Tag Archives: Amazon

Amazon KDP: digital and print-on-demand

Whatever you think of Amazon, as a customer or as a seller, there’s no denying their power and influence. Kindle Direct Publishing is a force that would be foolish to ignore, though I resisted fully committing to them by only using their basic KDP programme, rather than the exclusive Select operation—which pays double the royalties—but is more restrictive of the writer.

As I’ve described in other threads, I was preparing to sign with Select this summer, when a publisher I’d queried asked for a full manuscript. I’ve delayed my plans to self-publish The Cornish Detective series, but have still formatted the books for digital and POD paperback release. More of that later.

This article from The Atlantic is well-researched and worth a read, as it shows how irresistible KDP is as a publisher. It used to be, that one of the supposed stumbling blocks with KDP was that a writer’s books wouldn’t appear in bookshops, other than Amazon’s own, and supermarkets and libraries, but that’s slowly changing.


There are best-selling authors on Amazon, who you’ve likely never heard of, who outsell household names and have become millionaires from their books. But, one household name, crime writer Dean Koontz recently signed a five-book deal with Thomas & Mercer, the Crime division of Amazon Publishing. A sign of changing attitudes, surely? If a best-selling author has gone over to what was once seen as the enemy of traditional publishing, then how long before others join him?

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I’ve decided to join Select with the 45 titles I’ve had on KDP and distributed to other vendors via Smashwords and Draft2Digital for the last six years. They are volumes of poetry and song lyrics, for adults and children, short stories and novellas. This will be as much an experiment to find how Select works, as it is a way of raising income from sales. KDP promote Select books, pretty much ignoring those on KDP.

All of my thinking since 2013 has been geared towards publishing eBooks. I wasn’t driven by seeing my book in printed physical form. But, if I’m going with Select, it makes sense to join their print-on-demand option. This used to be called CreateSpace, but now goes by KDP Print. The transition since 2018 has not been without its problems, as I found when attempting to format my Cornish Detective manuscripts.

I started doing this as an optimistic move, some light relief from attempting to recover access to my WordPress website, which was making me mad, so when I encountered resistance from KDP Print I swore a lot!

The pages describing how to edit your manuscript to conform with requirements about bleed, margins, headers, pagination, trim size, section breaks, front matter, end matter and lots of other things you hadn’t thought of, are helpful.


When I first looked at the templates they provide I was mightily impressed, for with a bit of tinkering, I could adjust blocks of text on the cover to suit and it’s easy to upload the image I designed for the eBook as a cover.


I was encouraged by several instruction videos on YouTube, including this one, which shows how your book could look:

(Cover Creator part from 2.11)

Easy peasy, right? I followed the instructions, replacing the Latin placeholder text with my author bio and blurb, clicking on Save to move to the next step. Except, it didn’t save, it disappeared! I tried several more times, usually getting strange colourful horizontal lines instead of text, though sometimes nothing happened at all. Don’t you just love it, when sites ignore you?

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Fed up with big companies that promise you the world but shove you in the ditch, I searched KDP help forums, finding that many others were also facing opposition from the templates. One user mentioned having success by switching from Chrome to another browser. I tried the template in Mozilla Firefox and it worked perfectly!

Despite this glitch, Amazon encourages a writer to produce the best-looking paperback possible, by an online preview service, and also, you can order proof copies.

Have any of you published your books on KDP, Select or POD?

How did you get on?

Too Big to Fail, Too Big to Police

I’m currently having my own crisis of conscience about doing business with an unscrupulous corporation, and this article on the Plagiarism Today website does little to reassure me:


In 2018, Jeff Bezos stated that his company would eventually fail:


His prediction struck me as wise in an Ozymandias way:

But, it neatly deflected attention from criticism that Amazon was expanding too fast and needed to be more tightly regulated owing to their absurd power over markets—it’s reckoned that 48% of all online sales in the USA in 2019 will be from Amazon.

If you’re crushing the opposition as a business, there may well be bargains for buyers, but there are detrimental knock-on effects. In Cornwall, where I live, I know of many high streets that are plagued with empty shop units, owing to a huge supermarket being built on the edge of town.

