The Savvy Self-Publisher is a free newsletter sent by e-mail, with tips and tricks to help the streetwise author publish a book quickly and economically -- and to promote it more effectively. It contains success stories of self-publishers in action, and a treasure trove of tools to help you reach more readers.
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Please note: the excerpts below are intentionally formatted very simply, as they appear in our no-nonsense e-mail bulletins.
===> Amazon's New "Author Ranking" Considered <=== This bulletin is expanded from co-author Danny O. Snow's recent report in Publishers Weekly. "The author — not the publisher — is the brand that readers care about." -- Mark Coker, http://www.Smashwords.com [October-November 2012] Amazon.com recently announced that it has launched a new "Author Rank" feature on its site. The new ranking is based on cumulative sales of all books by each author, updated hourly. Thus, a prolific writer who has multiple titles selling well on Amazon should fare better than one with a single blockbuster. It is widely recognized that when a book's ranking by title on Amazon reaches the coveted "Top 100," additional exposure can create a kind of tipping point that propels some books to unexpected heights. Adding rankings by author opens a second gateway to the top. For the smaller publisher or undiscovered writer, this new metric may prove mostly a dismal reminder - repeated hour after hour - of how hard it is to succeed in an industry where supply outpaces demand by a huge margin. However, the hourly update does open the door for a new voice to grab the spotlight for a short time if a flurry of orders is concentrated into a small time frame. Even an hour of prime time could in fact hatch a fledgling audience for an otherwise ignominious book. Since author rankings will be segmented by genre (like rankings by title) the highest ranking numbers may not be strictly limited to writers with huge readerships; writers in niche genres could enjoy impressive looking rankings within their topic. However, a high author ranking in an obscure genre may not necessarily insure the kind of extra exposure afforded the Top 100 overall, as with the existing title ranking system. Amazon's title ranking system (as opposed to the new ranking system for authors) has been the subject of endless speculation, confusion and debate among authors and publishers for years. Newly published titles, for example, may appear to skyrocket in the title rankings after a handful of orders, only to plummet just a few days - or even a few hours — later. At the fringes of the book world, there is also a cottage industry of charlatans who specialize in manipulating Amazon's rankings of books, often preying on hapless self-publishers who pay merely for bragging rights about a superlative ranking, however short-lived or contrived... while deceiving the reading public. Skeptics wonder if the same kind of malfeasance could undermine the usefulness of Amazon's new rankings of authors as well. In the world of e-Books, initial responses from authors and publishers range from strong raves to strong reservations... This is an EXCERPT from our e-mail newsletter. Please use the link at the bottom of this page to get a free subscription! ===> Amazon opens Kindle Outlet in India <=== August-September 2012: on August 22, Amazon announced the opening of a Kindle store for India. This followed summer openings in France, Germany, Italy and other EU nations. (Please click HERE to read the official press release.) English is widely spoken in India, with a population of 1.2 billion, compared to 311 million in America. In a phrase, the potential audience for Kindle e-Books just doubled. Amazon is also making Kindle devices available from Croma stores across India at prices that are affordable compared to competitive hardware like the iPad. In addition, Kindle editions can also be read on PCs, Macs and a variety of smartphones with the Kindle ap. What does this mean for the self-publisher? Here at U-Publish.com we have already observed unexpectedly promising growth in EU sales since the opening of European outlets over the summer. We expect to see additional growth as a result of the new Kindle store opening in India. Another benefit is that e-Books allow US authors and publishers to reach readers in locations where it is too slow or costly to ship a printed book. Until now, India was one of those locations. One potential drawback is that e-Book prices in India are low, compared to US, UK and EU e-Books -- which are already more modestly priced than their printed counterparts. Amazon will pay a royalty of only 35% for purchases made by readers in India, regardless of retail price. (Unlike US-UK-EU Kindle sales, there will be no 70% royalty option for India.) In round numbers, this could mean that the author or publisher might earn only a dollar from the sale of an e-Book in India for $2.99. Just the same, with its "Kindle Direct Publishing" service, Amazon has made it remarkably easy for DIY writers to publish their own books. (Important: please see reports below on related topics.) Increasingly, this market is becoming GLOBAL. It's clear that the entire dynamic of the publishing industry is shifting rapidly in favor of self-publishers, as you have read in our newsletters, and hopefully at the "Self-Publishing Boom" community page on Facebook. This report is just the latest in a series of breakthroughs that we have been predicting for years. More are