Friday, January 18, 2019

Kindle Unlimited and Reviews

I don't know about the rest of you, but I never seem to see reviews from Kindle Unlimited readers.  I can see them reading my books, sometimes one after another, but there never seem to be any reviews left afterwards.

Maybe it's just me.  :shrug:

Still, one would think that KU subscribers are hard-core readers.  I mean, I'm an avid reader, but I can't spare the scratch to subscribe, so them that do must be really into reading to spare $20 a month.  And one would think that being hard-core readers, they would want to see the books they read succeed.  And in order to succeed, books need reviews.

Again, maybe it's just me.  I review pretty much everything I read - especially when the book I finished needs reviews.  (Not so much on books that don't need reviews - big name authors, famous books, etc.)  Might not always be an Amazon review (I'm working on that) but almost always a Goodreads review.

Now, my reviews probably aren't the best.  I usually just write a review with my reaction to the book.  I don't summarize the stories.  But you don't need to write lengthy reviews.  It's not the size of the reviews, it's the quantity of them that propel book sales. "Loved this."  "Cute and fun."  "Super thrilling."  Takes like a minute and you make the writer so happy.

I'm typically loathe to ask for reviews.  One time I did that on Twitter and the next day I got my wish - a low-star review left by someone who obviously hadn't read the book.  So nice of them to stop by.  Sort of a 'that'll teach her to ask for reviews' thing.  Well, it sure did teach me.  Bleh.

So, I'm not asking for reviews here*.  I'm just pondering why KU subscribers seem to be the last ones to leave them.  (Present company excepted, of course.)

Any thoughts?  Is it just me or do you see reviews after you see a bunch of page reads?  If you subscribe, do you leave reviews?

Just trying to figure things out here.

*Although I certainly wouldn't be adverse to getting reviews if you happened to read and enjoy my books.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

The Nitty-Gritty of Using Ads

Okay, I said something about posting about the nitty-gritty of using these ads I've been using.  I know it can be scary.  Especially if you've faced the whole bid-ad thing (which frankly, gives me the willies).

What I'm talking about is a straight forward ad.  You pay them a set price, give them all the particulars of your book, pick a day, put your book on sale for that day and the surrounding days, and they put the ad in their newsletter (and sometimes in social media, too).

What you need?  All the particulars about your book - URL or ASIN or ISBN, title, author name, etc.  Usually a cover that's been sized to meet their requirements (say something like 1000 pixels by 1500 pixels).  And a shortened book description or blurb.

The first part is easy.  You should already have all that stuff available to you.  If not, it's on your Amazon product detail page.

Next, the cover.  You could pay your cover artist to give you an image that meets the requirements of each venue.  Or you could do what I do and use the Picture Manager program that came with my MS Office.  (Or something comparable.)  With Picture Manager, there's a Resize function that allows you to type in the size you want.  Voila! 

The hardest part is shortening your blurb to the length they want.  The smallest I've seen is 300 characters with spaces.  What I do is cobble the blurb I already have down until it meets the requirement and then I save it as FILENAME-300words, so I don't have to try cobbling it down again.  Make sure after you cobble that it's still error-free and makes sense.  Make it zippy.  Yeah, easier said than done, but it's gotta be done if you want to advertise with those venues.

Fill in all the boxes on their submission page and wait to see if your ad gets accepted.  And the best thing is that most of the time THEY make the ad using the info you provided.  (I advertised once with someone who would make me an ad if I paid extra.  I declined and made my own.  Never again.)

Sometimes they'll bill you once you're accepted.  Which is certainly preferable.  But sometimes you have to pay upfront.  The pre-pay ones I've worked with have always returned my money in a timely fashion if they decline my ads.  But yeah, you have to be watchful there.  Only use venues you've heard of - ones you probably already subscribe to.

Speaking of which, always subscribe to the venues you are thinking of putting ads in.  It'll tell you want kinds of books they go for, if they're putting out a quality newsletter on a regular schedule, and whether they're professional.  And once you are accepted for an ad, you'll get to see the ad when it goes live.  Always a plus.  Additionally, you might find some good books to read.  ;o)

Oh, and for pity's sake, make sure your book is on sale by midnight the night before your ad goes live.  They really hate it when you screw that up.  Been there done that.  Newbie mistake that cost me advertising with a particular venue for over a year. I usually start my countdown deal at midnight a couple days before the ad goes live to avoid any mishaps.

Additionally, lowering your book's price a day or two before the ad might get you some sales ahead of the paid advertisement, which will make your rankings look better when the ad goes live.  Better rankings help sell books.

One more thing.  The ads I usually pay for require your book to be set at 99c or Free.  (Sometimes as high as like $2.99, but you'll see more sales if you do a Kindle Countdown Deal for 99c.)

And finally, if you really want your sale to succeed, you have to help the ad out.  Talk about the sale in whatever social media things you use - including forums, blogs, etc.  Splash it everywhere you can splash it.  I mean, don't be annoying about it, but definitely chat it up when and where you can.

Good luck!

If you have any questions, let me know.

