Random Thoughts and Comments 20230119

I’m amazed that there are people out there who have no internal dialogue. Their minds are just blank when they’re sitting there not interacting and I find that both disturbing and fascinating, because my mind is never turned off.

So, without further ado. Some random thoughts and comments.


I am increasingly disappointed by the poor decision-making at Amazon with respect to books.

The other day I went to Amazon and there were no also-boughts listed on my book pages. None.

It’s quite possible it’s been this way for a while. I certainly know they were pushed down to the bottom of the page at one point in time.

One of the reasons this is bad is because it hides the scammers. It used to be that I could look at an Excel book and see its also-boughts and if all the also-boughts on a computer book were cooking books about Keto diets, I could pretty much guarantee you that the book was in KU, listed in obscure categories, and probably getting all its money from page reads out of a click farm somewhere.

Another reason is because also-boughts let readers see what others books I had that might interest them. The also boughts on my Excel books often had my Word, PowerPoint, and Access books, too.

I think this does really fall apart for the big-name or prolific authors like Nora Roberts or Stephen King because all of their also-boughts for ten pages are them. But that could’ve been controlled for by showing one page of same-author also-boughts and then showing other authors after that first page of results.

Finally, in the past also-boughts let me see for my fiction books what other authors people who bought my books were buying. That let me know if I had a branding or marketing issue (if my also-boughts didn’t line up with my type of book). But it also let me know who to advertise to with my AMS ads. If Author X’s readers like my books, then I should use Author X as a keyword.

Now it feels like both readers and authors are flying blind there. All they get is ads that may or may not have anything to do with that book.


Amazon seem to be falling apart in other ways as well.

I think I mentioned it before but I’m pretty sure they changed the way that they determine a broad category match on AMS ads, because this last six months for me running broad category match keywords has been a game of whack-a-mole where I luck into someone clicking on my completely inappropriate ad which then lets me know that AMS is showing my book about Microsoft Excel to people searching for makeup and blade saws.

I think before there was some effort to restrict matches to the same general type of product (although maybe not, back in the day I advertised my budgeting book towards people buying high-end TVs) but it feels like the wheels are completely off these days.

Maybe that’s just me.

I’d rather see it where people could direct ads like that using ASINs but where broad category matches were directed to at least products in the same general lane. So my Excel book keywords would direct to other computer books and computer software, not frickin’ makeup.

And don’t even get me started on trying to advertise Access books that suddenly are being put in front of people who want disability access aids. I’m not trying to be that asshole, but Amazon is making it look like I am. It’s a waste of my money and shoppers’ time and energy.


With these types of missteps I think it would be wise for anyone who relies primarily on Amazon to start making a Plan B.

Because they may be the ones who choke off the effectiveness of KDP with their poor decision-making, but when it gets to the point that they decide it’s not a “core business” that’s “worth keeping” we’ll all pay that cost in brutal ways.

If you haven’t been paying attention, they seem to be in a cutting mode right now. Peripheral stuff at the moment like Amazon Smile (which, dude, if you really cared about giving to charity would’ve just been a default thing instead of forcing people to remember to go to a different website each time they ordered) and whatever the subscription program they ran for magazines was and I think I’ve seen at least one or two other programs cut recently.

They are headed in the direction of efficiencies and profit maximization, which means get ready to get screwed as things become less workable for anyone except top execs and shareholders.

(There are days when I think about what I learned at Wharton and how it drives towards a long-term outcome that is net negative for all but a handful of people and just shake my head that I spent time absorbing that crap, but that’s the world we exist in right now. Do you hate the coach when they tell you what it takes to win? Or do you hate the game? And if you do hate the game, do you still play? What other choice is there?)


I’m also keeping a wary eye on all the AI developments because they mean that online identity is going to become even more nebulous than ever.

And there will be significant impacts on writers, audio narrators, and artists.

It’s funny, people used to refer to self-publishing as a “tsunami of crap”. What does that make what we’re going to be seeing from AI-generated projects in the next five years?

As a reader, when that stuff starts to flood the market and I can’t tell the difference between a book worth my $8 and one that isn’t because the packaging will be slick but the content won’t be enjoyable, I’ll probably be even more likely to stick to physical books that come from larger publishers. I won’t be the only one.

Expect those with solid name recognition to weather this well, but new names or unestablished ones to falter.

Then again, I’m also not a whale reader who reads five books a day that the current ghost writing, churn and burn marketers target, so maybe for that reader the new flood won’t be any different to them.

But visibility with that many more titles out there will be almost impossible I think.


Sorry I seem all gloom and doom these days, but I do think there are some seismic shifts coming in the next five years.

Which reminds me there was a good Twitter thread by author Matt Wallace recently. He’s trade-published, but still a good discussion of the ups and downs of this business and need to regroup and readjust multiple times if you choose to keep going. And how really it all comes down to you making that choice.

There were some good spin-off threads based on that one, too. I bookmarked this one by Marshall Ryan Maresca and this one by Ursula Vernon who also writes as T. Kingfisher. Hers was more of a spin-off of her spin-off which discusses what it really means money-wise to sell a million copies.


Speaking of sales numbers, I think I hit 90K paid copies sold as of November and $300K in revenue, which seem like good numbers, right? But they’re really not. Not when rents have more than doubled in my area in ten years and health care cost has tripled.

Yesterday I added the audiobook of Sell That Book to my YouTube page. I wrote that at around 50K sales, but I think the advice in there is still solid. (If I did it right any subscribers to the channel only received one email about it, but the whole book is up there.)

It was actually when I was narrating the audio for this book that I thought about putting up a YouTube channel. Because I had two chapters I wanted to share with anyone who’d listen.

One, was this one on when to quit trying to trade publish and self-publish. (Answer, never if it’s just because you gave up on ever getting trade published.)

The other was the very next chapter which is basically, why wouldn’t you self-publish if that’s the only way to fulfill the dream of getting your book out into the world:


Anyway, those are my publishing-related thoughts for the day.

I’m currently reading a series of books that are really good in the sense that I can devour one of the books in the space of a day or two and want the next one, but at the same time it’s funny to me because there are parts of these books that I absolutely do not like.

They’re a type of fantasy book that is not normally what I seek out, but I like the larger story in these books so I keep reading them.

Thinking as a writer, though, after reading about a dozen of these books there are some little author quirks that have become very obvious.

This author has a go-to phrase they use during sex scenes in every, single, book. Which when you read an author as they release a book once a year isn’t something you notice, but when you read six books by them in a week is.

It’s a reminder that series books have to work standalone because it can be years between when someone reads books in a series, but they also have to work when read in quick sequence. That’s a tricky balance to find. Both in terms of what information is presented and when, and in terms of repetitive phrasing.

