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Messages - TwistedTales

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Writers' Cafe / Re: Can we discuss Google Ads as a Facebook alternative?
« on: January 16, 2018, 08:26:30 AM »
We were running trials last year, but got too busy to pay enough attention to them. Initial observations were how cheap they were to run. Budgets and click price were low. The reports werenít helpful so it was difficult to understand how well an ad was doing. There was also nothing to indicate where an ad would be shown or what it might look like.

Weíll run further trials this year, particularly seeing how out of control costs got with AMS and might get with FB. We ran trials with Twitter last year as well. That was very underwhelming and expensive, but nothing is ever static in this game so you have to keep testing to know where any of these tools are at.

Writers' Cafe / Re: ways to be less Amazon dependent
« on: January 15, 2018, 04:21:50 AM »
Still musing (aka procrastinating), but almost ready to start writing my next book...

By making KU downloads equal a sale on the ranks, Amazon have muddied what the market appears to be. Luckily, the content mills are making very clear what succeeds in KU. The number of downloads donít even reflect the number of readers because those type of readers will skim .5 - 2 books a day. Content mill books can appear to have hundreds of thousands of readers when they may only have 20,000 high volume KU downloaders who download every single book in a series. Bear in mind, those 20,000 downloaders might download/skim through 20 - 40 books a month, but they would never buy that many, not even at 99c. Worse still, they might download 100 books a month and only skim 20 of them, but every download has been interpreted as equal to a sale on Amazonís ranks. Biggest lie ever.

The Amazon site plays a ranking game where, in theory, the more you sell the more visible you are. By making a KU download equal a sale theyíre equating apples with spaceships. A KU download is not equivalent to a sale. Amazon know full well the intellectual, financial and emotional decision to download a book costing nothing isnít the same as having to fork out real money to buy a book. I estimate less than half of the downloads are opened much less read.

The next issue with the ranking game is all this lying about downloads gives the impression that Amazon have a huge share of the market, but do they? I donít want the KU subscription reader. Based on the top 100 cats they  download a lot of content mill style niche books, which I wouldnít read much less write. They look boring to me. I donít want to write books for what the most active KU subscriber wants, so they might as well not exist. If I take them out of the equation, then I donít think Amazon own 80% of the buying reader market. If I then take out the 99c books from the buying reader market, Iím pretty sure Amazon and the other platforms percentage of the market starts to get much closer.

And thereís the trick. You have got to work out what market you want, because it doesnít matter if Amazon have a bazillion readers in KU who want something you donít write, or they wonít pay a fair price for.

I want readers to pay a fair price for my books, which means I want to control my pricing. I canít do that in KU because Amazon set the page rate every month post the month.

I donít want to write what appears to get the most downloads in KU. Seriously, Iíve got better ways to make a living than write that repetitive kind of stuff. Given Amazon have deliberately set up the site to promote their KU niche tropes above everything else (including other books in KU), I assume they donít need or want my books, even though they take 30% of every sale.

Amazon have made clear what they want. All books in KU and they want them to be downloaded by high volume subscribers getting through 20 - 50 books a month. It doesnít make sense to me because Amazon get $10 per month per subscriber, but currently they pay $40 (based on an average of 20 books per reader per month x 400 pages per book x .005 per page read). I wonder how long Amazon will keep that up. Collecting $10 per reader per month, and paying out an average of $40 to the authors. Even if they have a number of ďdormantĒ subscribers (ones who pay or paid, but donít use their membership) thatís a pretty big gap, not to mention itís to the content mills advantage to convince the high volume subscriber to download and skim even more books every day.

Thatís another problem with KU. It might be operating the way Amazon intended, but I canít believe they meant for this to happen. Why would anyone want to be paid $10 for something that costs them $40? Worse still, youíve incentivized authors to help you find more subscribers who want to pay you $10 so you can pay the author $40. And even worse still, those authors will aim to turn that $40 to $60 and then $100.

Yeah, thatís a funny kinda business and not one I want anything to do with. In my experience, anything that looks unsustainable and stupid usually is.

Will people buy direct? Probably not in huge numbers to start with, but you will be building a buyer base (not just a mail list) outside of Amazon. Getting a buyers details versus the email address from someone who is only downloading books is not comparable. The downloader isnít being asked to part with any money, not to you anyway. The buyer is being added to your list because they are buying your books, so there are going to be less of them and itíll take longer to accrue.

To say selling direct will never happen is the same thing the trads said about indie publishing. Hmm, letís just say some of them are looking a bit silly now, not to mention many lost their jobs when the industry was forced to consolidate.

Writers' Cafe / Re: What types of files to upload to Payhip?
« on: January 14, 2018, 01:51:20 PM »
Weíre testing it now and have loaded a book. Given mobi works for Amazon and ePub for everything else, it was decided pdf wasnít necessary and might be easier to steal.

