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
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?
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?