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Would this ad work for you?

There is something more difficult than creating that first draft of a work of fiction, at least for me. It’s called writing an ad. Yet I am as determined to market my new novels as I was to create them. I just have no feel for it.

So, I did what any of you would advise. I talked to experts. (Or at least to people who were successful at marketing their own books and willing to talk to me.) They had a lot of great advice, particularly about what to bother with and what to ignore. I consolidated their opinions into this:

Go with Kindle Select no matter how much you don’t want to, and put your time and money into advertising on Amazon and Facebook.

This was simple enough. I could do it.

They advised I buy and read the books they’d turned to. I bought them all. Two were on writing advertising copy, one was on how to use Facebook to sell books, and the other on using Amazon. I’ve read them, pretty much cover to cover now. With notes. And highlighters. I’m very thorough.

I started with Amazon Lock Screen Ads. My first ad is at the top of this post. It got 5,418 impressions which seemed like a lot to me but my books tell me it is woefully inadequate. 16 wonderful people clicked on it, none of them bought it, and I spent $2.26. I was fine with this as learning exercise.

I tried again. This time I tried to be more witty. Maybe I was. I only got 5026 impressions, but 63 people clicked on this one. Four times as many clicks cost me $11.47 and no one bought it. This was a slightly more expensive lesson on the learning curve.

My third attempt was wildly successful. Perhaps it’s because I didn’t target every genre and category I could possibly fit into. I only targeted women’s fiction and I wrote the ad for the audience. I got 98,215 impressions, and 439 clicks. Cool, huh?

Unfortunately, I want sales, not attention. All those clicks cost me $63.30 and as far as Amazon can tell, I made one sale from this. Yup, I spent sixty some dollars to make two. Not good.

I did get a bunch of page reads through Kindle Select all of the sudden, so maybe I picked up an extra ten or twenty dollars there. I’m not going to last long spending sixty to make twenty, though.

I decided the careful targeting of one group at a time could be the secret sauce I was seeking, so I created a bunch of ads designed to appeal to every subgroup I could think of. None did very well, but my absolute worst was this ad designed to appeal to readers of Literature & Fiction: Action & Adventure and Mystery, and to Thriller & Suspense: Kidnapping and Paranormal. (It’s not so far fetched. The book is about two telepaths rescuing a kidnapped sister.)

It got five impressions. Period. No clicks at all. The good news is it didn’t cost me anything.

My creative campaign didn’t even show a version for Kindle Fire. I can’t tell if it is because it did so poorly, or it did so poorly because it was never shown on Kindle Fire. (If anyone knows how this works, please tell me!)

Back I went to more generic ads. My next most successful one was an exact repeat of an earlier ad, targeting pretty much the same groups. But it managed 16,829 impressions and 43 clicks. Why?

It also never showed an ad version for Kindle Fire. Why not?

The most exciting part was that I managed to sell another whole book and this time I only spent $19.08 to do it. Wahoo. With the Kindle page reads, I could be approaching breaking even.

Of course, breaking even is not the point. I am determined to keep at this, figure out what works and why and find a way to actually make money.

For more about my Amazon advertising adventures see “How about this ad?

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 5, 2019 in being better, writing

 

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It worked!

Some times things do go well. Or at least, they don’t go awful. It’s so easy not to notice when that happens.

I’ve been holding my breath for months now (metaphorically) as I worked to release my first novel with a new title. I could hardly be blamed. The first title had an exponent in it. (Yes, as in the letter x raised to the power of zero.) If you’re not mathematically inclined, trust me it was clever, but no one could fault me for wanting a title that was easier to pronounce, market and search for.

However, this meant I had to get a new cover with the new title on it, and resubmit this all to Amazon, and I wasn’t sure what would happen, in spite of a helpful SFWA mentor who’d assured me this could be done. To complicate matters more, the book got a couple of edits to clean it up while the new cover was designed (why not) and much to my surprise it tells the same story in pretty much the same words and yet is about 20,000 words shorter. Amazing. No original reader would ever miss what was cut. Even I had trouble finding it.

