5 Ways to Become a KDP Select All-Star

by Kristina Ludwig
Sep 18
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: September 18, 2014 at 11:44 am

A few days ago, I was blessed and humbled to receive an email proclaiming that I had been chosen as a KDP Select All-Star for the month of August. This is a brand-new incentive offered by Amazon “to reward the books that are most popular with our customers.” Amazon determines ‘most-read’ rankings by combining the number of books sold with the number of qualified borrows from Kindle Unlimited and the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. My book, Amish Baby, was ranked #95 on this list, so I will be receiving an All-Star bonus.

Want to be the writing equivalent of All-Stars Kobe and Lebron? Check out these tips below! ;)

Want to be the writing equivalent of basketball All-Stars Kobe and Lebron? Check out these tips below! ;) Image courtesy of 5thquartermag.com

This honor made me think of all the steps I’ve taken to reach “All-Star” status, and of course, I want to share them with you! So, here they are:

  1. Know Your Numbers – We’re well aware of how important it is to track the sales of our eBooks. By noticing which of our titles sell well and which don’t, we can determine the direction of future projects and tailor our marketing efforts. But now, there’s another reason as well–to land on the KDP Select All-Star list, there are certain sales quotas. I can’t tell you how many sales and borrows the #1 book on the list had, but I can tell you how many mine had. Amish Baby, the book that landed me on the list, sold  3,782 net units in August, and 853 units were borrowed under Kindle Unlimited. As Kindle Unlimited continues to gain popularity, I expect that we will need a higher number of borrows in the future to make this list. My estimate is 50% more for the month of September, based on the fact that the number of borrows is rapidly increasing. It will be interesting to note how the trends change over time–as Kindle Unlimited continues to pick up momentum, we may need less sales to land on the list, as long as the number of borrows balances it out.
  2. Choose non-DRM versus DRM – When you publish on Amazon, you’re always asked whether or not you want to “enable DRM.” DRM, or Digital Rights Management, is a feature designed to inhibit the unauthorized distribution of your book. Basically, it prevents your work from being shared with people who are not buying it. Amish Baby was the first of my books in which I chose the non-DRM option, since I’d heard that encouraging your work to be shared can actually increase sales. And I couldn’t have been more right. Amish Baby has been my best selling book so far.
  3. Try, Try Again - We’ve all heard this many times: It’s super rare to break out and be recognized on Amazon (or any other platform) with your first book. This means that, unless you’re an exceptional case, you’ll probably have to release many eBooks before Amazon will choose you as an All-Star. For example, Amish Baby was my fifteenth eBook!
  4. Have a Catchy Cover - I theorize that one of the reasons Amish Baby is selling so well is because of its cover. Before releasing the book, I did a split test with two different cover concepts, and the one I chose received the overwhelming majority of votes from my Facebook fans. Since readers really do judge a book by its cover, it pays to have a well-designed, appealing book cover.
  5. Use Your Free Days - KDP Select free days are an amazing way to jack up book sales. This is especially true when you have more than one book published on Amazon. I make it a point to schedule two KDP Select free days–and promote them heavily–every week. I have never offered Amish Baby for free, but sales of this book and my other books always increase on my KDP Select free days.

So there you have it, indie authors: 5 ways to become a KDP Select All-Star. I hope that these tips help you. If you landed on the list and have any additional feedback, please let me know. I always love comparing notes!

Woohoo! Thoughts About Amazon Pre-order for Indies

by Kristina Ludwig
Aug 19
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: August 19, 2014 at 11:06 am

Last week, Amazon nonchalantly revealed an amazing breakthrough for indie authors: Now, we can make our books available for pre-order! Here’s a blog post with some useful info about the change. I was psyched to hear about this, because in the past, pre-order status was reserved for authors with publishing companies behind them. Some indie authors also had the privilege, but I was never entirely sure how to go about setting up and/or applying to place my books on pre-order. It was all very enigmatic.

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Now, there is no mystery–indie authors can set up their books for pre-order up to 90 days before the book’s release. This allows us to generate buzz and gives our books the opportunity to rank before they’re ever released, thus leading to increased discoverability and greater sales.

The process sounds fairly straightforward, and is outlined by Amazon on their Kindle Direct Publishing page. The biggest thing to remember is that the final version of the book or a draft manuscript (completed, but not copy-edited or proofread) must be finished by the time an author submits his/her book for pre-order. I’m sure that Amazon instituted this requirement to ensure that the books will actually be available on their promised dates.