Writers' Cafe / Re: The beginning of the end for CreateSpace
« on: January 14, 2018, 09:30:25 AM »
The Ingram version will not show "in stock". There, I've corrected it for you. It is print on demand via an outside supplier, and as such, will never be in stock at Amazon (maybe this changes if you sell hundreds of thousands of books, but I couldn't tell you from personal experience). I had a phone conversation with an Ingram rep when I was considering options for my newest paperback. They explained that they have no control over what message Amazon places in the availability box. It may show 2-3 days, or whatever, Amazon decides this.

Another thing, if you have a free ISBN from either Amazon or Createspace, you don't own it and there is a possibility that if Createspace is eliminated that you will lose that ISBN. I somehow doubt Amazon will make that choice, but it's within the realm of possibility.

For those of us who are wide, we have to direct people using other platforms to where the print versions are sold, so I figure we can just as easily send them to Ingram or our website to buy print. Any book we never printed through CS wonít show up on Amazon ever. The books we did print through CS, but have removed from sale, will show as ďout of stockĒ (which they will be on Amazon).

Our print sales can fluctuate a lot, but theyíre never anywhere near the sale of ebooks. I donít want to use KDP Print and it will be minimal disruption to move the whole catalog now, so might as well bite the bullet before it becomes a lot harder to do.

Writers' Cafe / Re: The beginning of the end for CreateSpace
« on: January 14, 2018, 07:34:43 AM »
Wouldn't a better tactic be to use KDP Print for Amazon and Ingram for everything else? With the same ISBN, of course, which is a bit scary for me since I was foolish enough to take the "free" CS ISBN for most of my books, and that means that the CS version will stay on the Amazon store forever, competing with the new book.

Is South Carolina where the operation is located? 58 people is a lot! I've noticed that my proof and author copies, which used to be printed in Delaware, have for a year at least come from South Carolina.

This is a very sad development, and very bad I think for Amazon. How stupid they are! Surely the writers of substantial books are going to move to Ingram, leaving Amazon with the rubbish? Gor, how I wish I'd started out with Ingram in the first place. As it is, I have sixteen books on CS, and only one of them with my own ISBN. I'll be moving that to Ingram in the next couple of weeks. Grrr!

I donít think thatís how it works. We can stop selling the CS versions, but the listing will remain on Amazon for the second hand market. We can then create the books on Ingram using a new ISBN. You can bulk buy the ISBNs, which makes it a bit cheaper. There is also a fee associated with updates, so you wouldnít set up on Ingram unless you were sure the version is stable.

Although all our new books will be printed through Ingram, weíll slowly cut over the old catalog as well. A couple of reasons. Firstly, I donít trust Amazon not to do something stupid with KDP Print that wonít be in my favor. Secondly, I want to limit my reliance on and exposure to Amazon, so this is a service I can easily have done by another supplier.

Writers' Cafe / Re: The beginning of the end for CreateSpace
« on: January 14, 2018, 04:53:13 AM »
The moment they try and force our books into KDP Print weíll delist them and finish the set up on Ingram. Iím tired of Amazonís bait and switch tactic. I get weíre stuck having to use them as a distribution platform, but Iím firmly in the camp of limiting exposure rather than be forced to get in even deeper with them.

Writers' Cafe / Re: ways to be less Amazon dependent
« on: January 13, 2018, 05:24:16 AM »
I'm another who's grateful for this thread. My experience with alternative booksellers seems a bit different than most: my best earner is almost always the Apple iBookstore (or however they spell it today), with B&N second and Kobo a strong third, sometimes coming in second. Google Play (awful name!) is a distant fourth, and the others scarcely register, though I got a lot of Overdrive sales when D2D added that option.

I once tried selling direct, through an outfit that took a percentage, but it was a lot of work building epub, mobi, and PDF versions, and I didn't sell one. Not one! Do you think Bookfunnel's pay-by-the-month model is better? I have a lot of books out there, but only a few that bring in much money. Does it make sense to sign up for the $20/month, five-book account, or does that turn off people who might want one or more of the unavailable titles?

Itís $20 a year for 5 books and 500 downloads per month under one pen name. For $100 a year, itís two pen names and 5,000 downloads a month for unlimited books, where theyíll auto collect the email addresses for you, plus you get secure ARC and gifting. For an extra $50 a year theyíll auto integrate the addresses to your mail list (or you get a file to do it manually for free).

Weíre looking at the $100 a year option plus the $50 bolt on for the mail list.

