How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method is a solid writing book, even if you don’t use the technique
Think your Amazon Ad is Profitable? Better look again
For most indie authors, Amazon ads are an unavoidable fact of life. But Amazon’s oversimplified reports can leave the author with the wrong impression. Getting to the truth of the numbers requires a little digging.
The main problem with the Amazon reporting method is the ACOS number. Amazon calls this the Average Cost Per Sale. The theory behind this number is that this tells you what percentage of your sales you spent on advertising. This is a great number to know because it will tell you if you are spending more on advertising than you are making back in profit. The problem with this number is that Amazon uses the book’s cost for the customer as its number for determining sales.
This is deceptive because writers don’t get 100% of the sales, they only make a percentage of that sale as their royalty. In other words a book that costs the consumer $4 at Amazon’s 70% royalty rate, only makes the author $2.80. But Amazon calculates the cost per sale using $4, not the actual profit to the writer of $2.80. If the author had spent $1 for that click (Yes, there are many genres that cost that much) then according to Amazon the cost per sale is 25%. The reality is that the cost per sale to the author is 36%.
If we consider that most clicks don’t result in a sale that distinction becomes critical. If the author had two unsuccessful clicks before generating a sale, Amazon would still report the ad as being profitable: 75% ACOS, but the author would have actually lost money because she spend 3$ on ads, but she only generated $2.80 in royalty payments.
This number gets more deceptive when you have a mix of print and ebook sales. If you only have an ebook, your Amazon reported ACoS should be below your royalty rate (70% or 30% depending on your royalty structure.) But print books must account for the cost of printing. I’ve priced my print book so that it generates a similar royalty to my 70% ebook, but the percentage of profit is actually closer to 30% of the cover price. But Amazon reports my cost per sale based on the print book cover price. Talk about misleading!!!
As an author you need to know what your real ACOS is
Finding the real numbers
Unfortunately, Amazon doesn’t make it easy to find the real numbers. Their ad campaigns do not offer monthly stats, and you don’t get your final royalty statements until two months later. One possibility is to start a new ad campaign every month. All you need to do is copy the current one and set the timeline to run for one month. This will help you keep an eye on your monthly expenditures. You can manually monitor your real costs by comparing them to your current estimated sales. (You can also estimate your KU sales by using last month’s rates as a guide and then make a final comparison when the real numbers are released.)
Doing the math
How much did you spend on ads? (Spend)
How much did you make on royalties (Royalty)
Subtract your (Spend) from your (Royalty) to get your profit.
Take your (Spend) divided by your (Royalty) (Spend)/(Royalty) to get your true ACoS. Anything above 100% and your are losing money.
If you don’t want to generate new ad campaigns every month, you can also create a spreadsheet.
Here’s a copy of mine (numbers have been changed). This shows you the costs I track. Notice that some months I made money and others I lost money, but if I looked only at Amazon’s ACOS, I would mistakenly believe that every month showed a profit!
Indie authors must treat their writing like a business and this means tracking your expenses. By having your real sales and profit figures, you can make better decisions about where to spend your marketing dollars. Don’t let Amazon’s deceptive practices cost you money. Dig deeper to find your real cost per sale.
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Let The Manuscript Shredder help you with your nest book. Pick up your copy of Your Novel This Month today
I’m happy to announce that I am appearing again on the podcast Shameless Plugs. This time was are talking about NaNoWriMo and Your Novel, This Month. https://www.shamelessplugspodcast.com/ I’m also happy to announce that Your Novel, This Month is now available in print!!! If you haven’t […]
Halloween is a good time to let bad habits die
As a fantasy writer, I love all things magical, and recently I have turned that attention into researching Wiccan beliefs. (This is a purely scholarly pursuit, I promise.) One of the major Wiccan holidays is Samhain which is also known as Halloween. (I should note that some Wiccans make the distinction between Halloween and the true cross quarter day of Samhain, which usually falls around November 6-7.) Many of the familiar Halloween customs can be traced back to pagan fall festivals.
If you’ll forgive my getting personal, I love Halloween, and not just because it’s the one holiday that’s all fun with no pesky visiting family obligations. Halloween is the one time of year where even us muggles can imagine a certain charge in the air.
But how does this all relate to writing?
One of the major themes around Samhain is death. This can be seen not only in the skeletons and ghosts decorating homes and businesses, but also in nature. Plants have begun dying back, leaves are dropping, and many insects will soon perish in the coming frosts.
Drawing from this theme, many Wiccans consider this time of year an ideal time to reflect on their own lives to identify personal traits or habits that they wish would die as well.
In the spirit of Samhain, here is a list of bad writing habits. If any of these are holding you back, make an effort to let them go.
Comparing yourself to other writers
There will always be someone better than you, that doesn’t mean you are a bad writer. Constantly comparing yourself to others will stifle your creativity and paralyze you. It will also make you feel as if you are never going to be good enough. The only person you should be comparing yourself to is you. Make your goal to be better than you were yesterday.
Butt in seat. I know the pantry needs organizing. I know you need to check you stats, your Twitter followers, your… whatever, but you can’t publish what you didn’t write. And the only way to get it written is to stop procrastinating and get it done.
