From Ebook Pricing, Marketing, and Promotions

Indie Publishing Heads’ Up: Cover Size Requirement Change

Starting June 14, Smashwords updated their requirements for covers to get into their Premium Catalog (worldwide distribution through Apple, etc.).  They are planning ahead for requirement changes in August from Apple: Apple will start requiring that the covers be at least 1400 pixels on a side.  The minimum requirements for Smashwords still are 600 pixels on the short side, but that will not get you into the Premium Catalog, and you want that.

Previously, I’d recommended covers be 750 by ~1000 pixels.  It ended up being 750 by 1150 pixels to be proportionate to a 6 by 9 cover, or 750 by 1200 for a 5 by 8 cover (the two most popular print sizes).*  However, with the requirement changes in August, that won’t work.

Here are what the requirements will be:

  • Smashwords: 1400 pixels shortest side minimum.
  • Kindle Direct Publishing (Amazon): 1000 pixels minimum longest side, recommended 2500 pixes longest side.
  • PubIt (B&N):  2000 pixels length maximum, longest side.

The minimum size of a Smashwords cover will be 2100 pixels (proportional to a 6 by 9 cover) or 2240 pixels (proportional to a 5 by 8 cover), which is incompatible with PubIt requirements.

So here are your options if you want to use all three sites (and why not?):

  • Resize your cover to 1400 by 2000 pixels, no matter what the original dimensions are, and risk it looking weird as the proportions change, then use it at all three sites (not recommended).
  • Go with two different covers until B&N changes their requirements to look equally pretty as Apple.

Keep in mind that existing covers will be grandfathered in, according to Smashwords, so you won’t have to resize existing covers unless you update the cover for some other reason.

I recommend switching to two covers:

  • Smashwords/KDP covers at 1500 pixels on the shortest side.  This will lead to 1500 by 2250 for 6 by 9 proportional covers and 1500 by 2400 pixels for 5 by 8 proportional covers (with the benefit of being able to just set the short side at 1500 and let the program work the math, knowing you’re safe).
  • PubIt covers at 2000 pixels on the longest side (or 1250 pixels on the shortest side, whichever is easier to remember).
  • These covers are probably bigger than you want for a website small picture for promotions.  I’d go with 750 pixels on the short size for blog posts and 200 pixels on the short side for sidebar stuff.

I also recommend that if you’ve been buying 72 dpi images that you switch up to the next resolution bigger.  I use Dreamstime; the largest size of the 72 dpi pictures goes up to 533 by 800 pixels, which is WAY smaller than 1400 pixels on the short side and will probably look bad at the new sizes.

Something I think everyone should take away here: save the master file in a higher resolution (300 dpi, probably), and resize to the smaller dimensions using a different file, because who knows when the standards will change again…

*A 6 by 9 cover is a 1.5 ratio and approximates a trade paperback size; a 5 by 8 cover is a 1.6 ratio and approximates a mass market paperback size.  (The Golden Ratio is 1.61803399-ish, if you follow such things.)  Personally, I recommend going with a cover size that wouldn’t be incompatible with the print book, because it’s a pain to resize those things anyway, and you want to do less resizing rather than more.  KDP recommends going with the 1.6 ratio.

Ebook Pricing, Marketing, and Promotions: Promotions

I’ve been trying a bunch of different ebook pricing, marketing, and promotions strategies.  While you shouldn’t consider me an expert by any means, I have come away with some lessons.  The first post is here; the ongoing series is here.

Promotions

The best thing you can do to promote your story is to start with reviews.  Get some reviews.  This is a painful lesson I’m in the middle of learning.  Reviews?  Get them.