I am planning to set up my next book in the Amish Couples series (tentatively titled Amish Bakery Challenge) for pre-order as soon as I have my cover and description completed, and I will be sure to pass on everything I learn! Uncovering the profitability of this new feature will be an ongoing experience, since indie authors don’t receive their royalties for final sales until the book is actually released and the pre-order customers have downloaded their copies–fair enough. However, the jump in rank will be apparent right away, and I can’t wait to see how it impacts my author discoverability and ranking.

Indies out there, what are your opinions on the new Amazon pre-order feature? Has anyone tried it yet, and if so, what results did you see? I would love to hear about your experiences!

Kindle Unlimited and Indie Authors: A Mixed Bag

by Kristina Ludwig
Jul 18
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: July 18, 2014 at 12:28 pm

Earlier this week, Amazon leaked its intentions to start a new program called Kindle Unlimited, which they touted as a kind of Netflix for eBooks. Today, the program has launched. In case you don’t know all the details, the program is available for $9.99 per month to U.S. customers only, and over 600,000 eBooks and 2,000 audiobooks are available to subscribers. The cheap price, combined with the 30-day free trial, makes it a no-brainer for voracious readers. In fact, I just signed up today!

Kindle Unlimited: good or bad? I think that, like most things in life, it's probably a mixture of both.

Kindle Unlimited: good or bad? I think that, like most things in life, it’s probably a mixture of both.

It truly seems that Amazon has a monopoly on eBooks. Here’s an interesting blog post with more facts about Kindle Unlimited, as well as reflections on the monopoly.

But what does this mean for authors, especially indies? Any books enrolled in KDP Select are automatically enrolled in Kindle Unlimited. I checked my book listings for confirmation, and found that this had indeed gone into effect this morning. However, authors are not forced into Kindle Unlimited; we have the option of contacting Amazon to remove our book(s) from the listings. Many books from large, traditional publishers are not available on the service, so any authors who decide to yank their books out of the program would be in good company.

Naturally, one wonders how this will affect authors’ royalties and payments. Amazon does a decent job of answering the question, stating that, “Once a customer reads more than 10% of your book, or a Kindle Owners’ Lending Library customer downloads your book, you’ll receive a share of the KDP Select Global Fund.” This, of course, raises the question of exactly how much of this fluctuating global fund we’ll actually be paid, and I suppose that remains to be seen. Here’s an awesome blog post that describes the global fund, and even includes some mathematical calculations.

I am excited to experience Amazon’s new experiment firsthand, and am curious whether Amazon’s algorithm will recommend Kindle Unlimited books more often than others. Although author payment is still a weird, gray area, the increased exposure could be an amazing benefit of the service. I’m also wondering how the availability of the service will affect eBooks’ success in the KDP Select free days. Free days have been invaluable for my books, increasing my readership and driving up sales of my paid books, and I’m hoping that they will still remain lucrative.

Readers and indie authors, what do you think about Kindle Unlimited? I’d love to hear your opinions!

Business, Publishing, and Life Vlog Episode 2

by Kristina Ludwig
Mar 31
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: March 31, 2014 at 6:22 pm

This week has already been an exciting one. I was interviewed for the My Fire Point podcast, and will be sharing that with you as soon as it’s posted! This show is extremely motivational and fun, so I definitely recommend checking it out.

And, in keeping with my new Monday tradition, here’s the episode of BPL that Antonio and I filmed this weekend. We share 3 more tips in the fields of business, publishing, and life.

My publishing tip is about using free days on KDP Select, and I can’t tell you how valuable that has been for me. Here’s a blog post I wrote on the subject.

What do you think of BPL? Are you interested in being a guest? If so, feel free to comment below or email me at info@kristinaludwig.com. I’d love to hear your tips.

Valentine’s Day Books: Not Just for Kids

by Kristina Ludwig
Feb 14
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: February 14, 2014 at 9:47 am

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! V-day has always been one of my fave holidays. When I was little, I loved the heart-shaped cookies with shiny icing, conversation hearts, and valentine cards from my family and friends…and the beautiful cameo chocolate my dad brought home for me every year. As a teen, I adored the color scheme and overall sparkly, girly theme of the holiday, the surprise “love” notes and flowers from not-so-secret admirers, and, of course, the candy. V-day during my school years was always associated with a sugar high. And now, of course, V-day is the most special of holidays for my husband Antonio and me. What’s better than a celebration of love, after all?

Naturally, being such a V-day enthusiast, I searched Amazon for books related to the holiday, and most of the ones I found with direct Valentine’s Day themes were for children. However, in my opinion, Valentine’s Day books are not just for kids!

I have written about Valentine’s Day in two of my eight YA eBooks, which are read by teens and adults alike. My first-ever eBook, Unlucky 13, takes place over the course of a year in the life of thirteen year-old Jordyn, and has an entire chapter devoted to her Valentine’s Day hijinks. And as I wrote my Amish Hearts books, each of which are set in a different season, I decided that the best way to wrap up the series would be with a book taking place around Valentine’s Day.

