Monday, January 31, 2011

Can Kindle Sales Have A Positive Impact On POD Sales?

I do not buy into the idea readers will buy a Kindle edition of a book and then buy a print, or POD edition of the same title. During my college years, I was guilty, as were many of my friends, of purchasing a vinyl record, playing it once to see if I liked it, sealing it in a plastic protective cover and purchasing a cassette copy to play, preserving the vinyl copy in its pristine state. Buying a Kindle edition and a print edition is not the same thing.

Since my Kindle edition of The Game of Basketball has been available, it has sold well. This month it has sold over 60 copies and as I type, it is the second best selling Kindle book about coaching basketball. Not bad given the theory non-fiction does not sell on Kindle. In the two months the Kindle edition has been available it has sold over a copies. I wish the POD version had sold as well in its first two months.

POD sales of The Game of Basketball on Amazon have been dismal in the print edition's first year of availability. I am excited to state sales of the POD version have picked up considerably since the release of the Kindle version. The month of January alone has seen more POD copies purchased from Amazon than all other months combined, excluding from that total December of 2010, which prior to January, 2011, had been the best sales month for the title.

Is there a connection or is this simply coincidence? I hope there is a connection and that sales of one edition on Amazon will help drive the sales of the other edition. Of course, at this early date, there is no way to tell and I have no insight into the mysteries of Amazon search results and how the sales of the two editions can help promote the title overall. Amazon never talks about their software and I will have to wait until the math minds have tracked enough titles and crunched the numbers to make a determination.

In the mean time though, I am hoping the newly released Kindle edition of 301 Frequently Asked Questions About Self-Publishing will eventually begin to sell and have the same positive impact on the sales of its POD brother.

CreateSpace Kindle Conversion Round Two Update!

My second Kindle book is now available and I used CreateSpace's Kindle conversion service for a second time. The book I had converted was my second book on self-publishing, 301 Frequently Asked Questions About Self-Publishing. I have sold one Kindle copy, to myself, just to see how quickly the results would be reported. To my astonishment, the report of the sale was almost instantaneous.

CreateSpace did a nice job and this time there have been no problems with the Mac, PC or Kindle versions. For $69 it is hard to beat the service if you do not need any changes to be made in the manuscript or require special links or graphics to be converted.

It did take several weeks longer this time for the conversion to be completed. I am certain this had nothing to do with the content of the book but rather the demand for CreateSpace's conversion service has created a bit of a backlog, making the time spent waiting for your title to come up to the top of the list to be converted longer than when the service was introduced.

Of course, anything I do has to have a glitch and this one bother's me. The title of the book as listed on the Kindle product page is 201 Frequently Asked Questions About Self-Publishing. A quick check on the Kindle Direct Publishing page where product information is entered shows the title is spelled, or rather listed, correctly. How this glitch took place is beyond me and must be on Amazon's end of things.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Kindle Direct Publishing Newsletter - Kudos to Amazon

For those of you who read this blog and have published Kindle editions of your CreateSpace or LSI books, you have probably already received your inaugural edition of the Kindle Direct Publishing Newsletter from Amazon. 

In the first issue of this new venture, Amazon also announces a name change, the Digital Text Platform has a new name, Kindle Direct Publishing. 

While many Kindle authors will probably hit the delete key, I plan to read each issue when it arrives electronically each month. Amazon deserves some credit for communicating formally with its Kindle authors. Bezos and his employees may not share trade secrets in the newsletter, but direct communication between Amazon's Kindle division and its authors has to be a good thing.

Pricing for POD and Kindle versions of the same title

The price of a book is an important consideration, particularly for self-publishing authors. I publish non-fiction books about coaching basketball and two about self-publishing. I know a lot about coaching basketball and have learned a great deal about self-publishing. I like to share information I have learned with others and the advent of POD and eBook technology allows me to not only share information but to earn money in the process.

