Review of KINDLING – All About Writing Books For Amazon Kindle

Geoff Shaw's KINDLINGIf you start searching the web, you’ll find a truckload of advice about writing for Kindle. (Some of it is on the Kindle KDP site itself, of course.)

However, when you’re starting out, what you need is one place that has all the info you need neatly organized. That’s why I like Geoff Shaw’s KINDLING site.

I’ve made the mistake of calling it a “Kindling Course” a few times, and as a result have heard people say things like “Oh, I’ve got a lot on at the moment – I couldn’t commit to any kind of course” or “When I’ve finished my dissertation I’ll have time to do another course.”

OK: let’s make it clear: this is not a ‘course’ as such. You don’t have to complete modules and send in assignments or weekly tasks. You don’t get awarded a pass or a fail, and you don’t get As, Bs and Cs.

KINDLING is a private site chock-a-block full of training on writing a Kindle book (either fiction or non-fiction) and on promoting that book. Or rather, promoting the series of books that you will write, if you want to have a better chance of success.

It’s not free, but the wealth of information in there makes it well worth the price of admittance. (At the time of writing it was a one-off payment of $77, but the price will rise from time to time as Geoff adds value by increased content.) You can check the current cost here and read more about it at the same time.

Here’s some of what you’ll find in the site:

  • An Updates Section – If you’ve been a member for a while, when you come back, you check here first to see what’s new. Geoff keeps updating his site to keep pace with what Amazon Kindle is doing NOW.
  • FAQ (lots of people as the same questions. You might well find what you want to know here).
  • Where to Start: Newbies. This is really handy if you’re just starting out.
  • Home: Getting books to work, Sales magnets, Research and more.
  • Formatting: This can be a real bugbear when you’re just starting out. There’s a video on formatting problems as well as other information.
  • Fiction Writing: Step by step advice on planning, plotting, writing, proofing and promoting.
  • Non Fiction Writing: the kind of books you can write to start earning money quickly.
  • Romance and Erotica: How to plot it and write it; what not to do.
  • Using social media – Twitter and Facebook

Finally, if you have questions that cannot be answered by what is on the site (and there’s a LOT on the site) Geoff answers emails personally.

I have now got 7 books on Kindle – 5 nonfiction and 2 fiction, under a pen-name – and I still keep checking Geoff’s Kindling site for updated information. I like to keep it simple!

I’ve signed up for a lot of courses, e-books and private sites over the years, and this is one of the best value-for-money sites I’ve seen. I highly recommend it, but make your own decision!

How Many Pen Names on Amazon?

Authors sometimes get confused about (a) whether it’s legal to write a book under another name and (b) how many pen names you’re allowed to have on Amazon. These points might help to clarify things.

  1. It is quite legal to write a book under another name. People do this for many reasons. I know a GP who writes under a pen name because she wants to keep both lives separate. I also write under several different names: I use my own name for the Busy Writer books and for my children’s books, but I chose to use a pseudonym for romance books. Why? Because I don’t want children searching for my books and finding a PG or M rated romance!
  2. If you publish with Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) you can have an unlimited number of pen-names. However….
  3. You are limited to only 3 Author Central pages at any one time. You can create new Author Central pages for a new pen-name, but if the total (including your own name) comes to more than three, you will be asked to remove one before you can create the new one.The old pages are not totally out of commission, though. Amazon will send you an email to let you know that they have left the pages on Amazon as an aid to customer searches.

    This means that you can actually have as many Author pages as you like, but you will only have three available to update at any one time.

    You can see, then, that if you decide to stop writing books under one pen-name, you can simply make this one of the deleted pages, and customers will still be able to find out information about the author. Handy, eh?

Length of Kindle Books

book length novel novella novelette short storyNow that you can publish your book on Kindle, without having to worry about paper and pages and costs, you also have a lot more leeway on book length. There are eager readers out there looking for books of all lengths, from short stories of around 3,000 words to long novels.

