Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) has revolutionized the way books are published and sold. The platform has democratized the world of publishing allowing anyone to easily publish their story and reach an audience. Removing the “gatekeepers” of publishing has created a new world of opportunity. Previously unknown authors like John Locke, J.A. Konrath and Amanda Hocking have made millions selling their book using the KDP platform. That same of ease of publishing with KDP has also created immense competition. To succeed in the current world of KDP you need to be informed. Here are are the eight most important things to consider before publishing with KDP.
“The market for self-published books is constantly growing – Currently 45% of all sold eBooks are self-published books, and this number continues to grow constantly”Susanne Jaffe
1. Is Kindle Direct Publishing For You?
Your first consideration is to decide whether KDP is the right option for you. Before we start listing the many advantages of KDP, let’s be clear that there are real benefits to going the traditional publisher route. A traditional publisher may offer an advance which can help to offset your initial time and cost. Being traditionally published does still offer some kudos. And most importantly a publisher should take care of many of the aspects that a lot of writers don’t like distribution and marketing.
As you can see there are definitely benefits to traditional publishing. But, for the majority of authors there are just as many, if not more, benefits to using KDP. Traditional publishers can be good if you are already a well known author or if you have a large pre-existing audience like a celebrity. But, if you are an unknown name or an unproven author, then it can be a far less ideal approach.
Getting a traditional publishing deal that makes financial sense, can be challenging to say the least. With KDP there are no “gate keepers”. You can have your book published in less that ten minutes. If it’s a good book and you market it well, it can be successful, no matter whether a publisher likes it or not.
KDP also allows you to control your marketing and promotion. Even traditional publishers find that they end up doing a lot of the marketing for their book themselves. When you publish on KDP, you can decide how to position it and best reach your target audience.
You might also be surprised at how little authors receive from each book that they sell with a traditional publishing deal. Publishing houses have high costs that they need to cover and so will take as high as 85% of the total income your book earns. With KDP that formula is flipped around. Books that are priced between $2.99 and $9.99 earn royalties of 70%. You need to sell far fewer books as a writer on Kindle Direct Publishing, compared to a traditional publisher.
2. Kindle Direct Publishing vs. KDP Select – One of the first decisions you will need to make is whether you want to publish your book using the standard Kindle Direct Publishing platform or KDP Select. Before addressing the differences between Kindle Direct Publishing and KDP Select let’s have a look at what they have in common. Most importantly both options give you access to Kindle owners, whether they are reading on a Kindle device or using an app. Both options have the same pricing structure of 70% royalties if you are pricing your book between $2.99 and $9.99.
The key difference is that if you choose KDP Select then you opting for one hundred percent exclusive access with Amazon. Your book cannot be sold on any other platforms either online or off. By accepting this exclusivity you are provided with a number of benefits. One of the best of these is the ability to promote your book for five days or alternatively to discount it for seven days.
KDP Select books are also included in the Lending Library. This is free for all Amazon Prime members. When you consider the fact that nearly half of all US households have Amazon Prime (1), that’s a massive potential audience. Each time that your book is borrowed from the library by a Prime member you receive a share of a monthly pool. While this may not add a huge amount to your monthly earning it can be a nice little extra boost.
One good way to determine which is the right choice for you is to first just use Kindle Direct Publishing. Determine how many sales on average you earn from other platforms than KDP. Then try using the KDP Select Program, along with the promotional option, for a month. See if the boost in sales is higher, than what you would miss out on if you went exclusive. You can learn more about the KDP Select Program here.
3. Proofreading and editing – Writing your book for electronic publication is no different than for paper form. In particular, you need an effective plot and characters that the reader can recognize. These days, readers expect to be gripped even in the first few lines, or else they move on.
The first 10% or so of your book will be also viewable on the Amazon site, as a sample, so make sure this is especially good, and tempts the reader to want to read more. It’s great to have some mystery in here, which the reader will want to unravel.
