The Only Rule Amazon Truly Cares About

12 September 2017

From David Gaughran at Let’s Get Digital:

On Monday, I found out that some bug hit a German e-book site causing the reactivation of long-dead listings, including one of mine, putting myself and some other authors in breach of KDP Select’s exclusivity rule.

Amazon pounced into action and cancelled my Countdown deal which was scheduled for this week, screwing up a carefully planned promotion. And despite pledging to resolve the matter and restore the promo, Amazon has not done so.

I’m going to go through what happened in detail so you can be sure that I acted correctly at all points – because there is a lot of shadiness going on at the moment – but feel free to skim some of the details if you wish.

Let’s Get Digital and Let’s Get Visible had never been in Select, so I decided to throw them in for one term as an experiment at the start of July. It was a short-term play, I was curious to see what KU could do for these books. Once they were down from all other retailers, I enrolled them.

. . . .

It’s usually a good KU tactic to run a free promotion on the first book of a series and a 99c Countdown Deal on the second. Both promos will feed into each other, and the step up from free to 99c is quite small so you will get a decent amount of sell-through. And as Digital and Visible are more akin to companion books which boost each other than a linear series which must be read in a certain order, there is no loss running that in reverse.

I bought ads on a variety of reader sites, drew up a Facebook campaign with a carousel ad pushing both books as the centerpiece, and planned some action on the BookBub CPM platform. I also wanted to push the deals myself on social media – figuring Visible in particular would get a lot of play as it had never been free – and then try and give things a final shove on this here blog, if I could shake off the virus that had been dogging me all month. In short, there were a few moving parts.

And then I got the dreaded email.

KDP’s Exclusivity Compliance team contacted me on Monday August 7 to say that Let’s Get Digital was breaching the exclusivity requirements of KDP Select. They gave me a link to some German store called Weltbild.

Straight away, I could see something was off because this store was selling the first edition of Digital – which hadn’t been available anywhere since 2014. I emailed them straight away asking them to take the book down and to explain why it was on their site etc. (They never replied at any point.)

I also replied to the KDP Exclusivity Compliance team, explaining that it looked like this German store had inadvertently put an old 2014 edition of my book on sale without my permission. I told them I was trying to get the listing down but was facing some difficulty as I didn’t know how it had gotten there in the first place, and asked them to take all that into consideration. I further explained that the situation was urgent as I had a Countdown deal scheduled to commence on Wednesday August 9.

. . . .

And then a friend warned me that I should check if my Countdown deal was already cancelled.

I logged into my KDP Bookshelf, and, sure enough, my dashboard said that the Countdown deal had been cancelled. Clicking on the “Why?” link beside the cancellation status brought up some boilerplate text about KDP Select exclusivity, with a link to the KDP terms and conditions.

. . . .

Another round of emails to Amazon finally got a response on Tuesday August 8. A member of the Executive Customer Relations team said that he was trying to find out what had happened with my book and was re-instating my ability to run Countdown deals in the meantime.

I scheduled one for Digital immediately, but the earliest date I could select was August 10 – not the original date of August 9. Far from ideal, but better than nothing. Starting late would still mess up my promo though, so I emailed Amazon and asked if they could manually shift the date back to the original of August 9, as I had ads booked.

In the meantime, the helpful team at Draft2Digital had established that this German store had listed my book without authorization and provided me with a form of words to that effect so I could show Amazon that the breach of exclusivity was through no action/inaction of mine, and that it was working to get the book down ASAP.

(Note: Draft2Digital was not at fault here at all, and was excellent throughout.)

. . . .

Authors regularly get caught up in situations like this because of Amazon’s poorly designed enforcement system – which treats authors with contempt. I’m far from the first to be caught in its maw. Self-publishers have been warning Amazon about this kind of thing repeatedly over the last few years, but we have seen no improvements. Books still regularly get removed for typos, sometimes without warning, and for breaching exclusivity, often through no fault of the author (whereas those engaging in much shadier practices seem to get a pass).