My expertise is not in writing fiction and it certainly is not in the complicated world of business (at least it is complicated to me). I teach history but have successfully avoided drawing the assignment of teaching economics in my years in the profession. I have a basic understanding of the concept of supply and demand and the impact of this equation on pricing. I do not completely understand the vagaries of the consuming public and the role pricing plays in the purchase decision.

The can be no doubt the lower price of eBooks plays a role in the popularity of eBook sales. But how important is the role of the price? How important is the role in the price of a print copy of a paper book? What impact does lowering the price have on sales? What impact does raising the price have on sales? Does the difference in price between a POD version of a title and a Kindle version make a difference in the decision of which copy to purchase? 

One argument for lower pricing is the lower price will drive sales and the lost income from the lower profit margin will be more than made up for through a large increase in total sales. Others might argue, at least for non-fiction books, that too low a price indicates the value of the information contained is limited. A high price indicates the value of the information in the book is significant.

My question is when is a price too high and when is a price too low? I happen to think the information in all my books has value, but then I am the author. The real question is how much do the customers who purchase my books think the information is worth? 

There in lies the key to the question of pricing, or at least what I think is the answer. How much is the information in my non-fiction books worth in terms of money to my potential customers? If I raise the price too high, it will have a negative impact on sales. If I price the book too low it will have an impact on the profitability of the book in question and, I believe, eventually have a negative impact on the total number of copies sold.

Amazon helps some with the pricing guidelines for its Kindle books. Whether you like it or not, Amazon's "suggestion" Kindle books should be priced between $2.99 and $9.99 seems to have set the standard and it is hard to argue with the 70% share of the retail price Amazon pays its Kindle authors. With easy and nearly immediate access to Kindle book sales information for a specific title, an author can experiment with pricing and over time determine the impact, positive or negative, a specific price has on any given title. The same is true of a POD paper book. CreateSpace provides hourly updates of sales for authors on the Member Dashboard.

The question I am struggling with now is what should the price difference between two editions of a title be? Will a price that works for a POD version with no Kindle version be impacted negatively if there is too big a difference between the POD price and the Kindle price?

My goal is to optimize sales for all of my books regardless of the version in question. Consider me greedy, but I want to sell as many Kindle books as I can and the same is true of my POD print books. I still have one more child to put through college. Pricing plays a role in the equation of generating sales and it has a role to play in how much profit my self-publishing business earns.

I will be sure to share what I learn in the coming months as Kindle versions of my current POD books come on line for sale and as I publish new titles with both in both eBook and POD versions.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Amazon Sales Ranking for Kindle Books - Are Print and Kindle Versions Linked in Search Results?

My sole Kindle book at the moment, The Game of Basketball, sat alone on top of the search results for Kindle books about "coaching basketball" last week. I was excited to check sales for the week and to see I had sold 16 copies in a single day.  Sadly, it has fallen a few places to 6th, but I am still happy with how the Kindle version of the book has taken off.

How did the book get to this position so quickly in the all important Amazon search results? I am pretty sure two forces combined to create the success of the Kindle version of the book. The first factor is the introductory price of $2.99. The POD version sells for $17.95 and Amazon seldom discounts the book.

The second factor is a concentrated marketing effort in my weekly coaching newsletter.  This approach involved promoting the release of the Kindle version, the availability of FREE apps to download to various electronic devices to read Kindle books and the fact the introductory price is going to go up February 1st.

I consistently give away free content that is valuable to coaches, including excerpts of the same book when it was available in a print version only. It is my belief I have built up credibility with the readers of the newsletter via the free valuable content as well as my other coaching books being filled with useful and valuable content. I also have concluded the low price combined with a get it now or pay more later marketing promotion prompted a lot of sales in a very short period of time.

There have been some added benefits as well. The Kindle version has drawn an additional 5-star review praising the content and the dismal sales of the print version have improved. So much so that the ranking of the book in the all important search results has jumped in the past week from 120 to 18. 

