Buying ads to sell your book

Publishing a book and then hoping someone will stumble upon it and buy it will result in very few sales. To be successful you will need to market your book. This is an ongoing process that usually begins before you publish.

One option for marketing is to buy advertisements. There are a variety of places where you can advertise – Amazon, Goodreads, Facebooks, Book/Reader websites such as BookBub, Kindle News Daily and Ereader News Daily (and many more).

Some websites offer you a banner ad at the top of their website or perhaps a listing on their “special” or “deal section.” And some even will include your information in their e-mail newsletter. Other sites will offer advertising based on a Cost-per-Click program. This is where you have an advertisement (sometimes just copy and sometimes with an image) and you only pay for the people who click on the link in your ad.

In April, I chose to pay for adverting to promote my last KDP Select free promo for The Heir to Alexandra. I spent $15 ($5 a day) to appear on Digital Book Today’s website and $15 to appear in E-Reader News Today’s e-mail newsletter and on their website for one day. I feel that the E-Reader News ad, in particular, was especially beneficial and saw the most downloads on the day of my ad. (See all my results here.)

Of course in my instance, I was giving away a book. Advertising for a book in which someone has to part with their hard-earned dollars is quite different. Many people will download a free book if it only slightly interests them. They will not do the same when they must pay for the book. In that case, your ad must hook the reader into purchasing your book.

If you are going to purchase an ad on any of website, I would suggest you research whether this will help you reach your target market of readers. It doesn’t help to just advertise your books to readers. You need to get it in front of those that actually might read your book.

Some websites such as BookBub send out emails to those people who indicated they like a certain genre. So if you write fantasy, your ad will only go to Fantasy readers. (Click here for a review of advertising with BookBub.)

But let’s take a moment and talk about the other method of advertising – Cost-per-Click programs (CPC). Sites such as Goodreads, Facebook, Amazon, and Google all offer this type of program.

The good thing about most CPC programs is generally it is easy to target readers of your book genre. You can even narrow it by location, age, or gender. This means your ad reaches the people most likely to buy your book.

With CPC, you only pay for the ads where someone clicks on your link. Typically, you set a budget of how much you are willing to spend either per day or for the length of your campaign. Most of the places also let you decide how much you will pay per click but be warned in most cases the lower the amount you “bid” the less your ad will be displayed.

And in some cases like Goodreads, they determine how often your ad is shown based on the initial response to your ad. So if no one clicks on it, you get charged nothing but Goodreads won’t show your ad as much. The ads with more clicks in the first few hundred impressions are shown more frequently. Each ad gets a fresh start the next day.

One indie author reported her book was listed at $2.99. When she tried a bid of 10 cents per click, she didn’t get many responses and moved up to 50 cents a click which increased her click-through rate. But to break even on the cost of her advertisement, at least one person out of every four would have to buy her book. In other words, if she didn’t hook a fourth of the readers, she wouldn’t break even and certainly wouldn’t be making money from her advertising effort.

On Facebook, you can run campaigns to promote your page or to sell your book. Here is a link to a report about getting likes (and how it isn’t worth it).

You can, however, run ads to sell your book but many authors have tried this and even when trying to give a book away for free reported that advertising on Facebook didn’t do well.

Just as a note, on July 8, Facebook announced that they updated their cost per click to only include clicks to websites and apps and not include likes, shares or comments.

Amazon offers their Kindle Direct Publishing ads that will promote your book across Amazon and on Kindle E-readers. Campaigns start as low as $100 and are on the CPC plan. Your ads can appear on product pages as well as on the Kindle screen saver or as a banner on the Kindle home screen.

You can also do CPC ads on search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo. If you hadn’t noticed, whenever you perform a search, the top results are sometimes from paid advertisers. For tips to writing a Google Ad, click here.

google ads

Now I don’t know if any of these CPC ads help sell books or not. But if nothing else you may get some exposure. Remember that often people have to see something multiple times before they take the time to look into it and in the case of looking at books, hopefully make a purchase.

For another author’s opinion on whether pay per click ads work to sell books, click here.

 

 

KDP Select free book promo results

HeirAlexandria_ebookcoverI posted about trying out Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select back in January before I released my fourth full-length fantasy novel The Heir to Alexandria. It would be my second time trying the Kindle program. (I first tried it with my short story The Search.)