Sometimes people are confused about how many words equal how many pages on a Kindle book. You don’t really need to concern yourself with this, because part of the appeal of a Kindle book (or pretty much any e-reader) is that readers can alter the size of the font to suit their own preferences. This means that the number of ‘pages’ will blow out as the font gets larger – or conversely, shrink if a small font size is used. However, if it helps, you can think of a ‘page’ as being roughly around 250 words.

The main thing is that readers do like to know what they’re buying. Some are happy to pay 99c for a short story of 3,000 words, whereas others expect a full-length novel for this. Your best bet, to save any confusion, is to indicate the length of your novel by telling them the number of words.

Are You Writing a Novel, a Novella, or a Novelette?

If you’re wondering whether to call your writing a short story, a novella, a novelette or a novel, you’ll be happy to know that there are some generally accepted terms that are coming into popular use. Many writers find it convenient to use the definitions set by The Science Fiction Writers of America for their Nebula Awards. They are as follows:

Short fiction: under 7,500 words
Novelette: 7,500-17,500 words
Novella: 17,500-40,000 words
Novel: 40,000 words and up

The Short Mystery Fiction Society subdivides the shortest categories further for their Derringer Awards. If you’re seeking a definition for very short fiction, this might help:

Flash story: up to 1000 words
Short short story: 1001 – 4000 words
Long short story: 4001-8000 words
Novelette: 8001-17,500 words

Quite a number of new writers choose to introduce readers to their characters and story worlds by writing short stories or novelettes for the first few offerings, pricing them very cheaply, and then going on to write longer novels.

To sum up: you could preface your book description at Amazon with something like this:

  • Run for Your Life is a short story of 6,000 words, or
  • Run for Your Life is a novelette of 13,500 words, or
  • Run for Your Life is a novella of 20,000 words, or
  • Run for Your Life is a novel of 45,000 words

Much more informative than “Run for Your Life is an 87-page book”!

Kindle Freebie Sites – Have Book Information Ready

If you have your books enrolled in KDP Select you can do a freebie promotion for 5 days in a 3-month period. (There are other benefits too, like being paid every time someone in Kindle Prime borrows a book, but we’re focusing on the Freebie Promos.)

You can choose to use the whole 5 days at one time, or you can sprinkle the 5 free days throughout the three-month period.

What are the benefits of offering your book free?

  • To gain a readership (if they like your book, they’ll be open to buying others in a series or by you).
  • The increased ranking on Amazon. (You’ll definitely move higher in the Bestsellers for Freebie books, and your book will come to the attention of more people.) You are also likely find your other books (paid books) appearing in nearby advertising.  Here’s a screen capture of what happened a few weeks back when I ran a promo for The Busy Writer’s Self-Editing Toolbox:

    - The freebie book, The Busy Writer’s Self-Editing Toolbox, reached No. 1 on the Free Bestseller list
    - My Busy Writer’s One-Hour Plot reached No. 3 on the Paid Bestseller List
    - My Busy Writer’s One-Hour Character appeared on the same page, listed as a “Hot New Release”

Effects of a Kindle Freebie Promotion on Other Books in a Series

  • There tends to be a ‘bounceback’ in increased sales after the free period is over. My books have always had an upsurge in sales after the promo.

Author Marketing Club To get your freebie promo books notice by more people, visit the Author Marketing Club and sign up. (It’s free.) They have a Kindle Freebie Promo page with all the links conveniently there for you for a range of promo sites – one-stop shopping! (Well, one-stop promos.) BUT – you will find that different sites have different requirements. So – make sure you have the following information all ready to post. I suggest putting it in a plan text editor (like Windows Notepad) so you can paste it in the relevant boxes. I’ll use my Busy Writer’s Book of Checklists as an example, because that was the last book I promoted as a freebie and the information is all ready in the plain text editor on my second screen. Here is what you will need:

The Title of Your Book (e.g. The Busy Writer’s Book of Checklists).

