Now coming to you from West of Boston!

And after a long, long break, I’m back up and running again! This time, not from the wilds of Vermont, but from Boston’s Metro West.

The late summer, autumn, and early winter were a flurry of house hunting, house selecting, house buying, house packing, and then moving. We finally moved into the new home on November 20th, just before Thanksgiving.

Yes, it really has taken me two weeks to begin getting settled into the new place. πŸ˜‰

The kids enjoy the space though. Bigger rooms, bigger house, more rooms… The new house is about 150% the size of the one in Vermont. And my wife somehow managed to find a house a short walk from a 250 acre wooded park. Just outside Boston. I know, right? πŸ˜‰ Β I mean, how does that happen? But we have trees and forest, which is a blessing for expatriate Vermonters, let me tell you!

I can only look at stained concrete for so long before feeling a little depressed and a lot exasperated.

On the plus side, I’ve begun writing again. Wifi is running. I’ve managed a couple of chapters on a story. As things settle down more (this weekend, we’re off to Vermont again to work on the old house and prep it for sale), I’m planning to get more writing done.

So, I’m back – if anyone is still stopping by, thanks! I’ll have more content of the sort I used to post soonish.

Last Day “By Darkness Revealed” is free on Kindle

Yup, I have BY DARKNESS REVEALED free on Kindle. Ends at about midnight.

Why give my book away? I know that subject is controversial, but I have reasons.

First? Because I’ve been indie publishing for a year now. Happy anniversary! Here’s a free book. =) No, seriously – I mean that. It’s been a fun year so far. I’ve learned a ton. And I have oodles of fresh material coming out later this year, so it seemed like a nice time to give something to the reading community. DARKNESS has a 4.9 star rating on Amazon – if you like urban fantasy, give it a try.

Second? Because it helps my book’s rankings. In theory at least, the arcane meta-mumblings of the Amazon Algorithms will increase my book’s visibility when you get your free copy. So when it goes not-free Saturday, it will be much more noticeable to many more people. That’s the theory, this is the experiment testing that theory. You’re helping ME out when you download your free copy. Thank you!

Third? The book is going up to $3.99 shortly. It’s been $2.99 for a while, and now free for a couple of days (ENDS 6/22!), but after that it is going up. For a variety of reasons, this seems like a sound choice. But, here’s your chance to get it free before it goes up.

Fourth – and this one is important – I am removing the book from the Kindle Select program. That’s the program where Amazon gets a book exclusively on their site, and puts it into their Lending Library in return. The publisher also gets five promo days every three months to make the book free. I tried the Select program. I have to say, I’m extremely underwhelmed; and the impact of Amazon algorithm changes recently have made be even less interested in continuing. So – exclusivity time is over, and the book will VERY SOON be available again on B&N, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, and other major retailers.

That bit is the good news for those of you who don’t read Kindle books. =)

I’d originally planned to time this free promotion with the release of the next book, ASHES ASCENDANT, but ASHES isn’t quite ready and I don’t feel like renewing the Select program for another three months is worthwhile. So I’m running the free days now – and I’ll come up with something else interesting to do for my readers when ASHES comes out. In the meantime, if you like BY DARKNESS REVEALED, you can read the short story “By A Whisker”, a short adventure about Ryan set a bit in the future, after ASHES ASCENDANT. No spoilers though, don’t worry!

Thanks for reading! And I’m always open to hearing what folks thought of my stories. Improving my craft to tell YOU better tales is central to what I do.

Update to the Fantasy Bestseller Breakdown

Back in February, I posted the results of some data mining, specifically about the bestseller lists for fantasy and science fiction. You can see the old article here.

It seemed like now might be a good time for an update. There’s been much to-do about the change to the Amazon algorithms. The very-important “Popularity” ranking has seen significant changes in March and again in May. The new algorithms have made major changes to how books show up in the “Popular” ranking – which is the default manner customers see ebooks on Amazon, making it vital to sales.