Amazon, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter have been criticized for plagiarism and promoting extreme, offensive and illegal viewpoints. Attempting to police what’s uploaded to their sites is difficult. The Plagiarism Today article mentions a figure of 3,000 hours of content being uploaded to YouTube every hour. Who’s going to watch such vast amounts of footage on social media sites to decide if it contravenes regulations?

The answer is low-paid workers who wind up with PTSD:



Such hideousness makes any concerns I have pale into insignificance, but as writers, we should still be watchful.

Really, there’s not a lot we can do to prevent someone ripping us off by plagiarising our books, certainly if it happens in a foreign language. I’ve previously mentioned how an author acquaintance was told by friends travelling in India and China that her MG stories had been counterfeited. One of her friends had designed the book covers, which she noticed on a market stall, the heads changed to have Asian features. They were also available on Amazon.

Although I’ve had profiles on most social media sites for a long time, I’m currently delving into the intricacies of how they work. Facebook bewilders me in many ways, for it operates in a slow and obstructive way, yet as a parasite trading on the insecurities of users who post content for free adding to Mark Zuckerberg’s wealth it’s a brilliant con trick—as well as being an intelligence agency that rivals the FBI, CIA and MI5.


I’m also in the process of building a business page on Facebook for my crime novels, which I’ve put in maintenance mode, so it’s not searchable. This state is agitating Facebook, who keep on reminding me to make it go live, as well as pushing me to buy ad space. It’s fun baiting them!

Whatever you do on social media, don’t overshare. A friend was burgled last year, after revealing she was going away for two weeks holiday. She’d previously posted many photos showing her house, its windows, its door locks, no nearby neighbours and no burglar alarm. She had contents insurance, but her insurers checked her Facebook presence and only offered a partial payout.

How much do you use YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon?

Has it been to your benefit as a person and as a writer?

Predatory Publishers

Not everyone in the world of writing and publishing is nice.

These two articles by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware highlight the dodgy tactics used by supposedly respectable publishers such as Simon & Schuster;



It goes to prove how unregulated the internet is, with corporations such as Google and Amazon happy to take money from unscrupulous traders without checking what it is they’re selling. Just think of the plagiarism scandal on Amazon books.


Triple check everyone you’re thinking of doing business with, before committing to a contract.

It’s a jungle out there—and, you’re the meat!

Barnes & Noble SOLD

Writing blogger Kristen Lamb recently posted a long article about the collapse and purchase of Barnes & Noble, which is worth a read if you’re confused about the current state of publishing and book selling.


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It’s worth reading the comments below the article from writers and B & N employees. One of them mentions James Daunt’s appalling attitude to his Waterstones employees’ wages, which is confirmed in this article:


To see him as a saviour riding in to rescue B & N and its staff, customers and the writers that create its product is laughable. He’s a wealthy man out to make money from what he can, one of the 1% who rule the world who favour the best-selling authors who make the most profit. We all know the phrase “It’s just business”—which is doublespeak for “I’ve behaved appallingly to get what I wanted and there’s nothing you can do about it”—book-selling and publishing are businesses…the most vulnerable will be oppressed. That includes authors.

A few random thoughts:

*I’ve always been surprised that Amazon didn’t swoop in to buy B & N, but perhaps they feared further anti-trust investigations.

Seeing as how they’re establishing a bricks and mortar presence, it’s possible they’ll buy some of the old B & N stores.

* Although many people who work in the book trade love books, be they book-sellers, editors, literary agents, book cover artists or publishers, this doesn’t necessarily translate into respect or recompense for the writers on whom the whole business depends. For any surveys that show there’s been an increase in readership, most of the public are indifferent to books and their creators. As an author, it sometimes feels like everyone is against you—even those who are supposed to be on your side.

Writers are the foundation stones of the book business. If we’re not treated properly the whole building will collapse. Imagine if a supermarket chain decided to only stock the 100 best-selling food products, not promoting anything new or unusual. They wouldn’t last long but might start to sell novelty items to bring more buyers in, maybe have a café, as B & N did. If you don’t believe in what you’re selling, why should anyone buy it? That holds true for the author, their agent, the publisher and then the book shop.

