Last week I spoke about how Amazon informed me that they were stopping my marketing campaign because of my cover.
I updated the cover for the ebook. But something pretty interesting is happening. Before this issue, I would spend $1 a day on Hazel. She made some money, but not a ton. However, over this past week, I’ve spent $4.72, which is less than it was, and I’ve made $11.66 in royalties. I’m not sure how much more that is, or even if it is more, but it feels like things are actually moving in a better direction.
I’ll keep tracking, but this is a surprisingly pleasant situation. My ACOS is up. My cost per day is down, and I think my sales picked up after that first (albeit horrifying) fall.
So it’s currently good news. I though I’d update you on things since I announced what was going on last week.
I got a pretty good gut punch this week. Hazel has been so wonderful since she came out. I don’t know that she ever fell below 300 in her category, and she was usually in the top 100. The marketing was going well. I’d spend about $1 a day and earn just a few buck a month, but she was profiting even if only a little.
Then I got an email.
Apparently, Hazel’s cover is “overly sexualized.” I have to be honest. Given that I removed my name from the original release because of actual sexualized content, this comes as a mind-boggling development, and Hazel has fallen like a rock because of it. It’s still very early in the process. By the time you read this, I will have spoken with Collin about it. We have a backup cover because something similar happened when we were releasing her.
So I’ll probably switch out the cover (depending on what Collin says) and hope that the campaign that was bringing Hazel so much attention gets going again. I activated a few more that are at least garnering attention, but it’s too soon to tell if they’ll be able to make up the gap, and it’s probably only a matter of time before Amazon steps in with those campaigns.
This was a real blow. Caught was my number one selling book before Amazon stepped in, and I wasn’t profiting on anything. Since she came out, I could say, “At least Hazel is profiting.” I took it as progress in the right direction, and now that momentum come to a screeching halt.
I probably took a good day to sit there and mope about it. There really is nothing for it but to try and change the cover and hope it works and then hope things go back to normal.
I’m making slow going on The 1,200. The revisions are necessary and good, but they are time consuming. I will get started on the Alpha Draft of Discovered when I finish this current (First) draft of 1,200. It’s just a labor of love.
In many cases one just has to keep rolling with the punches and move forward, and that’s something I understand, but there are good days and there are days like this. I spoke with some students, who have to interview instructors at certain points in the course I teach, about this today (as I’m typing this). Writing has to be enough.
I’ll never stop writing and publishing. Those are things I love to do. There may come a day when marketing and social media (the efforts to sell the books I write and publish)are things I just don’t have the endurance to continue, but I’m not there yet. I’ll update you on how things progress.
I appreciate those of you who read my blog and send me occasional emails. Those little things mean so much to me, and they help me recover from weeks like this.
It’s not that I haven’t been marketing. But sometimes you have to let the stew heat for a little while before you take a taste.
I suppose that’s an awful metaphor. I’ve been monitoring things since Amazon changed it’s policies. My sales (except for that beautiful Hazel) are down. The good news is my cost of marketing is down, but (understandably) so are my sales because my books aren’t getting the visibility they used to.
The knee jerk reaction would be to bump up my bids, but that would be a terrible idea. The simple, boring solution I intend to activate is just keep trusting the system that has seen improvement.
I don’t anticipate doing any work on Caught’s marketing. The content probably won’t allow it. So I’ll keep building on the others, and see if there is progress. I’ve also learned to track individual books. Caught used to be my best seller, and the policy change definitely impacted that. So I have to work more on each book and see if there’s improvement on each book.
So that’s the plan going forward. I won’t start on this until after the May 15, but starting then, I’ll look at the data and work on some more key words. I have at least three months of new data to look at, so that’s at least somewhere to start.
As always, I’ll keep you updated on how things are going.
In January, I sold three copies of Caught, which was my best-selling book prior to this update.
That total fell to one in February, and I haven’t sold any so far in March.
This means my quota is definitely down.
I still can’t feel too angry about it in a way. First, this isn’t my main job, so it’s not like my family is losing food. Yes, I want to on day let this be my main job, but that may or may not ever happen. It doesn’t keep me from writing and publishing.
This just means I have to increase my efforts in other platforms as well as work on other books. Frankly, it’s been a down time. I’ve only sold six non-Hazel titles in the same 90-day period (including Caught). Without that title to rely on, I have to reassess and move forward.
This is honestly the only real option a guy like me has (I’m certainly not going to quit). If someone has other options, I’d be happy to see them in the comments below.
