Some Stats and What Next?

With my recent Amazon ad seeming to be a complete and utter bust, not to mention a huge waste of precious advertising dollars, I sort of feel like I’ve hit this insurmountable wall and I honestly don’t know what to do from here which is insanely frustrating and discouraging. There are all kinds of parts and pieces to my current mood and frustration with regards to the whole self publishing thing.

One of those issues is the need to get reviews (and a range of star ratings) to even get people willing to pick up your book. I’ve really debated for a while posting about this topic because it feels like I’m calling out book bloggers and reviewers and I really don’t want to do that. I’ve gotten some great response and support from some, but others… well, take a peak at my stats (yes, I’m certain the overall numbers here are way lower than what some people see, but I’ve attempted to really target bloggers that have read books that would potentially be in range with mine). I will not be naming anyone, just giving general stats.

Reviewer Stats

Requests sent to bloggers: 24
No response at all: 18
Response, but reject: 0
Agree to review: 6
Reviews written from above: 1
Of those that agreed to review, 1 is still in their projected time frame and 1 has taken the time to post on their blog notifying everyone that they are having issues (which is so massively appreciated). I’ve gotten zero communication from the other few that agreed to review, some of which are from as far back as May on their projected time frame.

Reviewer requested/provided copies (from general call for anyone wanting a copy): 2
Reviews written from above: 1

Book tours approached: 2
Tours responded/accepted: 1 (decided they may not cover my target audience after talking to them, so passed, but left open for future option)
Tours with no response: 1

Other approached review sources: 2
Envie (Previously – Writing Community Newsletter) – 1 review
BookSirens: 2 reviews (requested 10, still running, but no new readers)

Overall, I’ve approached, or been approached by, 30 different sources for reviews and I’ve gotten a total of 5 reviews (and not all have been posted to the bigger sites like Amazon or Goodreads). Is this a reasonable ratio? I have no clue. This is just my experience and numbers.

Another huge part of this is the whole networking thing. I’ve mentioned before how excruciating this is for someone as introverted as I am, but I really made the effort no matter how uncomfortable and stressful this was. I’ve even attempted to be helpful in sharing my experiences along the way. Effort or no, it doesn’t seem to do much more than make me uncomfortable and stressed.

In my last post about my ad, I mentioned the concept of books having a saturation point in the market. That you will eventually reach that point where you’ve been exposed to most of your potential readers and buyers. I’m wondering if I’ve reached that point.

I think some of my frustration also comes from having this really amazing run with my last ad and then suddenly dropping off into nothing. The surge changed some of my perspectives and expectations from where I initially started, but now I’m forced to adjust my views and goals with this and what I consider “doing well” for having self-published my one and only book.

I’m approaching the point where I’m feeling burned out with the work to reward ratio lately. With the frustrations, the poor ad performance, the struggle to get reviews and that big saturation point question, I’m wondering where I go from here. How do you recover the lost momentum? Is it even possible?

 

Amazon Ad: Round 2

My last Amazon ad ran for about a month. It was supposed to be more of a test and to learn about the process, but it seemed to be relatively successful, though so much of it wasn’t a direct 1 to 1 kind of a result. I’ve decided to take what I learned from that experience and try again.

One of the things that I noticed after the last ad finished was a drastic tapering off of sales and KU reads. Even though the sales I saw weren’t tied specifically to the ad, they were still because of the ad in a roundabout way. The improved rankings allowed me to get placements in the “also viewed/bought” sections of Amazon which got me a few reads and sales outside of the ad. Once my rankings started to sink, so did those placements, sales and reads. It was interesting to see that correlation.

The last ad run showed me which genre I needed to target. It also showed me what bid price I needed to hit to make the ad profitable. This time around, I’m going to see what kind of traction I can get if I maintain that bid price point. My goal for this round is to see if I can keep my book at a relevant rank level without veering sharply into the red on cost.

At this point, the last ad round doesn’t appear to have generated any reviews, but just because the book sold, doesn’t mean it’s been read, though. The KU reads I’ve gotten haven’t translated to any reviews yet, so I’m still hoping on that end of things.

I’m also hoping the addition of the couple of 4 star reviews I’ve gotten lately (thanks to BookSirens) will make a bit of a difference to readers willing to take a chance.

Amazon Book Ad Progress

I want to start this by saying that I am by no means an expert. This is only what I’ve learned about Amazon ads from a very narrow perspective and the results from that experience.

