News and advice concerning the publishing industry.


5 Things I Learnt Using Amazon Marketing Serives (AMS)

5 Things I Learnt Using Amazon Marketing Serives (AMS)

Let me first say that while I’ve done plenty of research and have been running ads on most of my books for a while now, I’m not an expert when it comes to marketing. But hopefully you might find some of the tricks and tips I’ve learned in my experience useful, so let’s jump right into it.

1. Overspend on daily budget

You can create an ad campaign from as little as $1 per day. Sounds great, right? The problem is Amazon assumes whoever sees your ad will click on it. If each click costs you $0.25, then the largest number of impressions you can get on your ad at one time is limited to just 4.

However, if you increase your daily budget then the maximum number of simultaneous impressions grows too. You might be worried about spending more money than you would like, but I’ve never heard of anyone actually hitting their daily budget; I certainly never have.

With the twenty or so ad campaigns I put together to begin with, I set daily budgets of $2 each because I didn’t want to burn through my advertising budget too fast. However, realising how little I was actually spending on my ads, I increased them to all $10, and plan to increase them further. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve only spent $20-30 on my ads, despite the daily budgets of my ads tallying up to hundreds.

2. Update campaigns frequently

AMS is not a “set it and forget it” system. If you want successful, profitable campaigns to sell your books then you need to constantly work on your keyword lists, keeping them up to date to stay relevant with new authors and releases.

You never know which keywords might bring you success, so you need to check in at least a couple of times a week. Every few days I update my campaigns, removing useless keywords and finding new relevant ones to plug in.

You can find these keywords manually, searching through “Also Boughts” and Bestseller lists, but if you want to save yourself some time, and don’t mind buying some software, give KDP Rocket a try. One of its features is an AMS Keyword Search, in which you enter a keyword and it’ll live search Amazon for a list of relevant keywords for your campaign.

3. Test ads with A/B tests

What makes one ad work and another fail? Well instead of taking a stab in the dark and hoping you get lucky, you can employ something called an A/B test. You run two ads that are identical except for one changed variable — this gives you a point of reference to compare them. When you see one doing better than the other, you drop the worse performer and repeat the process with the winner.

It’s a simple process, but vital if you want to optimise your ads into something profitable.

The only downside to this when it comes to AMS is you can’t remove old campaigns from your dashboard. Despite being terminated, they just sit there, uselessly taking up space forever.

4. Name your campaigns

Which brings me on to my next point: use proper naming conventions to keep your campaigns organised from the start. A list of random names isn’t going to help you find a specific campaign, and it certainly won’t help your productivity.

I use this format for naming my campaigns:

Name of Book/Campaign Information/Date

A real example for one of my books would be:

A Funeral of Feuds/dark comedy/13.10.18

This way I can see all the relevant information at a glance — the campaign is my book A Funeral of Feuds, the keywords and ad copy are targeted at dark comedy, and it started on 13.10.18.

The naming format is entirely your choice, just make sure to find something consistent that works for you.

5. Relevance is everything

Amazon runs on automated algorithms; algorithms rank on relevance. That’s the reason George R R Martin’s books shows up first when you search for “game of thrones.”

If you’re getting impressions, clicks, and sales, then you’re gaining relevance. The more relevant your products and ads are, the higher your books will appear in searches. The higher they appear, the more sales — it’s a positive feedback loop.

So while you might not be raking in bestseller numbers yet, or maybe you’re losing a bit of cash on your ad campaigns, try not to worry. As authors we’re in this for the long game; once you get some momentum behind you, you’ll forget why you were ever worried.

Summary

  • Set a high daily budget.
  • Monitor your campaigns.
  • Test and optimise with A/B tests.
  • Get organised before you start.
  • Be patient.

I’m barely scratching the surface with this post, but I hope you found parts of it useful. If you want to learn more about AMS, there are some fantastic resources out there, including Dave Chesson’s free AMS course for authors at Kindlepreneur. It’s great for beginners, explaining every step of the process.

If you have any of your own helpful tips when it comes to AMS, feel free to leave a comment below.


Image by Phil Murphy licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

Why I Decided To Self-Publish

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I decided to self-publish my first novel before I even put the first word on paper. There are a number of reasons I decided to go this route, and I’ll attempt to lay them out below. If you’re not interested in my blabbering, you can check out Brandon Sanderson’s 2013 lecture on traditional vs self-publishing which contains a lot of useful information on the subject.