Roughly how it works: you get sales, your rank goes up. The more sales you get over the period tracked, compared to other books, the more your rank goes up. The old system made loans via the Select program about the same as sales, and gave a lot of weight to free books given away through Select promotion periods. The new system rates free books at perhaps 10% of the value of sold books, does not seem to give any boost for loaned books, and most crucial – it seems to factor price into the equation, weighting higher priced books more heavily.

So how does this affect indies, whose books have been selling like hotcakes because they’re priced lower? If Amazon weights higher priced books higher, then this makes breaking out at $0.99 or $2.99 that much more difficult.

It’s the end of June, four months since my last survey and over a month since the May algorithm changes. Seemed like it was time for new data!

 

Fantasy Genre, Top Hundred Bestsellers

Well, top 95 bestsellers, anyway. There seem to be some issues with doubled up versions of some of George R.R. Martin’s books, which resulted in only 95 books actually listed in the top 100.

The breakdown was 53 (56%) traditionally published books vs 42 (44%) self published books. This is a significant change. In fact, it’s the first time this year that I’ve seen the genre drop much below 50% indie/self pub books; in February, indie books were 53% of the top list for fantasy, and it’s stayed at that level +/- about 4% through early May.

Some other interesting data points:

Indie price average: $3.24

Trad price average: $9.56

Overall average price: $6.77

Breakdown follows. Note, there were several books I raised to the X.99 levels to make the data easier to chart. These were Indie at $2.51 and $4.95, and Trad at $4.90, $7.29, $7.39, $8.32, and $9.34 (actual numbers were used for the averages above, no rounding).

$0.99 – Indie 6 (down 7), Trad 0 (same), Total 6 (6%)

$1.99 – Indie 2 (same), Trad 0 (same), Total 2 (2%)

$2.99 – Indie 16 (down 7), Trad 0, Total 16 (17%)

$3.99 – Indie 13 (up 1), Trad 0, Total 13 (14%)

$4.99 – Indie 4 (up 2), Trad 2 (up 1), Total 6 (6%)

$5.99 – Indie 0, Trad 0, Total 0 (0%)

$6.99 – Indie 1 (up 1), Trad 0 (down 1), Total 1 (1%)

$7.99 – Indie 0 (same), Trad 20 (same), Total 20 (21%)

$8.99 – Indie 0 (same), Trad 15 (up 4), Total 15 (16%)

$9.99 – Indie 0 (same), Trad 7 (up 4), Total 7 (7%)

$10.99 Total 0 (same)

$11.99 Indie 0 (same), Trad 1 (same), Total 1 (1%)

$12.99 Indie 0 (same), Trad 6 (same), Total 6 (6%)

$13.99 Total 0 (same) (0%)

$14.99 Indie 0 (same), Trad 1 (down 2), Total 1 (1%)

$29.99 Indie 0 (same), Trad 1 (same), Total 1 (1%) (Martin boxed set)

 

Fantasy Graph

As ever, a picture is worth a thousand words:

 

Thoughts?

This is not enough data to draw conclusions from. However, coupled with the excellent analysis done by Ed Robertson, it’s possible to hypothesize that the changes he noted to the Amazon book algorithms are damaging indie sales penetration. Some of this might be the loss of impact from Kindle Select promotions and loans. Some could also be due to algorithms favoring higher prices (note the upward trend across the board for prices of indie books which made the top ranks).

I think we need to do substantial more work on data crunching to see where things are headed, and I’m open to collaboration with others. In the short term, however, I think it’s extremely likely many indies are selling themselves short by pricing too low – to their detriment.

Hopefully this helps some folks out.

 

Thanks for stopping by! I hope you found this information interesting and useful. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the data, what it might mean, and how writers can best adapt to these changes.

