You may remember how I considered my advertising with Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) a failure, in that I failed to sell more books. I’ve been thinking about it, and have reached the conclusion that I should expand on this.
You may remember that I had decided to continue using AMS to raise awareness of my epic fantasy series, Pearseus. To do this, I started selling the first book, Pearseus: Rise of the Prince, for 99c and advertised with AMS. I set the bid rather high this time, at $0.50, instead of the recommended 5c.
As a result, I’ve had a couple of hundred impressions daily. Since it takes over 1,000 for a single click, this means that I pay roughly 50c for every 1,000 people who see my book.
This is a terrible business model, if I’m looking to make any money out of my work. It will, however, raise awareness, and hopefully encourage readers to buy the rest of the Pearseus series as well.
To make some actual sales, I need to advertise on places that offer a measurable return on my investment (ROI), like ENT, which last time gave me 28 sales for only $15. You see, I have now realized that marketing entails not one, but two separate activities. One is brand-building, the other advertising.
The best way to attract readers is to have an immediately recognizable brand. Brands have pulling power. Have a strong enough brand, and people will beg to read your book. You may even get your own meme.
This could happen organically – publish enough books and someone is bound to run into one of them, sooner or later. It may take years, or even decades, but with enough perseverence and patience it just might happen.
If you’d rather not wait so long, you may decide to build your brand through promotion. That is what I’m trying to do through AMS (what can I say, I’m impatient). The idea is that, by associating my book with books like Dune and Game of Thrones, I will be able to position my brand among these great classics.
The problem with brand-building is that it’s a fuzzy, hard to quantify notion. It represents a long-term investment. Once it’s successful, however, you start selling books without so much as a single ad.
Finding your brand
Deciding what your brand is, can be tricky. For example, Pearseus has strong fantasy, science fiction and even paranormal elements. This means it’s hard to build a brand by focusing on genre.
Instead, I use the scales of Themis that are present on all the series’ books. When people see that image, they immediately associate it with my work. It’s like a thumbnail-sized mnemonic rule.
Similarly, my children’s books will have a strong sense of brand. This will be achieved through the book covers, which will have a similarly minimal design of the title above in a custom font, with the lead character below. This will be placed over a plain, deep red background.
We’re currently discussing with Dimitris whether it’s best to use a different variation of the background colour for each book (say, orange in the next one), but I fear this will dilute the brand, therefore chances are we’ll stick to red.
Advertising for sales
Then, there’s the possibility of running advertisements in order to sell books. You can offer giveaways and discounts. Many authors give away the first book in their series, in order to entice readers to buy the rest of the books, thus creating fans.
Ads are pretty enticing. It’s pretty easy to measure their success. You run an ad, and immediately know how much it cost you, how much you made and how many books you sold. Your Amazon rank may have risen accordingly. It’s all good stuff.
The only problem with this approach is its short-term nature. You have to constantly run ads, to keep selling books. Some ads won’t be as successful, and you’ll end up paying people to read your work. Or just covering your ad costs. Is that why you became an author; to give your hard-earned cash to ad companies?
That is why you need to combine the two approaches, in order to find your perfect marketing mix. Advertise for the short term profit, but don’t forget to have a clear aim of your goal: to build a brand name for yourself and your work.
Great post, Nicholas. I think there’s a potential for a lot more discussion on building the author brand rather than looking for immediate sales. As for your children’s books, I agree with Pamela on the confusion issue if the colour didn’t change noticeably. I wonder would it be an idea to keep the same title font and 1-character design as you say, but change the colour each time?
Thanks! You’re right, it’s two different things, but people mistake them for one just because they both are forms of marketing.
That sounds like a great idea. I’m thinking orange for Musiville.
Thanks, Nicholas for this information. I’m sure it’ll help many. 🙂
I hope so! 🙂
Interesting post with much food for thought. Thanks. I’ll be back to read more.
Thanks and welcome! I’ll write a third AMS post soon enough, plus share the results of the survey as soon as I have some more data, so stay tuned 🙂
I’ve just gone back and read through all your advertising blogs (a serious lack of time put me behind) and you’ve given some great advice. I’m considering doing some promotions for my series, and I feel so much better equipped just knowing it’s worked for someone else!