So what happened when I republished? Here’s my process and how it went.

I had taken all versions of the book off the market in December. I went back into KDP, and gave my old kindle version the new title, cover, manuscript, and the new variation of my name I’ve decided to go with. (I’ll be publishing under S.R. Cronin instead of Sherrie Cronin. More marketing.) I gave it the new price. I hit the publish button. No sirens went off. So far so good.

Then it asked if I wanted to publish in paperback. Oh yes, I did. Back when I started this adventure, paperbacks were done through Create Space, but that’s changed. I have to say this is easier. I created my new paperback with its new ISBN number and hit publish.

My dashboard showed the two books as linked and under review. I went off and had a glass of wine.

A day or two later both were approved. Wahoo. Then I went into Amazon to find them. It took the full title of my book and my name to get there because Amazon wasn’t used to finding this. That’s okay. Under books, there was my paperback, with no kindle version and no reviews. Hmm. Under Kindle, there was my kindle version, linked to my previous x0 paperbacks being resold by who knows who and with all of my reviews. (27 of them.)

Be patient, I told myself.  It takes a while for these things to shake out.

Almost two weeks later, nothing had changed, so I did something radical. I called Amazon. (Yes, you really can call them. More accurately, you can request they call you.) I got an immediate call from someone with a heavy accent and a helpful attitude. I explained my problem. She laughed aloud at the idea of a book with an exponent in the title and assured me she could fix things. And she did.

Minutes later, One of One in kindle showed up right along with One of One in paperback. Excellent. Then I looked closer. This new combo had 17 reviews. Odd.

I went to the old paperbacks of x0 that somebody out there wants to sell. (I understand there is nothing I can do about this. Amazon will let anyone sell any book.) My old x0 paperbacks had 11 reviews. Hmmmm.

I looked closer. It appears that reviews are attached to either the kindle copy or the paperback. When the two versions are linked, all reviews appear. Once the nice lady on the phone severed my kindle version from the old paperbacks, the reviews got split. As fate would have it, my less favorable reviews were attached to the old paperbacks, including my one and only one star review which still makes me cringe. (She won a free copy! For heaven’s sake don’t read it if you don’t like it….)

So now, I not only have a beautiful new book with a new cover and a new name, I also have a 3/10’s of a star better rating (4.3 instead of 4.0). Those of you who are mathematically inclined could have noticed that 11 plus 17 is 28, not 27. You are correct. I gained a review because the new book already has a brand new review of it’s own — 5 stars from a happy reader. Wahoo again.

Like I said, somethings things go well, even when you don’t expect them too. It’s good to take a moment and appreciate the good fortune.

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2019 in One of One, writing

 

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x0 will die

What prompts an author to kill her own book?

On December 1, 2018 my firstborn novel will die. I admit the prospect makes me sad. This book has been part of my life for a while.

I wrote the first draft in just six months in 2011. After several rewrites, professional editing, and more feedback and corrections, x0 became available on Kindle in 2012. The paperback version followed.

I’ve never totaled up the sales, because it’s not easy to separate a sale from a give-away. I guess I’ve been paid for about four hundred copies, and gifted at least as many more. I’d hope for more sales, of course, but every time a stranger liked my book and let me know, it delighted me. No regrets.

Times change. Sales of x0 have gone from small to nearly zero.

A few months ago, I attended a conference of science fiction writers, and signed up for a mentor. It may have been one of my more useful decisions. This guy pointed out that I could still have a marketable product in this particular story, but I needed a more genre-appropriate cover, a much better title, and an updated and aggressive marketing plan.

I can change the title of my book? Apparently I can. I do need a new ISBN number (no problem). I also need to acknowledge to the new reader what has been done (just in case he or she is one of the 800 humans who already read this story.)