Also, I read these books out of order. I read a later series of books first and then circled back to the first series of related books.

I don’t think I would’ve read as many books by this author if I’d started with the first book in the first series and read from there forward.

The reason is because of the characterization. These books include three different groups of characters that are very distinct in their supposed traits. So I would expect a wide variety of relationship types when characters get together.

And yet…all of the sexual relationships between all of the characters, no matter what group they belong to, are identical. Ultra-possessive and involving certain physical acts that I’m pretty sure aren’t the norm for most people…

This was understandable in the first six books or so because of the focus on one of those groups, but then it went right on to include the other two groups, too.

If I were reading in order I would’ve walked away at that point.

As a writer I think that’s a lesson that sometimes what you think people like about your stories is not what they like about them. And, also, to stop sometimes and ask yourself if the world you’ve built would really work that way or not.


In randomly related news, I just finished reading The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker, which I thought was a very good book. (Non-fiction.)

It’s also a reminder that in real life when a man is ultra-possessive and pushes the timeline on a relationship, that’s a very bad sign. (p. 199 in my copy) As is intense possessiveness and jealousy.

I think the fiction books I was talking about above just barely stay on the right side of that line, but I can see how someone could read one of those books and think they want that kind of intense, ride or die, lifelong connection with someone and then find themselves in a controlling, dangerous relationship where they’re at risk of being killed if they leave.

If you’re a single woman learn the real-world red flags for that type of situation. Because if you get into that type of situation, it’s often already too late to get out safely.

On Releases and Finding Your Audience

I don’t do big releases, as you may have noticed by hanging around here for a bit.

I essentially write a book, get it ready to go, and then when all the links are live do a blog post, send out a message to the newsletter, sometimes remember to post about it on Facebook, and update my website to list the book. Oh, and usually throw an AMS ad or two at it.

(By the way, not only did I release the four books I told you about two days ago, but I also released the six books in the Easy Excel 365 Essentials series, too, yesterday. That would be Excel 365 Formatting, Conditional Formatting, Charts, Pivot Tables, The IF Functions, and LOOKUP Functions. Usually I wait to do that for a bit after the main release since these books are derived from the core series but I had a few days to wait until 2023 so got them ready then and also wanted the LOOKUP Functions book out there ASAP for anyone who knows Excel but doesn’t know XLOOKUP. Anyway. More books. Yay. Now you know. Go learn XLOOKUP if you love VLOOKUP.)

By releasing the way I do, it usually means that I don’t have a lot of work that I have to do leading up to a release, but that I then get to panic that the release was a complete failure for the next week or two after the release date.

Sometimes longer than that.

Since nobody knows the books are coming, most readers aren’t ready to drop money on the day of a release. And it takes time to get ads up and running and in front of the right audience. And for a book to get any visibility from ranking well.

Which means generally for me I don’t see what a book has the potential to be for a month or two.

And sometimes a book doesn’t get launched into the right place or in the right format so it takes even longer than that.

For example. I had that new pen name book I randomly wrote and published last year. I felt like writing something that didn’t fit under any of my existing names so I took a week or two, put it together, put it in audio, got it out there and…

Nothing. It died.

I put it in KU and ran a few AMS ads on it, which got clicks but no reads to speak of and no purchases.

In audio all I can see in real-time (ish) is what’s happening on ACX, which also was ugly. It’s a shorter title so not one that would attract subscription listeners.

I basically wrote it off as a dud. Until I checked my wide audio numbers for November which only came out yesterday.

Lo and behold, it turns out that maybe the market for that particular book is libraries. Because when I saw month-end library listens for the audiobook, that was a promising number. Not huge, but a high enough number to make me think month two could be good if it keeps going.

It took six weeks to know that, though.

Another book I released many, many years ago didn’t get any sort of traction until it was in audio two years later.

Which is all to say that unless you’re savvy as hell about who buys your books and exactly how to position them in front of that audience and also write the types of books that people need day one (so a hot series on the fiction side or a buzz-worthy non-fiction title that everyone wants to be able to talk about), don’t judge your books by their early performance. Things will sort themselves out over the long haul.

It’s also not over until you’ve published in every possible format you can think of, which probably means it’s never truly over…

Anyway. Today’s release-related thoughts. Off to update the website with some book links I guess. Or to have dinner maybe…(The admin side of launching ten books in a week is downright painful.)

Advice on Going Direct on Apple Using a PC

It’s that time when people make New Year’s resolutions and I’m sure someone is like I was a few years back and decided that this was the year they’d upload their books direct to Apple. You know, save that 10% they pay to D2D right now.

I actually went direct with them a few years back and then pulled most of my books back to D2D after I did a price promo and couldn’t get my prices to go back to their normal price. But I had a writer friend who said she’s made an extra $20K with them by being direct, so I figured I’d put these latest books up direct even though my amount to make extra with them is more like $100 a year.

It was not easy.

A few years back, Apple made it possible to upload your books via a PC instead of a Mac. (Starting here: https://authors.apple.com/epub-upload).

Yay.

But it’s this weird two-step process. And, as I learned this week, their Rights and Pricing page is a hot mess of dysfunction.

Theoretically, you provide a base currency price, $2.99 USD, and then they convert that price to each of the other currencies they support. If you don’t agree with the conversion, you can go in and use dropdown menus to adjust the pricing tier for any specific country.

But, at least on a PC, that currency conversion is broken. So regardless of what price I put for USD, Apple wants to price that book at $20.99 AUD and 10.99 Euros.

And, to make it more fun, if you try to change more than two or three of those dropdown pricing tiers at once it crashes and says you timed out and need to log back in and try again. You lose all your work.

It makes D2D look very appealing.

But, if you are stubborn like me and still want to go direct with them (they have the worst publishing process of all of the major players at this point AND don’t offer any special promo opportunities for being direct, so they’re the last one I’d personally recommend doing of all of the biggies), here is my workaround for the pricing mess:

Get your prices from one of your other stores (like Kobo or D2D) for USD, GBP, EUR, JPY, BRL, CAD, MXN, NZD, and AUD.

Choose Euros as your base currency and set that price and then click the boxes for Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain.

All of those countries use Euros as their base currency so you don’t need to adjust the pricing tier on the next page and can just click Done.

Next, choose to add more territories and this time choose USD as your base currency and set that price. Click the boxes for Argentina, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, United States, and Venezuela.

All of those countries use USD as their base so can also just be submitted without adjusting price tiers.

And then for me I had to do the rest two at a time for the United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Brazil, and Canada. I could set the price for one and use the dropdown for the other and not have the system crash on me. Mexico, Japan, and Brazil tend to have weird pricing tiers and Mexico’s is not sorted.

