how to get isbn

How to Get an ISBN: Cracking the Code for Self-Publishers

Did you ever wonder what that string of numbers is all about on the back of books carried in bookstores, libraries, or online stores such as Amazon? Have you also wondered how to get an ISBN? That 13-digit number is used to identify a book title, in a specific format, from a certain publisher, for the purpose of identification and inventory control.

The acronym ISBN stands for “International Standard Book Number” and, before it was implemented in 1967, the method and system for cataloging, ordering, organizing, and locating a specific book was a chaotic mess.

In the early days of World War 2, when the Japanese military were sending messages back and forth, the allies needed to crack the numbering system to get an edge in the war and turn the tables. How did they crack the complex system? MI6 recruited young mathematician Gordon Foster to work as a codebreaker at Bletchley Park, where he would go through millions of numbers to look for patterns in the code.

Decades later, when the book industry needed a standardized system to track in order to coordinate the increasing number of titles being published each year, Gordon Foster was approached by WH Smith, a British retailer, to write up a report on how a standard numbering system would look for books.

This report led to the 9-digit standard book number which went live in the UK in 1967. Several years later this turned into a 10-digit numbering system when it was decided a system was needed for new editions and variations. Then, in 2007, the ISBN switched to a 13-digit format, and is now the standard for all ISBNs. Later we will look at what these numbers mean.

how to get an isbn

Reasons Self-Publishers Need an ISBN

The ISBN is a unique numeric identifier that is used globally to identify a specific version of a book title. Without an ISBN it will be almost impossible for your book to be found at the bookstore, local library, or online retailers. Although it is possible for self-publishers to get a free ISBN through Createspace, there are definite benefits to buying your own.

What Is an ISBN Used For?

The ISBN is a critical part of any book because it:

  • Identifies the specific title
  • Identifies the author
  • Identifies the type of book they are buying
  • Identifies the physical properties of that particular book
  • Identifies the geographical location of the publisher

Do I need an ISBN for my book?

This is a common question writers ask before they publish their book. You need an ISBN for your book if you are planning to have your title available in bookstores, available with online retailers such as Amazon or Lightning Source, and in libraries. Note that an ISBN is, as of now, not necessary for publishing an eBook.

But if you plan to publish multiple books and you want your publishing business to gain greater access to the global community, buying a block of ISBNs through Bowker is definitely the way to go.

How do I get an ISBN?

If you live in the USA, you have to get an ISBN through myidentifiers.com, run by Bowker, the only company that is authorized to administer the ISBN program in the United States. You can purchase ISBNs as a single unit or in bulk of 10, 100 or 1000.

If you are planning to publish more books, it would make sense to buy the bulk of 10 or 100 ISBNs. A single number will cost you $125.00 but in bulk of 10, only $295.00. For larger publishers, the 100 pack is purchased at $595.00. You can purchase 1000 ISBNs for $1500.

Authors and Publishers Living Outside the USA:

You can check out the ISBN Agency in your local area. ISBNs are assigned locally but are used internationally. Once you buy your ISBN and your book is published, be sure to register your title with Bowkerlink.

The bottom line is, having your own ISBN gives you greater control over your book as well as maximizing your global reach.

Free ISBNs vs. paid: Createspace or Bowker?

Self-published authors have the option of being assigned a free ISBN through Createspace, the On-Demand Publishing company that is part of the Amazon group of companies. While this is totally fine to do, in large part because ISBNs will add an extra expense to your book publishing costs, if publishing is a long term plan for you, consider buying your own ISBNs.

The main difference between an ISBN that is assigned for free and one you pay for is, in the case when a self publishing house issues the ISBN it is identified as the publisher. When you buy your own, the author [for self publishers] or the publisher is listed as the publisher. This publisher is always identified within the 13-digit ISBN.

If you print a paperback or hardcover book through Lightning Source [Ingramspark] you will have to purchase ISBNs to publish because they are not provided.

10 Common Questions About ISBNs: How Much Do You Know?

  1. How many ISBNs do I need? What if I intend to publish multiple books and multiple editions?

In this case, you would want to buy a block of ISBNs in bulk. With every format of the book and all future new versions, an ISBN needs to be assigned. If your book is just getting a few typos fixed up, it isn’t necessary to assign a new ISBN but only if the product changes format. If you plan to write and publish a series of books, each book in the series will need its own individual ISBN.

  1. Do I need an ISBN to sell in each individual country?

No, ISBNs are international. They are just assigned locally. If you live in the US, you can purchase your ISBN through Bowker. If you live in Australia, you would go to the Australian ISBN Agency to get your ISBN. In Japan, you would go here. For a list of the international agencies, you can visit the International ISBN Agency.

  1. If I create a series of books, can I use the same ISBN for all the books?

Many authors, both in fiction and nonfiction, have an ISSN number assigned to their book series. ISSN stands for International Standard Series Number. But, each book in the series will also be assigned its own ISBN. The ISSN can be purchased from the Library of Congress. The ISBN can be bought through Bowker, or your local ISBN agency.

  1. When do you need an ISBN?

If you are selling your book in bookstores, online distributors, wholesalers, or carrying in libraries you will need an ISBN. Self-published authors have the option of being assigned a free ISBN through Createspace, the On-Demand Publishing company that is part of the Amazon group of companies.

  1. When you copyright your book, isn’t the ISBN included automatically?

Buying an ISBN is not the same as copyrighting your book. ISBNs are sold through Bowker, but the copyright is filed through the Library of Congress.

  1. Is a barcode the same as an ISBN?

The ISBN and barcode are different, and they are sold as different products but both can be purchased through Bowker. The barcode is used to scan the book and includes information about that book such as the price [fixed] or the currency that it is being sold in. You need a barcode to sell your book online or in bookstores. You also need an ISBN number first in order to buy a barcode.

  1. Can your eBook be published without an ISBN?

Yes, it can be. However, you can assign an ISBN to your eBook, but as of now, it is not necessary to publish on Amazon. Your book will be assigned an ASIN number that identifies your book as a product being sold through Amazon.

  1. What is the difference between ASIN and ISBN?

ASIN numbers are used by Amazon to manage and identify the products they are selling on their site. An ASIN, Amazon Standard Identification Number] is the  number that identifies the exact product that you are selling. It’s a 10-character alphanumeric unique identifier that’s assigned by Amazon.com and its partners. You can find this on your book page. In your browser, the Amazon ASIN will be after the product’s name and “dp”. The next place to find this is in your book details [or product details] area of your book page.

  1. How many times can I use the same ISBN?

The ISBN number is a unique number for that particular book that can only be assigned once and, once it is assigned, will never be used again with any other book in the future, including second versions of the same book.

  1. Do I need an ISBN if I am not selling in bookstores, say, selling on my own at speaking events? NO. An ISBN is not needed.

How To Read an ISBN: What do the Numbers Stand For?

As of 2007, the ISBN number is made up of a 13-digit number. This came about in large part because of the large volume of eBooks now being published every year. Have you ever wondered what all those digits mean? If you are like most people, probably not. But to a book publisher, knowing how to break down these digits is definitely something you want to pay attention to. You can tell a lot about a book [and its author] by reading the ISBN number.

Let’s break it down and look at what all these numbers mean.

Here is the ISBN for a particular book:

978-1-545070-17-8

You’ll notice this sequence is divided into 5 number combinations. But the first three digits “978” indicates that this string of numbers is for an ISBN. if we remove these digits we have:

1-545070-17-8

First is the initial digit, in this case: 1

The 1 is the language group identifier which here indicates English. Either 0 or 1 is used for English speaking countries. These numbers for language identification generally range from 1-5.

Here is a list of the most common Group identifiers:

0 or 1 for English

2 for  French

3 for German

4 for Japan

5 for Russian

7 for Peoples Republic of China

It’s worth mentioning that the rarer the language, the longer the number identifier will be. For example, Indonesia is 602 whereas Turkey is 9944. You can reference the complete list at the International ISBN Agency.

Next is the six digit series: “545070” — This is the “publisher code,” and it identifies the publisher on any book that has this number series. This number can be as long as 9 digits.

“17” — This number represents the title of the book. The publisher assigns this to a specific book or edition of the book, such as a hardcover version or paperback. This could be a single digit or stretch to multiple digits.

