Assessment, Part Two

I glanced back at the bullet list from my last post, and decided to limit this post to two promotional items. Comments from last time told me there is a lot of interest in the Amazon advertising. I'll talk about that, but first I'm talking about Macabre Macaroni.

Macabre Macaroni is my name for Halloween themed micro-fiction. I posted one per week during October. Mostly it was just fun, but I turned it into a mild promotion for my Experimental Notebook. The idea was, “If you like this sort of thing, why not spend 99¢ on Experimental Notebook, etc.”

I never know which story will pique everyone's interest. My personal favorite was called There's a Cat on my Grave. I watch the likes on a post, to keep score. Your favorite was called Selfie. This story was popular enough to join my top ten posts of all time.

To tell you the truth, I thought Selfie would be a middle of the pack story. Last year, I thought the same thing about Jack O' Lantern. It could be that readers like a bit more blood and death than I thought.

As far as the promotional value goes, there were clicks to Experimental Notebook from my page on the story days. There were sales on those days. Data isn't available to prove whether the stories produced those sales.

Which brings me to the entire assessment in general. There is no way to get tracking data from Amazon on these promotions. I've shared statistics on occasion with people who guest posted here. Sometimes they like to know how their visit performed. They don't have access to whether someone clicked on their link, but I do – so why not share? We still never know if the click led to a sale, but we do what we can.

I ran three different Amazon promotions during my big push. The results are confusing, but encouraging. I made a mistake at the beginning, but changed things up right away. Amazon offers two options, target products or target book genres. I decided to run one of each and compare.

I ran Will O' the Wisp out by targeting products. I chose nearly a hundred items with a Halloween vibe about them. If you shopped Amazon for the movie Hocus Pocus, you might have seen my ad.

I ran The Experimental Notebook of C. S. Boyack by targeting genres. I felt pretty good about the experiment and let them both loose.

Later on, I learned that targeting by product will never appear in a Kindle device. I made the assumption this probably included all the various apps too. Will O' the Wisp was my best shot at Halloween sales, and time was ticking. I ran a third campaign by pushing Wisp out toward various genres. I was assured that Wisp would appear on Kindle devices at least for this campaign.

I justified the extra expense by telling myself that using the same book to compare the different advertising options was a better comparison. Here are the results

When I targeted products using Will O' the Wisp the ad was shown to 90,516 shoppers. It was intriguing enough for 53 people to click upon it. These clicks cost me $4.18. It never sold a single book.

When I used Wisp to target genres, and appear on Kindle devices, the ad went out to 25,501 readers. 171 of them clicked on the ad, costing me $34.05. It never sold a single copy.

I'm going to break the flow to explain how these ads work. I've posted about them before, but I might find a new reader today, so bear with me. I have the option of setting my own time period, so I ran every campaign for one month. There is a fail safe in the system, so I set the campaigns to halt if I spent $100. Beyond that, I get to decide how much I'm willing to pay when someone clicks on the ad. I pay nothing to have it appear, but if they click I get charged. Amazon holds an instant auction among competing advertisers, and the high bidder is the only one who gets placed. I bid 20¢ per click.

Wisp cost me 8¢ per click when I pushed toward products, but 20¢ per click when pushed toward genres. There was some tough competition for Halloween books. Neither campaign produced a sale, but it's still data to consider. There is value in being seen, even if nobody buys. It's possible that someone saw my ad and came back later to download the book.

What about that campaign for Experimental Notebook? The other one that pushed to genres? It performed best of all. 31,979 shoppers saw my ad. 207 of them clicked the ad, costing me $38.48. Each click cost me 19¢. But out of those clicks, 15 of them actually downloaded the book.

Before anyone gets too excited, this is a 99¢ book. After I split with Amazon, I pocket a sweet 35¢. I lost money, but did I really? If you remember my last post, Notebook was designed to be a gateway drug into my other works. Take a 99¢ chance… Come back for the novels. I found 15 new readers I wouldn't have reached otherwise.

Why did Notebook sell, while Wisp did not? There were sales of Wisp for two months, but not because of Amazon advertising. It could be that Notebook's cover appeals to more people. Maybe my blurb was better on Notebook. Personally, I think price has a lot to do with it.

People might take a 99¢ chance on a new author, but not a $2.99 chance. Macabre Macaroni is free, if you enjoyed them… Notebook is 99¢ if you enjoyed it…

It appears the conversion rate is higher when targeting genres, and appearing on Kindle gadgets. It makes sense. Those shoppers are all readers in the first place. When targeting products, the shopper might not have read a book since 1974. Less people saw those ads, but they were more productive ads.

Still, a crap ton of people saw my ads in total. Maybe something lodged in their brains, and they will buy a book a month from now. Exposure has some value too.

