Kindle Publishing Questions Answered (Part 3)

KDP LogoOnce again, I’m answering another collection of Kindle publishing question that I’ve received from readers.

If this is your first time here, then you’ll want to check out part 1 and part 2 of this series.

What started out as a long blog post has evolved into hundreds of excellent questions that I’ll answer now and throughout the New Year. (I’m even thinking about starting a YouTube channel around this concept.)

Today’s post includes a mash-up of the different questions I’ve recently received. Some relate to topics I’ve partially covered and others go into strategies that I haven’t previously discussed.

As always, we’ll start with the “3 Golden Rules of Kindle Publishing.” If you’ve read this section already, then feel free to skip ahead to the good stuff. But, if this is your first time here, I recommend you check out the following because it provides a background on why I make certain business decisions.

[title color=”green-vibrant” align=”scmgccenter” font=”verdana” style=”normal” size=”scmgc-2em”]RECAP: 3 Golden Rules of Kindle Publishing[/title]

#1. Focus on 80/20 Activities: Spend your time doing the tasks that will have the biggest impact on your business (like writing, research, book design and building an audience) and give minimal (or no) attention to the activities that don’t produce large result.

#2. Build a Catalog Business: Write great books, market the heck out of them during a launch phase and then get started on the next one. In other words, don’t focus too much on the success (or lack thereof) for one particular title.

#3. Help Amazon Sell Your Books: Focus on promoting a book through Amazon and you’ll get a lot of extra exposure on pages like New Releases, Top 100, Customers Also Bought and in targeted email campaigns.

These three rules guide almost every decision in my business. So I recommend that you carefully review each one and see how it relates to your self-publishing efforts.

Okay, let’s get to those questions…

[title color=”green-vibrant” align=”scmgccenter” font=”verdana” style=”normal” size=”scmgc-2em”]#1: “Do you ever include affiliate links inside of your books, or is that against Amazon’s TOS?”[/title]

There is no 100% accurate answer to this question. Some people say it’s okay to include affiliate links and others say that Amazon strictly forbids it. So, the answer comes from my interpretation of Amazon’s rules.

Basically there are two types of affiliate links, so I feel there are two different rules for how you handle affiliate marketing.

The first deals with their “Associates Program.” According to the rules of the Associates program, you can’t include links in any eBook—including Kindle books. Yes, this makes no sense because affiliate links help Amazon sell more of their products. But, in my opinion, you should never include an Associate links to any product on within your books. You can still link to your books (and other products), but you can’t use an Associates affiliate link while doing so.

The second rules deals with other affiliate offers. From my experience, Amazon does let you link to affiliate products—with the caveat that you’re not turning a book into a long sales pitch. If you balance the occasional affiliate offer with a dozen links to free offers, then you should be within Amazon’s guidelines.

[title color=”green-vibrant” align=”scmgccenter” font=”verdana” style=”normal” size=”scmgc-2em”]#2: “How do you find keywords that don’t have a lot of competition on Amazon? I have found it easy to find keywords that are high-traffic; but then when I publish the book, it doesn’t sell because customers have too many choices in books built around those keywords.”[/title]

My answer comes from “Golden Rule #1 – Focus on 80/20 Activities.”

Honestly, I don’t really care too much about keyword competition. While I think it’s important to find the best phrases, you shouldn’t agonize too much about where your book ranks. Frankly, it’s more important to focus on writing good books that solve people’s problems.

I only use two tools to find quality keyword phrases:

  1. Keyword Planner (which is part of Google Adwords)
  2. Amazon’s Search Suggestions (the predictive tool in Amazon’s search bar)

My strategy is to target high traffic keywords—in fact, I only pick the phrases with a good amount of competition. Basically, when you see a lot of “competition” for a phrase, then it’s a strong indicator that the keyword might be profitable.

So how do you “compete” with these books?

