It was 9 days ago that Eti Shani, Hebrew teacher and blogger came up with the idea to publish a little study-aid for learners of Biblical Hebrew on Kindle: A set of virtual flashcards that students can flip through by using the next/previous buttons on their e-reader.

Two days ago, it hit three Amazon bestseller lists simultaneously.

Since I helped midwife this project I would like to share with you a few thoughts today about how we did it, in the hope that the following information will be helpful to all independent publishers and writers.


Despite the fact that Kindle does not natively display Hebrew fonts we found a work-around by simply using images of the Hebrew words. It’s rather cumbersome because each word needed to be “photographed” off the screen with a screen-capture tool but unfortunately at the moment this is the only way to deal with it. Currently, Kindle only supports very few languages natively.

Multiple Versions

Since this Kindle-limitation only became apparent when we were already deep into the project, Eti suggested to release a second version of this publication regardless of Amazon’s restrictions, which was relatively easy because we didn’t need to go the route of using images if we published on our own. So we packaged the whole thing as PDF and did everything Kindle didn’t allow: colors, Hebrew fonts, custom text boxes – and put it together with a printable version and another epub and mobi file just for the fun of it.

I’ve talked about this strategy before, of publishing an indie-publishing pack besides the Amazon version, so that people can get all kinds of different options for the price of one while we as content-creators get to be creative without any limitation at all.

But what about the bestseller, you ask? How did the Kindle version eventually hit the Amazon bestseller lists?


Climbing The Ladder

Here are three things which I’ve found to make a big difference when releasing publications onto the Kindle Store.

1. Presentation

Regardless of the content of a book, the first thing people notice is the cover. There’s a common moralistic advice not to “judge a book by its cover” but well…we literally do it.

The better the cover, the higher attention and sales it gets, regardless of its content.

Call it unfair? Read this article about a book with a gold cover which was almost empty and became a huge sucess!

The implications are clear: If you want a publication to be noticed, then give it an awesome cover. Either do it yourself or find someone to do it for you. (here’s someone who claims to do it for $5 dollars. I haven’t tried it, but it’s worth the experiment, it seems)

In any case, the closer your final book cover comes to people’s expectations of how it should look like – the better.

2. Title & Meta-Data

This point can be divided into three:

  • title of publication
  • tags
  • categories

All of these are very important because they determine whether your publication can be found through searching on Amazon. But the title has a special significance beyond searching.

The Title

It has to “stand out” together with the cover, be long enough to give people a good idea what to expect, in our example it was: Hebrew Flash Cards: 99 Essential Words And Phrases For Reading And Understanding Basic Biblical Hebrew

As a rule, one should always make sure (for non-fiction) to include not just content features (99 words) but core benefits (be able to read and understand Basic Biblical Hebrew.

The Tags

You can add seven tags to your publication. This is absolutely vital. Readers can then “agree” with your tags later or suggest other ones. All these tags help with displaying your book in search results.

The Categories

For creating a bestseller, this is the most important part. Amazon allows you to pick only two. You can also take a look at other similar publications in your field and see in what categories they are ranking.

If there’s too much competition in a certain category it will be hard to rise to the top.

If you find categories with little competition that are nevertheless directly related to your topic, there the chance of getting a bestseller is highest.

3. Price

This is always an issue with Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing.

Should you go the $0.99 route (35 % Royalty) or start at $2.99 (70% Royalty)?

Obviously, there is no blanket solution to this.

Here are two basic things, though:

1. If your publication is relatively short and you are new in the field, using this low entry price will get your writings out there, first of all. You can still change it later, if you like.

2. If you have alternative versions besides the Kindle, you can give away the latter for a symbolical $0.99 cents while offering the former for a more respectable price + additional benefits, like we did with the Independent Publishing Pack.

Personally, I’ve become a great fan of doing it like this because Kindle sometimes is just too restricted for charging a full-blown price. There are no colors, alternative versions for different e-readers, people can’t freely copy/move the book, so it’s only fair to charge less.

I’ve also written about this approach here.

 img: AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by Gideon Burton via Flickr