I've spent more money on promotional stuff that produced less. There is a reasonable chance that I'll run an Amazon campaign again in the future. I'll probably target book genres and appear on Kindles. I may bid low and give it more time too. I haven't really pushed The Cock of the South lately. Maybe it's time. It keeps my name out there for a couple more months.

Assessing the promotions reminds me of the paleontologist who finds one fingernail and interprets the skeleton of a giant ground sloth. There isn't much evidence to go on, but we do what we can based upon that evidence. We can also share with our friends. This includes not only campaign data, but blog stats when we host someone.

What about you guys? I've shown you the fingernail, do you see something I'm missing? Let me hear from you. Next time I'll try to cover the rest of the things I did during September and October.


Filed under Writing

33 responses to “Assessment, Part Two

  1. Very interesting Craig. At least your able to see where the sales come from this way. I’ve spent money on promotions and had no idea if they worked, so knowing people at least saw your work and clicked on it is valuable info. Especially if you do it again, then you can target the advert with the info you have. I’m doing a short FB promo at the mo, I’ll report back 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Just bought them both. Can’t wait to read them!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Those sound like great stats for Notebook. I truly believe discoverability is key in this business. Even though Wisp might not have done as well as Notebook, it’s still another title with your name on it. And when someone who saw your ad runs into you in the future, your name might trigger them to buy. That’s my philosophy, anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is a building process. I have no idea how to duplicate Notebook’s Amazon results. I’ll probably try again at some point. It’s a bit of everything. One likes a Macabre Macaroni, another enjoyed a tour stop, a third saw the advertisement.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Loved your info. I’m trying to allocate the promo dollars and will look closer at the Amazon promos. i agree visibility is a long haul strategy.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for the info. Always nice to have a resource should I choose to go this route. So far I’ve just done Goodreads ads which I think are well worth it. Oh, and I did try a Google ad for a short time, but I don’t think that was worth it at all.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Interesting. I didn’t know about the Kindle app issue and my current promotion is going by product. Odd thing is that the previous one I did was product too and I got a few sales. This one is a giant goose egg like the one I did at first with genre. I might try another one in the future using genre, but I’m not so sure it will be the near future.

    You mention people taking a chance and that has me thinking if the ads work best for a ‘deal’. My bundle is the only that made sales and I pitched it as a deal. The others might not have been seen that way including the 99 center. So I’m wondering if the ads are better suited for when you’re doing a real promotion instead of just wanting to drum up sales for a book at normal price.

    Thanks for all the info. Very insightful and is making me think about my own tactics.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think you make a valid point. People like a deal. Mae Clair did some heavy promotion for a free book and gave away about ten times more than I ever did. Why pay to promote something free? It’s a gateway. People love deals. I may consider a bundle sometime. If I do, it’s a steal of a deal for a short time, then it’s getting unpublished. I’ll advertise it that way too. Urgency + deal = sales. If they enjoy it that equals future sales.


  7. Ali Isaac

    Interesting. Its great to hear your results, thanks for your honesty in sharing them. I guess time will tell if they have been successful or not, rather than the immediate results.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m not disappointed at all. The combo of things I tried sold nearly 3 books per day for two months. They came from the combo and not any specific thing. Macabre Macaroni drove some, the ads drove some. I wish there were one simple thing, because it would be easier.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ali Isaac

        It would be easier but then, as the saying goes, it wouldn’t be worth having. Three book sales per day for 2 months would make me a very happy author! I’m sorry if my comment suggested it was disappointing, because that’s not what I meant at all! I think you worked very hard to achieve your success, and you should be proud, and all those sales may well lead to sales of your other books, as well as raising your profile with reviews etc. I really appreciate you sharing this info.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, while we’re both online, I posted a review for you last night. 5 stars!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ali Isaac

        You did?! You are toooooo kind! Thank you!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. You really have me thinking I need to try the Kindle ads. I just got through a lot of promo with Myth and Magic, but I might try something again when the Mothman book releases. Thanks for sharing your stats. It’s very helpful to see what works and how. You definitely did a great job of getting your name out there!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. My personal opinion (nothing to back it up) is that the 99 cent price of notebook helped a lot, in combination with its nice length (long enough to represent a great value for the money, but not so long that a reader is afraid to get bogged down with something from an author they don’t know yet).

    I never shop on my kindle, I do all my browsing and purchases on PC. But, I have one of the original-style B&W kindles without a touchscreen.

    I wish Amazon would also give you some data on people putting the product into a wishlist. I rarely buy something the day I discover it. I load up my wishlist, and then go through it when I’m about to go on a trip or have a slow period at work. I don’t buy everything that goes into my wishlist, but if something goes in there, at least it has a chance.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This is so informative, Craig. My head is still spinning. I’m not stupid, but I don’t really understand how Amazon works at all, (other than shopping!). I’ve looked and searched on their site, and still can’t find half of what you’ve explained. Thank you for sharing! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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