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Random publishing tips by myself

I post a lot of things on forums and subreddits and social media. Here’s the best of what I’ve posted there over the last year or so.

What I Wish I’d known about ebook publishing:

  1. A book is defined as something which takes no longer than 2 years to write.
  2. Pay for one review in the trades (Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, etc) especially for your first book.
  3. Set pub date 3-4 months after it is 100% finished and use the intervening time to find reviewers/beta reviewers.
  4. Focusing all your efforts on Amazon is dangerous. It’s good to sell at least in one place which is DRM-free. (smashwords).
  5. I personally don’t like reading or writing serials, but be prepared for books to be rolled up into and sold as bundles later on.
  6. Every book is different. The way to market every book is different. What works with one author (or one book) is not necessarily going to work for you.
  7. Don’t fixate on the opinions of what beta readers and friends think. Some people obsess about pleasing everyone with their book. Don’t water yourself down just to make Sam or Sally happy.
  8. Recognize that you’re going to waste a percent of your ad budget on things which accomplish nothing.

Finally, and I hate to say that, but 99.9 of the world’s population does not care about books and specifically your book. Don’t let that get you down. (I have more to say about marketing strategies, but I want to see results before I mention them publicly).

How to Format Images on Kindle

In 2016 I spent a few week’s flailing about trying to do custom CSS formatting for an ebook with illustrations. Then I figured out an all-purpose solution which is below. Don’t be distracted by the image-replace-title name of the DIV. (In this case I was simply using an image as a chapter heading, so I used that time; but this trick works for ANY images).

I’ve been using interior images with minimum width 1800 px (although some may think it’s overkill).

It’s not necessary to compress images for your ebooks on the Kindle platform because Kindle will automatically downconvert images to a more practical size for e-ink and smaller mobile devices. Also, if people are downloading an ebook with a larger file size, they usually know to download it when on wifi. I don’t think the customer or the publisher pays extra bandwidth fees if the customer downloads it via wifi.

The key thing is to make the CSS scale the images depending on the device’s dimensions. It’s tricky to do because kindle does not support the max-width css property for images. Instead, I use css media queries for different screen resolutions (i.e breakpoints). Here are the breakpoints I used.

  1. generic styles, for everybody (and for devices which don’t detect media queries)
  2. phone media queries valid for both portrait and landscape: min-width 320px max-width: 767px
  3. phone media queries valid only for landscape 768 to 1500 px landscape (because we assume 2 columns, this is basically the same as Phone/Portrait)
  4. Landscape over 1500px — when 2 columns, this will look the same as portrait 768-1024
  5. 768-1024 portrait — this probably comprises about 60-70% of the devices
  6. 1025-up portrait — future proofing, just in case

Third, use variations of this CSS code inside each media query.

div.image-replace-title {

width: 95%;

margin-left: auto;

margin-right: auto;

}

div.image-replace-title img {

width: 100%;

display: inline;

}

By leaving the img width at 100% and varying the width of the div containing the img file, you can approximate the same effect of scaling the image. I put 95% for the most common media queries, and then decreased it to 75% for huge (and I mean HUGE) media queries. The oldest e-ink devices didn’t recognize these media queries, but the rest did. The key thing is that using high quality images to begin with allowed Kindlegen to compress as needed. My images rendered great on the e-ink devices.

Finally, if you don’t know how to do css media queries, the Kindle Publishers Guide has code examples. They basically look like this:

@media only screen

and (min-device-width: 768px)

and (max-device-width: 1500px)

and (orientation: landscape)

{

your css code here

}

Pricing Strategies for Ebooks

Here’s my current strategy:

  1. Make an ebook with enough quality content and book size to compete with the majors.
  2. Price it on 2.99 on Amazon. (the lowest price for 70% royalties).
  3. Sell the same ebook on Smashwords .Price it the same as on Amazon and use a PUBLIC COUPON (not a private one) to price it at half of your Amazon price. (In the 1-2 dollar range, royalty percents on Smashwords are quite nice).
  4. Occasionally do spot sales to price the 2.99 ebook in the 1-2 dollar range when running ads on newsletters.

For those who say, it should be higher than 2.99 on Amazon. Ok, maybe 3.99 or possibly 4.99, but I am pelted every day with notices of dozens of high quality titles by known & well-reviewed authors in the 2-3$ price range. Also, a lot of decent Amazon Crossing titles are discounted monthly at 99 cents. I buy lots of titles (and blog about my finds on my Robert’s Roundup ebook deal columns), It’s very rare that I have paid more than $4 for anything….

(I don’t generate a lot of sales from Smashwords — or any sales at all, but using public coupons seems like a no-brainer. The problem with pricing under the 2.99 threshold on Amazon is that it’s harder for ad buys to pay off at 30% and below.)

See also: default Kindle fonts by device and how to hide HTML pages from the ebook’s TOC.

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