The Ultimate 2020 eBook Industry Analysis

The Ultimate eBook Industry Analysis [2019-2020]

In this article we

Rank kindle categories from highest to lowest sales – Analyze eBook readers by age, device, and other factors – Compare paperbacks vs eBooks – Check out total revenues – Break down eBook sales by country – Much more

Quick facts:

Share of consumer spending on indie eBooks:

USA eBook Sales Revenue 2017-2018:

Share of libraries offering eBooks:

Percent of adults who have read an eBook in past month:

This analysis was written late 2019, for use in projecting your 2020 plans. The reason I decided to write this analysis are twofold – one, I think there is an enormous amount of misinformation as it relates to eBook data. The most popular source of eBook market share data comes from “Author Earnings Report” now known as “Bookstat.” This data is quoted all across the internet and by some of the most legitimate news sources in the world, but there’s one problem – the data itself is dodgy and seems totally unreliable, so dodgy I wrote an entire article about why you shouldn’t trust Author Earnings Report. The data out there besides the inaccurate data from AER seems just as esoteric, with countless info-graphs and forum posts backed up by no legitimate sources. So, since the purpose of this website is to help authors and publishers, and knowledge is power, I’m going to do my best here to give you some good information. This will be a really, really broad overview, a birds eye view of the entire eBook industry.

Since the market share of the various booksellers seems to be the most quoted aspect of the industry across the web, we’ll start there. What is the market share of Amazon vs all other eBook & paperback sellers, does it really make every other bookseller insignificant? What percentage of book sales are represented by iBooks, Google Play, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, KDP, etc? 

To answer these questions, I’m going to share some subjective experiences and then do a deep dive for some objective facts. With well over a thousand books published, most of them wide (that is to say, not exclusive to Amazon) and many friends in the publishing industry, plus running a publishing website, and being the creator/top mod of a publishing forum with over 60k views per month, I have a very good grasp of which retailers actually get sales for authors, and in my experience most authors not enrolled in Kindle Unlimited have around 50% of their income coming in from Amazon, with the other 50% coming from other booksellers. After Amazon, it generally goes in order of Apple iBooks, Google Play Store, NookPress by Barnes & Noble, then smaller stores such as Kobo and Smashwords, and then finally the dozens of smaller retailers which you would usually only ever publish on via a book distributor that automatically submits and maintains your books for you, such as PublishDrive. (Check out my comparison of book & eBook distributors later)

Looking at the hard data, I was expecting to find most of it confirming my pre-existing expectations, but I was actually quite wrong in that respect. To my surprise Amazon really did seem to totally dominate in terms of eBook market share, and I think I realized why their sales are nearly all of the market yet most authors only get half their sales from Amazon. Knowing that most sales are through Amazon, most authors and publishers are likely to spend their advertising dollars to run promotions on Amazon only, because you get more bang for your buck with a higher sales rank leading to more visibility, and it’s easier to focus on the main bookseller vs 5 of them. So, those with books on all retailers find half of their “natural” sales from outside of Amazon, and those exclusive to Amazon get all of their sales from Amazon. The third group that have their books on all booksellers without being in KU are probably focusing more on money in their pocket than unit numbers, and if you have slim margins on Amazon (keep in mind it’s much harder to make a positive ROI on Amazon without your book being in Kindle Unlimited, as you’re losing what can often be the bulk of income there) then your percentage of income coming from Amazon might not be much better, or even worse if like many inexperienced authors you take a loss. I would speculate this explains the juxtaposition between Amazon being the vast majority of total sales, yet most authors with books on all platforms reporting diverse income streams, with the occasional author even making more on other individual booksellers than on Amazon. If Amazon has 80% of the market, so all the competition is dumping their ad dollars and marketing efforts there, and many publishers are in Kindle Unlimited and only on Amazon, you might be better off focusing on the 20% of the market that isn’t Amazon, especially if you’re going to be light on actual advertising. 

Are eBooks or paperbacks more popular?

According to the largest and most reliable survey on this topic, a survey done by PEW Research, paperbacks are still the most popular way to read with eBooks coming in second and audiobooks third. Note that this survey is about reading, not sales, and not every book read is a newly purchased book. Many are old purchases, library copies or re-reads, so this doesn’t tell us most sales are paperback.

In terms of actual sales, it’s hard to tell what the real lay of the land is, because most of the major booksellers, including Amazon which is the largest bookseller in over a dozen countries, do not share this information. According to the Association Of American Publishers, paperback and hardcover sales are both up from last year and are continuing a long term upwards trend, and eBook sales are declining. Their data comes with the massive caveat, however, that their data is collected from their members (1,100 publishers, of which a minority are trade publishers), who are mostly educational or journalistic publishers, which leaves out the massive self-publishing industry among others. This data is also American-centric, as it is an American organization. Still, it’s a pretty interesting insight – most people would be expecting a decline of physical sales year on year, not an increase. 

Paperbacks vs eBooks
PEW Survey
AAP data paperbacks vs eBooks
Association of American Publishers

Still, I think anyone who looks at the age gap between eBook readers and paperback readers will agree that the future belongs to eBooks. The ways to consume eBooks will always be increasing and the options will be higher and higher quality, as well. From Statista:

What book categories have the highest sales?

The aforementioned AAP data is the most reliable as it relates to traditional publishers, and the data has shown increases in the adult book category, in addition to increases in the young adult category and an incredible +8% increase in sales for religious presses. There were also declines in educational and scholarly presses, leaving their mostly-traditional publishers with an overall revenue decrease of 1.5% last year, compared to the year before. It’s interesting to note that there was an 8% increase in eBook sales in the young adult category in a single year. However, I find this data relatively useless. It’s too broad, it’s too biased, and even if it’s less than a year old that is still outdated. So I’m going to use a bit more old school method – Amazon is the largest bookseller in most English speaking countries, and although they never hand out their data, there is a special piece of information they include in every book listing – the book’s sales ranking, or it’s relative rank in the entire store. For example, a sales rank of 10,000 means it is the 10,000th most sold book in the store at that time. So by checking a book’s sales rankings, you can see how it performs over time. Amazon has great Top 100 categories for nearly every category and sub-category. You can see where I’m going with this – by comparing the sales ranks of the #1, #50 & #100 best-selling book in each category, you get an amazing snapshot of the relative popularity of each category, that will be almost by definition more accurate and up to date than any other method, because it’s based on real sales, right now. The only downside to this method is it doesn’t account for the varying “weight” of the top 100, or the percentage of sales that the top 100 has in each category, but since the sales ranks are storewide that doesn’t really diminish the data. I think this is a small sacrifice in accuracy compared to the only alternative, which is essentially polling a certain group of publishers and having your results extremely skewed and biased towards the group you’re monitoring. This method compares every bookseller on Amazon, that is to say, every bookseller in the English speaking world. I will focus on the major categories, and update the results below regularly. 

