Marketing as an Indie

This is how selling books on Amazon works as an indie, after you’ve exhausted your own lovely readership.

Sales rank is like shelf space. The higher your sales rank, the more likely you are to be seen by random browsers. (This is also influenced by # of reviews, especially when it comes to browse methods other than category-wandering, like ‘also bought’ and straight up search results.)

Sales rank is obviously influenced by sales. So you need to move your book up in the sales rank so more people see it. You need to do this by selling. Or by doing giveaways that you convert to a minimal price point on the second day. And you have to promote the sales and the giveaways, so you go to various deal-promo lists and you hope to get a lucky feature or else you pay them (or you get lucky and THEN you pay them) for that feature.

And you hope like hell some of the taste-setters maybe pick up your book someday. One of the problems there is that the taste-setters are pretty courted and petted and busy, and they often have an aversion to reading books they haven’t heard other people talking about warmly. Kind of a catch-22 there, where you also have to end up lucky. But you keep trying because word of mouth matters and some mouths have more reach than others.

Meanwhile you’re of course working on the next books, which, especially if they’re sequels, provide their own boost to sales. I think they’re the longest-term thing to be accomplished, both in terms of time spent and benefit gained. But ask me about that again in a year or so!

It’s definitely a job, with expenses. Not anywhere near a full-time job, not for me and my shelf and my approach. But I can understand why a micro press without somebody armed with a budget and fully dedicated to marketing would eventually flounder. And unless you have lottery-winning luck or an existing platform with thousands of solid social media contacts, simply writing a book and putting it out there is going to result in six sales and depression.

Loss Leaders

Today because of some paid promo, I sold 39 copies of Matchbox Girls. This is a new high (on Amazon)! And I totally didn’t expect it since my paid promo last Tuesday (different promoter) sold… 9 over 3 days.

These are .99 cent sales, which means I get .34 per sale. Not good money. Not even a good investment so far, unless people move onto sequels, which are full-priced. But I make back investment pretty quickly if they do. For the Fussy Librarian promo, last Tuesday, let’s see… yeah. If 1 of 9 moves onto the sequels, I’ll make back investment. For today… (well I usually count the 3 days after a promo but today so far) I’d need 2 people to pick up the sequels. And that may drop over the next couple of days…

Frankly, the 1 of 9 isn’t very likely. I wouldn’t expect more than 1/4th of the purchasers to ever even open the cheapo book and I certainly don’t expect half of all readers to turn into fans. But today, 2 of 39? Much more plausible!

Unfortunately you can’t actually precisely measure if sequel sales come from promo purchases….

MATCHBOX GIRLS sale!

Hey there! Matchbox Girls is 99 cents at Amazon/Nook/Kobo. It’s also available for the same price and DRM-free at my publisher, Candlemark & Gleam.

Soon we’ll be doing a cover reveal (and hopefully a Goodreads entry) for WOLF INTERVAL, which is Book #3 of the SENYAZA SERIES. It’s due out in October!

For those new to this urban fantasy series, each of the three SENYAZA books follows a different heroine (two of them costar in #4, which is currently being written) as they face angels, faeries and monsters. This sale is a great time to give it a try, or if you’re already a reader, let a friend know!

Twitter Advertising, Prologue

I’ve come into possession of some Twitter advertising credits and I’m totally going to use them and report back. Stay tuned!

I’m poking at the configuration system right now and I’m really impressed at the targeting options. I could feed in a list of Twitter accounts/email addresses. I could target the users ‘like’ the followers of another Twitter account. This is in addition to the more general ‘target by interests/location/gender’ stuff I’ve found on Goodreads, Facebook and Project Wonderful.

I also have to decide if I want to target ‘get more followers’ or ‘get clicks/retweets’. Unless the pricing is insane, I’ll probably do both, but just running into that decision point is a little bit paralyzing. Obviously the long-term goal is growing my audience (which is directly related to selling books and eventually buying a new roof for my house) but what’s the best way to do that?

The secrets of the Goodreads Ad system

Both the INFINITY KEY and the MATCHBOX GIRLS campaign expired today so I thought I’d post an update on how the ads did. Although technically the original IK campaign would have expired a couple of weeks ago if I hadn’t doubled its budget– but more about that below.

The original post is here . I’m duplicating the Infinity Key ad text below, with an updated click-through rate, which is averaged across the duration of the ad’s life. When I posted before, some of the ads had just started and so data hadn’t really stabilized. The MATCHBOX GIRLS campaign went through its entire budget almost entirely without changing the CTR percentages presented earlier so I’m not going to crowd up this post with those ads.

I have access to a fair amount of daily data but it doesn’t help me much in my current set up for determining results. After I’m done sharing CTR, I’ll share book adds and book sales during the ad period.

