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Book market > Anyone else tried DIY adverts on here?

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message 1: by Richard (new)

Richard Penn (richardpenn) | 758 comments I invested $50 in a campaign on here, to see if it would get people to take a look at my books, and have had slight success. The interesting thing is you can try different wordings, which allows testing of words that are useable in the blurb. They give you stats on the number of eyeballs and clicks - I generally get about 3000 impressions a day, and between two and four clicks. Maybe one in ten of those turns into an "add" but it's impossible to tell how many of those actually buy the book. I have a feeling it's worthwhile, but wondering if other newbies have tried it and how it went.


message 2: by Glenn (new)

Glenn Mitchell (glennhmitchell) | 46 comments I've considered it, so your report on the results is valuable. Generally, I think the way to go about promoting a book is to have a budget each month, and since $50 sounds reasonable, I might try a campaign... unless you get some negative replies to your post.


message 3: by Richard (new)

Richard Penn (richardpenn) | 758 comments Proud to be guinea-pig for you, Glenn!


message 4: by Anthony Deeney (new)

Anthony Deeney | 81 comments Do you feel cost per sale conversion is worth it?


message 5: by Richard (last edited Nov 08, 2014 03:17AM) (new)

Richard Penn (richardpenn) | 758 comments I've limited my cost-per-click to $0.07 instead of the $0.50 they recommend. I can't tell how many get converted to sales (they may well go off to Amazon) but I figure I'm paying a dollar for every to-read on here. How much of that turns to reviews or sales, I don't know. If it's more than a dollar per sale, I'm not making much, but the visibility is probably useful for an unknown author like me. And it's less than $50 a month - I put in $50 about three months ago.


message 6: by Owen (new)

Owen O'Neill (owen_r_oneill) | 625 comments On a different, but related topic, Amazon just put up a program on KDP Select, to allow authors to buy adds on the same per click basis. All I know (at the moment) is that the minimum buy-in (budget) is $100. The stats give you sales, as well as impressions and clicks, and you seem to be able to target your ads pretty specifically. This could be good, as I often see books that, based on the book itself and the reviews and comments, strike me that these readers would also like our book as well. But there has been no way (that I know of on Amazon) to inform said readers that our book exists. This might (I emphasize might) be such a way.

I imagine there will mixed feelings on this, but my very preliminary feeling is that I'm inclined to try it. The reasons are 1) the visitors at Amazon are more likely to be in a buying frame of mind, which might improve both clickthru's and conversions; 2) Amazon has a vested interested in seeing that the ads work, since they also make money off the sale. Amazon is getting money for the ad, yes, but they also have a motivation to make this effective.

Elsewhere, the site owners are just making money off selling the ad. They don't know if it's working and may not care, as long as they can sell more ads. Thus, I might expect Amazon to have better tools & info to allow authors to construct better ads.

This program is new, and I expect teething pains. But since we have a new book coming out near the end of February, we may give this a shot in March (depending on how things look at that time).

From what I've heard, most paid ad campaigns tend to run a couple of hundred dollars, minimum, to be effective. (We have not tried any yet.) The only one I've seen attested as actually worthwhile runs about $400 to $1000, and is hard to get into. (They are finicky about who they accept.) So $100 does not seem too bad.

If we give this a go, it will likely be in the $300 range that we will spend. If people are interested, I will report back on our results. Or if we decide against doing it, I will report that as well.


message 7: by Owen (new)

Owen O'Neill (owen_r_oneill) | 625 comments Richard wrote: "I've limited my cost-per-click to $0.07 instead of the $0.50 they recommend...."

Let me see if I have this right. They recommend $0.50/click? So it you make $2.00 on a sale, you have to have a conversion ratio of 1 of 4 just to break even?

I've been doing internet sales since 1997, and I've never seen a conversion ratio like that. The best I've even seen for anything is maybe 1 in 10, but 1 in 20+ or even 1 in 50 is more typical (for targeted traffic -- otherwise it's more like 1 in 300 to 1 in 1,000.)

If you made $8-$10 per sale, I could see $0.50, maybe. But for books in the $3-$5 range, that recommendation seems nuts.

It's late here, so am I missing something?


message 8: by Richard (new)

Richard Penn (richardpenn) | 758 comments That was my thinking too. I don't know where Goodreads got the fifty-cent recommendation from, and capping it at seven cents doesn't seem to affect my ranking. Optimism?


message 9: by Owen (new)

Owen O'Neill (owen_r_oneill) | 625 comments Richard wrote: "That was my thinking too. I don't know where Goodreads got the fifty-cent recommendation from, and capping it at seven cents doesn't seem to affect my ranking. Optimism?"