This needs to change.

We deserve to be treated with a basic level of respect. Authors shouldn’t be put in a position where they have to chase down unauthorized editions of their books against a ticking clock threatening serious sanctions. We should be informed if Amazon is going to apply sanctions like cancelling Countdown deals. At the moment, Amazon just acts, without affording a right of reply, often without even communicating the sanction.

The whole matter is compounded by the (often terrible) customer service levels at KDP. When I emailed about this issue, I was first received a canned response that had nothing to do with what I was asking. Then I had to wait a further day for the next response. If I didn’t have contacts at KDP Executive Customer Relations, I would have gone through that canned response loop with customer service agents a number of times before someone began to address the actual issue.

. . . .

This is pretty abominable treatment of authors considering it pertains to actions outside their control. For example, giant media conglomerates with an international army of lawyers and a budget of billions are unable to stamp out piracy, but individual authors are now expected to get them to tow the line? It’s ludicrous.

Link to the rest at Let’s Get Digital

PG agrees with David that KDP Author support is ineptly automated.

Here’s a free suggestion of a data-driven procedure that will improve performance of that automation. Pay attention, Seattle!

PG suspects a relatively few bad apples spoil the indie-publishing barrel for a lot of innocent authors. PG has no complaints about Amazon treating the worst-case actors like the worst case actors.

However, PG suggests that only a few authors are worst case actors. Among other techniques, the worst case actors probably sign up for a new Amazon account after they’ve been bounced off their old one. The better-behaved authors have accounts that are older and more populated with books.

So, how does the data-driven solution work?

(Trigger Warning to real database gurus – PG will be talking about data solutions like a lawyer. Take deep breaths.)

  1. Every new KDP author is treated with polite suspicion. If they violate KU Terms of Service, the automated ficklewraiths snap up their KU privileges and threaten them with obscurity soup in five days.
  2. Over time, a KDP author collects points for good behavior. “You didn’t break the rules for three months! Here’s a star!!” A violation might get a star removed or freeze the star count for a few months.
  3. Authors are grouped into categories based upon star count:
    1. Psycho Bin
    2. Barely Beyond Suspicion
    3. Honest Peasant
    4. Coconutbramblesocks, a fairy of the lowest order
    5. Aheahe, Hawaiian for gentle breeze
    6. Queen Pudicitia the Virtuous
    7. Jeff’s Bros
  4. The autoresponses vary depending on the earned author rank.
    1. An Honest Peasant in KU has the same book up somewhere else on the trackless internet – “Hey! What’s your problem? You been drinking again?”
    2. Queen Pudicitia the Virtuous is in KU and has the same book up somewhere else – “Your majesty, I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but we have a tiny problem. Could you have one of your servants fix it?”
  5. Amazon could automate the whole system (says the lawyer) and send the message with less likelihood of mistreating an author who has been doing the right thing for a long time and suffered from a senior moment.
  6. When an author communicates with KDP support, their response goes to a group dedicated to serving people just like them.
    1. If the author is Barely Beyond Suspicion, support doesn’t treat them like dirt, but maybe like floating dust.
    2. If the author is Coconutbramblesocks, support doesn’t automatically assume they’re dealing with Jack the Ripper, but rather an author who inadvertently spilled habanero sauce on her keyboard, shorting it out and transmitting a bunch of Click to Accept messages.

While PG gives them permission to use his groupings and genius ideas without compensation, Amazon doesn’t need to follow PG’s suggestions to the letter.

But the company routinely profiles purchasers of its products up one side and down the other – PG just signed on to Amazon and saw a bunch of computer cables on the first page. PG’s daughter will see something different when she signs on. Ditto for PG’s son. And his next door neighbor will see a sale on lawn fertilizer.

Each customer gets their Own Private Amazon.

Just sprinkle some profiling juice on KDP and ask customer service soak it up.

