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:

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Authors: Do You Know Where Your ACX Promo Codes Are?

acx_logoDid you know that once you complete an audiobook for ACX that you’ll receive 25 promo codes that you can use to give away copies of your new book? I actually didn’t know that until recently. It’s pretty cool of ACX to want to help you jump-start the review process for your book. You can give these codes to anyone you want — professional reviewers, your grandmother, social media fans, anyone who is an audiobook listener.

Author and podcast extraordinaire Paul Teague turned me on to Audiobook Boom!, which, for 10 bucks, will get your title in front of thousands of audiobook listeners. I used a good chunk of my Baby Grand codes through Audiobook Boom!, and I also used them to gift books as prizes for contests I held on Facebook, Twitter, and through my email list. You can either distribute the codes directly to listeners or use the codes yourself to gift the book for listeners (this guarantees that listeners use the credit for YOUR book and not someone else’s). Within a few days, my audible.com rating went from a dismal one-star review to a string of four- and five-star reviews. Woo hoo!

Currently, I’m working on the audiobook for Baby Bailino, the sequel to Baby Grand, and I’m already thinking up some fun caption contests to run when I receive my promo codes. Last week at #DBWIndie in New York City, it was reported that in 2016 more than 3 million audiobooks were self-published by indie authors. It’s a big market, and if you want a piece of it, you have to find ways to boost your discoverability. I’m not saying these codes should be your only promotional tool, but they’re definitely a good start.

 

 

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.

 

#PubSmartCon Pieces: Buying Reviews

During PubSmart, there was lots of talk about discoverability — how readers discover our books and how we can help them discover our books. While there was pretty much a consensus that word-of-mouth is still king when it comes to discoverability, there are a variety of ways to get our books into readers’ hands.

One way is by buying pre-publication reviews. Personally, I’m still on the fence about paying for reviews. I’m not so sure a (paid for) Kirkus Review holds more weight than a (free) Goodreads or an Amazon review for the majority of thriller readers, but I do know several authors who utilize reviews as a marketing tool and have had good experiences.

How much do reviews for self-published books cost? Here are three examples that were mentioned during a panel discussion:

Cost of review from Kirkus: $425

Cost of review from BlueInk Reviews: $395

Cost of review from Publishers Weekly’s PW Select: $149

Also, during the conference’s luncheon, I sat next to a woman named Kiffer Brown, president of a company called Chanticleer Book Reviews & Media, which also offers review opportunities. As with crowdfunding, which I discussed yesterday, I don’t know if I’m ready to shell out the cash yet for this service, but it’s nice to know it’s out there if we authors need it.

Have you paid for any reviews for your book? Which ones? What has your experience been?

 

I Didn’t Call Myself an ‘Author.’ Readers Called Me That.

Apparently, there’s another controversy brewing in the publishing industry over whether self-published authors should be “allowed” to call themselves authors. According to Michael Kozlowski, editor of digital publishing and device blog Good E Reader, the answer is no. And there have been a bunch of responses, such as this one and this one.

Personally, if I’m being honest, when I first self-published Baby Grand as an eBook in May 2012 I wondered whether I could accurately be called an author. Having been a professional freelance writer and editor for many years, I knew the term author to be an individual who had published a book the good old traditional way, through a publishing house. The rise of eBooks and self-publishing changed the rules, but did that make me an author now? I mean, officially? Or could I only use the term author if the word self-published preceded it?

I probably avoided calling myself an author during those first weeks of having published Baby Grand, until readers started reaching out to me and calling ME an author: “Are you the author Baby Grand?” they’d ask (never knowing how much of a loaded question that was), both online and off-.

In the very beginning, I found myself qualifying my response: “Well, yes, I’m a self-published author.” To which, NEARLY EVERY TIME, the reader would scrunch his or her eyebrows and ask, “What do you mean?”

The first few times I launched into an explanation and watched their eyes glaze over. After that, when they asked, “Are you the author of Baby Grand?” My response became: “Yes. Yes, I am.”

I realized that readers don’t really care how your book came to be, or whether you write full-time or part-time, if you’ve written many books or only one. All they know is they read a book that you wrote and that they enjoyed.

So, frankly, I find this controversy kind of silly. In the end, it doesn’t matter if we in the publishing industry refer to self-published authors as an author.

What matters is that readers do.

Building Your Brand: Create a YouTube Trailer

On Monday night, in a lesson about marketing, I was discussing with my continuing ed. class at Hofstra the various social media networks out there and how to maximize them when promoting your brand and your work. When I clicked onto my YouTube page, it suddenly seemed so uninviting and, well, unhelpful when compared to my other social media pages. While I’m not a big fan of book trailers, specifically, I do believe videos — of author events, appearances, interviews — can help build a platform. YouTube is kind enough to give you space on your landing page to upload a channel trailer, and it’s a good idea for authors to take advantage of this facet of the page to give viewers a quick glimpse of who they are and what they do. Last night, when I should have been writing — or sleeping — I composed this one-minute video on Animoto that I think does the trick for my needs, at least for now:

Although anything goes with this kind of thing, my advice is to keep your trailer lively, keep it short, preferably under a minute, and keep it professional, showcasing high-quality photos, videos or commentary. You only have a few moments to capture a viewer’s attention, so put your best foot forward.

Do you have a YouTube trailer? If so, post it or the link in the comments. I’d love to see it!

Just. Do. It.

At the beginning of this month, I announced I would finish the first major edit of In the Red, my current work-in-progress, by April 1. And, lo and behold, I’m still on schedule. I’ve been editing 25 pages a week, so by tomorrow I’ll have edited 125 pages. Thrilled doesn’t even begin to cover how I feel. There have been so many stops and starts with this book that I had forgotten the secret to getting things done: Just sit your butt down and do it. Commit. Commit. Commit. Make writing/editing your book just as important as feeding your kids or working. That’s it. Just. Do. It. I knew this when I wrote Baby Grand. I’ve always known it, but somehow lost my way. Well, I’m back. And determined. I know the next 100 pages will be the toughest — the middle always is. That darn muddy middle. But my hope is that I’ll report at the end of February that I’ll be at 225 pages and ready to hit the homestretch.

In other news, my nonfiction book Daft Punk: A Trip Inside the Pyramid (St. Martin’s Press) was published on January 21. Daft Punk - Mech_croppedVery exciting! You know how people talk about the summer of 2013 being The Summer of Daft Punk? Well, it was doubly so for me, as I spent those three months, as “Get Lucky” raced up the charts and broke records, researching and writing this book. When Daft Punk won Album of the Year at the Grammys last Sunday (among other awards), I was smiling to myself as I recognized all their collaborators who were standing up at the podium with them: Paul Williams, Todd Edwards, Nile Rodgers and DJ Falcon, among others. I had learned so much about them that I felt as if I knew them. :)

What are you up to these days? Tell me what you’re working on. Together, we can get our WIPs done and toast our successes.