I'm hoping Amazon will have tools that actually give authors useful guidance on this (like conversion rates for similar book, genres, etc.) I'm guessing $0.7 to $0.10 per click is about right. But we'll see.

I once put together a spreadsheet for clients to calculate the rate-of-return on a click (which many of them had never bothered to consider carefully). It was for people paying to Google ads, and it showed that the majority of people were losing money on their ads without knowing it. Clicks were typically priced 3x to 5x above the breakeven point. I think if people had understood that back when, Google would have folded overnight.


message 10: by Micah (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 563 comments Owen, I wouldn't count on it. So far I've been pretty appalled at Amazon's lack of sophistication in many tech matters.

Like they don't really have an easy reporting feature to see how many views your books get, or from what locations. You have only sales records to go by.

Even Smashwords does better reporting than Amazon in that regard.

And from doing my own Kindle formatting from scratch (as in using html and css to build all the book and metadata files needed), I've found their eReaders to be amazingly limited and restrictive in frustrating ways.

Basically, I think their entire focus is on streamlining the customer interface, making it as easy as possible to buy books, and on pushing product to its various markets rather than making their platform functional for authors and marketers.

Case in point: When you upload a book, you can immediately select in which markets it will be available and for how much: Easy to push books to multiple markets.

However, if you want to make one of your books free permanently, you first have to publish it somewhere else for free, and then try to coax Amazon into dropping their price...IN EVER MARKET INDIVIDUALLY.

I have two short stories I published for free via Smashwords and was able to finally get Amazon to reduce them on the US site...but the UK site, the German site, the Japanese site, the Australian site...etc. were all still not free (at least last I looked). You basically have to push them in every market in order to get worldwide parity.

Also, if someone leaves a review on the US site, it WILL show up on the Australian site. BUT, a review left on their Australian site will NOT show up on the US site. Why? I dunno. It's like they really just don't have their s... together.

I view them as my primary market, but they really do make me question how sophisticated they really are.


message 11: by Christina (new)

Christina McMullen (cmcmullen) | 1213 comments Mod
I think the issue with Amazon has less to do with how technically advanced they are and more to do with how transparent they aren't. They know our every click and use that information to target to us. I know this because I constantly get emails listing my books along with others I might enjoy. They do this because they see that I look at my books' product pages an awful lot.

Can Smashwords not distribute a free book to Amazon? Honestly, I can see why Amazon and other sellers would not want to make the perma-free option easy, but it does irk me that it is a pain. I've been tossing the idea of an anthology around, but it's something I'd like to have go available free from the outset to avoid monetary entanglements with other authors.


message 12: by Owen (last edited Jan 30, 2015 07:13PM) (new)

Owen O'Neill (owen_r_oneill) | 625 comments Micah wrote: "Owen, I wouldn't count on it. So far I've been pretty appalled at Amazon's lack of sophistication in many tech matters.

Like they don't really have an easy reporting feature to see how many views ..."


Yes and no. It is quite true (and inexplicable and annoying) that they don't provide us with decent stats. As for their eReaders, I've only used a Paperwhite (and I don't like eReaders much), but their approach suits me fine. I also do all my own formatting from scratch and work just in the source code, but as a reader I like it being limited. I'm old and I'm cranky, so take this as an old cranky guy's comment but I find many other people's idea of proper formatting burdensome. The fact that a Kindle might force people to not produce ebooks that don't make my eyes cross is pretty OK with me.

I also do support Amazon's policy on permanently free books. It makes things a bit more complicated for us in one case, but I don't think Amazon is under any obligation to provide a platform for authors to offer their stuff for free. If doing so pretty clearly benefits the readers, the author and Amazon, it makes sense and they do have that for some books and their policy may evolve as things change.

I've noticed that about reviews also. I don't know either. Could it be that based on their info, they have determined that is not helpful? I can't say.

I wish Amazon would give us much more data. But I will say this: Amazon knows vastly more about selling stuff (including my book) than I do. They didn't do a great job on the fire phone (but then think of all Jobs' failures), but they know how to sell stuff on their site. So I conclude they understand how to structure a paid ad system that will sell better than say GR would.

So believe that when it comes to selling and pleasing their customers, they are demonstrably quite sophisticated. Where they are not all that sophisticated is communicating with us authors, so we understand what they are doing and why. I hope they continue to improve that.


message 13: by Micah (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 563 comments Owen wrote: "So believe that when it comes to selling and pleasing their customers, they are demonstrably quite sophisticated. Where they are not all that sophisticated is communicating with us authors, so we understand what they are doing and why. I hope they continue to improve that..."

