How to Launch a Book:
Discover the Secrets of Amazon Kindle Bestsellers
If you’re an aspiring author, there’s never been a better time to write and publish your own work – because self publishing a book is now a relatively easy process and the potential exposure is huge! 1 in 4 Americans now own some kind of device that enables them to read electronic books including iPads, Kindles and smart phones.
Many new authors are harnessing the power of Amazon’s global marketing reach by publishing on its Kindle platform. This is growing like Topsy because people no longer even need a Kindle device to access Kindle books – free apps are available that enable you to read them on many other devices, including computers, laptops and mobiles.
Publishing a book on Kindle gives you access to a massive worldwide audience – and Amazon makes the publishing process very simple. So it’s no wonder lots of budding authors are rushing to get a piece of the action. If you’re going down this route and you’ve gone through the blood, sweat and tears of writing your masterpiece, you’re no doubt itching to click ‘publish’ – but WAIT!
Do you know how to launch a book and promote it to make sure it stands out from the crowd and doesn’t sink without trace at the bottom of Amazon’s rankings?
This next crucial step could mean the difference between making a few measly sales and getting your book onto Amazon’s list of bestsellers!
You might think you’ve done enough to attract people’s attention with a sensationally eye-catching cover and killer title – but that’s only the start. No matter how great the content, no matter how stunning the cover, no matter how compelling the title – all that effort could be in vain if you don’t promote your book like gangbusters when you launch it.
If you do no more than simply publish your book on Amazon, it’s like burying it on the shelves at the back of a massive shop – sure, it’s available for sale in that amazing global bookstore – but how is anyone ever going to find it?
Unfortunately, your book hasn’t got legs and won’t be able to climb to the top of the listings under its own steam – you’ve got to give it a helping hand. And that means having a well orchestrated plan to promote your book before you launch it. Unless you can afford to pay someone to do it for you, you’ll have to run your own marketing campaign – because you need to get the word out about your book to potential buyers and influential reviewers.
Here are some tips and tricks to help you do just that…….
Decisions, decisions…..Options For Promoting Your Self Published Book
SHOULD YOU GIVE YOUR BOOK AWAY FOR FREE?
Many indie authors leverage the power of promotional ‘giveaways’ to market their books. You need to decide whether you want to go down this route, which involves making your book available for absolutely nothing, possibly to thousands of readers. This might sound like a crazy idea, but a lot of authors think it’s worth it – you’ll have to weigh up the potential pros and cons of this approach and see if it’s right for you.
RISKS OF FREE GIVEAWAYS
- You risk losing real potential sales to people in your target audience who might have paid for your book anyway.
- Lots of people download free books fairly indiscriminately, on topics they may not be particularly interested in – this could lead to some unfavorable reviews.
- You obviously won’t make any royalties on your book when it’s given away for free.
ADVANTAGES OF FREE GIVEAWAYS
- Many authors who use this approach report that it can lead to a significant increase in sales following the free promotion.
- Your book’s visibility is increased and this can boost its Amazon ranking, leading to greater sales in the long run.
- If your book is one of a series, or if you have other individual books on sale, the giveaway can be used to promote and increase the sales of your other titles.
- If your book is interesting and well written, you should get some good reviews, which will help to boost your rankings and future sales.
How to Launch a Book by Giving it Away For Free!
1. Goodreads Giveaways
Goodreads is a bit like a huge book club. It’s a very popular site for authors and book lovers and many writers use it as a powerful promotional tool. While marketing your book in the normal way via a publisher such as Amazon Kindle or Smashwords, you can run ‘Giveaway’ contests on Goodreads, offering as many free copies of your book as you can afford to a target audience. Many authors will tell you this is a great way to raise awareness of your books as well as generating sales and reviews. On average, 45% of giveaway winners will review your book – and getting good reviews is one of the best ways to improve your book’s chance of long-term success. The Goodreads site offers advice on getting the most out of your giveaway contest – while it’s up and running you should be working to promote your book like crazy for maximum effect.
2. Arrange Your Own Giveaways
Make your book available for free for a limited period on your own website or blog. There is also a site called Get Free eBooksthat will distribute your book for free – simply complete the form on the site.
3. Publish Your Book For Free on Smashwords
If you publish your book via Smashwords, you are allowed to set the price as ‘free’ (I understand you can’t do this on Amazon Kindle, except for free promotional days when you enrol in KDP Select – see below for more information about this). If your book is also for sale on Amazon, you can then notify Amazon, on your book page, that the book is priced lower elsewhere, and there’s a chance that Amazon will automatically lower your price and eventually change it to free – though this is not guaranteed. When you raise the price of your book on Smashwords, Amazon will then usually put the price back up. You will obviously not make any money on your book while it’s free – the aim is simply to increase your book’s visibility and hopefully obtain some good reviews.
4. Enrol in KDP Select (Kindle Direct Publishing)
One of the main decisions you’ll need to make is whether to enroll your book in Amazon’s KDP Select publishing program. This gives Amazon exclusive rights to publish the electronic version of your book for 90 days. During that time you are not permitted to make it available through any other outlets– and that includes publishing extracts on your own website or blog.
However, enrolling in KDP Select can help you to promote your book, because during the 90 days you’re able to select 5 ‘promotional’ days when you’re allowed to give your eBook away for free on Amazon. Outside those 5 days, your book will be sold at the market price. Additionally, your eBook will be available in the Kindle Owners’ Library, for which you will receive royalties if your book is borrowed.
In the short video below, author Renee Pawlish shows how to use KDP Select and talks about the benefits of enrolling in this program: (Brian – I’m obviously unable to embed the video in Word – if you want to use this, the code below is the code for the large version as extracted via PBSEO – should work in WP)
Pros and Cons of KDP Select
Disadvantages: You’re locked into an exclusive deal with Amazon for 90 days and during that period you may not make your book available anywhere else, including:
- In other digital book formats such as Nook.
- As an offer or opt-in bonus on your website or blog.
- As extracts on your website or blog.
- In a PDF version.
Advantages: Many authors are concluding that the disadvantages of the KDP Select scheme are far outweighed by the opportunities it gives you to leverage Amazon’s marketing might:
- Your book will be made available through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library and can be borrowed by members of Amazon Prime, which is growing in popularity. However, borrowing eBooks is only available on Kindle devices, not via Kindle reading apps on other machines.
- You will earn royalties according to how often your book is borrowed.
- You can schedule five ‘free’ promotional days and directly control these using the Promotions Manager tool within KDP select – this can boost long-term sales by increasing the visibility of your book.
- Instant feedback on your book’s performance is available in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.
- The exclusivity clause does not extend to print versions of your book – so you could still have a paper version made available for distribution through other channels. For example, you could publish a print version through a print-on-demand publisher such as CreateSpace.
However, even if you do sign up for KDP Select, you still need your own marketing plan if you’re going to take full advantage of those 5 promotional ‘free’ days.
Here are some tips on how to make the most of them:
Schedule Your ‘FREE’ Days For Greatest Impact
I’ve heard it’s best to stagger your free promotional giveaway days in order to have the greatest effect. It’s the initial ‘boost’ you get from a free promotion that tends to lead to a spike in downloads. If you run your free giveaway days consecutively, the impact tends to wane after a day or two and you risk losing the impact of 5 separate promotional ‘kicks’.
Promote your Free Promotional Giveaways to Top Sites for Maximum Exposure
There are tons of sites that allow you to register and promote your free giveaways – some you need to notify in advance, others on the day:
- Addicted to eBooks:You need to register with this site first, then you can post to promote your Kindle eBook, but you must do so on the day it goes free.
- Author Marketing Club:This site has centralised links to many other sites where you can submit your book, to make life easier for you. In order to submit to the Author Marketing Club itself you first need to register with the site – but once that’s done you just fill out the form, it’s very easy.