The full link to where your book can be found on Amazon Kindle (e.g. http://www.amazon.com/Busy-Writers-Book-Checklists-ebook/dp/B008VB0BLS )

The ASIN: (This is your book number – it’s at the end of your Amazon link. So for the Checklists book, it is B008VB0BLS )

A summary of your book: (some sites suggest you simply copy and paste the book description from your sales page on Amazon. Others want just a paragraph or two telling them about the book. I suggest that you copy your full book description into your text editor, AND create another couple of descriptions as well – one that’s two short paragraphs long, and another that is a couple of longer paragraphs. Make sure one of them is 500 characters or less (not 500 words: 500 CHARACTERS.) Use whichever one seems to fit the site to which you’re submitting. BUT – don’t make it too wordy. You just want a tight, tempting description that will entice readers to download the book. Appeal to the emotions, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction.)

Your Facebook Page, your website URL, your Twitter Page and your Twitter handle. Some sites ask for these links: have them ready to paste in.

Creating Book Covers with The LogoCreator

The LogoCreatorI’ve owned a copy of the LogoCreator for years, and recently when it got a huge facelift I upgraded again. I think it’s well worth the money for the many things I can do with it. (Sometimes I think it should be re-named, because it’s not just for creating logos – think in terms of ‘any graphics’, really.)

It can do a lot of things that you need for your website and book publishing at a fraction of the cost of Photoshop. (As I write this it costs $37, but check the current price before buying.)

Someone in my discussion group creates her own Kindle covers, and she was asking if there was a way to put a see-through face on to the cover. What she was talking about was OPACITY. You can do this in Photoshop, but you can also do it with the LogoCreator – and it will cost you a lot less!

Here’s the example I sent to the group, showing different degrees of opacity with a cover I mocked up quickly in the LogoCreator (the numbers show the degree of opacity).

Use the LogoCreator for different degrees of opacityHere’s a larger pic of the cover:

book cover with .4 opacityNaturally, when I typed in the size of the canvas, I made it much larger – the size preferred by Kindle.

I actually get a graphic designer to do my Kindle covers, but if I were short of funds or had a lot of books to upload (or had better graphic design skills!) I’d do it myself, and the LogoCreator offers a lot of bang for your buck.

NOTE: As with all graphics programs, there is a bit of a learning curve. Take the time to watch the tutorials on the LogoCreator site, and you’ll pick it up quite quickly.

You can also use The LogoCreator to make your Facebook ‘covers’ (or headers); your website header graphics, and all kinds of graphics for your website.(You can save your attempts as LogoCreator files, so you can keep working on them or make minor changes for a series. You export them as jpegs or pngs.)

The LogoCreator comes with a good set of fonts (you can also use the ones on your computer) and some images, flashes, shapes etc, and you can add additional packs of images. However, there’s plenty here to get started, and for Kindle covers, you’ll probably be importing your own photos/images etc.

Just FYI, I also use the LogoCreator to make this header (I created the 3D book images in another program then imported them into TLC):

Busy Writer Books Facebook HeaderYou can get the Logo Creator here (and watch a video showing you what it can do… and check out the video tutorials under the ‘support’ tab):

http://www.thelogocreator.com/

Pay It Forward – Indie Author Promo

Pay it Forward - Promote Your BookAre you trying to figure out ways to promote your book? Well, there are lots of options, ranging from social networking with Facebook and Twitter to emailing friends and book trailers… but here’s a novel idea created by Denise Baer on the ‘pay it forward’ basis.

Denise Baer is an indie author with a dark psychological suspense novel, Net Switch, available on Createspace, Amazon and Barnes & Noble in paperback and e-book form. She also has a poetry e-book available from Amazon and B&N.

If you have a blog (or are about to create one) and you have written a book you want to promote, Denise has figured out one way to do it. Read more here.

