Tag Archives: Amazon

“Starting Out as an Indie Author” made “hot new release”!

Lookie here, friends:

Hot new release

Starting Out as an Indie Author made it to a “hot new release” in the publishing and authorship category on Amazon! It’s dropped out again now, but at least I got the screen shot to prove it last night before I went to bed. *g*

And I did no advertising to get there — it was all mailing list and friends sharing the news. So a huge thanks to all of you!

Important info: How Amazon’s sales algorithms work

Probably the biggest German site for indie authors, Die Self-Publisher-Bibel, recently did an extensive test of sales rankings on Amazon with books published deliberately for that purpose. They wanted to test three basic assumptions about sales algorithms used by Amazon:

– Price influences sales rank
– Enrolling in KDP Select influences sales rank
– The dynamics of sales influence sales rank

The results are eye-opening. Fortunately, they have also published an English version on their site. I highly recommend it to anyone involved in self-publishing:

http://www.selfpublisherbibel.de/test-how-amazons-algorithms-really-work-myth-and-reality/

“Yseult, Part I: Two Women” now finally free on Amazon

As I mentioned a while back, in September I embarked on an experiment: splitting my almost 200,000 word monster book Yseult into episodes and making the first one free.

The problem was, Amazon wasn’t cooperating. The book was free on iTunes, B&N, Google Play, you name it — but no matter how many times I clicked on “tell us about a lower price” and how many people I asked to tattle on me, the price refused to budge, sitting there stubbornly at 99c. I published the first two episodes within days of each other, but when I had so much trouble making the first book free, I didn’t bother putting together the last two.

Yesterday, I finally got fed up at how long it was taking for Amazon to price match, and I wrote them directly.

And lo and behold, it worked!

I don’t know if it is also free in other countries or only in the US (my experience has been that it takes much longer for other Amazon stores to catch up). But at least if you’re in the US, and you have not yet read my (first) doorstopper, you can now get Part I for free. Here the details:

Yseult, Part I

Yseult, Part I: Two Women

Yseult the Wise and Yseult the Fair, mother and daughter, are members of the proud race of the Feadh Ree, the Old Race in Eriu. New ways and a new religion are coming to their land, and despite all their magic, they may be powerless to stop it.

“Yseult: Two Women” is the first of four parts from the bestselling historical fantasy novel “Yseult: A Tale of love in the Age of King Arthur,” a retelling of the tragic love story of Tristan and Yseult. Yseult is a princess of Ireland, a land on the fringes of Europe, a land that had never been conquered by Rome. What would her life have been like in that pagan land before the advent of Christianity?

This book is a re-imagining of Yseult’s youth, never part of the legends — until now.

BTW, even if you already have read the complete novel, you’ll be doing me a favor if you download anyway. It will help the book rank higher. 🙂

Starting out as an indie author: Using keywords for getting into niche categories on Amazon

Starting out as an indie author

When you publish an ebook through Amazon’s KDP dashboard, you are allowed to select two categories, such as Fantasy/Historical or Fantasy/Epic. But not all of the browse categories on Amazon are available through the dashboard. I’ve written before about how important it can be for sales to get into the right categories here and here.

Much of what I wrote in those posts, however, is now obsolete, at least as far as strategies on how to get into obscure categories is concerned. But it is still true that for the sake of visibility, it’s important to be in categories where the competition isn’t as strong (unless you’re selling hundreds of copies a day, that is). Some of the subcategories for ebooks that aren’t options in the dashboard are wonderfully intimate little niches that will keep you book visible even with a much lower sales ranking. Because if your book drops out of the top 100, it is officially dead (believe me, I know).

But whereas once you had to write Amazon directly in order to be listed in the categories, now you need to use keywords.

When you publish through KDP, one of your options is to type in seven keywords. Little information is given as to their purpose, and it is easy to underestimate how important they can be. In the KDP help pages, however, there is extensive information on which keywords to use to get into various categories that can’t be chosen directly. Here are some examples that in my own experience have proven useful:

Science Fiction & Fantasy Keywords

Literature & Fiction Keywords

Teen & Young Adult Category Keywords

Of course it makes no sense to aim for a category just because there isn’t as much competition. But if you can find some niche categories where your book would fit, I highly recommend using keywords to get into them. It just might give your book the edge it needs.

