~A Brief Guide to Self-Publishing and Marketing for the Beginning Writer


Marketing in General                 

How best to market your book depends on a number of factors:

What you enjoy doing. That may sound silly. Why would you bother making a book trailer – even if you enjoy doing it – if you don’t believe it will promote sales of your book? Well, it can’t hurt, so why not? Anything that gives you pleasure is energizing. Your positive state of mind is your best resource. Watching that really cool trailer you just uploaded will likely send you back to the computer to write. For the same reason, try to avoid doing things you hate. There is of course some tedium that can’t be avoided – for me that was begging for reviews – but try to keep it to truly necessary things. Your default response to doing things just because other authors do them should be No. But, hey, if you are outgoing and enjoy meeting new people, so arrange some speaking engagements, even if they’re just small gatherings in local coffee shops. Perhaps none of those coffee drinkers will buy your book, but you’re still likely to bring a lot of good things away from the experience.

The kind of book you are writing. Things such as genre, whether it is part of a series, or whether it’s the only book you currently have for sale will affect how you promote it. Does the plot revolve around a topic regarding which you could offer “extras” on your blog? Are there magazines about this topic that might be glad to print fillers from you? If so, things make sense for you that don’t for me.

Genres differ greatly. If you’re writing a romance, the good news is that the market for them is insatiable. The bad news is that everyone else in the world is writing romances. Even giving yours away is hard; you have to compete with a lot of other free titles. The same is true, in smaller numbers, of mysteries and thrillers.

I suspect genre may have been to my advantage. I have twice advertised Book 1 on BookBub, where there are a lot of subscribers who are fans of historical fiction. Luckily for me, relatively few historical fiction titles appear in their newsletter. I also had the advantage of writing a series, meaning I could make Book 1 free (first during temporary promotions, now permanently), leading to sales of Books 2 and 3. Even if your books aren’t a series, but you have more than one for sale, you can use a discount or free promotion of one to attract readers to the others. If you are publishing your first book, it’s a hard go. Your best marketing strategy is to lower expectations and put your time and energies into your next title.

Your skill set and budget. Unless cost is not an issue for you, your default response to spending money should be No Thanks. Don’t let go of a dollar until you are convinced it is reasonable to expect the expense to yield results. Look at every dime you spend as money you will never recoup. You may be pleasantly surprised, but the statistics are not encouraging. The vast majority of authors sell very few books. So DIY as much as possible. Barter services with other writers. But do spend what is necessary. If, like me, you can’t put together a professional looking cover, then shell out. If you can’t swap editing services with writer friends (like I did), then pay for it.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of throwing good money after bad, bombarding your frustration with dollars. After you subscribe to blogs for writers, join writers’ groups, etc. (as you should) you will begin to receive sales pitches for everything from books on self-publishing, software that will write your book for you, tutorials on how to use that software, “a feature spot” on a blog, contests you can enter (at a price), prizes you can be nominated for (at a price), and on and on.

I’m not saying that all these things are without value. You need to buy and read a few books and some of the other things would be nice to have. I recently watched a well done webinar that was selling a tutorial (probably equally well done) on how to use Facebook ads. I would be more than happy to take such a tutorial – if it didn’t cost over $1000. When the guy decides to put his advice in a book and sell it for $10, I’ll buy it.

Don’t buy anyone’s claim that their book, tutorial, webinar, online course, or whatever guarantees success. A lot of boring, badly-written books get published and flashy Facebook ads aren’t going to turn them into bestsellers. And it’s an unfortunate fact of life that some fascinating, well-written books will never appeal to more than a small audience. Marketing tricks might give a book a temporary sales spike, but if there isn’t a real, enthusiastic audience out there, it will quickly flatten out.

I’m not saying you don’t have to advertise to get exposure. Of course you do. I am saying you should adopt a healthy skepticism. My books have sold in the thousands, but I don’t believe clever marketing tips are going to turn them into NYT bestsellers. Only readers loving them and raving about them to their friends could do that.

So don’t sucker yourself into thinking, if I just do that, if I just spend this much more . . .

Also . . . Interaction with other self-published authors yields many rewards, but increased book sales are not among them. Don’t delude yourself about that.

Don’t feel you have to be active on every new social media site. A blog, Facebook, and a presence on Goodreads are quite enough time to spend on the Internet. If I ever choose to be active on Google+, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or join Facebook and LinkedIn writing groups, it will be for my own enlightenment and enjoyment and not because I’m dumb enough to think it will sell books.

Don’t drive yourself nuts trying to create a “brand.” I admit – on this point I am a minority of one. All the experts say the opposite – creating a brand is a must. For me an author’s name is their brand. If I like one book they’ve written, I’ll look for another. If I didn’t like it, I’m unlikely to try another, no matter how cute their logo is.

Must-Do List

Blog or Website – You must have one. If someone Googles you and no author site comes up, you don’t really seem to exist.

Amazon page – Long before you publish, start working on your book descriptions and bio. Use authorcentral.amazon.com to polish your author page, once your book is published.

Facebook – Create businesses pages for your books.

Become a Goodreads author – I don’t do much there, but have had some wonderful experiences interacting with readers and reviewers. I do know my books need to be there.

Dedicated email – Set up a separate email account for interacting with readers. It’s the address you put on your website.

Email list – Start collecting the email addresses (and permission to contact them) of your readers. Use a free service, like MailChimp.

Editing – Yes, this is part of marketing.

You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what’s burning inside you. And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke                                  Arthur Plotnik

Even after you have published continue editing. When reviewers mention anachronisms or typos, fix them.

Cover – The first impression you make on readers. If your cover looks boring and unprofessional, why would anyone expect your book to be otherwise?

Keywords and Categories – When you upload your manuscript to Amazon you can attach tags (keywords) and categories that help readers find your book.

Reviews – Get as many as you can. Don’t spend money on a promotion until you have at least 10 with at least a 4 star average. Customer reviews are your best marketing tool. Some claim they have become more influential than professional reviews. Best is to have both. It looks great to have at least one professional editorial review from a recognized source, such as Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, Midwest Book Review, etc.

Run a promotion and advertise with newsletters, such as BookBub – but only after you have a decent number of good reviews and your Amazon page and blog are all nice and shiny.

Once you’re all up and running, become an Amazon Associate. The commissions you receive for sales that originate from your blog are miniscule, but it can help you track where sales are originating from.

So here’s a closer look at each, not in any particular order.


Blog or Website                                                      

Would you open a hair salon or pizza parlor and neglect to have a phone line put in? Be too busy to list it in the Yellow Pages? For an author, a blog is that basic. If people Google you and you don’t exist, you don’t exist.

There are many free web hosting services for blogs, such as Wordpress and Blogger. With patience and enough cups of coffee, you can get a nicely done blog up in a day or two. But give the design a lot of thought before you start. It’s easier to get it right from the beginning than have to change everything all around.  Especially think about the title. I changed mine, but the old title keeps sending out duplicates of my posts!

Your blog is a convenient place to send people for information about you and your novel(s):

·          Photo of your book cover(s) and link(s) for purchasing

·          Book description

·          Product information (ISBN, price, no. pages, publication date)

·          Blurbs, reviews, excerpts, interviews

·          Awards, prizes

·          About the author and photo of you

It also allows your readers to interact with you.

Even if (like me) you post infrequently, it still functions as a static site and is there when you need it to announce a discount on your book or the Nobel prize for literature you just won.

