Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Can I make it up in volume?

Kindle's KDP Select program opened up some real opportunities for independent authors to make money from our own work. With three books on the market, it wasn't hard for me to tweak the formatting and upload them to KDP.

The deal is widely known: give Amazon an exclusive on distribution for 90-day periods, and you can not only sell your e-books for a 70 percent royalty, but you're also paid each time your titles are borrowed in their Kindle Prime program. You can offer them for free for up to five days within that period as well.

For me, this program has been an immediate success. My titles have been downloaded over 30,000 times, mostly as freebies, but the attention has also generated a fine, if temporary income. I was determined not to spend any money at all on advertising, so I focused almost all my energy on Twitter. When giving away a title, I always included the #free hashtag in my tweets. It's like bears to honey. People love freebies. But one surprise to me was that a certain number of people would see the free offer and pay for the book instead, as it was only $2.99. After an initial announcement on Facebook, I used it very little, partly because of the lesser reach and partly because it felt more intrusive, like always getting in someone's face. Twitter is anonymous, and the connections seem more distant. Ironically, while Facebook is bigger, it seems that tweets can reach more new people quickly.

Still, you know the saying about all good things. Until a week or so ago, Twitter and I seemed to be generating steady sales--and then sales seemed to fall off a cliff and go splat. There's a certain group of people who retweet my messages, and I always do the same for them, but apparently my market is tapped out for now. My followership is at about 2,400, and probably that number has to increase by quite a bit to reach a significant new group of potential buyers.

February sales have convinced me that the market is out there. Book lovers will spend 2.99 on an unknown author if they are given the opportunity. Could Facebook ads provide that extra kick? I tried a brief experiment, uploading an ad for all three books that would cost me slightly under a dollar per click. My plan was to try it for a week, budgeting $10 per day. My Twitter sales had already flatlined, so any Facebook results would be obvious. By the time I had 32 clicks, the cost to me was about $26, and I had sold two books. So let's see:

Sale price: $2.99
My share: $2.05
Amazon's share: $0.94
Facebook's share $13.00

Someone please help me out, because I'm not very smart. If I lose about $11 per sale, can I make it up in volume? Since the answer is probably no, I canceled my FB ad today.


Morgan Mandel said...

Good to know from someone who has tried it. I'm wondering about GoogleAds, since I have something from my bank about $100 free.

Morgan Mandel

Maryann Miller said...

I think the key to mega book sales is to reach all those millions of people who are not in our circles on FB, Twitter, etc. But don't ask me how to do that. I have experimented with ideas that have worked well for others to varying degrees of success. Last spring I did a freebie offer for One Small Victory and had a similar experience as yours, Bob. This year, none of my free offers stimulated many sales once the sale was over. So I am just going to stop trying to outguess the market and just go with the flow.

Stephen Tremp said...

Hey Bob, I gave up on the GB ads a while ago because the sales just didn;t cover the costs. FB was the only one making any money. Good luck to you. And I have your review of When Pigs Fly ready to go. Just have to squeeze it in before the month is over.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Facebook seems like a bad deal!
I've never done an ad anywhere.

Lynne Hinkey said...

The best thing the Facebook ad did for me was bump up the number of likes on my "Marina Melee" page. Resulting sales...? maybe 2? And can't be sure those were a result of the ad. Probably not the most effective marketing tool, just an easy one.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Ads for books don't work because there isn't a personal connection. No relationship has been established. I've also been reading some backlash posts about authors who Tweet a lot about their books, so that practice may have a negative effect now.

Bob Sanchez said...

Diane, perhaps you're right, but I do see it differently. The problem (my guess only) is that books are such small-ticket items. If I were selling refrigerators, 32 clicks and no sales would be nothing. As for personal connections, that's why it's good to charge a low price -- 2.99 or less, in my experience. People don't know me, but they're willing to risk the price of a Starbucks coffee to try an interesting-sounding title. You are certainly right about the negative reactions some people have to advertising. I feel the same way about ads sometimes. But that is the nature of business. With Twitter I always, always support other people who tweet about writing and books. Some reciprocate, some don't. To me, it's all good. My impression is that my current market of 40,000 or so tweeters has just been tapped out. The people who are interested have already bought. Anyone who doesn't like my tweets is welcome to ignore them.

Dani said...

The best FB ads are the Like ads that increase your author page following. For example: Click Like if you love to read novels. And that click is adding a fan to your author page. Make sense?

The Suburban Farmer said...

Yes, I was going to point out that book ads may be a different animal altogether. Because other small businesses are doing fantastic with FB ads.

Stephen Tremp said...

Diane, as usual, makes an insightful comment. No relationship is involved with a lot of advertising, marketing, and promoting. I try to limit my book promo to 20-25 percent of my FB and Twitter posts and keep the rest relational.

And Bob, your review of When Pigs Fly will be up at noon PST today! I'll also post it on Amazon, B$N, Twitter, Goodreads and such.