Thank you, Loren! I’m really glad I helped 🙂
I am a life-long library user rather than book-buyer due both to a perennial lack of funds and an ongoing lack of interest in owning fiction: I only read each one once, so why accumulate? I’ve moved more than thirty times in my life.
I know; I’m a fiction writer, now, so how can I admit that I DO NOT buy fiction. Sorry; I just usually don’t.
That being explained, I want to say that I am a great believer in visual consistency so that hurried readers (borrowers or buyers) can quickly find books by beloved authors or those within the same series amidst a sea of books on shelves in stores or online.
My suggestions: Please put “VOLUME III” or which it is prominently for each book in a series and put “AUTHOR OF…. [insert title of first book or best-seller here] on the cover of your kiddie lit and you will avoid all confusion.
Best to you, Buddy Nicholas!
I write Book 1, 2 etc on all the covers of my Pearseus series. Do you really think I should mention that on my children’s book, though? The genres just seem too far apart!
I meant, on your subsequent kids’ books, put “Author of ‘Runaway Smile,'” so they know right away there are others. You could reference your other series on the BACK of your kids’ books and vice-versa, though. Good idea.
Best to you, Nicholas.
Oh, right (slaps forehead) 😀
The writing life has become mega complicated. I envy your energy.
It’s fun. And sharing makes it even more so 🙂
Glad you’re doing the legwork and sharing. Still, the time thief lurks every day. 🙂
Oh, he’s a dastardly one, he is…
😀 😀 😀
I’m actually thinking of running another Amazon ad thing, but at $1 instead of the minimum. Really curious to see what happens since last time was absolutely nothing.
Branding can be tough. My covers changed at Book 4, which apparently caused confusion. So visual consistency seems to be a bigger factor than I realized.
That will get you quite a few views. I think that a CPC bid of $.065 seems to be the turning point. I’ve had some 30,000 views since changing my ad to that. A friend has now reached 140,000 views within a month, with the same bid.
The question that comes up though is how many views equal a sale. Be fine if everyone is looking at the book, but if nobody buys then I don’t make my money back.
You don’t make your money back. That’s for sure. A friend who shared her data has some 160,000 views, which led to 170 page views. This has resulted in 11 sales. As she’s spent $68 to make $10 (her book sells for 99c), it only makes sense as a brand-building exercise.
Wow. So it really is more for spreading the word than getting in money. Think that will change eventually?
I doubt it, unless you’re selling your book for $50 or something. It should get cheaper, though.
As for the cover change, I remember you saying so in the past. However, all of your covers look pretty consistent to me. Am I missing something?
The black border around the edges apparently threw some people off. Not sure if that’s a majority though. I’m starting to wonder how many of the complaints and criticisms I get are the vocal minority. Important to consider, but making the changes would result in me alienating another small group that liked the original version. Then you have everyone in the middle who is neutral. Seems to be a guessing game at times.
Personally, I’d go for vocal and tiny minority! I never noticed that until you mentioned it… 🙂
It’s something I just realized a week or two ago. Just hard to figure out who to listen to at times.
I follow my rule of fives. Anything mentioned by one person can be safely ignored. By two, and I start taking notice… and so on, until something gets mentioned by five people, in which case I drop everything and address the issue (never has happened so far, mind you) 🙂
I think that has happened to me a few times, but in regards to story elements that would change everything. Some people overlooked some foreshadowing or simply wanted the book to go a certain way. Haven’t had that for a while though.
And then you complain about your books not selling. If only you’d listen to my idea of adding some time travelling Aliens and Predators into Windemere… 😀
I actually did have a time-traveling story at one point. Let’s just say I can’t get the mechanics right and there should be a law against me every traveling through time. I’d make such a mess.
I hear time-travelling, but I don’t hear anything about the Alien bit! 😀
That’s another series. I’m still working on how the magic of Windemere would effect each of the alien species.
Your children’s books. Perhaps different shades of red to differentiate. If they are too similar people might pass over it thinking they already have it. That’s an issue I have with a series. Titles so similar that I can’t keep track. Covers so similar that I can’t remember. Especially if it has been awhile between books. Just a thought
Ah, hadn’t thought of that. Good point. Thanks for the tip!
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