Helping authors publish

Tag: 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.

Co-Writing Across Genres

Note: this post was written by myself and Andrew Knighton, and was first published on the Alliance of Independent Authors‘ Self-Publishing Advice Centre.

Co-authoring a book is relatively unusual, and for our military thriller The Bear’s Claws, we wanted to do something even more unusual — a collaboration between a novelist and a non-fiction author. For both of us, it’s been a very successful project. So why did we do it? And how did the collaboration work when we normally write such different things?

Why Work Together On A Book?

Book cover - The Bear's Claws

For several years, we’ve followed Joanna Penn’s advice to improve productivity with an accountability partner. We meet online once a month to discuss our writing goals and urge each other on. Accountability worked so well, it made perfect sense when Robin suggested that we try another collaboration — writing a book.

It’s tricky finding a shared project for a speculative fiction writer and a military historian, but there was a writing niche that interested us both — stories about the Cold War heating up. Ever since the 1980s, this strand of fiction has been popular with a small but devoted band of readers, and with the Cold War over it’s moved from future speculation to alternate history.

Robin already had a story in mind — telling one of these alternate histories from the Soviet point of view. It was a project that would let each of us reach a new audience while finding out how co-authoring works in practice. So we set out to craft what would become The Bear’s Claws.

Splitting the Work

The first important decision in the project was how to divide the work. Fortunately, there was a natural way to do this — playing to our strengths.

The sort of readers who enjoy war stories are interested in the details of military equipment and tactics. As a writer on modern military history, this was something Robin had the skills and knowledge to get right. Robin is also a more experienced marketer and self-publisher, so better placed to deal with that side of producing a book.

Andrew, on the other hand, has over a decade of experience writing fiction, from steampunk short stories to ghostwriting novels. The bulk of the work on bringing the story to life went to him.

Co-Writing a Novel

The story started with a novel Robin had begun for NaNoWriMo. A rough draft of the first few chapters, it provided the core story around which The Bear’s Claws was built, the story of a Soviet soldier invading West Germany and of his sister at home in Leningrad.

Based on that beginning, we worked together to flesh out the plot. Robin developed a plausible scenario for how the war might play out, including interesting details for the action scenes. Andrew fleshed out the characters, their personal arcs, and their journey through that war. Put together in a spreadsheet, this became the outline we wrote from.

As the more experienced fiction writer, Andrew took the plot and set to writing. He wrote a chapter at a time and sent them over for Robin to check the military details, problems with the story, and the inevitable typos. That ongoing feedback let Andrew write something more convincing and engaging, improving the work as he went along.

Getting the Details Right

Robin paid particular attention to the minutiae of the military equipment and tactics, often making small but important corrections to terminology or the details of how things work. This is a genre where the readers know the difference between an AK-47 and an AK-74, so the details are important.

Once a draft of the novel was complete, we read over it and sent comments back and forth, refining what we’d written. Then Robin recruited a group of beta readers, who let us see beyond what we’d been caught up in, picking holes in our beloved book. Their insights provided plenty of areas for improvement, with more rewrites for Andrew and more fact-checking for Robin, to get the novel as close to perfect as we could.

Production and Marketing

Although we’ve known each other for a long time, we understood the value of having an agreement in place so that we both knew what to expect. We used ALLi’s sample co-authoring agreement as a starting point.

Robin is a techie and runs an author services business, so they created a shared Dropbox directory for the book files, a wiki for notes, and an online task manager to keep us organised. Once the book was finished, they created the ebook and print interior files, including a large print version. We hired a cover designer that Robin has worked with before.

Neither of us wanted to deal with splitting the royalties, so we set up a collaborative project on Bundle Rabbit. They distribute the book to the major vendors, take a cut, then split the royalties. As well as less work for us, it means that we both have access to sales reports.

Robin has taken the lead on marketing. They promoted the book on a number of Facebook groups related to the Cold War, and we have an interview lined up on a Cold War podcast. Robin used their knowledge of military history and hardware to write a blog post about the vehicles described in the book, and one about the change we made to history that ultimately led to war.

Conclusion

We both found the process enjoyable, and we’ve each learned from seeing how the other works. There was little crossover between our readerships, so we’ve both gained exposure to new readers. The book is selling steadily, so the project has been an all-round success.

Co-authoring isn’t going to be for everyone, but if you can play to your strengths then it can be a great way to create something new and interesting.

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.

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.

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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