A love a good round table talk about things that are working in the indie community. Be it a new marketing tactic or a new way of doing things, I’m all in. I may not take any action–mostly because I know I’m not already doing what I could using tried and true methods, like building a newsletter. But I really enjoy reading discussions about something I’ve tried and can compare what their opinions and expreiences, especially when heavy-hitters in the industry weigh in with what is working for them–and what isn’t.
Trust me, if something isn’t working for them–you’re not going to get it to work for you.
And as always, we have to think of what our definition of success is. When it comes to selling books, that may mean one stranger buying your book. That may mean your first review from someone you don’t know. When you get to the people who are trying to make a living, usually their version of success is making money to live on, quitting their day jobs, maybe using their royalties to have a more comfortable retirement. Indies just starting out think small. A book here, a book there, clicks and tons of impressions are all that is needed to spur them on. I get annoyed, mostly because if you think small, you’ll be happy with peanuts. Someday I would like to quit my day job. I doubt that will never happen, but if I don’t at least aim for it, it won’t, for sure.
So I was pleasantly surprised when I stubbled upon a discussion in the Self Publishing Formula Facebook group headed by Mark Dawson. Mark runs an ads course and is a very successful indie in his own right. Other big names who were chiming in included AG Riddle and Russell Blake. I really want to copy and paste parts of the discussion, but it’s a private group and I don’t want to get kicked out. If you’re an indie and want to join, the link is here: SPF Community.
AG posted a poll: Do Amazon Ads work? In later comments he amended his question to, Do Amazon Ads work right now? And I feel that while some people are still getting their ads to work, the consensus was actually, no they don’t.
At least, not in the way we hope they will.
Lots of things come into play here, and the one that I’m reminded of most is that while Amazon Ads won’t let your book sink down the rankings into obscurity, what you want the ads to do is help your book get sticky enough that Amazon helps you sell it. Email blasts, recommending your book, hitting the popularity list being chosen for a Kindle Daily Deal. Ads alone aren’t going to help you do this. This is what I gleaned from the conversation, and you can tell me if you agree.
Do Amazon Ads work?
*Yes. If you have a series. Someone commented and said that ads don’t truly work if you’re counting on read through to cover the cost of the click. This is a good point and why the number one piece of advice is to write in a series. But the ad is still putting book one in front of readers. It’s up to the strength of the book (is it well-written) and if the other books are available if the ad spend is going to be worth it.
Let’s look at the cost of a click for a standalone book at .99. You don’t get .99 off that sale–your max royalty amount is 35%, so about .35 cents. If you bid .35 on a click, you’re breaking even, right? That’s what I’m doing right now on my first in series. I put it on sale for .99 until the end of the year because it’s a holiday romance. My other books in that series are 2.99. With dynamic bids down, my clicks won’t always cost the exact amount I bid, and I may make .10-.15 on that first book. My others are priced at 2.99, in which I get my 70% royalty, or 2.09.
*Yes. If your book sells well at full price or is in KU. I’ll make more off a .99 cent book in KU than I will selling it for that price. I can spend .35 a click because a full KU read of book one will earn me 1.35. Which is a dollar in royalties.
*Yes. If you have all your categories and targeting situated. There’s nothing Amazon hates more than showing your book to people who won’t buy it. It’s a waste of time for them and for their customer. Customer satisfaction is all Amazon wants and if you’re trying to show your book to as many people as possible and you lose relevancy, Amazon will stop showing it. That’s tough for authors who genre-mash, write without thinking and have no idea what their genre is, or have poor product pages. I didn’t consider why an ad would stop working until I read Robert J Ryan’s book, Amazon Ads Unleashed.
*Yes. If your book is a good product and has the reviews to prove it. There’s not much to say here, and I’ll quote two of the comments:
Ads can only give extra visibility to what you’ve got – they can’t make it sell better. The product does the selling, not the ads.Robert J Ryan
A very long time ago I got a degree in advertising. One of the bits of wisdom I remember is that good advertising will kill a bad product quicker.Jennifer L Anderson
*Yes. If you know how to use them. Figuring out how the platform works takes a bit of time, and even though you may not spend much, if you want to see traction, you have to be able to afford some spending money for clicks. As I write this, I’m 19 dollars ahead for the month, but I wouldn’t be there if I couldn’t afford the 10 dollars I’ve already spent on clicks.
The problem is, Amazon ads will help you, but by a very thin margin. Using ads won’t make you a millionaire over night. I break even every month, sometimes make a little–a cup of coffee little. I have ten books out, I’m writing more (or trying to. My life has been a bit trying lately), and my covers, at least, I think, are on point even if I’ve done them myself. It took a long time for me to realize I wasn’t writing what was selling, and lots of authors do that. Maybe they’re writing fantasy, but they aren’t hitting the tropes. Maybe they’re planning a series, but only have book one released.
It’s obvious the better product you have, the more successful you’ll be. Mark Dawson has professional covers, and he writes in a couple popular series. Plus, he’s a good writer. I think all the big indies who have “made it” can safely assume their writing is good and resonates with readers. If you’re pushing water up hill as Robert J. Ryan likes to say in his book, then you need to take a look at the product, not blame the ads.
I enjoyed the discussion very much, and I hope you look it up if you haven’t. I think one of the key takeaways from the discussion is that everyone agreed they used to work better than they do right now. The market is super saturated, and by some very talented authors. We have to work with what we’ve got, and using other platforms in conjunction with Amazon ads may be the better way to go. All the big indies who joined in the discussion have large email lists and they use ads to bring new readers in, not keep readers from disappearing. That’s an important observation, and one I have taken note of.
Have you found a secret ingredient to make Amazon ads work for you? Let me know!