I have never believed the hype that someone who buys a Kindle version will buy a paper version as well. Why would a customer do that? The point of having a Kindle for many readers is the savings over time in the purchase price of the books.

Could it be Amazon is beginning to link both Kindle sales and print sales together for the TITLE and not the version of the book? It would make sense for Amazon to do so. A popular title available for sale in both a Kindle and a print version gives the customer a choice, and Amazon is supposed to have as its driving force a customer first mindset. 

Promoting popular titles that offer a choice of how the title will be delivered makes sense. Combing the two versions sales data to further drive the popular title higher in the search results is customer friendly and would allow both Amazon and the author to take advantage of the long tail factor, thereby increasing sales.

For those of you who read this blog who are data and math inclined, please shed some light on how tracking sales of versions of a title could prove, or disprove this theory that the versions have been linked in the Amazon search results. What data would need to be tracked, for how long and how should the data be analyzed. Math minds better than mine will be required to solve this puzzle.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Customer Service and Lulu - A Lesson for Self-Publishing Authors

Michael Marcus, self-publishing author and the host of the Book Making blog, recently published an eBook titled 199 Valuable Self-Publishing Tips for a Penny Apiece. It is for sale on the Lulu website for $1.99. I don't know if Michael has made it available in any other formats yet. I have not finished the book but I will tell you Michael gives you your money's worth. The total number of tips is more like 400, not the 199 tips the title promises.

Today's blog post is not meant to be a review of Michael's book, though I will tell you it was worth the $1.99 I paid. Rather I want to praise Mr. Marcus for prompt customer service and rip Lulu for its  lousy customer service. 

Lulu is in the business of providing authors who self-publish with the means to print, distribute and sell books. Since Lulu has its own web site where books, in this case ebooks, are sold, this means Lulu needs to provide customer service not only to its authors, but to the customers who visit Lulu's site to purchase books.

I paid my $1.99 and promptly downloaded my book. When some free time became available, I opened the file to read my newly acquired book. To my horror and irritation, the file was gibberish. No problem.  Lulu should rectify the problem by sending me a functional replacement copy. I am still waiting for my replacement copy.

To the Michael's credit, he sent me a complimentary replacement copy, which is fully functional, as soon as he read the e-mail I sent to him, not to complain to him, but rather to warn him about the problem. Not only did he apologize and send a replacement, he let me know he had attempted to rectify the problem on the Lulu website. 

That is customer service. I got the product I paid for, was thanked for communicating the issue with him and informed of the steps he, the author, had taken to correct the problem. I will be purchasing one or two of his books on self-publishing in the future because I am interested in his ideas on marketing his books - and because of Micheal's professional and courteous customer service.

Mr. Marcus set the standard in my mind for how self-publishing authors MUST react to their readers when a problem arises. Instead of being an irritated customer who not only did not get the book I purchased, I plan to purchase more books in the future, in part because I was treated like a valuable customer.

Lulu on the other hand, lost all future sales from this customer. I attempted to contact Lulu before I contacted Michael. After about 10 minutes of bouncing around the web site I found the mechanism for having a problem being rectified. I noted in my communication what the problem was in specific detail. I have yet to hear back from Lulu, but I have read about 40 pages of the copy of the book sent as a replacement by Mr. Marcus. At this point, I doubt I will ever hear from Lulu.

Lulu presented two poor examples of customer service. The mechanism to communicate problems with a product was hard, for me at least, to find. There has yet to be a response to my complaint and request for a replacement copy.

Non-fiction books are meant to share information. Often information and time are interconnected and the relationship is important to the customer. Failure for a book distributor/vendor to deliver the information in time will result in the loss of future sales for the author and the distributor/vendor. It makes you wonder how serious Lulu is about its business.

It is obvious to me Mr. Marcus is serious about me purchasing additional books from him as evidenced by his excellent customer service. I can live with problems and mistakes - we are after all human. I cannot abide failure to rectify problems and mistakes in a timely manner.

