15 Ways Amazon Can Improve Kindle Direct Publishing

kindle-direct-publishingAt the London Book Fair in April, I had the opportunity to meet representatives from Amazon and present a list of feature requests and complaints (from the comments of this post with an assist from KBoards).

I spent quite a bit of time going through the list and felt that everything got a fair hearing.

Amazon said that a lot of this stuff is in the pipeline in one form or another (although judgement will have to be reserved until we see how it’s implemented) and the rest of the issues and feature requests would be passed along to the relevant department.

This isn’t the full list I presented, but it’s the issues I’d like to focus on today:

1. More Data!

I appreciate that lots of stuff is proprietary and that there might be privacy concerns surrounding what can be shared, but KDP could at least share conversion rates.

I get limited data through my affiliate account, but that’s only part of the picture, and only really tells me what happens to the traffic I bring to the site. I can only guess at the behavior of readers who discover my books themselves on Amazon – and that’s what I really want to know.

Amazon might not want to share traffic numbers, but I would love conversion percentages, sample percentages, and conversion data on those samplers etc.

2. Coupons

Smashwords and Apple both have a coupon system and it’s a handy way to give a free copies to readers, reviewers and competition winners. Amazon only allows me to gift a copy at full price, and many readers don’t know how to sideload books if I send them a mobi.

3. Full Territorial Pricing

At the moment we can set different prices in each country, but only within certain restrictions. If I opt for the 70% royalty rate in the US, which requires me to price between $2.99 and $9.99, I can’t price below the equivalent of $2.99 in any territory.

I would like the freedom to run a lower price elsewhere, as the sweet spot which maximizes revenue is often lower in developing markets. It would be great if I could opt for the 70% rate in some markets and not in others (I can do this on Kobo). It would be fantastic if I could change prices without having to go through the publishing process again.

4. Categories

The category system is central to discoverability, visibilty, and marketing (if you want more detail on that read this excerpt from Let’s Get Visible).

There are so many issues with the category system it could fill a post of its own, but I’ll run through the main ones quickly:

(a) We need lots more sub-categories. Amazon recently added new granular sub-categories in some genres, but others were completely untouched. It’s great that SF now has 20 sub-categories. It makes it easier for readers to find the kind of books they like among the 50,000 or so SF e-books on Amazon. And it makes it much easier for SF writers to be discovered and gain visibility in those smaller categories. On the other hand you have genres like Historical Fiction, which has 25,000 books and no sub-categories. I appreciate that it’s tough to divide up some categories – coming up with sub-categories for Literary Fiction is fun! – but there are so many options with Historical Fiction. If you need an example, Barnes & Noble have 20 sub-categories.

(b) New categories are great, but we can’t select many of them when uploading. The new additions aren’t selectable from the interface, and many old choices are similarly blocked since the redesign. This is a terrible idea and it’s creating work for your customer service team, who have to manually deal with authors’ requests. The only other way to get into these new sub-categories is to use the title as a keyword (which doesn’t always work either). All these sub-categories should be selectable from the KDP interface. There’s no good reason why they shouldn’t be.

(c) For the love of all things holy, please tell your customer service representatives that these new sub-categories are not like Kindle Singles and Kindle Serials and aren’t reserved for hand-picked titles. Self-publishers are having to go through five or six emails before they get a rep who actually understands this. It’s very frustrating and so easily fixed.

5. Customer Service

There are many things I love about KDP, but the customer service isn’t one of them. Reps often seem to scan the email until they get to the first issue, enter a canned response, and ignore the rest of the email. Subsequent reps don’t seem to review the previous messages on the thread, and repeat the same unhelpful response. By contrast, the Author Central customer service team is superb. The KDP guys could learn a lot from them.

6. Payment

KDP has expanded electronic payments to lots more countries, which is a welcome development, but there are still many authors in places like Australia who can only be paid by check. I don’t think American companies fully understand how much checks are verboeten in certain parts of the world. They are being completely phased out in Europe, for example, and my bank no longer accepts checks of any kind. Those that do accept checks can charge horrendous fees.

7. Pre-orders

Lots of self-publishers want them, not least because books with a pre-order page are eligible for Hot New Releases straight from upload. It seems a little unfair that we are competing against titles from large publishers which have this facility. I personally wouldn’t use this feature as I don’t want to dilute crucial launch week sales, but it’s one of the most commonly requested features and should be mentioned.

8. Removing Books

Amazon occasionally sends out emails warning that books will be removed from sale because of potential copyright issues, breaches of the Terms of Service, formatting errors, or typos. But the automated system doesn’t work very well.

A few months back, I received a notice asking me to confirm that I was the copyright holder for Let’s Get Digital (presumably because it has contributions from multiple authors). I only had a few days to respond or my book would be removed from sale, so I replied right away with the necessary information. During this period, I was unable to change the price of my book as it was frozen in KDP. That cost me a few hundred dollars, as I couldn’t raise the price after a sale, but what if I had been on vacation? What if I was unable to check email for a few days?

Other authors have struggled to convince customer service representatives that objet d’art isn’t a typo, or that certain latitude should apply with how dialogue is written, and the general issues with customer service (noted above) are compounding the problem.

It’s particularly frustrating to see this crackdown on non-issues when egregious breaches of the Terms of Service seem to go unchecked for months. I reported an unauthorized paperback edition of Let’s Get Digital last year. That was removed very quickly, but this “publisher” had over 100,000 similar titles that weren’t removed for months.

On a related note, your automated process for identifying reviews that breach the Terms of Service is deleting a lot of genuine reviews, and customer service are very unhelpful on this front. I get that you need to do something to combat purchased reviews and sockpuppets, but the system isn’t working.

9. Improve Reporting

The reporting system isn’t bad but there’s a lot of room for improvement. Createspace has a much better system. I can run reports on any date range and get a breakdown of what sold where.

On KDP, I have to check 9 different pages and it will only show me totals of what each title has sold this month and last month. It doesn’t even add the totals in each country (let alone the overall total), which should be simple to automate. And the 6-weekly reports are kind of pointless. I can see if income is trending up or down, but they don’t match up with the rest of the KDP reports because they are weekly rather than monthly.

10. Short stories

The digital revolution has led to a revival of shorter forms that were previously uneconomical to publish. However, KDP’s royalty structure penalizes short story writers who wish to sell their stories individually. Authors earn 35% (rather than 70%) on works priced less than $2.99. I can understand why Amazon want to encourage higher pricing of full length-work, but surely some system of identifying shorter work and giving the full 70% could be implemented.

It could even be done as part of the category system. Have a Short Stories sub-category in each genre and sub-genre, run a check on the length (which the system already does), and pay 70% on sales below $2.99 for titles with that category. I would also suggest the freedom to price such titles as low as $0.49. Short stories could be flagged to the reader on the product page, setting appropriate expectations as to form and content.

While we’re on short stories, it would be great if you could address the lack of fiction being selected for Kindle Singles. I love the program, but the slate leans very heavily towards narrative non-fiction. I would love to see short fiction get a little more love – particularly genre stuff.

