Author Topic: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability  (Read 4784 times)  

Offline Patrick1980

  • Status: Dr. Seuss
  • *
  • Posts: 11
    • View Profile
I was listening to the Sell More Books Show this week, and the hosts raised an issue that I've been thinking about a lot:

The problem is not selling our books. The problem is selling our books profitably.

Almost all of us can run ads, do promos, etc., and find ways to "move books". But at high PPC rates, doing so profitably is another matter.

I have books with solid 4.5 averages that don't sell unless I constantly run ads to them. With ads, they sell, but I sometimes find that I'm paying for people to read my books at the end of the day.

Or, as one of the Sell More Books Show hosts put it (I'm paraphrasing a bit): It's easy to make $100K nowadays, if you don't mind spending between $98K and $110K to do it.

Mark Dawson revealed earlier this year that he spent a whopping $500K on Amazon ads alone.

Anyone else feel this way? Or am I completely misreading the situation?

KBoards.com

  • Advertisement
  • ***

    Online Patty Jansen

    • Status: Harvey Chute
    • *********
    • Posts: 13126
    • Gender: Female
    • Sydney, Australia
    • Destroyer of Science Fiction
      • View Profile
      • Patty Jansen Author of SF and fantasy
    If you write books that enough people want to read, and you then collect those people on your mailing list, you don't need to spend nearly as much. I spend 10% of my income on ads. Max. This includes the cost of running my mailing list.

    Offline DmGuay

    • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
    • ****
    • Posts: 551
    • Gender: Female
    • OH
      • View Profile
    If you write books that enough people want to read, and you then collect those people on your mailing list, you don't need to spend nearly as much. I spend 10% of my income on ads. Max. This includes the cost of running my mailing list.

    I'm with Patty on this one.

    Yes, you need ads to some degree these days. Organic visibility is dead. But, it shouldn't be eating all of your profit. If it is, something is wrong.

    Thing is, learning an ad platform has a learning curve, and during that time, yes, you may be eating up more of your profits than you'd like. But hopefully, as you learn and tinker and optimize your ads, they will become less expensive and more profitable. (There are free classes out there, too, so you don't necessarily need to pay for knowledge. Like Bryan Cohen's 7 day Amazon ad challenge.)

    Also, sometimes we as authors--and I am guilty of this--keep throwing money at a series that will NEVER be profitable and will never sell well. Instead, we need to move on and write the next one. The better one that's easier to sell.
    « Last Edit: July 30, 2020, 08:08:09 am by DmGuay »
     
    D.M. Guay | Web site

    Offline Triceratops

    • Status: Dr. Seuss
    • *
    • Posts: 44
    • Cinderella story.
      • View Profile
    A person on Reddit, handle "thewritingchair", says they made $23K in the first eight weeks of launching a new pen name, with zero advertising.

    Disclaimer: it ain't this person's first rodeo. In other posts they say they have been writing all their life, they write genre, and they write to market in a very no-BS focused way.

    If it's true, it is interesting.

    I barely bother with [ads] and make a very good living writing books.
    Anyone who tells you that success in this is heavily dependent on marketing just sucks as a writer. Cold hard truth there. If your books can't sell on their own, marketing ain't gonna change that.
    I stick with a mailing list (via mailerlite) that you sign up to in the back of the books, the same two ads on facebook that are like three years old now, the same AMS ads that are probably a year old by now.
    The best advertising is the next book - always.
    Marketing can work to earn more money but I maintain if your books aren't making money without it, throwing cash that way won't do anything.

    I started a new pen name last year, no ads, no mailing list and made $23K in the first eight weeks of publication. Sometimes I feel like starting a brand new name and doing the same just to reveal it on this sub.
    Quality rises, [crap] doesn't.

    Here's a guide I wrote two years ago about how to write to market to make money.
    In short, yes, this is how you make money in ePublishing. Write a series in a hungry genre to market and keep up the releases. As they pile up so do your royalties.
    It's exactly what I do. I took a year off and my royalties dropped from $100K to $75K.
    I'm going to keep my backlist size to myself so I'm not doxxed. At the moment I'm at about four to five novels a year.


    reddit.com/r/selfpublish/comments/hxxj7q/im_starting_to_give_up_on_the_advertising_part_of/

    Link to "guide" above: How to make money ePublishing (without a bestseller)

    reddit.com/r/writing/comments/6sam29/how_to_make_money_epublishing_without_a_bestseller/

    Offline markpauloleksiw

    • Status: Lewis Carroll
    • **
    • Posts: 218
    • Gender: Male
    • Canada
      • View Profile
      • Mark Paul Oleksiw's Website
    There are numerous variables.

    Genre plays a huge role in profitability.

    There are also too many "writers" out there following the same preached strategy and take the same courses telling them...if you spend they will come.

    These are only my views.

    1) The notion of "series" is diluting the marketplace. You might giveaway book 1 but how many will actually read it, let alone buy book 2. check out goodreads and see how many thousands of books are on peoples shelves that they never will read.

    2) You need to produce quality in the long term. Writing garbage eventually ends your career fast.

    3) If you are just starting...you need to invest in marketing, including paid editorial reviews (this depends on genre)

    4) What worked in 2012...won't work now and the people preaching tactics of years ago are misleading you.

    Mark

    Offline Douglas Milewski

    • Status: Scheherazade
    • *****
    • Posts: 1361
      • View Profile
    For all the writers on the lower end, this has always been true. The virtuous spending cycle has never existed for us.

    Disclaimer: I sell horribly. Set your filters accordingly.

    Offline jm2019

    • Status: Jane Austen
    • ***
    • Posts: 260
      • View Profile
    @Triceratops - really interesting reddit link, thanks! While not everything there applies to me, it was still a great read.

    Regarding profitability - this has always been my #1 thought when I see big sales numbers or promos; are they actually profitable? It took a while for me to get to true profitability (i.e. profit = royalty - ad costs - annualized fixed expenses) and I keep a very tight control on it (and now the margins are healthy, even though my genre is not anywhere near the popular ones)...but it's been hard. In my case, I could get there only after my 4th book released. There was no way I'd be making profits on the basis of the 1st or the 2nd. I'm slowly building the mailing list but it's a grind (I'm in my year 1 so I guess it's a long journey, but still). If I were to stop ads tomorrow, my sales would drop to close to 0. That's just the reality. But it seems that with the right titles, a good set of ads, you can still have your books actually be profitable, even if you aren't at the stage where you can work off of your mailer lists.


    Offline edipet

    • Status: Dr. Seuss
    • *
    • Posts: 41
    • Gender: Female
      • View Profile
      • Edita A. Petrick
    I am absolutely 100% with Patty on this one.

    I am far from wealthy. But once or twice a year, thanks to income-tax rebate and other social rebates, I have some money to throw at advertising. That's when I experiment. I 'did' months where I spent on heavy-duty promo. ENT, RobinReads, BargainBooksy, FussyLibrarian, Boosends and tier II hitters. Stacked promo (one book per day on 3 or 4 sites)all month long, every day. Since I have more than 25 books  out, in several genres, I have a good variety to choose from for a whole month of advertising. I tried to keep the promo spending for the month to $1200-1500. Yep. That much. (if that year I did BookBub and was accepted, then all this layered promo spending did NOT happen; I never give away free books. I don't see the benefits or reason. The only one who benefits from indies is Amazon - to the tune of 65% because all those promo sites out there, will take your book if it's 0.99 and no higher)

    So, back to the experiment.

    Results were...interesting to say the least. Didn't matter which book or which series I was promoting. Those months where I spent $1,200 and up, I sold between 650-850 books that month in all categories; not just those promoted. The books that were reduced to 0.99 got the bulk of sales. Few if any fully-priced books were sold.

    I cut down on promo spending to $150-$300 per month - and the book sales went down to 70-150 per month. But same as before. ONLY those reduced to 0.99 were selling. So even my lowest $150/month did NOT yield any profit - Amazon made decent profit - 65% - as for me, well - at 0.35 per book to me, I did not.

    I've done this for the past 5 years. Not sufficiently long enough to be statistically valid, but enough to state with some authority that as long as indies are forced by Amazon (and thus all the promo sites) to promote their books at 0.99 and 0.35% royalties, they will NOT make a profit - ever. Sorry. It's the way the facts on my side line-up. And my 'experience' is empirical.

    I did a "BookBub" International last year. Cost around $300 - return around $120 - and no, it did not make its money back. Those who did this and made their money back, are fortune's children. I'm not one of them.

    I did a "BookBub" in thriller caregory. Biiiig money. Even 2 years ago it was big money for me. Just under$1,000 cost - that particular book was with a publisher back then. I was given a choice of "historical fiction" just over a thousand, or "thriller" just under a thousand. Any way you look  at it, big money for me. Naturally, the publisher wasn't going to spend a dime on advertising. The book did well in sales. Close to 6000 sales at 0.99. Amazon did extremely well. Out of $6,000 in sales they chopped off close to $4,000. That left $2,000 to go to the publisher, who took 60% of those royalties - I got $800. It DID NOT cover my BookBub ad. Not by a far shot.

    I've many more experiences like this. With trad pubs, small pubs and finally on my own, indie. It's why I tend to disbelieve any indie writer - especially a newcomer on the scene (doesn't matter how long they've been writing; I've been writing all my life; had 4 different trad publishers in that time too, 2 agents as well) - who claims to have made 25K or great profits when running BookBub or any other promotion.

    Disheartening as it is, everything Patti says is pretty much a norm for indie writers. Those who 'fall' outside of this norm, should consider themselves uncommonly lucky.

    I know one writer. We email back and forth. He wrote a book. His first. Thriller fiction. He was a journalist. Had many, many connections in the trade. He won a semi-recognizable 'prize' for the book; the kind you could stick on a cover. That got him a BookBub promotion. He sold close to 20,000 copies at 0.99 - and after Amazon took their cut, he ended up with just over $6,000 - profit. He sent me the KDP Payment screen shot, to convince me of his claim. He told me he could retire on $6,000 a month, every month. I told him that Amazon certainly could retire on $17,000+per month it made off him. Well, it shows that even people who've been in the pub-trade all their lives can be naive when it comes to indie scene. He wrote book 2, and disappeared off the scene; guess he couldn't believe his daily rankings in either books, post that massive BookBub success.

    In summary, for me, those months when I spend $150-250/month on advertising (money's tight lately), I will sell between 70 -150 books, and make about $50-$70 of it back in sales.