Writers' Cafe / Re: ways to be less Amazon dependent
« on: January 13, 2018, 04:56:50 AM »
This is some good stuff. Thanks for the insight. I'm beginning to do this myself now. I'm tired of running my book rankings up on Amazon and having the tail of secondary sales last shorter and shorter as time goes by. I've gone wide with most of my books and I am beginning to get some traction on Kobo when I get selected for their promos, but I can't seem to get more than one or two a month so I have to find other ways to make sales. Hence, direct sales. I'm going to try it this year with hopes that it gets more tech-friendly help with implimentation as the coming months go by. I think it will.
Can I ask you, TwistedTales, what genre(s) you sell into with your books? Just for pricing purposes, as I see you are staying away from free and I was wondering which genres allow for full pricing with limited discounting. I have four series of books for my main pen name, one is romantic suspense, one is inspirational romance, one is magical realism (boy, that's an easy sell, although what readers there are in the genre will pay full price) and the other is coming of age. Figuring out where to price these relative to one another has been a journey of discovery, although I haven't found the promised land as it were to date.

Thanks for the feedback, Sailor Stone. These are notes I make for myself and I share in the hope of hearing others thoughts. Another regular poster has been sharing he thinks 2018 will be a telling year and it looks like heís right.

Like you, I can see the algo problem on Amazon. Itís getting very expensive to run books up the ranks. I mean, we can all do it, but the cost has to be offset by the tail, and you can already see the margins are going in the wrong direction. I think the content mill thread went a long way toward explaining some of the causes. In a winner takes all game you have to work out your boundaries, and know upfront if you can afford or are willing to play. Unfortunately, Amazon has turned into a winner takes all, and I think even the content mills will learn the hard way that Amazon has stacked the deck so only Amazon win.

To answer your question about genre, Iím a soft scifi and horror writer. By that I mean, I donít write classic horror or hard scifi. Pricing is a question of pitch and gall. Word count, packaging, marketing tactics, wide vs KU, risk tolerance, growth plans, etc contribute to where you can pitch your pricing. I see the occasional author in my genres pitching at 99c, but theyíre in KU. Others pitch at 5.99 and theyíre still in KU, but they use AMS a lot. Itís all a bit circular. Pitch high, advertize on AMS, get higher page reads, pay most of the revenue back to Amazon through AMS. I wouldnít mind it if it was building me a broad reader base, but it mostly builds a KU base where Amazon control your pricing and youíre never seen outside of their shop.

I havenít gone into KOBO yet. I think three platforms and setting up direct is enough to take on for the moment. Someone is compiling a fact sheet for me about how we can set up and use Bookfunnel and Payhip. If I remember then Iíll add some of the notes here.

Writers' Cafe / Re: ways to be less Amazon dependent
« on: January 13, 2018, 03:48:02 AM »
Musings about the market...

People need to see the reader base as a whole market and not just the one on Amazon. If you step back, you see the market is huge, with more than enough people of every type, age, demographic and interest to support trads and indies. Once you take that view you can begin to escape the escalating marketing costs.

Just because Amazon appear to own 80% of sales doesnít mean they have 80% of the market. It depends on how you assess the market ó is it number of books sold, or read, or number of buyers, or number of full price book? These are really important questions. What value to authors is a platform that mostly sells books at 99c or controls my pricing or gives books away?

Now youíre starting to narrow down what market youíre pitching for. I donít want to give my books away, or feel I have to continuously discount them in order to compete. I donít need to sell at trad prices either. I donít have their overheads and my books might not quite up to trad standards, after all I donít have an army of editors. I donít want to play a zero sum game either, nor do I want to be manipulated into one, which is where Amazon have been steadily driving us.

As someone has noted, iTunes and google offer no way to visible, so now Iím not in KU, theyíre the same as Amazon to me. No platform is offering me visibility. The only difference is iTunes and google donít smother my page in ads, so that makes them preferred suppliers. At least I know when I drive traffic to their sites they donít force me to compete with hundreds of other books on my page. That a huge plus in their favor.

Speed of growth doesnít bother me. Iím happy to slow the growth if it gives me a sustainable revenue thatís not subject to the whims of the platform provider. I also donít want to tie up hundreds or even tens of thousands in cash flow for marketing. Thatís a mugs game that youíre likely to end up losing unless you happen to be a very lucky gambler.

Say I want to run with a few thousand tied up in cash flow for marketing, which means I can spend $500 - 1,000 a month. Bear in mind, I havenít lost that money, itís just the risk capital to pay for marketing while I wait to be paid for sales. Having such a small marketing budget means I canít compete with the content mill style marketers. Those guys are spending tens, and probably soon to be hundreds of thousands, to maintain rank so they can get downloads and page reads. Nah, theyíre welcome to that game. There will be more than a few thatíll drive themselves into bankruptcy. However, now they control the top 100 cats Amazon offer me no visibility even if Iím in KU, so might as well stay out of it.