* At the moment, I’m at a crossroads with my writing career. After being with Smashwords for years, I recently transferred to Draft2Digital. I’m happy with their efficient operation, but feel like my Cornish Detective series might sell better on Amazon. Some authors have made millions from being on Amazon.

But, I resent their controlling ways. Effectively, they’re an intelligence agency gathering information on their traders and customers. This blog is available for whoever wants to read it, but I don’t know who’s got access to it. It doesn’t fill me confidence to know that Amazon is spying on me.

I’m loathe to go exclusive with them for my crime novels. As someone says in reply to Kristen Lamb’s article:

...some authors have figured out a sweet spot to milk a good living out of KDP Select. That’s fine, but having all their eggs in one basket could come back to bite them in a massive way if Amazon arbitrarily decides one day to change the payout structure.

I’ve had some experience of their forceful marketing tactics when they suggested I participate in bundling my titles with other low-selling writers’ eBooks, which would have yielded me about 10c profit for each sale! Books are like light bulbs or bars of soap to Amazon.

* Instead, I’ll be staying ‘wide’ for my book launch this summer. I believe in Ernst Schumacher’s Small Is Beautiful approach to economics and to living. I intend to market and publish at a manageable and personal level, going grassroots with my marketing, through local libraries, reading and writing groups, Cornish media, self-publishing my series via the D2D aggregator and also selling directly from my dedicated website.

Relying on faceless corporations and huge book store chains means I’d be giving away the tiny amount of power I have over my career. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t grab a publishing deal with one of the Big 5, as happened to James Oswald:



Image result for author james oswald

For now, though, I intend to self-publish in eBook format, not worrying about POD until it’s requested by readers.

Writing is a lonely task. Many of us yearn for the support and validation of signing with an agent, getting a traditional publishing contract or interacting with Amazon’s ‘experts’ to market our eBooks, but any of those can fail to provide what they’ve promised. Then what?

It would be lovely to see your novel on a book store shelf, but what if they don’t promote it all? What if the whole business fails? It happens, however big the company. Bosses stick their heads in the sand, pretending that all’s well. Even Jeff Bezos predicted that Amazon would fail one day:


Going it alone, I’m sure I’ll make mistakes, but they’ll be my mistakes—easy to correct—not impossible to negotiate with an algorithm on Amazon or whoever chooses what to stock in the revamped B & N.

(Me, selling my crime novels)

The Complete Guide to Ebook Distribution

Reedsy’s comprehensive guide to eBook distribution is worth reading if you’re considering self-publishing:


I detailed my own experiences of digital publishing in an old thread:


One thing that’s not mentioned in Reedsy’s otherwise excellent article is a drawback of ‘going wide’—that is, using an aggregator to distribute your books or doing it yourself, publishing to Apple, Kobo, etc one by one. Should you change your mind, deciding to sign to KDP Select, then Amazon will insist that you take all your titles off whatever sites they’re for sale, before they allow you onto their hallowed ground. In theory, this should happen when you unpublish them on Smashwords or D2D, but in reality, it can take months and many emails to vendors before that happens—meaning your books are in the twilight zone, off most sales venues, but not on KDP Select.

At the moment, I’m contemplating removing my books from D2D to go with KDP Select for my Cornish Detective series, which I think makes commercial sense, but looks like creating loads more frustration for me.

No one said it would be easy (but, why does it have to be so hard?)

Bestsellers—Gaming the System

After the dodgy dealings revealed in the Social Media & Book Deals post, I came across a dissection of how easily Amazon’s bestseller status can be achieved:


(Click on more to read the whole article)

Such duplicity is further proof that no one knows what the truth is these days. The meaning of words is altered so drastically, that sometimes they mean the opposite of their real definition.

Fake News as a phenomenon is depressing.

I agree with Abraham Lincoln!

Show Me the Money!—successful self-publishers

Anyone thinking of self-publishing should read an article in the Guardian book section;

‘Show me the money!’: the self-published authors being snapped up by Hollywood

One thing that Mark Dawson and Russell Blake share is how prolific they are. I thought that I was doing well to complete five novels in four years, a total word count of 480,000 words, but Dawson has written 23 books in four years! 