I did not do about 13 countries that have their own currency base and that aren’t included on other sales platforms so that I could easily see what the correct price should be.

But doing it this way gave me 38 countries without too much pain.

(Oh, and when I wrote to tell them about this issue they told me the currencies weren’t converting because of my outdated user agreement which I then fixed and it was still an issue. But, hey, well played getting me to sign an updated agreement.)

Anyway. Hope that helps.

If there is a reader who buys on Apple but my latest books aren’t in your country because you were one of the unlucky 13 countries I didn’t include, just write me if that’s the case and I can get your country added. (Or try Google which I think does cover all of those countries, too.)

The Year In Review

We had an incredible cold spell here last week. The coldest it’s been in sixty years. And it took out my internet. I still had a connection, but almost no sites would load for me. (One of those times when I can be grateful my main email account is still Hotmail, I guess, because it did load.)

I finally got working internet back yesterday and was ridiculously happy. I could watch my streaming channels again! I could drown in Twitter threads. I could check my sales…

Okay, that sales part made me kind of sad. Luckily (?) for me, some of the days I was offline were also shit sales days but I didn’t see them until they turned themselves around.

Overall it’s been an ugly year in that respect. I am mildly comforted by the fact that I don’t appear to be alone in that, but it’s still rough. The kind of rough that makes you question your life choices.

As I said on FB the other day, I am like that person who had the stable marriage and went off and had a torrid affair with an artist and now that the affair didn’t work out can’t go back to the stable marriage. (Not that I want to.)

You’re supposed to make the bad life decisions first and then find stability, not have things be just fine and then walk away because you couldn’t face a lifetime of boredom doing things no one should care about as much as they do.

For the record, I don’t actually regret that choice at all. I am a much happier person now and I think a better person than I was before I walked away from the good career. It was a fool’s game I was never going to win. I don’t think anyone wins it actually, because it’s never enough. It’s like seeking approval from people you don’t know instead of finding self-acceptance. That’s a recipe for never being happy.

Anyway.

After a heart-to-heart with my vet this year I made the decision to stay doing what I’m doing for at least the next six months to a year. I want to be here for my dog until the end and, as bad as my life choices have been, they haven’t been so bad that I can’t make that happen for her.

(Of course, having made that choice she’ll now defy all odds and live to be sixteen, but if that’s what happens, I’ll take it.)

It’s a bit scary, that choice. Knowing you’re on a precarious path that’s not going to get better but still staying on it. That adds a whole level of stress that just taking risks doesn’t. Give me a perfectly good plane to jump out of over this insanity any day of the week.

But thanks to a childhood that sort of trained me out of actually experiencing fear or anxiety (because you just drown if you try to feel those things in real-time when someone you love could die at any time due to their illness), I am fortunately still fully functional in my bad-choice-making existence.

So.

Enough self-pity, especially when it’s all my own fault. It’s December 27th here. Close enough to year-end to look back and see if I accomplished anything.

And…surprisingly given the fire and moving again and how the year felt like being stuck in mud…I did!

I published five new non-fiction titles this year in addition to two collections and two re-releases with better titles. I published a cozy mystery as well as a collection of three cozies. I published a holiday romance short story and a collection of four holiday romance short stories. I published seventeen audio titles (8 short stories, one collection, two novels, and six non-fiction titles). And I also published three video titles.

(See the very end for the list.)

All in all, it was actually a very productive year for me. I’d set out to “close loops” and I did that. The cozy was the last in that series. The AML book was one I’d been meaning to write for a couple of years to accompany the Regulatory Compliance title. The Affinity books closed that series out that I’d started in 2021.

I also tried something new with the audiobooks and found I really enjoyed it. Not just the challenge of learning something new, which I always love (go Learner), but the actual acting part of it, too.

Of course, narrating a novel is a whole level of difficulty above writing one. The words not only have to work but so does the acting and the sound quality. If you have a shaky foundation with what you wrote, then putting it in audio just highlights all of those issues.

But for one of the non-fiction titles doing audio brought in more listeners than that book had had readers. (Something that was also true with the very first audiobook I ever released almost seven years ago now. That one I did not narrate, I hired someone.)

As in most years, I didn’t get everything I wanted done this year.

I still want to write another fantasy novel, but it just didn’t happen. The fire derailed me and I retreated to what’s safe for me, non-fiction.

Also, I have been working on some other non-fiction that will publish in January that I’d wanted to publish in November. But that got derailed by the new laptop I bought that turned out to be a time-wasting piece of you-know-what.

Of course, that project opened a new loop as did starting to narrate the cozies in audio. If I carry through with both of those that means seven more cozies in audio, two short stories in audio, and another six titles to write and five collections to publish.

My mind being what it is, I’ll close them next year. And then maybe that fantasy novel? Haha. Sigh.

I’d like to say I think 2023 is going to be a better year than 2022, but…hm. I am one of those people who believes that bad luck comes in threes and I think at least one domino will fall next year causing the beginning of a chain of unfortunate events.

Then again, I’m pretty sure I thought that in 2021 and then it didn’t happen. So I carry on and when things go to shit, I’ll adapt.

Anyway. I hope you each accomplished something you wanted in 2022 and that you have an even better 2023.

Non-Fiction Book Releases

Affinity Publisher for Ad Creatives

Affinity Publisher for Basic Book Covers

Affinity Publisher for Non-Fiction

Affinity Publisher for Ads and Covers (collection)

Affinity Publisher for Book Formatting (collection)

Sell That Book (re-titled re-release)

How To Gather and Use Data for Business Analysis (re-titled release)

Undisclosed Pen Name Title

AML Compliance Fundamentals

Fiction Book Releases

A Puzzling Pooch and Pumpkin Puffs

Maggie May and Miss Fancypants Mysteries Books 7 to 9

Holiday romance short story

Holiday romance short story collection

Non-Fiction Video Releases

Affinity Publisher for Ad Creatives

Affinity Publisher for Basic Book Covers

Affinity Publisher for Non-Fiction

Non-Fiction Audio Releases

Regulatory Compliance Fundamentals

How to Gather and Use Data for Business Analysis

Sell That Book

Secret Pen Name Project

AML Compliance Fundamentals

Data Analysis for Self-Publishers

Fiction Audio Releases

4 Holiday Romance Short Stories & Collection

4 Spec Fic Short Stories

2 Cozy Mysteries

Planning For 2023

It’s about that time. About time to start thinking about what we’ll each try to do in 2023. I always have a list each year of New Year’s resolutions that I try to knock out. And I usually try to make them fairly concrete and achievable. Write X number of words. Write Y book. Publish Z book.