I have been running my add for about 20 days now. I’ve learned quite a bit, but I think I still have a long way to go before I feel like I have a solid feel for how it all works. I’ve honestly been pleased even though there have been a few mixed results with it.

The type of campaign I chose was a manual targeted campaign by genre as a sponsored product. You can also do one that targets keywords or you can allow Amazon to run the direction with automatic targeting. There are a couple of different options for placement. You can be a sponsored product or you can choose to show up on lockscreens. These settings cannot be changed (that I’ve found) once you’ve begun your campaign.

Ads are based on bids for a per click price. There are lots of different options for setting this up and I won’t go into that here, but these are things that you can change at any time throughout the life of the ad.

I initially attempted to target two different genres, neither of which were what I would have said my main genre was (not sure why I missed my main one when I set it up, but… ), but one wasn’t one that is a breakdown of genres in the menu list, but something you often see related to rankings. This is something I’ve never fully understood about Amazon, but it has been where I saw every bit of my success. I would normally say my main genre is Family Life Fiction as this is the menu option when searching for books. What I tripped across when setting up my ad was Women’s Domestic Life Fiction, which isn’t in that breakdown list, but is one of my ranking categories. The most significant difference from what I could see between these two with regards to my ad was the fact that the top of the bid price range for the WDLF genre was less than half that of the FLF genre.

There is a lot to figure out with regards to bid price, how that translates into cost per click and, what isn’t something your ad metrics track, the percentage of those clicks that translate into a sale. The biggest problem I seem to have run into is trying to find the sweet spot of a price per click result that at least broke even to the amount I made per book sale. The metrics in your ad only shows you total dollars sold and total orders, so you have to do some work outside of your reporting to figure all this out (and thankfully I’m married to a math geek to help me with all that) because orders also does not equal number of books. If someone bought 5 books, it only shows as one order, so this throws things off. Every single one of these pieces vary depending on how much you make per book, which may be different for an ebook than it is for a paperback.

I still don’t completely understand the purpose of the bid range, but I did see that if I had my bid price at the high end, if not just over the max, I got a lot of impressions, clicks and at least an order per day. That is awesome to an extent. The problem is that per click price plus the number of clicks ended up being more than what I made on those orders. Some days. If I dropped my bid price to the lower end or even the recommended price, I got very little to no clicks. When you have such a low dollar profit, those click prices need to be really low, so finding a target that works for your book and has a low range are critical.

Overall so far, I’ve spent more on the ad than I’ve earned. If I’m seeing the numbers correctly, all of my sales have been because of the ad. But, the amount earned vs. spent is only one obvious part to this. Ads do other things that impact your book. When you are selling, it improves your ranking which improves your chances of being seen organically outside of your ad. It also gets you more readers that will potentially review your book (I haven’t seen this happen yet, but not everyone gobbles a book up as quickly as I do).

It also gets you reads through Kindle Unlimited and those reads do not show in your ad metrics at all so you have no clue how many of them are because someone saw your ad. These reads do get you additional payment and are quite possibly because of your add which would skew your spent vs. earned ratio. The way KU pays out, you may not know for a month or so how much you made from those reads, especially if you are new to KU.

Because this was mostly a test run, I didn’t exactly expect to see a lot of tangible results. I’m calling this a win even if I spent more than I earned at this point. I think, since launching this ad, I’ve more than tripled the number of sales I’d gotten since I released my book and that is a win all it’s own. I’ve seen nearly 4,000 page reads through KU. Again, I see this as a huge win even if I have zero clue if this number is high or low or average. It is more than zero, so… win. I have learned how to run an Amazon ad and what and how to tweak things along the way.

There are other cons to the Amazon ads. You can only access these ads if you are enrolled in Kindle Select (from everything I’ve seen). KU reads not showing as part of the ad metrics. The ad metrics aren’t live and the data could be off by 12 hours, give or take. Needing to monitor the bid pricing because these do fluctuate often and sometimes by a wide margin which is a big part of why these numbers not being live are problematic. Paperback sales tend to show up in ad metrics before sales metrics, but ebooks show up in sales before in the ad metrics, so this can throw your numbers off.

Everyone has to decide what works for them and what doesn’t. Someone in a different genre may find they have a completely different experience. There was recently a discussion on Twitter about this and several others had mention their success with a keyword campaign. I’m thinking that may be my next test if I can manage to get a bit closer to the break even point with this ad.

