Hi, everyone! I know I usually post on Mondays, but to tell you the truth, I’ve been struggling with finding things to blog about lately. I go through that sometimes. I feel like anything I have to say has already been said a million times by someone else, and especially when it comes to writing and publishing, I don’t have much new to share.
I did decide to take a Twitter break, and if you follow me, you can either friend me on FB, or like my FB author page and we can touch base that way. I just couldn’t take the negativity anymore, and it was bringing out my own negativity toward other people. Twitter as a whole is very emotional, and I just can’t handle how sensitive (and insensitive) people can be and when they lash out because of it. I’m not a fragile flower, but geez, there are only so many times I can be “put in my place” without feeling it. To be perfectly honest, I don’t feel like a whole lot of people are writing over there anyway, and it’s not such a great place to find supportive writers who want you to succeed. Last week, I made a graphic and congratulated an author on her release, and she never bothered to retweet it. I think that was the start of me being so discouraged I just wanted to leave. If you can’t support me supporting you, then why are you on there?
I didn’t delete my profile or deactivate my account, but I did pin a “see you next year” tweet to my profile and I deleted the app off my phone. I logged out on my laptop to remind myself when I go on there just to go on there that I’m trying to break the habit. I’m sure it’s one of those things where I’ll go through withdrawal for a few days and after it’s over I’ll feel better.
I blogged about doing large print for The Years Between Us, and I got the proof in the mail the other day. It looks great! I approved the proof and I didn’t have any problems with KDP flagging it as duplicate content. I may do some other books as time allows, though Amazon has stopped putting Large Print as a buying option on the book’s product page. So even though I know there are visually impaired people who would appreciate a Large Print book, I have to weigh time versus return on investment. In the scheme of things, doing the Large Print didn’t take very long, so I could do most of my backlist in the next year or so if I did one per month. We’ll see how it goes. I buy all my own ISBNs, and I have to keep in mind that expense as well. With the way Ingram has been glitching lately and not accepting Vellum files, this book is only available on Amazon, and I didn’t check the box for expanded distribution. I’m impressed that I could price it at 14.99 and still make a couple dollars. In expanded distribuion, I would have made fifty-six cents.
I’m still editing my series, and I suppose that’s going to be something you’ll hear from me for the next little while. I get discouraged when I think about needing to figure out newsletter stuff. I’ve looked around StoryOrigin, and I don’t think I’m going to be using it for right now. I feel like authors forget that cultivating a newsletter list is more than just getting people to sign up for it. You’re supposed to be collecting emails from readers who are going to be fans of your work and support you. I may get the newsletter stuff figured out so I can encourage them to sign up in the backs of my books and aim for as many organic signups as possible. I don’t want to lure readers with a free book to sign up. I know that’s the thing to do, but freebie seekers will cost money eventually because you’ll pay for them to be on your list but they won’t buy when you send out email blasts about a new release.
You guys, I know the rules, but I’m tired of playing this game. I just wanna write and make money doing it. Yep.
Well, I don’t have much else. I did Bryan Cohen’s ad profit challenge, but he didn’t offer anything new from what he showed us in his last challenge. I don’t think I’ll be doing any more of those, though I have met some nice people doing them.
I’m always on the look out for new non-fiction to read, but I haven’t been reading much since I’ve started working from home. It’s a lot easier to get words down now that I am, and I’m reading less. Which is probably why I’m all dried up when it comes to blogging. That said, I’m still listening to podcasts, and the Six Figure Authors podcast has Sara Rosett on this week. She wrote a non-fiction book about writing a series. Since that is one thing I’ve managed to make myself bend for (I prefer standalones) I figure anything that could make the process more tolerable (and profitable!) I need to look into. I ordered How to Write a Series, and I will tell you how I like it. I didn’t realize there is also a workbook that goes with it until I accidentally clicked on it trying to grab the link for you all. Check them out!
If you want to listen to her interview on the podcast, you can find it here:
Happy Wednesday! I usually post on Thursdays when I have a little something I want to share, but today I’m writing about some time sensitive material, so posting today instead.
We have five more days of this month, and I couldn’t be happier. I’ve always been a Fall girl, and this year, especially, I can’t wait for cooler temperatures and rainy afternoons while the wind whips the leaves from the trees. I don’t even have to dread all the snow we’re predicted to get this year as I got a new vehicle, and hopefully it will take to the snowdrifts better than my crappy little Neon ever did.
Due to COVID-related issues, my trip I was going to take this week has been canceled, and that gave me time to write I didn’t think I’d have. I got 5,000 words written yesterday and I’ll be at 70k soon. I’m aiming for 90k, but since this really is just one long story, if I reach a good ending point, I’ll stop and pick up in the last book of the series. It’s coming along, though some of the planning has dragged a little bit as I’m more pantsing this book than plotting, and I can’t sit down and write until I know what I need. That means a lot of daydreaming or free writing to figure out where my story is going and how to get it there. On the bright side, I know what I need to finish this book, so I should have it done in the next week or so.
As far as what’s going on in the news, I may be the last to report this, but a couple weeks ago, Amazon Ads have starting reporting page reads in your ads dashboard. That means if your book is in KU you can see if that ad is bringing in page reads. Now, that’s not a sure-fire way of knowing if your ad is profitable, since page reads can come from more places than just an ad. Amazon reporting isn’t the greatest, and we’re encouraged to use the KDP Reports instead of depending on your ads dashboard. But I think a lot of us were just happy that Amazon seems to be trying to make things better for us in terms of working with them. I get that we have a love hate relationship with the big giant, but I tell myself that self-publishing wouldn’t be possible with the creation of the Kindle. I mean, who’s to say if a different company wouldn’t have picked up the reigns, but had that happened, who knows what the indie publishing space would look like now. Better? Worse? Less opportunities? More? It’s nice they listen to our feedback, and I appreciate the opportunities Amazon has given us.