Setting goals like, “earn $50K per year from writing” are not helpful in my opinion. But write X words, publish Y books, put Z dollars per month into advertising, etc. those are the things that can get you to that goal.

Still, though. My goal planning is probably not where it should be.

In a private group I’m in one of the more successful authors posted their plan for 2023. It was incredibly concrete. Publish Book A in January, Book B in February, etc. all the way through the year. Following that plan this author was going to be able to get out 8 novels that support three series and two different pen names on a consistent reliable schedule.

That’s why that author has published over 80 novels at this point and has been a six-figure author for years.

Me? My planning post was like, “well, I should wrap up these three books I’m working on and get those published in January and then…maybe this, maybe that, maybe this other thing?”

Each year I know I’d be better off just setting up a series of projects on a schedule and knocking them off one-by one. But each year I do my vague, I’ll get something done sort of process instead. And I do get stuff done. It’s not like I end the year with nothing written. But it’s not that steady rhythm that’s so helpful to fiction-writing success.

Don’t be me kids. Set goals you can control. Make them specific. Plan them out across the year so you can track progress. And think about delivering a product to your readers on a consistent basis that they can come to rely on.

Okay, then. Off to finish edits on this book that was seriously delayed thanks to a bad computer so I can start 2023 off with a good release or two.

A Maturing Industry

One of the things I learned as a regulator was that there is an ebb and flow to things. In that case we’d get more and more proscriptive about what could and could not be done until people screamed bloody murder at which point the trend would move towards more principles-based requirements until people said, “well, that wasn’t what the rule said” and tried to get out of the principled requirement using semantics and it would reverse again.

Back and forth, back and forth it goes.

Right now we’re seeing a sort of tide shift with streaming content. One I personally hate. You want me to pay for you like you’re cable but then also make me watch a ton of ads that aren’t placed properly in your content so that it just randomly switches out mid-scene to an ad? Yeah, I’ve got a bunch of old DVDs I think I need to rewatch, thanks.

There was this big new area of exciting development with streaming at one point and all sorts of new players rose up and tried things and found their niche (love you Acorn), but now we’re in the consolidating, gotta suck every last penny out of the system stage. We’ll probably have to suffer through that for a few years until maybe some equilibrium develops or some new disruptive technology emerges to change things again.

There are rumblings that self-publishing is heading into some sort of contraction stage, too.

I think the glory days when there were more readers looking for content than writers who could provide it are long gone. That was five years ago or more, but people who got a good start then have kept acting like that’s still possible for anyone. It’s not and I think even they are finally beginning to realize that as people that were doing pretty well start to slide into obscurity.

I had a conversation two years ago with someone about self-pub and Amazon and how it all worked. Everything I told them was publicly available. Nothing was a secret. But I knew where to look. At the time, this person asked me how someone who was brand new would find that information. My answer was I didn’t know.

When I got started there was a forum that was the first place anything new was mentioned. That’s where I learned about Kobo promotions and Vellum and all sorts of other developments. And, yes, some of that moved to FB groups, but not in a great way IMO. And a lot of the inside baseball conversations just aren’t happening publicly anymore.

Because we’re now in a maturing industry in self-pub. The raft is full and the ocean is right there and no one wants to fall off the raft and drown. Which is not to say that there aren’t people helping one another or bringing others up or that that shouldn’t be happening. But if someone finds something that works for them today, they might not broadcast that fact to the world like they would have a decade ago.

Someone eventually will because there’s a whole ecosystem of people making money off of telling other authors what to do and any useful secret they find they’ll share immediately to up their clout. (This happens in one of the groups I’m in with someone who charges authors for marketing help. Of course, generally that will make that particular secret ineffective or much less effective in approximately three months’ time as everyone scrambles to get in on the latest thing.)

We also now have some very well-developed heavy-hitters in this industry. I think most of them are going to be solid going forward. They’ll get knocked sideways at some point by Amazon changes or something like that, but they’ve staked out their positions and as long as they keep delivering, they’ll be good.

What will happen is that a lot of people who didn’t make it to that steady place in time will fall off.

Maybe they keep publishing, but turn to a day job. Maybe they turn to trade pub. Maybe they quit altogether.

Some will innovate and find new ways to reach little pocket audiences. I know one author who has turned towards Kickstarter and using their own website for sales, for example.

But a lot are going to drop off in the next few years. Which, for the “easy money” types who killed it for a while there, farewell and good riddance, enjoy the next easy money wave you find to ride, wherever that may be. For the ones who always had a dream of being a successful writer and see that dream disappear, that’s gonna hurt. A lot.

Which is not to stay that you can’t still launch a successful pen name. I have a good friend who launched an incredibly successful pen name just this year after launching a different one two years ago. And another friend who launched a successful one about two years ago.

What those friends had though was the ability to write well and write quickly, the ability to hit the genres they were aiming for, the ability to package their books well for that genre, and the marketing know-how to launch those first books into the top 1000. Not a lot of authors have all those skills. Even a decade into this “self-pub revolution”.

I don’t think I have all of those to be honest.

Those friends were also writing for big genres. We too often fail to give credit to how important it is that you are writing for a big enough genre if you want to support yourself at this. Romance authors hate having this pointed out, but, hey, there are a lot more romance readers that read voraciously than there are readers who want another book like Tolstoy wrote. Doesn’t make it easier to write those books, just means those books have more of a chance to get some good sales when they are written well.

Yeah, so, maybe read up on how to succeed in a mature industry. Warning, though, that the definitions there of the shakeout we’re seeing/about to see aren’t great for this scenario, because I don’t expect consolidation, I just expect a lot of people to drop out with their books sitting there on Amazon forever not being actively promoted and with no new content being produced until probably at some point there’s a cull of books that don’t sell off of the various platforms. (Maybe. It’s electronic records so what’s the space it’s taking up, right? But still. If you’re not showing them in search indexes, why bother listing them?)

Anyway. With that cheerful thought I am going to go spend the day with my family and my dog (which I just tried to spell god, haha) up in the gorgeous Colorado mountains, because no matter where my own personal path goes in the next few years I don’t regret for one moment taking the last ten years for myself, my family, and my dog. Nor do I regret a single one of the books I’ve written or all the skills I’ve had the joy of learning.

Author or Publisher Screw-Ups

A while back there was a discussion on FB about whether or not readers should tell authors when they notice an issue in a book. And what’s interesting is that it really comes down to how that particular author is published.

For example, today someone reached out to me and said, “Hey, the back cover copy of X book looks like it’s actually from Y book.”

Sure enough, it was. I updated two covers at once, moved them over to a new cover software at the same time, copied and pasted the wrong back cover copy for one of them, and didn’t catch it.

