So Long CreateSpace. Hello KDP Print.

Last night when I logged onto CreateSpace there was a big banner across the top announcing the transition to KDP Print. And people have reported getting the emails about it today. So it’s happening. CreateSpace is going away and all books will be moved to KDP accounts.

On one hand, it’s great because it centralizes reporting.

I also want to emphasize how easy it should be for most authors to do this. All I had to do was click the button to make the transition, provide my KDP account email and log in (since they’re different unlike with ACX), and then click a button. It took less than five minutes for my sixty books to move over and Amazon made a good attempt at linking the ebook and print versions.

So for most of you, that’s all it’s going to be. Something that will take five minutes to do. I saw someone offering to do this for pay this morning and it made me highly cranky because it really is so damned easy to do that you’ll put more effort into hiring and paying someone to do this for you than just doing it yourself.

I do recommend having a list of all of your print titles and their ISBNs before you do the transfer so you can check for your books just to be sure. But that’s about all it will be for most folks.

Now. Having said that…

I did run into issues and still have a few. So I’m going to tell you what they were and how to fix them if I know how.

1. I had renamed some of my books and that created linking problems. Because of how things work I had one ebook version under the new title and two paperback versions, one under the original title and one under the new one. Without fail they linked the original paperback to the ebook version.

It’s easy enough to fix this yourself. There is a … next to the paperback version of each book listing. Click on that and choose “Unlink Books”. This will unlink that version of the paperback from the ebook.

You can then link the appropriate paperback by clicking on “Link Existing Paperback” in the paperback section and giving the ASIN/ISBN number for the book. (I had these in my Access database which made it simpler for me, but they also show right there in the book listing. You can also search by name but I preferred to use ASIN/ISBN to make sure the right book linked.)

2. I also had both black and white and color versions of some of my non-fiction titles. In that case one version of each title seems to have been lost or supressed. They’ve told me it’s just that the titles didn’t transfer over yet, but what’s weird is that I was intermittently seeing both versions linked to the ebook. So sometimes I’d see the $12.95 version, sometimes I’d see the $17.95 version.

This is still an issue for me. I was able to unlink the wrong version on one of them and then find the other to link via search but that made the wrong version disappear from my dashboard. I suspect I’ll be following up with them again on this one.

3. One of my books didn’t come over. They’ve said it might take 2-3 days for all the books to port over but since 58 made it and one didn’t I’m not holding my breath for it to show up. Fortunately the book still shows as for sale but I suspect I’ll be chasing them down for that one as well as the missing b&w/color ones.

4. My CreateSpace sales ported over to my account dashboard as print sales. Now, what’s weird with mine is that I gained about 140 paperback sales for the month. As much as I wish those sales existed, I don’t think they do. So I have an email into them about that as well. And I’m not seeing how to identify expanded distribution sales which it looks like I lost yesterday when none of the 27th’s sales came over.

It also looks like KDP Print reporting is substantially delayed compared to CS reporting. That pretty much screws daily AMS monitoring for anyone who has heavy print sales like I do. Still thinking through how to handle this one.

***

Also, keep in mind that they just bought themselves another 30 days before they have to pay out on print sales. So any sales through KDP Print will pay after 60 days not 30 days from month end. (Surprising really that they hadn’t done this before since it makes them lots of money to hold those funds an extra thirty days but man do I hate them for it. Way to fuck with my budget Amazon.)

I think those are all the big issues I noticed. Someone in another group was asking if we should all move to IngramSpark instead and I would say no. Amazon, being Amazon, will sometimes list books available through IS as not available or not available for a few days. So if your paperback books sell on Amazon you’ll want to be listed with KDP Print.

You may want to consider using IngramSpark for expanded distribution, though. Or even Nook Press for listing on Barnes & Noble.

IngramSpark requires you use your own ISBNs, so for those in the U.S. who have to pay a fortune for ISBNs it may not be worth it.