Anyway, if you run Amazon ads, KENP reads are another way of showing you if your ads are profitable.
Here’s a screenshot of one of my well-performing ads:
The ad for All of Nothing at the bottom of this picture does pretty good. The total KENP for the ad is 10,205 and that equals into about 23 books. (Divide KENP page reads by the number of KENP pages your book has, and that information can be found under promote and advertise on your bookshelf for your book).
If you’re interested in trying Amazon ads, watch this video with Janet Margo, Craig Martelle, and Mark Dawson. She used to work at Amazon and has some great tips for authors. Also, it’s quite amusing to watch Mark Dawson in the background smoking a cigar and drinking. LOL
In other news with Amazon Ads, they are expanding, and they added Canada and Australia this week! I did put up some Canadian ones to test the waters since I’m in Minnesota near the Canadian border (and some of my books are set along that area as well). We’ll see how it goes. I need to watch them carefully as I don’t know if the bids are the same as in the US. I’m sure the Amazon Ad Profit Challenge Bryan Cohen is going to host in October will have some tips regarding the new countries we can advertise in. It sucks that each country has their own ad dashboard, and you have to remember to calculate all the different spend totals when figuring out if you’re still ahead, which is the most important thing when all is said and done.
I’m a member of an Amazon Ads FB group and when I asked for ideas on blog posts lots of people wanted to know about marketing.
In an email that Bryan Cohen sent out to us (if you’re on his newsletter list) he teamed up with Alex Newton of K-lytics to host a webinar about genre research and he said:
Whether you want to believe it or not, meeting reader expectations is the best way to sell a lot of books. That means knowing your genre. Worrying about how to market your book after you’ve already spent six months to a year writing it isn’t the best time to wonder where your readers are. Just my two cents, especially considering I’m on book 5 of a 6 book series that isn’t *quite* like any of the longer billionaire series I’ve read. But I do agree we have write what we like, too, or we’re trapped writing books we don’t want solely for the paycheck. I hope I hit the mark with the tropes and the characters, and where I didn’t, readers can still enjoy what I did with the plot or overlook the parts they dislike.
If you want to sign up for the webinar, you can do it here: https://k-lytics.lpages.co/webinar-bpf/ It plays Thursday, August 27th, but there is always a replay if you can’t watch it live. I’m working tomorrow, so I’ll be watching the replay when they release it.
I think that’s all friends! I hope you all have a terrific weekend, and don’t forget to sign up for that giveaway! Read Meka’s interview, too! I asked her a lot of questions about her self-publishing journey!
A year or or two ago, indies started adding subtitles to their books. Not to say any subtitle that pertained to their book in a way we would think. Particularly in nonfiction like:
Something like that. You have to wonder what “well” means in this instance. He publishes beautifully put-together books? Or he’s making money? Or both? Not sure. But I am glad he’s not trying to sell fake advice. So many people are these days. (Cue laughter.)
If you think about it, a fiction novel doesn’t need a subtitle, especially when you publish on Amazon where they give you space for a series name and book number.
But indies started adding subtitles to their books, and I resisted for a long time. I thought it looked tacky and I always felt if you have a specific-to-genre cover, a good blurb, and the actual title of your book makes sense, a potential reader will know what your book is about.
“Oh you poor summer child!” you’re saying. And you’d be right!
Did you ever notice that if the majority starts something, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to make them stop?
Subtitles for fiction books aren’t going away and even though I don’t like the look of them, the consensus has turned into, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
Some authors started doing it to improve the discoverability of their books, but adding a subtitle may not do as much as adding pertinent keywords to your books when you publish. What a subtitle does do is tells a potential reader what subgenre your book is in, or what tropes the book has inside.
Recently I added subtitles to some of my books like All of Nothing.
What I have also seen authors do as well is add if their book is a standalone–which is actually smart and something I could/should add, too, but then you run the risk of having a lot of gobbledy-gook at the top of your product page.
If we know anything about people, it’s that they are lazy and if they see a ton of words blaring at them, that could be a turn-off, too.
Long story short: I see the value in adding a subtitle to your book–just keep the adjectives to a minimum.
If I were looking for a mystery/thriller, should I buy the one that’s only enthralling, or is the totally enthralling book better? It has a stunning ending, but the one that’s slightly less enthralling is full of twists. It’s such a hard choice!
The subtitle can’t do the heavy-lifting of a well-written blurb, but when you’re writing in a genre that has plenty of tropes, it makes sense to use a subtitle to quickly indicate what’s inside your book.
It’s a bit wordy, and I wouldn’t want to add anymore to the subtitle. It’s also a holiday wedding romance, but HIS FROZEN HEART: A STEAMY, SMALL-TOWN HOLIDAY CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE seems a bit much. Besides, I don’t play up Christmas, don’t even play up the wedding, and I figured the small-town aspect of it holds the most weight in the plot. I do like that Amazon lets you add the word STEAMY to indicate that there’s going to be sex. I’ll never get a bad review from a reader who thought it was sweet or clean.
