Author Panels, Advice, and Mixed Messages. What works for a different author might not work for you.

A while back I joined an author group on Facebook. I’ve blogged about them before, and they are great for motivation, tips, tricks, the list goes on. They also hold a huge author/marketing conference in November and even though I haven’t been able to attend in person, I watch the videos on YouTube. It’s really interesting to hear about how some of the indies making a living wage writing speak about their journeys.

This isn’t without its pitfalls. Listening to several different speakers tell you how they made it, as you can imagine, well, you’ll get several different results.

I have noticed though, how there are some mixed messages, even among the speakers on some of the same panels.

magic spell

It’s proof that there is no magic bullet, and what works for someone might not work for you. As I watch more of the videos from the conference, I’ll let you in on some more of the things I find, but for now we’ll start with a couple that popped into my head this morning while I was in the shower mulling over part of a romance panel I watched last night.

Disclosure:
These are my thoughts on public YouTube videos. The group very generously puts them out so authors who can’t attend can still benefit from the speakers and panels. I love this, and I am in no way saying derogatory things about this group, nor am I sharing information that isn’t available to everyone who is willing take the time to watch them. 

1.  Enroll your books into KU, but take advantage of Prolific Words (AKA Instafreebie) and Bookfunnel to build your email list and take advantage of genre promos.

l hope new authors understand that your book can’t be available anywhere else if its enrolled in KU. KDP’s terms of service is a bit hazy . . . you are allowed to give your book away for free for review purposes, and you are allowed to have up to 10% of your book available in other places. If you want to ride the edge of KDP’s TOS, good luck to you. I prefer not, and when I used BookSprout for reviews, I pulled my books out of there before I enrolled in KU.
How do you get around this? Make your book available on those sites before you publish and then take them down when you’re ready to publish, or use those sites before you enroll in Select. (You can publish with KDP and not be in Select.) If you have the time, and I prefer this method, write something that is only available to newsletter subscribers. If you’re taking advantage of a genre promo on Bookfunnel or Story Origin (I have done neither), it’s better to have a book that’s wide or not in KU so you don’t have to worry about it.
As far as the KU opinion goes, Alex Newton of K-lytics did a lovely talk about who is making the money (out of any author: traditionally published, small press, indie, and other), and it’s indies in KU. Alex is funny, and you’ll enjoy his presentation. You can watch his talk here:

2. You don’t need money to advertise/launch a book, but it’s really best if you have some money.

One romance author said her books depend on Facebook ads. Another said if she’s not advertising, her sales die. But I don’t think it’s fair when an author making money tells you that you don’t need to invest in ads and that investing time on free social media works just as well. They say starting small on ads works, too, and I will spend five dollars here, five dollars there. But do I have steady sales? No. What you need to keep in mind is a lot of these authors have been writing and publishing for years. Five dollars a day here and there probably did work for them five years ago, but that’s not true today. To have a good launch, you HAVE TO be able to throw some money at your book. To have steady sales, you have to be able to invest a little. Hopefully your book is solid (good cover, good blurb, good writing on the inside) and you always make more than what you spend.

3.  You shouldn’t be wasting your time on social media instead of writing, but you should really be on social media.

This one kind of drove me nuts because what some of those authors did on that romance panel made me want to puke. I saw hours and hours of writing time go up in smoke as one author said you should start your own reader group, and join other reader groups (in your genre) to get your name out there. Mostly it was all Facebook-centered, and that goes against almost everything I have ever heard about depending on another platform for your real estate. Drive everything to your website is what I’ve been told time and time again, but a couple romance authors swore up and down that they would not be where they are today had they not joined and started reader groups.


So what should you be doing? What did they agree on?

1.  Start a newsletter. While there was some disagreement on the best way to gather email addresses (some said to do the promos like Bookfunnel, StoryOrigin, and other means that require giving away a piece of writing in exchange for an address) others said that they do paid promotions on Facebook to gather email addresses, and another mentioned adding an opportunity for your readers to have access to secret content  to the back of a book that they’ll only receive if they sign up for your newsletter. An alternate ending would be an example. Or an epilogue. No matter which way you decide to start your list, that is top thing they all agreed on.

2.  Network. So far there have been quite a few authors who said their careers wouldn’t be where they are today if they hadn’t networked. They made friends “higher up” in the publishing totem pole, and it paid off for them. That’s not to say you’re networking to use people. People can spot false friends and you’ll be outed fairly quickly. But networking and getting to know other authors in your genre could pay off in the end with newsletters swaps, being asked to participate in a collection/anthology/promo, etc.

