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Running a Book Kickstarter – Tips For Success

In January 2016, we ran our very first Kickstarter to fund the publication of the first book in our fantasy romance. Where we expected a meager $400, we ended up with $1600! Along the way, we learned a few things, and that’s what we’ll talk about today. As always, your mileage may vary. Genre, audience, and many other factors can play into success. But generally, here are some tips to follow when running your first book Kickstarter.

Why Are You Doing It?

While it’s entirely possible to create and spit out a Kickstarter (or any other crowdfunding campaign) in an hour, it’s not recommended. You should give as much thought and effort into your crowdfunding campaign as you do your final release date of the book. That means, you guessed it, a project plan.

First, figure out what you want to do. Are you just trying to get early copies out to your readers? (In which case, Kickstarter might not be the best idea, but we’ll hit that in another post). Are you trying to offset the cost of cover and editing? Or are you just testing this new thing out to see how it improves your bottom line?

For the purposes of this blog, we’ll say you’re going with #2: offsetting publication costs.

How Much Do You Need?

To calculate this, you’ll need to know a few things. Obviously, how much are you planning to pay your cover artist and editor. If you’re going to seek them out after the Kickstarter, then get some estimates and timelines. Then, take your (already complete) manuscript and figure out how many pages you’ve got. You can use a tool like IngramSpark’s Print and Ship Calculator to then estimate how much it’ll cost to print your books. This is very important, as it might be a lot more than you think (especially if you’ve never published a book before). Are you including any swag like bookmarks, buttons, or tote bags? Add that in there, too.

Now that you’ve got all your costs, it’s time to figure out how much you’ll need. This is a bit of a give-and-take process, as you won’t know how many books you’ll need to buy until the end of the Kickstarter. But you can make an educated guess, based on where your audience numbers are right now. Basically, you’ll be taking the amount of money you need for your publication costs (the reason for the Kickstarter) and compare it with the profits you’ll make from your rewards, and come up with the minimum.

For example:

Paperback rewards: $10 each / Cost to print book: $6.50 per book = Profit: $3.50 per book

Editing Costs: $500 + Cover Design: $500 = Total cost: $1,000

$1000 / $3.50 = 286 books at $10 each to cover the cost, so a total goal ~$2860 (Rounding up to $3,000 for Kickstarter Fees)

(Keep in mind this doesn’t take into account rewards with swag or people donating more than the cost of the reward, but it’s a good place to start)

Set Your Goals High, But Reasonable

One of the big risks you take with Kickstarter is that if you don’t make your goal, then you don’t get a thing. So while you could absolutely set a goal of $3,000 or $5,000, do you have a current audience base that would support 300 individual orders? If not, it may be wise to lower your goals to something more achievable. If it’s your first book and Kickstarter, a lower goal like $500 might be a better place to start. You can always go over, and set up stretch goals to keep momentum moving.

As far as timeline, remember the idea of marketing momentum. You will most likely have a flurry of activity at the beginning of your Kickstarter and at the end, and the middle is what’s known as “soggy.” But keeping your schedule open for at least two weeks means you’ll be able to capture sales from folks on a biweekly pay period, and you’ll have a wider net to capture more potential backers.

Ten Tips For A Successful Kickstarter

We’ve put together the below infographic to help guide your planning. If you still need more help, then use our contact form at the bottom of the post to let us know how we can help you!


10 tips for a successful book kickstarter

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How to Format a Book in Word (Simply)

Book formatting is probably the easiest part of the self-publishing process. Even still, for those who haven’t used Microsoft Word’s formatting features, it can be daunting to figure out how it all works. We’ve listed the top few tricks for how to format a book in Word. Note: This merely scratches the surface of book formatting. There’s much more to consider, from interior scene breaks to font choice, to

Looking for Scrivener formatting? Check out our Scrivener formatting series.

1. Paragraph Settings

How to format a book in word: Use paragraph settings instead of manually adjusting the textFirst and foremost, on behalf of anyone who’s ever formatted a book, let us tell you: when you’re writing, you do not need to manually add spaces in front of every paragraph. You also don’t need to add a tab or anything other than a carriage return (also known as pressing the enter button).

Instead, you can set your first line indention, spacing, justification, and everything else using the Paragraph Settings in Word. This serves two purposes: First, if you decide to use a formatter, they’ll be able to import your book without having to fix every paragraph. And second, if you decide to format yourself, you won’t have to fix every paragraph, either.

