Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Day Blog Posts to Read!

I know, I must be getting a bit lazy. But these are some informative posts on other blogs on self-publishing that are worth reading.

The first is from Morris Rosenthal who always has great information. This post is about strategic use of free Kindle books to promote your books.

Post number two to check out is on Joel Friedlander's blog and is about creating organic traffic for your author blog site.

I have to include a third post from Joel as he updated his list of great self-publishing blogs and The Self-Publisher's Notebook made the cut!

Finally, I am starting to think about converting a few more of my books currently available in Kindle format to ePub and see if this will increase sales for the Nook. My lone book available in Kindle and Nook formats sells well on the Kindle and has produced embarrassingly low numbers for the Nook. Perhaps a few more books being available will help.  This post by Liz Castro is about the ePub format.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Amazon Announces Pay-out for January KDP Program

Participation in the Amazon KDP book borrowing program took a dramatic jump in participation during the month of January, 2012, based in large part on the seasonal sales of Kindle ereaders. The KDP Select program loaned 295,000 titles during the month of December, 2011, according to figures released by Amazon. 

During January, the number of books in the KDP Select program borrowed increased to 437,000. Amazon attributes this dramatic increase largely to new owners of Kindle Fires using their free trial Prime membership to take advantage of the KDP Select book lending program.

Amazon announced $700,000 were allotted for the January fund for authors whose books have been made available to the KDP Select program. Enrolled authors will earn $1.60 per borrow.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Some Blog Posts to Read: eBook Pricing, Bookflation and JA Konrath Stirs the Pot!

These three blog posts were interesting, informative and in the case of some of Mr. Konrath's post, entertaining. Worthwhile reading regardless for authors who self-publish.

Interesting blog piece from Ireland on pricing for eBooks:

Morris Rosenthal's look at book prices and book sales over the past ten years:

In his own unique style, eBook pioneer J.A. Konrath stirs the pot for those who think legacy publishing is a good deal. The comments are worth reading as well.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

CreateSpace File Uploading Becomes More Streamlined

After updating an interior file of one of my books, I went through the usual steps to change the old file and upload the new, corrected file.  To my surprise, as soon as the upload was complete, a little box popped up informing me CreateSpace's computer was checking my interior file.

This automated interior file check speeds up the process of getting the files for a book ready. The sooner CreateSpace informs the author the files are acceptable for print, the sooner the book can be made ready for publication.

In order to use the new feature your computer must have Flash Player 10.2 which is the software required to open and read the results of the "Interior Reviewer." An option does exist to skip the use of the Interior Reviewer.

Without this new feature, it generally took about 24 hours for the good folks, or their computers, to inspect the files, both interior and cover, to determine if the files were acceptable for publication.

It is nice to see Amazon/CreateSpace continue to work to improve their services and the speed with which they serve the authors who use CreateSpace to publish their work.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Using Your Author Central Account to Learn More About Your Readers

As many times as I have poked around in my Amazon Author Central Account I never stumbled across one of the Author Central's more unique, and interesting features.  While searching for something unrelated about Amazon on the web, I found a blog post on the Authority Publishing website describing this feature. Sales figures depicted via geographic representation on a map! Here are my POD sales for the past few weeks.

To my surprise, I have sold a lot of books in the Southwest, Pacific Northwest and the New England area. Why am I surprised? Because most of my marketing efforts have been directed at the Mid-west, my home state of Louisiana where my name has some recognition and the state I currently reside, Texas. Needless to say, I need to pay more attention to the areas where I am selling more books without much effort in the area of marketing (at least common sense would suggest that, but what do I know). 

For authors who write non-fiction or regionally based literature or non-fiction, sales information presented in this manner can be of great value, allowing the author to determine if a targeted marketing strategy is paying off. In my case, I may need to spread my efforts AND rethink my approach in general to marketing my non-fiction books.

Alas, this feature only tracks the sale of print paper books and not Kindle sales. As I type it occurs to me my marketing approach may be just fine as my Kindle sales have taken off and my current approach may actually be quite effective.

Perhaps if authors who publish Kindle books all collectively put a bug in Amazon's ear the metric driven people at Amazon would add a map for Kindle sales as well.  

Looks like I need to be poking around Author Central more!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Using Twitter as a Social Media Promotional Platform - Suggestions From an Expert

One of the current trends is the use of social media to promote books and build an author platform. To say the advice "out there" is a bit overwhelming and confusing is a bit of an understatement. I have far too much to do to spend hours and hours on Twitter, Facebook, etc, unless it is going to be a productive use of my time.

I stumbled on a source of information on this topic that was helpful and can be found on Joel Friedlander's blog for self-publishers. The article is a guest post by Steven Lewis and is titled The Five Best Tools for Promoting Your Book on Twitter.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Does POD Still Have a Place in Self-Publishing?

In just a few short years the publishing industry has changed dramatically. So has self-publishing. The eBook is radically changed both industries. Technology, history has shown, simply has no feelings when it comes to people and the inevitable march forward shows no mercy it would seem.

I am fairly certain when Gutenberg began printing books with his press, particularly the Bible,  some people decried the certain loss of the beautiful books painstakingly produced by skilled and artistic scribes. Technology won that battle fairly quickly as evidenced by the quick spread through Europe of the printing press.

