Why It’s A Bad Idea to Overload Your Kindle Book

oldpost

This week I read a rather disturbing but highly illuminating post about something I rarely think about and have never mentioned before: the fact that Amazon takes “delivery charges” out of our Kindle book profits.

Utterly irrelevant, but a nice pic from my recent trip to the States. This is a view of Lake Meade from the Hoover Dam, first thing on a sunny June morning. 

You can read the whole post by Andrew Hyde here—and you should; I’ll wait—but the problem he’s highlighting (among others) is that the size of your Kindle book affects your earnings from the sale of it.

Take my book Mousetrapped, for example. It’s $2.99 to purchase and I’m on the 70% royalty rate. Therefore Amazon’s cut is 30%, and I take home $2.09 from each sale.

Except that I don’t.

The average delivery cost, according to the detailed spreadsheet KDP presents me with once a month, is between 6c and 8c. (I have no idea why it changes; presumably it’s to do with geography.) And that comes out, surprise surprise, of my 70%.

Results Not Typical, my longest e-book when you take into consideration the length of the actual book and the word count of the previews included, has a higher delivery charge again, at 9c.

(If you’re on the 35% royalty rate, you’re all in. Amazon doesn’t take any extras—you make 35% off the sale price off every sale. This delivery charges thing only applies to the 70% option.)

Yes, these are miniscule amounts we’re talking about, but only because my books are relatively small (file size-wise). In his post, Andrew Hyde describes how he discovered that on the 70% rate for his $9.99, 18.1MB book, Amazon was taking $2.58 for delivery charges.

$2.58!

And that $2.58 was not covered by Amazon’s existing 30% cut, but coming out of his “70%” royalty.

Now this post isn’t about whether or not this is just, although I will say that I do understand that it costs Amazon more to deliver 300,000 words with a picture on every other page to your Kindle than it does to deliver my illustration-free 90,000, and you can’t calculate flat-rate royalties when every book is a different size. As you know, I’m the last person you’ll find bashing Amazon, because I’m able to earn a living as a writer purely because of them. This post is about why Andrew’s post has changed the way I’ll design my e-books in the future. 

Andrew’s post and a review of Mousetrapped in which the reviewer bemoaned the fact that the book actually ended at 65% on her Kindle, because the remaining 35% was previews of my other books.

And you know what? I totally understand where she’s coming from.

Will I ever forget the trauma I experienced watching the very last episode of LOST? I’d stayed up all night, first to, ahem, watch as much as I could of the US broadcast on the magical interweb before it got found out and cut off, and then to watch Sky’s early morning “simulcast”. According to the channel guide, it was due to end at 7.20 a.m. So as I sat there, watching Jack watching the plane fly overhead, I seriously thought I had another 15 minutes of LOST in my life. Turns out, the guide was wrong and it was more like 30 seconds. So when I was left with the end titles at 7.05 a.m., it was quite the shock. I hadn’t had time to prepare for the end. I was devastated. Extra devastated.

Now I’m sure the ending of Mousetrapped is nowhere near as upsetting—some people, I’m sure, were glad when it came to its conclusion—and I’m also sure the Amazon reviewer is nowhere near as over-emotional as me (who is?!), but I totally get what she means.

Up until now, I always thought that the length of your e-book didn’t matter. (Note: I’m talking about the length of your e-book. Not the book itself.) I have three books now excluding Self-Printed and The Best of Catherine, Caffeinated, so theoretically I can put previews of two books at the end of each one. I think the longer the preview the better—the more time a reader spends on them, the more likely they are to go on to buy the book—so right now I’ve something like four or five chapters of each book at the end of my others. With a chapter being 2,000-3,000 words, that’s something like an extra 20,000 words at the end of the book.

Thinking that the length of my e-book didn’t matter—and knowing how important it was to use existing books to sell my other ones—I chucked everything in there but the kitchen sink. Lengthy previews of my other books? Sure! Book cover images of them too? Let’s do it! Superfluous reminders about my blog, Twitter page, etc.? Why not?! It wasn’t like I had to pay for the pages like I did in my POD paperbacks, right?

