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Messages - erikhanberg

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Writers' Cafe / Re: sci-fi cover. Looking for feedback!
« on: August 03, 2015, 10:38:22 pm »
I appreciate the honest feedback, Annie. I have affection for the covers and the artwork but I am trying not to let that get in the way.

Writers' Cafe / Re: sci-fi cover. Looking for feedback!
« on: August 03, 2015, 10:33:48 pm »
It's 2081. A super-Internet called the Lattice can help people read your thoughts, see a few billion years of history, and do all sorts of amazing/disturbing things. Some people want to destroy it... I won't give you the whole blurb, but basically there are global stakes. Spaceships. A few laser battles. Mysterious black spheres. And a hurricane made of sand (pictured in the second cover).

Writers' Cafe / Re: sci-fi cover. Looking for feedback!
« on: August 03, 2015, 10:26:55 pm »
Annie, I appreciate the honest feedback. I would say it's adventure with some tech.

Writers' Cafe / sci-fi cover. Looking for feedback!
« on: August 03, 2015, 10:05:54 pm »
So, two years ago, I published the first book in my sci-fi trilogy.

This was the cover:

I'm getting ready for the second book to come out this fall. Here's the cover I'm working with right now.

Thoughts? Either individually or as part of a series? It's a very different route from some traditional sci-fi covers but (my hope) is the custom artwork and style really set it apart.

This style would be carried through to Book III of course.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Testing out $100 on Amazon's PPC ads. Will report.
« on: August 02, 2015, 07:18:54 pm »
Thanks for sharing, Christine!

I'll use that as an excuse to update where I am again.

Just to explain this graph, starting from the bottom up (the oldest campaigns to the newest).

The first test was a product campaign. I selected 22 book similar to "The Little Book of Gold" which is about fundraising for small nonprofits. Some signs that there was profit there, although not much. (That book is $9.99.)

But I paused the campaign to try the "interest" campaign. That's the next one up on the list. This is the campaign that allows your book to show up on Kindles themselves. Which was very exciting! But I can't get any more targeted than "industries" which covers finance as well as nonprofits. Lots of impressions. A couple sales. But not nearly enough to justify the campaign.

Then I decided to try another interest campaign, this time for the box set of my mysteries. I figured: why not target mysteries to mysteries. Should be much more effective than the badly targeted work on The Little Book of Gold interest campaign." The first attempt was turned down because I called out the hundreds of positive reviews the series has gotten (across all three books). It couldn't be easily verified by the reader (which, I guess, I get.)

So I reworked the headline and tried again.

Right now it's not showing a profit, although the "total sales" doesn't seem to count KU pages read, and those have spiked:

First spike is a few weeks ago, second spike totally aligns with me starting the ad. It tanked this weekend. Don't know what caused that. But I'm definitely watching this one. Also, this ad has shown pretty high click through rates versus the others.

.9% CTR for the top campaign
.08% for the poorly targeted interest campaign for The Little Book of Likes
.1% for the first campaign.

Also, if Amazon's sales are true,

here are the conversion from clicks to buys:

8.3% on the top campaign
2.1% for the poorly targeted interest campaign for The Little Book of Likes
6.4% for the first campaign

But, again, KU reads don't seem to be factored in, which is one reason why I'm intrigued by the most recent campaign: best performing CTR, best performing conversion, plus pages read.

I'll be further testing this but I like what I see!


Writers' Cafe / Re: Advertise Your Book On Kindle E-readers
« on: July 17, 2015, 04:46:08 pm »
Here's a thread with some of my notes and screenshots of my AMS dashboard if you want to see how it's going for me.,215862.0.html

My current sales tab.

I'm testing the "interest" sales option right now because it allows me to advertise on Kindle screens. The downside of this: I can't target any more narrowly than "business and money: industries." That means a lot of people are seeing it who are not my target audience.

But the book is clearly for nonprofits so I figure that anyone who clicked was viable. But maybe not given these numbers.

I might do another targeted campaign to see how that goes. (This one was canceled when my book was kicked out of Select because a retailer hadn't pulled it down even four weeks later.)

My book "The Little Book of Gold" had 18 check outs in KU and KOLL in June. Then Amazon pulled the book from Select at the end of the month because Flipkart never took it down (side note: aaarrrghh. Smashwords has been great talking to, but c'mon, Flipkart. It's been a month since you got the notice.

