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Messages - erikhanberg

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Writers' Cafe / Re: Can you scale AMS up?
« on: February 06, 2019, 06:44:26 pm »
So scaling is all the things people have been talking about, but each book also has a natural ceiling stopping you from scaling beyond a certain level, at least on a keyword basis. 

I agree a book may have a natural ceiling but I think most likely you don't know that ceiling *until* you start advertising heavily. I did not know that one of my books could be selling $100 a day until after I started advertising. And it consistently went up over the last year, suggesting I was raising my ceiling. It is consistently in the top 20 in the category so it probably is close to the natural ceiling now. But I am literally doing 15x what I was doing at this time two years ago with that book. All thanks to AMS Ads.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Can you scale AMS up?
« on: February 06, 2019, 01:37:04 pm »
I've successfully scaled up with more keywords for one. But also multiple ads for the same book. Multiple paperback and kindle ads for the same book, and at a variety of maximum CPCs. So I have one book where I have a $0.75/CPC on one ad and $0.50 CPC on another. Both seem to work! (Note: these are nonfiction books so I don't know if the same thing will translate to fiction).

I got one much later than usual as well. But if you look at the topic of the email you will see a number. These numbers tend to correspond with your reports page about your payouts. I bet if you check the number in that email topic header you will see it listed in your payouts in your reports dashboard.

You're right. I found it. It corresponds to a whopping $0.32 payment. And still no big payment for the adjustment, even though the email said the end of January! Frustrating.

I as well have not received the "adjustment" payment. I have yet to receive an email saying that a payment will go out with any number attached like we get for normal payments. So I'm not going to hold my breath on a payment this week. In fact I wouldn't expect a payment unless and until a payment notification drops in the inbox.

That's an interesting point. I did actually get a KDP email much later than usual. A bunch came on the 21st for the different marketplaces but then one came on the 28th. It was for the US store, which I'd already received an email for. It said for the 29th, so I'm guessing it's pending.

I haven't seen the "extra" payment either.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Expanded Distribution sales
« on: December 20, 2018, 10:09:30 pm »
A different colored column showed up on my KDP dashboard today showing 5 "distribution paid units (paperback)". The column was new to me. I guess they don't show up until there's a sale.

Writers' Cafe / Re: pseudonyms
« on: October 08, 2018, 10:43:17 pm »
I'm writing (at the editing stage) a novel outside of my usual genre. (I know, I know, just like your're not supposed to).
Previous novels have fallen into the women's fiction/thriller, if I must put a tag on them, but this little epic is historical. Unfortunately I think it might be my best so far and I'm wondering if it is a good idea to adopt a pseudonym for it.
             Anyone else out there writing under a pseudonym?

I used to think that "so long as my books weren't confusing to each other, that I didn't need a pseudonym." So I had mysteries, sci-fi, and nonfiction how-to books all under my name. It was a mistake.

Things like Bookbub, email lists, and more are awkward when they're all under the same pen. I don't target AMS ads on my name because people might be searching me for different reasons! It's just ... limiting.

I've offloaded my mysteries to a pen name (soon to be twoŚcozy and suspense). And I have a literary novel under a pen name. For now, I'm keeping my sci-fi and my nonprofit books under my real name but it's vanity and it's likely hurting my overall marketing. I like being identified as a sci-fi author. I've (successfully) fought to get a park named Dune here in my hometown (and Frank Herbert's hometown. So next year we're opening a brand new park called Dune Peninsula and it's going to be awesome).

Anyway. If I could start all over, I would create a pen name for every genre.

The pen names don't have to be secret. My cozy mysteries say "E.E. Bailes is a pen name of Erik Hanberg." But your marketing life will be WAY easier if you plan ahead. New genre, new author name. Your life will be easier.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Has any one noticed the terms of service for KB lately?
« on: September 20, 2018, 09:37:11 pm »
Please note this is not a solicitation for donations for Wayback, but rather a personal narrative of an action that's brightened my outlook. I hope you each find your own ways to feel better.

