From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's booksYou 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.

Brand building

From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's booksThe 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

From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's booksDeciding 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.

From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's booksSimilarly, 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.

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