Category Archives: Publishing

Optimizing an Ebook for Amazon Previews

Ebeling-RestoringFreedomAndProsperity-Faces3SmallWhat can you do to hook a potential customer who’s browsing through the preview of your ebook?

Our newest ebook, Austrian Economics and Public Policy by Richard Ebeling, has just hit the Amazon shelves.

Ebeling and the Future of Freedom Foundation (the publisher) have a solid following, and their 2015 release, Monetary Central Planning and the State, hit the #2 and #5 Amazon spots in its categories.

This time, in our quest to hit #1, I focused my attention on some details at the very beginning of the new book.

That’s because Amazon lets any potential customer read the first 10% or so of your book in two different ways: by sending them a Kindle “free sample,” and by letting them “look inside” the book right from a web browser.

Anybody who uses one of these options is curious about your book, but not yet a customer. Our job is to make them convert.

Put the Good Stuff First

Both Amazon preview methods show the first 10% of the book, regardless of what’s in it. This is not like leafing through a paper book in a physical bookstore, where the reader can zip through the whole volume to see if anything catches their eye. We need to put the most engaging material right up front.

For instance, it’s customary to put acknowledgments at the beginning of a book. But this time, I tucked them into the back matter. Acknowledgements are important, but they aren’t what a person previewing your book is really looking for.

This book has a neato Austrian School Family Tree showing the connections between the major Austrian scholars all the way from Menger to Horwitz. In a print book, that might conceivably go in an appendix. In this book, we put it right before chapter 1.

Also, Dr. Ebeling and I took a few extra edit passes together on the introduction to get his value proposition up front in the very first paragraph, which is the part of the book the previewers are most likely to see right away (because it’s the specified “start” location in the ebook files).

Scroll vs Swipe

One special quirk of Amazon’s web-browser “look inside” feature is that it shows the book in a single long panel that you scroll through top to bottom, not as a set of discrete “pages” or screens that you swipe through left to right like a Kindle book. That scrolling feature makes the repetition of a book title on the half-title and then the title page — which is completely normal and aesthetically pleasing in actual Kindle or print — look strange.

Check out this screenshot from the preview of Ryan Levesque’s book, Ask. Do you see how his title gets oddly repeated? That’s his half-title and title pages back-to-back in the scroll. Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 8.46.53 PM

So in this book I just got rid of the half-title altogether.

The first sales are already rolling in, and I look forward to seeing if this extra attention to the Amazon preview experience gives a boost to FFF, Dr. Ebeling, and their new book.

Update — We’re Number 1!
It’s the morning of September 1, approximately 48 hours after release. We just hit #1 in our category (Economic Theory).

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Jeff Riggenbach’s Libertarian Tradition

Libertarian-tradition-creased-cover

Today, I finally get to reveal to you something I’ve been talking about in private meetings and then working on in secret solitude this year.

It’s Jeff Riggenbach’s glorious new ebook, The Libertarian Tradition.

Liberty.me members get it free. Everyone else can buy it on Amazon.com for $8.99.

Riggenbach, widely known as the voice of liberty, has been reading, researching and writing about the history of libertarianism for decades.

The Libertarian Tradition represents the culmination of this work — more than 90 essays by Riggenbach, each focusing on some intriguing person or persons who contributed in their own way to the idea that we humans should live peaceful and free with each other.

Every chapter sparkles with Riggenbach’s erudition, his wry humor, and his gift for storytelling.

He takes you from the rise of the libertarian idea in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, through innovative and playful adaptations by outsiders and novelists in the twentieth century, and right into the current debates in the dawning of the twenty-first.

Get your copy now and savor a piece of the libertarian tradition.

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Filed under Ebooks, History, Libertarian Letters, New Releases, Publishing

Why Is Our New Book Already #2 in Its Amazon Category?

Ebeling Cover SmallThe Future of Freedom Foundation’s newest release is soaring through the Amazon charts. The book is Richard Ebeling’s Monetary Central Planning and the State, and we released it just yesterday.

How did we do this — again?

(The “we” here is FFF plus InvisibleOrder.com.)

Well, it helps that there are hundreds or maybe thousands of readers who have been thrilled by this book already in its first incarnation as a series of 40 articles in FFF’s Freedom Daily years ago. So right out of the gate, this book starts with a great reputation.

It also certainly helps that Ebeling is a venerable figure, who has built a mighty following with decades of consistently erudite, clear writing.

It helps that the cover is interesting to look at and well-suited to the Amazon sales environment.

It sure helps that the book itself is of professional quality, but it’s also priced down low to make it move (just 99 cents!).

