Amazon’s “Secret” Kindle Category Passwords

Being a self-published writer is never an easy thing, it requires you to be half-writer/half-marketer to succeed, and the ever changing self-publishing world is full of all sorts of little tricks and traps. The traps are mostly about people trying to take your money for “services” you may or may not need, and the tricks are all about getting your book seen by the largest number of people. (And thus improving your chances of people buying your books!)

It doesn’t help that Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform is itself a giant labyrinth filled with ever changing rules and channels. One recent change is to their “Refine By” sub-categories, which can make a big difference in how your books are shown and presented.

Normally, when you self-publish a book on KDP you get to pick two categories for that book to be in. Say, “Romance>Historical” and “Romance”, and your book would be cataloged under those two categories and subcategories. The problem is that each category already has a certain number of titles in it, arrayed by their ranking on the site as a whole and other factors Amazon doesn’t reveal. So, for example, Romance>Historical has 24,420 ebooks in it at the moment, and Romance itself has 194,408 ebooks.

Good luck getting anyone to notice your nice new book in those piles!

Now, to make things a bit easier on authors, you also get seven “keywords” (which can actually be more than one word) that you can pick to describe your book. Traditionally more keywords could be added later by readers as well, and Amazon would use your keywords and theirs to add your book to a few extra “Refined by” sub-categories that you could only get to by Amazon employees adding your book to them.

Say, for example- Romance>Military. It’s a sub-category that exists, but they had to manually add you to that list if they thought you belonged and you didn’t have any say about it. Being included in that list could also be huge, because instead of competing with 195,408 ebooks the Romance category, your book might now be one of 3,128 books moving up and down within Romance>Military group. This could really help up your odds of being noticed and your books being sold.

And now, Amazon has changed their system. Instead of them adding you, if you use certain keywords when you register your book they act as passwords that automatically get your books added to these select lists! For example, if I included any of the the words “military, navy, army, soldier” among my keywords when I added my book to the Romance category my book would automatically be added to the Romance>Military “Refined by” sub-category. You can find a complete list of the “passwords” and more details on the KDP Selecting Browse Categories page, which you can then use to more accurately get your books into the sub-categories you think they belong to.

These will get your books into the “Refine by” lists you can see under the main category lists when you’re Browsing on Amazon, and those are definitely places you want to be to reach the most eyeballs. I’ve seen “Refine by” lists that have as few as 1 or 2 books- I kid you not! Can you imagine what getting your book onto a list that small would do for your chances of being noticed?

Of course, this is all about gaming the system, and I feel a little guilty talking about it. But then again, Amazon isn’t really hiding this, so why not take advantage of it while it’s still an advantage?

Good luck!

Rob

 

Why Kindle Unlimited is Doomed to Fail

Amazon has just announced their new “Netflix for Books” called Kindle Unlimited. You pay US$9.95 a month and you can download and read all the content you want to your heart’s content. For readers it sounds like a great deal, but for writers it’s a mixed bag. Either way, it’s doomed to failure or at least in for a lot of hard times.

Why?

Well, the first thing you need to understand is that Kindle Unlimited (KU) is part of the Kindle Select program for writers. Kindle Select is a bundle of incentives that Amazon gives writers to publish their eBooks exclusively on Kindle. You promise to only have your book on Amazon for 90 days, and they give you a bunch of extra ways to promote your book and profit from it. One of the biggest parts of this is membership in the Kindle Lending Library, wherein members of Amazon Prime can “borrow” one book each month for “free”.

Actually, the reader doesn’t pay (beyond what they paid for Amazon Prime membership), but Amazon does pay the writer for each borrow. Amazon does this by having a giant monthly pool of money (say $1 million a month) which gets divided among the Kindle Lending Library authors based on the number of borrows they have. So if there was only one book borrowed from the Kindle Lending Library this month, that one author would get $1 million because it was only divided by one. Two authors having books borrowed would get $500,000 each, and so on, with the real numbers being in the hundreds of thousands of borrows and the actually profit per book likely less than $1 per borrow. (I’m pulling most of these numbers out of my butt, however you still get the idea of how it all works.)

However, Select has been actually less profitable and worthwhile for independent authors the longer it’s gone on, mostly because of the sheer number of people in it. So, Amazon is constantly trying to come up with new ways to incentivize authors to join Select, and one of these things is Kindle Unlimited. Basically, all Select books are now part of Kindle Unlimited, and a book “bought” by a KU user counts towards the Kindle Lending Library Pool of money, so in theory Kindle Select authors now how two great ways to access Amazon’s Monthly Money Pool and get a bigger slice of the pie. Which on the surface seems like a great incentive to join.

However, by linking the two programs to the same money pool, they may have just doomed both the Kindle Lending Library and Kindle Unlimited.

Let me explain.

With the Kindle Lending Library, each member could only get a limited number of “free” ebooks a month, so they chose carefully which ones they read. However, with Kindle Unlimited, you can read as many books as you want, and each of them counts towards a share of the money pie, and there’s no limit to the number of books an author can sell. This creates a huge problem for Kindle that I don’t think they saw coming.

For example. Let’s say I’ve got a book on the market that has 31 chapters. If I was a smart man, what I would do is take that 31 chapter book and divide it into 31 mini-books, which I would then put up on Kindle Unlimited as a “serial”. Then, I would go over to Fiver and pay a stranger who has a Kindle Unlimited account $5 to “read” and click through each of those 31 chapters. (Which might take them minutes, so totally worth $5.) They make $5, and I get 31 shares of the pie, which is likely more than $5 in value- at say 50 cents a read, that’s $15.50- triple my money! Even with my initial cost out, that’s $10.50 in profit.

