Random Thoughts on Wanting It Enough

In a Facebook group I’m a member of, a member recently posted about how guilty they feel because they have the chance to write full-time and yet they don’t.

I’m currently in that boat. I’ve chosen not to pursue any new consulting work and to just focus on writing and, since I have no real life other than hanging with the puppy and spending time with family, I could technically being writing ALL THE TIME.

I could write for ten hours a day!

I could write seven days a week!

But I don’t.

Because, you know what?  I’ve been there, done that.  When I was working full-time I routinely worked sixty-hour weeks and hit eighty hours a week more than once. And when I was younger and in college I had summers where between all my jobs I worked a hundred hours a week. And those last two years of college when I was working full-time and taking a full course load it seems like all I ever did was work or study.

I benefited from all of that work. It did let me earn good money and get ahead in my career.  But I spent years of my life in a working-all-the-time auto-pilot.

And I just don’t want to do that anymore. I want to sit outside after lunch and read a good book while the pup snores under a tree. Or sit on my butt on the couch at night and enjoy someone else’s artistic work. Or go to my 88-year-old grandma’s house for lunch and stay for a couple hours talking to her without stressing over how many words I could be writing instead.

In short, I want to enjoy my life now instead of putting it off to some other day. I don’t want to live to ninety if all of those days between now and then are full of work.  Even creative work like writing.

And, yeah, that may mean I “fail” at this writing thing. Fail meaning having to go back to some other source of paying income. And that will be ironic.  That I didn’t work full-time at my “passion” so had to go back to working full time at something that’s “just a job.”

But if that happens?

Oh well. I’ll have enjoyed the years in between. Skydiving, living in New Zealand and Prague, truly spending time with my puppy and my family and my friends, writing whatever the hell I felt like, sleeping as much as I wanted every day, hiking, reading…I’d rather say I did all those things than that I wrote and wrote and wrote.

The Difference AMS Can Make

Time for my first AMS post.  I’m fairly active in the AMS Ads Learning thread on Kboards, but I’m horrible at posting screenshots on user forums, so this blog gives me the chance to show something I’ve been talking about there for a couple of months now.

AMS is definitely the reason my sales have increased over the last year. I had played with them some in 2015, but I really started running them consistently in July of last year. I didn’t say much about it for the first four or five months because, well, the more people who use them the more expensive they get.  And it was nice to actually have steady full-price sales for once.  I’m not busting out the champagne by any means, but to be able to sell my books at full price month after month?  That I like to see.

I will say that the more genre-targeted your covers are, the better you’ll do.  That’s why, for example, my Rider’s Revenge series does well with AMS whereas Erelia never really did the few times I tried to advertise it.  (I define well as consistently ranking under 100K.  If you’re someone looking to move from 25K to 2K ranking, I’m not the person to look to.  But if you want to move from 250K+ ranking to under 100K, then AMS and what I’m going to talk about may help with that.)

Ironically, the example I’m about to discuss is for my first-in-series romance novel which I have yet to link to here on the blog.  But it’s the ad that’s really doing well these days and the one that most clearly shows how a free run combined with AMS can really help move a book to a higher rank.

Here’s the visual of that:SWH AMS Snapshot Free Run Comparison - Copy

As you can see above, in February 2016 I did a free run on this book which resulted in about 3,750 downloads and a free rank in the top 50 of the Amazon store.  The book was in KU at the time and I was happy that the promo paid for itself through page reads since it was a standalone with no other books under that author name.

But you can also see that the free run didn’t result in ongoing sales of that title.  It quickly sank back down to the 700K range where it stayed until I started running AMS ads on it in November 2016. (I had tried a few ads on it before and they sort of kind of worked, but November is when I finally had an ad that worked steadily to generate a few sales here or there.)

May 2017 I decided to do another free run.  I’d just released a related standalone and wanted to goose sales of that title while it was still in its first 90 days.  This time I had about 3,500 downloads and the book once again made it to the top 50 free in the Amazon store.

But now I had AMS ads running on it.  And when it came off free, those ads allowed me to maintain the rank I’d achieved through the free run as you can see very clearly on the chart above.

See below to understand what a difference that made in terms of sales and page reads.

SWH AMS Snapshots Pre and Post Free Run - Copy

I was sort of limping along with my AMS ad on this book but the free run and the momentum it gave me, goosed that ad into running.  Since that free run I’ve had 145 sales at $4.99 and 193,000 page reads on that novel using AMS ads.  The only reason I’ve been able to sustain rank and continue to generate sales is AMS. I start my ad at $10 every morning and bump it up as it hits its budget throughout the day. If I don’t keep the ad running I can see my rank start to drop when the ad runs out of funds.

It’s also pretty clear to me that AMS ads run better on books that already have some sort of momentum. This is the same ad I was running before the free promo, but now it actually spends my budget.  And it takes me a lot less effort to keep this ad going than it does my other ads.

It hasn’t been cheap to keep this ad running. Romance is expensive to bid on.  (I pay about twice as much per click for a romance click as I do for a fantasy click.) I’m basically barely profitable on the ad for book 1 but that makes all the sales for book 2 profit.

For someone with a deep backlist or books in a related series where readthrough is really high, combining a free run with AMS could have a very powerful result.  Even for me with just two standalones under this pen name it’s been profitable.