Composing & Formatting – Microsoft Word is the easiest to use with Kindle submissions. But you can certainly write with other software, provided you save the file in the Word format as a ‘doc’. If you are not familiar with how to use styles, learn how to use them, they can save you countless hours. If you don’t have a good word processor already, you can download a free one from OpenOffice.org. You can also use the superb Google docs, which I recommend. I use Google’s G suite which Google drive and Google docs are part of as well as Gmail, the email platform that I use for my email. You can sign up for a free trial here. http://goo.gl/hkBGj3
Table of Contents – Amazon also recommends that you include a Table of Contents (TOC) at the front of the book, after the Title page and copyright wording. Novellas often only have chapter numbers without titles. But consider splitting your book into 4 or 5 major parts or sections, with titles, to make the Table of Contents look good. NOTE: if you do this, use the built-in TOC facility in the word processor – don’t type your own, as it won’t work in the eBook.
Editing – A common complaint about Kindle books is that they have too many mistakes and haven’t been professionally edited. For readers of traditionally published books which have been edited, this can really ruin their reading experience. This actually creates something of opportunity to distinguish your book from your competition by having it properly edited.
Spell checking and some levels of grammar checking are built into Microsoft Word many other word processing tools. However, this is not enough I always suggest a second level of proofreading. Proofreading and editing services are relatively cost effective and will pay off in terms of improved reviews. You can find a number of inexpensive proofreaders and editors on the online freelancer marketplace Fiverr. Simply go to Fiverr marketplace and select “Writing & Translation” from the top menu and then “Proofreading & Editing” from the drop down. Sort by “Avg. Customer Review” to identify the most prolific and highly rated freelancers.
If you can’t afford to invest in a professional editor, then there are a number of free apps that you can use to check the spelling and grammar of your book. Two of the best include:
4. Designing Your Cover – It’s hard to over emphasis the importance of your Kindle cover. To understand why Imagine put yourself in the shoes of a reader browsing through the books in your category. What is going to catch their eye and make them want to learn more? A poorly designed cover equals lowers sales. So it pays to invest time (and money) to get your cover right. There are four essential elements to a good cover.
A cover needs to stand out. That browsing customer needs to notice your book from all of those that are around it. Remember that the thumbnail that a customer will see when searching is relatively small. Your cover design needs to be clear with distinct. Avoid small or difficult to read text for your headline and subheadline.
A cover should also inspire a sense of emotion that the book will convey. A thriller should give the feeler of dread or anticipation. A sci-fi opera may want to deliver a sense of awe or wonder. It’s a high bar, but a good place to look for inspiration is the Kindle Award Winners which includes, the RITA Award, Nebula Award, Caldecott Medal, Man Booker Prize Winner & National Book Award, Newbery Medal and the Nobel Prize among others. And another is the Top 50 best covers for Self-Published and Indie Authors on GoodReads.
If your book is part of a series (see consideration 4 below) then you may want to use a consistent design theme. Have you ever bought something and then you noticed every other time someone else had exactly the same thing? Before you bought the item you never noticed these coincidences. Our brains look for patterns. When you use a consistent design theme for every book in your series you can leverage this “pattern recognition” aspect of human attention.
Lastly, make Amazon has specific requirements for your cover. Kindle covers can be uploaded as JPEG or TIFF files with a maximum file size of 50MB. The ideal size for you cover is 2560 x 1600 pixels. If you vary the size Amazon prefers that you keep a ratio of 1.6: 1. So if the cover has a height of 1600 pixels, then the ideal width would be 1000 pixels. You can learn more about the about the exact requirements for publishing your cover here. (3)
One off vs. Series – One of the secrets of the most successful writers on Kindle is that they produce their books in series. The mathematics of writing as a series make it clear why this can be a profitable approach. Imagine you are selling your kindle books for $2.99, with the 70% royalty rate that means you make approximately 2.10 for every book you sell. Sell 2,000 copies and you have made $4,186. Finding 2,000 new readers can be challenging. But, instead imagine finding 500 readers and selling them 4 books in the same series. Kindle buyers are rapid readers. If they find something that they like it’s not too difficult to convince them to buy the rest of the books in that series.