3.  Fulfill reader expectations. They couldn’t emphasize this enough in one of the romance panels I watched. You need to make your readers happy, or it’s all for nothing. Read in your genre and understand what your peers are offering their readers. If you decide to break a trope, do it in a way that won’t piss off your readers. The moderator of that panel used the example of a billionaire romance taking place in a small town. She said she was disappointed because the premise behind billionaire romance is that it takes place in a big city. He’s usually the head of a giant corporation. If you go against this trope and place a billionaire in small town (for example, maybe he’s on the run or in the witness protection program) perhaps it’s not a billionaire romance you’re writing but a romantic suspense. Give your readers what they expect out of the genres and sub-genres they enjoy. It’s why they picked up your book. Because your marketing/title/cover/blurb told them that’s what it is. Your insides have to match your outsides.

4.  Keep in mind your competition. This is a still from Alex’s talk, and if it doesn’t give you nightmares, nothing will. You HAVE TO FIND A WAY to push to the top. And if that means learning an ad platform, learn it. If that means starting a reader group, start it. If that means starting a newsletter, start it. I think some writers/authors live in a bubble, and they don’t realize just HOW MANY books are out there.

2019-11-24

 


At some point Craig Martelle said there is close to 50 videos on YouTube you can watch from the conference last month. It will take a while to get through the ones that interest me. Follow my blog and I will keep you updated as I parse through them!


I hope you had a wonderful holiday, and enjoy this last month of 2019!

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Launching your book. Is there anything you can do to have a great launch?

your book launch

I have to get this disclaimer out there: I suck at launches. I hit PUBLISH and kind of move on. In fact, this goes in line with what Andrea Pearson says on the new 6 Figure Authors Podcast with Lindsay Buroker and Joseph R. Lallo. She recommends not bothering to market until you have at least ten books out.

As I found out being $70 bucks in the hole doing Amazon ads for The Years Between Us (I still haven’t updated that blurb, dammit!) sometimes spending money on marketing and advertising is just a waste of money that you may not ever get back.

But sometimes you wanna throw a little money at a new book, and maybe if you can hit the right notes it can take off and Amazon might show your book some love. That chance is getting smaller and smaller because of the competition, but it never hurts to try. You might get lucky.

Launching can take some planning, so I’ve been mulling over ideas. Because only half the books are edited, I don’t have blurbs or titles yet, and I only have basic concepts for the covers, my launch is going to go into next year. I’m a little embarrassed since I’m 18k into book 2 of my SUPER SECRET PROJECT trilogy, and I’ve been spending more time writing that than I have working on my series. That’s what you get when you chase after the shiny objects. 

When we talk about launches, probably the top two things seasoned authors will tell you is to announce it to your email list and reach out for newsletters swaps.

I can’t do this because 1. I don’t have a email list, and 2. because I don’t have a newsletter (email list) I can’t ask around. I mean, I could ask, but I would have to be clear that I cannot reciprocate. So I’m reluctant to ask because swapping implies doing it in return at some point, and I can’t. To me it would feel like asking for favors, and I don’t like owing people.

If you don’t have a street team, email list, or friends to help you out, what can you do? The only options are then to fling some money at your book.

But first, before you shove money at it, try to get some reviews.

This is my tentative plan when I have my series ready to go:

  1. Put my book on BookSprout before I put the ebook in KU. You can publish your paperback ahead of your Kindle book. Reviewers can’t put up a review on a preorder so the way authors are getting around this is publishing the paperback before the Kindle book. That way, when you do publish your Kindle book, it will have reviews. (You may have to contact Amazon to have them linked up to make the reviews show up for both versions.)
    In a previous blogpost, I questioned the quality of the reviews from BookSprout, but you have to weigh what you need versus what you want. If you can grab four or five reviews from them at least you have something to get your book off the ground. Some readers won’t read anything that doesn’t have a review. And if you have only one book out and no one knows your name, your chances of a reader picking up your book without reviews is even lower. BookSprout will offer your book to 20 ARC readers for free. If 25% of them leave a review, you can publish your Kindle book with a few stars, at least.your book launch (2)
  2. Buy some promos. I want to have my whole series published when I do this. That way the promo for book one is actually going to be for all the books in the series, and I’m hoping for some serious read-through.
    The two places I’m going to try are: Red Feather Romance. This is a promo site run by Written Word Media who also offers Freebooksy and Bargainbooksy. I’ve tried both of those before, and I’ve had better luck with Freebooksy. But I tried Bargainbooksy on a standalone, and I’ve come to realize marketing a standalone is not cost-effective. Ereader News Today. I haven’t tried this service, but other authors swear by it. I like trying something new every time I release a book, if anything, just so I can blog about it.When you look at promo sites, make sure before you apply that they don’t have a minimum review policy. Some don’t, some do, so it’s best to be sure you don’t need 10+ reviews before you apply for a promo. It saves time.

    Also keep in mind your publication date. Popular promo sites book out a couple weeks in advance. If you’re launching  your Kindle version on January 10th, you may need to rethink it if you can’t get a promo date until February.

    This brings up the subject of release pricing. I think I’ll release the first book in the series at .99 and release the other books at 2.99.  I’ve tried 3.99 and that seems to be too high. When you’re releasing into KU, price doesn’t seem to matter as much because you’re going more for the page reads than you are sales. If you’re wide, price matters a little more, and then you have to research in your genre what other books are going for.