Whether you agree with something like this or not, and whether indies are to blame for this or not, this is an area where you don’t want to be left behind. We are training readers to expect the subtitle to reveal subgenre and tropes the book holds and if your doesn’t have it, you could be setting your book up for readers to pass by.
Not everyone is going to resist as strongly as I did at first, and some of you are probably heading to your KDP dashboard right now. But if you’re having second thoughts, maybe consider the fact that traditionally published books are starting to add subtitles too.
Lisa Jackson’s books are both riveting and heartbreaking. That’s good to know! (I’ve read some of her books, and they’re also a little wordy if you ask me.)
If you want to add a subtitle to your book, you can add it to your ebook only. To add it to your paperback you have to republish your book, so it’s not worth the time (or the expense if you buy your ISBNs.) I was able to add some subtitles to a few of my books without any hassle. I also assign ISBNs to my ebooks and that didn’t prevent me from doing this. If you happened to have protected your work that way and need to know. Keep in mind this is for KDP. I have no idea how you would add a subtitle if you fulfill your orders with IngramSpark and I don’t know if this craze has bled over into other platforms like Kobo and Nook. I don’t read on those platforms and I don’t publish there.
Please remember you publish changes and you’ll be locked out of that book for about 48 hours. It has been taking KDP a little longer to process requests than it has in the past.
How do you feel about subtitles? Are you going to add them to your books? Let me know!
In Monday’s blog post I talked about relevancy and mentioned that the categories you put your book into when you publish should closely fit what’s inside your book as possible.
There are a lot of questions about categories, such as, is there a list to choose from and where do we find it?
Amazon hasn’t provided us a list of categories they offer their authors, but they do let you add categories to your book–up to ten. All you have to do is ask.
But how do we do that?
The first thing we need to do is find a book that is most like ours on Amazon. This can be a traditionally published book, or choose an indie who has been publishing for a while who knows what’s going on. Meaning, they have probably already done this process, and we’re just going to borrow their categories.
To show you, I’m going to do The Years Between Us. The categories that the book is in right now is what I chose when I published:
You can choose two, and I think I did choose Coming of Age Fiction and, well, let me look. It’s easy enough to remind yourself if you go into your Bookshelf on KDP and look at the ebook details.
Unfortunately, it made me save changes and republish, so if you plan on going in and doing any promotions or anything, don’t check on your categories until you’ve done what you need to do because while KDP publishes your “changes” they lock you out. Anyway, so you can see that Amazon stayed true to what I set when I first published, but those categories are not a complete representation of what that book is. The Years Between Us is an older man/younger woman novel, and I’m not sure if that’s actually a category, so we need to snoop around. I don’t think it is, but I do know that I can do better than the categories that book is in.
I’ll go to Amazon and search in the Kindle Store, Older Man/Younger Woman and see what comes up. It can be a naughty sub-genre, and mine isn’t dirty like that. So finding a comp book might take a little bit of time. We might need to click through a few books to find a close match.
I’m going to go with this book for the sake of this blog post, but once you know how to check a book’s categories, you can check as many books as you like and search for as many categories as you think will fit your book.
The cover doesn’t look that naughty, and it’s obviously an older man/younger woman romance. I haven’t read it, and never heard of Suzie before, but let’s see what categories she used for her book:
I can’t choose Billionaire Romance because The Years Between Us doesn’t follow that sub-genre, but this isn’t the only way we can see what categories this book is listed under. If you go to www.bklnk.com, you can use this website to insert the ASIN number for any book and we’ll hopefully see if there are more categories this book is in.
Click on Catfinder and enter the ASIN in the field provided.
After you click, Go Find! you’ll be presented with a list of categories that book is in on Amazon.
It doesn’t look like there are going to be any discoveries here, except I do see that it’s listed in Romantic Comedy. She may have asked for that category to be added. That’s not something I can use for my book because my book is all about drama and secrets.
Let’s try another book. After some hunting, I found Reckless Suit: A Hero Club Novel, by Alexia Chase.
You’ll remember The Years Between Us wasn’t even listed in contemporary romance, so that’s a category we can add right away. But looking at the categories for this book gives me a couple of ideas. City Life could be one, because the book does take place in a huge (albeit made up city), and I could add Women’s Romance Fiction. So there are three I could add. Contemporary Romance, City Life, and Women’s Romance.
If your book has a lot to do with families, you could probably add Family Life Fiction, but that might be more aimed at a women’s fiction book dealing with family issues. I would prefer to aim my book at readers who want more romance in their plots.
So now that we have the categories we want, how do we as Amazon to add those categories?
Go to your KDP Dashboard and click on HELP in the top right menu next to Sign Out.
Scroll to the bottom and click on Contact Us. That will be a yellow button on the bottom left of the page.
Click on Amazon Product page and Expanded Distribution.
Then click on Update Amazon Categories.
There it will even give you a template you can fill out, and from here all you have to do is give them your book’s ISBN and ASIN numbers and the exact categories you borrowed from the books like yours.
Here is my list for The Years Between Us that I found from searching Amazon for books similar to mine, and using www.bklnk.com for the string of categories that Amazon requires you to include:
Kindle Store » Kindle eBooks » Literature & Fiction » Contemporary Fiction » Contemporary Romance Fiction
Kindle Store » Kindle eBooks » Literature & Fiction » Genre Fiction » City Life Fiction
Kindle Store » Kindle eBooks » Literature & Fiction » Women’s Fiction » Women’s Romance Fiction
Books » Books » Literature & Fiction » Genre Literature & Fiction » City Life Fiction
Books » Books » Romance » Contemporary Romance
This is the exact text in the message I sent to Amazon through my KDP account:
Please add these categories to The Years Between Us in the .com store.