Nook Press appears to provide ISBNs for you and it’s something I think I may be exploring in the next month or so. If you go that route I’ve been told you can email Nook and ask them to suppress the KDP Print version from their site so that the Nook version is the one that’s purchased.

I can tell you this did not make me happy yesterday. But one thing that’s certain with indie publishing: There is always going to be change. Some of it will be highly disruptive. Some of it will just feel like it is. All you can do is roll with the punches and keep moving forward.

Or so I tell myself.

In Case You Didn’t Know

A few happenings in indie world for those who might not know:

First, the Kobo/Walmart partnership has launched. So Walmart customers can now buy ebooks through Kobo. They’re doing a month-long launch and I have a couple books in there, including Budgeting for Beginners. You can check out the promo here.

Second, there was a major snafu with Kindle Unlimited and audiobooks. Seems that readers in KU were able to get free audiobooks as well, but problem was Amazon didn’t have the authors’ permission to offer their books free to KU subscribers. (When Amazon offers ebooks through Prime for example, they usually offer a flat payment to authors and have the authors agree and sign a contract.) This had been going on since at least May. ACX just sent out an email to authors telling them they’ll be getting paid the price of the audiobooks that were listened to for free in their next statement. Some are fine with this solution, some are not. I didn’t get an email, so must not have been impacted. But many have. No idea what numbers we’re talking until people get their month-end statements from ACX. I assume across the board we’re talking hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Third, Kboards was sold and is under new management. For those who try the site you’ll see lots of new advertising on there, even within post threads. it’s quite obnoxious and one of the reasons I’ll be spending less time there. (That and a shift in tone and subject matter that doesn’t seem to be getting better.)

Getting Schooled

I will admit that when I started this writing/publishing journey I was very arrogant about how quickly I could be successful at it. I heard things like it takes 10-15 years of writing before you really see success and I thought, “Well, that’s just because those people don’t work as hard as I do and I’ve been successful elsewhere so I can be successful here and in a helluva lot less than 10-15 years.”

Hubris. It gets you through a lot of the rough spots.

Well, here I am, seven years from that first arrogant thought and almost five years (on the 29th) from hitting publish on my first self-published title.

And…

Well…

If I look at this from the perspective of someone who needed an education, then I’m actually right on track. Because if I chalk up the first four years of self-publishing as equivalent to getting my undergraduate degree and look at this last, the fifth, year as equivalent to my first year of full-time employment then I’m actually doing about the same as I did in my first career.

Granted, self-publishing comes with expenses that working for a company does not. And it doesn’t come with benefits and bonuses the way that first job of mine did. But if I just look at annual salary of that first job versus gross revenue for this past year of self-publishing they’re neck-and-neck. Self-publishing actually comes out a little bit above that first year’s salary.

Which means I’m past the initial schooling phase and now on to the earn a living phase. It’s the “live in an apartment with five other people and drive a run-down car” living phase (something I’m not actually doing which is why I need to re-read my own budgeting book and apply my own advice), but it’s still the make a living phase.

And if things follow the same path as my first career then the next three years should see exponential growth in that number.

Here’s hoping.

I never want to stop learning, but it would be nice to be past the phase where I’m getting schooled on a regular basis. (And, yes, I’m using that term in the slang meaning that involves some humiliation and embarrassment.)

Also, you’ll probably be seeing a lot less of me in the next few months here and elsewhere. One, because I’m diving back into fiction writing. Two, because I need to disconnect from the baseless drama and misinformation that’s out there. I just can’t right now. If I’m going to make that exponential leap I need to be focused, not spending time each day thinking to myself, “Seriously? No. No, no, no.”

Paying It Forward vs Letting in the Wolves

That sounds horrible, doesn’t? Letting in the wolves. But it’s accurate.

A few years back when I first started getting serious about self-publishing the entire industry was much much more open about what was working. If someone went from making nothing a month to thousands, they immediately jumped on a public forum or raced to their blog to shout it to the world.

“Look! Here! These books, these ones right here. They’re flying off the shelves. I might be able to quit my day job!”