8” is the last digit and is known as the #check digit”. This number is mathematically calculated as a fixed digit. This is always 1-digit only. This number indicates that the rest of the ISBN numbers have been scanned and, is calculated based on the other digits in the code.

How to Register Your Book and ISBN

As soon as you purchase your ISBN through Bowker [or the International equivalent in your local area] and you publish your book, you should register here at Bowkerlink. This is an automated tool that will add your book to Bowker’s Books In Print and Global Books In Print. I recommend you download the free PDF “ISBN Guides: Title Set Up & Registration” with step-by-step instructions on setting up your title.

how to get an isbn

The ISBN and Barcode

You’ll notice on the back of the book that the ISBN and the barcode appear together.The barcode is a graphic made up of vertical lines that encodes numerical information about the book. The barcode is not an ISBN. To buy a barcode, you have to purchase the ISBN first. The barcode is a necessary element for most retailers and distributors as it provides a scannable version of the ISBN. The standard barcode is known as the EAN [European Article Number] barcode. If you sell your book in bookstores, you must have the standard EAN barcode.

Reading a barcode: If you look at the picture of a standard barcode, you’ll notice two barcodes side by side. The barcode that appears on the left is the EAN generated from the ISBN number. The other number appearing on the right is a 5-digit add-on, called an EAN-5, that contains the price of the book. The first digit is a 5, and is a must for scanners to read. The 4-digits after the five indicates the price of the book.

For example, if the number reads 51495, this means the price of the book is set at $14.95. If the price of the book changes, a new barcode must be used, but the ISBN doesn’t change. This would only be replaced by a new ISBN if the book is published as a new edition or new version.

You can buy your barcodes at Bowker and they even offer a barcode-ISBN combo:

  • 1 barcode + 1 ISBN is $150.
  • 1 barcode + 10 ISBNs is $320.

Wrapping It Up

Now that you have a very good idea how to buy and use ISBNs for your own books, all the best on setting this up. If you want to be recognized as a publisher and have your books available to a larger global audience by registering through Bowker, consider investing in your own ISBNs. Think of it as buying a piece of property: You own it and it is registered in your name.

For more information, you can find out anything you want to know by visiting the official Bowker page or at myidentifiers.com

I will leave you with a simple actionable checklist for ISBNs.

If you want to buy an ISBN for your next book, here is what you can do:

  1. Go to the website https://www.myidentifiers.com
  2. Under the ISBN drop down tab, click on ISBNs—Buy Here. You can select 1, 10 or 100. For a bulk purchase, go to “Buying ISBNs in Bulk” and you can contact Bowker directly to discuss your options.
  3. Once you have your ISBN assigned, you can then use it everywhere that requires your ISBN number.
  4. At Createspace, under the “Setup” channel, you can choose to have Createspace assign you an ISBN. When you buy your own ISBN at Bowker, just put in the 13-digit number and Createspace will use this in your paperback.
  5. If you publish your paperback through KDP [Kindle Direct Publishing], you can fill in your number in the “Paperback Content” section of your book when you log into your bookshelf. If you choose to have Createspace assign you an ISBN, KDP will ask for your 13-digit number if you are transferring your physical version over to KDP.
  6. Register your ISBN here at Bowker as soon as your book is ready for sale. Download the free ISBN Guides: Title Set Up & Registration step-by-step guide.

Helpful Links & Resources

These links appeared throughout the post but here they are for easy access.

International ISBN Agency

https://www.isbn-international.org

ISBN.org by Bowker

http://www.isbn.org/faqs_general_questions

Bowkerlink Publisher Access System

https://commerce.bowker.com/corrections/common/home.asp

Bowker Identifier Services

https://www.myidentifiers.com

U.S. Copyright Office

https://www.copyright.gov

ISBN Set Up Guide

ISBN Guides: Basic Information

book launch

How to Run a Book Launch Like a Pro

Every self-publishing author needs a solid book launch plan. Writing a book takes planning, time, diligence and then, some tech know-how. You spend months [or years] crafting your novel, you’ve spent a small fortune on a cover, editing, proofreading, formatting, and various other expenses on your writing journey. The worst of the storm is behind you.

You’ve made it.

You’re now ready to hit publish.

Almost…

Do you have a book launch plan for your book? Is your launch team standing by ready to review the book when it hits the digital waves? Will you be using paid promo sites to boost your sales and garner potentially thousands of downloads during your launch window? Are you set up to promote your book in various channels and using the top social media sites available?

I know, launching a book is a big deal. All the work that you’ve put in up to now will fall short of nothing if you launch badly. So, in this post, we will show you how to launch your book on Amazon like a pro.

In this post you’ll figure out how to:

  • Price your book during launch
  • Set up your complete launch strategy during soft launch
  • Collect reviews from your launch team
  • Set your book up with the best promo sites for both paid and free
  • Stick to a minimalist launch plan

Before we even get into launching your book, we need to take a look at the pre-launch checklist and make sure everything is ready to go. There is nothing worse than a few days into launch and you realize you’ve missed an important piece of the puzzle.

The Pre- Book Launch Final Checklist

Here is a short checklist to make sure that you have taken care of these things before launch. These steps don’t have to be perfect and can be changed or tweaked later as needed.

  • Book Description — Create your book description using the Book Description Generator at Kindlepreneur.com
  • Keywords — Select 7 keywords for your book. I use KDP Rocket and Kindlespy. There is also Merchant Words and Google Adwords
  • Choose 2 main categories for your book in the KDP dashboard. Once your book is live you can email Amazon and request to have your book put into eight additional categories.
  • Create a landing page for your book. This can be used to collect email addresses and give away a chapter of your book before its release. [optional]
  • Upload your manuscript to KDP. Proofread your book using the KDP online previewer.
  • Upload your Kindle cover to KDP.
  • Set your launch price at 0.99.
  • Insert a lead magnet into your book, both at the front and back. Connect this with your email server such as Mailchimp or ConvertKit.
  • Get your audiobook created. Set up to release with your book through Audible or ACX. [Optional]
  • Paperback version created. You can set up your paperback here at Createspace. Optional: Your paperback can be launched after the Kindle release.
  • Emails written for pre-release during launch week to send to launch team.
  • Goodreads account created and author profile setup.
  • Launch Plan Model: Map out the specific action steps you are taking for each day of your launch. I have provided a model for this further down the post.

First of all, there are many different launch strategies and actions to take leading up to a book launch. For this launch strategy I am teaching you here, we are keeping things simple. This will be for a twelve day launch including 3 days free promo through Amazon where readers can download your book for free.

You can also check out Steve Scott’s 5-Day Launch Plan That Works post here to see how he effectively launched his [and co-author Barrie Davenport’s] bestselling book 10-Minute Digital Declutter. Nick Loper of Side Hustle Nation had a successful launch when he published his bestselling book Buy Buttons with 2600+ copies sold. Another great launch was for Rob Cubbon’s latest book The New Freedom and his detailed launch plan is right here.

Looking at the different strategies that are out there, it is easy to see that launching a book requires a strategic plan. But it doesn’t have to be overly complicated. Your launch plan will depend largely on: 1. Your objectives and purpose; 2. Your platform. The bigger your platform and access to influencers, the bigger [and complicated] your launch is.

In this post I’ll provide you with a simple, step-by-step process for setting up your book launch, including your free promo, and the corresponding promo sites to use that can increase your category rankings and generate potentially thousands of downloads.

If everything is ready, it’s time to hit publish on your book. But first, a few things you need to know about Amazon’s algorithm and overall product launch strategy. Remember, Amazon wants you to succeed. If you make money, Amazon makes money: it’s a win-win!

The Amazon Algorithm: A Few Basics

Amazon uses an algorithm to measure and track book sales [and everything else]. Knowing a few basics of how this works to your advantage can better help you to have a greater launch and, to sustain the life of your book for months [and years] after the launch buzz wears off. Basically, your book starts ranking as soon as browsers make a purchase.

Every purchase of your book pushes the ranking of your book up the ladder. As a book moves up, it jumps ahead of the other books in your selected category. The rankings are based on recent sales and Amazon favors a book that is getting consistent, ongoing sales.