The most important thing on your blog is the sign-up widget. This is where readers can leave their eMail address and receive messages from you whenever you post. Imagine – a list of people who want to be informed the next time you publish. What’s better than that?

If it would be fun for you, use your blog for contests, giveaways, author interviews, etc. But don’t bother with any of that unless you enjoy it. For my last book (takes place in the 60s) I put up some quizzes about the 60s and gave away 20-some free books to people who answered correctly. I doubt that was responsible for selling a single book, but it was fun for me and I got a lot of responses from readers who said they “had a blast.”

Unless your novel revolves around something like a place (Barcelona – The Shadow of the Wind), an artifact (Mona Lisa – The Da Vinci Code) or a particular battle or other event (millions of books), you might find it difficult (I do) to think of goodies to give away on your blog, other than your own book. But if you want to bother trying to attract people to your blog, you need to constantly offer content and not just try to get them to buy your book. Do you invite friends over and ask them to vacuum, or do you try to offer a good time?

If you do want to draw traffic to your blog, you have to constantly research SEO. A place to start might be this slideshow summary of the webinar Jane Friedman offered on the subject:


I don’t bother with that. People only come to my blog to comment after they’ve read my books. They don’t discover the books because they came to my blog.

Again, don’t rush to create your blog until you’ve thought it through. Do you have a hobby you would enjoy sharing expertise about? Do you travel a lot? Would you like to review and recommend books on a specific topic? Review web sites on a specific topic? Offer tutorials? Give quizzes with prizes? Share your beautiful photographs? Collect the world’s funniest cartoons? Be sure to check out the competition – how many blogs like the one you’re thinking of are already out there. Look at how much work was put into them before you decide that’s for you.

Your blog won’t be a sustainable reader magnet and worth your time unless it’s about something you love and would write about anyway – even if you didn’t have a book to market.

You can also become an Amazon Associate (Affiliate) through your blog.



Your personal Facebook page may be a good place to look for beta readers. You can also set up an author page and/or page for your books. One reason to do so is because anyone can see, Like, and Share posts on these pages without being your friend. To create one, sign into FB and go to:


·          Select the option for “Artist, Band, or Public Figure” in the lower-left corner.

·          Select either “author” or “writer” from the drop-down menu and enter your name.

·          Continue with the FB instructions.

Do you want to have both types of FB pages? Here’s a discussion about that:


If you do opt for an author page, be sure to activate the Call to Action button (on your cover photo, next to Liked and Message) and use it to encourage readers to visit your chosen landing page – your book’s page on Amazon or other retailer, or the page of your blog that contains a purchase link.

Facebook Advertising

I have read both – that it is an ineffective waste of money and that it is the best marketing tool available. I suspect it’s better for some genres than others. I say that because FB doesn’t target readers by genre - you can only target people for whom “reading” is an interest. So it seems a logical conclusion to me that a campaign for a book in one of the most popular genres – romance or mystery – is statistically more likely to be showing the ad to users who might actually be interested.

I don’t know much about this subject, but here is a link to tools (one of which is the FB Ads interface) for doing audience research. 


Designing a Facebook Ad

Put together an image that includes your book cover and something else that is eye-catching. Here are Facebook’s recommendations and limitations for ads:

Below is the FB preview of the original ad I made for a campaign:

It seemed to have been “accepted” by FB and ran for a few hours, but then I received an email saying it contained more than 20% text and so was not approved. I thought “text” meant words I had overlaid on the image, such as “Free Book.” But no, all those words on the signs of the stores in old Detroit counted as text. To check your ad image before activating your ad, go to Facebook’s Grid Tool at:


Browse to upload the image you plan to use in your ad. (It takes a while.) FB instructs you to click on every box that contains text. This is how my image looked after I did so, and at the right FB informs me that it contains 40% text.

So I deleted all the sign lettering (I know, I know, not very professionally) and got an ad image that was approved:

Creating an Ad Campaign

If you’re going to create a book or author page, do so. Then:

·          On your home page, click Ads Manager in the left-hand menu.

·          Click the green Create Ad button at the top right.

·          Choose your objective. Since I didn’t want people to have to click more than necessary in order to download a free copy, for my objective I chose “Send people to your website” and then filled in the URL of my book’s Amazon page. You could also post your offer on your book or author page and then choose “Get People to Claim Your Offer.”

Filling in the rest of the form is pretty intuitive. For Interests, select Entertainment to find Reading and some sub-topics.
One thing was confusing - when I selected “A single image in your ads” I expected there to be a browse link to choose that image. But there is only one Upload button (under the Multiple Images option) and that’s what you use to choose an image from your computer.

Also, don’t miss the drop-down for choosing which of your FB pages will be seen as posting this ad:

Beneath that is the Call to Action button – the whole point of the ad – so don’t miss it.

Obviously there is a whole lot more to FB advertising: bidding, retargeting people, creating look-alike audiences, understanding the Facebook statistics, using a Facebook pixel to track conversions. Which is why I would be happy to purchase a book that explains it all. Maybe one of these days I will read the Facebook help:


So far all I have done is run a low-budget campaign and seen some results. Maybe if I put the time in, read the help, get more savvy, make a more professional ad – who knows? For now, I’ll settle for BookBub.



How to Make Money with Outsourced Articles and Article Marketing ? 

A Good Mailing List for a Bad One 




You can make your own, but for most of us that’s not a good plan – the results will be similar to the homemade cover of this guide. A professional designer will only charge you about $30 for an eBook cover. Mark’s List (on Smashwords) is a list of free-lance cover designers and formatters:   https://www.smashwords.com/list

They also provide a cover design FAQ: https://www.smashwords.com/about/supportfaq/#covers

But don’t think that for $30 you’ll get a designer in the traditional sense – someone who will read your book and create the design. Start out with a good idea of what you want; they’ll implement it and add a few touches of their own. Look at your favorite books. Look at the covers of Amazon bestsellers in your genre. Google “great book covers.”

KDP provides a free tool called Cover Creator that provides basic designs for you to customize. It allows you to upload your own image or choose from a selection of stock images.



Before you worry about formatting, give your manuscript yet another final polish. Have a look at the Final Proofing Checklist on my blog. It’s a Word file so you can save it and tweak it for yourself.

Formatting is one thing I would never pay for. Even if it was free, I wouldn’t trust anyone with the now-perfect manuscript I’ve sweated blood for. I’d only end up spending hours checking the file when I got it back, so I might as well spend fewer hours formatting it myself. But if you want to pay someone to do it (about $30), Mark’s List is a list of free-lance cover designers and formatters:   https://www.smashwords.com/list

Formatting eBooks for Amazon KDP and Smashwords

·          From Amazon get a free download of Building Your Book for Kindle.

·          From Smashwords get a free download of the Smashwords Style Guide.

·          From my blog get a free download of my eBook template .

You should be looking at the template from my blog while you read this. It is only for the content of your book. You upload your cover separately, as an image.

Word Styles

Before attempting to format your manuscript you must have a basic knowledge of Word styles, as you must use them for formatting. Anyone who knows how can teach you in an hour. Or use Word help. Or Google “how to use Word styles.”

This means never indent, center, or align text by using tabs or hitting the space bar or Enter multiple times. You can however manually apply Bold and Italics and they survive the conversion process for both Amazon and Smashwords. Bullets, special fonts, and symbols do not, so don’t use them. E.g., you will see in the template that the copyright page uses the word “copyright” rather than the symbol.