Anyway, the book was pulled from KU before July.

And so far it's had 228 pages read in July. That means that I know for sure those pages read came from books checked out in June.

Maybe Amazon has a way to correct for this, but it seems like Amazon is double paying me. Will I get credit for the borrow in June AND the pages read in July for the same book? Anyone know?

Here's my three week update:

It's pretty disappointing. Those two "sales" were during my five day free promo. In fact, most of the clicks were during that time as well.

My impressions were only in the hundreds for the first week. It took awhile for them to start building as high as this.

I'm considering changing my targeting strategy: a wider net in order to grab more clicks. Tweaking the headline might help, I suppose. I haven't given up yet, but certainly not impressed.

The knowns:

1) The rough amount of July's KDP Select Global Fund (promised to be above $11 million for July and August).

The unknowns:

2) The number of pages of KU books read/month. Maybe 100,000,000 is low. Maybe it's 300,000,000. Who knows. Amazon's not telling (yet). Once the first month is done, we'll know.

3) The number of KU books per month that someone borrows and abandons after 20 pages or less. This one is the real question, but it dramatically affects us all.

Here's some math to think about this last one.

Let's say a KU subscriber reads 2 300-word books through to completion every month. AND that they read the first 20 pages of three other books before abandoning them.

In total, that reader has read 660 pages. Under the current Select rules, they likely generated $6.70 in royalties to KDP authors (5 x $1.34.)

Now, let's say that Amazon doesn't want to pay any more out for that same reader in July.

$6.70 in royalties for 660 pages is just over $0.01/page. That supports the idea that Amazon's per page rate will be low.

But look at the effect on the payments to the authors.

The abandoned books generated $0.20. The two completed books generated $3.04, more than twice what they'd earned before.

This is a crude way of looking at it, but it should frame the benefits of writing good books that people read. Amazon will pay you more for that. It means more ads they can show on the e-ink Kindle, more time using the Kindle fire, more time with the Kindle app open on your iPad. Time spent with their device or apps is good for them. So they'll reward that time. Maybe it will be more than $0.01/page. (If it's $0.03, that 300 word book just generated $9.)

The reason I say the question about abandoned books is important is because if that same reader went through let's say the first 20 pages of 10 books before finding the two she would finish, she generated $16.08 in royalties (12 x $1.34) which means that there is way more money on the table for the two books she finished.

The number of monthly borrows/subscriber and the number of monthly abandoned books/subscriber are the two biggest factors that will determine how this does, and we obviously don't know them.

But even given what I feel like are pretty conservative scenarios, this plan should look good for the authors of the (short or long) books that people finish.

Like a few others on here, I'm surprised by the doom and gloom. My hunch is that this is a good thing for quality work.

I *don't* think Amazon tossed out random numbers in that email. We know, for example, that $10 million is a good approximation of the KDP Global fund. I would also imagine that 100,000,000 pages is probably a good approximation of the number of pages read in a month of books in KDP Select. At least, it's in the right order of magnitude.

So is $0.10/page going to be the average they shoot for. I have no idea. Obviously. But as others have said, if KDP Select is going to attract top-tier authors, the chance at a $10 or more payout for someone to finish your book is a HUGE incentive to put your book in the program.

As with all zero-sum games, for someone to get $10 per borrow instead of $1.34, their profit has to come from somewhere else. And the way it's set up, I suspect it will come from *bad books,* who used to get $1.34 and now get $0.20 or less.

I suspect/hope this is going to drive money to quality.

Scammers certainly exist, but anything they can do is a drop in the bucket against 100,000,000 pages read (assuming that number is even vaguely correct). I don't think they will move the needle substantially on the total payouts.

As for catching any scammers, Amazon's algorithms for sniffing out overly-friendly reviews have gotten pretty sophisticated (if not too much so). It's not at all crazy that they can do the same against bogus page views either. They know what real readers' reading habits look like. They'll be able to correct.

The chance at what I think are going to be larger payouts, plus the chance at the reading statistics, makes me strongly consider adding more books into the program.

Philip, yes this is just the Amazon PPC system. It's available only to books in Select.