A book that runs a promo and gets 200 sales in one day, but then nothing else for the week, will not perform as well as a book that gets the same amount of downloads over the course of a ten day period. Slow, steady traffic and a long-term plan is the way to succeed with your author business. Steady, organic growth will always outperform a sudden burst of downloads.

It’s also worth noting that reviews and the price of your book do not affect the sales rank, but, the more quality reviews you have, the stronger your book’s credibility will be viewed by readers. This does affect the decision-making power of browsers, which funnels into more downloads. Focus on getting as many reviews as you can during this launch phase.

Setting Up Your Amazon Bestseller

The 0.99 Launch Strategy:

What? Launch my book at just 0.99? But that’s like giving it away for free, and it’s worth more than that? Yes, I know how you feel, but trust me, there is a reason for launching it at this price that we will get into shortly. Remember: think long-term. You are selling it at a super-low point now, but the rewards are coming later. So, if you haven’t already, go into the KDP dashboard and under the section on pricing, set your book at 0.99. With the exception of the free promo period, your book will be at 0.99 for the duration of the launch.

The Free book launch Strategy:

Setting up your free launch is easy. If you plan to run a free promo for your book, you can set this up as soon as your book is live on Amazon. To run a free promotion, your book has to be enrolled in the KDP Select program for 90 days. A book that is listed for free will be ranked in the free store and books set at a price are ranked in the paid store.

If you are debating on doing a free promo, I would suggest you do if you don’t have a following [email list] or you are just getting started. The free promo will get your book into more hands [that will hopefully read it] and increase the visibility across more platforms.

Book Promotion Sites: Free and Paid

Book promotion sites can be very powerful when launching your book. You can take full advantage of these sites for both your paid and free launch. I’ll show you a generic scenario for batching these sites together to give your book that boost it may need. If you have a healthy email list, then you won’t have to rely on these sites as much as authors that are just starting out and don’t have a strong platform yet.

Keep in mind that results vary for and that your performance for each site will depend largely on the quality of your book. You still need the essentials: a great cover, compelling book description, and a title that catches the browser’s attention.

Below is a list of my personal favorites that I have used, in combination with an email list,  to launch multiple bestsellers. Also, you can check out Dave Chesson’s blog on this as he covers the best sites to use for both free and paid.

The price for each promo site varies depending on the niche and category.

Top Recommended Promo Sites

  1. Buckbooks. If you can get onto any of these promo sites, Buckbooks is the one you want to try to get into. You need 10 reviews before they’ll schedule you. Note: You can promote a 2nd book on the same day for only 25% of the price. Great deal. But you can only promote once every 6 months for each book. If you use their Archangel Ink book production services you’ll get a guaranteed placement.
  2. Robin Reads — [need 10 reviews and a 4.9 rating] Takes a couple days to get approved [$55]. Great results. I usually get anywhere from 60-100 downloads with this one. https://robinreads.com/author-signup/ Note: They have a calendar that is usually booked out weeks in advance. In this case consider using Robin Reads for future promos of existing books already launched.
  3. BookSends — $40. If you can match this up with Robin Reads or Bucks on the same day it’s a great little boost. http://booksends.com/
  4. BKnights [Fiverr] You can’t go wrong for $5. I would also take the extra gig for $5 and get in on their daily newsletter. Downloads average 12-30 depending on the book.
  5. eReader News — Great gig but hard to get approved at times. takes several days for a response. Various prices. http://ereadernewstoday.com/
  6. Booksbutterfly. You are basically paying for downloads, one of the few [if only] site that does that. They have various packages for everything. I recommend the Silver Eagle [$90] that gets you 50+ downloads + KU borrows. [https://www.booksbutterfly.com/bookpromo…/paidbookpromotion/]
  7. The Fussy Librarian [http://www.thefussylibrarian.com/]. Great promo but very hard to book in advance. They are usually booked out 2-3 weeks ahead. Need 10 reviews to get accepted. Various price ranges. Strong results.
  8. Bargain Booksy. I love this one, no reviews needed and you can sign up right away and get approved. $25 for nonfiction. Lots of categories and good results. https://www.bargainbooksy.com/sell-more-books/
  9. eBooks Habit. Great little promo, I recommend the guaranteed placement for $10. http://ebookshabit.com/for-authors/
  10. Awesome Gang. This one is great for the price, $10. They have a free option but go with the paid. http://awesomegang.com/submit-your-book/
  11. Many Books. Great little gig, average returns, $29. You can also sign up to become a featured author. http://manybooks.net/promote
  12. Digital Book Today [$40]. Good gig, average returns and works better with fiction than non fiction. http://digitalbooktoday.com/
  13. eBook Stage. Another great little promo site, reasonably priced. $10. https://ebookstage.com/
  14. Book Runes [http://bookrunes.com/]. Global reach with over 50k mailing list, $25. Average to very good results.
  15. BookBub. This is by far the biggest and the best promo site. Very tough to get accepted and it is expensive, but worth every dime. At the very least you should set up an Author profile on Bookbub and start to get people to follow you. They have a great blog too that gives powerful tips on how to get a BookBub feature. https://insights.bookbub.com
  16. Email your list [if you have one]. if you don’t, BUILD one. This is by far better than all of the promo sites combined. If you don’t have a list yet, start building one with Mailchimp, Mailerlite or Convertkit.

The Book Launch Sequence and Set-Up

To make this simple, I’m giving you a sample of a book launch that covers 12 days. This is similar to the launch that I did for my book Relaunch Your Life, except that I didn’t run a free promo this time around. Here we will look at the plan to include the free promo as well. Your launch will look and perform differently than this. You can use this as a model and tweak if needed. This launch is if you are launching your book at 0.99 with a free promo set up through KDP for 2-3 days.

What is the difference between a soft launch and the actual launch?

Your soft launch begins the moment you hit publish. If you plan on launching your book on a Sunday, I would recommend hitting the publish button at least 24 hours early. It takes Amazon about 24 hours to set up your book. It could take less or more time. In this launch model we will use 3 days for our soft launch window, and then begin the actual launch on day 4.

The 12-Day Book Launch Model

Day 1: First day soft launch.

The first day of your soft launch is critical. This is the day when you are going to set up your book to have a successful launch for the next 10 or 11 days. The price point is set at 0.99.

Here is a brief checklist of what to do on day 1 of the soft launch:

  1. Create your Amazon Author Page. Set up your bio and upload an author pic.
  2. Claim your book by hitting the ‘add more books’ tab. This will appear on your author page within 24 hours.
  3. Email your launch team. Let them know the book is ready for verified reviews.
  4. Email Amazon customer support. Request that your book is placed in additional categories.
  5. Set up a few promo sites for days 2 or 3 while your book is at 0.99. This starts to build momentum. Recommended Awesome Gang, Bknights, and Booksbutterfly.
  6. As soon as you have ten reviews, set up the rest of your promo sites for the week. Not all of these promo sites require a set number of reviews. Check the list for links to the sites and submission requirements.
  7. Set up your Free promo in the KDP dashboard. Your free promo will be 2-3 days. This would start on day 4 [or however long you decide to run your soft launch]. If you do a 5-day soft launch your free would start on day 6. Set up several paid promo sites to advertise your book for free. Although your book is free, the promos will cost you.

For your free promo on days 4-5 contact:

James H Mayfield [Note: his calendar is very busy. You might not get on for the days you want with short notice. Consider using your remaining free days at a later date and arrange to have James promo your book.]

Bknights [free promo]

Awesome Gang

Freebooksy

Booksbutterfly

Combine these promo sites with the organic traffic from Amazon and you should do very well for free downloads.

  1. Email your list [if you have one].

Day 2-3 Soft launch [Note: You can extend this to 5 days, it’s up to you]

  1. Social media burst to your FB page, mastermind groups, and other sources to spread the word.

Day 4-6: FREE Promo. Scheduled promo sites on day 1 to advertise your book. Send an email to your team to notify your book is now free. Promote to social media.

Day 7-10: Run paid promo sites recommended from the list above. You can cluster these a day apart or combine 2-3 promos a day.

Day 11-12: Launch is winding down. If you followed the plan you should have had a considerable number of downloads for both free and paid. Remember: numbers vary depending on your platform, book quality, niche, and sometimes, luck. Email your list and remind them the book will be 0.99 for only one more day. Contact your launch team and thank them for reviews and their support. Last call for reviews and downloads.