11. International Surcharge

With each new Kindle Store that opens, more and more countries fall out of the surcharge zone (where most books get slapped with a $2 Amazon charge to cover Whispernet). But the charge still exists, and it’s still dumb.

12. Fix Author Email Notification

Amazon recently launched an email notification service on author pages. It’s a great idea but it doesn’t work. I’m signed up to several authors and haven’t received one single email. I know that Ed Robertson has published at least three titles since I signed up to be notified about his new releases, and… nothing.

Fix it, or get rid of it. (Authors: yet another reason why it’s really important to have your own mailing list.)

13. Allow Bundling

Bundled content has become hugely popular with Amazon customers – as  any series writer who has released a box set will attest. The current workaround of manually bundling books together in one big e-book file is pretty inelegant (and a killer on delivery fees, which are exorbitant btw). It would be great if we could offer bundles of our content automatically.

Like short stories, these could be done via the category system, with a sub-category for Bundles or Box Sets in each genre and sub-genre. Again, more pricing freedom would be good here, but in this case the freedom to go above $9.99 and retain 70%.

14. Boost Select

I’ll keep this brief because it should be obvious. The post-free bounce is not what it used to be, and seems to be getting worse. Borrows tend to cluster around titles already doing well. I know lots of authors who had great success with KDP Select who have now left the program (with no plans to return). Select needs something… quickly.

15. Scheduled Discounts

One popular move would be to facilitate limited-time discounts. KDP could allow 5 days out of each 90 where your book is reduced to 99c with a nice red slash through the list price, showing the customer the savings. Authors could schedule their promotions in KDP, like they do with free days, and wouldn’t have to worry about price changes happening in time for an ad spot.

(Note: I’m not suggesting this replace our current ability to adjust price whenever we like, but as something in addition to that.)

KDP could even curate the day’s deals on a special page, broken down by categories. This would be immensely popular with readers. Amazon might worry this could cannibalize their own deal offerings (such as the Kindle Daily Deals and promos like the 100 for less than $3.99 etc.), but the massive growth of sites like BookBub proves that this area is currently under-served.

* * *

I’d like to return to this list in a few months and see what progress has been made. I’d also like to make it a regular thing and see if we can have an open channel to communicate our needs.

If you have any issues or feature requests you would like to have raised, please note them in the comments. Problems with suggested solutions are best of all.

Amazon was very appreciative of the feedback and asked me to pass along their thanks to you. So… thank you.

And I’d like to thank everyone here for helping spread the word about Let’s Get Visible. The launch went perfectly and I’ve already shifted 1600 copies of the newbie, giving me a record month of 3600 sales!

David Gaughran

David Gaughran

Born in Ireland, he now lives in a little fishing village in Portugal, although this hasn’t increased the time spent outside. He writes novels under another name, has helped thousands of authors build a readership with his books, blogs, workshops, and courses, and has created marketing campaigns for some of the biggest self-publishers on the planet. Friend to all dogs.

132 Replies to “15 Ways Amazon Can Improve Kindle Direct Publishing”

  1. Hi David, I know this is an old thread now but I just wanted to thank you as I’m on the verge of KDP publishing for the first time and it feels quite scary to me. However, I’ve been coming back to this site for loads of info and it’s really helping. Keep doing what you do; I’m grateful for being able to take your virtual hand through the minefield. 🙂

  2. We don’t need subcategories, we need an Author list and their Genres with a link to those books. Yes, I know there are an astounding number of authors on Amazon, but there are an even more astounding number of books in stacks of 12. Not only that, Amazon has started selling books and other products together, which means when somebody logs on to your book, they will find themselves looking at an offer of a pair of sports shoes, and a baby’s pram as well. F***ing stupid, amateurish, hopeless morons, the lot of them.

    1. Lots of it. Post coming soon (packing and moving atm). I presume you’ve seen the new Select features and the new category options (check one of my last posts for the latter). There’s lots more good news too – once I get back online!

  3. Great post, and great suggestions, thank you. I’ve just tweeted the link to this post to the Kindle Team….. Here’s hoping they take notice. Payment reports in particular are very confusing. Having only started using KDP a few months ago, all I want is a clear understanding of what I am owed and when, so that I can make sure that royalty payments are coming through as they should be. I agree totally, all the spreadsheets and breakdowns only serve to confuse!

  4. Excellent list! I agree with all of these and hope amazon reads this because it would make the program so much better.

  5. Another point worth debate is the thorny issue of amateur reviews. Personally, I have scored 90% 4-5 star reviews, but what I hate is the very occasional 1-2 star drive-by review. Like most authors, I work very hard at my writing, and there is nothing worse than receiving a bitter and unwarranted, vitriolic attack by someone who normally could use a few lessons in grammar, punctuation and spelling. I’d at least like to have the option to opt-out of reviews altogether, as Amazon won’t remove these nasty, myopic attacks.

    1. I’ve had the same, David. It’s the territory. I had ‘I remembered the horrors for days’. Could that be because it’s a horror novel? If the review is a troll attack, believe in your writing, laugh and move on. If not, analyse and see if the criticism is useful. Otherwise, never read the reviews.

  6. You have made some great comments here, I think we all realise that Amazon is a huge organisation and to a large extent a law unto themselves. But they still need to take care of the little guys, because they are where most of their products comes from; at least this demonstrates they do occasionally listen.

  7. Interesting list of changes which would have been made a long time ago if Amazon really gave a damn. I published on Amazon years ago, but in 2012 I finally pulled off all my titles and closed my account because “sales” fell off dramatically during a series of “glitches” which basically buried them in the bog. There were no excuses given, and another author actually tried to steal the rights to one of my short stories. He is an example of trolling past the red line. No, you won’t find me there, and I am not going to enable a power addict. The canned responses from an Indian CS center would only be worse if you expected a phone call. They will simply tell you the same thing they would in an email. As for sales reporting, their Excel spreadsheet is from the last century. There is no accurate reporting, and any questions about sales data are ignored. Finally, Amazon (and KDP) treat the content as their property, not yours, and they decide what gets sold, when and for how much. I do not work with bullies, so it’s Amazon’s loss. It will get worse when the DoJ is finished with Apple and finally bows to pressure to look at Amazon for its predatory practices. Not planning to be a rat on the Titanic. Thank you.

  8. Excellent post as always. Heavens, that’s a huge thread to read for you and I’m adding to it! With a question: I noticed that WOOL Part One is permanently offered free. How did Hugh Howey manage that? I’ve asked KDP and so far got no answer, just the “canned” one about 5 free days every 90 days as if I didn’t know about that!!

  9. Awesome! And, great work with ‘Lets Get Visible’…I really enjoyed the inside info on the ratings systems. #5 is dead on…they don’t read our emails – maybe they are bots!
    Also #9 is my pet peeve – the reporting is so minimalist, improvements here would be a big win for all involved. Maybe a wiki could be started by someone to create feature requests for them, and then they could be voted on/refined by participants. Then KDP product managers could have a unified source to see what upgrades would be the most popular and urgent?
    Rock on David!