It’s been my experience that a book ranks well for a phrase according to a number of factors: Reviews, sales, downloads and numbers of purchases using that specific keyword phrase. You have control over most of these factors. That means if you do a good job providing a valuable reading experience, then you don’t really have to worry about keyword positioning—it’ll take care of itself.

As an example, I haven’t done a thing to rank my book Outsourcing Mastery for the keyword “outsourcing,” yet it shows up at the #1 ranking on all of Amazon.

At the risk of using this answer to sermonize…As an author you shouldn’t care too much about keywords. Yes, spend those 15- to 30-minutes to locate the best phrases. But after that, focus on the actions that make the quality of your book stand out from the competition.

[title color=”green-vibrant” align=”scmgccenter” font=”verdana” style=”normal” size=”scmgc-2em”]#3: “I’ve been told that blogs are practically useless for selling kindle books since Amazon is a self-contained ‘ecosystem.’ Is that true?”[/title]

Yes and no.

I feel there are two types of bloggers who self-publish on the Kindle platform.

The first (which includes me) start with an established platform. They have an email list and an audience that already likes their content. It’s not hard for these people to write a few quality Kindle books and get a high number of reviews/purchases.

If you’re in this first group, I believe (with 99.99% certainty) that having a blog will help you sell Kindle books. You already have an audience. So you can leverage this platform to launch a book, get downloads/purchases and receive positive reviews.

The second group will publish on Kindle without the benefit of a blog. This can be a disadvantage because you’re competing against authors with an established brand. (This is the problem that I’m seeing as I build up the website.)

I have three suggestions for anyone who doesn’t have a blog:

  1. Spend most (over 80%) of your time on creating good Kindle books.
  2. Use a few different strategies to build up your email list (read this post for more details.)
  3. With your other time (20%), get on one platform and build an audience. This should include one of the big three: Blogging, podcasting or YouTube.

To get back to the question, I agree that Amazon has an amazing, self-contained ecosystem. But it works best when it’s supported by YOUR promotional efforts (Golden Rule #3).

With a blog, you can generate lots of short-term traffic to your books and get those downloads/purchases that are important for gaining visibility on Amazon’s platform. In other words, the more sales you generate (from your platform), the harder Amazon will work to help you get those long-term book sales.  (Really the whole point behind the “Authority Case Study” is to show how to build a brand outside of Amazon to help you connect with an audience that will support your Kindle books.)

[title color=”green-vibrant” align=”scmgccenter” font=”verdana” style=”normal” size=”scmgc-2em”]#4: “Isn’t it dangerous to rely just on Amazon’s platform?”[/title]


I know that “Golden Rule #3” emphasizes the importance of helping Amazon sell your books. So this means you have to put all of your eggs into Amazon’s basket. When you think about it—this is a pretty scary long-term plan.

For those of anyone who has dealt with Google and their animal-themed updates, you know that it’s pretty stupid to build your entire business on somebody else’s platform.

So what I’m saying here is to think carefully about the ramifications of what it means to stay in Amazon’s KDP Select program. Why am I sticking with this program? Because their sales tools give me a competitive advantage that is far superior to anything I’d get from publishing on other platforms. I know it’s a risk to rely just on Amazon, but it’s also a very calculated risk.

That said, if I wake up tomorrow and discover that all of my books have been removed, then I’ll still have the following:

  • 6+ months of living expenses saved in a bank.
  • 3 email lists that continue to grow—outside of Amazon.
  • 2 blogs that continue to grow—outside of Amazon.
  • Other revenue streams—including apps, affiliate marketing and information products.

I have two points here:

First, for me it makes sense to rely just on Amazon. I know the risks and I’m willing to accept the consequences. Plus, I make sure that I’m always 100% compliant with every rule and regulation.

Second, you should ALWAYS take my advice (and the advice of others) with a grain of salt. Think first about your specific situation before making any sort of business decision. If you have other income coming in (like from a job) and want to maximize sales, then you should stick with the exclusivity of Amazon’s KDP Select program.