Day 13: Increase the price to $2.99. Leave it there for one week and raise it to $3.99. You can test the pricing by going up to $4.99 and watching the action. Monitor the sales and adjust to however you feel comfortable.

I spend around $300-$400 per launch minimum on promo sites but how much you spend is up to you. Stagger them out over the course of 10-12 days.

Beyond the Book Launch

One of the biggest challenges authors have is, where to go with the book after the initial launch is over. How do you promote, market and keep bringing in traffic so that your book you have worked hard for doesn’t just drop off into oblivion. There are three things you can focus on.

  1. Write another book. Multiple books create momentum. Do you have a series of books you could write? Writing a series is a great way to build your brand, a list, and keep traffic growing with increased interest in your books.
  2. Build your business on the back End. Create a business around your book with coaching, a course, or an automated email course that gets readers engaged after they are finished your book. They want to know more about you and so, if you have a business set up to kick in for subscribers, this is the start of what could be a great author business.

Wrap Up

Launching a book is  combination of strategy, imagination, and hard work. If you have a great book to promote and a team of people [a small team will do] backing you up, you can have a great launch. With every book launch there is more to learn. If you keep launching, you’ll get better at it. Eventually you’ll turn your launch into a massive movement with thousands of fans standing behind you pushing your book towards New York Times Bestseller status. Imagine that. 

self publishing on amazon

The Definitive Guide For Self Publishing on Amazon

You’ve just finished writing a book and now you want to self publish your soon-to-be-bestseller on Amazon. But wait…after doing some research into self publishing, you have come up against a wall. It seems there are a lot of steps involved before you can publish your book. Maybe you’ve just come across a checklist titled “99 Steps for publishing your book” and you don’t know where to begin. You thought writing your book was the hard part, but now?

We know how you feel. Publishing your own book the INDIE way is a lot of work. There are many steps to the process that stretch beyond just the writing phase that you hadn’t considered. That’s okay. We have your back here.

In this post you are going to learn the definitive method for self publishing your book on Amazon. Let’s assume that you have successfully written your book, it has been professionally edited and formatted, you have a professional cover, and now, you are ready to follow through with hitting that orange publish button on Amazon.

Here are the definitive steps you should take for self publishing on Amazon.

It begins with…

Setting Up Your KDP Dashboard

Amazon has a platform for creating and managing your Kindle eBook, paperback and audio books. In the KDP Dashboard you are going to build your book from the ground up. The first step to publishing on Amazon is to set up your dashboard. Setting up your KDP account is easy.

Simple Steps to Setting Up Your KDP Account

1. Go to the Take Control With Self Publishing page and sign in with your Amazon password.
2. In the Publish To Kindle box click get started.
3. Sign in with your Amazon account
4. This directs you to the KDP main page. Under Create a New Title click Kindle eBook
5. You’re in! This is the first of three pages for setting up your book on Amazon.

Under the heading Kindle eBook Details, set up your book by providing the following information.

Book Title/Subtitle

In your KDP, you will fill in the title and subtitle of your book. The subtitle is listed as optional but, if you are writing nonfiction, having a good subtitle is something you should definitely consider.

You need a great title and subtitle to grab the reader’s attention. A book title should be:

  • Attention-grabbing
  • Persuasive
  • Results Driven: What will it do for the reader?

Some examples of great titles are:

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich
Think and Grow Rich
The Productive Person: A how-to guide book filled with productivity hacks & daily schedules for entrepreneurs, students or anyone struggling with work-life balance

Here are a few tips to crafting a great book title:
Use a book hook: This is what gets book browsers to stop and think twice about picking up a book. Your book hook should speak to the reader in a unique voice that grabs their attention. If not, they’ll browse on to the next book, looking for that special title that feeds into what they are looking for.

Include keywords: You want your book to show up in the search engines, right? For that, you’ll need the right mix of keywords that target your book. You can check the SEO ranking and popularity of your keywords with the KDP Rocket.

Give the Benefits: Your potential readers want to know what they are getting out of the book that has just grabbed their attention. So tell them. Don’t hold back. The trick is to deliver the benefits in a subtitle that is not overly long [under 15 words] but provides enough tantalizing information that it gets browsers to “flip” to the description. In an eBook this is the book description found on the book sales page. For a paperback, browsers turn the book over to read the back cover copy.

Book Description

Your book description is posted in the KDP dashboard and not your Amazon author page. But when you do this, you want your book description to sell your book. There should be no doubt that your book is the one they need to read.

Creating your description

When creating a book description, you want it to appear as a professional sales page. To do this, it’s recommended you use some basic HTML coding to give your text an appealing look. For example, bold the words you want to pop out, use italics, or create larger text for the call to action blurbs such as “Scroll up now and hit the buy button.”

You can check out the HTML tags here Allowed HTML Tags and CSS Attributes.

But I’ll give you a shortcut for putting together a book description that eliminates the need for learning the HTML lingo. Check out the Book Description Generator on Kindlepreneur.com. You just type in the text, format as you like with the tools, and it will generate the HTML coding for you. Done.

Check out the book descriptions on these books to see how it’s done:
Champion Mindset: Tactics to Maximize Potential, Execute Effectively, & Perform at Your Peak – Knockout Mediocrity!
Novice to Expert: 6 Steps to Learn Anything, Increase Your Knowledge, and Master New Skills

Your book description needs to target the benefits and end with a call to action. You want your browsers to do something, such as clicking on that buy button and reading your book.

Choosing Keywords

Amazon allows only seven keywords to be used per book. Selecting the best keywords for your book is critical to being discovered both on Amazon and Google.

You can research the right keyword phrases by using keyword search tools such as:

KDP Rocket: This is a great tool for comparing Google search results to Amazon. It gives you a competitive score from 1-99, gives you a number of how many people type the keyword into both Google and Amazon, and how much money other books are making.

KW Finder: Gives an analytical view of the keyword popularity using a competitive ranking. This is free for only five keyword searches a day.

Amazon’s Autofill Function: Take advantage of Amazon’s search box to find good keywords. First, log out of Amazon and plug in your keywords using incognito mode [thanks to Dave Chesson for this suggestion]. Amazon’s suggestions are based on search history so you want to search for words that are high in demand but have little competition. This is the fine balance that can narrow in on the keywords specific to your book that positions your title in the view of book browsers.

With the right keywords you can also open up specific secret categories. By adding keywords to your title and subtitle will also increase search results for your book.

Make a list of possible keywords for your book and then, begin the strategies process of testing your keywords with the keyword search and test tools mentioned. This requires an investment in time but it is definitely worth it.

Choose Two Browsing Categories

As we see by checking the category selections in the dashboard, Amazon provides a branch of categories and subcategories to choose from. You can select two categories from within the dashboard, but actually, it is possible to have up to ten categories in total.

In selecting categories, you want to look for those areas that are popular but, without tons of competition making it impossible to rank. You can browse the genres of books like yours and check the rankings of the top three books on the first page of each category.

Book Rankings: What Do I Need to Know?
Generally speaking, any category where the best selling book is ranked at 2000 or less is going to be competitive. You can still beat that if you have a strong launch with significant downloads and reviews. Try to aim for the sweet spot between 3000-7000. You can always switch categories at anytime and Amazon will update your request within 24 hours.

Do you want to know how to rank for ten categories? Check out this blog post that covers how to get approved for more categories on Amazon.

The Preorder Option: Yes or No?

Amazon offers a pre-order option on kindle books. If you have a book coming out, you might be considering setting your book up for a pre-order release.

How It Works:

  • Under the Pre-order option, select the “Make my Kindle eBook available for Pre-order” option.
  • Set the release date for your book. Note that your pre-order can only be scheduled four days or more in advance of the actual release date. Once your book is set up in pre-order mode, you can use the Amazon page and book URL to drive traffic through a sales page.

Pre-order Points to Remember:

  • You can promote your book up to 90 days before it is released.
  • Your book will start ranking early weeks or months before it is released [depending on launch date]. However, your book will only rank for sales on the day it is actually purchased in pre-order. It will not help your rankings on the day it is published.
  • You cannot upload any revisions to your book 72 hours prior to launch. Amazon blocks you out during for this duration.
  • If you cancel your pre-order once it is set up, you’ll lose pre-order privileges for one year

The pre-order option works well with some benefits if you want to start promoting your book early, getting advance purchases, and gathering emails for list building.

