I Did an Amazon Giveaway–and It Did Pretty Much Nothing

I was always curious about the Amazon giveaways–you know the cute little button at the bottom left of your books’ (or any products’ really) page. You have to scroll down pretty far to find it–after reviews and two sets of sponsored product ad strips.

amazon giveaway blog

You can give away paperback or Kindle versions, and it’s obviously cheaper to give away Kindle versions. Amazon makes you pay for your book, so if you gave away paperbacks, you’d be paying the price you set in CreateSpace or KDP Print, plus shipping.  There’s no shipping with Kindle files, but there is tax. So make sure you’re looking at the correct page, and Amazon tells you which version you’re giving away–it’s in the blue to the right of your book’s cover.

Choose your number of prizes:

amazon giveaway blog 2

I’ll give away three Kindle file copies. I did five when I did my giveaway for Wherever He Goes, so I feel like I’ve already spent money on something that probably won’t do anything for me.

amazon giveaway blog 3

Add your photo. I chose a different pose of my author photo that I use everywhere else, but I still look like me.

The next part is where I royally screwed up because I had no idea giveaways ran that quickly, or that people would enter, or maybe I just didn’t understand the stats of a giveaway like this.

amazon giveaway blog 4

I did the recommend Lucky Number Instant Winner, and I chose 100 for the lucky number for the winning entry.

This is what it says if you click on LEARN MORE:

amazon giveaway blog 5

My giveaway lasted fifteen minutes. So When I chose 5 prizes along with the 100 entrants,  500 people entered my giveaway and every 100th entrant won a copy of my book. The fact that it only too 15 minutes for my giveaway to end blows my mind.  So will be going with a higher number next time.

And then, of course, I have them follow me on Amazon.

amazon giveaway blog 6

I made it public of course, because the more the merrier.

To recap, I’m doing 3 copies of Don’t Run Away. I have the number of entrants set at 200 per prize so 600 people have to enter to win three copies. They all have to follow me on Amazon.

You would think this would be a great thing. But the thing is, most people enter giveaways just to enter giveaways. That is what they do. Just for the rush of winning, I’m assuming.

I don’t think this giveaway is going to go any slower than my other one, but we’ll see.

Click on no for not offering discounts, then click next.

amazon giveaway blog 7

This is the last page, and it’s laughable. It’s probably where my high expectations came in. The giveaway will end in 7 days? Yeah right.

Then you get your shopping cart screen and you purchase your giveaway. I didn’t screenshot that because you don’t need to see my stuff. After you buy it, you get this:

amazon giveaway blog 8

And you’re all set.

You get an email when your giveaway is live, and for me, fifteen minutes later, I got an email saying my giveaway was over.

Amazon doesn’t tell you how many followers you have, but at some point, hopefully when they email your followers when you release a new book, that some of them will buy it.

Don’t turn blue holding your breath.

While I was typing this up, my giveaway went live–I got the email.

We’ll see how long it takes for the giveaway to end . . . . go get something to eat. I’ll wait.

At any rate, did the giveaway for Wherever He Goes do anything for me?

Not really that I could tell. At least with my AMS ads, even with little results, those are still measurable. These giveaways seem like a waste of time and a waste of money.

Maybe I’ll do a Goodreads giveaway when my new book comes out.

It will be something to blog about anyway.

Did you have a good experience with an Amazon Giveaway? Let me know!

Blog book promo for the end of blog posts

 

 

More AMS (Amazon ads) Updates

I like doing these to help anyone who is afraid of dipping their toes into Amazon marketing. Ads are a scary concept, be it Amazon or Facebook. Anything that will take your money without a firm promise of ROI (return on investment) needs to be taken up with a bit of caution. Too cautious though, and you aren’t going to get the results you want.

You need to spend money to make money, and all that.

So here’s where I am so far with ads.

ams-blog-post.jpg

ams blog post 2

If you know anything about what you’re looking at, it’s pretty easy to see my bids are not high enough to be getting very many impressions or clicks. But that’s the name of the game, you know, to find the sweet spot where you’re getting impressions and clicks, but you’re also not paying a ton of money for clicks if no one is buying. You’re hoping if people are clicking on your ad, that you’ll make sales. But your clicks also have to be in line with how much you’re making from your books.

