Do you need free Amazon book reviews?

I will do it if your ebook belongs to non-fiction and is clean. You do not have to spend money on anything.

Writers are spending thousands of dollars on marketing campaigns in the hopes of getting book reviews. Even if I could afford them, I would not spend money on them. I have a huge backlist and I have made a few books free. These do bring in reviews and ratings but the process has a glacial speed and is unpredictable. Sometimes, I make a paid ebook temporarily free in the Kindle Select program (Kindle Unlimited for readers) and then announce it on Reddit. That is all the marketing I do. I suggest other authors do the same. Free promotions do not guarantee reviews or ratings but it ensures the ebook gets a rank and does not fade into obscurity. Over time, the book will slowly start to sell more copies.

Free ebook promotion

IF YOU ARE AN AUTHOR, just make your ebook temporarily free for a few days, as part of a Kindle Unlimited/Select promotion. DO NOT EMAIL ME YOUR BOOK. If I like your book, I will publish a review (4-star or 5-star). If I don't like your book, I will not publish anything. Email me only when your ebook is free to buy in the Kindle program and do not email me after that.

Free reviews and ratings

I have a lot of interests and hobbies. I have written books on those hobbies/interests that I thought could be of interest to others. After 29 books, of which only two are fiction (one is a old fables collection), I have nothing more to write. I think I can learn new things from books that others have written. To indulge in this (expensive) habit, I am planning on publishing book reviews. I am a technical writer. I can read and understand anything.

Excuse me!

I do not want to waste my time on anything promoting the agenda of

  • war-mongering nation-busting globalists, communists, socialists, fascists
  • God-hating leftists, liberals, progressives, feminists or
  • gender-appropriating woke degenerates.
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Youtube KDP coaches are ruining self-publishing

People without writing talent are wasting thousands of dollars on courses, editors and graphic designers and trying to recoup the money by spamming print-on-demand services with no-content and low-content books.

When I began self-publishing in in 2020, I got a lot of useful advice from a part of Youtube known as ‘Authortube’. Sometimes, I would search for ‘KDP’ to get more specific results of the self-publishing platform that I had chosen initially. Today, when you do the same search, the results are full of videos about no-content books, low-content books, passive income, niche research, etc.

Self-publishing firms have greatly reduced the entry-barrier to get your book published. I have published 31 titles (28 books) and it cost me nothing (other than Internet and electricity). I am a technical writer, a programmer and a graphic designer. I do all the writing, editing, illustrating, designing and formatting. I use free and open-source software (FOSS) and have zero expenses.

Not everybody is like that. Even the best traditionally published writer needs several kinds of editors — a developmental editor, a copy editor and a proof-reader. Apart from editors, a traditionally published book needs:

  • interior formatter for creating printable PDFs and ebooks
  • and graphic designer for creating the covers
  • illustrator for the cover and sometimes for the interior too

Then, there is printing, marketing and logistics.

A traditionally published author just needs to write. The publisher has staff on the rolls to handle all other jobs and bears all the costs.

Self-publishing platforms has eliminated costs associated only with the last part of the book-publishing process. A self-published author still needs to find and pay freelancers for the other jobs. Those freelance professionals do not work for free. Hiring them cost serious money. Self-publishing is not a free or cheap alternative to traditional publishing. It is more expensive.

The pandemic and the lockdown has forced millions to lose their jobs and forced them indoors. People are desperate for new forms of income. The reluctant post-COVID reopening, war, supply-chain issues and inflation has made things worse for everyone. Exploiting the miserable conditions, KDP coaches on Youtube are tricking a lot of people into thinking they can write their way out of the doldrums.

Their click-baity videos earn them a lot of money from Google. I do not think they make much money from self-publishing. Otherwise, they would show the books they published. Apart from earning money from Youtube, they are also creating online video courses on platforms like Udemy. These courses cost hundreds and thousands of dollars. Some self-published authors are hiring ‘personalized writing coaches’ who babysit them and hand-hold them in every step of the publishing process. Those who cannot afford the personal coaches are taking these online courses.

A lot of self-published authors have now spent thousands of dollars on:

  • Learning to write
  • Publishing
  • Marketing

When these projects fail, the KDP coaches are saying they need to create a backlist or spend more money on ads. To recoup the money already spent, the KDP coaches say new authors can publish low-content or no-content books. You can make thousands of dollars in passive income, they say. Do niche research, they say.