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Mark Dawson

Russell Blake

Curious about this, I had a quick look at these two authors’ work on Amazon, which allows one to access the first few pages. Initial impressions are that it’s action-driven, with little subtlety, very short chapters and the longest word appears to be Kalashnikov!

It’s certainly not literature, but few great works of literature are adapted into television series or movies.

I’m considering putting more work into the 45 titles I’ve already self-published on Amazon and Smashwords (and the vendors they distribute to), as querying literary agents is such a wearisome and time-consuming activity. I’m put off by the thought of having to schmooze through blogging, social media and my long dormant website. Such a campaign would be to generate interest in me as a writer, to launch my first novel.

I’d prefer to be writing new books—but if they ain’t selling, what’s the point?

The dreaded process of discoverability is a tough nut to crack, and it’s made easier if the writer is a marketing expert. Considering the amount of work Mark Dawson has done, it’s certain he employed advertising industry experts…he admits to spending hundreds of pounds on advertising, which is not something most of us can afford. Hit someone over the head enough times, and they soon get the message. It’s a truism in advertising that the more a product is promoted, the shoddier it is in quality—handmade and high-quality items don’t need promoting, as they sell themselves—how often do you see an advert for Rolls-Royce?

Newspapers are often irresponsible in the articles they feature, which make it look easy-peasy to achieve success through self-publishing. Like any human endeavour, it’s only a few people who win through. Suggesting that simply publishing your novel on Amazon Kindle Select will make you a millionaire, is as daft as saying taking up running will win you an Olympic gold medal!


Whoever said ‘Life isn’t a popularity contest’ didn’t know about ebooks!

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Using Pinterest as a Writer

Back in 2015, two years after I returned to creative writing, I instigated several measures aimed at raising my profile as a writer—hopefully, to sell more books.

I created profiles on Twitter, Quora, and Reddit and Pinterest and began a writer’s blog via WordPress and created a Facebook business page.

I had doubts about how successful such social media postings would be, for there are hundreds of thousands of people doing so, including many, many writers. I subscribed to the notifications of about twenty established and newbie authors, to see what they were saying. I swiftly became aware that many were struggling to fill the space, while there was an awful lot of repetition of publishing news. If someone was prepared to express an opinion, taking a stance with a sense of humour, I opened their newsletters with a sense of anticipation.

Pinterest is an entertaining site, with wonderful images pinned on ‘boards’, but I was bemused by how it could be used to help a writer publicise their books. I came across the suggestion of adding one’s blog address to each ‘pin’, as a way of tempting users into checking you out; to make the pins more interesting, I added information about the image.

I put up a dozen boards featuring things that interest me, including art, nature, trees and wise words, including one board of my own ebooks. These pins were intended to drive readers to my blog—which has since mysteriously disappeared!

I backed away from developing these various social media profiles, for various reasons, including reticence about wanting to promote me as a person (why couldn’t my writing do the talking?), ignorance of the process and irritation at the superficial level people communicate these days.

Recently, I’ve decided to return to self-publishing, so need to find ways of publicising my series of Cornish Detective novels. One interesting aspect of uploading ebooks to Smashwords and Amazon, that hooked my attention is the use of what are called ‘keywords’ as a shorthand way of describing the plot.

Thus, my first novel in the series, Who Kills A Nudist?, would have tags of Nudism/ Murder/ Cornwall/ BDSM/ Supercars/ Smuggling/ Human Trafficking/ Firearms/ Organised Crime/ Surfing

Such tags could also be used as the titles for boards on Pinterest, as discussed by Teagan Berry in these two articles here and here.

It makes sense to take advantage of people’s interests via the boards, for if someone is interested in surfing in Cornwall, and is not averse to reading about kinky sex and murder, then they might seek out my ebook.

Do any of you have a presence on Pinterest?

Have you used your boards to promote your books?

What do you think of it as an idea?

Of all the photographs I pinned on my Pinterest boards, this one has been the most repinned—which says something about people’s need for optimistic images:

Digital Publishers & Distribution

My first foray into digital self-publishing was in 2013-2014. I’d written a lot of poems and song lyrics and a dozen novellas and short stories, so finding the Smashwords book distribution site offered me a free way of getting my work out there.