Fiction Sales Ranks

The #1, #50 & #100 sales ranks of the books in the top 100 most popular eBooks on Amazon, for each category. Click header to sort.
Category#1 Sales Rank#50 Sales Rank#100 Sales Rank
Arts & Photography18918,44621,505
Biographies & Memoirs791,3822,716
Business & Money291,993 4,805
Children's eBooks247842,004
Comics, Manga & Graphic Novels5567,75114,219
Computers & Technology12015,75724,065
Cookbooks, Food & Wine1496,56612,923
Crafts, Hobbies & Home90411,28618,961
Education & Teaching28014,48725,754
Engineering & Transportation652 27,00647,987
Foreign Languages63115,126 29,679
Health, Fitness & Dieting992,1844,472
History411,5442,693
Humor & Entertainment363,3056,273
Law9318,31537,303
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender eBooks752,2794,125
Literature & Fiction267151
Medical eBooks58210,45120,010
Mystery, Thriller & Suspense1161381
Nonfiction29434833
Parenting & Relationships3508,21214,185
Politics & Social Sciences411,9864,637
Reference1168,58914,792
Religion & Spirituality41 1,3842,008
Romance2112223
Science & Math413,7037,223
Science Fiction & Fantasy6356672
Self-Help292,6635,540
Sports & Outdoors9512,13220,870
Teen & Young Adult267451,644
Travel80514,06223,267
datatables_locale="en_US"

Non-Fiction Sales Ranks

The sales ranks for the #1, #50, and #100 books in each non-fiction categories Amazon Top 100 list. Click header to sort.
Category or Subcategory#1 Sales Rank#50 Sales Rank#100 Sales Rank
Arts & Photography22510,66021,243
Biographies & Memoirs761,4442,794
Business & Investing291,9064,472
Children's Nonfiction2576,05813,779
Computers & Technology13315,23624,169
Cooking, Food & Wine1846,56512,534
Crafts, Hobbies & Home95311,64519,880
Education & Reference29014,38424,865
Engineering & Transportation71226,97248,635
Health, Fitness & Dieting981,9054,324
History411,5442,693
Law9318,31537,303
Literary Criticism & Theory2,01238,81868,782
Medical eBooks58210,45120,010
Parenting & Relationships3508,21214,185
Politics & Social Sciences411,9864,637
Science413,7037,630
Self-Help292,6635,540
Sports9512,13223,254
Travel95312,77519,948
datatables_locale="en_US"

Now we’re actually getting somewhere. By sorting the tables you’ll get an amazing overview of sales in each kindle category, and to me the 100th book is actually the best indicator of the niche in general, although of course all the spots are useful to look at. Statista also has a graph of what they feel to be the most popular categories based on their research. Note they don’t include the time span as far as I can tell, but a google of ‘eBook statista’ shows all kinds of interesting information like this. They do charge a subscription fee. 

What countries read the most eBooks?

As with most new technology being adopted (and eBooks still are relatively new) the United States leads the pack by far in terms of total eBooks sold. A fairly wealthy country with a large amount of readers, the USA dwarves all others. I was surprised to find out Japan is the #2 country in terms of eBook sales, with China 3rd and the United Kingdom 4th. Below is a graph for 2018, again from Statista, showing eBook sales for most countries with the darker regions buying more and the lighter regions buying less eBooks. Here are some of the major countries, and their eBook sales.

CountrySales (millions)
Albania3
Algeria30
Angolia7
Argentina25
Australia89
Bangladesh20
Bolivia13
Brazil129
Cambodia4
Canada521
China1,209
Czechia19
France533
Germany294
Ghana7
Hungary7
India138
Indonesia97
Iran53
Italy128
Ivory Coast6
Japan1,483
Kenya7
Malaysia20
Morroco47
Myanmar7
New Zealand37
Norway36
Pakistan16
Poland49
Russia173
Saudia Arabia58
South Korea554
Spain135
Sweden52
Thailand35
Turkey42
United Kingdom (UK)820
United States (USA)5,487
Uzbekistan9

That’s it for now! I hope this article showed you the lay of the land so to speak, understanding data like this is the first step to being able to make good decisions in a competitive industry.

Please note: This article is fresh (late October 2019) and I will be adding to it regularly over the next few months, until it is more accurate and fleshed out. Until then, I hope it was of use to you.

Leave a question or comment below.

My KDP Wizard Review :)

My KDP Wizard Review 🙂

With KDP being the largest publishing platform by far, and with most of the worlds self-published authors publishing through said platform, I’ve always been kind of confused by the lack of accompanying programs. I’ve been keeping an eye out for a tool that will actually do all the common sense functions you’d expect to be already invented for the largest bookselling platform on earth, and when I heard of KDP Wizard I was eager to try it, since it’s the first real attempt at building a suite of tools for publishers. This is my honest, unpaid, real review. 

KDP Wizard
Example of some of many options KDP Wizard adds to KDP & other websites.

So, what is KDP Wizard and what does it do?

KDP Wizard is a chrome app, that functions as a kind of full service software for people who are publishing through Kindle Direct Publishing, AND other stores. Really, this is for any publisher. Some highlights:

  • You can click to import all your books data to Airtable at once so you browse through and see all your books and their files, keywords, descriptions, all metadata, etc all in one awesome editable spreadsheet, perfect for file storage too.
  • A live display is overlaid over the KDP webpage itself, adding tons of new features that make uploading and managing data a breeze.
  • You can save keyword profiles just by entering a name and clicking save, and there's a live keyword count + more.
  • You can save price profiles with a single click, so you don't need to fill out the price section every time you upload a book. This is for Amazon and Google Play, + more.
  • A live HTML editor is overlaid over the description box, so instead of entering html manually you can click to add H1-H6, bold, italics, lists both numbered and bulleted, etc and most importantly you can save description profiles to autofill formatting.
  • You can copy and paste entire pages to Airtables or to another book listing, for example you can copy your eBook list to paperback.
  • You can, with a single click, export your KDP book to Google Play, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and other retailers, more added regularly.
  • KDP Wizard makes the category selection searchable, so you just search and click your categories.
  • Your sales are automatically displayed next to the book itself, so as you browse your bookshelf you see each book's recent sales.
  • Save sales rank and customer reviews to your Airtable spreadsheet as well so all data is in one place
  • The fastest development schedule I have seen for any program, new features being added constantly, as of this review the program is only a couple months old and every week a useful new feature is added. I

CLICK HERE to sign up, or keep reading – This review is just getting started! 

What features does it have?

To begin with, there’s the data organization and visualization, particularly the Airtables export. This sounds simple but is actually a religious experience, or at least it was for me. Amazon data is messy – the bookshelf won’t let you ever actually delete a book, and hardly any information is contained in one place, let alone the information for all your books at a glance. With KDP Wizard you can export all your books data to AirTables with one click. It really does extract everything, and I’m going to include a list below of all the data that is listed for each book listing on the spreadsheet, all in one spot. This gives you better data visualisation and way way better search ability. The birds-eye view gives you the ability to spot a lot of patterns you never would of otherwise. One missing feature seems to be the ability to view eBook page counts – only paperback seems to display. I’ve messaged the team, and they’re adding that feature soon! The following is displayed for each book:

Title

Thumbnail

Type

Status

ASIN

Subtitle

Language

Language Name

Series Name

Series Number

Edition Number

Author

Contributors

Description

Length Description

Publishing Rights

Keywords All

KW1

KW2

KW3

KW4

KW5

KW6

KW7

Category 1

Category 2

Large Print

Adult Content

Print ISBN

ISBN 13

ISBN 10

Imprint

Publication Date

Cover

Paperback Cover File

eBook Cover File

Paperback Cover File Cloud Storage Link

eBook Cover File Cloud Storage Link

Interior

Paperback Interior File

eBook Interior File

Paperback Interior File Cloud Storage Link

eBook Interior File Cloud Storage Link

IncludesBarcode

InteriorPaperType

PageCount

CoverFinish

Trim SizeIn

Trim Size Cm

Bleed

Book Group ID

Product URL

Edit Details Page

Edit Content Page

Edit Pricing Page

Primary Marketplace

Primary Price

Primary Currency

Primary BSR

Primary No Of Reviews

Primary Avg Review Rating

PrimaryRating

Shared Sales With Identically Named Books

Last X Days Sales All Marketplaces

Sales US

Sales UK

Sales DE

Sales FR

Sales IT

Sales ES

Sales JP

Sales IN

Sales NL

Sales BR

Sales CA

Sales MX

Sales AU

Last Sales Update

Territories

Uploaded To

Expanded Distribution

Created Date Time

Last Modified Date Time

Notes

 

What else is there? Well, you can ONE CLICK EXPORT TO OTHER RETAILERS! This was a big one for me, because it actually provides a superb alternative to ebook distributors, that take 10% to send your book to all stores. This makes KDP Wizard a viable alternative to PublishDrive, Draft2Digital, Smashwords, Streetlib (read my warning before using, scratch that, just never use them) and every other major eBook distributor. Right now they only have one click import to Barnes & Noble NookPress, Rakuten Kobo & Google Play, but they’re working on more booksellers as we speak. So, they get thumbs up for this completely new (and in retrospect, blindingly obvious) feature, which could make re-uploading to other retailers even easier than updating a master copy for a distributor.

