Amazon Ads: Worth It?

As an indie author, I’ve relied mostly on word of mouth and social media to sell my books. Why? Limited $$$. Let’s face it: Advertising can be pricey. And time-consuming, unless you’re hiring someone to help you, and then it’s just pricey. However, I think it’s important to try new things, and I’ve experimented with various kinds of low-budget advertising, such as Facebook ads (with limited success).

This week, I’m coming off my first Amazon ad campaign for Baby Bailino, and I’m actually surprised at how dismally the ad performed. Like most indie authors, I think I went into the advertising campaign with thoughts of super high conversion rates dancing through my head. I set a budget of $100, 25 cents per click, just to dip my foot into the ad waters. I mean, in an ideal world, if every click translated into a sale, that could have meant more than a thousand bucks in sales! However, the realist in me believed I’d probably sell a handful of books. Maybe 10, maybe 20, if I were lucky.

I wasn’t.

The ad ran for 10 days, and…crickets. Not a click. Granted, I didn’t set much of a budget, so I’m not sure how much that hurt me, but by the end of the promotional period, this is what I saw:

Continue reading


Why I Went All-In With Amazon

eLuna_screenshotThe ebooks of Baby Grand and Baby Bailino are now part of Amazon’s KDP Select program.

For those who don’t know about the program, when you sign on to KDP Select, you agree to sell your eBook only in the Kindle format (you can continue selling your paperbacks anywhere you wish). In exchange for this exclusivity, you are given some perks.

When I first published Baby Grand back in May 2012, I joined KDP Select and left after the first three-month period was over. Why did I leave? I thought it was a successful run, but I wasn’t really interested in offering my book for free (a big perk of KDP Select) and I had friends who were diehard Nook readers who wanted access to the book. So I went wide, as they say, and uploaded it to Kobo, iTunes, Nook, and other resellers. (For more details on why I left KDP Select, I blogged about it here.)

Four years later, things are a bit different. How:

  1. I have a four-year track record with Amazon. And, BY FAR, I have sold more Kindle versions of Baby Grand than I have any other outlet or edition. Amazon SELLS books.
  2. I have found — despite many opinions to the contrary — Amazon to be good to readers AND authors, offering low pricing and high royalties, respectively. And for such a mega-company, the customer service support is efficient and prompt.
  3. The introduction of Kindle Unlimited, which offers more than a million titles and thousands of audiobooks to subscribers. Books that are enrolled in KDP Select are also enrolled into Kindle Unlimited. This helps to increase the discoverability of the Baby Grand Series. Very important. After just a few days in the program, nearly 1,000 pages have already been read by subscribers. (Kindle Unlimited is populated mostly with books written by indie authors, like me. I like the idea of all of us getting the chance to find new readers.)

All this was enough to make me reconsider my participation in the program. It seemed like a good deal. And the right time, particularly with the sequel to Baby Grand on its way. So I decided to pull all the ebooks from Smashwords, the Self-e program (I was sad to leave this one), and others. At least for now. In three months’, six months’, nine months’ time, I can look at my sales and reevaluate. If something doesn’t seem to be working, I can always mix it up again.That’s the great thing about being an indie author. The decisions — writing, editing, publishing, marketing — are mine.


Why I Signed up for Amazon’s Matchbook Program

I have to admit: I was skeptical.

When Amazon announced its Matchook program, I didn’t think much about it. The Matchbook program allows customers who buy a print copy of a book to get a deeply discounted or free Kindle version of the same book (to learn more about the program, check out Christiana Miller’s HuffPo piece). I’m just not one of those people who buys every format of a book — eBook, print, hardcover, audiobook — but to my surprise, I’ve discovered there are lots of people out there who do. LOTS. They’ve been telling me things like, “If you buy the print book as a gift, you can keep the eBook” or “You can keep a pristine copy of the book on your bookshelf and read the other on vacation in Oahu,” etc., etc. Apparently, there are many reasons, from the practical to the bizarre, to have several copies of the same book in various formats in your home.

Who knew?

Well, sign me up then! In the coming weeks, when Amazon launches Matchbook, Baby Grand will be offered at the discounted price of $1.99 (regular price is $3.99 as of yesterday) whenever the paperback is bought.

This is just another example of Amazon responding to the needs of both readers and authors. I’ve said this before, but that Amazon… always thinking.

Authors, are you considering this new Amazon program?

Should Writers Buy Books at Bookstores?

My answer is: If they want to.

The thing is, though, I don’t always want to.

In the wake of the news that Barnes & Noble’s CEO resigned, the future of our last remaining big-box bookstore remains unclear, and what I want to know is: Is this my fault?

I am, after all — hold onto your bookmarks! — a big Amazon devotee. I buy books from Amazon all the time. (I’m an Amazon Prime member, which gives me free, expedited shipping.) And I have been criticized by other writers for doing so. (Porter Anderson recently discussed how writers have been criticized just for LINKING to Amazon on their websites. Oy vey.) And I don’t understand why.

Does this also mean I should be buying my groceries from small little markets rather than supermarkets? Should I be patronizing neighborhood hardware stores instead of Home Depot? Should I be paying more for my books as I do for my eggs, which are cage-free? How did the demise of Barnes & Noble become my doing?

The way I see it, isn’t it inevitable that bookstores will eventually go the way of, say, record stores and video stores. Books — like music and video — is heading digital, whether we like it or not. Is Amazon really to blame for this? Am I to blame? I mean, I’m all for paying an extra dollar or two at a bookstore — be it a chain like Barnes & Noble or an indie — to keep it going, and to support all the great things that they do, but sometimes the price differential is significant — like 10 bucks per book. And when you buy as many books as I do, and make as little money as I do (starving artist, anyone?) we’re talking hundreds of dollars that I’d rather see go to cage-free eggs than the same exact book that I can buy for much less on Amazon.