I was always a little surprised by how open people were about what was working for them and how well they were selling their different titles. And often when this was discussed it came down to a combination of “I wouldn’t be where I am if others hadn’t shared their stories first so I want to pay it forward”, “We’re all in this together helping make indie publishing legit”, and “There is no competition among writers. One writer’s success creates more readers that the rest of us can sell to.”

And I always wondered about parts of that. I’ve posted here before that there is something to be said for all of us working together to create respectability and a market for books. But that top 100 list only has 100 slots. And Bookbub only runs so many books a day. And AMS is a bid system. The more people who participate the more likely you’re going to get priced out of using them.

Now, when you see everyone as a friend who shares the same way you do, a little setback in one area is more than made up for by that same person helping you out elsewhere. I tell you about the Kobo promo tab, you tell me about how to use AMS in the UK. What goes around comes around and we all benefit.

But…

There are wolves in this industry. And even when people don’t mean to be wolves I sometimes picture the way self-publishing works as a swarm of locusts that come along and destroy a field full of grain.

You write a book to a hungry market and people notice and suddenly there are so many books in that market that are underpricing yours that you’re done. And the readers are sometimes done, too. Maybe you luck out and you established name recognition with those readers before the others arrived and they stay with you at your higher price. But more often they say, “Ooh, I’ll try Book B over here for 99 cents and see if it’s as good as Book A at $5.99 was.” It isn’t. But enough readers do that and you’re done.

Or you discover a method of advertising that works for you. Hallelujah! And then everyone else discovers it too and you’re sunk. You’re priced out by the folks with a hundred books under their name. Doesn’t take much sellthrough to make back your ad costs when there are a hundred books for someone to go through if they like what you write. Or you’re just out-classed by better covers and blurbs.

All of this has brought me to an interesting point. Because I still want to help people. It’s my default instinct. To say, “Hey, have you tried X?” Or, “No, actually, you can do well at Y.” Or to say, “Holy hell! Look at this book, it’s actually selling.”

But after having people basically copy my best-selling title and then use AMS to advertise the copy, and after having seen how whole genres overwhelmed by people looking for a quick buck no matter what it takes, I hesitate to share as openly as I did before.

My best AMS ad is over $12K in estimated sales at this point. I didn’t post when it hit $10K. Because when I did at $5K is about when that look-alike title came along. Thanks for sharing, f you.

So when someone wrote me today and said, “Hey, can you share your numbers on X because people don’t seem to realize you can do well at X,” rather than run right over and share, I wrote this blog post instead.

Because it’s tiring to be open about the little things that work and then have them taken away or destroyed. I know, it’s a competition. That’s what happens. But I don’t have to like it. And I don’t have to open the door to the wolves and tell them to help themselves.

Which doesn’t mean I’m going to stop sharing altogether. Like I said, not my nature to hold back. But I’m getting a little more leery these days. And I’m glad that writing is not life for me. That if I have to eventually walk away in disgust I can. (Turns out what matters to me is doing something where I have control, autonomy, authority, and visible accomplishment. And earn enough to pay the bills. For now that’s writing. Five years from now? We’ll see.)

Anyway. Something to keep in mind.

 

 

Consulting Services…

So I just added a page to the website that covers consulting services. I’ve debated about doing something like this for over a year now, but there were some reasons I hesitated.

First was that the people who’d approached me about this generally were looking for someone to manage their AMS ads and I just don’t think that’s feasible for most authors. I love AMS and I would have very few sales without them, but they just are not that predictable. And, honestly, not all books sell well with AMS. So I could never see how to charge for that and have it be fair to both the author and myself.

(What I can do though is help find keywords for a new ad or give feedback on an existing sponsored product ad, for example.)