  3. Ads. I may still do some Amazon ads a few weeks after the release of book 4. That might keep my sales and page reads up after the 30 day drop off when I run out of books to release. I’ll have my SUPER SECRET PROJECT close to being done, probably, but that will be under a different name so I won’t have the power of this release behind it. What little power there might be.

your book launch (1)

I’m being realistic with this launch. My kind of books are not what’s selling right now. You might wonder how that’s possible, because romance is romance. But if you take a look at the top ten, only three of them are written in third person past, and one of them is from Nora Roberts. I don’t count her.

  1. Dirty Letters by Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward: 1st person past
  2. The Family Journal by Carolyn Brown: 3rd person past
  3. Crazy for Loving You: A Bluewater Billionaires Romantic Comedy by Pippa Grant: 1st person present
  4. Havoc at Prescott High (The Havoc Boys Book 1) by C.M. Stunich: 1st person present
  5. A Nora Roberts reprint from 2009: 3rd person past
  6. No Broken Beast by Nicole Snow: 1st person present
  7. Winter Cottage by Mary Ellen Taylor: 3rd person past
  8. My Big Fat Fake Wedding by Lauren Landish: 1st person present
  9. Insatiable: A Cloverleigh Farms Standalone by Melanie Harlow: 1st person past
  10. Stealing the Bride by Nadia Lee: 1st person present

You can dig deeper down the list and keep counting, but that small sample is enough for me. I’ve blogged about this before, too, how I think that 3rd person past is going out of style, and after my wedding quartet, I’ll have to decide if it’s even worth writing anymore. I mean, there’s no telling when 3rd person past might come back around. Everything circles around if you give it time. But you also have to resist banging your head into a brick wall trying to sell books readers don’t want.


Anyway, I’ve talked enough about my launch plans. It seems the best plans will incorporate a little teamwork by way of newsletter swaps, but it puts you in a hard place if you don’t have one of your own.

If you find this is the case, you can be stubborn like me and keep doing what you’re doing, or you can start a newsletter, and realize that it’s going to take you a couple years to build a list of readers where you can tell them about your releases and other books you enjoy. Also, there’s no time like the present to reach out and make some friends in your genre. If they’re your friends and want to help, maybe they won’t ask you for anything in return. Some people out there are still nice. Just be careful not to take advantage.

Got any other launch ideas? Let me know!


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Amazon Ads: Bad news.

Amazon ads and bad news probably go together in sentences from a lot of indies. I’m no exception, but not through any fault of my own. Kinda.

When I did my last update, I was breaking even, and pretty happy with that.

After some ads took off and ate up all my money with no return, I had to pause them. I was 70 dollars in the hole, and I had to try to figure out why.

The culprit was easy to spot.

ads.jpg

These are my ad results for The Years Between Us from September 20th when I started Bryan’s ad challenge to today October 19th when I’m writing this blogpost. The numbers look impressive. Look at those impressions! Look at all those clicks!  I mean, in all the times I’ve tried running ads, I’ve never had results like this. These tell me a couple things:

  1. Bryan’s advice works. (My keywords were good.)
  2. My cover is good.
  3. My ad copy is fabulous.
    They fell in love.
    The wrong person found out.
    Now he’ll do anything to protect her.
    Even if it breaks her heart.
  4. My daily spend was good enough for Amazon to show my ad around.
  5. My bid for clicks was high enough for Amazon to show my ad around.

But.

My ads, in roughly a month period, generated only $26.57 in sales and KU page reads with an ad spend of $95.52. That’s not good. (The sales column above doesn’t include KU reads so that’s why the numbers are different. The Amazon ad dashboard does not include them and BookReport does.)

book report results for the years between us

You have to be honest ask yourself why that is.

In my case, I’m sure it’s the blurb. I have a good number of clicks. I should have made more than $26.57. They liked the cover and the ad copy enough to click, but they got to the blurb and it turned them off.

That’s the only thing I can think of.

This is the blurb without having to click READ MORE (or above the fold, as they say):

Zia Bishop is in love with an older man.
On the night of her high school graduation, she persuades him to take her virginity, and the wrong person discovers their secret.

Matthew Harcourt knew he should never have made love to Zia, his best friend’s daughter.

And I guess that is enough to make people turn away. Now, this story is not naughty. It’s not dirty. If it was, then I would have used a grittier, sexier cover and marketed it as a “Daddy’s Best Friend Makes Me Wet” novel.  This is a pretty romance, with the bulk of the story taking place when she is 25 and he is 50. Still a wide gap, but maybe it doesn’t sound as weird when she’s 18 and he’s 43.

So, I paused all my ads. I’m going to rewrite my blurb, focus on a different aspect of their relationship.

The first page introduces them at her high school graduation party. So I could still lose readers if they borrow it in KU and decide after five pages they don’t want to read more.