Well, now I’m seeing the error of my ways. When you chuck a load of extra stuff into your e-book after the book itself, you are:

  • Eating into your profits because the larger the file, the higher the delivery charges
  • Annoying your readers because your actual book might end at 65%.

So from now on, I’m going to be more economical with my e-books. I’m still going to include previews and ads for my other books, but they’re not going to be 20,000 words long. Far from it.

What do you think? Is this all news to you, or something you’ve already taken into consideration? 

36 thoughts on “Why It’s A Bad Idea to Overload Your Kindle Book

  1. India Drummond says:

    Another thing you might want to consider about sticking in all that backmatter is how long it takes people to get to the “Review This Book” link at the end (that Amazon puts in at the very end of the file.) I’ve never really thought about it before, but it’s making me reconsider putting in excerpts of follow-up books. I’m not sure, at this point, who actually reads those, and it might serve me better just to make sure they see the review link.

    • catherineryanhoward says:

      I was planning on keeping previews out of my future books, but after you pointed this review link thing out, I’m going to go back and remove them from my existing books too! Excellent point. I think one person mentioned to me that she bought a second book because the preview in Mousetrapped “hooked” her, and I got stuck on that. Never thought about the actual reading experience. Live and learn! 🙂

  2. Silentnovelist says:

    Thanks very much for this post. You have a very good point, and it’s not something I’d thought of. Also thanks to India Drummond for highlighting that too much back matter takes the ‘review the book’ link further from the reader who might well have given up by then.

  3. Clare Davidson says:

    Thanks for the heads up on the delivery fees. I’d spoken to a few people who read a lot of kindle and indie books and they nearly all complained about books ending earlier than they expected. That said, a short extract shouldn’t be too confusing and is fairly industry standard from what I’ve seen from traditionally published e-books and paperbacks.

    Great post 🙂

  4. claudenougat says:

    Very interesting post, thanks Catherine! And no, I had never thought of it…Actually I must confess something: I tend to forget to include previews of my other books…Figuring anyone could download a sample from Amazon but I guess I’m totally wrong. Live and learn!

  5. idiosyncratic eye says:

    It is kind of surprising maybe frustrating when your reader says you have a load of book left but it finishes, it can seem a bit abrupt however well written. If I enjoyed a book by the author I’ll look out for others by them automatically, do you remember how proper books just had a list of other works and at most just a short blurb? I’m a word addict, I’ll read the previews then get disappointed that I can’t get anymore. I prefer it when I get a decent preview and blurb when I go to buy it, I like to know what I’m getting myself into. Just a view. 🙂

  6. princessfiona01 says:

    I with the gosh is that all there was of the story and do I really want to wade through all these excerpts when I can’t buy the book for three months and have forgotten it by then anyway and have to start reading from the beginning. And even if the book is available straight off I can’t always afford it straight away. If I like a book and there is a sequel I’d rather just have a link I can go to and put it on my wishlist. And with the review stuff…Now what am I reviewing? I’ve just read three long excerpts but can’t quite remember the original book because I’ve got all this other stuff mixed up with it. Old and senile but I do review.

    • princessfiona01 says:

      I think it is about the percentage. If you write a shorter book you charge a smaller price. If you load your book up with extras you pay extra for transmitting all the extras.

      • catherineryanhoward says:

        Yes, exactly. We’re not talking about charging $9.99 for 10,000 words. We’re talking about the extra words (previews, etc.) you add to the e-book after the book itself.

  7. Keri Peardon says:

    I was planning on keeping the post script on my book short, but I will definitely do so now. I’ll just link to my website and blog, and I’ll post previews for my second book and other books there, instead if in my e-book.

  8. Laura Roberts (@originaloflaura) says:

    As a reader, I can definitely say I am annoyed by overly-long previews of the author’s other books. As a writer, I can understand why you want to include those previews, but honestly? If I really loved an author’s book, once I get to the end of it I will immediately hop back on Amazon and search for more of their work. And since the preview of the new book that I am now pondering buying is just a click away (since Amazon always includes previews with their Kindle titles), there’s really no need to include it in the book I just finished.