Very important: When you’re ready to export, you must make sure the text is justified. It’s a real bummer when we pick up a good-looking book to read and find the manuscript is left-aligned.

2. Chapter Headings

How to format a book in word: don't forget to justify your interior textOne of the cooler, bookish features of Microsoft Word is the Headings feature. A heading is simply a reusable formatting set, like font size, type, and spacing, that you can re-use across your manuscript. So, for example, if you’ve got letters in your manuscript, and you’d like them to be formatted in Comic Sans 14pt (don’t do this), you can set up a heading for letters.

When it comes to Chapter Headings, the benefit is twofold. First, as we said, it will format your chapter headings the same across the board. But more importantly, when you set all your chapters as “Heading 1,” you’ll then be able to put an automatic table of contents at the front of the book. No more scrolling through your book to find page numbers.

3. Page Size and Margins

Most self-publishers use either 6×9, 5.5×8.5, or 5×8 for their paperbacks. Luckily CreateSpace offers templates for you to use to help make those sizings correct. But if you’ve already got a formatted manuscript, you can simply copy those parameters. Here’s a handy step-by-step guide to help you.

Now, depending on certain factors like book length, print pricing, etc., you may want to make your margins a little bigger or smaller. As long as they meet the minimum requirement, there shouldn’t be an issue uploading to Ingram or CreateSpace.

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Top 5 Things to Know When Working with a Formatter

We here at SGR-Pub have formatted a slew of manuscripts (both for our releases and for other publishers). And we also tend to see the same misunderstanding of what a formatter does, and how authors should work with them. If you’re working with a formatter, we’ve compiled some tips to help you both get the most out of your partnership.

1. Don’t Worry About Page Numbers

Working with a formatter: Don't worry about page numbers or table of contents. Just send the manuscript One of the biggest points of consternation with newer authors is knowing what to send when hiring a formatter. Should you worry about the table of contents? Should you add page numbers and make sure everything’s aligned right?

Short answer: Nope.

Longer answer is that when your book is formatted, the formatter will change the size and shape of the paper, thus creating a new page numbering system. In addition, we automatically create table of contents from chapter headings. So that means if you want us to add additional pages, the program we use will automatically shift the rest of the book down.

2. Tell Us What’s Weird

Most books that come across our desk are very simple: front matter, interior with chapters, back matter. But on occasion, folks will want some custom formatting. Whether it be an interior section that’s handwritten or something more complex, let us know up front if there’s anything to be concerned about.

3. Give Us Your Front and Back Matter

Per the Independent Book Publisher’s Association checklist for self-published books, there’s a few things that need to be in your book. While self-publishing gives authors the freedom to work “outside the box,” generally, it’s a good idea to adhere to the industry standards.

For Front Matter, you’ll need a Half Title Page, Title Page, Copyright page (to include ISBN and name of author), and Table of Contents. The TOC shouldn’t exceed two pages.

For Back Matter, you should include acknowledgements (if not in the front), about the author, and where to find your other works.

While you don’t have to give these to us formatted, we will need the text (especially the ISBN) before we send you the final documents.

4. Managing Edits

Working with a formatter: your interior headings should match closely with your cover fontWith most formatting jobs, we’ll offer one pass of typo incorporations (note: typos are errors you made in writing, formatting errors are errors we made in spacing or chapter headings). For our clients, since, as we said above, we won’t know final page numbers until the book is fully formatted, the best way to submit edits is to provide a few words around the edit so we can quickly search the manuscript for the error. For example:

…baloney.” she said…. Should be “baloney,” she said.

Other formatters may have other requirements, so check with them to find what method words best for them. As well, make sure you’re sending them a mostly typo-free draft, unless you’re also paying for additional help.

5. Show Us Your Fonts

Finally, we’ll need to know what kind of font you want to use for your chapter headings, and what kind of scene separator you’d like. For most books, the chapter heading font (and front page title font) will resemble or be the same as what you used on your cover. Be aware: Some cover designers use custom fonts that may require additional fees from your formatter to replicate. If we can’t get exactly the same font, we’ll do our best to find something similar.

