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Amazon amps up its lures to get indies to go exclusive. Will other retailers respond?

Amazon amps up its lures to get indies to go exclusive....

During the porn purge of 2013, much of the attention was on Kobo amongst authors even if the press was focused on Amazon. But while Kobo had pulled down the entire Draft to Digital catalog, a distribution service, Amazon had been systematically moving through the self published books and pushing books into draft mode that was erotic and had keywords like “virgin” or “child” or “father”.

Yet the lingering anger simmered against Kobo and not Amazon.   Perhaps it is that authors know that Amazon butters the majority of their bread so while it is easy to vent steam against Kobo, a tiny portion of many author’s sales, Amazon might anger them but not enough for them to remain angry.

Kindle Countdown

And in the last week, Amazon has unveiled a new powerful tool to push self published authors toward exclusivity called Kindle Coutndown. Amazon’s discounting tool available ONLY to Kindle Select authors. Kindle Select is a program that requires authors to pledge exclusivity to Amazon for three months. During those three months you get three major benefits that a non select author does not receive:

  • You can set your book for free
  • You can participate in the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library and receive a portion of an overall fund for KDP Select authors for each lend (usually between $1.50 to $2.00 depending on the number of borrows and authors participating)
  • You can use the Countdown feature.

The Appeal of the Discount

The discounting tool from Amazon is particularly appealing to authors for a couple of reasons. First, it provides another place for authors’ books to be visible on the retailer’s website.  In David Gaughran’s book, Let’s Get Visible, he talks about the importance of being on lists – not because of any perceived prestige factor – but because of the increased visibility for any book.

Second, discounting is one of the most effective tools a self published author has in marketing and increasing her visibility. One author mentioned in a recent blog post that while freebies hadn’t increased her income it had made it so that one of her books was now on someone’s kindle.

Third, Amazon has been notorious for not responding quickly to price changes.  Authors are relying on major newsletter services like BookBub to spread the word about their sales.  In order to make sure that the book’s price is reduced when the BookBub ad is run, authors have to reduce their price at Amazon and other places days in advance and then it often takes Amazon several days to return the price to normal.  Every day that the price is on sale means reduced income for the author.

Allowing the author to set a specific time for a discount is a huge advantage but one available only to authors who pledge exclusivity.

For most self published authors, the majority of their income will come from Amazon. For major self published authors who receive the benefit of free publicity and promotion from iTunes or Barnes & Noble, the decision to be non exclusive is easy or for the rare few that catch the attention of one of the content managers at those sites.

None of the self published platforms for these retailers allow authors to promote themselves within the store in any tangible way.  For instance, publishers can buy their way onto certain lists on the nook listings for Barnes & Noble but that is not available to self published authors.  Publishers can pay for books to be included in certain promotional areas on the retailer sites. None of this is available to self published authors and so Amazon exclusivity seems more and more attractive to a great number of authors.

Exclusivity is bad.

Exclusivity is bad. It is bad for authors and it is bad for readers. For authors, their sales will be limited to one retailer and their success and livelihood will be dependent on that one retailer.  Should Amazon suddenly decide not to carry certain books or to reduce its royalty scale, the author’s financial situation can be seriously impacted.  And Amazon can change. Just recently they increased the amount you have to buy in order to get free shipping from $25 to $35.

Exclusivity is bad for readers because innovation ends when there is no competition. If there was no competition for Amazon, there would be no need for them to continue to improve its feature set. They wouldn’t spend money to bring you the line at the bottom that tells you how long until you have completed the book. They wouldn’t have brought organization features, searches, or dictionaries.  All of these things that we are taking for granted would likely not be provided if Amazon didn’t have competition.

But the onus for creating competition shouldn’t be on just the authors and/or readers. We are consumers and our choices are often driven by the bottom line. Am I getting a better deal at Retailer A than B? If so, I’ll shop at Retailer A.

Creating Competition

Creating competition should be on the shoulders of competing retailers.  Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Apple have to make self publishing more attractive at their retail outlets as Amazon does because the sales for the majority of the authors aren’t as robust there. Authors should be allowed to buy coop and/or there should be a specialized indie section that is either hand curated or populated via an algorithm. There are readers who actively seek out indie titles.  Cater to those readers with an easy to find category.