You can make eBook templates, by copying any book. This is awesome when you have most metadata required for one book the same as another book, for example a book in a similar category or perhaps an eBook version of a paperback, or vice versa. You can autofill prices, details, all of it. Screenshot below.

Copy Paste KDP Wizard

Another feature is that it’s secure, or at least claims to be so – the data is encrypted and sent to AirTable, and since you created and own your own AirTable account, theoretically there’s no way for them to access the data. Trust can only be gained after a long period of time where KDP Wizard shows that it is a trustworthy steward of our data, but for now, they’re doing everything right and on the surface at least, all appears above board.

Yet another detail, perhaps the one I am the most excited above, is the “profiles” feature for every section. So for example, you can save your keywords to a “profile” and next time you’re filling out similar keywords, you can pull up that profile. You can create profiles to auto-populate the description or any other element of the KDP data input process. You can do the same for pricing, descriptions, every aspect of submitting. 

It also has little details to help you perfect the book creation process. I LOVE that it shows the 50 character count on each keyword, so you know that you’re inputing the maximum amount of keywords allowed. 

KDP Wizard has a built in rich text editor, so that you can use bold, italics, and all other formatting directly in your KDP description box! I mean come on, how is this the first company to recognize the enormous need people have for these kind of tools! It’s late 2019, nearly 2020, and I’m over the moon over a rich text editor. This is the kind of software where when you get used to it, you can’t imagine it not being there, and when it’s not turned on the whole KDP Dashboard and bookshelf just seems so incredible archaic and web 1.0 style. The big features are amazing but the little features matter – please don’t think these are minor time savers – put together, they cut in half the amount of time I spend submitting per novel. The process being so streamlined means you don’t have a million opportunities to get distracted, you just do it.

I mean just look at the description box alone and tell me this isn’t night and day compared to the regular description box: 

KDP Wizard Description Box
The Amazon KDP Description box with KDP Wizard
Normal description box
WITHOUT KDP Wizard

But wait, there’s more! (OK, I will stop channeling my inner Billy Mayes here)

You can also store your reviews to AirTable, and scroll through and see all your reviews for all your books in one place. 

You can, on-page just like every other feature, search for categories on Amazon – no more click through to 100 categories to see if any are relevant. 

KDP Wizard also moonlights as a yet another program, this time a digital asset management system. When you synch the books to AirTable, you’re not just synching it’s data. You’re also synching its cover file, and its document file, so you also have all the latest copies of your cover and manuscript in one place in the cloud, although currently you need to manually upload all .epubs or .mobis yourself. You can add any other file manually as well, depending on your needs. AirTables has an amazing reputation and great 2FA options as well, so this is a secure digital asset manager as well as the most powerful analytical tool, data visualizer and data entry assistant that exists for KDP. 

Since it’s a browser extension, it adds options on all the relevant pages automatically (overlay style), and you can always, at any time, enter KDP Wizard by clicking it’s extension icon in the top right, and you can instantly search your entire book catalog right from your extension dropdown no matter what website you’re browsing, as well as other useful functions right at your fingertips, a single click away at all times. This is a screenshot of what you see when you click the extension icon in Chrome (the icon is top right.)

KDP Wizard browser extension view

It also makes the KDP dashboard look cleaner – this is subjective of course, but to me it’s much easier on the eyes and less clunky.

I will leave it at that for features, you should have a good overview by now. The team is also putting out new features right now, at a really rapid rate. I’ve been using this product for a few weeks (edit: now months) and they’ve added at least one feature a week, and not small ones.

As you might know if you are a regular reader of Publishing With Love, I’ve published thousands of books over the years, and Amazon is the largest retailer I work with by far. I have never, at any point in my career, used software this damn useful. It just works. I’m not sure who the creator is, but it’s obvious to me that he’s either an author or a publisher – this extension feels so intuitive. 

How Much Does KDP Wizard Cost?

Right now there are two pricing tiers. KDP Wizard is 100% free for the lowest tier “Apprentice.” This tier is amazing for a free product, and many people will be happy with this one, even though I upgraded ASAP, and consider it the best value in terms of bang-for-buck that I will ever get in the publishing world. If you’re a bit more advanced, you might want to upgrade to the Sorcerer tier, which includes the full feature set. 

KDP Wizard Pricing Tiers

So, do you recommend it?

I think you know by now, but yes, I really do personally recommend it, and I personally am using this extension every day.

Click to the big link below to visit. 🙂

Pros

Free option + Great value paid option

One-click export from KDP to other platforms

You control your data

Safe & Secure

Much easier searching, one click on extension icon to search catalog

Advanced customization

You can turn any function you don't want off

Copy & Paste entire book metadata page

Create unique profiles for keywords, descriptions, whatever you want

Searchable category section, no more clicking around

Streamlined design, makes KDP dashboard look and feel modern

Cons

Automatic synch is still in beta, so you can only export 50 books per click, takes around 5mins for initial import

It has some minor kinks due to how new it is

Review Overview
5.00
Overall Score
Value For Money
Usefulness
Design
Support
Uniqueness

My BookCore Review

My BookCore Review

I’m not exclusive with Amazon, and so I’ve been looking for a way to track all my sales on the various platforms for, I don’t know, 4 years? So when I heard about BookCore, I knew I needed to try it out, and honestly I’m very glad I did. I’m going to give the honest pros and cons here, this is not a paid ad or any type of sponsored post, just my pure honest opinion. OK, let’s dive in.

Bookcore

So what is BookCore? BookCore is a way to track, monitor and analyze your sales on multiple booksellers at once. You give them limited access to your account, and they show you your data. Pretty straightforward, and when you think about logging into Amazon, iBooks, Google Play, Smashwords, etc and then adding together the sales data to get some sort of final figure you can imagine the kind of effort this services saves. Not just that but more importantly it gives you a better display of all aggregated data, so you can actually gain more insight into your sales than you would of been able to otherwise. Google Play’s default sales display, for example, is nonexistent and unless you’re going to build a custom display for the raw excel data they give you, you’re probably not going to draw any meaningful conclusions about what sells best on Google Play. So it’s not just the time saved, it’s also better data, because data that can’t be understood is worse than useless.

BookCore Screenshot

What kind of coverage does BookCore provide?

BookCore will automatically import sales data from Amazon KDP, Google Play, iBooks and Smashwords all at once, and you only ever need to grant them access once, for the data to automatically import from that point forward.

Does BookCore require your login, and is it safe?