That was really my point. They focus most of their attention on the sales and customer side. But ignore things like providing useful stats for authors/publishers. Which, honestly, I think hurts both us and them. If they provided us more information, we could tailor our products to be more salable.

For example, if I could track page views and sales numbers better, when I make a book cover change, or a blurb change, I could tell if the change has had a positive effect. That would help both Amazon and me.

If I could track what markets I get the most hits in, I could target where I get translations done (as if I'll ever have that kind of $$). Again, benefit to them and me.


message 14: by Micah (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 563 comments Christina wrote: "Can Smashwords not distribute a free book to Amazon?..."

Here's what Smashwords says about their distribution deal with Amazon:

"Although we have a distribution agreement with Amazon via their Kindle Direct Platform, they're unable to receive our entire catalog until they create a bulk upload facility. In the meantime, we're only distributing a few hundred titles to Amazon out of our catalog of over 250,000. We understand that many Smashwords authors would prefer the convenience of consolidating their distribution to Amazon via Smashwords, rather than uploading direct to Amazon. If your book has earned over $2,000 at Smashwords and you would prefer to consolidate your distribution via Smashwords to Amazon as opposed to uploading direct with them, please click the "support" link at the bottom of this page and let us know you're in the $2,000 club and would like to be considered for our distribution to Amazon."

So for SPAs...they really don't distribute to Amazon at all.


message 15: by Owen (new)

Owen O'Neill (owen_r_oneill) | 625 comments Micah wrote: "That was really my point. They focus most of their attention on the sales and customer side. But ignore things like providing useful stats for authors/publishers. Which, honestly, I think hurts both us and them ..."

I agree completely. That was something that surprised me when I first signed up for KDP. I've been running on-line businesses since 1999, and I didn't understand why they didn't provide me with some basic info to allow me to better tailor my efforts, which as you say clearly benefits both us and them.

I very much hope they start doing this. The only reason I can think of for why they haven't yet, is that they don't see sufficient benefit in doing it. Maybe they see a downside, though I can't imagine what that would be. I say that only because it may be that right now, too few independent authors view writing in a businesslike way and would not use such data, and thus do not push for it.

I say that because in managing on-line businesses, I dealt with some quite large payment processors, and in one instance, one such processor revamped their website and how they presented all their sales stats. In doing so, they made the click-conversions stats unreadable and basically useless. I called up to mention this. The guy I talked there didn't even know where that page was -- I had tell him how to get to it. He explained that they didn't include that page in their training for their tech support people because so few clients ever looked at it. This payment processor had huge numbers of clients, all running an on-line business, and yet the vast majority of these people (reportedly) never bothered to check this very basic stat.

If business owners were that ignorant or uncaring (this was about 3-4 years ago now), I really have to wonder about the independent authors these days. If authors get more savvy about these things, I suspect Amazon will evolve on this point. Back when I first joined KDP, I did send them a message explaining how I would benefit from this data (as would they). If more authors did that, maybe they would provide them.

But if authors stay silent or express indifference, I can't see why they'd go to the bother. So it's possible that it's as much of a question of authors getting savvy as Amazon here. Frankly, I don't really know since I don't have a wide acquaintance with the indie author community. But I hope other authors are making (or will start making) constructive suggestions to Amazon along these lines, so we can all benefit.


message 16: by Christina (new)

Christina McMullen (cmcmullen) | 1213 comments Mod
That's about what I thought. I guess I'll have to come up with another way.


message 17: by Richard (new)

Richard Penn (richardpenn) | 758 comments I wonder if some authors feel, like me, that a customer simply finding their book on Amazon is pretty unlikely. As far as I can trace sales at all, I think mine come from reviews in blogs and newsletters, possibly from something I've said on Twitter. The only Amazon feature I can imagine driving customers to my books would be 'readers also bought' when they're looking at a similar book. I'm too low in the rankings to show up in genre listings. So I'm not sure metrics would help me much.


message 18: by Ken (new)

Ken Doggett (kendoggett) Richard wrote: "I wonder if some authors feel, like me, that a customer simply finding their book on Amazon is pretty unlikely. As far as I can trace sales at all, I think mine come from reviews in blogs and newsl..."