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Managing Front and Back Matter in Scrivener

back matter in scrivener

Scrivener is a wonderful program many writers use to set up and manage their books, screenplays, and research projects. Nearly every aspect of the program can be customizable, from the drafting settings to the export format. But with so many options, many authors find themselves overwhelmed. To that end, we’re posting a blog series on our favorite features of Scrivener. Today, we’re going to cover setting up front and back matter in Scrivener, including some tips and tricks to set you up for success.

Note: The screenshots are for Scrivener 2.0. for Mac. We hear from our friends at Literature and Latte that version 3.0 is coming soon, and when we get access to it, we’ll update this post.

Front Matter Tips

back matter in scrivener: break out into separate foldersEvery book format will have a different ISBN, and occasionally, different front matter, so we separate all of them out into their own folders. For our series, we have a main folder for each book, then separate them down into formats. When it’s time to compile, we select the applicable format (and applicable compile preset) and we’re good to go.

Speaking of front matter, there’s a brand new checklist from the Independent Book Publishers Association that contains the basics of what every self-pub and indie-pub book should have (at a minimum). We use the <$Blank_page> shortcode to keep pages a verso or a recto (that is, on the left or right side).

Back Matter Tips

back matter in scrivenerAs with the front matter, we separate out eBook and physical copy back matter. At the end of your eBook content, you should have a “call-to-action,” or something a reader can do to stay connected. Many authors opt to have a link to a newsletter sign up or Instafreebie. Whichever you chose, aim for the long-term. Otherwise, you’ll be updating your back matter every few weeks.

For the print back matter, we have to fudge a few things. We usually add the section header into the text itself (“Acknowledgements” and “About the Author”) then use Preserve Formatting to retain the chapter heading formatting. Or we’ll mark the entire scene “Compile As-Is.”

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Using Compile Presets in Scrivener

Scrivener: Managing compile presets

Scrivener is a wonderful program many writers use to set up and manage their books, screenplays, and research projects. Nearly every aspect of the program can be customizable, from the drafting settings to the export format. But with so many options, many authors find themselves overwhelmed. To that end, we’re posting a blog series on our favorite features of Scrivener. Today, we’re going to cover how to use compile presets in Scrivener, including some tips and tricks to set you up for success.

Note: The screenshots are for Scrivener 2.0. for Mac. We hear from our friends at Literature and Latte that version 3.0 is coming soon, and when we get access to it, we’ll update this post.

What is a Compile Preset?

Two kinds of compile presets: Global presets and project presetsA Compile Preset is exactly what it sounds like – a pre-selected group of compile settings that you can use and reuse. In other words, you can have a setting for paperback to keep your margins and font size the same, one for hardcovers, one for Kindle, etc. There are two kinds: Project Presets and Global Presets.

Project Presets are saved settings only available in a single file. We like to keep our series books in a single file, then create project presets for each format. The settings for Razia aren’t available in the Madion Trilogy, for example.

Global presets, on the other hand, are available across all Scrivener projects. This is a good way to keep your general settings for paperbacks and hardcovers consistent. You can create a new project preset starting from the global preset, or keep your oft-used presets, like exporting a clean .docx to your editor.

Project Preset Tips

Compile presets: Create a separate preset for every project to avoid issuesOnce upon a time, we did a print run of one of our books. All was well until we opened up the first page and saw our headers showed the wrong book title.

Truly. There were thirty books in that print run.

Ever since then, we’ve made it a habit to create separate print settings for every book. That way, we’re absolutely sure we’re printing the right book. Also, our hardcover formatting differs (usually) from the paperback formatting, so having those separate presets is convenient. For example: when you have updates to back matter, you don’t have to spend time trying to guess what the margins were. Your books will be consistent every time.

Just make sure you double check those headers.

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Top Formatting Hacks Scrivener: Our Most-Used Tricks

Scrivener Formatting Hacks

Scrivener is a wonderful program many writers use to set up and manage their books, screenplays, and research projects. Nearly every aspect of the program can be customizable, from the drafting settings to the export format. But with so many options, many authors find themselves overwhelmed. To that end, we’re posting a blog series on our favorite features. While we could post fifteen blogs on the formatting features, today, we’ll just cover our top formatting hacks in Scrivener.

Note: The screenshots are for Scrivener 2.0. for Mac. We hear from our friends at Literature and Latte that version 3.0 is coming soon, and when we get access to it, we’ll update this post.

