My Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) Analysis

How does a writer find people who want to buy their books?

It’s the question keeping many writers up at night, myself included. I had dreams of being the next big author when I published my first novel (The Great Scottish Land Grab) which slowly, but surely faded as I realised the enormity of the task before me. Publishing Fallen Warriors this year, I’ve set out to learn from my mistakes and experiment more.

One potentially useful tool to help writers sell books is Amazon Marketing Services (AMS). In America they are currently offering $100 free advertising to new sign ups until 30th September. There are terms and conditions which aren’t 100% clear whether the offer is open to Kindle authors (On the front page of their website it states “Amazon Marketing Services is currently available to Amazon vendors and KDP authors” but the terms and conditions at the bottom of the page only refer to vendors.) If you sell ebooks through KDP in America then I recommend signing up and asking if the offer applies to you – what could you lose?

So far I’ve only tried using AMS in America. It may be possible to use in the UK, but that’s another blog post…

I have a tiny marketing budget, but have been experimenting over the last few months to see whether I can use AMS to get the word out about my novels.

I believe Fallen Warriors has a better chance in America than Land Grab. There are more Christians in America than Scots so I’ve primarily focused on Fallen Warriors as I’m marketing it as a Christian thriller.

Here’s the high level view of what I’ve done, all nicely laid out on AMS’s dashboard:

If you’ve never heard of AMS, basically it allows advertisers to advertise their product (an ebook in my case.) I can select keywords that I think people will use to search for books (author names, book titles, themes etc) and I set a bid price I am willing to pay up to to get my ad shown when someone uses those keywords. I only pay that bid price if someone clicks on my ad. All advertisers are competing to see if they pay enough to display an ad, but Amazon only charge 2 cents above the next lowest bid so in theory you shouldn’t pay more than you need to.

I started in May with a toe in the water $5 a day campaign. It ran for five days, appears to have been shown 66,862 times, clicked on 43 times with an average cost per click of $0.13. It cost a total of $5.55, but appears to have resulted in $9.98 in sales.

Amazon actually take 30% margin as their profit from my sales so I netted $6.98 giving a profit of… $1.43.

Well, that is $1.43 I probably would not have made if I hadn’t experimented.

Excited by the possibility I could maybe make some more sales and find more readers I tried again.

I wondered if my timing was wrong and so this time ran the ad over two weekends thinking maybe people are more likely to buy then.

Eleven days later I only had the ad shown 46,087 times. Quite a drop. I only had 20 clicks at an average cost of $0.17 costing a total of $3.34. I had no sales…

That was discouraging, but only a little. I’ve been following the SPF Podcast and that has been useful for understanding the fluctuations that can occur.

I then wondered if it made more sense to send people to my free ebook: Fallen Warriors Episode One. If I could get them to download that and hopefully read it, would it result in more sales? Here’s what happened:

I had been averaging around 6 downloads of the free episode a week. After that short campaign I saw an extra 30 downloads. That was interesting.

The AMS stats are also useful:
Impressions (when the ad is shown): 120,406
Clicks: 88
Average cost per click: $0.12
Total cost: $10.60

I can’t tell if I had any follow on sales of the later episodes or the full novel, but the hope is that once people start reading, they’ll get hooked and I’ll see sales over time.

I then decided to try a more radical experiment. I signed up for a $20 a day maximum spend, campaigning with the free first episode again. I upped the bid price on many keywords and let the campaign run for a full two weeks. The results?

Impressions: 303,834
Clicks: 295
Average cost per click: $0.29
Total cost: $84.38

Over those two weeks I had an extra 118 downloads.

I would need to see 72% of those downloads convert into purchases before an ad campaign like that was worth trying again. (Though I confess it didn’t cost me anything…)

My total American sales over this period looks like this:

The spikes are less grand than they appear, those are mostly for individual episodes which earn me a much smaller royalty at 30%.

However, it suggests that people are slowly going on to read the free episode and buying either the full novel or the individual episodes.

I’m planning to start a new campaign soon and will be experimenting more. I need to be careful that I take into account what I’m actually selling and whether the advertising I’m doing is providing a return.

What are your thoughts and experiences with getting the word out to readers?

Analysis of Sales of The Great Scottish Land Grab Part Two

Yesterday I started an analyis of what worked and what failed as I attempted to market my first fiction ebook: The Great Scottish Land Grab.

Today I want to look in more detail at what I was doing to market the book and what results it had.

The chart below shows the lifetime sales of Land Grab book one since June 2014:

First thing to point out is that Orange/yellow shows sales where I got paid, blue is sales of the book after I set the price to free.

One of my biggest mistakes was not making book one free right away. Instead I priced it at 99p.

I was marketing Land Grab every single day during the summer of 2014. I printed up business cards, approached random strangers at village fairs and at train stations. I posted on Facebook and Twitter and while I sold over a hundred copies, look at the difference in numbers from October 2016… I did almost no marketing at all for the three months from October 2016 and people still found and downloaded the book!

I wonder how many more downloads I might have had in 2014 if I had enticed people in with a free offer.

The next two charts show life-time sales for books two and three respectively:

The numbers are not huge so I can’t make any hard and fast statements about what worked and what didn’t work, but it does seem to me that releasing Land Grab as a series did allow people to try at a low price and then free, and then go on to buy the other books in the series.

Both in 2014 and since October 2016, I’ve seen people go on to buy book two and three after downloading book one.

The chart for the full trilogy looks very different:

The fact is that I still carry business cards with me and still give them out or leave them in cafe’s and other venues for people to find. The business cards only advertise the full novel and I think that people who are intrigued by the cover image on the cards or maybe by something I’ve said will go on to buy the full novel.