When I brought down my bids for other titles, I expected a decrease. Losing Caught’s marketing is absolutely a setback, but if I can get my other titles to perform, I could regain that lost ground relatively quickly. I’ll probably do another set of campaigns next month, and that’s all I can really do.
Hazel is still plodding along. She’s easily my number one seller. She’s not making enough for me or Collin to retire on, but she’s earning her keep.
This also doesn’t necessarily mean I’m losing more money. Sure, I’m not selling as many books (and I want to fix that), but I’m not paying as much for all those clicks. Remember, the original goal was to improve my ACOS.
I’m not spending nearly as much on campaigns per month, so when I start analyzing things, I might actually be losing less money. I’ll know more about that when I look at that next month.
This business (at least for me) is a little like running an ultra marathon on a roller-coaster track. You just sort of keep running. I’m making a lot of progress on Discovered, and I’m hopeful to get that out to beta readers sooner rather than later. I have a few more chapters to tweak, and I have to write three or four new chapters just to fill in some gaps. Once that’s done, I’ll be looking for Alpha Readers, and I’ll have my very first completed box set (as soon as I figure out how to make one).
So it’s fun to share the highs, but for this to be useful, it needs to share the mistakes as well as the progress. I’m not helping others if I’m hiding mistakes that you could avoid if I were willing to share them. I hope it helps.
Welcome to year five of my eight-year commitment to go all in on becoming a successful author businessman. This is my fourth annual State of the Weech, where I talk about how the previous year went and talk about my plans for 2022.
The most important thing I did during 2021 was improve my marketing. I’ll talk about Hazel more in a moment, but without Hazel, I went from being pleasantly surprised I sold a book to regularly selling nine books a month. I’m convinced that this path is a good one. No, it’s not a fast track, but most good things aren’t “overnight” things. Steady effort in a solid direction usually yields good results, and I’m happy with what one year or so of effort has brought.
I released Betrayed. It didn’t have the response I was hoping for, but without being able to go to conventions, it’s hard to get word out. What I know is that anyone who’s said anything about it loved it, which is encouraging.
Then there’s Hazel. Now that was a success! Currently, Hazel sells about 38 copies a month. I expect that to calm a little. I tend to sell a lot of a book early, and then things die down. However, I’d be happy if Hazel continued to move at this pace. I know Collin and I appreciate every single one of you who’ve tried it.
I managed to finish the discovery draft of Discovered, the final book in the Oneiros Log, and I did a read-through of 1,200 in preparation for a draft I’ll do once I get Discovered to Alpha Readers.
So those are things I have done, but now I need to repeat something I mentioned recently.
I’m still writing as much as I can, but without conventions to bolster sales, money for editors and art is a serious concern. This means I’m going to make whatever progress I can, but I don’t have any real certainty on when things will come out because that just depends on how much I can save, how much I spend in marketing, and how many sales I get. So where the past years I had some pretty solid ideas on when I’d get products out to you, I don’t have that same ability this year.
But I am still working, so allow me to tell you about those projects.
Hopefully in 2023 (but don’t quote me on it): Discovered, the final book in the Oneiros Log. The discovery draft was OK, but it needs some work. I hope to finish the next draft in the next 100 days, which is when hopeful Alpha Readers can count on reading the early version. I do hope to get it out in 2023, but that depends on the things I mentioned above, as do the other projects.
The 1,200: I talked about this recently. I’m actually pretty proud of where that is now, but it does need some work. So each time I get a draft of Discovered done, this is the project I’ll skip to until Discovered is out. This will be the next release you can expect from me baring how long it takes to save up and what smaller projects I might get done.
Visits From A Man Named Nobody: This is my weekly Christian Science Fiction series. It’s larger than I thought (at least this draft). It’s growing in the writing, and I’m discovery writing it, which means it’ll have plenty of kinks to work out. I don’t honestly know when I’ll finish it, but once a draft is done, it’ll take its place in line for release. You can read it now if you want. I’ll do revisions and edits on it before its published through Amazon.
Perception of War: Images of Truth: I’m honestly frustrated I haven’t found a chance to finish the discovery draft. Other projects are more urgent, but as soon as Discovered and The 1,200 are out the door, this puppy is getting some work. This is a very ambitious project, but I can get the writing done, and I plan to. Again, this project is massive! So while I’m going to work very hard on it, it’s going to take time.