No-content books are just notebooks (blank or ruled) with a fancy cover. Yes, authors are being asked to create notebooks in which the buyer does the writing. Low-content books are:

  • diaries, planners and logbooks
  • children's activity books such as cursive writing workbooks, sketch books and puzzle books.
  • ‘adult colouring books’ - colouring books for allegedly stressed-out adults
  • questionable stuff such as gratitude journals and password books

When a new writer manages to self-publish a book, he learns a new set of skills. These skills can come in handy when publishing no-content and low-content books but not quite.

Should a writer be creating these books? Writing should be for the love of writing, not passive income. Writing should be for creating fantastic stories that help readers forget their problems or the drudgery of their daily life. If you are an illustrator or a graphics design professional, these books are a worthwhile challenge. It is almost criminally reprehensible to ask a writer to move away from what he loves (writing) and instead of focus on something else (illustrating).

Niche research is much closer to being criminal. This is essentially stealing from creators who have already done the homework and created popular books in various low-content sub-categories. The advice that KDP gurus are providing is essentially about intellectual property (IP) infringement.

The Youtube KDP coaches rarely provide links to their own author pages or reveal the books they have created. However, they are more than willing to steal from creators who have achieved success through real hardwork. They sometimes show their KDP earnings but they do not mention the amounts they spent in ads. It may cost $2000 to create $3000 in sales. When you stop spending on ads, the sales crash to normal almost immediately. Even then, there are doubts about the figures. You can open the earnings page in a browser, click Inspect element from the right-click menu and put any number even a billion dollars in the browser's Developer Console. And, yes, the KDP page will show that number as your earnings. Amazon will not transfer that amount to your bank account but you can fool Youtube subscribers with it. Showing your KDP earning on Youtube may have been a proud occasion some years ago. Now, it could be mistaken for a shady stunt.

Many of these KDP coaches are not even real writers. They were originally buying stuff from Amazon and Walmart and selling (dropshipping) them on Ebay using the price arbitrage. They discovered KDP by accident and moved into make fools out of aspiring writers and book buyers. They have so many hands in so many pies that account suspensions or bans barely bother them. They create a video about it and do the same thing again with a fresh account. Nothing fazes them. Self-published authors are too inexperienced to take such risks.

Recently, KDP stopped providing ISBN numbers to no-content books. These numbers were not needed anyway. However, it is now asking book uploaders to click a checkbox to identify whether the book is a no-content or low-content book. This is because the Youtube KDP coaches have sent thousands of publishers to mass-upload books with very little differentiation. Authors who have spoken to KDP reviewers have said that these mass-uploads are clogging the system and creating a poor experience for book buyers.

I advise new self-published authors to steer clear of these Youtube KDP coaches and focus on honing their writing craft. Do not steal from other authors and creators. Do not spend thousands of dollars when there is no assurance of recouping the money. Start small and grow big. Do not start with a bang and end in a whimper. Leave writing to the professionals. If you are a professional, do not get tricked by the con artists on Youtube. Not all of them are bad but buyer always beware. Otherwise, you will damage self-publishing permanently and everyone will become losers.

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Fast Amazon KDP Book Interior Formatting (print PDF and EPUB ebook) for hire

Stop wasting money on book-interior formatting. And, stop formatting your books in Microsoft Word.

Recently, I tried to traditionally publish one of my previously self‑published books. When the publisher explained that I had to manually apply Microsoft Word styles from their template to all the paragraphs in my manuscript, I realized how inefficient traditional book‑creation process was. It also brought back memories of my struggles with LibreOffice/OpenOffice when I used to publish free ebooks on my site. (The old ebooks are still available for free.)

My automated book-creation process

Before I started self‑publishing in February 2020, I was determined to escape from this hassle. Because I am also a programmer, I was able to create a fast and efficient book‑creation process with a shell script. I wrote my manuscript in a plain‑text format known as MarkDown. (Its formatting is very minimalistic and intuitive.) The shell script converted the MarkDown text file to HTML. It also applied some CSS styles that I had written to format the HTML content. It then exported the formatted HTML to PDF. This PDF‑creation process is fast and takes only a few seconds to make changes.

The ebook‑creation process using Calibre is manual. However, I use the same formatted HTML that I created for the PDF in the ebook-creation process as well. This ensures that the paperback and the ebook have the same look‑and‑feel.

My automated book‑creation process has greatly helped in self-publishing 26 books (29 titles) by February 2022. Also, remember that I write, edit and illustrate my books. I even do the covers myself.

UPDATE: My traditional publisher has agreed to receive the manuscript in MarkDown instead of one using the Word template. They are very open‑source‑friendly.

