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General Discussion / Re: The Virus thread
« on: Today at 04:12:39 AM »
I struggle with that phrase, "get the economy going" as if it were some sort of machine. The economy *is* going, it's just not going the way it had been. It's entirely possible that there will be some permanent changes, economically.

For example, there has been talk for quite a while now about employment levels, with predictions that we are fast approaching a time when there simply won't be enough "full time" jobs to go around. Talk about a 30 hour work week, and so on. This disruption could tip us much further along that road. I fully expect to see more pandemics in the coming years.

So, getting "the economy going again" sounds uncomfortably close to "make America great again." No offense meant. Rather, the phrase looks backward to what has been lost and implies the best way forward is to recover what was lost. That constrains thinking in a time why perhaps new ways of thinking are needed.

I realize this is terribly vague. I plead historian. <g>

General Discussion / Re: The Virus thread
« on: April 06, 2020, 08:58:07 PM »
I keep noticing small things that reflect the impact of the virus. Today I did some shopping. No paper products, no sani, no pasta (which seems just weird), no sugar or flour. All that I expected.

Unexpected: there's a small church I pass to and from the store. It's one of those congregational places with the word Bible in its name (true name obscured, just because). The church is a building set back; set near the road is the pastor's house. Very plain, very simple. The family has two cars. Today, one of them has a For Sale sign in it.

These kinds of churches operate on a shoestring and less. Their brand of Christian fundamentalism is very far from being my cuppa, but my heart went out to them today. They depend on that collection plate to supplement whatever meager income they get from other sources. They aren't going to get any government bailout money. I do see evidence of churches trying to go online as best they can, but they don't exactly have web coders to tap or much of a mechanism for collecting money virtually.

That church made me wonder how many other small catastrophes are happening all around me. My grandparents went through the Great Depression. They remembered the small catastrophes, for they happened all around them. With my wife's grandparents, it happened to them. They went from owning a small trucking company to squatting on a relative's land in northern Minnesota.

More people will, I think, recover from the virus than will recover from the consequences of the virus.

I saw that post. It's just weird. I was tempted to say that all the characters are the same height in a book: flat.

More seriously, I suppose in urban fantasy there might be a reason to state absolute height, but most of the time character height is relative. Elves are taller than humans, dwarves shorter, that sort of thing. Character A towers over Character B. No need to state feet and inches (ain't it odd that how high my head reaches is stated as feet?).

Women get treated differently than men when it comes to physical appearance, that's for sure. When a woman is tall and gangly (or short and fat), it's almost always treated as an outlier and often as a way to recapitulate some character trait. Tall and gangly will rarely be scholarly (I'm sure folks can find exceptions). As such, that's lazy writing.

For the most part, though, unless the author draws my attention to it, I don't think about height or really any other physical aspect.

Self Publishing Discussion / Re: Amazon Ads
« on: April 06, 2020, 04:22:44 AM »
Thanks, Lu. That's pretty much what I started doing, then I sorta got enthusiastic and wound up running all three.

I do have a reader magnet; those who subscribe to my newsletter get a free novelette. Then I have a second novelette available for a buck, for those who are still toe-dipping. Then three full-length novels. Those last are the ones I ran on Amazon Ads.

I'll go back to it. I'll look more carefully at keywords, look again at the blurbs (very important!), and will definitely plan sales in conjunction with the ads, and probably do some Booksy-type promos. I think my next goal is to see if I can discover how much ads can improve income. I know there are dozens of variables, but the overall idea would be to find out if Amazon Ads can *ever* be worth the money or if it will always be a loss leader for visibility.

It'd be worth knowing.

Self Publishing Discussion / Re: Amazon Ads
« on: April 05, 2020, 01:49:02 AM »
I understand that, but I don't write a series. I write books all set in the same alternate world, but I don't have a series. I'm not going to write a series just so I can sell more books. That's not my goal. I tell the stories that I have to tell, then I do the best I can to promote them. For me, it's the stories first, the sales second. I don't mean to imply any criticism to choices made by others. It's just how my writing goes.

Writers' Corner / Re: Aphantasia & Writing
« on: April 04, 2020, 06:22:21 PM »
I'm not sure what it means, but when I took the test I was picturing Betelguese.

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: April 04, 2020, 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>

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