Second was the pricing issue. I knew that what I charge for regulatory consulting and so am used to receiving for “consulting” is far more than most people would be prepared to pay. And even though I’m willing to accept very low hourly income while I get my writing business launched I wasn’t sure if I could do the same for consulting. So I compromised. You’ll see that the rate I’m charging is not low. ($100/hour) But it’s also not even close to what the financial institutions I’ve consulted for have paid. I’ve also carved out regulatory and compliance consulting from that rate because of the legal implications involved with that kind of work. I’m not willing to do that kind of work without a team that includes at least one lawyer who reviews everything I do even if I do the bulk of the work.

Third was the “who do I want to be” issue. I want to be a writer. I want most of my time to be spent on creating new material whether that’s a non-fiction book, a novel, or a video course. I don’t want to become one of those people who gets sucked into doing classes and teaching others and stops doing the creative work themselves. So I’m going to be limiting the amount of this work I do.

There were a lot of reasons I hesitated to do this, but at the same time…

I see so many people who could use just a little bit of help to get unstuck. One thirty minute conversation could save them hours of research or keep them from going down the wrong path.

Or maybe they’re like me when I first started and they just want someone to take a quick look at their writing and say, “Is this good? What mistakes am I making?” I don’t want to be an editor, but I’d be happy to spend 25 minutes reading something someone has written and then giving them my honest (perhaps brutal) feedback. When I was getting started I spent $1,000 to get an edit on my first novel to get that kind of feedback and I honestly think it was way too much money spent for what I got. But there weren’t a lot of good alternatives. And peer critique is only as good as your peers.

(Now, you could argue I’m no better for that than anyone else. And that’s fine. Don’t use my services if you don’t think I can provide value.)

So we’ll see where this goes. It’s possible no one will want my help and that’s okay. But I look at, for example, Excel for Budgeting or Excel for Self-Publishers, and I think that there are people who could benefit from what’s covered in those books but who just don’t have it in them to wrestle with Excel that much. This is my stop-gap attempt to fill that void. (Without getting so busy consulting that I have no time left for the writing.)

If you want to see more about the nitty gritty details, click here. And if you think I can help, reach out.

Also, don’t think this means I won’t answer questions via email anymore. I most definitely will. This is for when we get beyond “How do I X?” to “Can you walk me through how to do X?” or “Can you do X for me?”

AMS US Changes

For those of you who run AMS in the US, time to check your AMS dashboard. It seems Amazon has rolled out some new features to the AMS accounts that access AMS through their KDP account.

(If you’ve been running AMS in the UK using an Amazon Advantage account then a lot of this will look familiar to you and you’ll just be wondering why you still can’t also get filtering by time period.)

Three changes to highlight for you.

1. Keyword targeting

Up until now the only keyword targeting option for AMS if you accessed it through KDP was Broad. Now you can do Broad, Phrase, Exact, Negative Phrase, and Negative Exact. You can use these options when starting a new Sponsored Product ad as well as when adding keywords to an existing ad.

I would suggest going through any existing ads you have running and at least adding negative keywords. For example, my romances are contemporary so I can use negative keywords to exclude historical, etc. And free. That’s a big one to exclude unless you’re promoting a free book.

2. Bid+

This “Allows Amazon to increase the maximum bids in this campaign by up to 50% when ads are eligible to show in the top of search results.”

Now, really, you shouldn’t need this. Because you should already be bidding the maximum you’re willing to pay. But in the UK where bids are cheaper I do have this set because I would be willing to bid higher if I have to. In the US I’m only turning it on for a handful of low-bid ads I just started on books I’m not really focused on promoting.

Do the math for yourself. If you’re bidding 20 cents then Bid+ means maybe bidding 30 cents. But if you’re bidding $1 then Bid+ means bidding perhaps $1.50.

You can either turn this on for a new ad or go to the Campaign Settings tab for an existing ad and it’s at the bottom.

3. Bid Suggestions and Keyword Suggestions

When you start a new SP ad now, as soon as you add your keywords you’re going to see a bid range that Amazon suggests and a suggested bid within that range. I have a set of keywords where I’m pretty sure I’m the highest bid and I tried it and the suggested range did top out with my high bid. So it looks accurate to me. But I’ll also say that if everyone were to start bidding at those levels that it would not be profitable for most to do so.

