Tag Archives: Kindle

Using Keywords to Show up in Searches: Review of Supercharge Your Kindle Sales

Starting out as an indie author

Last month, before Chameleon in a Mirror had its free run and Island of Glass was available for pre-release, I did an experiment. At the beginning of October, I got a review copy from Nick Stephenson of his book Supercharge Your Kindle Sales. While he made a great case for using keywords to help make your book more visible, I didn’t want to write a review until I had some actual results on which to base my judgment.

Supercharge Your Kindle Sales

I’ve already pointed out in another post in the series “Starting out as an Indie Author” how you can use keywords to get into niche categories. The first section of Supercharge Your Kindle Sales represents another method of using keywords: finding keywords that will help your book’s visibility when readers type in search terms, another way besides categories that your book can be found. Not only that, Stephenson says it is important to use keywords tied to genres that are selling well, but where the competition is not as great. The author provides step-by-step instructions in how to do this, either manually by testing keywords in the Amazon search bar and analyzing the results yourself, or automatically, using paid tools such as Kindle Samurai.

My first attempts at supercharging didn’t have much of an effect. Downloads of my permafree story Gawain and Ragnell picked up, but everything else remained about the same. The difference here, I believe, is that G&R already had a certain amount of visibility through being in the top 100 list in Arthurian fiction.

So before writing my review, I decided to wait and see what effect, if any, the new keywords might have on a free promotion. I hadn’t tested a free run with one of my novels in over a year. Back then, without doing any advertising, I managed to give away about 300 copies of my Arthurian novel, Shadow of Stone. This time, without doing any advertising, I managed to give away about 2000 copies of my time travel into literary history, Chameleon in a Mirror.

I still wasn’t completely sold on the method. What matters after a free run is how well the book sells and how long it remains visible, after all. Now, over two weeks after the promotion, CIAM is still in a top 100 list. No only that, Island of Glass is in *2* top 100 lists.

To show you how this method can help, I took a couple of screenshots while CIAM was doing particularly well.

Keyword search

Keyword search
Keyword screenshots

As you can see, CIAM was showing up right at the top for both “time travel historical” and “fantasy time travel.” The book is no longer quite as high with those search terms, but it is still on the first page — which is where you want your book to be.

I also attempted to follow Nick Stephenson’s instructions on how to improve your mailing list (the second half of the book), but that has been much less successful for me than changing my keywords. The information and tips on keywords alone, however, make this book worth reading. But as I mentioned above, a change in keywords would probably have to be done in conjunction with some other kind of promotion to get your book high enough in the rankings to show up in search results in the first place.

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

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.

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.


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:


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


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!

Two free ebooks today, Yseult and Never Ever After

Just a reminder that two of my ebooks are free today, August 28.

Yseult: A Tale of Love in the Age of King Arthur:

For the price of a truce, Yseult is sent to a world where magic is dying – to marry the father of the man she loves.

Marcus’s son Drystan would have saved her from a loveless marriage, but with her relatives being held hostage, Yseult cannot endanger them and must go through with the wedding. The tragic love story of Yseult and Drystan plays out against the backdrop of a violent world threatening to descend into the Dark Ages – only Arthur’s battles to push back the Saxon hordes can save what is left of civilization. With her background, Yseult could act as a bridge between the old age and the new – but will the price be too high?

Yseult is a retelling of the tragic love story of Tristan and Isolde, a story older than Romeo and Juliet or Lancelot and Guinevere; an Arthurian romance with roots going back far into the realm of legend and the undying tales of King Arthur.

Also, a fantasy collection, Never Ever After, containing three previously published short stories.

– “A Serca Tale” is a retelling of the old Irish legend “The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne.”
– “King Orfeigh”: A young Irish king has lost his wife to the king of Faerie. Is there any way he can win her back?
– “Happily Ever Awhile”: Everyone knows the story of the filthy girl who married the prince by not bleeding into a glass slipper. But what happened to Ellie after the happy ending?

And Yseult was featured on Free Kindle Books and Tips today!

Great promotional opportunity: Ebooks for a Buck

I have the great good fortune that Yseult is presently being featured on Michael Gallagher’s book blog Kindle Books for a Buck (or less). Since he put up the link, I’ve sold 12 copies of the book. And that after sales ground to a halt earlier this month, I have no idea why. After a week of no sales, I lowered the price to 99 cents and started looking for promotional opportunities specific to that price point.

The most effective until now has been Michael Gallagher’s site. He features indie authors with books that fulfill certain criteria (in addition to the fact that they are a buck or less). You can check his requirements here.

So thanks to Michael for giving Yseult a much-needed boost!

