Monday, July 31, 2017

Book Review: Mastering Amazon Ads by Brian D. Meeks

Brian Meeks may be the Mark Dawson of Amazon AdsHis new book, Mastering Amazon Ads is an eye opener. 

I've been running Amazon Ads for several months now, and one thing I can tell you is: They work. 

Over time, Amazon Ads will show your books to millions of potential buyers. Some of them will click on your ads. Some will even buy your books. 

The frustrating thing is that it's nearly impossible to scale your ad campaigns so that you can sell more books. And, that's what this book is all about.

Let me warn you up front. The process isn't easy, and it involves math. (I don't know about you, but that scares the bejeezus out of me. I hate math. I go out of my way to avoid it.)

With that said, I think most readers will employ the basic advice Meeks gives to supercharge their ads. I also think most readers will ignore the tracking portion of the book.

That's a shame!

But, it's math. And, like I said earlier. That's some scary stuff! Did I tell you? I don't like math. I don't like to think about it. I don't like to do it.

Enough said.

Here's the gist of the book.

You need to run a boatload of ads, and you need to constantly monitor their progress.

Just when you think you are running all the ads you need, you need to post more.

Amazon Ads have a shelf life. Some ads last for a few hours or a few days. Other ads can run for weeks, or even months.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to determine when your ads are going to stop running, and have new ones ready to take their place.


Monday, July 24, 2017

Amazon Ads revisited. 5 Million impressions later

Bryan Cohen ran an amazing tutorial this week about how to scale up your Amazon Ads campaign.

If you have ever used Amazon Ads, you know how hard it is to get them to spend your budget. You can set a five hundred dollar budget, and they will spend fifty bucks.


It's an uphill battle. The more money you throw at them, the less they spend.

Don't believe me? Revise your budget to $250 or $500. Most times your impressions won't budge.

Bryan put an interesting spin on things.

First off, he shared his view that half the battle is waiting for Amazon to start spending your money. Too many authors give up after three to five weeks because their ads haven't taken off. 

Cohen thinks that's a big mistake.

He thinks authors should take the long view.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Can't get a BookBub Deal? Have you tried BookBub Ads?

One of the three BookBub Ads I ran for History Bytes.
BookBub has got to be one of the most frustrating book promotion sites to work with. Their turndown notices state they accept fewer than twenty percent of the deals that get submitted.

I'm zero for five. So that should mean my next submission is a sure thing. Right?

I'm not so sure about that.

I'm pretty sure they put my name on the auto turn down list. You know, they don't say no forever. Instead, they ask you to please not contact them for at least thirty days. But, I'm pretty sure they have a secret file of authors they will never accept.

And, my guess is, my name is at the top of that list. At least it sure feels that way.

Now, there's some good news for BookBub's forgotten few.

They've created a workaround where you can still promote your books on their website. The only catch is you are relegated to a display ad at the bottom of the page. One that never opens on my iPhone. (I hope BookBub is working on this.)

Anyway, BookBub began testing author ads in May of 2016. Right now, authors need to submit a request to join the program. I think it took four to six weeks for them to determine my money was the right color of green.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Buck Flogging on Book Marketing and Buck Books. How Badly Do You Want to Succeed?

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Buck Flogging. We took a deep a deep-dive into book marketing, Buck Books, and what it takes to be a successful author today. Hint: Some of the answers aren't what you think.

It's been awhile since I talked with Buck Flogging. During that time, you created Buck Books, a major promotional website for authors. Can you tell us a little about how it came about?

Rob Archangel (of and I [Matt Stone] had just started Archangel Ink, and we really wanted to have a marketing solution to help our authors get a guaranteed 100+ paid downloads at launch. I had seen Bryan Cohen put together a group 99-cent flash sale in March of 2014, where dozens of authors dropped the price of their books at the same time and then drove traffic to the same page. I took that concept and beefed it up a bit, and we launched our first event just two months later. We sent three books to the top 100 of the entire Kindle store and scooped up our first 1,750 subscribers. The rest is history.

What kind of books do best on Buck Books?