No, BookCore doesn’t require any of your logins. You grant access to KDP via a Chrome extension, and you’re not required to give them your password. You grant access to iBooks and Google Play via creating a user in your account for BookCore with whatever limited permissions are needed, and as for Smashwords I don’t use them so I can’t comment on the process, but I asked the owner and he said that for all storefronts, the goal is to never have to require a users password, and they only ask for passwords when on-boarding a new store, kind of like a beta access. They used to require a password for Google Play, etc, but they don’t anymore. I would never use any service that required me to give them my login details! As for whether BookCore is safe, I guess it’s as safe as any small business online. That is to say, don’t give them any information that could be extremely damaging such as your passwords. The owners are public, Petr Hrachovec and his cousin Vaclav Hrachovec, so at least they’re not anonymous owners. Usually it’s a good sign when the website owner wants to attach their real identity to the project, and for what it’s worth the guy seems nice when I’ve asked him questions. 

Is BookCore Free or Paid?

It’s free and paid, but its free version does not feel limited or cramped in any way. I’m using it right now, and it’s great. I am planning on upgrading purely because I really enjoy the product, and I know that my hundreds of books would be using some serious server resources, but I would strongly recommend this even for someone who doesn’t ever want to upgrade. Virtually every free is available for free at least at the moment, the only features that you need to pay for are review monitoring (you get an email whenever there’s a new Amazon review on your book/s). As for whether it will continue to be free in the future, I don’t know. It’s in Beta, but it’s been in Beta for like a year apparently.

What are the data displays like?

Pretty good. The data displays aren’t too complicated, just all the useful information you need at a glance. The dashboard shows your top 5 books, and revenue, units, free units & KENPC for yesterday, this month so far, and last month total. I like how if you click the “this month so far” figure, it will compare it to the same time period for last month. So if it’s the 13th and you click it, it will compare it to the 1st-13th of last month, and give you a percentage increase or decrease. That’s just the dashboard, then there is a books section that lists all of your books, and I mean ALL of your books (some of these books have been deleted for 3 years and they still get the URL somehow) although one small issue is that it doesn’t seem to grab all the covers, only about half my books have their covers displayed there which is kind of annoying but not a big deal. Then there’s the actual data display part, and some of the options are shown in the screenshot above. I can’t show the data displays themselves for privacy reasons, but they are clean and concise. 

How often does the sales data update?

This is my only real issue with BookCore, but it’s one that the devs are saying they will fix. There’s no way to manually update the data, so you’re forced to wait about 10 hours for it to update all the linked storefront data. 99% of people won’t need instant data, but some people like myself are habitual refreshers and enjoy checking a few times a day. I think they should switch to either every hour updates, or they should update automatically when someone logs in, or keep it as is but allow one manual update per day for when you just really want to see how sales were over the past few hours.

Any other cool features besides data display and review notifications?

Wow, you’re picky aren’t you? Well, I guess there is also the ability to export all your data in CSV format, which is great so you can do your own data visualizations or analysis without having to merge together totally separate spreadsheets that have wildly different structures. The team is also REALLY active – I mean they update about once a week or so, and they’re planning on adding tons of cool new features. All in all, I give them a thumbs up.

Do you recommend BookCore?

Yes, I really do. I will update this article straight away if there’s any changes, but as it stands, I use this company myself and can really recommend them. 

Pros

Only service of its type

No password required, mostly trustless

Great data visualizations

Can download all data

Option to be alerted on new Kindle reviews

Free & cheap options

Displays all books with editable book page, so it's also a book management system

Cons

Still in Beta, has been for a year

Doesn't import all book covers

Only updates a few times a day (team is working on fixing)

Some features aren't intuitive, better documentation needed

Review Overview
4.88
Overall Score
Security
Data Visualization
Updates
Cost

5 Guidelines To Picking A Book Sub-Category

5 Guidelines To Picking A Book Sub-Category

Selecting a category and sub-category to write your novel in is similar to the process that you use to select a niche for your pen name, but quite a bit more specific. If you or your pen name write in a specific category as most authors do, you should be laser focused on that categories Top 100 list. It is your bible, because it is the perfect representation of what readers in that category want, and which covers/keywords/tropes/characters are popular with readers. There is so much information there that even experienced self-publishers ignore, to their enormous disadvantage.

First, think of what country you think you will sell the most books in, and switch over to the Amazon store for that country. The results are totally different in Sweden than in the UK, and if you’re writing a book set in the outskirts of Devon you might want to be studying your target audience specifically.

Since you’re focusing on one single category, it’s going to be smartest to spend a lot of time studying each individual book, as important pieces of information can jump out at you from even the slightest differences. To get you started, open each book up and take not of each of the following 10 differences.

1. Sub-category. If you are writing in the paranormal section, a sub-category would be vampires. Write down each sub-category you take note of in the top 100, it will make a great reference after you’re finished browsing.

2. Keywords. What keywords jump out at you? Is there more than one “Vampire Family,” then perhaps it is a popular trope to look into? You can also get real Amazon search data from our keyword search tool.

3. Date published. If the date published was over a year ago, there is some aspect of that book that is giving it enormous staying power. Find out what that is, and see if you can notice any common trends among books that are still on the Top 100 after a long time.

4. Characters. Do most main characters seem to be women? If so, perhaps your book should feature a female character. You might be tempted to write a man under the assumption that rarity determines value, but keep in mind that you’ll be choosing to stand out from the top books, not from all books. For all you know, more books were written with male characters than with female, but it’s the females dominating the top 100. You’re looking at the best books, trying to stand out by being different from them is not a winning strategy.

5. Price. Are books that are twice as long charging 4x the price and getting it? Is there no relation between length, category, characters, etc and price? It’s important to pay attention to the price because it’s not only an indicator of what a similar book can ask for and get, it’s also an indication of interest in that particular book and a thumbs up to emulate it. If most books in the niche are 0.99c and a book from an indie author is sailing high at 9.99, that means readers are willing to pay 10x more for that book. That is a massive indicator of interest, and this is a massive factor in picking what category to write a book in.

Although these 5 differences will show you a wealth of information when you compare books in your category to one another, there are some broader metrics to remember as well, such as:

Look at the ratings. Are they all 5 star, or are some of them 3-4 star and still ranking? If the latter, that usually indicates less competition, or there is some driving force besides quality of writing determining sales in that category. Think about what that could be. To use an obvious example, if you are in the autobiography section the sales are being driven by fame, why are you even there? Popularity can be driven by other factors, and if books are ranking high without good ratings you need to understand the driving factors to determine if you can emulate them or fit into a system.

Be very attentive to the amount of reviews. You will need to generate your own reviews, which is an incredibly time consuming and frustrating process. You will need to manage an ARC team, or beg family and friends for a review, or pay a service to send your book out to be honestly reviewed, and even after doing that you might not be happy with the reviews you get. So if they average 50 reviews on the front page, that means you’ll need 50 to compete. This is a catch 22, you need good reviews to get a person to buy your book, so they can enjoy it and leave a good review. So if it’s 300-400 reviews on average, well, think if you’re up to that.

Note – don’t “create a niche” which is where you lie to yourself to tell yourself that you can create your own niche. If you would totally go out and buy a book about dragons that fight in space, keep in mind that unless your book is a runaway hit you will never get sales, because it’s a category that doesn’t really exist. Medieval fantasy and space are your two personal loves that you would like combined, not the markets. With literally millions of authors out there and millions more readers, it’s pretty obvious that the vast majority of niches have been formed along the lines of what readers want, and if you ignore them to make your own book don’t expect to make a reliable profit out of it.