My books are priced at 2.99. If I spend 30 cents a click, and I get 2.09 from each sale, that’s a take-home royalty of 1.79 a book. (There’s a real way to determine ROI and I’m not doing that here, and I know I’m not, so you don’t have to tell me, for you die-hard ROI fans out there.)

Anyway, so anyone worried that you’re going to do some ads and Amazon is going to take all your money and you’re going to broke with no sales, well, you can go slow. You need to have patience. And some impressions are better than none, but these aren’t what I was hoping for, and these aren’t what Brian Meeks, in his book, says you can accomplish either.

I have 20 ads running simultaneously, and I’ve only spent $2.30.

I am still getting KU reads, and I’ll never know if those come from the impressions from my ads.

I’ll add a few more ads with a higher click and see if we can’t get something going. I’ll have another book coming out in November, hopefully, so I’ll have another book to promote.

The more, the better, right?

Anyway, so that’s where I’m at. If you’re interested in Brian’s book, click on the pic. He’s got a ton of great info there. amazon ads

Until next time, happy selling!

 

 

 

 

Blog book promo for the end of blog posts

My BargainBooksy Ad from last month. How did it do?

Well, apparently, not very well since I forgot to post the update. This time, this ad was a paid ad (meaning, my book wasn’t free), and I set the price of Wherever He Goes to .99. I thought, a dollar for a book, that’s pretty good, right? Heck, I spent three months working on it, I figured a dollar was a good price.

The problem is, with doing these ads, you just WON’T KNOW why your book doesn’t sell. It could be the cover, it could be your copy. It could just be that no one wants to pay. You never know.

So, in total, I sold 40 books on the day the newsletter came out and a couple days afterward. That is nothing compared to the 4,000 books I gave away during my Freebooksy ad I did back in February. You can read about that here.

june sales for bargainbooksy ad

As far as KU page reads are concerned, you can see that the newsletter created a bit of a spike, but nothing to write home about. And this is only for Wherever He Goes. My trilogy is still getting a few page reads, but I wanted to see what my ad would do for Wherever He Goes, and unfortunately, for 80 dollars, not much.

Here is what my ad looked like in the newsletter:

bargain booksy ad

Would I do this again? I haven’t made back what I spent on the ad, so it will be a while before I try something like that again.

What I need to focus on is getting reviews, but for using any legit reviewing services, I need to pull my book out of Select because the one review service I contacted distributes the books through Bookfunnel. Amazon considers Bookfunnel as a distribution platform and will yank you out of Select if they catch you using it.

For my next book, I’m going to place my book with a review service first, before putting into Select and see what happens. Hopefully, if I get some decent reviews that way, readers will give all my books a chance.

And I think if I ever do another promo with Written Word Media (Freebooksy/Bargainbooksy) I’ll do the free one, since I kind of feel like I got more bang for my buck. At least, it sounds better to say I gave away 4,000 copies than say I sold 40. It would be great if any of that had turned into reviews, but so far nothing significant on that end, either.

But, that is my experience with Bargainbooksy, and if you’ve tried them, and have gotten better results, let me know!

Thanks for reading!

Blog book promo for the end of blog posts

 

 

What do You do with Promo Photos? And Better Yet, WHERE DO THEY COME FROM?

We all see these cute photos of people’s books, you know? If you don’t know, you’re not on Twitter much, or you haven’t liked many Facebook author pages. Let me give you some examples. Hold on while I dredge some up.

wherever he goes promo composite

This is mine for my latest book I put out in June. That looks pretty cool, right? Or how about Aila’s, when she did her cover reveal for her new Women’s Fiction, Alabama Rain:

alia's cover reveal

Hers is pretty fancy; those books stacked on that nice shelf. And I love her cover. I am so excited to read this book. She made an awesome trailer, too, and you can watch it here. Anyway, I can make something similar with mine (but not the same because her skill set and my skill set vary greatly):

whereverhegoespromowithsunflower

The best part about the 3D mockup maker I use is that you can download a PNG without any background, which makes it very easy to place your book onto a different background, and you can make a super cute promo like this:

aila's promo

But what the heck are you going to do with it?

Aila says she puts hers at the end of her blog posts, making the photo clickable and driving traffic to her Amazon page. That’s not a bad idea. But she blogs–a lot. And consistently. Who can say they do that? Not me. But you should totally check out her blog. She writes very informative posts about the indie publishing industry, and she knows a lot of writing resources she generously shares.