  10. Great list, David. I definitely agree with no. 1 (!), also 5 and 9.
    I’d like to add a point to no. 4: the choice of categories in translated versions could improve considerably. I’m based in Germany, writing my novels in German. I do appreciate that the KDP interface is available in German; however, there are additional issues with that. There are categories that you can select but that do not exist in the German Kindle store (some of them do in the US store though). On the other hand, there are categories in the German store that are not available for selection in KDP at all (one example: in German there is no category “contemporary fiction” that you could select in KDP). Other categories are so differently labelled that you have to do trial and error with some imagination to find the name of your desired category in KDP. It would be great to have categories accurately translated and consistent as yoru choice appears across all Amazon stores.
    Customer service has each time implemented manual categorization that I asked for my ebooks when I gave them the exact path. However, it would save us time (emailing them) and them costly employee time (doing this manually) if they would adjust the categories in KDP with the stores.

    Thanks David for the list and for taking this to Amazon. Let’s hope that them taking the time to listen to you will result in desired changes for all of us.

  11. Great list David – for me customer service would be a priority. And data. And acting as a joined up company rather than different author sites n different countries… I could go on but fear my list may get as long as yours! In general though I hugely appreciate the opportunities we have to publish through kdp as independent authors. Go Amazon!

  12. Implement Autography (www.autography.com) and allow authors to promote and sign eBooks. Online book tours, Shindig, Utstream, Google Hangouts etc. are excellent promotional tools and when combined with an eBook signing create an instant author-reader connection. For each signed eBook recipient the author receives an email address and the opportunity to build his/her brand and connect with the reader. See this recent signing by HarperCollins autho Stephanie Laurens to see the process. http://dl.dropbox.com/u/32641745/StephanieSigning2.mp4

    Great article.
    Garry Martin

  13. I actually agree with each of these. KDP had a lot of room for improvement that would help us as well as them. But you missed a couple:

    Lose the filtering. Yeah, yeah, I know it only effects “dirty” erotica stories but its behind the scenes and arbitrary. If Amazon is so concerned about serving up adult content, when do sex toys show up in general searches? A user filter with all adult content defaulted to NOT show up in general searches but the user can override if the chose. Just like Google, Yahoo, Bing, Ebay, etc. And then be honest about it instead of the clandestine filtering that goes on now.

    Lift the ban on an additional category if on is Erotica or make an Erotic Romance category. Right now if you select Erotica as one of your categories, which many erotic romance books do, you can’t select another even if it’s Romance/Adult or similar. Erom is hot right now but it’s forced into romance or erotica and it is neither and both. All multiple categories of create an erotic romance category under romance.

    A great article. Thanks for posting!

    D.H. Cameron

    1. Hi JM – I raised this in person at LBF, and I’ll make sure to follow up on it.

      (So I got it right, they haven’t quite “killed” perma-free, right? Just making it more troublesome by switching back the books to paid more frequently, and forcing you through the whole rigmarole again. If I have that wrong, lemme know.)

      1. David,

        Amazon is throttling perma-free downloads. (Have a chat to Lindsay Buroker for the expert goss). Basically after a certain number of downloads, they re-up the price to your list price. It’s not clear precisely how many downloads are permitted, or exactly how this throttling process works. What *is* clear is that what worked in 2012 — price it free everywhere, and Amazon would (eventually) make the book $0.00 forever — no longer works.

  14. I agree with all 15, but would like to see a #16: If an author is making minor changes that do not involve uploading a new version of their book — such as changing the blurb, adding tags, or changing the price — it shouldn’t take twelve plus hours for a) the changes to go into effect and b) the book to again be available for sale. It also is ridiculous that the book is locked during this process so if a typo is discovered it can’t be fixed until the book is unlocked and the process starts all over again.

    Thanks for collecting all these, but I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for Amazon to make any changes at all.

  15. Fabulous article! My most recent ‘issue’ with KDP is that I noticed in mid-May that the preview files I download have more than doubled in size. I blogged about this (with data chart), wondering why anyone would want to fill their Kindles with 8 meg files when they could get mobi files 11% to 14% the size at Smashwords.

    Your point about categories is spot-on. I’ve begged for a ‘science fiction romance’ category several times now. Under Romance there is only fantasy, paranormal, and time-travel, and under Science fiction the closest category is space opera. Almost every other book outlet has science fiction romance, so they need to get a clue. How hard is it for them to add one more sub-category, anyway?

  16. I wish Amazon would add a “safe search” feature that allows a user to block or open up searches to mature content, such as erotica as they choose. Right now searching with the default “All Departments” setting filters out many erotica and erotic romance titles with no notice to the searcher that the results have been censored. A customer has to change from “All Departments” to “Books” or “Kindle Store” to see unfiltered results. And Amazon doesn’t tell anyone that. They just make the choice for you.

    I understand and want people to be protected from content they do not wish to see, especially children. However, expecting a searcher will somehow know how perform an unfiltered search without being told how is unrealistic and unfair.

    The best result for everyone is to put all adult content behind a filter that the customer is in control of, not for the company to decide what we need to be allowed to see. They sell this content and hiding it under a counter while pretending there is no counter is unfair to authors and customers alike. It reduces the choice of customers and picks winner and losers on the author side, harming income to writers trying to make a living. If Google and other search engines can allow the user to choose what level of protection they want, why can’t Amazon?

    Also, erotica only has one category for everything from sweet romantic sexy stories to the hardcore kinks. Amazon will not allow anything labeled as erotica to be also in any other category. If you’re erotica, you can’t be romance, much less fantasy or science fiction or mystery. Thus, multiple categories can’t help define the content of a book to help people find what kind of story they want.

    They also have some unspoken criteria for moving some erotic romance to erotica from the romance category, but not all of them. It’s still unclear why they pick some but no others, but Amazon refuses to say what the rules are, both for what makes a story erotica rather than erotic romance, and they won’t lay out what criteria or content causes a story to be filtered.

    Imagine if that is how the traffic police worked. You might be pulled over and handed a ticket with no clue what the infraction was other than “traffic violation”. Authors deserve to know the rules for publishing.

    If Amazon want to segregate erotica, so be it, but allow some way for the customer to sort out what kind of story they’re looking for. Every other seller (except for Apple which hates erotica) has some subcategories.

    That, too, is unfair. By all means, limit erotica to being in erotica, but give some subcategories. Like Erotica -> Romance among others. Then it’s still erotica, but the customer can drill down to find the kind of story they want.

    I’d love it if some of these topics make it onto your list in the future. Erotica may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but we deserve to be treated fairly, too. There are ways children and other uninterested customers can be protected while still allowing erotica authors a fair shake.

    1. You can see the results of filtering by going to a website called salesrankexpress and entering an author’s name. If the red word ADULT is beside the title, then it is filtered. Almost any erotica author you pick will have some titles hidden. Some will have more. And many authors don’t even know they are filtered and where to go to check.

    2. I’m not sure how to approach the erotica-related issues, tbh, and I’m wondering if those need to be dealt with separately (merely musing aloud here).

      I think from Amazon’s perspective (and the other retailers), they are always going to lean towards ensuring no-one sees content they consider objectionable (not me, or Amazon, but those particular people), even if that’s viewed as unfair by erotica writers.

      It’s a tricky needle to thread, IMO.