The ASIN number is: B07Q4143R1 and the ISBN number is: 978-0999677568
Categories to be added (list each category as a separate line item for all applicable titles)
Kindle Store » Kindle eBooks » Literature & Fiction » Contemporary Fiction » Contemporary Romance Fiction
Kindle Store » Kindle eBooks » Literature & Fiction » Genre Fiction » City Life Fiction
Kindle Store » Kindle eBooks » Literature & Fiction » Women’s Fiction » Women’s Romance Fiction
Books » Books » Literature & Fiction » Genre Literature & Fiction » City Life Fiction
Books » Books » Romance » Contemporary Romance
Thank you for adding these to my book! Your time is very much appreciated! Stay safe and healthy. 🙂
I’m always polite, and I’ve never had a problem asking them to do something. It takes about a day to get a response, and if you give them the entire string in the categories you need added, they shouldn’t have a problem fulfilling your request. Unfortunately if you want to add your book’s categories to the other stores like Canada (.ca) or the UK (.co.uk) then you have to send separate messages. (This is per Bryan Cohen and what he teaches in his ads course. I have never added categories in the other stores.)
As with the relevancy post on Monday, you want to make sure you choose the most relevant categories for your book. The correct categories will only help Amazon sell your book by putting it in front of readers who most likely to want to read it.
I always give credit where credit is due, and I learned this tip doing the Amazon Ads Profit Challenge with Bryan Cohen. He’s going to leave the video up for a little bit, so if you want to watch him in action choosing categories for his book, you can check it out here. https://www.bestpageforward.net/july-2020-challenge-prep-work/ The talk about Categories starts about 25 minutes in, but the whole video is very useful! 🙂
Amazon got back to me before I published this post, and they added my categories without an issue:
Let me know if you’re going to add some categories, and what your thoughts are with adding the correct ones. I hope you found this useful! Until next time!
So if any of you follow Mark Dawson or you’re concerned about marketing strategies, or you were thinking about taking an ads course, or if you’re in any writing groups at all on Facebook, you know that Mark Dawson’s Ads for Authors course closed last week. Whenever Mark opens up his course, I have a huge case of the nerves. Why? Because everyone raves about this course. How helpful it is. How it’s a lifetime pass to ads and all your questions and all of the answers until you die. You can’t be an author and learn how to sell your books without it. After hearing it’s God’s gift to sales, you’ll run out and sign up, right? Well, the next time it opens is in the winter, and you’ll need that time to save up the fee, because you know why I haven’t signed up? It’s $849.00. You read that correctly. It’s almost a $1,000. And if you take the cheapest payment plan, it does cost over $1,000 dollars payable over two years’ time.
You know how indies say, “I can’t afford a cover, or a professional edit, etc, etc, etc, because I’ll never earn my money back?” Yeah. That. How many books would I have to sell to earn back $849? That’s the whole point of the ads course, right? To learn how to make that kind of money? Sure.
So how about this one? In Mark’s SPF University, there’s a course on how to write a bestseller by Suzy K. Quinn. People have raved over this, and I’m always wanting to work on the craft part of being an author. Some would say working on craft is the most important part of being a writer because it always starts with a good book. But her class is a whopping $297.00. People say they learn so much from that class. But hey, that’s two car payments for me. Or half a month’s rent.
And I’m not picking on Mark Dawson. John Truby also has a writing class. He gave a intro talk about it at the 20booksto50k conference in November last year. And you can watch it here.
And that’s just classes. We haven’t talked tools yet.
Bookbrush. A platinum yearly fee with them is $250.00. Canva. A yearly membership with them is $120.00 a year. But if you compare the two, you get quite a lot more with Bookbrush, as you should since it’s double the cost. There there’s Vellum, and if you don’t have a Mac you have to run it through Macincloud, and if you do want a Mac, well, everyone knows how much they cost.
Never mind paying for clicks on Amazon Advertising, and the same goes for running Facebook ads and Bookbub ads. (Don’t bother with running ads on a platform you don’t understand. You might as well give me your money. I’ll use it to buy promos.)
Can we add newsletter providers too?
Oh, I forgot about website hosting and a domain name. Maybe a business upgrade on WordPress.
A yearly subscription to Microsoft Office 365.
Forgot coffee. And booze. Are you even a writer if you’re not drinking something like a fish?
Let’s just say that indies have a lot of resources and not all of them cheap, ah, budget-friendly.
How much does it cost to be a writer? Well, nothing. I mean, literally 0 dollars. It takes no money to be a writer. Maybe two dollars. Grab a pen and notebook from the dollar store. Or scrounge your kids’ school supplies for things they didn’t use after everything moved to online learning because of COVID-19.
There’s a joke in the running world that running is the most expensive free sport there is. Shoes, race fees, GPS watches, the rest of the gear. The list is almost as long as what a writer needs to be an author. Being an author is the most expensive free thing you can do right? Tell that to my $150.00/pair Brooks running shoes so I don’t get tendonitis in my ankles.
But how much money does it really take to invest in your business?
The problem is, not anyone is going to know but you.
