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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Just kidding! I don't have a thousand to spend. (If only.) But my underlying point is serious. Like a lot of aspiring authors, I've reached a kind of early-stage plateau: three Kindle books in a mystery series launched, really great reviews for the first one, bursts of free downloads under Kindle Select, but overall sales merely plodding along at VERY modest levels, and no obvious route out of the doldrums. I need to regroup!

Then I see forum posts suggesting that "serious" self-published authors (people for whom writing has become the main job) expect to spend from five hundred to two thousand dollars or pounds a month on advertising. Wow!

My budget only runs to a tiny fraction of that, and is balanced by other things that writers recommend - blogging, Facebooking, tweeting, networking, forum posts, Select campaigns, price tweaking, keyword optimisation, plus some small spend on AMS and FB ads. In other words, the whole nine yards.

But it's exhausting! I'm not very good at it, and as most authors will know, it's a major distraction from writing. And I suspect there comes a time when a lot of us must wonder if the heft of some more serious spending would short-circuit some of this. We might not have a thousand a month to play with, but maybe we would spend more than we do now if we had some confidence that the rewards would be there.

But would they be? And if so, when does one reach that point? Can you kick-start sales growth by doing some significant spending early in your career? And if so, spending how and where? Or is it a chicken-and-egg situation? Do you need to have critical mass already before serious spending actually works?
 

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I don't spend nearly that much but I do have a rapid release schedule. Given the maturing market and shifts in the publishing landscape over the past year or so, I think you have to do one or the other. I think that a rapid release schedule or ad spend has to be built into your platform these days. I opt for the rapid release schedule. I do run a few ads here and there (tinkering with AMS ads right now) but it's not like it was back in 2010 and 2011. The days of simply publishing and waiting for an audience to find you are over. This market is a difficult one to navigate, but I believe it can be done. Good luck.
 

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Why aren't your books set up as a series on Amazon? If you need to, revise the metadata in your KDP page and set them up with the series name so you can get Amazon to add a series page and linkages.

And then, more books. It's been my observation that few long-term careers are made off a handful of books. Keep writing and publishing. Advertising gets more effective the larger backlist you have.
 

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Here's what I suggest:

Pick a couple avenues of promotion, and abandon the rest. Pick those you're able to do effectively. Think 80/20.

For me, it's PPC and email.

Suppose you focus on AMS ads. Build slowly. Start a few campaigns with small budgets. Because you're focusing your attention on AMS (and ignoring everything else), you'll have the time to monitor your campaigns. Test and tweak. Increase the budgets of campaigns and keywords that work.

$2 a day will eventually become $5 a day. That'll eventually become $10 a day, and $20 a day, and so on. Meanwhile, because you've been pruning the losers and increasing the budgets of the winners, you'll have a growing number of campaigns that hit your ROI goals.

ETA: Also, if you move forward with PPC, think about what you want to accomplish. Is your sole goal to boost sales? If so, get ready for heartache. Bids in competitive markets are only going to rise, making it increasingly difficult to squeeze out a meaningful profit. I suspect that by this time next year, AMS will have become like FB: many authors - namely, those operating without funnels - will find it unprofitable.
 

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Keep in mind some authors have 20 books out there. Why that matters:

1) obviously, it's easier to spend more the more books you have
2) its easier to get a good ROI from your spending (ie. maybe you promo 5 books... but with sell through you're increasing revenue on 20 books)
3) You can bid higher for things like AMS and FB knowing you'll get sell through
4) Odds go up on getting a bookbub the more books you have to submit

Point is, I'd say a very small minority of people with three books are spending $500-2k a month on a regular basis (as in probably less than 1% of said authors).

Most people chip away at the wall just like you are doing. Small promos here and there, build up the reviews, build up your reader base, keep putting out novels... and then slowly as revenues increase so to can marketing spend.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Just an interim word of thanks to those who have already responded to this thread. There's some invaluable wisdom in what you've said, and I'll be mulling over all your suggestions.

