The Everyday Author

For authors who can't quit their day jobs...yet

Month: January 2018

Guest Post: 2018 Author Marketing Tactics (Facebook, AMS, email, etc.)

 

Note from D-Sidd: I stumbled across the post below from Matthew Kadish in the 20Booksto50K Facebook group. It’s PACKED with fantastic information that anyone can apply immediately to improve your 2018 author marketing. I wanted to make sure this great advice got out to a wider audience, so I messaged Matt and he was kind enough to let us run it here on Everyday Author. This is one you’ll want to bookmark!

2018 Author Marketing Tactics

Hi everyone. I know we recently had a lot of people post their end of the year income figures here and sometimes newbies can find those big numbers intimidating. After all, when you’re only making a couple bucks compared to other authors who make six-figures, it can make you envious and/or frustrated.

I make 5 figures a year off my books, which isn’t up there with the “big names” but I also only have like 6 books out which allow me to earn a full-time living. So if I had a catalog of 20+ books like most of these rich indy authors do, I’d probably be making a healthy 6 figure income as well.

The reason I’m able to make 5 figures a year off of only 5-6 books is due to my marketing efforts. Things like building an email list and driving converting traffic to my series’ Amazon pages are a big factor in having success with few novels. So if you’re an author who only has less than 3 books out, or are only making a few hundred bucks a month, then I guess this post is geared toward you.

Here are some of the marketing tips that served me best through 2017. I hope by sharing them I can help others get started in the new year on that path to making 5 figures or more off their writing.

#1. Always have a marketing plan. Too many authors just start throwing money at marketing but they don’t have any plan behind doing so. This is a great way to burn through cash and see little to no return. You always want to have some sort of strategy when spending cash for marketing purposes. It could be as simple as “make 10 sales a day” or “earn $10 a day in profit” or even “get below $0.10 clicks on my ad.” Whatever it is, you need to have a clear set of marketing goals before you start throwing money at something. When you know what you want to achieve, your marketing dollar goes way further.

#2. Allocate your marketing dollars wisely. 2017 was the year I completely gave up on Amazon Marketing Service (AMS) ads. I spent months testing the service, crafting all types of ads, and found the following to be true: AMS is too saturated. It’s too hard to scale. It’s too difficult to accurately track your ad spend and conversions. In short, I determined that AMS is a poor use of marketing dollars and a waste of my time. That’s not to say they can’t work, but I feel that money is better spent on a more robust ad platform such as Facebook. AMS is easy to do, which is why pretty much EVERY author uses it. Not every author uses Facebook, though, which makes Facebook way more responsive. Plus, their statistics are more recent and complete, so you know how best to adjust your campaigns and maximize your ad spend. If you’re doing AMS and it’s working for you, that’s great. But if you’re not doing any marketing, I’d recommend focusing on Facebook before you spend money on AMS.

#3. Focus on building your email list until you have more than 3 books out. Spending money promoting your books can be a losing endeavor until you have enough of a back catalog to pay for your advertising. If you only have 1-3 books out, I’d recommend your focus be on building an email list from your marketing efforts rather than getting sales. The reason for this is because an email list builds value over time and allows you to market to those people for free at any point in the future. In short, email lists make your marketing dollar go further. Once you have enough books published to make direct ad traffic profitable, only then would I recommend sending traffic directly to your Amazon page. You can build your list through mailing swaps with other authors, putting your opt-in information in the front and back matter of your books, and by sending ad traffic directly to a sign-up page (something which you can now create in Mailchimp so its super easy to do).

#4. Advertise globally. I think a lot of people get so focused on getting ad traffic from their own country that they forget there are lots more people in the world. I recently expanded my geo-targeting for my Facebook ads to group together the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand (basically the English speaking countries) and found this dramatically increased my sales than targeting these countries separately. The reason for this is because I learned that all the customers in these countries tend to use the main Amazon.com site instead of their country-specific stores. So I can send all this traffic to the same destination URL in my ads, which greatly increases the audience size my ads can reach. And as a benefit, I get “run off” sales in the Canadian and Australian Amazon stores. I also break out the UK into its own individual campaign since UK customers tend to buy from the Amazon UK store. The UK is now my second largest source of sales.

