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.
So I actually just finished another round of key-wording, which is where I collect new key words and use them to generate campaigns, and while I was doing so, I got notifications about my adds for Caught.
Here’s what the email said:
The following ads are non-compliant to creative acceptance policies :
Your ad titled “Caught: Book One of the Oneiros Log” no longer complies with our current Creative Acceptance Policies. Specifically for the following reasons:
Your ad contains content that is not allowed for advertising. Please ensure your ad does not contain any excessive violence or gore. The ASIN that needs to be corrected Is B01N9N5TUS.
After some research, I’ve come to learn that Caught does indeed violate that policy because the entire book involves some of that content.
The strange thing to me is that the horror genre is sort of based in violence. Still, after I think about it for a bit, I am more and more OK with it. Fans of the horror genre in general are going to find what they’re looking for (as with other forms of content). I would argue the Caught is rather tame in comparison, however, I do accept that there is blood and violence, so it should be restricted.
Then I went to study further, and I’m actually very happy with what Amazon is doing to protect people from content that may not be appropriate for all audiences. So I simply have to focus my efforts on my other projects.
I’ll have to see how this development will affect my sales. On one hand, I’ll save on clicks, so I wonder if I’ll actually end up helping my ACOS. On the other, Caught was one of my better selling books, and I fear this development might affect those sales.
Either way, I support this decision by Amazon. I am completely OK with any measure a company makes to guard against people accidentally getting to content they don’t want.
So I thought I’d mention this as I track sales over the next three months.
As you can see in the title, I’m quite excited by the news of this month. A while back, I was glad I about 12 sales, but I spent around $200 to get there. That led me to work to bring down my ACOS (which is always important and should be below 70%). That meant decreasing what I spend on clicks and getting my sales back to where they were (or better).
In my last update, things looked good. I brought my monthly cost down to below $100, and my sales were starting to creep up.
This brings us to the last two months.
I spent about $94 in July. You can see the one order, but that’s not the total of my sales, just what AMS tracked as sales resulting from clicks. All told, I had 12 sales in addition to the 2,619 pages read or more. Again, AMS only counts what they can track directly to clicks.
So things were picking up, and at that point I had gotten all the way back to 12 sales (where I was when I realized I was blowing money faster than I could save it), and I had cut my cost in half.
I still have a lot of work to do in this area though. What I know is that most (but not all) of the insane CPC bids have been eliminated, and that saved me about $100. I also did a decent job of finding the obvious non-profitable keywords, which are keywords that get me a lot of clicks but don’t result in any conversions. This is why my monthly bill is starting to creep in the wrong direction again. However, the same sales for half the expenses is a step in the right direction.
So August came in, and I was closer to $100 than I want to be (at least not without 55 sales), but as you can see, AMS saw 10 sales, and there were more.
I’m happy to say I have a new record for online monthly sales, which is 14!
Now I know 14 is pretty pathetic compared to someone who’s profitable (they make money on writing). It’s even worse for those big stars out there. However, anyone will tell you to celebrate every victory.
I don’t honestly remember when I started, but I do remember where, and reaching a point where I have sold more books and had more pages read than ever before is absolutely something to celebrate.
What’s the next step? Well, I scanned my books to see where my impressions were, and I had six books that had fallen well below 100,000 impressions per month. That means I have to get those books back up to snuff. Then I have to track down those vampires that are sucking up pennies and not rewarding me with any conversions. I also want to use Publisher Rocket’s new keyword analyzer function to try and get new keywords that are more profitable.
That’s going to take time, but I usually wait a few months before I do another analysis of my campaigns and add to my keywords. My hope is to get those six (I already have at least two of them) back up to 100,000 impressions per month. Then I can go back into monitoring the campaigns and trying to optimize them. I still hope to reach 60 sales a month (which would theoretically allow me to break even or better), and I’m just under a quarter of the way there!
I’ll keep you all up to date on how things progress. I’m glad to share good news with you for this post.
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.
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.
Since it’s been a few months since my last update, I thought today would be as good a day as any to provide you an update.
I’m still working the plan I have. I don’t actually know if it’s a good or a bad plan; it’s just my plan. I’d ask anyone with clear, actionable information to please comment below.
The plan is simple: Generate new campaigns based on previous keywords that result in sales, clicks, or a high number of impressions (more than 100 a month).
When I last updated you all, I was averaging four sales a month and spending around (I think) $60 a month. A loss, but my sales were still up. After letting my most recent string of campaigns work for a while, here’s what’s happened since.
I had four print/e sales in September. I also had 822 pages read. That was during what I call an implement month. I had campaigns running, and I used them to track data. Then, near the end of the month and during the beginning of October, I generated a new list of campaigns based on the data provided above.
October looked awesome! I had nine print/e sales and 1,719 pages read!