The Ads

Infinity Key Friendship
CTR: 0.04% -> No change
Infinity Key
Branwyn is ‘only human’ in a world with fallen angels, but refuses to let that stop her from saving her friend from a supernatural curse.
Infinity Key Publishers Weekly
CTR: 0.04% -> 0.05%
Infinity Key
In a world of faeries and fallen angels, one mortal woman can turn everything upside down. Publishers Weekly calls it “deeply refreshing”!
Not weak
CTR: 0.0% -> 0.07%
Infinity Key
They say we’re only human. That we’re weak. That we should let them protect us. But they didn’t protect you. Now they have to deal with me.
Shhh.
CTR: 0.14% -> 0.21%
Paused
You won’t read this.
You won’t even see it. You don’t want to know. It’s safer that way. Don’t worry. We’re taking care of everything. That’s our job. Look away.
 Hush, hush
CTR: 0.0% -> 0.05%
The world is sleeping. Soon it wakes.
Soon it learns to listen. It moves, thinks, breathes. It only takes a key. But who makes the key? Soon everything changes.
 Lies And Self Promotion
CTR: 0.0% -> 0.07%
INFINITY KEY is an undiscovered winner
A stunning new entry in the field of urban fantasy, with faeries, angels and a wonderful heroine who doesn’t let her humanity slow her down.
Unlock the door.
CTR: 0.0% -> 0.01%
INFINITY KEY: empowering urban fantasy
“Unlock the door. Wake up the world.” Come with Branwyn into Faerie to save a friend and change the world.
Blurb
CTR: 0.06% -> 0.05%
Funny, brilliant and empowering fantasy
INFINITY KEY is a reckless dash through a world on the brink of a magical singularity. Hop on board now before you fall behind.
 Mean girl
CTR: 0.0% -> 0.04%
INFINITY KEY, an urban fantasy
Mortal Branwyn is mean and cranky– and so loyal that you root for her as she steps on supernatural foes in the name of friendship.

THE ADDS (to reading lists) & SALES

Sales’ estimated exclusively from Novelrank monitoring Amazon sales rank jumps, which is a minimum. I suspect a few more sales but won’t know until royalty statements– but Amazon is a pretty good baseline.
MATCHBOX GIRLS: 
Added between 2/27 and 3/19: 18 (2 rating, 16 to-read)
Sold in March:  3 ebook / 0 paperback
Added between 1/27 and 2/26:  7 (1 rating, 5 to-read, 1 other)
Sold in Feb:  1 ebook / 1 paperback
INFINITY KEY:
Added between 2/27 and 3/19: 18 (1 rating, 17 to-read)
Sold in March: 1 ebook / 0 paperback
Added between 1/27 and 2/26:  3 (1 rating, 1 to-read, 1 other)
Sold in Feb: 2 ebooks / 1 paperback

CONCLUSIONS

First: Clickbait ads really, really work in earning clicks. I had to shut down ‘Shh’ because it was devouring my budget without showing any real benefit other than ‘winning’ at ad writing. If I’d been earning money for those clicks, though…
Second: I invested $30 in this experiment. My actual monetary return on investment is abysmal; as a conservative estimate I earned $4 in the same timeframe and there’s no real sense that was due to the ads.
Third: I DID get a serious uptick in reader interest, as measured by to-read lists.  It wasn’t exactly cheap; I paid at a rough estimate about 75 cents for each expression of ‘maybe someday’.
Fourth: Use the title space on your ads for more than just the book title. Don’t be modest, either. Both ‘Blurb’ and ‘Lies and Self-Promotion’ got into the double digits of CTR on days they got started early. ‘Unlock the door’ and ‘Mean girl’ didn’t get any traction until very late, so I’m not sure they’ve been adequately tested. (Really, I expected this entire campaign to go longer than it did– not even a month of data! Alas, I can’t afford to test any more at the existing ROI, not until later in the year anyhow.)
Fifth: As a game, it almost seems worthwhile. I really enjoyed tracking the performance of individual ads and I’ve certainly spent more on games that haven’t really given me anything back at all. But I think I’m probably a freak in this instance.

Next

I’d really like to experiment with targeting next time. I suppose the right way to do that would be to pick a few of my best performing ads, duplicate them, and then target them at different Goodreads demographics. Thanks to this experiment I feel like I at least have the data to make the decision on best performing ads!

Goodreads Ad Campaign

My subscription entertainment of choice is the Goodreads Ad system. I intermittently plunk some quarters (so to speak) in and create some very different ads and watch how they perform. The ROI is debatable, but my goal is raising corner-of-the-eye awareness and honing my own intuition re: what gets clicks. An unexpected side benefit is that I’ve become a lot better at, uh, promoting myself.