- Bargain eBook Hunter: Just complete their contact form to let them know about your free promotional day. I gather you will not receive a response – you just need to check their site on the day of your promotion to find out if they’ve given you a mention.
- Book Bazaar at Kindle Boards:Joining the Kindle Boards forum is a must for any Kindle author. The Book Bazaar has a number of threads dedicated to particular writing genres. You’re allowed to submit a promotional post to one of these threads (obviously choose the one most relevant to the theme of your book) once a week. Be sure to schedule your submissions so that you can post about your free promotion on the day it starts. You can also post the results of your KDP Select promotion in the Mega Thread in the Writers’ Cafe section of Kindle Boards.
- Books on the Knob:Send an email to the site owner asking them to mention your promotion.
- Cents-ible eReads:Complete the form on the site at least 30 days in advance of your free promotion. You need at least 5 good reviews from a reputable site.
- Digital Book Today:You can submit your book for inclusion in their Top 100 Best Free Kindle Books list, but you need at least 10 reviews and an average rating of at least 4 out of 5 stars. If you make the grade, just fill out the form on the site.
- eReader IQ:Notify this site about your promotion by sending them an email via their ‘contact’ form.
- Ereader News Today:Complete the simple form on the site at least 3 days before your promotion. Your book is unlikely to be plugged on this site if it has less than 3 reviews and/or low review scores (below 4).
- Flurries of Words:This is an up and coming blog that accepts submissions for book promotions, offering both free and paid advertising options. Visit the site to check out terms and conditions and contact details.
- Freebooksy:Complete the editorial submission form on the site to notify them of your free promotion.
- Free eBooks Daily:Just complete the form on the site.
- Free Kindle Books and Tips: As with the Indie Books List, just fill out the form on the site – but please note, your book must already have an average user rating of 4 out of 5 stars in order to be accepted for this promotion.
- Indie Books List: Fill out the form with details of your book a few days in advance (the website will tell you the deadlines for upcoming dates). This submission will also get your book promoted on Ebooks Free Free Free.
- Kindle Daily Deal:The author of this site will promote your book to their 15,000+ followers, but asks that in return you purchase one of his books for $2.99 – sounds like quite a good deal! The owner of this site has linked Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+ pages and promises lots of exposure with daily tweets and posts about bargain books.
- Pixel of Ink: Just fill out the form on the site up to 30 days in advance of your promotion. Although it doesn’t say so on the site, I’ve read elsewhere that you need to have some good reviews on Amazon to have the best chance of getting your book promoted. This is one of the top sites for promoting Kindle books and has tons of visitors looking for books, so it’s well worth heading over to their Author’s Corner and signing up for their newsletter. You can also submit a request to be featured on their site. If you can get a mention on Pixel of Ink it will give your sales a huge boost.
- Snickslist:This site is dedicated to KDP Select promotions. You must list your book on the day it goes free (so set your alarm clock and get up early!) You can keep it listed only while it’s available as a freebie. Simply complete the form on the site to post your classified ad. Listings on this site will also appear on Your Book Authors– so you’re killing two birds with one stone.
- That Book Place:Simply complete and submit the free promo submission form on the site.
Post to FACEBOOK PAGES on the day your book goes free
Here are some Facebook pages worth paying a visit:
- Authors on the Cheap:This is a Facebook page to which you can submit a post advertising your book’s promotion. You must include a note of your books’ price, rating, and genre and can post no more than once in 24 hours.
- Effective Teaching Solutions:This is a Facebook page to which children and young adult authors may post their free promotions. You must include information about your age range and the book’s genre and average rating. Educational authors may also post free promotions for books aimed at K-12 teachers – they should include information on the book’s subject matter and grade levels.
- Free eBook Deal
- Free Kindle Books and Tips
- Indie Kindle
- Kindle Korner
- Kindle Tips and Tricks
- Kindle Finds
- Reading Kindle
Consider Investing in Paid Promotions (if you can afford it!)
If you want to invest in some paid promotion for the days your book goes free, here are some sites you could explore:
- Frugal eReader:It currently costs $50 a day to be featured as their ‘frugal find of the day’ – so maybe not that frugal!
- Good Kindles:Requests a donation of $1 per listing.
- Kindle Author:Their free book promotion costs $20 a day, but if you submit your book it has a chance of being featured in a free advertising slot.
- Kindle Nation Daily:This is a massive site with lots of traffic. They don’t offer free promotions, but if you add your book to their eBook tracker, it will get picked up in their free ebook list. They do offer paid sponsorships, starting at around $139 – so not an option for the cash-strapped or faint-hearted!
- World Literary Cafe: Provides paid promotions – their New Release feature promotion currently costs $45.
Consider working to get some decent reviews BEFORE you run free promotional days – this will make it much easier to get your book plugged on other sites.
Whether or not you run free promotions, reader reviews are critical to the success of your book and there are a number of ways to get them:
- Ask for reviews on Kindle Boards and other forums.
- Contact writing blogs and review sites (see list below).
- Many regular reviewers on Amazon make their emails available – drop an email to reviewers who are likely to be interested in your book, sending them a free version and asking them for an honest review.
- Ask for reviews from visitors to your blog, your Facebook fans or other social media contacts.
- Review other authors’ books – remember the law of reciprocation! This is a great way to get your own book reviewed.
- Once you start receiving some positive reviews, keep a note of people who liked your book and contact them when you have another book that needs reviewing.
Other strategies to make sure your book launch goes with a bang!
- CONTACT AUTHOR BLOGS AND REVIEW SITES: There are lots of blogs and review sites you can contact to ask to have your book reviewed – you could also approach them with a view to doing some guest blogging, to raise your profile:
- GET UP EARLY!!! If you’re running any free promotional days, you need to be up way before the lark – as in the early hours of the morning – to make the most of any opportunities for ‘on the day’ submissions or postings. So be sure to set your alarm!
- HOME IN ON YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE: Your book will be much more successful if you can get it out to the kind of people who are actively looking for books in your particular genre – so search for relevant facebook pages, websites and blogs and start making connections. Sites such as Goodreads enable you to network with fans of different writing genres. Before running a ‘giveaway’, join forum groups for fans of your book’s speciality – and where it’s permitted, give your book a plug!
- PROMOTE YOUR BOOK ON YOUR OWN WEBSITE OR BLOG: If you don’t already have a website or blog, you should consider setting one up to promote your book. Post articles about your book, scheduling them to appear at key times in the days and weeks leading up to your book’s launch or any free promotional days. If you’re not enrolled in KDP Select, you can also release ‘taster’ excerpts from your book to whet your readers’ appetites. Or you might want to consider giving your book away for free for a limited period and asking people to leave reviews.
- CAPTURE AN EMAIL LIST OF FANS: One of the most powerful and effective ways to promote your book is to build an email list of fans who are likely to be interested in buying it – that way you have your very own captive audience to give your book a flying start.
- GUEST POSTING ON OTHER BLOGS: This is a great way to increase your own visibility and, potentially, raise awareness of your book. Guest posting can increase traffic to your own website or blog, where your new visitors will be exposed to more of your writing – and, of course, information about your book!
- FACEBOOK: Promote your book on your own Facebook Page and ask you friends to ‘like’ it and leave a review on Amazon. Consider creating a ‘fan’ page specifically linked to your book. Let people know when your book’s going to be available for free and how they can get hold of it – and ask them to review it. Remember to become a ‘fan’ of other writers on Facebook – and they will hopefully return the compliment!
- TWITTER: Twitter is a fantastic forum from which to promote yourself and your book – but it will be more effective if you resist the temptation to use it as a quick and easy advertising platform.