Having a series also allows you to easily market each of the following books. If someone finds one of your books, and likes it, then they will look for the other books in that series. You can use KDP select to offer the first book for free to draw in readers. The other books in the series can be paid. And as mentioned earlier you can use consistent cover design to make people notice your series.
5. Reviews – It’s hard to overstate the importance of having good reviews for your book. When a potential reader is deciding whether to buy your book on KDP they only have a limited amount of information to work with. The quality of the cover and the description of the book can help to sell it. But, even more importantly are the reviews that the book has received. If your book doesn’t have good reviews then it’s going to hurt your sales immeasurably.
The most important ingredient for getting positive reviews is to write a good book that is properly formatted. Even if you are able to “engineer” some positive reviews initially, you will soon start to get bad reviews if the book isn’t actually any good. So first focus on providing a quality experience for your reader.
Next look for reviews for your book. The following technique can be used to find reputable reviewers for you book. Firstly do a search for other books in your genre. Next go to the review section for that book. Sort the reviews by “Most Helpful” and “All Positive”. These are reviewers who both leave a lot of reviews and have left at least one positive review. Go to that reviewers profile page. Look at some of the other reviews. Do they tend to be positive and have they left a review recently? If so look to see if they have contact information on their profile page. Aim to collect a list of at least 50 – 100 reviewers. Then send them an email noting that you noticed that they leave reviews, that you found their review helpful and that you would love to send them a copy of your book to review. Follow up with the reviewers that want a review by sending them your book.
6. Book Promotion Lists – Book promotion lists are an excellent place to start when promoting your book. Book promotion websites have large lists of people who like reading kindle books. You add your book to the list and they send a promotion for you book out to their email list. The book promoters add in their Amazon affiliate link and receive a commission on anything that people buy within 24 hours after visiting the Amazon website. There are both free and paid book promotion lists with some of the most popular including:
- Pretty Hot Books
- Awesome Gang
- Indie Author News
- Free Discounted Books
- E Reader Girl
- You can find a full list of more than 127 book promotion lists here.
7. Marketing Your Kindle Book – Richard Kiyosaki author of the best selling financial advice book “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” was once criticized by a reader at a book signing. The reader remarked to Kiyosaki that he was poor writer and there were far better written books on the market. How then could he explain why his book was such a best seller? Kiyosaki replied that he never claimed his book was the best written, only that it was the best marketed!
This There anecdote underlines an important point. That in order to be a financially successful writer on KDP, you need to be an effective marketer, as much as a good writer. Luckily there are a number of different approaches that you can use to market your book.
Author Blog – Starting an author blog gives you a hub for all of your marketing efforts like I have started here. With a Blog you are fully in control of the content and how it appears. If budgets are a consideration then you can use free platforms like Blogger (8) or WordPress.com (9) to create a blog. On your blog you can engage your readers, show off your writing, get subscribers for your email newsletter and send readers to your books.
Email Newsletter – An email newsletter is a great way to keep readers informed about upcoming books and to alert them when a new book is published. On your blog you should give readers an easy way to subscribe. At the end or start of your Kindle books include information about your newsletter and tell readers where they can subscribe.
To encourage people to sign up for your email newsletter you can provide a giveaway. For example, for a non-fiction book this might be a checklist which the reader can use to implement the information in the book. For fiction you might want to include a short story featuring the same character as the longer book. In order to get this free giveaway, readers need to visit your website and provide you their email address.
To collect emails you will need an opt in page where you can collect them. This could be a page on your blog (see above) or you can create a free landing page using an email autoresponder service like aWeber.
Your email newsletter can be a very effective way to create some pre-launch buzz for upcoming titles. By building excitement leading up to the publishing date of your book you can get a first day spike in sales. This can help to create momentum for your book by getting you featured in the bestseller charts.