Reminder: Indie Author Book Blogger Support Project

I’m reposting a longish summary of this because I realize I didn’t get it posted in a couple of places.

This is a concept that I’ve tossed around for a while and decided, what the hell? It can’t hurt, so give it a try. If it helps someone else out, awesome. If not, it only took some of my time a little space here on my site.

I’d like to put together a listing of book bloggers that want to actively support indie authors and are open to reviewing their books. There are a few places for similar listings, but they often have more than just a listing of bloggers or the listing covers all kinds of bloggers regardless of indie interest. Those lists are still helpful and I’m not putting them down, they can just be a bit much to weed through when you are only looking for indie friendly book bloggers.

For this listing, at least for now, I’d like to keep it to only those interested in reading and reviewing fiction in an effort to narrow the focus and keep it manageable. Once I get a few, I’m going to do my best to keep it organized in a way that it is quick and easy to find what you are looking for, mostly by genre, but that could change as this grows and if there is a different need I’m not yet seeing.

If you are a book blogger that wants to help support the indie community and are willing to take review requests from indie authors, please contact me and I’ll see about adding you to my list. I do ask that you provide a link to your blog (be sure you have a contact page) and links to any places you post reviews, a link to your review policy and a brief list of the genres you are willing to read. I will not list bloggers without their express permission as I want to be certain those that are listed actually want to be a part of this.

If you aren’t a book blogger that is interested in this, but know others that might be, please let them know or share this post to help spread the word.

The ultimate goal is to create a network and partnership between indie authors and the bloggers that want to help support them. This is a project I want to do because I see a need and I have the time and space to attempt to put it together. It is something I’m offering free of charge with no expectations other than people potentially finding it useful. This will be a work in progress and I’m more than willing to take suggestions to improve and grow it as time goes on.

New Project: Indie Author Resources/Support Listing

This is a concept that I’ve tossed around for a while and decided, what the hell? It can’t hurt, so give it a try. If it helps someone else out, awesome. If not, it only took some of my time a little space here on my site.

Basically, I’m attempting to put together a few different lists of resources for indie authors, mostly those that I’ve found really helpful. There are a few other places I’ve run across recently that have some similar listings and I’ll link to those as I come across them as well. There may be some duplicates between my lists and theirs, but the more places that have these lists, the easier it is going to be for indie authors to find what they are looking for.

One of the pieces I’d really like to focus on is a listing of book bloggers that want to actively support indie authors because there just aren’t many places that have a list like that. At least not that I’ve found (feel free to point out any you may know of). The ones I have seen aren’t easily navigated in a way that makes it easy to find the bloggers that might fit your books. Those lists are still helpful, just a little cumbersome.

I want to take my list one step farther, at least for now, and keep it to only those interested in fiction. I say this because the range of subjects indie authors write in is HUGE, making that search even more difficult to weed through. The general umbrella of fiction is already massive, so any chance to narrow it a bit helps. Once I get a few, I’m going to do my best to keep it organized in a way that it is quick and easy to find what you are looking for, mostly by genre, but that could change as this grows and if there is a different need I’m not yet seeing.

That means I’m yet again asking for help. If you are a book blogger that wants to help support the indie community and are willing to take review requests from indie authors, please contact me or comment below and I’ll add you to my list. I do ask that you provide a link to your blog (be sure you have a contact page) and any places you post reviews, a link to your review policy and a brief list of the genres you are willing to read. I will not list bloggers without their express permission as I want to be certain those that are listed actually want to be a part of this.

If you aren’t a book blogger that is interested in this, but know others that might be, please let them know or share this post to help spread the word.

This is a project I want to do because I see a need and I have the time and space to attempt to put it together. It is something I’m offering free of charge with no expectations other than people potentially finding it useful. This will be a work in progress and I’m more than willing to take suggestions to improve and grow it as time goes on.

Book Bloggers and Supporting Indie Authors

Since publishing my book and attempting to get more involved in supporting other indie authors, I’ve noticed there are several issues that indie authors face. One of the biggest issues is getting exposure and reviews.

How many readers will actually pick up a book that has zero or only a handful of reviews or even just ratings? How many of you have the bias assumption that if there are only a handful and they are all good that they are reviews written by friends of the author so not legitimate? I’ll admit, I struggle to overcome this bias myself because this does happen sometimes. Not all the time, but I have seen it. This is a hurdle that a lot of indie authors struggle to overcome.