(And while you’re there, take a look at the book trailer Denise created for Net Switch. Notice how it finishes with an image of her book cover – another way to build recognition of the cover when people see it online.)

Why Reviews Matter

man writing Kindle reviewTo understand why reviews are important for your Kindle book, just think about your own behavior as a customer. If you’re searching for a book because you’ve heard on the grapevine that it’s a good read, you’ll probably just type in the title and click ‘buy’ without bothering to read any more about the book – probably without even bothering to ‘look inside’.

However, if you’re searching for help on a specific topic, or looking for good new authors in your favorite genre, you tend to take more care.

  • You’ll take advantage of Amazon’s “Look inside” feature.
  • If you like what you see, you’ll probably scroll down to read the reviews.
  • If you like what you read there, you’ll either click ‘buy’ or ‘download a sample’, if you want to read more.

What happens if you see no reviews at all? You might not worry if the book is new: after all, there hasn’t been much time for people to read and review. But if the book has been around for a while, you can’t help but wonder… why aren’t there any reviews?

You also take notice of bad reviews. Some ‘bad’ reviews won’t hurt your book sales too much – for example, if they’re significantly outweighed by people who liked your book, or if it’s written by someone who obviously doesn’t understand the genre. (I got a 2-star review for one of my books a few months back. Why? Because it wasn’t available in paperback and the reader didn’t want to start reading e-books! I guess it was a kind of back-handed compliment, because he also said “The teaser shower that the author knows her stuff and it would have been a book I would have enjoyed”. I do intend to combine several of my writing e-books into one compendium for a print book, so he’ll get his wish eventually. Meanwhile, the lone 2-star reviews is outweighed by the ten 5-star reviews.)

What you may not realise is that it is good for you, as an author, to also review other people’s books.

No point in re-inventing the wheel, so read this post on Phyllis Zimbler Miller’s blog for a good insight into author reviews.

Add Value to Your Kindle Books for Kids

Robin Adolphs on KindleHere’s an author who is doing it well.

Robin Adolphs has got two books for kids available in both paper and digital versions. But there’s a special bonus for those who buy her books – they can download extra activities for kids from her website.

Now that’s adding value.

Robin is going to win over a whole segment of people who are always searching for material – parents who home-school. (AND the online activities, like the puzzles, are fun for kids too.)

The books, illustrated with bright, attractive art work, are very well-written. They’re fun to read aloud and to dramatize, and will encourage emergent readers to have a go at reading for themselves.

Here are links to Robin’s two books. If you download them for your kids, and enjoy them as much as I did, please go and leave a review – we indie authors have to stick together!

Yesterday I Played in the Rain

The Pile-Up

Writing for Children on Kindle

Write for Kids on KindleOne of the most popular courses that I ever put together was one on writing for children. Thousands of people signed on to learn how to write for kids.

Some were raw beginners, and had to learn pretty well everything from scratch – not only how to target specific age groups, but also the basic elements of technique.

Some were pretty good, and with a bit more experience and polish, could easily produce a publishable book.

Some were great writers from the start, and were producing publishable scenes, chapters and books from Day One.

How many of them actually went on to hold a published book in their hands?

Unfortunately, not many. Competition was fierce, and most gave up. What I found interesting, though, was this: of those who did go on to achieve publication (the ones that I heard about, anyway) not all were the most talented of my students. Some were, quite frankly, mediocre – by the end of the course, they still had a long way to go. But you know what? The ones who were determined to get published kept working away at it, learning more about their craft and honing their skills year after year. AND THEY MADE IT.

There are several factors that contribute to a writer’s decision to give up.