I had a friend step back from writing. She’s focusing on her family. That’s great; she has to do what’s best for her. And while she’s never said she won’t come back into the writing/indie space, what she did invest in will just sit while she decides what she wants to do. She bought a Mac, she purchased Vellum. She bought a yearly subscription to Canva Pro. Granted, that can run out, but I don’t know how much of her paid year will go to waste while she’s not using it. She purchased her domain name for a blog she took down. I gave her a free developmental edit of her book, so there’s something, but she paid for a cover for a book that will sink in the Amazon store because she won’t be promoting it (and by promoting it, I really mean writing the next book) while she takes a break.
So how much money should you spend? Start small. I pay for Word. I don’t use a writing software like Scrivner. But you don’t have to purchase Word, either, though the .docx is compatible with Vellum and other conversion websites as well as KDP. There are free options like Open Office or Google Docs.
There are some things indie professionals say you can’t skimp on like a professional edit, or a decent book cover. And that’s true. You don’t have anything if you don’t have a good book. That’s why there’re craft classes out there. But you don’t have to pay $300.00 for a class. There are a ton of craft books, and all you need is to invest some time into reading them. In fact, there are a lot of free resources on YouTube if you learn better listening to a speaker. Brian Sanderson has a set of lectures on Youtube people say are really good, and you can get started here. And over the years John Truby has spoken about craft and you can watch those YouTube videos for free. I’ve shared several talks I’ve enjoyed from the 20booksto50k conference in Vegas last year. The group puts those on YouTube for free too. Chris Fox’s channel is valuable, as is David Gaughran’s new channel.
I suggest narrowing down what you need at the moment you need it. If you only have one book out, probably you don’t need an $800.00 ads course. If you only have one book chances are working on craft would suit where you are in your career a lot better than learning an ad platform or any kind of marketing strategy.
I have fear of missing out, and a lot of writers I know do too. It’s tough not to want the newest brightest thing. Especially when all your groups on Facebook are raving about it. I can’t afford Mark Dawson’s class, and if you can’t either, there’s no point in feeling bad about it. It is what it is. I’ve learned a lot taking Bryan Cohen’s free ad challenges, and he doesn’t push you to pay for his class. I break even with my ads, and that’s okay. I’m not losing money and I’m picking up new readers. At this stage in my career, that’s a win for me.
Having all the tools and technology won’t make you a writer and I have a feeling that was what my friend was aiming for. She was collecting the tools of the trade, but in two years wrote only 60,000 words. For some indies, that’s a word total per month.
Think about what your goals are, what you want out of your career and when you want them. My fiancé bought me a Mac and purchased Vellum for me. I format a lot of books, and pay my fiancé’s kindness forward and will format free for others. Like I said, I pay for Word. It’s my main (umm, only) writing software and I use it every day. I pay for Canva. I bought Publisher Rocket because I do experiment with ads (and right now those small ads are my main source of sales). I’m ashamed to say I threw $40.00 at something I don’t even know what it is or how it will help me. All I know is she said it was her final offer because she wasn’t going to sell it anymore, and I swallowed it hook, line, and, sinker. Some kind of author toolbox website that I probably will never be able to find because I was too busy throwing money at her to pay attention to what I was buying.
It happens, and probably more frequently than we want to admit. The panic sucks. The fear of missing out on something that will make us a bestseller. And we especially panic when we think everyone else but us has the magic bullet.
A good rule of thumb is to exhaust all the free possibilities before going to paid. Newsetter providers have tutorials. So do lots of people on YouTube wanting to help you. Podcasts have been a great way to learn things, and I like to multi-task. Listen while you’re doing chores, or running errands, or taking a walk. I use my phone to take notes if they mention something of interest I don’t want to forget.
No matter how you learn what you learn, probably the one thing you’re going to need to invest is time, and in a lot of cases, that time is better spent writing.
Because I have nothing else to talk about, let’s see how my ads did for the month of May. Right now I’m running ads for four books: All of Nothing, Wherever He Goes, The Years Between Us, and His Frozen Heart. I actually came in ahead last month, making about $60.00 after ad spend. That’s not terrible–breaking even for me so more than acceptable at this point–and I’m aware that it’s more than what some people are making on their books right now.
Before I get into the numbers, I’ll tell you that my daily ad budget is always $5.00, and that my bid per click is always between .25-.35. I never EVER go with Amazon’s suggested bid. I know click bid can depend heavily on genre, and everyone always says how competitive romance is. But I’m not willing to up my bid on the off chance that it will make me more money. Right now all I’m concerned with is tweaking my covers, blurbs, and look inside so that my books are profitable, and my lower bid per click is working. I get impressions and I get clicks and that’s more than enough for now. There is plenty to worry about without hoping Amazon’s suggested bid won’t blow your grocery budget for the month.
My ad spend for the month of May:
Don’t let the spend versus sales fool you. If your books are in KU, the sales don’t include KU page reads. Sales are readers who buy the ebook/paperback. And in this case, I didn’t sell any paperbacks.
Here are the royalties:
Using the royalties estimator from the KDP reports dashboard is the easiest way to look at your royalties. Some people use BookReport, a Google Chrome extension, but I haven’t put Chrome on my Mac.
I took screenshots of the royalties vs. ads for each book individually. I don’t normally look at that–so long as I’m not wasting money, I don’t mind which book is making more than the others. You can see All of Nothing made the most–and also spent the most. Wherever He Goes is the unpopular one of the group, and maybe a new blurb could help. But I’ve already rewritten it, and at this point I’m done going back.
My numbers might not add up 100% just because I do make a couple cents here and there on other books, but these are the main four I run ads for. You can see that All of Nothing is the leader in sales. Sales for that book allows me to lose money on ads for the others. Is that smart? Probably not–all your ads should run in the black, but I’m just playing around and experimenting.