Why aren't your books set up as a series on Amazon?
Jim, this is an interesting query, and makes me realise I'm missing something fundamental. I did enter the series name in the metadata for each book as I published it, and they all appear on their respective Amazon book pages with the series name in parenthesis after the title. But clearly I've neglected to take this a further stage, and get a series presence set up. I'm not actually clear how you do that! Sorry to sound such a dumbo.
 

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As always, I can't back this up by personal experience... but the thing that's always struck me as best bang for your buck as a newbie is author is putting money into the email list. Ideally, a subscriber you get in year 1 will be with you in year 5. Whereas if you put your resources into straight ads designed to sell books, its just an initial impression. People might sign up for an email list as a result of buying that book, but they're less likely to than if they sign up through an ad designed to get subscribers.

Maybe I'm wrong but it just makes sense to me to cultivate data from as early as possible. It might be a little scary because you're paying to give stuff away for free, but ya know. Data is essentially knowledge, and knowledge is power.
 

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PeterRowlands said:
Just an interim word of thanks to those who have already responded to this thread. There's some invaluable wisdom in what you've said, and I'll be mulling over all your suggestions.

Jim, this is an interesting query, and makes me realise I'm missing something fundamental. I did enter the series name in the metadata for each book as I published it, and they all appear on their respective Amazon book pages with the series name in parenthesis after the title. But clearly I've neglected to take this a further stage, and get a series presence set up. I'm not actually clear how you do that! Sorry to sound such a dumbo.
You don't sound like a dumbo. We've practically all been in your situation at one point or another. Also, many writers are not that good at promotion--the skill sets are different.

Amazon doesn't always automatically create the series page. You can request one through Amazon customer service.

For most people, success in writing is a slow building process. There are exceptions, but we're usually talking several books, and sometimes years. (It's not a get-rich-quick scheme. It's more like a get-middle class-slow scheme!)

The advice you've gotten so far is all good. You can't do everything. Focus on a few things you can afford to do, and keep writing. Write as fast as you can, consistent with maintaining quality. I'm still a prawn, but the more titles I have, the more my default sales (without any special promos) are. Every new release can raise the visibility of all your previous releases, especially if they are all the same genre.
 

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PeterRowlands said:
Just an interim word of thanks to those who have already responded to this thread. There's some invaluable wisdom in what you've said, and I'll be mulling over all your suggestions.

Jim, this is an interesting query, and makes me realise I'm missing something fundamental. I did enter the series name in the metadata for each book as I published it, and they all appear on their respective Amazon book pages with the series name in parenthesis after the title. But clearly I've neglected to take this a further stage, and get a series presence set up. I'm not actually clear how you do that! Sorry to sound such a dumbo.
Looks like the title stuff is right. If the numbers are in the right fields on the KDP page, you should have a series page set up automatically. Might want to ping Amazon and ask them to set up a series page for the books. Won't take long. :)
 

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RightHoJeeves said:
As always, I can't back this up by personal experience... but the thing that's always struck me as best bang for your buck as a newbie is author is putting money into the email list. Ideally, a subscriber you get in year 1 will be with you in year 5. Whereas if you put your resources into straight ads designed to sell books, its just an initial impression. People might sign up for an email list as a result of buying that book, but they're less likely to than if they sign up through an ad designed to get subscribers.