- First, find people who are likely to be interested in your book, by searching for those with similar passions.
- Then promote your book in amongst other relevant, valuable tweets, letting people know when it’s going to be available for free.
- Search Twitter for free Kindle addresses and send them tweets about your book promotion. Here are a few, but there are tons more if you do a search: @DigitalBkToday; @kindleebooks; @Kindlestuff; @KindleFreeBook; @4FreeKindleBook.
- Use relevant hashtags to brand your book – for free promotions, use hashtags like #bookgiveaway, #FreeKindleBook, #freekindle, #freebook, #free #kindlepromo.
- PINTEREST: It’s well worth using this up and coming social sharing site to promote your book – it’s much more than pretty pictures and is being used to drive an increasing amount of traffic to websites and blogs. Pinterest has a category for Film, Music and Books and if you do a search you’ll find lots of boards advertising books – including Free eBook promotions. If you’re not sure where to start, here’s a post on Pinterest for Authorswith some ideas about how you can use Pinterest to plug your book.
- OTHER SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES: Post about your book on other social networking sites such as LinkedIn and Google+. As with Twitter, Facebook and any social media, the more you give the more you’ll get. So be sure to connect with other authors in a supportive way – remember, making friends is how you influence people!
- YOUTUBE: Create a video as a trailer for your book launch and post it on YouTube – you can then plug this on your blog and elsewhere. One option would be to embed the video in an article on your blog, then promote it via Facebook and other social media. Remember to include a clear ‘call to action’ in your video, providing a link to where people can download your book. You can also upload your video to other sites such as Viddler and Daily Motion – unlike written content, it’s perfectly safe to syndicate videos to multiple sites on the web. Google and the other search engines will not penalize you for this.
- PARTICIPATE IN ONLINE COMMUNITIES FOR AUTHORS: There are lots of communities, forums and discussion groups for authors you can join and use to promote your books. As with any kind of marketing, the more you give the more you’ll get. It pays to become an active and helpful member of these communities, responding constructively to other people’s posts and giving your fellow authors a helping hand – for example, by reviewing their books. Here are some you should definitely consider joining:
- Amazon’s Meet Our Authors Forum: You’re allowed to plug your book on this forum, including details of free promotions.
- Kindle Boards: (already mentioned above) Check out the Book Bazaar and Writer’s Cafe. Great for networking with other authors.
- TAG YOUR BOOKS ON AMAZON: On your book page on Amazon you can list ‘tags’ – these are keywords that help people find your book. You can use specific ‘freebie’ tags to promote your ‘free’ days: “Kindle free book,” “free ebook” and “Kindle freebie” – but take care not to do this too far in advance of your free promotion, because you risk annoying potential buyers who might see it as misleading. You can also add other tags related to the topic of your book – then go to the Kindle Boards forum and ask other writers to tag your book. This will help to boost your book’s ranking for its genre.
- PROMOTE YOUR BOOK ON LINK AGGREGATOR SITES SUCH AS REDDIT: These sites can be a bit intimidating because they’re so huge – the trick is to look for the subsection that’s most relevant and submit a link with interesting content and a descriptive title to somewhere people can find information about your book.
- SUBMIT YOUR BOOK TO THE AddictedToEbooks DATABASE: You must register with the site first, and there are some restrictions – for example, you must have at least five reviews on Amazon’s US website.
- USE YOUR BOOK TO PROMOTE OTHER TITLES: If your book is one of a series, make sure you use the one that’s on a free promotion to plug the others. I’ve heard that free promotions work very well for books that are part of a sequence, tending to encourage people to buy other books in the series. If you have several titles to promote, you may get better results if you stagger your free promotions.
- PAID ADVERTISING: It’s worth considering paying to advertise your book on popular review sites such as Pixel of Ink and Kindle Nation Daily – this can significantly boost your downloads during giveaway days – the most popular free books on Amazon have often been promoted by these sites.
- COUPONS: If you’re making your book available via Smashwords, you can create virtual ‘coupons’ for your books. You can then give these away to people, who can use them to purchase your book on Smashwords. Authors use coupons in lots of different ways – for example, you could do a promotional ‘giveaway’ or ‘competition’ and advertise this on social media sites, forums, blogs etc.
…….And you thought writing your book was the hard part!
If you’ve read this far, you’re probably thinking OMG – where do I start? It’s true that launching and promoting your book will involve some work – but what’s the point in getting it published if it just gathers dust at the back of the shop?
Here’s what you need to do – take a deep breath and…….
DRAW UP A PLAN OF CAMPAIGN!
- Sit down and write a plan of action. Decide which strategies you feel most comfortable with – which you think will yield the best returns – and compile a project plan.
- Decide whether you’re going to offer your book for free – including whether you’re going to sign up for KDP Select.
- List the blogs and social media sites you need to start connecting with.
- Register with writers’ forums and discussions boards.
- Draw up a TIMELINE – particularly if you’re going to offer your book for free on some specific days, some of your critical tasks will be time sensitive, so you need to schedule your promotional activities with that in mind.
- Remember – a lot of your success will derive from networking, making connections and building relationships.
Knowing how to launch a book effectively is a priceless skill for any self published author – it’s what separates the bestsellers from the also-rans. It might seem like hard work, but if you want your fledgling to turn into an attention-grabbing, high-flying swan, you’ve got to nurture it.
Limitations of KDP Select
The biggest thing to be aware of with KDP Select is that if you enroll in the program, you cannot offer your eBookanywhere else for a period of at least 90 days. For example, you cannot offer a PDF for sale (or free) of the same eBook on your website, and you cannot sell it on Barnes and Noble or any other site while it’s in the program
It’s important to understand, however, that you can offer it in a different form, such as a print version, without any restriction during the time it is enrolled in KDP select.
Offering Your Kindle Book for Free
There are certain “benefits” to KDP such as being able to offer your book for free. You can offer it for free for up to five days during each 90-day period of time. The free days can be one after another (e.g. five days in a row), or they can be spread out over the 90-day period of time.
Amazon Prime members can also “borrow” KDP Select books for free. Think of this option as people being able to check your book out from the library. They don’t own it, and can only have it for a limited period of time, but it doesn’t cost them anything to borrow it.
Benefits of Giving Your Kindle Book Away for Free
I put the word, “benefits” in quotes because some may wonder how or why it is beneficial to give something away for free, particularly if you are hoping to make money through the sales of your eBook.
Offering your book for free can help it rank better in Amazon, assuming that a lot of people “purchase” it on the free days. Ranking higher in Amazon will give your book more future exposure and can potentially result in more sales down the road.
In order for this strategy to be effective, it’s important to really promote it on the free days, and encourage people in your circles to “buy” it on those days, even if it isn’t a topic they’re interested in. For example, let’s say that I had an eBook on the topic of content marketing in the KDP Select program. My 81-year-old mother is not interested in content marketing, so except to support me, she wouldn’t purchase a book on the topic. But I could encourage my mom, and other supportive people like her, to buy my book when it’s free as a way of helping my book to rank better on Amazon.
And naturally, an opportunity to pick up your book for free is a great bonus to give your fans and the people on your email list.
Benefits of Letting People Enrolled in Amazon Prime Borrow Your Kindle Book for Free
One thing that may not be immediately apparent is that even though Amazon Prime members don’t pay anything to borrow your Kindle book, you are paid royalties every time someone borrows your book.
The royalty amount is based on a complex formula that has to do with, among other things, the total number of books borrowed during a set period of time. Since the amount changes, I can’t give a specific amount, but in most cases at the time of this writing, it is about $2.50 each time someone borrows your Kindle book.
