Shelfari Is No Longer An Option In Author Central

ShelfariI just got off the phone with a very nice representative over at Amazon’s Author Central. I wanted some help incorporating Shelfari into my Author Central profile like I’ve seen on many author’s Amazon pages. I did a little Google research on how to do it but found that the instructions were outdated or just play wrong.

When I called, even the associate wasn’t sure what happened to Shelfari. She had to run and check with someone else. Sure enough, Shelfari has been eliminated as an option for adding to your Amazon author page. When I asked if it was for a certain segment of books (ex. nonfiction vs. fiction), she said “No. All books.” Her words were she thinks that allowing the option “was more trouble than it was worth.”

I’ve heard that some authors abused Shelfari. I’m not sure how. Probably only promoting their own books and not actually sharing and recommending books written by other authors. When sharing good books was really the point. Shelfari was suppose to be a book sharing and social site like Goodreads; but alas Goodreads does it so much better.

So now that Amazon owns Goodreads, I wonder how they will incorporate it (or some of it’s features) into the Amazon book marketplace? It will be interesting to see how it unfolds and hopefully will be of some benefit to us indie authors.

What Are The Most Well-Read Cities In America?

top 20 well read cities

Amazon recently announced via its annual list the most well-read cities in America. This is the fifth year that Amazon has compiled this sort of information and they do it by gathering and analyzing sales data of books, magazines, and newspapers in both print and Kindle formats. This years data was compiled by looking at statistics between April 2014 and April 2015 in cities with more than 500,000 residents.

This year’s top 20 well-read cities are:

1. Seattle, Wash. 11. Charlotte, N.C.
2. Portland, Ore. 12. Baltimore, Md.
3. Las Vegas, Nev. 13. San Diego, Calif.
4. Tucson, Ariz. 14. Houston, Texas
5. Washington, D.C. 15. Indianapolis, Ind.
6. Austin, Texas 16. San Jose, Calif.
7. San Francisco, Calif. 17. Jacksonville, Fla.
8. Albuquerque, N.M. 18. San Antonio, Texas
9. Denver, Colo. 19. Nashville, Tenn.
10. Louisville, Ky. 20. Chicago, Ill.

 

There was also some interesting data that Amazon pulled when taking a look at the statistics. It’s not surprising that Seattle was the #1 city considering that is Amazon’s home base. They probably have a very strong and loyal buyer base in that city.

Another interesting tidbit was that Las Vegas was the #1 city for buying romance on Amazon.

California is that state that seems to be the most well-read because three cities represent the top 20 from that state: San Francisco, San Diego and San Jose. Maybe when the weather is great you tend to read more:)

One more interesting fact is that Washington, D.C. was the #1 consumer of print books.

Cool data huh?

 

How To Add An Author Page At Amazon For Your Pen Name

amazon

Author Central allows you to manage up to three Author Pages within a single account. If you write under your real name as well as a pseudonym (pen name), you can manage both Author Pages from the same Author Central account. Here’s how:

1. Log in to Author Central (https://authorcentral.amazon.com).
2. Click the “Books” tab located on the top of the page.
3. Click on the “Add more books” link that appears under “Are we missing a book?”
4. Search for books written by you via title, author, or ISBN.
5. Click “This is my book.”

Once Amazon verifies that you’re an author of the book selected, a second Author Page will be available for you to maintain.

*Please note that Author Central is separate and apart from KDP. You still have to manage all your books (for all your pen names) under one KDP account, one tax ID, etc.

Is Kindle Unlimited Good For Authors?

kindle unlimitedHave you heard about Amazon’s new book subscription service titled Kindle Unlimited? For $9.99 a month you can download and read Kindle ebooks and audio books to your heart’s content. Basically it’s like Netflix for readers and to me it’s a great deal for readers. The cost per month is basically the expense of two ebooks and if you are a voracious reader like myself, then it makes total sense.

But is Kindle Unlimited great for authors? Since the program just launched, I’m not going to make a rash judgement. I’m actually taking the wait and see approach and watch my sales reports and see if I notice any significant difference. Indie Authors enrolled in Kindle Unlimited will make a flat fee of $2 for every read of their book. Readers need to read at least 10% of the book in order for the read to “count” as a borrow. While traditional authors are included in Kindle Unlimited without restriction, I’m pretty sure that Indie Authors have to be enrolled in KDP select in order to take advantage of the program. That’s why I’m testing the program out with only one of my titles.

I really like what author Hugh Howey had to say about the program and his early observations:

Amazon can’t twitch without indies taking notice. For a brief period yesterday morning, a landing page for a new Amazon streaming service appeared online. A thread at KBoards exploded with the news (are the KBoard forums the best watchdog, author community, and training center all rolled into one, or what?), and then Engadget, Time, and others followed with coverage of their own.