#5. Publish across multiple formats. What I mean by this is don’t limit yourself JUST to digital ebooks. Take the time to also publish paperback versions of your work as well as audiobook versions. I don’t make a lot off my paperback sales, but I do pull in a couple hundred bucks a month from them for no extra work or expense. If you don’t have a lot of books published, take what you already have and multiply it to try and pull out more profit. This year I plan to focus on creating audiobooks and I’ll see how much that will pull in monthly (I know it’s a growing market). But since I already put in the effort to write the books, it doesn’t take that much more effort to convert them to other formats.

#6. Be an Amazon Associate. Sign up for Amazon’s affiliate program and use Amazon affiliate links in your ads. This helps to generate extra income off of ad clicks because you also get credit for all purchases one makes after clicking an ad. You won’t be able to retire off the money you make as an associate, but every little bit helps.

#7. Treat men readers and women readers differently. Believe it or not, men and women do not respond to the same marketing material in the same way. I found I was able to get much cheaper clicks and conversions when I broke the genders up into their own campaigns and tailored them to the specific genders. So if your marketing budget is $10 a day, serve up $5 to a “men only” campaign and $5 to a “women only” campaign, and make sure you optimize your ads for them accordingly instead of just serving a single ad to both sexes. You’ll be amazed when you see the different things men and women respond positively and negatively to.

#8. Split test all aspects of your ad at least once. Facebook now allows you to run split tests within its ad manager. This was a HUGE benefit for me in 2017 because it allowed me to optimize my FB ads like never before. Instead of getting between $0.30-$0.50 a click, I now average between $0.05-$0.08 a click, all because I took the time to test out all aspects of my ads. So you’ll want to split test: Ad image, ad text, headline, article text, and the call to action button at least once. This will give you the best possible converting ad to run. When you only have $5 or $10 a day to spend on advertising, you get WAY more bang for your marketing dollar when your ad costs $0.05 a click as opposed to $0.30.

#9. Use Facebook Ads to optimize your Amazon landing page. Though Amazon doesn’t give us conversion data, you can actually use Facebook Ads to optimize your book’s Amazon product page to try and get the conversion of your books higher. You can do this by split testing your book’s cover, headline, title, and blurb in a Facebook ad. You’ll be surprised to find how many more books you sell when you take the time to optimize your Amazon page. I tested out 5 different blurbs in a FB ad for the first book in my series, and used the one that performed best from my ad, and saw an instant increase in sales from doing so. The logic here is that if people like it in an ad, they’ll like it on your sales page. So if you’re having trouble making sales, try this method out and see if you can’t increase the response rate of your Amazon product page. (Note: This works for other storefronts too!)

#10. Be patient. Sometimes we can get wrapped up in finding the quickest way to make more sales or make more money. But when playing the marketing game, remember it’s more of a marathon than a sprint. If you have a monthly marketing budget, stick to that and don’t burn through it in the hopes that you’ll make money faster. After a book is completed, it’s available to be sold for all eternity. This means you have plenty of time to market it and try new things. The worst thing you can do is become impatient and burn through your budget by experimenting with stuff that isn’t guaranteed to work. If you do want to experiment, do so little by little. Over time, you’ll find out what works and what doesn’t. When that happens, you’ll be able to focus more on what actually works and get more value from doing so.

#11. Don’t compete with other authors. I know it’s tempting to brag about rankings in the book lists, launch day income, or to talk about how you’re able to write 100,000 words a day and publish a billion books a year, etc. But remember – this is about YOUR success, not other people’s. Don’t get wrapped up in what someone else is doing, just focus on doing the best YOU can do. With me, I simply focused on optimizing my advertising campaigns and marketing funnels while continuing to write new books. I kept my head down and didn’t get wrapped up in competition or getting jealous/envious of other authors. Know that eventually, success will come if you continue to work at it. You don’t have to be making “Michael Anderle” money to be a successful author. Don’t get discouraged when you see other authors making more money or being more popular than you. In time, you can achieve that as well. Use other people’s success as inspiration to keep trying to succeed, rather than as a call to compete.