To celebrate a year of indie publishing, I have my novel, “By Darkness Revealed” reduced to FREE on Amazon for today and tomorrow – 6/21 + 6/22 only. If you enjoy urban fantasy, you might enjoy checking it out, and you’ll aid my in my quest to break the top 100 free books!Β http://www.amazon.com/Darkness-Revealed-Blackwell-Magic-ebook/dp/B005G8L3X4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1340283711&sr=8-1&keywords=by+darkness+revealed

Swimming in the Sea of Ebooks

There’s 1,410,714 ebooks on Amazon as of this writing.

By this time next year, that will have gone up to over 2 million.

By this time in five years, I expect it to be over five million.

By this time in twenty years, I expect it to be…well, really, really, REALLY doggone high. πŸ˜‰

 

Breakout vs. Slow Boil

Guys, it’s important to understand something about writing: the one book breakout is RARE. It almost never happens. Of course, we see lots of them, so we think it’s the goal to shoot for. It’s not. Most writers who only produce one book will sell a few hundred copies, maybe a few thousand over the years. More marketing will only very rarely cause a breakout.

If you have one book to write, one story to tell, then write it, get it up there, and do a little free time marketing. Don’t expect big sales; expect a trickle. I basically don’t market my work, yet get steady sales. I have two or three more books and a serial coming out this year, though. And will have more coming out next year. And more the year after that. Once I have a few more books out, I’ll start focusing a little more on the marketing. But I need enough product to make it worthwhile first – you don’t spend time and money advertising your new hardware store when you have one tool on the shelf, right? Same is true for books.

The goal for a professional writer trying to make a living shouldn’t be to get a breakout on any one book. That’s impossible to predict and cannot be engineered. You can’t make Twilight happen. Sometimes it just does. If it happens to you, I am thrilled for you. I’m not going to plan my career around it, though, and I don’t think you should, either.

Instead, the goal for writers who want careers (which I am differentiating from those who just want to write a book and publish it – a fine goal, but not going to make a living) should be to slowly, over time, build a fanbase. You build readers who love your work. You build connections to those readers. You inform those readers when your next story is available, and they support you financially. This sort of organic growth takes time. Years. Many, many books. But that’s the key to making a living at writing: write a LOT, write WELL, CONNECT with readers, and build a group of people who like your work enough to buy it as soon as you release it.

I’m on BV Larson’s mailing list. A few times a year, he sends out emails to everyone on his list announcing a new book. Like many other people on his list, I buy the new book within minutes of receiving the email. (They are fun, not deep, SF&F books). I usually read the book that day, maybe running into the next. But I buy pretty consistently. I am one of his “10,000 fans”, the folks who will consistently buy what he produces as soon as he lets us know.

 

Mailing Lists Connect Us With Readers

A mailing list is a great way to connect with readers. You can sign up for mine here!

But treat the mailing list with care. You have to ensure what you’re offering in any email you send is something interesting, relevant, and of value to your readers. I named the list “Readers First!” to remind myself of that – that the list is about the readers, not about me. It’s not about my cool new blog post. It’s not about research I did on the industry. It’s about readers, folks who enjoyed my work and want to hear about more of it when it comes out.

Present the reader with well-designed, high quality emails. Look like a professional. Those emails should be your “business best” work. Keep them short and to the point: show respect for your readers by not wasting their time. Those emails are a way to maintain contact with readers, so make yourself available as well. Create means to do two-way contact through those mails, even if it’s something as simple as inviting your readers to email you. If they do, respond, even if it’s brief.

We want to build connections, to create doors that open both ways for our readers. For all MY readers who are reading this post: thank you. You’re the reason I keep writing, and I appreciate each one of you.

 

For the writers our there: how far into building your 10,000 fans are you? Do you have what it takes to go the distance and get there? What have you done today to help make that happen? Remember, it’s a marathon, not a sprint!

Solving Industry Problems: Digitally!

Someone recently commented to me that publishing is in a state of crisis, and gave a list of various problems facing the industry. I looked at his list, and realized two things.

First, he was right – publishing is facing a lot of problems.

Second, that digital technology and distribution were on their way to solving many of those problems.