Other posts in this series:

Starting out as an indie author: preparing your manuscript for ebook retailers

Starting out as an indie author: Using distributors for getting into online bookstores

Starting out as an indie author: Smashwords, Draft2Digital, and Xinxii (Using distributors, part 2)

Starting out as an indie author: The costs of self-publishing

Starting out as an indie author: Why editing is important — and who can skip the expense after all

Starting out as an indie author: Creating your own covers

Starting out as an indie author: Interview with Kate Sparkes

Starting Out as an Indie Author: Getting Your Books into Google Play

Amazing deal on Amazon.de: Get Almost All the Way Home From the Stars for under 1000 Euros!

Once again, a vendor on Amazon has outdone itself, and is offering my collection of SF short stories with Jay Lake, Almost All the Way Home From the Stars for only 999,11 Euros! Since I don’t know how long this incredible deal will last, I took another screen shot:

Amazon.de deal

I only wish I could sell it for that …

I wonder what bots were at work this time to come up with such an incredible opportunity.

“Dragon Time” live as Countdown Deal, and “Gawain and Ragnell” finally free!

I posted yesterday about the new KDP Select “Countdown Deals” and my decision to give it a whirl with my YA short story collection, Dragon Time. It took a while, but the sale is now live:

Also, I am very happy to announce that today Amazon finally price-matched Gawain and Ragnell, and it is now permafree. Download! Tell your friends! Send links to everyone who enjoys Arthurian fiction! *g*

I want to thank everyone who tattled on me and helped to make this novelette free. Cross your fingers for me that it helps with sales of the other Pendragon Chronicles books. 🙂

Amazon trying to re-Kindle interest in KDP Select: The new “Countdown Deals”

I published my first ebook, Yseult, in January 2012, pretty much simultaneous with the introduction of KDP Select. I opted in and set my first promotion for a mere week after publication — and I didn’t have a clue how lucky I was. I got a couple of quick reviews as a result of review copies I’d given away, and my brand new little baby (or rather big fat hunking baby — the hard copy book comes in at over 600 pages) got picked up by no less than Pixel of Ink, which at the time was *the* way to ensure that a freebie promotion would be successful.

Back then, using free days with KDP Select was an excellent way for a new indie writer to gain exposure and (after the free run) sell books. That first month as an indie publisher, I sold 242 books. I added more titles, mostly collections of my previously published short stories, and by spacing regular free runs across all my titles, I could increase my visibility as a whole and ensure that I continued to sell books.

But then Amazon made a couple of “corrections” to how free downloads were counted towards popularity and sales rankings (the infamous “Amazon algorithms”), and they hid the top 100 free book listings on pages that didn’t as easily show up when browsing. Free days became less and less effective as a marketing tool, to the point where it now is basically useless, unless you have a simultaneous ad running on Bookbub (which is very pricey).

Nowadays, you have to pay to give books away.

As a result, I and many, many others have been pulling out of KDP Select. Why have your books exclusive to Amazon when it doesn’t do you any good, right? Now Amazon has introduced something new to make Select more attractive to writers again: what they call “Countdown Deals.” This is how it works:

– Your book can be discounted for up to seven days. The duration of the sale is visible on the book’s page on Amazon, as well as the regular price, so that readers can see that they really are getting a “deal.”

– Your royalty rate remains the same even while the book is on sale. So instead of getting only 35% on a book marked down to 99c, you get 70%. The income is still naturally quite a bit less, but if it results in increased exposure, it’s worth it. And it certainly beats giving your book away.

– Amazon has set up a dedicated “Kindle Countdown Deals” page at www.amazon.com/kindlecountdowndeals – but of course there is no guarantee your Countdown Deal will get listed.

I don’t have many books in KDP Select anymore, and those that I do are basically there because I forgot to take them out, or I’m too swamped to upload them elsewhere. But hey, I’ve decided to give it a whirl, see if it’s any better than free days. Amazon has made it quite easy to set up a promotion. Here’s a screen shot of the first page of my books:

On the dashboard, you click on “Manage Benefits” and then just fill in the details for your sale. I decided to go with a seven day, single price 99c sale of my short story collection Dragon Time to test the waters, starting tomorrow Nov. 4 and going to Nov. 10. You can also have a sale where the price gradually returns to normal. For example, for my Dragon Time sale, I could have increased the price halfway through the sale to 1.99 if I had wanted to.

It will be interesting to see what good this does, if any. I’m suspecting the exposure won’t be enough to make KDP Select attractive enough to return to, at least not for most of us. But we’ll see — starting tomorrow.

I will naturally report my results when the promotion is over.