Oh, I almost forgot.  Sleeping Ugly is on sale, starting today.  If you haven't already snagged a copy, it's only 99c now thru Tuesday night.  (99c in the US and 99p in the UK.  Sorry if you're in a different country.  Amazon won't let me do Kindle Countdown Deals elsewhere.)

Monday, January 14, 2019

More Marketing Data

Last year, I did something a little different.  I kept track of everything related to marketing.  Duh, I know, but it wasn't something I'd thought about previously.  In the interest of looking at this more as a business, I charted the data to see where I was spending my marketing dollars, how effective each campaign was, and other junk.

Here's what I learned:

I spent $329 on ads last year.  From those ads, I made (to date because that last ad is still bringing in revenue) $491.  That's like a 33% return on investment.  From what I've read, you should be happy with about a 20% ROI on book ads, so I'm pretty pleased with that number.

The best return I saw percentage-wise was from a set of ads I did for the SCIU books with Authors' Billboard.  Three ads for $6 each netted me a 79% ROI. 

Other notable returns were through Bargain Booksy (about 25% ROI), Ereader News Today (about 50% ROI), and Paranormal and Urban Fantasy Bargains (run in conjunction with an ENT ad, so not sure about ROI).

The worst return was any time I tried to pay for ads for Project Hermes.  One of those was also with AB, the other was with Bargain Booksy.  Since I've seen awesome returns of 20% or more from ads with both of those venues for other books, I blame the book and not the venue.  It's probably the blurb.  Might be the cover.  I'll have to do some more research.

Another thing for me to consider is that I was very proactive on Facebook groups for some of my marketing campaigns, but not for others - and the PH sales were part of the 'others' group.  Also, PH is a standalone. 

One of the tanking ad campaigns was for my Dennis Haggarty books, but I did another campaign for those books later in the year that did well.  That might be timing.  I guess.  Maybe.  And, again, I might not have pushed the FB groups much during the first campaign.  Also, one of the venues I chose to advertise with was an unknown and, upon further investigation, they were mostly retired in place at the time of my ad.  (Research, people.  I didn't do mine, so I paid the price.)

The December sale for the SCIU books - which is still earning me some money - was with Bargain Booksy and a new-to-me venue called Book Adrenaline.  Right now, it's running a 25% ROI.

I have a sale set up for Sleeping Ugly this coming week - the 16th thru the 22nd.  An ad should go out in the newsletter for Authors' Billboard on the 18th.  We'll see how that goes.  I haven't advertised SU yet, so it's kind of an unknown.

I'm also going to be setting up a sale and advertising for the Once Upon a Djinn books for next month.  If I can get off my leaden butt.  Those usually do well.  I'm going to try a new-to-me venue again - Book Barbarian (if I can get a slot - they go fast).  That along with maybe something through Author Billboard and PUFB should see some nice returns.  :fingers crossed:

As with everything, your mileage may vary.  These are my experiences alone.  Market at your own risk.  And all that disclaimer, 'don't sue me if you don't get the same results' kind of verbiage.  Hell, your books could do better than mine, for all I know. 

Any questions?  Wednesday I might go over the nitty-gritty of creating advertising for these venues.  It's really not that hard, but worth talking about.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Not Here Today

I know Fridays are usually Outside the Box days, but this is kind of a unique Friday.  It's not book related, so I posted over at The Writing Spectacle today instead.

I'll be back here Monday.  See ya then!

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

This is a Business

This is a business.

Sometimes I need a gentle reminder.  Sometimes I need a smack upside the head.  So let me say it again...

This is a business.

I tend to forget, in the course of letting my creative side run amok, that this is not about skipping rocks across the publication pond to see how many times they bounce on the surface before they sink.

Or maybe it is.

If you're into rock skipping, you know you have to pick just the right rock or it'll hit the surface with a big kerplop and disappear beneath the glassy water.  It has to be flat.  It has to be smooth.  It needs rounded surfaces to skim across the water.  Otherwise, it's a fail before you even let it go.

You also have to pick just the right day to skip rocks, when the water is kind of glassy.  Can't skip rocks across waves, doncha know.  I tend to suck at this part.  Not for actually skipping rocks, but for this analogy.  I'm really not good at knowing when the best time is to launch my rocks across the publication pond.

I kind of even suck at picking the right rocks sometimes.  DE has been a great rock.  It's still skipping right along there.  (As long as I continue to nudge it.  Helps that it has the most reviews.)  Others?  Kerplop.

Okay, I've beaten that analogy to death.  The point is this is a business.  I've talked about ROI (return on investment) from a marketing standpoint, but never from a publishing standpoint.  If a book will cost x-dollars to publish, will it conceivably make that money back?

To date, not a single one of my books has recouped the initial investment.  Accidental Death has come closest.  I'm within $100 of making a profit on that one.  But paying for marketing makes that kind of a 'one step back, two steps forward' thing.  The worst at recouping so far has been Wish in One Hand - because reasons*.  I'm still in the hole big time on that one.

So, when considering where to go with my writing and my publication schedule, I really should be thinking about how to get out of the hole (or, rather, how to not make the hole even deeper) instead of how to get all the books of my heart published.