The list of problems was very different from the ones we hear so often. Nothing about indie bookstores being in trouble, or bad contracts, or the other stuff. It was all meta-analysis of the industry as a whole, and therefore kinda interesting! I thought I’d give a few of those problems AND the likely solutions here. The solutions that are already happening are happening because of digital. Or perhaps a better way of putting it: digital is happening, and happening so fast in book publishing, because digital presents new solutions to many longstanding industry issues.

 

We have a younger generation which is more focused on “gizmos” than on literacy.

That younger demographic is encouraged to read by the very devices they want to use; the internet is a blossoming ground of reading and writing, and it’s becoming well understood that those who can write well and in a convincing manner can attract a large audience to their work through that medium. The internet mandates a certain level of literacy.

 

Fiction today seems mostly dominated by tired plots and bad writing.

The tired plots are largely due to major publishers attempting to guess what readers want to read – and then overproducing tons of that specific band of content. Digital publishing, in contrast, opens the doors for ALL content (which means yes, a lot is bad). Readers then get to decide for themselves what is good and what is not; what they want to read and what they don’t. Readers as a group are *exceptionally* good at this.

 

Literature is lacking in notable masters, and often less skilled writers are marketed as “masters” of their craft without merit.

It’s been hard to determine who the true “master” level writers of fiction are, because fiction sales were dominated by publishers with narrow buying requirements, sponsored book placement, and big ticket marketing moves. Again, digital opens the doors for people with mastery to do very, very well (by reaching an audience!); with virtually unlimited choice of books, and the ability to sample them all for free, readers simply aren’t going to buy books they don’t like. Mastery of writing implies the ability to reach readers: masters of writing fiction will do remarkably well in a free market. On the plus side for publishers, freedom to publish gives them a chance to learn (by watching for successful work) which writers are masters of their craft.

 

Longer works are the norm, giving readers less time to explore more books.

Longer books were, again, the result of print retail demands in a print dominated market. Digital books have no physical shelf space. My 3k word short stories are selling at a slow but steady pace; so is my 45k word novel. In fact, there is strong evidence that while most readers prefer novels in the 60-100k word range even in ebook form that there is a growing desire among readers for shorter novels (40-60k words). And those shorter works are certainly more profitable for the writers creating them (more than twice as hard to write a 100k word novel as a 50k word one, in my experience; but income does not even double and often does not go up at all). Short stories, novellas, and short novels are back and growing in a big way.

 

The price of many books is prohibitive, especially in a still-recovering economy.

Books are getting less expensive. Writers can now sell an ebook for $4.99 – and earn about six times as much per copy as they used to get for an $8 paperback. Even selling at the lowball 99 cents, a writer will earn only pennies less per copy sold than they earn from that $8 paperback. Ebooks open the door for books to become less expensive, easier to acquire, and more abundant in terms of selection choice. Publishers are finding ways to reduce their expenses to compete with these lower cost works (or are simply losing market share). Lower prices are good for the readers and the market.

 

Digital SOLVES problems.

Digital isn’t just growing because it’s the “cool new thing”. It is growing precisely because it DOES solve so many of the problems with which publishing has been faced. The end of returns, which are a huge money sink for publishers. The opening of new options for writers. The ability for publishers to use self published books as a “farm league” from which to pick winners for future representation, and the associated ability for writers to tell them *no*, if the deal isn’t good enough.

Are there other problems in the industry you can think of? How can we push technology to help solve those problems? Looking at the problems an industry has today is the key to seeing what the changes will be in that industry tomorrow.

Indies at UPublishU?

This year at BEA (Book Expo America), a number of sponsors are working together to bring a special all-Sunday set of workshops and seminars. They’ve named the experience “UPublishU”, and it’s ALL about self publishing. For $99, it looks to me like it could be a fun and interesting experience.