Contrast the final chart with the first three and you see that huge dead area from November 2015 till August 2016. Without advertising I don’t see sales.

That’s a really important statement. Early this year I had an offer from Facebook. A £30 credit towards Facebook advertising. I used £12 of that voucher to advertise The Great Scottish Land Grab and later worked out that I made a slight profit off the back of it. (In reality a full profit as Facebook gave me a free voucher, but looking to see whether I would make a profit in future, it was small, but there.)

Tomorrow I’m going to try and round all this up into some sage advice to anyone thinking about how they can sell their book.

Amazon Academy The Detail

Following up to my earlier post on attending Amazon Academy here is the detail…

Alliance of Independent Authors

Membership of Alli includes legal support (Legal support is an area where I suspect many indie authors could benefit from)

Alli are apparently hosting an author fringe event in Edinburgh on June 3rd, 2017. Contact them for details.

Kindle Owners Lenders Library (KOL)

I’d not heard of KOL. Sounds similar to Kindle Unlimited (KU) where the author gets paid based on page reads. Haven’t researched yet.

I asked Darren Hardy, the head of KDP in the UK, what happens to the reader when an author withdraws from KU, but they haven’t finished reading the book. He answered that the reader is allowed to keep reading and the author still gets paid for page reads.

Recommended Sites

The panels recommended several sites that may be of use to indie authors.

Ultra cheap book covers (circa $1) at
https://www.canva.com/create/book-covers/

Extremely cheap book covers at
https://www.fiverr.com/categories/graphics-design/ebook-covers?source=category_tree

Paul’s Blog with useful posts for indie authors at
https://paulteague.com/
(Look for posts on Story Beats and The Novel Factory)

A home for your books at
https://www.librarything.com/

A site for authors to introduce and promote their books at
http://www.abouttheauthor.co.uk/

Sites for managing mailing lists at
http://Mailchimp.com
http://Mailerlite.com

Poor mans version of Bookbub for US audience at
https://www.freebooksy.com/

UK version of Bookbub for £20 at
http://bookhippo.uk/

Automate your social media at
https://buffer.com/
http://www.tweetjukebox.com/

Licence free music for your book trailers at
https://www.premiumbeat.com

Movie clips for book trailers at
https://www.fotolia.com/Info/Videos#

If you love your books, let them go at
http://www.bookcrossing.com/

Recommended Reading

Save The Cat – apparently written by a minor Holywood writer and invaluable for insights to how stories are put together.

You can also search for Save The Cat Beat Sheet which seems to alude to: THE BLAKE SNYDER BEAT SHEET described here:
https://timstout.wordpress.com/story-structure/blake-snyders-beat-sheet/

Hang in there!

Murray McDonald shared that he was on Amazon for 18 months selling one or two copies a day until things took off.

General advice

For some people Facebook advertising works. For others, Amazon Ads.

‘Non-fiction is easier to sell because it is based on key words’ Paul Teague

Go into Google Keyword Planning Tool – to find out what people are ACTUALLY searching for – when deciding on keywords

Goodreads giveaways – be wary of the high cost of international postage!

On Twitter use the hashtags:
#selfpub
#indieauthors
To find other authors, get conversations going and pinch other authors best marketing ideas! 🙂

Use instafreebie.com. Organise instafreebie giveaways in your genre and build genre specific audiences.

Google “best marketing sites for authors”

Put your advertising budget against one day rather than over a month to drive yourself up the charts!

Bookbub is just the Holy Grail to become number one in your genre

Approach hotels and tourist attractions at sites that feature in your novel and ask if they would be interested in stocking your books.

Editors

The panellists had the following to say about editors.

‘I’ve not yet hired an external editor’

‘An editor should give you a demo edit, a sample edit for free. If you feel they are looking down their nose on you… you shouldn’t feel torn down by your editor.’

‘Concentrate on the relationship with your editor – is this someone you want to work with?’

‘I paid £500 for a full edit.’

The best quotes from the day
(Some of these may be paraphrased, I don’t know shorthand!)

‘Decide what it is you want from your writing career.’ Darren Hardy

‘Build in a detour when planning your novel!’ Harriet Smart (Allow room for the characters to go off on their own journey when that feels right)

‘Sometimes I’ll plan to kill a character in a scene and then someone else gets it!’ Steven McKay

‘You could kill someone on this ferry…’ Paul Teague

‘The trick is to build up relationships on Facebook.’ Steven McKay

‘Non fiction is about pain and pleasure. People buy a book on how to use Twitter because they’ve got some pain. Write your sales copy with that in mind.’ Paul Teague

‘Have to use some paid advertising to tell people about the countdown deal you’ve got or no one will know about it!’ Steven McKay

‘If people enjoy your books, they will enjoy interacting with you but they really want to read your next book.’ Murray McDonald

‘I built up my following reader by reader.’ Linda Gillard

‘I promote myself as a brand because I can’t market as a genre.’ Linda Gillard

‘The best use of my time, the most lucrative use, is writing.’ Linda Gillard

‘What they are investing in is time. Used to be, people read a book because they paid £7.99. Now you have to hook them, have cliff hangers at the end of every chapter, every page.’ Linda Gillard

kindle Instant Book Previewer

You know how you can preview a book on Amazon’s site? Amazon provide an embed option to allow you to embed their previewer on your own site! Check out this preview out for my latest novel Fallen Warriors:

You can find out all you need to know here https://www.amazon.com/Kindle-Instant-Preview/b?ie=UTF8&node=13489836011

It’s worth noting that if you are an Amazon Associate, you can link the embedded code to your account (They just do it as default) and you get commission on sales.