Author and all-around awesome dude Jan Strnad wrote up one of the first detailed opinion pieces about the service, and I share some of his concerns. Subscription services have been rough on musicians. Will they be rough on authors? It’s too soon to tell, but there are a couple ways that books are fundamentally different than music, and perhaps reasons to be cautiously optimistic.

The biggest difference between books and tunes is the time investment. You spend hours, days, even weeks with a good book. You can stream hundreds of tunes in the same amount of time. So hopefully the revenue stream to authors won’t be as diluted as it is for musicians. It also sounds like Amazon has increased the funding for the borrow pool, and I’m guessing profit from the $9.99 monthly fee will go toward funding this program as well, so if they can keep the rate-per-read at $2 or get it higher, this could be a great source of revenue for authors.

Another way that this could be good is the same way that piracy can be good: Exposure. I’m reading a great book right now that my mom handed to me after she read it. Do authors freak out over this common occurrence? I don’t. I want to be read. I hope people pass my books along. The new and shiny aspects of anything will scare some and excite others, and that’s normal. In the last day, I’ve heard from some indie authors a lot smarter than me that we’re about to see our income go up. I’ve also heard from some indie authors a lot smarter than me that this is the end of the world. In a few months or a year, we’ll have a better grasp on how this will play out.

To read the rest of Hugh’s article click here.

What do you think about Amazon’s new book lending program, Kindle Unlimited? Are you in or are you out?

What Is Digital Rights Management (DRM) And Should I Use It?

Very interesting stuff is going on in the digital media world right now. Right around the same time a new report over on Author Earnings came out which included information on DRM, my husband (music producer) received a letter in the mail from his distribution company about DRM for his work. Everybody is talking about digital rights management.

It’s a super hot topic, so what is it?

Digital Rights Management, or DRM, is the encryption lock applied to electronic entertainment. The film, music, video game, and book industries all employ DRM. Unfortunately it is not very difficult for a book thief to crack the DRM lock on an ebook but DRM is a pain in the butt for the customer. It prevents them from moving their book across devices which then forces them to read through one channel.

Okay, so what’s the big deal?

Well actually it’s a very big deal and the people over at Author Earnings did a little digging and statistical research to prove it. When DRM is employed on an ebook, stats show that it affects sales and not in the good way.

When you publish a book over on Amazon’s KDP you may remember that there is a little section asking whether or not you want to employ DRM to your book. It also tells you that once you say “yes” that it is a final decision. When I first started publishing, I had no idea what DRM was and so I did a little digging in my community and discovered that it wasn’t something that I needed to participate in so I didn’t. In fact only 50% of indie authors use DRM, but basically 100% of Big 5 authors do. So the research over on Author Earnings was to discover whether or not there was any difference in revenue based on DRM and so do that they had to look at indie authors.

What they discovered was incredible…50% of non-DRM ebooks accounted for 64% of total unit sales. Indie titles without DRM sell twice as many copies each, on average, as those with DRM.

drm-author-earnings-by-price

The data suggests that employing DRM at any price point is detrimental to sales. Which makes total sense, because that’s what my husband’s letter basically said. DRM had affected music sales and removing copy protection increases music sales. So they wanted to reassure him that that’s what they were doing to all of his records.

Takeaway: When you get to that little section in KDP or Barnes and Noble or wherever else you publish your books, do NOT check the box giving your title DRM rights. It’s not worth it.

To read the entire report including this data on DRM, click here.

Amazon + Twitter = AmazonCart

amazoncart

Did you know that many authors love Twitter and many have a pretty large following on Twitter? Well Amazon has recently introduced a new feature called #AmazonCart which hopes to help authors (as well as other Amazon vendors) profit a bit more easily from their relationships on Twitter.

The point of AmazonCart is to help authors grow sales when they tweet about their books on Twitter.  Customers can add products they see on Twitter to their Amazon.com Shopping Carts without leaving Twitter.

Now, when you send a tweet that includes an Amazon.com product link (such as to your latest book), Twitter users who have connected their accounts to Amazon will be able to add the product directly to their Amazon.com Shopping Carts simply by replying to the tweet and adding “#AmazonCart.”

They will then receive a reply tweet and an email confirming the Cart add, and they can complete checkout on Amazon.com at their convenience.

Hopefully you may begin to see replies containing “#AmazonCart” to your tweets with Amazon.com product links. These replies can also give us a good idea of which followers are engaging with our tweets.

While all social media should be used first and foremost to build relationships with potential readers, it’s nice to see a feature like this which requires less work on the reader’s part to purchase our books on Amazon. Only time will tell if it “catches on” with readers.

