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GOLD! [PROGRESS THREAD] ChickenHawk's Self-Published Fiction EBooks

.B.

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As a writer, your strength is writing, period. It's your superpower, your value skew, in the same way as music is for Ed Sheeran or acting for Anthony Hopkins. That's how they provide most value, not through teaching how to do that.

IMO the goal is to figure out how to make the most of writing, not shift to a non-writing job like teaching how to write or selling t-shirts or other merchandise.
Couple of ideas from someone who's not in the field:

Reading MTF's comment, it reminded me of a Sci-Fi collection/saga that my father was totally hooked on: Perry Rhodan.

-> Keyword is HOOKED of course
The marketing cost of acquisition of a reader matters less if down the line you have readers who are HOOKED and you can feed them new quality romans on a regular basis (e.g. 1 per month)

-> the Perry Rhodan saga started in 1961 and continues to grow even after that the main writer(s) retired:
in 2017 they published "Perry Rhodan n°2900": Amazon.fr : Perry Rhodan n°2900 : Livres

-> You say that sharing Royalties with another writer can be a mess.
It seems that the market has become so competitive and the cost of advertising soared so much that is is hard to make it very profitable.
In that case, maybe some quality writers who find it hard to survive may be happy to switch to a freelance type of contract and get known by contributing to a well known brand.

Those writers/freelancers still wouldn't have to go back to a 9-5 job.
They still could get their name on the book as (co-) author.
So their writing skills can be recognized. And they don't close the doors for future personal success.

But in the meantime, there is no hard feeling from sharing royalties:
They are paid once (+ maybe a comm) for the quality output they produced following a plot and certain guidelines. A straight forward contract

The idea of those who created Perry Rhodan in 1960:

1) Write adventures that revolve around one main hero whose character evolves over time.
2) Produce lots of great quality romans.
3) very fast, the 2 main writers could not keep up with the success and they had to HIRE a bunch of other writers to keep the speed of output in sync with demand

So the business can become:
- keep writing great books
- build a brand,
- selecting quality writers who want in on the adventure and who don't want to spend all their time on marketing
- (coach writers &) Quality review their writing and story plot
- that way the saga has new books published on a regular basis,
- outsource marketing

You can read why and how they structured their approach in the Kindle of ther Perry Rhodan n°1: Perry Rhodan n°01 - Opération Astrée eBook: Clark DARLTON, K. H. SCHEER, Jacqueline H. OSTERRATH: Amazon.fr: Gateway
26855
 

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Vaughn

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Good to see you're back @ChickenHawk

Have you ever considered to sell your ebooks on Gumroad? You won't find much organic traffic there. But if you manage to send people from your homepage, email lists, social media, etc. to Gumroad instead of Amazon, you can keep 90+ % of revenues for yourself instead of 70% on Amazon. Also, you can sell your books in additional formats and address readers who don't own a kindle. Another interesting feature allows you to sign up affiliates. They can promote your books and automatically earn a share of the revenues they generate. Not sure if that makes sense for fiction books, but might be worth a try.

Do you sell physical copies of your book on Amazon or only ebooks?
 

RazorCut

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My books are mostly related and/or in a series, but I plan to write more standalones in the future, mostly because that's what seems to be most popular at the moment.
@ChickenHawk you must know how many people follow you through a series and what the drop off rates are as they progress? I don't read many novels but I do read John Sandford. I just did a quick count and am astonished to find I have read over 40 of his books over the years. If you can consistently create raving fans that eat up all you produce then Google Ad's could be cost effective but it might take several months to turn a profit. If you plan to write more standalones then obviously you would push your ads towards your back catalogue as you have something to drip feed them as they finish each saga. Worth a try at any rate.

(It does make me wonder why Facebook ads work so much better than Google ads. Something to ponder.)
Why do you think Facebook ads work better? What does your gut feeling tell you? It does seem at odds as, with Google, you are pulling (if your targeting is on point they are actively searching for a product like yours) compared to Facebook where you are pushing (they have no interest at that moment in time in your product) so you are hijacking their train of thought. The difference between intentional and non-intentional behaviour. Fascinating.
 

SamRussell

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The highest price that makes sense on Amazon is $9.99. Above that, you're only getting 35% in royalties, so for something priced $30 you'd only get $10.5 (compared to $7 for a $9.99 book).