I mean, you want photos out there. Someone might Pin It, or Retweet it, if it’s cute. I found this one somewhere and saved it for reference because I’m terrible at design:

book promo idea

Text is good, you know? A tagline, a teaser.

I made this messing around in Canva, trying to practice, develop my eye:

He's her boss, but he's got his eye on her. She doesn't know what she wants.He has demons to spare.And she has an ex that just won't quit.

Canva is good for stuff like that. It makes placing photos in composites a lot easier if you don’t know your way around GIMP or Photoshop. I made this in Canva using my Kindle cover for the first book in my trilogy:

Don't Run Away Promo

Of course, you need to make sure the photos you are using, like the sunflower on the shelf, and this work photo, are okay for commercial use since you’re trying to sell your books. At least, I’m going to assume you are.

But the problem is, there’s a ton of this stuff out there, and it’s annoying. You can Tweet it all the time but people will unfollow you. You can’t post it on Instagram all the time, because then you’re pegged a self-promoter and no one will follow your account.

So, I make promo photos, and then I don’t do anything with them.

But part of this blog post was to tell you where you can do this stuff, so take a look at the programs I’ve used:

FREE ONLINE BOOK MOCKUP MAKER
Derek Murphy runs this site, and he’s got a lot of great information about making covers yourself. He has a YouTube channel, and it’s worth checking out. I used this to make the first picture in this blog post, and I’ve done it for my friends, just to see how it looks with other covers:

stealing home promo

wolves of dynamoThis is a free site, though the positions of the books are somewhat limited. But it’s free and the program places the covers for you, so you take what you can get, right? If you want to place the books anywhere else, like a shelf, you need to use a program to place them onto a different background. I use GIMP to keep my hand in (I’ve spent a lot of time figuring out the very small percentage of what I do know); it’s a free version of Photoshop. But you can use Canva, too, which is a lot easier to figure out.

shelf with sailboatandbook
I bought the shelf photo from canstockphoto.com. Wolves of Dynamo is a fantasy YA geared for both boys and girls, so I didn’t want to put with anything too girlie, or something that wouldn’t fit the genre. (I showed it to the author, and Gareth gave me a tough time. LOL)

Anyway, so give the mockup maker a try. Use pixabay.com and find workstation photos. All their photos are free for commercial use. Placing your book’s cover onto a Kindle mockup is easy using Canva. Just like any software, it may take a little bit to get used to, but that’s part of the fun of making these, right?

Because it’s not like you can shove them in people’s faces all day long–people will get bored with you, fast.

This is the quick mockup I made of David’s book:

shelf with lampstealinghome

If you make a lot of these, you probably want to experiment with different ways your book looks. Stacks, like Aila’s above, or just one, or all your mockups will start to look the same.

If you do the stacks, you’ll need to have a picture of your spine and better skills because the 3D maker I linked you to doesn’t have a stacks option. I haven’t bothered with that, just because there’s only so much time I want to take messing around. And it takes a lot of time to make these things if you don’t know the software; it takes a bit of practice.

It can be a nice break though, from writing, to mess around with this kind of thing.

Aila used a different website to find her mockups, and she put a lot of work into those, but she knows Photoshop really well, and she makes her own book covers, too. I think she does a fantastic job!

Also, you can get a lot of ideas just Googling book cover mockups. On Twitter, I’ve seen people advertising to do this for you but they charge a bit. If you don’t want to do it yourself, you can hire someone from Fiverr. Sometimes if you hire a cover designer, they’ll make a couple of these for you, too. But again, it’s like, what are you really going to do with them? You know? If you like design and want to put the time in, practice so you can get to know the software for other things like, maybe eventually you’ll want to make your own covers. Then you don’t have to bother your cover designer or ask their permission every time you want to create a mockup.

I’ve given you some ideas on the book cover mockups for promos, and where you can go to make them. But don’t be wasting your time messing around with these when you should be writing. It’s fun to learn how to do these, but if you don’t have a book to market, it’s all pretty pointless, anyway.

Have fun, and good luck!

Vanias Books Promo

 

Formatting Your Book for Publication

If you don’t want to format yourself, yet you don’t want to have to pay too much, then there aren’t many things you can do.