Even better, I’ve been seeing follow on sales. September and October were both months in which I actually earned a profit. I genuinely think they were my first two months ever.
Oddly, those sales still are strangely hard to identify. I spent $144 in September, selling $11.97 (total not profit) and $177.74 in October, selling $24.94 (total, not profit). So again, I had more sales, but not all of those sales tie directly to the new campaigns.
Regardless, the more I work on this, the more sales I get. I don’t know that there’s anything more to do than continue forward, hoping my conversion rate will eventually improve as my number of sales increases.
So with nine print and e sales in October, the question is, was that just a good month, or is my monthly average actually increasing? Let’s have a look at November.
I had another eight print and e sales and a whopping 4,686 pages read. Yet again, my Amazon Marketing only directly accounts for three of the orders and about half of the pages read. My theory is that I’m gaining follow on sales. It’s just a theory, but it’s the only hypothesis that fits. I did lose money in November. You see, other campaigns on Audible really helped pull the weight and earn the profit, and my Audible royalties weren’t enough to beat the $173 (ish) I spent on marketing this time around. But at my stage of development, I’m just happy to see sales going up. I’m especially encouraged by the pages read.
For those wondering, 2,357 pages read accounted for $10.70 in royalties, which is what AMS tells me tie directly to my campaigns. No, I’m not quitting my day job anytime soon, but I’m moving in an upward trajectory, and that’s something.
It’s my hope that Betrayed will be more successful (still trying to get that out in the spring of 21), but only time will tell.
Interestingly, November fell off a tad, but it was an implement month. I’ve just started creating campaigns based on the data from November. If my hypothesis is correct, I should expect to see another increase in December. I might have to temper that expectation with COVID and government shutdowns, but I’m still hoping.
Regardless, the facts are that I have quadrupled (from two per month to eight per month) my monthly sales average and completely hit a new level in pages read since initiating this plan, and that is positive from any point of view.
I’ll post updates like this every two or three months to track the data. Yes, there is a point where spending hundreds for clicks for only a few sales is going to be unfeasible. Some may feel I’m already there. I don’t. I think I can do other things to improve my conversion rate, and I still think reviews are a part of it. I think as I get more sales and reviews, my conversion rate will naturally increase. I won’t be able to really analyze that until I have a title with more than 25 reviews.
For now, I’ll take some satisfaction knowing I’m selling more books and having more pages read than I ever have, and that glory goes to God first above all, and then you, the readers kind enough to give my work a try.
One thing I noticed is that I’ve doubled my monthly sales. I have to word it that way because that’s the positive way to say it. However, I was only selling an average of two books a month online, so now I’m up to four. But when I think about this information, I’m still more encouraged. I know that the more people I can get my book in front of, the more sales I make. That gives me hope that more work in this regard will yield more fruit.
In the month of September, I had 1,849,502 impressions and from them 749 clicks. That honestly cost me $157.30, and the four sales and $15 I made hurt a little bit, but we can’t get too carried away because this was always the first step.
So far in October, I’ve had 428,790 impressions and 212 clicks (in just nine days). This means I’m getting views, and I’m getting clicks. Now as expensive as it is, I could absolutely have more clicks, but improving my click-through-rate is something that just takes time and attention.
What’s interesting to not is while I have one sale so far this month, and I had four sales last month, only three of those five sales were from AMS marketing, at least not directly. My theory is that people may see an advertisement and make note. Then then come back when they are ready. I also think that the more I work to increase visibility on my end, the more Amazon responds. I can’t prove this theory. I don’t even know how to test it, but I do know that I am doing more now than I was.
The biggest question is how to turn more of those clicks into purchases. One thing I need is your help. A lot of people on Amazon base their purchases on reviews. If you’ve read my work, leaving a review is your way of recommending the book to other readers, and I need those recommendations. I have to try and find a way to generate about 50 reviews per book to have a chance.
The other way to get more people who click on my add to buy my books is to do some work on my book description. I posted a blog about this a while ago. So I have to make time to do that.
So where do I go from here? Well, I want to improve my click through rank and increase my impressions. The way I’m doing this is seeing what key words are being clicked and generating new campaigns based on those keywords. This will easily give me more impressions, but it will hopefully get me some more clicks.
I also have to be patient. Right now I’m losing money much more quickly than I’m making it, but I have to stay this course. People can’t buy my book if they don’t know it exists. The quicker I solicit reviews and get my book descriptions improved, the (hopefully) quicker those clicks will net returns.
Honestly folks, I’m just doing my best here. I don’t know if there’s a better way or not. This is just the approach I’m working on to help my business grow. There were and are a lot of other factors that contribute to my low number of sales. I can’t rewind time and make different decisions, but I can put in the work to to start changing things. Stay tuned to see how the efforts worked out.