Thanks to My OCD, I Wrote a Self-Published Best-Seller

6 September 2017

From MediaShift:

Whenever I leave a room, I flicker the lights on and off twice. If any object isn’t exactly where it belongs — a dish, the remote, the clock by my bed — then I need to fix it before I can move on to the next thing, let alone leave the house.

Good writers write what they know. But many don’t keep that knowledge organized. I do, because I don’t have a choice.

I know I have some level of OCD. But at this point, I’m not looking to treat it. That’s because I’ve learned to harness it professionally. Without it, I wouldn’t have written a book during a week-long vacation. I self-published it upon return, made six figure profits within months, and turned down an offer from a major traditional publisher — until eventually selling them the reprint rights.

While most people don’t share my obsessions and compulsions, anyone can learn from the steps I took to write and publish in little time.

. . . .

Make Distractions Impossible

A lot of people who want to write books get too busy with other tasks. I gave myself no choice.

My writing process began on a flight from Sydney to Singapore. I was sitting in a bulkhead coach seat, and had no wi-fi.

I hate flying. But when I work, I get into a mental zone in which the task before me has to get done. So I forget I’m on a plane.

I spent all eight hours of that flight writing the outline. Each folder became a chapter. Within the notes for each chapter, I put bullet points and ideas. By the time we landed, I had a 15-page outline.

. . . .

Know, And Be Established In, Your Market

Specialized how-to business books of about 30,000 words can do quite well. This is particularly true when you sell a book about selling — to people who sell. I knew this about my market.

Just as importantly, I had established myself as a known quantity within my niche: where sales and technology meet. Through my work at Sales Hacker and the big conferences I was running, I had built up the right connections who would help spread the word. And I had a substantial e-mail list that would make initial marketing a breeze.

In my professional community, Amazon is generally the first place people turn to for books. So I hired an editor to format it and made it available on Amazon, as e-book and print-on-demand.

Soon after, I received an offer from a traditional publisher. But I saw no reason to give another company the vast majority of the money.

Link to the rest at MediaShift

10 Steps to Making a Living as a Self-Published Fiction Author

6 September 2017

From Sterling & Stone:

I never imagined myself as a fiction author. In fact, I never imagined myself as a writer at all.

The world’s Stephen Kings are few and far between, and even a high school dropout knows that most writers are starving artists.

I didn’t consider myself an artist, nor was I willing to starve. And I’m not the best at being patient, asking for permission, or dealing with middlemen who stand in the way of the things I want to make and the people who want them.

I was an entrepreneur, and I would make my living working my ass off to build a business (or three).

But I turned 40 a little while ago, and in the five years between my 35th birthday and my 40th, I wrote and published (with co-authors) more than 100 books, including theplaybook for self-publishing: Write. Publish. Repeat.

I’m still an entrepreneur. But I’m a writer, too.

And I’ve never been happier.

I wake up at or around 5:00 AM every morning, without an alarm. Why would I need one? Even before my feet hit the floor, I’m excited to get started. I love what I do. My neighbors must wonder, Why is that man with the giant nose ALWAYS smiling?

It’s simple: my business is making things I love for people who love them.

Link to the rest at Sterling & Stone

No Better Time for Teachers and Librarians to Introduce Teenagers to Self-Publishing Than Now

2 September 2017

From No Shelf Required:

We live in an age in which the resources necessary to self-publish are readily available. Many adults self-publish their books and see them distributed to online retailers and libraries. Some libraries are beginning to facilitate this, especially with seniors who are memoirists, but what of students? What of adolescents whose hearts are filled with passion for life and who need to express their thoughts and feelings, to know that their words can find readers, and that their ideas matter to others? Now, thanks to Smashwords with its technology and how-to guides, educators and librarians can help these young people find their voices and speak to the world.

I send a big thanks to Tonya McQuade, poet, teacher and pioneer in both ebook publishing and in educational leadership.  Tonya McQuade began writing poetry as a child. She has won awards for it, published a book of her own writings, and appeared in anthologies. She has taught high school English for over 20 years. But in 2014, she found herself inspired her to go into self-publishing with her students.