Most self-publishing authors rely on Amazon and Barnes & Noble to help us sell our books. For those of us who engage in direct sales from our own web stores, this example is an important lesson. Our responsibility to our readers and customers does not end when we make the book available for sale.

Kudos to Mr. Marcus! Shame on Lulu!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Cover Design, CreateSpace and crowdSpring

I have several manuscripts that are nearing the completion stage. It will be a couple of months before each is ready to be uploaded in its final form to CreateSpace for publication and sale via Amazon. It is time to start thinking about cover design for each book a well as the specific title.

It is much more important to me for the cover design for these projects to be significantly better than the cover design of most of my books. Many of my books are not intended to be sold to the public at large via Amazon. These books are given away at clinics and presentations and are part of the price of tuition to attend. They are for sale on Amazon simply because a few extra sales here and there never hurts.

Having said that, these next projects need to have excellent cover designs because they are specifically intended to be sold on Amazon. When it comes to visual creativity and design, I have no hint of talent.

Planning ahead is always a positive activity, especially if it involves money. A quick search of the CreateSpace website to re-read the information about the cover design services offered by CreateSpace as well as the prices led me to discover a new service offered by CreateSpace, if you want to call it a new service.

Evidently CreateSpace has reached an agreement of sorts with a company called crowdSPRING. crowdSPRING is a brokering service for creative people, matching people who need creative work done with people who make their living being creative.

crowdSPRING makes the following claims on its website:
  • 110 entries per project, on average
  • 100% satisfaction guaranteed on every single project
  • 96% of buyers would recommend crowdSPRING
  • 80,882 designers and writers ready to create for your project
  • 97% of customer questions are answered within an hour
crowdSPRING describes the process as simple. The author names a price for a cover design and provides information about the book. Designers who belong to the crowdSPRING network submit sample covers. The author picks the design that best suits the book. 

I like the idea of competition. Paying for one company to provide you with something is not going to produce a lot of choices. Putting the cover design up to bid in an open contest environment will generate a wide selection of choices.

Further investigation of this company is warranted and I plan to look into using their services for at least one of my upcoming books. As I learn more I will be sure to share what I learn with the readers of this blog.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Competing with your own title - Do Kindle sales rob POD sales? Part II

For authors utilizing the print-on-demand business model to self-publish, the new wave of ebook success stories can seem mind boggling. With everything there is to learn to develop one successful book in the POD world, the additional burden can seem like too much.

For authors who have successful books in print using the POD publishing model, the question of introducing a competing title in the Kindle and other ebook formats raises a serious question. Will introducing a Kindle version split sales for both titles and by doing so, hurt sales for both versions. I speculated about this in an earlier blog posting and feedback from Christy Pinheiro argues having two versions will not result in a decrease in sales for either version.

Christy, who is both an author, blogger and publisher, believes the two versions will appeal to different types of customers. Both want good content for their money. The reader who purchases the Kindle version is driven by the lower price and the immediacy of obtaining the book via the Kindle's wireless delivery. The other reader wants a paper copy of the book.

Aaron Shepard, one of the foremost experts in the field of self-publishing utilizing the print-on-demand model as well as being an expert in selling books on Amazon, argues otherwise in a recent blog post on his website. Aaron argues splitting sales for a title on Amazon by offering two versions of the same title reduces the long tail effect of the Amazon computers. Aaron's logic is thus: the more a title is purchased, the more Amazon's computers will promote the book, thus further driving sales. By splitting sales between two versions, neither will receive the full benefit of the combined total of sales in having the Amazon computers push the title for more sales.

Based on my single Kindle title at the moment, the Kindle sales have far outstripped the POD sales for the title. The low price seems to be luring in customers who were not willing to pay the price for the POD version. The few reviews posted thus far have been glowing about the content but as I mentioned in an earlier post, a review about the Kindle version started with a comment about the price.