  • At Amazon, the first reviews you get are the ones that stay at the top of your reviews forever.  Beg for a friend to write you a good one.  I’m not sure whether this is true across all sites.
  • If you do not have reviews (or have a bunch of crappy reviews), all the advertising in the world (free or otherwise) won’t do you jack.  Many sites won’t post notification of your free book if you don’t have decent reviews.
  • If you put your book up for free, you will get bad reviews.  (Something I’ve noticed on Goodreads is that any relatively well-known book has them, too.  It’s like…pushing yourself into free means that you’re pushing yourself into the realm of people who weren’t meant to read your book, just as being relatively well-known pushes your book out to people who weren’t meant to read it either.  “Fine!  I’ll read this stupid book that you loved so much, Grandma!!11!!”)
  • Try the free promotions first.
  • Have 1-2 books per pen name up for free (not in Amazon’s Kindle Direct Select program; see below) across all sites at any given time; rotate your free books in and out every 3 months or so.  This will tend to boost sales across all stories for that pen name.
  • To get books to go free across all sites: upload to Smashwords and set price to free.  Let Smashwords push the book to B&N (take it down from B&N’s PubIt if you have it up there).  Wait for various sites to pick it up as free.  As the book starts to go free across sites, you will tend to see a rise in sales on the sites where it’s not free yet.  How to make it not free: change the Smashwords price, take the B&N version down at Smashwords and put it up at B&N’s PubIt, and wait for it to go back to non-free.  If Amazon takes maddeningly long to catch up (especially on non-US sites), then contact them via Amazon Author Central Help to have it flipped back.  Most other sites (Kobo, Sony, Apple, B&N) must be non-free in order for Amazon to flip a story back to non-free.  You should see a boost in sales when a book flips back to paid sales; you should also see several returns, as people who didn’t notice it wasn’t free bought and returned it.
  • Do not take an existing book and put it in Kindle Direct Select (the exclusive program).  You risk getting screwed because some other site doesn’t take down their version fast enough.
  • Do not put a book in Kindle Direct Select unless you have: a) 4-5 good reviews on Amazon, b) a number of sites set up to promote your free days heavily (think Ereader News Today and more).  If you’re giving a book away for free to the general public, give a crapload of them away. Update: I mean, don’t put it up for FREE using that program until you get your reviews and extra sites set up.  Obviously, to get the reviews, you have to put up the book first.  Sheesh…
  • IF you do a good job prepping for your free days, you should see a lot of downloads (at least in the thousands) AND you should see about 7-8 days of boosted sales.  Wait until after the 7-8 days to mentally decide whether your book has taken off or not.
  • Your subsequent free days won’t garner as many downloads as the first day, given the same amount of promotion.
  • Do NOT use your subsequent free days if your sales are good; you’ll get bumped off your paid sales ranking, which will make you lose sales.
  • My Kindle Direct Select recommendation at the moment is: don’t do it if you’re not willing to babysit.  This is more than likely a short-term boost, if any.  If you want to make sure you’re giving away the greatest number of ebooks to the greatest number of people, I recommend getting the books to go free the hard way, then using the regular free-ebook-promotion sites to promote your books.  I also recommend if you use Kindle Direct Select, that you only use it for 90 days, then upload across all sites.  You can upload a print book whenever; Select doesn’t affect print books (at the moment, as far as I can tell).
  • Ads:  I’ve taken out two.  Neither of them did squat for sales, although they had a lot of clicks.  Admittedly, not a big sample, though.

Coming Friday: Social Media

Ebook Pricing, Marketing, and Promotions: Basic Lessons

I’ve been trying a bunch of different ebook pricing, marketing, and promotions strategies.  While you shouldn’t consider me an expert by any means, I have come away with some lessons.  I’ll keep posting these over the next week.

Overall

  • What works today in any of these areas may not work tomorrow, so keep an eye open and don’t put all eggs in one basket.  Alternatively, if you find a new basket, you may want to try putting some eggs in it.
  • Don’t be afraid to mess around with anything; if it’s not selling, it’s not like you’re going to kill sales or anything.
  • Get a tracking program, so your feel for what is/is not working is based on numbers instead of pure emotion.  No matter how rational you think you are. (I’m using Trackerbox and really, really like it.)
  • Don’t forget to keep writing – and don’t forget to keep getting better.  You didn’t get into epublishing so you could not write.  It’s more important to stay excited about writing than it is to be perfect.
  • There is no guaranteed method to bootstrap yourself as an author, no matter what anyone says.  Try a bunch of stuff.  Wishing for a magic bootstrap fairy is for suckers.
  • Test your writing ability by submitting short stories to different markets, if possible.  It increases networking, is a marketing tool, and promotes your other work every time something else is published.
  • My newsletter is fun, but I don’t know if it does much for sales.
  • Give people things:  information, amusement.  It’s not about YOU.  The reason that people say things like, “Steven King could sell his grocery list” is that if he wrote a grocery list with the intent of selling it as a short story…it would give the reader something they didn’t have before.  If your main sales tactic is “Hey, I wrote a book, you should buy it, here’s a review, I have no opinions because I’m too scared of pissing someone off, la la la, buy my book,” then zzzzz.
  • Take risks.  You didn’t get into epublishing to be safe.  Just, you know, don’t rip anybody off.  That kind of risk is just dumb.
  • Whenever you work with someone on a book, even if you pay them, offer them a free copy of whatever they worked on.  Great googly moogly!  If you have a story published in an anthology, you expect a copy, don’t you?
  • By extension, don’t be cheap if there’s no point to being cheap.

Coming on Monday: Ebook Pricing.