Sunday, January 29, 2012

Looking to the Future of Publishing - Amazon Hires Larry Kirshbaum to Heads its New Publishing Division

I watch anything that happens with Amazon with interest. Amazon recently hired Larry Kirshbaum it is new publishing division. While Kirshbaum has not signed any big name fiction authors, he has signed some deals with authors whose books will sell on name recognition alone. For example, every basketball coach in the country will at least read the product description for coaching legend Bob Knight's forthcoming book with Amazon.

Amazon has found itself in an interesting position of competing with its product providers, the Big Six legacy houses, and is working to find a way to sell the paper versions of its books. Needless to say, the Big Six are getting a kick out of this.

What they don't understand is Bezos has long demonstrated a long view process of his business model. Losing money today is fine with Bezos if it means he controls the product for the e-book market five to seven years from now. One has to wonder if over time Bezos plans to sign enough big name fiction authors to allow him to effectively corner the market on e-book fiction, providing a way to either eliminate competition from the Big Six for dictate to them the terms of their survival.

Bloomberg Businessweek has run an interesting and thoughtful story about Kirshbaum's hiring and the ramifications it has for the industry in general and Amazon in particular. The link is below. It is an interesting read.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Inside the Great Machine: Confessions of a Former Technologist - a Book Review

Since the overwhelming majority of my source of sales comes from Amazon, I feel it is important to learn as much as possible about my "business partner." When Amazon "suggested" I read this book, I agreed with the company's computer.

Kalpankis S. is an immigrant from India who has made a home here as an American. He makes no bones about his sense of humor being a bit different, yet he manages to inject subtle humor Americans can understand and get a laugh from.

The author is a skilled computer software designer who worked in Silicon Valley before being lured to Seattle, Washington, to join the book selling giant Amazon. Kalpankis shares his experiences in an easy to read and identify with manner and traces his excitement upon joining Amazon through his departure to another company.

Without being a spoiler, my suggestion is to read the book. I enjoyed it and was able to develop a little insight into why Amazon is successful, how it makes mistakes and how hard it works to be a dominant force in the publishing and book/media selling industries. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Selecting a POD Service Revisited - CreateSpace or Lightning Source

The publishing industry seems to be changing at breathtaking speed. Just a few years ago print-on-demand was the business model combined with access to Amazon was the business model most self-publishing authors used.

Know eReaders, particularly Amazon's Kindle, have changed the industry again, giving authors who self-publish more control of their ability to market and sell their work. In addition, the Kindle Direct Publishing allows authors to make a larger percentage of each sale if Amazon's guidelines pricing guidelines are followed.

Where does this leave print-on-demand? I would not neglect producing a print version of any book. Concentrating on getting the ebook version to market first seems to be the best strategy but follow-up with a POD edition as well.

Why? Research seems to indicate the market for ebook reading devices may begin to level off soon. Does this means the dramatic increase in sales of ebooks will level off soon as well? Only the God knows the answer to that question.

What I have noticed when looking at my own sales trends is while my Kindle sales have taken off and earn about 70% of my revenue now, my POD sales are also at the highest volume they have ever been. Failure to introduce paperback versions of my new books would mean a still significant portion of income and revenue would be lost due to lack of a print version.

For authors who view self-publishing as a business as well as first time authors trying to work their way through the maze of information required to learn to self-publish, selecting between CreateSpace and Lightning Source as a POD printer is still a major issue.

CreateSpace seems to be working to gain an edge over Lightning Source, at least with self-publishing authors. CreateSpace just recently dropped its requirement for the $39 Pro Plan fee and now has only a $25 fee for authors who wish to take advantage of Expanded Distribution services, meaning selling books through more book retailers and wholesalers than just Amazon.

There has also been the issue with changes in how the relationship between Amazon and LSI seems to work. Aaron Shepard has addressed this at great length and has posted what he refers to as "Plan B" on his self-publishing website. Mr. Shepard addresses questions generated by his Plan B proposal with a second informative post.

Given what can seem like a complex decision in selecting a POD provider, a side-by-side comparison is helpful. I have published a short and inexpensive Kindle book that does just that, Selecting a Print-on-Demand Company: Comparing CreateSpace and Lightning Source for Print-on-Demand Self-Publishing, available for just .99. Also available as a paperback is Self-Publishing With Amazon's CreateSpace.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Understanding Amazon Sales Information - Let Amazon Explain

As a self-published author Amazon has been my best source of income. POD sales using LSI and CreateSpace generate income but the real moneymaker has been the Kindle editions of my books.

Aaron Shepard's book Aiming at Amazon is mandatory reading for any author who is considering self-publishing and selling books on Amazon. While Kindle and ebooks are getting the lion share of attention in the self-publishing and publishing world at the moment, print sales still matter.

