April 04, 2020, 04:38:56 PM

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There are also services. You pay them a bit of money, they offer your book to N readers. I've got a few reviews from such a source. The tricky part there isn't so much great versus bad as it is some reviews might be so poorly written that you sort of wish they hadn't posted. Still, having ten reviews is better than zero, and thirty is better than ten.

You can also ask individual reviewers, not only at GR but also at various blogs. It takes a fair amount of research, then time to compose the requests, then more time waiting to see if they get to you (can be months). I've got by that method one good review and one rather critical one. Those are reviews posted at the person's blog, not the ones on Amazon.

To be more succinct, getting reviews is tough, requires patience and persistence.

Self Publishing Discussion / Re: Amazon Ads
« on: Today at 03:50:31 AM »
Can you share any experience you have with Twitter and Instagram? I've only looked from the outside, as I'm not active on either.

OK, so it really is about advertising and achieving some sort of sales goal. Do you have a specific goal in mind? As an example, my goal is to break even. That is, to have sales cover the cost of cover art, editing, and advertising. And I guess travel or other appearances costs, though I've not incurred any on that front so far.

That's a high bar for me. I'm very far from wanting to have my writing be my primary income. That bar is so high, it's on another planet.

You get people to sign up for the newsletter by providing an obvious signup link at your website. You put a CTA (call to action) at the end of every book you publish, directing them to that page. You put a link in your sigfile. Those are the big steps.

Yeah, FB is another advertising world. I would recommend to anyone getting into advertising that they go with one or the other for a while, until they feel they have a good handle on the choices and methods, along with some sales data from initial ads. Only then try out the other platform. And then look at BookBub and its kindred as a third universe. Eventually you may get to where you can manage all three, or you may decide to go with one and abandon the others.

Self Publishing Discussion / Re: Amazon Ads
« on: April 03, 2020, 06:10:42 PM »
I have four books available on Amazon. One's just a novelette, so I'll leave that one out. The three novels, in order of publication, are:
Goblins at the Gates
A Child of Great Promise
Into the Second World

(note to mods: I hope it's okay to mention the titles here. If not, feel free to rename them Book 1, 2, 3)

I started doing Amazon Ads on 31 January for one book, then the other two on 18 February. I followed the advice of David Gaughran and ran Sponsored Products with manual and automatic targeting for each. Also following his advice, I set the ads to run for about three months. I've since closed them all (31 March), so these numbers are set. The exact keywords, the bid price, all that is just details. That's where you'll tweak.

Short version: I spent $255.84 US. I sold fifteen books and made $102.86. I also had about 7,100 pages read in KENP, so add another maybe fifty bucks.

It's impossible to know how many of those pages read or books sold came as a direct result of the ads. If you're looking for specific data on this point, forget about it. The best you can do is look at trends long-term (as in month-to-month over a span of years). Even then, there are the variables of your social media presence, personal appearances, general economic conditions (*shudder*) and so on.

Even shorter version: there's no way to know.

So we really go back to, is it worth it? My answer for myself: I don't yet know. I "lost" about a hundred dollars. As a one-time thing, that was worth it. I spend money on a cover artist, on editors, etc., so this is comparatively small potatoes. But if this was all I could manage, I wouldn't want to keep doing it for year after year, because that comes to spending $1,200 a year for no clear benefit.

Somewhat longer version: I'm willing to try again, but I'm going to do more research, more tweaking, probably try pairing the ads with maybe a price drop or supplementary advertising. My provisional goal is to break even, to have sales cover the cost of advertising. That's not a long-term goal because I want sales to cover *all* costs of production and marketing. Right now, that feels pretty ambitious.

I hope some of this is of interest and use to the community. Questions welcome, of course!

Self Publishing Discussion / Amazon Ads
« on: April 03, 2020, 05:56:22 PM »
@Eli_Freysson recently asked about getting back into self-publishing. That thread quickly turned to the topic of advertising, so I thought I'd post a separate thread and make my own tiny report.

The key questions I see people asking are
1) how do I do Amazon Ads?
2) are they worth it?
3) how can I do better with them?

There are tons of articles about how to do Amazon Ads. I'm not going to post references because what's a good reference for one person is too high- or low-level for another, and anyway the game changes every few months.

Are they worth it? That depends on what it's worth to you. I strongly recommend you decide up front where your breakpoints lie. How much will you spend? How long will you try? What would you define as success? Failure?

These are vital. For example, you might decide to spend a hundred dollars. How long will you try? Until you run out of the hundred dollars, whether that's a week or a year. OTOH, you might decide to give this a go for six weeks and you'll spend however much that comes to. That probably doesn't mean an infinite budget, but it might mean you're willing to go somewhere in the few hundreds without having a clear cutoff, but in any case you'll stop after six weeks, and evaluate. IOW, you need a strategy.

What's success? When you evaluate, what will be your measures (more on this below)? Book sales? Dollar amounts? New reviews? KENP page reads? Chances are high that the results will be ambiguous, so it's worth trying to be as clear as you can here. What's going to make you happy? What's going to disappoint you?

Only then can you go on to question 3 and look at how to improve. That will be the time to re-visit those Amazon Ads books and articles, with a particular eye to tweaks.

OK, that's enough setup. Next post, my numbers.

The OP was about how to get back into self-publishing. We're now mostly talking about advertising, but I want to return to the original question and say again: it's easy.

@Eli_Freysson, are you having trouble figuring out how to self-publish? Because that's one set of questions.