This is beneficial, especially if your Kindle book is on the lower end of the price spectrum. For instance, let’s say that your Kindle book is priced at $2.99, with a 70% royalty, the amount paid to you in royalties for each sale is $2.09. In most cases, on lower priced books, you will make as much, if not more, with royalties if people borrow your book than if they were to purchase it outright.
The Dark Side of the KDP Select Program
Okay, “dark side” is stretching it a bit, but while there are tremendous benefits to enrolling your Kindle book in KDP Select, there are also some downsides.
Though I’ve already mentioned this, it bears repeating that you cannot offer your Kindle book anywhere else, even on your own website for paid or free, during the 90 days it’s enrolled in KDP Select. If you don’t have plans to do anything else with your eBook during that period of time, this is no big deal, and it certainly isn’t a deal breaker. A bigger deal in my mind is the possibility that you’ll miss your target market. Many of the people who pick up your Kindle book when it’s free may be people outside your target market.
Missing Your Target Market
There’s something weird that happens in people’s mind when something is offered for free. People often grab up massive amounts of free items that they would never pay for. The problem with this as it pertains to Kindle books is that those people who have received your book for free may not be your target market, and therefore your book may not resonate with them.
Is it a big deal if people who got your eBook for free don’t like it? Well, it could be, particularly if they decide to express their dislike in the form of a negative review and a one-star rating. This would be even more likely to happen if your book is controversial in any way, or contains content (e.g. religious or political) that people tend to have strong feelings about, one way or another.
Obviously, you can get positive reviews from people who get your book for free, and negative reviews from people who pay for your Kindle book, but the bottom line is that the odds are greater that the people who will spend money on your book are ones who fit into your target market.
Too Much Free Stuff on Kindle
Another negative byproduct of KDP Select is that as the program has increased in popularity, there are a lot of free Kindle books out there. Though I don’t have statistics to back this up, knowing human nature and the love for free items, no doubt many people only “buy” books when they are free.
This can make it harder and harder to sell your books at a decent price, unless you have a decent sized platform of fans who are more than happy to pay for your books.
You may also find that the majority of the people on your email list and your fans and followers on social media may pick up the book while it’s free, leaving few to buy it when it actually costs them money.
Getting Started – Preparing Your Book
Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) helps you publish your book directly to Kindle devices and apps. With KDP, you can convert your book to an eBook and sell it on the Amazon Kindle Store.
Step 1: Prepare
Prepare your manuscript in Microsoft Word or a similar program. KDP supports many formats, but these produce the most consistent results when converted for reading on Kindle devices and apps:
- Word (DOC / DOCX)
See our Simplified Formatting Guide for more details.
Once you upload your manuscript, we’ll automatically convert your book for Kindle. To learn more about preparing your book, you can download our official Building Your Book for Kindleguide, or browse our Help topics in the left-hand navigation bar. If you want help formatting your manuscript, you can also contact a professional conversion service.
Tip: Professional editing services are available for titles written in English.
Step 2: Publish
- Sign in to KDP with your Amazon account or email address.
- Enter the required title information (book title, author name, categories, etc.).
- Use our Cover Creator tool to create your book cover, or upload your own.
- Verify your rights and territories.
- Set your prices and publish.
Step 3: Promote
- Check out our merchandising tools. We list your book on Amazon websites to help suggest purchases for customers under page sections like “More Items to Consider…,” “Customers with Similar Searches Purchased…,” “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought…,” and “Shopping Cart Recommendations.”
- Enroll your book in KDP Select to earn higher royalties, reach new readers through Kindle Unlimited (Abonnement Kindle in France) and the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library and to promote your book with Kindle Countdown Deals or Free Book Promotions.
- Make your books available in as many formats as possible (print, Kindle, audio). This maximizes web exposure in search results and helps boost our automation and personalization algorithms.
- Claim your author page on both Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. Readers respond well to short, interesting author bios and clear photographs of the author (not their books). Make sure to link all your books to your page.
- Get active on social media and blogs but don’t limit yourself to promoting your books all the time. Your readers want to know about you as a person.
- Consider adding a message in your book asking readers to leave reviews if they enjoyed it. You could also include a Q&A with yourself to give readers more information on you. We will automatically provide a link for reviews, but sometimes a personal message can have a big impact.
- If you have more than one book available, you can include the first chapter of your next book at the end of your current book to whet the reader’s appetite. Before you do this, make sure the next book is available for purchase or pre-order.
1. Self-publishing is easy.
Self-publishing a print book is easy. Self-publishing an e-book is even easier.
Since this article is mainly about self-publishing an old-fashioned print book, here’s the skinny on what it takes to put together such a book:
You choose a size for your book, format your Word manuscript to fit that size, turn your Word doc into a PDF, create some cover art in Photoshop, turn that into a PDF, and upload it all to the self-publisher of your choice and get a book proof back within a couple of weeks (or sooner) if you succeeded in formatting everything correctly. You can then make changes and swap in new PDFs.
After you officially publish your book, you can make changes to your cover and interior text by submitting new PDFs, though your book will go offline (“out of stock”) for a week or two. Companies may charge a fee (around $25-$50) for uploading a new cover or new interior.
Both CreateSpace and Lulu offer good instructions for the DIY crowd and it’s not that difficult to come up with an OK-looking book (people’s definition of OK will vary).
2. Digital, not print, is your best bet.
The first thing I tell authors who tell me they want to publish a print book is that print should be their secondary focus. I’m advising people who have text-based books (no graphics, illustrations, or photos) to test the self-publishing waters with an e-book before moving on to hard copies. It’s much easier to produce an e-book, particularly when it comes to formatting and cover design. And you can also price a digital book for much less than a paperback, which makes it easier to sell (the majority of self-published print books cost $13.99 and up while the majority of indie e-books sell in the $.99-$5.99 range.
All that said, you can, of course, do both print and digital easily enough.
Once you have your book finalized in a Word or PDF file, it’s relatively easy to convert it into one of the many e-book formats — or just offer it as a download as a PDF. There are several e-publishers geared to “indie” authors, including Smashwords, BookBaby and Lulu, to name just a few. And needless to say, Amazon’s CreateSpace steers you toward uploading your book to the Kindle Store via Kindle Direct Publishing.
Note: Please see my article “How to self-publish an e-book” for more information on e-book creation.
3. Quality is good.
I can’t speak for all self-publishing companies, but the quality of POD books is generally quite decent. You can’t do a fancy matte cover (yet), but the books look and feel like “real” books. The only giveaway that you’re dealing with a self-published book would be if the cover were poorly designed — which, unfortunately, is too often the case.
4. Since self-publishing’s so easy, everybody’s doing it.
One of the unfortunate drawbacks of having a low barrier of entry into a suddenly hot market is that now everybody and their brother and sister is an author. That means you’re dealing with a ton of competition, some of which is made up of hustlers, charlatans, and a bunch of people in between.
The growth of indie publishing in the U.S. has been huge over the last couple of years. While that growth has started to level off as fewer writers have unpublished novels in their closets to publish, you can still expect to go up against thousands of other motivated indie authors.
5. Good self-published books are few and far between.
Again, because the barrier to entry is so low, the majority of self-published books are pretty bad. If I had to put a number on it, I’d say less than 5 percent are decent and less than 1 percent are really good. A tiny fraction become monster success stories, but every every few months, you’ll hear about someone hitting it big (for those who don’t know already the “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy was initially self-published).
6. The odds are against you.
The average print self-published book sells about 100-150 copies — or two-thirds to three-quarters of your friends and family combined (and don’t count on all your Facebook acquaintances buying). I don’t have a source for this statistic, but I’ve seen this stated on several blogs and as a Publishers Weekly article titled “Turning Bad Books into Big Bucks” noted, while traditional publishers aim to publish hundreds of thousands of copies of a few books, self-publishing companies make money by publishing 100 copies of hundreds of thousands of books.