You also need to know how to insert a bookmark, but that’s easy.

·          Place the cursor right before Chapter One.

·          Click Insert –> Bookmark.

·          Type “Beginning” in the box for the name of the bookmark.

·          Click Add.

·          Then put the cursor right before The End and repeat, only naming the bookmark “End.”

My eBook Template

I have successfully used the eBook template on my blog for both KDP and Smashwords. It is for single-spaced, Times New Roman, 12 point text.

How it slightly differs from the Amazon guidelines:

·          Amazon advises using Word’s built-in Heading 1 style (with numbering removed) for your chapter titles, but that’s only necessary for people writing non-fiction who need a Table of Contents - which is inadvisable for most fiction. So use any style you want. My template uses a style called “Chapter” for chapter titles. For the rest of the text it uses Word’s Normal style (which has been modified).

·         Amazon advises using  contests, giveaways, author interviews,  that your text be fully justified, though it also accepts left-justified (which is what Smashwords advises). Personally I think fully justified can come out looking awful, with a lot of weird spacing, so my template is left-justified.

·          Amazon advises indenting the first line of each paragraph by .5”. I think that’s a lot for small reading devices, so I made the indent .2”

The guiding principle is – Keep it simple!

Use as few styles as possible. It may seem boring or non-creative to you, but your readers want text that is properly aligned and easy to read and don’t care about your cute little glyphs or cursive fonts.

Use only one font and font size (12p). If you want to make the font bigger for the title of your book, do so using a special style for it. Remember, readers can increase the font size. If your title is already in a very large font and a reader increases the font, your title could end up spreading over two pages.

Use as little spacing as possible. Keep in mind that your readers use all kinds of different devices, including phones, and spacing may produce weird results on some of them.

Even keeping it simple, as you see below, my template contains a lot styles. I have given them names that are much too long, just to make the difference between them clear. In the template the name of the style used for each paragraph is in [in brackets]. Some have an explanation. The styles in my template are:

·          centered – for things in the front and back matter

·          centered bold – for things in the front and back matter

·          centered bold space after – for things in the front and back matter

·          centered space after – for things in the front and back matter

·          normal bold no indent – for things in the front and back matter

·          normal bold no indent space after – for things in the front and back matter

·          Chapter – for the name of the chapter. Bold with a large space after it. In the template the word Chapter is already marked with a bookmark for the beginning of the book.

·          Dateline – if you use one, such as:  New York City, 1951

·          normal – for the text of the book

·          no indent for first paragraph – same as normal, but no indent. This is not necessary, but many publishers do not indent the first paragraph in each chapter, provided it isn’t dialogue.

·          normal space after – like it says, same as normal but with a space after it. Use for the last paragraph before a break for a new scent.

·          article – I use this for quoted text, like from a newspaper or letter. It has a different font, is indented on both sides and has a small space before and after.

·          The End – centered and bold with a space before. In the template the words The End are already bookmarked for the end of the book.

Other formatting issues

Images – If you need to insert a photo, do so by File -> Insert -> Picture, and not by Copy/Paste.

Front matter – In print books we are used to seeing dedications, acknowledgments, about the author, etc. at the front of a book. In an eBook put it all at the back. You want only a title page and copyright page at the front. This is so readers who use the Look Inside feature or download a Sample actually get to read your writing. For the same reason, do not include a Table of Contents unless your novel uses meaningful names for the chapters.

Back matter – Besides the acknowledgements etc. that you put back here, add a link to your blog, your email address (not everyone feels comfortable with this, but I think it’s great for readers to be able to contact you), a gentle request for a review, stuff about your other books, your bio, whatever.

Bookmarks – Put one at the beginning of the book and another at the end (they are already in the template), so readers clicking on the Kindle menu and selecting Go To will have the option of skipping directly to the beginning or end (or any other place you might think is relevant).

Margins – If you want to change them, go to File –> Page Set Up.

Format a Paperback for CreateSpace  

First of all, don’t be in any big hurry to publish a paperback version. Considering that I am an unknown, self-published author, my eBooks have done all right. But readers are willing to take a chance on an unknown when the book costs $4-6, especially if they got your first one free. Want to know how much I’ve made in royalties, in total, for all 3 books in paperback? $211. Oh wait, I have another $61 outstanding. And I paid $225 for the design of three print covers and another $90 dollars ordering paperback copies to proof. So I haven’t even recouped my expenses.

But it does look nice to have a paperback, so if you want to go ahead, go to my blog and download the Paperback Template.

·          It is for a trim size of 8.5 by 5.5 inches. That’s easy to change – File -> Page Setup -> Paper tab

·          It uses Georgia font throughout, which is of course easy to change. Easier to wait until you have finished and then select all and change the font instead of changing the font of each style, but either way.

·          The text is fully justified.

Go to CreateSpace.com and create an account using the same email address and password you use for Amazon. Download their PDF Submission Specification. Its title, however, is misleading. Don’t get all worried about how to make the PDF. You don’t have to. You simply upload your Word file. Go get a paperback off your shelf and look at it while you look at my template.

What are the differences between formatting a paperback and an eBook?

·          You have to pay attention to odd and even pages.

·          You need some blank pages.

·          You need page numbers, but only for the text of your book, not on the blank pages or front and back matter.

·          You need a gutter margin (inside margin, for the binding)

·          You can put whatever you want in the front matter, no need to keep it short.

·          It’s easy to insert images (assuming they are print quality), arrange them on the page, and know that’s how they will appear to all your readers. However, when you upload your manuscript to CreateSpace, if you choose for the content to be printed in color, rather than black and white, that will increase the price of your book.

·          The number of pages also affects the price. I think it looks nice to start every chapter on a new page, even on a right-hand new page. But if you have a lot of chapters like I do that will increase the price of your book. Therefore, my template doesn’t start chapters on a new page. If you want yours to, just modify the paragraph formatting of Heading 1 to have a page break before.

·          It’s obviously best to use Word styles for your text to maintain consistency, but tabs, multiple spaces, and multiple paragraph marks don’t screw things up. What you see is what you will get when CreateSpace turns your Word file into a PDF. Nobody’s going to change the font size or spacing of your print book. So you can manually align your front and back matter, horizontally and vertically, without having to create a new style for everything.
For that reason, the paperback template does not contain nearly as many styles as the eBook template. The styles it does use – Dateline, normal (text), no indent for first paragraph (text of the first paragraph of a chapter), normal space after (text before a break to start a new scene), and article (for quoted text) – are the same as in the eBook template. One style is different - for chapter titles I modified Word’s Heading 1 style.

Mirror Margins

For a print book you don’t set right and left margins, but inside and outside margins (inside is where the binding is). The left and right pages of a book mirror each other – the outside of a left page is the inside of the right page.

In my template go to File -> PageSetup -> Margins tab. You will see that Mirror Margins is selected and can see the values for the margins. They are not exactly as advised in the CreateSpace Spec. Change them here if you want. (I have used this template for 3 books with no problems.)

Book Sections

The template divides the book into 3 sections: Section 1 is the front matter, Section 2 is the book, Section 3 is the back matter. If you want to add more front matter, make sure that you do so before the first section break. If you want to add more back matter, do so after the second section break. Otherwise, you’re going to get page numbers where you don’t want them.

