I Did Not Know That (AMS)

So I’m hard at work on turning AMS Ads for Authors into a video course. Step one of that process was to read through the book and turn what’s there into PowerPoint slides I could use in the videos. Step two is to record video using those slides and AMS.

And today I learned something I hadn’t known. Now maybe this is old news to everyone else and maybe it’s in the Meeks book since he’s (from what I hear) highly focused on product display ads, but what I realized today is that you can extend a product display ad indefinitely.

I was in a product display ad that I’d started ten days and I was showing how you can change the end date of the ad. When I set up the ad I’d set it up for the maximum allowed six months. So when I went in to the date to change it I expected I could shorten the ad period but not extend it. I was wrong.

It turns out that if you have a PD ad running today and go into that ad that you can set the end date for six months from today. Which should mean that you could set up an ad for six months, go in right before it expires, and extend it for another six months from the date you edit it.

Maybe this is old news to all of you. I don’t use PD ads much. But I wanted to pass it on in case of any of you hadn’t realized that either.

(I do have a few minor nits for the book that I’ll make before I publish the video course and will let you know about here, but none were what I would call significant. This is, though.)

What Was I Thinking?

It’s official. I am far more interested in doing my own thing than in making lots of money from my writing activities.

Because rather than write the next romance novel (the best plan), or the next fantasy series (a potentially good plan), or even a new non-fiction title (could be fantastic, could be a dud), I am working on video courses for my non-fiction titles.

Now. On one hand, this is a logical thing to do. The Excel courses lend themselves to a video course format. Much easier to learn when you can see what the instructor is talking about. And it’s a good way to extend the books and reach a new market for them.

(My first video course is actually going to be the AMS book. I think that one lends itself well to video as well and I needed a course that wouldn’t be a waste to produce but would allow a little room for growing pains. Don’t want my first video course to be Excel for Beginners when the competition in that space is fierce.)

So there’s some logic to what I’m doing.

On the other hand, am I frickin’ crazy?

Because it’s a completely new skill set. I had to convert my walk-in closet into a little recording area, which meant learning all those requirements and hanging a ton of blankets all over the place. Plus I had to learn a video editing software I’ve never used before. (Camtasia, which is fantastic, by the way.) Not to mention the time I spent converting each book into PowerPoint slides I could use in the videos.

And then there was overcoming the fact that my natural speaking voice sounds like a twelve-year-old valley girl. (I tend to end sentences on an up note when I’m not thinking about it.) So I’ve been using my “I’m in a business meeting and no one is listening to me but I have a point to make damn it” voice. While trying to sound friendly and warm at the same time.

It’s actually been fun. And I’m putting in good hours on it. But it’s a lot. And a significant shift in direction.

I do think it has the potential to be a good move. But maybe, you know, following up on what I’d already done with the audiences I’d already attracted would’ve been a better idea? You know, just a thought.

But that’s me for ya. Far more interested in doing something new I haven’t mastered before than doing the same ol, same ol.

(Of course, my pup does need to be kept in kibble and have a nice yard to play in so I really should be thinking about balancing what I want and paying the bills…But not this month it seems.)

Getting a Bookbub

This was another one that came up at the conference last weekend where I wanted to raise my hand and say “uh-uh”. And that’s the myth that it takes 50 reviews before you can get a Bookbub.

I just had my third Bookbub on Rider’s Revenge (two internationals–one in fantasy, one in YA–and a U.S. only in the YA category) in January. Right now that book has twelve reviews on Amazon and forty-seven on Goodreads. When it got its first Bookbub last January it had I think 8 on Amazon and maybe 9 on Goodreads.

(Contrast that with my first-in-series romance that I couldn’t get a Bookbub for that had over 100 Goodreads reviews at the time I applied. I also know of box sets that have had Bookbubs even though they had no reviews at all.)

I don’t know exactly why they chose Rider’s Revenge, but I can guess. One, is the cover. It has an incredibly strong cover. Also, I entered it in both the Self-Publishing Fantasy Blog Off in 2016 and in a Writer’s Digest contest, so I have editorial reviews on this book that are both very positive.