I took screenshots of the 5 different places they show ads may appear:

The bottom image is the most appealing placement to me, but I think the idea is that it shows up on all of them if I win the auction against other potential ads.

@thewitt, thank you! I'll download his videos and check them out!

@ArchangelEST. That's what I'm wondering too. They seem to have more place books are displaying than at first. We'll see. But CTR on Google or Facebook is minuscule too. They just have huge audiences to make up for it. We'll see if Amazon does.

@dragontucker I can definitely imagine that's the case. I won't keep it secret, though! ;) If it works, I'd love to share it with KBoards after all the useful tips and ideas I've gotten here.

Writers' Cafe / Testing out $100 on Amazon's PPC ads. Will report.
« on: June 04, 2015, 09:52:41 am »
Over the years for my day job, I figure I've managed more than $20,000 of pay per click (PPC) ads on Google and Facebook for clients. I *think* I've gotten pretty good at it.

So testing PPC for my own books seemed like a worthwhile experiment.

Here's why I think I might have a chance at making this work:

  • The book is about fundraising for nonprofits, which means I should have pretty easy targeting to other books on Amazon.
  • The book has a high price point at $9.99/Kindle, plus it's out in paperback and audiobook. So there's a good chance to make some real money if I do get clicks.
  • There are three other books I've written for small nonprofits, one on social media and one on of boards. So a successful purchase that gets a customer into my ecosystem gives me the chance at two more sales, also each at $9.99

Here are the cons:
  • PPC advertising takes awhile to get right. I will need to experiment, so some of the first $100 won't be well spent. That's assuming it CAN be viable.
  • I had to put my book in KDP Select, which I wasn't crazy about. It has made sales on other platforms, although just a handful. I also don't know how much the borrows will affect my chance at real sales.

I thought I would keep folks here in the loop on how this experiment goes. I know it won't affect a lot of you with fiction, but hopefully the data should be revealing.

Here's my starting criteria:

  • I'm targeting 22 books about fundraising and nonprofit management. I would have chosen to target by genre, but I can't drill down to the same level of the list I can when I select my category (Nonprofits and Charities) and anything higher than that will be too broad. This might be too small, but we'll see.
  • My maximum bid is $0.75/click. This is higher than the average they recommended. My goal is to test the viability of PPC, so driving people to the page is more important (initially) than figuring out the sweet spot for ads. If people buy, I'll start gradually reducing the average price I pay per click.
  • Budget is $100, and I told Amazon to spend it as fast as possible. This is the opposite of most budgets I run for PPC where I spread it out over a month. The benefit (I figure) is that if it *does* work, spending it at fast as possible will have the side benefit of driving me up the charts. Again, we'll see.

I was approved today. According to Amazon it will take 2 to 3 days for full data to begin.

Previous sales:

Last month I sold 11 Kindle copies of the book, 21 paperbacks on Amazon, and 19 audiobooks.

So far this month, I've sold 3 Kindle copies, 1 paperback, and 2 audiobooks. It will take at least 15 new Kindle sales to break even on the $100 (not counting any additional sales of the other two books over time, which really should be counted, but that's harder to measure at this point).

So there we are. Let the games begin!

Writers' Cafe / Re: please recommend me podcasts
« on: May 24, 2015, 09:19:14 am »
For the last year, I have co-hosted a podcast called Media Carnivores:

My co-host is Brent Hartinger, who has both self and traditionally published. His debut novel Geography Club was turned into a movie.

We use the podcast very specifically to build a listenership/readership and to connect with our current fans. It's a sort of mixed bag of movies, TV, books, and stuff about us. Recent episodes include "Does Harry Potter hold up?" and "Is Game of Thrones the future of television?" But also insider topics like "How do writers pick their next project?"

It has a smaller audience than my writing and blog posts, but I can also say that the fans have been very vocal and loyal. I can see the long-game of this being a very good thing for us, especially as I release new work.

That site calculates off of an assumption that all sites are using ads and affiliate programs. Maybe, Bookbub is making that much in affiliate links per day, but I'd guess it was much higher. The charge to authors needs to be taken into account. And the sheer list of millions and millions of email addresses is worth a huge amount.

I would agree with the above comment, the site's worth is in the tens of millions.