Hack #1: Scene Labels and Images

Scrivener formatting hacks: adjust compile group to show different documentsFor our Madion War Trilogy series, we had the challenge of multiple POVs. We wanted to label each POV with the character’s name and a unique icon. To accomplish this, we added a Custom Metadata field to our project and called it POV. Then, in the Compile settings, we added the following to the Section Layout under Prefix:


In the Compile setting, you’ll see that the POV is listed there under Level 2+ (we’ll go into levels a bit later).

Scrivener Formatting Hacks

When we compile the draft, we get the POV name along with the image.

Hack #2: Preserve Formatting

Sometimes within the text, we want to preserve formatting. That is, the rest of the book is Garamond 12, single-spaced, left aligned, and maybe this one section is a letter, and we want it centered and Times New Roman 13. In this case, we have two options: We can create a separate scene and select “Compile As-Is,” or, the better option, we can highlight the text and use the “Preserve Formatting option.” You can find it under the Format menu, under the Formatting sub-menu.

Scrivener Formatting Hacks: Preserve Formatting

Here you can also find the Copy and Paste Formatting options, which allow you to take the formatting settings from one scene to another. Generally, though, you shouldn’t do too much in-line formatting in your final manuscript. And make sure if you’re using Preserve Formatting that you’ve got your formatting exactly as you want it.

Hack #3: Compile a Section

If you’ve taken our advice and kept all the books in a series in one Scrivener file, then you’ll need to know how to Compile just a section. Luckily, this is pretty easy:

Scrivener Drafting Tips: Compile Settings

In the Contents section of Compile, use the drop-down menu to select the grouping you’d like to export. Under Compile Group Options, you can select to either include the container (generally you don’t want to do this), and treat selected group as entire draft (generally you do want this).

You can also use a Filter based on a particular label. So, for example, if you were compiling a preview of an ebook, you could tag specific chapters with “Preview” and compile only those.

Hack #4: Compile Levels

Scrivener formatting hack: Scrivener 3.0 uses formatting categories instead of levelsA lot of folks are confused by the idea of Compile Levels. We’re happy to announce that in Scrivener 3.0, they’ve changed Compile Levels to a much more user-friendly version. As it stands now in 2.0, your Compile levels work like this:

  • Part (Folder) -> Level 1
    • Chapter (Folder) -> Level 2
      • Scene -> Level 3
        • Subscene -> Level 4

Each level can have its own formatting. So your Part would be different from your Chapter, and so on. In Scrivener 3.0, they’ve gone back to the drawing board. Instead of assigning formatting by level, you can now assign formatting by type. So if you’d like your Part and Chapter to share formatting, you can. And if you have a certain set of scenes with particular formatting (like a dream sequence, for example), you can set individual scenes.

As formatters, we’re looking forward to this new feature!

Hack #5: Getting a Clean Manuscript

Our last hack has to do with getting so-called “clean” manuscripts from Scrivener to editable formats like Word. If you’ve drafted your book in Scrivener, then you’re probably already mostly there. In the Compile Format feature, you can add additional so-called “presets,” or settings that you can re-use. This is especially helpful when you’ve got several books in a single manuscript, or if you need to export to hardcover, paperback, Kindle, and more. For exporting a “clean” manuscript, create a project preset using the formatting standards your editor requires. Usually, that’s 12pt, double-spaced letter-sized pages.

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Scrivener: Our Favorite Writerly Tool

Scrivener: Our favorite writerly tool

Welcome to our newest blog series, all about the wonderful tool known as Scrivener. At SGR-Pub, we use Scrivener from the very beginning of the writing process all the way through formatting. It’s the best $50 we’ve ever invested, but it’s taken us a while to figure out all the features. To that end, we’ll be sharing some of our best tips for using Scrivener over the next eight weeks, culminating in a Q&A post. So if you’ve got questions, let us know in the comments!

Please note: Our tips and tricks are primarily for Scrivener 2.0. We’ve heard from Literature and Latte that 3.0 is coming at the end of 2018, so we’ll be holding our breath until then.

What is Scrivener?

Ask not what you can do in Scrivener, but what Scrivener can do for you!Scrivener is, at its heart, program writers use to draft manuscripts, screenplays, research papers–you name it. Over the years, more features have been added to help with exporting your manuscript to different formats. For most writers, having an all-in-one solution helps pare down on the messiness that arises in the drafting process. Here are just some of the features Scrivener has.