    Those months, when I can afford to shell out $1400 per month - I will sell close to 900 in books (all genres) and recoup about $350-400 of the advertising expenditure, leaving me at least $1,000 in the hole. Those indies out there who can talk about making profit with an honest straight look, are lucky. BUT most of us - the frightening large rest-of-us, can't and don't find our writing profitable. Not the way things stand. And no - I don't have any appreciable evidence of sell-through. Those who talk about it, invariably 'teach' marketing methods.


    suspense action historical and crime thrillers
    Edita A. Petrick | website

    Offline Lorri Moulton [Lavender Lass Books]

    • Status: Lewis Carroll
    • **
    • Posts: 171
    • Author of sweet romance, fantasy, mystery/suspense
      • View Profile
    I'm profitable, but that because I don't pay for advertising (except for the occasional Fussy Librarian promo).  I don't sell tons of books either...but I am not losing money.  I'm still trying organic and it's slowly working.  Emphasis on slowly.  8)

    Author of Romance, Fantasy, Mystery, Suspense and Historical Non-Fiction.
    Lavender Lass Books | Website | Amazon | Facebook | Twitter |YouTube | Pinterest | Instagram

    Offline Patrick1980

    • Status: Dr. Seuss
    • *
    • Posts: 11
      • View Profile
    Thanks to all who replied.

    Patty: I'll definitely make a point to pick up your book on mailing list secrets. One thing I noticed, though: It looks like you've written so much that you can afford to give away at least half a dozen books (?) Wow.

    Edita: If I read your response correctly, you haven't found advertising profitable. I looked at your Amazon page. From what I can see, you're doing everything right. You've got great covers, series, and rave reviews. And you're still in a situation where you're running in the red on ads and promo campaigns. That suggests unwinnable economics rather than a problem with what you're doing(?)

    Mark Paul: I would be interested in knowing how you remain profitable. (To whatever extent you're willing to share, of course.) You have the more traditional type of author profile (prior to the indie boom and the overwhelming focus on series.) From what I can see, you have three standalone novels. That used to be very typical in before indie publishing. How do you balance high ad costs with standalones?

    Patty: It's good to know that 10% ad expenditure is the goal or the benchmark!



    Offline markpauloleksiw

    • Status: Lewis Carroll
    • **
    • Posts: 218
    • Gender: Male
    • Canada
      • View Profile
      • Mark Paul Oleksiw's Website
    Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
    « Reply #10 on: July 30, 2020, 10:54:14 am »
    Happy to share.

    My first book was published in 2018. At the time, there was a learning curve for me so I wasted some money on editorial assessment etc...I realized after about 6 months that i need reviews, including editorial and brand awareness. So I made the decision to invest in AMS ads and got various editorial reviews. While I am not yet profitable, the gap has closed and now my first novel is showing on the paperback side with also boughts with the likes of John Green etc...

    What I accumulated over 2 years is data from my AMS ads. Now I actually have it on auto targeting and am generating a consistent stream of paperback sales...with my CPC down to $0.30...

    My second novel was hurt by being launched at the time of Createspace to KDP move....It is slowly finding its legs.

    My latest novel is still early.

    I plan to go the box set root for a Christmas offering of the three combined. 

    It is a grind but, you have to keep expectations down. So while not profitable yet, it is moving in that direct. It took me 24 months, but am closing in on 50 Amazon reviews and 100 in Goodreads.

    BTW. Don't underestimate Goodreads. Someone who reads your books and gives it a 4 or 5 may have 50 friends or more who see that!!!

    Also, since I am in the Young Adult category/Literary fiction, the markets are smaller compared to the others.

    This also is a passion hobby for me right now.

    Mark

    Online Vidya

    • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
    • ****
    • Posts: 798
      • View Profile
    Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
    « Reply #11 on: July 30, 2020, 11:35:28 am »
    Quote
    I've looked up past authors who sold well and now sell nothing, even books with hundreds of ratings.

    I myself don't know the names of any such authors but Ive been hearing this for a couple of years now. People have said they knew authors who did extremely well years ago when it was far less competitive and who are not publishing any more because their books just stopped selling. No one mentions any names, though, so I cant say who they are.

    Offline Patrick1980

    • Status: Dr. Seuss
    • *
    • Posts: 11
      • View Profile
    Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
    « Reply #12 on: July 30, 2020, 11:53:36 am »
    I myself don't know the names of any such authors but Ive been hearing this for a couple of years now. People have said they knew authors who did extremely well years ago when it was far less competitive and who are not publishing any more because their books just stopped selling. No one mentions any names, though, so I cant say who they are.


    Amanda Hocking, JA Konrath, and John Locke---the superstars of 2010---don't seem to be selling like they once did. I've also noticed that Hugh Howey hasn't put out anything new in a while. (There's a new edition of 'Wool' but that's an old book.)

    Those are the heavy hitters, who got write-ups in the mainstream press back in the day. There are probably more just below them.

    In fairness, though, that may be because they told all the stories they wanted to tell, burned out, or just moved on to other things. (That happens, too.)
    « Last Edit: July 30, 2020, 11:55:16 am by Patrick1980 »

    Offline Sheri LHP

    • Status: Dr. Seuss
    • *
    • Posts: 40
      • View Profile
      • Light Hand Proofreading
    Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
    « Reply #13 on: July 30, 2020, 12:07:52 pm »
    In romance, reader groups and digitally shaking hands with readers are invaluable. Readers love being able to access an author and being "in" on the process.

    I did an experiment with one of my authors with two older books that were only selling 15 a month or so. She ran Facebook ads on one, with a $10 a day limit, I think? And I reread the book so I could honestly say I had just read it and hit the groups sharing it and recommending it with a link wherever it would be appropriate (no bombing or blanketing--genuine recommendations).

    Her ads did nothing, while an hour of my time, with a couple of her other superfans backing me up by chiming in, increased sales per day from $15 to $75, and the book ranked again on whatever obscure niche it was in and stayed up for a few days. Loyal readers who recommend books to each other are invaluable. And readers LOVE to feel like they are behind the scenes.

    I don't know if other genres also have reader groups who are fans of the books, but if so, it would be worthwhile to experiment in making yourself available. Figure out what your time is worth per hour and invest in networking and keep track of the time to see if it makes a difference.
    You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me." C.S. Lewis

    https://www.facebook.com/lighthandproofreading/

    Offline Lorri Moulton [Lavender Lass Books]

    • Status: Lewis Carroll
    • **
    • Posts: 171
    • Author of sweet romance, fantasy, mystery/suspense
      • View Profile
    Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
    « Reply #14 on: July 30, 2020, 12:11:22 pm »
    In romance, reader groups and digitally shaking hands with readers are invaluable. Readers love being able to access an author and being "in" on the process.

    I did an experiment with one of my authors with two older books that were only selling 15 a month or so. She ran Facebook ads on one, with a $10 a day limit, I think? And I reread the book so I could honestly say I had just read it and hit the groups sharing it and recommending it with a link wherever it would be appropriate (no bombing or blanketing--genuine recommendations).

    Her ads did nothing, while an hour of my time, with a couple of her other superfans backing me up by chiming in, increased sales per day from $15 to $75, and the book ranked again on whatever obscure niche it was in and stayed up for a few days. Loyal readers who recommend books to each other are invaluable. And readers LOVE to feel like they are behind the scenes.

    I don't know if other genres also have reader groups who are fans of the books, but if so, it would be worthwhile to experiment in making yourself available. Figure out what your time is worth per hour and invest in networking and keep track of the time to see if it makes a difference.

    If you develop a rapport with readers...even if they don't read your particular genre, they may recommend your book to a friend.

    Author of Romance, Fantasy, Mystery, Suspense and Historical Non-Fiction.
    Lavender Lass Books | Website | Amazon | Facebook | Twitter |YouTube | Pinterest | Instagram

    Offline rickchesler

    • Status: Dr. Seuss
    • *
    • Posts: 4
      • View Profile
      • Amazon'e Rick Chesler Author Page
    Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
    « Reply #15 on: July 30, 2020, 12:45:40 pm »
    I've been publishing (mostly thrillers and action-adventure) since 2010 and have never spent money on advertising, with the exception of BB featured deals, which have always been profitable for me. I do know what you mean, I see these books with consistently high rankings even though they have been out for years and know it is through ads, but then I also know those ads in many cases are eating up the profits. I've sold north of 150,000 units and counting altogether with almost zero ads. I do pay for my author website, and I do spend time maintaining a social media presence and interacting with readers there. I also maintain a beta reader group of about 30 loyal readers, an opt-in newsletter and things like that, but I don't pay for Fb ads or AMS ads or BB regular ads, only the BB Featured Deals when they are offered to me, nor have I ever paid for reviews. I have used a combo of trad pubs, small press and self-pub during that time, and they all have their pros & cons. I've also had hits (Amazon category #1's, Top 100 in paid Kindle store, foreign rights deals, strong audio sales, etc.) with both standalones and series, as well as flops with standalones and series. Regularly putting out more books in and of itself is a big momentum builder, too, but I guess regardless of how often they're released you can either advertize them or not. So I definitely don't know the answer, but I do know that organic sales do still happen, and the actual quality of the story, its presentation with cover and description, and if it is in a popular genre seem to be more important than using pricey advertising to gain artificial visibility. That said, I can see just with BB that learning the ins & outs of any advertising platform is not trivial and can make a difference in an individual's success or failure with that system. I'm definitely much better at using BB than I was when I started with it, for example, and I suspect the same is probably true of AMS and Fb, but still, you have to put your time and resources into where it feels like it will have the biggest cost/benefit ratio for you. For you, not for somebody else.
    « Last Edit: July 30, 2020, 02:58:10 pm by rickchesler »

    Online Shane Lochlann Black

    • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
    • ****
    • Posts: 731
    • Lexicon Hollow
    • Write something funny by 4PM or you're fired.
      • View Profile
      • The Committee to Ban Shane Lochlann Black
    Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
    « Reply #16 on: July 30, 2020, 02:13:20 pm »
    It would appear that rapid release and mailing list are two of the key mechanisms to sustainable sales.  I came to the same conclusion. The mailing list is valuable because it costs nothing to promote your books to your subscribers. Rapid release is valuable because frequent new books give you something to tell your subscribers about. The two strategies are complementary. 

    Offline Crystal_

    • Status: Arthur C Clarke
    • *****
    • Posts: 2996
    • Gender: Female
    • Portland, OR
      • View Profile
    Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
    « Reply #17 on: July 30, 2020, 03:26:47 pm »
    Shaking hands with readers, digitally or not, doesn't scale.

    Facebook and AMS ads do.

    No and low cost marketing is great, but it's often very time intensive. If you find effective, low cost marketing that isn't time intensive, go and scale the eff out of it. But be clear when you describe the fruits of this marketing. One person's effective marketing is an extra $25. Another's is an extra 25k.

    I won't spend a lot of time on marketing unless it's going to earn me an extra four figures over the coming months/years. When I started, I'd hustle like hell for a hundred bucks, but now I'm not really interested in a new marketing strategy unless I can scale it to a point where I'm making four figures.

    I sacrifice profitability for time. I would rather my FB and AMS ads run a little worse than spend more time on them.

    I aim to spend less than 50% of my revenue on marketing. (I have other expenses, but they're tiny compared to FB and AMS). I sometimes do much better, I sometimes do a little worse, but that is my goal.

    I spend six figures a year on ads and I make six figures in profit.

    I didn't start out spending this much, and I don't recommend others spend this much to start. Start at zero and go from there.

