Friday, March 25, 2011

How to Price eBooks for the Kindle by Stephen Windwalker - a Review

My professional education was geared to prepare me for a career other than entering the business world. My venture into self-publishing has been an eye-opening experience in so many ways due to the never ending need to learn new ideas and skills. The entire concept and "science" for lack of a better word concerning appropriate pricing and the many roles pricing plays has been an eye opener for me as well.

Even though one of my motivations for publishing my books is to be able to share information, it is a business and not only do I want to, I need to, make my enterprise as profitable as possible over the long run. Like many self-publishing authors, the business end of my enterprise is often not my strong suit. And so it was I invested the $2.99 in a Kindle copy of How to Price eBooks for the Kindle by Stephen Windwalker.

After reading the book twice, I still don't have a complete grasp on pricing strategies, but I do have a much better idea of the entire concept and what kind of considerations must be evaluated in the pricing process. My lack of understanding is NOT the fault of the author but rather a result of my lack of education in the realm of business.

The author not only covers the basics of pricing in the publishing world, but provides data from actual sales to illustrate the pricing concepts presented. Mr. Windwalker provides a good overview of the entire pricing process, the impact of pricing on sales from a long term perspective and offers a variety of strategies based on the author's past record of sales. In addition to the short book, included is a good number of blog posts the author wrote concerning a variety of topics related to the Kindle and the world of publishing eBooks.

The author writes with authority and clarity about the subject. A strong advocate of the Kindle and Kindle books, with a total of 32 books published for the Kindle, Mr. Windwalker is able to base his content on the experience and data gained through his own Kindle sales. The writing style is easy to understand allowing the reader to focus on the information presented and not deciphering the prose prior to attempting to understand the concepts in the book.

Is this book the sum total of knowledge an author must possess in order to effectively price Kindle books? Probably not, but it is an excellent starting point and reference for self-publishing authors who are entering the brave new world of eBook publishing. For the price of $2.99 the book is a virtual steal for the reader who purchases it.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

How to Organize a Virtual Book Tour - a Review

Self-published authors are responsible for their books marketing and promotion. If the book is to succeed the author must do everything reasonable to promote the book and give it the best chance possible to be discovered by its target audience. Readers of this blog will be familiar with the name Morris Rosenthal who is one of the recognized leaders of the self-publishing industry. Mr. Rosenthal urges authors to establish an author platform by creating an internet presence. His model mainly impacts non-fiction authors but is a good idea for authors of fiction as well as he advocates creating a content based site providing free and valuable content to readers who are interested in what the author writes or writes about.

Book tours by authors has long been a favored promotional tactic to market books. The cost and time involved today would prevent many self-publishing authors from engaging in this type of promotional activity. As with many things in our lives, the internet has changed how book tours can take place. It is no longer necessary to physically travel and do book signings or interviews to engage in a book tour. A virtual book tour done on the internet is a new and low cost method to "tour" and promote a book.

How to Organize a Virtual Book Tour, by Carol Denbow, is a step-by-step guide complete with short to-do check lists at the end of each segment. The book is available from Amazon as both a Kindle edition and a traditional paperback.

This short book consist of seven chapters and allows the reader to follow the process of organizing a virtual book tour in a logical, sequential process from start to finish. Just a few of the chapters include descriptions of both a virtual and a physical book tour, how each of these works, how to prepare for a virtual tour, scheduling virtual tour stops, how to write the blog posts or interviews for each stop and the follow-up process.

Ms. Denbow writes in a clear, concise and easy to follow manner.  It seems evident to me her ideas are based on experience (Ms. Denbow has other books in print) and while some of the information seems fairly common sense, much of it is not and appears, to me, based on the experiences of someone who has done several tours, made mistakes and learned from them.

I hope to have a new book out in late August or early September and the information in this book has me including in my list of promotional activities a virtual book tour.

At $0.99 for a Kindle edition, I don't see how any author planning to promote a self-published book can pass on this title. Even if you don't have a dedicated Kindle device, simply download the FREE Kindle app to your Mac, PC or other electronic device and spend the $0.99 with Amazon.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Amazon and the Self-Publishing Author

Why is Amazon the friend of the self-publisher?

Amazon allows self-publishing authors the same access to customers as the major publishing houses. Unlike bookstores who often shun self-published books, Amazon not only allows self-published books to be sold from its site, it allows self-published books to be sold on an equal footing as traditionally published books from established publishing houses.

Why should I target all of my sales at Amazon?

Self-publishing authors are treated as equals by Amazon; there is no discrimination or bias against self-published books. Access to Amazon customers is equal for every book listed. Another major reason for directing sales to Amazon is the more a book sells, the more Amazon will promote the book. The more Amazon promotes the book, the higher the book shows up in searches increasing the number of sales of the book. It is called a virtuous cycle, a sales multiplier. Combined with POD printing and distribution through either Lightning Source or Amazon’s own CreateSpace, self-publishing authors do not have to maintain inventory, handle order fulfillment or other tasks that can tie up capital, time and create overhead expenses.