Getting book bloggers to review your book is also a huge struggle. Not all bloggers take indie review requests. Then you have to find a blogger that is interested in your genre. Then, and this seems to be a big issue with some book bloggers, is actually getting a response. I’m talking at all. Not just an agreement to read. This leaves the person requesting the review sitting in limbo wondering if their contact request got lost in the ether or at the bottom of someone’s spam folder. The second part of the blogger review struggle is sometimes actually getting that review once the reviewer agreed to do so. This is again problematic if that reviewer doesn’t notify the author they won’t be reviewing the book after all.

I’m seeing this from both the indie author perspective and the blogger perspective, so I can see how this is problematic on both sides. As a blogger, I want to read quality books in the genres I prefer to read in. Yet there is still an unfortunate number of indie authors that feel very strongly that the DIY method is perfectly fine when it comes to editing, formatting and cover design. I respectfully disagree with this stance because I do not believe that you can be objective enough to do those things for your own book. It is because of this that I can see why so many book bloggers shy away from reading indie books. As an author, even if I don’t fit that mold, I have to overcome those biases to get a blogger to read and agree to review my book. It is an interesting place to sit, that’s for sure.

I have run across a few places that are working towards creating databases of resources for indie authors, including bloggers. It is still incredibly difficult because you still have some of the above issues. So, here is a little bit of advice, from both sides of the indie author/blogger support perspective:

If you are a blogger that doesn’t want to review indie books, please make that clear on your blog so we can pass you by. We don’t actually want to waste your time or ours contacting bloggers that aren’t interested on an even basic level.

If you are a blogger that wants to support indie authors, please:

  • Have a review policy on your blog that states you are open to indie requests.
  • Make it clear how you want to be contacted and what things need to be in that contact, like blurb or a link to the book.
  • List the genres you are willing to read.
  • If you have other requirements, like the book formats you accept or anything else that may impact your decision to read or not read, add that to your review policy.
  • Please note that print copies are expensive for authors to provide. If you really don’t have a preference, please be willing to consider an ebook.
  • Double please here – respond one way or another to all requests! Yes, this can be overwhelming and a lot of work, but things do end up in junk and we never know that you actually got the request.
  • Give a rough time frame that requests will be responded to, again, because junk happens. Authors don’t want to feel like spammers for resending a request.
  • If you agree to read a book, please give a rough estimate on when you will be able to get to it. As a mood reader, I can completely understand how this is not always an easy thing to do, but even a broad time frame is better than “I’ll get to it eventually.”
  • If you agree to read a book for a review, please let the author know if for whatever reason you’ve changed your mind and can’t do so or if your estimated time frame has changed. I can’t speak for all authors, but that kind of communication is a huge stress relief because it means you are going to do what you said and not ghost us.
  • Posting on the major sites (this may vary by country) like Amazon and Goodreads in addition to your blog are massive things for indie authors, so do as many of these as you can.

As an indie author, I totally understand readers being picky. I am a picky reader myself. I can’t speak for all indie authors, but I do think that most would understand you specifying your requirements as a reader and being okay with saying no if something doesn’t work for you because we really want readers that are, hopefully, going to enjoy our work. Even if you only read one or two indie books a year because that is all you find that interest you, it is better than zero.

 

If you are an indie author looking for book reviewers, please:

  • Don’t spam every single book blogger out there on every platform they exist on.
  • Don’t expect reviewers to purchase your book. They are doing you a favor, the least you can do is provide a copy of your book.
  • Don’t send your book unless a reviewer has agreed to read for you.
  • Read the review policies of the reviewers you are considering requesting from and don’t request from them if your book doesn’t fit in their requirements. It’s okay if you aren’t certain, but take the time to see what they’ve read if their policy isn’t clear to see if you are even close.
  • If they have instructions about contacting them, follow those instructions.

 

Having a relationship between book bloggers and indie authors is really critical to an indie author’s success. This also gives readers and bloggers more books to chose from, which is always a plus. Being courteous to each other and respecting what part each of you play is just as important.

 

 

 

 

PSA: Do’s And Don’ts Of Supporting Authors

This applies to all authors, traditionally published, indie or any other type that might be out there. It could just as easily apply in the basic context to all kinds of areas, not just authors, but authors and books are my focus for this list. You would think some of these would be common sense things, but, apparently not always, so I thought I’d highlight them.

Do’s: Things You Can Do To Support An Author Or A Book Continue reading “PSA: Do’s And Don’ts Of Supporting Authors”