sure to follow; please stay tuned for updates... See the link at the bottom of this page for a free subscription to our e-mail newsletter, containing tons of helpful reports like this one! ===> "The Lazy Writer's Quick Guide to Formatting a KDP e-Book" <=== June-July 2012: One major benefit of Kindle Direct Publishing is that Amazon sells e-Books that run not only on the Kindle itself, but also on other devices using the Kindle-for-iPad application, and others for the Mac, PC, smartphones, etc. Ideally, your e-Book will look good on a wide variety of different screen shapes and sizes. You can improve the chance for achieving this goal by keeping the formatting of your manuscript simple and consistent on every page. If you are using Microsoft Word, change your "View" settings to "Page Layout." Under "Tools" or "Options," make sure your settings include "Display ALL non-printing characters." (This is usually a checkbox.) As a result, you will more clearly see spaces between words and sentences, tabs, paragraph marks, indents, etc. Using these settings will promote greater consistency in the formatting of your manuscript. The locations of these settings vary in different versions of Word, but the settings above are so helpful that it's worth extra time to track them down. The steps below are intended to help you publish a clean, simple Kindle edition on your own, with a minimum of time and effort. These steps are NOT intended to create a fancy page layout, or an e-Book with pictures, graphs, charts, etc. Instead, they are geared for publishing uncomplicated text-based books that render legibly on a variety of different devices. -- Start with your full manuscript (not single chapters) in Word (DOC, RTF or DOCX) format -- Set up page size to 6x9" (same as a typical paperback) -- Use a 1" margin top-bottom-left right with resulting "text footprint" of 4x7" on the page -- Remove blank pages throughout -- Remove the index (if any) since page numbers are fluid, and most e-Books are fully searchable. -- Titles and headings should be no larger than 18 points -- Use only one title page (the "half title" page is not necessary) -- Use "Heading 1" style for each chapter heading -- Insert a manual page break before each chapter heading -- Create a Table of Contents with settings to display text flush left -- Enable the checkbox "Use hypertext links" for chapter headings -- Be sure to include a "Where to Find this Book in Print" page if appropriate, using the Word "Insert hyperlink" tool -- Be sure to include the Web address of your own Web site or Blog, using the Word "Insert hyperlink" tool -- Save your file in "Web Page, Filtered" (HTM) format -- Upload the HTM file to KDP -- Use the KDP preview tool to review the converted file, noting the factors below: It is common for the first draft uploaded KDP to need tweaking. Allow time to preview, make corrections, and re-submit if necessary. The KDP preview tools are helpful in finding glaring errors, but generally do not display exactly how the completed e-Book will appear to the reader. Remember that each reading device (Kindle, iPad, smartphone, etc.) has a different size screen and different default settings. Moreover, devices for reading e-Books are usually "user definable," meaning that the reader can instantly change the size of the text, the typeface and other features – which alters the appearance of your e-Book the moment that the reader changes any setting to suit his or her personal tastes. To illustrate, imagine a reader using a tablet computer like the Kindle Fire or iPad: if the reader rotates the device 90 degrees, the display automatically changes from vertical ("portrait") to horizontal ("landscape") mode or vice versa, in the blink of an eye. Suddenly, the length of every line in the e-Book is wider or narrower... a completely different layout than the moment before. If you strive for simplicity and consistency in formatting your manuscript for KDP, you will improve the chance that the completed e-Book will display without major problems on a wide variety of screen sizes, different fonts and type sizes, etc. Side note: if you don't have the computer skills to follow these steps, Amazon's POD printer CreateSpace will do a simple conversion for as little as $59. Or you may use our SmartiBooks.com service for free, in exchange for half the profits. For writers who are comfortable using Word, we hope this guide will help you do it yourself. See the link at the bottom of this page for a free subscription to our e-mail newsletter, containing tons of helpful reports like this one! ===> Microsoft Invests $300 Million in B&N <=== May 2012: Microsoft has purchased about 17% of Barnes & Noble, almost certainly aimed at e-Book publishing. This could elevate B&N's "Nook" device from a poor cousin to the iPad and Kindle, to a valid competitor in the booming market for e-Books and e-reading devices. This is good news for authors and publishers, fostering more competition between corporate bookselling giants -- versus near-monopolies, price fixing and alleged bullying of authors and publishers, as discussed in some reports below. Prior to Microsoft's investment, rumors circulated that B&N might not survive a trade war with Amazon, Apple and Google. Now B&N has more funding... and possibly a better chance of attracting other investors, now that Microsoft is backing them. While overlooked by many reports, we also see potential benefits to B&N when Microsoft highlights their products in the upcoming Windows 8 software