AMS US Changes

For those of you who run AMS in the US, time to check your AMS dashboard. It seems Amazon has rolled out some new features to the AMS accounts that access AMS through their KDP account.

(If you’ve been running AMS in the UK using an Amazon Advantage account then a lot of this will look familiar to you and you’ll just be wondering why you still can’t also get filtering by time period.)

Three changes to highlight for you.

1. Keyword targeting

Up until now the only keyword targeting option for AMS if you accessed it through KDP was Broad. Now you can do Broad, Phrase, Exact, Negative Phrase, and Negative Exact. You can use these options when starting a new Sponsored Product ad as well as when adding keywords to an existing ad.

I would suggest going through any existing ads you have running and at least adding negative keywords. For example, my romances are contemporary so I can use negative keywords to exclude historical, etc. And free. That’s a big one to exclude unless you’re promoting a free book.

2. Bid+

This “Allows Amazon to increase the maximum bids in this campaign by up to 50% when ads are eligible to show in the top of search results.”

Now, really, you shouldn’t need this. Because you should already be bidding the maximum you’re willing to pay. But in the UK where bids are cheaper I do have this set because I would be willing to bid higher if I have to. In the US I’m only turning it on for a handful of low-bid ads I just started on books I’m not really focused on promoting.

Do the math for yourself. If you’re bidding 20 cents then Bid+ means maybe bidding 30 cents. But if you’re bidding $1 then Bid+ means bidding perhaps $1.50.

You can either turn this on for a new ad or go to the Campaign Settings tab for an existing ad and it’s at the bottom.

3. Bid Suggestions and Keyword Suggestions

When you start a new SP ad now, as soon as you add your keywords you’re going to see a bid range that Amazon suggests and a suggested bid within that range. I have a set of keywords where I’m pretty sure I’m the highest bid and I tried it and the suggested range did top out with my high bid. So it looks accurate to me. But I’ll also say that if everyone were to start bidding at those levels that it would not be profitable for most to do so.

I don’t think this changes bidding strategies all that much for that reason. If you could through series sellthrough and click rates afford to bid at those levels then I assume you already would be. If you’re bidding 10 cents right now there’s a reason for that and seeing that the suggested bid is $1.26 isn’t going to change that approach for you. But it’s interesting.

(I’ll say in the UK where I can run headline ads and this info is available, that for one of my keywords the bid they list to have 50% of the visibility is more than my book even costs.)

The other thing that occurs as you’re entering new keywords is that they provide a list of suggestions as you enter a keyword. (This is something already available in Advantage in the UK and I’d presume Advantage here.) I was able to use those suggestions to find a few additional negative keywords for one of my ads, so even if you don’t want to stop a good existing ad it might be worth trying just for that.

Bottom line:

It’s still not as robust as Advantage, but I’m glad to see the Bid+ option since I think that was giving an unfair advantage to those with non-KDP AMS accounts and I’m very pleased to see the negative keyword options since those have been very useful to me in the UK.

Like it or not, AMS are here to stay so time to learn and adjust to these changes. I expect some shake out in terms of ad performance over the next few months as a result of the changes, but maybe not as much as you’d think since I’m pretty sure the big players were already accessing AMS through non-KDP AMS accounts where these tools already existed.

All the Non-Writing Stuff

I haven’t written a single new word since July 27th. Part of it was working on a consulting idea you’ll hear more about soon, but most of it was deciding to re-do all of my covers.

This wasn’t a big design change. I suspect most people won’t even be able to tell the difference. But I decided to get on the up and up with my font usage. See, problem is that GIMP pulls fonts from your Windows folder but those fonts aren’t always available for commercial use.

Now, there’s a question about whether fonts are even copyrighted and it seems that the computer coding that renders a font is copyrighted but the font itself is not. So maybe I was okay. But I get something into my head and there I go.

Initially I was just going to buy a subscription to a font package that included all the fonts I needed. I figured $9.99 a month wasn’t much to pay for peace of mind. Unfortunately, because it’s a subscription and they don’t trust you, the files were hidden somewhere on my computer where GIMP couldn’t access them. So there I was with access to the fonts already but no access to them through my subscription. And could I really be sure that the Bodoni version I was using that was already on my computer was the same as the Bodoni version in the subscription? No.

So, long story short, I tried, it was a miserable failure, I cancelled the subscription, and switched over to free fonts instead. Which meant going through all of the covers I’ve done and checking the font on each one to see if it was a free one for commercial use or not and changing it over if it wasn’t. I also figured I’d update backmatter at the same time.