What do you think about the new AmazonCart feature? Brilliant or a bust?

For more information about the feature, visit www.amazon.com/AmazonCart.

Amazon Lifts Payment Threshold Amount For EFT Users

If you currently publish on the Amazon ecosystem (as I fondly call it) and you use Electronic Funds Transfers (EFTs) to receive your royalties, then you probably have noticed that you’re seeing money deposited in your bank account on a more frequent basis. To which I say…YIPPEEE! I’m ecstatic, but some authors – not so much. This is because depending on the market your selling in and/or what you’ve asked for, Amazon may pay you via EFT, Wire Transfer or check.

Wire transfers a.k.a. bank wires typically cost the sender money($10USD or more), yet sometimes the receiver’s bank will charge them a fee for receiving a bank wire as well. WHY? Well that’s a question for your bank, but they typically charge and that’s when this threshhold lift thing gets tricky. (At least that’s what I’ve heard.)

I only get EFT payments from Amazon and I’m never charged a fee from my bank, so it works well for me. But some markets (foreign markets) may charge you for transferring funds, so you may want to check your KDP and CreateSpace account settings to see how each market is paying you. It may not be cost effective for you to receive your foreign income on a regular basis electronically if your bank charges you for each deposit.

That’s why I’ve set the main site (Amazon.com) as well as the Japanese site to pay me via EFT, but most of my foreign markets are set to pay me by “check” only. So I’ll have to wait to hit the threshold in those markets before I get paid, which is fine by me.

KDP payment options

 

The moral of this story – check your settings:)

 

How To Write A Book Review

book reviewWhen I worked on the editorial desk for The New York Times (Washington Bureau), I was living in Washington D.C. at the time and the cost of living was pretty high. I needed another gig and was blessed with the opportunity to freelance as a book reviewer for Publisher’s Weekly. I didn’t realize it back then because I was too young and dumb, but every time I sat down to write a review for a book, I had an author’s livelihood in my hands. I was just one person who was going to write a review for an author’s book in a publication that lots of people paid attention to and respected. And let’s not forget that I was getting paid to do this. Now that I look back on it, it was too much power for one person to wield.

Now that I’m older and the landscape of the publishing industry has dramatically changed,  the “readers” are the ones who collectively wield the power. Sure we may all still read reviews in Publisher’s Weekly or The New York Times, but what really helps us make a decision about a book are the book reviews written by “real people” that you find on places like Amazon and Goodreads. That’s where a book review really matters.

I started writing book reviews online sheerly as a gut reaction to finishing a book that I either loved or hated. What I didn’t really anticipate was the fact that authors would start approaching me and asking me to review their books. I’m not even an Amazon top reviewer or someone in Amazon Vine, but I get approached by authors pretty often. As an author myself, I depend on book reviews, good and bad to tell me if I’m getting it right or if I missed the mark. So I believe it’s good “book karma” for me to write a book review, when I’ve read an especially good book. I just always want to make sure that it’s useful for the reader…

How To Write A Book Review That Is Genuine And That Readers Find Useful

1. I typically write my book reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, because I think they are the 2 most relevant spaces for book reviews.

2. I DON’T write book synopses in my book reviews. I find it irritating when a reviewer feels the need to retell the entire plot, and it obviously spoils it for people who are actually reading the review to determine if they want to read the book.

3. I don’t write reviews that contain SPOILER ALERTS. You actually see this a lot on Amazon. In my opinion, if you were so moved by some part of the plot then go talk about in an online forum, Facebook group, etc. Just adding the words “spoiler alerts” to your review is not going to make up for the fact that you have probably just ruined the element of surprise or suspense for someone who has not yet read the book.

4. When writing a positive review, I make sure to include the “why” I liked the book. The reasons why you may have liked a particular book may resonate with someone else who’s on the fence about the book.

5. The ideal length for a book review is between 75-500 words. No one wants to read just a two word “Great Book!” review and no one wants to read a long dissertation either.

6. Because I am an author, I typically do not write bad book reviews. If I didn’t like the book, I don’t write anything at all about it, because I’m not going to make a lot of author friends that way:) and plus I think it’s bad book karma. BUT having said that, I do think it’s important to be genuine when writing a review. If there is something that you didn’t like about a book, then write “WHY” you didn’t like it. Be specific. Be honest. And remember that this is someone’s “baby” so write your words carefully.

7. If you are given a free book to review, it’s essential that you fully disclose the fact that you “received a free book in exchange for an honest review”.

8. The easiest way to write a book review in record time is to write the review in the same way you speak. This means in a conversational tone. Pretend you are talking about the book with a friend, what would you say to convince them to read or not bother reading the book?

What now? Get some practice in by going to Amazon or Goodreads and writing a book review on the last book you read.