release, as well as future versions of the Bing search engine, and the Windows Explorer browser. Updates to this subject will appear in future issues of our free e-mail newsletter. Subscribe today, and please stay tuned for developments... ===> DOJ Charges Apple with Price Fixing <=== April 2012: The US Department of Justice has filed suit against Apple and a handful of giant publishers for price fixing, alleging that they colluded to inflate the prices of e-Books. This report seeks to summarize what this means to smaller publishers, and to writers who self-publish their own e-Books. At issue is the so-called "Agency Model," in which the publisher (or self-publishing author) sets the price of an e-Book, allowing the bookseller to retain 30%. For context: Formerly, traditional tree-Book publishers simply set a "cover price" and a "trade discount" with a wholesaler, who in turn made its own deals with retail booksellers. To illustrate: let's say you published a paperback with a cover price of $10. You would probably have sold to a wholesaler for about $5, who in turn sold to booksellers for about $7.50. In this scenario, you were guaranteed $5 per sale. But the wholesaler was free to sell to retailers at any price it wanted. The retailer could also sell to the public at any price it chose -- even at a loss. Fast forward to the 21st century: In the early days of e-Books, it was widely rumored that Amazon sold the Kindle at a loss, in order to build market share. Amazon, it was said, hoped to capture enough customers to recover its losses over time. It worked. For several years, Amazon dominated the e-Book market. Although its Kindle devices were sold below cost, each time a Kindle owner bought an e-Book for it, Amazon recovered more of its costs... AND enjoyed a "captive" customer who would buy e-Books only from Amazon. Now, there was no wholesaler. Amazon was both the wholesaler AND the retailer. Meanwhile, Amazon's policies favored e-Books with prices from $2.99 to $9.99, paying 70% to the author or publisher. For e-Books priced above $9.99, Amazon paid only 35%. The DOJ alleges that Apple made sweetheart deals with publishers of popular books prior to the launch of its iBookstore. Apple is also accused of trying to prevent authors and publishers from selling books created with its iBook software through any other outlet. Why this is important: If e-tailing giants succeed in signing authors and publishers to "exclusive" deals, or in manipulating e-Book prices and royalties for "selected" publishers (either higher or lower than everyone else's), it would effectively stifle free trade and freedom of speech. The damage would impact everyone who writes and publishes, from the "name" author and publisher with millions of sales, to the first time self-publisher of a single book. Taking a lesson from the pre-digital traditions explained earlier, it's fine if e-tailers want to sell e-Books (and devices for reading them) at a loss, in order to attract customers. But ALL authors and publishers -- not just the giants -- should get paid the same percentage, and the percentage should be based on the "cover price" set by the publisher, not the sale price set by the e-Bookseller. ===> Notes on e-Book Pricing <=== March 2012: Legalities and government regs aside, there's a good lesson for the self-publisher to be learned from the recent charges of e-Book price fixing by Apple and a handful of publishing giants: today's e-Book pricing was carefully designed to echo the status quo of the pre-digital era -- but allowing e-Booksellers to function as BOTH wholesaler and retailer. Let's use our book U-Publish.com as a specific example to illustrate: in paperback (108 pp, 6x9", $14.99) we earned $6.84 per retail sale, after deducting wholesaler and retailer discounts and the cost of printing. The e-Book edition ($9.99) earns us $7... exactly 16 cents more. Coincidence? Not a chance! Any careful study of e-Book pricing policies reveals that current structures were craftily designed to hold the publisher's net on a par with earnings from tree-Books... or perhaps a tad higher -- but NOT a lot higher. The difference is that Amazon and Apple are now the wholesaler AND the retailer, retaining 30% of each sale. (In the case of the paperback, Amazon is the printer too, retaining an additional $2 or so.) Think about the future: imagine Apple and Amazon keeping 30% of every e-Book sale, but with NO costs for printing, warehousing, shipping, or unsold books. Both are very smart companies with huge ambitions -- and none of this happened by accident. Self-publishers, increasingly the most promising source of reading material for industry giants to sell in the future, will be wise to frame their planning around the factors discussed here. The courts may force the "powers that be" to alter their policies -- but our bet is that ultimately, most authors and publishers of general trade books will still earn about $5 to $7 whether e-Book or tree-Book... But for e-Books the e-tailer will get $1 to $3 of nearly pure profit. This is why Apple and Amazon have poured huge investments into making it easy to publish e-Books: bypassing traditional wholesalers and retailers, while getting ever-growing revenues from sales of a product that costs them nearly nothing. Have questions? Corrections? Disagree entirely? Your reaction is welcome at "The Self-Publishing Boom" community page on Facebook! ===> Kindle Select: "Lending" and Free Download Promotions <=== Dan's Snow's Excellent Christmas Story