DRM [Digital Rights Management]

This option is unclear for many authors. The default choice is set to NO and so, many authors select NO as the default. The purpose behind DRM is to protect the author’s work, giving them complete control over how it is distributed.

But the choice to go DRM or not is debatable. You can check the discussion here on Goodreads and then decide if selecting Digital Rights Management is for you

Here is what Amazon says regarding the DRM selection:
DRM (Digital Rights Management) is intended to inhibit unauthorized distribution of the Kindle file of your book. Some authors want to encourage readers to share their work, and choose not to have DRM applied to their book.

If you choose DRM, customers will still be able to lend the book to another user for a short period, and can also purchase the book as a gift for another user from the Kindle store. Important: Once you publish your book, you cannot change its DRM setting.

Upload Your Manuscript

Finally, the moment you have been waiting for…uploading your book to KDP using one of their recommended formats. After formatting is complete, you can upload your book very quickly.

Hit the orange button that says Upload eBook Manuscript, select your formatted file, and it takes Amazon a few minutes to run through the files. If there are any formatting or grammatical issues, you’ll be asked to fix these before finalizing everything.

Another great feature is the online previewer. You can actually see how your book will appear on a device from a reader’s perspective.

You can upload the manuscript as many times as you have to. The new version will override the existing. When you’re done, hit Save as Draft on the bottom right.

Upload the Cover

Your book cover is uploaded as a separate file from the manuscript, and needs to be a JPG or TIFF [Tag Image File Format]. You can also change your cover at any time if you decide to replace it down the road.

When it comes to publishing a successful book on Amazon [or anywhere for that matter] the cover is definitely the one thing you want to pay attention to. Make sure it is created by a professional designer and that it’s going to stand apart from the rest of the books in your genre or category. The metaphorical phrase ‘you can’t judge a book by it’s cover’ may have been true back in 1860, but in today’s market, your cover is exactly what your book will be judged on from first glance.

Unless you’re a designer and you know what you’re doing, I’d suggest using a professional service or well-known cover designer.

Some recommendations are:

99 Designs / Price Range: varies depending on the level of service
Happy Self Publishing / Price Range: $149 [Kindle Design] — $199 [Complete Design Pack]
100 Covers / Price Range: $100 [eBook cover] — $300 [Print Pack]

On the cheaper end, Fiverr is another route you can take. Our suggestion is, choose a designer who has solid reviews and is a Top Rated Seller. If they have a premium cover design option, take it. Be clear in your instructions about what you want by providing definitive guidelines for the cover you are visualizing for your soon-to-be bestselling book.

Fiverr Recommendations:
Pro_eBook Covers
mnsartstudionew

Kindle and ISBN

Many authors ask the question: “Do I need an ISBN for my Kindle book?” The answer is no. You can purchase ISBN numbers through Bowker.com if you are located in the US. For overseas authors you will need to contact your local ISBN agency.

Amazon issues eBooks an ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number) unique to your book and is the identification number for your book on Amazon.com.

For paperbacks, if you go through Createspace, they give you a choice to use your own ISBN number or, if you’d rather, CS provides authors with a 13-digit createspace-assigned ISBN. You still have complete control over your content with the ISBN being used as an identifier only. If you plan to sell your book retail, it’s recommended you purchase your own ISBNs.

KDP Select Enrollment

It is recommended that you enroll your book in the KDP select program for at least the first 90 days from the date of publication.

The benefits to joining KDP Select are:

1. Access to promotional tools such as the Kindle Countdown Deal or the Free Book Promotion. If you’re thinking of taking advantage of either of those promotional tools just click on the links and check out the requirements for both.
2. Included in the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library [KOLL] and Kindle Unlimited [KU]. This means you get a share of the KDP Select Global Fund depending on the amount of pages read by customers. This can add a nice bump to your monthly royalty payments.

self publishing on amazon

The main drawback is that your digital book titles can only be available exclusively through KDP. You can’t have it for sale on Kobo, NOOK, Smashwords or iBooks. This includes your own personal website.

The KDP Select gives your book a great advantage, especially for beginning authors, in order to promote your material to a larger audience. Once your platform grows bigger, you can choose to opt out and sell on multiple book platforms.

Book Pricing and Matchbook

A question I’m asked a lot is: “How much should I be pricing my book at after the initial launch is over?”

This is entirely up to the author but, I’ll add some clarity. Any digital book priced under $2.99 recieves 35% royalty. Between $2.99 and 9.99 it is 70%. Over that and you get 35%. So the best place to have your book prioced at is between the 2.99 to 9.99 range.

The royalty payments vary depending on the country but you can check right under the pricing page.

Generally, the majority of eBooks are priced under 9.99, and the majority of those are priced between 2.99 to 4.99, with the greater percentage closer to 2.99.

When it comes to pricing your book, several factors to take into consideration:
The size of your platform: let’s face it. Famous and well-known authors and speakers can charge a lot for their eBooks and paperback/hardcover books. But charging more doesn’t necessarily mean more sales or money. We only get 35% royalty after 9.99.

The Price of Books In Your Genre: Compare the price of your book to the books around you. Would you be able to sell yours for a higher price point?

The Size of your book: Size makes a difference when it comes to books. if you are selling a 75 page book and charging 8.99, customers will be less likely to buy unless there is something groundbreaking on the inside they must have.

Reviews: Yes, reviews have big weight. A book with 1200 reviews can definitely get away with going high on price, compared to a book with less than thirty reviews. You should always be trying to increase the reviews on your books. You can get legitimate and honest reviews from:

  • Your personal launch team
  • Amazon’s top reviewers
  • Fans of your book
  • Personal email list

This proves to the Amazon algorithm that the book is still relevant and of interest to readers. But, to launch your book effectively, you really only need around ten reviews. This is enough to get you onto any book promotion site that will promote your book during its free or discounted period.

You can price your book at 2.99, and test the pricing from there. Increase to 3.99 for a week, and monitor how it does. You can expect a dip in sales the higher you increase but that isn’t a bad thing. Find that comfortable place for your book to sit and then leave it.

Finally, the Matchbook feature allows you to offer your eBook at a discounted rate when they purchase the paperback edition. This is a great way to cross promote and gain more sales. The print version of the book can be created through Createspace. Having a paperback version of your book increases the marketing capability of your work and makes it more effective when running AMS ads. If possible, have your paperback launch together with the Kindle eBook and you’ll have a significant increase in royalties during launch week.

Wrapping It Up:

Are you ready to publish your book on Amazon? If you need some extra help here are a few books I would definitely recommend to help you on your publishing journey:

Published.: The Proven Path From Blank Page to Published Author
Crush It with Kindle: Self-Publish Your Books on Kindle and Promote them to Bestseller Status
The Miracle Morning for Writers: How to Build a Writing Ritual That Increases Your Impact and Your Income (Before 8AM)

Now, I’ll leave you with a brief checklist for publishing your bestseller. Good luck!

The Publishing Checklist:
Now that we’ve run through setting up and publishing your book on Amazon, here is a brief checklist for your definitive publishing guide.

  • Write your book
  • Send your draft to an editor.
  • Send the edited draft to a formatter
  • Create a title/subtitle
  • Hire a professional cover designer to create a cover
  • Sign up for your KDP account
  • Choose two main categories
  • Write a book [sales] description
  • Use keyword tools to research your seven Amazon keywords
  • Select pre-order or publish right now
  • Upload formatted and professionally edited manuscript
  • Check the quality using online previewer
  • Upload professional looking cover in JPG format
  • Enroll in KDP select [or not]
  • Price your Kindle book [0.99 for your launch and set the price 2.99 — 9.99 after launch]
  • Enroll in Matchbook [for print books]
  • Schedule your launch date, and then…
  • Hit ‘Publish Your Kindle eBook’
  • Set up your FREE campaign
  • Set up book promo sites
  • Start writing another book

 

About Scott Allan

Scott Allan is the bestselling author of several books that includes Rejection Free and Do It Scared. His passion is creating content that helps people change old behaviors, develop positive habits, and implement disciplined strategies for taking immediate action towards their dreams. You can check out his books on Amazon, or follow him at scottallansite.com

How to Copyright a Book self-publishingschool

How to Copyright a Book

To learn more about copyrighting your book, join Chandler on this FREE webinar

 

Let’s take a look at a topic that scares the jeepers out of most authors: how to copyright a book. A lot of us get caught up in a confusing haze of copyright laws, infringement, and wondering how to stay out of hot water with the law and angry lawyers [okay, maybe it’s not that dramatic]. But it is best to know what you can and cannot do regarding copyrighting when self-publishing your own book.