On the other hand, if you want to play it safe because you depend on your book income (like to put food on the table), then the smart move is to diversify on other platforms like Kobo, B&N, Apple and everywhere else that books are sold.

[title color=”green-vibrant” align=”scmgccenter” font=”verdana” style=”normal” size=”scmgc-2em”]#4: “What are your thoughts about Private Label Rights (PLR)? I’m having a hard time kicking off my website with content, and I was considering PLR. What are your thoughts? If you’re for it, what sources do you recommend?”[/title]

Honestly, I think that using PLR is a complete waste of you and your reader’s time.

First off, Amazon has a fancy algorithm that can detect duplicate content. Plus, PLR is usually “thin” content that doesn’t provide value to the end reader. So this means you’d have to re-write the whole thing in order to turn it into something worthwhile.

Second, it’s been my experience that you get the best long-term results by focusing on a niche and providing in-depth content for that market. It works exponentially where one book buyer turns into a multiple book buyer. So, even if you convince somebody to buy one of your PLR books, it’s not likely that he or she will buy anything else because you didn’t provide a great introductory reading experience.

I know it’s not an easy process, but you’d be better off targeting a specific topic and sharing books that come from your personal experiences.

[title color=”green-vibrant” align=”scmgccenter” font=”verdana” style=”normal” size=”scmgc-2em”]#5: “Is there a difference in marketing nonfiction ebooks vs. fiction ebooks?”[/title]

I’ve only published nonfiction books, so I can really only speak from my experiences and what I’ve seen work for fiction authors.

Let me start with the strategies that benefit both nonfiction and fiction authors:

  • Free promotions through KDP Select—great for getting new readers.
  • Countdown Deals—great for bumping up lagging sales.
  • Building an email list—everyone should do this.
  • Cross-promotion—the back of your books should promote other titles.

Now, there are strategies that work best if you’re a nonfiction author:

  • Providing valuable content through a blog, podcast or YouTube channel.
  • Lightly recommending one or two books within the content of your Kindle books.
  • Building case studies and examples from specific tactics that you explain in your books.

On the other hand, there’s a great tactic that can benefit fiction authors…

If you have a series of books, then providing a perma-free “entry point” into your funnel can generate long-term sales. The idea here is to provide a fun (self-contained) reading experience that whets the reader’s appetite for the rest of the series (for more on this strategy, I highly recommend the book Write. Publish. Repeat.).

Like I said before, I only have experience with the nonfiction market so (as always) take my advice with a grain of salt.

[title color=”green-vibrant” align=”scmgccenter” font=”verdana” style=”normal” size=”scmgc-2em”]#6: “How do you create a perma-free listing on Amazon?”[/title]

Here’s what I did for the book that I have permanently free:

  1. Publish the book on Amazon, but don’t sign up for KDP Select. Set the price to $0.99.
  2. Publish the same book on SmashWords. (Use this free guide to learn how.)
  3. Set the price to free on SmashWords.
  4. Once the book is published on both Amazon and SmashWords, tell Amazon that it’s free on SmashWords, Barnes & Noble or other websites. Do this through the link that Amazon provides in your book’s description. (Here’s how this looks.)
  5. Ask a few friends to use this link and inform Amazon about the price change.
  6. Wait a few weeks or sometimes a few months before this price change takes hold.

Unfortunately, right now you have to “trick” Amazon in order to list a book for free. So, it’s not 100% reliable all the time. All you can do is follow these steps and try to be patient as you wait for Amazon to drop the price to $0.00.