    ... but spending a lot isn't a bad thing in and of itself. It's just a thing. Plenty of authors who spend a lot also make a lot.

    (And plenty just spend a lot. It's hard running aggressive advertising campaigns profitably).

    Online Patty Jansen

    • Status: Harvey Chute
    • *********
    • Posts: 13126
    • Gender: Female
    • Sydney, Australia
    • Destroyer of Science Fiction
      • View Profile
      • Patty Jansen Author of SF and fantasy
    Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
    « Reply #18 on: July 30, 2020, 03:58:57 pm »
    You know, I think this "It used to be so much easier in 2012" is garbage. The trickery, buzzwords and other short-term BS has changed, but the fundamentals have not. The same methods that worked then work now: write a book that people want to read. Make sure your tribe doesn't wander off and forget about you, or gets lost in the Amazonian woods (i.e. OWN your audience). Rinse and repeat.

    I even commit the "crime" of writing across multiple genres. And commit the "crime"of "only" writing three books this year. No, you don't need to kill yourself with your production schedule. You just need to write books enough people want to read to give you a basic income.

    You advertise at low levels to keep new blood coming into your tribe where people fall off. My tribe is like a big department store. I'd like to keep them there as long as possible, but eventually some will leave. You need to keep the doors open. That's what advertising is for.

    I have a bunch of ads going at all times. They're low-spend, zero-maintenance. I have a Facebook ad that's been going continuously since November 2017. All my ads are CPC at ultra-low bids, so that if clicks do happen to explode suddenly (as they did in early April), I know they're going to be worth it. There are many days I forget to check on my ads.

    Online Shane Lochlann Black

    • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
    • ****
    • Posts: 731
    • Lexicon Hollow
    • Write something funny by 4PM or you're fired.
      • View Profile
      • The Committee to Ban Shane Lochlann Black
    Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
    « Reply #19 on: July 30, 2020, 04:06:50 pm »
    A good CPC campaign will return 2x pretty reliably, provided your prices are right and your creatives/targeting are optimized.  That multiple can increase for brief periods. If you have sufficient volume, you can roll your earnings over into larger ad spends and build to a point where sales are throwing off enough to cover both marketing and bills. 

    Eventually you'll reach a point where you are like a pro card player. You don't even look at the cards any more, you just play your opponent. It's the same with digital marketing. Once you find a market, it doesn't matter what book it is, the principles are the same. This is one among many reasons big entertainment looks at the product the way any manufacturer does: it's a widget with a price and a margin. You plug in the numbers and run it through the big advertising cheese grater and see what falls out.   

    Quote
    I even commit the "crime" of writing across multiple genres.
       

    Patty speaks wisdom.  I made the same mistake and now I know exactly why all the books I wrote except the sci-fi titles failed. Database say I make red widgets. If I upload a green widget this happens: 

    <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rge17TciHfU" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rge17TciHfU</a>

    Further proof that human beings cannot be modeled or described mathematically. 

    « Last Edit: July 30, 2020, 04:09:30 pm by Shane Lochlann Black »

    Offline rickchesler

    • Status: Dr. Seuss
    • *
    • Posts: 4
      • View Profile
      • Amazon'e Rick Chesler Author Page
    Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
    « Reply #20 on: July 30, 2020, 04:17:51 pm »
    Shaking hands with readers, digitally or not, doesn't scale. Facebook and AMS ads do.

    If a writer had to pick one ad platform to concentrate on at first as a step towrd, ads, which do you think is better--Fb or AMS? I would think AMS, since it's tied directly in with Amazon, but what was your experience?


    Online Patty Jansen

    • Status: Harvey Chute
    • *********
    • Posts: 13126
    • Gender: Female
    • Sydney, Australia
    • Destroyer of Science Fiction
      • View Profile
      • Patty Jansen Author of SF and fantasy
    Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
    « Reply #21 on: July 30, 2020, 07:13:56 pm »

    Shaking hands with readers, digitally or not, doesn't scale. Facebook and AMS ads do.

    If a writer had to pick one ad platform to concentrate on at first as a step towrd, ads, which do you think is better--Fb or AMS? I would think AMS, since it's tied directly in with Amazon, but what was your experience?



    Our experience matters squat. You can get either to work. Whether it *will* work for you depends on you: your genre, your books, sellthrough and how much work, money and smarts you're going to put into tailoring campaigns that work for you and you only. No one can tell you go AMS or go Facebook or Bookbub especially without knowing *any* of someone else's situation, their budget, their books or their reasons for advertising. Ads for giving away freebies will look different from ads selling full-price box sets, and ads for books in KU will be very different from ads for wide books, or print books or audio books. An ad for a 99c loss leader will look different from an ad for a new release. And so forth.

    Offline rickchesler

    • Status: Dr. Seuss
    • *
    • Posts: 4
      • View Profile
      • Amazon'e Rick Chesler Author Page
    Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
    « Reply #22 on: July 30, 2020, 07:26:11 pm »
    Our experience matters squat. You can get either to work. Whether it *will* work for you depends on you: your genre, your books, sellthrough and how much work, money and smarts you're going to put into tailoring campaigns that work for you and you only. No one can tell you go AMS or go Facebook or Bookbub especially without knowing *any* of someone else's situation, their budget, their books or their reasons for advertising. Ads for giving away freebies will look different from ads selling full-price box sets, and ads for books in KU will be very different from ads for wide books, or print books or audio books. An ad for a 99c loss leader will look different from an ad for a new release. And so forth.

    I was specifically asking the OP of that quote, although other opinions are welcome if they feel like providing those kinds of details.

    Online Patty Jansen

    • Status: Harvey Chute
    • *********
    • Posts: 13126
    • Gender: Female
    • Sydney, Australia
    • Destroyer of Science Fiction
      • View Profile
      • Patty Jansen Author of SF and fantasy
    Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
    « Reply #23 on: July 30, 2020, 07:31:15 pm »
    I was specifically asking the OP of that quote, although other opinions are welcome if they feel like providing those kinds of details.

    Provide details about a situation where no details are provided?

    But I get the hint, I'll  p*ss  off.

    Offline

    • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
    • ****
    • Posts: 666
    • Gender: Male
    • Ontario, Canada
    • I should probably be writing...
      • View Profile
    Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
    « Reply #24 on: July 30, 2020, 08:55:46 pm »
    I spend what I consider a decent amount on ads every month. It usually fluctuates between 3500-15000 every month. So far, every month has been solid and an increase over last year. That's a win in my book. Some months are better than others and COVID has certainly had an impact on me.

    I live what I consider a very comfortable lifestyle now ever since I went full time. I've paid for renovation projects, paid off debt and more. There's always more to do, though. Onwards and upwards.

    I think advertising is a key component. For example, I wouldn't have gotten where I am now without Amazon ads. (I'm only starting FB ads now.) We're in a pay to play society now. Start small and work your way up. That's exactly what I did. And for the record, I'm only just starting my mailing list now. It can be done.

    KBoards.com

    • Advertisement
    • ***

      Offline Patrick1980

      • Status: Dr. Seuss
      • *
      • Posts: 11
        • View Profile
      Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
      « Reply #25 on: July 31, 2020, 03:51:34 am »
      Thanks again to all who've shared their experiences. Hopefully this thread will be helpful to many out there.

      From what I'm seeing, there is always an outlier who claims, "Yeah, I put my books up on Amazon, send out a few emails, and my books fly off the virtual shelves."  That may happen, but I don't think such cases provide useful examples to most of us.

      This seems to be be far more typical, though:


      鬼: "I spend what I consider a decent amount on ads every month. It usually fluctuates between 3500-15000 every month. So far, every month has been solid and an increase over last year."

      Crystal_: "I spend six figures a year on ads..."

      Crystal_ also pointed out that she's profitable to the tune of 6 figures per year. 鬼 implied the same.

      But when you're spending over $100K in ads, that would require some very careful monitoring, I would think. It would be very easy to drift into the red, at least for a single month.

      This does suggest that the economics of indie publishing have gone haywire. I know people with "real" businesses (with employees, etc.) who don't spend anywhere near $100K on marketing and promotion each year.

      ***

      This is what compelled my original post:

      I'm a member of 20Bookto50K. Over there, it is a big thing to post screen shots of monthly earnings.
       
      These seem meaningless without a revelation of how much the author spent to make $114K in a month, or whatever. There is a big difference between revenue and profit, and that sometimes gets lost in author discussions about earnings on Amazon, IMO.

      « Last Edit: July 31, 2020, 03:57:54 am by Patrick1980 »

      Offline Wired

      • Status: Jane Austen
      • ***
      • Posts: 281
      • Gender: Male
      • USA
        • View Profile
      Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
      « Reply #26 on: July 31, 2020, 04:05:26 am »
      ...the economics of indie publishing have gone haywire.

      Yup.

      Offline Amanda M. Lee

      • Status: Edgar Allan Poe
      • *******
      • Posts: 5953
      • Gender: Female
      • Listen to me, you will.
        • View Profile
      Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
      « Reply #27 on: July 31, 2020, 04:55:53 am »
      Honestly? I depend on new releases to make money. I live in a window where I make a certain amount each month. It's a big window but it's stable. I release one main name and one pen name book each month, both written by me. I spend about 4-5K a month advertising first-in-series books. I have 12 active series under two names and several finished series where I regularly dust the characters off for crossovers. That advertising money consists of 2.2-3.5% of my revenue depending on the month. I'm debt-free and almost have my retirement completely funded. I'm hardly the only one I know making a living, though. There are plenty of people out there doing the work and making it a career. The absolute one thing those making it have in common is doing the work, though. Does that guarantee success? No. It certainly helps, though.
      I think there's a contingent of people out there who want to believe it's impossible to make this work because they haven't yet cracked the nut. It's not impossible. It's simply not easy and takes constant readjustments. If you don't believe it will happen, it definitely won't happen, though.
      As for profitability, ads can definitely eat up money if you're not careful. That doesn't mean that nobody is profitable. I know quite a few people who have figured it out. Some spend 50K a month to make 200K a month. Others spend 1K a month to make 10K a month. They're out there, in all shapes and sizes.
      This is a business where the learning never stops. You have to keep at it. Those who stop sink. The rest keto swimming.

      Amanda M. Lee

      Offline Douglas Milewski

      • Status: Scheherazade
      • *****
      • Posts: 1361
        • View Profile
      Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
      « Reply #28 on: July 31, 2020, 09:02:38 am »
      Personally, I can't track this. This is a literal statement. Between a full time job and writing three or four novels a year, my brain is maxed out. I literally don't have the bandwidth to handle advertising, which is yet another job. I know that this limits me, and I accept that.

      Right now, I'm back to offering first free in series. I don't move many books, but I don't spend very much. No amount of advertising with Amazon moved my needle. Zero. I wrote the wrong books at the wrong time, and no amount of marketing will change that. That much said, I'm mighty proud of them. I couldn't have written anything else. My brain is not a commercial brain and doesn't work on spec.