Bookbub sent out a handy-dandy checklist today for anyone who wants to apply for an ad with them discussing what they look for. It’s well worth reading (and embedded below):

boost-chances-bookbub-featured-deal

Bottom line: Ignore the myths about what it takes to qualify for a Bookbub and just apply. Worst that happens they say no once a month. Best that happens, you get a Bookbub.

Depending on the category it might not be life-changing. Some people talk about how Bookbub made their career for them. Three Bubs a year and they were six-figure authors as a result. Not so much the case for me. YA is not as big a category as contemporary romance, obviously. But they’re generally profitable ads (all of mine have been profitable within twenty-four hours) and they help chip away at discoverability at a scale that most ads can’t.

Basically, if you don’t get one, it’s not the end of the world. And if you do get one, don’t quit your day job just yet. They’re nice to have and you should definitely apply for them. Because you never know.

I Beg to Differ

One of the challenges of self-publishing is that it’s so broad and so different that it’s almost impossible to see the whole picture and the different possibilities. Which is why I really hate absolutist advice.

I’m probably guilty of it myself from time-to-time, but I try to caveat what I say with “this is my experience” or “this is how things work for me.” And because I have books published across non-fiction, romance, and fantasy I can see that things work differently depending on what you’re publishing, which maybe helps me keep things in check a bit more.

Perhaps.

Anyway. I was at a conference this weekend and there were a few times I wanted to raise my hand and say, “I beg to differ.” I didn’t. I probably made a funny face, though.

So since this my blog, let me have those imaginary arguments here.

Debatable Point #1: You won’t really sell paperback copies as an indie.

I beg to differ. Last month I made over $1,000 on the sale of paperback books. It was almost as much as I made on Amazon US for the month. Now, is that normal? No. Absolutely not. My romance paperback sales are still under twenty copies sold ever.

But for non-fiction (in my case) and middle grade and folks who really work the convention circuit but aren’t good at online sales and for picture books and gift books, it’s quite possible to sell a good amount of paperbacks.

I even want to say I saw a romance writer on Twitter who posted a screencap that showed $30,000+ in paperback sales. (I have no idea what she sells in ebooks to have that number, but I do know my jaw hit the ground.)

So what I would say is: You are more likely to sell ebooks than paperbacks as an indie. In general. But there are definitely categories where print will sell better. And the more you sell overall, the more paperback sales you will have and that amount can add up to a pretty penny. So don’t neglect print. And don’t assume print sales aren’t possible or profitable.

Debatable Point #2: AMS Are Too Complicated and You Shouldn’t Use Them Unless You’re an Analysis Junkie

Once more, I beg to differ. Yes, you can get very analytical with them. In Excel for Self-Publishers I get obscenely analytical with them. But you don’t have to. Most days all I do with my AMS ads is check in a couple times a day to see if any have exceeded their daily budget and up the budget if they have. (I like to start all ads at $5 in spend each morning.)

When I started my last AMS ad for a new title this is what I did: It was non-fiction so I did a search on Amazon for the subject matter and listed the names of the top fifty or so books that came back in my search results plus a bunch of generic search words like the one I’d used. And then I occasionally checked in on the ad. If it wasn’t moving, I upped my bids. If it was and I was getting sales, I upped the bids for those words that were profitable, and pulled back for those that weren’t. I paused keywords with lots of impressions but no clicks and lots of clicks but no purchases.

That’s it. There you go. That’s what you do.

For fiction I would’ve used author names instead of book titles. Otherwise, it’s the same process.

Can you get a lot more in depth with your analysis? Absolutely. And I have. But 90% of the time, what I just described is all it takes. I have 20+ ads running on a daily basis and I maybe spend five minutes on them daily.

(Keep in mind, my approach to AMS is to use a single Sponsored Product ad per title that I try to keep running long-term by tweaking the ad as needed. Other approaches may be more analysis intensive.)