Now at this point I have about sixty books that are live where I’ve done the covers myself. And almost all of them are wide. And a lot of them are in paperback.

So my August so far has been: check and/or redo ebook covers for all sixty books, check links for all sixty books, regenerate ebook for all sixty books, load to five different sites (Zon, D2D, Kobo, Nook, Google), redo paperback for all sixty books, update also by in paperback for all sixty books, submit paperback for approval to CreateSpace.

It’s an ongoing process. I suspect this will take at least another week. Especially because I’m spacing the CreateSpace submissions out so that all of my books aren’t down at once.

Also, me being me, it’s lead me to redo three covers (but oh my god the CreateSpace for Beginners cover is so much better now) and reformat two paperbacks into a new size.

I’ve also had to angst about which books to list where. My ego hates to have books on Amazon with bad ranks even though I know that at least if those books are there they’ll occasionally sell to those who want them. So I sometimes take books down from Amazon. But then I change my mind. And then I decide to take them down again…

(As of now, five of the M.H. Lee short stories are up on Amazon again. Until the next time I go through this.)

Anyway. Writing is not all sitting in your posh office creating new worlds or puzzling out how to explain a complex topic. Sometimes it’s just hours and hours of uploading files and checking that they look good. At least, that’s the way it is if you self-publish.

Let’s Just Dial It Down a Notch, Shall We?

I have been hip-deep the last couple days in updating covers and links for all the M.L. Humphrey books. Turns out I have 23 of them. And even though the covers are a bit basic, it still takes time to redo the font on all 23, do a few new covers while I’m at it, and then generate new ebooks and load those everywhere.

Which means I’ve been tempted to procrastinate and popped into various forums or FB groups or blogs. And, seriously….Some of the things people are saying…

And since I really don’t want to upload more files right now, let me address a couple of them.

The first one went something like this: “Don’t bother wondering what’s wrong with that book because you’re already past your 30 day cliff on Amazon so all hope is lost.”

Say what? Are you kidding me? Sure, I’ll grant that a book that does well immediately has a better chance of getting and staying sticky at a good rank on Amazon. But…

First, Amazon is not the only game in town. So there are plenty of other vendors out there to sell your books on that don’t have this “new is better” churn mentality.

Second, even on Amazon you can still make money on a book after the first thirty days. My first-in-series romance made four times as much last year as it did the first two years it was out. On Amazon.

How? AMS ads. (Because I didn’t really advertise that book when it came out. Live and learn and all that.) And releasing a book two.

Which means it is absolutely worth considering whether your blurb, cover, price, or writing can be fixed to make an existing book sell better. And if you can make one of those fixes without spending a lot of time or money why not do it?

(Just remember that if people can’t see your book all the changes in the world aren’t going to help. So if people aren’t actively looking for what you’ve written, you’ll need to follow those changes up with at least an initial promo boost, if not sustained advertising.)

The second one I saw today was something along the lines of “Before AMS existed the world was fair and readers were able to choose the books they wanted rather than the books that were advertised to them. Now good books get lost because of that dirty AMS advertising.”

Hahaha.

The world was never fair.

There were always authors advertising.

Do you think that every single book was put in Amazon’s emails to its customers? No. Do you think there was some magical time when every customer who went to Amazon and asked for “legal thrillers” was shown every single available book and took the care and time to evaluate each of those books on their merits and only chose the “best” one? No!

And that top 100 list in each category was never some rotating display of all available books. It’s always been the 100 best-sellers in that category. Period. Not 100 best books. 100 best sellers.

Oh and then there was the person a week or two ago who basically equated anyone who uses AMS ads with ruining indie publishing and being evil.

Seriously.

I realize there is a lot of angst out there right now, but come on people. Maybe, just maybe, if you find yourself using the words “all” and “always” or “never” and “no one” or “everyone knows” or declaring that the world is about to burst into a ball of fire and we’re all doomed, doomed, doomed it’s time to step away from the computer.

Go outside. Dig your toes in the grass. Breathe deep. Accept that life is change. That it’s never fair, but sometimes quite doable. Quit flailing around for things to blame. Quit reaching back for something that’s already gone. Assess where you are. Assess where the world is. And move forward as best you can.

And if that doesn’t work, change direction and try again. It’s all you can do.

Now back to file uploading. Woohoo! Life is exciting, what can I tell you?