It’s Not Only About How to Copyright a Book…

With the explosion of self-publishing, indie authors must be aware of what they can and can’t do when it comes to quoting, borrowing, and publishing works from other authors. This post isn’t to “scare” you but give some insight into how you can protect yourself and your own work from being misused or stolen.

In this post we will also look at the 9 most common questions authors ask when it comes to copyright concerns, for both their own works and when borrowing from other sources.

But first, it all begins with creating the copyright page in your book.

Your Copyright Page

Open any old book that may be sitting by your desk right now. What do you notice within the first few pages? Whether the book is self-published or through a traditional publisher, there’s a copyright page inside and within the first few pages of every book. Typically, the copyright page will appear in your book right after the title page and just before the table of contents.

The copyright page should include some essential information in order to copyright your book. The main components to include in your book’s copyright page are:

  • The copyright notice. This has the little © symbol or you can use the word “copyright.” So it would look like this: ©2017 Jane Doe
  • The year of publication of the book
  • The name of the owner of the works, which is usually the author or publishing house name.
  • Ordering information
  • Reservation of rights
  • Copyright notice
  • Book editions
  • ISBN Number
  • Your website [you want them to find you, right?]
  • Credits to the book [cover designer, editor]
  • Disclaimer

Take a look at this example from Chandler Bolt’s book Published. The Proven Path From Blank Page to Published Author.

Free Webinar: Go from Blank Page to Published Author in 90 Days… and use your book to grow a SIX figure income.

Here’s what you’ll get:

  • The 3-Step System I use to write, publish, and launch a bestselling book in as little as 90 days (and how to use your book to leave a legacy).
  • An approach to find your book idea in under an hour – and turn your idea into a finished book in just 3 steps and a few hours.
  • How I wrote my first book – 200+ pages – in just 1 week (and how you can too)
  • How to leverage your book to grow your authority, income, and business

…and more!

Get FREE behind-the-scenes access now

how to copyright a book

A Note on Disclaimers

If you are writing a book on health and fitness, success as an entrepreneur, providing financial advice—anything that readers could fail at—an extended disclaimer is something you should consider.

If you give advice on earning a million dollars this year, and the reader ends up losing money, you could be blamed for their misfortune because of a promise you made. Consider putting an extended disclaimer in your book that comes after the copyright jargon to protect your opinions, advice and information. In other words, tell readers that they are reading your book and applying your advice at their own risk.

Here are some examples of disclaimers.

Fiction Disclaimer:

The characters in this book are entirely fictional. Any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.

Nonfiction Disclaimer:

The advice and strategies found within may not be suitable for every situation. This work is sold with the understanding that neither the author nor the publisher are held responsible for the results accrued from the advice in this book.

For further examples of a book copyright page and disclaimers you can check out Kindlepreneur.

The 9 Most Common Questions

Nowadays, with the massive expansion of self-publishing, it is more important than ever for authors, artists and creatives putting their work out there to ensure that it is fully protected.

When we borrow work from other authors, living or dead, we have to consider: 1. What can I actually use; and 2. When is permission needed? Here is the golden rule when it comes to copyright laws: Never assume that anything is free! Everything out there, including on the internet, has been created by someone.

Here are common questions authors have about protecting themselves, their works, and others they may have quoted in their books:

1. Do I have to register my book before it is copyrighted?

Your book is legally copyrighted as soon as it is written. But, to scale up your legal rights and protect your material to the fullest extent, register your book with the Federal Copyright Office. On the chance someone does attempt to pirate your book or portions of it, registering with the US Copyright Office will give you greater leverage if it comes to action being taken.

2. How many words can I quote from another book or source?

Generally speaking there are no set rules on how much you can actually “borrow” from existing works. But, it’s best to exercise common sense here and keep it short, as a general rule under 300 words.

Paul Rapp, a lawyer specializing in intellectual property rights, says that “if the quote drives your narrative, if you are using an author’s quote in your argument, or if you are giving an opinion on an author’s quote, then it is considered fair use.”

What is fair use?

A legal concept that allows the reproduction of copyrighted material for certain purposes without obtaining permission and without paying a fee or royalty. Purposes permitting the application of fair use generally include review, news reporting, teaching, or scholarly research.

If you use something published by someone else with the sole purpose of monetary gain, this doesn’t constitute fair use.

3. Can I write about real people?

Especially in works of nonfiction, real people are often mentioned to express an opinion or as an example to clarify the writer’s fact or opinion. Generally you can use the names of real people as long as the material isn’t damaging to their reputation or libelous. Stick to the facts and write about what is true based on your research.

4. Can I borrow lyrics from songs?

Stephen King often used song lyrics for his books including Christine and The Stand. He obtained permission for these works. King says, “Lyrics quotes in this book [Christine] are assigned to the singer most commonly associated with them. This may offend the purist who feels that a song lyric belongs more to the writer than the singer.”

Basically, song lyrics fall under strict copyright even if it is just a single line used. Try to get permission if you use a song. You can contact the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) or Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI). Once you find the rights owner, you have to ask for permission through writing.

5. Do I need permission to borrow material from a book that is over 100 years old?

Once the copyright on a book or material has expired, or the author has been dead for seventy years, the work enters into the public domain and you can use it without permission or licensing. BUT this does vary country to country. You can check the copyright office in the US here.

6. Are authors liable for content used in a book?

Yup. Even with traditional publishing houses, the author is still responsible for the content written and used in the book. In fact, traditionally published authors usually have to sign a waiver that removes the publisher from any liability pertaining to the material the author used if the writer included that material without proper permission. And you already know, as a self-published author, you’re on your own.

7. If I use an inspirational quote from another writer or famous person, do I need permission?

You don’t need permission to use quotes in a book provided that you credit the person who created it and/or spoke the quote.

For example:

“Is all that we see or seem but a dream within a dream”Edgar Allan Poe

8. What is the best way to protect my work from being stolen?

Your work is copyrighted as soon as it is written. But you can register your work with the US copyright office. If you have a blog where you also post content, you need to have a Terms & Privacy disclaimer on your page. This would preferably be at the top where it is easy to see, although many writers and bloggers include this at the bottom of every page. You should also include your Copyright on your blog that protects your content from being “copied and pasted” into another site without permission or recognition.

9. A royalty free stock photo means that I can use it for free and don’t have to get permission, right?

Wrong. Most stock photos are copyrighted, even if they appear in search engines and we can easily download or copy them. If you grab a photo off the net and think you can slap it on a book cover or use it for free in your book, think again. It’s recommended you purchase photos through sites such as Shutterstock or Depositphotos.

Boring, Yet Cool Legal Terms You Should Know

I know, I know…we would rather write books, rake in the cash, and sign autographs than worry about technical legal jargon. But the more you know, the more time you can spend writing without wondering, “Is this legal?” Here are some legal terms to keep you informed on your rights as a self-publisher and protect your works:

Before you publish your next book, take a few minutes to read over this “brief” report from the United States Copyright Office. You can also check out this handy guideline for authors on what needs permission vs. what you can use without asking.

Book Title Ideas: How to Choose the Perfect Title for Your Book Book Title Ideas self-publishingschool

Book Title Ideas: How to Choose the Perfect Title for Your Book

Coming up with book title ideas can be a tough exercise. Your book’s title is, after all, the first thing your readers will see when they discover you on Amazon. If all goes well, the name of your book is going to follow you around your whole life (and even after you’re gone!) So we totally get why you might agonize over it. In your heart, you want your book’s title to be poetic, informative, memorable, and pleasing to the eye and ear. Plus, you have to be able to tell your grandma about it without blushing. That’s a tall order. After all, writing a book is no joke. You deserve to have a solid title for your masterpiece. To spur the creative process, we’ve got some rules of thumb to consider. Since there are different title considerations for fiction versus non-fiction, we break these two topics down separately. Let’s get started with how to create a book title.