Let’s start with Kindle, since more than likely 100% of you will publish on Amazon through KDP. What are your options if you don’t want to format your file for Kindle?

1. Actually, just format it, FFS. It’s easy. I pulled this out of an old blog post I did last year. Some of the info isn’t correct anymore, but you can still take a look at it here.

First, make a copy of your manuscript (just in case something goes wrong). This one shouldn’t have any headers or footers. If you have page numbers and/or a don’t steal my shit copyright header for your beta readers, remove them all.

The biggest thing with conversion is Tabs will screw everything up. If you use the Tab key to make your indents for your paragraphs, you’re going to have one messed up converted file. Here are the steps to take out your Tabs:

Removing Tabs

Press the Paragraph Show/Hide button in the Paragraph section of the Home tab so you can see the formatting marks.
Highlight (select) your whole document.
At the far right of the Home tab in the Editing section, click on the Replace button.
Click the More/Special button in the bottom left corner of the box.

taking out tabs

Select the Tab Character.

2018-06-25_LI

Leave the Replace with field empty and click Replace All. This removes all the Tabs.

This should have taken them out. If, for some reason, you used the Spacebar to make a tab, go into Replace, and in the Find field hit the number of times you used the Spacebar to make the Tab (maybe five? Six?), leave the Replace line empty and hopefully Word will find all the Spacebar spaces you used for tabs and pull them out.

But now you have a whole book that doesn’t have any indentations. I’ve seen books like this. Don’t do it. You want your book to look as professional as possible so put them back in:

Putting your Tabs Back In

Again, select or highlight your whole document.
Click the little arrow at the bottom right of the Paragraph menu in the Home tab. Or right-click your mouse and select Paragraph from the menu.

tabs

In the Indentation section of the box change Special to First Line and enter 0.25. This is how long your Tab is going to be. If you want it shorter you can do 0.23 or something. I use 0.25.

Click OK.

This puts all the Tabs back into your document, but you don’t want the first paragraph of your Chapters and/or scenes to be indented (traditionally published books usually do not have the first paragraph of Chapters or scenes indented) so you will have to go through your whole novel(la), look for the Chapter starts and scene breaks and take the tab out of the first paragraph. When you find those, put your cursor in front of the first letter of the first word, right click your mouse, select Paragraph and in the Indentation section, change By to 0. This will manually take the one Tab out.

When you start a new document, it’s easier to go into Paragraph, change First Line to 0.25 from the beginning, then you don’t have to go through all this after you’re done. It will take a little getting used to, to not have to hit the Tab button at the beginning of every new paragraph, but it will be worth it in the long run.

KDP Formatting Instructions at a Glance:

Take out all the Tabs, put them back in with the instructions above. Don’t indent Chapter starts. First paragraphs after scene breaks have started to become optional.

If there is any in your document, remove headers, footers, and page numbers.

Use a common font. I use Georgia for my Kindle, Garamond for the paperback.

Drop caps are not e-reader friendly, at least not in my experience, and I don’t have enough patience to make them work. Remove those as they will probably mess up your paragraph during conversion.

Set your margins to .5 all around–top, bottom, left, right.

Set your line spacing to 1.5. Not single, not double.

Select your all your text and set to Full Justified.

Don’t use a bunch of Hard Enters to make new pages. Please insert page breaks to create new pages. Lots of hard enters will not convert well. Insert page breaks after you Title Page, Copyright page, dedication page, acknowledgments, Table of Contents, and after each Chapter End. Use them to separate your back matter from your author page.

insert page break

If you have spaces between your paragraphs, you’ll need to select your file again, go into Paragraph and change After in Spacing to 0 pt. This takes out all the unnecessary spacing between paragraphs. (You will want to do this so you are not accused of making your book longer for the extra KU page reads.)

tabs_LI

To add your website or author page in the back, say, on your author page, use https:// with the rest of the website in the link.

What you’ve done is made your file as simple as possible. If you have graphics or formulas or are publishing a nonfiction book with all the bells and whistles, then I would suggest buying a book or researching how to format a complicated document. These instructions are for a fiction book with the general front matter and back matter only.