      Your proposed solution sounds like what Smashwords did. How does that work over there (or are direct sales too small there to really judge)?

      Regarding categories, and being limited to one, I don’t think categories really help define a book in that way. Customers don’t scroll to the very bottom of a page and check those out. They act more as a discovery tool for readers, and maybe Amazon are thinking that they don’t want customers to stumble across erotica when searching for SF or whatever.

      I also get that it’s frustrating that Amazon don’t explicitly lay out the rules. This is their approach in a lot of areas. Again, just putting myself in their shoes for a moment, I suspect that they do this to leave themselves enough wiggle room to lay out sanctions where necessary, knowing that if they spell things out, *some* erotica writers will find a loophole about 10 seconds later (not singling out erotica writers, I think that would happen in any genre tbh).

      I totally agree that erotica should have sub-cats though. That sounds like the kind of issue where you might actually get some joy with Amazon.

      1. A safe search option like what is used by Smashwords is exactly what I’m talking about. The direct sales are too small there for me to judge any impact, but the customers can choose to see mature content or not, as they want. To my mind, that’s like walking into a store where the naughty magazines in a special room where the customer needs to ask to see them.

        Right now on Amazon, the undisclosed filter makes it more like walking into a store and being told they don’t carry them. Only if you open the door yourself do they admit they carry the product.

        Also, its only books, or so it seems. Sex toys and porn DVDs with truly explicit content and covers come up in the all departments search just fine. There’s a difference from shielding the general consumer from mature books and concealing it from them. That’s all I’m saying.

        I agree about needing second categories, I think, though the line between a steamy romance and erotica is blurry.

        I also agree about needing rules to be general, but all they say now in their TOS about objectionable content is “it’s about what you would expect.” That’s too vague to make any kind of judgement call on for anyone.

        I hope they do add subcategories. I’m not hopeful, though. Not many people speak up for erotica, which is one of the reasons that they don’t get called on their filter. No news organization mentions it, no big name bloggers shed any light on the practice, either. We’re used to that indifference, unfortunately. Most writers just dismiss our complaints as us railing against being taken out of sight from the general customer base. Frankly, if that were all it was, we’d be happy. What they are doing is sweeping us under the rug when almost no customers even know their search results are being modified to remove content that Amazon agreed to sell.

        Just the visibility of a mature content check button would be fair. Then the customer knows how to look for mature content if they want and those who don’t want to see it don’t have to. That doesn’t seem like asking for much beyond being treated fairly.

      2. I meant I agree that a second category probably isn’t needed, not that it is. Sorry. Subcategories would make that a non-issue to my mind, even though I’m sure some who write romance would disagree.

  17. SUBCATEGORIES IN HISTORICAL FICTION!!! Desperately needed. I blogged about this a few days ago and have had a fairly active thread on kboards about it. This is a HUGE issue. Why TWENTY in fantasy and NONE in HF. This doesn’t even make sense.

      1. I *might* be tempted if they also had a deals page with the sales featured. Maybe. It would take a lot for me to go back in after my last free run, with 20k d/ls, was a bust!

        And yes on the HF subcats. I think I mentioned that to the guys about 100 times!

    1. You know what? I did, just for you!

      I can’t remember the exact response (I was flying through the issues and couldn’t note anything down), but I definitely got the impression that they weren’t aware of the problems Europeans and Australians (and the rest) have with checks. They are quite ubiquitous still in America, but not so in the rest of the world. When I was living in Sweden, where checks are also being phased out, the bank wanted to charge something like $125 to cash a foreign check (the check was for around $300!).

      I think there’s also a cost issue for them, and they have to strike deals with banking partners in each territory (to get a good rate on volume, I guess) which slows the process down.

      The good thing about bringing these issues up face-to-face is that it can help get stuff prioritized when they realize it’s a real issue rather than people grumbling about a minor inconvenience.

      1. That’s progress. Someone from the Amazon treasury unit would know. I doubt the book reps are that deep into payments. But we should remember it normally costs Amazon much more to cut and mail a check than to use EFT. They know that, so I suspect it’s governed by the banking relations and regulations.

  18. Such awesome suggestions here. I second all of them. These are things KDP has desperately needed for a long time. As well, I would love to see a “batch editing” option, where if I wanted to make an across the board change on all of my titles and their metadata or price, I could just check a box and make the appropriate changes. It’s not so big a deal when you have just a few things, but when your catalog starts growing beyond five or six, it can get really tedious making the same changes on every single product individually. It’s the same when setting promotions for KDP Select (and yes, they either need to make Select better or get rid of it… I’m not renewing after this next period is up).

  19. I was excited when I saw Amazon had finally built in the “email me when this author has a new book” feature. I built Author Alarms just for that purpose because Amazon had nothing like it, which seemed really stupid to me. Then I signed up for some authors, and yeah, nothing. No alerts. No new books.

    I guess I’ll keep Author Alarms around a while longer. I’m planning on adding the other bookstores soon too, so it’ll still be useful in the future, but I don’t understand Amazon on this one. They have the data. They know when the new books come out. Why can’t you just send the damn email?

  20. Great article, David.
    Point on Customer Care. I recently had an issue with the author detail showing for my book on Amazon Canada. KDP Customer Care kept telling me that the US site looked fine to them. I kept having to correct them to say that the issue was with the Canada site, not the US. In the same thread, I also had a question about the print book, so they forwarded my query to Createspace. Before I go further, I would like to say that CS is very helpful. Createspace came back to tell me there was no issue with the US site !?! KDP had passed on incorrect info to CS. It was a very frustrating set of emails that spanned over a number of days/a week before the issues were resolved.
    Don’t they know indie authors haven’t got days/weeks to spare getting issues resolved? A waste of time.

  21. Wonderful list David and I am quite curious to see/how/when things are addressed by Amazon. I haven’t self-published yet, but plan to soon. It’s good to know these points and prepare myself.

  22. Excellent points, David. I’ve found the lack of coupons particularly restrictive. One of the best things about self-publishing is the control one has over marketing and publicity. As self-publisher of a niche non-fiction book, I’d love to see some KDP improvements on this front that would enable me to implement some targeted promotion aimed at specific market sectors.

  23. Great post, David. This is slightly off topic question, but did you get any sense of which months of the year have higher or lower books sales in fiction? We all know that in the Christmas holiday season, book sales are up. I ask because if an author wanted to advertise or reduce price of book during a certain month, which months are better for readership/buying? Any clues on this or where would we go to find monthly readership/buying trends during the year? Or is it all a crap shoot? Thanks.

    1. I think these trends are only relevant on a macro level. If you are a publisher with a full slate of books across genres from multiple authors then you might see seasonal trends and spikes and dips surrounding certain events. On the micro, single-author level, you’re only really going to see spikes and dips around your own releases and promotions.

      For the last few years, the e-book market in general has spiked at Christmas and continued very strong through January into February – because the market was developing and new entrants were distorting everything as they went on buying binges to load up their devices.

      So there’s more product moved in Dec – Feb than, say, in the summer months. But that might only be relevant to an individual self-publisher if they get some great visibility in that period. Of course, that means that people tend to focus new releases and big promotions in that period, so there’s more competition than ever for that visibility.