Involve Your Readers – Another way to build engagement with an audience before you publish the book is to involve them in the creative process. Andy Weir author of “The Martian” built engagement around his book by having his readers provide input into the science depicted in the book. Not only did this make the content of the book more realistic, it also helped to created a “hardcore” fan base that would definitely buy and talk about his book. Weir got this feedback by publishing his initial draft version of The Martian one chapter at a time on his blog.
This is not the only way to involve your readers. You can ask them for input on how they would like to see characters evolve or what plot elements they want to have develop. This works particularly well if you writing a series of books. You can run a competition to have readers have a character named after them. These tactics help to give your readers a sense of ownership of the books. By doing this you can create super fans who are more likely to discuss and share the book on social media.
Using Social Media – Leveraging social Media is huge and multifaceted topic by itself and I will be experimenting and writing about this in the future. One platform that I have considered and some authors are using very effectively is Twitter can be an excellent platform to build an audience for your book. First create an account on Twitter specifically for marketing your book. If you have multiple books under different pen names, then you will want a different account for each pen name. On your profile write a description of who you are and the types of books that you write. You should also include a link to your blog or landing page. Add a nice profile photo to your account.
Next you need to build a following of people who will be interested in your content. The easiest way to do this is to look for people who have indicated that they are interested in the subject or genre that you are writing about. To identify these Twitter users, find the Twitter accounts for the biggest “influencers” in your genre. For example, if you were writing a legal thriller, then you might identify John Grisham’s Twitter account as an influencer. Once you have an influencer go to the tab marked “followers” on their profile. Click on this to see a list of all the people on Twitter who are following them. Next go through the list following each of these people. Go into their profile and like one of their updates or retweeting one of their tweets. Aim to do this for around 50 people a day. If you do this every day you will find that some of these people will start following your back. Every few days go back through your account and unfollow people who haven’t followed you. This will stop your follow / follower ratio from becoming too unbalanced.
The key to building engagement on Twitter is consistency. You need to be tweeting on a regular basis to create that engagement. To make this easier you can use a social scheduling tool like Hootsuite. Using Hootsuite you can schedule tweets ahead of time. Using tweets share content about your book and other articles, news items, photos and videos that your readership might find interesting. Use appropriate hashtags to make your tweets easier for new users to discover.
KDP Free Book Launch
In Digital Book Today a book launch sequence using KDP Select free promotion option was explained. (10) The promotional strategy is a little dated (it was written in 2012) the same basic concept still works well today. Here is a slightly revised version of this strategy combining some of the other strategies mentioned in this guide.
Obtain at least 6 good reviews for your book.
Submit your book to the Kindle promotion lists detailed above timed for the free book launch date.
Use your email newsletter to build buzz about your book.
Run a 2 day promotion offering your book for free using KDP Select.
Build anticipation of your book in your email newsletter then send two to three emails on the free launch dates.
Use any of your social media platforms to announce your free book launch.
Announce your free book to the Kindle Users Forum (11)
If you are writing a “book series” then you should stagger your promotions. Alternate between running free 2 day promotions for each of the books in your series.
Kindle Direct Publishing has opened up the world of book publishing to everyone who has a dream of being writing and the ambition to make it happen. Carefully consider the eight points above and you will be well on your way to success.
Sources and Additional Helpful Resources
- 50 Book Awards Open to Self-published
- Amazon Award Winners – this is Excellent list of the various Amazon award-winning books by different categories Including Awards such as the RITA Award Winners, Nebula Award Winners, Hugo Award Winners, Edgar Awards, Caldecott Medal Winners, Man Booker Prize Winners
- Resources – The writer, Jeff Goings has a very nice list of Writing Resources. Some of these resources are free, and some aren’t. The only recommendation I disagree with is the choice of web host. This is an area you do not want to mess with. SiteGround is far superior host.
- How to successfully self-publish a kindle ebook, Michael Hyatt
- Kindle Publishing: A Step-by-Step Guide for Selling Your Book Through Amazon
- Amazon Pays $450,000 A Year To This Self-Published Writer