You can drive traffic to the first book in a series and calculate how many people buy the second, the third, etc., but first you need a series and @ChickenHawk is mostly focused on standalones. Also, to make $30, you'd need a very long series.
I wasn't clear. With the upsell idea, you have your own website and system to do the selling. So you pay a fixed fee for your software, and keep 100% after transaction fees (usually 1-2%). I wouldn't recommend using Amazon for this.

You could set it up with Cartflows free, woocommerce and a wordpress theme for $40. If you wanted a 'one click upsell', you could use cartflows premium.

As for the thing about it being a series, that doesn't matter.

You're not selling "Here are books 2-7 in the series you just bought", you're selling "hey, thanks for buying the book. If you want my other books, you can have them ALL for $40!".

How, and to who, you sell the "whole collection of everything I wrote package" doesn't matter too much. It could be an upsell to new fans who buy one book. Or, it could be be a stand-alone package you sell to current fans who have read a few books.

Either way, the key point is you are moving people from Amazon to your platform, and increasing the average transaction size.

If you are running paid ads... then why not point them to your own site, rather than Amazons?


If Chickenhawk has fans... then maybe "Collectors Editions" of existing books. Fancy cloth hardcover, with a graphical card display sleeve, maybe some illustrations in the books... takes a little while to set up, but you can sell for a very very high price.




I find this idea unsettling for some reason, perhaps because of my aversion for gurus or because it sounds like giving up. Would you tell a musician who used to be very popular a few years ago to become a singing teacher or to focus on planning how to make a comeback?

I have no doubt that @ChickenHawk has a lot to teach about writing, but it just doesn't sound right. It's like telling an entrepreneur that perhaps the gold is not in building a company, but teaching how to build companies.

If Stephen King were struggling to sell his books, would this mean that he's no longer a good writer and he has to switch to teaching others how to write or that perhaps it was time to reinvent himself?

I think that non-writers or "casual" writers look at the self-publishing business from a very different perspective than a writer dedicated to their craft.

As a writer, your strength is writing, period. It's your superpower, your value skew, in the same way as music is for Ed Sheeran or acting for Anthony Hopkins. That's how they provide most value, not through teaching how to do that.

IMO the goal is to figure out how to make the most of writing, not shift to a non-writing job like teaching how to write or selling t-shirts or other merchandise. Of course, this can be a supplement to your main business, but the idea of "authorpreneurship" is that you're an author, not a marketer building cheesy funnels or a business guru because this is a completely different business.

One could argue that it's a forum for entrepreneurs and you shouldn't attach yourself so much to a specific business model, but I just wanted to emphasize that many suggestions here mean completely changing @ChickenHawk's business model which is mostly akin to giving up, forgoing her skills and experience, and doing something else. It sounds like a giant waste of talent and her efforts until now (though maybe she doesn't agree, I'm curious to hear her opinion).
I can sympathise with this, being a musician, who has failed at launching their own music and teaches (but working on rectifying that).

I wouldn't call it a guru model, you are not promising anyone to make them a millionairre through writing.

With teaching, the target market is people who want to have a go at writing, and do something. They want to write some stories for fun, show their friends, that sort of thing, not make money or gain recognition for it.

The business model for teaching is crazy different in terms of monetisation, to selling a product.

Ebook for $4. LTV per client is what... $30 across 10 years? Not counting Amazon taking a royalty.

Holding your own online writing academy. People get little assignments and you help them amble along with their writing. They pay $50-$500/mo depending on the amount of attention they get. You're not claiming to be the worlds greatest writing teacher, you just help them out. LTV if they stay with you for 5 years is now $3000 to $37,500.

So the potential audience is smaller, but the LTV explodes compared to selling eBooks one at a time.

I'm not saying @ChickenHawk should move into being a teacher, just that, should she want to, it's an option. If she wants to be a great, great writer; then it's not a smart move (unless you start off with jacked up prices and only work with a handful of people to keep time control). If she's writing for money, then teaching could be an effective pivot. Write a bit teach a bit sort of thing.
 

SamRussell

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Why do you think Facebook ads work better? What does your gut feeling tell you? It does seem at odds as, with Google, you are pulling (if your targeting is on point they are actively searching for a product like yours) compared to Facebook where you are pushing (they have no interest at that moment in time in your product) so you are hijacking their train of thought. The difference between intentional and non-intentional behaviour. Fascinating.
My pet theory is that people are on Facebook to be entertained, and ads for entertainment, whether that is books, music or whatever, are effective.

People are on Google to find an answer to a question, and entertainment does not answer a question. When people are searching for something entertainment related on Google, they want a fact about the book/author, or to find something they read a while ago but forgot the title of, for example.
 