The Internet Archive is an amazing treasurer. Thanks for reminding me/us that it's captured this forum and so many other important resources over the years.

Before you investigate the gender politics of the world, get really clear on your own. They say writing is telling secrets about yourself. Your own biases and assumptions become clear over time. So the important part isn't just the gender politics of the world you create, it's what you the author think of it.

Writers' Cafe / Re: A New AMS Thread
« on: September 15, 2018, 11:55:30 am »
Here's something I haven't seen before. I have a book in KU and one AMS ad for it. For some reason, the ad is only generating paperback sales. I confirmed it's a Kindle link just to be sure and it is going to Kindle. From what I can tell, no page reads from it either. Really odd!

Writers' Cafe / Re: A New AMS Thread
« on: September 14, 2018, 01:09:04 am »
KDP AMS kept telling me the ad was fine....I still couldn't see it on ad preview or on setup, they swore they could see it and it was serving. Finally hit me to unblock ads on the new Amazon.advertising website. My ad blocker was turned off for the old AMS website but not the new site. Magically the problem was solved

Yep. Same thing happened to me. Donĺt forget to whitelist the site in your adblocker!

Writers' Cafe / Re: Has anyone read a book that is like 90% dialogue?
« on: September 10, 2018, 02:45:20 pm »
Eternal Curse on the Reader of These Pages is *only* dialogue, followed by a few documents at the end.

I read it because I liked the title (still not cursed!) not knowing it would be that way. I liked it!

Writers' Cafe / Re: Science Fiction That Made You Think
« on: August 24, 2018, 10:27:06 pm »
I think Kim Stanley Robinson is one of the best and most important science fiction writers of all time - certainly the most important one working today. Aurora is one of the best sci-fi novels of this century: taking a topic which is considered gospel among science fiction fans (that it's both necessary and desirable for humankind to colonise the galaxy) and slowly dismantling it.

Aurora will stay with me a long time. KSR is one of the most thoughtful science fiction authors alive.

Such great work! This is a great use of ads and gives me renewed optimism that I should keep working on them with my sci-fi trilogy. Thanks for sharing.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Box sets no longer eligible for KU bonuses
« on: July 19, 2018, 10:39:00 pm »
I'm pretty happy with the Amazon series page for my trilogy. I have the cover ready to go for a box set, but I might just encourage people toward that page instead. There's still a button to buy them all at once.

Writers' Cafe / Re: A New AMS Thread
« on: July 19, 2018, 09:55:00 am »
What's the current thinking on multiple sponsored product campaigns for the same book? Am I risking driving up the CPC by doing it? I haven't seen any noticable effect but wanted to make sure I'm not missing something. Thanks!

Writers' Cafe / Re: Opinion on two cover options
« on: June 06, 2018, 06:12:14 pm »
Thank you for the thoughts! Very interesting feedback about the title. It's been for sale since 2009 and sold thousands of copies, so part of me is afraid to mess with success. But, as I said above, despite the real revenue from it, it's not as successful as the boards book, so maybe I need to reassess. Thank you!

Writers' Cafe / Opinion on two cover options
« on: June 06, 2018, 09:37:38 am »
So wayyyyyy back in 2008, I started my self-publishing journey. I self-published a book on fundraising for small nonprofits using Lulu as a print on demand service.

This was the cover (and remains the cover today):

I've written more books in the series since then, including this book on how to be a board member of a small nonprofit, which has better sales than the fundraising book.

I suspect that's because it has a wider audience (there are more board members than executive directors) but also because the fundraising cover isn't as good.

All of that is to say that after nearly 10 years, it's time to update the cover!

These are the two revisions I've deciding between these two:

One is a fully new cover and the other is more of an update of the previous one. Because they keep the same font style, I think it's pretty clear that they are related books. But otherwise, I'm not sure which way to go. I thought the hive mind of KBoards might have an opinion. :) Any thoughts?