#12. Take the time to set up your marketing after you finish a new book. I know a ton of authors who could be making SO MUCH MORE money than they currently are if they just took a little bit of time to set up their marketing systems before they dive into writing another novel. I know the key to making six figures as an indy author is to publish more, but I also don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking a week or two off of writing to focus on marketing. After all, marketing is what allows you to make huge profits! And once you get your marketing set up, it takes hardly any time to manage it. Because marketing is so important, you shouldn’t neglect it – especially if you dislike doing it or don’t understand how! It’s like the difference between being given a fish and learning to fish. Learning to fish will feed you the rest of your life as opposed to that one time you were given a fish. Learning to market will extend the life and profit value of each book you publish, so take the time to not only lean how to do it, but to set it up between writing new works and let it work for you.

As an extension of this tip, don’t simply hire someone to handle your marketing for you. Take the time to learn how to market on your own before you take such a step. The reason for this is that you need a frame of reference to judge whether or not the person you hire to market your work is actually doing their job correctly. All too often, hiring a “marketing manager” is a waste of money, because they will do the bare minimum and often do it incorrectly in exchange for their cut of the ad spend. Don’t fall for this trap! It’s always cheaper and more effective when you market your own work.

#13. Don’t spend money boosting Facebook posts unless you have a healthy Facebook Page following. I know some people confuse “Facebook Ads” with “Boosted Posts,” and they really are two different things. Unless you have an active Facebook page with a large and active following, boosting Facebook posts is a waste of money. Creating a Facebook Ad, however, allows you to target people who aren’t already aware of you, and funnel them toward a specific goal, like a newsletter opt in page or your Amazon product page. People who get frustrated with Facebook often tend to waste money on something like boosted posts and then complain “Facebook advertising didn’t work for me.” Don’t fall into this trap. Always remember to spend your marketing dollar wisely and learn the ad platform you use backwards-and-forwards.

#14. Don’t get wrapped up too heavily in social media. Though I enjoy social media a great deal and love interacting with fans and fellow authors, I’ve found that efforts to market through social media for free is way too time intensive to be worth the results. If you can afford to pay for advertising, do that instead. The time it takes to post to twitter and facebook regularly enough to gain a following isn’t worth it when you could be using that time and effort to write a new book. If you enjoy doing social media casually, by all means, do so. But for marketing purposes, it’s far more efficient and profitable to simply pay to do so. (The one exception to this may be Instagram, but I’ve yet to test it enough to be sure.)

#15. Be diligent in stopping what isn’t working. An easy trap to fall into when marketing is to spend money on things that don’t work and to keep spending money on such things. Always find ways to cut marketing costs if you can and be ruthless in judging what wasn’t working and STOP DOING IT. An example of this is I found that women under the age of 35 cost the most to target and made the least amount of sales. So I adjusted my ads to only target women age 35 and above, and instantly, my cost per click dropped and my sales increased just by optimizing my ad spend to focus on the demographic that actually converted. Another example of this was I was using Twitter ads to drive traffic to my series and was spending about $100 a month to do so. Not a whole lot of money, but I was getting zero sales and zero newsletter signups from it. So I stopped advertising there and used that $100 to increase my Facebook ad spend. It’s easy to get lazy and just ignore the different ways you can waste money while marketing. You gotta pay attention and be diligent about protecting your ad dollar.

#16. Email your mailing list regularly – at least one a month. I know many authors only email their lists about new releases, or don’t know what to send their list so they just let it sit dormant. But it’s SO IMPORTANT that your list hears from you on a regular basis. Not only does this help create a relationship between you and your subscribers, but it also increases the response rate and decreases the unsubscribe rate of your email lists. Most of my newsletters don’t even sell anything. I’ll just send out one a month telling my subscribers what I’m up to and encouraging them to interact with me through email or Facebook. It’s helped me to create a very responsive mailing list.

#17. Manage your email list. This is very important, especially if you’re spending money to build that list. By managing your list, I mean actively separate the people who open and read your emails from those who never open them. In Mailchimp I have a separate list for “responsives” and “unresponsives.” This is important because not only can I get better responses to new releases this way, but I can also save money in Mailchimp by deleting my unresponsives from my account (after backing them up on my hard drive, of course). I also use my unresponsive lists to create lookalike lists in Facebook to target ads to, so they’re not completely useless.

