Time for my first AMS post. I’m fairly active on some writing forums, but I’m horrible at posting screenshots on those places, 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:
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.