Waiting for inspiration
This isn’t exactly the same as procrastinating. The simple truth is that writing isn’t sitting around waiting for your muse. Muses show up when you are actually working. So get your pretty pens and fancy notebooks (I know you have them.) and actually brainstorm. Get into the habit of thinking about stories. If you have 10 ideas and 9 of them are complete crap, then you still have one good idea. And one good idea is all you need to get started.
Editing while drafting
As an editor, I must insist that you DO NOT try to edit your stories as you are drafting them. Drafting and editing take two different parts of the brain. Don’t stifle your creativity by stopping your workflow to fret about commas or restructure sentences. Especially since I (or another editor) may tell you later to delete the entire scene. Editing while you are drafting is a complete waste of time. And it’s keeping you from achieving your goal: a completed draft.
Editing in the wrong order
Books are really written during the editing cycle, but if you do your edits in the wrong order you will be wasting countless hours. There is no reason to worry about punctuation in a sentence that will need to be reworded. There is no need to worry about paragraphs in a scene that will need to be cut. Make sure you are doing your edits in the right order.
Not promoting yourself or your work
If you aren’t promoting your work, you won’t get anywhere as a writer. You don’t have to be everywhere, but pick somewhere to start. Right now, I focus on connecting with writers on Twitter, promoting my blog on Pinterest, and I have an ad for my book on Amazon. Without these, I would have few “writer” friends, no blog traffic, and almost no book sales. Yes these things take time, and yes they eat into my profits, but 100% of zero is zero.
Bashing other writers/editors/agents on social media
You’re allowed to not like something, but loudly proclaiming how awful the writing is on the latest bestseller just makes you look petty. The same goes for slamming the judges of a writing contest. Also whining about agenting process isn’t going to win you any friends.
Abusing “nice” agents/editors
Most agents and editors are truly nice people and many have a hard time saying “no.” If an agent or editor has been nice enough to give you a few suggestions, don’t badger them with endless revisions. Looking at your pages costs them time, which translates into time they are not spending on “paying clients.” Nearly everyone in publishing is on a strict budget. Don’t expect professionals to do work for you for free.
This is just a short list, but I hope it gives you a place to start. Anytime of year is a good time to give up bad habits, so even if this time of is more about parties and candy than recognizing the cycles of nature, you can still make a promise to yourself to eliminate the bad habits that are holding you back and give your writing the attention that it deserves.
Happy Halloween and Happy Writing
Have a bad writing habit you want to eliminate? Share it in the comments.
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Romancing the Beat is a road map for aspiring romance writers. This short work by author/editor Gwen Hayes is the romance equivalent to plotting books such as Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat and Larry Brook’s Story Engineering. Here’s the blurb: What makes a romance novel […]
Faceoff:Amazon vs. Facebook ads
Last weekend I ran a 99¢ special on my book, Your Novel This Month as part of the Prep_tober kickoff for NaNoWriMo. Since I have no mailing list and a small website following, I knew that I would need to pay to promote the sale.
At this point I already have an Amazon ad that is making a small return on investment and I wanted to reach a bigger audience. Facebook with its thousands of writing pages and groups seemed like a logical choice. I could target my ad to a specific audience: writers, and Facebook would show my ad to those who fit this description.
Setting up the ad was easy and I made a custom graphic that was more interesting than what Amazon auto populated. I set the budget at $10/day and ran it during the three days of the sale.
While the ad generated over 20,000 impressions, it only received 301 clicks. This is a better than average click through rate CTR, which means Facebook did a fair job of placing my ad with the right audience.
The Cost-per-click (CPC) was .09¢ for a total of $28 for the entire campaign.
The number of sales generated was 9 (That’s it. 9 books.) for a conversion rate of 3%. As a comparison the average conversion rate for a Facebook ad is 9% across all industries. At 99¢ each, I generated $8.91 in sales. This means that for every dollar I made, I spent $3 for an average cost per sale (ACoS) rate of 314%. If the book had been full price and the sales the same, the ACoS would have been 110%
Let’s compare that to the performance of my Amazon ad
(these numbers are for the month because Amazon doesn’t break the numbers down into weeks)
My Amazon ad had 160 clicks at an average CPC of .30¢ each. Yes, this means that per click I paid over 3x the amount. Both ads pointed to the exact same landing page, but the Amazon ad generated 17 sales for a conversion rate of 11%. This conversion rate is far above the average. And this does not include any KU pages read as a result of the ad.
*Since many of these sales were full price, comparing the ACoS wouldn’t be fair.
Since both ads point to the exact same page (my book’s landing page on Amazon) we know that it isn’t the landing page. The only difference is the source of the ad traffic
People who clicked on my ad on Amazon were far more likely to buy my book than people who clicked on my Facebook ad.
So the question is, why is the traffic generated by the Amazon ad so much better at generating sales than traffic generated by Facebook when the target is viewing the exact same book landing page?
My conclusion is that people who are on Amazon are looking to buy books. This is the same reason that specialty candles will sell better in a candle shop than they will in the produce aisle in the grocery story. People in a candle shop are looking to buy candles.
Unfortunately, selling books is more art than science and its more luck than anything. My book is non-fiction. Fiction will likely produce completely different results.
What were your results with paid ads? Amazon, Facebook, or any other paid promotion. Let me know in the comments
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