Control

Self-publishing gives you complete control over every step of the process. There’s no one other than you deciding what is right for your book – no in-house editor asking for sweeping plot changes and no need to manage tricky relationships with agents. On the flip side, you get no help with the stuff around the book, such as proofreading and marketing. It’s very much a double-edged sword, but if you’re willing to put in the time and learn, self-publishing offers complete control over every step of the process.

Steady Income

Selling a book and getting paid an advance is fantastic, but sitting around and waiting for your work to be accepted by a traditional publisher is not. Since the dream is to earn a living writing, it’s logical start with the self-publishing route because it lets you sell books and earn money from day one rather than sitting on an ever-growing pile of dusty manuscripts.

Author Recommended

I see many established authors recommend self-publishing over the traditional route, including the magnificently-bearded Alan Moore in this short video. Many authors have great success with solely self-publishing. JA Konrath has been making his living this way for years, and often posts about the subject on his blog.

Future-proof

If I ever want to attempt traditional publishing in the future, putting the work in to self-publishing now will only be a benefit later. What publisher would turn down a solid book from a writer who already has interested readers and an online presence? Also, I would be sure to keep my ebook rights if I ever signed a contract with a publisher, that way I would keep my established revenue stream.

So those are my main reasons for deciding to start with self-publishing. Of course, because of that decision, any and all of the dreaded marketing falls squarely on me. So I spent a bit of time figuring out my approach, and this is what I came up with.

Approach To Marketing

  • A book launch, with four weeks of content on my blog leading up to release.
  • During this time, I’ll collect a list of book reviewers in my genre and submit my work, following all their guidelines and hoping a few might be interested.
  • I’ll be releasing my book at 99p/99c to begin with, because readers are more important than royalty rates at this point. This also lets me collect a list of free 99p/99c promotion sites and post my submission there on release.
  • I won’t be spending any money on advertising. My plan was to work from the ground up, and spending money before I earn any seems counter-intuitive. Maybe when I have a few books out I’ll consider testing the waters.
  • Amazon is king in the ebook market, so I’ll be using Amazon exclusively to start with. After 90 days, I’ll consider withdrawing from the KDP Select program and putting my book up for sale on other sites, such as Smashwords.

And that’s about it really. It’s more than the bare minimum, but it’s not a particularly aggressive or time consuming strategy either. My logic goes like this – I could work my arse off to market my book, putting in the time to keep it in the top 100 of the sub-genre on Amazon with ads, guest blogs, podcasts etc. This would undoubtedly scrape together a few more sales. However, if I put that same amount of effort in to writing the next book instead, it’ll be easier to make a living long term because I’ll have a larger bookshelf of content for sale. As an added bonus, I’d be able to spend more time actually writing, which is the entire point of being a writer.

If you self-published your book, feel free to rant about your experience. What worked for you? What didn’t? Would you have done anything differently? Let me know in the comments.


Photo by jamjar licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.

Ebook Pricing Strategies

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Tying in to my last post on considerations when pricing your book, here’s some more information I found on ebook pricing strategies. It’s a bit clickbait-y, but there is some practical advice in there if you’re planning to publish on Amazon.

One of the points mentions fluctuating the price of your book every few days to find which price point works best for you. That seems like a really bad idea to me. There are way too many variables to gain any reliable information from experimenting over such a short time frame, and if someone buys your book and you reduce the price the next day then chances are you’ll have destroyed any trust and goodwill you created with that reader.

I also came across this article which argues the benefits of giving your ebooks away for free, and how it can positively influence your sales rank. It makes the solid point that someone downloading your ebook for free doesn’t equate to a lost sale like you might expect (something gaming industry publishers really should have learned by now, yet they still keep stubbornly filling their games with draconian drm to ‘prevent lost sales due to piracy’).

Anyway, both articles are worth a quick read if you’re looking in to self publishing. If you’re interested in delving a bit deeper in to this stuff, then check out the kboards Writer’s Cafe which has a ton of posts about marketing on Kindle. Who would have thought being a writer would involve learning so much marketing theory?


Photo by Kevin Dooley licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.