Maybe I'm wrong but it just makes sense to me to cultivate data from as early as possible. It might be a little scary because you're paying to give stuff away for free, but ya know. Data is essentially knowledge, and knowledge is power.
It depends on how you're cultivating the list. There are some list subscribers who are worth absolutely nothing because they don't buy books and are only looking for freebies. There are some list subscribers who are worth their weight in gold, but those are usually organic subscribers (no money required). I've seen a lot of people lately boasting 20K lists and yet they can't debut in the the top 10,000 in the store with that big of a list. Is that list doing them any good? I'm going to say no. It's not just about building a list, it's about building the right list. For me, the best way to do that is organically. That means links at the end of the book and no advertising to build a list.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
To Bill and Jim - thanks for your useful and supportive comments, which are much appreciated. I will certainly ask Amazon about setting up a series page for my books

It depends on how you're cultivating the list.
I'm fascinated by the idea that list-building is a good investment strategy. I've encountered advice to "build up your email list" ever since launching my first book, but I've always been baffled by what this really means. Who would my list include? I don't have a following; I don't know loads of readers. Any list I "built" from my own resources would have about five people on it!

I get the sense from your posts just now that you're talking about buying existing lists. Is that right - and if so, does this actually work? I get the sense from Amanda that maybe it doesn't. I can see that there could be a lot of redundancy in such a list. Yet the concept is so often mentioned that presumably there must be some mileage in it ... or not?
 

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PeterRowlands said:
To Bill and Jim - thanks for your useful and supportive comments, which are much appreciated. I will certainly ask Amazon about setting up a series page for my books

I'm fascinated by the idea that list-building is a good investment strategy. I've encountered advice to "build up your email list" ever since launching my first book, but I've always been baffled by what this really means. Who would my list include? I don't have a following; I don't know loads of readers. Any list I "built" from my own resources would have about five people on it!

I get the sense from your posts just now that you're talking about buying existing lists. Is that right - and if so, does this actually work? I get the sense from Amanda that maybe it doesn't. I can see that there could be a lot of redundancy in such a list. Yet the concept is so often mentioned that presumably there must be some mileage in it ... or not?
No. Buying lists is technically illegal, just FYI. There are SPAM laws that don't allow things like that. People sign up for one list for a very specific thing and if you sell the list you could get in trouble. Many authors run ads to free book giveaways where they give readers a free book if they sign up for their lists ... or Instafreebie stuff. I don't believe those lists work well, though, because they're not true fans. That's simply my belief, though. I have a strictly organic list.
 

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PeterRowlands said:
I'm fascinated by the idea that list-building is a good investment strategy. I've encountered advice to "build up your email list" ever since launching my first book, but I've always been baffled by what this really means. Who would my list include? I don't have a following; I don't know loads of readers. Any list I "built" from my own resources would have about five people on it!
You set up a list on MailChimp or MailerLite (or similar), create a signup form, and put the signup form on a page of your website and a link to it at the back of each book. If readers enjoy your books, they will sign up for your mailing list. Voila - you build your mailing list, one reader at a time. Those are organic subscribers - they signed up because they liked your writing. You can also do promotions to increase signups (signup to get a free book, that type of thing). Those are not organic, and may not convert to buyers later.
 
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Amanda M. Lee said:
Many authors run ads to free book giveaways where they give readers a free book if they sign up for their lists ... or Instafreebie stuff. I don't believe those lists work well, though, because they're not true fans. That's simply my belief, though. I have a strictly organic list.
I AGREE!
 

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RightHoJeeves said:
As always, I can't back this up by personal experience... but the thing that's always struck me as best bang for your buck as a newbie is author is putting money into the email list. Ideally, a subscriber you get in year 1 will be with you in year 5. Whereas if you put your resources into straight ads designed to sell books, its just an initial impression. People might sign up for an email list as a result of buying that book, but they're less likely to than if they sign up through an ad designed to get subscribers.

Maybe I'm wrong but it just makes sense to me to cultivate data from as early as possible. It might be a little scary because you're paying to give stuff away for free, but ya know. Data is essentially knowledge, and knowledge is power.
I agree with this. Giveaway gotten subscribers are not nearly as good as organic ones, but there are many ways to convert them and lose the people who aren't really interested.