KDP Select is a program where you sell your e-book exclusively on Amazon. As part of the perks, you can either offer your book free for up to five days or offer it at a discount using their Kindle Countdown promotion. Your agreement with Amazon lasts 90 days, and then you can choose whether to renew your enrollment in the program or not.

Now some authors don’t like the program for its exclusivity as not all readers have a Kindle. You could be losing or angering some fans who have a different e-reader. By choosing to be exclusive to Amazon, you are in a sense putting all your eggs in one basket (though a really good basket as Amazon is the largest e-book retailer).

Now my thought about this is that I would only use the program for the initial 90 days and then release my e-book in other formats at Barnes & Noble, Kobo store, I Tunes and all the other e-book retailers after that. I don’t have such a following (yet) that I need to worry about angering my fans by only using Amazon for a short period.

So now let’s get on to my results from using KDP Select’s free book promotion.

First Free E-book Offer

I was really busy when my book came out at the end of January that I didn’t get a chance to offer it for free until March. Research showed that Tuesday and Wednesday would be best for a free promotion. So I picked March 10-11, which was during my kids’ Spring Break vacation from school.

Figuring out how to get the word out about your free book is always complex. I of course announced it on my blog, and my Tribber team helped spread the word. I also listed it on Independent Author Network‘s and World Literary Cafe’s free book sections. Many other websites won’t list your free book if you don’t have the required amount of reviews (typically 20 or more 4 or 5 star reviews) so I didn’t have a lot of other options.

Here is the breakdown from my first two free days…

March 10 – 65 books

March 11 – 11 books

Total free books – 76

Now that wasn’t as good as a result as I would have wanted. But my April was set to be really busy in the beginning and many websites, in addition to the review requirements, want notice of up to weeks in advance.

Second Free E-book Offer

So for my second set of free days, I decided to purchase a few advertisements. I spent $15 ($5 a day) to appear on Digital Book Today‘s website. I also applied to be on E-Reader News Today‘s email and website. (They have to approve you.) For only $15 I would be on Wednesday’s e-mail list and on their homepage. So in addition to these and my previous efforts, this time my free days would also happen during the A to Z challenge when my blog would be getting more traffic.

Here is the breakdown of my second set of free days…

April 21 – 234 books

April 22 (day of E-Reader News Ad) – 1769 books

April 23 – 737 books

Total free books – 2740

top 100 - 82During the free promotion and the week after, I received three new reviews and sold five copies of The Search, two copies of Summoned (Book 1 of my trilogy), one copy of Quietus (Book 2 of my trilogy), and five copies of my trilogy box set. This is in comparison to only one box set sold during my March free promo.

#1 fantasyDuring the free promo, I also rose in sales rank. The Heir to Alexandria got as high as 82 on Kindle’s top 100 free list. It also stayed at number 1 in Epic Fantasy for a whole day.

So do I regret offering my hard work for free? Not at all. I am pleased with the results. I gained reviews and sales. And hopefully as more people read my free book, I will get more of both.

(Really, a free book promo only benefits an author who has other books to offer.)

Of course now my deal with Amazon is over. I have since published my novel on Smashwords and soon it will be available at more e-book retailers.

 

Pre-Orders: Are they worth it?

When I published my first three novels, setting up a pre-order was not available to self-published authors. Since then, both Amazon and Smashwords have begun offering pre-orders.

This means up to three months before your release, you can already start selling books. Now for established authors, this might be a big advantage. The success for small-scale authors is typically not as good.

Smashwords

Smashword offers you the pre-order option which means your pre-order will be on their affiliates – Kobo Store, iTunes and Barnes & Noble.

There are several benefits to this. Because you determine the pre-order time period and launch date in advance, you are certain your book will be available on the release date rather than waiting for your book to go up at the respective retailers whenever it filters through Smashwords’ approval process.

This will help you in marketing as you will already have your purchase links available for blogs featuring your new release or to post on your own website.

But one of the biggest benefits is that all pre-orders get credited all at once on your launch date. This can pop your novel into the bestseller list for those respective stores. This of course adds to your exposure to potential readers. You can read more about this on Smashwords’ blog.