First, I had to do some research about the Amish and Valentine’s Day. I wondered if, being relatively non-demonstrative people, they would celebrate a holiday of hugs and kisses. Luckily, there are a wealth of Amish blogs out there, and I found that Amish do celebrate the holiday, although differently than us Englischers. Here’s an interesting article about an ex-Amish woman’s recollections of V-day.

My research confirmed my first instincts about the Amish and V-day; they don’t go out for fancy dinners and movies, but they do have special Valentine’s Day treats (i.e. cookies, cakes), and their children exchange valentines and sweets in school. They also have many winter community activities, such as ice-skating and sled-riding parties, many of which are geared to teens on Rumspringa.

There, I had the foundation for Book 4 of Amish Hearts, Amish Valentine. It’s free today, 2/14/14! In it, sixteen year-old Mercy, an almost pathologically flirty Amish girl, decides she’s finally ready to settle down…with Samuel, the sweet, smart Amish boy she’s fallen in love with. The only problem: Samuel hasn’t forgiven her since he saw her kissing the English boy last fall, and he’s even starting to court another girl! With the help of her twin sister Rebekah, Mercy concocts a perfect plan  to get Samuel back in time for the Valentine’s Day sled riding party. But will her plan work? Will Mercy have the Amish Valentine of her dreams? If you love V-day as much as I do, be sure to check it out!

 

Amish Valentine is free Valentine's Day 2/14/14!

Amish Valentine is free Valentine’s Day 2/14/14!

The Beauty of Box Sets: 5 Reasons to Combine Your Series into a Box Set

by Kristina Ludwig
Jan 30
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: January 30, 2014 at 9:54 am

Yesterday, I released my first-ever box set on Amazon! It contains the first three novellas of the Amish Hearts series: Rumspringa Break, Amish Summer, and Mercy’s Fall.

Here's the book cover of the new Amish Hearts boxed set!

Here’s the book cover of the new Amish Hearts boxed set!

Naturally, before I released my box set, I did some market research–and couldn’t believe how many box sets are out there in the Amish fiction genre alone! Box sets might contain anywhere from three to 45 stories (in the case of the prolific Becca Fisher). Some are priced near $10.00, while others are only 99 cents.

In such a diverse market, it’s often difficult to decide how to price, design, and promote a box set, and I’m learning more about those things every day. I decided to price my box set at $2.99–low enough to be appealing but high enough to reap the rewards of the 70% royalty, and I’m using word-of-mouth (and social media) promotion during the launching period, much as I did for my other eBooks.

Why do authors like box sets so much? And why do readers love them? If you’re writing a series, should you jump on the bandwagon? Here are 5 reasons to combine your series into a box set.

  1. There’s more likelihood fans will read all the books in order - Many times, fans will read the eBooks of a series in no particular order, especially when they’re discovering a new author. But let’s face it: it’s always a better experience to read the books of a series in order, and box sets ensure that will happen.
  2. It’s one more product for your list of books - The best way for authors to build more fans is by putting out new material; your discoverability as an author will increase with each new book released.
  3. You can release a new revenue-generating book without actually writing new material - You’ve already done the hard stuff: written the books, had them edited, commissioned the covers. Creating a box set is quick, easy, and profitable. It’s really the only time an indie author can be lazy. :) That’s why everything from books to music to movies is available in box sets.
  4. It gets fans pumped for the next book of the series - If your fans read and liked the first books of your series in the box set, they’ll be hanging–and eagerly awaiting the next one. Or, if you’ve included your entire series as a box set, make sure to attach an excerpt from one of your other new books at the end. Reading is addictive, and you should always give your readers their fix.
  5. Fans see bundles as cost-effective - Fans like box sets for the same reason shoppers like BOGO deals or buying in bulk at Costco: they see them as economical!

So there you have it…5 reasons to combine your books into a box set. Authors out there, have you ever released a box set? How were the sales of your box set compared to the stand-alone books? Can you think of any other reasons to love box sets? As always, I welcome your feedback!

99 Cents Is the New $2.99: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of eBook Pricing

by Kristina Ludwig
Jan 27
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: January 27, 2014 at 10:22 am

eBooks have increased in popularity by leaps and bounds over the last few years. In fact, sales are up 4,456% since 2008! And why not? They’re accessible, they’re delivered instantly, there’s a wide variety to choose from…and they’re cheap.

