For Kindle authors, the biggest challenge is getting readers to discover your ebooks. Indeed, it’s your only real challenge, aside from writing, of course.
Some Kindle authors feel that since the release of Kindle Unlimited (KU), Amazon has made it even harder for authors to make a living. Others are happier than six-year-olds on Christmas Eve: they adore KU.
What’s with KU anyway? Amazon provides a clue with its latest contest, The Kindle UK Storyteller Award: “Winning author to receive £20,000 cash prize and be recognised at central London award ceremony this summer.”
What does the $25,000 prize (for upwards of 5,000 words) mean to Kindle authors?
For one thing, it offers a clue that KU isn’t going anywhere.
After the trauma experienced by authors whose Amazon accounts were cancelled, ostensibly because of Amazon’s algorithmic hammer blows, authors grew wary. They’ve yanked their ebooks from KDP Select, and thus from KU.
Since KU is such a rich target for scammers, I wondered whether Amazon would shut it down. That’s unlikely, because Amazon’s introducing KU to more countries, and judging by author’s forums, more authors love KU than hate it.
As they say, follow the money… At today’s exchange rate, £20,000 is $USD 24,945.80. According to The Bookseller, this is the second time in a few months Amazon’s run a contest in the UK. Amazon must be getting a LOT out of it. They could have put that money into the KU pool, which would have added a little something for each KU author, and maybe inspiring some authors to stay.
For the contest’s winning author, the £20,000 jackpot will change his or her life. I’m all for anything which helps and inspires authors, so Amazon gets a big tick for that.
What can Kindle authors can learn from Amazon’s contest?
I’ve made a little list.
Amazon’s encouraging shorter works into KU. Writing a 60,000 word novel is challenging. By setting the contest entries at upwards of just 5,000 words, Amazon is both encouraging shorter works, and new authors;
As stated, KU isn’t going anywhere;
If you’ve eliminated or downgraded your KU involvement (I’m guilty of that), you may want to write some short stories. Short stories are excellent promotional tools for your novels, and build your visibility;
If you’re a UK author, or are someone who can be in London in the northern summer to collect your prize, you could be a winner… 🙂
Re being in London: Amazon UK doesn’t seem to be limiting the contest to UK authors, so you could be based anywhere around the globe.
My final takeaway from the contest for Kindle authors
Amazon is actively looking for new authors — that is, they want lots of fresh content loaded into KDP Select.
Self-publishing is becoming a lot more challenging. Things are changing quickly, and you need to change too, especially if you’re not having the success you want. Even if you’re thrilled with your sales, keep in mind that self-publishing changes quickly.
Our new self-publishing environment in 2017
Authors who have been self-publishing for years realize that today, self-publishing is mainstream.
In 2015, The Passive Voice published several posts on indie authors quitting their day jobs; they were the most commented-on posts in the history of the blog. Many thousands of authors revealed that they went full-time in 2015.
However in 2016, things got a lot tougher. Not only did Amazon tighten its spam-fighting algorithms, some authors found that their ebook sales were dropping off a cliff. I wrote blog posts on both those things…
One of the decisions I made for my own self-publishing plans this year was to publish shorter ebooks in addition to the novels I have planned. Short stories, and short nonfiction, can definitely help the sales of your longer ebooks.
Let’s look at the tips.
1. Use short stories as a valuable form of painless marketing
Sometimes when I suggest to an author that he publish some short stories, the response is: Yes, but short stories don’t sell. I’d take issue with that, because many authors are making a lot of money from short stories. In some cases, they’re making more money from a 5,000 word short story than they’re making from an 100,000 word novel.
Readers don’t care how long or short your story is, they just want a GOOD story.
Here’s the thing about self-publishing: your ebooks can be as long, or as short as you please. Strictly from a money angle, if you can get $2.99 for a 10,000 word short story, OR a 60,000 word novel, it makes sense to write more short stories.
When you write short stories, not only do you build your visibility, you also improve your fiction writing skills.
Short stories are brilliant for increasing your visibility on the ebook retailers. When you’re on Amazon’s Just Released lists, you’ll make sales of your other ebooks too.
2. Reward your fans’ loyalty: send them your short stories, then publish them
Your readers are GOLD. Treat them well.
Show your mailing list subscribers that they’re part of an exclusive club. When you’ve completed a short story, send it out to the fans on your mailing list first. A week or two later, you can publish the story on Amazon.
Several authors make their short stories available on their blogs for a week or two, and then they publish the stories.
Anything you can do to reward your fans is worth doing.
3. Create serials: use cliffhangers to get more readers
Some authors HATE cliffhangers and they refuse to use them. However, publishing short stories as a continuing story — as a serial — works. Just be sure that your short story is a real story, with a climax and resolution, otherwise you’ll annoy readers.
Your challenge with serial fiction is to make each episode in the story satisfying. Yes, you want readers to read the whole thing. However, each episode has to deliver entertainment and value. So each episode has a throughline, with a setup, action, and climax.
Also, most importantly, add “A Short Story” both to the title, and to the description of your short fiction, so that readers know what they’re getting.