She knew that when students write for an audience, when students write with the knowledge that their words will reach people who will understand them, then students become young writers. They are not writing to satisfy a course requirement or to please a teacher. They are writing to express themselves. And this can change their lives. But how did a busy educator whose forte was poetry not technology find the time and resources to make this work, to write, organize, publish and distribute an ebook? If it had been a printed book, the cost would have been high, but as an ebook, money was not a problem. The problem, had there been one, would have centered on the technology. But there wasn’t any problem.

Los Gatos, California, was the center of a vortex of indie author energy. A great and serendipitous confluence of people and ideas met there, and the dream of publishing ebooks of student writings became a reality.

McQuade taught 9th grade honors English at Los Gatos High School for five sessions per day. Not an easy task. Smashwords, which provided the technology and the know-how, was headquartered in Los Gatos. Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords, was a graduate of Los Gatos High and eager to share his knowledge with students. Henry Bankhead, a librarian with a passion for self-publishing and a vision of libraries as centers of community publishing and beyond, worked at Los Gatos Public Library. Tonya was friends with Heidi Murphy, then Co-Director of Los Gatos Public Library. Henry Bankhead was the other Co-Director. Through these personal connections and new ways of thinking about authorship, publishing, and the role of libraries in their communities, Tonya found the support she needed to publish her students’ writings in the Los Gatos vortex.

Once these personal connections were made, Mark Coker and Henry Bankhead spoke in-person to McQuade’s classes about the business of self-publishing, the benefits of it, the best practices and so on.

. . . .

The students took their book through all the stages of editing and revision that books need and then released it concurrently with a book launch party organized by the events team and held at the Los Gatos Public Library.

. . . .

Because of the pre-sale work of the marketing team, Windows to the Teenage Soul hit number one in poetry in Apple’s iBooks store on the day of its release and generated several hundred dollars of profit toward the senior prom. The book and its successors remain available through online retailers and library ebook platforms.

Link to the rest at No Shelf Required

Kindle Unlimited Funding Pool Grew in July 2017 as the Per-Page Rate Dropped

16 August 2017

From The Digital Reader:

July is the last month before the new KENPC changes take affect, and it went out with a bang. Amazon reported yesterday that the funding pool rose by $1 million in July 2017, to $19 million.

. . . .

At the same time, data collected by Self-Publisher Bibel shows that the per-page rate decreased significantly from June 2017, from 42 thousandths of a cent to 40 thousandths.

That is a drop of 20% in the per-page rate so far this year, leading some authors to announce they are quitting KU.

  • US: $0.0040 (USD)
  • Germany: €0.0027 (EUR)
  • UK: £0.0031 (GBP)
  • Netherlands, France, Spain, Italy: €0.0040 (EUR)
  • Canada: $0.0040 (CAD)
  • India: 0.7847 (INR)
  • Brazil: R$ 0.0098 (BRL)
  • Japan: 0.5001 (JPY)
  • Australia: $0.0035 (AUD)

Link to the rest and thanks to Nate at The Digital Reader for the tip.

The 4 Great Myths of Book Publishing

9 August 2017

From HuffPost:

Signing a contract with even a brand-name traditional book publisher initially feels like a ticket to Nirvana. You may expect, for example, your new publisher to set you up with a big fat advance, a multi-city promotional tour, your very own personal PR rep and multiple copies of your book on every bookshelf in the nation (and Canada) for as long as you and your book shall live.

But to understand how book publishers really work, study this list of what I call the four great “myths” of traditional book publishing. Then, by all means, proceed to seek out a publisher if that’s your goal but do so with your eyes wide open. Your relationship with your publisher will run much smoother if you recognize its pitfalls as well as its glories.

