ENVIE! A Magazine for the Literary Curious: Expanding Offerings

I have briefly mentioned this resource in the past in association with a review for my book. At the time, Envie (@enviemagFTLC) was the Writing Community Newsletter. They have changed their name, their look, and are expanding their services, offerings and content of their magazine.

Besides great articles pertaining to writing, book reviews and book promos, they are offering spotlights for VSS, poetry, and flash fiction writers. If you have something you want featured, you can submit it to them and (if space is still available) it will be published in the next edition.

Another new feature they are developing is a services database. If you offer any kind of service to the writing community, you can submit your listing and it will be posted in the newsletter as well as eventually in a more permanent listing on their website. This includes editing, proofreading, book reviews, beta reading, cover design… basically, if you offer something that helps out authors, you can get added to this database. Even if you don’t, but you are an author, this is something you will want to keep your eye on as they get this piece launched.

On top of all of that, they are starting a new blogger feature. If you have a blog, of any kind, you can be featured as their blog of the month in the magazine (@enviebotm).

Did I mention that all of this is offered for free? I honestly cannot push this group enough because they really do a ton of work to support the writing community on all levels. It is absolutely worth your time to subscribe to this amazing resource.

*No, I am not a part of the group in any way. I’m just amazed at all they do and want to do my part to help them grow so they can offer even more amazing things to the community.

WTF Amazon?!

I’m going to start this with the caveat that math and I are not the best of friends. That said, even my puny abilities to work the kinks out of math problems find this beyond screwy.

While I can say the last ad did a lot for me in some intangible ways, I didn’t make a profit off it. The purpose of attempting this finer tuned version was to try and bring back some of those intangible results with the hopes of trying to balance out the profit end of the last ad. When you are talking about the low margin you get with each book sale, you have very little wiggle room when it comes to number of clicks and cost per click before you are dropping quickly into the red for the cost of the ad overall.

Last month’s test ad generated, on average across the span of the ad, an ad associated sale for about every 5.3 clicks. This did fluctuate over time, but I still had what seemed to be regular sales. You can’t see the metrics for how many of those clicks convert to KU reads, but I also had some very regular page reads throughout the entire add. For the purposes of this comparison, I’m not even going to go into the cost of those clicks, because it is that turn over ratio that is blowing my mind at the moment.

My current ad? I’ve now had 27 clicks register so far and I haven’t gotten a single sale. I’ve also only had a single, partial KU read. That’s it. I honestly haven’t a frickin’ clue what is going on, but something definitely isn’t right. It makes it all the more odd in that my click through rate is about the same for both ads.

Anyone that is familiar with statistics can look at the numbers and probably tell you way more than my brief assumptions here, but this isn’t giving me warm feelings towards spending my precious advertising dollars with Amazon. I’ve yet to see how the math works between the two different ads and why I would be seeing such drastic differences when the set up is essentially the same. The only difference is that I focused on the single genre I was getting results in and I am not allowing up bidding, every single other aspect is the same.

I get that there are millions of tiny factors that can play into these statistics, but I cannot manage to twist them enough in my head to make my current numbers make sense. I’m really kind of ticked off and extremely frustrated at the moment.

It also has me really wondering if there is a saturation point that books reach when it comes to sales and readers. Obviously there are only so many readers on the planet, so that seems logical. Are these numbers telling me that I’ve reached my saturation point? If that is the case, then why am I still even getting clicks? That part doesn’t seem to make sense, either. The whole thing is just making my brain hurt.

For all my posts about my ads so far:

Amazon Ad: Round 2
Amazon Book Ad Progress
Indie Author: Thoughts on Kindle Unlimited

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.

Indie Author: Thoughts on Kindle Unlimited

When I first published my book, I spent a lot of time researching and debating with myself what would be the best place to publish. I initially thought going wide would be the best choice for me because nearly every site I ran across that talked about Kindle Unlimited made it sound like it was really only beneficial to authors with multiple books. One of the things I never really saw mentioned was the fact that if you don’t go Kindle Unlimited with Amazon, you can’t take advantage of their advertising.

When I wasn’t getting any sales on any platform besides Amazon, I decided to just try going the Unlimited route and see what happened because I wanted to be able to at least see what having access to that kind of advertising would do for me, if anything. It definitely wasn’t going to harm sales that weren’t happening.

I have now been running a very low budget ad on Amazon for about a week now and in that time, I’ve nearly doubled the total number of sales I’d gotten since I released my book. In the grand scheme of things, those are still some pretty small numbers, but my sales are paying for my ad which make this test run more than worth it. It is also ridiculously exciting to see my book selling.

I had planned on only running this ad for about a week and a half because I had a specific amount I wanted to spend on this test run. Seeing how well it is doing so far, I’m going to extend it until the end of September. The really cool thing about how these ads work is that you can pick where you want to be placed, I’m going with a targeted ad in my specific genre, as well as how much you want to spend per day. You can also make adjustments on the fly if you see something isn’t working for you, including changing the end date.

So far, I’m extremely pleased with this option. Especially the fact that I can do a really inexpensive ad (initial budget for this test run was $60) that looks like it will pay for itself if the current trend continues. A lot of other advertising options I’ve looked into are hundreds, if not over a thousand dollars. For someone with a book in a tiny genre and only one, those options just aren’t feasible for me.

With the results I’ve seen so far, this is something I would highly recommend for any indie author looking to get their book seen and improve their rankings on Amazon.

Oh… it also helps that you get paid for those KU reads as well. It looks like I’ve only gotten a couple so far, but considering I’ve JUST started this, I’d say that isn’t doing too bad.