      In the print world, it’s different because the big sales are in the months leading up to Christmas, rather than after. As such, traditional publishers schedule big releases for a couple of months before Christmas to make sure they are front and center when people start shopping for gifts.

      As the e-book market develops, and is less skewed by the buying habits of the newest entrants, that Dec-Feb period may disappear, or start to resemble the traditional period of Oct-Dec more – especially if we can come up with a more attractive way of gifting e-books.

      There’s going to be minor variations depending on genre. Horror writers might sell more around Halloween, and romance authors around Valentine’s Day, but stuff like that aside, seasonal considerations don’t really come into the decision making process about how and when to run a promo. It might affect how you brand the promo, but that’s about it (IMO).

  24. Hi David.
    I think the 70% on short stories is a great idea. As you explained, it does not impinge on Amazon’s strategy of $2.99-10 for full length book. Amazon could probably set a page ceiling of 20-25 pages so people could not sneak novellas or multiple shorts in there. Amazon used to encourage shorts and I am not sure why they stopped. Shorts are a great way to promote novels or longer works, especially if you have your main character in them.
    I don’t how others feel about this but I would like to see all shorts set at .99c so we don’t have a race to the bottom on price if royalties are raised from 30% to 70%.

  25. I agree with your remarks about short stories.

    For too long now short stories have been something of a dead medium for fiction. A scan of most literary agents’ websites reveals a clear disinclination for taking short story collections on board and as far as publication goes, I can think of no publishers offering single short stories for sale for bargain pence. Short stories are viewed as practice fodder for “better things”, such as an eventual novel or inclusion in a fiction fanzine on the way to the same eventual novel via time-consuming hurdles (because, as anyone who’s subbed a story to most of these fanzines and magazines knows, they’re more demanding of exclusives than their lit agent counterparts, and have no understanding that writers are also mainly mortal). Here’s a typical view of short stories:


    The ‘dodo’ here is surely precisely this attitude to short stories. Amazon’s KDP initiative provides writers with an outlet for their shorter material. Allied to the rise in ebook reader and tablet use (and the practical meme of digesting shorter articles and feeds via precisely the process that led me directly to this post), KDP (and other initiatives that follow) could breathe substantial new life into a medium currently tethered against its will to the literary doghouse.

    Like you — and many others here — I’m a self-pubber, and right now I’m running with a few short stories in the way that bands have previously offered single songs for sale or download. It’s early days yet, but the more people “get it”, the more the concept will flourish. Being able to sell for 49c would be a bonus, as would the increased royalty for modestly priced material.

    We’re right at the start of major changes of all kinds right now, and everything e-pubberly still has to be hammered neatly into shape. Nice to see you in there with well aimed bludgeon, neatly-trimmed beard — & hat. I do love a dapper enthusiast.

  26. Thank you for giving Amazon that list! I’m newly self-published, and my greatest influence was Let’s Get Digital.

    Based on extremely limited personal experience, a good way to try to get into one of the new unavailable categories is to put it as a keyword. When I changed the blurb on my book, three days ago, I deleted my least attractive category, added the name of a category I liked, and it my book was put in it in less than 12 hours. (Maybe just beginner’s luck?)

    1. Ian, if you are self-publishing, there’s no question that you should use KDP. Amazon is by far the biggest market (around 65% in the US and 90% in the UK and growing fast across Europe). You don’t want to go through a distributor to get into KDP, you really should go direct.

      Going direct you get to present your book exactly as it should be and not have the blurb etc. potentially screwed up by going through a third party. You also get near-live sales reports rather than long delays (essential for measuring marketing efforts), and you get paid quicker. You also ensure you are in the right category – which is crucial.

  27. I love this list. I couldn’t agree more. The KDP dashboard needs a real makeover all around, it’s incredibly difficult to find what I need and the books that can’t be deleted really clutter things up too. Coupon codes and more categories would be awesome.

  28. I finished “Let’s Get Visible”, and as with “Digital”, it was resource heavy and very informative, and there were many things I didn’t know or were not fully aware of. It came as a surprise to me. I thought I knew a lot. Clearly I didn’t. The inside workings of Amazon and the way to best manage your experiments on KDP were also very helpful.

    I love the ideas on here. I’d be happy if they could extend the electronic payments to New Zealand. Seriously, who still uses cheques today, apart from Amazon? I also agree on expanding the category fields on the interface itself. It makes so much more sense and I think Amazon knows it.

  29. Reblogged this on and commented:
    A little different than our typical post, I found this interesting as it sheds a light on a lot of the issues with Kindle Direct Publishing.

  30. Hi David, I enjoyed both books. I started with “Let’s Get Visible” and backtracked to “Let’s Get Digital.” Of course, I will refer them to anyone and everyone. Also, thanks for the heads up about the length requirement for short stories. I am about to publish a bunch of them and this is good information to have – even though it’s not going to change right now. It’s better to be aware. I’ll have to search your site to see if you’ve written anything else about the promotion of short stories and all of the requirements on Amazon, etc. This blog has turned out to invaluable to me. Many thanks and congrats on your sales!!

      1. Hi Felipe,
        I don’t think David is advocating any length for short stories. He is just saying if you want to sell a short story as an eBook for a price under $2.99, the royalty is only 30% and he thinks it could be raised to 70% without compromising Amazon’s business strategy. You could then sell your short story for say .49c or .99c. You would not need a minimum length but as I say in another reply a maximum length could deter people trying to sneak other things in as shorts.
        When I was a child I used to borrow anthologies of the great short story writers – Guy de Maupassant, O’Henry, Somerset Maugham, Jack London. Now you cannot get them from any Australian library. That, to me, is a cultural crime.

      2. Thanks Bernie, just wanted to make sure re the length or page size (sometimes i miss things 😉 )

        I have four shorts available right now, one “very” short, the others 4000, 7000+, and 8000+ words.

        They’re fun for me to write, so if structural changes happen to make publishing / selling them better, I’m all for it.

        Thanks again, Bernie, best wishes

  31. I’d really love the ability to set my own prices for audiobooks the way I can for ebooks. And I’d love for audiobooks to be available to the customer straight from the main book page on Amazon instead of being redirected to Audible. Let’s make it all one-click shopping! (it works for mp3 files)
    I really think I could have an audiobook audience for my cozy mysteries, and I’m happy to invest in the equipment and software for my own recording studio to create and edit the files, but if I can’t set my own prices down to reasonable levels (preferably not more than twice the ebook price), then I won’t get the sales necessary to make the investment worthwhile. I think audiobooks are currently terribly overpriced, which is inhibiting sales.