The past four months have been the most lucrative since I started this venture. The over 65% of the profit has been from Kindle edition sales. Upon examination though, my print sales were also at record highs, both in profit and in total number of copies of titles sold. While the percent of print books may have declined a great deal in the last 18 months, the total number of print books I have sold has increased.

With this in mind, don't forsake a print edition using Print-on-Demand (POD) as your print method of getting your book published in paperback. Morris Rosenthal's Print-on-Demand Book Publishing is an essential read to learn about using this approach to getting your book into print.

Understanding the ever changing mysteries of Amazon can be challenging with everything a self-publishing author has to do. Yet to be successful financially it is essential to have a good understanding of how Amazon and the book industry work.

Finding accurate information can be daunting. So, when it comes to learning about sales information on Amazon, go to Amazon. Below is a link which will provide Amazon's own explanation for sales information available and how to understand this information as it relates to your own book.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Using Kindle Shorts and Articles to Promote Books

I am sure I read this strategy somewhere else and I am equally certain I am not the first to think of it if I have not read it elsewhere. I have three books that will be released in the next nine months. Each will be preceded by a .99 Kindle Short or Article as part of my promotional efforts for these books.

The first of the soon to be released Kindle Shorts will be free for five days and the subscribers of my free e-newsletter will be informed of this and I will post the fact on the blog on my website. Beyond that, I do not plan to promote the five free days. It is sort of a reward for the individuals who buy my books, subscribe to my newsletter and visit my website. 

After the five days of free copies, the price will be raised to .99 and remain there. The short Kindle Book is based on an excerpt from the much larger book which will be released two months later. The excerpt was expanded in much greater detail than the full length book (non-fiction) and includes promotional information at the end of the book with what I hope will be a successful call to action to visit Amazon and purchase the full length book.

These short Kindle books hopefully will sell copies on their right as specific source of information about very specific topics and create a small additional stream of revenue. Their main purpose is to convince readers who are searching for specific information of my ability to provide valuable and useful information to meet their needs and prod the reader into purchasing the related full length book.

I plan to keep as detailed records as possible about this tactic and will share the information in the future.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

CreateSpace Drops $39 ProPlan - Standard Distribution is now FREE!

CreateSpace has dropped the $39 fee it charged for its ProPlan. All of the features and services included in the ProPlan are now apparently standard and free with a CreateSpace membership, which is also free. As far as I can tell, the pricing for printing on a per copy basis has not changed.

Expanded Distribution is still available but costs $25 for authors who wish to sell their POD books at other distributors and retailers such as Barnes and Noble.

From the CreateSpace website: Expanded Distribution offers you the opportunity to access a larger audience through more online retailers, bookstores, libraries, academic institutions, and distributors within the United States. Expanded Distribution will also improve discoverability of your book across all the channels. Regardless of whether or not you include your title in Expanded Distribution, all CreateSpace titles can be distributed through both the and eStore channels.

What features does Standard Distribution offer under the new program? Again, from the CreateSpace website:
Make your book available to millions of customers on Customers ordering from can take advantage of FREE Super Saver Shipping, One-Day Shipping, 1-Click®® on eligible orders. ordering, and Amazon Prime

CreateSpace eStore
Sell your book directly from your eStore. You can customize your eStore to match your own website. We'll handle the cart, credit card processing, and fulfillment of your customer's orders.

Self-publishing is becoming less and less expensive. What a great time to be an author!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

It Has Happened! An Amazon Kindle Best Seller! Even If Just for Two Days!

I am pretty excited and have to tell someone other than my wife and kids! Below you will see a screen shot proving one of my books actually, even if just for two days, climbed to Number 1 on an Amazon Best Seller List! Actually, The Game of Basketball, was Number 1 on two lists and Number 2 on a third.

If I could tell you just how this happened, I would gladly share the information. I for one would like to know how this happened so if it was anything other than luck, in other words, something I had done in terms of  marketing or promotions, I could replicate it for my other Kindle books.

My best guess is Amazon ran some kind of promotion on its own accord. The Kindle version of the book sells about 100 copies a month and the POD version sells about 35 or so a month. With basketball season entering the conference part of the schedule for college basketball and district play for high school basketball, Amazon might have sent out an e-mail listing basketball related books that sell well to customers who have purchased such books in the past. The book's past sales might have qualified it for inclusion in such a promotion.  

At any rate, it has sold over 700 Kindle downloads in the last 24 hours. Talk about motivating! I really want to sit down and finish the next project as soon as possible so it can be published as a Kindle book. 

Even more encouraging is the fact this book is self-published. I feel pretty confident this would not have happened 10 years ago. Amazon, POD and the Kindle have made a wonderful platform for authors who self-publish. 

I hope every author who visits this blog will feel encouraged by my success, albeit however temporary, fleeting or insignificant. If I can sell some books on Amazon, anyone can!

Guide on Fighting Internet Copyright Infringement Available

Morris Rosenthal, one of the original experts on self-publishing using print-on-demand and marketing books using the internet, has published a Kindle book, An Author's Guide to Fighting Internet Copyright Infringements.