7. Creating a “professional” book is really hard.
Barrier to entry may be low, but creating a book that looks professional and is indistinguishable from a book published by a “real” publishing house is very difficult and requires a minimum investment of a few thousand dollars (when all was said and done, I’d put in around $7,500, which included about $2,500 in marketing costs). You wonder why “real” books take nine months to produce — and usually significantly longer. Well, I now know why. It’s hard to get everything just right (if you’re a novice at book formatting, Microsoft Word will become your worst enemy). And once you’ve finally received that final proof, you feel it could be slightly better.
8. Have a clear goal for your book.
This will help dictate what service you go with. For instance, if your objective is to create a book for posterity’s sake (so your friends and family can read it for all eternity), you won’t have to invest a lot of time or money to produce something that’s quite acceptable. Lulu is probably your best bet. However, if yours is a commercial venture with big aspirations, things get pretty tricky.
9. Even if it’s great, there’s a good chance your book won’t sell.
If your book is really mediocre, don’t expect it to take off. But even if it’s a masterpiece, there’s a good chance it won’t fly off the shelves (and by shelves, I mean virtual shelves, because most self-published books don’t make it into brick-and-mortar stores). In other words, quality isn’t a guarantee of success. You’ll be lucky to make your investment back, let alone have a “hit” that brings in some real income. Don’t quit your day job yet.
10. Niche books tend to do best.
This seems to be the mantra of self-publishing. Nonfiction books with a well-defined topic and a nice hook to them can do well, especially if they have a target audience that you can focus on. Religious books are a perfect case in point. And fiction? Well, it’s tough, but some genres do better than others. Indie romance/erotica novels, for instance, have thrived in the e-book arena.
Note: If it’s any consolation, the majority of fiction books — even ones from “real” publishers — struggle in the marketplace. That’s why traditional publishers stick with tried-and-true authors with loyal followings.
11. Buy your own ISBN — and create your own publishing house.
If you have market aspirations for your book, buy your own ISBN (International Standard Book Number) and create your own publishing company.
Even if you go with one of the subsidy presses for convenience’s sake, there’s no reason to have Lulu, CreateSpace, iUniverse, Xlibris, Author House, Outskirts, or whomever listed as your publisher. For around $100 (what a single ISBN costs) and a little added paperwork, you can go toe-to-toe with any small publisher. Lulu.com sells ISBNs, other self-publishing companies don’t. The complete list of sellers is here.
Note: Most self-publishing operations will provide you with a free ISBN for both your print book and e-book but whatever operation provides you with the ISBN will be listed as the publisher.
12. Create a unique title.
Your book should be easy to find in a search on Amazon and Google. It should come up in the first couple of search results. Unfortunately, many authors make the mistake of using a title that has too many other products associated it with it — and it gets buried in search results. Not good. Basically, you want to get the maximum SEO (search engine optimization) for your title, so if and when somebody’s actually looking to buy it they’ll find the link for your book — not an older one with an identical title.
Note: On a more cynical note, some authors are creating titles that are very similar to popular bestsellers. Also, some authors use pseudonyms that are similar to famous authors’ names so they’ll show up in search results for that author. Check out this list of Fifty Shades of Grey knockoffs.
13. Turn-key solutions cost a lot of money.
You’ve written your book and God knows you’d like to just hand it off to someone, have a team of professionals whip it into shape, and get it out there. Well, there are a lot of companies that will offer to make just that happen — and do it in a fraction of the time a traditional publisher could. But those “packages” range anywhere from a few thousand dollars to upward of $25,000.
These folks can potentially put together a really nice book for you. But I’ve also heard a lot nightmare stories where people come away disappointed with the process and feel ripped off. You can do a search in Google for the companies you’re considering and find testimonials — good and bad — from authors who’ve used the services. Proceed with caution.
14. Self-publishers don’t care if your book is successful.
They say they care, but they really don’t care. You have to make them care.
15. Buy as little as possible from your publishing company.
Self-publishing outfits are in the game to make money. And since they’re probably not going to sell a lot of your books, they make money by with nice margins. That’s OK. Some of the services are worth it — or at least may be worth it. Way back when, Booksurge/CreateSpace used to have something called Buy X, Get Y program that paired your book with an Amazon bestseller. It was pricey ($1,000 a month) but in a special sale I bought 3 months for the price of 2 and ended up being paired one month with John Grisham’s new novel, which put the thumbnail image of my book in front of a lot of people. Alas, BookSurge/CreateSpace has since discontinued this program because traditional publishers were upset that shoddy self-published books were being featured on the same page as their books. It was good while it lasted and it helped me sell dozens, if not hundreds, of books.
Personally, I’d never work with CreateSpace’s in-house editors, copy editors, and in-house design people. That doesn’t mean they’re bad at what they do (I’ve seen some covers that are well-done). But if you can, it’s better to hire your own people and work directly with them. Ideally, you should be able to meet with an editor, copy editor, and graphic designer in person — and they all should have experience in book publishing.
Down the road, I suspect you’ll see more self-publishers offer high-end programs that pair you with a former editor from a major publishing house. It’s also worth mentioning that Amazon has become a publisher itself, with several imprints that it’s either bought or created. Amazon is in the process of developing a new hybrid model for publishing that aims to take the place of traditional publishers, which it sometimes refers to as “legacy” publishers. You can see a list of Amazon’s imprints here. With its flagship Encore imprint, it selects certain “exceptional” self-published titles from “emerging” authors and brings them under the Amazon umbrella so to speak. It’s a good gig if you can get it.
16. If you’re serious about your book, hire a book doctor and get it copy edited.
OK, so I’ve just told to avoid “packages” from publishers and yet I’m now saying you need editing and copy editing. So, where do you go? Well, before I sent my book out to agents, I hired a “book doctor” who was a former acquisition editor from a major New York publishing house (like most editors he worked at a few different houses). He happened to be the father of a friend from college, so I got a little discount, but it still wasn’t cheap. However, after I’d made the changes he suggested, he made some calls to agents he knew and some were willing to take a look. He was part of Independent Editors Group (IEG), a group of former acquisition editors who take on freelance editing projects for authors.
While I didn’t use his copy editor (I used a friend of a friend who currently works at a big publishing house), he and other editors in his group can suggest people. To be clear, this isn’t going to be a better deal than what you’d get from a package deal with a self-publisher, but these people are experienced and are going to be upfront and honest with you. They’re not just pushing your book out to move it along the line on the conveyor belt, though they are trying to make a living. (Warning: they don’t take on all writers).
By no means is IEG the only game in town. There are plenty of good book consultants out there, including Alan Rinzler, who has an excellent blog and straddles the line between being an executive editor at an imprint of John Wiley & Sons and providing services to private clients. And there are plenty of others.
17. Negotiate everything.
CreateSpace and other self-publishing companies are always offering special deals on their various services. There isn’t whole lot of leeway, but it doesn’t hurt to ask for deal sweeteners — like more free copies of your book (they often throw in free copies of your book). It also doesn’t hurt to ask about deals that have technically expired. In sales, everything is negotiable. Remember, these people have quotas and bonuses at stake. (For their sake, I hope they do anyway).
18. Ask a lot of questions and don’t be afraid to complain.
When I self-published, I paid an extra $300 fee to be able to talk directly to a live person on the phone for customer support. Companies like Lulu and CreateSpace have complete DIY options and require no upfront setup fees. That’s great, but when you’re dealing with a superbasic package, you’re most likely going to be doing customer support via e-mail or IM, and get very little hand-holding. It’s nice to be able to call up and complain (in a nice way, of course) directly to a live person on the phone, so take that into account when you’re examining your package options.