And …. I need to kill x0. That is, I must take it off the market completely.  No electronic versions for sale, although those who have it obviously always will. No new paperbacks printed and sold, although nothing can prevent current owners from reselling their copies on Amazon and elsewhere.

Over the years, I’ve eliminated all the hyperlinks in the book, and the text that went with them. I’ve made corrections and done minor clean-up. Why not. But I’ve refrained from doing anything major.

Because this will be a new book, I have the chance to do some serious editing. So I have. The original x0 came in at just under 119,000 words. The leaner new version is under 96,000. I’ve broken the chapters into smaller chunks. I’ve given more attention to point of view. I’ve taken the techniques I’ve learned over the past six years, at conferences, from other writers, and simply from practicing my craft for hours every week, and I’ve done my best to fold those learnings into telling my story better.

I’m pleased with the result.

So while x0 will soon cease to exist, it will give birth to a new and better novel. I’ll be blogging all about it soon.

 

 

 
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Posted by on October 14, 2018 in One of One, writing

 

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Designing your own book cover, part 1

I have been told that the two things you have no control over with a traditional publisher are the title of your book and the cover. It’s one of the many reasons that I knew before I began to write x0 that it would be a self-published book. In fact, I doubt that I’d ever have written a novel if the world of self-publishing didn’t exist. The whole 46. Ascending collection was kind of an art and philosophy project for me as well as a story I was compelled to tell, and I cared more about doing it my way than I cared about striving for that traditional debut as an author.

But wanting to do something and knowing how to do it well are two different things, as you can tell by looking at my first version of the cover to the right.  I knew my book needed to be red, and because much of the story takes place in Nigeria, I wanted Africa to figure prominently in the final result. I had been directed to Shutterstock, an affordable online service for leasing the right to use images, and I was delighted with the world map I found.

But I didn’t have clue of where to go from there. I wanted to use the rest of the space to convey something about empathy and telepathy, and to me shoes were a symbol for this. You know “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” and all that. Red shoe images turned out to mostly be women’s heels, which seemed fine. But when I sent my proud new cover off to family and friends, I didn’t get the expected response. The most typical was “What’s with the ‘have sex with me’ shoes on the cover?” Oh. Back to the drawing board.

My next idea was to find an image of Lola, my main character, and put her on the cover. I wasn’t pleased with the choices I found, but finally settled on this one. She sort of looked to me like she was having a telepathic experience. That’s when my son called.

“You cover has only one purpose, mom. It is to make people want to read your book.” I hadn’t viewed it quite that way, but I had to admit he had a point and the lady on the cover didn’t particularly make me want to read the book either.

Then I found the lotus lady and she was perfect. She was so perfect that I tried using her twice, to symbolize the strong psychic connection between two different women who were highly alike on the inside. Not only did I feel good about this improvement, but my informal focus group gave it a big thumbs up.

I decided that I needed a better font for my unusual title. After experimenting with every font that came with Microsoft’s PowerPoint, and after playing around with the positioning, I ended up with the cover below and was quite pleased. It was a huge improvement over where I had started. I released x0 for kindle with this cover in February of 2012.

Over the next couple of months I began to lurk in chat rooms and on websites frequented by other self-published authors and I learned quite a bit. One thing was that I could make my electronic novel available on sites other than Amazon by submitting it to Smashwords.com. That sounded good. Another was that I could actually produce a paperback version at no extra cost using Amazon’s Create Space. Even better.

If I was going to take this self-publishing thing all the way to making a real book, it seemed worth revisiting whether I had the best cover I could have. I had assumed from the beginning that any professional touch was well out of my budget, but I was learning otherwise. Graphic artists out there were willing to take an author’s best attempt and make it more professional, for a relatively modest fee. I contacted a few that came well recommended by others.

One was called Mother Spider, and the first thing they came back to me with was perfect. It was exactly the cover I had wanted all along. The title jumped off the page, the map blended, the lotus ladies glowed and new little bulbs of telepathic thoughts shone. I tried putting my glitzy new cover on one of those websites that critiques book covers and got high praise for it. My informal focus group of cover critics was equally pleased.