Related posts:

E-book promotions: Countdown – meh. Permafree – yay! (kinda)

“Promoting Ebooks with KDP Select”

The recent Amazon category revolution, and what it means for you

As many writers have noticed by now, this month Amazon has been playing merry with its browse categories, deleting a couple, and adding a whole lot more. In the long run, this might well be good for writers, giving us more chances for exposure, but what a lot of us saw was an immediate and dramatic decline in sales. I think this mostly applies to those who had books in categories that were deleted, or whose books were reassigned to new categories, not necessarily the best or most appropriate. For example, at least one of my novels was being listed for a while under the category nonfiction/history!

If this kind of mix-up has happened to you, you might want to try changing your categories.

The new categories that Amazon assigned to books seem to be based on the keywords you enter when you publish on KDP. India Drummond has already written an excellent article about how to get your categories reassigned by changing your keywords, which you can read here. Another possibility is to contact Amazon directly with the information on which new categories you would like your book to be listed in. I have a longer post about doing this here, but if all you want is the direct link, that’s here.

As I mentioned in the older post linked to above, if your books aren’t exactly in the dozen sales a day plus realm, it makes sense to get them into categories with less competition. Check out this recent screenshot with the new fantasy categories:

See how many books are in “Paranormal & Urban”? And how many are in “Dark Fantasy”? If you’re not one of those kinds of writers capable of getting on top 100 lists against tens of thousands of other books, you might want to try and get your books into some of those smaller categories — assuming they fit, of course. Despite the lack of competition, I don’t think the “TV, Movie, Video Game Adaptations” would prove very effective for my Pendragon Chronicles novels. 🙂

Recently, a number of writers who have used the direct approach to KDP support have had problems with responses insisting they should change their categories through their Bookshelf — even when the category they want to be included in isn’t available through the Bookshelf. So these days when I request a category change directly, I always include the following sentence:

“These categories are not categories I can choose through my KDP bookshelf.”

One more thing to note, however (learn from my mistakes): it is not wise to try to contact Amazon directly regarding category changes for a lot of books at once. A number of my books were affected by the recent category changes, and trying to be efficient, I sent four posts to Amazon in one day. (For all of the books, I wanted at least one category that couldn’t be chosen through the KDP Dashboard.)

While writing a blog post a few days later, I noticed that these were the categories for Yseult, a historical fantasy set in the fifth century and based on the legend of Tristan and Isolde:

#17 in Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Arthurian
#56 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Science Fiction > Space Exploration
#60 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Science Fiction > First Contact

Needless to say, I did not request to have Yseult changed to “First Contact” — that was for Looking Through Lace. But I sent the requests on the same day, and Amazon support lumped them all together under one author, and I ended up with two epic historical fantasies listed in SF categories. Sigh.

I have since tried to correct the situation, and while I did get Yseult and Shadow of Stone into more appropriate categories, they are also still being listed in the science fiction categories I intended for Looking Through Lace and Beyond the Waters of the World. Here’s the current ranking for Yseult, for example:

#2 in Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Arthurian
#15 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Fantasy > Arthurian
#31 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Science Fiction > First Contact

Yes, it is back in Arthurian now, but it is still listed under First Contact. While on one level that might fit thematically, since Yseult is forced to move to a completely foreign culture, the novel is still not exactly science fiction. 😦

So if, like me, you write in multiple genres or even sub-genres, don’t try try to change too many books in different categories in one day by contacting KDP directly. That is apparently too taxing for the Amazon support folks.

Real life distractions and a bunch of unannounced freebies

I have a translation deadline for 10 am tomorrow, and seeing that I’m a night owl and that’s about the time I get up in the morning (one of the joys of being a freelancer), I had to finish tonight. It’s now off, and I can finally get around to an update.

Given the developments of the last few days, I really will be eating my words and keeping Shadow of Stone in KDP Select for another round. In the last three days, I’ve made nearly as much in borrows on SoS as I made on Yseult in all other venues in the last two months since I took it out of KDP Select. And that’s not counting the additional sales of Yseult in the last few days on Amazon.

While I understand the haters being against Amazon’s dominance of the market, this is a purely self-centered, marketing decision on my part, based on my own sales data.

At the same time, while it might possibly be more lucrative for me to put Yseult back into KDP Select, I won’t. From what I’ve heard and read, the other ebook markets out there need a lot longer to take off, but the reward is more staying power. I haven’t been in the alternate markets long enough to confirm that, but I think it’s worth it to stick around a bit longer to see if it will work.