  32. Hi Dave,
    Great post but you fail to address the biggest problem with kindle and Amazon, the endless troll attacks on indies writers by members who serially stalk, bully and harass indies writers.
    Between goodreads and Amazon there is a gang of trolls who do nothing but try to destroy the reputation, the career and the livelihood of indies writers. Many reviews are nothing more than personal attacks and Amazon refuses to pull reviews of this nature going so far as to allow 1-star, no read attack reviews as valid.
    Here’s a link to a phone conversation with Amazon about 1-star attack reviews:
    As a result of goodreads and Amazon sheltering and protecting these review trolls and absurd rules, the value of any reviews on either site is zero.
    Goodreads even goes so far as to threaten authors who speak out against reviews that are personal attacks with the destruction of their career.
    This has to be stopped. Just recently seven of my friends had all their books placed on insultingly named lists on goodreads because they know me.
    Read the endless insults and the plots they concoct in personal attacks on indie writers at: http://www.amazon.com/forum/romance/ref=cm_cd_tfp_ef_tft_tp?_encoding=UTF8&cdForum=FxM42D5QN2YZ1D&cdThread=Tx3G6DIHZXH9G1
    The attacks on me and my friends begins on page 154 and continues unabated. The same trolls attack indies on both goodreads and Amazon constantly and incessantly. Once a writer get’s in their sights they are relentless and stalk, bully and harass that writer forever.
    There is no problem greater with Amazon or kindle than the serial persecution of indie writers by the resident trolls whose delusions of expertise, authority and importance are only surpassed by their smug self-righteousness and fantasy that the right to abuse and persecute others is protected by the first amendment.

    1. Looks like Amazon has pulled the forums I linked to to conceal the criminal activities going on there. That forum was active up until I posted the above link. Just more proof Amazon is in cahoots with the trolls.

      1. The forum is back up with many remarks removed. No matter, I get email alerts and have them all saved in a folder. I have over 2000 posts saved that are personal attacks on indie writers and have nothing to do with reviews and have everything to do with stalking, bullying and harassment, all crimes in the state where I live, Minnesota.

    2. Well said! An indie friend has one of these stalkers, and the vitriol is mind boggling. The simplest solution I can think of is to stop allowing reviews to be anonymous. As writers, most of us use our real names because our ‘brand’ is important. These trolls are untraceable and never have to suffer the consequences of their actions.

      I’m Australian so I’m no expert on the First Amendment – we don’t have one – but it strikes me that libel and freedom of speech are not the same thing. If these trolls could be sued, their online lives would begin to resemble the real world – where actions do have consequences. And our online lives would become a lot less stressful.

  33. Here’s two I’d love to see:

    1. Split accounting. If authors do an anthology together, someone has to volunteer to do the accounting and receive and disperse the money. It would be really nice if there were a “multi-author project” feature to deal with this.

    2. For accounts, the ability to have an assistant log in without access to banking and tax functions. I would love to have someone else do certain maintenance or administrative work for me: pull down reports, check the status of titles to make sure nothing odd has happened, upload new versions, etc.

  34. I’d like to see Amazon issue clear guidance about what you can and can’t have within a book’s description area. For example, I had a couple of images taken from one e-book included in the sales page description, until last month they suddenly disappeared. I heard rumors that Amazon were banning images in descriptions because it can spoil the look of their pages, but have been unable to confirm whether this is true. That being so, I have no idea whether to try reinstating my images, or if that might get me banned.

    1. I haven’t checked in a while, but I thought the guidance was pretty clear (both in the ToS and the on-site messaging). They say you are allowed things like bold and italics, but not other stuff.

      I can fully believe that they are cracking down on image insertion as it does mess with the look of the page (and makes something look like it’s coming from Amazon rather than the seller). I’d say it’s only a matter of time before images are explicitly banned and heavily policed (along with tracking pixels, videos, and all the other stuff people are putting in).

      I would advise leaving them out. You don’t need them and it’s certainly not worth the risk of sanction.

  35. I’ve had a couple of novels self-published in recent months, and felt stymied by the categories. Are you saying that if I contact the customer service team directly, they can add in other categories that aren’t available through the normal drop box system? Thanks, David.

    1. They can’t add *additional* categories, but they can assign one of your two to the category you want (if it’s not accessible form the dashboard). There’s actually two ways of doing this you can try:

      1) Take the category name and add it as a keyword for that title in KDP. This works some of the time, but not always (and indeed it may only work for the new categories, and even then not always).

      2) Choose “Non-Classifiable” as one of your cats, and then email KDP with the *full exact path* of the category you’re aiming for. You may get pushback (as described in my post), saying that you aren’t allowed to choose that. The customer service teams are incorrect when they say this, and you need to push back and keep trying.

      Basically, if the category exists in the Kindle Store, and isn’t a restricted one like Kindle Singles or Kindle Serials, you *can* get your book there – it just might require a little persistence (some self-pubbers get it resolved after a couple of emails, one poor person had to go through 9 rounds with KDP before they caved).

  36. Amazon – we love you! and we love KDP … but we want more!
    I’d like to add:
    * The electronic payments don’t work for all bank accounts at all banks, even in the UK – I have had repeated problems with mine and when they are investigating I can’t use my account. Ouch. So I am back to checks which, as pointed out, is a nightmare.
    * Integration of the Amazon Author Central management as doing everything for multiple sites is a pain
    * This is going beyond KDP but I’d really like ACX to be open to international authors – and with Whispersync it is related …
    Thanks David!

  37. That is a good long list which I totally agree with. Unfortunately I can’t see amazon doing much of that. They are currently the market leaders with little chance of being overthrown. They must feel secure on their perch and while there they won’t do much at all (why spend money when you are so far ahead of the competition is probably going through their head).

    What needs to happen is B&N or someone else to really challenge them for the market leader position. Then you will see them burning the midnight oil just to regain their standing and implement a few of these changes.

    1. I don’t want this to become a pro v anti-Amazon thing, but… there are many charges you can level against Amazon, but not being innovative is not one of them. Look at their site compared to Kobo, B&N and the iBookstore. Who do you reckon has invested the most time, money, and smarts into a good customer experience?

  38. I had a problem with the ‘typo’ issue, too. I write historical romance and had a reader complain to Amazon that I used ‘dinnae’ instead of ‘dinna.’ Both are accepted spellings but it took forever to straighten out and I ended up changing it just to make everyone happy.
    Amazon has a genius marketing program, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t problems. I hope your input will result in some of those problems being solved.

  39. What about reviewers not having their reviews automatically published across amazon sites? As it is, people have to register first with different sites, but can only buy from one (as an authorised purchase). Or have I got this wrong?

    1. I’m not sure how that works, tbh. I know I can buy print books from UK and US and can post reviews to both (but can only buy ebooks from the US).

      It would be great if they auto-posted them across the different sites. I’ll see if I can raise that.

  40. Thanks for being there for us, David. Like Felipe says, better to work to improve something than bash and rehash. I think your voice is one that Amazon will take seriously. Let’s Get Visible is a gem, by the way. I’m learning so much from it.

  41. Thanks for doing this! You’ve touched on so many areas that I’ve had concerns about – even though I’m only at the beginning of my career with two books up on KDP and Createspace. I agree completely with most everything you’ve addressed. I love your suggestions for short stories – and have two (small) collections that I’ve been holding back on because I don’t know the best way to put them up digitally. It’s a dilemma. I also appreciate knowing the bias of Kindles Singles towards nonfiction (and non-genre). I wasn’t really aware of that before. Thanks for that.