If that happens, I may need to change the cover and target readers who will read OM/YW (older man/younger woman) romance and hope they like the softness of it, or pull it from KU and see if I can find a way to get more reviews, though I’m hesitant to try Booksprout again. If nothing works, I may just have to write off The Years Between Us completely and just forget about it.

There are things I can do, and everything needs to be tested to find out what works and what doesn’t. The blurb is the easiest experiment, so I’ll try that first.

Everything in stages, but that’s the plan so far.

The point is, there are steps I can take to try for sales, and if you find yourself in this position, you need to make sure you are constantly checking on your ads so clicks don’t eat through all your cash.

I should have paused my ads earlier, but seeing those results was pretty amazing. I have a little money to experiment, and I wanted to see what would happen. Sometimes page reads can come in later. In the Kindle Unlimited program, readers can borrow up to 10 books at a time. The Years Between Us could be sitting on quite a few Kindles waiting in a reader’s queue. But I’m not going to let clicks eat up my ad dollars if I don’t have proof of that.

All of Nothing is still making me some spare change every day, so I’ll keep my ads paused until I make up that ad spend money.

Then we’ll try again.

How are your ads doing? Let me know!

Want a list of older man/younger woman books? Goodreads has a shelf of recommendations. 🙂

Until next time!


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Market or Write? If you have only one book written . . . write another book!

When I did Bryan Cohen’s 5-day ad challenge, he did some Facebook live events where he would help us in real time with any questions we had. While this challenge was tied-in to him selling his course, I still can’t believe all the work he put into the free mini-lessons, and I’m very grateful.

Anyway, I would watch along with everyone else, picking up tips where I could that would apply to my own books.

After a few of these videos, I realized something . . . so many people were worried about the fate of their ONE BOOK.

Don’t get me wrong, having written and published a book is fantastic. It’s a feat many people say they want to do, but hardly anyone does. If you’ve done that and are trying to sell it, you’re already one step ahead of 98% of everyone who wants to write a book but never does.

The problem with this, though, is that if you’re only selling one book, if you’re taking courses, learning ad platforms, listening to podcasts about book marketing, doing anything that takes away from writing your next book, you’re BEHIND 98% of the writers who are concentrating on building their backlist.

I keep up with publishing news and what’s changing in the industry; which small presses are closing, what Amazon is up to, what Draft2Digital is offering next. Ads are a little bit different. What you know today might might be different than what you need to know tomorrow. In fact, as an example, Amazon changed the way their ad platform looks right as Bryan was done with his 5 day challenge! What he taught us was still invaluable and we could put that into practice, but his segment for visual learners was almost irrelevant the minute the course was over. Anyone watching the videos would be confused because the platform doesn’t look like that anymore.

One day after his course ended! Jeez.

What I want to explain going into that is, if you’re learning an ad platform for one book, you’re wasting time when you could be writing another book because by the time you need to know it for book two, it could be already changed.

But, you’re saying, maybe it’s not a waste because their book will sell with ads.

Sure, maybe it will. If you have a solid stand alone with a good cover and a good blurb, you might make some sales. 

BUT, raise your hand if you have only one book in your backlist that

  • is a novella
  • is the first in a series but you don’t have any of the others written yet (and have no idea when you will)
  • is a mishmash of genres and you don’t know who your audience is
  • is written in a genre you’re not sure you’re going to stick with
  • your book is wide

If you have an only book that is any of those above, you are better off leaving ads alone and writing another book.

the best marketing for a book is to write another.We’ve all heard that writing the next book is the best marketing there is for the first one. It’s not just the writing, it’s social media/networking, too. When you’re on social media sharing snippets, you’re blogging about your writing process, who your characters are, etc, you’re doing more than promoting one book. You’re laying a foundation of being an author. Readers will know that you’re planning to write for a while and they’ll feel more comfortable investing their time in your book(s).

It would be interesting to know how many books on Amazon are singles and their authors aren’t planning on anymore. They’ve walked away for various reasons. Maybe you don’t plan to walk away, but a reader isn’t going to wait three years for a book 2, either.

The number of books you need to make traction rises every year. When I started out it was three. Now, the latest statistic I’ve heard is 6-10, and that was last year. This year? I’ll safely assume that you need 10+ books in your backlist before you see any kind of movement toward actual sales. Learning ads is a big part of this, of course. But the time you spent learning and the money you spend experimenting could be going toward your backlist.

I’m a member of the 20booksto50k Facebook group. Michael Anderle came up with the idea that that if you have 20 books in your backlist you should be able to make 50k a year in sales. He does some math, and I won’t get into that now. It’s an easy concept to buy into. I rather like thinking that after my quartet comes out and I’ll have 10 books in my backlist, that I could potentially make 25k a year in sales. That would change my life.

It’s definitely something to work toward.

But you can’t make that a goal if you’re going to waste time marketing one book.

james scott bell marketing

Click on the photo for a link to the book. It’s a good read and worth your time. 