New Utopia: This is another older project that’s probably been sitting in a drawer for too long. It needs love, but the the next draft of this story (pitched as Mistborn meets Avatar), won’t be done until Discovered and The 1,200 are as far as I can get them and the Discovery Draft of Perception is done.
Mercer: Now this project could move in a lot of directions because it’s a series of shorter works. I call this Dresden meets Bones, and I love the premise and basic ideas. I haven’t really played with this much in a while, but that’s only because I owe fans of Oneiros a conclusion to their story. I’ll probably start chipping away at this once in between the above projects. So you might see Season One, Episode One before New Utopia.
Leah Saldawn and The Nick of Time: This probably the “older” project that’s farthest from being out. It’s a teen/young reader book that I think is cute, but it’ll have to wait behind those much larger projects.
I’m still working my way toward 60 sales a month. Because of Hazel, I have three averages: My total sales per month, Collin’s and my Hazel sales per month, and my non-Hazel sales per month. The goal for sales per month is still 60, and that’s always been an initial goal aimed at growing after I meet it. I lose less and less each year, and I’m hopeful I get to that first profitable year soon.
If I’m being honest, I’m never going to stop writing. The eight-year goal has always been more about putting in hard-charging, never-back-down energy. It’s spending money on marketing and things like that. I’m hopeful that bears some fruit, but if all I do is write and publish stories I enjoy, that’s OK. I’ll work as hard as I can, and if after eight years, I’m not earning an income, well, I’ll slow down on the costs of publishing and focus more on the writing.
If you’re interested in helping, the best way to do that is to purchase one of my books, read it, rate it, and review it. You can take it to the next level (if you like the book) by recommending it (or buying it) for a friend. In addition to God’s will, which I will always cheerfully submit to, this dream of mine isn’t possible without loyal readers.
I want to finish as I always do, by praising God, and thanking Him for all of you who read and enjoy my work. I’m blessed to have anyone enjoy my books, and a lot of you are just so wonderful to me with emails and help with reviewing drafts. Thank you.
God bless you all, and thank you for another year. I hope your hear has been amazing.
I figured now would be a good time to do another Marketing Journal.
I used to think marketing was a set and forget process that was instantaneous. You paid for an add; people saw it, and the money would start falling from the sky.
I was misguided.
Since September of 2020, I’ve been working to address that. You can review older posts to see the play-by-play, but the important part is I did indeed improve my sales, but my costs are still higher than those sales. So naturally I started working to balance them out.
In May of 2021, things got pretty dark. I sold three books that month. But there needs to be context, and there’s more to see.
While my sales were lower than they’d been in a long time, I’d reduced my cost, and that’s progress. In fact, my cost is steadily going down, and my sales are steadily going up. This is super encouraging because that was the plan going forward.
Sure, I want to have a great Average Cost of Sales now and earn money every month, but it’s not a sprint.
Also, May maybe wasn’t the great month for full sales, but it wasn’t without traction. You see, I had 957 pages read. Sure, some may scoff and say that’s only about $4, but it’s something. Then we hit June and July.
My cost went down even further for my June bill, and July posted a bill of less than $100!
As for sales, well, June brought me back to within my quote of 8 books a month (I actually sold 9), and I’ve sold 11 in July so far. If this trend holds, I’ve brought my cost down in half and regained my average sales per month from before I started working to bring those excessively high cost per click key words.
I had 1,320 pages read in June and 3,291 pages read in July.
This is encouraging to say the least, and it indicates that the plan is working. The trick is to keep moving forward and not get impatient. I won’t be ready to reset my quota for another month (I always get a three month average), and there’s still about 10 days in July, so I might have a few more sales! (You know you can help with that part, right?)
It’s still my dream for this series to become the “How I Became Profitable” series as opposed to the, “This is what I’m trying,” but that’s all time, patience and (of course) God’s will. Next year, we plan to go back to conventions, and hopefully that will have a positive impact as well.
I’m going to keep working, and I appreciate you all stopping by to see how things are going.
I think it was last week that I mentioned disappointment. Well I’m only 18 days into June and I’ve already met what I consider my current quota for the month. That got me to thinking about my current goal. Sure, I want to write more books, and I am. I’m just about six chapters from being done with Discovered. However, I’ve always had a pretty solid idea on where I was going, and I thought I’d share the math.
This all started when I started taking a more critical look at my AMS ads and what they were doing. I realized I can’t spend $200-plus dollars a month on ads that only get me 10 or so sales a month. That led me to the current plan to optimize my campaigns.