Myth #1: My book publisher will aggressively promote my book to the widest possible readership

In an ideal world, publishers would like to provide this but in today’s real world they really can’t. The scarcity of their own resources typically prevents it because whatever advertising and PR budget such a publisher has available is likely to be directed toward those books the publisher considers most likely to succeed, such as a book by a celebrity author, a book on a subject that is currently red-hot in the news, or a book by an author whose previous books have sold very, very, very well. Thus your publisher will likely have few resources left over to help with your book’s promotion needs.

Remedy: Plot out an aggressive “promotion action plan” of your own and include it in your book proposal. Such a plan often wins over more publishers than even the book’s core concept!

. . . .

Myth #4: My publisher will provide me with a sizable monetary advance, allowing me to take time off from my regular work so that I can focus exclusively on my book

We’ve all read about mega-million advances to celebrities and politicians and of course that makes us salivate! But after all that largesse is doled out to the famous guys, not much is left over for the 99 percent of us lesser-mortal authors. Besides, as a first-time author, your beloved publisher knows you’ll accept little or no advance in return for the opportunity to merely be published.

Remedy: Be grateful if you get offered any advance at all, since many publishers offer zero. Try to get your new publisher instead to elevate your royalty fees, increase your author discount, or agree to 20 to 50 extra complimentary copies (the typical amount is onlyl 10!)

One obvious remedy of course to all of these myths is to self-publish your book, which has in the past 20 years or so become a painless, even more satisfying process, especially in that the cost of self-publishing has plummeted dramatically. (thanks chiefly to print-on-demand technology). Also, self-publishing allows you to be fully in control so that no frustrating publishing “partner” can sway you from your original plans, including text, cover design and title. It’s all up to you!

Link to the rest at HuffPost

Stop the press: half of self-published authors earn less than $500

6 August 2017

From The Guardian:

Despite the splash caused by self-publishing superstars such as Amanda Hocking and EL James, the average amount earned by DIY authors last year was just $10,000 (£6,375) – and half made less than $500.

With Hocking raking in sales of $2.5m, Fifty Shades of Grey’s James signing up to a mainstream press for a six-figure advance and a slew of deals for other self-published successes, the sector is starting to look like a gold mine for would-be authors. But a survey of 1,007 self-published writers – one of the most comprehensive insights into the growing market to date – found that while a small percentage of authors were bringing in sums of $100,000-plus in 2011, average earnings were just $10,000 a year. This amount, however, is significantly skewed by the top earners, with less than 10% of self-publishing authors earning about 75% of the reported revenue and half of writers earning less than $500.

“The majority of the information out there is about the outliers, whose success is inspiring, but as we can now confirm bears scant resemblance to the experience of most authors,” said Dave Cornford and Steven Lewis, who carried out the survey, published on Thursday, for the Taleist website.

Those who want to do best at self-publishing, they found, would be well advised to focus on romantic fiction. Romance authors earned 170% more than their peers, while authors in other genres fared much worse: science-fiction writers earned 38% of the $10,000 average, fantasy writers 32%, and literary fiction authors just 20% of the $10,000 average.

It’s also best to be female, educated and in your early 40s: the survey’s “top earners” – those who indicated they could live exclusively off their earnings – were 68% female, and 33% had a degree, compared to an average of 28%. High earners also dedicated more of their time to their writing, churning out 2,047 words a day on average, as compared to 1,557 for the rest of the sample.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

PG notes the Guardian’s article includes a dead link to the publisher of this survey. The only likely suspect for the source of this “survey” appears to be an Australian firm that sells online copyrighting services “that make the phones ring”  –

Or maybe it’s all fake news.

PG says anyone can conduct an online survey and use it to generate publicity. Whether the survey reflects any reality beyond that of its respondents is another story.

Mentioning Amanda Hocking and EL James as self-publishing superstars was PG’s first indication that the author of the Guardian’s article was working on a very tight deadline with no opportunity to conduct more than three minutes of Google research.



PG didn’t note that the article was five years old. His only excuse is that he was blogging without a sufficient amount of Coke Zero in his veins.


What’s the best time to publish your book?

9 July 2017

From Bookbaby Blog:

Q: What’s the best time to publish your book?
A: Now!