I’m happy to see that The Years Between Us is doing better with the new cover and blurb. People are actually reading it and in the past few days I have been selling the ebook; people aren’t only reading it in KU. I wish they’d buy the paperback because the new cover looks gorgeous in print.
Anyway, so that’s how I’ve done for the month of May. So far for June I’m in the black, but just by a few dollars. I may not be making a ton of money, but I’m picking up new readers, and that feels good. The last book in my series launched at the end of May, so I don’t have any reports yet on how my read-through is for the four books. I think next month I may plan a Christmas-in-July promotion and buy a BargainBooksy promo and see if I put His Frozen Heart on sale for .99 if I can get some read-through for that series. I’ll be playing around with ads for the next little while because I won’t have anything coming out for a few months.
What I know I learned from Bryan Cohen’s free ad challenge that he does every once in a while. He gives out such useful information, and he’s even usually around to answer questions. I can’t say enough good things about the guy, and I really encourage you to sign up for his challenge in July. It makes a big difference if you know how to use an ad platform before plunking down the money on experimentation. Trust me, there’s a lot to experiment with (like ad copy) without worrying about wasting money on ad spend because you don’t know what you’re doing. If you want to sign up for the challenge next month, you can find Bryan’s sign up link here. I don’t get anything if you sign up. I learned a lot from his classes and homework, and I know you will too!
Thanks for reading, and I hope you’re all having a wonderful June so far!
Besides trying to get the last of my thoughts on the 2020 predictions from Written Word Media into this blog while they are still relevant, I’ll be working on a few other things.
I’m done editing the Tower City Romance Trilogy. I lost the Vellum files for the single books, but I did still have the boxed set file. That means I could extract the formatted books from the boxed set and turn them back into single books. I didn’t have to read through them again, but I’m glad I did. I found typos, lots of telling, some passive voice, and even some slight formatting errors. I think my books sound better, and they’ll definitely look better.
I know we’re not supposed to read reviews, but one in particular stuck out at me on Goodreads.
She said I ended my books too quickly. I felt that in book three, and to fix that, I’m going to write an extended Epilogue that will put a pretty bow on top of the trilogy.
The plan right now is to jump about a year and a half into their future and show the reader what happened to everyone.
Epilogues aren’t Band-aids, and I don’t have plot holes or loose ends (I would have fixed them in the editing if I had) but as with couples who were about to get married and have babies, this will be a nice closure. I’m not sure if I’ll just add that to the boxed set to encourage KU read-through, or tack it on to the end of book three.
I’ll write it first then decide. If things go to plan, I should be able to write 8-10k words at my work over the weekend, then type it out on Monday.
The next thing I want to do is submit a new cover for The Years Between Us. I think the cover is holding the book back. There are steamy scenes, and the cover doesn’t portray the heat level. So, I’m going from this:
to possibly this:
This isn’t set in stone yet, and it’s not a cover reveal. (I don’t bother with those.)
I darkened the bottom (that gradient is becoming a trademark I don’t want and something I need to stop doing for later books) because she has a garter on and a pretty little butt-cheek is hanging out, and I didn’t want it to show. I plan to pay for ads to these books and Amazon doesn’t allow for too much spicy. I found a lovely couple before this one, but he was holding a glass of champagne, and booze in AMS ads is a no-go. I didn’t want to change the cover then discover my ads wouldn’t be approved.
I like that their faces are in shadow–it’s difficult finding a stock photo that has an older man and a younger woman that does not depict and old man in a nursing home and his nurse. You do with what you can when you’re not willing to pay.
I may experiment with the placement of the title. Some people aren’t fans of words over the models’ faces.
Let me know what you think of the new one. My main concern it’s too much like All of Nothing. My skills are limited and it’s beginning to show. I love doing my own covers though, so after I get all these little odds and ends wrapped up that I started because of COVID-19, I’ll start teaching myself how to do more with covers while I focus on my first person projects.
How is everyone doing lately? Some states are opening up. I know I won’t be jumping in line to go to a restaurant any time soon. I’ve been happy as a clam staying at home working on my stuff. I hope you’re hanging in there!
As a side note, I gave away two Kindle Fires to two lucky winners of Brenda Novak’s readers group on Facebook. Some of their stories break my heart, and I wish I could have given more.
I encourage you, if you have Kindles or reading devices to spare, to look up Brenda’s group. It’s heartbreaking to me that people can’t afford a $50 tablet, but there really are so many who can’t. They appreciate anything you can give them so much. When I offered my two new Kindles, I received over 1,000 posts of interest. It was very difficult to decide who to give them to. I hope I was able to to turn two lives around; I wish it could be more.
I love this writing/reading community I’m part of and always look for ways to pay it forward.
I don’t know when IngramSpark started distributing to Walmart.com.
A few weeks ago I saw someone post about having trouble with the pricing of their books on Amazon because they were on sale on Walmart.com. At the time I thought the only way you could have your books on the retailer’s site was if you published your ebook with Kobo. With their partnership with Walmart, Walmart sells Kobo ebooks in their books section. I didn’t think anything of it, attributed it to the operator and not the machine and moved on.
But then I listened to an episode of The Sell More Books Show podcast, and they also featured an author who was having pricing problems on Amazon due to their paperbacks being on Walmart.com. (I tried to find the episode that news clip was featured on and I don’t remember when I listened to it.)