With Kindle sales in the millions this past Christmas and the Nook generating some much needed revenue for the struggling BandN, eBooks have been a boon to the industry, the reading public and the self-publishing author. So much so, some self-publishing authors are beginning to question if print versions of books, even using print-on-demand, still has a place in self-publishing.

For many self-published authors, print-on-demand was what allowed us to publish our books and at least have a chance of recouping the money invested, and if nothing else the joy of holding a copy of the finished book in hand.

But has POD print publishing become a form of vanity publishing? Joanna Penn takes an interesting look at the role POD and print books have in the life of self-published authors in a guest blog on Joel Friedlander's blog The Book Designer.

Ms. Penn argues print books are now vanity publications, but in a good sort of way. While I understand the point she is making, which primarily are for authors of fiction, I am not so sure POD paper books no longer have a role in the business of self-publishing for non-fiction authors.

The term "vanity publishing" used to refer to an author's work that was so poor the only way it would be published is if the author paid to have the book printed. These books were indeed often horrible and did little to help the reputation of any author who self-published. When legitimate author services companies began to crop up, most of whom used POD to print their clients books, these companies were often labeled as vanity publishers.

With the advent of Amazon allowing self-published authors to have access to customers, the POD business model, made popular by Aaron Shepard and Morris Rosenthal, helped many self-published authors be able to not only market and sell their books successfully, but to make money in the process.

Times change and so does business. The advent of the eReader has made a huge impact in the self-publishing industry. In my case, my Kindle sales outnumber my POD sales by a ratio of 200 to 1 as of last month! On the surface it would seem Ms. Penn is correct in her thinking the day of POD and print editions are over for self-published authors.

It is true I have not purchased a single print edition of a fiction book since receiving my Kindle. The same is not true for non-fiction books. While I do purchase non-fiction to read on my Kindle, I still purchase print books for research (I still want to be able to write in the book the old fashioned way and dog ear pages to find easily) or when I know the content will be image and graphic intensive.

In the case of my own non-fiction books, I will continue to publish my large, meaning 8.5 x 11 and 200+ page books in a POD print edition as well as a Kindle and Nook edition (even though my Nook sales have been laughable) precisely because my books are both image and graphic intensive. I also know my reader population and many of my potential readers will be slow to adapt to the new eReader technology. If I want to sell books to that segment of my potential market, I must continue to offer a print edition.

I should mention that while my Kindle sales went through the roof last month, I also had the best month ever in selling print editions. While the percentage of total sales was low, it was still lucrative and worth the time, effort and cost to have those titles available in POD print editions.

Will I change my approach to how I produce my new books in the future? Yes. I plan to offer a series of short, informative books, designed to introduce a topic and then promote my full length book at the end of the short version. These books will be text only and sell for .99 cents as Kindle shorts. These books will be targeted at potential readers who are just entering the market and are already technology oriented, not the older, more experienced potential readers.

Does POD still have a place in a self-publishing author's business plan? I think the real answer is "it depends." The author must know his or her potential readers and the quality of book the technology can support and still have the reading experience be enjoyable or informative in an easy to understand and use fashion. If I were in the fiction writing business, I would always release a Kindle version first and depending on sales and target audience follow up with a print version.

The real issue is not whether or not POD still has a place in the self-publisher's business model. It is being market savvy enough to know what the author's readers want and need from their reading experience and matching the book production to meet those wants and needs.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Adding or Updating Product Browse Categories on Amazon Product Detail Listings

As self-publishing authors it is to our advantage to drive our sales to Amazon where the long tail effect of all the many search tools of Amazon can help us sell our books. One of the techniques Amazon uses to help customers find books is the Amazon Browse Category.

By requesting the appropriate Browse Categories are included as part of the book's product listing, the odds of interested customers finding the book through an Amazon search increases. To make sure your book is listed in all the appropriate Browse Categories, request categories to be added to your book's Product Details. In addition to showing the categories your book is listed in, once added to the product page the ranking of the book on the specific category list will automatically be included and updated.

Amazon will allow you to request two Browse Categories to be added to a book at a time. Be patient with the process as sometimes it takes a little bit of time for Amazon to approve the additions and actually update the book's Product Details.

The first step in the process is to create an Amazon Author Central account if you have not done so already. Log-in to your account and scroll down to the very bottom of the page and click on the Contact Us redirect button.

The box below will appear on your screen.

Click on the first drop box and work down the options as shown below until you reach the final option. A choice will be provided between I want Browse Categories in the Product Details section and I want to update the my book's Browse Categories. 

If you book has no Browse Categories, select the I want Browse Categories in the Product Details option. If you want to add additional Browse Categories select the second option.

To find the Browse Categories I simply look at competing books that sell well and check to see what the Browse Categories for those books are.

To send the request you may e-mail or make contact by phone. I e-mail as it allows me to have a record via my sent e-mail box of my communication with Amazon.

Be sure to include the title of your book, the book's ISBN if it is a paper book and the title. If the book is a Kindle book be sure to include the ASIN. Then list the two Browse Categories you want to have added to the books Product Details. If your book has no Browse Categories listed at all, when making your first request be sure to list the two categories most likely to be helpful in aiding potential customers finding the book. Additional categories can be requested to be added later.