James Scott Bell has a great book out right now called Marketing For Writers Who Hate Marketing: The No-Stress Way to Sell Books Without Losing Your Mind. In it, he talks a lot about marketing books, (and I did say this in my review on Goodreads) and he does spend a great deal of time talking about writing. Write the next book, and the next and the next and the next. In my review, I pointed out, well, you gotta learn how to market at some point, or you’ll have a big backlist and no one reading it.

I think that’s true. Natural momentum only goes so far.

And while I’m happy to spend some money on ads, to try them out, get a feel for them, I have six books in my backlist, I have 4 more coming out in the next couple months, and I’m 30,000 words into a secret project.

My writing time is not taking a hit.

It’s a mindset. There’s no harm in getting your feet wet. There’s no harm in being curious. But when you publish a book you’re not a writer anymore, you’re a business person filling a need (readers of your genre). Remember that when you’re selling one thing in your store, and you’re spending money on ads.


That’s all I have for today! Likely, my blog posts will be hit and miss for the rest of the 2019. I’m editing my quartet and books one and two will be off to the proofer soon. I have three and four that I’ll be diving into soon, and my secret project is well under way.

I love to share whatever is on my mind, though, and I’ll try to keep up my posts!

I’ll be updating you with my Amazon Ads adventures over the weekend. Let’s just say . . . it’s been quite a ride, and not all together inexpensive, either, but that’s what you get, I suppose.

All of Nothing ebook coverI can share this little bit with you . . . All of Nothing, before I started Bryan’s 5-day ad challenge was at 81,xxx (dont remember the exact number) in the Amazon Kindle Store. Since promoting it with ads since September 20th, it’s at 16,399. I know rank doesn’t mean much, not really, but it is kinda cool to see people are reading it.

I think the new blurb and cover have made all the difference!

 

Until next time!

 


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Another try with Amazon Ads. Am I finally selling some books?

amazon advertising logo

If you don’t follow Bryan Cohen then you should. Follow him on Instagram, Facebook, and listen to the podcast he hosts with Jim Kukral.

This guy knows what he’s talking about with Amazon ads, and a lot of the stuff he puts out into social media is free. Don’t get me wrong, some of what he puts out there is a hook to get you to buy some of his courses, but he’s a businessman, and well, that’s what they do. But following him on social media for the free tidbits is totally worth it if you’re starting at zero.

I was starting at zero, and even though I had read Brian Meeks’ book on the subject, trying what he suggested didn’t move the needle. But to be fair, that was a while back and I didn’t have as many books published as I do now. They didn’t have the good covers they do now, and I didn’t know how to find keywords.

Bryan Cohen has a different approach, and I totally encourage you to try different things. We all publish different kinds of books, and lots of people get frustrated when something kills it for someone but then they try it and it does nothing, or even worse, it wastes money.

I took a free 5 day ad challenge Bryan hosted a couple weeks ago on Facebook. Of course, it was to sell an ad course that I didn’t buy because I couldn’t afford it (did you know scraping a cat’s bladder for stones cost 2,600 dollars? Yeah, Harley is fine now.), but during the five days I did his challenge, I learned a lot about ads, and more specifically, where to find keywords.

Keywords will make or break your ads. And I know you’re going to call me a cop-out writing this blog post and not telling you where to find them. But in a show of integrity and out of respect for Bryan, I’ll point you in his direction and let him tell you how (or you can use Publisher Rocket, or try Alex’s K-lytics and read his blog). After all, I wouldn’t know what I know without his help, and I’m all about attribution. I will feel comfortable saying this though: all my keywords are titles of bestselling books in my genre that are in KU. How you go about assembling this list will be up to you, but using a list comprised of titles that sell that are similar to yours works.

I started the challenge on September 20th, 2019. He told us to focus on one book, so I chose All of Nothing. That still proves to be my strongest book, and it’s made me the most money with the challenge. After the 5 day challenge was over, I did ads for my other two standalone books, and All of Nothing still blows it out of the water.

Since September 20th, on my three standalones I’ve had 110,709 impressions (impressions are free), 226 clicks, and $50.29 worth of ad spend. That might seem like a little bit of money to you, but remember that you’re hopefully earning most, if not all and beyond, that money back. Those stats are based on 42 ads. All of Nothing has the most, which may be why I’m selling more of that book, at 27 ads running right now. Some are from the challenge and some are ones I did on my own. Wherever He Goes has 7, and The Years Between Us has 8. I focused on keyword ads and I wrote a couple lines of my own ad copy for each ad. Bryan said to bid low, and while that’s up to you, I’m getting clicks and impressions with bids under 40 cents, which is really good considering my genre is contemporary romance, and that is a highly competitive genre. Keep in mind you don’t necessarily pay 40 cents just because you bid it. My cost per click average is .22 cents.

Now, I’ll tell you how much I’ve made since September 20, 2019, and learning ads is going to be a slow process. If you break even when you first start out, you should consider that a success.