Here’s a link to the planned sessions for the day:Β http://www.bookexpoamerica.com/Concurrent-Events/DIY-Authors-Conference/#page=page-2

Highlights include a keynote address with Mark Coker (founder of Smashwords) as one of the speakers; a session on maximizing Kindle sales from the Amazon Director of Author and Publisher relations, Jon Fine; several sessions on social media and marketing for writers; and quite a bit more. Sessions run from 9am til 5pm.

It sounds like it might be worth attending for the networking potential alone. πŸ˜‰ There’s bound to be quite a few indie writers checking this thing out. The seminars themselves look fairly interesting, though. When I first saw the announcement, I sort of poo-pooed it. What did Publishers’ Weekly (one of the sponsors) know about indie publishing, anyway? And was it in their best interest to provide a good set of seminars, or to do a lot of discouraging of self publishing? The latter, I thought – but looking at the list of discussions, this looks worthwhile.

So in a reversal of opinion, I’m seriously considering going. For the networking – to meet folks. To listen to Mark Coker speak. And to hit as many of the more interesting sounding seminars as possible. If there’s one thing I know, it’s that I don’t yet know *everything* about *anything* – which means there’s always at least one new byte of information or new trick I can learn from other folks. Probably always will be. I probably won’t stick around for the rest of the conference (although the tracks of the IDPF Digital Book seminar look awesome too) because I’m frankly just flat out busy right now.

So what about you? Thinking of going? Which sessions appeal most? I’d love to meet some of you folks there, if we can!

Writing on Glass

No, it’s not walking on broken glass. Nor typing on broken glass, although I wouldn’t count that possibility out entirely if my three year old has anything to say about it!

I’m writing this post on an iPad, using the virtual keyboard. No external keyboard, not bluetooth. Thus, writing on glass.

I was always a little iffy about the idea of writing on a virtual keyboard. I type pretty rapidly. On a good hour, I’m putting out fifteen hundred words. Losing writing speed in any serious way would be bad for me. But I had two experiences which made me want to give it a try.

First, I bought a laptop with one of those chicklet type keyboards about a year and a half ago. I’d typed on regular key type keyboards my entire life, you understand, starting with a manual typewriter over thirty years ago. It was a big adjustment. But I very quickly got my writing speed back up to full speed.

The second was talking to a college professor I know about tech. He commented that the new thing on campus was students using an iPad. Not alongside a laptop or desktop, but often instead of another computer. Simply typing out papers and assignments on the glass screen and turning them in.

OK. In my experience, college students are something of a litmus paper (perhaps canary in a coal mine is a better metaphor) for where tech is going. If the college students have moved to typing on glass keyboards, then not only can it be done, it’s likely things are moving in that direction for everyone. On the theory that this might be an upcoming vital life skill, I decided to give it a try.

A week in, and I’m basically up to full speed typing. There is no appreciable loss of speed. Oh, my fingers still stumble on the keys sometimes. But they always did that anyway. I’m back to touch typing, watching the screen more than my keys and fingers. Getting better as I go.

Remarkable.

I’m not sure I’d have thought that was possible. But here I am. And it’s VERY freeing. With Storyist, I have a decent option for typing that I can export to my laptop. Daedalus Touch is a good program as well, but without support for RTF export there’s no way to retain formatting. Storyist retains bolds, italics, and other bits. I’ll be watching both as I go forward, as well as keeping eyes on the upcoming Scrivener for iPad.

So I can take this little pound and a half device with me anywhere, type away on it anywhere for eight or more hours, and upload it to my laptop via Dropbox when I hit an Internet connection. I’ve got a 3G iPad, but don’t have the service turned on right now. So far, I’m really liking it.

What have your experiences been with writing on tablets? Ever tried it? Thought about trying it? I’d love to hear your opinions on tablets for writing in general, and “writing on glass” in particular. I look forward to seeing what other folks are doing with these devices!