Product profile: 20+ books, three unique series, etc.
Reader profile: 40+ males, 30% female
Platforms: itunes, google, Amazon, more to be added
Growth plan: grow readers, profile, margin, paced to match risk capital
Risk capital: $1 - 2,500 at risk with occasional uplift to $6,000
Current sales: 3 years published, currently selling 25,000 books a year and growing
Price breaks: zero free, limited discounting at 99c, 2.99, 5.99

Now I know my boundaries itís a question of working out what else I want. I have a list.

* Expand international markets to reduce dependency on one.
* Expand platforms to reduce dependency on one or more.
* Ensure back catalog sells, so no books asset is wasted.
* Retain control on secondary products such as print and audio.
* Avoid single platform dependency, so spread ebooks, print and audio.
* Take control of royalties and therefore guarantee margin longer term.

Itís the last one that leads me to direct selling. No, I donít think that market has matured yet, but I believe it will. Why? Because the tech is catching up and fans like a closer connection to their favorite authors. The larger platform will always be a way to find new fans or sell to the casual reader, but the dedicated readers will sign up in much the same way as they once did a mail list.

Which brings me to mail lists. The problem with the indie world is they overuse and overdo everything. One minute they all decide erotica is a big seller so a bazillion books turn up, some with stuff that should never have been published, until it turns into a mess that has to be curbed. Now we have content mill books, so there are a bazillion of those turning up, being downloaded by high volume readers who donít even pay for them, and the top 100s have become almost impossible for any other type of reader. Mail list are going the same way. A lot of the readers signed up for the author, but now theyíre being emailed a bazillion times a day, and no doubt unsubscribes are on the up.

The purpose of a mail list is to reach your readers, but theyíre not the only way to do that. A lot of people get hung up about control, but a wise man once told me that itís not how much money you have, only how much you can get your hands on. Good point. My reader base falls into various categories ó tried and hated me, casual, interested, keen, mad fan who shouldnít know where I live. In typical fashion, theyíre shaped like a funnel. Most tried me and spat out the book like yesterdayís rubbish. A percentage thought it was ok and theyíre a casual reader. The next smaller percentage were interested enough to read the next book. The keen ones work their way through more than one series. I need a way to service every single type of reader or Iím missing a trick.

The spat me out reader is attracted through marketing (forget about the Amazon algos, they only work if Iím content mill with big budgets or Iím universally popular and Iím neither). I need to have marketing tactics that keep winning new readers. My next group only thought I was ok, so they need to know if I have a new series they might like. The ones reading the next book in series need to be reminded I exist. The fans are the ones who might join a mail list, but if I abuse it the theyíre liable to leave. Remember these readers arenít the high volume, read a book a day crowd, so they need to be handled differently.

Every type of reader falls into a category and I need to service each one.

* New readers are found by fishing far and wide, so broad based marketing tactics are needed. Email promoters, various click ads, etc.
* Existing readers who arenít that keen, or ones part way through a series, can be updated through various means, and usually the ones you used to find them will work.
* Fans will follow you through a variety of channels (not just a mail list because many wonít join any) so you need to have as many running as possible.

Channels are constantly being updated. Bookfunnel and Payhip are some of the newest ones to arrive as is Patreon. The interesting thing about these channels is theyíre offering a new way of dealing with our buyers so we can cut out the middle man, which are the platforms.

As sites like Amazon increasingly move toward Mom and Pop shop suppliers theyíre turning into a bazaar of flea market suppliers. Itís not a huge step for them to move to sites like Payhip who will allow them to transact directly, but how will the buyer find them? If the platform doesnít provide any discoverability, and the cost to get it is so high itís turning into a zero sum game, then you might as well direct buyers wherever you want them to go. The platform is doing you no favors for sending them customers.

Iíve always been inclined to go against convention simply because there is less competition when you do. Joining the herd to compete with content mills pushing out 10, 20 or 50 books a month will come down to whoever has the most marketing money to buy content and visibility. If Iím going to invest that much money there are better options than a high risk venture like this one. You donít even control your pricing in KU, so thatís got to be at best a short term win, and at worst it will bankrupt you.

This is why Iíll add Bookfunnel and Payhip to my tactics. Itíll be a nuisance to set up and it wonít pay short term, but I want to be in the right place in 12 - 18 months time.

Writers' Cafe / Re: What in the world is this? New rate coming at KDP?
« on: January 12, 2018, 12:05:08 PM »
Personally, I don't understand why a reader would look beyond the sponsored ads (7 or so) that fill that section. I do occasionally look through it on non-entertainment items because if I'm searching for eg a box fan, the sponsored ads are much more likely to have something I'm looking for. The book ads are way off IMO.

I found sponsored ads were effective, but only if you were on page one or two, after that not so much. As for the second strip, I couldnít say becasue itís new and I havenít used AMS much in the past year.

The problem is the prices have been steadily increasing for the best spots. Itís becoming harder to get a decent payback, especially now the content mill style books rule the top 100 cats. You need to sell a heck of a lot more to get any algo love and itís costing so much more to get it.