The general goals are to reduce campaign costs without losing too many sales. Then, once I become balanced, to increase both to become profitable.
What would that look like? Well, I went back about three months. I currently spend about $109 a month on marketing. In order for me to break even I’d have to sell about 60 books a month. That’s about eight times what I currently sell, so I obviously have to keep bringing down my costs. However, that gives me a definite target to work toward.
Obviously I can only do that one month at a time, working on my marketing, finding profitable keywords and eliminating money wasters.
It’s important to have goals in pretty much everything one does. Goals are what give people direction. They allow people to break those goals into smaller chunks.
For instance, I’ve already cut my cost per month in half. If I can do so again, and double my sales per month, I’d actually only be about $20 away from a break-even ACOS (average cost of sales percentage). Any author using AMS needs to work to get his ACOS to 70% or lower. The closer you are to 0%, the more you’re profiting per sale.
This 60-per-month goal feels every bit as ambitious as it seems challenging to reach, but it’s an important goal to have.
The last time I updated you on the marketing efforts, I managed to bring down the monthly bill by a bit. But the great news is that as I’ve continued to work, the results have continued to be, as the headline implies, encouraging.
The first thing I did was stop all key words that didn’t net a single sale after 20 clicks.
I had to patiently (and I still find some every other day) eliminate all key words bids above 25 cents.
Any new campaigns followed settings above.
My fear was my costs would go down, but my sales would plummet.
That’s not the case. The wonderful news is that my marketing bill went down.
After one month, my bill was already $50 less.
Sure, I only had six sales and a handful of pages read, but I wasn’t too far away from the 10 books a month I sold with the super-costly keywords. But with patience and persistence (and God’s kind grace), I just kept at it.
The cost for the month of March wasn’t much less expansive, but look at the sales.
What this means is my costs leveled off, and my sales increased, which was the exact goal I had. Obviously, the month of April isn’t done yet, but I can tell you now the costs is down, and I have a shot at repeating the sales.
This is the general goal. As each month progresses, I’m still doing what I did to improve sales (identifying key words that seem to work and building campaigns around them). I’m also still testing the market in Germany, and those results are encouraging as well, but I want to wait another month before I study those results.
No, these aren’t results that say it’s time to quit the day job. However, success isn’t instant. This process is an endurance race. You try something, and then you adjust. I’m just happy that things are moving in a forward direction.
What I’ve learned that I can share with you at this point:
Start your campaigns soon. The progress I’ve made in about a half-year or year is progress I could have made over six years.
Never bid more than 25 cents for any keyword. Sure, you’ll get clicks, but you’ll pay out the ear. I recommend this formula: (.70 X PRICE OF YOUR BOOK) / 20. If a keyword doesn’t get you a sale within 20 clicks, it’s probably not working for you.
You could stand to work on your book blurb. A lot of times, when the clicks aren’t converging, it might be traced to reviews or book blurbs that don’t promise the same thing as your sell copy on your campaigns. However, you can only draft so many blurbs, and you don’t really have a ton of control over reviews. You can control these other things.
I’ll continue to track my results and share them with you.
As I type this, I’ve received one of my two Moderna vaccinations. We’re all excited to see the hope of a world returned to normal. We’re even seeing conventions spinning up, which led to this particular post.
Before COVID, we were poised to try a year filled with twelve conventions. We managed to do a few before COVID came on strong, but things shut down pretty quickly.
Once lockdown happened, I was forced (in a good way) to work on my marketing game. So I focused on AMS, trying to generate more sales. As you can see from my Marketing Journal series, I am selling more books. The problem is I’m spending way more than I make. Now I’m working that problem, trying to weed out useless keywords that only cost money, but that money spent takes away from money I can save for editing, cover art, chapter art and, in this case, conventions.
I don’t want to simply cut off all my AMS campaigns and save the money our family budgets for Weech because these campaigns are indeed getting me more sales. I feel the right thing to do is to keep working on those campaigns to make them profitable. Then they pay for themselves and help contribute to those other funds. However, that’s going to take time.
The wife and I have a few thoughts. Because some of the tables we purchased for 2020 were pushed down the line (meaning we still have the tables), we might actually be at a few shows this year. We’re just not honestly sure which (if any). We don’t really plan on doing any shows unless the tables are already arranged.
But we have hope for 2022. I’d love to be back in full swing (meaning 12 shows) that year, but that all depends on the budget and how long it takes me to figure out marketing.