Page Numbers

Page numbers are inserted in the header or footer of a file, per section. As is, the template will begin numbering from Chapter One, inserting a centered page number at the bottom of each page. It stops numbering the pages after The End. Deleting a Section Break (or inserting another one) will screw that up.

To change the alignment of the page numbers:

File -> Insert -> Page Numbers and select whatever alignment you prefer.

Blank Pages

Look at the paperback you got off your shelf. It has at least one empty page at the front (blank on front and back). Some books have a few. I wanted to keep the number of pages to a minimum, so the template has only one empty page at the beginning. If you want more just insert two page breaks for each page. Same at the back of the book. Your file must contain an even number of pages, so if the file is 453 pages long, insert another page break at the end.

Odd and Even Pages

The text of your book (page 1) must begin on an odd page. The title pages must also be on odd pages. When a physical book is lying open, the odd pages are on the right-hand side. If you look at your book in Word’s reading layout, it will confuse you, because it puts page 1 (odd) on the left. If you really want to see it in reading view, so add an extra page break at the beginning, but don’t forget to delete it when you’re done proofing.


KDP and KDP Select     

KDP is Amazon's distributor for eBooks. CreateSpace is their distributor for print books.

KDP distributes books only on Amazon. Smashwords distributes books on Barnes & Noble and other online retailers, but NOT on Amazon. So if you want to cover all your bases you have to upload your book to both.

Amazon provides free apps so that Kindle eBooks can be read not only on Kindle devices, but on phones, tablets, and other devices, as well as in a Cloud on a computer.

Amazon does not require exclusivity (unless you opt for the KDP Select program).

Royalties – KDP authors receive 70% royalties, as long as their book is priced between $2.99 and $9.99 and the list price of the eBook is at least 20% lower than the list price of the print book (if one exists). Books that don't meet these requirements pay a 35% royalty.

Here is a link for Amazon's FAQ about pricing:  https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help?topicId=A30F3VI2TH1FR8#1-5_Who_determines_price

Making Changes – You can change your book cover, information, and text at any time, at no cost. Changes will show on Amazon within 24 hours, or up to 48 hours for text.

Pricing – You set the “list price” for your eBook, but Amazon reserves the right to set the retail price they will charge for it. They may offer your book at a price below your list price if another retailer is charging less for it.

I have read both Amazon and Smashwords say that $4.99 is the “sweet” price-point – the price at which authors receive the most income.

Amazon does not allow you to make your book free.  The minimum price is $.99. However, if your book is priced at $0.00 on Smashwords or elsewhere, Amazon’s price-matching mechanism may kick in and lower the price to $.00 on Amazon as well.

You can change your list price at any time, as long as the new price remains within the guidelines. See Amazon Royalty and Pricing information at: https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help?topicId=A29FL26OKE7R7B

Payment – Authors receive separate payments for the Kindle store in each country. Payment is by check or – in some countries – by Electronic Funds Transfer. Subject to having passed a threshold, payments are monthly, 60 days after the end of the current month.

Taxes – Before you can sell books on Amazon you must provide them with the appropriate tax form. See all Amazon tax information at: https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help?topicId=A1VDYJ32T5D3U4#us-out

KDP Select

This is a KDP program that you can opt into, per eBook. You sign up for a 90 day period (renewable), during which time Amazon demands exclusivity (for the eBook format). You can publish and sell a paperback edition.

After this 90 day period you are free to publish elsewhere, though if you don’t actively opt out of KDP Select it is automatically renewed.

Why do authors sign up for KDP Select?

It allows you to make your eBook free for 5 days out of 90. (As stated above, Amazon does not allow you to price your book as free.) See this article about David Gaughran's experience with KDP Select.  It’s from 2012, but still reflects my own experience: http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2012/10/22/popularity-visibility-kdp-select/

KDP Select also allows you to enter your eBook into the Amazon Prime lending program and receive a percentage of the lending income from that month. Borrows of your book count as sales and this may help create visibility for a new eBook. And it makes your book available to subscribers to the Kindle Owners Lending Library program.

These and other features of KDP Select are explained here: https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help?topicId=A6KILDRNSCOBA

Uploading your eBook to Amazon

If you have formatted your manuscript correctly, it is quite easy to upload it to Amazon.

Sign in to kdp.amazon.com, go to your Bookshelf, and click Create new title.

The form that appears is mostly self-explanatory. Make sure that the title you enter is exactly what it says on the book cover. (The title page also has to match exactly.) If your book is part of a series, don’t use the subtitle to indicate that. Check the box This book is part of a series and fill in the boxes that appear. Again, make sure the series title is the same (including capitalization) on your cover and title page. Even though the box is labeled Volume, it will say Book on the Amazon page.

When filling in the book description you can use simple html tags, for example:

<b>Book 1</b>

for making text bold.

Ignore the field for Edition. Unless you have set up your own publishing company, ignore Publisher and ISBN.

Categories are explained below. Unless you find the exact two categories you want in the list, go to the end of the list and select Non-Classifiable. Then contact KDP Support at:


and ask them to attach the correct categories.

How to select Keywords is explained below in the Keywords section.

Upload your cover .jpg and your Word file of the text. The text takes a while, as it is being checked. You will either be informed that it was uploaded successfully or that issues were found, which you correct before uploading again. Once it is successfully uploaded, review the file, using both the online previewer and the downloadable preview file on your Kindle.

The first time I published I was a bit disconcerted by the buttons at the end of this page:
Save and Continue and Save Draft

I thought, if there’s a save draft option, does that mean the other option publishes this text? It doesn’t. Go ahead and press it.

On the next page, select Worldwide distribution and enter the price in US$. KDP converts it to other currencies. My first time through I rounded the other currencies up or down, just because I hate weird prices, but I no longer bother. Amazon often does whatever it wants anyway.

At the bottom of this page check the By clicking Save and Publish below ... box and click Save and Publish. Now your book is published.

It takes a while for it to go live and during that time you can’t make any changes to it. Once your book is live (you get an email) you can make any changes you want to the book’s information or upload a new cover or book file any time you want. Then it again goes through an approval process. During this process your book is still available for purchase, but anyone who buys it gets the previous version.

Note: If you make an Author Central page and use it to create or edit the Book Description, Editorial Reviews, Bio, etc. then you can no longer change them in the KDP GUI. From then on they can be edited only in Author Central.


Most categories also have sub-categories and customers can search for books using these categories and sub-categories. Avid readers who prefer books of a specific genre use these categories to find them. When you upload your book, Amazon lets you assign two categories to it. However, not all the categories you see on Amazon appear in the list of categories available for you to choose when uploading. Unless you find the exact two categories with the sub-categories you want in the list, go to the end of the list and select Non-Classifiable. Then contact KDP support at:  https://kdp.amazon.com/contact-us   and send them the full path of two categories and subcategories you want to select for your book. (And by the way, they won’t necessarily appear the same in all the Amazon stores.)

Amazon categories appear in the side bar on the left. In order to see them, select Kindle Store in the Search menu and leave the search text box blank before clicking Go. Then click Kindle eBooks in the toolbar and scroll down until the categories are visible on the left.

Drill down in the menu to see all the different categories and subcategories and make a list of all those that could apply to your book. In the categories menu the numbers in parentheses (when they appear) are the number of books in that category.  Or you can see the number of results in the bar in the search results. What you want to do is find the categories that describe your book, but contain the smallest number of books.