Of course, then I had to look for my own books. If you remember from a past blog post, I did have my ebooks on Walmart.com when I was wide through Kobo. That didn’t last long, and as I far as I know, I didn’t sell one through that channel either.
The problem that’s been going around online now is that Walmart.com is willing to take a loss on books, and they have no problem discounting them. The person who does have a problem with it? Amazon. They’ll get on your butt right away for having a cheaper product than them somewhere else, and they’ll price match as soon as they find out. Some authors are even being told to contact Walmart and ask them to not discount their book(s), but of course, that’s impossible.
To combat this, authors are upping their prices on IngramSpark. That seems crappy though because 1) your book is suddenly more than you wanted it to be and 2) if you have your price anywhere on your cover you have to adjust your price on the cover so the prices match. I ran into that problem more than once, so I know first hand that Ingram won’t let you update your files unless they match.
Is publishing with IngramSpark worth it? I don’t know. It depends on what your goals are. How many books have I sold through Ingram? I only have my paperbacks there to take the place of expanded distribution on Amazon. I don’t go onto my dashboard very often because print isn’t part of my business model, but let me check:
I’ve sold five copies. I’m not even sure where to look to find out where those copies were sold from. Maybe it was Walmart, maybe Waterstones, maybe Barnes and Noble. Not sure, and to be honest, five copies? I guess it doesn’t really matter, either, does it?
So what am I going to do? At this point I’m not going to do anything.
It used to be a big draw for me to have my books available to be sold in bookstores. A lot of times authors don’t understand that if you want your books in bookstores or libraries it has to be available through IngramSpark. You can always sell your books on consignment or donate your book to a library, but if you want them to order your book properly, it needs to be available through the Ingram catalogue, and that is the sole reason I published there. I still haven’t approached my Barnes and Noble or local indie bookstore to ask if they’ll carry my books–even in the local authors section. I haven’t bothered to ask my library to carry it. (If you want your ebook part of a borrowing app like Libby, you need to be wide and published through OVERDRIVE which is an available option through Draft2Digital.)
But since my ebooks can’t be in libraries because I’m in KU, and taking into account my dismal paperback sales on other platforms, it makes me wonder just how worth it is to publish on Ingram if I’m going to have to go through the hassle of keeping my eyes on my prices. I don’t want Amazon mad at me. They are going to be a huge part of my income once my books start moving and I would prefer to stay on their good side.
As for me, maybe the sale on All of Nothing doesn’t have anything to do with prices on other platforms. Maybe it doesn’t have anything to do with Walmart. I know Amazon will occasionally run sales on certain titles, and I never had a problem with that because I know that if AMAZON runs a sale on your book that you’ll receive full royalties. But do you if they price match behind your back? Hmmm.
Here’s the first row of my books on Barnes and Noble. Everyone wants to discount All of Nothing it seems.
Well, I’m not going to freak out about it until Amazon asks me to stop offering my books at a lower price on other platforms. I don’t know if this sale is by them or not. Usually these flash sales don’t last long, and I’ll just keep an eye on my prices.
Not many first-time authors know how important their also-boughts are on Amazon sales page.
I didn’t either.
When you’re a new author, and your friends are published authors, your also-boughts probably reflect that because you’ll buy each other’s books. Chances are your friends write in different genres so your also-boughts are full of steampunk, urban fantasy, and fantasy when you write romance. We laugh and take screenshots because Amazon has linked us to our Twitter friends.
That’s less than ideal because this is Amazon telling you they don’t know where your book goes on the virtual bookshelf. This is bad.
If Amazon doesn’t know what your book is, they can’t recommend it to readers in the correct genre.
This is why when someone on Twitter says they have birthday money and want to buy a couple of indie books, I get mad at all the people who try to entice them into buying their books. When it comes to Amazon, the biggest book retailer in the United States, a sale isn’t just a sale. I stopped advertising my books on writer Twitter a long time ago.
Why do you care what the also-boughts are on your books product page? Because when Amazon knows what genre your book is, Amazon will put your book in other authors also-boughts. This is really powerful. This is like free advertising. Amazon recommending your book on another books’ sales pages? Yes, please.
This is why you don’t want just anyone buying your books. You want readers in your genre buying your books.
This also goes for the first wave of sales that go to your family and your friends. Don’t ask them to buy if that’s not what they read and buy from Amazon on a regular basis. I know it’s hard, but training Amazon to know what you’re selling is beneficial in other ways. Mainly, ads.
Did you know Amazon won’t show your ad, no matter how much you bid, if the algorithms say no one is buying it? Amazon wants to make money. If they can’t make money selling your book, they’ll bury it.
But, you might say, they’re getting my money from ads with cost per click, right?
Yes, but that’s only 50% of what they can make if people are clicking and not buying. Amazon wants their 30% of your book royalties, too, and they go with the sure thing.
Training Amazon to know what genre you publish in is half the battle. That’s why you hear from established authors that say you shouldn’t genre-hop until you have an established audience.
Loading your book into Yasiv if to see if your book is connected to others in your genre is a good start. If it’s not, buy some promos. Your first order of business is getting readers of your genre to buy your book.
The second is to write more books.
The 3rd is to stop asking just anybody to buy it. If you’re hoping for reviews, give your book away.
You want Amazon to show your book to people who read in your genre. They’ll even email readers suggestions of books they might enjoy. We all get those emails. It takes a little work, but in the end it can be worth it.
What are my also-boughts like?
All of Nothing‘s also-boughts are solid. It’s my biggest seller (which isn’t saying much) but I’ve done the most ads for it.