I don’t think this changes bidding strategies all that much for that reason. If you could through series sellthrough and click rates afford to bid at those levels then I assume you already would be. If you’re bidding 10 cents right now there’s a reason for that and seeing that the suggested bid is $1.26 isn’t going to change that approach for you. But it’s interesting.

(I’ll say in the UK where I can run headline ads and this info is available, that for one of my keywords the bid they list to have 50% of the visibility is more than my book even costs.)

The other thing that occurs as you’re entering new keywords is that they provide a list of suggestions as you enter a keyword. (This is something already available in Advantage in the UK and I’d presume Advantage here.) I was able to use those suggestions to find a few additional negative keywords for one of my ads, so even if you don’t want to stop a good existing ad it might be worth trying just for that.

Bottom line:

It’s still not as robust as Advantage, but I’m glad to see the Bid+ option since I think that was giving an unfair advantage to those with non-KDP AMS accounts and I’m very pleased to see the negative keyword options since those have been very useful to me in the UK.

Like it or not, AMS are here to stay so time to learn and adjust to these changes. I expect some shake out in terms of ad performance over the next few months as a result of the changes, but maybe not as much as you’d think since I’m pretty sure the big players were already accessing AMS through non-KDP AMS accounts where these tools already existed.

All the Non-Writing Stuff

I haven’t written a single new word since July 27th. Part of it was working on a consulting idea you’ll hear more about soon, but most of it was deciding to re-do all of my covers.

This wasn’t a big design change. I suspect most people won’t even be able to tell the difference. But I decided to get on the up and up with my font usage. See, problem is that GIMP pulls fonts from your Windows folder but those fonts aren’t always available for commercial use.

Now, there’s a question about whether fonts are even copyrighted and it seems that the computer coding that renders a font is copyrighted but the font itself is not. So maybe I was okay. But I get something into my head and there I go.

Initially I was just going to buy a subscription to a font package that included all the fonts I needed. I figured $9.99 a month wasn’t much to pay for peace of mind. Unfortunately, because it’s a subscription and they don’t trust you, the files were hidden somewhere on my computer where GIMP couldn’t access them. So there I was with access to the fonts already but no access to them through my subscription. And could I really be sure that the Bodoni version I was using that was already on my computer was the same as the Bodoni version in the subscription? No.

So, long story short, I tried, it was a miserable failure, I cancelled the subscription, and switched over to free fonts instead. Which meant going through all of the covers I’ve done and checking the font on each one to see if it was a free one for commercial use or not and changing it over if it wasn’t. I also figured I’d update backmatter at the same time.

Now at this point I have about sixty books that are live where I’ve done the covers myself. And almost all of them are wide. And a lot of them are in paperback.

So my August so far has been: check and/or redo ebook covers for all sixty books, check links for all sixty books, regenerate ebook for all sixty books, load to five different sites (Zon, D2D, Kobo, Nook, Google), redo paperback for all sixty books, update also by in paperback for all sixty books, submit paperback for approval to CreateSpace.

It’s an ongoing process. I suspect this will take at least another week. Especially because I’m spacing the CreateSpace submissions out so that all of my books aren’t down at once.

Also, me being me, it’s lead me to redo three covers (but oh my god the CreateSpace for Beginners cover is so much better now) and reformat two paperbacks into a new size.

I’ve also had to angst about which books to list where. My ego hates to have books on Amazon with bad ranks even though I know that at least if those books are there they’ll occasionally sell to those who want them. So I sometimes take books down from Amazon. But then I change my mind. And then I decide to take them down again…

(As of now, five of the M.H. Lee short stories are up on Amazon again. Until the next time I go through this.)

Anyway. Writing is not all sitting in your posh office creating new worlds or puzzling out how to explain a complex topic. Sometimes it’s just hours and hours of uploading files and checking that they look good. At least, that’s the way it is if you self-publish.