For example, for my book The Lonely Tree most people would say that Historical Fiction is the most appropriate category. However, if you search for Kindle eBooks -> Literature & Fiction -> Historical Fiction there are over 30,000 books in the results. No one would ever see it by searching there.

But under Kindle eBooks -> Literature & Fiction ->World Literature -> Jewish there are just over 1,000 books. In a search for that category, my book (on its best sales day) has come up #3. We won’t talk about its worst day.

When your book is in the top 100 books in one of its categories, that fact appears under your Product Details.

No one knows exactly how Amazon’s algorithms work, but being in the Top 100 of anything can activate the “push” mechanisms, such as “Customers Who Viewed This Also Viewed.”

If a book is not in the top 100 of a category, but has sold at least one copy, its categories appear at the bottom of its page.

There are also Top Rated lists for categories. When you are looking at bestsellers for a category, a link to the Top Rated list of that category appears on the right.

Being in one of those lists can also get your book into the Amazon recommendation engine.


While uploading your book you can attach up to seven keywords – words that customers may use to search for books. The keywords can also be phrases, but either the entire phrase or the first word in the phrase must be one you think people will search for. For example, my novel The Lonely Tree takes places in a kibbutz called Kfar Etzion that was located in the Etzion Bloc. So I thought using “Etzion” as a keyword would make it come up in the results when someone searched for either Kfar Etzion or Etzion Bloc. But it doesn’t, only in a search for “Etzion.” So choose carefully. After publishing, test the keywords. You can always change them.

The placement of your book in the search results depends on one of Amazon’s mysterious algorithms – some combination of sales ranking, reviews, and perhaps how long your book has been available. Apparently it also gets a boost if the search keyword appears in your book’s title, description, and/or about the author – which probably is why you see some really weird, long titles on Amazon and why Amazon limits what you can enter as a title.

Ideally you want keywords that people are likely to search for, but yield very few results. Books move up and down in the lists of results during good and bad sales periods. However, if a keyword yields only 16 results (the number of results appears in the bar above the results), a book with this keyword will always be visible in the search results – there's nowhere for it to hide.

Selecting Effective Keywords

Volumes are devoted to keyword research. Personally, I don’t think it’s all that relevant to fiction. (Although, if your book is free I think it’s good to add “free” as a keyword.) I loved The Poisonwood Bible, but would never have been searching for books about missionaries in Africa. Nor would I have been searching for books about bees and so found The Secret Life of Bees. Or for kites or Afghanistan and found The Kite Runner. That said, you might as well do your best to choose good keywords. And keyword searches may be relevant for the book you are writing.

The big question is: How often do Amazon customers search for a particular word or phrase? So far Amazon does not provide a tool for discovering that bit of information.

Google Adwords

Google does have a tool. Obviously, there's no direct correlation between how often a term is searched for in Google (where people are looking for information) and in Amazon (where they are looking for novels), but for now the Google tool is better than nothing.

Make a table with 3 columns. In the first column list every relevant word or phrase you can think of to associate with your book.

Then search for each of these terms on Amazon. Be sure to search the Kindle Store, not the whole site. Write the number of results in the second column of your table.

Now go to Google Adwords: https://adwords.google.com/cm/CampaignMgmt?__u=1012011293&__c=6239072933#r.ONLINE&app=cm

·          From the top menu choose Tools and then Keyword Planner.

·          Click Get search volume for a list of keywords or group them into ad groups.

·          Under Option 1: Enter Keywords type your keywords, either one to a line or separated by commas

·          Click the button Get Search Volume to see the average number of times people search for each word or phrase in Google.

Put the search volume for each word or phrase in the third column in your table. Now choose the seven of your potential keywords that are most often searched for on Google, but yield the fewest books on that topic in Amazon.

Use the Amazon Interface

It provides no hard data, but can help you guess. Type in a keyword and look at the books that come up. Are they similar to yours? Look at how well they’re selling. If pages of top selling books come up with that keyword, your book is unlikely to have much visibility in the results. Look for keywords with results that you can compete with.

Start typing in a keyword you are considering and see if Amazon automatically completes it (or suggests a better, similar phrase). Why? If Amazon is suggesting a word or phrase, that means it is a word or phrase that customers have actually searched for in the past.

Software for Keyword Research

There are lots of things out there, if you want to spend the money and time. Here is an article, comparing two of them, KD Research and Kindle Spy:


And keyword research is part of the broader subject of Audience Research or Audience Targeting. Google those and knock yourself out. Here again is an article that gives an overview of the kinds of things that are out there:


Author Central

Go to   https://authorcentral.amazon.com/gp/landing?ie=UTF8&*Version*=1&*entries*=0  and sign in with the same email and password that you use for your Amazon account.

Click Author Page and you will see the biography you entered when you uploaded your book. You can edit it either on the KDP book page or in Author Central, but once you edit anything in Author Central, you can no longer edit it using the KDP interface. The other things you can do on the Author Page are self-explanatory.

Click Customer Reviews to see all your reviews, most recent first, but all reviews for all of your books appear in one long list.

Click Sales Info to see data, mostly about paperbacks. When you look at your Author Rank the number seems pretty meaningless to me, since they don’t tell you how many authors there are.

Adding Editorial Reviews

The important tab on Author Central is Books. First, make sure that all your books appear and if not, click Add more books.

You may have been wondering how other authors have Editorial Reviews on their book’s Amazon page, but you didn’t see a place to enter one when you uploaded your book information in KDP. So this is the place where you do that.

Click on any of your books and you should see a book page like this:

I have sometimes had a glitch with this page – only the book cover and basic info comes up at first. Just go back and click again until the whole page comes up.

Click Editorial Review and enter the text of your review – and lots of other stuff.

Editorial Reviews                                                

Submit your book to these venues prior to publication.

Midwest Book Review


This is your best bet for an editorial review. They demand the same standards of editing, formatting, and cover design as other venues, but the cost is reasonable and as they say on their site: “The Midwest Book Review gives priority consideration to small publishers, self-published authors . . . We do not accept ebook submissions directly, but we can put ebook authors/publishers in contact with reviewers who may choose to review their ebook for a $50 reading fee . . . If you wish to pursue this option, then send us an email with “Reader Fee Review” in the subject line, and we'll send you the name and email address of the assigned reviewer. The check would be made out to the reviewer, who would also tell you what information would be needed along with a copy of the title to be reviewed.”

Other options are:

Kirkus Reviews


You can upload your digital manuscript (or mail physical books) to Kirkus for a paid review of 250-350 words. Standard service takes 7-9 weeks and costs $425. Express service take 4-6 weeks and costs $575. After you receive the review, if you choose to publish it on their website they will further distribute it and you can use it as you please. Or you can choose to keep it private.

Publishers Weekly


For Indie authors they have a new free service called BookLife, though do not review all books submitted. I did not spend much time on this site, but it seems to be in conjunction with a publishing service. Can’t help but wonder how much they’ll ask for that.

ForeWord Reviews


Free reviews of selected self-published books.

Clarion Reviews


For $499 they review the overflow and rejects of ForeWord.


Reviews from Blogger/Reviewers                                  

There are more blogs than you can imagine that post book reviews. Compile a list of book review blogs that:

·          Review Indies

·          Review your genre

·          Are currently accepting review requests

·          Post their reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, not just on their blog

This is a long and tedious process and needs to be spread over time, so don’t wait until you’ve published your book to begin gathering information. And believe me, to do this properly you will need an alphabetized table to help you keep track of who you queried. when, and what, if anything, they replied.