19. Self-publishing is a contact sport.
The biggest mistake people make when it comes to self-publishing is that they expect to just put out a book and have it magically sell. They might even hire a publicist and expect something to happen. It’s just not so. You have to be a relentless self-promoter. Unfortunately, a lot people just don’t have the stomach or time for it.
What’s the secret to marketing your book successfully? Well, the first thing I advise — and I’m not alone here — is to come up with a marketing plan well before you publish your book. The plan should have at least five avenues for you to pursue because chances are you’re going to strike out on a couple of lines of attack. It’s easy to get discouraged, so you have to be ready to move on to plan c, d, and e (and the rest of the alphabet) pretty quickly.
These days there’s a lot of talk about a “blog strategy,” and many well-known authors do virtual book tours where they offer up interviews to various blogs. You probably won’t have that luxury, but you can certainly research what blogs might be interested in your book and prepare pitches for them. There are social media campaigns to wage, local media angles to pursue, organizations to approach, and all kinds of out-of-the-box gambits you can dream up. None of this will cost you a whole lot — except time and perhaps a little pride.
Then there’s the stuff you pay for. And it’s tricky to judge what’s a good investment and what’s not because the results vary so much from book to book. A friend of mine who has a “real” book from a traditional publisher experimented with placing $1,000 in Facebook ads targeted to people in “cold” states (his book is called the History of the Snowman and it does very well around Christmas). He’s still trying to figure out what impact the ads had, but Facebook does have some interesting marketing opportunities. Google AdWords/Keywords is another popular option. And a number of self-serve ad networks are popping up, including Blogards Book Hive, which allows you to target a number of smaller book blogs for relatively affordable rates.
The author MJ Rose has a marketing service called AuthorBuzz that caters to both self-publishers and traditional publishers. She says the best thing for self-publishers is a blog ad campaign–it starts at about $1,500 for a week of ads (the design work is included) and heads up in increments of $500. She says: “We place the ads in subject-related blogs, not book blogs. For instance, if it’s a mystery about an antiques dealer, we don’t just buy blogs for self-identified readers — who are not the bulk of book buyers — but rather I’ll find a half dozen blogs about antiques, culture, art and investments and buy the ads there and track them.” Rose claims she can get your book in front of at least a half a million people with that initial investment. She also says that you can’t really spend too much, you can just spend poorly.
I agree. However, I can’t tell you what impact a week or month of ads on blogs will have on your specific book’s sales. There are simply too many variables.
Bonus tip: When it comes to self-promotion, there’s a fine line between being assertive and being overly aggressive in an obnoxious way. It also doesn’t impress people when all you tweet about is your book (the same goes for your Facebook and Google+ posts). As one friend told me, the state you want to achieve is what she likes to call “comfortably tenacious.”
20. Getting your book in bookstores sounds good, but that shouldn’t be a real concern.
You may have always wanted to see your book in a bookstore but bookstores aren’t keen on carrying self-published books and it’s extremely difficult to get good placement in the store for your book so chances are no one will see the three copies the store has on hand anyway. Furthermore, your royalty drops on in-store sales. Some of the self-publishing outfits offer distribution through Ingram. CreateSpace offers its Expanded Distribution program for a $25 a year fee. It uses Baker & Taylor, as well as Ingram, as well as CreateSpace Direct to make your book available “to certified resellers through our wholesale website.” You also get distribution to Amazon Europe (Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.es, Amazon.fr, Amazon.it, Amazon.de).
21. Self-published books rarely get reviewed — for free anyway.
Kirkus’ reviews service for indie authors.Kirkus
Yes, it’s true. It’s very hard to get your self-published book reviewed — and the mantra in the traditional publishing world is that reviews sell books. But that’s changing a bit. People didn’t take bloggers seriously at first and now they do. And what’s interesting is that reputable book reviewers such as Kirkus and more recently Publishers Weekly are offering special reviews services geared toward self-published authors. In the case of Kirkus Indie, the author pays a fee to have the book reviewed (around $400-$550, depending on the speed) and a freelancer writes an objective critique (yes, they do negative reviews) in the same format as a standard Kirkus review. (You can also submit books that are in an e-book-only format).
As for Publishers Weekly, it offers something called PW Select. While you can submit your book for review for a fee of $149, only about 25 percent of the book submissions end up being reviewed. But for a lot of folks risking that $149 is worth the opportunity of getting into the PW door. Of course, there’s always the possibility that the review isn’t favorable.
A third option is BlueInk Review, another fee-based review service targeted at indie authors.
22. Design your book cover to look good small.
A solid indie cover effort.Amazon
Traditional book publishers design — or at least they used to design — a book cover to make a book stand out in a bookstore and evoke whatever sentiment it was supposed to evoke. Well, with Amazon becoming a dominant bookseller, your book has to stand out as a thumbnail image online because that’s how most people are going to come across it. If you’re primarily selling through Amazon, think small and work your way up.
23. If you’re selling online, make the most out of your Amazon page.
I’m a little bit surprised by how neglectful some self-published authors are when it comes to their Amazon product pages. I’ve talked to self-published authors who spend a few thousand dollars on a publicist and their Amazon product page looks woeful — and they’ve barely even looked at it. I ask, “Where are people going to buy your book?” They don’t seem to realize how important Amazon is. True, some people market through a Web site or buy Google keywords to drive traffic there. But you need to have your Amazon page look as good as possible and take advantage of the tools Amazon has to help you surface your book (“Tags,” Listmania, reader reviews, etc.). It may not have a major impact, but it’s better than doing nothing. You should check out Amazon’s Author Central to get some helpful tips.
One tip: Make sure your book is put into five browsing categories (it’s only allowed five). It helps to categorize your book to readers and also will make your book look better if it’s a bestseller in those categories. Way back when I self-published, no one at BookSurge suggested this to me; I had to figure it out on my own. (Again, they don’t care, you have to make them care)
What to Look For in an Online Book Publishing Service
The best online book publishing services offer versatile and affordable publishing packages, marketing assistance, a broad selling reach, a wide selection of extra services beyond the publishing package, and plenty of customer support. These are the criteria you can use to evaluate which online book publishing service is right for you.
The best online publishing packages offer pre-publishing consultation, extensive publishing service options and promotional services after publishing. Most publishers have several packages available as well as add-on services for purchase. Publishers’ websites have detailed information and free booklets on request. This gives you the tools you need to make informed choices about which package works best for you before you pay a cent. As you weigh your options, decide which features are relevant to your needs and avoid spending unnecessarily on ones that you won’t use. If you change your mind, you can upgrade later.
The best publishers have a quick overall publishing time frame and give authors the most for their money. High-quality online publishers also provide promotional services, such as web design and providing copies of your book to reviewers, as part of the prepaid package to help you sell your published book.
Book Pricing & Royalties
This is one of the more complicated aspects of publishing your work. How prices are set and how much royalty you are paid vary by publisher and also depend on the retailer selling your book. Some publishers let you set your own prices, but they factor in costs for any price you set. The ability to set your own price may be included in the plan you choose, or you may have the option to purchase that ability. Each company has its own policies.
All publishers have a bookstore online to sell print and digital books. In most cases, direct sales provide you with a higher percentage of royalties than selling through other channels. Royalties may be a percentage of the cover price, the wholesale price or the net profit.
Online publishers help you sell your book through a combination of channels, including their online bookstores, wholesale distribution and major online book retailers. The best online publishers increase your sales potential by making your book available to as many readers as possible.
Publishers partner with major distributors to expand the reach of your content. Your publisher should help you understand your distribution options and give you an idea of how much revenue you can generate through each one. It’s important to find out which distribution company your publishing company uses and how far its reach goes. For maximum distribution, look for companies that provide books to libraries, schools, and universities in addition to online and brick-and-mortar stores. Wider distribution comes at a price, but it is a great way to scale up your book’s visibility quickly.