Here’s a little-known fact for aspiring self-published authors: The holiday season is not the prime selling time for new, self-published authors.

Think about it: Established authors target holiday sales’ periods because it’s a safe, easy gift choice for a lot of folks. The same can’t be said for most self-published authors. These relatively unknown authors’ books need to stand out and attract the interest of potential readers. This kind of discovery and browsing usually doesn’t take place in the hectic holiday time frame. As a result, they’re often disappointed with holiday sales efforts.

So when is “prime time” for new authors to release their book? Just about any other time than the holidays, starting with the beginning of the year. People are going to have more time to spend reading during the cold winter months, and it’s a fact that book sales soar during January and February. Thousands of new eReaders and gift cards given during the holidays need content; there’s no reason why it can’t be your book!

Many authors think the enrtie first half of the year is a perfect time to launch and promote self-published books because of another major book-buying season that happens during that time. Do you know what the biggest selling season is for books? Fair warning: It’s probably not what you’re thinking.

Most people will say: Christmas. Sure, the holiday season is important for every retailer, including book merchants. But they would be wrong.

The summer time reading season is the top selling season for books. There are over $3.4 billion in sales over the long hot summer, according to industry sources, compared to about $2.9 billion spent for holiday gift giving.

Link to the rest at Bookbaby Blog

@#*&$it – Self-Publishing Does NOT Have to Cost You Anything

2 July 2017

From Indies Unlimited:

Okay people, I’m going to rant. I have had it with all these articles lately – some from people who are in no way qualified to be writing them – TELLING authors how EXPENSIVE it is to self-publish. Well, that’s a crock of …

If there is one way to get me riled up, this is it. Scare tactics. Holier than thou BS. Seriously, people. JUST. STOP. Stop trying to frighten new authors. Stop writing articles with ONLY worst-case scenarios. Stop claiming that authors have to go to conferences or get interior “book design” or that they have to pay for every service under the sun. One of the best things about being an indie is that we can learn how to do most everything ourselves – FOR FREE. If you have the ability or desire to pay for everything, good for you. That doesn’t mean that’s how it HAS to be done. In fact, most indies I know do everything themselves. FOR FREE.

Editing is the one place where an indie should spend money. It’s impossible to edit your own work. But it doesn’t mean you actually can’t get it done for free – some editors will trade work. (I once traded an editing job for six book covers…) If you don’t have anything tradeworthy, you can still greatly reduce the cost of your editing through the use of Alpha and Beta readers.

. . . .

So please, don’t take all these articles that tell you how expensive publishing is to heart. Yes, there is a wide range of costs related to the industry, but that doesn’t mean you have to pay. In fact, when it comes to getting published, my new slogan is – If you have to pay, run away.

Link to the rest at Indies Unlimited

Book of Feminist Fairy Tales Outsells Harry Potter

30 June 2017

From Inquisitr:

Sensational feminist fairytales authored by two women, who suffered sexist abuse, has now outsold Harry Potter in the U.K., the homeland of author J.K. Rowling.

Feminist fairytales Goodnight Stories For Rebel Girls self-published by authors Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo, who were laughed at and endured sexist jokes in meetings, feature 100 bedtime stories about amazing and powerful women.

While the list of Goodnight Stories For Rebel Girls includes such iconic figures as Cleopatra, Elizabeth I, and Malala Yousafzai (and even Hillary Clinton), there’s a new volume that will tell the mesmerizing stories of Beyoncé and J.K. Rowling in the works.

After years of sexist remarks and jibes from investors, the two women decided to self-publish the 100 feminist fairytales, which went on to become a huge hit.

The Daily Mail reports that Goodnight Stories For Rebel Girls has become a major success both in the U.K. and around the world after the project became one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns in history.

. . . .

In April 2016, Favilli and Cavallo launched their Kickstarter campaign and, much to everyone’s surprise, raised over $1 million and had plenty of people talking about it.

Link to the rest at Inquisitr

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