A few months ago, I decided to try Amazon Ads. I’d heard a lot of hype. I’d also since fall of 2016 experienced a drop in sales. I’ve been doing this a while now, and this drop was one of the big ones that signals Amazon has been tweaking things and not in a way that favored my books…. SO time to mix things up.
Side note: If you want to make it in self-publishing, you have to be willing to change what you are doing as factors outside of your control change.
Last year I got the rights back to all of my Harlequin Nocturnes. I wanted to get those sales going and had had them wide for a while, but even with the first book free, I’d been unable to get the sales rolling. I’d also tried for a BookBub to no avail.
I evaluated all of the sales I was making at all of the venues and made the big decision it was time to give KU a go. This gave me an additional incentive to try AMS ads. ALL of my potential readers for those books were now there. (Personal note: I still have some books wide and am keeping an eye on what works for both options.)
So I took myself to Amazon Ads.
EVERYONE said the “product display” ads were a waste of time. So I ignored them and focused on “sponsored product” ads.
I set up my ads. Researched keywords galore, roaming through competitors for titles, series names, author names and general descriptors. I set my bids reasonably… 10 to 15 cents a bid and I waited.
And I watched.
I watched too much. And I watched the wrong things.
I stalked my ads. I went to Amazon and searched for terms that I had bid on to see where my ad landed. I’d scroll and scroll until I found it. Sometimes I never found it.
I wasn’t getting views and I wasn’t getting clicks. NOTHING was happening.
I started upping my bids.
At about 40 cents a bid, I hit the jackpot. Lots of views. Lots of clicks. So many clicks I suspected I was the victim of some kind of “bankrupt the poor author” conspiracy.
My ranking surged nicely though and I convinced myself it would be worth it because I was getting page reads and those combined with actual sales would add up. AND it was the first book in a series… so ALL GOOD.
Did I mention my first book was listed for 99 cents… uh, yeah.
Page count for it is around 350 by KU standards.
Going page per page fee? $.004 a page.
This meant for a sale I made $0.35. For a read I made $1.40.
My average cost per click was $0.25.
If every person who clicked was in KU and read the full book, I cleared $1.15. If they bought it, I cleared $0.10. (not counting read through to the rest of the series) Do you know how often EVERY click becomes a sale or read? Never. As in never. And I had no way right then of knowing how many clicks it took to sell my book (which could be different than clicks to sale for your book.)
But there WAS the rest of the series, right? So… I waited. I decided to give it a month or so…
Then I added everything up and, yes, I was losing money. Big Time.
As I said, not everyone who clicks the ad is going to buy the book and you have to take that into account. Also, at 99 cents, my margin was nothing. Yes, I meant it as a loss leader, but not that much of a loss.
So I panicked again and starting lowering bids. My costs went down, but my views and clicks did too, by a lot. My ranking dropped.
I was screwed. I couldn’t win. The world hated me. Time to eat worms.
I did that for a day. Then I bought Brian Meek’s book Mastering Amazon Ads. He didn’t tell me anything I didn’t in my gut already know. But he forced me to listen to what I already knew AND he gave me tools to SEE the reality and gain control over my own destiny, as much as you can, at Amazon. He even (through his group linked to below) gave me tools to see how many clicks it was taking to sell my book… and Amazon book page description writing tips to get that conversion rate lower. My rate now runs from 1:4 to 1:7 for a buy or read of my first book Unbound from clicks on an ad. (That’s, for the record, pretty damn good.)
Insider tip: Brian now has a class and a free group at Facebook on mastering Amazon ads that you can join. If you do, he currently gives away an Excel spreadsheet that is a godsend so far as analyzing the data. To get in, you do have to have bought and be reading the book though… so get Mastering Amazon Ads first!
Lori Devoti is the author of paranormal romance, urban fantasy and young adult fiction. Under the name Rae Davies, she writes the USA Today Bestselling Dusty Deals Mystery series. Check our her books at www.LoriDevoti.com and RaeDavies.com. Looking for help with your writing? Lori also does developmental editing and critiques for other authors and publishers. See our Editorial Services page for contact information and pricing.