Kindle Unlimited Amazon’s Newest KDP Select Program

Amazon has a new subscription program for books enrolled in KDP Select and U.S. readers called Kindle Unlimited. Books already enrolled in KDP Select are automatically placed in the new program, though authors can opt-out if preferred. Readers pay a $9.99 monthly fee for access to unlimited books (that are enrolled).

From their email;

Today we are excited to introduce Kindle Unlimited-–a new subscription service for readers in the U.S. and a new revenue opportunity for authors enrolled in KDP Select. Customers will be able to read as many books as they want from a library of over 600,000 titles while subscribed to Kindle Unlimited. All books enrolled in KDP Select with U.S. rights will be automatically included in Kindle Unlimited.

KDP Select authors and publishers will earn a share of the KDP Select global fund each time a customer accesses their book from Kindle Unlimited and reads more than 10% of their book-–about the length of reading the free sample available in Kindle books-–as opposed to a payout when the book is simply downloaded. Only the first time a customer reads a book past 10% will be counted. (I’m confused–doesn’t that last sentence seem to contradict the first sentence in the paragraph?)

KDP Select books will also continue to be enrolled in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) available to Amazon Prime customers in the U.S., U.K., Germany, France, and Japan where authors will continue to earn a share of the KDP Select global fund when their book is borrowed. KOLL borrows will continue to be counted when a book is initially downloaded.

For July, we’ve added $800,000 to the fund, bringing the July fund amount to $2 million.

Learn more about Kindle Unlimited. Visit your Bookshelf to enroll your titles in KDP Select, and click on “Manage Benefits” to get started.

Best regards,
The Kindle Direct Publishing Team

For an indie author, it’s hard to bite the hand that feeds you, but you also notice when a monopoly grows ever stronger. Is this move “ultimately” for a reader’s benefit, the author’s, Amazon’s, some combination or does it benefit everyone? I’d ask some Big 5 publishers, but I have a feeling they’ll decline to respond.

Share any thoughts in the comments.

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Keywords for Amazon Authors: Best Choices for Titles, Categories, Text, Description and more

Keywords for Amazon AuthorsKeywords can be an indie author’s best friend. When used wisely, they help a book come up in search results at Amazon; when not used wisely, a book is destined to only be found via word of mouth.

We had a great webinar training authors to use Amazon’s internal search engine while cross-checking at Google’s Keyword Planner for making smart decisions on keyword choices. We also identified where those words must come up in your KDP dashboard, book’s title, categories, text, description and more.

The webinar was recorded and is still available. It explains:

- What metadata is and how it helps readers find your book.

- How to select the right keywords for your book titles, description, categories, tags and internal text of your book.

- How to use both Amazon and Google’s Keyword Planner for wise decision making.

- How to enhance blog posts and social media mentions like Twitter and Google+ using the same process.

This webinar has been made available to authors here: http://soniamarsh.com/store/products/metadata-keywords-best-choices-for-book-titles. 75 minutes of useful tips, price $15.

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Indie Authors’ Take on Amazon vs Hachette

Below is an overview of the publishing situation between Amazon and Hachette (plus other traditional publishing houses and their authors). Very good stuff written by Hugh Howey and other prominent indies that many authors agree with, including me. The situation affects publishers, authors and most importantly, readers.

Dear Readers,

Much is being said these days about changes in the book world, but not nearly enough is being said about the most important people in our industry.

You. The readers. Without you there wouldn’t be a book industry.

We owe you so much, and we are forever in your debt. Thank you for reading late into the night. Thank you for reading to your children. Thank you for missing that subway stop, for your word of mouth, your reviews, and your fan emails.

Thank you for seeking our books in so many ways—through brick and mortar stores, online, and in libraries. Thank you for enjoying these stories in all their forms—as digital books, paper books, and audiobooks.

We wanted this letter to be brief, but the topic is complicated. There is so much misinformation to correct, we wound up taking it point-by-point.

But for those readers with limited time, here is the crux of our message to you:

New York Publishing once controlled the book industry. They decided which stories you were allowed to read. They decided which authors were allowed to publish. They charged high prices while withholding less expensive formats. They paid authors as little as possible, usually between 2% and 12.5% of the list price of a book.

Amazon, in contrast, trusts you to decide what to read, and they strive to keep the price you pay low. They allow all writers to publish on their platform, and they pay authors between 35% and 70% of the list price of the book…

continue reading this article…

(There is also a petition to sign if you support the indie author-reader-Amazon revolution that is happening.)


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Indie Author’s Take on Google Play: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

This article first featured at The Book Designer.

The official name for interested authors is the Google Books Partner Program. It launched in Dec. 2010 as Google Editions, then became Google Ebooks, then got engulfed in the massive Android supermarket known as Google Play. How would I describe the experience of uploading and selling ebooks there? It reminds me of a movie title: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

The Good

They actually sell ebooks. Over the past two years I’ve sold more with Google than at Barnes & Noble or Kobo. That was a pleasant surprise since Google doesn’t depend on book sales to stay afloat or make a dedicated device for reading as the others do. My prediction is for sales to continue to grow though I’m no Vegas-insider.

Purchases can be made in forty-four countries with ongoing expansion. That’s quite an audience. In thirty-six of those countries, authors (called partners) can upload ebooks. In twenty of the thirty-six, Google will pay partners with direct bank deposits (EFT) as is the case for North America and most of Europe. Otherwise payments are with wire transfers.