Not sure how that will go.  Right now I suspect this writing dry spell is directly related to thinking about the business side of things.  The tiny CFO in my head is at war with the Director of Creative Development.  One wants to audit, the other wants to dance.  And the CEO is beginning to see that the DCD has had far too much leeway for far too long.

DCD:  "Don't make me look at the spreadsheet again.  Please.  It's all too depressing."
CFO:  "Look at it.  Look. At. It."
DCD:  :whimper:

Anyway, it's the start of the year.  Good a time as any to think about things, look at things, and get my mind right.

*Mainly, I paid too much for a shitty cover from a 'real artist' who was supposed to give me something beautiful and gave me, instead, something that looked like it was hacked together from bad video game screen captures.  But I launched with it anyways.  Which sucked.  Then I had to pay for a better cover so my subsequent djinn books' sales wouldn't suck.  Live and learn.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Another Sales and Marketing Post

Time to do another post where I talk about my last marketing thing and how the sales shook out from it.

I did Kindle Countdown Deals for my SCIU books from December 24th through December 30th.  Dying Embers was 99c.  Fertile Ground and Early Grave were $1.99 ea.

For this, I paid for two ads.  One with Bargain Booksy for $55 and another with Book Adrenaline for $15.  Both ads went live on December 26th.  In addition to these ads, I posted liberally (but only once per day for each) on the FB groups I belong to that are relevant to these books.  The ads were for DE only, but I posted for the whole series on FB.

By the end of the KCDs, the books had paid for the advertising.  As of today, I'm still seeing residual sales and pages reads putting money in my pocket over and above the cost of advertising.  Not a huge amount, but every penny helps.

Part of the residual sales are people who, having finished DE, came back to buy FG and EG at full price ($3.99).  That's the importance of putting links to sequels immediately after THE END, I think.  Right there, before Amazon shunts the reader off to another page where they can review. I do mine like this:

Now, here's a caveat to the whole advertising/sales thing.  I'm not exactly sure which marketing thing brought in which sales.  All of them could've been from Bargain Booksy (which would be good for that venue) or from Book Adenaline (which would be woohoo).  More likely the sales were split between the two, but how they were split is beyond me.  I can point to certain FB posts as garnering a few sales - because when the sales started to die down from the advertising, I would post to a few groups and see an uptick shortly afterwards.

Also, I seemed to see more upticks when I posted to certain groups in the morning.  I'd post to the same groups the next night (keeping track of it so I never posted to the same group twice in 24 hrs) and get crickets.

I did not make a spreadsheet this time, but I have it all written out so I can refer to it later.

Yes, this is all intensive and tiring.  Making posts, tracking sales, hovering over the computer day in and day out for a week.  But it works, so I'll keep doing it.

As for the timeframe thing, I would definitely recommend doing your Kindle Countdown Deals for the full week from midnight on the first day to midnight on the last day.  With paid advertising launching about a couple days in.

Why a couple days?  Well, for one thing, you can make certain your books are actually discounted before the ad goes live.  Venues hate it when you say your book will be 99c, but it isn't when the ad goes live.  Hate it as in they'll ban you from advertising with them again.  (Been there, done that.  Took two years to get back in their good graces.)  If your book isn't discounted when you think it should be, it'll give you time to harangue Amazon to get it to the right price.

Second, ideally you'll get at least a couple sales ahead of the advertising that will help boost your book's ranking on Amazon.  Trust me, people are more likely to pick up your book from the ad if its ranking is in the 6 digit range instead of the 7 digit.  One or two sales should get you out of the millions rankings to the 200-300K rankings.

As always, I hope this post helps.  And your mileage may vary.  There are a lot of factors involved with book sales and this is a huge learning curve.  May you learn something from my journey.

Any questions?

Friday, January 4, 2019

Getting Back Into the Swing of Writing

Obviously, the best way to get back into the swing of writing is to never get out of it in the first place.  But if you're like me, life intervenes, editing must be done, things are getting published, marketing beckons... and the writing of new words get shunted off to the side. 

I haven't written new words for any length of time in months.  Last year, I kept saying I would write and then didn't.  I couldn't get the gumption up.  And the longer I went without writing, the harder it got.  I went from being able to sit down and bang out a couple thousand words to being lucky if I could put together a freakin' paragraph. 

So, how does one get back into the swing of things when the swing has stopped and you've lost your inertia?

Got me by the ass.

I think maybe I'm going to try baby pushes.  Push a little, back and forth back and forth, until the inertia builds again and I can really get swinging. 

I'm also going to try and spent more time thinking about writing.  When everything's quiet and my brain is left to it's own devices, I'm going to try and shift my thinking to writing.  What happens next in the story?  What about the idea for X?  How do you see that progressing?  What new and interesting things can you throw at your MC?  And I'll be writing these thoughts down whenever possible.  Get the juices flowing, even if they aren't flowing in the direction I thought I wanted them to go.  :shrug:

I've gotta do something.  I can't just sit here letting dust gather on my writing career.