One of the biggest challenges us indie authors face is marketing. We can write and hire a decent cover artist, but the best story and cover won’t sell a book if no one knows it exists. So how do you get noticed? Back when I started publishing my books, I did not have to worry about. I wrote my stories, did a crappy job editing them, made some crappy covers, and started counting my money. Life was good, but like most good things in this world, it was fleeting.
So what happened? Like me, everyone with a story wrote it out and uploaded it to Amazon, Smashwords, or other retailers. Now, instead of being a new face in a crowd of thousands, I was one amongst hundreds of thousands if not millions. My sales plummeted despite having had a respectable audience and a name that was not completely unknown.
Others were still successful, albeit they were in a smaller club these days. My annual book sales of today looked like my monthly sales of days gone by. I hired a proper cover artist and editor, and while that helped for a time, it was a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound. So where did I go wrong?
My path to obscurity began with my inability to engage on a more personal level with my audience. Introverts unite! Talk about your oxymoron. I failed to keep in contact with my readers through newsletters and a bustling email list. But my biggest failure, and likely that of most us struggling indie authors with a respectable library, was I did not know how to promote.
I watched videos and read blogs until my eyes bled, but I still didn’t get it. So what’s an author to do? When in doubt, contract it out! But who do you call? Ghostbusters? Paranormal sabotage would certainly explain my steep decline, and it allowed me to dodge some if not all of the blame. Gremlins it was! Gremlins it was not… So who do I hire? I tried some cheap marketing with twitter blasts and took a stab at running my own Facebook and AMS ads. I even forked over money for KDP Rocket to help me with key words, but nothing helped.
So why didn’t it work for me when it clearly worked for others? In the words of the immortal Mark Twain, “It’s all about the Benjamins, baby!” OK, that might have been Puff Daddy. It’s easy to confuse the two. It’s like Gandhi said, “It takes money to make money.” I might have that one wrong too, but the idea is spot on. To run a successful AMS ad campaign, you have to be willing to spend, and lose, a lot of money. I am strongly resistant to both of those concepts, but I was at my wits end, and I had to try something or admit defeat.
Now, I knew I did not have what it took to create, monitor, and adjust my AMS ads on my own, so I contracted some help. I contacted Michael Beverly at AMSAdwerks on a recommendation from another author. I asked how much it would cost me to have them run a month of AMS ads. The reply was a real butt-clincher. $1,300, and that’s just their fee. You can specify a spending limit. I did not. I was going all in. Some successful ads spend thousands of dollars a month and into the low five-figures–sans the decimal point. We aren’t counts pennies here.
In the end, I spent right at $3,000 total. That’s their fee plus the ad cost. I primarily pushed my Sorcerer’s Path series since it was my best seller. “SO WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED ALREADY!” you angrily demand? Long story short, I broke even, and I was fine with that. That was my baseline goal—not to have flushed money I don’t have down the toilet.
The first image is of my AMS ad results. I spent $1400 and made a whopping $400. A thousand dollar loss? How the hell is that breaking even? Well, the AMS dashboard is only part of the equation. If you take a look at the next image, you will see that my actual sales increased by 300% (I’m subtracting the sales for the new book I released that month) and my KENP, my oh so beautiful, wallet-saving KENP reads, shot up something like 900%! My previous page reads for previous months were around 80k. April’s were just shy of 700k. Subtract maybe 100k for my new book, that’s still one hell of a jump, and the boost continues for the next couple of months although at much reduced amount.
So why the huge discrepancy between my sales dashboard and the AMS dashboard. AMS only tracks sales made after someone clicks on my ad and never KU borrows. This made it difficult for me to get a real grip on my ad’s success. Michael from AMSAdwerks said my click-through rate (clicks upon seeing my ad) was really low, and this was ALWAYS due to the cover. Amazon displayed my ad nearly 5 million times, but only a tiny fraction bothered to click it. So The Sorcerer’s Path is getting a $3,000 facelift. Yup, the artistic genius who did my Chaos Unchained cover is redoing all my covers. Eventually. It’s going to take some time. And money. Bye, money, I’ll miss you. You’re going to a better place. Bullshit! The best place in my damn bank account! But, like Gandhi said, it takes money to make money.
In summary, if you have a good-sized series (preferably) and some really good covers and blurbs (must have!) and you’re willing to risk losing a few thousand dollars, then a properly run AMS campaign can definitely help. If you are like me and aren’t ad savvy, I really recommend AMSAdwerks or another company who can properly setup and run your campaign.
Now, I wish this was the end, but this next part is where it REALLY gets crazy and why it took me until now to write about this little wallet-assaulting adventure. If you’re an author who relies on Kindle Unlimited’s KENP reads, this next story should scare the hell out of you. Stay tuned for part two, because this little roller coaster ain’t over yet. The loop-the-loop is just ahead.