If the question is, how do I advertise effectively because I'm already determined to self-publish, that's a different set of questions. And that's different again from "I have N books already offered for sale, how do I increase sales?"

It's easy to go back into self-publishing. Making money at it is nearly impossible. The biggest problem isn't being a Twitter noob or any of that. It's the same problem a painter or a musician faces: getting noticed. That's nearly impossible.

I've accepted that I'm going to spend money on my writing, not make money on it. I'm fine with that. I get handfuls of readers. I publish about a book a year, or a little less. I'm content with that. I don't want to call this a hobby because I'm more serious about it; it's not recreation, it's an avocation. If it was just a hobby, I wouldn't spend any money at all.

So it's really more a question of where you want to make your investments. Here are the choices I've made.

I pay for a cover artist. It took a couple of tries to find one I like. I also pay a cartographer to do maps, when I have a novel that needs a map.

I've paid for editors but I've yet to find one I feel was worth the money. I'm ambivalent regarding my WIP.

A more recent step for me is to buy advertising. That's a whole universe worth of learning, but I've focused on FB and on Amazon ads, with an eye to some of the book advertising mailing list services. I'm being cautious on this front. I'm willing to lose money in exchange for recognition, but I don't really have the algebra of that worked out yet.

You can make different choices, but those seem like the big ones: cover art, editing, and advertising. The other big choice is going wide, but most of what I read says the utterly unknown should go Amazon exclusive, at least to start.

I'm sure other opinions will be voiced! <g>

General Discussion / Re: The Virus thread
« on: April 01, 2020, 03:06:49 AM »
I've been out a couple of times in the past two days, running necessary errands, and I was surprised how aware I was. If people approached, I would change course. I noticed if they were wearing masks or not, if they approached other people or avoided them. It was mostly just an observational curiosity on my part, but it got me thinking.

If I'm a germophobe, this might all be having long-term effects on my psyche. And the longer it goes on, the greater might be those effects. Which got me thinking about all the other mental scars that might be inflicted over these weeks and months--people who lost their job or their business, who saw the way they do business changed forever, who missed out on unique experiences like a graduation, and well too many things to list. Most of that isn't going to make the news, is dwarfed by larger events, but they'll loom large enough to the individual.

And then, on a lighter note, I thought of the younger folk going through this. Now when older folk kvetch about how the younger generation has had it so easy, they'll be able to reply "we lived through a world-changing pandemic, so sit back down, oldster."

Two books, which seems to be pretty standard for me these days.

Ties of Blood and Bone, by A.E. Lowan. Second volume in their series (a team of three authors). It's still the only urban fantasy novel I've enjoyed. This one did not suffer from sophomore slump. Good characters, action well portrayed.

Boy's Life, Robert McCammon. A strange book by a once-popular horror writer, and a very southern Gothic. It would probably get classified as magical realism, but it's really closer to Ray Bradbury. Great writing.

General Discussion / Re: The Virus thread
« on: March 29, 2020, 06:17:16 PM »
FWIW, nothing in this thread has led me to worry. The facts coming from the health authorities are quite sufficient to create concern. Nor do I see any signs from others on this thread having an omg moment as a result of a post here. We have presidents and prime ministers who are more adept than any of us at creating omg moments. All I've seen is a few inept comparisons (mine included).

Here's raising a glass to ad hominem patience and kindness.

General Discussion / Re: The Virus thread
« on: March 28, 2020, 04:19:53 AM »
With all due respect, scientists are inventing vaccines and medicines for covid.  The pandemic will not last 2 years

There are vaccines and medicines for plain ordinary flu virus. Yet it comes around and kills every single year for decades. Because it mutates. There's no reason at all to think this one is the non-mutating variety. After all, it isn't called Covid-1, it's called Covid-19.

"... cool broody people who want to stab people in the heart..."
This pretty much describes teens and young adults, one of the most important of the fantasy markets.

As a medieval historian, I find books about "assassins" just silly. Nothing about the concept makes any sort of economic or sociological sense. Or political sense. I don't criticize specific books because people can write whatever sort of story they wish. "I don't like it" isn't really a form of literary criticism. :)

I hereby promise you will find no assassins anywhere in Altearth.

General Discussion / Re: Free speech (or not) - and some tea
« on: March 06, 2020, 05:41:34 PM »
I see a practical example of free speech and its attendant difficulties in forums such as this one. Every forum has moderators and most have some sort of rules, however poorly formulated and erratically enforced. In general, the underlying aim is this: if we let conversations go down certain paths, the ensuing "discussion" can so poison the community as to cripple or kill the forum itself. So the mods swoop in and lock threads, ban members, or take other actions to protect the community. And yes, that shuts off that particular expression of free speech.

To take a silly but fun example, I'm on a very old (1980s) listserv for medieval historians. There are two topics that are essentially banned there: Hitler and Braveheart. Experience showed us that any time either came up, it so derailed the discussion that harm was done to the scholarly tone of the community.

We can talk about hate speech endlessly (I present the current thread as evidence), but the topic is so broad and ill-defined, no one is likely to be persuaded of much of anything. If we were a law school community we might talk about specific legislation and specific court cases. Thankfully we are not that!

But it's clear to me that whenever a community forms, the issue of free speech comes up and where there is complete freedom allowed, that discussion area becomes nothing but noise and bile. Any number of reddit groups illustrate this. It's also evident that no matter what community rules are formed, someone is going to feel marginalized and persecuted, sooner or later. I don't offer any solutions to this; it's just an observation.

Or, to put it another way, just because no law is perfect is not an argument for no laws.

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