How to Choose a Book Title for Non-Fiction

When choosing a title for your non-fiction book, it helps to keep in mind that non-fictions readers frequently need help with something—whether that’s help losing weight, becoming more effective in the business world, or connecting with someone else going through the same health crisis. They want an answer to their question or a solution to their problem. A well-crafted non-fiction title shows that they’ve come to the right place.

Rule of Thumb #1: Tell non-fiction readers what the book can do for them in the title.

Make it clear what your reader will get out of reading your book. Some pros recommend making a clear promise directly in the title to lure readers in. Ask Yourself: Am I teaching a skill (how to)? Am I sharing an experience (memoir)? What will my readers get out of this book? Real World Concrete Example: The following titles clearly explain what help, skill, or knowledge readers will get from each book: Asperger’s Rules! How to Make Sense of School and Friendship by Blythe Grossman How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease by Michael Greger and Gene Stone Super Shred: The Big Results Diet: 4 Weeks, 20 Pounds, Lose It Faster! by Ian K. Smith

Rule of Thumb #2: Use a subtitle for clarity.

A great non-fiction title often employs a subtitle to clarify what readers are going to get out of the book. A clear subtitle is like a directional sign pointing the reader to the desired outcome of reading their book. Check out our 5 simple steps to follow to take your subtitle from bland to bold. In this video clip, Chandler explains how to make your subtitle the best it can be for your readers. Ask Yourself: What’s my goal in writing this book for my readers? What am I helping them with? What am I educating them about? Why am I publishing this book? Real World Concrete Example: Each of these authors spell out what their readers can expect from reading their books right in the subtitle: The Crossroads of Should and Must: Find and Follow Your Passion by Elle Luna Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin Work Rules! Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead by Laszlo Bock

Rule of Thumb #3: Describe what’s going to happen in your book title.

If your book is more about a story, a transformational journey, a narrative, or a memoir, then your book title can reflect what happens in your book. Ask Yourself: What’s going to happen? What journey do I hope to take the reader on while they read? Real World Concrete Example: Consider Elizabeth Gilbert’s memoir Eat, Pray, Love. You know from the title that you’re going to go on a culinary, spiritual, and romantic journey along with the author.

Rule of Thumb #4: Non-fiction book titles shouldn’t be dry.

It’s okay to have some fun with your book titles. This is especially true in the non-fiction category of personal essay or memoir. Ask Yourself: How can I have some fun with my material? Real World Concrete Example: Essayist and memoir humor writer David Sedaris is the master of the entertaining non-fiction title. Consider both Me Talk Pretty One Day and Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls. Both titles cause you to stop in your tracks, scratch your head, and pick up the books to satisfy your curiosity about the odd titles.

How to Choose a Book Title for Fiction

Rule of Thumb #1: You have more creative latitude when creating a book title for fiction.

The general school of thought with fiction titles is that you have more creative wiggle room than your non-fiction counterparts. While it’s true that you can title your fiction book literally anything, there are a few key guidelines to keep in mind. A great fiction title evokes your story and genre. You hint at what’s in store for the reader in just a few choice words. Think along the lines of what your book is about when crafting the title to stay true to the content. Ask Yourself: What’s your genre—romance, thriller, legal drama? What’s your story about—young love or solving a murder? Real World Concrete Example: A romantic novel may warrant a lyrical title. Look at the modern hit The Fault in our Stars by John Greene. Even if you don’t know that the central plot of this tear-jerker revolves around young lovers stricken with cancer, the well-crafted title evokes longing and romance. While a romantic book calls for dreamy language, an action book’s title warrants strong and powerful words. The Hunger Games is a prime example of this. In only three words, author Suzanne Collins conveys “BIG ACTION INSIDE!” to prospective readers.

Rule of Thumb #2: Pique your readers’ interest with your book title.

A great fiction title teases and leaves your audience wanting more. Novel titles should intrigue the audience about what’s beyond the cover and capture their imagination so they must read your story. You want your audience to read your title and think, “I must read what’s behind that cover!” Ask Yourself: What are the key components of your story? What do you want your audience to take away after reading your book? What’s the central theme? Real World Concrete Example: A Cure for Suicide by Jesse Ball explores grief and trauma. You know what’s coming by the title, but at the same time, you don’t.

Rule of Thumb # 3: Look to your characters for book title inspiration.

A great book title captures the spirit of the protagonist. Some authors simply use the hero’s name for the title. Others have combined the name of their hero with other special qualities to inform their audience about their protagonist’s accomplishments. On the flip-side, a formidable antagonist is prime fodder for a choice book title. A sinister name can convey a sense of dread and expectation for what’s to come. Ask Yourself: Who are your book’s heroes? Who are the villains? What traits define these characters? What journey do they embark on in your story? Real World Concrete Example: Master of horror Stephen King uses his favorite villains in titles. Look at a few of his classic hits, all with scary C names: Carrie (scary child), Cujo (scary dog), or Christine (scary car). Helen Fielding named her wildly popular chick-lit series Bridget Jones’ Diary after the title character, the lovably-bumbling Bridget Jones.

Rule of Thumb #4: Look to pop culture for inspiration.

Many writers have based parts of their books on the culture of the times. If this proves true for you, you may use this influence to help create a book title. Great book titles have been inspired by modern culture, including songs, movies, and other literature. Ask Yourself: Were any parts of your book inspired by song or other modern influences? Real World Concrete Example: Mystery author Mary Higgins Clark commonly titles her books using inspiration from popular singers, as in I’ve Got You Under My Skin (Frank Sinatra).

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We hope our rules of thumb have sparked loads of book title ideas for you. Now you can stop agonizing about the title for your book, and start brainstorming! Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in May of 2016 and has been updated for accuracy.

amazon categories

How To Get Approved for More Amazon Categories

To learn more about how to get your book into more categories on Amazon, join Chandler on this FREE webinar!

When you browse through a bookstore, chances are you have an idea the genre of book you are searching for. If you are searching in the science fiction fantasy section, you might be checking out the latest Game of Thrones novel by George R. R. Martin. Looking to invest your money and learn about personal finance? You might want to check out David Ramsey’s book The Total Money Makeover in the Business — Personal Finance & Investing Section of the Barnes & Noble book store.

But how about kindle books? Well, similar to the browsing experience you’ll have at a Barnes & Noble bookstore, Amazon’s Kindle Store has thousands of categories in books to choose from, spanning across every variation of genre and subgenre.

For book browsers, a category is a place where they can go to to find the specific book they are searching for. For authors, we need to think strategically so that we can get our books in front of readers searching for the specific book to match their needs.

But, with dozens of categories and thousands of sub-categories to choose from, and so many books competing for attention on the Amazon platform, how can you choose the right category to make your book “pop” out when the reader is browsing through book titles? How do we know if our books are on the right ‘digital shelves’ on Amazon?

In this post, we will look at the strategies authors use to place their books in the best categories and, how to get your book into ten categories on the Amazon platform.

Amazon eBook Categories: How to Choose?

The categories you place your book in makes all the difference between a successful book launch and….well, a complete flop. So, selecting the best categories for your next bestseller is a critical decision that you arrive at through selective research and, crunching the numbers on the category page. To get your book in front of thousands of readers hungry for your next literary masterpiece, you should invest the time to research the best categories for your book.

We can think of our categories as the big, broad term that describes your book, and should say something unique about the type of book you are offering. For example, if you had written a book on Habit Stacking, I would expect to find it in the Amazon categories as follows:

Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Self-Help > Motivational, or;

Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Business & Money > Business Life > Time Management

But the category for self-help is broken down further into hundreds of other sub-categories, and they trickle down even further into niche-specific categories that are not available in the KDP dashboard. More on this in a bit.

So, where do we begin? Your journey into discovering the best categories for your book begins with the category paths, or, the Amazon browse categories.

BISAC Subject Codes

It’s good to know that when KDP is figuring out which category would best fit your type of book, they use a cataloging system called BISAC Subject Codes. When selecting the best browse categories in your KDP, Amazon translates your category choices into the best possible browse categories to help readers find the books most relevant to their search.