    I tried to figure out the new category system but wasn’t able to get much accomplished with the Amazon reps on this one. There are many browsing categories that can be clicked on but that don’t seem to be available to choose. It seems that Amazon can’t put books in those categories either because they believe that they don’t exist. The whole thing is a mystery to me.

    One thing that particularly touches a nerve is the gap between writers like me – who don’t yet ‘qualify’ for the Big sites like Bookbub (or even Book Blast – they’ve gotten very picky – probably a side effect of your promoting them in Let’s Get Visible and many of us adjusting accordingly), and it would be good for the Rest of Us to have a method – through Amazon would likely be the best way – to advertise our free days. It would be good competition as well. Otherwise, it doesn’t seem worth it to actually stay in Select for various reasons,some of which you cited in your post.

    I probably need to become active on the Kindle Boards as it seems there are a lot of good people on there offering help and information.

    1. KindleBoards is a great place to hear about new promo venues, and new things that people are trying.

      But as with any large, open forum, you have to sift the good info from the bad. Press people for numbers when posting about a promo venue. Some people will say something like “The ad cost me $20 and I got a nice bump.” What kind of bump? We’re you selling 1 a day beforehand and sold 15 that day at 99c and actually lost money on the ad? Press them for numbers, and be aware that people often try and rationalize an error/losing proposition afterwards.

      As to your general point, I think that “gap” exists for everyone. Last year, I had no problem getting freebie mentions on ENT (sometimes) and ads for Bargain Books etc. This year, I struggle to get a response to ad bookings, and never get freebie mentions.

      I’ve been lucky with BookBub (I think reviews and particularly review from book bloggers really help you get your foot in the door there), but I know authors that have sold 50 times more than me who have gotten knocked back. There is an element of randomness with them (or, at least, a pattern I can’t discern).

      From what I can tell, the only sites giving a big boost in terms of advertising paid books right now are ENT, POI, and BookBub. Following that pack is KBT (formerly Free Kindle Books and Tips).

      BookBlast is small, but growing nicely, and I had a positive return on my $10 ad there last month. It’s not a site that will launch you into the charts on its own, but if you can put it together with a few other smaller sites, it can make a difference.

      Identifying those is tricky, and you have to keep your ear to the ground on places like KindleBoards. I didn’t do a comprehensive overview of the small to medium sites in Visible because things change with them so quickly (and things were in flux with the new affiliate rules when I was writing it).

      A site that give positive ROI today could jack up their prices next month. Or a site that is on the cusp of being worth it, can become a mini-contender in just a few short months (and vice versa).

      Particular advice for you: try and get more review, and more reviews for book bloggers; start networking on places like KindleBoards, and see what ad sites people are recommending (and use the process outlined in Visible to see if the sites are worth the money); organize a group promo with other authors, or jump on one that’s being organized on KindleBoards.

      Free is becoming a tougher and tougher way to boost sales. I’m getting much more joy (much more) out of regular 99c sales. I’ve also rolled everything out of Select and have no plans to return. I finally got sales going (somewhat) on B&N and Apple. That took a new release and a BookBub ad with links to other retailers (first time I tried that, v. successful). But others have got great results (better, in fact) from perma-free.

      I’d also say be patient. The second book in your series is only out a couple of months. Often readers stay away from a series until there are at least three out (they have been burned in the past by publishers dropping a series after one or two books). When you have three out, then you can experiment with perma-freeing the first book on all retailers.

      P.S. You should make the links to Amazon a bit more visible on your website. It took me a while to figure out I had to click the book cover. Also, that link should go straight to the Kindle edition, and not the paperback. It’s also hard to figure out on your site which is the first and which is the second book in the series. Maybe take a look at the presentation there.

      1. Thank you, David! I appreciate the help immensely – I’ve been working so intensely with the Author Central pages lately I neglected to update my website.

        I’ve also found a smaller site that I’m advertising with in the U.K. that is just starting up. ebook bargains uk – they are offering free advertising until June 30. http://www.ebookbargainsuk.com/?page_id=46 and SpecFic Daily for speculative genre fiction.

      2. Forgot to add that I’ve also been very busy the past several days setting up my MailChimp list and trying to update the back of my ebooks to include it thanks to your very helpful suggestions in LGV!!!

      3. Wow! I got a lot of good information from your specific advice to Sharon Reamer. Also go confirmation that I really need to sit tight until I get books 2 and 3 out. Thank you!

      4. This reply (and the whole post of course) shows that you really know what you’re talking about, David. I think I have to buy your book now 🙂

        On another note, it’s really tough to stay on top on which sites work or not, (had a feeling Kindle Select efficiency was dropping, but not more than a feeling), so guys like you really create a well-needed flow of information/discussion.

        Will be checking back here a lot more often. Cheers / Jonas (http://jonaswrites.com)

  42. Hearing detailed articulate ways and reasons how and why KDP and Select can be improved, might be a defining (positive) moment for writers “and” Amazon.

    After all, making the program better, is much more advantageous than simply bashing / rehashing the problems.

    BIG thanks David. 🙂

    1. I was merely the conduit, a lot of these suggestions came from the comments here and KBoards. I also had lists for Createspace and Kobo. In the case of the latter, the stuff was a lot more basic (i.e. fix search, give us freeload numbers, improve discovery etc.) but everyone was very open to feedback.

  43. Phone support for authors would be really nice so we don’t have to continually try to explain over and over in emails that half the time seem to get ignored. The ability to speak with real live human beings on the phone and actually get something done promptly would go a long way to fixing their customer service issues.

    1. Totally agree. I’ve been trying to sort out payment issues for months, and I keep having to start at the beginning every single time. So frustrating! No matter how many times I explain that despite living in Greece, my bank account is in the UK, they still keep saying to me that they can’t offer electronic payment to Greek bank accounts. And I keep saying, but it’s not Greek. And you’ve been paying me electronically for months. It’s just the US royalties I’m not getting. Why is that, btw, David? Why the flip can they pay me my royalties in euro from everywhere else, but when they try to deposit my US royalties, they say that my bank info is wrong? I still haven’t got it sorted out. I’m owed 6 months of US royalties … and still keep getting the same repetitive responses.

    2. I was working for Google when they first rolled out phone support in the Euro HQ in Dublin. It’s something that requires a huge time, cost, and training investment – even for a slick operation like Google/Amazon.

      If you look at the basic customer service mistakes that KDP are making, I don’t think they can handle scaling up to phone support right now, even if the willingness was there to make that investment (and there are question marks about that IMO, if you consider the cost/benefit from Amazon’s perspective and their generally wafer-thin margins).

      While I would like phone support in an ideal world, I think they could obviate the need for it with better basic customer service support for KDPers.

      I used to work in this area, and I can see where they are falling down. They don’t seem to have a proper escalation procedure – a process where a complex ticket is kicked up the chain to someone with more experience to recognise the issues, and the authority to actually resolve the problem.

      In Google, if one agent was working on a particular ticket, any subsequent replies would go directly to that person – which makes sense as they will have at least some basic familiarity with the issue. With KDP, it seems a fresh agent is assigned with each new response – which is compounding the problems we are seeing.