Search-ability is Google’s forte. They scan your entire document and factor that into the world’s largest search engine. I’ve tested this by copying random sentences from deep within my books and pasting them into a Google search. For example, try this sentence in a search: Mara reminded me of the pictures I had seen of Rose.

Google text search

Lo and behold, the Google book result appears at the very top of the list, and not one other retailer shows up further down. It also works with character names and subject matter, though for popular search terms you may have to scroll down a few pages. This is especially helpful for authors with rarer subjects or names within their books. Remember that Google searches can be tailored just for book results (though the example above is a general Web search).

EPUB files on Google Play support enhanced ebook features (EEBs) such as embedded audio and video. They also support fixed layouts and give advice on how to implement the HTML code for that.

Perhaps the best reason to publish there: less competition exists from other indie authors at Google Play than at Amazon and other retailers. Smashwords, a distributor that sends ebooks to major retailers and library channels, doesn’t ship to Google Play. Neither does Draft2Digital. The only way I’m aware of is to upload directly. This eliminates a lot of indie authors assumedly for the bad and ugly reasons listed below.

The Bad

Uploading there is challenging. It’s as if the book store engineers decided to reinvent the wheel without taking a peek at how Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Smashwords and other retailers handle the art of receiving cover images and interior files.

You’ll need to upload interior documents as EPUB and/or PDF files. Google recommends that you send both types since they offer two display modes: original pages and reflowable text. Providing the PDF will ensure that readers can view the book in its original layout, while the EPUB will allow a more customizable experience. Many authors are unfamiliar with EPUB, working in MS Word and uploading that or saving it as HTML Web Page Filtered. There are free and paid solutions for making EPUB conversions including Calibre, Sigil, 2epub and others. You can even download and save an EPUB file if you’ve uploaded MS Word directly at Kobo or Barnes & Noble, which they convert to EPUB for their devices.

Unfortunately there is no preview mode, which irks me. Amazon has an amazing previewer, and the others have made dramatic improvements in this arena. The only way to preview your book at Google Play is to wait until it has processed and then view the sample.

Price gouging at Google Play is about 23%, which means they’ll reduce whatever price you set it at. Remember to bump up your price by at least 23% or be subject to Amazon price matching to match their lower price.

There is little customer support although it has gotten better. An email to support leads to this automatic reply: Thanks for contacting us. We’ll follow up with you only if we need more information or have additional information to share. (Feels like they’re copping attitude.) In the past I’ve waited a week or more for a response. Recently I tested the service with an email and got a reply within a few hours when I included a screen-share of the problem, which is recommended. Tip: include screen-shares in correspondence to entertain bored Google Books employees.

The Ugly

Royalties are 52%. When comparing that to the industry standard, like 70% at Amazon, it’s a bummer. Of course you could always bump the price just a bit higher to split the difference. Not a great royalty, but still worth doing if more sales platforms are better.

It feels like a wild-goose chase searching for info to accomplish things. I’ve reread tutorial articles many times only to find myself back at the starting point, wishing Google allowed comments following the article that likely would help me solve issues. Instead they just offer a rating system if the article was helpful or not. To understand my frustration, play around at their Help Center for awhile: https://support.google.com/books/?.

Worse than that, it’s a serious chore to get the book’s description and author bio to have proper formatting, even using the simplest formatting. The description may look awful once posted as this one did:

formatting issues Google Play books

It appears the best way to make formatting behave it is to retype it on the editing page, which is annoying if you have multiple books and all that stuff is already written. For the 99% of us who want to copy and paste the info from elsewhere, it’s necessary to hit the remove formatting button in the description box and then manually re-enter the formatting such as for paragraph returns and bold type. The remove formatting button is highlighted in the yellow circle below:

Remove formatting button

I had to play around with multiple formatting changes for the description and author bio boxes, then wait about six hours to see how those changes appeared, then repeat until everything was acceptable. It took five days and over a dozen attempts, which is either embarrassing for me or a sign that Google needs to fix this.

Another ugly aspect, and this may be improbable, is the off-chance Google might dump the whole book program. There’s a trust issue with Google that doesn’t exist at other behemoths like Amazon. Google has scrapped plenty of programs as they did with Reader, Wave, Videos, Buzz and more. These dead programs are referred to as the Google Graveyard, and their numbers rise as Google experiments with software and the convenience of really deep pockets. My concern for selling ebooks is that they don’t make a dedicated e-reading device. In the past they had a partnership with the iRiver Story, but that device didn’t integrate into the formation of Google Play, and the iRiver has since been discontinued. Who buys Google books? My guess is people who read on cell phones and various tablets. Does Google really want to compete with Amazon, Apple and others for the long term? We’ll see. The fact that they are selling ebooks and making money on each sale suggests they won’t dump the program. But if they did, it wouldn’t be a shock.

The Verdict

What kind of author should upload to Google Play? Those willing to go the extra mile, knowing it’s a bit more technical, less intuitive, far more annoying, and the risk/rewards are still embedded in a gray area. Selling ebooks there may turn out to be a prosperous alternative or a total waste of time. (Sadly, I just described myself.) If you’re interested in getting started, visit this link: https://play.google.com/books/publish/signup.

And if you have any advice or comments, as always please share them in the comments.


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Subscribe to this blog for updates on indie authors and self-publishing.
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