Nonfiction outperforms fiction by a long shot. Our best-performing categories are typically health and fitness and self-help. Most of our subscribers like books that have the potential to help them improve their lives in some way. This differs a lot from other book promotion sites, where the subscribers want to read stories and biographies of interesting people and stuff about politics and the like. 

Monday, July 3, 2017

What if everything I know about self-publishing is wrong?

Here’s the tough part.

What if everything I have written in this blog is a bunch of bullshit and none of it is going to do you any good?

Does it piss you off that I saved this until now?

I know it would get my goat. And, believe me, I’m feeling it right now. I discovered a book that could change the way I approach book marketing. Because, maybe, free isn't the best solution. And, perhaps ad-stacking 99 cent deals isn’t going to grow my readership the way I expect.

What would you say if I told you a free-giveaway messes with Amazon's algorithms? Yes, your book takes off at first, but after the initial burst in sales - it sputters out. 

What do you do then?

Chris Fox thinks he has the answer. You can read more about it in his Six-Figure Author: Using Data to Sell Books.

What it comes down to is that you don't need a massive launch. You need to get the right people to download your book when you first release it. 

Here's the deal. 

Amazon algorithms are data driven. They look for connections between your book and other books in your genre.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

How to use Amazon Ads to increase your book sales

I love Amazon ads.

I’ve been running them for a little over three months now. The one thing I can tell you is they work. More importantly, Amazon Ads work the way all book promo sites should—you pay for results.

To date, I’ve spent $394 on Amazon Ads. Amazon says those ads resulted in $1714 in sales.

Not bad!

If you figure I made a 70 percent profit on each sale. That’s a gross profit of $1200. Deduct the cost of the Amazon ads, and I made $806. Try to make that profit from a KDP free run or a Kindle Countdown Deal. 

You can’t.

One of the terms you’re going to hear when you talk about Amazon Ads is your ACOS—short for Amazon Cost of Sales. To find the ACOS, you divide your sales ($1714) by the ad cost ($394). That number is your ACOS.

So, in this case, my Amazon Cost of Sales was 23 percent. Or, to put it in simpler terms, for every quarter I spend, I make a dollar.

It’s like playing the slots. Only you’re a guaranteed winner. I like those odds.

In theory, if I want to be a 5-figure author, I would need to run $2,500 in ads every month. That would give me $10,500 in sales with a $7,619 gross profit.

It sounds good, doesn’t it?

The thing is, it’s hard to get Amazon to spend your money. I can tell it to spend $25 a day, and it spends $1.25.


Mark Dawson is an expert on Amazon ads, and he says the same thing. To get the spend thru he wants and needs, Mark, runs over 200 ads at a time. 200 ads are not going to happen.

I run ten ads, and to me, it’s a lot of work.

If you haven’t tried Amazon Ads yet, here’s how to get started.

Monday, June 26, 2017

I Have a Love Hate Relationship With Hemingway. Here's Why.

It's slow. It's clunky. The interface is horrible. I could go on. But, it works. It forces me to slash my run-on sentences until the yellow or purple go away. It challenges me to get rid of all the big words and adjectives. It took this book from a ninth-grade to a fourth-grade level. I know, that sounds bad, but the book is so much easier to read.

The dumbing down. Is it good?

I’ve wrestled with that one, over-and-over. Hemingway fought me on simple words like “require.” It highlighted it in purple. It said I should use “need” or “must.” It threw a fit when I typed “eliminate." It suggested simpler words like "cut," "drop," and "end." But, it didn’t flag “antecedent.” What the hell?

Two words I overuse are “just” and “really.” Hemingway highlights them in blue to let me know they are on the don't use list. Adverbs are bad. They recommend that you use fewer than one for every eighty words.


In case you're wondering. The original text for this chapter started out at the ninth-grade-level. After several runs through Hemingway, it's at the third-grade level.

Is that too low?

I'm not sure. It's a quick, easy read. Anyone can understand it and put the advice in it into action. That's what writing is all about, right?

Okay. Enough bitching and moaning.

You want to know how Hemingway works and if it’s the right tool for you.

Hemingway is a text editor.