It remains true that the majority of books sold come from a small fraction of publishing.  The biggest books in the business are those released by one of the big five publishing houses because digital is still about half of the readership in the U.S. and less than half globally.  Assuming that self published titles make up maybe a quarter or less of digital sales (or maybe more) it behooves retail outlets to curry favor with these authors in order to prevent continual migration toward Amazon and its exclusive store.

B&N seems relatively tied to pushing traditionally published titles, probably seeing the publishing houses as allies in the fight against Amazon but Apple and Kobo definitely could do more with their stores and retail outlets to increase a buy in by authors and readers. Kobo is partnering with indie booksellers, but are indie booksellers interested in selling self published books? They don’t seem to be.

I think many of us can agree that Amazon exclusivity is bad but I can see why some indies go that route. It’s unfortunate but you can’t blame them if getting visible is easier at Amazon than anywhere else.

 

How to create Kindle Collections on your Kindle Paperwhite and Kindle iOS App

How to create Kindle Collections on your Kindle Paperwhite and Kindle...

Introduction

I received an email this week asking me whether I had a post dedicated to creating collections on the Kindle. I was certain that I had but I search through my archives revealed that there was a gap in the how to content  pertaining to the Kindle.  I had a couple of different posts but no one central location.

Kindle Collections are basically folders on your Kindle that help organize your content.  There are three ways to create Kindle collections.   One is on the device itself. One is using the desktop programs. And the third is using my favorite software organization program Calibre.

1) Creating Kindle Collections on the device.

Step 1

Home Recent Paperwhite

First, create a collection.  Go to the Home screen and select “Create New Collection” from the menu.  Name your collection. Some people have very creative names. Mine are very basic. I have folders called TBR, Books to Read Now, Books to Avoid, etc.  You can organize your collections by date, by genre, or by the person who recommended it to you. Perhaps you’ll organize by tropes.  The selection is yours.

Create New Collections

To delete a collection, highlight the collection name, press and hold for the popup to appear and then you can choose “Delete Collection” from the choice of four options. This is where you can rename a collection as well.

If you do delete a collection, you will not remove those books from your device, only removing the folder in which they resided.

Once you have your collections created, you can sort your Home Screen content by collections.  On the Home screen, select “Recent” and then selection “Collections.”

You can place books in more than one collection.

Step 2

Add to Collection

Get your books into the collection.  Press and hold the cover image of a book.  A pop up screen will appear and the first option is “Add to Collection”. Check the box next to the collection where you want the book to appear and hit Done at the bottom of the screen.

From within a collection, tap menu and then select Add/Remove Items.  A list of your books will appear which you can sort by “recent”, “title” and “author.” Put a check by each book you want in that particular collection or uncheck books you don’t think are appropriate to be in that collection.

 

2) On your desktop

Create Collection

Screenshot 2013-10-19 15.01.13

Step 1: Create a new collection or import collections from your existing device.

Step 2:  Drag and drop the collections.  This process works better if your books are downloaded instead of just archived when you are moving them. The cloud symbol means that it is archived and not downloaded to your computer.

Cloud

Get Collection on Device

Step 1:   Go to your Kindle device.

Step 2:  Hit “Home” and then “Menu” and then “Sync and  Check for Items”

Your collections should sync across devices.   But, Jane, you say, I have collections that are empty but on my computer, they exist.  This is because you don’t have the books downloaded to your device.  This is what Amazon says:

Note: Importing a collection from another device does not import the books or other items to your Kindle if they aren’t downloaded already. However, books already on your Kindle that are associated with a collection will automatically appear under that collection name on your Home screen.

3) Using Calibre

If you are a Calibre user, and if you aren’t, you should look into it, a programmer named meme at MobileReads created a Kindle Collections plugin which you can download here.    This post walks you through the install of the plugin and the basic usage of the plugin.

The more books you have on your device, the slower your device works particularly when loading the menu and the collections.

Step 1.  Install Plugin

Gather your Kindle, a kindle cord, download Calibre, and the plugin.  Hook up the Kindle to the computer, open Calibre, and install the plugin according to instructions here.  Once you have installed the plugin, you will need to restart Calibre.  You must have your Kindle connected to your computer to operate the plugin.