With so many features, it’s easy to quickly become overwhelmed. So the first thing you should ask yourself is not what is Scrivener, but how can it help improve your writing experience.

Plotters and Pantsers, Rejoice

No matter how you choose to write, Scrivener has a method for you. If you’re a writer who loves to know where they’re going before they set out, you can use folders and scenes to outline your book. If you’re a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of writer, Scrivener offers a full screen mode, and the ability to reorganize and adjust as you go.

All writers, however, can benefit from the structure of Scrivener. It’s designed to be flexible, which can be daunting. Let’s begin by defining each of the levels.
Scrivener screen shot: How to read the page When creating a new project from the Fiction preset, you’ll get something like this. There’s a tutorial, some items called Places, Front Matter, Research, Template Sheets, and more. At the outset, it’s best to leave most of these alone and focus on the boxes in yellow.

This is where you’ll be focusing all your energy. Scrivener will automatically create a Manuscript bucket for you, adding a template Chapter and Scene. As with the above, if you’re not yet ready to divide the writing into chapters, you can delete the chapter folder.

Then just write! Add scenes, add chapters. Write everything in one scene and divvy it up later, or break them up as you go.

If you’ve got research to do, you can drag and drop images, PDFs, and more into the Research bucket. Under Template Sheets, you can create basic character profiles, if that’s how you write. You can keep photos and descriptions of scenes under the Places tab.

Editing and Formatting in Scrivener

Scrivener: Having a single master file is easier than editing a comma in fifteen different filesWe’ll have a more in-depth look at editing in Scrivener in the coming weeks, but for now, we’ll touch on some of the basics. With all your scenes and chapters in Scrivenings and folders, reordering is a cinch through drag-and-drop. Select two or three scenes at once and view a subsection of your manuscript. Add comments and notes to keep track of things you’ll need to fix later. Use the Project Replace to change character names. The possibilities are endless!

One of the downsides of Scrivener is tracked changes aren’t as easy to manage as in, say Word. You can use the Snapshot feature to keep track of what changed and when, but it’s not as collaborative as Word or Google Docs.

But the big upside to Scrivener is the relatively easy way to export your manuscript into a variety of different formats. From ePub to Kindle, PDFs formatted for print to .docs for your editors, you can keep one master file. Anyone who’s ever wondered “which version is this?” can appreciate the benefit of not having to edit a period in fifteen different documents. And when you’re on to Books 2 and beyond, having the same formatting presets can save you time and frustration.

Suffice to say: We love Scrivener, and we wouldn’t think of writing a book without it.

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The Matter of Things – All About Front and Back Matter

When coming to the end of a book, you’re often feeling a jumble of emotions. If it’s a romance, you’re feeling the Happily Ever After. A dystopian, probably a little misery mixed in with hope. Across all books of all genres, there’s one thing in common: That all-important book back matter and front matter.

Your book’s front and back matter is, essentially, the stuff that bookends the actual text of the book. The title page, your copyright information, and table of contents goes in the front, your acknowledgements, your also by, and your biography go in the back. If you’re a self-published author, all of these components make for yet another sales avenue.

Front Matter: The Basics

For indies, you’re going to want to have at least three main components to your front matter: Title Page, Copyright, Table of Contents. You could go for the gold and have all the components (half title, series page, title page, copyright, dedication, epigraph, table of contents, etc). However, keep this in mind: Nobody’s buying a book to read the front matter. Especially when it comes to eBooks, where you can display up to 20% of your book to potential customers, you don’t want 10% of that taken up by front matter.

Our general formatting recommendation goes like this:

Print Books:

  • Title page with author and publisher logo (if applicable)
  • Copyright information:
    • Editing by [Editor’s Name]
    • Art design by [Artist Name]
    • © [Year] [Publisher]
    • All rights reserved.
    • ISBN: [ISBN]
    • ISBN: [ISBN:13]
  • Dedication Page
  • (Blank Page, so TOC lands on the right)
  • Table of Contents
  • (Blank Page, so start of book lands on the right)
  • Start of Book

Our eBooks run about the same way, although we don’t add the blank pages. Per the Smashwords formatting guide, we also make sure to add the appropriate text so we pass muster on the Meatgrinder.