Since the POD version was not selling very well, I am happy to see the Kindle version doing well. Even at the dramatically lower selling price and the lower royalty total per copy sold, the difference is made up for by the volume of sales.

I am going to introduce a Kindle version of my best selling book. I hope Aaron Shepard is wrong about his estimation that two versions of a single title will hurt sales of both. It is my hope that the dramatically increasing Kindle market and Kindle sales will attract buyers I would not otherwise have sold the book to while not impacting negatively my POD sales.

It is my hope the Amazon software designers and programs will find a way to link the sales of the two versions so that the sale of one version will boost both versions of the same title. Time will tell.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Kindle Readers and the Impact of Pricing

For those of us who sell our books on Amazon, we love it when our readers post positive reviews, especially five-star reviews. My Kindle book just picked up another five-star review for the book to add to the two the paperback version had already earned.  Below is the review:

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars Valuable points for every coach and player, December 28, 2010
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Game of Basketball: Basketball Fundamentals, Intangibles and Finer Points of the Game for Coaches, Players and Fans (Kindle Edition)
I just picked this up for my Kindle because the price was right and I coach basketball. It turns out to be the best book on the little things we sometimes forget to teach I have ever read. The author addresses a slew of little things that I take for granted in good players, but then I wonder what's wrong when my players aren't doing some of those things.

Note, the review starts with a comment about the price. The paperback version is over 300 pages long and sells for $17.95 which is actually about $7 below the list price for comparable books on Amazon and from retailers who sell to coaches.  The current Kindle price is $2.99 and I was promoting it on my website for coaches and in my e-newsletter as an introductory price. Now I am hesitant to raise the price.

It is obvious the coach who purchased the book is happy with the information in the book and I am happy he commented positively on the value of the content. But would the coach have purchased the book had the price for the Kindle version been so low?

This may not be conclusive evidence, how can a single example be conclusive, but it does fit with what I have been reading about the importance of pricing of Kindle books.

Just what is the best price for the Kindle version of this book? I would really like to make more per copy but will raising the price lower the sales? How much can I raise the price and not impact sales in a negative fashion? Will raising the price increase sales based on perceived value of the information contained in the book?

The answer to this question will probably only be answered by some experimentation and record keeping over time, but I do believe it is an important one I need to consider. I will have two more Kindle books available in the next 3-4 months and hope to have an reasonable answer to this question before I making these books available.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Buyer Beware in the World of Self-publishing

Every once in awhile I fit the category of "there's a sucker born every minute." It is not often, but I do get fooled from time to time. When I made the decision to venture into the field of self-publishing, I had my don't get fooled hat on and still managed to make a couple of decisions that were not too smart.

Based on life experience I managed to avoid several costly errors. I have learned the hard way two valuable lessons; do your homework first as well as you can and there is no substitute for hard work. My Dad also taught me if it sounds to good to be true it is.

Applying these lessons to self-publishing leads me to make the following suggestions to fledgling self-publishers or experienced authors who are moving into the realm of self-publishing (please note, these are only suggestions, you can do what you think is best):

1) Do not pay for book marketing services unless you are certain the vendor you are considering using can actually deliver on what is promised for the fee charged.

2) If you do pay for book marketing services, do a cost analysis first. Will the cost of the program generate enough book sales to cover the cost and turn a reasonable profit?

3) Do not pay for book reviews. Much has been written on how to obtain free reviews. Do you homework and do the work to obtain the reviews. All too often these review for pay services do not deliver on what they promise.

4) Do not jump quickly to use an author services company. There are reputable ones out there. Many are a waste of money. Again, do your homework before you use this approach. I strongly suggest self-publishing entirely on your own.

Before you make this decision I recommend purchasing and reading three books. POD for Profit by Aaron Shepard, Print-on-Demand Book Publishing by Morris Rosenthal and my own Self-Publishing With Amazon's CreateSpace.  

