Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A Hybrid Author’s First Ad Buy

As I write this blog, my foray into hybrid author advertising has 19 hours remaining.* When I took back the publishing rights to Bad Policy I decided to (for now) exclusively sell the ebook on Amazon. That allows me to (1) participate in the Kindle Unlimited under which I am paid when people read the book through Amazon’s subscription service, and (2) retain a 70% royalty rate (rather than only 35%) when I run a sale and price the book at $0.99.

Bad Policy is normally priced at $3.99. I dropped it to $0.99 for seven days (the maximum allowed by Amazon for any 3-month period). I chose June 16 through June 22, inclusive. (Amazon is headquartered in the Pacific Time Zone and that is the time zone they use.)

A reduced-price ebook sale doesn’t work without advertising. I tried scoring a BookBub ad. They are believed to be the premier site to advertise ebook deals, but they are very choosy (without defining exactly what their selection rules are). The big publishers have discovered them, and it is now much more difficult for indie authors to score an ad. They turned me down. Based on research and availability, I chose to run three ads. With 19 hours to go, here are my preliminary results.

6/16 (Thurs) Many Books ($25) ad, FB Post, Tweets - sold 40
6/17 (Fri) Tweets - sold 4
6/18 (Sat) Bargain Booksy ($50) ad, Tweets - sold 16
6/19 (Sun) - sold 6
6/20 (Mon) Fussy Librarian ($16) ad, Tweets - sold 28
6/21 (Tues) Tweets - sold 8 (@4pm EDT)
6/22 (Wed) This Blog (which will result in a FB post) & Tweets - sold 11

Total ad cost: $91

Total sales: 113

Estimated Royalties earned: $69.

Net loss, $22.

Takeaways: Since previous week sales were exactly zero, I am attributing all sales to promotional activities. (1) Based on timing, Many Books and Fussy Librarian paid for themselves. (2) Bargain Booksy, the most expensive, was the least effective.

Questions yet unanswered: (1) Are sales on weekends normally worse than weekdays and that is why Bargain Booksy was so ineffective? (2) Although I am a father, mine is deceased so I had no recollection this was Father's Day weekend -- did that also negatively affect weekend sales? I Googled to find out how sales on weekends compared to weekdays for other authors and came up with as many answers as there were people providing opinions. As a result, I don’t know if I made an unlucky choice for the Bargain Booksy ad buy, or they were not as effective for me.

Bonus: My KENP (Kindle Equalized Number of Pages Read—the way Amazon determines payment under the Kindle Unlimited program) skyrocketed from 119 the previous week (less than half a book) to 1,265 during the promotion week. That is worth another approximately $6 (WHEE!) and is probably attributable to the promotional materials. Revised net loss $16.

Other: Best Amazon Bestseller ranking 6,375. Best sub-ranking: #14 Financial Crimes / #61 PIs / #72 Amateur Sleuths. No discernible effect in sales for other books in the series (which I wouldn't expect until people have a chance to read the one they bought).

Was it worth it?

I think so. The purpose was less to make money on this particular week’s sales than to introduce readers to the Seamus McCree series. For the same cost, I could mail only two paperback books to contest winners. With this promotion, I am 113 books ahead.

I’ll try it again in the autumn, but Bargain Booksy won’t be part of my ad buy.

~ Jim

* Figures updated to reflect final promotion results


  1. I am so glad you decided to name Ant Farm your first book! As you know, I'm a big Kindle fan. Putting the first book out at .99 cents is a great way to attract readers. When an author puts the second or third book at a lower price, I find it dismaying. Once I'm hooked on the first book, I usually buy the second one at full price (which I prefer to be price under $5. If the author bounds me with the second book, I'm sure to follow by reading the third.

    I just found the latest book in one series I follow priced for Kindle at $12.99. Wow, that's a bite!

    1. I don't pay $12.99 for an ebook that is part of a series. I'm not that impatient. I'll either wait for the price to come down, or put it on my "get at the library" list.

  2. Thank you! This is the best information I've seen about advertising indie books. It's specific and well-laid out, with no unnecessary details. Good writing, too, by the way. Very helpful indeed.

    1. Thanks for your kind comments, Sandy. I figure we're all in this together and sharing information helps us all -- especially since everything changes so quickly.

  3. Thank you for the analysis. I heard the BB ads were not doing as well elsewhere. And a good point about mailing.

    1. Vicki -- wish I'd heard what you had heard about BB's ads. One person I had talked with had about 100 downloads for her $0.99 mystery -- but then again maybe she had a better cover or blurb or ... you can tie yourself up in knots with this stuff. :)

  4. Thanks Jim, I have shared this post with my Imajin group...appreciate your thoughtful analysis as always.

  5. Thanks for sharing with us. It's great that your sense of humor is showing through. It's always good to learn from others what is working or not working.

    1. If you lose your sense of humor about this stuff you can go crazy (well, crazier, in my case).