“Looking Through Lace” FREE from now until Friday

I’m getting a little burned out on doing free promotions so often, so I’m using all the rest of my free promo days for my award-winning science fiction novella “Looking Through Lace” this week. Available for Amazon Kindle:


I’m planning on taking it out of KDP Select after that, at least for a while, so get it free while you still can!

Short story sale and Yseult rankings

Getting late here in Central Europe, but I’ve got some news before I head off to bed: I sold another short story to Daily Science Fiction today, “The Magician of Words.” It’s an odd little piece, to my way of thinking more like a prose poem than a story proper, but then, the other story I sold to them was based on a poem, so maybe it’s a pattern.

Yseult is doing quite well on its final free promotion, although it doesn’t look like it’s going to break into the top 100 Free Kindle Store overall this time. The best I saw earlier today (before the Amazon US glitch that disappeared all the buy buttons and the rankings for about an hour) was #136. It was also #1 in Arthurian Fantasy, #2 in Historical Fantasy, and #7 in Fantasy overall. It’s still #1 in Arthurian Fantasy, but it’s dropped in all the other rankings, and it’s only free for a few more hours. Ce la vie. Hopefully this will get me a few more sales anyway. 🙂

Last freebie for “Yseult” today and tomorrow, March 26-27

Before I take Yseult out of KDP Select, I’m using up my free days for a final 48 free promotion. KDP Select has been very good for me (at least most of the time), but I won’t know how much I might be selling elsewhere if I don’t at least try. So the beginning of April, I will be putting Yseult up on Smashwords, and fairly soon thereafter it should be available on B&N, iTunes, etc. (assuming I get the formatting right that is, and Smashwords Meatgrinder accepts it!)

So please, if you don’t have my big fat Arthurian fantasy yet, please grab yourself a copy! And if you do have it, pass the word along. It would be nice to see Yseult leave KDP Select with as big of a bang as possible. 🙂

“The Future, Imperfect” FREE for 24 hours!

I have another freebie going on today, my short story collection The Future, Imperfect. Here’s the product description:

“The Future, Imperfect” is a collection of near future, dystopian short stories by Ruth Nestvold. Environmental changes — slow in some regions, catastrophic in others — have had a major effect on our world, not for the better. While water wars and pandemics have devastated the Mediterrean region, and a major earthquake and the resulting destruction of nuclear power plants and sensitive research facilities have made much of California a wasteland, corporate-sponsored enclaves defend themselves from the have-nots. What can any one individual do to make a difference is such a world? These are the stories both of those who tried and those who failed.

Five of the short stories in this collection were previously published in such venues as Asimov’s and Futurismic. “Exit Without Saving” also appeared in Rich Horton’s “Science Fiction 2007: The Best of the Year.” “Killfile” is an original publication.

“The Future, Imperfect,” is a story collection of approximately 40,000 words.

If that sounds interesting, please grab yourself a copy! Believe me, you’ll be doing me a favor. 🙂

P.S. If you have any suggestions for the description, I’d be happy to hear them!

Shooting for the “magic 1000” in ebooks

This has been a pretty successful last couple of months. Starting with my novel Yseult at the beginning of January, I’ve gotten five new ebooks up on Amazon and have editied one more novel, Shadow of Stone, another Arthurian historical fantasy. I’ve booked editing services, and am scheduled to get the novel back on April 27. I’ve also contacted the cover artist who did the cover for Yseult, and it looks like he’ll be able to start working on a cover for the second book in the next couple of weeks. It’s all coming together, and working pretty well, too. Since I started out on this “experiment,” my earnings on ebooks have actually managed to make it into four figures. (That’s total, mind you!)

The other day on the Kindle Boards, I read a thread about getting to 1000 sales, after which everything gets easier. 🙂 That’s not even entirely tongue-in-cheek: supposedly after this point, internal Amazon promotion kicks in more, and the writer doesn’t have to do quite as marketing herself. So I pulled out the spreadsheets for January and February and added in my running counts for this month, and low and behold — I’m over two-thirds of the way there! Since January, I’ve sold 670 ebooks, (that’s paid-sold, not free-sold *g*) and had 131 borrows. So if I keep on plugging and luck does not desert me, I just might make 1000 by my birthday in May. That would be a nice birthday present!

In the spirit of keeping the engine running, I have another freebie scheduled for Friday, March 23, my new science fiction short story collection, The Future, Imperfect. Then next week, Yseult will be free again for two days, March 26-27. At the end of the month, Yseult is going off KDP Select. I will be putting it up on Smashwords so that it will be available at B&N and iTunes and the rest as well.

Whatever comes of all this, it’s a fun ride. I hope everyone else is enjoying themselves in their endeavors too!