Thank you!

Writers' Cafe / Re: Kindle Worlds closing down?
« on: May 16, 2018, 10:08:40 am »
My Veronica Mars novella fared really well at the beginning. But after the movie and without any new VM books, sales really started to fall. Seems unlikely that Rob Thomas will let the authors republish on our own! :/

Writers' Cafe / Re: Playwright Support Thread
« on: April 08, 2018, 09:51:56 pm »
Send you plays to me! (I'm a little theater.)

Is this an offer someone could still take you up on? I've got an 80 - 90 minute play (2 women, 1 man) called #writingretreat (yes, the hash is in the title.)

Thanks for your contribution to the thread!

Writers' Cafe / Re: A New AMS Thread
« on: February 26, 2018, 10:40:44 am »
Congrats! Those numbers are nuts. I'd like a bag of them. I may have a niche-enough, nearly-non-fiction book that might make a good candidate for a modest, automated experiment (just when I've finished a week-long book harvest of descriptive, manual keywords).

If you have the keywords, you may as well experiment with both! Would be interesting to see the comparison and whether one can outperform the other.

Writers' Cafe / Re: A New AMS Thread
« on: February 25, 2018, 08:54:31 pm »
I've had some some real success with AMS ads in my nonfiction niche that I thought I would report for the greater good.

tl;dr: for two very very niche nonfiction books, with a relatively high purchase price, I've had a lot of success with Amazon's "automatic targeting" ads (as distinct from their automatically chosen keywords if you choose "manual targeting."


As you can see in my sig, I have three books about nonprofits. Unlikely my fiction, they tend to sell themselves consistently (but in low quantities) through Amazon's basic search. As an example of how different they are than my fiction, for these three books, I sell more paperbacks and audiobook than Kindle books (probably says something about the nonprofit audience). They are priced at $6.99 for the Kindle and $16.99 in paperback (except that for the past year I'd had the Kindle book on nonprofit fundraising permafree. More on that in a second.)

First steps toward advertising them
Recently, I'd been experimenting with promoting my fiction through BookBub Ads, so that's where I initially started for the nonprofit books since I knew and liked the system. But then I discovered... not a single nonprofit author was on BookBub! That should tell you something about how small my niche is. I couldn't target by author and "nonfiction" seemed too generic, so I turned to AMS.

I started setting up a sponsored product ad for "The Little Book of Boards." And then I faced a question that, so far as I can tell, very few on these forums have grappled with: should I go automatic or should I use keywords? Normally, I would set up my own keywords in these situations. But something made me pause and eventually I set up the ad going "automatic."

Here was my theory:

  • Amazon is really smart and knows also-boughts and knows when my book comes up for searches already. Shouldn't their "automatic" listings, in theory, be as good both those things? (And yes, I know their recommended keywords are often terrible but maybe this would be different?)
  • I know from previous attempts with AMS that getting impressions and clicks can be hard, and this is clearly a super niche book. So what if instead of spending all that time on keywords I just let Amazon do its work and maybe I'd actually get some visibility?
  • With a $6.99 price tag for the Kindle, I had a healthy margin to work with, so even if I could spend the time to optimize, it would take several times the effort. So why not give it a try?

Results of Going Automatic in Niche Nonfiction

On January 21, I set up the ad for "The Little Book of Boards" with a daily budget of $4 and a CPC bid of $.50.

The results have been, to be honest, astoundingly good. So good that I delayed posting here in case the ad was going to self-correct. But it's been 35 days or so, and the results are still strong (if not getting a little better) so it seems like it's working well enough to post my experience.

Here are the numbers:

Impressions: 86,925
Clicks: 171
aCPC: $0.23
Total spent: $38.59 (yes, even set to "automatic" and with a high CPC, Amazon won't spend all my money).

And the big one...

Estimated total sales: $587.36  !!!!!!