A note on Amazon and Front Matter

Amazon’s Look Inside feature allows users to view the interior of an eBook prior to purchasing. For a lot of consumers, that’s how they decide to press that Buy button. Recently, however, Amazon pushed a new standard for eBooks in the Look Inside feature that effectively broke a lot of formatting, especially as it relates to images and text alignment. All of our books, formatted through Scrivener, were victims of this change. If you’re a Scrivener user, try exporting the book to ePub instead of Mobi.

You might also try Vellum, which is another eBook formatter (Runs around $200 for eBook only).

Either way, it’s important to check your Look Inside feature every couple of months to make sure everything looks as it’s supposed to.

Back Matter: The Basics

Right after the last page of the book, you need to try to hook your reader to take an additional action, whether it be purchase the next book in the series or signing up for your newsletter, or even leaving a review. The more pages a reader has to sift through, the less likely they’ll hang around, so put your high priority up front.

For paperbacks/hardcovers, we go with the following:

  • Last Page
  • Our heroes adventures continue/conclude in [Book Title]
  • Also By, with a short blurb about each book
  • Acknowledgements
  • About the Author

For eBooks, which can include hyperlinks, we switch it up:

  • Last Page
  • Our heroes adventures continue/conclude in [Book Title], followed by the following:

As always, thank you, dear reader, for going with me on this adventure. As an indie author, I rely on my awesome folks like yourselves to help share the word about my work. Please consider leaving a review on your favorite book retailer*. I am so excited to hear what you think—even if it’s a short review!

*Smashwords has particular issues with naming other eBook stores in their books, so keep it generic

  • Free Anxiety Dragon Book, with the following:

Sign up for the S. Usher Evans newsletter and get a free copy of Empath, a standalone fantasy novel about a girl and her anxiety dragon.

  • Also By with links to each book in the backlist, and a notice if the book is also a free download.
  • Acknowledgements
  • About the Author, with links to social media

The Importance of Back Matter

If it’s not completely obvious, your back matter is one of the best ways to retain new fans and increase sales of new books as they come out. Whether it’s through finding you on social media or signing up for your newsletter, giving fans a one-click option to get more of your stuff is always important. Especially if you’re giving the first book away as a freebie or newsletter gift, you want to give yourself every possible chance to keep your hard earned fans.

We also recommend linking back to your own website, versus trying to do store sites. In the first place, if you’re using Smashwords or other distributer, you won’t be able to upload a different book for each store. But most importantly, it lets you link to books that might not be out yet. So if you’re planning books 3 and 4 later in the year, you won’t have to update your backmatter when they come out.

That also means that every so often, you should be updating your back matter with information about your new and upcoming books. If you’re a habitual releaser of 4-5 books per year, you can probably get away with once a year for heavy lifting. It’s also a good time to sweep across your paperbacks and hardcovers to make sure everything looks good, too.

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Author Central – The Best Tool You Aren’t Using

Author Central - The best tool you aren't using

Author Central is an Amazon service provided to authors that serves two main functions. First, you can create a single “landing page” within the Amazon store with your biography, photos, and, most importantly, a listing of all your published works. Author Central also is a location to provide even more metadata about your book, including editorial reviews and more.

If youve got a central llisting of your products on Author Central, readers may buy another bookWhy is it important to have a single landing page for all your books? When a reader completes a book, they may click on your name on their Kindle or iPad. If you’ve got a central listing of your products, the chances are good they may buy something else. Most importantly, it provides an additional level of professionalism to your profile.

Getting Started

To get an Author Central account, visit and create an account. It may take up to a week to get approved (not surprising for anyone who regularly works with Amazon). You can still add photos and a bio while you’re waiting.

You do not have to use your exact biography in your Amazon author bio. Some recommend adding additional content, like more information about your books to bump up your search engine optimization within Amazon. Keep in mind that your book covers will draw more attention than a block of text, so don’t go overboard here.

Creating Your Book Metadata

Boost preorder potential by adding editorial reviews in Author CentralOnce you have your account, you’ll need to manually add your books. You will have to do this with every subsequent book you publish. You can either use your pen name, book title, or ISBN to search. If different formats of your book are connected on Amazon, they will show up as one record in Author Central.

