Book Marketing and Amazon Ads with Yancy Caruthers

Continuing the conversation on book marketing and getting into some specifics here with a fellow Army vet and author and student of "sellin' books". I for certain learned something from this and appreciate his willingness to share. Check this out and please join the discussion, all of his info is at the bottom of the post. Enjoy.

Guest post-

Book Marketing and Amazon Ads with Yancy Caruthers

As authors, we are all looking for something that works to sell books, and we make excuses why we don’t.  We even make excuses for the people we pay to promote us like, “I’m getting exposure.”

Exposure isn’t accepted at most major banks.  We need people to read us, and we’d prefer they pay for the privilege.  But isn’t exposure worth something?

Absolutely, but not as much as those peddling it would lead you to believe.  I’m going to show you how to value it.

We see thousands of ads every day, and perhaps not a minute rolls by that we aren’t bombarded with ads, targeted at us via the searches we have done.  As if that’s not creepy enough, I’m a writer, so my searches include recipes from Cyprus, the mating habits of the North American Screech Owl, and ways to dissolve human flesh with household chemicals.  There are NSA concerns, but I’m just happy that at least one agency within the government is paying attention to me.

I ignore over 99.9% of the ads I see, assuming I even notice them, and on average, so do you.  But there is a percentage of people who will see your ad and click on it because they want to learn more.  This rate is called “Click-through-rate,” or CTR.

This is why Twitter advertising can be so frustrating – one company promises to Tweet your book ad to 660,000 followers for $19/day.  Even with multiple Tweets, will 10% of them see it?  5%?  Let’s say that for ease of math, that 40,000 people see your ad at least once.  Apply the average CTR of 0.1%, and only 40 people will click on your book’s page to learn more.

Let’s apply the second number – the conversion rate.  This is the number of lookers who become buyers.  At a 5% conversion, you sold two books in the above scenario.

That’s $4.10 in royalties on a $2.99 eBook.  Hardly worth $19, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t advertise somewhere!  Isn’t promotion what we have to do to be read?

Let’s go back and look at the formula again.  The CTR is a function of two things – how good your ad looks, and where it is placed.  Spamming an ad to 100,000 random Twitter users might not get you a good CTR, but what if I could reach the same number of people who were readers in my genre?

Real example:  I currently run ads on Amazon in my genre and also in related genres – these are people who are looking for something to read, or they wouldn’t be on Amazon in the first place, so I’m not sure my audience could be any more ideal.  My current CTR is 0.62%.  This means that for every 100,000 viewers, there are 620 people who are interested enough to click through to my book page.  Incidentally, Amazon prices these ads by the click, not the view.  I don’t pay for the 100k, but rather the 620.

How much are those clicks worth?  Well, it depends on how many clickers become buyers – my conversion rate.  This is a factor of one thing, and one thing only, and listen up, authors, because this is important.

Your book page has to be engaging, even interesting - and free of typos.  You may have written hundreds of pages for your book, but this is the most important one.  This is because EVERYTHING you do, whether it be radio, TV, print ads, personal appearances, social media, guest blogging…is designed to get people to that page, because that’s where they click the button that says “Buy.”  All roads that lead anywhere lead to Rome.

I wish I could tell you the best way to write it, but it’s something I’m still challenged with.  I’m still looking at it and making minor modifications.  And I don’t have a clue what I’m doing.  I will say, however, that over the past six months, my conversion rate has been between 4% and 6%.  So those 100,000 Amazon views I mentioned above?  The ones that scored 620 clicks?  At a 5% conversion, those yield 31 sales.  My royalties on that $2.99 sale pay me $63.55.  That’s about 10 cents/click.  If I’m paying 9 cents (hopefully less), then I’m still making a profit.  It’s slight, but if I can do it thousands of times, then why not?

What about spill over into other books?  I’m a one-book wonder for a few more months.  Northwest of Eden is the only full-length title I have, although I’ve released four 99c chapbooks based on the true experiences of Army medics from different eras.  I don’t advertise the short reads, but I do sell quite a few.  I also score about 20% of my book revenue from Kindle Unlimited.  I would speculate that an author with multiple titles should see some action on the rest of the library.  In fact, it might be useful to run an ad or more than one book at a time.  Once my full collection of stories is released this summer (The series is called “Medic!”) then I’ll try running an ad for that, too, which should give me more data.

I don’t claim to know all the secrets, but I at least understand the math.  I’d leave you with three solid piece of advice in terms of book promotion:

1.  Write the best book you can, well-edited with a good cover.  If your book sucks, then you don’t actually want people to know about it, because they will tell their friends.

2.  Put together an exciting and engaging book page.  It should be nothing but “hook,” compelling the reader to click that BUY button.

3.  Do everything within your power and budget to get people to that page.

Good luck to all of you!  I invite all of you to take a look at the book page for Northwest of Eden or one of the Medic! chapbooks.  Of course I want you to buy all of them, but if you don’t, and if there is something about those pages you don’t like, please comment below!  I’m always trying to improve and I welcome your feedback.

Yancy Caruthers is a two-tour Iraq War veteran (U.S. Army).  He was a registered nurse for 18 years, working emergency/trauma and aviation medicine, then went on to serve for another 5 years as a diplomat with the Department of State.  He now lives in Missouri with his family and stays busy writing, speaking, and volunteering for veterans’ organizations.