Publishers begin removing DRM from ebooks, smashing walls on Amazon “walled garden”

At the London Book Fair, one of the major topics of discussion was publishers discussing cessation of DRM use on their ebooks. DRM – digital rights management – is the encryption added to digital media which prevents copying, conversion, and some other sorts of uses of the media. In some cases, it might force the use of a user key to use the media. In others, it locks the media to a specific device. For ebooks, generally it prevents copying, prevents use on other devices, and prevents conversion.

All of the largest publishers used DRM as an anti-piracy measure – until yesterday. TOR, a subsidiary of Macmillan, announced that their imprints would be issuing ebooks DRM free in the US and UK.

The TOR announcement:

Tom Doherty Associates, publishers of Tor, Forge, Orb, Starscape, and Tor Teen, today announced that by early July 2012, their entire list of e-books will be available DRM-free.

β€œOur authors and readers have been asking for this for a long time,” said president and publisher Tom Doherty. β€œThey’re a technically sophisticated bunch, and DRM is a constant annoyance to them. It prevents them from using legitimately-purchased e-books in perfectly legal ways, like moving them from one kind of e-reader to another.”

DRM-free titles from Tom Doherty Associates will be available from the same range of retailers that currently sell their e-books. In addition, the company expects to begin selling titles through retailers that sell only DRM-free books.

Removal of DRM is a big, BIG deal.

First off, it’s important to understand that DRM is ineffective. There is no unhacked DRM; in fact, any ebook from any major vendor can have the DRM quickly and easily removed with free tools you can acquire using a simple Google search. And once even one person removes DRM from a book and posts it publicly, the DRM free version is out there, being passed around.

Second, public feedback on ebooks without DRM has been positive. For example, in the hours after Pottermore opened, pirated versions appeared online (they don’t use DRM, they use watermarking of the files instead). User response was immediate: they saw this as taking advantage of a product which was already doing as users asked (cheap and DRM free), and within hours most of the pirated versions were taken down without the company having to do anything.

Third, and this is critical for publishers (and it’s key to understanding why TOR and other publishers are getting ready to remove DRM now), the main thing DRM does today is keep anyone but Amazon from selling books for Kindle devices and software.

Most people reading ebooks use Kindles or Kindle software on other devices (about 2/3). The only form of DRMed book that can be read on those is the sort bought from Amazon; anyone can make DRM-free mobi files, but only Amazon can sell Kindle ebooks with DRM. The result is that it’s impossible for companies like Google and Apple to really compete with Amazon for their market share – it’s locked into a “walled garden” by DRM.

Removing DRM would allow other companies to sell mobi books. It would allow new indie ebookstores to open up, selling epub AND mobi files. Since mobi/Kindle is the most popular ebook format right now, indie ebookstores at the moment are locked into competing with B&N/Apple/Kobo for the other third of the market.

Removing DRM opens the door for more companies to begin nibbling at slices of the Amazon pie. I suspect this could make a huge difference in the long run, allowing greater competition between online bookstores and more viability for smaller startups in ebook retail.

In short, this is a smart, smart move, and one which I believe other publishers will follow once they see TOR’s success. Kudos to TOR for having the courage and foresight to go first.

 

Addendum 1: John Scalzi (SFWA president) sounds off on the subject here.

Addendum 2: More on the topic from Charles Stross.

Rules to Follow: Avoiding Self-Publishing Scams

Self publishing is an outstanding way to go. Dean Wesley Smith has just sounded off that his position is now that for novels, self publishing is a better method than traditional publishing unless you’re being offered a solid six figures per book. And possibly even then, depending upon the contract clauses the traditional publisher is trying to force on the writer.

I concur.

However, there are a ton of scam companies out there trying to make money from writers who are struggling to learn about this whole self publishing thing. I don’t use the term lightly. Merrian-Webster defines a “scam” as a “a fraudulent or deceptive act or operation.” Which is exactly what these companies do. They take enormous sums up front, then take 50-90% of the income off book sales, and they present a polished appearance as a “self publishing help” company, attempting to make writers believe their deals are some sort of standard.