A year ago authors were cautiously advertizing one or two books, but more often now I see half an authorís decent sized catalog on sponsored ads. I flinch when I see that because I know just how expensive it is to get that many books (like 10 or more) in the top spots. I gather they are playing a page read aggregation game to earn all star bonuses, otherwise it must be hard to make those ads ROI.

Writers' Cafe / Re: ways to be less Amazon dependent
« on: January 12, 2018, 11:53:18 AM »
On the whole 'Kindles are too hard to use when you buy off-Amazon' thing... guys, I think we've found their Achilles' heel.

What I see happening is authors getting fed up. (We're already there) We've seen the promised land. We've gotten a taste. And now it's being taken away. Authors will do what we're already starting to do, find other ways to the cheese.

Readers are probably going to ignore it for the most part. Some preferring to buy off-site and side load, but lots just staying with whats easy, what's known. But... guess what gets readers over that hump? Other people getting what they want. Seeing new releases they wanna read only being available on the author's website for the first month. Yeah, if I wait, it'll eventually be put on Amazon, where I can get it easier...
but I want it now. One or two of my friends already figured out how to do it... they said it's easy... maybe I should try...

At some point it will tip. At some point it becomes- if I stay with my kindle, I can ONLY get stuff from Amazon. I cant get all this other stuff all these authors are putting out until after everyone else has read it. If I get this other device or app or whatever that meh, I'm not really interested in, I too can get more things from more places!

That's when they'll start looking to diversify. That's when 'Kindle has everything!' becomes 'Kindle only gets me this one thing! What device do I need to buy to be able to get all those other things?'

Apparently membership sites are a growing trend on the web for direct selling. Iím thinking itís possible to build up a very tempting offer. Apply discount coupons to the books for members only and have versions with additional content (or provide additional files), such as bonus chapters that could have been included much like deleted scenes in a movie.

You could have some real fun with this.

Writers' Cafe / Re: What in the world is this? New rate coming at KDP?
« on: January 12, 2018, 11:38:37 AM »
I suppose that's possible, but what I was trying to point out was that the quoted material refers to the search pages only, not to the two strips on the product pages. From the quoted part, I would conclude that Amazon is opening up another option to us: have the search results visible at top of search page instead of at the bottom. As I said, that option has long existed for other advertisers. Jumping to the conclusion that the Bid+ choice affects sponsored ads on the product page seems to go beyond the evidence we have right now.

Of course, I could be wrong.  :-\

Maybe, but having two strips of sponsored ads that are potentially a hundred pages deep does beg the question of how you get first page on the second strip. The first strip I understand, but the second I donít. If they already have a mechanism to prioritize by super charging a bid it makes sense to use it.

Writers' Cafe / Re: ways to be less Amazon dependent
« on: January 12, 2018, 11:36:15 AM »
No, I agree. My suggestion was made in jest. I think you're right, direct is the way things look to be moving. Exciting times.

Oh, but a few weeks ago there was a long thread about starting up a competitor site. I didnít think that was doable, at least not by a gang of enthusiastic authors.

Setting up direct selling by author and driving some traffic to it is probably doable now, but itís fairly new thanks to some of the latest apps.

In all seriousness, what is the future of online multi product distributors like Amazon? They took advantage of immaturity in the e-market, but where does it go from here? If it becomes easier for individuals to set up selling, payment and global tax management, plus advertizing is direct and priced within reach as it is now, whatís the barrier other than buyer familiarity?

Itís an interesting question.

Writers' Cafe / Re: ways to be less Amazon dependent
« on: January 12, 2018, 10:57:13 AM »
That's it, we must band together, create a new platform called Nile and dominate. Who's got a few billion to chip in? Someone get Zuckerberg on the line.  8)

I donít think anyone is proposing to compete with Amazon, more to leverage the buyers to our own purchasing platform.

Given how the web has evolved, you have to wonder whether huge online distributors have a future. Maybe for the foreseeable future, but there are already less barriers to selling direct than even a few years ago.

We advertize direct so whatís to stop the buyer from purchasing direct other than habit and familiarity. Neither of those things are forever barriers. Clearly people learn and change, otherwise we wouldnít have online selling at all. Remember how untrusting people were about buying online even ten years ago.

Times change.

Writers' Cafe / Re: What in the world is this? New rate coming at KDP?
« on: January 12, 2018, 09:30:44 AM »
The part I bolded doesn't actually match the info you got from the KDP forum. That's talking about appearing at the top of the search page. It says nothing about the higher of the stripes on product pages.

I believe I was told recently that other users of AMS ads (that is, vendors who aren't restricted to the options given to those of us in KDP) already had the option to buy placement at the top of search results rather than at the bottom of the page, where they normally appear. Could it be that all that Amazon is doing is opening up the same option to us? That's what it looks like to me.