    I think a better option is including a link to your Amazon store page at the end of the book to help get me to the rest of your titles quicker. That’s always appreciated, since I don’t have to mess around with searching, especially for authors with common names! Plus you don’t have to keep updating a list of “other titles by this author” when you put out new books; I can just flip through your list and grab what I like.

  9. Chihuahua Zero says:

    I guess this is proof that delivering e-books do take more than a penny or two.

    I would say having an e-book end at 65% is definitely a flaw, suggesting that a lot of filler was stuffed in at the end, so I would say it’s a wise choice to cut down on previews, for the sake of having the reader get what they expected.

  10. Mary J. McCoy-Dressel says:

    This is all news to me. I thought I saw something about delivery rate somewhere but didn’t pay any attention to it since I don’t have an eBook on Amazon yet. But as far as extra stuff at the back, I’m glad you brought this up. I had planned, like you, to add samples of other upcoming books. I will be sensible now and keep it short. Looking at the back of Backpacked, I see it stops at 81%. I’m not there yet, but I wouldn’t have cared. It seems like the info about other books is like getting a free read. A very informative blog post. Thanks.

  11. Martin Lake says:

    Really thought-provoking information which shows how fast the world of e-books is evolving.

    I only put the titles of my other books at the end, and that after some time as it had not occured to me to do so at first. One of my novels is the first in a series so I put in the first chapter of the second book. Now, however I don’t think I’ll do it with any books not in a series. You’re so honest about all you do, Catherine, which really helps.

    Thanks to India for pointing out how extra material puts the review and tweet page ever further back.

    I think I’ll buy a paperback book from the fifties or sixties where they seem to have worked out exactly what to put at the back to maximise sales. And the most important thing for me to remember is not to include what I want but to consider how the reader will receive it.

  12. Hannah Steenbock says:

    Thank you for all that information. I had no idea that authors were charged delivery costs. (Even though it is only at the 70% plan.) In fact, I thought that delivery wouldn’t cost anything … I’m sure Amazon has a net flatrate.

    Anyway, I’m so grateful for this blog and all the information you share here. It’s been a huge help on my own voyage into self-printing.

  13. PA Wilson says:

    I’ve seen a couple of posts about this on other blogs. I wasn’t surprised at the fact that the transaction cost came out of my share because I’m pretty sure it’s in the agreement you sign with Amazon. My books are text only and between 60 and 80K words, so the fee is tiny.

  14. Stacy Green says:

    Really interesting, thanks so much for sharing this with us. I’ve made the decision to indie-publish after my small press release, and this is really important. Is it safe to assume that a 95K book with a 5 page preview of the next book would be all right?

    Thanks!

  15. Marcus Clearspring says:

    I have considered this, prompted by John Locke’s self-publishing guide. If the reader liked your book they will want to check out more straight away. So a blurb, or very short excerpt, and a link is my decision.

    When the book is new I would focus on reviews and maybe only give a link to review it. Right after the ending (the “review this” button does not appear on Kindle apps, only on Kindle devices, AFAIK). Then when there are a few reviews, add the blurbs and links in a revision.

  16. Marcia says:

    I agree with you about the length of the book. It has happened to me as a reader, when prior I had never thought about it as the writer. Some plugging the other books would probably be acceptable to the reader, but less is more, sometimes. Never knew about the delivery charges and I’ll be more attentive to the length of my books. Thanks!

  17. Linda Jo Martin says:

    A lot to think about for Kindle authors. I’m trying to put out my first Kindle book now – I’m having trouble with the cover graphic. I never even thought about putting a preview of another book at the end, or download costs. Thanks for the inside information.