      My spare cash is quite limited, so all spending is dear and incredibly difficult to recoup. I do need to spend, everywhere, on everything, so I'm always making compromises. The term is undercapitalized.

      On the other hand, I only need to hit the lottery once to get this boiler boiling. I keep writing, keep working, with every new series objectively better than the last. If I had been "successful", I don't think I would have worked so hard or dared so much.

      Disclaimer: I sell horribly. Set your filters accordingly.

      Offline Flying Pizza Pie

      • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
      • ****
      • Posts: 576
      • Gender: Male
      • Keaau, HI
        • View Profile
        • Nevada Gaming History
      Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
      « Reply #29 on: July 31, 2020, 09:56:16 am »
      I Published my first book with Book Source in 2008. Book Source became Create Space, now it's KDP. That's 12 years, so I think I'm qualified to speak about what it was like 10 years ago.

      Was it easier to sell some copies? Yes. With no advertisig I sold a dozen copies or so each month, at $6.99

      Was it so easy that any book was a best seller? No. See above. And, in the beginning, Amazon didn't pay 70% - they paid 35% max! You had to sell twice as many books then to make the same amount as now - with only US sales. No international sales. Was it easy? NO.

      I enjoyed Hugh Howey's book Wool, and commend him for writing it. Still, if I had to read another passage in the book (now) about how tired the protagonist was walking up dozens of flights of stairs, I probably would have tossed the  book out a window. Would Wool be a million-seller now? I don't think so. Still, you had to write at least at that caliber to sell that many books. With that in mind, nothing is really different. You still have to write compelling stories and catch a buzz and go global.

      The other thing that nobody has mentioned is that most TRAD PUBS are selling Kindle copies at $9.99 to $12.99 and they can advertise and make a profit at that. While many (dare I say most?) Indie authors are trying to sell their books with a Freebie first, or a 99-center, and then some $2.99 books. You won't ever compete if your highest-priced book is $2.99 unless you are a fantastic /AND/ prolific author. Most of us are not.

      I hear the argument on this forum that "readers won't pay $6.99 or higher for an Indie's books." I cry Bullcrap! Wool is $9.99 - The Martian is $6.99 - Fifty Shades is $7.99 - and yes, I know those are all represented by TRAD PUBS now, but they were not originally.

      Make your writing, your blurb, your interior, your story, and of course your cover as good as a TRAD PUB and you can sell at a price that will make you enough income to advertise profitably. Do you really think the buying public looks at a book and tries to figure out if it is from Simon and Schuster or Penguin Books? They don't! They look at everything else and see if it catches their interest - that's all. If it doesn't, it's not because the publishing business as an Indie is too tough. It's because you didn't give them what they wanted at that moment. It's on us to write better than what's available from the big publishers. Until we do, we'll keep our day jobs and scribble our words at night.


      Al W Moe | Blog | Facebook | GoodReads

      Offline jm2019

      • Status: Jane Austen
      • ***
      • Posts: 260
        • View Profile
      Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
      « Reply #30 on: July 31, 2020, 10:13:17 am »
      Hi Patrick,

      "This does suggest that the economics of indie publishing have gone haywire. I know people with "real" businesses (with employees, etc.) who don't spend anywhere near $100K on marketing and promotion each year. "

      I'm not sure this is the best way to look at it though, if we think terms of cost of sales. Because it's more like this:

      For that 'real' business: cost of sales = marketing spend + wages + services + facilities + other sundry

      For us Indie: cost of sales = marketing spend + services (usually a smaller % of the spend)

      So they may not be spending 150k on marketing, but they're spending lot of money on other items.

      But when you think in terms of margin, if _Crystal makes (and the other poster) 100K on a 100K spend, you're talking 50% pure margin. This is excellent for any business! Most businesses don't make anywhere near that, except very profitable tech business and perhaps some other sectors I don't know too well (financial services is another example).

      So, it's not really haywire at all if you can cross the 30-40% margin. To me, their examples are very heartening and here's why - I'm experiencing the same even though I'm nowhere near their success. But, my true margin (royalty - ads - fixed expense annualized) is now > 30% with my first series, and my effort would be grow the series, and improve that margin because my ad cost can spread over more and more books.

      Is it hard to reach that higher level? But then where is it "easy" to get to the top of anything though? Every business has its challenges and nuances and competition - this isn't any different or "special." I used to do some work of looking at many business and how they operate, and the funny thing was everyone thought they were "special" - they weren't. Often, the underlying issues and nature of competition was similar.




      Online Usedtoposthere

      • Status: Edgar Allan Poe
      • *******
      • Posts: 6206
        • View Profile
      Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
      « Reply #31 on: July 31, 2020, 12:08:02 pm »
      One point is that indie is no more difficult than tradpub in this regard. Traditional publishers still expect authors to market their books. (I have published both ways.) And if one book does not do well, it is difficult to get a new contract.

      It is correct to say that net is more important than gross in publishing. (Again, a trad contract will earn you 50% at most per unit of what an indie contract does. If you sell over twice as many books and or get more visibility for your indie work, it can still be well worth it.)

      I have earned six figures since my first year at this (almost eight years in now). I have spent 1.5 to 5 percent of my gross on advertising during that time. I would do even better I am sure if I spent more on ads (or did more!) and did things like author cross promo and conferences, but I am older, financially comfortable, diffident and a bit reclusive, and happiest and most productive when focusing on writing. I write long books, pretty evergreen (a book can sell well for years), take a lot of risks by writing in different tones and mashing up genres some (again, tradpub is not going to let you change subgenres within a series!) and typically put a book out every 3-4 months. I do not make writing decisions much on the basis of the market, because I like to try stuff. That has become my brand, in part. I would say my books come from the heart, and people seem to appreciate that. I am fortunate to have a core group of loyal readers who watch for my new book and buy it, and I have 31 books out now, plus audio and translations, which have helped. I always do audio and spend a lot on it. I did not have a mailing list for the first few years but have one now. It is not especially big and I do not really promote it, but I write pretty good newsletters and engage with my readers in a Facebook group and answer all my emails.

      My advertising now is putting a first in series up free for three days every month, advertising on a handful of small and medium sized sites. Since I have six indie series, I can rotate those book ones out.

      To my surprise, even with no advertising, my latest series has earned me quite a few new readers. My latest book in particular, book 3 in a stand-alone series, seems to be getting read by quite a few new folks. I think it is the title and series title, and maybe some word of mouth and alsobots, because I have not had any Amazon push.

      There are lots of paths, and people have different needs. If I had been 30 or 40 when I started writing, my focus would be very different. I would not have started writing at all, though. Too busy doing the career, pay the mortgage, raise the family thing. No mental space for writing.

      Life is long (hopefully). You do not have to do everything at once or follow a trail blazed by somebody else. There is a lot of comparisonitis in this profession. I have succumbed to it many times myself. Comparison is the thief of joy.
      « Last Edit: July 31, 2020, 12:17:35 pm by Usedtoposthere »

      Offline GeneDoucette

      • Status: Arthur C Clarke
      • *****
      • Posts: 2556
        • View Profile
        • Gene Doucette's Blog
      Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
      « Reply #32 on: July 31, 2020, 01:19:23 pm »
      I demur most of the time, when conversations like this come up, because aside from BB promos, I don't pay for advertising. I pay for covers and I pay for my website maintenance, but historically, advertising hasn't worked tremendously well for me. That isn't to say I won't keep trying, say with the occasion FB ad or something, but it's never been a big part of my budget and I don't expect that to change.

      A couple of thoughts, though.

      Conversations like this tend to assume we're all aiming for the same target, and I don't know how true that is. I still have a day job, and can produce 2-3 novels a year at my very best. The split between my day job income and my writing income is about 50/50 on average; I can't live without my day job, and I can't live without my writing job. I hope that changes and I can retire from said day job, but it's not currently an issue; i don't know that i'd be able to produce things any faster if I did that.

      I tend to lean toward "write books people want to buy" as being more important than anything else, which I can say because that's how it's worked out for me. I self-published a standalone sci-fi novel that took off in audio, got the attention of a major editor, and was republished by a trad pub house in 2018. Since September, 2018, I: self-published a series book in December, 2018, self-published a book in another series in March, 2019, wrote a standalone sci-fi book from April-May of 2019, sold it to the aforementioned publisher in August, 2019, self-published the last book in a long-running series in January 2020, wrote and sold two short stories to a magazine, wrote the first book in a new sci-fi series, sold the audio rights and am self-publishing it in September. I plan to write and publish two more books in that series before May of 2021, when that standalone sci-fi book I sold to the publisher in August of 2019 is released.

      That's basically a two+ year plan, in which my income is a combination of advances from traditional publishing and payment for short stories, and my self-publishing income. None of it is being driven further by advertising; instead, I'm getting known in as many markets as I can insert myself into.

      (...I also launched a Patreon page somewhere in the middle of all that.)

      My point, I guess, is that there are a lot of different ways to do this, and rapid-release + lots of advertising is only one of them.

      Offline Crystal_

      • Status: Arthur C Clarke
      • *****
      • Posts: 2996
      • Gender: Female
      • Portland, OR
        • View Profile
      Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
      « Reply #33 on: July 31, 2020, 01:33:23 pm »
      I do think it depends with AMS vs FB.

      AMS is very expensive in some genres. If you're in one of these (say new adult or contemporary romance), I would wait on AMS. FB will be cheaper per click. Maybe even 3-4x cheaper. (This is assuming you want to spend more than $20-30/day. IME, it's hard to get AMS to spend more than this with a sub .50 bid unless you hyper target, and, even then, it's hard to break $100/day).

      But now that AMS is showing page reads, it's hard to know what will happen with pricing.

      If you want to hyper target, AMS is very good for that. I can make a list of ASIN that are my exact trope mix or that have a very similar cover. I can't do that with FB. But I probably can't scale this super high either.

      I've had better luck with FB overall, but I have some hyper targeted AMS campaigns that work very well.

      If your genre is expensive on AMS and filled with readers who are on FB (most are; most readers are women 35+ in most genres, but not in all genres), I'd start there. (FB also has more resources in terms of learning ads. There are a lot of classes compared to classes on AMS).

      If your genre is less saturated or you have an idea about hyper targeting, I'd start with AMS.

      Also consider covers. Many of my covers are too sexy for AMS, but they do well for me, so I'm not willing to change them to get AMS approval.

      In general, I wouldn't expect to make a profit on a series with less than three books. And ads are always a multiplier. The better you're packaging, the better your ads will do. You can't sell something no one wants. But you can probably present your book in a way that makes people want it.

      Offline Lorri Moulton [Lavender Lass Books]

      • Status: Lewis Carroll
      • **
      • Posts: 171
      • Author of sweet romance, fantasy, mystery/suspense
        • View Profile
      Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
      « Reply #34 on: July 31, 2020, 07:16:35 pm »
      I write what I enjoy, so that's a lot of fun.  And I knew (thanks to this forum) that it would be difficult to market books that usually merge genres.  I have enough trouble finding promos on BookFunnel, which is why I usually end up hosting my own. 