Of course, I can take this even further. Say my book has 350 pages! Well, that’s 350 mini-books, and 350 shares of the money pie! Even at each share being worth 2 cents, that’s still a profit! Good times! And that’s just one Fiver person doing it, soon there will be dozens or hundreds of them offering this service, because they get $5 for 10 minutes work, or $30/hour doing this. (Or more!) I don’t even need real readers, or ratings or reviewers to make this scheme work! I can be doing this over and over, and making bigger and bigger profits as I do it.

So, while the people who enroll in Kindle Unlimited with their books are getting 1 share if they honestly enroll their book, I’m getting 31 (or 350) shares of that same pie. Which quickly means that it’s stupid for them not to do the same thing I’m doing, and in fact if they want to profit they have no choice but to start gaming the system and fighting for their slice of the pie just like me!

A few further thoughts:

  1. It will quickly become impossible to make a profit on it, so nobody will enroll their books there. No content means nobody will use Kindle Unlimited.
  2. Amazon could make KU invite only to stop this, but if they did so then it would defeat the whole incentive to get people to be part of Select.
  3. Amazon could set minimum lengths of books, but this is irrelevant since the point isn’t the content, but the number of “reads” a book gets, which is meaningless in this scheme. I can fill books with gibberish and still profit from them using this system.
  4. Amazon could ban “Fiver Readers”, but how to spot them? And they can just make new accounts and keep doing it again and again, whereas Amazon will quickly find their own resources limited. (Unless they employ armies of checkers, which gets expensive.)
  5. This will kill the Kindle Lending Library, because it means the share prices there will tumble down to nothingness.

So, as you can see, Kindle Unlimited isn’t just a race to the bottom for Authors, it’s actually a race to the bottom for Amazon. It’s too gameable to work, and by the time they figure out a solution, nobody will care.

Rob

 

Ascension- A Novel of the Twin Stars Is LIVE!!

Ascension Cover

My very first novel, based on the Parsec Award Nominated Podcast (which has had over a Quarter of a Million Listeners)  is now up and available for Amazon Kindle. Check it out!

The Fox’s Tale- Now Available on Kindle!

A disgraced musketeer without hope. An orphaned native child. A new frontier.

This collection of interconnected short stories follows fugitive Musketeer of the Black Gerard la Russo and his daughter Renard as they navigate life in New France (Canada) at the dawn of the 18th century.

Come get them while they’re hot!

I’ve released a Kindle version of my “Fox Cycle” stories under the title The Fox’s Tale for 99 cents (but free for Amazon Select customers). Funny, tragic, heartwarming and thrilling, these ten stories of a father and daughter trying to navigate life between old worlds and new will bring a smile to your face and a make your heart skip a few beats.

I apologize to my readers on other platforms, I’m going to hold out on the other e-book platforms for now, as I’m trying out Amazon Select to see if it makes a difference. It requires that I be Amazon exclusive while I’m trying it out. Sorry.

Rob

Amazon Purging Reviews?

I happened to wander over to Joe Konrath’s blog today and noticed the top story was about Amazon purging reviews. It seems in response to a recent cry by independent authors for Amazon to police their reviews, they’ve begun using a heavy-handed algorithm which hunts for reviews by people that might be linked to the author and removes them.

This is pretty disturbing, and it gets even worse, check out the blog article below for more details…

So I just emerged from my editing cave (my second draft of book 2 for the PERSEF0NE trilogy is done- whew) to some disturbing news. Digging through a backlog of emails, I came across a few from fans that were extremely troubling. Apparently these fans tried to submit reviews of my book on Amazon, and their reviews either a) never appeared, or b) were abruptly taken down.

via The Kill Zone: Et Tu, Amazon?.

How Much Should You Price Your E-Book?

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Fascinating discussion of eBook pricing:

Here’s the gist of the pricing issue as I understand it. Amazon pays you a royalty of 70% on all Kindle titles priced between $2.99 and $9.99. For e-books priced below $2.99 and above $9.99, Amazon pays a royalty of 35%.

 

That means, the least you can price your book to get the 70% royalty is $2.99, which will yield you a net royalty of $2.09 per sale. If you opt to price your book at $0.99, then you’ll get 35 cents per sale. In order to get $2.09 in royalties with a book priced at $0.99, you’ll have to sell 6 books.

via How Much Should You Price Your E-Book? | Book Marketing Strategies and Tips For Authors.

How to Use Tags to Help Sell Books or E-Books on Amazon by Nick Daws

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Article worth reading on Tagging:

It follows that getting your book tagged can be highly beneficial. Amazon has no objection to you, as the author, tagging your own book, as doing this helps people find your title and gives them a better idea what it is about. Here are a few tips for getting the most from tagging…

* Use your own name as a tag in all your books and e-books. This will make it easier for fans of your work to find other titles you have written.

* Use specific terms that relate to your book. If it’s a history of American motoring, for example, you could use tags such as Ford and Cadillac.

* With a novel, use the place where it is set as one of your tags. Many people like to read novels set in their home town or somewhere they know well. If you have multiple settings, naturally, use all of them.

via How to Use Tags to Help Sell Books or E-Books on Amazon by Nick Daws | Book Marketing Strategies and Tips For Authors.