Debatable Point #3: You Should Only Run AMS If You Have Ten or More Books or At Least a Trilogy Completed.

I beg to differ. Look, I get the point. The more books you have for readers to go to, the better off you are and the more profitable an ad will be. A weaker first book can still result in a profitable ad if you have ten books for readers to go to afterwards. And maybe there’s an idea behind this advice that you shouldn’t be wasting your time early on with ads but should instead be building up a product base.

Fair enough. But here’s the deal: Self-publishing can be soul-destroying. You put out a book that you think is well-written. It has a nice cover. People who read it like it. But no one is buying it. Maybe three people a month. You just worked hundreds of hours on something and you think it’s good, but…sales say otherwise.

Do you know how easy it is to give up at that point? To never write that trilogy? To circle back and try to fix your “mistakes” or decide that writing is just going to have to be a hobby for you?

It’s so, so easy. I know a guy who put out a book about four years ago and set it to free because no one seemed to want it. He quit writing because why bother? And then he started running AMS ads on it. And got reviews. And switched it back to paid. And made $25,000 in less than a year on that same novel that no one had bought. Because the issue wasn’t his writing. It was visibility. People can’t read what they can’t find.

So, sure. Best practice is to wait until the last possible moment to advertise because you’ll get that much more of a bang for your buck. But in reality, sometimes those initial sales are what keep you going. And AMS is the best way I know to get long-term full-price sales. So why not try them?

And this idea of needing ten-plus books before you dive into them? Why? Because of the learning curve? It’s not that hard. Trust me.

Yes, I run ads across more than ten books, but I know many authors doing well with the ads with far fewer titles. Does it take some tweaking? Yeah. Does it take some money up front? Yep. You pay now, you get paid two months from now. But why would you not give it a try? It just makes no sense to me.

Purging FB Friends

That sounds more extreme than it is. But I occasionally will go through my FB friends list and unfriend people.

I’m sure that seems harsh to those who notice it, but I’m also pretty sure that the people I’ve unfriended on there aren’t going to notice. And that’s because there’s a certain type of person who uses Facebook not as a place to form genuine connection with others but more like a social rolodex.

Now, maybe it’s my age. I grew up pre-Facebook. Hell, I didn’t have email access until college. And even then it was within your school unless you found the IP address and looked through the student directory of your friends’ schools.

But I digress.

So this weekend I was at a writing conference. I’d been there the year before. And as part of being there the year before I’d added some new Facebook friends. I’m always happy to do that for someone I’ve had a nice conversation with. Because I figure that’s a way to keep in touch with them and maybe take a good initial connection and broaden it into a friendship.

And throughout the last year I’d seen the posts these folks made. I knew about their ski trips and their new pets and their story publications. I had learned a little more about them.  I’d liked a post here or replied to a post there.

But I realized this weekend that that wasn’t a two-way street. That for the folks I just unfriended I was just part of their audience, not someone they were trying to form a genuine connection with. While I knew more about them, they barely remembered we’d met before.

Partially that’s Facebook’s fault. If you have 600 “friends” you’re not going to see all their posts. Facebook curates what it shows.

But it’s also on those people for forming one-way connections. You want to have 600 FB friends? Fine. But if you want those 600 people to genuinely feel like friends and not just voyeurs of your life, then make a point to visit the personal page of everyone in your friends list on a regular basis. Once a month see what they’ve posted and add a like or make a comment. Do something that shows it’s not all about you.

Now, I know that some are reading this and thinking, huh? Do people really care about these things? And I will admit that many don’t. That’s why when blogs were big you could have hundreds or thousands of blog followers and only ten people who actually read your posts. Because people followed your blog just so you’d follow theirs.

But for the type of person I am (Relator being one of my top five strengths on the Strengthsfinder test), this sort of thing actually matters. And I will shut down a one-way “friendship”. Because it’s not a friendship. It’s not a genuine connection. And those are what actually matter to me.

So, anyway. Just throwing it out there.