Right now I have 18 ads, 9 for MATCHBOX GIRLS and 9 for INFINITY KEY. There’s no easy way to show off the ads within the system, so I’m going to do that in this post. After experimenting with various targeting options and paying more per click, all of these run at $.10 per click and are targeted broadly at fans of SF, Fantasy, Paranormal, Manga and YA. I think a couple of the IK ones also target Romance readers.

The way the Goodreads system works (as far as I understand it) is that how much you pay per click controls where in the rotation of unclicked ads you appear; once you’re clicked on, you jump to the rotation of ‘clicked’ ads, which are shown far more often. My experiments with paying more per ad ($.50) didn’t seem to increase anything but how much I paid per click, which rapidly took it from the realm of ‘interesting game’ to ‘complete and obvious loss’. My experiments with highly targeted (by author) ads resulted in very few ad displays and almost no clicks, for no real benefit.

CTR means ‘Click Through Rate’. It doesn’t reset when an ad is modified, but the MATCHBOX GIRLS ads have been running long enough that I think previous versions have a fairly diluted effect. Most of the INFINITY KEY ads were just approved; only the first two have been on campaign before, when IK was launched.  The ads were written in the order presented, for the most part, across months.

The phrase on the first line is my internal title. Sometimes it is kind of facetious or self-disparaging, which is how I cope with blatant super-positive self-promo.

If there’s interest I can write another post when my current roll of quarters runs out for each campaign, with the current CTR.

The Ads

Matchbox Girls Plain Talk
CTR: 0.02%
Matchbox Girls
An urban fantasy focused on strong non-romantic female relationships. Published by up-and-coming indie press. Please read and enjoy!

Matchbox Girls Basic Summary
CTR: 0.04%
Matchbox Girls
In a clash between angels and the Fallen, one woman struggles to protect two children from their own destiny.

Matchbox Girls Demon Feminist
CTR: 0.05%
Matchbox Girls
The demon smiled. “Men have always thought women with power meant the end of the world. Trust me on this.”

Matchbox Girls The Spark
CTR: 0.04%
Matchbox Girls
It only takes a small thing to start a fire that will change the world.

Matchbox Girls Recipe
CTR: 0.04%
A protagonist with secret origins. Winged enemies who will do anything to erase their sin. Cute kids who can destroy the world. Buy it!

Matchbox Girls CE Murphy
CTR: 0.05%
Matchbox Girls
“Lovely worldbuilding and an unusual heroine surrounded by strong relationships… I’m impatient for the next book!” –CE Murphy

Matchbox Girls Nephilim
CTR: 0.05%
Matchbox Girls
You know how the angels sent the Deluge to wipe out the Nephilim, because they were ashamed of their sin? Yeah. It failed. Here we are…

Senyaza Recruitment Ad
CTR: 0.04%
Matchbox Girls
Feeling anxious? Not sure how you fit in? Maybe you’re a Nephilim! Senyaza Corp. is here for all your electronics and angel-slaying needs.

Monster Hunter Matchbox Girls
CTR: 0.05%
Matchbox Girls
We’re busy fighting monsters right now, but leave a message by pressing 1. Do remember to tell us the name of the scallywag in question.

Infinity Key Friendship
CTR: 0.04%
Infinity Key
Branwyn is ‘only human’ in a world with fallen angels, but refuses to let that stop her from saving her friend from a supernatural curse.

Infinity Key Publishers Weekly
CTR: 0.04%
Infinity Key
In a world of faeries and fallen angels, one mortal woman can turn everything upside down. Publishers Weekly calls it “deeply refreshing”!

Not weak
CTR: 0.0%
Infinity Key
They say we’re only human. That we’re weak. That we should let them protect us. But they didn’t protect you. Now they have to deal with me.

Shhh.
CTR: 0.14%
You won’t read this.
You won’t even see it. You don’t want to know. It’s safer that way. Don’t worry. We’re taking care of everything. That’s our job. Look away.

Hush, hush
CTR: 0.0%
The world is sleeping. Soon it wakes.
Soon it learns to listen. It moves, thinks, breathes. It only takes a key. But who makes the key? Soon everything changes.

Lies And Self Promotion
CTR: 0.0%
INFINITY KEY is an undiscovered winner
A stunning new entry in the field of urban fantasy, with faeries, angels and a wonderful heroine who doesn’t let her humanity slow her down.

Unlock the door.
CTR: 0.0%
INFINITY KEY: empowering urban fantasy
“Unlock the door. Wake up the world.” Come with Branwyn into Faerie to save a friend and change the world.

Blurb
CTR: 0.06%
Funny, brilliant and empowering fantasy
INFINITY KEY is a reckless dash through a world on the brink of a magical singularity. Hop on board now before you fall behind.

Mean girl
CTR: 0.0%
INFINITY KEY, an urban fantasy
Mortal Branwyn is mean and cranky– and so loyal that you root for her as she steps on supernatural foes in the name of friendship.