  1. The sheer difficulty of breaking in with the huge numbers of competitors. (Publishers had only a certain number of slots each year. The reasons for choosing one manuscript over another were numerous and varied, from “What a pity, we took on a book on the same theme just last week” to “I don’t personally like books about XXX”. Sometimes, publishers would simply close the doors for several months while they caught up.
  2. Writing a book can be a lot less fun than it looks. Flushed with enthusiasm with a sparkling new idea for a book, writers start churning out chapters – and then find that the words on the page simply don’t do justice to that idea. Writing can be hard work: authors crack under the strain of having to tweak a plot, write a good beginning, craft a lively scene of dialogue, learn about pacing and tension plus all the other things that go into a well-written story.
  3. The need to do something that would actually pay the bills. Traditionally, authors have been paid poorly and at long intervals. A writer might spend anything from several months to a year writing a book, take another six months to get the OK from a publisher, wait a further 6-12 months for the book to be published, and then collect (often quite sparse) royalties twice a year thereafter. The advance from a publisher on signing the contract was likely to be only the equivalent of a few months’ wages, if that.
  4. Some people want to write a book just so they can put their kids in it. Once they realise that ‘those short little books’ are a lot harder to write and get published than they anticipated, they give up on the idea.

There are, of course, other reasons for people giving up on their writing dream – but let’s revisit the four points above and see how Amazon (and other e-publishers and POD publishers – this site’s focus is on Amazon, though) have changed the ‘rules’ for everyone.

  1. The difficulty of beating the numbers and breaking in. This problem simply doesn’t exist anymore. If you want to publish your book, you can. Just spend some time learning the ins and outs of KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) and POD publishing at CreatSpace (hard copy) and you WILL have that finished book in your hands. (Or on your Kindle.)
  2. Writing a book is harder than it looks. This is still true. If you don’t like the process of writing, then you don’t. Maybe being an author is not for you. However, there is enough advice online to help you overcome most problems – articles, forums, blogs, e-courses, critique services, books and ebooks. You’re the only one who can decide whether you want to be a good writer, or just someone who has published because it’s now easy.
  3. The need to earn money. You can have your book up on Kindle and earning money very quickly – but will you earn enough to pay the bills? That depends on a number of factors: your writing skill, your ability to tell a good tale, the price of your book (higher is not necessarily better) and your social ‘reach’. Social networking helps to sell books – and that is something you can influence. There are now lots of courses that teach you all kinds of skills and techniques for writing Kindle books. Some are good; some are a waste of money. One really good one (I know because I signed up myself) is Geoff Shaw’s Kindling.
  4. Want to put your kids in a book? Just finish the book and it’s as good as done. Write your story, name the main characters after your kids (or grandkids) and their friends/relatives, then publish it. If you use Kindle, it costs nothing (except maybe the cost of an illustrator if it’s a picture book. You can provide your own or hire a professional artist – check out places like Fiverr.com to find illustrators at competitive prices, but make sure you check the approval rating.) If you use CreateSpace, for paper books, it will cost more – the amount depends on the kind of book. A chapter book can cost very little: you need pay only for one review copy, since CreateSpace is POD (Print On Demand). CreateSpace does offer all kinds of professional services, but you don’t have to use any of them. Do it all yourself, write a chapter book with no illustrations, and you’re publishing for peanuts.

It’s great news that you can now take your publishing future into your own hands. Just remember: your books are a reflection of you. People will judge the author by the quality of the finished product – so take care.

Royalties for Authors Who are Not US Citizens

Australian authors (and others who are not US citizens) may not realise that when they start publishing books on Kindle, Amazon will withhold 30% of their royalties for tax UNLESS:

  • they get an EIN (Employee Identification Number) from the IRS, and then
  • fill in form W-8BEN and send it to Amazon.

I have just been through this process, and was helped along the way by various posts on forums and on Kindle Boards about how to do it all successfully.

There is a post here that explains it all, and walks you through the process of filling in the form to send to Amazon once you have your EIN:

http://catherineryanhoward.com/2012/02/24/non-us-self-publisher-tax-issues-dont-need-to-be-taxing/

Do it as soon as you put your book up on Amazon.

(Authors from other countries may also find this information useful; it addresses all authors living in countries that have tax treaties with the USA.)