#18. Educate your readers on how to read your books! What I mean by this is that I’m all-in on Amazon, but I always get asked by people who use iBooks or Google Play or Kobo how they can read my books. So I added an automatic email to my newsletter sign-up that teaches them how to download the Kindle app to their preferred device and read my books on it. You’d be amazed how many Apple and Android users didn’t know about the Kindle app! They just used the default book store on their devices – iBooks and Google Play. But with just 1 automatic email, I’m able to get more sales by educating my potential readers on all the different ways to read my Amazon-only ebooks.

#19. If you don’t have the money to buy ads, put in the effort to market them for free. When I worked in Hollywood, I discovered the concept of the “Production Triangle.” This says that you can have something cheap, fast, or good, but you can only ever have just 2 of these things for any one project. That means if you want something fast and cheap, it won’t be good. If you want something good and fast, it won’t be cheap. And if you want something good and cheap, it won’t be fast. Well, if you don’t have money to market, you have to go with the “good and cheap” method, which means it won’t be fast. You’ll have to spend a lot of time and effort promoting your work on social media, finagling email swaps with other authors, doing guest blog posts, and any number of other free publicity methods. But you MUST set aside time to do so until you are making enough to afford to market your work.

Always reinvest your profits in yourself. Whatever money you make off your books, keep pumping it back into your marketing until such time as you have maximized your marketing spend without losing money. Don’t pocket cash you can use for marketing if you don’t have to. Think of it as investing in yourself. To do this, you have to be willing to forego short term profits to build your business, but don’t be afraid to do so. If you still have a day job, keep doing that job until such time as you’ve achieved marketing optimization and are making profits off your books. Authors who don’t invest in themselves and their work quickly get overwhelmed with the lack of progress and can give up. Don’t get discouraged, and don’t be afraid to spend any profits you make on growing your business.

Okay, wow, this is a long post! I could probably go on, but I’ve wasted enough of your time by now. I hope you guys got something out of this novel-length post. Happy new year, and here’s to a prosperous 2018 for everyone!

State of the Author 2017 (& lessons learned from four years as an author)

And we all thought 2016 was crazy, eh? Visiting the Everyday Author in preparation for the post I was surprised to find our last piece of content here was back in April. That’s a pretty good microcosm for how the year went: fast. (If you want to check out my 2018 Author Resolutions you can find them here)

I’ll go into more details later on but for now, just know we’ve got a full slate of new Everyday Author content on the way! And now that the Gryphon Riders Trilogy is out in the world, I’ll be wrapping up the Bestseller Quest series as well.

It’s been a whirlwind. Looking back, I’m still a little surprised at everything I was able to squeeze in. I find it hard to believe that it’s been just a year since Undaunted released the Lone Wolf Anthology and I sat down to finish up the outlines on the Gryphon Riders Trilogy. I’m immensely glad I did it but not sure I’d want to do it all over again (at least not right away).

2017 quick recap

I wrote last year about taking a break from crazy production schedules to hone in on some other areas. Well, 2017 was back to the old grindstone BUT with the added benefit of bringing everything I learned in 2016 to bear. I successfully wrote, revised and published all three books of the Gryphon Riders Trilogy and they were BY FAR my best launches to date. All three earned back their production costs AND — I haven’t drilled this down to the dollar yet but it’s looking pretty good — helped me cross the threshold overall into profit for the first time in my author career.

I learned I could accomplish more than I would have thought possible before (it didn’t kill me but it was definitely touch-and-go at times). This year wrung me dry and I’m still recovering. Maybe I pushed a little too hard but if you don’t test your limits, how do you ever improve?

2017 by the numbers

  • Estimated rough draft words written (books only): 215,000+
  • Estimated words published: 319,000
  • Estimated words revised: 225,000+
  • Books published: 4
    – Lone Wolf Anthology
    – Windsworn
    – Windswept
    – Windbreak
  • KU Pages Read: 892,794
  • Giveaways (free books downloaded): 10,000+
  • Books sold: 2,130+
  • Yearly earnings: $9,800+

What went well

Production

I’m lumping a lot of things together in this section because my production model as a whole took a huge leap forward in 2017. Without the team I had, there’s no way the Gryphon Riders Trilogy would have been released (mostly) on schedule and the overall quality of the books would have suffered as well. My process is to write the rough draft and then usually take a breather by moving on to the next book. By the time I go back to do the second draft I’ve had a decent break to let things marinate. I do a second pass and then send the book along to my production team: 2-3 fellow authors who give it a read, fix basic typos and point out any areas or confusing parts. After their changes, the book goes to another reader for final proofing (who also has editing expertise and gives it a final polish. Once I deliver the book to the production team, it’s usually ready to publish within 10-14 days but we could get it down to a week if time got tight.