This is just a very limited answer to this important question. To fully understand the answer to this question three books are suggested: Aiming at Amazon and POD for Profit by Aaron Shepard and Print-on-Demand Book Publishing by Morris Rosenthal.

What is Author Central?

It is the access point for authors to communicate with Amazon. It is the site where authors may make corrections to information concerning their books, list their books and set up their Author Page for interested readers to visit.

The above information was excerpted from 301 Frequently Asked Questions About Self-Publishing

Monday, March 21, 2011

New Resource and Guide for Self-Publishing Authors!

Christy Pinheiro is the author of the blog about self-publishing titled the The Publishing Maven and the book The Step-by-Step Guide to Self-Publishing for Profit. Christy has taken the time to assemble a valuable resource for self-publishing authors titled the The Indie Book Reviewer Yellow Pages: A Low Cost Marketing Resource for Independent and Self-Published Books

Rather than describe this useful resource, it is much simpler for me to direct you to Christy's blog where you can read her announcement of the upcoming release of the second edition of this resource.

Monday, March 14, 2011

eBook Architects Kindle Conversion Review

eBook Architects just finished converting the files for my book Game Strategy and Tactics for Basketball. The results were outstanding! Not only did eBook Architects create files for a Kindle conversion but for ePub as well. All of this was done for one price. 

eBook Architects does have a bit of a backlog and my title was placed in line to be converted. I was provided with a date by which the title would be converted and ready. To the company's credit, they delivered the files on the exact date promised.

The price for the conversion service is $200. For the quality of work done for not one but two conversions, this is, I believe, an excellent price. 

I have used CreateSpace's Kindle conversion service and while I was happy with the work CreateSpace did, CreateSpace will only convert titles that have already been published as a POD title by CreateSpace. eBook Architects will convert any files the author owns the publishing rights to. This means titles published by Lightning Source or other POD printers.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Sales Tactics in Promoting a New Amazon Kindle Title Release

I receive the news today from eBookArcheticts that my latest title to be converted to Kindle has been finished and the files are ready for review and uploading to the Kindle Direct Publishing platform. I plan to launch the title in its new Kindle format later next week. This self-imposed deadline has forced me to  make a final decision concerning my tactics for launching and promoting this title.

Despite my experiences with my first Kindle title, I am nervous about the impact this Kindle title will have on my POD sales. This book, Game Strategy and Tactics is by far my best seller and like a nervous parent, I don't want anything bad to happen to sales.

My first Kindle title not only sells well for a non-fiction Kindle title, the POD sales for the title have increased, I believe, as a result of the exposure to more buyers due to the release of the Kindle version. I sincerely hope it will have the same impact on Game Strategy and Tactics. It would be wonderful if the book generates good Kindle sales AND boosts my POD sales!

What approach have I decided on? With my first Kindle title, The Game of Basketball, I launched the Kindle version with a very low introductory price of $2.99.  The POD sales for this title were terrible so I felt I had nothing to lose. I promoted the release on my eNewsletter to just over 2,000 coaches promoting both the release of the Kindle version and how to obtain a FREE app to read Kindle books on devices other than a Kindle reader. I also stated after a month the price would go up.

Sales were great for the one month period before the price increase. I raised the price to $4.99 and while sales did drop some, it was by a total of only 10 Kindle versions sold in the second month the title was available. The plus side to this entire process was the increase in POD sales. The title went from not appearing in the first three pages of search results to being the first title on the second page of results and sales actually increasing to a respectable number. The Kindle version is shows up as the second title listed for the same search in the Kindle Store.

My approach this time will be similar but not identical. Game Strategy and Tactics is an established seller and fluctuates from the 6th to 8th position on the first page of the search results on Amazon. I plan to use my website and eNewsletter to announce its launch with an introductory price that will last for two weeks only before being raised to the final price. The price for this Kindle edition will be much higher than $2.99. I have yet to decide whether or not the final Kindle version price will be $8.99 or $9.99 and will base my final decision on how initial sales go.

With Amazon's 70% royalty option, I see no reason to make less money for a Kindle sale than I do for the sale of a POD copy. In fact, if Kindle sales rob me of POD sales, I want the issue to be a moot point. I will be making the same regardless of the version of the title is sold.

Once the dust has settled early this summer, I should be able to see which approach was more productive in launching a new Kindle title that already exists as a POD title. My next book will be a launch of a POD and Kindle title at the same time. My head already aches a bit thinking about planning for the release of the newest title. 

I will be sure to share what I learn with any interested readers of this blog.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Morris Rosenthal's Kindle Formatting in Word: Illustrated Kindle Tag Tips to Accompany a Blog Post - A Review

As promised, I have read, several times, Morris Rosenthal's short Kindle title, Kindle Formatting in Word: Illustrated Kindle Tag Tips to Accompany a Blog Post. For $.99 you simply cannot beat this little guide on converting Word to Kindle.

I must readily admit I don't learn new tricks on computers easily. Having said that, if (read when) I work up the courage to publish a short title as a Kindle book, I will use Rosenthal's book to work through the process in a step-by-step manner.