If you follow those guidelines for your Word document, you should be good to go conversion-wise. But if you don’t even want to do that then you can:

2. Use Kindle Create to format your file. The file won’t belong to you–you format it and then publish right to KDP. So you wouldn’t be able to use the file for other platforms like Apple Books or Kobo. But if you all want to do is publish to Amazon, download the App, upload your book into it and just fiddle with it until you like what you see. Watch the videos to learn how. I played around with it, and I formatted a 50,000-word book in an hour. Look here for details.

3. Use a template. The templates are already set so all you do is copy and paste your document into it. Most of these cost money, so look at these at your own discretion. You can start here: Beautiful Templates for Book Design Success

4. Draft2Digital says they’ll let you format your book on their site for free, and let you use that file wherever you want. You can even use them just to make a file for Kindle. You don’t have to go wide to use their free services. I haven’t ever tried them simply because once you get down how to format a file for Kindle, you don’t need anyone’s help. But if you just want to upload your document into D2D after you create an account, give it a try.

5. Buy a Mac and buy Vellum. I  hear Vellum is the best at formatting e-books and paperbacks. I don’t have a Mac but I plan to treat myself this summer so I can buy Vellum (although, if it’s as good as I hear, I’ll be tempted to redo all my books). If you don’t have a Mac or Vellum, and can’t afford either one, maybe you can ask someone who does to format for you. Maybe offer to trade for the favor. You never know.

6. I also hear Scrivener has formatting capabilities. I don’t use it–I write in Word. But if you use Scrivener, you can try it and see how you like it.

You’ll note that I don’t have the instructions on how to put a Table of Contents in your file. I think they are stupid for fiction. But that’s just my opinion and not a very popular one at that. If you want to know how to make a clickable ToC for your e-reader file, read the instructions I had to hunt down when I made a box-set for Summer Secrets a couple months ago.


Formatting your paperback is a bit harder.

1. I will always recommend using an interior template from CreateSpace or KDP Print. These templates are the same, you just download them from different websites. Choose the formatted template which has all the headers, footers, and end sections in place so your page numbers and your author name and book’s title are on the pages they are supposed to be on. If you take a look at any trad-pubbed book, you’ll see there aren’t headers on Chapter start pages, or headers or footers on front matter or back matter. The interior templates takes care of most of this for you. The only issue I had with them at all is that I usually have more chapters than the template allows, so I have to monkey with the end section breaks myself to create more chapters. Most of the time I just copy and paste the section end break of a previous chapter into the end of the next chapter and that works for me. If you have any working knowledge of Word at all, you should be able to do this without any hassles. The front matter and back matter is all laid out for you as well, so just copy and paste page by page, or chapter by chapter. The template is “chunked” meaning you can’t copy and paste your whole document into the template at one time. The chapters and front and back matter are broken up by section end breaks.

Have patience. If you do 98% of the work, I’m willing to bet you have a friend who would look it over and do the other 2% if you just can’t get it right.

2. If you don’t want to go this route, I’m afraid there isn’t much you can do for free besides get a very good working knowledge of Word and start from scratch to do it all yourself. I took a college class in Word, and I still couldn’t do my formatting without at least getting a good start with the template. But you can always look for a paid template. Most websites that sell e-reader templates sell interiors for paperbacks too.

3. Pay for a formatter. Reedsy has freelance interior design recommendations. They maybe be a bit expensive–that’s my guess just by looking at their qualifications. Fiverr pulled up a lot of options for interior formatting as well, and what I saw were reasonably priced. Of course, always ask for referrals, or other books they’ve done to get an idea of how their books look.


 

As always, I recommend learning how to do this yourself. If you’re going to be a prolific writer, or even if you’re just going to write a book or two a year, you might as well learn how to do it. Hey, you might even get good at it and you can trade services with other people. That’s what the writing community is all about: I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine. If you can format for someone, maybe they’ll beta read for you, etc.

I know there’s stuff I’m forgetting. I mentioned Draft2Digital but not Smashwords. If you want to publish through Smashwords, they have their own system, and I’ve read their how-to-format-your-file book so that it will convert through their “meatgrinder” process.  I’ve never published through them, so if you’re interested, here is their STYLEGUIDE that will help you format your file to upload to Smashwords. It’s long, but Mark Coker makes it funny, so there is that.