      If I were trying to make a lot of money, I'd probably write something else.  While money would be nice, it's not the main reason I write.  If I'm honest, I write because I like to control the world in my story.  I know what the end result will be, even if I don't always know how I'll get there. 
      And it will have a happy ending.  :)
      « Last Edit: July 31, 2020, 07:18:07 pm by Lorri Moulton [Lavender Lass Books] »

      Author of Romance, Fantasy, Mystery, Suspense and Historical Non-Fiction.
      Lavender Lass Books | Website | Amazon | Facebook | Twitter |YouTube | Pinterest | Instagram

      Offline notjohn

      • Status: Arthur C Clarke
      • *****
      • Posts: 2198
        • View Profile
        • Notjohn's Self-Publishing Guide
      Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
      « Reply #35 on: August 01, 2020, 06:18:35 am »
      >2) You need to produce quality in the long term. Writing garbage eventually ends your career fast.

      I don't think that's true at all. Surely the worst writers ever published are Clive Cussler and Kevin Kwan, and they seem to sell a few copies now and then.

      And yes, it was a LOT easier in 2012!

      Every enterprise that Jeff Bezos launches has only one goal: eventually to divert the income from the entrepreneur to his own pockets. That has happened with Amazon Marketplace, Amazon Advantage, Amazon Associates, and most recently Kindle Direct Publishing. AMS was probably his most brilliant move in a quarter-century of brilliant moves.
      Notjohn's Guide to E-Book & Print Formatting: http://viewbook.at/notjohn

      The blog: http://notjohnkdp.blogspot.com

      Offline C. Gockel

      • Status: Edgar Allan Poe
      • *******
      • Posts: 5067
      • Chicago, IL
        • View Profile
      Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
      « Reply #36 on: August 01, 2020, 10:27:17 am »
      I first released in 2012. I've always had to advertise to sell books, I don't think that has changed. I used to do marketing that was free but time consuming--I wrote fanfiction and pointed readers to my original fiction. I have always been profitable, but I also kept expenses low.

      I have found that there are people who are willing to operate completely without profit. They see it as a long-term investment, and believe they'll build their fanbase without making money, and some day all the money will come. I'm not sure if that is true. However, you are competing with people like that when you purchase AMS and Facebook ads.

      I am going to try hypertargeted AMS ads, since Crystal mentions them and I can think of some books right off the bat that I should be featured beneath.

      Currently I use Facebook advertising, both targeted ads and boosted posts. It works well for me. I do purchase newsletter space with ENT, Fussy, Freebooksy, RobinReads, EreaderIQ, BookBasset (strangely effective for sci-fi), FreeKindleBooks & Tips, ManyBooks.net...and I'm sure I'm forgetting some!

      I haven't been making as much money in the last few years, but I do understand why. I wrote two off-genre books, and probably didn't package the second well. I blew the release of the second, too. BookBub isn't accepting me or other indies as often, and now I'm writing in a less popular genre. Some of those things I cannot control. Some of those things I can. I will be working on the ones I can change...writing more "to market" might not be one of the things I *want* to change, and probably won't. I have eccentric tastes in reading, and if I can't write off-beat books, I'd rather go back to coding.

      Also, although I have a new UF series I can't get out of my head, I will probably come back to the less popular genre, because I love sci-fi.

      I would like to publish more--currently I only release two books a year.

      I still make enough money to pay the bills and then some. Also, I am able to pick up my daughter after school in the afternoon and am here for homework help.


      I write books about Change, Chaos, and Loki
      C. Gockel | Website

      Offline Carol (was Dara)

      • Status: Harvey Chute
      • *********
      • Posts: 12105
      • Gender: Female
        • View Profile
      Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
      « Reply #37 on: August 01, 2020, 11:18:52 am »
      On average, I put a quarter of my monthly publishing income back into advertising. That leaves room for other expenses, sees me profitable, and keeps the sales cycle feeding itself. As long as I keep a loose eye on incoming sales and outgoing ad costs and adjust as needed to stay at that 25 % mark, I'm in a good place. My sales tend to stay within a reliable window at this point, anyway, and most of my ads are older ones that I just check in on once in awhile. The only time consuming part is new series launches, where my new ads have to be tested and monitored as I zero in on the good performers and kill the rest.

      I don't think about ad costs much anymore; since 2011 I've been doing some form of advertising and/or promotion, always with careful packaging and regular releases. In the early days, I'd have loved to have the information and resources we have now. For me, ads are just part of the business, and the cost of not investing time into other forms of marketing that I don't enjoy.


      Offline Crystal_

      • Status: Arthur C Clarke
      • *****
      • Posts: 2996
      • Gender: Female
      • Portland, OR
        • View Profile
      Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
      « Reply #38 on: August 01, 2020, 07:19:56 pm »
      While I see a lot of mediocre or sloppy books selling well, I rarely see a noticably bad book selling well. Pretty much everything that sells has something good about it.

      Don't get me wrong. I don't consider these books good/up to my standards. I don't like mediocre or sloppy books and I won't read them or listen to people calling them good, but I can usually see why people like them. And they usually have potential--they could be good with another draft or two.

      Offline Doglover

      • Status: Edgar Allan Poe
      • *******
      • Posts: 5620
      • Gender: Female
      • Huntingdon, United Kingdom
      • If you want real love, buy a dog.
        • View Profile
        • Margaret Brazear Author
      Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
      « Reply #39 on: August 01, 2020, 11:08:34 pm »
      A person on Reddit, handle "thewritingchair", says they made $23K in the first eight weeks of launching a new pen name, with zero advertising.

      Disclaimer: it ain't this person's first rodeo. In other posts they say they have been writing all their life, they write genre, and they write to market in a very no-BS focused way.

      If it's true, it is interesting.

      I barely bother with [ads] and make a very good living writing books.
      Anyone who tells you that success in this is heavily dependent on marketing just sucks as a writer. Cold hard truth there. If your books can't sell on their own, marketing ain't gonna change that.
      I stick with a mailing list (via mailerlite) that you sign up to in the back of the books, the same two ads on facebook that are like three years old now, the same AMS ads that are probably a year old by now.
      The best advertising is the next book - always.
      Marketing can work to earn more money but I maintain if your books aren't making money without it, throwing cash that way won't do anything.

      I started a new pen name last year, no ads, no mailing list and made $23K in the first eight weeks of publication. Sometimes I feel like starting a brand new name and doing the same just to reveal it on this sub.
      Quality rises, [crap] doesn't.

      Here's a guide I wrote two years ago about how to write to market to make money.
      In short, yes, this is how you make money in ePublishing. Write a series in a hungry genre to market and keep up the releases. As they pile up so do your royalties.
      It's exactly what I do. I took a year off and my royalties dropped from $100K to $75K.
      I'm going to keep my backlist size to myself so I'm not doxxed. At the moment I'm at about four to five novels a year.


      reddit.com/r/selfpublish/comments/hxxj7q/im_starting_to_give_up_on_the_advertising_part_of/

      Link to "guide" above: How to make money ePublishing (without a bestseller)

      reddit.com/r/writing/comments/6sam29/how_to_make_money_epublishing_without_a_bestseller/

      But while she starts off saying a book should be able to sell itself, she ends up by saying she has an ad on facebook and one of Amazon. So she is advertising then. You have to have something to draw attention to the book in the first place.


      The past is another country; they do things differently there
      Margaret Brazear | Website | Blog | Facebook | Newsletter

      Offline jb1111

      • Status: Scheherazade
      • *****
      • Posts: 1845
      • PNW US
        • View Profile
      Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
      « Reply #40 on: August 02, 2020, 04:55:25 am »
      But while she starts off saying a book should be able to sell itself, she ends up by saying she has an ad on facebook and one of Amazon. So she is advertising then. You have to have something to draw attention to the book in the first place.

      Yeah, it's hard to figure out how "zero advertising" is a FB ad and an AMS ad, even if they are a couple years old.

      Although she does say that she started a new pen name, new books to go with it, and made $23K in two months with no ads.


      Offline anotherpage

      • Status: Arthur C Clarke
      • *****
      • Posts: 2372
        • View Profile
      Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
      « Reply #41 on: August 02, 2020, 06:13:07 am »
      There are numerous variables.

      Genre plays a huge role in profitability.

      There are also too many "writers" out there following the same preached strategy and take the same courses telling them...if you spend they will come.

      These are only my views.

      1) The notion of "series" is diluting the marketplace. You might giveaway book 1 but how many will actually read it, let alone buy book 2. check out goodreads and see how many thousands of books are on peoples shelves that they never will read.

      2) You need to produce quality in the long term. Writing garbage eventually ends your career fast.

      3) If you are just starting...you need to invest in marketing, including paid editorial reviews (this depends on genre)

      4) What worked in 2012...won't work now and the people preaching tactics of years ago are misleading you.

      Mark

      Yes, exactly.

      I spend around 1.6% a month of my income and make a tidy sum every month.

      Writing quality is a key. Anyone can pump out words. Few can write well. (I'm not talking about high literature, I'm talking about story-telling)

      Get that part wrong and it doesn't matter how much $ you throw at the wall, your books won't take off.

      Offline anotherpage

      • Status: Arthur C Clarke
      • *****
      • Posts: 2372
        • View Profile
      Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
      « Reply #42 on: August 02, 2020, 06:20:15 am »

      Amanda Hocking, JA Konrath, and John Locke---the superstars of 2010---don't seem to be selling like they once did. I've also noticed that Hugh Howey hasn't put out anything new in a while. (There's a new edition of 'Wool' but that's an old book.)

      Those are the heavy hitters, who got write-ups in the mainstream press back in the day. There are probably more just below them.

      In fairness, though, that may be because they told all the stories they wanted to tell, burned out, or just moved on to other things. (That happens, too.)

      I think howey retired off what he made from wool lol

      And Hocking took her millions and now sits in Starbucks eating cheese ;)
      « Last Edit: August 02, 2020, 06:22:40 am by anotherpage »

      Offline anotherpage

      • Status: Arthur C Clarke
      • *****
      • Posts: 2372
        • View Profile
      Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
      « Reply #43 on: August 02, 2020, 06:29:26 am »
      I think another key thing to remember with Amazon ads is to check your LIFETIME spend on an ad campaign.

      You can be deceived into thinking an ad is doing well based on the day,week or month you look at it.

      I.e You start the ad and its doing well, You are making more than you spend.

      A week later, the same.

      But then a month later it drops to equal

      Then the following month its gone the other way.

      Unless you look at the lifetime you can't tell if you are burning money unless you check every day or week religiously.

      Offline Triceratops

      • Status: Dr. Seuss
      • *
      • Posts: 44
      • Cinderella story.
        • View Profile
      Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
      « Reply #44 on: August 02, 2020, 08:06:16 am »
      But while she starts off saying a book should be able to sell itself, she ends up by saying she has an ad on facebook and one of Amazon. So she is advertising then. You have to have something to draw attention to the book in the first place.