Because I do the majority of my own covers I was able to fix the issue immediately. I’ve already uploaded the new cover and hopefully that change will go through in the next 24 hours or so.

I can do that because of the way I’m published.

A few weeks ago I was reading a book by an author who is both traditionally published and self-published and realized that the book I was reading was missing a chapter in the print format.

I was able to buy the ebook and read the missing chapter, but I reached out to let them know about the issue because that particular book was print on demand so could be fixed.

If the book in question had been one of their trade-published books, which generally involve a print run, it’s not certain that the error could have been fixed.

Books published by the larger trade publishers are printed before they’re sold. You generally get what you get. Unless there’s another print run. And then maybe they’ll fix any identified issue. But it would have to be a big enough issue to warrant edits and new type setting and most minor typos would not fall under that heading.

On the self-publishing side it can come down to how much the author does themselves and how much the fix would cost.

I had a typo in a website address in one of my other books, for example. Fixing it in the ebook was free and something I could do myself so I did it. Fixing it in print on Amazon, same thing.

Both fixes were done within 24 hours of my becoming aware of the issue.

Fixing it in print on other stores, however, would’ve cost $25 at the time. And taken the book off sale for an unspecified period of time.

(I once had my best-selling books stay off sale for a full month before I realized that could happen. I’d always figured the printer would fulfill all orders that had already been placed using the current files while allowing me to submit and approve the updated files for new orders, but that’s not what they do. They pull the book while they’re handling old orders and only let you approve the updates after those old orders have all been filled. At which point the book becomes available for sale once more. So if they’re backed up on filling orders, which they were when that happened, the book remains unavailable that whole time.)

Other self-published authors pay someone else to format their books. In that case those authors are faced with getting on the schedule of their formatter and then paying the cost for the edits and then uploading when that’s all done. That could be $100 maybe and a month or three to get the edits back.

We all want perfect books, but if you have a book that’s made you $50 and the typo is minor and will take three months to make…It’s easy to see why that doesn’t make sense to do.

I also know an author who didn’t want to face an old book that had disappointed them so didn’t fix a typo they knew about in that book for five years because they didn’t want to revisit that book. They literally could not bring themselves to open the file and find the typo.

It happens.

So we all try, but sometimes there are going to be mistakes that slip through and that don’t get fixed.

I definitely make mistakes with my books. Not a lot, I hope, but there’s a dropped period here or there for sure. And more significant issues like this cover one sometimes do slip through. It’s a lot to juggle.

For me personally I will say that if you ever see an error in one of my books, please do email me about it. Often I can fix it easily and will do so.

If it gets reported to Amazon, they don’t always tell me. I had two errors I noticed in my books during a reread that I fixed and THEN Amazon told me about them. They registered as fixed issues on the quality dashboard I had never seen before that day.

Most trade published authors I know don’t want to be contacted on the other hand, because there’s nothing they can do and it’s kind of like rubbing salt in the wound.

Also…

There can be style differences that readers point out that aren’t really errors.

I remember someone commenting once that they didn’t like reading X Author because that author’s main character used a sentence construction they thought was grammatically incorrect.

But it’s important to understand that the way people speak is regional and that what someone might consider grammatically incorrect is actually regionally appropriate or character appropriate phrasing.

Especially for books written in first person “grammatical” fixes may not be legitimate.

I know, for example, that I speak with certain sentence constructions that are not considered appropriate according to Word. But that’s how a character like me would structure their sentences, so if I’m writing a character like that the one-size-fits-all grammar rules in Word don’t apply.

Which is all to say that if you reach out to someone and say, “you should’ve phrased this differently” they are within their rights to say, “nope, that’s how I meant it to be, thanks.” They probably won’t say that to you, but they’ll think it.

So anyway. We’re all human. None of us are perfect. Sometimes we can fix what we mess up, sometimes it’s out of our control. And sometimes it’s not really an error, just a difference of opinion.

But glad that friend reached out because it may have been years before I noticed that error otherwise.

Random Thoughts and Comments 20220821

I think I finally ran into the IngramSpark/Amazon publishing order conflict today.

I’ve always published my paperbacks to Amazon first because I like to use their previewer to walk through my book and look at my cover. I find it far easier to use than the PDF preview that IS provides.

So I usually go there and publish and then go straight to IngramSpark and publish. Same day for both. And I’ve never had an issue doing it that way.

But today I was going to publish a book on IngramSpark that I’d previously published on Amazon and hadn’t signed up for expanded distribution. (At least it isn’t now and I don’t remember doing so before.)

And…it wouldn’t let me. Said the ISBN was already in use. I assume because enough time had passed between when I published on Amazon (in April) and now. So that error so many people had run into that I hadn’t when publishing over 100 books, I now have run into.

(But just realized I didn’t run into that issue with three other books earlier this month so maybe this was a D2D/IS conflict for a title I started and never finished when I thought I was going to start using them…)

Either way.

Now I get to decide whether to request management of the ISBN or just use another ISBN for the IS version or just not do anything at all because it’s not that big a seller for me.

At least I finally can use my codes on IS again. It’s quite possible I was able to do so back in May which would have been my anniversary date with IS but I didn’t bother trying until today because I was kind of fed up with them.

Which actually worked out well, because I decided to redo the Budgeting for Beginners covers yet again. I redid them in April, but decided this week I didn’t like them so changed them up again.

Sometimes I do something and think “Yep, that did it” and sometimes I do something and think it’ll work and then come back to it a month or two later and go, “Hmmm…No, not there yet” and have to try again. It is what it is.


I often wonder if all the failing in public that comes with self-pub is healthy for me or not. It should be humbling, which would probably be a good thing, and yet somehow I still manage to be an arrogant little shit most of the time despite it.

But it does at least keep me from thinking I’ve got this all figured out which keeps me engaged enough to keep going, so there’s that.

Although I’m not entirely sure carrying around a little voice in your head that tells you that internet strangers are going to think X or Y about you is necessarily a healthy thing even if you do ignore it most of the time.

(Then again, I get that with my mom anyway. The caustic things she said about Anne Heche and that car accident – geez. Seriously.)


Interestingly enough I decided to retake the CliftonStrengths test recently and my Empathy had moved from mid-teens to top 10 and I wonder if part of that isn’t just the bruising you take being out in public.

I mean I’ve always been pretty good at being sympathetic because I’m a Strategic-Relator-Learner so when I interact with people I’m trying to deepen that connection and adjusting my understanding of them on the fly the more they share with me. The better I understand someone, the better the interaction.

But I always figured I was like, “Nope, you’re emotions stop with you, buddy. I’m not carrying that. I got enough of my own.”

