“$EN$IBLE” ADVERTISING

Sensible Advertising

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SENSIBLE ADVERTISING

Authors can now advertise their Kindle Select books on Amazon.com.

But is it worth it?

The minimum KDP ad campaign budget is $100 and the minimum bid is 2 cents.

You can also advertise on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads.

Or you can advertise a promotion with BookBub, E-reader News Today, and a host of similar sites.

Will this be money well spent?

Or would it be better sitting in your pocket?

CONTENTS

  1. Temptations
  2. Advertising Goals
  3. Advertising Budget
  4. Short-term ROI Expectations
  5. Other Considerations

1. TEMPTATIONS

If you try an ad with bidding options, you may find yourself tempted to make potentially foolish decisions.

Here’s what might happen. You might place an ad with a 2-cent bid, but when you check your reports, you might see very little activity.

So you might raise your bid to 5 cents. You might see a little more activity, but still very little.

Then you might try 10 cents.

You want to see something happen, right? This is the age of instant gratification, after all.

So the natural tendency is to keep raising the bid until something happens.

And when it finally does, you might suddenly get thousands of impressions and hundreds of clicks.

And before you realize it, your $100 is all gone.

With little to show for it.

Amazon Marketing Services is new to KDP, so thousands of KDP Select authors are playing with it. Many are bidding higher and higher just to see some activity in their reports.

Also, there may be delays, stalls, or bugs in the reporting. It may not be instant feedback.

Before you make a rash decision, you want to think this through. Try to make a wise and informed decision, with specific goals in mind.

Be patient. Especially with Amazon Marketing Services, since it’s new, if you just wait days or weeks, eventually things will settle down and a lower bid will get you more impressions for your money.

Thus, waiting may get you more bang for your buck. Remember, Amazon recommends a CPC (cost-per-click) bid of 5 cents, so in the long run, lower bids are likely to make many more impressions than they appear to be making right now.

2. ADVERTISING GOALS

The first step is to identify and rank your advertising goals.

Unfortunately, most advertisements do not pay good short-term returns when it comes to books.

So if your primary goal is to make a quick buck, advertising probably isn’t the tool you’re looking for.

You might take a sizable short-term loss when you advertise.

That’s the risk you take, with the hope that other benefits will outweigh the short-term loss.

But the short-term return is also worth figuring when weighing benefits against risks. Look later in this article for help figuring this.

Here are examples of goals that you might have with your ad campaign:

  • branding your book
  • exposure for a new book, series, or author
  • help promote a short-term discount
  • landing on a hot new release or bestseller list
  • initial sales
  • improved sales rank
  • long-term sales, recommendations, reviews
  • establishing a reader base

The hope is that if you take a short-term loss with paid advertising, there will eventually be long-term gains to make up for it.

If paid advertising always returned your initial investment, everyone would do it.

Here are some of the possible long-term benefits:

BRANDING

The ad itself is likely to create impressions. These impressions help with branding.

People who see your book multiple times over a long period are more likely to recognize it. People are more likely to buy products they feel familiar with.

Branding can lead to long-term sales, sometimes several months down the line.

SALES & RECOMMENDATIONS

Advertising tends to bring very many impressions, some clicks, and few sales.

The short-term sales may seem dismal. If so, you hope that branding makes up the difference several months later.

If you have a hot promotion going on, an ad may be somewhat more successful. But then you earn less royalty on the short-term sales.

Some authors actually pay for ads to promote freebies, often hoping to help build buzz for a new book and to generate word-of-mouth recommendations and reviews from early readers.

If your ad is successful at generating sales, long-term if not short-term, eventually those sales can add to your reader base, post reviews (only a tiny percentage though), recommend your book to others, buy more books you’ve written, follow you online and buy your next book, etc.

Every follower you add may potentially buy several of your books (but your book has to really merit this).

3. ADVERTISING BUDGET

How much can you afford to invest in advertising?

You’re obviously limited by the finances you have on-hand.

But even if you have money to invest, you should also ask yourself:

How much do you currently net in monthly royalties?

It’s a lot easier for an author earning $1000 or more per month on royalties to invest 10% of that in advertising than it is for an author earning $50 per month to part with $100.

Spending a fraction of your royalties on advertising is a reasonable investment. You have something substantial to show at the end of the month even if it’s a bust.

Spending more than your monthly royalties on advertising is risky. You might face a net loss, for all your hard work to write the book.

But you’re hoping to advance from low monthly royalties to medium or high monthly royalties, right? You’re hoping that the investment will help you move on up.

So consider my next question.