Reading

I was able to get through quite a few more books this year — audiobook, ebook and print. Having a book going in each format helped me read more and mix things up. I could listen to audio in the car, read ebooks on break at work or in small bites here and there and still sit down with a paperback in the evening to unwind. To tie in both this section and the one above about production, I highly recommend the book Creativity Inc. by Pixar Founder Ed Catmull.

What didn’t go well

Staying on track with revising

Pretty sure I’ve talked about how much I despise revising books. I think I’m better at knowing how to polish a book to reach its potential but I’m still not any faster at it. Luckily my production team (mentioned above) really helped carry me here as I only had to do one and a half passes for each Gryphon Riders book (a second draft and then final edits based on their feedback). Windswept had a few areas I had to rewrite but it still shouldn’t have taken me three months (August – October) to polish 60k words. I also got down to crunch time with Windswept and Windbreak which meant that the latter parts of each book were rushed to meet the deadlines.

Juggling

It’s become a theme to talk about biting off more than I can chew every year in these posts. This year, however, I took a different (although doubtfully better) approach. Once I got in the zone writing and later revising Gryphon Riders, everything else pretty much fell by the wayside. The good news was I was able to really hone in on finishing the books and setting up successful launches,. The bad news was Book Review 22 and Everyday Author suffered from my lack of attention. Next year I

4 lessons learned from 4 years as an author

I originally called this section “lessons learned from four years in self-publishing” but then I realized that I really don’t consider myself a self-published author anymore. Although I’m still an indie, I’ve started thinking of myself more as just an author in general. Overall, I think this mindset has been adopted by many authors in the indie space. We’re evolving past “self-publishing” especially when you consider many of us have production teams (see above) and are collaborating more than ever to meet reader demand (see below in 2018 predictions).

1. If your book isn’t selling, the reason probably isn’t that complicated

Assuming this is a new-ish title, it really comes down to one of four things: your cover, your description, your other marketing efforts or your writing itself. If sales aren’t where you want them to be, take an objective approach (this is a lot harder than it sounds but you’ve got to take off the rose-colored glasses). Pick the one you think is the weakest. Maybe your cover doesn’t fit your genre or maybe it’s not up to professional standards. Maybe your description just isn’t converting readers. Maybe your book isn’t in the correct sub-genre or you could find a new category where the competition is easier. There’s also a chance you just need to level up your writing with more practice or by employing a trusted developmental editor. Or maybe you just need to give it another polish.

If you’re not sure where to start, try to figure out where you’re losing readers at. When you run a promotion or ad if you’re not getting downloads or purchases, check the front door: the cover, description and price. If people are downloading the book but not buying the next in the trilogy, or if they’re not leaving reviews or leaving poor reviews it might be a case of the wrong category or the writing itself.

It’s not easy to sell books but it is relatively simple when you break it down into these elements. If you’re looking to do a relaunch of an old title, I highly recommend Relaunch Your Novel, by Chris Fox (affiliate link).

2. There’s room for everyone

When you take a look at the fan bases and platforms of the uber-successful authors out there, it might feel like you’ll never get a piece of the pie. Here’s a secret: readers read. The ones Michael Anderle calls “whale readers” read a lot. Here’s another secret: readers read faster than writers write. If you’ve got an all-around quality book (remember, be objective and don’t kid yourself here) you can find an audience. When you check out the Top 100 books in your category, you’re not looking at the competition, you’re looking at your allies. Reach out to those authors. Ask how YOU can help THEM. See if they’re interested in a cross-promotion of some kind or just get to know them. What you might consider a competitor could, in fact, be the person who helps you take your author career to the next level. Avoid a scarcity mentality.