Just for the fun, and to reward my blog readers, I set up a bunch of spontaneous freebies that I’m not going to announce anywhere else:

Free from March 4-6, The Future, Imperfect: Six Dystopian Short Stories

Free from March 6-7, Beyond the Waters of the World

Free from March 4-6, Misty and the Magic Pumpkin Knife

Free from March 5-6, In the Middle of Nowhere With Company

And please note my new ebook short story, “The Leaving Sweater,” which is free on Kobo but has yet to be price-matched on Amazon:

The Leaving Sweater

In other news, I finished this revision pass of Chameleon in a Mirror. Since my critique partner doesn’t have time to read it until April, I’d like to still do another fast read-through before I send it along.

Wow, what a week. I think I need a break. 🙂

Luck and skill to everyone!

Ebook trials and tribulations: Fixing the Kindle Paperwhite bug

Recently, I had a “rash” of returns, 3 for Yseult and 5 for Shadow of Stone within a couple of days. I try not to let that kind of thing get to me too much, but then on one of my regular visits to the Kindle Boards, I noticed a topic entitled “Returns” and read it. One of the authors there suggested that an increase in returns might have something to do with the “Kindle Paperwhite bug” — which I had never heard of before. The post conveniently linked to another topic discussing the bug in detail.

What it amounts is that on the (relatively new) Kindle Paperwhite, encoding that was acceptable previously now leads to books displaying a fixed sans serif font that can’t be changed, either in the font face or the size.

I’d never had much problem with the formatting of my books before, but it was definitely worth looking into. So I downloaded the latest version of the Kindle Previewer and checked out Shadow of Stone, the book with the highest percentage of returns. And sure enough, my book was not Paperwhite compatible.

Argh.

The biggest problem for authors regarding the Paperwhite Bug is that Amazon refuses to acknowledge that it’s a bug, and keeps insisting it’s a feature. But from what I have been able to uncover while searching for fixes, the bug is related to the limited number of font faces on the Kindle Paperwhite. Any books which define Times New Roman as the default font, probably the most common font in the ebook world, are not supported, and thus display a fixed, sans serif font.

This does not only pertain to indie authors. Out of curiosity, I checked a number of samples of ebooks from traditional publishers using the Kindle Previewer, and about half suffered from the bug-that-is-no-bug.

Just to be perfectly clear here: Amazon never sent out any announcement to authors or publishers that coding would have to be changed to comply with the features of the Kindle Paperwhite. I only discovered that my books suffered from this “bug” by accident.

Mostly, I really love Amazon. I love them as a reader, stuck in the wilds of Central Europe, as a reader who used to have to pay about 20 German Marks ($10 give or take a few) per English paperback. Long before the additional advantages and conveniences of ebooks for me both as a reader and a writer, the Amazon bookstore made my life so much easier and more pleasant, that I find it next to impossible to join into the chorus of the “Amazon is Evil” crowd.

But they very definitely made a mistake here. Which they refuse to admit.

So on to the practical part of this blog post, how to fix the Kindle Paperwhite bug:

For those who are more versed in style sheets than I, there is an excellent summary here:

https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1E3vJOdiEq2qLiN8TBzgz70HuxpjMXP1-u4tnpLttzBQ

For those like me who create their ebooks using Scrivener, there is now a beta version that fixes the bug:

http://www.literatureandlatte.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=34&t=21207

Unfortunately, the Scriverner beta fixes the bug for Mobi files, but not for Epub, at least not entirely (changing font size works, but not font style). My normal ebook production process usually involves compiling the books as Epub, because I want to edit the automatically generated table of contents, which produces an entry for every single chapter. Mobi files can’t be edited. For my ridiculously long epic novels in the Pendragon Chronicles, a TOC with every chapter listed doesn’t make a lot of sense, since I want the reader to have immediate access to the glossary, the map, and the list of characters and places. With a long list consisting of nothing more than “Chapter 1, Chapter2, Chapter 3 …” the important stuff gets lost, and the reader might well not notice that I have provided maps and glossaries. So normally I get rid of the listings of individual chapters, and leave the rest.

So to keep my novels the way I wanted them, I used the following procedure:

Compile as Epub in Scrivener
Edit TOC in Sigil
Open edited Epub file in Calibre
Convert to Mobi with Calibre
Upload Mobi file to Amazon

Luckily, that was only necessary for the novels. For the short stories, novellas, and story collections, I only had to do a little bit of tweaking, export again as Mobi, and upload.

I’m not completely done with the conversions. I still have my collection The Future, Imperfect, as well as the Alaska stories to do. But since I started reconverting my books, the returns have stopped. Good news heading into the new year. 🙂

In case I don’t post again before 2013, a happy new year to all!