Maybe it’s just ongoing cultural crisis impacting how I viewed those questions. Whatever the cause, it was interesting to see.


Also, I’m currently reading an excellent book for writers, The Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner. (That’s an affiliate link, btw, in case anyone was planning to buy a boat or something through Amazon. Can you even do that? I don’t know. Probably. If so and you’re going to, why not use the link.)

The book’s not about writing craft so much as writing personalities from someone who worked with a large number of writers over their career as both an editor and agent. I will say I think she skews to the literary side of things with her experience and examples, but still a good read. I’ve done lots of underlining.


One of the things she touches on in there is that balance between ego and insecurity that seems to be part of so many authors. (Me included.)

And it’s funny because this week I was thinking about the fact that there are maybe a dozen people who read this blog. But then sometimes I’ll say something on here and see what it seems might be echos of what I said here and wonder if maybe that number is higher than I think it is.

I mean I know I certainly don’t subscribe to the blogs I read. And I’m pretty sure my subscriber number doesn’t include people who’ve signed up for an RSS feed or whatever that is. So, maybe?

But then I think that’s just ego talking and how those echos are more likely part of the ongoing mass conversation that’s always happening where it turns out a good dozen people have the same “original” idea at the same time because all of the material for that idea was out there in the mass consciousness and those dozen people picked up on it in the same way around the same time.

Like, for example, I made a point here about something a couple weeks ago and then one of the hated ones on Twitter made a similar point around the same time. We don’t know each other, but we both said similar things at a similar time. And so if people who live to hate that person subtweeted their point and I hadn’t seen their post, it would be easy to wonder if somehow I was the one being subtweeted not them.

But likely not.

We all want to think we’re the star of the story, but we’re usually in the audience, not even in the supporting cast.

Just in case, though. For anyone who hasn’t figure this out, I’m just another rando on the internet spouting crap that’s probably 60% outright useful, 30% interesting enough to use to refine your own viewpoint, and 10% absolute misinformation or misunderstanding or only applicable to me.

And with that said…I think it’s time to start uploading some audio files for approval so people can hear me being very authoritative and opinionated on obscure business topics. Good times!

The Venture Capital Theory of Publishing

I mentioned the other day that this had come up during the DOJ trial related to the PRH/S&S merger. This idea that a publisher invests in 10 debut authors, maybe two do really well, two or three completely bomb, and the other five or six do alright but not amazing.

This is the approach VCs use to investing as well. (At least that’s what I was told during our MBA program by some VCs that came to talk to us.) They hope for the home run, but they know that only a small percentage of their investments are going to be home runs and that they’ll lose or be disappointed or meh about the others.

Well, it occurred to me this morning that this can also apply to self-publishing, too. And maybe this is more an example of the 80/20 rule in effect. (Where 80% of performance comes from 20% of the pool, in this case, of authors.)

Let me walk you through it.

About five years ago I joined a group of authors that occasionally touch base with one another and share information or commiserate or cheer one another on.

At the time we all wrote in a common genre or at least had written in that genre. And we all had a baseline level of sales. (It was a low baseline IMO but still I barely managed to qualify at the time.)

The idea behind the original group was that we had all done well enough with self-publishing that we took it seriously and had seen some traction with our writing and that we could benefit from sharing our experiences.

The group did not turn out to be what the founder wanted it to be, but a core group of about six of us hung in there. We now write in very different genres, but we’re still there to lend support and commiserate and just touch base.

And…

Our little core group that’s left sort of follows this same VC pattern.

Two of the members are killing it in KU in two completely different genres. One has had a history of success but is at a pivot point. One went through one of those phases where you can’t seem to write anything new but really wants to get back to it and is maybe starting to do so after a couple years of struggle. One got frustrated enough with the whole thing that they’ve focused in on their day job for now with maybe the occasional promo or work on a new book. And then there’s me who is doing okay enough to be full-time for now but not killing it.

I think our group is pretty typical for what you’d see if you took a cohort of say ten serious about it self-publishers and tracked them for five years. Some would start high or go up and stay there. Some would find their way up but not be able to sustain it. Some would putz along in the middle never going up but never dropping to nothing. Some would never quite get off the ground. And some would leave for other opportunities no matter where they were performance-wise.

And what’s really challenging is finding a way to keep going when you’re one of the 8 out of 10 that aren’t at the top.

We have this myth in self-pub that if you just work hard enough or smart enough that you can be that 2 out of 10. Anyone can do it, right? I had someone say that in another group I’m in just the other day. That anyone can be a six-figure author if they just write a well-targeted, well-branded six-book series.

Oh, right. Okay, let me just go knock that out. Be right back in…two years? When the market has shifted again and now it’s ten books I need in a series to be a six-figure author. And maybe my series is no longer well-targeted. Oh, and somewhere in there I need to either figure out what “well-branded” means or somehow find someone who knows that even though it’s hard to judge someone’s credibility when you don’t know something yourself.

Sure. Okay. Let me get right on that.

And, to be clear, that person probably wasn’t wrong. An author who can write a well-branded six-book series in six months and get it out there has a good shot at building an audience.

But most authors can’t do that.

Some absolutely can. One of the two members of my group who is killing it in KU puts out a well-written full-length novel every six weeks or so. It can be done and is done. Just not by most authors.

And not by most new authors. That friend of mine has published something like 80 novels at this point under various pen names.

So, knowing this, what do you do? If you’re one of those authors who isn’t at the top, what does knowing this do you? (Other than make you want to cry.)

It very much depends on you and what matters to you and what you want.

If you must be at the top, you must win, you either floor it and give it everything you’ve got or you go and find something that’s easier to win at. There are absolutely corporate careers where if you put your head down and do the work for a decade you will move up and be making a very good salary.

But what if you don’t have to be the winner, you just want to keep going?

For me, I have to repeatedly accept that I personally don’t want to give what it takes to be at the top (and might not even be able to if I tried) and that while some will see me as a failure because of that, that I’m getting what I need out of this and that’s what counts.

Every single time I look at a friend’s life and think, “Oh no, I would not want that life” I have to remind myself that the only person allowed to judge someone’s life is that person. They are the one who has to get up every morning and live their life and if they’re happy in that choice then it’s no business of mine that I wouldn’t want to live like them.

I also turn that around and I remind myself that I am the one that has to live my life for the next 24 hours, 7 days, 52 weeks, however many years. And it doesn’t matter what others think of the path I’ve taken, it matters how I feel about the path I’ve taken.

It’s not easy to shut out those outside voices and judgements. Society exists to make us conform to a set of standards that benefit the whole over the individual and we are wired to hear those messages.

But it’s essential to do that if you’re going to walk a path that isn’t the norm. Especially if you could walk a path that’s the norm and you’ve just chosen not to.