The Years Between Us needs some work, apparently, and I’ll be doing a promo for it for my birthday coming up. I still need to change out the blurb though. This isn’t good, and I’ll be taking my own advice.
Want to learn more about also-boughts? Read Chris Fox’s Six Figure Author. He goes in depth with also-boughts and the Amazon algorithms.
Click here to read All of Nothing! Available in paperback and Kindle Unlimited!
If you’re brave and take a look at your reviews from time to time, there may be some common themes that readers have picked out with your book. If you have a thick skin, sometimes this can be a benefit–readers can (and probably will) see things about your book that you didn’t realize yourself.
With All of Nothing, I knew Jax was a jerk, and I made him that way. An accident he was involved in damaged him beyond all comprehension. In the book he was cold and heartless because underneath the armor, that’s exactly what he wasn’t.
I had a lot of fun with his character arc, but some of the readers were put off by just how mean he really was.
So, when I rewrote the blurb, I knew I needed to make this clearer so his attitude and actions toward Raven weren’t such a shock.
Writing a blurb is difficult, and at the end of this blog post I’ll list a few resources you can look into that may help you on your own path to writing your blurbs.
This was the old blurb:
“I took a life, and when I did, he took mine.”
After his fiancée leaves him at the altar, cold-hearted millionaire Jaxon Brooks blackmails the church janitor, forcing her to stand in as his bride.
When she accidentally signs her real name on the marriage certificate, Jax must find his wife to file for divorce.
Since the death of her brother, Raven Grey has been living a hard life on the streets.
When Jax offers his help in exchange for her signature, Raven agrees, hoping for a better future and to repair her relationship with her parents.
As Jax and Raven grow closer, his past haunts them, and the death of her brother threatens their new love in ways neither of them thought possible.
I’ve linked to the podcast before, but the Best Page Forward podcast took it apart. Abigail Dunard made some good points, and so did Jim Heskett, and when I rewrote it, I tried to keep their thoughts in mind. I wrote the original blurb with tips from Bryan Cohen’s book, How To Write a Sizzling Synopsis, but I must not have done that great of a job. Anyone who teaches blurb-writing will tell you to measure how good a blurb is by the number of conversions to your ads, but if you don’t run ads, it’s difficult to measure if the blurb is working or not. (Plus, if you use that reasoning, it may be your cover that isn’t doing it when your blurb could be perfectly fine.)
When writing the new blurb, I used Brian’s tips on copywriting, things I gleaned from the reviews, and tried to take out the confusing parts of the blurb the podcast hosts pointed out.
I ran it by a couple people who liked it, but until I start getting more reviews and more feedback, I still may not have made the right changes. The beauty of being an indie, though, is that you can make any kind of changes you want, nothing is locked in. Because I did do a cover update at the same time as rewriting the blurb, I went ahead and replaced the blurb on the back cover. But that isn’t always necessary, and if I tweak the blurb again, I’ll leave the paperback cover alone.
Jaxon Brooks is rich, sexy, and mean as a snake.
It’s no surprise when his fiancé leaves him at the altar. But now what is he going to do?
To save face, he blackmails the church janitor, forcing her to stand in for his bride, and he fights an unwanted attraction as she walks down the aisle.
Raven Grey is homeless.
Jax terrifies her, and left with no choice, she does what he says.
But she has desperate demands of her own. She needs help getting back on her feet, and Jax has the resources to help her.
When Jax moves Raven into his mansion, playing house starts to feel like the real thing. But how long can it last?
Buried under Jax’s rough demeanor is a horrible secret that won’t stay hidden, and Raven’s painful past will come back to haunt them. Despite everything, can Jax be the man that Raven needs him to be? Can Raven forgive him for what he’s done?
Can Jax come to terms with the tragedy that blackened his heart and give himself one last chance at true love?
If you like enemies to lovers or a bully hero, All of Nothing is perfect for you! Read it today!
The one huge departure from the other blurb is the call to action (CTA) at the end. I hate telling people what to do. I leave my kids alone, I didn’t run my ex-husband’s life, I don’t even like to give advice unless it’s asked for, and then I’m fully prepared for anyone not to take it. My back matter doesn’t ask readers to sign up for a newsletter, give a review, or read the next book. So putting that last sentence at the bottom really threw me, but Brian swears by it, and well, it’s way down at the bottom, so what did it hurt? (And I do realize I’m letting opportunity go by with no CTA in my back matter, at all, and I’ll try to think of something when my wedding series drops.)
Is it better? Is it worse? I have no idea.
That is part two in what I did to revamp All of Nothing. I’ve been getting good feedback so far on the cover, and I’ve been kind of messing around with Wherever He Goes. But I don’t want to get so caught up in busy work that I’m not working on my current books. I’m still on track to put this quartet out by the holidays, and I’m going to keep my eyes on that prize.
In the next blog post, I’ll go over metadata and keywords!
Listen to Libby Hawker’s tips on YouTube. Her videos are cut into parts, just to let you know, and this link starts with part one. This was quite some time ago, and trends change, but sometimes if you can piecemeal advice from different sources, you can turn that advice into something relevant today.
Bryan Cohen and Chris Fox did a presentation about Blurb, Cover, and Title at the 20books Vegas conferences last November. This is such a great resource, and one of the conferences that I plan to go to! Take a listen to this video on how blurbs, titles, and covers work together to sell your book.
Thanks for reading, and let me know if you have any blurb writing tips!