To accurately know how much you’ve made, I suggest you use BookReport. It’s free until

bryan ad on instagram

These tips are a great reason to follow Bryan Cohen Blurbs on IG!

your monthly earnings exceed 1,000 dollars. That will tell you how much you’ve made with sales and KU READS. Your ads dashboard does not include KU reads, so if you’re in KU and you see you’ve spent 50 dollars on ads, but only made 13 dollars in sales, those are Kindle/paperback sales, and not KU reads. Bryan was very adamant about making sure we knew that. You could turn off a profitable ad not figuring in your KU page reads, so make sure you take those into consideration. After all, those are the main reason we’re in KU–so don’t forget to include them in your sales data.

I check my ad spend and sales every morning before I go into the writing, and today my ad spend is since I started the challenge, like I said, is $50.29.

What I’ve made so far since I started the challenge is 55.06. I’ve made 5 bucks. That might not seem like a lot, and it’s not. Not in the grand scheme of things. But I’m in it for more than the cash right now, so let’s look at what else we can glean from this data:

book report for ad challenge for blog

book report for ad challenge for blog 2

BookReport shows me that I’m getting sales as well as page reads. This is super since I wasn’t barely getting anything before the challenge, never mind when I was wide and trying to get traction spending money on promos.

All of Nothing has had 10 sales, and 7,894 page reads. All of Nothing is 420 KENPC, so if you divide 7894 by 420, you get the equivalent of 18.79 (almost 19) books read. For me, that’s pretty good for sales.

The Years Between Us is less at 420, so without doing the math, 603 is the equivalent of about 2 books read. Wherever He Goes, I can say just one book in KU page reads was read.

At this stage of the game, I’m happy with breaking even. Why?

  • Readers are seeing my ads. With a low bid, this is a big deal. Lots of people think they need to bid high to be seen, and clearly, that’s not the case. Bryan did not tell us to go after the big-named trad authors in our genre. He told us to target authors that are in KU in our genre that are doing well. Should I target Lauren Landish or Nora Roberts? Which obviously would be cheaper? Lauren is in KU and number one at the time of writing.
  • I’m getting clicks. This is also a big deal. Why? Because it tells me my covers are good and my ad copy is pulling readers in to click my ad and take a look at my product page.
  • I’m getting sales, though small ones. Part of ad maintenance is making sure your clicks convert to sales. If they aren’t, then something is wrong with your sales page. Maybe your blurb is bad, or your look inside doesn’t sound good. You’re losing readers between the click and the sale. Maybe your cover doesn’t hit the mark after all (or maybe you’re not in KU and readers were hoping you would be). Maybe based on your cover they thought it would be about one thing, but then they read your blurb and thought it was about something else. It could be anything, so make sure you keep up with clicks and if they are turning into sales.
  • Hopefully some of these sales and KU reads will turn into more reviews. I need reviews and if people enjoy my books, maybe down the road they’ll leave a review.

Ads aren’t always about making money. When you’re starting out you don’t want to lose money, but you’re also paying for exposure and hopefully reviews.

What am I going to do moving forward?

  • Keep an eye on my ads. Obviously a five dollar return can quickly go from plus to minus, so I will need to make sure I’m always earning or at least breaking even.
  • Work on my ad copy. Find a hook and reel in your readers.
  • Do more ads for All of Nothing. If that book is going to be my biggest earner, I need to exploit that.
  • Explore ads for my trilogy. Someone read Chasing You, so my trilogy has read-through potential. I always forget that they are decent books and people are reading all three of them. In my head I’ve kind of written them off as average, but maybe if I throw some ads at Don’t Run Away, the trilogy will make me some money. (I’ll need to rewrite the blurbs for those books and put in better keywords in my KDP dashboard before I try ads with those.)
  • Look for more keywords. New books pop up on the bestseller list all the time.  Keep adding titles to your keyword list.
  • Have patience. It’s easy to want to bid high, but Bryan has taught me that I can get impressions and clicks and not go broke. I’m going to follow his advice and keep my bids low.

I feel like that 5 day challenge was successful. His ad course digs a lot deeper into other things but I’ll take what I can for now. Learning ad copy and not being afraid to create more ads is what I’ll be focusing on for the next little while.

What do you need to do before you do ads?

  • Know your genre. If you don’t know your genre you don’t know what authors to target.
  • Make sure your cover is genre-appropriate. If you don’t run ads with ad copy, all your potential readers will see is your book cover. A picture is worth a thousand words, and it really is if that’s all your using to draw readers in.

    ads without ad copy

    The ad without ad copy sticks out, huh? But she’s got a hot cover, so it’s not so bad. 🙂

  • Make sure your blurb sounds good on your product page. Make it look good too with bold and spaces between paragraphs.
  • Make sure your price is genre-appropriate. Before the challenge, I lowered my prices from 4.99 to 2.99. Without testing I won’t know for sure if the lower price is helping people buy. That’s marketing strategy, and you’ll have to decide for yourself.
  • Fix the keywords in your KDP dashboard. I did a blog post about how to find real ones for your books. You can also search blurbs of books that are similar to yours and if the same words keep popping up (like action-packed) then include those too. You’re not limited to 7 just because there are seven spaces.