Now, some caveats here if you want to try this strategy:

  1. This is only possible if the book is in KU at the time of the free run.  Some people will borrow a book rather than download it for free if it’s in KU. This means you can come off of a free run with an improved paid ranking, since those borrows count towards your paid rank. If you’re not in KU your ranking will drop after a free run because you’ll have no sales for the days while the book was free.
  2. Also, I think I’ve managed to sustain that rank because the book is still in KU. My full-read to buy ratio is about 2:1 in romance, so without those borrows boosting my rank I couldn’t have sustained the rank I reached.
  3. I think this approach is easier to do in romance, at least for me.  I think romance readers are more prone to borrow during a free run than fantasy readers.  Also, I find it easier to promote romance than fantasy. I did a free run on Rider’s Revenge with one of the same ad sites as I used for this book and only had about 2,400 downloads. That wasn’t enough to crack the 25K mark when it came off free.
  4. I’m not sure if it makes a difference, but I left the ad running during the free run for the book.  That means my ACOS numbers look horrible for this book, but that’s not how I judge ad performance anyway.
  5. This was also a book that I knew had some potential.  When it released in 2014 it sold maybe 50 copies without any advertising and has always performed well when I promote it and been fairly well-reviewed, too.
  6. These were legitimate readers borrowing or downloading the book.  (I feel I should mention that given recent click-botting issues we’re seeing these days.)  I wouldn’t recommend using some sort of service that gets you rank without exposing you to legitimate customers who will actually read your stuff.  Yes, I think the momentum from the promo goosed my AMS ad and let me get in front of more potential customers, but I’m just not sure that would be true if the book were botted to the top. And, honestly, the promos I used for each of those free runs were $100 or less to buy, so it’s not the like the honest approach is prohibitively expensive.

So there you have it.  My first AMS post.  A free run to get momentum plus AMS ads to sustain it can work and work well.

If you aren’t using AMS yet I’d recommend it even if that means more competition for me.  There is a learning curve and the ads do require maintaining, but they’re worth it to me to have steady long-term full-price sales.  The information is out there.  I taught myself through reading the help documents and experimenting to see what worked for my books and now there are forums where the ads are discussed routinely and people share their experiences.

Of course, if you don’t want to take the time to read through blog posts and forum posts and all of that to figure them out, I do have a book I published on AMS, AMS for Authors, that walks through the different types of ads and my experience with them and recommendations for how to use them. I think it’s helpful, but I’m probably biased.

Random Thoughts on Pen Name Bios

I spent part of today loading files to the Nook platform.  This was for books that I’d originally published via D2D but I’d recently updated the covers and figured it was a good opportunity to move them direct to Nook.  (I signed up for an account there sometime in 2015 but hadn’t bothered to list any titles with them until May of this year…)

Anyway. As part of that process, I had to input my author bio for each name.

The most recent one I’ve been using for M.L. Humphrey with respect to my financial advice titles is:

M.L. Humphrey is a former stockbroker with a degree in Economics from Stanford and an MBA from Wharton who believes anyone can learn to manage their finances if given the right tools.

Which is true. I was a registered stockbroker when I was 20 (and then spent close to a decade regulating brokerage firms) and one of my undergrad degrees from Stanford is in Economics and I do have an MBA from Wharton.  All of which are facts that lend credibility to my telling people how to manage their finances.

But of course, that’s not all I am.

My Cassie Leigh bio usually reads something like this:

Cassie Leigh likes to write about the things she knows, which it would seem are online dating, puppies, and cooking for one.

Also true. Those are the things I’ve written about under that pen name.  And they do seem to be the topics that interest me since I’ve chosen to write about them.  And the slightly humorous tone fits the tone of those books, which are all somewhat flippant.

Of course neither bio is completely me and they almost seem contradictory when you put them side-by-side.

You’ll note, too, that the M.L. Humphrey bio doesn’t specify a gender, which means a lot of times reviewers or commenters default to assuming M.L. Humphrey is male even though I never represent myself as male.  (Although I do self-censor my examples sometimes.  So I might refrain from mentioning that I’d crocheted a baby blanket but would freely mention that I’d gone sea kayak fishing.)

Personally, I would never feel comfortable having a bio that wasn’t factual. When people think you’re one thing but then find out your something entirely different it’s a bit of a betrayal.  And you never know which pen name is going to take off to the point that that becomes an issue.

Of course, as I’ve just shown with my two bios up above, a short bio still leaves enough gaps for people to assume something that isn’t true even when all you’ve done is tell them the truth…

It’s all fiction at some level I guess.  We’re always applying our assumptions and defaults to the people we meet and filling in what little we do know about them with all the things we think we know about people like them and it’s so often not true…

Anyway.  My sort of deep thoughts for the day.

 

So Here We Go

This is my new blog to hopefully consolidate my scattered pen names into one place. I’m not sure right now how often I’ll be publishing here, although I think I will aim to post “puppy” photos on Mondays.  (I call my dog a puppy still even though she’s four years old and over a hundred pounds…)

As I mentioned in my about me, I have way too many pen names, which is not a self-publishing strategy I would recommend to anyone because you can’t properly keep up with any of them and it makes it harder to gain momentum.

But it does fit with my overall personality.  (I triple-majored in college because everything seemed interesting to me and I didn’t see why I had to choose even though the last two years of undergrad were probably the hardest years of my life since I was also working full-time, too.)  And even though I know it’s not a winning strategy I don’t see myself changing anytime soon.

So you’ll probably see a mix of life rants, financial advice, writing thoughts and advice, and who knows what else on here.  If I’m really good about it those will be consistent enough you can count on finding something here a couple times a week.  Let’s say Mondays for puppy photos, Wednesdays for random deep thoughts, and Fridays for something AMS-related for now and see how it goes from there?

Sure, why not.