When I first started formatting, it was a lot of trial and error. Make use of the interior viewer on KDP, KDP Print, and CreateSpace. Trust me when I say what you see is what you’ll get. If you get caught in an upload, fix, upload, fix, upload, fix, upload, fix pattern and you feel like you’re going to go mad, take a step back, go outside and come back later with a clear head. There is nothing worse than trying to format when you are quivering with rage.

Try practicing on short stories or novella. It’s a lot easier to work with few words then build up to a complete MS when you kind of know what’s going on.

I hope this blog post helps you format!

Good luck!

Up next is cover design!

Thanks for reading.

The Scary World of Amazon Marketing Services

Writers need to get their books out there. Twitter doesn’t sell books. Neither does Facebook–at least not on your personal profile. There are only so many copies Aunt Edna wants. And she’s not going to pay your bills. (If she is, that’s no one’s business but yours.)

So what is an author to do? Well, you can write more books. You should be anyway. What else? Instagram the shit out of your life hoping to draw some attention to your fabulous #writerslife.

What else?

Pay for promos, maybe. I’m assuming I’m still getting some KU page reads from a Freebooksy promo I did a few months ago. (To read about that, click here.)

I’ve come to the conclusion after a few years on Twitter, the only way to find readers is to write books and tell people (who aren’t on Twitter) about them (you know, actual readers). I’ve decided to dip my toes into the world of Amazon ads.

amazon adsNow, lots of people have told me that they don’t work. I bought Brian Meeks’ book, and he tells me they do. But you gotta be smart, and you gotta be patient, and you gotta test. Test and Test. And Test.

Oh, by the way, you have to have a decent book, good cover, good blurb. Because if you don’t have a quality book, no amount of advertising will sell your POS. (Sometimes people forget about that part.)

So, I’ve been running ads for a couple of weeks. Brian says this isn’t hardly any time at all, and I agree. Buying and running ads on Amazon isn’t the magic trick to selling books and getting famous. You need to have patience, and you need to know what you’re doing.

At first, I bid low (like Brian advised–he walks you through the entire process), and piecing together information from other sources, I realized this was way too low. I write contemporary romance, and it’s a highly competitive market.

The thing with Amazon ads is you need to bid high enough that Amazon will show your ads, but not so high that if someone clicks on your ad but doesn’t buy, you don’t go broke paying for clicks that don’t turn into sales.

It’s called a sweet spot, and from what I can tell, few people have the patience to get there. Or they are too scared they are going to waste a lot of money trying.

I’ve been running ads for 13 days, and this is what I have so far:

ams ads so far june 18

Remember, 13 days isn’t hardly any time at all. But for anyone scared to run ads, take a look: I have 12 ads running right now, and I’ve spent 35 cents. Not dollars, cents. None of the ads are doing particularly well, and I assume it’s because I’ve bid too low. The ad for Don’t Run Away that has over 3,000 impressions, hasn’t cost me anything. But those impressions could have given me a few page reads in KU if someone saw the ad, but didn’t click and just decided to try the book in KU anyway. Where and when someone decides to read your book if it’s enrolled in KU will always be a mystery.

Here are my KU page reads for DRA. I took this screenshot on June 18th. The same day I took the screenshot of my ad dashboard.

sales and ku reads for dra

Nope, I don’t have any sales yet. But I haven’t gone broke trying, either.

So anyone who is wanting to try this but is afraid of losing money can err on the side of caution, figure a few things out, and go from there.

I’m surprised that DRA is getting impressions, as the second set of ads I did for Wherever He Goes is a higher cost per click (which you would think would buy me more exposure), and I think the cover for WHG is better than DRA. But maybe the blurb is better written, or the characters resonate better with readers.

So where do I go from here? I plan to bid a bit more for WHG, and see if I can’t get some impressions, at least. Maybe I could even do another set of ads for DRA at a higher bid, and see if that doesn’t ramp up my impressions even more and hope those turn into clicks. Or I could do nothing, and wait to see what happens, because 13 days of ads is hardly any time at all.

But I’ll keep an eye on it. I just wanted to let you know a high daily limit doesn’t have to scare you.

And if you take anything away from this it’s this: if your ads are successful, and you are getting a ton of clicks but they aren’t turning into sales–you need to look at your book. You need to look at your cover. Your Look Inside pages. Your blurb. Don’t pay for ads for a crappy book. Make it better.

I’ll keep you posted!