I’m not an expert at any of this. All I can tell you is what is working for me. Slow or otherwise. In the past 21 days I feel like I’ve finally found something that might work to get my books in front of readers. Hopefully it will help you too!

Thanks if you’ve made it this far. I’ll keep plugging away and I’ll start giving you guys monthly updates! Have a great weekend!

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Print Quality KDP Print vs IngramSpark. Spoiler alert–there isn’t a winner.

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I bought book stands for the event! I have to admit, this is a lovely cover!

I was invited to an author event that took place last week. I had several weeks to prepare for this, i.e. find my willpower/energy to face a crowd, figure out what I was going to wear, and the most important thing . . . order author copies.

I was in the middle of redoing the covers for Wherever He Goes and All of Nothing. I’ve worked with KDP long enough that doing a cover in Canva and submitting it is a piece of cake by now. IngramSpark is still taking some time to get used to, and when they flagged Wherever He Goes, I left it alone because I didn’t want to deal with it.

I happily accepted the invitation to sell my books at a librarian convention that took place in West Fargo, North Dakota. Admittedly, I should have ordered author copies the moment I was invited. But as I said, I was redoing my covers, and I thought, hell, I have plenty of time to order copies.

Note to self: don’t ever think that again.

I redid the covers submitted them to KDP, ordered my proofs and approved them.

The event was held on September 26th, and ordered my author copies August 26th. I thought a whole month would be enough time, because in the past it has been. Usually it takes about two and a half weeks. But not this time.

With two weeks left before the event, I received and email from KDP and they told me my order was being delayed. I fixed the file for Wherever He Goes in Ingram. The next day they approved the file, and in a panic, I rush ordered author copies from IngramSpark.

Now, I haven’t heard many stories, good or otherwise, about the quality of copies from IngramSpark. Mostly I’ve heard if you want better quality, you order from them. So needless to say, when my author copies came from them and they didn’t look good, I was crushed.

I received my author copies from Ingram a full week before I received them from KDP because not only did I pay for expedited shipping, I paid for expedited printing, too. You can argue that could be the reason for the poor quality, but in my opinion, you’re paying for the copies, so there should be no reason for poor quality books, period. Especially from a company who prides itself on quality.

If push had come to shove, I could have sold the books Ingram sent me. But I didn’t want to. They didn’t look professional. I could have said it was printing error, but that would still reflect bad on me as a professional author.

Luckily, my KDP Print books came, and they looked good. I realize that was also a gamble. Had those come in poor quality as well, I wouldn’t have been able to attend the book signing.

As it turns out, I didn’t sell any books anyway, but I did receive several compliments on my covers, so it was worth the crap I went through to get them.

Today I put in a request for a refund for my books from Ingram. Take a look a the pictures I submitted as proof they did not look good:

poor quality cover the years between us ingram spark

This is a copy of The Years Between Us from Ingram. Can you see the line through my name? At first I thought that was my fault because the template was showing through, but I checked the file, and even if the template was showing through (for some messed up reason) there is no line there. So it wasn’t that. The same thing happened to Wherever He Goes, but it’s more pronounced near my first name, so I only have the sliver to show you for emphasis:

poor quality cover ingram wherever he goes


All of Nothing
was the most messed up. Wherever He Goes wasn’t centered that well, but All of Nothing looked horrible:

poor quality cover all of nothing ingram spark

The title was almost cut off , and the couple is obviously not centered.

So I put in a request for credit to my account, and if you ever need to do that, you look under Orders, and under Submitted, click on Report an Issue for the order that needs to be refunded.

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I’ve never returned books to anywhere before, so I don’t know if they’ll want the books back, or if they’ll let me keep them or what. I’ll let you know. I can tell you that there was a spot for you to download pictures of the books, so be prepared to show them proof of the messed up author copies. I’ve heard KDP wants proof of quality/damage, so that’s not unusual.

The book signing went okay. I never sold any books, like I said, so all this hoopla with the author copies feels like a whole lot of work and money for nothing, but it was a fun experience, and it didn’t take me very long to realize I was the only author there who didn’t have a Square. That didn’t make any difference in the end, but next time I’ll be more prepared.

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The moral of the story is this: always keep author copies on hand if you have regular opportunities to do this, either from KDP Print or IngramSpark. You need lots of time to receive them, and more importantly, you need time to return them and/or order replacements if necessary.


Special thanks to Tina Holland for inviting me to participate in this event. She’s a romance writer involved with the RWA and other writing groups in my area. You can follow her on twitter here @haveubeenaughty and her website tinaholland.com.


Thank you for reading, and may the month of October treat you well!