Anyway. Just some more random writing thoughts. I’m off to record more audio. I think I finally have things dialed in on the non-fiction side at least so will be getting two of those books out in audio soon. They’ll probably sell five copies, but you never know. And I get to learn something new while doing it, which is the part I enjoy the most. So…Onward.

What I Learned From Spending $100K on AMS Ads

I was refreshing a bunch of my AMS ads yesterday and noticed that I’d hit the $100K in ad spend milestone.

Now, a few things first. That sales number looks more impressive than it is because that’s retail price not what I receive. Also, though, that number doesn’t include all the KU page reads I had on my books before AMS started reporting KENP on the dashboard, so my direct results from AMS ads are better than this.

Also, while that number I’ve spent can seem big–and given to someone in one lump sum it would be–my total AMS ad spend is much lower than the big hitters spend. There are authors out there who probably spend $50K or more per month on AMS.

So, as with most of what I write on this blog, my target audience is those trying to get a foothold not those who already have one. So the folks spending $50K on AMS per month, I’ve got nothing for you. Same with the so amazingly wonderful writers whose books just sell without effort.

Back in the day when we still got a physical paper everyday there was a cartoon called Pluggers. That’s who this is for. The ones sort of trudging along making progress even though it seems like they’re stuck in the mud half the time.

So…Let’s see what we can learn from my experience with AMS ads. First some context.

I was lucky to run my first AMS ads back in May 2016 before they really caught on. There was a glorious period of time when all the heavy-hitters on Kboards who’d beta’ed the ads were talking about how horrible they were and I started running some ads and…they worked for me.

The beauty of not having a lot of competition. Clicks were cheap then! Ah, it was a beautiful time.

But then people started sharing their success stories. And a few really big ad courses came out on how to use AMS. And things started to shift.

At one point I had a book out on using AMS ads, that I updated once, but I pulled those books because it seemed like every time I published one of those books the good folks at Amazon would completely change the interface or the available options or remove an ad type or add an ad type and the book would become obsolete.

Since I pulled that second book they’ve added columns for orders and KENP and top of impression share and I think moved how you access half the options.

And, thank god, they also added the ability to see information for just a select time period. (To see some of the fun hoops I used to have to jump through to use AMS, you could always check out another title I pulled, Excel for Self-Publishers. Half of the items I covered in that book were workarounds for things AMS didn’t have at the time but now does, like a way to guesstimate your KENP you were getting from your ads.)

So things have changed. And that number you see in ad spend happened over a period of six years.

Which I think is the first lesson here.

DO NOT THROW A BUNCH OF MONEY AT THE WALL

I did not start out spending large amounts of money on AMS ads. In 2016 I spent a grand total of $1,143 on AMS ads.

I don’t know how to describe this, but it’s true for the titles you publish as well as advertising spend. Some just show more signs of life.

I still remember when I published my first billionaire romance short story. Copies sold before I even knew it was live. (Note, this was also back in the days of less competition when that could happen.)

I hadn’t had that happen before. That was a sign of life. It meant, lean into this. There’s promise here. (I didn’t but that’s another story. I seem to learn the hard way.)

So with AMS, every book I publish I try to run some AMS ads on. Some of those books, the ads just don’t work. I publish a weird variety of titles, some of which probably have an audience of one, me. But I give them a shot with an AMS ad just to see.

And then, if I’m seeing clicks and sales, I keep it going. I cut what didn’t work and boost what did and try to refine that ad into something that can run long-term.

So, for example, my books on Affinity Publisher, I tried targeting some self-publishing keywords, but they really didn’t work so I trimmed those out. But there were some others that did, so I kept those and have an ad or two running for a couple of the Affinity Publisher books that deliver low-level sales results.

Full disclosure here before I say this next book, I have not taken any of the other AMS ad classes or read any of the other AMS books. There was a little too much snake oil feel to things at one point so I avoid it all.

But occasionally someone will mention here or there the advice they’ve been given on AMS ads from one of those courses or books. And sometimes the advice is that you have to be willing to lose $500 bucks to master AMS. And maybe that works. But no way in hell I’m flushing $500 on ads that aren’t working. Which brings us to our next point.

AMS ADS WORK FOR SOME BOOKS BUT NOT OTHERS

I’m pretty sure I went into this in far more detail in Data Analysis for Self-Publishers, but here’s the ten-second version.

AMS ads are not necessarily the best choice of ad for a book. The more in the center of a genre a book is the more I think the list-based ad options are a better choice. Things like Freebooksy or Bookbub.

But for a full-price, cold audience looking for X book on any given day, AMS ads can be great. That means someone who comes to Amazon looking for a book on X, with no intention to buy my particular book.

You want to learn Excel and not bog down in a bunch of bullshit about the history of the program and every little thing you’ll never use? I gotcha covered. Since 2017 I have been able to successfully run AMS ads on that book at full price because it meets that need of people who come to Amazon looking for an Excel book.

But some of my fiction? Not so much.

I don’t write to the center of genres. My romances are on the edge of being women’s fiction. My cozy mysteries are probably small town family sagas that happen to involve murder. My YA fantasy has a romance subplot that doesn’t appeal to fantasy romance readers. My fiction is a harder sell.

It’s part of the challenge of learning to be a writer to figure out how to hit the bullseye of a genre, and fourteen published novels in, I know it conceptually but can’t do it yet.

So it’s harder to advertise my fiction.

Early on when there wasn’t a lot of competition I could take 25 clicks to sell a book and still make a profit. Nowadays with bids where they are I need to be at 10 or even less, depending on the title and genre.

Also, in my experience, based on how I run AMS ads, the ads only run well on full-priced books. I have tried to run them on freebies or cheap books or while I was doing a promo and the ads just slowed to a crawl.

Other techniques for running the ads may have different results, but for me it has to be full-price and something that will appeal to a cold audience.

WHAT THE COMPETITION IS DOING MATTERS

When you run AMS ads (or FB ads or Bookbub click ads) you are in a blind auction against an unknown number of other participants employing unknown bidding strategies.

How they choose to set up their AMS ads is going to impact how yours perform.

What they bid, what keywords they use, how successful their books already are, how new their books are, and how new their ads are will all impact whether you win that ad slot or they do.

The more sophisticated the competition becomes about using AMS ads the more challenging they become to run profitably.

Back in the day an author mentioned how they’d bid $9 for some keywords during a launch period because that put them at the top of ad placement, but that they didn’t actually have to spend that because no one else was bidding that at the time.

Well, others thought that was a good idea and started doing the same. And when you have multiple authors using that strategy, suddenly everyone is paying really high click costs.