3. It can be done (be patient)

  • I published my first book and a short story in November 2013. It took me — I don’t even know for sure — eight years or something to write and a year to revise. I made $26.87 in the last two months of that year.
  • Year one: I spent most of 2014 writing the second book in the series and revising the first. I didn’t publish any new fiction. I made $33.95 that year.
  • Year two (2015): I published Return to Shadow (book two in my Teutevar Saga) as three books. Then I combined them into one later that year because sales sucked anyway. I made $60.46
  • Year three (2016): I published a prequel novella to Teutevar Saga, wrote a separate standalone book with another author and released an anthology. I made $105.24. I had listened to the podcasts. I’d been to the conferences. I read the books. I knew I had to change something or I was going to burn out and call it quits.
  • Year four (2017): I produced faster and released tighter, simpler stories (they were also my best-written work). I followed the rules of the indie author “elite” to prove once and for all if it was possible for some regular dude to find real success. As I reported earlier, I made over $9,800.

 

Am I quitting my day job and going full-time? No. But 10xing my income is a pretty awesome personal victory. Now I have the experience and a real foundation to build on. Better yet, I’m finally in the black overall for my author career, production costs and all. Going forward I’ll be able to use actual profits to expand into audio and higher quality covers.

Trust me, if I can do it, you can too. Just hang in there.

4. Pace yourself and stay focused

This goes hand in hand with being patient. It’s easy to look around at the lightning-fast pace some authors are cranking out books and feel overwhelmed/discouraged. On the flip side, it’s extremely hard to just do you and stay at your own pace. But that’s what it takes. Learn what you can from others but ignore their specific circumstances. You do you. If you’re serious about being an author, you’re in this for the long haul, not 2, 5 or even 10 years. You’ll accomplish more than you think if you put your head down and do the work. I’m always striving (and often failing) to find balance. You can’t go nonstop forever and the faster you’re going, the harder it’s going to be to recover when you hit that wall.

On the flip side, it’s hard to make meaningful progress when you don’t stay focused. Chasing new ideas is a major reason why I struggled so much in my first three years as an author. Here’s a short list of “side gigs” I dove into without thinking it through. Some are still going but many fell by the wayside. None have netted as much money as writing books

– Founded a publishing company which has now morphed in a production studio/author co-op but is still going
– Started this blog (Everyday Author). It fell by the wayside this year but I’m sticking with it.
– (Briefly) started a book recommendation site with a fellow author
– Launched a movie review blog with a friend (still going)
– Launched a t-shirt company with a couple other friends (sucked a bunch of time and never amount to much of anything)
– Found a publicity company for indie authors called Book Review 22 (the second best venture)

Too. Many. Directions. Most are way out in left field, too. The ones I’m sticking with (Undaunted Publishing, Everyday Author, Book Review 22 and Flick Hit), I’m doing so for very specific, strategic reasons. My writing projects are much more intentional now, too. Be patient and keep your eye on the real prize.

2018 predictions

Collaboration

Successful indie authors have always gone against the publishing norms but now companies like Sterling and Stone and Michael Anderle’s LMBPN Publishing are creating a whole new production model focused on collaboration. For the vast majority of authors, the only way to release multiple books per year, including a book every 3-5 weeks, is through collaboration. It’s the only sustainable way to keep up that insane pace. In 2018, I believe more and more authors will start coming together in these cooperatives and publishing groups to share a larger piece of the pie. But not just authors. Editors, proofreaders, cover designers and marketers will be integral parts of this collaborative movement as well. Forming a collaborative production team was a major reason for my success in 2017

Next big indie steps (film, tv & more)

It began with The Martian and snowballs every year. With so many entertainment outlets, more indies with established audiences will get deals to make movie and television adaptations of their works. Down the road, I can see this spilling into video games, virtual reality and… (cue mystical voice) beyond.

More authors leave Amazon’s exclusivity

Whether we’re talking about rank-stripping, smaller page-reads payouts or Amazon favoring their own books over others, more authors are going to get fed up of the might Zon and go wide. On the flip side, the authors who stay (and manage to avoid the numerous rapids in the world’s mightiest store/river) will continue to make more $$$ in the short term. Decisions, decisions…

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