How To Select A Writing Niche

How To Select A Writing Niche

Before you publishing your first book, before you write that amazing novel you have kicking around in the back of your mind, before you even select a sub-category for your book you’re going to want to select a niche to write in. You or your pen name should pick a particular category of novels to focus on, so that you can build a brand. In some very rare cases – usually when the author is a celebrity or has become a celebrity through writing – an author can choose to publish books in all sorts of categories, and readers will dutifully buy their books wherever they go. For most of us mere mortals, we need to write our books in a single category, or at least a single category per pen name, so that we can build a loyal following and actually make a profit. If you have no special notability, your core fans will likely be people who have read your previous books and want to buy the new book you are putting out. This generally only works if those books are in the same category, as if a big fan of your previous non-fiction book on Ukranian politics is ALSO a lover of fantasy romance, it’s merely a coincidence, and a good businessperson never relies on luck. This is the first step of the writing process for the vast majority of new authors just starting out.

You’ve come to the right place. Not only do I run a publishing company with many pen names under it’s (invisible) banner, but I used to be a writer myself, writing shamelessly for profit in any niche I could, and have hopped around from niche to niche like a madman… If anyone is qualified to tell you how to identify a profitable niche, it’s myself, and the process is quite simple. Note: Simple does not mean easy, a 10 mile run is simple, not easy. Niche analysis is essential.

To begin with, you need to take a stroll through the various top 100 lists on Amazon, on the US website of course as that is where most of your sales will be unless writing a location dependent book. You will not need to be as laser focused as you will have to be when picking a more narrow niche, or subcategory, to write your actual book in. Your market research for your pen name’s niche and your book’s sub-niche are separate, and it’s much hard to switch your niche later for a pen name so really follow both your mind and your heart, and don’t settle on a random category or subcategory.

You can rule out any categories you would hate to write in, off the bat. In the ones you find acceptable, browse through every single top 100 list. Without exception. Would you want to find out two books into establishing your identity as an author that there is another niche you would love to write in with way less competition and just as many readers?

As you browse the eBooks and books, let your eyes linger on each book’s rating, amount of ratings, and price point. These are the three key metrics. Ignore the cover, the keywords, all that you would look at during research for a book niche. What price point are they? This tells you the average price per novel in the category. Some categories support much higher prices, whereas other categories support lower prices. This is the difference between ranking in the top 100 with a $7.99 book or a $0.99 book. If the vast majority of prices are 0.99, keep in mind many of them are priced that way to boost rankings, and they will make the real money in Kindle Unlimited reads. Think about whether you want to be enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, because without that you will never be able to match their price points and still pay for advertising. A higher price point is better, but if there are no readers then it won’t help you much to be selling 10 copies of a book at $7.99 whereas your competition sells their book at $0.99c

Look at the ratings. Are they all 5 star, or are some of them 3-4 star and still ranking? If the latter, that usually indicates less competition, or there is some driving force besides quality of writing determining sales in that category. Think about what that could be. To use an obvious example, if you are in the autobiography section the sales are being driven by fame, why are you even there? Popularity can be driven by other factors, and if books are ranking high without good ratings you need to understand the driving factors to determine if you can emulate them or fit into a system.

Be very attentive to the amount of reviews. You will need to generate your own reviews, which is an incredibly time consuming and frustrating process. You will need to manage an ARC team, or beg family and friends for a review, or pay a service to send your book out to be honestly reviewed, and even after doing that you might not be happy with the reviews you get. So if they average 50 reviews on the front page, that means you’ll need 50 to compete. This is a catch 22, you need good reviews to get a person to buy your book, so they can enjoy it and leave a good review. So if it’s 300-400 reviews on average, well, think if you’re up to that.

Note – don’t “create a niche” which is where you lie to yourself to tell yourself that you can create your own niche. If you would totally go out and buy a book about dragons that fight in space, keep in mind that unless your book is a runaway hit you will never get sales, because it’s a category that doesn’t really exist. Medieval fantasy and space are your two personal loves that you would like combined, not the markets. With literally millions of authors out there and millions more readers, it’s pretty obvious that the vast majority of niches have been formed along the lines of what readers want, and if you ignore them to make your own book don’t expect to make a reliable profit out of it.

To get one more critical piece of information, check the rank of the last book on each categories top 100. This gives you a great idea of both what rank you will need to break into the top 100 and get visibility, and also tells you how well top books in that category sell, basically how popular is the niche. The more popular the niche, the more readers, the more money. Ranking is a sales rank, sales rank are your sales. Pretty simple. So don’t go too small or too big, pick a niche that will reflect the amount of time and effort you’re putting into writing. If you’re only writing part time, pick a smaller niche it would be more realistic for you to succeed in. If you’re dedicating your life to writing, perhaps a bigger niche is more worthy of your time.

Other considerations to make if you have more time – you can check the average book length (requires clicking on each book) to see what kind of length the niche will tolerate on average. Some can be much shorter than others. Another is to check the ages of the books on the top 100. Some categories, like Romance, are virtually all brand new bestsellers. Other niches you will find that some are 1 year, 2 year, 3 years old and this indicates much greater staying power, which represents a more long term return on the initial time and money expended.

Doing the same – browsing top 100 lists – on other websites might be a good idea as well, perhaps even on Goodreads. After studying each and every category, taking note of the above metrics, you have a really good sense of each niche’s sales potential, how hard it is to rank in the top 100, how many reviews you’ll need, the kind of prices your book will command in each category and after skimming 100 books in each category you’ll have a good sense of the type of content you will have to write.

So now it’s a good idea to write down each category onto a piece of paper, except for categories you would never consider. A simple elimination process begins – pick what you MUST HAVE. For example, perhaps it must be an easy subcategory to break into, because you can only devote an hour per day to writing and publishing and marketing, so you’re going to be spread very thin. Any category that is too large, cross it out. Rinse, repeat, until you have only a few options, let’s say 5 or less. Then, do a deep dive into each category. Search the internet for interviews of authors who write in the category, search forum posts on writers forums, check historical sales data for books that have been selling in that category for a while, the whole shebang. Out of that chaos you will hopefully find a winner.

 

The AlphaSmart 3000 – with Mechanical Keyboard Upgrades?

The AlphaSmart 3000 - with Mechanical Keyboard Upgrades?

The AlphaSmart 3000 is an incredibly unique piece of machinery, which has enjoyed a renewed interest amongst authors looking to simplify their life. I am no stranger to using outdated equipment to reduce distractions, as I have the attention span of a hyperactive 13 year old. I delight in carrying my old, boring phone and still listen to music on an iPod. That’s why I was shocked to find out that this product and others like it exists and I never even knew about it. So what is the AlphaSmart 3000? [Click images below to visit]

The AlphaSmart is a stand-alone word processor, with a full sized keyboard and a small display screen. This unit is old, with the first AlphaSmarts being released in 1993. There were quite a few versions, Pro, 2000, 3000, then the NEO 1 and NEO 2. I did some research on every unit available, and for my personal preferences the 3000 version was the best. It had a long battery life, simple features, was the one that seemed the most reliable based on reviews, and was generally just the one best for actually writing. The only limit was the keyboard, but a creative group from GeekHack (links above images) is modding out their AlphaSmarts with mechanical keyboard. If you’re like many authors and would love a stand alone unit to write, this is actually a perfect solution. I was so inspired by this brilliance I knew I had to tell people about it, so I put my money where my mouth is and did this comparison. The keyboard it comes with is subpar, so this upgrade will make it worthy of even a picky professional author.