Amazon

preorder amazonUnlike the method used by Smashwords, Amazon counts any pre-order sales immediately. This will affect your books ranking during the course of the pre-order and not have as big of an impact on launch day. For this reason, some authors feel it dilutes their sales during launch week and adversely affects chart position during what some consider a crucial period.

Another plus for doing pre-orders through either company is that reviewers can star leaving reviews (although not as verified purchases) before your book is released.

Now remember that if you are doing a pre-order, your book must be ready to upload to the respective sites. You can always upload a different version before launch day but remember that the first 10% to 20% of your book will be offered as a sample so you will want to make sure your work is well edited prior to uploading.

Are pre-orders worth it for new, unknown authors?

It makes sense that established authors would have the best possibility to sell their books as a pre-order. The Smashword blog suggests that with the appropriate marketing, a less established author can do well with pre-orders and see their book crack the top 10 or top 20 of their genre list if they can steadily collect some pre-orders.

While this may be true, I am not sure how many pre-orders (beyond friends and family) most newbie authors can accumulate. I know that I never pre-order a book, and if I did, it would probably be for an author in which I know what I am getting. (In other words, an established, popular author.)

So, The Heir to Alexandria, will be released next week. I did not offer it as a pre-order. I don’t feel I have the fan following needed to make pre-orders worth it with only three other full-length novels to my name. (I have read numerous places that authors need three to five books under their belts before they really begin to get traction.) Now perhaps after this, with the next book, I might give it a try.

If you want to read some more of the pros and cons of pre-orders, check out this blog.

Buying the kids’ Halloween Costumes

Anyone who knows me knows I am a planner. We will never be the family on Halloween still trying to find a discount costume. For as much as I like a bargain, I won’t want to wait until the last minute.

Who am I kidding? Like I said – planner here! I won’t even be waiting a week before Halloween to purchase the kids’ costumes. We had our costumes bought in the middle of September. No, we didn’t rush out and buy them as soon as stores started stocking them. I purchased them online. I have done this the past few years and love it.

Not only can I find a costume in the size I want (without running all over the town to find that size), but I get it at an awesome price which is lower than our local stores. I have bought them off E-bay (brand new), Amazon or Walmart’s website and usually saved 20-30% off the normal retail price. Add in the free shipping and these costumes are always great deals.

IMG_2465Now if I was a crafty-type momma, I would be making my kids unique costumes. But I am too busy for that and frankly, not that crafty. I did make a pirate costume for Jase’s third-grade performance. I just cut up some clothes we already had and added a $2 eye patch. Of course, he lost the eye patch the day before the performance, so we added a maroon pirate scarf for his head. I thought it turned out great. But this is the extent of my craftiness. I don’t sew but can use scissors!

So this year, Jase originally said he wanted to be a knight. But while looking online, he saw an ARF Trooper. For those of you not up to snuff on your Star Wars knowledge, an Advanced Recon Force trooper (or simply ARF Trooper) was used to scout enemy positions and sometimes to carry out surprise attacks. They wear special camouflaged armor. Jase being a big Clone Wars/Star Wars fan fell in love with this costume. It came in early enough that he even wore it to the Alamo City Comic Con at the end of September.

CIMG3400Now Lexie, on the other hand, has changed her mind a few times. For a while, she wanted to be a pink Power Ranger. But she kept coming back to Queen Elsa (from the movie Frozen – in case you have been hiding under a rock or don’t have kids). She received a Queen Elsa costume for her birthday. Originally, I was just going to buy her the wig/hair piece that she wanted. And then while on E-bay I saw a different Elsa dress I liked. It was cheap as it came from China, and they sold it with a tiara, wand and Elsa hair braid. Perfect. Lexie loves it. And she too wore it to the Comic Con and people raved about it.

So this year we are all set for Halloween. Now it is just a matter of not letting them ruin their new costumes and not losing any of the pieces like we did on that pirate costume. There are only 18 more days until the big candy-hauling night.

Formatting your self-published novel – DIY or hire someone?

CIMG1036You have written your novel and now are ready to publish it as an e-book. But your file needs to be submitted in the proper format as required by the publisher. So do you do it yourself or hire someone to do it for you?