It’s also a good idea to set up a separate eMail address, just for this purpose.

Where do you find book review blogs?

On my blog I have put a 13-page table of book review blogs that I queried when I published my first book. It’s a Word file – feel free to download it and tweak it for your use. I compiled it 2 years ago, but assume that most of these blogs still exist.

There are a number of directories of book review blogs. Start sifting through these:

·          http://www.theindieview.com/indie-reviewers
They provide a nicely organized list of 233 blogs that review mainly Indies

·          http://www.blognation.com/blogs/book-reviews

One book review blog can lead to others. Bloggers often have a list of “Blogs I follow” or “Favorite Links” or some such in one of their side-bars. Many of these blogs also review books.

I contacted a few people on Goodreads who, judging by their reviews, I thought might enjoy my book. Most were happy to be offered a free book in exchange for an honest review, but someone must have complained because I was tsk-tsked by the moderator.

When blogger/reviewers post reviews on Amazon they often leave contact information in their profile. Go through the reviews of books similar to yours and look for those bloggers.

Review Request Manners

Of course you’re going to prepare an email to copy/paste into your review requests, but you can’t do so blindly. Read their blog. Find their name. Find their guidelines or review policy or whatever they call it. Sometimes this is easy. Some bloggers, God bless them, have a nice tab, clearly labeled “Review Policy” and everything you need is right there. If they are backlogged and not accepting reviews, it says so right in the first line of that tab. Other blogs require a great deal of searching: in About Me it says they like to read eBooks, but their name appears only in the sign-up widget. You have to read a long discourse about their tastes in literature to find out what genres they accept, and then you are sent to an online form for submitting your request (so much for copy/pasting your email) and only when you’ve finished do you see, beneath that form, “Sorry I can’t accept any more requests at this time.”

It can grow tedious after the 100th request you’ve sent (after the third, actually) but you can’t take shortcuts. When you’re asking someone for a huge favor, you can at least address them by their name and do as they ask. Don’t attach your book if they clearly say not to. Don’t re-contact them to ask how much longer it’s going to take. Be nice.

Rachel Abbott tells you how she likes to be asked for a review


Sending Out Copies            

In order to send copies to reviewers who use various devices, you have to be able to convert your Word file to the formats they need. That’s easy.

Go to calibre-ebook.com/ and download Calibre. It’s free and easy to use. One thing stumped me at first – I kept dragging my Word file into the window for conversion and Calibre acted like nothing was there. You have to save your Word file as .rtf and then drag the rtf file into Calibre.

Another option is to gift your book to a reviewer through Amazon. It’s not all that expensive to do, because you get the royalty for that sale. If I give my $5.99 book to someone, Amazon pays me back $4.19, so the transaction costs me $1.80. Be aware however that when you gift your book it’s as if you gave that person a gift certificate. They receive an email telling them they’ve received a gift of your book, but they also have the option of taking a credit for the price of your book. Then you’re out $5.99. And no review.



·          To receive for  70% royalties from Amazon, your book must be priced between $2.99-9.99.

·          According to data accumulated by Smashwords, a price of $2.99 sells the most units, but $5.99 yields the most revenue. I have also read that both Amazon and Smashwords say that $4.99 yields the most revenue.

·          If you price slash on one retailer site, you have to price-match on all the other sites selling your book; otherwise, you risk a penalty.

  Free is the best way to persuade readers to take a chance on you, but only makes sense if you have more than one book for sale. It’s even better for the first book of a series.

·          Temporarily free – It’s easiest to do a free promotion for a book if it’s enrolled in KDP Select. You simply setup the promotion on your KDP dashboard. Then you know which dates it will be free and can advertise those dates.
Otherwise you have to make it free on Smashwords and wait a number of days for it to actually go free on all the retailers they distribute to. Meanwhile, change the price on KDP to $.99 (the lowest they allow) and wait for price-matching to kick in. Since most advertising newsletters book ads as much as a month in advance, this process makes it not impossible, but difficult to co-ordinate your advertising with your book’s price.

·          Perma-free – It seems pointless if you have a single title. As said above, to make it free on Amazon, make it free on Smashwords and wait for price-matching.



eMail List and Service                                                       

Joanna Penn has an excellent post on this topic:


It explains why your email list is one of your most important marketing tools – a targeted list of people who have expressed an interest in you and your book.

Many bloggers advise giving away some goodie, in exchange for the recipient signing up for your list. I don’t think that necessarily makes sense for everyone. I, for instance, could offer this guide free to people in exchange for registering to follow my blog, but I have no earthly reason to believe any of them are interested in my fiction. Like so much other advice out there, I think it applies mainly to non-fiction. If I had a book on Facebook advertising for sale, then I could see giving away something else connected to that on my blog.

eMail Services

Joanna suggests using AWeber, which she believes to be the best application. However, it is not free. It is free for the first month and $19 a month after that – for up to 500 subscribers.

A free solution (for up to 2,000 subscribers with you sending no more than 12,000 mails a month) is MailChimp.

But first of all, put a sign-up widget on your blog. That was easy (even for me). Go to your  Wordpress dashboard and select Appearance and then Widgets. Drag the Follow Blog widget to where you want it to appear.  Click on the arrow and fill in the fields. Whenever anyone signs up to follow your blog you receive an email stating “follower’s email address is following your blog” so you can compile a list of those addresses.

Advertising Newsletters

When you discount your book or make it free (either by running a Kindle Countdown Deal or Free Promotion, or by changing the price on both Smashwords and Amazon and waiting for price-matching to kick in) how can you let people know, besides posting on your blog and Facebook?

Numerous sites list free books. Some charge for doing so, but save your money. I don’t think these sites are very effective and there are enough of them that don’t charge. Some will pick up your book and list it even without you asking them to. Google “free eBook” or “free kindle book.” There is also a book submission tool here that makes it a little bit easier:


A much more effective way to advertise your price promotion is by putting an ad in one or more newsletters, some of which are listed below.

Go to each site for current information. Most require you to sign up for an ad well in advance. Each one states the standards, if any, it requires your book to meet – i.e., professional cover and formatting, number of reviews, or average number of stars.

·          Readers in the Know – http://www.readersintheknow.com/home
This is a relatively new site, based in the UK (though most of its subscribers are in the US). I’m calling attention to it because it helped me break into the UK market, which had previously been oblivious to my efforts. And a really nice thing for us, as readers, is that it lets you put a “watch” on an author or book, so you’ll know if it’s discounted. Register and select Author as your account type.

·          BookBub http://www.bookbub.com/partners/pricing

·          BookGorilla bookgorilla.com/advertise

·          Kindle Nation Dailyindie.kindlenationdaily.com/?page_id=642

·          Pixel of Ink – pixelofink.com/authors-corner/

·          Ereader News Todayereadernewstoday.com/bargain-kindle-books/

·          Free Kindle Books and Tips –  fkbt.com/

·          Book Sends – http://www.booksends.com/advertise.php

Most newsletters allow subscribers to specify the genres they prefer. Subscribers then receive a daily email containing a list of ads for discounted or free books in those genres. A click on the ad for a book takes them directly to its page on Amazon or whatever online retailer the subscriber specified.