AlphaSmart is cheap, around $20usd. This seems perfectly reasonable to me, considering it’s essentially a keyboard with an LCD. Don’t take this price for granted, though, since modern electronic word processors like the Freewrite are running around $550, and selling out. The modern ones, ranging on average from 300-600, tend to have features like cloud synch, more advanced spell check, and e-ink. Personally, I don’t get why you need any of that, and cloud synch to me is an anti-feature. Here’s a quick comparison of the most popular by far modern electronic typewriter, and the AlphaSmart 3000.

I bought one, although admittedly have only been using it for a few days now. This is my honest opinion about it, and you know that because AlphaSmart stopped producing these years ago and presumably wouldn’t be trying to market them.

I really, really like it. At $25 plus shipping, it’s a no-brainer. I write incredibly often, and the only complaint I have is that it can only hold 100 pages, so you can’t write a full novel on it, but at the same time with technology this old you would never leave an entire novel on it because if it fails, that’s all folks. So I consider it a reminder to back up. I use it at home, because I use a desktop computer for work and at 1.6 pounds it weighs about as much as a small paperback book. Since it’s $25 I also don’t need to worry about damaging it, like I would if I typed on a laptop. It’s very freeing, and the keyboard is full size so it’s exactly the same as typing on a computer. I thought I would be annoyed by the very small display screen, but surprising it’s no big deal and it can really let you focus on the section you’re writing, I believe my sentence structure has improved slightly due to only having 4 lines displayed at a time. For someone like me who is a habitual re-reader and obsessive scanner, it can also prevent me from scanning my work over and over – basically, it’s perfect for writing a rough draft, although you would never do editing on it unless you didn’t have another device handy. The Amazon link is here but it’s also available on E-Bay. I also hope that one day an enterprising individual will sell the modded units already created, but that’s beyond my skillset.

Not only does the AlphaSmart punch above it’s weight on features, it also has better specs, as you can see in it’s three year battery life. The AlphaSmart does around 700 hours of active use, and uses no battery when not in use. That’s about two years of an hour per day usage, less frequent use will make it last longer. It’s also supported by normal batteries, not rechargeable, which is great for people who travel frequently. As a cheap, durable password protected unit that needs no internet or recharging, it’s essentially perfect for a digital nomad or traveling author. So why would anyone buy any different electronic typewriter? Well for one, the AlphaSmart looks a bit clunky. It’s old, and that shows. Personally I think all the new e-typewriters are quite ugly as well, so this wasn’t a factor in my decision making. There are some downsides – it can only be bought used, so when purchasing one, you run the risk of sticky keys or defects you can’t notice until it’s actually in your hands. The file transfer is imperfect – in fact, when connecting it to your computer and importing, it actually re-types out the entire document into the receiving document. This takes only 30 seconds as it is not typing as a human does but populating as fast as the receiving program will let it, however it’s still a surprising and odd mechanism. There’s no direct support, although the manual and hundreds of posts online about it can solve most troubleshooting issues. Since it’s used, I suggest you manually reset it when you receive the unit.

To reset the AlphaSmart 3000 to factory defaults:

1)   Start with the device turned off.

2)   Press and hold the and keys.

3)   While holding the and keys, turn the unit on by pressing the <on/off> key.

4)   When the dialog “Are you sure you want to reset the AlphaSmart to factory defaults?” appears on the screen, press Y (for yes).

5)   Enter the factory reset password: tommy

Note: Sometimes multiple keystrokes can be registered while typing the reset password.  Make sure only one asterisk appears per letter typed.

6)   Press .

Note: If you performed the factory defaults reset correctly, you should see “Initializing AlphaSmart System…”.  If it was not done correctly, it will take you right back to the last file you were in and you will need to try it again.

It is also a good idea to enter [alt+cmd+K] and then disable sticky keys and slow marks, as they can interfere with other commands from the manual. By the way, if you did purchase this unit and want a copy of the manual, it’s here.


Why you should NEVER use Streetlib.com – A Review/Warning

Why you should NEVER use Streetlib.com - A Review/Warning

A supremely important choice (whether we realize it or not) is how and where to publish our books. Not all distributors are created equal, and the distributor you select will determine how easily you book is approved by the various outlets such as Amazon or Google Play, how well it will sell when it is listed there, and how often you’ll be paid. A good catalog, with a bad distributor, will sell badly. It’s a decision, just like your cover and formatting, that can make or break your title or catalog.

Streetlib is such a bad distributor, I feel they deserve their own article. Their behavior borders on the criminal, and is certainly as arrogant, annoying and blatantly corrupt as any company can get. To find the best distributors, see this article.

I will be telling my story of my time with Streetlib, and how they are still a problem well over a year after unpublishing my books on their platform. This is not just my story – writers forums and chatrooms are littered with similar experiences.  Streetlib tends to prey on those they see as unable to fight back, so as far as I can tell they have escaped any sort of litigation for their actions. The first person to do so will be mightily rewarded by a judge I’m sure, especially in New York. If you are reading this article because you have been ripped off by Streetlib, and you’re looking for others or for proof, feel free to send me a message and I will send you all the extensive documentation I have of my experience, and point you towards others who have experienced the same result.

Anyway, on to the story.

My first experience with streetlib was well over a year ago. Being younger and dumber, I thought all distributors were the same. I had noticed a few complaints about streetlib over the years, but Giac (who I assume is the owner or spokesperson) posted regularly in the forums I frequented, and always responded with a passionate defense of himself and his company. It was a weak trick but it worked on me, because I figured if there was any issues, hey, at least there’s a real person who will be able to help me.

I have a rather extensive catalog, which includes many short stories. When Amazon changed the KDP payouts to pay out based upon pages read, and not books read, KDP became worthless for short stories overnight, and I resolved to move them all to Streetlib. We’re talking around, at the time, 300 short stories, as I am a publisher not just an author.

Almost immediately, there were issues. The exact same books which were uploaded without issue to Amazon (a company extremely strict on their standards) were being rejected by Google Play, Kobo, and NookPress for a variety of technical (not listed on streetlib) and non-technical reasons. Streetlib is also very liberal at blocking titles, they have more restrictive standards than Amazon, Google Play and Ibooks so your book might not even reach them, and you’ll only find out on a manual check. Through enormous efforts I managed to get roughly half of them up over a couple of months, but there was more when it came time for first payout.

Being an American, who had searched google for distributors, I was operating under the assumption the vast majority of people have when clicking on a .com website that is written entirely in english, that said company is a US company.

Their website even proudly proclaimed to be “Streetlib New York.”

Their payout timing was really good – it said royalties were paid out within a month (so for example, the sales of Jan were paid out by the end of Feb), and international royalties were paid out 3 months later. As I was on a completely English, .com website that appeared to be in New York, I was confused when I didn’t get paid. It turns out they classify Amazon, Google Play, Ibooks, Kobo, NookPress – basically every conceivable book seller any English speaking person on planet earth would ever send their book too – as international titles, as they are headquartered in France. This struck me as incredibly misleading, and it took about a week of back and forth between us before I even knew their distinction, as they were rude and preferred to send me copied and pasted sections of their FAQ. By the way for anyone who is considering litigation, them using their US company as a shell company for their French company means the corporate veil could be pierced and you could also go after their French assets.

When trying to get answers, I was hit with what I can only describe as the most passive aggressive, condescending, and evil customer support I have ever experienced. They would move heaven and earth to avoid answering me, when simply answering the question would be 1000x less effort. Here is a verbatim copy of an average email chain we would send back and forth, where the support person would literally follow my online accounts (I never gave them to her) and tell me I got enough advice online, and never answer.

I am italics.

“I was underpaid for this month. I only received $81. It says I made much more than that. Please look into my account and sort out what the hell is going on. Don’t give me a cookie cutter answer or brush me off like you have in the past.”