You know as much as I do, Bill. It looks to me like theyíre creating a way to position yourself at more visible locations on the sponsored ads, which would affect the two strips theyíre now showing on our pages. It makes sense that you can pay more for the better position if you choose to, otherwise I donít know how theyíd decide who gets page one position on the second strip versus being buried on page 100 of the first strip.

Anyway, the upshot is if Bid+ is released then youíll have to pay more for the best spots, which will affect the ROI.

PS I was trying to show the quoted bit by using *** but maybe I should have used italics.

Writers' Cafe / Re: ways to be less Amazon dependent
« on: January 12, 2018, 09:21:25 AM »
Indeed, it does seem as though the ground is shifting beneath our feet, and fast.

It has been an interesting week. Bob confirmed what I suspected was happening to the top 100 cats (content mills/mail list groupies), and Amazon are clearly getting ready to harvest their investment by taking even more margin through 50% and AMS Bid+. Even if they donít release that stuff tomorrow, the writing is not only on the wall now, we now have some insight as to how it will play out.

I think many of us have been waiting for the future to become clearer and 2018 looks like it might be the year.

I spent 2017 unwinding my dependency on Amazon and getting used to living with close to zero visibility. This year I plan to delist my print and send buyers to Ingram (or my own site). I hadnít thought to direct buyers to a buying platform I control, but I can see why it might be worth having the option available. Luckily, I have an IT developer on tap so theyíll work out how to do it.

FB are making changes as well, none of which bother me because Iím ok paying for what I get, and good advertizing is never free. I can see a way to utilize FB so it can play into multiple directions for sales, including my own site.

Iím not usually one for breaking new ground this way if thereís an easier road to follow, but with the advent of the content mills/mail list groupies taking control of the top 100 cats, then Amazon isnít offering me anything other than a place to list my books. When I look at what theyíve done to ACX, all I can say is Iím glad I didnít hitch my wagon to that train. Add to that the new KDP print shop and I can see where CreateSpace is probably going, so I donít want Amazon to have control of my print either. Now weíve had a couple of odd leaks about royalties and AMS plans, none of which are likely to be in my favor. Theyíd have to pull a rabbit out of hat for it to be anything Iíll be interested in. Amazon have a real track record of bait and switch, so a lot of us are understandably wary.

I think if you take the shifting ground in a positive way, this could be the impetus to design and learn new ways to drive buyers to your products. To be honest, 2018 may well make as many people as it breaks, providing they look at ways to reempower themselves in what has become a business with every shrinking margins. Even the content mill/mail list groupies are going to find their margins shrink despite dominating the top of the shop.

Interesting days indeed.  8)

Writers' Cafe / Re: Major changes in Facebook's Newsfeed are coming
« on: January 12, 2018, 08:54:26 AM »
More likely because too many people simply post links to articles and Facebook's business model requires posts about user's lives to have data to sell their targeting to advertisers.

Thatís probably true. And there I was thinking they cared about the user experience. *hangs head in shame for being so naive*  ::)

Writers' Cafe / Re: ways to be less Amazon dependent
« on: January 12, 2018, 08:48:14 AM »
I just listened to a podcast from Bookfunnel and they have started to assist authors in selling their books directly to readers. They not only coordinate the payment with PayPal or whomever the author uses for payment processing, but they also download the book file into the reader's device. It looks like a good way for the author to cross the Amazon's great rapids to their readers on the other side of the river without drowning in Amazon's walled garden of exclusivity (I'm on a mixed metaphor kick at the moment; try it; it's fun :D).

This is a good thread. Weíre kicking off an assessment of Bookfunnel and Payhip to see if we can set up a direct buy where we offer buyers 50% discounts. Providing they can download the books to the app of their choice itíd make very little difference to many loyal fans, especially if we include various free add ons.

Like Iíve said, I wouldnít have bothered, but Amazon have set up their shop so I have to market wide anyway. What difference is it if I offer readers the option of iTunes, Amazon, google and direct buy at half the price? Sure, I wouldnít expect a lot of take up to start with, but over time it may grow and, if the Amazon site continues to drive sale only authors out, then it gives me a platform to sell to my loyal fans. In effect, Amazon become the first step in the sales funnel to find new readers and after that you can offer incentives to bring them direct.

None of this was easily doable until apps like Bookfunnel showed up. No doubt, they need to mature as well, but give it a year or two and the book landscape could look very different.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Major changes in Facebook's Newsfeed are coming
« on: January 12, 2018, 07:54:39 AM »
"Organic" as in "free" exposure was never promised to anyone.

If you're using Facebook to promote your business, you should be buying ads.  Any other exposure is a bonus you should appreciate as a potentially temporary, good-while-it-lasts sort of free extra.

Thatís always been my attitude to it, but if they start limiting how much time/space they make for commercial posts, then I assume we can expect to pay more for the slots there are.