      I think they are saying that they have a couple ads running with their regular and established pen name. But that they also in 2019 started up a new and different pen name, and with the new pen name they earned from debut $23,000 in eight weeks with no ads.

      They are saying that in principle if you can write good stories to market, fast, you can make money pretty fast, with zero advertising and no mailing list either. Whether or not this is true, since the reddit poster chooses to remain anonymous, is another issue.

      Offline jvin248

      • Status: Scheherazade
      • *****
      • Posts: 1027
        • View Profile
        • J Gordon Smith - Official Author Weblog
      Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
      « Reply #45 on: August 02, 2020, 08:10:25 am »
      ... "thewritingchair"..."I started a new pen name last year, no ads, no mailing list and made $23K in the first eight weeks of publication. Sometimes I feel like starting a brand new name and doing the same just to reveal it on this sub....

      Amazon ties all the pen name databases together to one real person.
      They know who everyone truly is because they are mailing checks to an address or bank account and tracking social security numbers for taxes.

      It's in Amazon's best interest for the recommendation engine to give preferential treatment to past successes. Easy to start out a new book from 'that bank account that previously sold a hundred thousand copies' by placing it in the top ten slots for a week to see if it glides into another easy path of massive book sales.

      Outside of that, yes, being a good writer with stories that are written to the market will sell better. That author has the experience or at least the process ingrained to get there -- it could be their choice of cover designs and blurb writing skills that are their true magical arts rather than the story writing -- but something is successful in selling those books no matter what name they attach to the products. A good product will sell better than a poor product, but always remember that Amazon's algorithm is working in the background ... "they know who you are".

      .
      « Last Edit: August 02, 2020, 08:13:15 am by jvin248 »
             

      Online Usedtoposthere

      • Status: Edgar Allan Poe
      • *******
      • Posts: 6206
        • View Profile
      Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
      « Reply #46 on: August 02, 2020, 09:13:41 am »
      I have quite a number of books that have sold 100,000 plus copies. Believe me, Amazon is not putting my books in any sort of top 100 spot. You need to up your numbers. 500,000 copies, maybe. But people who sell that well are probably doing plenty of their own pushing, and have a huge audience that provides enormous first week sales. Which Amazon pays attention to.

      They get those big numbers, unless they are manipulating things, by writing books lots of people want to read. Marketing can drive customers to a book. It cant make them read it, finish it, or recommend it.

      Offline Crystal_

      • Status: Arthur C Clarke
      • *****
      • Posts: 2996
      • Gender: Female
      • Portland, OR
        • View Profile
      Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
      « Reply #47 on: August 02, 2020, 11:20:21 am »
      It's so silly to brag about not marketing.

      If your books sell well without marketing, they'll sell really well with marketing.

      It's like bragging about having an ugly cover.

      It doesn't matter how good your book or packaging is if no one sees it. If you can get visibility without marketing, great, but that's very rare in 2020 unless you're in an underserved niche (and it probably won't be underserved for long if it's popular enough. Other writers will find it and saturated it).

      Offline Indiecognito

      • Status: Jane Austen
      • ***
      • Posts: 304
      • Gender: Female
      • Even I don't know who I am
        • View Profile
      Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
      « Reply #48 on: August 02, 2020, 11:33:02 am »
      It's so silly to brag about not marketing.

      If your books sell well without marketing, they'll sell really well with marketing.

      It's like bragging about having an ugly cover.

      It doesn't matter how good your book or packaging is if no one sees it. If you can get visibility without marketing, great, but that's very rare in 2020 unless you're in an underserved niche (and it probably won't be underserved for long if it's popular enough. Other writers will find it and saturated it).

      The last paragraph is so true.

      After years writing in Romance (Contemporary and Paranormal), I moved into another (much smaller) genre and found new success with a hungry, underfed audience. After a few books and financial rewards, another author was copying my covers, my concept, everything.

      It's one reason I no longer talk to other authors about what specific genre I'm in. Drives me nuts.
      « Last Edit: August 02, 2020, 11:45:23 am by Indiecognito »

      Offline jb1111

      • Status: Scheherazade
      • *****
      • Posts: 1845
      • PNW US
        • View Profile
      Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
      « Reply #49 on: August 03, 2020, 05:54:41 pm »
      Amazon ties all the pen name databases together to one real person.
      They know who everyone truly is because they are mailing checks to an address or bank account and tracking social security numbers for taxes.

      It's in Amazon's best interest for the recommendation engine to give preferential treatment to past successes. Easy to start out a new book from 'that bank account that previously sold a hundred thousand copies' by placing it in the top ten slots for a week to see if it glides into another easy path of massive book sales.

      Outside of that, yes, being a good writer with stories that are written to the market will sell better. That author has the experience or at least the process ingrained to get there -- it could be their choice of cover designs and blurb writing skills that are their true magical arts rather than the story writing -- but something is successful in selling those books no matter what name they attach to the products. A good product will sell better than a poor product, but always remember that Amazon's algorithm is working in the background ... "they know who you are".

      .

      Interesting points.

      KBoards.com

      • Advertisement
      • ***

        Offline jb1111

        • Status: Scheherazade
        • *****
        • Posts: 1845
        • PNW US
          • View Profile
        Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
        « Reply #50 on: August 03, 2020, 05:59:54 pm »
        It's so silly to brag about not marketing.

        If your books sell well without marketing, they'll sell really well with marketing.

        It's like bragging about having an ugly cover.

        It doesn't matter how good your book or packaging is if no one sees it. If you can get visibility without marketing, great, but that's very rare in 2020 unless you're in an underserved niche (and it probably won't be underserved for long if it's popular enough. Other writers will find it and saturated it).

        While you make some good points, I don't think it's silly to brag about not marketing, anymore than it's silly to brag, period.

        If someone has made money off their books without marketing, and they state it here, they're giving others their experience that it can be done.

        Not unlike someone giving the "I'm living proof that an indie can make a good living from writing" anecdotes that we see from time to time on KB. I don't think those are silly, even if their experiences do not necessarily apply across the board to everyone. They're just examples, basically.

        Offline Crystal_

        • Status: Arthur C Clarke
        • *****
        • Posts: 2996
        • Gender: Female
        • Portland, OR
          • View Profile
        Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
        « Reply #51 on: August 03, 2020, 09:39:09 pm »
        It's fine to brag about making money, but it's silly to brag about not marketing. Or being bad at marketing.

        This is really common in author circles. If it wasn't, I wouldn't have such a strong opinion.

        When I started, I thought it was normal to have this I just can't do marketing attitude. It may be normal, but it's not something to be proud of. Marketing is a skill. People can learn skills. Almost anyone can learn some marketing.

        Bragging about being unwilling to learn... That's my issue. It makes people think that refusing to learn is an admirable trait.

        I didn't know marketing at first. I'm still more good than great IMO. But I leaned by doing. Everyone is capable of that to some degree.

        Online Usedtoposthere

        • Status: Edgar Allan Poe
        • *******
        • Posts: 6206
          • View Profile
        Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
        « Reply #52 on: August 03, 2020, 10:19:11 pm »
        I have an MBA and years of experience in marketing and finance. Turns out I hate marketing my own work. Writing comes out of a different part of my brain for me, and thinking about the business side yanks me out of that fragile place. The books do best when I focus on writing.

        This is a business I have to treat as a hobby, or I cant do it at all. Thus, I do minimal marketing. If I could pay somebody good to do it for me, though, Id do it in a heartbeat.

        That is not something to brag about, Crystal is right. But there you go. I know I am not the only one.

        YMMV. No right answers. Your personality is a lot of it.

        (The thing I truly CANNOT do is graphics. Not at all. Not even. I have worked with graphic designers for 25+ years. I know how to communicate what I want, but I do not have an artistic bone in my body. I cannot make a Facebook announcement. Another reason I gave up on trying to do ads. I had to pay somebody to produce every single version!)

        Edited for length.
        « Last Edit: August 03, 2020, 10:48:39 pm by Usedtoposthere »

        Offline jb1111

        • Status: Scheherazade
        • *****
        • Posts: 1845
        • PNW US
          • View Profile
        Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
        « Reply #53 on: August 03, 2020, 10:46:17 pm »
        It's fine to brag about making money, but it's silly to brag about not marketing. Or being bad at marketing.

        This is really common in author circles. If it wasn't, I wouldn't have such a strong opinion.

        When I started, I thought it was normal to have this I just can't do marketing attitude. It may be normal, but it's not something to be proud of. Marketing is a skill. People can learn skills. Almost anyone can learn some marketing.

        Bragging about being unwilling to learn... That's my issue. It makes people think that refusing to learn is an admirable trait.

        I didn't know marketing at first. I'm still more good than great IMO. But I leaned by doing. Everyone is capable of that to some degree.

        And the reverse side of your argument is that some newbie decides that AMS is the only way to go, because every prominent indie author says you have to advertise to sell books, so they dump more money into their advertising (or other more expensive forms of marketing) than they're ever going to make off of their first book. Which can be demoralizing.

        That has happened in with at least two new authors I can recall who have posted on KB over the past year; I would gather that there have been more than that who have had this experience.

        I know in some genres there are authors who sell books without advertising. I have seen enough talk on other forums (particularly reddits) to lead me to believe that it's possible. They may have minimal forms of marketing also -- backmatter pointing to other books, email lists, etc. Apparently, pulling a small profit with no advertising can be done.

        Should an author never market? No. I think any author who is serious about selling books should learn marketing. I think that's a given. Especially in today's crowded book marketplace.

        On your point that it's poor practice to brag about being unwilling to learn, 100% agreement on that. Any newbie who is unwilling to learn the ropes is probably not going to see too much success. There's always room to learn.

        Online Usedtoposthere

        • Status: Edgar Allan Poe
        • *******
        • Posts: 6206
          • View Profile
        Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
        « Reply #54 on: August 03, 2020, 10:56:15 pm »
        You can make a very large profit without advertising. It is just less likely, and as Crystal says, you would make more with advertising.

        Marketing is also a lot more than advertising. For publishing, it would be price, product, presentation, promotion. Promotion is only one of the four. Product and presentation matter most.

        Offline GeneDoucette

        • Status: Arthur C Clarke
        • *****
        • Posts: 2556
          • View Profile
          • Gene Doucette's Blog
        Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
        « Reply #55 on: August 04, 2020, 04:04:10 am »
        I've said before i don't put money into advertising. It's not a brag; just a fact. That doesn't mean I don't do any marketing; I don't consider advertising to be the only form of marketing. I pay for a website, I have a mailing list (a small one) an author page and a Patreon page.

        Now. I get the 'advertising is a skill you can learn'. I really do. But if the first thing about advertising is "find books like yours and authors like you and target their readers" that's where I fall down. I can't find any books like mine. I have tried targeting authors I consider to be 'like me', and had no luck. And I'm not going to bury hundreds-to-thousands of dollars in an attempt to get something to work that I'm not convinced will work for me.