Step 2.  Customize Plugin

After Calibre is restarted, go to Preferences -> Plugins.  You will need to find the Kindle Collections plugin which is located under “User Interface Action plugins” or type “Kindle Collections” in the search bar.  Highlight the plugin and then click “customize plugin” button.  Suggested customizations include:

  • Creation of automatic tags:  I do not advise using this feature if a) you have a ton of books on your device or b) unless your calibre metadata is very clean. If you download tags from Amazon or another source, it is likely that you are going to have thousands of tags with only one book in them.  Plus, if creating collections based on authors is a nice idea if you only have five or six authors. More than that and again, you’ll have pages and pages of collections with only one book. Collections are to help you organize, not create more pages on the device to scroll through in order to find your books.
  • Preserve existing collections. Check this if you have collections on the Kindle device you don’t want deleted.  These are collections that you have created on the device and not through Calibre.  Uncheck if you want to control all the collections through Calibre.
  • Ignore uppercase/lowercase.  This means if you have tags that are paranormal and Paranormal, Kindle Collections will treat these as one tag instead of two different tags.

Read more about the plugin here customization features here.

Step 3  Creating collections

You can create user categories in Calibre and this can be used as the basis for your Kindle Collections.  Your user categories can be simple such as “Read, TBR, Unread”.  Or perhaps they are genre specific:  “Paranormal, Contemporary, Romantic Suspense, Historical”.   Again, if you become too granular in your user categories, you may end up with dozens of collections.

The Kindle Collections icon shows up in the bottom of your Calibre screen. I have the goodreads plugin installed and it shows up next to the Kindle Collections:
Kindle Collections icon

Automatic Collections

 

You can create collections based on: Author Sort, Authors, Publishes, Read, Series, Tags, Title, and User Categories.  (See my advice in Step 1 re using these automatic collections).
automatic collections

Manual Collections

You can create manual collections.  Create a collection by typing in the name of the collection and pressing the green plus sign.
manually create a kindle collection

Then select your newly created collection in the dropdown box on the left, scroll your list of titles, sorted alphabetically, and click the green plus sign to add.
manual add to kindle collection

If you have a large library, this can be tremendously time consuming.  Once you hit “Save”, the collections will be sent to your Kindle.

Custom Category *Recommended*

Create a custom category for your Kindle Collections.  Right click in the title/author/date menu bar area. Select “Add Your Own Columns” and then add a column for kindle collections.

Add your own columns Calibre

The bottom button is “Add custom column”.  Click that or use the green plus sign on the right.  Click “Tags” from the Quick Create selection.  Then change the lookup name to “kindlecollections” or whatever you like and the Column Heading to “Kindle” (or again, whatever you like).

Identify column

The column type can be “Comma separated text, like tags / Text, column shown in the tag browser/ Long text, like comments / Yes/No”. Comma separated text, like tags is recommended. Save and restart Calibre.

Your column should show up in the menu area.   You can go through your books and tag which book belongs in which collection:

Kindle Collections Import

Once you are done, go back to the icon and select “Customize collections to create from Calibre”. Look for your customized column (mine is named Kindle), and make sure the drop down box is “create”.  Then go to  “Create collections on the Kindle from Calibre”.

Import Collections to Calibre from your Kindle  *Recommended*

This is a particularly nice way to create collections for those who have existing collections.  If you have existing collections on your Kindle, you can use the Calibre interface to organize your collections. First, however, create a custom column as you did above.

Go to the plugin icon and select “Import Collections to Calibre from your Kindle”. Select your newly created column from the dropdown menu:

Kindle Collections Import

From there, you simply go through your Calibre library and select which collection you want the book to appear.

Once you are done, go back to the icon and select “Customize collections to create from Calibre”. Look for your customized column (mine is named Kindle), and make sure the drop down box is “create”.  Then go to  “Create collections on the Kindle from Calibre”.

Step 4: Restart your Kindle

To load the new collections, you’ll need to restart your Kindle.  Eject your Kindle.  Unhook your Kindle from the computer.  To restart, you can either hold down your power key until the device restarts or go to Home -> Menu -> Settings -> Menu -> Restart.

Tips:

  • I prefer to use the User Categories section and create a special category for collections on the device.  It’s far easier to scroll from the library view of Calbre and sort your books in this fashion.
  • This only works for titles that are you in Calibre and on your Kindle. It doesn’t work with titles that exist in the Amazon Cloud and you archive.
  • Kindle Collections will generate an error report and you can use that error report to help you clean up your metadata. It will tell you if there are duplicates or conflict errors in titles, authors, tags, etc.
  • If you eject your Kindle device and then re attach it to the computer via the USB, sometimes Calibre won’t recognize Kindle device.  Simply quit Calibre and restart.