You can import documents into it from Word, or you can copy and paste text into it. If you want, it has a “write” mode so that you can use it as your word processor. I wouldn’t recommend that. Except for the shortest documents, it would be a pain in the ass.

The right-hand column is the heart of Hemingway. The first box tells you how easy your text is to read. It does that by assigning a grade level. From what I’ve seen, lower is better. Hemingway likes it when you write at the third to sixth-grade level. More people can understand it.

Below this, it shows your word count. I can start out with one thousand words, By the time I make all my cuts, my document can be 800 words or less. It’s hard to make those highlights go away.

What highlights you ask?

Sunday, June 25, 2017

How I went from a hack to a semi-professional writer using Grammarly

I don't know about you. I don't have the time or money to hire an editor.

In the past, that's created some nasty situations. It's gotten me some bad reviews. 

"The information was interesting, but the author really needs a proofreader. His punctuation is really bad in places.” 


“Very interesting book, but the grammar was driving me crazy. So many commas and semicolons where they don't belong.”

Those reviews were a wake-up call.

In 20K A Day, Jonathan Green called them the "kiss of death." His thought is a one-star review that mentions typos and bad grammar is going to kill your book.

Those reviews almost made me give up writing. I mean, I had to think about what I wanted to do.

My books have always sold. I’m no Stephen King. I never will be. But, a lot of people like my books.       
Finally, I sucked it up. I admitted I had a problem. I bought Grammarly, ProWritingAid, and Hemingway. They changed the way I write.

They’ve got my back. These programs keep me from looking like a total hack.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Forget Promotions, I'm Going To Start Investing in the Infrastructure of My Books

Is anyone else out there tired of the book promotion rigmarole? Let me tell you; it frustrates the hell out of me. 

Last year I spent four or five thousand dollars on book promotions. I made some good money, but I'm not sure it increased my income. Most of the books that sold went for 99 cents, which means I made roughly 34 cents per copy. That means I would have had to sell 18,000 copies just to break even. 

Yowch! That's a shit ton of books.

Some of my books would get a nice bump for three to five weeks after the promotion ended. Then they would go back to sleep. It became a vicious cycle. If I didn't promote my books, they didn't sell. That's not entirely true. A few sales, or page reads, would trickle in over the course of the month, but nothing to write home to mom about.

This year I decided to shake that up a bit.

I started to invest in the infrastructure of my books. Rather than discount them, my plan is to make them better.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Free Book Promotion - 8 Promotional Websites that Will Get You More Downloads

Promoting your book used to be so easy. You'd book a date, set your price to free, and watch the downloads pour in. You could always count on 2500 to 5000 downloads for a three-day giveaway - without having spent a nickel on promotion. When the giveaway ended, you would see a nice bump in your paid sales - many times, several hundred paid sales would follow.

That was then. This is now.

Today, if you set your book to free and don't promote it, you're lucky to get 100 downloads.


The rules of the game have changed. Every time you think you have it figured out, someone goes and changes everything—again.

One of the biggest challenges author’s face today is figuring out which promotion sites are going to give you the biggest bang for your buck. It’s not a sure thing that you will break-even—think about that carefully before you decide to drop three or four hundred dollars promoting your new book.

Everyone wants to feature their book on BookBub, but BookBub is expensive, and they're choosy—really-choosy. To get featured on BookBub, you need a lot of high-quality reviews. You need to meet their rigid editorial standards and have an expensive, professional cover design.

Even some of the smaller book promo sites choose which books to promote based on the number of reviews your book has and its star rating. If your book isn't at least four star or better, you better keep looking, because a lot of sites won't feature it.

Too bad, they aren't as exacting when it comes to producing results. 

What happens when you spend $25 or $50 and only get fifty downloads or two sales? Shouldn't authors know which sites payoff, and which ones don’t?

Maybe I'm crazy, but when I plunk down my hard-earned cash for a book promo, I expect results.

To put it in sexual terms, I want a happy ending!

I just finished running a five-day KDP Free Promo for my book History Bytes. It got downloaded over 5,000 times, grabbed the number one spot in the history category for three days, and ranked 37 overall in the Kindle free store. Not my best promotion, but not bad.

I shook things up a bit this time.