        Offline Douglas Milewski

        • Status: Scheherazade
        • *****
        • Posts: 1361
          • View Profile
        Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
        « Reply #56 on: August 04, 2020, 09:57:14 am »
        Now. I get the 'advertising is a skill you can learn'. I really do. But if the first thing about advertising is "find books like yours and authors like you and target their readers" that's where I fall down. I can't find any books like mine. I have tried targeting authors I consider to be 'like me', and had no luck. And I'm not going to bury hundreds-to-thousands of dollars in an attempt to get something to work that I'm not convinced will work for me.

        That's pretty much where I keep finding myself. I've tried writing to market, honestly and truly, but my brain doesn't work that way.

        When I do advertise, I keep learning what I can, but eventually, spending $10 to make $1 breaks the bank.

        This isn't a brag from me. It's where I'm at. If unprofitability signals that my books are bad, or need better marketing, or have no audience, then that's the case. For two out of the three, I'm best off writing a better book next time, creating a more engaging story for a better targeted audience.

        Disclaimer: I sell horribly. Set your filters accordingly.

        Offline Crystal_

        • Status: Arthur C Clarke
        • *****
        • Posts: 2996
        • Gender: Female
        • Portland, OR
          • View Profile
        Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
        « Reply #57 on: August 04, 2020, 10:21:37 am »
        Gene, have you asked someone else to look for books similar to yours? I find authors are often too close to their own work for this.

        If I went through contemporary romance or NA, I wouldn't think anyone is really similar to me. I'd see all the ways we're different and think "no, that isn't similar," but if I try to be more objective, I can see how readers who like X author might like me too.

        And the reverse side of your argument is that some newbie decides that AMS is the only way to go, because every prominent indie author says you have to advertise to sell books, so they dump more money into their advertising (or other more expensive forms of marketing) than they're ever going to make off of their first book. Which can be demoralizing.

        That has happened in with at least two new authors I can recall who have posted on KB over the past year; I would gather that there have been more than that who have had this experience.
        ...
        On your point that it's poor practice to brag about being unwilling to learn, 100% agreement on that. Any newbie who is unwilling to learn the ropes is probably not going to see too much success. There's always room to learn.

        I think it's really the same issue. People treat marketing as if it's something you're born with or not. They think they need to be at 100, so they either ignore it or jump in headfirst. Marketing is a skill. People can learn it slowly, the way they learned to write.

        It can be expensive (though there are less expensive options) and it is hard work. But, hey, when you do something for money, it's a job. Some parts are going to be hard work.

        I get it. Marketing is hard. It sucks sometimes. Like I said, I could spend more time to learn how to be better at marketing, to go from pretty good to great, but I haven't done that yet. I have plans to sit down with some AMS courses and get better at AMS, but I haven't done that yet, because it is hard and frustrating. (I have my doubts about AMS being profitable in my genre--it's just too crowded--but I'm not willing to give up. My profitability has dropped a lot this year, the year I tried going full force at AMS. I didn't listen to my own advice to build my skills slowly. I haven't had a lot of experience marketing new releases with AMS because my covers are usually too sexy, but I went full force anyway. It wasn't a smart move).

        I knew absolutely nothing about marketing when I started. I thought I wrote a commercial enough first series, but I didn't get the market. My first three books flopped hard. I've managed to repackage them enough they sell okay.

        I have an MBA and years of experience in marketing and finance. Turns out I hate marketing my own work. Writing comes out of a different part of my brain for me, and thinking about the business side yanks me out of that fragile place. The books do best when I focus on writing.

        This is a business I have to treat as a hobby, or I cant do it at all. Thus, I do minimal marketing. If I could pay somebody good to do it for me, though, Id do it in a heartbeat.

        I think you're underselling yourself a bit. You have very clear, very hooky packaging and that's a huge part of the overall picture.

        I usually separate packaging and marketing when I talk about selling books, because I see them as separate skills, but they are highly intertwined. If I was telling someone to only focus on one of those skills, I'd tell them to focus on packaging. Great packaging + okay marketing will do more for you than okay packaging + great marketing.

        I know, because I'm also only good at packaging. I care too much about a design being pretty and unique. It gets in the way of hitting the market just right, but it's how my brain works. I can mitigate it, but I can't get right of it. I also have no idea what readers find appealing about solo men on covers (which is super common in my genre), so I screw up with those 75% of the time.

        Offline jb1111

        • Status: Scheherazade
        • *****
        • Posts: 1845
        • PNW US
          • View Profile
        Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
        « Reply #58 on: August 04, 2020, 10:36:56 am »
        I think it's really the same issue. People treat marketing as if it's something you're born with or not. They think they need to be at 100, so they either ignore it or jump in headfirst. Marketing is a skill. People can learn it slowly, the way they learned to write.

        It can be expensive (though there are less expensive options) and it is hard work. But, hey, when you do something for money, it's a job. Some parts are going to be hard work.

        I get it. Marketing is hard. It sucks sometimes. Like I said, I could spend more time to learn how to be better at marketing, to go from pretty good to great, but I haven't done that yet. I have plans to sit down with some AMS courses and get better at AMS, but I haven't done that yet, because it is hard and frustrating. (I have my doubts about AMS being profitable in my genre--it's just too crowded--but I'm not willing to give up. My profitability has dropped a lot this year, the year I tried going full force at AMS. I didn't listen to my own advice to build my skills slowly. I haven't had a lot of experience marketing new releases with AMS because my covers are usually too sexy, but I went full force anyway. It wasn't a smart move).

        I knew absolutely nothing about marketing when I started. I thought I wrote a commercial enough first series, but I didn't get the market. My first three books flopped hard. I've managed to repackage them enough they sell okay.

        Fair enough, I see what you're saying. I was coming more from the position of some of the newbies that maybe try to put the cart before the horse because they think they need to do it all at once, when maybe it's better to take it a step at a time. I know when some have come onto the forum, usually they get really good advice from the vets like you.

        I myself do not make a lot of money, but I do make a profit, for whatever that's worth. Advertising for me is out of the question at present. My 'marketing' is the standard title, cover, blurb, etc. It works for me right now, I have no reason to complain. I would never tell anyone to not at least try further forms of marketing than I do, though, provided they had the funds to finance it.  I think if someone has the wherewithall to advertise, or engage in marketing that costs some, it probably sells more books, provided it's done right -- and there's always a learning curve. I'm just not at that point yet myself.

        Offline boba1823

        • Status: Jane Austen
        • ***
        • Posts: 284
          • View Profile
        Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
        « Reply #59 on: August 04, 2020, 01:33:16 pm »
        And the reverse side of your argument is that some newbie decides that AMS is the only way to go, because every prominent indie author says you have to advertise to sell books, so they dump more money into their advertising (or other more expensive forms of marketing) than they're ever going to make off of their first book. Which can be demoralizing.

        I mean.. maybe that's good? Fact is, most authors are simply never going to make any significant profit from their books. For any number of reasons, including most prominently that many just write books that very few people will ever want to read.

        Not every writer cares about generating a profit, and that's perfectly fine. But for those who do have more business-y ambitions with it, maybe it's better to know sooner - rather than many years later - that it's not going to happen.

        Personally, I think it would be a waste of time - for someone with real ambitions of earning decent profits through writing - to spend less than a few thousand on advertising on a first published book. I realize not everyone has that much cash laying around. But if you were my real life BFF and asked for my heartfelt advice, I'd tell you to get a part-time job and save up if you had to, rather to publishing a book with little to no advertising.

        Advertising is the easiest way to stick a book in a potential reader's face. For new authors, it might even be the only really feasible way. And if you don't stick a book in a whole bunch of potential readers' faces.. well, how will you know if it has any substantial sales potential?

        Failing to make a profit, of course, isn't necessarily a sign that an author should give up. It may be a sign of poor marketing skills, which can be fixed. Especially if you're using Facebook ads, where you have much more control over the creative, and the targeting, and.. everything. That's a big reason why I would recommend a budget of no less than one or two thousand USD - if ads aren't performing, you keep trying new ones, refining, and on.

        Maybe it's still not profitable. Not profitable comes in degrees though. I would 100 percent not discourage someone who has to spend, say, $2 to earn $1 in royalties. Not if that can be done at some scale, anyway, like approaching a thousand sales or more. This likely indicates some problem areas with the book/story/writing - hopefully the title/cover/blurb and all is super polished by now, but if not, these too - but there should still be enough potential for future books. Assuming these problems are identified and addressed.

        But if you've tried your best with advertising, maybe read a book about it, kinda sorta copied ads being used by other (successful) authors, there's a good cover/blurb and all, and you're spending $10 to earn $1 of royalties.. maybe it's time to explore alternative business opportunities. Future business success in publishing is.. not likely, if things are this bad. No point in spending ten years writing 50 equally unappealing books in the hope that this will somehow change.

        Offline Lorri Moulton [Lavender Lass Books]

        • Status: Lewis Carroll
        • **
        • Posts: 171
        • Author of sweet romance, fantasy, mystery/suspense
          • View Profile
        Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
        « Reply #60 on: August 04, 2020, 01:46:20 pm »
        I enjoy promotions...I just don't have money to pay for advertising.  I try to think outside the box, especially  since our business was closed at the end of March. 

        ETA:  Hopefully, we'll get reopened before Halloween, and I can try for a BookBub! :)
        « Last Edit: August 04, 2020, 01:49:58 pm by Lorri Moulton [Lavender Lass Books] »

        Author of Romance, Fantasy, Mystery, Suspense and Historical Non-Fiction.
        Lavender Lass Books | Website | Amazon | Facebook | Twitter |YouTube | Pinterest | Instagram

        Offline Lorri Moulton [Lavender Lass Books]

        • Status: Lewis Carroll
        • **
        • Posts: 171
        • Author of sweet romance, fantasy, mystery/suspense
          • View Profile
        Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
        « Reply #61 on: August 04, 2020, 01:58:15 pm »
        I've said before i don't put money into advertising. It's not a brag; just a fact. That doesn't mean I don't do any marketing; I don't consider advertising to be the only form of marketing. I pay for a website, I have a mailing list (a small one) an author page and a Patreon page.

        Now. I get the 'advertising is a skill you can learn'. I really do. But if the first thing about advertising is "find books like yours and authors like you and target their readers" that's where I fall down. I can't find any books like mine. I have tried targeting authors I consider to be 'like me', and had no luck. And I'm not going to bury hundreds-to-thousands of dollars in an attempt to get something to work that I'm not convinced will work for me.

        Most of my books don't fit well either.  I've found hosting my own promos on BookFunnel works better than trying to join others.  I've wondered if that would make AMS and Facebook ads more difficult to target, but I haven't tried any yet.

        Author of Romance, Fantasy, Mystery, Suspense and Historical Non-Fiction.
        Lavender Lass Books | Website | Amazon | Facebook | Twitter |YouTube | Pinterest | Instagram

        Offline Justawriter

        • Status: Arthur C Clarke
        • *****
        • Posts: 2845
        • MA
          • View Profile
        Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
        « Reply #62 on: August 04, 2020, 04:33:37 pm »
        I see a lot of authors bragging about not advertising or marketing and it makes me sad because they are missing out. I get that everyone needs to do things their way, but if someone has a book that is selling decently with no advertising, odds are it could sell better with some.