Audiences don’t get any more targeted than that – readers who are actively shopping for books in your genre. They’re right there at the computer, hand on the mouse. All they have to do is click Buy Now. If you make your book free, everyone will download and read it, right? No. The field is too crowded. Their Kindle is already overflowing with free books they will never read. Before paying for this type of advertising, make sure you have a great cover, a good blurb, and some strong reviews or something else that will help call attention to it. Also remember that it takes an awful lot of free downloads to generate sales of your other books and get a return on your investment. Only 60% of downloaded free books ever get read.

Your Ad

Most of these newsletters extract text for your ad from your Amazon page. Remember, subscribers reading your ad (and your Amazon page) know that you – the author – wrote it. It’s fine to quote glowing praise that is attributed to a reviewer. Not so much when we know it’s you talking about your own work. I far too often see text like – “This hilarious comic novel will have you in tears . . . If you’re a fan of Stephan King you will love this book . . . An exhilarating, fascinating tale.” A few lines that give us some idea of what your story is about and arouse our curiosity are more effective. We’ll decide for ourselves how fascinating it is.

While I have placed ads in BookGorilla and Free Kindle Books and Tips and the results have more than returned the cost of the ads, I have found BookBub to be by far the most effective.


They certainly have the largest list of subscribers. I have twice made Book 1 of my series free and placed ads with BookBub. At the time of the first ad – which cost $200 or $250, don’t remember – they “only” had 450,000 subscribers in historical fiction. My book was downloaded 58,000 times and in the following two months this generated close to $15,000 in royalties for my other two books, which is more than ten times more than my previous average sales. At the time of the second ad BookBub had a lot more subscribers (I think 850,000 but don’t really remember) and there were almost 32,000 downloads. That ad cost $275 and generated over $8,000 in royalties in the following two months. I plan to advertise again in July, which will cost $310, but they now have 1,640,00 subscribers for historical fiction and that will soon grow as they have expanded to India.

I have no experience advertising a discounted book with them, but would guess it is much harder to assume you will recoup that expense. My books sell at $5.99, each sale generating a royalty of $4.193. To recoup the $310 for an ad for a free book I have to sell 74 copies of my other books. Far from a foregone conclusion, but not impossible. But if I discount Book 1 to $1.99 an ad will cost me $985 (need to sell 235 full-priced books). If it’s discounted to $2.99, the ad costs $1,575 (need to sell 376 full-priced books). Of course, I would also get $1.39 or $2.09 in royalties per download, but it’s a lot of money to put out and it’s hard enough to get people to read an unknown author for free, let alone when they have to pay for the first book.

Looking for a business opportunity?

I would be happy to simply continue placing ads with BookBub and that’s that, I’m done thinking about advertising. The concept of newsletters is brilliant – delivering ads to the mailboxes of people who have asked for them. And BookBub certainly has enough subscribers. The problem is that the effect wears off too quickly. Two months after placing an ad my sales (and rankings) are back to their normal level and I have to wait another four months before BookBub will accept another ad for the same book. I have suggested to them that they offer another option. Let me place a permanent monthly ad with them, but each month show it to only 1/6 of their subscribers. 1/6 of their subscribers to historical fiction is over 270,000 readers. That many people seeing an ad for a free book should keep sales (and rank) continually up and each customer would still see the ad only once every six months.

I think my strategy is brilliant, but BookBub isn’t interested. Anyone else out there want to recognize that business opportunity? I’d be happy to subscribe to an ad with you and not have to start doing research on Facebook ads.

Become an Amazon Associate (Affiliate)

Amazon Affiliates receive a small commission from Amazon for every sale made from a click-through from their blog. But more important they know how many such sales were made. So if they run a Facebook ad campaign that sends people to their blog to buy their book, they know how many sales were made due to that ad campaign.

Go to affiliate-program.amazon.com/ and click Join Now for Free and sign up, using the same email and password as your Amazon account. Once you are an affiliate, whenever you are signed in to Amazon.com, the gray Associates Site Stripe appears at the top of every Amazon product page.

Go to the Amazon page of your book and in the gray Stripe click Link to this page; a box containing the HTML code appears. I had some trouble with the Text and Image option and only wanted the text anyway, so that’s all I’ve used. To do so, select the Text Only tab:

Click Highlight HTML and then copy/paste it into the html code of your blog where your purchase link is.

BTW, I tried inserting this code when using the Wordpress GUI to create a link, but that didn’t work. You have to insert it into the code (using the Text rather than the Visual tab of your Wordpress page).

My old link to Amazon appeared after the word “Purchase”. I found it between span tags:
<span     </span>
Yours might be between other tags, as such paragraph tags:
<p           </p>   or reference tags

<a           </a>

Replace the old link with the new code. My new link looked something like this:

<a href=“http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00H0H39JA/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00H0H39JA&linkCode=as2&tag=y-p&linkId=IHZTPXTOG7KQB2U4”>The Way the World Is (The Olivia Series Book 2)</a><img src=“http://ir-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=yaelpolitis-20&l=as2&o=1&a=B00H0H39JA” width=“1” height=“1” border=“0” alt=““ style=“border:none !important; margin:0px !important;” />

I have highlighted above the text that would appear on my blog page for the link. I didn’t want that text and changed it to AMAZON. Then in the Visual tab made it bold and changed the color to red.

There are probably quicker ways to do this, but at least it works! You don’t get approved as an affiliate by Amazon until someone uses one of your links to buy something.


Parting Thoughts

I sometimes think the only people making money by self-publishing are the ones self-publishing books about self-publishing.

Yes, it’s difficult. With almost 3,000 new titles published on Amazon every day it’s hard to stand out. Just remember that activity does not equal progress and don’t burn yourself out. Be patient. Find the things that work for you. And, most important, make sure your book is worth your readers’ time.

I once read a lengthy discussion, a writer asking others to evaluate different covers and expressing frustration when changing to one new cover after another failed to result in sales. His respondents continued to be supportive. No one asked him – Have you given any thought to your book? Wondered if maybe it’s the problem, isn’t good enough yet?

Yes, we need to have good book covers and we need to market ourselves. Without some initial exposure no one has a clue your gem of a book exists. But given that initial exposure, a book needs to be able to sell itself. I’m not waiting to see my name on the NYT bestseller list. Thousands of people have read my books, and if they were going to take off like that, it would have happened by now. But I am blessed that they have found a small audience. What I need to do is try to improve my writing skills and write more books for that audience – not spend more time doing audience research.

Yes, marketing succeeds when it can target its audience, and it’s easy enough to target people who purchase books and love to read. But targeting people who will like a specific book? That’s a mystery.

Non-fiction is different; it’s about information. Make it clear and accurate and your readers are happy. Throw in a little humor and nice photographs and they’re even happier. But if you can teach people how to grow the best organic tomatoes, your audience is easy to target. In fact, they’re out there trying to target you, Googling “how to grow organic tomatoes.” Jazz up your blog, keep current on the latest SEO best practices, put instructive videos on YouTube, constantly give away nuggets of information, and you’re all set.

But fiction? We’re selling emotion. Experience. A novel has to sweep us away – inspire, frighten, anger, make us laugh and cry. And no one can predict how someone else is going to experience a book. Millions of people read Exodus and said, “Yeah, great read.” I – a young girl in Dearborn, Michigan who didn’t know what a Jew was and thought Israel was only in the Bible – read Exodus and ended up living in Israel. What kind of audience research could have predicted that? Granted, it’s one extreme example, but does illustrate a truth – no one has a clue whether they belong to your target audience until they’ve read your book. Being a fan of your genre isn’t enough. They have to become a fan of the way you write. All you can do is put your book in their hands and pray.