Marketing & Sales Tools
These days, publishing is accessible to just about everyone. Writing a book is only half of the equation; you need marketing to let people know about your book and grow your sales. Online book publishing services should offer a wide assortment of marketing services, both in publishing packages and as optional services to make sure you have the level of marketing assistance to meet your needs. Marketing starts with your book cover design, since it’s the first thing people see when looking for new reading material. Publishers offer assistance with cover design as well as image choices and placement inside the book.
Publishers also offer website design and hosting, Google ads, printed promotional materials, and videos. Publicity services they provide include press releases and social media promotion. They may even offer full-scale campaigns with coordinated print, web and video promotion.
If you have marketing and design experience, you may not need these services. However, many companies include marketing services in their packages. It’s important to know whether you can purchase only the publishing services you need so you are not paying for ones you don’t.
Help & Support
Top online book publishing services offer several avenues of support, including toll-free phone and email support or an online form for question submissions. It is also helpful if a company hosts a FAQs page and an online meeting place where authors can share ideas and discuss publishing topics on a forum, discussion board or blog.
Live chat service is arguably the most convenient form of customer support, allowing you to acquire information before you spend money on a package. Not many online publishers offer this service, though. On the other hand, several online publishers go the extra mile and share free literature, blogs and newsletters to provide all the information you need to make informed decisions about services before purchasing them.
Popular Online Book Publishers
Many authors use CreateSpace because it’s part of one of the largest book retailers in the world, Amazon. There is no denying that Amazon has played a major role in the wide-scale adoption of eBooks. The reputation it has built gives authors confidence that it will bring the same level of service to publishing. It makes sense that Amazon would use its book-selling expertise to help authors reach their audience.
CreateSpace provides support to authors from start to finish. The company is available to answer questions before you select your services and throughout the entire process. It helps you choose what you need to get your book into the hands of readers.
Some other publishers offer their services as packages. With CreateSpace, you choose only the services you need. There are several other distribution options beyond putting your work on Amazon. CreateSpace works with the largest book distributors in the world. A solid reputation, flexible services and expansive distribution options make CreateSpace an attractive online publishing option.
It says a lot that AuthorHouse has the largest number of titles in print. This shows its ability to steer authors through the publishing process to a finished product. It has the processes in place to launch new writers and has been doing just that for quite some time. AuthorHouse is well established and has a streamlined operation that results in a shorter publishing time than you see with other publishers. Its representatives are with you every step of the way. They provide guidance, but you retain ultimate control over your work. You choose your cover, interior images and even price. Many authors appreciate the freedom to create their book according to their vision.
One of the many things that make AuthorHouse attractive is the optional Booksellers Return Program. This program gives it an advantage over other publishers. Booksellers are reluctant to carry books from unknown authors, so this gives retailers a risk-free way to stock your book, which is perfect for writers who are trying to get established.
The publishing process can seem daunting to the uninitiated, or even the initiated. Learning all you can about the process allows you to get the most out of your publishing experience. This level of support is how Xlibris excels. It provides a wealth of information to authors. All of its publishing packages come with a one-year membership to its Author Learning Center and its community of authors, agents and other literary professionals. The Author Learning Center offers many valuable resources for writers, including videos, podcasts, articles and webinars.
The Book Launch tool in the Author Learning Center helps you with step-by-step information about publishing and marketing tasks. You customize the tasks to fit your needs and use the tool to track their status. This tool includes a feature that enables you to create a group of writers from the community to provide advice and feedback on your manuscript. The Author Learning Center provides resources that help you keep learning and growing as an author, as well as a way to give back to other authors. Xlibris consultants are also with you throughout the publishing process, but the community it has established provides valuable resources and sets the company apart from other publishers.
Whether you are a first-time author or a previously published novelist, online book publishing companies offer a fast, often affordable way to get your book off your computer screen and into the hands of readers. These companies have many services that help you produce, distribute, market and sell your work.
Virtual Book Worm Publishing
Start publishing on Google Play in minutes
publishing books with Barnes & Noble Nook
publishing books with apple / itunes
KINDLE SCOUT: THE PROS AND CONS OF AMAZON’S NEW CROWDSOURCED PUBLISHING PROGRAM
Kindle Scout is reader-powered publishing for new, never-before-published books. It’s a place where readers help decide if a book gets published. Selected books will be published by Kindle Press and receive 5-year renewable terms, a $1,500 advance, 50% eBook royalty rate, easy rights reversions and featured Amazon marketing.
Authors can submit their full manuscripts of 50,000 words or more (including cover art, various metadata items, and an author photo), about 5,000 words of which are posted on the Kindle Scout website for a 30-day “campaign”.Readers can then browse books and nominate their favorites. If a manuscript they’ve voted for gets published, they receive a free ebook.
Things authors should note:
- According to the guidelines, Amazon provides no editing, copy editing, proofreading, or cover art/illustration. Your book will be published exactly as you submit it. [See my update at the bottom of this post.]
- Submissions are exclusive for 45 days from the date you submit your manuscript. No shopping your ms. elsewhere during that time.
- Submitted manuscripts must meet content and eligiblity guidelines. Currently, only Romance, Mystery and Thriller, and SF/Fantasy are eligible.
- Crowdsourcing? Not so much. Authors are encouraged to mobilize their networks for voting (which kind of undermines the notion that manuscripts will rise to the top on merit–a perennial problem of crowdsourced ventures, along with the potential for gaming the system). Mere vote numbers, however, don’t determine what gets published. Per the FAQ, “Nominations give us an idea of which books readers think are great; the rest is up to the Kindle Scout team who then reviews books for potential publication.”
- If you’re attracted by the promise of “featured Amazon marketing”, here’s what it actually consists of:“Kindle Press books will be enrolled and earn royalties for participation in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library and Kindle Unlimited as well as be eligible for targeted email campaigns and promotions.” Key word here: “eligible.” In other words, no promises.
- If you’re not selected for publication, you must request removal of your work from the Kindle Scout site. Otherwise, your campaign page will remain online.
- By submitting, you agree in advance to the terms of the Kindle Press publishing agreement. These terms are not negotiable. So before you submit, be sure you’re comfortable with them. (If Amazon chooses not to publish your ms., you’re automatically released).
So, what about that publishing agreement?
Overall, it’s decent. The grant of rights (for ebook and audio editions only–though see below) is exclusive and worldwide, and renews every five years–but you can request reversion at the end of any five-year term if you’ve earned less than $25,000 in royalties during the term, or at any time after your two-year publication anniversary if you’ve earned less than $500 in the previous 12 months. Royalties are 50% of net for ebooks and 25% of net for audiobooks, paid within 60 days of the end of the month. And of course, there’s the $1,500 advance.
Things authors should note:
- The grant of rights is a bit more sweeping than it appears:
- The grant of rights includes translation rights. If these are exercised by Amazon, your royalty drops to 20% of net. (On the plus side, if Amazon has not exercised or licensed these rights within two years, you can request that they be reverted.)
- Amazon can license to third parties any of the rights you’ve granted. You get 75% of net proceeds for foreign-language books licensed to third parties, and 50% of net proceeds for any other format.
- The grant of rights allows Amazon not just to publish and/or license ebooks and audiobooks, but to “create condensed, adapted, abridged, interactive and enhanced editions of your Work, and include your Work in anthology or omnibus editions.”
- For “subscription or other blended fee programs” (for instance, Kindle Unlimited), net revenue “will be determined in accordance with the standard revenue allocation methods for that program.” So be sure you’re aware of what those are.
- Amazon “may” register copyright for you, but is not required to do so.