My belief is similar. My new book sold like gangbusters (relative to my other books) for the first two weeks after it was introduced, giving me a record month, and I really don't know why--or how it got discovered. Sales seem to be trailing off now, but I'm not even sure of that. Advertising seems like a good move at this point, but I have no idea where it's effective.


message 19: by Owen (new)

Owen O'Neill (owen_r_oneill) | 625 comments Richard wrote: "I wonder if some authors feel, like me, that a customer simply finding their book on Amazon is pretty unlikely. As far as I can trace sales at all, I think mine come from reviews in blogs and ..."

It seems to me that readers do find our books on Amazon, initially. There does appear to be a mechanism by which new releases get some exposure. I don't really know that works either, although I've heard people talk about it. It does seem to give new work a boost that lasts for 2-3 weeks. Other than that, (as Richard mentioned) the only driver I think I can identify is the 'readers also bought' lists.

The only "insight" I have is from having our sci-fi, which has done well, and my co-author's fantasy novel, which hasn't. We haven't done anything different to market her book than ours (basically nothing), and that's pretty clearly a mistake. It seem that sub-genre of fantasy is not as popular these days as military sci-fi. Our first novel has a cover that looks pretty good as a thumbnail, so when that's all people see in a list, maybe they are more likely to click on it. The blurb I suspect is better, too. And it seems to have touched a nerve, which is pretty much just luck.

So, my feeling is that we'll have to do a lot more work to sell the fantasy novel, by finding out where the readers who like that sub-genre are and getting some attention there. Tweaking the blurb (and maybe a new cover) might help, but I doubt it would make much difference. In a less popular genre, it just takes more work to connect with your readers.

Ken wrote: "Advertising seems like a good move at this point, but I have no idea where it's effective."

That's why I'd like some stats. The other thing is that on Amazon, I do get some indication of what the people who by our book also like, so if we could go buy ads on the pages where those books also appear, that would seem to be a good bet. Off Amazon, one has no idea without some stats as to how ads work. If you don't see good results, it's hard at this point to tell why.

While I'm vaporing on here ("First, there's Bandwidth!), I suppose I'll mention a couple of others things I've wondered about. What's the breakdown of eBook sales vs print sale by sub-genre? I have a suspicion that people who might like our fantasy novel aren't eBook fans to the same degree as sci-fi readers. The decision to by a $10 or $15 print book (from an author you know nothing about) is (I think) completely different from buying $3 eBook. I suspect what the eBook crowd views as "credible" in terms of a sales recommendation is not the same as what those who buy print books. Their views of indie authors may not be the same either.

What counts as "credible" in the eyes of potential readers is a key. For literary fiction (for a rather example), there are only a very few places that can effectively push a book (like the NYT Review of Books). If you can't get a good review there (which requires the backing or a respected publisher), your book is pretty much going nowhere. So in a particular genre, what's the analog for that? In some genres, it appears readers make use of the Amazon reviews; in others. my suspicion is that they arrive with their "minds made up".

That relates to the other issue of reader who actually browse Amazon for books and those who simply go to Amazon to get a better price on a book they learned about elsewhere (I'm one of these. I never look at my Amazon "recommendations" because I find the very concept deeply annoying. Yet I'm trying to make my living off it. Go figure.) Do such people tends to prefer certain genres?

These are all things that, if they could be understood, would help a great deal in selling books. But how one gets this data right now, I can't say. But I am interested to take a shot at paid ads on Amazon, because (right now) I think I have the best data there.


message 20: by Ken (new)

Ken Doggett (kendoggett) Owen wrote: "It seems to me that readers do find our books on Amazon, initially. There does appear to be a mechanism by which new releases get some exposure. I don't really know that works either, although I've heard people talk about it. It does seem to give new work a boost that lasts for 2-3 weeks. Other than that, (as Richard mentioned) the only driver I think I can identify is the 'readers also bought' lists...."

I'm not sure that's true. My first novel published in December 2013 didn't sell a single copy for a month. My opinion is that my second novel sold better because a few more people know me. The other possibility is that my first novel--cover, blurb, opening chapters--simply didn't have what it takes to attract buyers. I did get other opinions that helped me refine the blurb on my second novel, and maybe that helped, but I haven't had enough comment on the cover to judge its merits.


message 21: by Owen (new)

Owen O'Neill (owen_r_oneill) | 625 comments Ken wrote: I'm not sure that's true...."

Without page view stats and where the traffic is coming from, there's no way to really know. My impression isn't based mainly on our books, but by following new releases on Amazon and watching their bestseller ratings over a period of weeks. (Some of these authors have a number of books, some it's their first.) Based on that, it appears to me that new books do get some nontrivial amount of exposure.