Well, that really depends on how computer savvy you are. I have done the formatting for all my books with no problems. I know of other authors who would never want the headache of formatting their book and hire someone to do it.

Option 1 – Do it yourself

You can follow the step-by-step instructions offered by Smashwords to prepare your manuscript.

Amazon too offers a simplified formatting guide.

Advantage – It is free. If you are relatively proficient at MS Word, it is not difficult to follow the Smashwords guide. Amazon’s is a little more complex.

Disadvantage – if you aren’t proficient in MS Word, or you don’t own/use MS Word you could produce an improperly formatted book that will prevent or delay the publishing of your book. Also depending on your level of proficiency, it can take a while to follow all the formatting steps.

Option 2 – Hire someone

As I said, some authors would rather leave the formatting to the professionals. Just remember that when you hire someone to format your book that is all they are doing. They are not proofing the content.

Smashwords offers a list of formatters (as well as cover designers).

Advantages – Hiring someone who knows what they are doing can take less time and relieve you of having to worry about the formatting being done correctly.

Disadvantage – It cost money. The average rate can vary from $30 to $100 depending on the complexity or condition of your current file. It also can take longer depending on the turnaround time of the person doing the formatting.

In most cases, you will need to do several versions of your book. You will not want to use the same formatted version for all the publishers, especially as Smashwords requires a specific notice as part of the front matter that you will want to remove for submission to Amazon and other providers.

The most important thing is that you follow the guidelines provided by Amazon, Smashwords, or whatever other e-book publishers you are using so that your book not only meets their requirements but looks professional.

Amazon Author Central is an author must

As an author, there are numerous sites and resources out there but one that definitely should not be ignored is Amazon’s Author Central. (Amazon after all is the largest e-book retailer out there.)

Once you log in, you will see the Welcome screen that invites you to update your author page. This is more than just listing your author bio (which of course should be on the page). You can add photos, blog feeds, videos and even includes your latest Tweets or Facebook posts.

Author page amazon

***If you are an author, you NEED to have an Amazon Author page. Readers want to be able to find information about you, plus it easily links them to your other books. They need a way to connect with you and this is one of the easiest places to list all your links, news and events. (I am always amazed at how many authors, and not just newbie authors either, that don’t have an Amazon Author page. It is free, so there is NO excuse not to have one.)

Now back to my information on Amazon Author Central…Once you have logged in…

Click to view your list of books to ensure that Amazon is showing all the books you have written. If any books are missing, simply click the “Add more books” button, which will bring up a search screen for you to locate your other books.

books by SLN

Clicking on any book in your book list will bring up details about that book. Here you can edit the product description, add snippets from professional reviews, add notes from the author, inside flap or back cover information as well as your author bio. Whatever is entered in these sections will appear on this book’s Amazon page.

If you flip to the Book Extras tab (remember we are still looking at just one of your published books), you will see a list of extras you can add by visiting shelfari.com. Shelfari is a community of authors, Amazon customers and Selfari users. On the site, you can include series information, character descriptions, and memorable quotes. If information is added, readers can see a link for Book Extras on their Kindle or Kindle app. (Doesn’t work on Kindle for your PC though.)

OK, back to the home page of Author Central real quick. You can also find Author Central news here as well as links to Kindle Direct Publishing, CreateSpace, Audiobook Creation Exchange and other areas that might interest you.

At the top of the page, in the blue bar, you will see Sales Info. Clicking on this brings up a new screen where you can select to view information on all your books or just one select title. Clicking on “Rank over time” will let you see mini charts of your books’ sales history, their current rank, and how much they have moved today. This is updated hourly.

rank amazon

By clicking on any title, you can see that books detailed information. You can see the sales information for the past two weeks, one month, six months, one year, two year or all time. This information can help you evaluate how well any marketing endeavors have fared.

Search sale info

The Rank section shows your author rank on Amazon. You can do it for All books or break it down by the genre you are listed under. Again, you can select the period of time to view.

The last tab is Customer Reviews. Here you can see each review on Amazon about your books.

Author Central gives you a wealth of information and best of all it is free. There is no reason any author out there is not using this tool – if for nothing else then use it for your Amazon Author page. Just remember you need to keep it up to date.