KDP Select free days and Kindle Countdown Deals are the current trends on Amazon. Kindle Countdown Deals allow authors to discount their eBooks priced at $2.99 or higher for up to 7 days per 90 day KDP Select period. The book must be discounted by at least $1.00, and the minimum price with discount is $0.99. Authors like Kindle Countdown Deals because they continue to receive a 70% royalty on the books sold during this period — even if the books are priced lower than $2.99, the usual 70% royalty cutoff. And, of course, readers like Kindle Countdown Deals because they can get deep discounts on their favorite books.

cheap ebook

There’s a definite discount vibe that has pervaded the eBook industry in the past few years. When I published my first eBook in December 2011, most eBooks were priced at $2.99. However, in subsequent years, the hot price point has decreased to $0.99. Today, many full-length novels only cost $0.99 — in essence, 99 cents is the new $2.99. And with the advent of KDP Select free days, free eBooks have become so common that free is like the new 99 cents.

Free and cheap eBooks are awesome for readers. Low pricing allows them to take a chance on new authors or genres, and with the KDP Select free days, savvy consumers can download eBooks without ever paying a penny.

Many authors appreciate the concept of 99 cent and free eBooks as well. For new authors, low pricing is the perfect way to get their names out there and deliver their work into the hands of readers. When I first began publishing eBooks, I saw the 99 cent price point as my gateway; sell tons of cheap eBooks, and readers would be more likely to buy my later books priced at $2.99 or higher. But while it’s been relatively easy for my 99 cent books to rank in the top 10,000s on most days, I’m still working on cracking the $2.99 code.

Some authors, however, detest the cheapening of eBooks. Sometimes, I find myself falling into that camp. After all, writers are artists, crafting pictures with words. We spend weeks or months on our manuscripts, capturing the images and stories in our minds that just have to be told. We spend even more time honing those manuscripts, submitting them to editors, making changes, and doing the finishing touches. We hire cover designers, because people really do judge a book by its cover. We do keyword and SEO research to find the most discoverable category for our books. And then we promote the heck out of those books. I’ve said it before, and I’ll reiterate it here: indie authors aren’t just artists, they’re small business entrepreneurs. And the Walmart-esque standard of “everyday low prices” on our eBooks sometimes drives me crazy. No artist wants to feel like his or her art is cheapened.

What do you think about the trends in eBook pricing: good, bad, or ugly? I’d love to hear your opinions!

 

 

In Quest of Reviews: 5 Tips for Indie Authors

by Kristina Ludwig
Dec 9
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: December 9, 2013 at 10:08 am

You’ve written and published your ebook on Amazon and you’re ready to tear up whatever category your book fits into. Congrats! But after patting yourself on the back comes the fun part, searching for good reviewers for your book.

Reviews are necessary because not only do they provide useful feedback and social proof for potential readers, they also influence Amazon’s algorithm. If a book receives 12 or more positive reviews on Amazon, the algorithm will recommend it to dramatically more users. And 25 reviews is the real sweet spot. Receive that many and Amazon’s algorithm goes wild recommending your book!

Of course, you could bother family and friends for reviews…but, after all, they do have a life. And what if your book is about something they’re totally not interested in? Or what if you write multiple books? Recruit your friends to write reviews about every one of your books, and they’ll mysteriously start avoiding you…

Then, there are reviewers who read and post reviews on indie books. They’re all there in a database online for your perusal. Great, right? Not necessarily, when they’re so glutted with indie ebooks that some of them take months (or even a year! True story!) to review your book.

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Luckily, I’ve learned a lot about getting reviews, and I’m super excited to share some helpful hints with you! Here are 5 tips to get more reviews:

  1. Make friends with other authors in and out of your genre. Authors I’ve met at conferences as well as through various social media channels have agreed to review my ebooks.
  2. Join a book review group on Facebook. These groups are made of readers looking for new, fun reading material and indie writers looking for reviews of their work. Match made in heaven, right? Here are some of my faves: I Need Book Reviews, Review Seekers, Reviewers Roundup, and Julie’s Book Review.
  3. Recruit reviewers on your author website. These are your fans anyway — give them incentive to write reviews by hosting book giveaways and even a raffle for fans who write honest reviews.
  4. Join a book club. Check your local library or meetup.com for book clubs in your neighborhood. You’ll meet people who share your passion for reading, and will be only too happy to review your book.
  5. Post a link at the end of your ebook that says, “Did you enjoy this book? If so, please leave me a review on Amazon…” and give a link to the Amazon page. This reminder is a great call to action for readers, many of whom enjoy helping out indies.

What do you think? Have you tried these techniques before? What works for you? I’d love to hear your opinions.

Video Preview of New Book

by Kristina Ludwig
Oct 16
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: October 16, 2012 at 11:33 am

Hi everyone,

I’m excited about this short interview I did in San Diego, where I previewed my new book, and talked about its unique elements:

Hope you enjoyed watching it. Have a great day!