      If it was down to me, I would:

      1. Ensure all responses to open tickets go back to the same rep.

      2. Also ensure all re-opened tickets go back to the same rep.

      3. Strongly encourage all reps to review thread history and stress this in training.

      4. Also encourage all reps to read the full ticket and not just input the first canned response on scanning the first line.

      5. Beef up response monitoring – quality assurance checks that take a random sample of each rep’s replies and see if you can identify issues, and assign re-training where necessary.

      6. Design a proper escalation procedure, with inbuilt checks.

      7. Have a team of senior reps that can call people with ongoing/unresolved issues. You don’t need phone support to do this, it would be a one-way portal from KDP to certain customers (and not vice versa).

      8. Identify the (minority of) KDP reps that are doing the job well and promote them and have them oversee small clusters of those not meeting performance targets.

      9. Have some senior KDP reps monitor Author Central customer service for an idea of where performance levels could (and should) be.

  44. Amazon categories drive me crazy. I write Children’s (Middle Grade) and have just received a response to a query that tells me there is no longer the ability to list Children’s books in multiple age-specific categories, so they couldn’t fulfill my request. The thing is, I didn’t even mention age-specific categories in my query. I’ll see how many emails it takes. Fingers crossed it won’t be too many. BTW I finished Let’s Get Visible last week. Thanks for some excellent tips.

    1. swlothian – I noticed that you launched your third MG book recently. I also saw that you listed it in one subcategory, which put you at #31. I’m wondering why you didn’t try another category as kindle allows you two categories for ebooks? Or, do I have that wrong? I’m interested in watching your progress since you’ve read David’s latest book, and I assume that you will be using his advice to help promote your books. I too have a MG novel, so obviously you can understand my interest. Marketing and visibility are everything especially in a challenged market such as MG, which prefers you to go through traditional gatekeepers.
      Thanks, Mel

      1. Mel – MG is a very tough genre to break into. The audience (kids) aren’t the ones who search the Kindle store, so it’s a matter of attracting parents and teachers (somehow).
        I’ve experimented with categories over the past 12 months, and somehow one of my books ‘seemed’ to be listed in 4 categories (through errors I expect), but it wasn’t showing as ranked in the sub categories. Puzzling!! So when the new book immediately ranked in the sub category, it raised questions as to why the others that I thought were listed in the same sub category weren’t showing, given their sales. That’s what led me into my query.
        I have received another email today from Amazon apologising for incorrect info and category listing in the past. They also reiterate that I can only have them listed in two categories. I’ve sent back a request asking for the subcategory that the new book is ranking in to be loaded onto the other two books. I can then see if they show up on the same list (fingers crossed). The second categories that I’ll list for the books (9-12 for one and Action & Adventure for the other) don’t have lower level sub categories available that I know of. I have asked them to tell me if they secretly exist, and if they do I’ll give them a go.

    2. Waving “hi!” It’s not often I run into MG authors on publishing info blogs, much less one I know from elsewhere!

      I found I could *only* get my book listed in the 9-12 category by contacting customer support, but it didn’t go smoothly and there are still problems. If you drill down and select “ages 9-12” and then search for mermaids my book shows up. But if you do a search and let it auto-complete “mermaid books for girls 9-12” it doesn’t show up.

      To echo what you and Mel said about MG, I think because it’s the parents finding the books, the ability to search logically in the correct categories is even more important.

    3. @swlothian

      Is it that this category no longer actually exists in the Kindle Store since the category shake-up (I know some were dispensed with like, weirdly, Contemporary Fantasy), or is it that the category you are aiming for is no longer selectable from the dashboard?

      If it’s the latter, you have two options.

      1) Take the category name and add it as a keyword for that title in KDP. This works some of the time, but not always (and indeed it may only work for the new categories, and even then not always).

      2) Choose “Non-Classifiable” as one of your cats, and then email KDP with the *full exact path* of the category you’re aiming for. You may get pushback (as described in my post), saying that you aren’t allowed to choose that. The customer service teams are incorrect when they say this, and you need to push back and keep trying.

      Basically, if the category exists in the Kindle Store, and isn’t a restricted one like Kindle Singles or Kindle Serials, you *can* get your book there – it just might require a little persistence (some self-pubbers get it resolved after a couple of emails, one poor person had to go through 9 rounds with KDP before they caved).

      1. Thanks David.

        There hasn’t been a category shake-up in Childrens’s books that I’ve seen. We can only hope that it happens soon.
        I’ve been using the non-classifiable category over the past year or so and I’m suspicious that this may have had a bit of an impact. One of my existing books has ended up with 4 different categories, which look like a list of each different category I’ve used over the past year. This was a benefit, in my mind so I had left it until now.
        The category that I’m after is selectable via KDP, but my suspicion is that it hasn’t fed through to the book because of the extra categories that are recorded on the book. I figured that I had 2 choices – leave the four categories and not be on the sub category lists, or get the sub category sorted so it shows. I decided to try to fix it.
        I received my fourth reply yesterday and they have told me it is already on my first book and should be ok, and to wait for 72 hours. I have my doubts that it is fixed, but I’ll wait for a couple of days to see if it magically appears.
        I’ve added the sub categories to the keywords as per your book – I’ll check the results soon.
        (I’m convinced that the first reply I got from Amazon was actually from a support call centre Mars)

  45. Fabulous post. I’ve actually contacted Amazon with a few of these suggestions myself, but I’m pretty sure I wasn’t taken seriously. I just got a canned response. Something along the lines of “we appreciate your feedback, yada yada.” Kudos to you for bringing all this to their attention!

    I recently published a cyberpunk/dystopian short story written in verse. You can imagine my dilemma when trying to decide what categories to list it under. I really wanted to get it into the genres (cyberpunk and dystopian), and that meant I couldn’t list it under short stories, or poetry. It would really help if we could choose more than two categories. Because I’m sure I’m missing out on lovers of short fiction and poetry because of this, and I’m sure that not many people looking for cyberpunk and dystopian really want to read a short story written in verse. So I’m at quite a loss here. And I can’t do anything about it!

    Recently read your book Let’s Get Visible and LOVED it. Thank you for all your brilliant information.

    1. That’s a tricky one but perhaps in this case form takes precedence over subject matter, because as you said many of the readers looking for cyberpunk/dystopian may not want the story in verse (make sure that’s flagged in your blurb!). So I’d say the poetry one is a must, and then you can experiment with the second choice.

  46. Brilliant post, David. I have had frustrations in so many of these areas – and being unable to select a relevant sub-category at upload is maddening in the children’s books area too. And I agree re CS superior reporting. I’ve just been pulling together sales figures for my Kindle sales since launch and have had to collate monthly reports manually into a single spreadsheet in order get my total – yet this must be so simple to automate at the back end… One final gripe is that my KDP account for Eeek! is stuck and I can’t unlock it at all to update metadata – so far they’ve not been able to resolve this from the back end which I find mystifying….

  47. Thank you, thank you, thank you for mentioning the royalty issue with short stories. I am publishing one via KDP and I absolutely can not charge more than 99c due to its length. So I’ll be losing a huge percentage of my royalties.

  48. Great blog! and i would love to see a Flash Fiction category added. Enjoyed your book too, thank you.

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