KDP College Series: Top Tips
An Easy to Follow Guide to Finding Shortcuts to Success with KDP Books – By Steve Roberts
Top Tips – Shortcuts To Success
I’ve been making low content books for several years now, and long ago concluded that, if I can do
it, then virtually anyone can do. It’s fun and creative and can be fulfilling, especially when the
consequences are additional income. Although I haven’t attained the astronomical earnings of some
more famous KDP authors, I can’t complain, and every month Amazon delivers royalty revenue into
my bank account. And of all the ways to earn money online, I think that selling books on KDP
provides one of the easiest and steadiest streams of income without all the additional hassle of the
There are several issues that puzzle people starting their journey down the low content road, and I
intend to use this monograph series to address some of them. While the other books in the series
address specific problems, this book collates some of my top tips that help make the process go
more smoothly across the board.
The philosophy that pervades my books is that you shouldn’t have to pay a fortune to get started
and become successful – there’s a plethora of amazing resources that many people just don’t know
about – but if they did, they’d see some of their obstacles disappear. So take a peek inside and
perhaps there’s a top tip or two that will help you in your journey with KDP publishing.
I’m going to just dive in, avoid the fluff and explain my top tips.
Top Tip #1 – Book Covers (not what you think…)
Book covers are so important for success on Amazon. Think about the appeal of a well-designed
cover and how that feeling of being impressed carries through when you read the book’s blurb. It’s
hard to quantify the value of a good book cover, but it’s undoubtedly true that good covers sell
books better than poor covers.
The question, then, is how to design a stand-out cover?
You have two choices: do it yourself, or pay someone to do it.
For the purpose of this top tip, I’m going to assume you’re going to pay someone. (The next tip is if
you decide to do it yourself.) So the first place to go for book cover design is Fiverr.com.
Look at this:
Here are over 7,800 gigs each selling KDP book cover design-related services, many of them starting at $5. If you click on the first vendor (adeel07graphics) you’ll find someone with all five-star ratings and, at the time of writing, 129 customers who left a favorable review. That’s impressive, and he’s just one of many vendors who can make a great-looking cover for the price of a coffee and a muffin.
I’ll deal with making your own covers in the next tip, but if you choose a vendor from Fiverr, make sure you:
- Check their star ratings: anything less than 4 stars is not worth bothering with
- Check their upsells – you want complete commercial freedom to do what you want with your cover, and that needs to be included in the basic gig price.
- Check the reviewer comments and search for negative reviews just so you have a better idea of how the vendor operates.
- Check the number of revisions you’ll receive – you may not like the first draft so you shouldn’t have to pay extra for small changes.
- Check the number of orders in the queue, and the delivery timeframes. Most Fiverr vendors turn things around quickly, but you can’t take that for granted.
Once you’ve decided to go with a vendor, think about how you’ll brief him or her on what you want. Do a search on Amazon for your book title to get an idea of the competition and pick out the books that stand out.
- Your book title must appear on the cover and be consistent with the submitted title. If it isn’t exactly the same, then you risk your book being rejected at the submission stage.
Top Tip #2: Making Your Own Book Cover
Many people prefer the flexibility of creating their own book cover, and you don’t have to be a graphic artist to do a really good job. The go-to tool for designing your own cover is Canva.com and I strongly recommend it.
BUT, the problem is that the free version of Canva has some serious shortcomings, notably in the availability of templates (many are not free) and the resizing tool and multiple download options are Canva Pro features. And Canva Pro is going to cost you £99 per year (199.99/year or 12.00/month USD) …
There are ways around this:
- New accounts can access Canva Pro free for 30 days. After this you’re going to have to pay though.
- Because the paid versions of Canva also support user sharing, there are people out there who will allow you to share their accounts for a small fee. Where are they to be found?
Yes, Fiverr again! Check out this SEARCH. The same warnings apply: be careful what you buy, but there’s no need to spend £99 a year when you can access Canva Pro service for a fraction of that amount.
If you’re unhappy with your purchase, you can usually negotiate a refund from the vendor directly, or raise a case with Fiverr.
With access to Canva Pro you have an awesome tool at your disposal…
- Assuming you know the size of the book you intend to publish (because book cover design FOLLOWS the interior design, not the other way round), then you’ll need to figure out the cover size.