Writers' Cafe / Re: FB for Dummoes, 2012. Out of Date?
« on: April 06, 2015, 08:15:03 pm »
My wife and I have consulted with many businesses and nonprofits on social media, and Facebook specifically. Most likely the general principles are still sound. But the big change: you HAVE to pay. If you're not willing to pay $5 for every post, it's almost not worth using. Now, if you are willing, it's a very reasonable way to target a very specific audience. But otherwise, only a small handful of your "likes" will ever see your posts.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Konrath's Ebook Company for Libraries
« on: March 26, 2015, 03:57:53 pm »
I have a good relationship with my local library (I have chaired the "Tacoma Reads Together" initiative for the last five year). If you are looking for inroads into new libraries, let me know and I can try to hook you in with Tacoma Public Library or the Pierce County Library system!

Submitted my books, so you can find my email there. Good luck! I love the idea for this service!

Writers' Cafe / Re: Have You Posted to Your Blog Recently?
« on: March 24, 2015, 03:09:16 pm »
I've been working on a new project I call City of Z, a tech blog about Amazon. It covers a bunch of ground, including Amazon's effect on the urban character of Seattle. But here are all the publishing posts that have something to do with Amazon's publishing business.

I particularly like my "Only Amazon" post:

Charlotte, I am also curious about the travel guide. Are you using FBA or something similar?

I started self-publishing in 2009. Having nonfiction titles is the only reason I'm still self-publishing today.

I don't think there are many writers on KBoards who are doing anything similar, but I wanted to share my strategy because it's been modestly successful and one I think others can emulate. I'm not a full time writer (yet!), but in the last three years, I've only had three months of sales less than $500. The nonprofit books have created a pretty solid floor of revenue for me.

Here's the gift of what I'm doing:

In addition to my fiction, I've made time to publish three "how to" books for nonprofits. This is my professional background and I've had enough experience that I think I have something to offer. I write "little books" (one is about 150 pages, one is 110, and one is 176). They are designed to give the basics of a particular topic for someone who is too busy to read anything more.

For the first two, I basically just uploaded them and let Amazon's algorithms do the work. They performed pretty well. Better in paperback than in ebook form, interestingly. They also don't really stop selling. They don't sell huge numbers of copies, but they never sell none, either. And when they do sell, the revenue is above $6.50 for the paperback and ebook editions. So it's worth it when they do sell. And now that I'm taking marketing for them more seriously, the books are selling better too.

That gives me a floor to my revenue. I mentioned three months where I'd earned less than $500. The lowest of those three months was $416. I sold only 92 copies of my books that month, for an average revenue of $4.52/copy.

In many ways, these books have financed the publication of my fiction, because they give regular (if modest) revenue to support marketing plans for the fiction. If I haven't just had a Bookbub run or some other marketing push for my fiction, that's a pretty common average for me (so far in 2014, it's at $4.55/copy).

But if you're feeling the self-publishing blues, consider writing something informational and helpful. It doesn't have to be about your profession. It could be a how-to about your hobby or something else useful. And it doesn't have to be a mass appeal, either. A narrow focus might help it get noticed by the people who need it most. Small nonprofits is an incredibly niche segment. My social media book is applicable to most businesses, but I kept it tailored to the niche I was writing for instead of throwing it out into the huge segment of social media books for business.

I talk a little bit more about this and other business decisions in writing in an interview on (which was picked up by PassiveGuy, yay!) if you want to read a little more about how I balance the fiction and nonfiction:

Anyway, I hope that's food for thought. YMMV but without that modest revenue, I think I would have burned out on self-publishing my fiction years ago.

Writers' Cafe / Re: BookBub Q&A on KBoards, Feb 3-4
« on: February 03, 2015, 08:43:16 am »
Hi BB, and thanks for taking the time to do this!

How do you take past performance on BookBub into account? If an author had one book do well on BookBub a year ago, would that influence your decision on another book by the same author? Or on the same book again?


There has been a woman's shelter in my hometown for more than 100 years, if that's an issue.

Also, if someone walks into a homeless shelter, why would she give a name and address? A name is understandable. But the address... pretty certain that if she had an address she wouldn't be walking into a homeless shelter.

Granted, DV or other scenarios could drive someone out, but the shelter is set up to handle people who have been sleeping in a park for a year as well. They don't expect addresses.

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