  18. Tahlia Newland says:

    I didn’t know about the delivery charges, that is interesting. I don’t like excerpts of other books at the end though. Blurbs yes, I expect that, but I don’t want to start another book at the end of one. I have never bought another book because there is an excerpt of it in another book. It’s annoying to start them and have them finish. I don’t read them anymore and I don’t put them in my ebooks anymore. ( I did at first, until I realised that they annoyed me in others’ books.)

  19. Kiya Krier - Runs With Blisters says:

    Shorter previews sound like a good idea to me. When I read “Results Not Typical,” I was also a little surprised when it ended. From the pacing, I could tell the story was ending soon, but saw that I was something like 75% through the ebook.

    I had no idea that there were delivery charges for an ebook. I have yet to publish one, so I have no experience with it, but it still surprises me. Maybe it would be more worthwhile for Andrew to switch to the 75%? Maybe he discusses that in his post, but it’s late and I really should be sleeping instead of reading blogs… :S

  20. Shah Wharton says:

    Excellent post explaining another authorly requirement, I never new. I also concur with India about prioritising the ‘review this book’ link… In all honesty, if I love a book I look into the author for more anyway, and never at the end of the book, but in Amazon/Google. The link to review is more important, esp as it now allows you to tick that it was (or was not) well edited/formatted, amongst other things. A bonus for the indie author community who fight against the stigma of going indie, in the face of other indie’s lack of pride in their work.

  21. foodsforyourlife says:

    Interesting post, Catherine, with many great comments. But you may be missing a tremendous opportunity if you don’t promote your existing and new titles. New concept: where else on the planet can you ‘advertise,’ pre-advertise and get almost free PR for your book?

    If you go to Google, an adwords campaign costs upwards of $1.00 to $10.00 per click. If you take out display ads on ad networks, they start at at least $0.10 cents for one small 125 x 125 px or slightly larger ad. Even Facebook ads are more expensive than what we’re being charged by Amazon, by far!

    Your cost per view at the back of your book is one of the cheapest forms of advertising and PR available in the world. Recently, I posted my first book online, and during the free KDP promo day, over 500 copies were downloaded. And yes, I had to pay Amazon’s fee for all of those free downloads. Thank goodness I’d optimized my cover image to be under 130 KB!

    I can look at the 500 free downloads as lost sales, but I don’t. I’m writing a non-fiction book series. There are now 500 readers who may help me build my ‘brand’ and the cost was about $6.00. As authors, we are ALL brands, whether we like it or not.

    For the cost of a cup of tea and scone in Toronto, 500 people now know of my first work. Better, I have 500 folks (usually less as not all people who download the free titles read them) who know I’m writing a series and who may look out for my future titles. Sending out a press release via a reputable service is between $300 to $800. I think I got off rather cheap.

    The previews that you can place at the end of your books constitute, on a dollar-per-dollar basis, one of the world’s least expensive forms of advertising and/or promotion. It is almost free, relatively speaking. A bit about bites:

    Your friend who was dinged. $2.58 uploaded an 18 MB file. That’s a LARGE file, especially since Amazon recommends authors keep all of their files, including the front cover image under 1 MB. Amazon also recommends authors keep to under ten images per e-book. On my second non-fiction title I’m about to upload, I’ve now been far more aware of and watched my MS File file size grow from 60 KB to 79 KB. That’s KB, not MB, so I still have a small file size. Throw in a high res cover, and my file is now 405 KB. I’m about to add the promo section for my current and future books in my series. Even if my MS Word file comes up to 100 KB, that will be pittance for the download costs.

    What I will be trying to do is to figure out a way to design my covers so the image file size is much smaller yet still crisp and legible in the small thumbnail size. If anyone knows how to do that, please share as I’m sure we’d all benefit.

    Writing a decent and compelling promo for future books does us and our readers all good. For those who don’t like to read them, turn off your device. But many of us do, especially if we’ve enjoyed the book. I’m in this writerly thing for the long haul, as are most of you. Being aware of your file size is a good thing, business-wise. But don’t lose sight of the huge PR opportunity a few extra KB gives you. It really is a small cost when you consider what it would cost you to reach the same audience in other ways.