They’re not.

Not everyone wants to do their own ebook or print book formatting. Some writers can; others hire these tasks out. And hiring these tasks out IS an acceptable way of doing business. But there are legit companies doing this sort of work – and scams which will do the same work, but take you to the cleaners in the process.

Here’s some rules to avoid getting skinned as you’re learning the ropes:

Rule #1: Upload your own PDF files directly to the printer. Printer might be Createspace, Lightning Source, Lulu, or some other printer. Upload your work to YOUR account. Always.

Rule #2: If buying copies of your book cost more than Lightning Source charges for printing, you are being ripped off. Lightning Source charges 1.3 cents per page plus 90 cents per book, so a 300 page book costs $4.80. If a company is charging more than that for author copies, PASS.

Rule #3: Printer you upload to MUST distribute directly to the Ingrams Catalog, and MUST handle fulfillment without your needing to do anything. Createspace and Lightning Source both do this.

Rule #4: If you are hiring out the cover art, interior print book design, and/or ebook conversion, you should pay ONE TIME fees only. They should give you the finished work. You should upload the finished work yourself. That means setting up your own Createspace or Lightning Source account for the print book upload (upload interior PDF and cover PDF). It means creating your own KDP, Pubit, Smashwords, and maybe Apple accounts for uploading the mobi (KDP), DOC (Smashwords), and epub (everybody else) files.

Bottom line?
If someone is taking money from you for editing, for covers, for interior design, for ebook conversion, or for any other publishing related services, and is then uploading the book to THEIR account, they are a scam. If you use them, you are being scammed.

This is a scam because they are billing you up front (legit) and also taking the majority of your income on sales.

It is the equivalent of there being two auto mechanics. One charges a flat fee for replacing brakes and lets you go on your way. The other charges you the same flat fee and additionally charges you a penny every time you tap the brakes.

Which mechanic would you want to use?

Don’t throw your money away. Get services from someone who charges you for the work, GIVES YOU the files, and then you upload those files.

 

I know we have some experienced self publishers who visit here. What other rules would you suggest novices can follow to navigate around the scams and find good providers? Any service providers you know that you’d especially recommend?

Amazon Updates KDP eBook Cover Recommendations

This change IS a pretty big deal for indie writers.

Amazon announced today in their KDP newsletter that they have updated their recommendations for cover sizes for Kindle ebooks.

The new guidelines are a minimum of 1000 pixels on the long side – although they “recommend 2,500 pixels on the longest side to ensure better quality, and an ideal height/width ratio of 1.6.”

So to break this down, if you go with the minimum, your new image size should be 625 pixels wide by 1000 pixels tall. If you jump to the recommended level, to retain a 1.6 aspect ratio, you want an image size of 1562 pixels wide by 2500 pixels tall (roughly).

While the smaller size is pretty typical of what many indies are already using for cover images, jumping to the recommended level will often mean paying higher prices for art. Jumping an image from 1000×625 to 2500×1562 isn’t just a matter of expanding it in your image editor – that way leads to pixelated, ugly looking images. Instead, you need to go back to the source art and use larger source art. Both royalty free art sites and artists for unique art will generally charge more for larger images, and in some cases artists might not have larger source art available for an image.

It’s not the end of the world, but it’s something indie writers need to pay attention to moving forward. Screen quality is only going to continue improving on ereaders, which means images with higher pixel counts are going to become desirable. Plan accordingly, and build your cover images with higher resolution than you intend to use.

A last note on this: these images are the display images Amazon uses to sell books on their site, NOT the cover image included in the book. In most cases, it is advantageous to include in the book file an image on the lower end of the spectrum, since readers will rarely actually see it there, and higher quality images result in a larger files size for the ebook. Since indie writers getting the 70% royalty from Amazon are billed a Β small amount for file downloads, the bigger the file, the less you earn per sale. Those pennies can add up in the long run, so best practice is to include in the book file a smaller file size of image than the one you’re using for display.