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Kindle Create: for Kindle and Paperbacks for KDP

kindle create for blog 1Formatting for an ereader and paperback grows easier and easier all the time with the tools that are continually created for indie authors. These days it’s easier than ever to pay someone for their time if they have Vellum, a formatting software available on Mac computers.

If you don’t have the connections or the cash to pay someone to do it for you, or you want to remain in control (it’s hard and maybe costly to approach your formatter every time you want to make a change your to your book; for instance if you want to update your back matter, or you swapped out your cover and need to change the attribution to the photographer and add a new photo id) Draft2Digital offers a free formatting on their website that also formats your book for paperback and ereader. Draft2Digital creates a .mobi file and an epub you can download so you can go wide with your files if you like.

But if you are only going to publish on Amazon, there is another software you can try. Kindle Create offers both Kindle and paperback formatting, and both files are sent directly to your KDP dashboard enabling you to publish quickly and easily.

There are drawbacks to the software however: the files can only be used on Amazon. Since the finished files are sent directly to your KDP dashboard, they are not “yours.” When you format with D2D, you download the files they generate for you, and you can use them wherever you please. With Kindle Create, that is not the case. Also if you make ANY changes to your document, those changes are stuck inside the software, but that might not matter to you if you’re only uploading changes to publish on Kindle. It is something to keep in mind, though.

How do you get started?

Download the Kindle Create software. Download how you would normally download new software. Sometimes that means finding the file in your Downloads and clicking on it to start the install process if it doesn’t install automatically. Accept terms and conditions. The install process only takes a few moments.

Then it will ask if you want to resume an existing project or start a new one,  but first you need to enable Early Access so you can create paperbacks with the software.

Click on Help in the upper left hand corner, then Settings. Check Enable Beta Features.

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Then you can import your Word File. It only takes a moment.

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Click Continue when you’re done.

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Your Word file for your book should have your Title Page, your Copyright Page, Dedication, Acknowledgements, and any back matter you want. The only thing Kindle Create will generate for you is the Table of Contents.  Click on Insert in the upper left hand corner and it will look like this:

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When you upload your file, what you see is very generic, and it’s up to you to design your manuscript how you want it to look. This is the first page of The Years Between Us.

Choose a Theme by clicking on the THEME in the upper right hand corner. Unfortunately, there are not many to choose from, but actually, there are not many to choose from when you format in Vellum, either, so don’t feel like you’re missing out if you use Kindle Create.

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The rest is a bit time consuming as you have to go page by page and add the things you want. For example, changing one scene break does not change them all:

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So you may just want to stick with asterisks when you format, unless you are formatting something a little on the shorter side.

The same is true for the chapter start drop caps. You need to put your cursor at the beginning of every paragraph and then choose drop cap on the right under Formatting.

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Kindle Create will nudge you to save every so often, and it’s in your best interest, in any case. It also has a handy UNDO feature in case you mess up somehow.

Like any software, there’s a small learning curve, but it didn’t take me long to play around with it and begin formatting my manuscript how I want it to look.

Once you’re all done, there’s a Preview feature where you can take a look at your book page by page. This is a good idea while you’re still in the software and not in the online previewer on your KDP Dashboard.

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Go through your book page by page. Make sure you didn’t miss any scene breaks, or anything else you’re going to want to change. Flipping through it will take some time, but remember that poor formatting can pull a reader from your story, so you want it to look its best.


Unfortunately, I cannot take you further than this. Pressing Publish will move the files to my KDP Dashboard, and The Years Between Us is already published. But KDP has several tutorials you can watch to see how the process is done. They have a fabulous help section, and you can find anything else out that you’ll need to know.

Look at a typed tutorial here.

Here is a tutorial by KDP on YouTube about Kindle Create. 

Here is another blog post by Just Publishing Advice on their blog. How To Use The Amazon Kindle Create App For Better Ebooks

There are a couple other tutorials that look okay to watch on YouTube, if you search Kindle Create tutorials. The best thing you can do though, is experiment, use the undo button if you do something you don’t like, and save often.

After you publish your files to your dashboard, they will give you options for your paperback such as trim size, and if you want cream or white paper. Your choices will determine the template size for your cover. And you can use the Kindle Cover Creator if you want, to generate a cover for both your Kindle book and paperback, too.

KDP is your one stop shop to formatting, cover creation, and publishing your book!

Have fun!


I wasn’t aware that Kindle Create generated a paperback file until I saw that Daniel Mattia was able to offer a paperback of his book, In Crows’ Claws. We went through some issues he had using Kindle Create in my interview with him a while back. So a big thank you to Daniel and his tips!

Check out his amazing work linked above, and he’s also the creator of an Indie book database called Indie book DB. Check out that site for your next awesome read!


There is a lot that goes into publishing a book, and I hope this can be a starting point if you are new and have no idea where to begin. If you have any questions drop them below, or my DMs on Twitter are open, though it can take me a day or two to get back to you–especially if I have to work that day. Thanks for reading, and good luck to you!


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