So in a certain sense AMS ads are not set it and forget it ads. You do have to tend them and keep an eye out for changes and then figure out how to adjust.

DON’T GET PULLED OUT OF POSITION

Which brings up another issue. It’s very easy to react to every little change. A keyword goes from performing well one day to having 20 clicks and no sales the next and it’s tempting to turn that keyword off.

But the problem is doing so can sometimes pull you out of position. In my little Excel niche this is often driven by fake clicks on the ads. And if I turn off that keyword that day whoever is behind that gets the real clicks on that keyword and those sales for as long as everyone else is away from that keyword. If it was a good one that can be a big part of your ad performance.

Same with when someone comes through with really high bids. If you try to match them and continue to dominate the space, they’ve pulled you out of a profitable little pocket.

Which is why I do monitor my ads but I try to not be too drastic about the things I do with them. Because I want to react to long-term changes in the ad landscape, but not be jerked around by every little hiccup.

(I should not here, though, that when you’ve established ads it’s much easier to hold that line than when you’re learning and trying to figure out what really does work and what really doesn’t.)

SLOW AND STEADY

Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows that I am fairly productive (not massively productive, but I get 300K words published a year or something like that), but I am also not driven to be at the top.

I write because I like to hang out with my dog and avoid office politics. As long as I think I can do that for another six months, I’m good.

So I do want to make a profit so I can keep going, but I don’t have to “win”.

Which means I do not spend a lot of time narrowing in and optimizing my ads. Nor do I adopt some of the strategies that probably are more successful but take more time and effort. That seems an exhausting way to live for me.

So I try to have ads that I set and forget. My biggest AMS ad at the moment is closing in on $30K in sales. My two second biggest have hit $25K in sales.

I know that there are others who run AMS ads who do the exact opposite. They wake up every day and they started a hundred new ads and burn through them like wildfire. Which works for them. And they probably make more from that strategy than I do from mine.

But I like my way because I get to set up one ad that runs for three years with some careful tending. So there is room with AMS ads to take the slow, steady, distracted approach and still make some profit. Not as big a profit probably as the optimizers, but enough of one.

ADVERTISING WORKS

Which I guess brings me to the second-to-last point. I would never have spent the amount of money I have on ads if they didn’t make me a profit. If they didn’t return more than I put out there immediately.

Self-publishing is a weird space because there are very vocal people in this industry who will make you feel like shit if you have to advertise your books to sell them.

They’ll either imply that your books aren’t good enough if you have to advertise (even though they write to a very hungry market segment and you don’t so the sales dynamics are completely different).

Or they’ll imply that you’re not a real writer or your some sort of impatient sellout if you aren’t willing to write nine books before you even think of advertising. (Actually I think I saw someone say 20 the other day and I laughed and laughed and laughed and then went and checked my AMS ads.)

That second one strikes me as the self-pub equivalent of “you should spend ten years querying agents if you want to get published” or “you shouldn’t write a novel until you have a dozen pro short story sales” that trade pub sometimes throws out there.

I would not be writing right now if I hadn’t started advertising my books, because they will not sell on their own. If I didn’t advertise the Excel books, people would happily buy Excel for Dummies and get on with their lives. If I didn’t advertise my fiction there are plenty of fiction titles out there that they would buy instead.

I am my publisher. And as a publisher I have an obligation to get my work in front of potential readers. Advertising is a very good way to do that on a daily basis. Sure, this website gives people links to my books, but they’re not just gonna stumble across it. Something has to pull people here.

Putting a book up and then thinking the world will find it is a good way to be disappointed. And being disappointed is a good way to quit something you might have actually been good at.

BUT ADVERTISING DOESN’T ALWAYS WORK

I currently have a list of sixteen titles that I wrote down where I’d run AMS ads on them at some point this year, but the ads just weren’t doing well enough and I turned them off.

I have another ten that I wrote down where the ad was okay-ish, but I wanted to redo the ad because I thought it could be better and I didn’t think tweaking the existing ad was going to cut it.

(This in addition to the twenty ads I do have running right now that I think are doing alright.)

The reality is that sometimes advertising doesn’t work for a book. Maybe it’s the cover or the blurb or something else that can be redone to make it hit better. But sometimes…a book just isn’t going to appeal. Maybe forever, maybe just right now.

And that’s tough. It sucks.

But if you write enough books you will find that some do better than others and it’s not a matter of packaging or of getting the right description, it’s just that some books don’t appeal as much as others do.

Sometimes, though, it’s a matter of having enough books for those ads to work. On the fiction side I tend to lose money on book one, make it all up with sales of book two, and then have profit from book three onward.

Well, if all you have is book one…that’s not gonna work.

Or if people don’t read through to book two or three, that’s not gonna work.

So sometimes it is a matter of getting better at your craft. Or of writing enough books to make the ads profitable.

With AMS, even though I know that pattern exists for my fiction, I still tend to want an individual book to be profitable when I advertise it. I want that ACOS number to be under 55%. But sometimes that does not happen. And I have to let go, for now, of that book.

Look, people write for all kinds of reasons. For the love, for the exploration, etc.

But sometimes they write for the money. And if you’re writing for the money, you have to let go of the ones that don’t work. Learn what you can from that experience and move on to the next.

IT ALL CHANGES

One final thought.

I’ve been writing towards publication for a little over a decade and self-publishing for about nine years at this point.

What I can say with certainty is that things will be significantly different in another ten years. I’m not quite sure how, but I’m certain they will be. Maybe that change will happen at the industry level, maybe it will happen at the national level, maybe it will be international. But overall there will be significant change.

Over the last ten years self-pub has significantly evolved. What worked for people in 2013 when I was putzing around not doing anything I should have been is not what works for people who start today.

(Heck, KU didn’t exist when I got started and that was a game-changer. If Amazon opens KU up to all authors or splits out pop lists by KU versus other or does any of a number of other things they may be forced to do to not be considered anti-competitive, that’ll be significant for many authors.)

So knowing that, I will say that the single most important skill you need to develop as a self-published author is the ability to see that things have changed and to adjust.

I can sit down with someone today and walk through the mechanics of using AMS and tell them how I approach the ads. And that may benefit them for the next year.

But if that person can’t take the higher-level principles and let got of the details, they’re going to get stuck at some point trying to rely on what used to work.

So my best advice with AMS and self-pub is to stay flexible. Build up slowly and steadily. Don’t flush money away but do take some risks to see what’s possible. Accept failure. Follow-up on success. And adapt as needed.

(Oh, and if you want to see all the books I’ve written about writing and self-publishing they’re all on this page. I tend to write them for myself to cement my knowledge, but I do think they have some valuable discussion, too. And what kind of self-publisher would I be if I didn’t at least mention that they exist?)