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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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.

 

Book Trailer #2

When I woke up this morning, a second book trailer was the furthest thing from my mind, but I had some free time and — like the first book trailer — was able to put this together really quickly, in less than a half hour (with a little help from my tech guru, my oldest son). As I often discuss in this blog and in my classes, indie authors need to take advantage of whatever tools they have at their disposal to market their books. A little creativity goes a long way in social media circles. So put on your thinking caps! This video was put together using Microsoft PowerPoint and YouTube and cost me nothing but a few minutes of time. Would love to hear your thoughts!

Book Marketing Boot Camp: Press Releases

We talk a lot about marketing in my Continuing Ed. self-publishing class at Hofstra Unviersity, and one of the best ways to get the word out about your book is to write a press release.

What is a press release?

A press release is a “news story” that you write about yourself in third person. Its goal, first and foremost, is to gain editors’ or reporters’ attention, so that your news item will be placed in their publication or on their website. Nowadays, most press releases are sent by email, but you can also use snail mail or fax. As an editor, I get hundreds of press release emails a day, and in order to catch my eye, an email subject line has to:

  • Be unique or clever
  • Convey newsworthiness
  • Convey relevance

Once an editor decides to click on your press release and read it, your release should cover some journalism basics:

  • Who is this news release about?
  • What has happened that is newsworthy?
  • Where did the newsworthy event take place?
  • When did this happen?
  • How is this newsworthy?
  • Why should I (or my readers) care?

That last one is an important one. Make sure the publication or editor to whom you are emailing is the right person or outlet for your news. Do your research beforehand. Think of all the news outlets that would be interested in your news: Local newspaper? Trade journal? Website? Alumni magazine?

In the cover letter to your press release (or in the body of your email), you can detail why this news is of relevance to its intended recipient.There are various acceptable formats for a press release, but all of them include a headline, dateline, paragraph (or more), and contact information.

Once your release is emailed, it’s always a good idea to follow up on a press release in case the editor has missed it or accidentally deleted it (it happens). Give the editor about two weeks before following up (try not to hound her after a day or two), or check the organization’s website for the preferred follow-up etiquette.

#PitMad

Hey, authors, it’s that time again!

Twitter is having another pitch party! If you’ve got a completed manuscript you would like to pitch to agents and publishers, head on over to Twitter TODAY between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. EST. You’ve got a mere 140 characters to get them interested in your stuff. You are only allowed to pitch the same manuscript two times per hour, and be sure to vary your pitches, because Twitter might not let you tweet the same tweets again and again. Also, be sure to include the #PitMad hashtag as well as the category of your manuscript (Young Adult, Adult, New Adult, Nonfiction, etc.) Good luck, and may the words be with you!

Marketing Tip #7: Make It as Easy as Possible for People to Join Your Email List

text2join_signNowadays, we’re all so crazy busy that if something can’t be done simply and lickety-split (make a recipe, record on our DVR) we won’t do it. This makes assembling an email list an arduous task — not only do you have to entice folks to want to join your list, but you have to make it easy peasy or risk losing them. Therefore, with whatever email marketing company you use (I use Constant Contact), make sure you take full advantage of all the services offered, particularly social media integration since Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, et al, is where many of us spend so much of our time these days. Yesterday, I (finally!) implemented the texting option for my email list so that readers are able to send a text message — my name — to 22828, input their email address when prompted, and, voila, join my list. I don’t know what took me so long to do this, but I’m glad I finally did.

Do you have a text option for people to join your list? You should.

 

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!