[title color=”green-vibrant” align=”scmgccenter” font=”verdana” style=”normal” size=”scmgc-2em”]#7: “It would be cool if you wrote a post about other sources of potential income that authors can generate, such as from affiliate marketing, etc.”[/title]

There are a lot of ways you could expand income beyond Kindle publishing—unfortunately I haven’t done a heck of a lot beyond promoting my books (Golden Rule #1 –Focus on 80/20 Activities). But as I set goals for 2014, I’m going to try a few different things with both of my book brands (habits & Internet marketing):

  • Create small courses through Udemy (Rob Cubbon has a great book on this.)
  • Create a massive course and mastermind group on a single topic (I’ll talk more about this in 2014.)
  • Use CreateSpace and Audible to maximize the profits from existing Amazon customers. (Nancy Hendrickson and Michelle Campbell-Scott talk about this in their book Make Your Book Work Harder.)
  • Promote information products as an affiliate that solves specific problems.
  • Promote Amazon products through a blog and email list. (Read this post for how I’m doing this.)

Now, that’s just what I plan on doing. Some other ways you could maximize revenue is to offer coaching, consulting and speaking services. I know a number of authors who use their books to launch their professional services, so you might want to consider these sources of income as well.

The secret to maximizing your book revenue is to observe other Kindle authors. Download their books. Join their email list. Read their blog posts. Do everything you can to see how they build an audience and engage with them.

[title color=”green-vibrant” align=”scmgccenter” font=”verdana” style=”normal” size=”scmgc-2em”]#8: “It would be good to see a ‘Countdown’ in action. Give the timeline of your favorite promotion.”[/title]

So far, I love the Countdown Deals program (you can read more it on Amazon.) While I don’t think it’s a magic pill for all books—this tool can provide a short burst of sales, which often leads to more long-term visibility.

The biggest argument against Countdown Deals is many authors feel that they’ll “lose” income because they discount a book for a week. At the time I’m writing this article (Dec 23, 2013), I’ve run a total of 14 Countdown Deals. Sure a few promos didn’t do that well. But, I haven’t “lost money” on any of them. In fact, a few Countdown Deals have generated a sizable bump in income and led to an increase in my overall average daily sales.

For instance, let me break down the Countdown Deal for my book Wake Up Successful:

  • 6.2 daily sales leading up to Countdown Deal (Nov 1st to Nov 27th)
  • November 28th—start of the Countdown Deal
  • December 4th —end of the Countdown Deal
  • 235 total sales during Countdown Deal at $0.99
  • 162 total sales during Countdown Deal at $1.99
  • 15.8 daily sales since Countdown Deal (Dec 5th to December 22nd)

Not bad for a single promotion. And I think the long-term numbers could have been better if I kept the book at the $0.99 price point for the entire week (which is something I’m currently testing with my book 10,000 Steps Blueprint).

What I like best about Countdown Deals is it’s a sales tool that’s designed to help the authors who produce a lot of content. If you have 12 or more books in KDP Select, you could literally have a Countdown Deal running at all times. This will give you an amazing advantage over the authors who don’t use KDP Select.

Like a lot of things, Countdown Deals can be a valuable part of your marketing toolkit. If you combine it with the other strategies that I recommend in this post series, you’ll get extra sales that can have a positive spillover effect on your other books.

[title color=”green-vibrant” align=”scmgccenter” font=”verdana” style=”normal” size=”scmgc-2em”]What Are YOUR Kindle Publishing Questions?[/title]

As I’ve mentioned a few times, there are a lot of questions that haven’t been answered. Some will be discussed in future posts and others will be covered in the YouTube channel that I plan on launching in early 2014.

So here’s your chance if you haven’t asked a question or want to submit a new one.

In the comment section below, feel free to respond to this post and ask any question you might have about Kindle publishing.

Take Action. Get Results.

44 thoughts on “Kindle Publishing Questions Answered (Part 3)”

  1. Thanks Steve, great post and good advice for authors.

    I’m so glad you covered the PLR crap! I just wished Amazon would focus on cleaning up Kindle and deleting all the rewritten PLR. In addition, I would also like to see Amazon display the number of refunds on Kindle books.

    I wonder if Amazon takes into account the number of refunds when they calculate their sales rank.