Do you have compelling reason to expect significant growth in your royalties (aside from the possible benefits of advertising)?

Will you be writing more similar books? If so, are you getting some consistent sales (even if it’s a very low frequency) with your current book?

Are you presently seeing an overall trend of growth in sales over a long period of time?

Ideally, you’d like some sort of evidence to suggest that your future royalties will help cover a possible investment today.

If not, it might be worth starting out with free marketing and publishing more books, to help build consistent sales.

Once you see evidence that future royalties may be enough to warrant your advertising expense, then you’re in a better position to try it.

But there are a few authors who really do their research (comparing similar books in the beginning), who have some marketing experience, etc., and who launch their books with a bang and have the confidence that it’s going to work out. Advertising is a risk, but if you have done your homework and you have such confidence, you must decide if you an afford this risk. The worst-case scenario is that it’s a bust. Can you afford that?

What are your book expenses?

Some authors invest a large sum of money on editing, cover design, formatting, and other publishing expenses.

(Maybe I should have written a post on $en$ible publishing expenses before writing this one…)

It’s tempting to think, “I’ve already spent several hundred dollars, so what’s another $100 on top of that?”

Well, if your book will make a $2 royalty, for example, that’s an extra 50 books that you have to sell to recover your expenses.

Especially, if it’s your first book, knowing that many stand-alone books don’t sell too many copies, that’s making an already big risk even bigger.

If you have more modest expenses, you still must factor them in when setting your advertising budget.

Your goals may factor into this, too.

Some authors invest a lot of money into their books and honestly don’t care about royalties.

A few authors actually donate their royalties to charity. A few don’t need the money, write merely as a hobby, and just want the readers, however they may come.

Most authors want or need those royalties for one reason or another, and so the financial aspect is significant to them.

But if you have unique goals, that can change your perspective on setting an advertising budget. (But at least consider things like living expenses, income, retirement, etc., i.e. make sure that you can afford to invest in advertising.)

Investing a fraction of your net monthly royalty income on advertising is reasonable.

The more consistent your monthly royalties have been and the more compelling reasons you have to expect growth, the better you can afford to invest a higher percentage of your monthly royalties.

4. SHORT-TERM ROI EXPECTATIONS

Short-term return-on-investment (ROI) can sometimes be quite low for book advertising.

For this reason, it really helps if you have other strong goals besides quick sales. You might not get any extra sales from your ad, and if you do, they might be fewer than you’re hoping.

Here are two typical numbers to be aware of:

  • 0.1% ctr (click-through rate). You may average 1000 impressions per click. Some ads do better, some worse, but this is fairly common.
  • 1% closing rate. You may average 100 clicks per sale. This figure can vary quite a bit, but 1% is respectable.

So if you run an ad and it creates 100,000 impressions, for example, you might get 100 clicks and 1 sale (on average).

Ideally, if you’re investing $100 or more, you’d like to create several hundred thousand impressions so that you might receive hundreds of clicks and hopefully a few sales.

The impressions and clicks help you with branding and exposure, so the hope is that these numbers will help in the long run, even if the short-term ROI is quite low.

Or, for authors running hot promotions, trying to climb onto hot new release or bestseller lists, those few extra sales, if they can get them, may make the difference.

With KDP’s ad campaign through Amazon Marketing Services, you only pay for clicks.

In this case, if you aim for a 1% closing rate (sales divided by clicks), with a $100 budget, here is how your short-term ROI relates to your average CPC (cost-per-click) bid:

  • An average 2-cent bid gives an estimated ROI of 50 times your royalty.
  • An average 3-cent bid gives an estimated ROI of 33 times your royalty.
  • An average 4-cent bid gives an estimated ROI of 25 times your royalty.
  • An average 5-cent bid gives an estimated ROI of 20 times your royalty.
  • An average 10-cent bid gives an estimated ROI of 10 times your royalty.
  • An average 20-cent bid gives an estimated ROI of 5 times your royalty.
  • An average 50-cent bid gives an estimated ROI of 2 times your royalty.

So if your book royalty is $2, if you can achieve a 1% closing rate, you could actually break even. Not all books will achieve a 1% closing rate though.

Amazon’s recommended CPC bid is 5 cents. If your average bid is 5 cents, you earn a royalty of $2, and you achieve a 1% closing rate, your estimated short-term ROI would be about $40. That’s a $60 short-term loss, with potential long-term gains. If your ad runs its full course and you get all 2000 clicks, you might make a couple hundred thousand impressions, which may help with branding.

If you earn a higher royalty, like $3 or $4 per book, this allows you to bid somewhat higher, or you can go with the recommended bid with higher hopes for returns.