Iím guessing people have been complaining about the endless ads in their feed. I canít blame them for that, it was getting so bad I stopped looking at my feed altogether. Twitter is going much the same way. These click-ad moguls need to grasp ad space is finite, even if they can squeeze one more row or post in. The limit is in the eyes of the audience, not how much garbage you can slap out there and over charge for.

Itís about time they stopped painting the world with ads weíre all learning to ignore. Itís a brain thing. Once we recognize a pattern as not worthy of our attention, the brain auto blocks it. I donít even see Amazonís product ad position anymore.

Meh, itíll be interesting to see how it plays out, and if it kills the goose then everyone will find new ways, or another mogul will turn up. You know how it goes.

Writers' Cafe / Re: What in the world is this? New rate coming at KDP?
« on: January 12, 2018, 03:26:48 AM »
Well, at least all this has motivated me to start looking at selling using Payhip or something similar.

Thatís a good point. As Amazon keep tightening the screws itís time to open up every other channel. I would never have considered it, but Amazon seem determined to skew the shop in their favor and scrape back margin.

Iím already loading my print to Ingram and wonít be selling the print books through Amazon in future. I never did sign up for ACX because there was no way Iíd hand over control for seven years and itís a good thing I didnít. I ditched KU over a year ago and, given where thatís going, Iím happy to be out of it. All Iíll have left on Amazon are ebooks that I donít use AMS to advertize, but I still like the idea of opening more off site channels that I can control. Heck, I even looked at Patreon, although I doubt Iíll use it.

It would have been easier and preferred to use a single or limited number of platforms, but I think itís time to get creative.

Writers' Cafe / Re: What in the world is this? New rate coming at KDP?
« on: January 12, 2018, 01:59:22 AM »
There's a blog post on it dated August 2016 that says:

Sponsored Products Bid+ is a beta feature currently available to select advertisers to increase the opportunity to display ads in the top placement (aka the top row of search result pages).

Another one dated April 2016 says that to get Bid + "go to the campaign settings and under Advanced Settings, select ďOnĒ from the Bid+ drop-down menu. Let the campaign run for about the same time period as it did without Bid+."

Given the reference to the two strips of sponsored ads, which is very new, it looks like theyíre getting ready to go live with it. I must admit, Iíd never heard of Bid+ before, which is why it caught my attention. It makes sense something like this would be needed now there are two strips for sponsored ads.

Writers' Cafe / Re: What in the world is this? New rate coming at KDP?
« on: January 12, 2018, 01:57:11 AM »
Good gracious, how long before customers are driven from our product pages completely because they can't find the product among all the ads ::)

I think there are multiple reader profile types. Some are high volume readers and theyíre mostly in KU, others buy a book a month either from indies or TPs. Then there are variations in reader interest. Based on the top 100 cats it appears the high volume reader prefers predictable tropes in niches. The sale only reader seems to prefer more variety.

You pick your market in this game and, based on what I see advertized on AMS, the books are mostly predictable tropes/content mill type books. To be honest, thatís not a market that ever interested me. Now the mail list groupies have merged with the content mills that market will become progressively more stitched up, so the small independent writer will struggle to be seen even if theyíre in KU.

Donít get me wrong, targeting the sale only reader who wants a bit of variety is not easy, and I donít waste my marketing budget using AMS to find them. I suspect theyíre being trained not to look at the ads on a page, or at least not to buy from them. The way the game has been set up thanks to KU, you really need to look for your sale only reader outside of Amazon. Iíve been doing that for a year now and it works better than using AMS.

More so than ever, I think everyone needs to grasp the market segmentation and which one theyíre writing for. Just because Amazon skewed their site to make it look like only one segment is doing well doesnít make it true. I have long believed there is a small pool (compared to the overall book market) of hardcore, high volume KU downloaders (because they arenít sales), who are being serviced by content mill style writers (which is now being formalized into a small number of high volume content mill publishers who largely buy ghostwriter output). Furthermore, I donít believe that market segment is profitable so Amazon are clawing back a lot of the subscription fees and more through AMS. The problem is that it can quickly become a zero sum game where you pay just as much to be seen as you earn through page reads. That margin is already being squeezed so I imagine eventually youíll be lucky to breakeven.

If that was your game and youíre a small independent then youíre probably in a shedload of trouble right now. If you werenít servicing the high volume (and quite frankly non profitable) KU reader then you need to look outside of Amazon for your readers. They wonít change their reading tastes just because Amazon smother their site in ads for content mill books, so even though they might take a look at those books, theyíll buy what interests them.

Iím not trying to say one game is better than the other, but as a small independent writer, Iím very happy I didnít chase the KU reader.