    • Yeah, I think they did a pretty decent job removing it. But, I find that people who create “junk content” tend to weed themselves out. I don’t think refunds affect sales rank, but it might have something to do with how high a book shows up in the search results.

  2. I travelled to China few months ago for a month visiting the main cities and reading your reccomendations I[m tempted to write an e book about the trip , my concern goes for the pictures . Could I publish pictures taken of people in the street ? or Buildings or the Tianamen Square full of people from all over ? My experience was excellent and positive , I managed with my wife as if we were in New York or London although we prepare the trip by ourserlves. Thanks in advance for your advice , best regards


    • Ramiro — I think when you photograph people, you have to get their permission to reproduce it. As far as it being other countries, I’m not really sure. For buildings you might be good to go. But, regardless, I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t have a definitive answer.

  3. Is is always necessary to start with a problem or niche and then write a book to offer a solution? Is that the only kind of book which sells?

    What if I wanted to write a political book with an outrageous title that won’t solve any problems but would sure piss a lot of people off (while at the same time endearing others at the opposite end of the political spectrum).

    Is that kind of project doomed to failure?

    • Skip — that could work. I see political books that sell decently. That said, you’re automatically going to get half of the people who hate the angle and will negatively review it, just because they disagree with your viewpoint. So you’d have to balance it by creating compelling enough content that will get the people on “your side” to positively review it.

      This is all pure conjecture. For me, I prefer to stick with the problem/niche approach because I know that it’s the type of information that people will actually buy.

  4. I apologize for this out-of-context question, but would you mind telling what plugin do you use to have your book picture remain sticky on the sidebar?

    Thanks Steve for all your tips as a Kindle author.


  5. Aloha Steve!
    Thanks so much for being a voice of reason. I loved your “How to Write a Nonfiction eBook in 21 Days” and am working on my second book. What I love about your books and programs is the ease of entry! You do not make it so difficult to get started with you that it shuts out the people who need to hear your message the most.
    I recently realized that the only way I could reach more clients was to make products (books, programs) because my hourly rate was simply putting me out of reach for many who need me 🙂 (Not to mention there are only so many hours a day.)
    Products can be priced so much more reasonably.
    Thanks for showing me the light just by doing what you do with such integrity.
    Aloha and Mele Kalikimaka, Gina

    • Thanks a bunch Gina! Glad you’re learning lots from the books.

      While I don’t do coaching/consulting, I know that book publishing is a definitely a pathway to getting more clients. You could easily educate your audience on the basics of your market and then you’ll find people will naturally want to hire your more elaborate services.

      Best of luck!

  6. Steve it’s the first time your post has discouraged me. I follow you closely trying to imitate your success, but there is so huge gap between us!
    I wonder if following you is practical in my case. You’ve sold about the same amount of copies of ONE book during the SINGLE Countdown promo that I sold during 6 months (and having 4 titles) [sigh].
    But I started from scratch. No list, no blog, no budget, no authority.
    Frankly, I can’t find anyone starting so ‘low’, who I could follow…

    • Michal, I wonder if I could butt in here and ask you to continue to follow Steve. Yes, there is a huge gap between him and us but the advice he gives rings true for us as much as it does for him – no matter how small/large your following. Keep at it. And, see if you like blogging and start an email list – you’ll be surprised how quickly you can build up some momentum. 🙂

    • Hey Michal — Sorry to hear that. The last thing I want to do is be discouraging. You also have to understand that I spent 2+ years blogging before Kindle publishing. And since I’ve started, I’ve averaged 20 to 30 hours a week on it, for the last 1.4 years. So it’s a lengthy process. My point is none of this happened overnight. Instead it was slowly built over time. All that said, I’ll keep an eye out for people who completely start from scratch with no established platform. If I find somebody, I’ll be sure to interview him or her. 🙂

  7. Great set of questions again on publishing on Amazon. I had asked you in my previous post about republishing some of your titles on CS as paperbacks. What are your thoughts are on that? You are right about those with blogs. You can at least make the book known to the world. Some readers will even buy it in the first few weeks of your publishing it. But I have heard that its a lot easier to sell fictional stories compared to non-fiction ebooks. I have been considering trying this out where I write novel or a story? Will all depend on the time of course.