COVID forced me to work on marketing, and I am (in a way) more successful because of it. COVID also effectively destroyed my efforts to improve my point of sales (books sold at tables). I might try some bookstores or libraries if I can pull those off. My hope is that we can get back to conventions in 2022, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Even though I’ve been at this for six years, I’m still learning more and more every year. I have a few other plans brewing in my head, but they all cost precious time, so I’m very careful deciding what to pursue and what to leave alone for now.
I’m curious to see what other authors out there are doing. If you have a system that works, please fill me in. Maybe you have a blog that really helped others (or yourself). Please, share the link. For now, I just wanted to pull back the curtain a bit and show you just one of the impacts COVID had on my life as an author entrepreneur. My hope is it will give those considering this path things to think about (and solve before they are problems). Another goal is to share ideas and see maybe where others have been able to succeed.
Regardless, I always appreciate the support you show me through following this blog and commenting.
It’s been a while since I’ve updated you on the marketing efforts, and this turned out to be as good an opportunity as any.
I started out continuing the plan I had been working on. Spending $174.47, I had four sales and 1,646 pages read directly tied to the clicks I had.
I say directly tied because I had more than four sales.
The month of December had a was a bright spot for me. I had ten sales, which held true from my last run in November. Continuing in the direction I was going always led to an increase in sales. The problem was that my ACOS (the Average Cost of Sales) was still just too high. Sure, I got orders. Sure, I got reviews. But spending $147 to earn less than $60 isn’t good business. I didn’t want to panic though. I wanted to wait one more more month to see what would happen.
I also wanted to try something new. You see, I read this post (somewhere on Kindlpreneur bout marketing to a German audience. It basically said there is indeed a market for fiction books written in English, so I figured, why not?
So I walked through the process (it was fairly simple) and uploaded a few of my pre-made folders I had already set up. Since starting, I’ve spent about $40, but I did sell a paperback!
Then the numbers for January came in.
I did have another ten sales, and that’s great (sales are always good) but more than $200!? Something had to change. I did a little more research, and came to a conclusion:
No one in their right mind should bid $.45 for a click. I don’t claim to have been in my right mind, so I don’t feel too ashamed. I really started digging into my numbers and the research.
First: Most of my purchases came with great ACOS, the problem was they were buried in keywords that weren’t resulting in (obvious) sales. There were a few keywords where the ACOS was too much, but I was paying out the ear for sales that weren’t making up the difference.
So I started going to my reports and looking out for any clicks that cost more than $.25 cents. This is a good spot to start. Ideally (according to my research), you should expect any keyword to take between 10-20 clicks before you get a sale. So my goal is to work with keywords that are effective at bids between $.15-$.25 while eliminating those above.
How’d it work out? Well, the good news is I’ve brought my cost for February back down to $126.97 (as I type this). That did have an effect on my sales.
As I type this, I only have four sales for February. I’ll admit, for that stretch you see from Feb. 11 – Feb. 23, I felt awful. I kept having to tell myself that it’s just bad business to spend more than $200 for only about $28 in sales. I still lose about $170. I can’t do that, and I don’t want new authors to have that issue. Yes, more impressions leads to more sales. Yes, more clicks leads to more sales. this month proved that even though I don’t see the sales on the Amazon Advertising page, those sales are related in some way.
So the next step in this evolution is to optimize my campaigns as I mentioned above. I’m still going to use keywords to generate more keywords. I’m still going to work on what I call the King Keyword list, a document composed strictly of keywords that resulted in sales and/or pages read.
I will continue to eliminate all campaign bids greater than $.25. I’m also pausing any keywords or campaigns that have proven to be ineffective. For instance “Batman” as a keyword got me more than 60 clicks, but those 60 clicks didn’t net me a single, observable sale.
What I learned in doing that was that I do have keywords that are performing well (a Click Through Rate higher than 1% and ACOS below 70%). I just have a lot of keywords that aren’t working for me, and I have to manage and refine those keywords. Any new campaigns I set will be based on the range from $.15-$.25. I’m letting the Germany Add Campaigns work for a while. Most of the research I’ve seen says it take about three months for a campaign to gain traction. I’ve also started some of AMS’s Product Sponsoring campaigns. Those will also run for three months while I observe the data. Then I’ll start working to optimize those campaigns.
The hope is to evolve on this platform until I earn money from marketing rather than just spend money for the sake of making sales.
I hope this is helping some of you out there to take note of what to watch out for as you prepare to release your books.