ACoS: 6.57%  !!!!!!

ACoS was actually at about 10% to 15% for the first few weeks, but then it improved again and has stayed in the 5% to 8% range.

And, I should add, I am seeing the sales directly reflected in both Kindle and Createspace. Going back to the same period in 2017, or the 30 days before this one--either way you look at it, I'm several hundred dollars ahead of where I was. Again: hard to actually imagine it worked when the ad has spent less than $40.

One note: I do suspect that I am paying for at least *some* sales I would have gotten otherwise, because I've seen the ad show up right above my book in search results. But even then, the fact that I can see the positive change in comparison makes me feel pretty good about it.

Further Experimentation in Niche Nonfiction

As you might guess, the first thing I did was try this strategy on other books.

I tried running an automatic sponsored product ad on "The Little Book of Gold" (permafree book on nonprofit fundraising) and saw a large increase in free downloads and even some money tied to the ad (thanks to the paperback). My ACoS was about 115%. But then I realized: why not just take this book off permafree and try to sell a bunch of the books in the same way I was doing with the other one? I kept using the same ad, but took the book off permafree.

That was about a week ago. The ad now shows $48.42 spent, $78.22 in estimated sales, and 61.90% in ACoS. Since I paid a lot for free downloads earlier with not much revenue, it will take a while before this particular ad shows the same ACoS as the first. But if I just zero in on the last week, it's right-sized the ACoS in a handful of days and, as with the other book, I can see the corresponding sales. So it's also doing well (though maybe not quite as well as the first, but it's hard to say for sure because I'm using an ad I'd already started).

Trying it in fiction

I tried to replicate the same "automatic targeting" formula with The Marinara Murders (a mystery that is very very close to a cozy), and that, dear reader, is where I encountered my first fail with the experiment.

Amazon wasn't showing the ad *at all* and the CTR was bad too. I cut it after a week and only spent $0.27 because I could barely get impressions.

After that, I did try a traditional keyword ad campaign for The Marinara Murders as well and have seen not-great results. I suspect it has something to do with the fact that the cover was conceived before I knew what a "cozy" mystery was (I was just writing a mystery novel I liked back in 2010 and 2011) so the cover is probably off for the genre the book is the best fit for. So maybe the issue wasn't "automatic" versus traditional key words but rather it's not the right cover fit. So I'm considering hiring out a new cover and then going back to test both "automatic" and regular ads with this one.

I suspect that all the fiction writers here are disappointed to see that this didn't translate! I am too.

That said, I *am* finishing up Book 3 of my sci-fi trilogy and will have it out by April-ish. So I'm going to wait until then and try some of these "automatic" strategies in sci-fi with Book 1 and see if I can do better. I'm not expecting that I will do as well as I am with the two nonprofit books. But I very much have appreciated that I haven't had to keyword monitor or optimize these "automatic" ads. In this one instance (niche nonfiction, relatively large margin) it has truly been "set it and forget it." A rare treat in marketing these days.

If there's anything in there that you can apply to your own experiments in ad runs, I hope it's useful. And if I do have any success with "automatic targeting" for my sci-fi novels I'll pass it along!

Writers' Cafe / Re: Audiobook refunds (through ACX)
« on: August 25, 2017, 11:03:51 pm »
Really late to respond to this but I'm curious how your novellas do in audio. I'm working on a 35 page story and wondered if it was too short for audio. Any thoughts you have about short audio form would be appreciated!

I like blurb #2.
Also, this sounds really interesting - any chance this'll also be released in paperback?

Thank you! That is very heartening to hear. Yes! I am very happy to say that it's long enough that I can publish it in paperback (currently appears to be about 10,000 words and 35 pages). I contacted my cover designer earlier this week to let her know I wanted a paperback as well as ebook. I've never published a short story to paperback and I don't know if there's any chance a short story can recoup the added expense, but I want to do it anyway. :)

"The silk of our spider friends" is great. Thank you!

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