I have read several of Rosenthal's books and this one is written in the same style, short and to the point. Morris seems to avoid being wordy and does not use excess and unnecessary wordage. I find this helpful in making a subject, or skill if you choose to look at it as such, that intimidates me seem much less daunting to learn and execute.

In addition to providing clear and concise guidelines that are easy to understand, Rosenthal includes diagrams, charts and other illustrations to show the reader what you will see on your computer screen during the conversion process.

This is a can't lose purchase and at 99 cents Morris is basically giving away the information for authors who want to venture into the Kindle market.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Pricing and Marketing a New Kindle Title

Since posting about my efforts at marketing my two Kindle titles and the next title seemingly to be ready by mid-March, I have spent even more time considering approaches to launching a new Kindle, but old POD title.

The idea of selling a book at a greatly reduced price to launch it is not one I embrace for print titles. Please note, when I discuss pricing strategy to launch a new title, I am referring to sales on Amazon. I have adopted the sales strategy advocated by Aaron Shepard in his excellent book Aiming at Amazon. Simply summarized, this strategy advocates driving all sales to Amazon. The more the book sells on Amazon, the more Amazon's computers promote the book. It has the added benefits of Amazon collecting the funds and handling fulfillment of the order as well, reducing costs on my end.

For some reason, changing a price of a POD book does not result in a quick price change on Amazon and it can have a negative impact on the amount of the discount Amazon provides for the title. On the other hand, when I changed the price of my Kindle titles the price change went into effect quickly and since neither of the two titles was discounted it had no impact on the level of discount offered by Amazon.

This leads me to believe introductory offers of a new Kindle title with an announced short life span might be an effective strategy to drive early sales of a new Kindle title. Readers who are interested in the topic or genre of the book are encouraged to make the impulse purchase knowing the low introductory price is only available for a short period of time. A good amount of early sales will help to drive the search results in the Amazon computer's in a positive direction, resulting in better long term sales results.

My quandary is should this approach be used for the introduction of a Kindle title that is my best seller in POD format and already has an excellent ranking in search results?  Why is this an issue when this marketing tactic worked effectively for my other titles? The answer is those two titles were not selling in the POD format. Kindle sales are what has driven the improvement in POD sales. This title already sells well and in the back of my mind I have concerns the Kindle version might rob the POD sales. 

The linking of the Kindle version with the POD version will take place fairly shortly and should help drive early Kindle sales as well.

When I reach my final conclusion, I will share it with the readers of this blog and I will also share the results of my initial marketing efforts in terms of sales.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Marketing Kindle and POD Books When Releasing a New Title

Since introducing Kindle versions of two of my POD titles, I have been pleasantly surprised by two results, an increase in sales of the POD versions and the fact the Kindle versions have far outsold the print version. Late this month or early in April a Kindle version of my best selling POD title will make its debut on Amazon as well.

I have been thinking about what approach I should take in marketing the launch of my third Kindle title. I am concerned still about the possibility of Kindle sales hurting the print sales, especially since this is my best selling title. I hope the opposite is true and like the other two titles the sales numbers for the POD version improve AND the Kindle sales do well.

The first title I offered as a Kindle version I used my e-newsletter and an introductory price as an effort to spur sales initially. I also indicated in my newsletter that the introductory price would only be good until mid-January of this year and then there would be a price increase. I was stunned at the number of copies of the Kindle version I sold in December and early January. The numbers did drop after the price increase, but not dramatically. The title in question, The Game of Basketball, is ranked second if a search for coaching basketball is done. The first six weeks of sales drove the Amazon Sales Ranking up high enough that the long tail of Amazon did the rest. The decrease in sales numbers has not resulted in a loss of profit as the price increase combined with the minimal drop in total sales numbers means the Kindle version is earning more profit on the slightly lower volume.

The e-newsletter was a definite plus in marketing the release of The Game of Basketball and will be used for the next Kindle title. My price point will be higher for Game Strategy and Tactics for Basketball, my best selling title. I am also debating if I will use a lower initial price to drive early sales of the Kindle version as well.

One of the marketing issues for my target audience is how many of the potential readers of my books have Kindle reading devices? I worked to circumvent this issue by noting in each weekly issue of my in season e-newsletter that Kindle books could be read on a lap top and other electronic devices. I included a direct link to the page on the Amazon site where FREE software to read Kindle books could be downloaded to the device in question. If you have a means of providing this information with a link to potential customers I would encourage you to do so. Yes, you might sound like a shill for Amazon, but if it increases your Kindle sales, so be it.

I have a blog on my business website and I did use it to promote the Kindle titles but spent most of my promotional effort on the e-newsletter. 

There are several message boards where coaches visit to exchange information and often mention new books or DVDs they have obtained and offer reviews for other coaches to read. I am toying with the idea of giving away a few print copies to coaches to review with the request the review be honest, but mention that both a print and a Kindle version are available.

The only really different step I have taken in promoting my Kindle titles when compared to promoting my print titles is the effort to let potential readers know about the FREE Kindle software for devices other than the Kindle reader.

I would love for other authors to share any effective ideas they have successfully used to promote and drive sales numbers up for their Kindle titles.