I’m now working on the cover for book six. In every case I’ve started the process myself, struggling to gather together my own vision for the face I want my book to present to the world. Time and experience have taught me a lot. I’m back at Shutterstock sorting through images for a book that I know will be purple and sparkly and once again about telepathy. I’ve decided that the basic background will likely be forged from the Shutterstock image below. Other than that, I’m open to most anything, although I’m pretty sure there won’t be any shoes on this cover either.

(For more on this topic see Designing your own book cover, part 2  and Designing your own book cover, part three)

 

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2017 in One of One, writing

 

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Everybody is shouting

Light Within 3The truly skilled telepath is admired for her or his uncanny ability to listen to the feelings and thoughts of others. At least that is how it works in my imaginary world of x0, in which any old fool can transmit emotions but only the adept can receive them. Clearly I am making an observation about ordinary conversation as well. Listening is an art, and actually understanding what one is hearing is a high level accomplishment. Yes, most of us do spend our non-speaking time figuring out what we are going to say next. But at least in conversation, we pretend to pay attention to others.

Enter the world of social media. There is no question that I love writing my blogs and I love reading the blogs of others, but in my humble opinion the exchanges that take place in the comments sections can hardly be called conversation. They appear to me to mostly consist of (1) you are sooooo right or (2) you are soooo stupid or (3) the ever popular thanks for stopping by and liking my blog. (I’m not going to count the various spam comments that show up every day saying things like “I simply stumbled upon your site and in accession capital to say that I get actually loved account your weblog posts.” Who writes this crap and why?)

Facebook and the various Pinterest/Instagram type spin-offs are largely ways of shouting out what you are doing and what you like and don’t like. Yes, it is entertaining, but no isn’t conversation either. Maybe if we had a few more choices on the “like” button …… you know, emoticon responses of dismay, embarrassment, maybe a wink….. nah, probably a bad idea.

Then there is Twitter. I’ve had an account for years and I every so often I would read tweets on a topic of interest. I hardly ever tweeted anything, however, because I didn’t see the point. Seldom does anyone have a unique take on a subject and usually dozens of people had already said what I thought. I could hashtag all I wanted, but it seemed to me that I was just one more person shouting “Listen to me! I think this!” Shouting isn’t satisfying and it isn’t the way to make friends.

True voice 4Then I became an author. To my own surprise, I discovered that I was as desperate to be read as all the other authors you know. “You’ve got to use Twitter” they told me. Okay, I tried. And I found that all of us are out there, shouting about our wares and running little giveaways trying to snag another 100 followers when we can.That’s nuts. All the people out there shouting advice to authors (and there are a lot of those, too) think it is nuts as well. They say you shouldn’t peddle your books, you should engage socially. That sounds like reasonable advice, but I’ve got a problem with it. I am basically posting tweets to sell my books. It’s the truth and I don’t like pretending otherwise.

I found a solution that works for me, and it was in my first book all along. Act like a telepath. Act like a good one. Every time someone new follows me on Twitter, I now try to read their mind. Not really of course, but I pretend. Who are they and why are they there? If the answer is to sell me something, win a contest, or give me no information, I ignore them. But if they write, or read, or support a cause, or create or otherwise have a voice, I try to listen. I spend a few seconds looking into them online and I try to really hear them. Then, I thank them personally for following me and wish them good fortune with their passion. It gives them a tweet to like and retweet, and it makes me smile when they do.

No, I’m not making friends. Two or three 140 character exchanges does not a friendship make. And no, I’m not selling books from this, because my sales haven’t increased either. However, I am having some interesting exchanges and some fun. This “listening” is good stuff, no matter how it works out. Looks like there are ways to do it everywhere.

(Speaking of listening on social media, please drop by the Facebook pages of The Light Within and Your True Voice and give them a like for the great images above.)

 

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2014 in telepathy, writing

 

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