When setting up your Amazon categories, it’s important to remember to cross-categorize your book into two separate category paths for broader exposure. This provides more avenues for browsers to find your book. This means a better ranking when more readers download your book, and adds to your monthly royalties. We’ll expand on this more soon.

But first…

Category Considerations: What You Need to Know

When working out the best categories to target, there are four specific areas we need to consider.

  • Competition: How competitive is your category? Is Anthony Robbins or Stephen King ranking #1? If you put your book in this category, can you beat them?
  • Traffic: is this category very active? Do the books in this category have a decent sales volume?
  • Earning Potential: Are the top ranking books making any money?
  • Niche Placement: Is this category the best one for your book’s genre and content?

We can research this information in a matter of minutes with some basic strategies and advanced tools. I’ll get into such valuable tools as KDP Rocket and Kindlespy in a moment. But first, let’s get our hands dirty and start doing some digging to discover the best categories for our book.

Let’s take a closer look…

Category Competition

You can check out the competition by scanning the bestselling books on the first page. A category may have thousands of books with hundreds of pages stacked with titles, such as the self help section or business and Investing.

how to get approved for more categories on amazon

But we aren’t concerned with looking at thousands of books. We are only interested in the first page of any category, and more specifically, the #1 book on that category page. Why?

That is what our readers are going to be looking for. If you are looking for a book on how to become a minimalist, you can go to the Amazon bar and type in minimalism. You’ll land on the first page that features the top ranking books such as The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing and Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.

When we look into any category, we want to know the top ranking books. Our goal is to be able to compete on the first page and, where possible, rank in at least the top 5 in that category.

Category Traffic

It may be possible to rank in the number one spot in a certain category, but what is the point if that category has low sales volume and weak traffic? We want at least two categories that are low-average in competition and are popular with browsers.

Category Earning Potential

Would you like to bring in several hundred dollars a month from your book? How about several thousand? The earning potential of your selective categories is something to consider carefully. For example, according to the ABSR [Amazon Best Seller Rank], the #1 best selling book in the category path nonfiction > Business and Investing is The ONE Thing by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan.

And, according to KDP Rocket, the book is currently earning $12,496 a day at this ranking and price. This is good to know. Even if you could rank at #19 in the same category, such as Turn Your Computer Into a Money Machine in 2017 by Avery Breyer, you’d still be earning $5000 a month. There is nothing wrong with that.

Now that we know what to look for when choosing categories, let’s do a step-by-step on setting this up. Then, I’ll show you how to easily get your book into ten categories.

Amazon Category Rankings: A Brief Note

As we will see, placing your book in a category with low competition but has potential is key. But what would be considered a competitive rank? Well, I’ll make it simple. In any category, if the book is ranking under #1000, chances are it is a highly competitive category. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t place your book here, but just know that, if you do, be sure to have a strong launch pushing your book and a lot of verified, positive reviews. I would aim for the sweet spot with the highest ranking book around 3-7,000. You can also calculate how many books you would need to sell in order to outrank the highest ranking book in that category. Just use the Amazon Sales Rank Calculator to determine the amount of books needed to sell to compete.

Setting Up Your Categories in the KDP Bookshelf

It’s relatively easy to setup your categories in your bookshelf. Remember: Amazon allows you to choose from just two browse categories in the KDP Bookshelf.

Let’s walk through the steps.

  1. Sign into your KDP Bookshelf.
  2. Click on your Book Title.
  3. Scrolling over the Promote and Advertise button, and click on Edit eBook details
  4. Scroll down until you find the Categories section. Click Set Categories. These are the main browser categories. Choose two accurate, specific categories.

For example:

“Nonfiction > Self-help > Emotions”

“Nonfiction > Business & Economics > Business Communication > Business Writing”

  1. Cross-promote your book. You want your book to show up in as many relevant, popular categories as possible. How do we know if a category is popular?

As I mentioned already, you can use a great piece of software such as Kindlespy. Wesley Atkins’ tool will walk you through the process for finding the best eBook categories, as well as how each category performs when it comes to profitability, popularity and competition.

The other tool that really gets down to the nitty-gritty in terms of stats and numbers, and provides you with not only the Amazon search rankings but Google as well, is KDP Rocket by Dave Chesson at Kindlepreneur.

But wait a minute. Not all of the category paths are listed in the KDP Bookshelf. As a matter of fact, Amazon has thousands of sub-categories that you can break into and have your book rank in special categories not found in the usual channels.

So, that brings us to…

Opening Up the Secret Batch of Amazon Categories

To discover these hidden categories, you simply add in specific keywords to your keyword list. You can also add the name of the category itself and this tells Amazon that book belongs in that specific category.

How do we do that? There are several ways you can find these categories.

  1. Search for the titles that are similar to yours. You can find the browse categories assigned to those books by scrolling down to the book detail pages to the section “Look for Similar Items by Category.”
  2. You can also search for relevant browse categories on the left of the category paths page under the Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks header. When you find the categories that are most relevant to your title, as we discussed earlier, check out the top three books and take note of the rankings. If it is a category you can compete in, contact Amazon to have your book placed in that sub-category. If you have already selected your two main browser paths in the dashboard, we can add up to eight more categories, so keep a list of the category paths specific to your book.
  3. Breaking into the sub-categories. You want your book to rank in a more specific category? You can add Search Keywords relevant only to that category. For example, go into the Business & Money subcategory, locate the specific category you want on the left, and the targeted keywords are featured on the right. Plug the keywords [or the category path] into your keyword selection box in your KDP Dashboard, and it should tell Amazon to place your book there. If it doesn’t show up after a few days, contact customer support and they should get back to you within 24 hours.

Gaining Approval for Additional Categories

What if I told you that you could have up to 10 categories in your category selection?

Yes, that’s right, ten! Instead of being limited to the two browser categories that we’ve already discussed, you can have your book show up in eight additional categories of your choosing. But where do we find these categories?

It’s simple. Follow these steps.

Step 1: Using the same steps above for category placement, start with checking your competitor’s books and the category paths that books similar to yours are placed in. Again, you want to aim for low-average competition so, check the rankings of the first couple of books. Once you have found a category path that looks good, just copy and paste your category strings into an email.

Step 2: Then, directly contact Amazon’s super-awesome support team with your category choices. With 24-72 hours, your book will appear, not only in the initial browser categories you selected in your KDP Bookshelf but, across eight more categories. These categories will appear in the “Look for similar items by category” at the bottom of the book page.

Step 3: To make any changes to any of the categories after Amazon sets them up for you, you will have to contact support directly to have any categories removed or switched up with another.

Yes, it really is that easy.

Amazon Magic Working For You

Your book starts ranking as soon as a browser becomes a buyer and downloads your book. When your book starts ranking, guess what happens? Amazon takes notice. Somebody says, “whoa!” this book is on fire. That is when they step in to help you out by promoting the book for you.

If you check out the Amazon page for Tim Ferris’s Tools of Titans, scroll down and you’ll see a section titled “Customers who bought this item also bought”. It is here that your book might appear depending on category ranking, browser traffic, and history of paid sales. If you’re running Amazon KDP Select Ads Campaign, you’re book could also be displayed in the “Sponsored products related to this item” section.

Getting Your Orange Banner

If your book is ranking #1 in one or several categories, it is a high probability you’ll get the #1 orange banner indicating you’re now a #1 bestseller. This also depends on whether your book meets a threshold of a minimum number of paid sales historically and recently.

Although the Amazon Bestsellers Rank shows how items are selling in relation to one another in each Amazon marketplace, the ranking is further divided into Free and Paid lists within each Kindle Store.

If you can place your book in the top ten on the first page of the category listings, you gain more visibility by browsers who generally won’t click beyond that first page. Most book browsers will check out the top ranking books [1-20] and then move on

Wrapping It Up

So there you have it. A set of strategies to help you set up your book in the right categories that get you ranked faster with maximum exposure in the search engines in Amazon.

Be strategic in your book launch and dedicate at least a few hours to researching the best kindle categories for your next bestseller. And remember, as soon as your book is live, contact Amazon with your list of eight additional categories for reaching your readers on a broader scale. 

Like what you read and want to learn more? We’re holding a FREE online workshop where Chandler is revealing the exact tactics and strategies he used to write and publish 6 bestselling books in a row… and use them to build a 7-figure business in less than 2 years. Click here to save your spot now!