Laughably, I first published in time for Christmas, thinking to make a few quid, totally ignorant of how crucial marketing and self-promotion are. Without making potential readers aware of who I am and what my books are about, uploading a manuscript started to feel like emptying a bucket of water into an ocean.

I learnt a lot about digital publishing from Smashwords‘ founder Mark Coker, and his style and marketing guides are free and worth a look.

I self-published the same titles on Amazon, using their basic KDP option, but resisted their Select option, which gives higher royalties, as it insists on exclusivity. This would have meant me taking down all of the 44 titles Smashwords had published and distributed to other booksellers. In theory, this is easy to do, but in practice, it can take weeks. I disliked Amazon‘s bossy attitude.

I’ve spent the last four years writing five crime novels, occasionally running querying campaigns of literary agents when I felt like being ignored or rejected!

In 2019, I’m dedicating myself to selling me as an author and my books as commercially viable products. I’ve queried 88 agents, but increasingly, I’m favouring a return to self-publishing. Whether I do this or if I luck into a publishing contract with a book company, I’m still going to have blog, tweet and post on social media to let the reading world know I exist. I’ve been singing away, wondering if anyone can hear me.

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As part of making myself look good, I reformatted the ebooks on Smashwords, adding hyperlinks from the Table of Contents to chapter headings, to ease navigation for Kindle users. I also tidied my biography and a self-interview. This is easily the most mind-numbing and repetitive task I’ve done in writing books, making editing feel like a walk in the park. With Smashwords, the changes have to be made individually for each book.  

It was partly the slowness of conforming to Smashwords style requirements, that helped me find another book distribution operator called Draft2Digital while searching for competitors.

This article compares Smashwords and Draft2Digital.

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There’s nothing to prevent me from having my ebooks distributed by Smashwords and Draft2Digital, keeping them on Amazon. The main drawback will be duplication, including with ISBNs, which Smashwords and Draft2Digital offer for free…Amazon doesn’t require themas they use their own ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number).

Apparently, there’s an easy way of migrating listings on Smashwords over to Draft2Digital, but this would feel disloyal to me.

What do you think of Draft2Digital?

Have any of you used them or Smashwords?

What has been your experience with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing?

Damned Statistics!

Mark Twain popularised the phrase: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

It’s never been truer than when referring to authors’ incomes. Some of you may have seen the doom & gloom report from the Authors Guild in America, which claims that author income fell 42% from 2009 to 2018.

One of the problems with this sort of report is that it’s seized on by the media and publicised without comment or appraisal. The veracity of any survey depends on who is asked for their opinion. Thankfully, Nate Hoffelder has got his head screwed on right, and in his excellent Digital Reader blog, points out the inaccuracies of the methodology used by the Authors Guild: read the Comments at the bottom, in which the AG’s Executive Director responds and Nate Hoffelder replies.

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Nate Hoffelder

If a survey is biased towards a certain age group or publishing method, then the results will be skewed. To add to the problems of getting an idea of what the real picture is with digital publishing vs traditional publishing, publishing a book on Amazon doesn’t require an ISBN and as they don’t report their sales figures, there’s no way of accurately knowing how many books are sold via the biggest book dealer in the world!

The only thing that’s certain, is that relying on book writing as a sole source of income is foolish. Even well-known authors who’ve won literary prizes need to work other jobs, often teaching university students about how to become a writer. The success stories of debut authors that the media like to print are wildly misleading, with mention of sixfigure advances, film options and three book deals.

There are very few modernday authors who’ve become millionaires. Perhaps it’s not surprising, though I still find it disturbing, that the wealth of authors closely reflects a society where 1% own 82% of the world’s money. 

In the UK 1% of writers account for onethird of book sales.

My own approach to having a writing career was that I knew I was going to be in for a long slog, as I had much to learn, so I resigned myself to no income for several years. I’ve made less than $50 in ebook sales since 2013. I could make more money panning for gold in Cornwall’s streams…the county is riddled with old mines.

Long-term ambitions for any writer can only come to fruition with hard work, perseverance and a large amount of good luck. I recently saw a quote from W. Somerset Maugham which sums up my desire:

It is not wealth one asks for, but just enough to preserve one’s dignity, to work unhampered, to be generous, frank and independent.