Writers' Cafe / Re: What in the world is this? New rate coming at KDP?
« on: January 11, 2018, 11:25:12 PM »
Did the Bid+ glitch they saw actually explain all that, or is that your guess about what Bid+ might mean? Because it doesn't make sense to me. If you want to pay 50% more to appear on the first page, can't you just up your bid by 50% now? How is this any different than just putting in a higher bid in the first place?

I found the reference on the KDP forum. According to them, they found the following explanation on AMS help. They were asking where they could find Bid+. Itís possible the person is an insane lunatic that made this up, but itíd be an odd ruse because they cut and paste the following text they found in the help section.


ďWhat is Bid+?

Bid+ is a feature of Sponsored Products that helps you increase the opportunity to display your ads in the TOP placement (top row of search result pages). When Bid+ is turned on, Amazon will increase the maximum CPC bid by up to 50% for all your ads that are eligible to appear in the highest traffic placements at the top of Search results. You can select the Bid+ option with one click in the Sponsored Products Manual Campaign Settings tab.

Where is the Sponsored Products TOP placement?

The TOP placement is the one that shows sponsored products ads in the top row of the search result pages. You can differentiate these sponsored products from normal search results by looking at the ďSponsoredĒ label right above the product title. Ē


In answer to your question about the logic. In the last few weeks or so, AMS have put two sponsored ad strips on our pages. Bid+ letís you bid for the first strip on the page. I did wonder how that was going to work. Every strip has up to 100 or so pages, so just putting the highest to lowest bid on strip one and then filling strip two wouldnít make sense. It would have meant lower bids than everyone in strip one would end up in prime position on strip two (ie the first page on the strip).

Iím inclined to believe the above cut and paste is for real. Iíd post the link, but Iím not sure if it allowed.

Writers' Cafe / Re: What in the world is this? New rate coming at KDP?
« on: January 11, 2018, 11:15:11 PM »
What I'd like to know is who is regulating all of this? Amazon can't even calculate page reads, so who is to say who is bidding against who, and that it's not just AI plucking a random number out of its backside.
Is there a regulator that looks at how many e-widgets are being sold and people being paid the right amount of money on non-physical products?
Who is making sure amazon aren't skimming?
I don't think I'll use AMS when they bring this in, it's already a nasty surprise sometimes at how much you have to pay when the data takes so long to filter through.

In theory, companies use independent auditors to prove their numbers can be trusted. Itís a bit of a vague wave at integrity. In reality, the auditors are another company flogging their auditing services, so theyíre not truly independent. They donít check underneath reports other than to supposedly assess the ďprocessesĒ are in place to produce accurate numbers. Iíve worked with companies where auditors have signed on the dotted line, stating their numbers are good, but the processes and systems have been so deeply flawed key financial data hasnít been reliable.

So, your question is valid. In the past I would have said Amazon are big enough to have the right checks and balances in place to fix any numbers through reconciliation. Having lived under their madcap regime and researched a little more, it appears they slap up a new idea on a shoestring budget, and assume the prototype style systems will hold up through a rapid expansion. Hmm, that never works. Transactional data isnít usually lost in that itís captured somewhere, but it can fail to be allocated, or is allocated more than once, or gets stuffed in a holding account never be found again, etc. That kinda thing really does happen and some poor data analyst, whoís given limited training or time to analyze the bazillions of transactions from a system under perpetual change, ends up make expedient decisions. The business area responsible for the data has no idea whatís been done to make it look right, so the auditors are assured the processes are robust. (There have a been a few case studies, like Enron, where this flawed game has been surfaced.)

Without a doubt that situation happens more often than any company will openly admit. Amazon are unlikely to be intentionally ďskimmingĒ, but Iíd give them 99% chance of getting processes and therefore the numbers wrong. It all comes down to the integrity of their data capture, allocations and reconciliations, but I wouldnít be surprised if thatís flaky as all heck. Theyíre large, multi serviced, they rapidly change services, theyíre continuously adding new staff, theyíre expanding global ops, they value new ideas more than getting old ones working well. Hmm, what are the odds a company with that profile has robust, well designed, and bullet proof transactional processing? So close to zero itís not worth arguing.

Writers' Cafe / Re: What in the world is this? New rate coming at KDP?
« on: January 11, 2018, 03:56:56 PM »
My strategy for 2018... find an angel investor group, bid $10 a keyword, spend $200k in ads, be #1 on zon. Then I'll pop into kboards and act chill and say it's cuz i have a good cover and blurb.

But I'm throwing down the gauntlet... $10 a keyword, let's see you people keep up with that! You're going to have to get 3 full time jobs just to afford AMS ads  ;D

Donít wait too long to implement your plan. Once Bid+ is released thatíll be $10 plus 50% per keyword or your ad will be buried where the sun donít shine.  :o

PS. To make that ROI work youíll need to charge $50 a book, or have 5 billions page reads a month. Plan accordingly.  :P

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