One thing I think authors don't pay enough attention to it how their cover looks like as a small thumbnail. That is what readers are going to see first in whatever list on Amazon, and if it's a blob at that size (however great is looks at a larger size), they aren't going to click on it.


message 22: by Owen (new)

Owen O'Neill (owen_r_oneill) | 625 comments Ken wrote: "I haven't had enough comment on the cover to judge its merits..."

This is sort of out place (there being another place for that here), but I just looked at your covers here on GR, just the thumbnails. "To Summon The Blackbird" has a cover thumbnail and a title that makes me want to click on it to see what it is. "Ship of Storms" is title I like, but the thumbnail is lacking. (I'll give more detailed feedback elsewhere, if you want.)


message 23: by Ken (new)

Ken Doggett (kendoggett) Owen wrote: "Ken wrote: "I haven't had enough comment on the cover to judge its merits..."

This is sort of out place (there being another place for that here), but I just looked at your covers here on GR, just..."

Thanks, Owen. Seems to indicate that my cover creations are getting better, and that it might be a good idea to upgrade my old covers (which I'm doing for one of the short-story collections).


message 24: by Owen (new)

Owen O'Neill (owen_r_oneill) | 625 comments Ken wrote: "Seems to indicate that my cover creations are getting better, and that it might be a good idea to upgrade my old covers ..."

Agree. I just left a comment over where it belongs.


message 25: by Robert (new)

Robert Zwilling | 229 comments Amazon is a very sophisticated company, they are in the business of helping themselves, not you. Once upon a time a company actually did help the "merchants" who interacted with them and everyone made more money. Now with the introduction of mega companies in a virtual world people who sell stuff on amazon are rated the same as people who buy on Amazon. Unless you are really big you simply don't get the same treatment because they don't have the time or resources to deal with you, which simply comes down to not having enough employees.

Having a good thumbnail is crucial if you believe that people believe that you can judge a book by it's cover.

When you get a flurry of orders and then nothing it seems means that you were basking in a virtual spot light for whatever reason and the spotlight went elsewhere. Another reason is that one person who had a lot of followers liked your book enough to tell others to buy it.

There are far too many people selling books which is okay unless you actually want some one to find one out of millions. It's is getting harder everyday. One thing that might be possible is to put links to other peoples books in your book so if some one buys one of the books they will have links to other books. This would work until the amount of space in your book used to promote other peoples books exceeded the size of your own book. Some people might frown on this so an anthology would be a better bet.


message 26: by Owen (new)

Owen O'Neill (owen_r_oneill) | 625 comments Robert wrote: "Amazon is a very sophisticated company, they are in the business of helping themselves, not you. Once upon a time a company actually did help the "merchants" who interacted with them and everyone m..."

Different people have obviously have different experiences, and I can understand this perspective. But speaking for myself alone, as long as I've been dealing with Amazon, they have been very good to excellent. I've dealt with a lot of companies in my time, and I've run an on-line business since 1996, and for me, Amazon stands out as a company that has always taken the time when I had non-trivial questions to get me a decent answer. Yes, it's sometimes taken 2,or even 3, tries on occasion. But I haven't been blown away or brushed off yet.

As for helping me, well, yes, they have. They allowed my co-author and me to publish our books, which traditional publishers almost certainly would not have, and they pay us a decent amount for a sale, not the pittance a traditional publisher would pay. They did not ask for any rights (as a traditional publisher would), and they have not told us what to write or how (as a traditional publisher would).

So I assert Amazon is in the business of helping me (and my co-author). Other outlets are also in that same business. Happily Amazon is not unique here. But I do think people at times miss (for understandable reasons) what has happened recently, and how much things have changed, and how much better it is for writers than it was back 10, 15, or 20 years ago. Amazon deserves a lot of the credit for making that happen, and making it viable.


message 27: by Richard (new)

Richard Penn (richardpenn) | 758 comments I'm with you, Owen. Amazon was for me, like many indie authors, my entry into the business. Their software is very high quality, and I've seldom had problems with it. When I have, they've been reasonably helpful. It's not their fault millions of people want to write. It's their achievement that they've allowed us to do so. At the time time, there are a number of companies following on their heels. I don't feel any loyalty to Amazon, any more than my local supermarket. Lulu prints books faster and ships them cheaper than CreateSpace; I send my customers there. If someone comes up with a better way to direct customers to my book, I'll be on them like a shot. Goodreads is great, and I love being able to interact with other authors here, but it's not a marketing platform because there aren't many readers here, at least not my kind of readers.

I don't think I'll be renewing the ad campaign here when it runs out of cash. I'm not seeing any benefit. The ads are obscurely placed, and most people probably ignore them.


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