And it helps that we picked good categories for it to succeed in (you want a category that does have other books your potential customers are reading, but that isn’t so crowded that you’re going to be stuck down at 1,000,000th place).

Right now, Monetary Central Planning is #2 on Amazon’s charts in the category of Political Freedom, and it’s #5 in Economic Theory. That is an amazing place to be on its very first day. And there’s no reason it can’t hit #1 in both tomorrow.

Now, when we look at tomorrow’s rankings, it’s going to help that we built on this early success by blogging about it, and that our friends and fans shared and tweeted posts like this one (hint, hint).

And when we look at the rankings over the next month, it’s going to help even more that our friends and fans and readers wrote some reviews of the book on Amazon (hint, hint, hint).

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What Is the Best Length for a Book?

Tinybook-IOI recently had a conversation with an author who is planning on publishing a book of her short stories on Amazon.com. She wondered what the best length for a story and the best length for a whole book would be.

My suggestion to her was that she experiment by releasing some of her short pieces as individual ebooks, as well as and before putting them together and releasing them as a big Kindle or print compilation.

In fact, this is good advice for almost any author today, fiction or nonfiction.

Why?

The old physical constraints of paper books once forced authors, publishers, and readers to deal in bulky objects of 100 pages or more. It was just uneconomical in most cases to ship and sell physical books much smaller than that. Nowadays, ebooks let you sidestep this physical constraint, and that creates an opening to trade in smaller units of writing.

It’s as if once upon a time you could only buy grapes in 1lb bags. Anybody who wanted to buy less than that had to choose between (a) no grapes at all, or (b) moldy grapes in the fridge.

Nowadays, you can buy and sell grapes individually. And it turns out there are customers who only wanted one grape at a time, and there are customers who would never buy a full 1lb of some new exotic Mediterranean grape — but would happily gobble up two or three just to try it out.

Based on my experience, I’d say releasing some smaller ebooks plus a compilation gives you three advantages over authors who stick to selling great big books exclusively.

Advantage 1. You make your compilation look more awesome.

Say you were going to sell a compilation ebook of your short stories at $4.99. If it contains 10 stories, 3 of which you also sell individually for $0.99 each, then you can say that the book has 7 great stories PLUS as a bonus it contains stories X, Y, and Z for free.

Now the perceptive customer can see that your $4.99 book comes with ~$3.00 of bonus material. Everybody loves bonus material.

Advantage 2. It gives you a better chance of being discovered by a new customer.

If a new customer who has never read anything by you before, and never bought anything from you before, only has to pay $0.99 to get their first hit of your stuff, they are more likely to jump in.

Advantage 3. You get more detailed market feedback, and you get it sooner.

In the long run, this is the most important benefit.

A Car Crash of Sorts, by Frank Marcopolos. A very fun story, just ~8,000 words.

A Car Crash of Sorts, a very fun short story by Frank Marcopolos. ~8,000 words.

Let’s say you’ve finished the first 3 short stories, and you plan to write 7 more for your book. (If you’re Frank Marcopolos, you can write a story a month and then publish them all for Christmas). You can keep those first 3 stories to yourself and spend the next few months toiling away in isolation. Or you can sell those first 3 stories separately, and learn from how the readers respond to them while you’re writing the rest.

The sales and reviews will tell you whether they like your longest story or your shortest one, whether they like your first-person-present murder mystery or your third-person-past wizard duel, et cetera. And all that feedback helps you decide what to write more of and what to emphasize in your bigger volumes.

Of course, it’s a great idea to keep tabs on what other successful authors with a similar target audience are doing, but every book and every author’s voice is unique. Your writing isn’t really just another fruit in the produce section.

If Daniel Sanchez and Wendy McElroy and Jeffrey Tucker each wrote a 1,000-word article about the same new law, you would have 3 very different pieces of writing, with three different audience reactions.

The same goes for you. Your readers are going to find you and interact with your writing a little bit differently than they do with anybody else. The best way to find out how is to put some of your writing on the market and see what they do with it.

For all three of these reasons, nowadays I find myself advising just about every author and publisher I meet to release some smaller pieces of writing as well as big tomes of knowledge.

Its one more way to get your grapes on the table.

However, there are three caveats you should be aware of.

Caveat 1. Maximize the power of your preview.

Amazon automatically lets people see the first 10% of your book as a preview via the Look Inside feature. For a very short book, the front matter can eat up a lot of that 10%. To get around this, just put your copyright, dedication, et cetera, at the end of the book.

That way, readers who check out your preview will see the things that might make them want to buy.

Caveat 2. Amazon’s royalty system used to be better for short books.