        I don't release as often as Amanda so to sell at the income level I want, I need to advertise.

        The really cool thing about AMS ads is that once you figure them out, they are predictable and virtually risk free. I know that if I spend more money, I will make more.

        The key is to just start really small, and target tightly so relevance is high. As long as your book is well received with an attractive cover and decent blurb that will close the sale, your ads should work. I've found they don't work as well on older books or on books that are not as well received. The more popular the book, the better the ads work. So I focus my ads on my newer more popular books. But the older books get plenty of love too once readers have read the new stuff and go looking for more.
        « Last Edit: August 04, 2020, 04:35:19 pm by Justawriter »

        Offline MMSN

        • Status: Lewis Carroll
        • **
        • Posts: 162
          • View Profile
        Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
        « Reply #63 on: August 04, 2020, 06:56:49 pm »
        Does anybody have any info on how far potential buyers actually go on the carousel looking for a book to read? (I've got a book on page 47 of a carousel and I assume no way.)

        Offline ImaWriter

        • Status: Scheherazade
        • *****
        • Posts: 1203
        • Gender: Female
        • Canada
          • View Profile
        Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
        « Reply #64 on: August 04, 2020, 07:10:33 pm »
        Does anybody have any info on how far potential buyers actually go on the carousel looking for a book to read? (I've got a book on page 47 of a carousel and I assume no way.)

        I don't know if there is any hard and fast data, but I have read that it depends on the genre and how voracious its readers are. So if you write romance, page 47 is fine!  ;) :D

        Online Usedtoposthere

        • Status: Edgar Allan Poe
        • *******
        • Posts: 6206
          • View Profile
        Re: The crux of the indie publishing problem, 2020 version: profitability
        « Reply #65 on: August 04, 2020, 08:31:22 pm »

        I think you're underselling yourself a bit. You have very clear, very hooky packaging and that's a huge part of the overall picture.

        I usually separate packaging and marketing when I talk about selling books, because I see them as separate skills, but they are highly intertwined. If I was telling someone to only focus on one of those skills, I'd tell them to focus on packaging. Great packaging + okay marketing will do more for you than okay packaging + great marketing.


        You are right, Crystal. I think I say somewhere up there that it's product, presentation, promotion, price. We tend to think "marketing" means "promotion," and you're right, promotion is only one piece of it.

        Personally, I'm fine on three of those. I should have said, I hate promoting my own books. I really enjoy the title/cover/blurb part (and the idea part), partly because I'm good at those things, and partly because I just plain enjoy the heck out of them. I think I know my reader and my market, because I pretty much am my reader and my market. But I hate promotion. Cross-promo with other authors. Advertising. Conferences. The works. It makes me anxious and brings up a lot of feelings that kill my creativity stone dead. So I don't.

        It's better if you have all four legs of the stool, obviously, but things can work OK with three strong legs. On the plus side, I have much more time and energy for writing, and less anxiety.

        Offline GeneDoucette

        • Status: Arthur C Clarke
        • *****
        • Posts: 2556
          • View Profile
          • Gene Doucette's Blog
        Gene, have you asked someone else to look for books similar to yours? I find authors are often too close to their own work for this.

        If I went through contemporary romance or NA, I wouldn't think anyone is really similar to me. I'd see all the ways we're different and think "no, that isn't similar," but if I try to be more objective, I can see how readers who like X author might like me too.

        Not formally. My readers have made comparisons, certainly, but the comps tend to be to trad pub authors who aren't current, and aren't killin' it in ebooks. Not coincidentally, I also found little love in KU, so all my books are wide.

        Offline Patrick1980

        • Status: Dr. Seuss
        • *
        • Posts: 11
          • View Profile
        What I learned from this thread
        « Reply #67 on: Yesterday at 12:33:17 pm »
        Maybe I've been a bit too stingy on advertising. I've got 8 books. They aren't part of a series, but they can be logically grouped together by genre. My most recent books have review averages in the 4.5~5.0 range. They should be selling.

        I just reviewed my "lifetime" spend for AMS ads: Since 2017, I've spent a little over $500. I usually spend about $10 per month on Facebook ads...or less.

        I have to admit: I have an emotional block when it comes to spending on advertising. I don't like to do it.

        Maybe I need to get over it. If even Amanda Lee needs to advertise in order to sell, I probably do, too.


        Online Shane Lochlann Black

        • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
        • ****
        • Posts: 731
        • Lexicon Hollow
        • Write something funny by 4PM or you're fired.
          • View Profile
          • The Committee to Ban Shane Lochlann Black
        If you are spending money on AMS ads, all you are doing is voluntarily reducing your royalty. You are also buying a service with no defined benefit (or even any reliable statistics to prove it is effective) at a price determined by the seller after you make the purchase.  Even after you make the purchase it takes days for you to get results that are both incomplete and inaccurate. 

        You are also buying advertising that is constantly increasing in price while you are capped on both cover price and page rate. 

        https://www.dictionary.com/browse/suffocate?s=t

        If you are spending money outside of Amazon to advertise, you are Amazon's unpaid marketing department in charge of sending a trillion-dollar company free traffic and customers for everything but your book. If you want to know what people are actually buying, you'll find it advertised all over your book page waiting for the traffic you paid for out of the money Amazon sat on for two months after your book didn't sell.   
        « Last Edit: Yesterday at 01:19:01 pm by Shane Lochlann Black »

        Offline Patrick1980

        • Status: Dr. Seuss
        • *
        • Posts: 11
          • View Profile
        If you are spending money on AMS ads, all you are doing is voluntarily reducing your royalty. You are also buying a service with no defined benefit (or even any reliable statistics to prove it is effective) at a price determined by the seller after you make the purchase.  Even after you make the purchase it takes days for you to get results that are both incomplete and inaccurate. 

        You are also buying advertising that is constantly increasing in price while you are capped on both cover price and page rate. 

        https://www.dictionary.com/browse/suffocate?s=t

        If you are spending money outside of Amazon to advertise, you are Amazon's unpaid marketing department in charge of sending a trillion-dollar company free traffic and customers for everything but your book. If you want to know what people are actually buying, you'll find it advertised all over your book page waiting for the traffic you paid for out of the money Amazon sat on for two months after your book didn't sell.


        Shane, I would love to see you lead the indie revolt against the Amazon and FB ad spending regimes. I absolutely hate paying for either!

        Offline Indiecognito

        • Status: Jane Austen
        • ***
        • Posts: 304
        • Gender: Female
        • Even I don't know who I am
          • View Profile
        If you are spending money on AMS ads, all you are doing is voluntarily reducing your royalty. You are also buying a service with no defined benefit (or even any reliable statistics to prove it is effective) at a price determined by the seller after you make the purchase.  Even after you make the purchase it takes days for you to get results that are both incomplete and inaccurate. 

        You are also buying advertising that is constantly increasing in price while you are capped on both cover price and page rate. 

        https://www.dictionary.com/browse/suffocate?s=t

        If you are spending money outside of Amazon to advertise, you are Amazon's unpaid marketing department in charge of sending a trillion-dollar company free traffic and customers for everything but your book. If you want to know what people are actually buying, you'll find it advertised all over your book page waiting for the traffic you paid for out of the money Amazon sat on for two months after your book didn't sell.

        I'm not "reducing my royalty," in fact. If I don't use AMS I will have piddly royalties, but because I DO pay for AMS ads I net 5 figures a month. So I'm fine with it.

        Would I rather not have to advertise the thing I produce? Sure.

        But no. It doesn't reduce my royalties.

        Offline Nick G

        • Status: Dr. Seuss
        • *
        • Posts: 29
        • Cover Design Services for Indies!
          • View Profile
          • Griffin and Gambol
        I'm not "reducing my royalty," in fact. If I don't use AMS I will have piddly royalties, but because I DO pay for AMS ads I net 5 figures a month. So I'm fine with it.

        Would I rather not have to advertise the thing I produce? Sure.

        But no. It doesn't reduce my royalties.

        It's the same argument over the years as free/99 cents first in series books. Some people will never see it as anything but giving up that money and refuse to see the trade-off, and others will pragmatically look at the bigger picture and the money that follows the loss.

        Online Shane Lochlann Black

        • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
        • ****
        • Posts: 731
        • Lexicon Hollow
        • Write something funny by 4PM or you're fired.
          • View Profile
          • The Committee to Ban Shane Lochlann Black
        Quote
        I'm not "reducing my royalty," in fact.
           

        Yes you are. If you take the amount you spent on ads and divide it by the number of unit sales and then subtract that from your net revenue on each unit, you will find that you are, in fact, earning less than 70% (or 35%) on each book.

        Call it whatever you want. Math doesn't care. 

        Offline Indiecognito

        • Status: Jane Austen
        • ***
        • Posts: 304
        • Gender: Female
        • Even I don't know who I am
          • View Profile
           

        Yes you are. If you take the amount you spent on ads and divide it by the number of unit sales and then subtract that from your net revenue on each unit, you will find that you are, in fact, earning less than 70% (or 35%) on each book.

        Call it whatever you want. Math doesn't care.

        Math does care, which is why I must point out that I earn more by advertising (i.e. I make bigger numbers) than I would if I didn't advertise. You said we reduce our royalties. I spend in order to make my royalties add up to more. My royalties are still 70% but I'm choosing to advertise to a readership in the millions, which costs me money.

        I advertise effectively. It pays off.

        I get that you're cheesed off about something, but I'm just fine with my personal arrangement with Amazon.

        Online Shane Lochlann Black

        • Status: Arthur Conan Doyle
        • ****
        • Posts: 731
        • Lexicon Hollow
        • Write something funny by 4PM or you're fired.
          • View Profile
          • The Committee to Ban Shane Lochlann Black
        Quote
        Math does care, which is why I must point out that I earn more by advertising (i.e. I make bigger numbers) than I would if I didn't advertise.
           

        That's not what is at issue here. Your royalty, meaning the 70% or 35% you earn on each sale, is reduced if you give Amazon more money to generate those sales in the first place.  The only sale you actually generate the stated royalty on is the organic sale, which we've now proven is a myth. 

        Quote
        I advertise effectively. It pays off.
           

        So do I.  It doesn't change the math.   

        KBoards.com

        • Advertisement
        • ***

          Offline Indiecognito

          • Status: Jane Austen
          • ***
          • Posts: 304
          • Gender: Female
          • Even I don't know who I am
            • View Profile
             

          That's not what is at issue here. Your royalty, meaning the 70% or 35% you earn on each sale, is reduced if you give Amazon more money to generate those sales in the first place.  The only sale you actually generate the stated royalty on is the organic sale, which we've now proven is a myth. 
           

          No, the royalty isn't reduced. I mean, it literally isn't.

          This is a weird conversation and obviously fruitless, so I'm gonna step out. I feel like you want to fight people, and I'm not into it.

          KBoards.com

          • Advertisement
          • ***