Especially, if your book normally sells on its own. If not, you’re probably less likely to see that 1% closing rate. Advertising probably isn’t the answer to, “Why isn’t my book selling?”

If you can achieve a higher closing rate, like 3% to 5%, this nets you a higher short-term ROI, or you can afford to bid more. But you won’t know what your average closing rate is until you’ve run ads and have received several hundred clicks. If you get a lower closing rate, like 0.1% to 0.5%, this will give you a much lower short-term ROI.

Bidding higher will probably help your ad make impressions faster and get clicks faster, which means that your ad will be over sooner. You also get fewer clicks overall with higher bids, which means a much lower short-term ROI.

If you have a hot short-term promotion to advertise, it might be worth bidding high enough to make all of your impressions while your book is on sale. But remember, you get fewer clicks and a much lower short-term ROI by doing so. More of your hope is on long-term dividends.

If you earn a small royalty, like 34 or 70 cents, your ROI is much less. Your ad is much more likely to have a dismal short-term ROI. But if you succeed in getting many extra sales, albeit at lower royalties, there could be some long-term benefit. Your lower price won’t necessarily net you significantly more sales, though. You really need to supplement freebies and Countdown Deals by free marketing (e.g. relevant bloggers helping to spread the word) or other directed paid marketing (like BookBub and E-reader News Today) to get the most out of a free or sale price. In this case, a KDP ad campaign should just be one of your promotional strategies.

High bids, like 20 cents and up, are very risky. These eat up your clicks faster and pay much smaller ROI’s. You really need a compelling reason to take this large short-term loss. Maybe if you have a large following, the next book in your series has good prospects of hitting the hot new release or bestseller lists, and you want to go all out for every last sale in case it makes the difference.

5. OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

There are many factors involved in advertising, including:

  • more books: The more similar books you have, the more potential benefit there is. Customers might buy more than one book.
  • current sales: Books that sell on their own are more likely to benefit from advertising. Spending money on ads isn’t likely the magic cure.
  • reviews: Do you have enough to attract readers and to minimize the risk from one bad review?
  • targeting: Advertising tends to be more effective when you reach your specific target audience. On the other hand, if your targeting is too narrow, you might not make a significant number of impressions. It pays to do some research.
  • cover: A cover that clearly signifies the genre and attracts your specific target audience (even in the tiny ad thumbnail) has a distinct advantage.
  • product page: The better your blurb and Look Inside, the better impact these will have on your closing rate.

Monitor your ad. You can pause your ad if things aren’t progressing as desired. You can even terminate your ad, if necessary. If you’re not happy with the results, try editing your ad (though not every option may be editable).

Keep an eye on your product page and on your ad stats. You might see the money vanishing rapidly without results to show for it, for example. If you catch this early on, you can at least try changing your ad up or pausing it, rather than just let your entire budget run its course.

SICK OF AD ARTICLES YET?

I’ve been fascinated with this new option to advertise KDP Select books with Amazon Marketing Services, and so I’ve now written several articles on the subject.

You’re probably sick of reading about it on my blog.

Well, don’t worry.

I have some different topics coming up. 🙂

Though eventually when I have a good statistical sample of data, I’ll probably report it. It will be a while before that day comes, however.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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How to Assess Your Ad Campaign at Kindle Direct Publishing

Background image from Shutterstock.

Background image from Shutterstock.

KDP AD CAMPAIGN

Amazon recently launched a new tool for KDP Select authors.

  • Find it on your KDP Bookshelf.
  • Look under the KDP Select column.
  • Click the Promote and Advertise link.
  • Click the Create an Ad Campaign button.

Advertising is a risk. You want to monitor your ad campaign at Kindle Direct Publishing.

And you want to know how to assess your risk. I’ll show you what, exactly, to look for.

There is a $100 minimum budget for the ad campaign and you must bid at least 2 cents.

However, once your campaign is up and running, you can click Pause or Terminate if you’re not happy with the results.

(What about the $100 minimum? Good question! They don’t bill you up front. They bill you incrementally as you get clicks. I don’t see how that $100 will get charged if you terminate the ad early, though if this concerns you, perhaps you should contact KDP support before you begin an ad.)

ASSESSING YOUR AMAZON AD CAMPAIGN

If you place an ad, you’ll want to monitor its progress.

IMPRESSIONS

Unless you choose to target your ad based on a small number of similar books, you’ll probably see impressions not too many hours after your ad begins.

That’s kind of cool.

Until you see hundreds of impressions, but no clicks.