Morris is making the book available for free for several days. My guess is it will be available for a fee after the FREE purchase period is over. Update: The guide is now available for .99.

Copyright violations are bad for all authors, particularly non-fiction authors. Google now seems to penalize authors of original content in internet searches whose material has been pirated, giving the pirates higher rankings in search results. For those of us who rely on our websites and content to drive book sales, this is not just theft of our work, it is further punishment for making our work available to the public.

Morris has written about this problem on his blog several times and has spent considerable effort fighting internet copyright infringement of his own material. He shares what he has learned about the process in this short book.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Book Marketing, Cover Design and SEO - A Different View of Cover Design

The idea of crafting your book's title for effective search rankings for Amazon was first introduced, to me at least, by Aaron Shepard in his book Aiming for Amazon. When I first read Aiming for Amazon, print-on-demand was the way to go for self-publishing authors and is still an important part of the financial equation and overall marketing scheme.

Things have changed quite a bit since I first read Aiming for Amazon. The Kindle and other ebook reading devices have forever altered the landscape in the world of publishing and self-publishing. There are days where I feel like I have barely scratched the surface of what I need to learn just to keep pace with what the world of self-publishing looks like.

For me, the Kindle has been a blessing, both financially and in terms of ability to market my books to a larger audience. It also means things like cover design, the internet and marketing have to be viewed in a different way.

With this in mind, I stumbled across an article suggesting authors need to rethink how they design their covers, particularly the rear cover design. In this instance the emphasis is on using the cover design and back cover copy to improve search engine optimization, SEO, to improve the potential marketability of the book on the internet. Rather than rehash the ideas, simply click on the link below to read the article.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Amazon KDP Lending Program Pays Authors $1.70 Per Title for Month of December!

Watching the number of copies of several of my titles being borrowed and not purchased, combined with a corresponding decline in the sales of those titles, made me wish I had not made those books available for loan in Amazon's new book lending program, particularly Amazon Prime. Then I read the press release from Amazon, I will receive $1.70 per copy loaned for the month of December.

While still not the same rate of net profit per sale that I would have earned had those copies of my books been purchased and not loaned, it did ease the sting quite a bit. I will wait out the 90 period involved and re-evaluate at that time my continued participation in the program.  The following is an excerpt from the Amazon press release concerning the program and its results for the past month of December 2011.

The Kindle Owners’ Lending Library is off to a strong start: customers borrowed 295,000 KDP Select titles in December alone, and KDP Select has helped grow total library selection to over 75,000 books. With the $500,000 December fund, KDP authors have earned $1.70 per borrow. In response to strong customer adoption of the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (as well as seasonal, post-holiday use of new Kindles),, Inc. has added a $200,000 bonus to the January KDP Select fund, raising the total pool from $500,000 to $700,000. 

Paid KDP sales grew rapidly in December — and results show that paid sales of titles participating in KDP Select are growing even faster than other KDP titles. On top of this growth in paid sales, KDP Select authors and publishers on average are receiving an incremental 26% in December as a result of their participation in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. 

“KDP Select appears to be earning authors more money in two ways. We knew customers would love having KDP Select titles in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. But we’ve been surprised by how much paid sales of those same titles increased, even relative to the rest of KDP,” said Russ Grandinetti, Vice President of Kindle Content. “Due to this early success and a seasonally strong January, we’re adding a $200,000 bonus to January’s KDP Select fund, growing this month’s total pool to $700,000.”

Friday, January 6, 2012

Amzon's Kindle Direct Publishing Book Loan Program - Is it Better for Fiction than Non-Fiction?

I signed up several of my books to be part of this program. For a book to be eligible it must be exclusive to Amazon Kindle in its ebook version. Amazon has set aside $500K for the month of December to compensate authors for books loaned as part of this program. I sincerely doubt I will get rich participating in this program and after the initial three month participation period required, I am undecided if I will continue to participate.

For one book, Kindle sales have plummeted due to its availability to be borrowed. I have no doubt of this being the case as I have loaned more copies of this title in just the one month the book has been part of the program than I had sold in its Kindle version in any given month since it has been available. Since the book has been available for loan I have sold a grand total of 3 copies in the Kindle version.

The other titles I have made available have continued to sell at their average monthly levels while only a few copies being loaned. The availability of the option to "borrow" the book from Amazon does not seem to have impacted these books one way or the other.

It remains to be seen what the impact, other than costing me sales right now, of this program will be in the long term. I will have to wait and see.

Since I do not write fiction books, I have to wonder if this program is a good one to participate in for non-fiction authors. I have little doubt the program is an excellent marketing tool for an author launching a book, particularly if it is the first in a series. Later titles in the series do not have to be made available in this program.

In a few months I will have a better idea of how this will impact sales for the titles currently listed in the program. As I have more information available I will share it on this blog.