans without having to let them see your personal profile and information. You will also need an author page to run Facebook ads.

Make the First in a Series Free or Cheap

If you write a series, make the first book in the series free or cheap. This reduces one barrier to people trying this first book. Because it’s the first in a series, the readers that enjoy it will buy the next book in the series and hopefully every other book in the series.

Amazon won’t let you set the price to free, though other retailers will. So to get it free on Amazon, make it free elsewhere, then contact KDP support and tell them that it’s free elsewhere, with links to the free book at large retailers (Apple Books, Kobo, B&N Nook). Ask them to match the free price.

Add an Excerpt

Add an excerpt from your next book to the back of the book, with a link to buy the next book. This is most effective if you are writing a series, and add an excerpt from the next book in the series.

Paid Advertising

You can buy adverts on Amazon, BookBub, and Facebook. These can get expensive quickly, so make sure you limit the maximum spend.

Google AdWords is also a possibility, but very few authors report success with it. On the other hand, many authors have had success with Amazon, BookBub, and Facebook ads.

Run a Sale

You can change the price of your book at the online retailers at any time. Take advantage of this to run a sale. Drop the price, then advertise the sale via social media, your email list, paid email lists, paid advertising, etc. After a limited time, put the price back to the normal price.

Email Advertising

There are many email lists that promote cut-price and free ebooks. These lists collect email addresses from readers, then email them links to discounted and free ebooks. You can pay to have your book included in one of these mail shots.

These sites all have minimum requirements, which vary from site to site. Most of them require a minimum number of customer reviews on Amazon, so check that you meet the criteria before applying. BookBub is the biggest, most expensive, and most difficult one to be accepted for, but the others can also have a significant impact.

There are many of these sites. This is a short list of ones that are generally recommended:

Bloggers

There are lots of book bloggers on the web, many of whom specialise in particular genres. Getting a book reviewed by a blogger with a large following can lead to more sales, and some bloggers will also leave a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Google “book blogger” and your genre to find book bloggers in your genre.

Before contacting a blogger to ask for a review, make sure that you read their review policy. If they don’t review self-published books or books in your genre, move on. When you write to them to ask for a review, be polite and courteous. Remember, you’re asking them to give up their time to help you.

Conclusion

Book marketing is a huge topic, and this is just a short introduction. There are more articles in the marketing category, and my weekly newsletter often has links to information and advice about marketing.

The Alliance of Independent Authors has a Self-Publishing Advice Centre, with lots of advice about all aspects of self-publishing, including marketing. If you join the Alliance, you can access a private members-only Facebook forum, where you can ask specific questions and get answers from experienced self-publishers.

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