But don’t worry. Impressions are free! You only pay for clicks. If I could have 1,000,000 free impressions right now, with zero clicks, I’d take it. Don’t sweat free exposure. Impressions are good.

CLICKS

Then you’ll notice that you’re getting very few clicks from those impressions.

Don’t sweat a tiny percentage of clicks.

You don’t pay for impressions.

You only pay for clicks.

The fewer clicks, the less money you pay.

More impressions per click actually works in your favor. That many more people saw your book without you having to pay extra.

The click-through rate (ctr) may be about 0.1%. That’s 1 click for every 1000 impressions. It varies from book to book, but it’s typical of advertising on the internet to get a ctr of about 0.1%.

Most businesses sweat the ctr because most businesses pay for impressions, not for clicks.

We don’t have to sweat the ctr because we only pay for clicks.

SALES

The number you should sweat is the conversion rate.

Take the # of sales and divide by the # of clicks. That’s your conversion rate.

The conversion rate shows you how well your ad is paying off in the short term.

Sales reporting may be delayed compared to impression and click reporting. So when you look at your ad campaign report, you may have sales on there that you don’t know about.

Also, a customer may click on your ad, but might not buy your book until a later date. The customer was busy doing something else when your ad came along. There is a good chance that the customer will add your book to your cart, if the customer wants to buy it, but wait days or weeks to actually make the purchase.

If the customer buys your book within 14 days of clicking on your ad, the sale will show in your ad campaign report. Thus, sales reporting could be delayed up to 2 weeks.

Multiply your conversion rate by your royalty. Let’s call this Z.

  • If Z is less than your average cost-per-click (CPC), then you’re losing money short-term.
  • If Z is greater than your CPC, then your ad is paying off short-term.

Your ad might not pay off short-term.

But that may be okay.

The question is: How close are you to breaking even short-term?

  • A small short-term loss is likely to be rewarded by long-term gains.
  • If you’re taking a large short-term loss, it may be in your best interest to pause or terminate the campaign.

And what about Kindle Unlimited? Suppose the customer clicks on your ad and reads it through Kindle Unlimited? Will that show up as a “sale” in the ad report? That’s a good question. Unfortunately, at this time, I don’t have the answer. But it’s something to keep in mind.

EXAMPLE

Suppose that you have:

  • $2.99 list price
  • $2 royalty
  • 2-cent bid
  • 300,000 impressions
  • 300 clicks
  • 3 sales

The impressions look great. But just 300 clicks out of 300,000 impressions may freak you out at first. But that’s typical. Remember, impressions are free, it’s the clicks that you pay for. The more impressions, the merrier.

Your conversion rate is the number of sales divided by the number of clicks: 3 sales divided by 300 clicks equals 0.01. Your conversion rate is 0.01 (or 1%).

The quantity I called Z is the conversion rate times your royalty: Z equals 0.01 times $2. In this example, Z equals 2 cents.

Hey, Z equals your bid.

That’s ideal!

Look, it cost you $6 for those 300 clicks. To make 300,000 impressions for a mere $6 would be a great deal.

But you only made 3 sales. However, those 3 sales earned you a royalty of $6.

You broke even. Your 3 extra sales compensated for your investment.

That’s actually very good. If you can break even short-term, it’s worth it for the long-term benefits.

Even a small short-term loss is worth taking for long-term benefits.

Don’t worry about a small ctr (i.e. very few clicks compared to impressions).

Don’t worry if sales are low, as long as your value of Z is comparable to your bid.

If your bid (CPC) is much larger than Z, then you should worry!

POSSIBLE LONG-TERM BENEFITS

Here’s why it might be worth taking a short-term loss to run an ad campaign at Amazon.

These are some possible long-term benefits:

  • If you generate extra sales through the Amazon ad, if any of those customers enjoy your book enough to recommend it to others, this gives you possible long-term sales growth.
  • One extra sale now might result in many extra sales later, if the customer likes your book enough to want to buy more of your books.
  • A customer who clicks on your ad, but who was busy doing something else at the time, may place your book in the shopping cart and check it out days or weeks later.
  • Customers who saw your ad may recognize your book the next time they see it, and, thinking, “I’ve seen this before,” may be more likely to buy your book through branding.
  • Any extra sales can help improve your sales rank, which can help with exposure in many ways, such as customers-also-bought lists, improved visibility in search results, landing on bestseller lists, etc.

IMPROVING YOUR CHANCES

Following are some factors that go into whether or not your ad will come close to breaking even.

LOWER BID

Just bid 2 cents. What’s wrong with that?

If you pay $100 for 2-cent bids, you’ll get 5000 bids if you spend the entire $100 over the course of the campaign.