I spend a lot on ads. Way more than your estimate. But I didn't start there. I started with a budget of a few hundred a month and a plan for what I was trying to accomplish. Other than the first few thousand dollars I spent on covers, editing, and book one ads (technically book four, my first three books were a travesty in terms of sales), I've only spent money I made from writing. You can make money then put it back into your business. You don't need to come up with tons of cash now. But this is a business, so you should be prepared to spend some dough.
 

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Question: "What (if anything) would I get from spending a thousand a month?"

Answer: An anxiety attack?

(Speaking purely for myself, of course.) :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
The tough thing about building a mailing list is that despite calls to action at the front and back of each book, you may not achieve significant numbers of organic mailing list sign-ups quickly.
Thanks, LilyBLily, for this detailed explanation of the attractions and pitfalls of list building. Your experience is really helpful. It sounds like a useful idea in theory, but a pretty time-consuming one in practice (like so much of the marketing task).

Buying lists is technically illegal, just FYI.
Ha, yes! Very valid point. I didn't mean to suggest that one would literally "buy" a list. I occasionally used to be involved in mailings for a business magazine - a task I hated! - and I had to grapple with legal implications then. I suppose I meant "buy into" a list somehow - metaphorically, rather than literally - in the sort of way you mention. But your point about not tapping into a true fan base is fair comment. Thanks for these points.
 

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PeterRowlands said:
I'm fascinated by the idea that list-building is a good investment strategy. I've encountered advice to "build up your email list" ever since launching my first book, but I've always been baffled by what this really means. Who would my list include? I don't have a following; I don't know loads of readers. Any list I "built" from my own resources would have about five people on it!

I get the sense from your posts just now that you're talking about buying existing lists. Is that right - and if so, does this actually work? I get the sense from Amanda that maybe it doesn't. I can see that there could be a lot of redundancy in such a list. Yet the concept is so often mentioned that presumably there must be some mileage in it ... or not?
Peter,

I think that you probably need to do a bit of research and reading on email newsletters. Here's a great place to start:

http://nicholaserik.com/mailing-lists-for-authors/
 

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PaulineMRoss said:
You set up a list on MailChimp or MailerLite (or similar), create a signup form, and put the signup form on a page of your website and a link to it at the back of each book. If readers enjoy your books, they will sign up for your mailing list. Voila - you build your mailing list, one reader at a time. Those are organic subscribers - they signed up because they liked your writing. You can also do promotions to increase signups (signup to get a free book, that type of thing). Those are not organic, and may not convert to buyers later.
Just to add a little to Pauline's very helpful answer:

Alessandra Torre has a video on how to do this using Google Forms:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JOKXIvEKxbM

Super quick and easy and looks nice. You don't even need a website or anything. I did this a couple weeks ago, put the link in my most recent book, and have 13 subscribers now -- subscribers that specifically read my stuff and wanted to hear more about my stuff.

I also did something yesterday that I'm optimistic about; I wrote a short story and put it exclusively on Instafreebie. People have to opt in to my mailing list to get it. It went up 14 hours ago and I have two new people on my list. (I know everyone else has already been doing this for about a year. I'm slow.)
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Piano Jenny said:
Just to add a little to Pauline's very helpful answer:

Alessandra Torre has a video on how to do this using Google Forms:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JOKXIvEKxbM

Super quick and easy and looks nice. You don't even need a website or anything. I did this a couple weeks ago, put the link in my most recent book, and have 13 subscribers now -- subscribers that specifically read my stuff and wanted to hear more about my stuff.

I also did something yesterday that I'm optimistic about; I wrote a short story and put it exclusively on Instafreebie. People have to opt in to my mailing list to get it. It went up 14 hours ago and I have two new people on my list. (I know everyone else has already been doing this for about a year. I'm slow.)
Well, not EVERYONE has been doing that. I haven't! But thanks for sharing this. It's always good to hear about detailed personal experiences, and it's great to know that what you've done has actually worked for you. By the way, I'm impressed that you wrote a short story in a day, and did this with it! Wow. I don't think I could do that, but there's food for thought here.
 
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