Keyword research, split-testing, SEO, PPC ads, author brands – when all is said and done, what sells a book is – the book. We’ve recently gotten a clear reminder of that – the frenzy surrounding the appearance of a new book by Harper Lee. She published one book – 55 years ago – but who has forgotten the warm, funny, and frightening world of Atticus, Scout, Jem, and Boo Radley? Her new novel isn’t even out yet and is already a bestseller. Without a single keyword.

                                              The End


(sorry, not in alphabetical order)

Distributor (also called Aggregator)
A company, like Amazon KDP or Smashwords, that uploads books to retailers and charges the publisher a commission.

Screen on a distributor’s site where an author monitors and manages his books performance and distribution

Internet service for storing books and everything else.

To copy a book file from your computer to a device.

DRM (Digital Rights Management)
Copy protection technology that can “protect” a book. You don’t want it on yours. It is easy to crack, so doesn’t prevent piracy and only annoys customers since it prevents them from being able to read a book on more than one device. See:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Qkyt1wXNlI “Gaiman on Copyright”

Reflowable Text
Text that can shift to fit any screen. The reader can also change the font size and line spacing.

Data attached to your book that describes it. This is what search engines are looking for. It includes title, author, ISBN, description, about author, price, publisher, page count, categories, keywords.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
A methodology of strategies, techniques and tactics used to increase the amount of visitors to a website by obtaining a high-ranking placement in the search results page of a search engine (SERP).

eBook Formats

Open industry standard eBook format, which no company controls. It is managed by the IDPF (International Digital Publication Forum). All major retailers, except Amazon, make eBooks available in this format. Most devices and phones, except the Kindle, can read it. (Amazon does provide an app for reading ePUB books on a Kindle.) It is the format required for the iPad, Nook, Sony Reader, and Kobo eReader.  EPUBCHECK is a validation tool for checking that an EPUB file complies with EPUB standards.

PDF  (Portable Document Format)
Good for reading books on a computer but not for a reading device, as the text is not reflowable.

Proprietary to Amazon Kindle. PRC/AZW/KF8 are other names for basically the same format. Amazon sells eBooks only in Mobi format. Smashwords sells eBooks in ePUB, Mobi, and most other formats available.

RTF (Rich Text Format)
Not an eBook format per se, but a format that can be easily converted to Mobi, ePUB, and other formats.


Free, downloadable application for converting file formats. Drag an RTF file into the main window and it will convert it to the format you require.

NCX (Navigation Control File)
Like a table of contents attached to an eBook.

BISAC (Book Industry Standards and Communications)
Standard system for coding book categories. When you select categories for you book at Amazon or Smashwords they are automatically mapped to corresponding BISAC codes.

NetGalley site: “NetGalley is a service to promote and publicize forthcoming titles to readers of influence. If you are a reviewer, blogger, journalist, librarian, bookseller, educator, or in the media, you can use NetGalley for FREE to request and read titles before they are published.  Publishers can upload their galleys, plus any marketing and promotional information, and interact with members.

Galley Proofs
(Wikipedia) In printing and publishing, proofs are the preliminary versions of publications meant for review by authors, editors, and proofreaders, often with extra wide margins. Galley proofs may be uncut and unbound, or in some cases electronic. They are created for proofreading and copyediting purposes, but may be used for promotional and review purposes also.

Advance Reader Copy. A finished manuscript given to a reader for review prior to publication.

What is it?
International Standard Book Number is a unique numeric commercial book identifier based upon the 9-digit Standard Book Numbering (SBN) code. (Think of it as a part number for a book.) The 10-digit ISBN format was developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and was published in 1970. However, the 9-digit SBN code was used in the United Kingdom until 1974. An SBN may be converted to an ISBN by prepending the digit “0”.  Since 1 January 2007, ISBNs have contained 13 digits.

Each published book must have a unique identifying number. If you are publishing only an eBook, Amazon can assign it an ASIN (see below) in lieu of an ISBN. If you publish a print version of the same book, it must have its own ISBN. If you significantly change the text of your book, the revised version may require a new ISBN or ASIN.

How do you get one? You either use the ISBN that your distributor (like CreateSpace) assigns to your book (usually for free) or you can buy one from  http://www.isbn.org/standards/home/index.asp  They cost $125 for one and $400 for 10.

Why would you want to get your own? You want to become your own publisher, in effect creating your own publishing company. Then the name of a “publisher” will appear in the Product Information for your book, so it is not readily identified as self-published. Doing so makes you responsible for Library of Congress filings and keeping Books in Print (a publication of Bowker – see below) bibliographic data current for your book.

The Amazon Standard Identification Number is a 10-character alphanumeric unique identifier assigned by Amazon.com and its partners for product identification within the Amazon.com organization. Each product sold on Amazon.com is given a unique ASIN. For books with 10-digit International Standard Book Number (ISBN), the ASIN and the ISBN are the same. Books without a 10-digit ISBN (including those with only a 13-digit ISBN) and other products are also assigned ASINs.

Copyright is a legal concept, enacted by most governments, giving the creator of an original work exclusive rights to it, usually for a limited time. Registering a copyright online costs $35. If you want to register a copyright for your book see instructions at:
Also see: http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2010/03/how-to-copyright-your-book-2/
For basic copyright information, see:  http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2009/10/self-publishing-basics-a-5-minute-guide-to-copyright/
For a sample copyright page see:  http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2009/10/self-publishing-basics-the-copyright-page/

Articles about copyright:

Bibliographic Database
(Wikipedia) A database of bibliographic records, an organized digital collection of references to published literature, including journal and newspaper articles, conference proceedings, reports, government and legal publications, patents, books, etc.  The following descriptions are from the web sites of the companies:

Nielsen BookScan
(Wikipedia)A data provider for the book publishing industry, owned by the Nielsen Company. BookScan compiles point of sale data for book sales.

Nielsen BookData
(Wikipedia) An information service owned by the Nielsen Company that provides market leading data services to more than 100 countries worldwide. Nielsen collects book information from over 70 countries (including the UK, Ireland, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa) and work closely with the leading data providers in the US to ensure we have the most consistent and comprehensive global database of title records available.

(From their site)  The world’s leading provider of bibliographic information and management solutions designed to help publishers, booksellers, and libraries better serve their customers. Creators of products and services that make books easier for people to discover, evaluate, order, and experience, the company also generates research and resources for publishers, helping them understand and meet the interests of readers worldwide. Bowker, a ProQuest affiliate, is the official ISBN Agency for the United States and its territories and is headquartered in New Providence, New Jersey with additional operations in England and Australia.

Baker & Taylor
(Wikipedia) A distributor of books and entertainment, in business for over 180 years ... Baker & Taylor's core business distributes media content - books, calendars, music CDs, DVDs, Blu-ray discs and digital content (ebooks, e-Spoken Word Audio) along with Collection Development and processing services to libraries throughout the world.

Ingram Content Group Inc.
(From their site)  The world's largest and most trusted distributor of physical and digital content.  We provide books, music and media content to over 38,000 retailers, libraries, schools and distribution partners in 195 countries. More than 25,000 publishers use Ingram’s fully integrated physical and digital solutions and programs to realize the full business potential of books.

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