If you bid higher, you get fewer clicks and fewer impressions.

Don’t bid higher unless there is some urgency with enough benefit to offset the cost. If you really need to advertise RIGHT NOW for some compelling reason, you might bid more.

Otherwise, what’s the hurry to spend your money?

Whether you spend $100 in 2 weeks or 2 months, it’s still $100 spent, right? My recommendation is to bid 2 cents.

Just take whatever clicks and impressions you’re getting, and be content with that.

Focus on Z and comparing Z to your CPC. If Z is close to your CPC, be happy.

If you raise your bid, it will be harder for Z to compete with your CPC.

HIGHER ROYALTY

A higher royalty means you don’t need as many sales for Z to match your CPC.

If you’re earning 34 cents per book with a 99-cent list price, you need 1 out of 17 clicks to result in a sale just to break even on a 2-cent bid.

If you’re earning $2 per book with a $2.99 list price, you just need 1 out of 100 clicks to result in a sale in order to break even on a 2-cent bid.

The list price does show in the ad. So more customers are likely to click on the ad if the price is more compelling.

But that’s actually not important here.

Why not? That just spends your ad money faster. It’s not how fast you get your clicks that matters. You pay for those clicks whether they come quickly or slowly.

What matters are (A) how likely the customer is to buy the book after clicking and (B) how much royalty you earn for the sale.

Maybe customers are, in general, more likely to buy a 99-cent book than a $2.99 book. But probably not in this case. Remember, they see the price before clicking on the ad. They’ve already factored in the price.

You may get your clicks faster at 99 cents, but that just means that your campaign will end sooner. It doesn’t matter how fast you get your clicks. (Unless you have major URGENCY with benefits that outweigh the added cost.)

COMPELLING PRODUCT PAGE

This is where the $$$ is whether you’re advertising or not.

People are visiting your product page.

One thing running an ad campaign will show you is that only 1 out of 1000 people who glance at your book will check it out, and only 1 out of 100 people who visit the product page will purchase it.

Well, it could be 1 out of 50 who visit your product page make the purchase, or it could be 1 out of 5000 who make the purchase.

The conversion rate is something that you can impact:

  • Did the cover and title shown in your ad signify the correct genre? If not, your conversion rate will be awful.
  • Does your blurb wow the customer? If yes, they’re looking inside. If not, they’re outta here. Typo in the beginning of the blurb? Facepalm!
  • Does the Look Inside magnetize the customer to read the beginning? Does the beginning grab the customer and make the customer want more? Or does it bore the customer, or deliver something that wasn’t expected?
  • Does the Look Inside appear professional?
  • Is your book a great value? Does it appear to exceed the customer’s expectations?
  • Was the book good enough to generate some good, honest reviews? (This is NOT the MAIN point.)

If you have a low conversion rate (sales divided by clicks), one of these areas can be improved.

If you improve your product page and run another ad in the future (or pause it now and resume it after making the improvement), you’ll be able to compare conversion rates and see whether or not the change appears to have any impact. One great thing about these ads is that we get valuable DATA.

One great thing about investing a little money in a KDP campaign ad is that you can find out what your conversion rate is. A rate of 1% is fairly common. If your conversion rate (sales divided by clicks) is much lower than 1%, it may be a sign that you need a more marketable book or a more marketable product page. There is something to improve. Once you make a change, you can run another ad to measure your conversion rate again. This way, ads can help you perfect the marketability of your book and product page.

ABOUT THE AD

The ad is automatic. It includes:

  • your cover thumbnail
  • the first few words of your title
  • the average star rating (shown visually, like ****)
  • the number of reviews
  • the list price

A compelling ad gets you clicks faster, but you’re going to pay the same amount regardless of how fast you get your clicks. Your ad will just run out sooner if you get the clicks faster.

Yet it’s still worthwhile to make a compelling ad:

  • If your thumbnail is more attractive to your target audience, that will help your conversion rate once they reach your product page.
  • The more effective your ad, the better the branding impact your unclicked impressions will make.

However, the ad is pretty small. See this example:

Ad4

It’s just a couple hundred pixels across.

To really stand out and aid with branding so that you benefit from all those unclicked impressions, you need:

  • a cover that’s still visually attractive at super small thumbnail size
  • a cover with a very simple, yet effective design
  • a color scheme that sends the right message
  • 2 HUGE words in your title so they can be read even in mini-mini size
  • a short title so that part of it doesn’t get cut off
  • enough good reviews (getting reviews is NOT the MAIN thing)

Another important factor is targeting. If you choose product targeting and research your product list well, this can improve the effectiveness of your ad.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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