Once your books are claimed, you can begin adding additional metadata. This is especially important if you’ve got a preorder. Amazon does not allow early reviews of most indie-pubbed novels, but you can add editorial reviews to your book metadata early.

Keep in mind that you will have to add reviews to all versions of your books. While the paperback and hardcover formats allow you to add a separate review per line, the eBook format has one space, as depicted in the screen shots below.


Screen shot of author central
Hardcover format has individual adds for reviews


Screen shot of Author central
Kindle edition has a single block for all text edits


There are other sections that you may utilize to add additional information about your book, from Product Description to From the Back Cover to About the Author. Add more information here at your discretion.

Go International

Many authors have their Author Central page established in the US, but many haven’t taken the extra step to claim their profiles in other countries. Even if the majority of your sales come from the US, it’s still a good idea to give international customers an easy access to all your content. Below is an easy list of links to each of the Author Central options Amazon offers:

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Amazon’s Tricky Algorithm

Amazon's tricky algorithm - how does Amazon rank books and other items in its store

Everyone always talks about The Algorithm, specifically, the one that Amazon uses. So what is it exactly?

In laymen’s terms, it’s a set of rules that Amazon applies to products in its store to determine where that product lands in search results. So if I were to search for “Space Pirates,” Amazon would seek out all items in the store with that term associated with it, and then apply a set of other rules (number of reviews, recent activity, number of times that term exists in the product description) to set the search results order.

Indie Authors need to understand the algorithm if they want their books to be discovered. Indie authors need to understand the algorithm if they want their books to be discoverable amongst all the other books out there. There are some things that we can change about it, such as maximizing the product description by adding your key words. There are also things out of our control.

What Can I Not Control?

The number one way to get your book higher on the algorithm search results is to sell a lot of books. We recognize this is a bit of a chicken-and-egg scenario, so we stuck it under things you can’t control.

Next, get a bunch of reviews. Again, there are ways you can fight this battle. At the end of the day, it’s up to your reviewers to post their comments.

The other thing, and this one is debatable on control, is to add your book to KDP Select. There are many authors who swear by KDP-S and say that having their book in Kindle Unlimited brings them plenty of reads and income. There are others, present company included, who have seen little to no page reads on several different kinds of books. This is one of those questions that each author will have to answer for themselves and their books.

What Can I Control?

You can't expect to have a best-selling book that's riddled with typos and has a cover made in MS Paint.The number one way to maximize your Amazon ranking is to have a well-written, professionally-presented book (hey, we didn’t say it was going to be easy). Reach outside your circle of friends to get feedback. Hire a cover designer that helps your book stand out. Utilize editing services (which, obtw, we offer). You can’t expect to have a best-selling book that’s riddled with typos and has a cover made in MS Paint.

The second thing is to check out Amazon’s handy keyword guide. Ever wonder how someone’s book falls into the obscure categories? Authors can add granularity beyond the BISAC codes which are standard for all books and align it to Amazon’s unique product categories. You get seven keywords per book.

You can also add those same keywords to your product descriptions, but be careful. Amazon does not rank keyword density (that is, the number of times a keyword appears) like Google. If a keyword is added too many times, it can lower your search ranking. As well, if you add the keyword to your book title (“Double Life (Space Pirates Space Opera Bounty Hunter), Razia #1”), it can come across hokey and desperate. Readers may find your book, but they won’t buy it.

In Summary

The most important thing you can do is to utilize tools outside of Amazon to bring in sales. Relying solely on the algorithm to sell your books means you’re at the whim of the tweaks and adjustments that they make. Data Guy, from Author Earnings Report, said in October 2016:

Amazon tweaks and optimizes their retail website, merchandising algorithms, and nightly recommendation emails on a continuous basis. Perhaps they’ve recently adjusted one or more of those in a direction that gives higher visibility to paid-for publisher featuring of traditionally-published ebooks?

Such changes to retailer merchandising prioritization of books would not be unprecedented (*2). And they would be largely invisible; at Author Earnings, we would only be able to observe their downstream effect on sales and market share. For example, if Amazon’s nightly email recommendations to ebook consumers had recently been tweaked to given more emphasis to paid-for publisher featured books, that could very well drive this type of shift. But we have no real way of knowing.

Momma always said not to put all your eggs in one basket. When it comes to eBook marketing, that still rings true.

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