- As always, Amazon maintains complete discretion and control, and can make decisions and changes without telling you. “You acknowledge that we have no obligation to publish, market, distribute or offer for sale your Work, or continue publishing, marketing, distributing or selling your Work after we have started doing so. We may stop publishing your Work and cease further exploitation of the rights granted in this Agreement at any time in our sole discretion without notice to you.” (my emphasis) These are not sentences you’ll find in a typical publishing contract.
So should authors rush to submit their unpublished novels?
On the plus side, there’s the advance (money up front is nice), the possibility of subrights sales, the promotional boost that published books will receive from the selection process–at least while the program is new–and whatever promotions Amazon may (not necessarily will–see above) undertake for individual books. Amazon’s on-site promotions (as distinct from its email promotions, which can be spammy; you haven’t lived until you’ve gotten an Amazon email promotion for your own book) are incredibly powerful, and can have a huge impact on sales numbers–though that effect doesn’t necessarily last past the promotion itself. It’s possible, also, that gaining a toehold in Amazon’s publishing ecosystem could eventually open the door to one of Amazon Publishing’s traditional imprints–for some authors, at least.
On the other hand, Kindle Scout seems to occupy an uneasy middle ground between publishing and self-publishing, embracing characteristics of both while offering the benefits of neither. As with a traditional publisher, you must agree to an exclusive contract that takes control of certain of your rights–but you don’t get the editing, proofing, artwork, or any of the other financial investments that a traditional publisher would provide. As with self-publishing, your book is published exactly as you submit it, with no developmental input or support–but you don’t have control of pricing and you receive a smaller percentage of sales proceeds than you would with KDP.
For Amazon, Kindle Scout is super-low risk publishing with the potential for substantial yield–not just from books that prove popular but from the influx of new users to its website. For authors, it’s the usual dilemma: does what you may gain outweigh what you don’t get, and what you must give up?
As always, don’t rush in. Read and understand the Kindle Scout publishing agreement, and be sure you’re comfortable with the other conditions to which you’re agreeing by submitting your manuscript. Be realistic in your expectations–not just of the possibility of publication, but of what might result if you’re selected.
And please–don’t spam your entire social network with requests for votes.
UPDATE, 10/30/14: Amazon’s right to ebooks and audiobooks is exclusive, but I’ve been asked whether the Kindle Scout publishing agreement would allow authors to self-publish in print. The answer would appear to be “yes”. Here’s the relevant language (my emphasis): “All rights not expressly granted to us in this Agreement (including the right to publish print editions) are reserved for your sole use and disposition.”
Also, here’s author Benjamin Sobieck’s first impressions of his Kindle Scout campaign. He makes some interesting observations.
UPDATE, 12/3/14: Just four weeks after Kindle Scout officially launched, the first books have been selected for publication. That seems incredibly fast. I wish Amazon were more transparent about stats, so we could know how many books were submitted to the program and how many readers participated.
UPDATE 1/20/15: It’s been confirmed to me that at least some Kindle Scout winners do receive editorial suggestions and cover assistance.
UPDATE 7/16/15: Still more on editing: according to author Victoria Pinder, whose book was chosen for the program, “The Kindle Scout winners all talk to each other, and we’ve all received edits. Some people received some heavy developmental editing. Truthfully, I didn’t….The team still found quite a few things I needed to do to polish and clean in the manuscript so I still had editing. I can also say more than one set of eyes read my manuscript from the Kindle Scout team. The editor comments were done on different dates with different names.”
Top 10 Worst Self-Publishing Mistakes—Explained!
“10. You thought you could re-use that ISBN you paid so much for since the novel you put it on last year isn’t selling anyway.”
Explained: You never want to re-use an ISBN, or even use it for another edition of the same book. The ISBN is known as a unique identifier. It’s intended to be assigned to one edition of one book. Your book’s information has been entered in book databases everywhere, and you will only create tremendous confusion between the two works, hurting sales for both, if you attempt to re-use an ISBN. Just don’t do it.
“9. Everybody knows the words to the song, so it’s okay to quote lyrics from it throughout your novel, right?”
Explained: Check out this blog post about using bits of songs in your writing. The author here found, after using only snippets of 60s songs in a party scene, that he had a liability of over $6,000. Just like paintings, poems, or any creative expression, people’s lyrics and music are protected by copyright law, and violations of this law can be expensive and very damaging. If you want to use it, get permission first.
“8. The photos looked fine on your screen, and that means they will look fine when they’re printed, it just makes sense.”
Explained: Graphics on screens are all displayed at a resolution of 72 dots per inch (dpi) in Reg-Green-Blue (RGB) colorspace. That’s just the way computers display graphics. However, when you go to print your book, your color photos will need to be 300 dpi in the Cyan-Magenta-Yellow-Black (CMYK) colorspace. So no, the image you see on your screen, no matter how gorgeous, may not have enough resolution to print well.
“7. I picked Arial for my book because the name reminded me of my middle school girlfriend.”
Explained: Many people don’t notice typefaces, typography, design, serifs, ligatures, and the other elements book designers take for granted, and why should they? But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter what typeface you use. The classic book typefaces, when used correctly, will produce a book that’s beautiful, readable, and reader-friendly. That’s why they’re classics.
“6. I know they’re charging me $6,000 to publish my book, but I get 10 copies, absolutely free!”
Explained: Well, $6,000 divided by 10 is . . . The point here is that if you want to publish your own book you may be better off using a plain author services company like CreateSpace or Lulu than a subsidy publisher. Why? The subsidy publisher makes its money from sales to authors–that’s you. If you use a service like CreateSpace you are the publisher and you use them as a printer. You pay only for the services you decide you need, and then you make your money from book sales.
“5. I thought it would sound more impressive if I wrote my memoir in the third person. All my sports heroes talk that way.”
Explained: By far the best way for most authors to present their information in nonfiction books is with a clear, active, straightforward style. Attempts to create unusual styles, strange viewpoints, exotic points of view almost always fail since they are incredibly difficult to carry off well. Both you and your readers will be well served by a natural conversational style that follows a normal and expected narrative. This will make your valuable information stand out, not an eccentric way of saying it.
“4. I really got the unit price down, but I had to print 10,000 copies. You have any room in your garage?”
Explained: Having a plan on how you intend to market, publicize and sell your book before entering into book production is highly recommended. The unit cost of your book is meaningless if you never sell any. Many self-publishers are using digital printing through print-on-demand distribution to minimize this type of risk. However, you have to plan your book, its retail price, and your method of distribution before going to press.
“3. Sure, I included an invoice with all the books I sent to book reviewers. Hey, they don’t care, it’s just a big company paying the bill.”
Explained: Although reviewers do usually work for larger companies, sending an invoice with areview copy will ensure that while you won’t get paid for the book, you won’t get a review either. The convention is that you are asking for valuable editorial time and space in a publication, and certainly the least you can expect is to provide a book to anyone gracious enough to go to the trouble of reviewing your book.
“2. It was cheaper to print my novel as an 8-1/2″ x 11″ book because I got so many words on each page.”
Explained: Although it’s true that you can save money in digital printing by creating a book with fewer pages, a novel printed full page on letter-size paper with small margins and tight lines to “get so many words” on a page is likely to be read by no one. Making your book difficult to read is a quick way to eliminate many readers. There is no economy in printing books that no one wants to read.
“1. What do you mean, I need a cover designer? Don’t books come with covers?”
Explained: Most author-services companies are only too happy to put a cover on your book for a fee, or to turn you loose on their cover creation programs. But it’s pretty easy to tell most of the books that have been “designed” this way, and it isn’t a pretty picture. If your book is worth publishing, and you want people to buy it, and you understand the cover is the primary way that people will identify the book wherever it appears, don’t you think it might be worthwhile to get a cover designer you can afford to create a cover for you?