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.


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.)


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.

Meet Julia Munroe Martin

Today’s Debut Author Q&A features a very special writer to me and to this blog. Julia Munroe Martin has been a supporter of Baby Grand and Making ‘Baby Grand’ for as long as I can remember. It is a privilege and an honor to have her here today to talk about her debut novel, Desired to Death. Her answers to my questions made me think about my own fiction journey – our paths are very similar, our ideas for our novels formed many years ago. So without further ado, I bring you the world’s newest mystery writer.

043013_Head-WUName: Julia Munroe Martin (writing as J.M. Maison)
Name of book: Desired to Death (Book 1 of The Empty Nest Can Be Murder mystery series)
Book genre: Mystery
Date published: April 29, 2013 (ebook); paperback in about 3 weeks
Where can we find your book: Amazon
What is your day job? This is it! I am a journalist by education, worked as a technical writer for about 10 years, then as a freelance writer. Now I focus almost exclusively on fiction.
What is your book about? This book answers the question: What am I going to do with the rest of my life? After her daughter leaves for college, former-SAHM Maggie True is faced with an empty nest and doesn’t know what to do with herself. Never in her wildest dreams does small-town Maggie imagine the answer will come in the form of a middle-of-the-night call for help from an estranged friend who has just been arrested for murder. But it does, and as Maggie solves the mystery of who killed A.J. Traverso, a sexy kickboxing instructor, she also solves the mystery of what to do for the rest of her life.
Why did you want to write this book? This idea came to me after my son left for college, when I wondered what the future held. It was a very tough transition for me, especially when a few years later my daughter left for college. Going through that transition, from stay home mom AND writer to “just” work at home writer, wasn’t easy. I’ve always been the kind of person who observes and watches everything and, clearly, makes up stories about it all. And my loose ends led me to ask the question “What if?” or maybe even “If only.”

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10 Ways Authors Respond to Bad Reviews (Which One Are You?)

It’s bound to happen — the dreaded bad review. Authors get them all the time. Find your most beloved book on Amazon, and you’re bound to come across someone who has called it “a colossal waste of time.” Hey, it happens. When it happens to me, I try to adopt a “grin and bear it” attitude, although, truth be told, even after twenty years as a freelance writer, rejection — as much as my rational mind knows it’s a part of the business — still stings. Over the years, though, I’ve seen writers respond to bad reviews in all kinds of ways. Here are 10 of the most common:

  1. The Egotist: “Obviously, this person has no concept of good writing or storytelling. I can’t fathom why Amazon even would allow this uninformed and uneducated opinion to be shared.”
  2. The Conspiracy Theorist: “Obviously, this person has not read the book and is totally out to get me. I read The New York Times. I know what’s going on with all those bogus reviews. I have a good mind to flag this review and report this reader to the authorities.”
  3. The Wimp: “Oh my god, it’s true. I have no talent. What was I thinking? I should have never left plumbing school.”
  4. The Teacher: “It is impossible for me to take seriously a review that is so chock-full of grammatical errors and/or illogical conclusions.”
  5. The Overreactor: “I should have had more women under thirty represented in my book? Well, I’ll show you! My next book will feature fifteen women who are under thirty, all with variations of the same name!”
  6. The Overthinker: “What exactly does it mean that my book ‘stretches credibility’? Does it mean that my plot isn’t believable, or that my characters are not? Or is it referring to both? Or does it mean that my plot and characters are totally fine, but the problem is in my interpretation? Or maybe…”
  7. The Explainer: “This reader just did not understand what I was going for, so I am going to plead my case to this reader in a comment under her review, and I will continue to plead, explain and cajole, in as many back-and-forth comments as it takes, until I have gotten her to change her mind!”
  8. The Wise-Ass: “Hmmm… so my characters seem inauthentic? And, like, I’m sure you’re qualified to make that judgment based on what? Your many years of creative writing teaching? As if.”
  9. The Martyr: “I spend YEARS and YEARS of my life trying to capture the human condition, and this is what I get?”
  10. The Ignorer: “Oh, sorry, I never read my reviews.” (Bullshit.)

How do YOU handle a bad review?