“Hello

I know that Giacomo answered your question in the forum. If anything is not clear or you have questions, let us know please, we are here at your disposal.

Thank you very much,

Lucia Zitelli”

“He didn’t answer my question, check the graphs I posted on the forum if you’re following it. “

“Here I am as per your question (“I only received $81. It says I made much more than that.”), he did answer: Please, look at screenshot in attachment.

Let us know if anything is not clear. Thank you

Lucia Zitelli” (This is where she attached a screenshot of the forum post.)

 

“He didn’t answer my question, check the graphs I posted on the forum if you’re following it.”

 

“Hello

I know that Giacomo answered your question in the forum. If anything is not clear or you have questions, let us know please, we are here at your disposal.

Thank you very much,

Lucia Zitelli”

 

“My last reply is unanswered, if you can answer that satisfactorily that would be fantastic. Don’t attach a screenshot of a post I already replied to, it’s extremely insulting and you’re doing it on purpose. You saw I replied to his post already.”

 

After no reply

 

“So you can reply within 6 minutes to show me a screenshot of the post I already replied to but you can’t take a couple minutes to do the math and see what was claimed is mathematically impossible? “

 

Then she never replied until I emailed her again for a separate issue. You see what I mean, right? They are allergic to being helpful. I honestly thought, at this point, it was simple incompetence, but as time went on I realized it was an integral part of their companies mind state, which is simply to extract as much money from author’s as possible, “no matter what it takes.”

The next surprise was a few months later when the royalties finally came in. Again, I send an email, asking why I was underpaid. I knew how distributors worked, and had read their payment page very carefully. Why wasn’t I getting what I earned, minus their 10% cut? To my shock and surprise, Giac informed me (after a week or so of back and forth emailing, forum posts, etc) that Streetlib, unlike every other major distributor I have ever heard of, didn’t take 10% of MY revenue, they took 10% of total book revenue. What this means is, if you posted a book for $10, and Amazon pays you 70%, or $7, every time you have a sale, Streetlib takes 10% off the entire sale, including taking 10% of Amazon’s cut. What that means is, they don’t take 70c out of that $10 book, they take $1. This is contrary to every other distributor I know of, and common sense to boot. Some websites pay out a royalty as little as 30%, but they would still take 10% of your cut and the websites cut, leaving you paying 33.33% of your revenue to them.

Shortly after that, 136 of my books were marked as invalid due to a system update they did, and I only found out after logging in to see them all unpublished and my earnings low.

Shady, shady, shady. You’d think this is where I pull my books and go about my life, right?

Well, you are right – but like all bad groups, Streetlib had a way of not letting you leave.

Recently I was checking my emails, and I noticed two unusual emails, right next to each other. One was from Amazon, saying it had noticed unusual bot activity on my books, and that any detected manipulation would be removed from my KENCP sales. The other was an email from Streetlib (which I had not been using for over a year at this point) saying that their new system would display the books uploaded through their service in their portal, so people who use them can go click on the links to see their books uploaded on Amazon, etc

It displayed several hundreds of my books.

The only problem was – I had unpublished every book I had ever uploaded to them.

I quickly realized two horrifying truths. The first was, that on logging in, their bot crawler, or whatever they use to find their books on the various websites, had an “attempt log” which showed that they had accessed books with the same author and titles as the ones I uploaded to them automatically, some hundreds of times. One had 400 access attempts in two days – no wonder Amazon flagged my account for suspicious activity!

The second truth was even worse. I realized upon researching that all those books that I had “unpublished” from their platform, that were still, even as I checked right then, completely unpublished, with my sales over the past year showing 0 sales – those hundreds of books, were still uploaded through streetlib. It was just hidden from me when I logged in.

The books were still uploaded through streetlib without a single sale registered. Shocked, hurt, confused – I shot off an email to streetlib. I got a response that floored me.

YES! Streetlib admitted… Yes, we did have hundreds of your books for sale, for over a year, without paying you a single dime, and without showing you on your dashboard, and falsely displaying them all as unpublished. However, they said – and this is a beauty – HOWEVER! We did not pay you at all over the past year, because the hundreds of books of yours we kept selling, never made a single sale. The sales graph is accurate, you simply did not have a single sale over hundreds of titles, although we did leave them up. Never mind that those exact same titles before I “unpublished” them made like 4,000+ sales. Same distributor, same websites, but suddenly they didn’t make any sales over a year? Only an idiot would believe that – the truth is, they simply pocketed the royalties.

There are also many other people sharing similar experiences on various forums, but I don’t want to post their laundry publicly, as most of them are actually still on streetlib due to the big effort to move all their books to another distributor, and I would be opening them up to retaliation. I have personally seen at least a few posts about every issue posted here, including a couple about my last issue (keeping the books up, selling them, not paying authors) within the past week alone.

To recap: I have emailed them, and they have admitted in plain simple English to still having a few hundred of my books uploaded, despite my dashboard clearly saying unpublished on every book for over a year. They are claiming they had no sales, which is absolutely absurd. Their employees unpublished my books themselves after I emailed them (I had no option to, as my dashboard displayed “unpublished” for them all), and are saying they owe no royalties because I had no sales in over a year, despite the fact those same books had 4000+ sales in 7 months.

This is on the tail end of an enormous headache with them, so bad I went through the effort of removing every book from them before I even knew they were scammers, when I thought they were simply sleazy.

Readers should simply stop here, and visit Publishdrive, Draft2Digital, or Smashwords or any other legitimate distributor.

 

Review Overview
0.08
Overall Score
Trustworthiness
Customer Service
Language Skills

Banned Amazon Keywords

Banned Amazon Keywords

There are many banned words for Amazon keywords, mostly in the erotica category. Don’t run afoul of Amazon, like all large companies there is very little recourse for people who are the victim of an erroneous ban, unless you have a multi-million dollar account of course.

If your account is banned, not only do you lose all your books on that account with no ability to re-upload them on another account, you also lose the royalties already earned – this means if you make $20k in January, and 50k in February, and you’re banned in March, you will receive all of $0. They will keep it all, and you explicitly agreed to it in their terms when you signed up.

This is true whether it’s your fault or not.

Amazon also regularly pulls entire catalogs, for violations on a single book.

The first words to avoid are trademarked terms. These can be very spottily enforced by Amazon, but make absolutely no mistake – if you get too comfortable and start abusing trademarked keywords to get more views on your book, when they do find out they will ban you and there will be no sympathy, as it’s the type of basic good practice they expect even the smallest author to follow. If you have a fantasy magic book targeted towards children, don’t you dare slip “Harry Potter” in those keywords. Seriously, you’re not the first person to get that brilliant idea, but sadly it’s strictly forbidden.

Besides trademarked terms, don’t abuse Amazon terms. As you search our Keyword Nerve Center, you might be surprised to see how many of Amazon’s real searches have “Kindle Unlimited” or another of Kindle’s programs in the search term. If your book really is in Kindle Unlimited, there’s absolutely no issue with slipping Kindle Unlimited into your keywords, right? Wrong, very wrong. Any Amazon specific keyword should be avoided, since Amazon can change it’s mind pretty quick on this, as many people who had to update their keywords to remove Kindle Unlimited found out upon receiving the mass warning Amazon sent out.

Forbidden words includes “Amazon,” “Kindle,” “KDP Select,” “Kindle Unlimited,” “Best Seller,” and even “Free.” Straight from the horses mouth, the following are banned:

Unauthorized reference to other titles or authors

Unauthorized reference to a trademarked term

Reference to sales rank (e.g., “bestselling”)

Reference to advertisements or promotions (e.g., “free”)

You should also avoid putting your pen name in the subtitle, or keywords. Amazon had this to say about it when an individual complained, after his book was banned for just that.