    • catherineryanhoward says:

      It’s not so much the delivery charges I’m worried about, as they’re only miniscule amounts. It’s really the fact that if I include a lengthy preview, the actual book ends earlier than the reader expected, because of the way the Kindle and other reading devices display the percentage of a book instead of page numbers. Up until now I was thinking it didn’t make any different and I should put as much of my other book in there as I like, but I neglected to think about the end user, the person who is actually going to have to flip through the pages. They’ve paid for that book, and it’s more important that they can what they paid for—a pleasurable reading experience—than anything else, because that transaction has already taken place.

      I’ve just gone and changed my books, removing the previews but leaving in mentions and blurbs about my other books, and lots of links to my blog, where they can buy the books, etc. I think that’s the best compromise.

      I totally agree with you re: free downloads; I’ve used KDP Select a few times for that very purpose.

  22. Old China Books says:

    When we noticed Amazon’s “delivery charge” for our titles Yang Shen and Yankee Mandarin, first we scratched our heads wondering what it cost to download an eBook.

    Yankee Mandarin is a 6.8MB mobi file priced at $2.99. The delivery charge is $0.46, about 15%.
    Yang Shen is a 5.7MB mobi file priced at $4.99. The delivery charge is $0.85, about 17%.

    Shortly, our thoughts started to drift toward predatory pricing. We came back down to earth, however, when we considered the cost of bandwidth and storage in the large amounts Amazon requires. The 35% “royalty” leaves Amazon an amount closer to what book publishers need for costs, but the extraordinary 70% “royalty” reduces the margin on eBooks to what is possibly too little to make tongue and buckle meet.

    We now regard the delivery charge as more of a surcharge, or perhaps a subsidy for other publishing-related services, that is clearly disclosed by Amazon in contrast to the hidden costs unstated by other eBook sellers that pay lower “royalties.”

    Of course, we were a little dismayed to discover all this after the fact – after selecting the 70% option and then discovering it is actually only 53% to 55%. When the scales fell from our eyes, we decided to have an extra martini at lunch that day (martinis always in honor of Max Perkins, of course, who is reputed to have imbibed as many as four martinis at lunch and still managed to put in an afternoon’s work – not that surprising considering who were his writers. Scribner’s might have needed a surcharge just for Perkin’s martinis…however, we digress). We recalled how long it took Amazon to start making any profit at all, and lamented that the rest of the Amazon emporium may not always be able to subsidize the book department.

  23. Debbie Young says:

    I think Amazon ought to take a hint here and change the way Kindle reports on how much of the book you’ve read. When giving you the “percentage read”, it should refer only to the main body of the book itself. It should treat the other bits and pieces (reviews, previews, appendices, whatever) as separate sections with their own % rating.

    Having been caught out a couple of times (including with Mousetrapped!) when the book ended sooner than I’d expected, I now try not to take any notice now of that pesky % down in the corner, in case it misleads me again. It is in any case alien to my page-oriented brain to think “Ah, I’ve read 43% of my book” rather than “I’ve read 68 pages” – and I think it is unrealistic to expect the great reading public to start thinking in this way habitually!

    But having said all that, I do LOVE being able to read free samples of books before buying them – and that is definitely one reason why I read far more in e-book form than in print. So, authors, please don’t stop adding your teaser samples!

  24. Mary says:

    Reblogged this on THE PERSPECTIVE FACTORY and commented:
    This is a really great post from Catherine, Caffeinated about the downsides of putting too much extra content in your self-published Amazon book. I’ve actually never self-published a book (at least not yet!), but seriously, this is an illuminating post. If you’ve ever considered self-publishing, check it out.

    Also, she’s pretty funny.

  25. Reader says:

    Anything text only won’t rack up much in terms of file size.

    As soon as you include graphics or large covers that Amazon likes to ask for these days it’ll increase your file size exponentially.

    The charges are somewhat reasonable, considering that someone has to pay for the privilege of the user’s 3G access.

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