I guess I just don’t understand the school of thought that says writers should be going out of their way to buy at Barnes & Noble. (BTW, as a self-published author, I can tell you that Barnes & Noble — and many indies, for that matter — aren’t going out of their way for me. Not that I’m bitter. Just sayin.’) Shouldn’t bookstores be finding ways to attract US? Shouldn’t we WANT to shop there? And not out of guilt?

What say you, writers? Am I a bad person?

(Note: Immediately after I pressed publish on this post, I discovered this link to a story titled, “Bookshops Stay Relevant, and Viable, as Centers for Public Discourse.” Now, THAT’S what I’m talking about! If bookstores want to attract book lovers, they should become a cultural center! I may not be hell-bent on buying Exploring Diabetes With Owls at your store on any given day, because chances are that it’s five bucks more than what Amazon wants me to pay, but if you’ve got David Sedaris giving a chat and signing books, I’d certainly pay an extra five bucks — if not more! — for that.)


Authors Reviewing Other Authors

I generally make it a rule not to rate or review books written by my author friends (unless I’m blurbing a book). I find that I’m too emotionally attached to the works to give an honest assessment. (Note: Amazon has made it a policy not to allow authors to review other authors, because they are deemed to be in direct competition with each other.)

However, I DO rate books on Goodreads written by authors I don’t know — you know, the dead ones, the famous ones, the ones who are far too busy raking in the dough to notice my little ol’ estimation of their work. Without that emotional attachment to the author or book, I feel like I can just write what I think, which (I hope) is helpful to others who look to a book’s reviews in deciding whether or not to read it. And that system is just fine and dandy when I like a book — slapping a five-star rating onto a book is joyous and fun. All is right with the world. However, when it comes time to give a one-star rating or a poor review, I find myself getting anxious, like I did with today’s review for Dan Brown’s INFERNO:

Inferno (Robert Langdon, #4)1 of 5 stars This is the first audiobook I’ve listened to, so — to be fair — quite possibly it was the nature of “listening” to a book that wasn’t for me. However, I threw in the towel after about 4 and a half hours of listening. So disappointed. I absolutely loved THE DA VINCI CODE and really liked ANGELS & DEMONS. I had started THE LOST SYMBOL when it came out, but didn’t get far into it, because I found it to be more of the same, and I guess that’s how I feel about this book. Unfortunately, it was just taking too long for things to get going. What a bummer.

I feel incredibly ambivalent about this review — any bad review, for that matter. Sure, I didn’t like the book, but I keep thinking about that old adage: “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Particularly because I KNOW how hard it is to write a book. (It’s crazy hard.) And I KNOW how hard it is to receive a poor review. (It’s crazy harder.)

Continue reading

Marketing Tip #5

At the end of your eBook, place a link(s) that directs readers to where they can buy additional books of yours. This is one of the best tips I’ve read recently online (apologies for not remembering where I read it), and it makes complete sense. Readers are most apt to buy a book of yours if they’ve just read one and loved it. I can remember lots of times when I closed a book, leaned back and thought, Wow, that was good, and went to the bookstore to check out more things from that author (Dan Brown comes to mind). The best way to capitalize on that high in the eBook world is to have a link at the end of your eBook that brings readers to a book retailing website — Amazon, for example, if it’s a Kindle book. This way, they can buy another one of your books immediately — sort of like an impulse buy at the supermarket checkout, the well-I’m-here-anyway-so-I-may-as-well-buy-it kind of thinking. Chances are if readers really like your book, they will find their way to Amazon or Barnes & Noble on their own, but there’s nothing wrong with pointing them in the right direction.

3 Tips for Surviving Bad Reviews

Well, it was bound to happen.

After 37 straight five-star reviews on Amazon in nearly four months of publication, and a string of four- and five-star reviews on Goodreads, Baby Grand got its first clunker. A two-star review. Basically, the dude thought that my book was boring, smelly, ugly, totally gross, and that its mother dressed it funny. (I’m paraphrasing.) No, seriously, it just wasn’t for him.

Hey, it happens. I knew my good fortune would come to an end eventually — it’s just the nature of criticism. My daughter, who was reading the review over my shoulder, asked, “Are you okay?” Surprisingly, I was. Stung, of course, but okay. My reaction reminded me of when I was in grad school and I had been getting straight As class after class — something you can certainly get used to — and a professor finally gave me a B+, breaking my streak. I remember thinking for a moment, Oh, darn. But then life went on. I thought that perhaps, being a professional writer, I’ve gotten used to rejection — editors not liking queries or articles, editors requesting changes. After all, Baby Grand was rejected some ten times last year by traditional publishing editors before I decided to self-publish and make a go of it on my own in January. Writing can be a very humbling profession.

But I think it’s just that I know, deep down, that bad reviews happen. Here are three things that I try to keep in mind when I get them:

1. Even universally beloved books –from the classics to contemporary favorites — have bad reviews. Author Ellen Meister, whose new novel Farewell, Dorothy Parker will be published in February, and I discussed this when she came out to East Hampton to appear on The Writer’s Dream recently. Pick a book, any book, that you absolutely loved. Find it on Amazon, and I guarantee you that there will be bad reviews for it. So if Toni Morrison, Haruki Murakami and Stephen King can deal with it, so can you.

Continue reading