Adventure: February 2012: This is a special bulletin rather than a typical issue of The Savvy Self-Publisher. Unlike our regular newsletter, usually chock full of short tips and tricks, this one covers only one topic... but it's an important one that deserves deeper coverage. There's been a lot of controversy (and misinformation) floating around the book world about Amazon's new "KDP Select" program, with its optional "Lending" feature. If you publish a Kindle e-Book and enroll in KDP Select, your book becomes available for members of Amazon Prime (only) to "borrow" for free. You are then paid a small share of a $500,000+ monthly royalty pool each time it's borrowed. For books borrowed in December of 2011, the payout was $1.70 each. (Compare this with a $2.10 royalty on a $2.99 buy.) You earn a little less, but the presumption is that some readers will download a book for free, which they wouldn't buy for $2.99 to $9.99. Is this presumption true? We don't know -- but for the unknown writer, it doesn't seem like a bad idea to try... You can always disable the lending feature later. Some have complained that KDP Select is depriving authors and publishers. We disagree, for the following reasons: -- It's free and optional. -- The borrower can only get one free book per month, and must delete (or buy) it before borrowing a different book. -- You get a small royalty, possibly from readers who might ignore your book were it not free. -- You can always discontinue KDP Select (after 90 days) if you don't like the results. Another (separate!) feature of KDP Select allows you to offer your book for free to ANYONE (not just Amazon Prime Members) for one to five days each quarter. In this scenario, you are NOT paid out of the monthly royalty pool, nor must the reader delete or buy it before getting another book. Here again, the hope is that after reading the e-Book, the reader might order a copy in print... or buy one of the writer's other books. To us, this seems attractive mostly for unknown writers who are struggling to cultivate a grassroot audience. But we decided to test it anyway... Here's the tale: Just prior to Christmas 2011, I made my eight page holiday story "A Kid's Christmas in Queens" available as free download for five days. As a subscriber to this newsletter, you probably got an announcement by e-mail. I also posted it on Facebook and Twitter, but did little else to promote it. I did mention that the Kindle edition runs not only on the Kindle itself, but also on Kindle-for-iPad/iPhone, Mac, PC and other devices... which is an important point for anyone who is promoting a Kindle book. Although the subject of the story was ideal for the dates of the promotion, I was surprised that 700 copies were downloaded in just five days. At one point, it was ranked as high as #6 under free Christmas books for kids, following only a handful of such greats as "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens, and "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" by Clement C. Moore and Jessie Willcox Smith. Below is a link to a screenshot at the time: http://www.unlimitedpublishing.com/images/rank6.jpg FULL STORY CONTINUED BY E-MAIL FOR SUBSCRIBERS ONLY -- USE LINK BELOW FOR A FREE SUBSCRIPTION... ===> News You Can Use <=== For his eighth book, "Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green: Winning Strategies to Improve Your Profits and Your Planet," Shel Horowitz and his co-author, Jay Levinson, donated a small portion of the first month's sales to a relevant charity, Green America, and linked to the organization from the book's website. In return, the group featured the book in a newsletter sent to its 94,000 members. Visit Shel at http://www.guerrillamarketinggoesgreen.com for details. Dan Snow adds: nearly ANY book holds some kind of connection to a worthy cause. Identify a good match between your book and a nonprofit, then offer to earmark a share of proceeds from orders placed by its members. If you use POD, you probably even create a customized special edition for this purpose. For the nonprofit, it's an easy, no-cost way to generate much-needed funds; for the author-publisher, it attracts potential readers with a direct interest in the subject; for the members, it's a good read about a topic they enjoy. Everyone wins. ===> The Write Stuff <=== The meaning of "nauseous" is CAUSING nausea, not experiencing it. The word "nauseated" means feeling nausea. People who feel sick sometimes say "I'm nauseous," when they mean to say "I'm nauseated." "The Write Stuff" is a regular feature of this newsletter, intended to help subscribers polish their writing. Got a pet peeve? Share it by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestion. ===> Donate Books for Children <=== The Madera County Child Abuse Prevention Council (MCCAPC) in California wants donated books for children. MCCAPC is a non-profit agency (ID # 82-0576184). For the 14th year, MCCAPC will be hosting an annual community event. A popular activity is 'Story Time' where volunteers read stories to the children. This year they want to offer a free book to each child who participates in Story Time. Hopefully, receiving a book to take home will encourage the joys of reading. If you have spare books for children, please consider donating them. -Barbara Bailey, Event Chair: email@example.com ===> Quotation of the Month for Self-Publishers <=== "Without promotion, something terrible happens ... NOTHING!" -P.T. Barnum
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