- Here’s the KDP tool to do this: https://kdp.amazon.com/cover-calculator
- With the dimensions in hand, open up Canva and browse the book cover designs – there’s bound to be something that appeals, especially if you’ve already an idea in mind by looking at your competition.
- Once you’ve found a design or template you like, click on “Use This Template” and use the Resize button to change the dimensions to those recommended by Amazon. You’ll find that the document will change and you will need to adjust the position of the elements by clicking and dragging – not so difficult but just a bit fiddly.
- If you don’t like the images and Canva has nothing that appeals, try searching sites like Pixabay or Unsplash and just upload the image. It’s important not to use images that have licence restrictions so be careful if you search Google and find something that way.
Top Tip #3: 3D Renders
If you promote your books on social media, it’s good to have a 3d render of your book. Again, there are vendors on Fiverr who will do that for you, or you could use some of the free 3D rendering software available online, eg:
Here’s an image that took me 1 minute to make from a flat cover design.
Not too shabby and perfectly usable for social media purposes. If image editing is something you intend to do more of, I highly recommend photofiltre – a free and highly powerful desktop image editor
Top Tip #4: Pricing
When you first launch your book, especially if there’s a lot of competition, it’s not a bad idea to set the price to the minimum possible to attract buyers and get those all-important reviews. You have a better chance of appearing near the top of the listings if a potential buyer sorts the results by price, and with more visibility comes more sales. You can’t keep the book at that price indefinitely – but as a way of attracting attention for a week or two, it can help get the sales off the ground.
But what if you launched your book and are now finding it isn’t selling anymore? Perhaps it did once, but now it’s not getting any attention, and it’s languishing – unloved and unbought.
One easy way to drive more sales is to use Amazon advertising to stimulate sales. It certainly works, and once Amazon sees the book being bought, it will raise it in the rankings. Amazon ads are a huge subject and I won’t be covering it here. If you use this path, make sure you have some margin in your book price to help cover the cost of clicks.
But let’s say you don’t have any cash for ads – what then?
I’ve found that just changing the pricing can make a difference, and can kickstart your sales. I’m not sure why, but perhaps Amazon tries to figure out whether the new price will bring more sales, and it temporarily promotes the book. While it’s not a guarantee of more sales, changing the pricing seems to do something, and usually not in a bad way.
Top Tip #5: Finding Fresh Ideas
Are you stuck for ideas? Check out Etsy for inspiration – it provides a ton of information you won’t find on Amazon – like, for example, popularity and sales volumes. This can be really useful because the buying communities on both platforms overlap to a considerable degree.
You could start with a generic keyword like “Journal” and then scan the top sellers and look for something that stands out and is trending. Obviously, personalized products are not possible on KDP, but there are plenty of ideas here that can be adapted. Here are a few promising prospects from a cursory search using “journal” as the search term and sorting by customer reviews:
Things we can learn from this listing:
- Keywords (taken from listing title):
- Campaign Journal for Dungeons and Dragons
- DnD journal
- DnD notebook
- Character journal
- Sales of 8,368 and counting
- Over 20 people have this product in their basket and not bought it yet
- Different color options
- 80 pages
- Selling price is £10.99 which is $15.
You could research the interiors and come up with something equivalent (NOT identical – that’s plagiarism) very easily. The trick would be to make sure the keywords were attractive enough. (I show you how to do that in the “Mastering Niches” volume in this series.)
Here’s another example:
- Pregnancy Journal Gender Neutral
- Pregnancy Memory Book
- Pregnancy Planner
- Pregnancy Diary
- Sales of 15,395 and counting
- Over 20 people have this product in their basket and have not bought it yet
- 36 pages hardback
- Selling price is £22.91 which is ~ $31
The seller even provides details about what is on every page. If I wanted to pursue this idea, then I’d be inclined to look at creating a hardback version in KDP and find a way to emulate the ideas that the Etsy seller has so helpfully laid out in detail!
Hopefully, that explains the approach and you can feel inspired to go digging in Etsy for great (and importantly) proven book ideas.
That’s it for my top tips – I hope you found them helpful!
There’s more information from me on KDP publishing in the rest of the collection:
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Content used with permission of Steve Roberts – https://sidehustle.istack.link/