Like many indie authors, I keep a running monthly spreadsheet of the sales results for my independently published titles. The royalty statements from the publisher of my first three books come out quarterly and are not particularly useful, but I can learn quite a bit from the detailed reports Amazon provides.
This year, after entering the sales for December of 2016 and totaling up the year, I turned an analytical eye to each month's individual figures. Guess what I discovered. I made zero sales and zero dollars last February. That's right--ZERO. Not shocking, but disheartening. I also noticed my sales for the first half of February of 2017 were lagging sadly. What is it about February? This year, I determined to do something to try to alter that trend.
As authors, even indie authors, there aren't many things we can do to boost sales in the short run. We can amp up our activity on social media, do a blog tour, or reduce the price of our books. I decided to put both my bodyguard books on an Amazon Countdown Deal for $.99 for the last week of February to see if I could stir up any interest. I also decided it was the perfect opportunity to run an experiment with advertising, pitting Facebook against Amazon to see if I could draw any conclusions about the effectiveness of each.
I chose to do a $20 boosted Facebook post advertising the sale for the first two days, targeting an audience of women over thirty who live in the U.S. and are interested in books. That post reached 1,024 people, garnered 43 likes--mostly from strangers--and one new "like" for my page.
The Amazon ad was a different animal. I had to choose between a Sponsored Product ad and a Product Display ad. Sponsored Product ads are the ones across the bottom of a product (individual book) page that says Sponsored Products Related to This Item. Product Display ads are larger and appear higher on the right side of the page. I chose a Sponsored Product ad because they allow you to customize a huge list of search keywords specific to your book. For example, I chose phrases like "humorous romantic mystery books" and "light mystery and suspense." You can also name other authors or books that you think are similar in some way to yours, whose readers you want to attract. I chose Janet Evanovich and "Stephanie Plum series" because those books are humorous and heavier on the suspense plots than the romance.
The Amazon ad was also my first experience with click-charge advertising. You select an amount you're willing to pay for each time someone clicks on your ad and is taken to your book's page. I chose $.25 per click because it was what showed up as a default in the selection box. Amazon has excellent metrics, although it takes 2-3 days for the information to appear. They give you a running total of how much you've spent and how many sales resulted from those clicks.
I chose to advertise both books. My results were as follows:
Boiling Point-- 1,453 impressions (# of customers exposed to the ad), 2 clicks, $0 sales
Unwritten Rules-- 1,319 impressions, 8 clicks, $0 sales
I'm not sure what conclusions to draw from this information. I might have needed to increase my bid per click, or my covers or blurbs are not attracting readers, or I need to refine my keywords. Since this is a very cheap experiment, I plan to make adjustments and try again.
The total sales for the week, along with my explanation of the results, were:
2/21 - 7 sales, FB ad
2/22 - 3 sales, FB ad
2/23 - 0 sales
2/24 - 1 sale, probably a friend or leftover from FB ad
2/25 - 11 sales, possibly due to Amazon directed email advertising "deals" for specific genres (I got one for $.99 romance books that day. They probably also sent them out to mystery and suspense readers.)
2/26 - 4 sales, probably leftover from whatever happened the day before
2/27 - 3 sales, possibly due to activity from 2/25. I also put a "last day" reminder post on FB but didn't boost it.
So what conclusion can I draw from this experiment? Financially, I just about broke even. Hopefully, I'll get a new review or two as a result. The Facebook boost did not pay for itself, and the Amazon ad produced nothing (possibly my fault), but Amazon may have done something for the book because I'm a KDP author and used their Countdown Deal. They're always an enigma, but sometimes they surprise you. The main takeaway, however, is that neither of these methods produced as many sales as buying a one-day ad on Just Kindle Books' website and email newsletter.
What experiences have you had with advertising? What would you recommend?