Competition

I’m hip-deep in producing the videos for the Excel for Self-Publishers video course. (Two and a half hours of video done, probably half an hour worth to go. Woot!) And it has me thinking about competition a lot. Partially because it’s such a business-focused class/book.

When I first started self-publishing, the indie mantra was “we’re all in this together”. And everyone talked about sharing everything and how there was room for everyone. People were encouraged to self-publish and you’d see authors openly share the genres where they were finding success. It was an all-for-one environment.

I’ve seen it on the trade publishing side, too. This idea that there’s room for everyone. That authors don’t compete with one another. That we’re all just one big happy family of writers who will conquer the world together.

Now, you may have noticed that I’m a bit of a cynic. If you hadn’t, I am.

So this message never sat well with me.

(One of the lessons I learned in business school was that there are some people out there who’d stab their own mother in the back to get ahead and they won’t hesitate to lie, manipulate, or cheat to get what they want. Not taught in class, by the way. More a matter of observation and listening to what some people chose to brag about. Suffice it to say, I have some classmates I would never, ever do business with.)

Anyway. Over the years I have tried to reconcile this message of “help everyone and we’ll be better off” and the fact that we don’t live in a limitless world.

And here’s where I’ve come out on this whole issue:

When it comes to growing a genre so that it’s recognizable and people can ask for it by name, we’re in this together.

When it comes to growing a sales platform so that readers go to that platform to find a new book, we’re also in this together.

By working together to drive discoverability of what we write and where it can be found, we all benefit. When people read a Twilight or a Harry Potter or a Hunger Games or a 50 Shades and want more, all authors who write that type of book benefit from that new reader hunger.

Anything that expands the potential number of readers is good for all of us. And so early on having quality writers self-publish and raise the respectability of self-publishing benefited all self-publishers.

But…

There are only so many spots at the top of the lists. And there are only so many hours a reader has to devote to reading per day. And only so many dollars they have to spend on new books.

And there are only so many advertising slots available. We’d all love a Bookbub on all of our titles, but that’s not an option. They only have so many spaces available to run ads and more than enough books to choose from.

And with pay-per-click advertising (like AMS), the more people who are using them, the more it costs everyone to use them.

So it’s sort of a love-hate thing.

We need our fellow authors to keep readers engaged with books as a form of entertainment between our own releases. No one author (unless they’re insanely prolific) can meet the reading needs of their readers. And it’s in all of our interests for people to read instead of turn to tv shows or movies or laser tag or what have you.

But when there is enough product out there to keep readers engaged, and I’d argue there is, then we all start competing with one another for what is now a limited resource — reader time and money, as well as visibility.

(And if that competition then leads to people releasing subpar product or taking shortcuts that damage the reader experience…well, that damages us all, too, right? Readers throw up their hands in disgust and either go re-read their favorites or turn to tv and movies for their fix.)

Anyway. A few thoughts for a Friday afternoon, partially based on something I see going down right now but don’t want to post about, because, ya know.

Time to get back to producing a product only about a dozen people will want. Because that’s how I roll…

 

 

My First $5,000 AMS Ad!

First, for those who signed up for the video course of AMS Ads for Authors yesterday, thank you. Also, thank you to Liz for pointing out that the video was too quiet. I had listened to the videos with headphones on so hadn’t caught that and it wasn’t caught in the Udemy quality review either.

Fortunately, I have a videographer friend whose Friday nights are as exciting as mine who helped me figure out how to fix it. (Noise Leveling + Gain=12 for those who are curious.) I revamped all the videos and reuploaded them last night so they should all be good to go now. And apologies to anyone who was trying to listen during that two hour period while I was uploading the new versions, but hopefully you all have more exciting things to do on Friday nights/Saturday mornings than learn about AMS and didn’t even notice.

(But no judgement if you don’t. I’m right there with ya.)

ANYWAY. I wanted to share my cool little milestone. As of today, I have my first AMS ad that has $5,000 in reported total est. sales:

My first 5000 AMS ad

I love this ad. And this book. (It’s also responsible for my first $1000+ month on CreateSpace.) If only they were all like this…

A few things to say about the ad and how it confirms how I think AMS work:

-This was a new release that I started advertising in September. So it was a fresh book with a fresh history.

-The book had outside sales that helped it get started initially. So AMS ran better on this book due to that outside momentum.

-The ad has tried to die on me a few times. I’ve had to change the bids and keywords to keep it going.

-It was also a title that readers wanted and would go and actively try to find. (Most of the things I write, aren’t.) Which means that the click ratios on the ad are very good and so are the click to sale ratios.

-The ad only has 106 keywords so you can definitely get high sales off of limited keywords if they’re the right ones.

And one final point. This is a newer ad. I only started running it in September. So AMS are not dead. They may be more challenging, especially in fiction, than they used to be. But they can definitely still drive sales.

Also, something else I’ve been seeing on my dashboard that I’ve mentioned before, but is worth pointing out again: Product Display ads will continue to accumulate spend even after they’re paused. I set up a PD ad as part of the video course, paused it four or five days ago, and it keeps getting one or two clicks a day and spend to go with that. So be careful with those if you run them.

(And, because I’d be remiss if I didn’t say it…Don’t forget that there’s a promo code for the AMS video course available in my last post. And I’ll always make sure there’s some sort of discount on the course available from this website, so if someone reads this many months from now, look for the course listing tab to get a discount link.)

 

AMS Ads for Authors Is a Video Course

Whew. That took some effort. But the video course is now live on Udemy. A very exciting moment.  It is not perfect, but I think it’s good. And for those of you who were wanting something more visual than the book (which didn’t include screenshots), this does the trick.

And I have a special deal for you blog readers. The course is priced at $99.99 but if you follow this link you can purchase the course for just $9.99. That link will work for the first twenty-five folks who use it and is a pretty good deal if I do say so myself.

But some of you should check your emails or PMs before using that link. If I could link you to a review of the book, you have a different promo code to use. And if you reviewed the book and didn’t hear from me, reach out please. I appreciate people who put themselves out there by leaving a review.

Onward and upward. Next one is going to be Excel for Self-Publishers. Good times!

 

 

Holy Learning Curve Batman

I am currently taking a break from the final editing pass on the AMS Ads for Authors video course. Naively, two weeks ago I thought I’d be done with both this one and the one for Excel for Self-Publishers by month-end.

Hahahahahahaha.

I’d forgotten one crucial factor: the learning curve. Two weeks ago I was almost done with my first pass of recording and editing the videos for the AMS course. I figured I had to watch the videos one last time (three hours worth) and maybe make a tweak or two here or there.

No. Nice thought, but no.

I decided I needed some longer pauses in there. Give people a chance to catch their breath. (Although some might still think it’s too fast…)

And then there were some adjustments I needed to make to the zoomed portions of the video…

And, and, and, well, by the time I was done it turned into a complete new editing pass. Which for me at the stage I’m at skills-wise means about 15 hours of extra editing time. Maybe more.

But, hey, I’m learning!

I figured out how to get a zoom to carry over from one section of video to another. And a better way of dampening the noise down when I start off a section a little too loud. And how to insert some extra space into a track. So there are definite signs of improvement.

But there’s still a lot I’m doing that’s the equivalent of fixing a torn shoe with duct tape. I’ll get there eventually. It’ll just take longer than I thought it would.

(The story of my life. And why I start new ventures with a base of knowledge but without in-depth knowledge. Because if you know up front what it will actually take, it’s usually easier to stick with what you already know.)

Anyway. 32 videos done and dusted (I hope) and about 10 more to go.

Good times!

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.)