After two years in self-publishing, I finaly ran out of material to write. (All my hobbies and interests now manifest themselves as books.) Now, I have this amazingly efficient book-creation process for anyone who needs it. I have created all kinds of books with it:

  • cartoon books
  • heavily illustrated children's books with edge-to-edge colour and illustrations
  • highly annotated programming/technical books
  • colouring books (never published)
  • puzzle books

You can check out free PDF samples of my books for ascertaining the efficiency of my process. The samples are low-resolution and watermarked. The final uploaded PDFs are infinitely better.

You

If you are writing a fiction book, then do not waste time formatting it. Do not even format it in Microsft Word. Use Word only for the grammar and spell check. Do not waste your money on any other writing aid.

If you are writing a children's book or a non-fiction book with lots of images, subheadings and bold/italicised text, some MarkDown formatting will be required on your part, as shown below:


Chapter Title
=============

Subheading
----------
**Bolded** text.

### Sub-subheading
*Italicized* text.

1. Ordered list item 1
2. Ordered list item 2
3. Ordered list item 3
4. Ordered list item 4

#### Sub-sub-subheading
***Bold and italicized*** text.

∗ Unordered list item
∗ Unordered list item
∗ Unordered list item
∗ Unordered list item
∗ Unordered list item

![Image description](image-filename.png)

> Extracted text from another source… > > In other words, a text quotation.
[www.VSubhash.in](http://www.vsubhash.in/commonmark.html "About my book CommonMark Ready Reference")

I have a free CommonMark Quick Reference chart as a downloadable PDF. You can learn MarkDown or CommonMark in no time.

There are a lot of free MarkDown/CommonMark editors. Download one for your OS. Windows users can try GhostWriter. I have never used it, as I am on Linux all the time. I used to use Markdown Writer FX. (It requires Java pre-installed.) It does not support complex Unicode characters so I use the default text editor in Linux. The default text editor in Windows is Notepad. It is feature-less and should be avoided. Use Notepad++ instead.

Requirements

  1. Manuscript as
    • a DOCX/ODS file (if it does not have a lot of images) OR
    • a plain‑text file in MarkDown format (if it has lots of images). In ebooks, all images need to have descriptions. It is easier for you to put them in a MarkDown file.
  2. All tabular data (tables) in a DOCX/ODT document or XLSX/ODS spreadsheet.
  3. Images used in the book at 300 dpi in PNG format. For the ebooks, I will handle the conversion to JPEG.
  4. Mention the book metadata in a plain‑text file:
    • Book title
    • Author name
    • Publisher name (same as author name if self-published)
    • Copyright notice
    • ISBNs and their formats (optional)
    • Disclaimer (optional)
    • Dedication (optional)
    • Paperback
      • Page dimensions. Remember that some book sizes cannot be sold outside Amazon.
      • Is it full bleed? Cookbooks and childrens' books have edge-to-edge colour or illustrations.
      • Is it large print? Books for small kids are usually printed with big fonts.
      • Book cover image (optional)
    • Ebook
      • Publication date
      • Book description
      • Keywords
      • Book cover image at 96 dpi
    • Any other requirements
  5. Front page images (same dimensions as the paperback pages) at 300 dpi.
    • containing the title (optional)
    • containing the title and author name
  6. Custom font files (optional).

You get

  • PDF for paperback upload
  • EPUB for ebook upload
  • MarkDown for your revisions

Cost

A fiction title can be formatted as a PDF and an EPUB ebook in less than an hour. That will cost ₹1500 or $20. Children's books or non-fiction books with a lot of illustrations and tables will take longer and cost ₹1500 or $20 for every hour. As the number of hours increase, the price advantage will be lost.

It is best if all requirements are clearly spelled out in the book metadata file and there is no back-and-forth with changes. Send me the manuscript only after it has been fully reviewed by your copy-editor. Any subsequent revisions will have to be made in the MarkDown file by YOU or your proof-reader.

There will be no cost extra for a paperback revision, assuming that it will be rarely needed. For the ebook, there will always be a cost for every revision. (The ebook-creation process is not fully automated.) However, Calibre allows you to edit EPUB ebooks and you can make the changes yourself (without requiring my involvement).

Free Cover

I did all the covers for my books. If you are unable to spend extra for a professional cover or get a cover designer in time, I can create a temporary basic cover for free. You will have to accept it. There can be no criticism whatsoever 🤣 . When you eventually get a good cover from somewhere else, I will replace it for free.

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