As stated in our Metadata Guidelines (httpss://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help?topicId=A294SHSUYLKTA6), search keywords that are not accurate descriptors of a book’s central storyline or are completely unrelated to its content may be misleading to our customers and are unacceptable. Misleading search keywords, such as reference to other authors or titles, result in confusion for customers as to why the work is included in search results. To that end, authors may be asked to remove misleading terms from their book’s search keyword fields so that we can ensure the keywords do not lead to inaccurate or overwhelming search results or impair our readers’ ability to make good buying decisions. If no changes are made to the book’s search keyword fields, the book may be removed from sale. In all cases of book removal, the author is notified. Our team is looking into any technical issues that occurred during our notification to you. If we determine an error in our messaging system, all authors impacted will be notified immediately.

Don’t think your descriptions are a free for all, either. From Amazon:

Entice readers with a summary of the story and characters. Don’t give away anything that adds to the suspense or surprise. Let readers know what makes your book interesting, and give them a sense of what kind of book it is. If you’re stuck, check the back covers (or inner dust jacket flaps) of books you like for general ideas, or ask someone you trust how they describe your book when people ask about it.

We prohibit including any of the items below in your description:

Pornographic, obscene, or offensive content

Phone numbers, physical mail addresses, email addresses, or website URLs

Availability, price, alternative ordering information (such as links to other websites for placing orders)

Time-sensitive information (e.g., dates of promotional tours, seminars, lectures, etc.)

Any keywords or tags

Finally, there are normal keywords that are simply banned. These are words that are too abrasive for the general population to stumble upon, and you should never include these in your keywords or titles or subtitles.

Abduct / abduction

Back Door

Bang

Banging

Blowjob

Breast, breasts (Banned in title, not keywords)

Breeding, Breed, Bred, Breeder

Brother

Choked

Daddy / Dad

Dubcon

Family

Father

Forced / Force / Forces

Gangbang

Girl / Boy

Hypnosis / Hypnotize

Incest

Knocked up/Knocking up

Lactation

Little

Niece

NonConsent

Orgy

Profanity

Rape

Siblings

Sister

Slave

Sleep Sex

Sodomize/d

Step-Whatever (Banned in erotica, not romance)

Uncle

Violate

Virgin / Virginity

[We think] Word’s that will increase the chance of an adult title or additional review:

Alcohol / Drunk

Anal

Ass / Asshole

Baby

Babysitter

Bareback

Barely Legal

Cheerleader

Cum/ming

Deflowered

Drugs / Drugged

Dubious

Filled

Milk / Milked / Milking

Mom

Mother

Pregnancy / Pregnant / Impregnate

Reluctant

Slut / Slutty

Stepbrother

Stepmother

Young / Younger

Unprotected, no protection

Warning (As in TRIGGER WARNING or WARNING ADULT)

Not mentioned but still banned: Generally any word that describes an illegal sex act will not be allowed, and as the word’s disturb me I’m not going to bother listing them here. This is obvious, I’m sure, so I don’t need to tell you this.

So, you’ve finished a romance or erotica book and it’s main keyword is banned. What to do? As long as it is not describing a sex act that is illegal in real life, you can generally still sell it, and in fact the top 100 erotica is full of content that has frowned upon keywords.

As an example of common work arounds:

Incest MUST be step-brother, step-sister, etc. If you have no banned keywords, your book will still be banned, because they are quite serious about this.

Incest = Taboo

Father = Man Of The House

Mother = Woman Of The House

Daughter = Precious Girl

Instead of Hypnosis, “In A Trance” etc

You get the idea. This requires some creativity, and it’s better to err on the side of caution. Anyone searching for a fetish book that you wrote will generally find it, don’t be stupid and try to push in something blatantly unacceptable by Amazon’s standards. You would just be working hard to earn yourself a ban.

Check this page frequently for updates, go over your keywords and descriptions with a fine tooth comb, and go forth and sell millions of books! Don’t let a mistake define you. Your mistakes don’t make you, or break you. If you get penalized by Amazon, learn what you did wrong and fix it.

How to get a Google Play publishers account and publish books on Google Play.

How to get a Google Play publishers account and publish books on Google Play?

Google Play Publishing is a bit of an enigma at the moment, at least if you want to publish to them. They are currently closed to accepting new publishing accounts, but Google Play is a major book seller, and indeed is about as good as Apple iBooks in terms of how much sales to expect, which means your average author is taking a massive pay cut if they don’t publish with them. Fear not, I’m here with a solution. First, we should go over some information about Google Play Publishers Accounts.

Why won’t Google Play accept any new publishers accounts? GP has some serious issues in terms of moderating content, it seems. Why they have these issues when they have the world’s greatest algorithm builders and seemingly unlimited funds, I have no idea. So their solution is simple – don’t allow any new people into the game. So what’s the answer? You can’t just google “How to upload eBook to Google Play,” instead there’s a bit of a roundabout process.

Currently, you need to sign up via a distributor that already has an account with Google Play. The best by far is PublishDrive, and if you want to know my reasoning as to why they are the best, you can read this in-depth article here I wrote comparing the major distributors. Many other distributors don’t send to Google Play, including even some that did in the past such as Draft2Digital, at least at the time of writing this. You can manage all outlets through PublishDrive, or you can only upload to Google Play – keep in mind PublishDrive sends to over 100 book sellers so I’m sure you’ll get some additional distribution to make up for the 10% lost.

PublishDrive works by submitting your books to multiple websites, where you can manage them remotely from your single dashboard. So if you upload your book to PublishDrive, you can select Amazon, iBooks, Google Play, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, any bookseller you desire. The only downside is they take 10% of your profit, this is a small price to pay since the alternative is not listing on Google Play at all.

In the future, Google Play might open up to traditional sign-ups, and since I’m on the waiting list this article will be updated as soon as they make that decision. In the meantime, PublishDrive is a good solution, and you might find it’s nice to be able to upload to a 100 other book sellers to boot!

What do the file types AZW, AZW3, KF8, KFX, .EPUB, .MOBI, etc mean?

What do the eBook file types AZW, AZW3, KF8, KFX, .EPUB, .MOBI, etc mean?

What on earth are these filetypes? These are all eBook filetypes, most associated with Kindle files.

Here are the most common eBook filetypes:

ePub: .ePub is the most common “non-Amazon” eBook file format. It is the standard.

MOBI: Originally created for the MobiPocket way back in 2000, it’s the second most common eBook file format that’s not used on Amazon. Amazon bought the company, but has shut it down, although the .mobi file format lives on.

AZW and AZW3: These two are the original proprietary Amazon Kindle formats. Any eBook sold on Amazon before the introduction of their current format, the KFX, would of been in these formats. .AZW was the original back in 2007 with the release of the first Kindle, whereas .AZW3 was adopted in 2011.

KF8: Amazon eBook file format that was used on the Kindle Fire. .KF8 is still common.

KFX: Amazon’s current file format, very advanced and flexible. Proprietary.

IBA: .IBA is the iBooks Author eBook file format, it’s very similar to ePub, except it only works in iBooks Author.

LRS, LRF, and LRX: Sony’s old eBook formats, abandoned by Sony in favor of .ePubs.

DJVU: Popular with scientists, this format has extreme file compression.

LIT: Microsoft’s old proprietary eBook file format, abandoned.

RFT: Rich Text Format, the eBook format equivalent of textedit. Simple and no frills.