Add a few short stories to your own self-publishing plans for this year
I enjoy writing short stories; I like instant gratification. 🙂
You never know, you may find as I do that you sell more of your novels when you include short stories in your publishing plans.
Do you find self-publishing a challenge? Many writers do. I’ve been working with three writers who’ve been traditionally published, helping them to adjust to our brave new self-publishing world.
These three authors know how to write books. However, they’re intimidated at the idea of becoming publishers of their own books, so I created a mini-challenge for them: write a book in a week, and publish it. Yes, all in a week. (I gave the challenge as a writing exercise on the Fab Freelance Writing Facebook page.)
Write short and publish fast: the easiest self-publishing strategy
Traditional publishing tends to be slow. From memory, the last time I was commissioned to write a book by a traditional publisher, it took around 18 months for the book to hit bookstores. Believe it or not, that was FAST. (Giggle.) It seems unbelievable to me now, but back in the day it wasn’t unusual for a book to take three years from the initial idea to publication day.
Self-publishing is very different from traditional publishing, and to give authors confidence I challenge them to write and self-publish a short story, or a short nonfiction book, of between 5,000 and 10,000 words, in a week.
Now let’s look at our tips.
1. Think “short”, and write your blurb FIRST
The key to writing short and publishing fast is to choose something you know well. It cuts down on the research. If you’re writing a short story, choose a genre you know and love. For me, that’s the mystery genre.
Similarly, if you’re writing nonfiction, write about what you know. It can be anything, from how to bake cookies to how to sell on eBay. Once you’ve chosen a nonfiction topic, choose a slant. Your “slant” is your angle; your point of view, or opinion. For example, if you’re writing about cookies, your slant could be baking perfect chocolate chip cookies, from scratch.
Once you’ve chosen your genre, or topic and slant, write the blurb — the book description. In traditional publishing, the blurb is the back cover copy. In self-publishing, as we’ve said, it’s the book description.
In addition, find keywords. Amazon gives you seven keywords. Explore Amazon to find your seven.
Look on your blurb as your book’s outline. It may change, that’s fine. Writing your blurb before you start writing your book ensures that you’ll actually publish. Self-publishers tend to find blurbs and keywords challenging. Get it done now, before you start writing, so you won’t procrastinate when it’s time to publish.
2. Buy (or create) a cover image before you start writing
I never feel that a book is “real” until I have a cover for it.
For short ebooks, paying $500 for a great cover is pointless. Buy a premade cover (search on Google, you’ll find many designers selling premade covers.) Reasonably competent? Design your own. Alternatively, for the simplest option, choose to use Amazon’s Cover Designer when you upload to Amazon.
3. Write your ebook in three days: schedule the time
Can you write 5,000 words in three days?
Of course you can. Just schedule the time. Even on my worst days, I can manage 1,000 words an hour. If you’re a new author, it may take you longer. That’s OK — schedule your time.
4. Edit fast — slash, add, and then revise: keep your blurb in mind
Pay attention to your blurb while you’re editing. You may need to change your blurb, that’s fine — after writing your draft, you have a much clearer idea of what your book is about.
Slash away everything that’s not needed. Then add content. Next, read through what you have. I use Scrivener, which makes it easy to compile a book into MOBI (Amazon) format, and read it as a reader will.
A common question I receive is: “do I need an editor?” For longer books, yes. For shorter books, edit it yourself. I know it’s challenging; you’ll get better with practice.
5. Publish to KDP Select: it’s not ideal, but why not?
You’re all done. You’ve written and edited your book.
Your book matches your blurb, and your cover is done.
Publication time… 🙂
I wrote about ebook sales here. Since September, many authors are finding that their numbers are down. To counteract this, they’re removing their books from KDP Select because it gives Amazon an exclusive, and makes their ebooks available for free to Kindle Unlimited (KU) subscribers. All those KU readers tend to cannibalize sales.
Here’s what I suggest. Publish to KDP Select. Even if you make no sales, you’ll make a little money with KU’s pages read, and KU definitely helps your visibility, so you’ll sell more ebooks overall. Ditto if you’re a new author.
These days, many authors are pulling their books from KDP Select, and are “going wide” — that is, publishing on several ebook retailers. For short ebooks however, unless you have a real reason not to opt for KDP Select, I suggest enrolling your ebooks there. It eliminates hassles.
You can always change your mind and remove your books in three months if you’re not happy. 🙂
Self-publishing is easy. Paradoxically, it’s amazingly complex too
The days when you could publish an ebook, and make hundreds or thousands of dollars a month have gone, for most authors. These days, you need to promote your ebooks.
That said, I’ve found a tendency among my students and other authors to over-compensate on the marketing side. They spend so much time fiddling with their Facebook advertising and finding new venues to promote that their writing suffers.
Self-publishing is easy, and amazingly complex at the same time.
Everything starts with writing, however. So write an ebook and publish it, in a week. You’ll learn a lot about yourself, and about self-publishing. You may even make a little money. Have fun. 🙂
You want to write a novel. Perhaps you can't get started. Or maybe you got started, and then you stopped.You need a plan, broken down into easy steps. This program began as a 30-day challenge which I organized for readers in 2010. Hundreds of writers joined the challenge and completed it. They wrote novels. More info →