Those of you familiar with the intricacies of Amazon’s royalty system know that Amazon recently changed the payout scheme for some royalties on some books. The short version is that within the Kindle Select program, you are now getting paid based on the number of pages your customers read rather than the sticker price of your book, so short books are penalized relative to long books with the same price.

This does reduce the potential monetary gains to selling shorter books via the Kindle Select program. But the three reasons to do it listed above still stand. Just sell a short book and include the text of it in a long one.

Caveat 3. What is the smallest size you can effectively sell?

Once upon a time, Amazon sent out messages to authors of very small ebooks, saying “Content that is less than 2,500 words is often disappointing to our customers and does not provide an enjoyable reading experience.”

Amazon doesn’t appear to do that anymore. And some authors report having success with really short ebooks. See the forum comments here and here, for instance.

Personally, I would start out with something 5,000 words or more. If your pieces are naturally shorter than that, you could try putting a few of them together as a small compilation.

Whatever you do with a smaller book, put the word count in the description, or even put something like “A Short Story” as the subtitle, so the reader isn’t surprised by its brevity. Nothing generates bad reviews like readers who feel cheated.

(Yes, the number of pages is automatically listed by Amazon, way down on your book page, but some readers won’t look at that.)


My fellow authors and publishers, have you tried releasing pieces of different lengths, either for free or for sale? What have you learned about your own corner of the market? I’m eager to find out in the comments.

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Faulty Premises, Faulty Policies

FaultyPremisesCoverWe at Invisible Order are proud to announce our most recent publication: Faulty Premises, Faulty Policies, available in Kindle edition and paperback (and also as a free ebook with a Liberty.me membership).

Jeffrey Tucker calls it “an incredibly good guide to showing precisely what is nonsensical about political debate.”

How many times have you watched a public policy fiasco and been mystified as to how the politicians can believe their own rhetoric? They talk about how raising the minimum wage is going to make the poor better off, even though there is no mechanism in the nature of things to bring about that reality; about how some new war is going to rid the world of despotism, despite knowing that the history of war tends in the opposite direction; about how some new healthcare mandate is going to bring freedom from disease, and yet you know that legislation can’t actually achieve anything like this.

There always seems to be a missing step in the chain of logic. Politicians and pundits actually seem to believe that passing a law will generate a certain wonderful result, even though the relationship between cause and effect is nowhere present. It seems like a giant exercise in fantasy.

Galles has provided an outstanding tool for navigating your way through the sea of folly that is the politics of our time. There is no anger in his prose, and there doesn’t need to be. He has the arguments, the analytics, and the facts — those alone make the case.

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And Now, a Word from One of Our Clients

In a discussion over at the Libertarian Fiction Authors association, during a recent conversation about professional publishing assistance, one of our clients recently gave us a ringing endorsement. Here’s the full statement from John Brown, author of State of Terror.

Having a professional do your editing, cover, and interior design is not an option; it’s mandatory. Don’t even think about editing your own writing, even if you’re an editor by trade. And, do you have a solid background in graphical design? How about HTML? Sure, you could just hit a button and publish, but this is one of those things where just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Try to save money by doing it yourself and it will show. In traditional publishing, they do these services for you. With self-publishing, you are still expected to have a polished product. You can afford to pay for your own professional team because you’ll be getting much higher royalties. It’s an investment; you’ll get a return from higher sales and better comments. I think we owe the reading public the very best we can do. If your name is on it, then it should be of the highest quality, something in which you can take pride for many years. Otherwise, don’t bother.

Publishing is much more than just writing. It’s best to put one’s ego aside and think of the entire project as a collaboration. The writer may be the master architect, but there are builders and designers involved, and they play a critical role in execution. Much of the creative process comes from involving others and letting the project evolve in unforeseen directions. For this reason, I don’t like speed writing contests, the 50,000-words-in-50-days type of promotions. Art and craft take time.

I also believe that it’s best to hire professionals who can work together. Handoffs are to be avoided; it lessens responsibility for the final product. That’s why I went with Invisible Order. They do it all, from editing and design, to setting up ISBNs and vendor accounts. Jeffrey Tucker and Wendy McElroy went with IO, and that was good enough for me.

We’re very grateful to John and all the other authors who’ve put their trust in us over the last few years. To see a sample of our handiwork, you can buy the ebook of John’s IO-produced novel, State of Terror, on Amazon.com. We’ll be releasing the print version shortly.

State of Terror.

Click the cover to see this book on Amazon.com.

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When Layouts Go Bad

The Poke, a British humor site, has a compilation of print layouts that went hilariously wrong. Their list begins with this news bulletin about the rampage of Winnie the Pooh.

Layout-Failure-Winnie

Click the picture to see the whole collection. (Warning: some lewd humor.)

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