    • Hey Shalu — I think CreateSpace is a great to do, IF you have the time. From what I’ve heard they comprise about 5% of digital sales. So for me, I focus on spending my time writing more digital books, instead of doing the paperback thing. So if creating a paperback version doesn’t take too much of your time, I say go for it. But otherwise you might be better off writing digital books that will sell well.

  8. Hey Steve, I was just thinking what an excellent article this as I was getting to the end and noticed you mentioned my book. Thanks so much – I was wondering why I was getting so many sales!

    Yes, you’re right. You can use Kindles to sell Udemy courses although, of course, you shouldn’t be writing a Kindle specifically for this reason. However, if you know a lot about a specific subject (software, business practice, etc.) then offering a Udemy course at a discount at the end of a high quality Kindle on the same subject is bound to create sales. I’m already seeing this. I’ve also written to Amazon to ask if offering discounts in Kindles was considered “promotional” and they said it’s fine. (You never know, though).

    However, just one of a plethora of great ideas in this blog post and this series of blog posts. Thank you so much for this and everything else this year. Happy Holidays!

    • My pleasure Rob. I keep on putting off Udemy, but you have some great stuff in the book. I’m thinking about when I do Udemy, I’ll just start from the beginning. My current stumbling block is I’m not comfortable talking into a microphone. So I’ll create a bunch of Kindle-specific videos and then *finally* join you on Udemy.

      That’s good to hear Amazon is okay with offering discounts. I find they’re pretty reasonable. Even when they say “no” on something, they’ll at least tell you why. Unlike a certain website that specializes in search results.

      • Haha, I can’t think _who_ you could be referring to 😉

        Steve, I’ve seen you on videos and I’ve heard you on interviews, you’ve got a great voice and you speak really well. Your Kindle stuff would do really well on there. But you could make courses around subjects similar to a lot of your Kindle titles.

        Udemy was a bit like Kindle for me in a way. It was really difficult to make my first one but then it came easy -ish. 🙂

        • Thanks — still not 100% comfortable with it. But it’s one of the habits I’m developing in 2014, so hoping to get where I’d like to be. But you’re right. Probably once I’ve done a presentation a few times, I’ll become easier.

  9. Great post, Steve! Love all of the actionable items you recommend. I think Udemy would be a wonderful platform for your work.

    I have heard statistics claiming that the majority of people who buy books don’t ever finish them. I was curious why you would recommend cross-promotion at the end of the book, as opposed to including it up front (and if you’ve ever tested it).

    • Anne — That’s probably true. What I do at the waaay beginning is supply a URL in the introduction ( which automatically goes to my books on Amazon. But besides that, I don’t want to hit readers with too many things at once. My primary concern is to get them to read the book. Then for the people that finish the book, odds are they enjoyed the content. So they would be the most qualified to potentially buy the next book. Honestly, I’d rather make less sales and have happy readers, then to try to cram as many book offers down the readers throats which could potentially damage my author reputation.

  10. When you say “My strategy is to target high traffic keywords” using Keyword Planner, what kind of minimum numbers are you looking for? I’m just trying to get a ballpark figure to start with when looking at potential book topics. Thanks!

    • Sonia, I don’t have a specific hard number. I’d say at least a few hundred exact searches. But, if I feel that a specific keyword really fits, but doesn’t have a huge number, I’ll still include it. For me, keywords aren’t a huge part of my strategy, so I only give the process 15 minutes of my time.

    • My pleasure Stephen. KCD’s have become an important part of my strategy…so I’m looking for ways to fine-tune and tweak things. I’ll definitely keep you posted when I learn something.

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