Mr. Shepard's book deals with using Lightning Source Inc, as a POD printer and distributor. Mr. Rosenthal's book details the business model of using POD to self-publish and then marketing books on Amazon. My book deals with both developing a business model using POD as well as how to use the features and services of CreateSpace to self-publish books.

5) Do consider hiring an editor to edit your book as well as an experienced book designer to create your cover design and interior. Again, do your homework and check references. Reputable professionals are happy to produce references.

The number one key to a successful book is quite simply a good book. Your first step in succeeding as a self-published author is to write a good book.

Marketing and promoting your book is going to largely be up to you, regardless of the method of publishing you choose. 

Finally, be aware self-publishing is a business. You will need to have a business plan that includes a budget, a marketing and promotion plan, a means to distribute books, collect funds from sales, keep records for taxes and pay for all the other expenses self-publishing can generate.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Kindle Sales Continue To Grow - Get On The eBook Express!

I make it a point to read Morris Rosenthal's blog on self-publishing weekly. Morris is one of the founding fathers so to speak of the current state of self-publishing and has many insights into the business of self-publishing, something most authors seem to avoid.

His blog this week concerns Kindle Sales by Amazon during a one week period, namely the week of December 26-January 1. Based on Morris' numbers, Amazon sold over 3 million Kindle books during the aforementioned time span. Morris always has some interesting commentary and insights about the publishing industry, technology and how the rapid changes we all face as self-publishing authors will impact our industry. 

Morris and his math models aside, just what does the current trend in Kindle sales mean for authors who self-publish? Simply it means you better get on board the eBook express. Either learn HTML and convert your files for your POD books for Kindle publication as well as the ePubit format for Nook and other similar eReader devices or pay a qualified professional to do it for you.

I don't think the POD business model is going to go away any time soon and as authors we will need to continue to take advantage of the POD technology to get our books into print in traditional book form. At the same time we will need to embrace the new eBook technology. 

As the technology grows in popularity with younger readers, and yes, I can vouch for younger readers in today's world (my real job is teaching high school history and coaching basketball) and their embracing of technology as the means by which they obtain information, I have to believe more and more books will be sold as eBooks and not as traditional paper books.

Just as the eBook seems to be growing in popularity with fiction readers, it is growing in popularity with schools and school districts. Our math department uses eBooks almost exclusively. The history department I work in uses eDocuments for many of our primary source documents, saving the department a great deal of expense allowing us to maximize our limited budget.

All of this seems to indicate an ever moving push towards the eBook as a commonly excepted format for books and other forms of information.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Amazon Initiates Kindle Book Loaning Program - Sort Of

Fighting the eBook trend is probably as smart as laughing at the idea of every home having a computer. Even though I am now the proud owner of a Kindle and my wife enjoy's her Nook, both of us prefer paper books (though I will admit it was nice to be able to read five books and not have to carry them on my trip to Delaware, Philadelphia and New York with my basketball team this past week).

One of the advantages, or so I thought, of paper books over Kindle books was the ability to lend books to your friends. Now, to some extent, even that advantage is gone. I received the following message explaining the new lend a book feature for Kindle books from Amazon in an e-mail:

Dear Publisher,

We are excited to announce Kindle book lending ( The Kindle Book Lending feature allows users to lend digital books they have purchased through the Kindle Store to their friends and family. Each book may be lent once for a duration of 14 days and will not be readable by the lender during the loan period.

All DTP titles are enrolled in lending by default. For titles in the 35% royalty option, you may choose to opt out of lending by deselecting the checkbox under "Kindle Book Lending," in the "Rights and Pricing" section of the title upload/edit process. You may not choose to opt out a title if it is included in the lending program of another sales or distribution channel. For more details, see section 5.2.2 of the Term and Conditions.

For more info on how Kindle Book Lending works, see our FAQ here:

Amazon Digital Text Platform