RazorCut

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People are on Google to find an answer to a question, and entertainment does not answer a question. When people are searching for something entertainment related on Google, they want a fact about the book/author, or to find something they read a while ago but forgot the title of, for example.
Thanks. That for me says the keyword targeting needs refining and they need to spend time on their negative keyword lists. If I am selling a book I don't want people looking for arbitrary information clicking on my ads. I want buyers not researchers.

Maybe its a case of placing ads on Authors names in the same genre to get discovered and not on your own name or book title and hope that Google organic feeds those queries?
 

SamRussell

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Thanks. That for me says the keyword targeting needs refining and they need to spend time on their negative keyword lists. If I am selling a book I don't want people looking for arbitrary information clicking on my ads. I want buyers not researchers.

Maybe its a case of placing ads on Authors names in the same genre to get discovered and not on your own name or book title and hope that Google organic feeds those queries?
It's worth testing, but I suspect that it goes like this:

Let's say I'm trying to sell a murder mystery novel.

I'm on Facebook, I'm killing time. I've previously liked an Agatha Christie fanpage, and I see an ad for a murder mystery. It's up my street, I'm killing time, so I go and sign up for the free download and read it. Now I'm in the funnel.

I'm on Google. I'm looking up when Agatha Christie was born, and I see an ad for a murder mystery book. Maybe I click it. I read a bit, but it's nothing to do with what I was searching for, so I leave the page and go back to Google results.

I've tried this style of thing with Google and Facebook ads before, and Facebook was infinitely easier to get conversions with my opt-in campaign.

Or think of it like this:
When was the last time you bought a new book or CD, by an author you did not know, as the result of a Google search?
 

MTF

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I wasn't clear. With the upsell idea, you have your own website and system to do the selling. So you pay a fixed fee for your software, and keep 100% after transaction fees (usually 1-2%). I wouldn't recommend using Amazon for this.
Unfortunately it's not that easy. Amazon doesn't just sell ebooks, they also sell the convenience of receiving them instantly to your Kindle device after one click. You can't offer the same smooth experience on your website because:
  • a customer needs to figure out how to buy the book on your sales page (vs clicking one button on Amazon where the process ends), even if you make your sales page super simple and clear it's still something new to your customer (while you can probably navigate to the Amazon buy button with your eyes closed),
  • enter payment details (plenty of time to abandon the cart, it's also super cumbersome if you don't have your credit card nearby),
  • receive and download the books (a lot can go wrong here and a lot does go wrong when there's a delay in delivery, email going to spam, etc.),
  • figure out how to send a book to their device (most people have no idea what to do with a book they haven't bought from Amazon - I know from my own experience that people struggle with it even with step-by-step instructions I provide, I even have people who don't know how to unpack an archive with the three formats of the book I offer),
  • be disappointed when the book doesn't behave as a book bought through Amazon (like synchronizing between devices, storing the notes and highlights on your Amazon account, etc.).
For non-fiction, that's slightly easier because people often buy PDFs alone and read them on their computers, but if you want to sell fiction, few people read it on a computer and many of them will not know how to send it to their Kindle device, leading to a frustrating buying experience. That's why you can't assume that 100% minus transaction fees is better than 70% from Amazon because the ease of buying there more than makes up for lower royalty rates. Of course, it's worth it to offer your book as a direct download, but particularly in fiction it will never be more than maybe a few percent of your sales.

Edit: forgot another big one: trust. Most people trust Amazon with their credit cards, but many will not enter their credit card details on a site they don't know, no matter how secure your billing system is.
 

SamRussell

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Unfortunately it's not that easy. Amazon doesn't just sell ebooks, they also sell the convenience of receiving them instantly to your Kindle device after one click. You can't offer the same smooth experience on your website because:
  • a customer needs to figure out how to buy the book on your sales page (vs clicking one button on Amazon where the process ends), even if you make your sales page super simple and clear it's still something new to your customer (while you can probably navigate to the Amazon buy button with your eyes closed),
  • enter payment details (plenty of time to abandon the cart, it's also super cumbersome if you don't have your credit card nearby),
  • receive and download the books (a lot can go wrong here and a lot does go wrong when there's a delay in delivery, email going to spam, etc.),
  • figure out how to send a book to their device (most people have no idea what to do with a book they haven't bought from Amazon - I know from my own experience that people struggle with it even with step-by-step instructions I provide, I even have people who don't know how to unpack an archive with the three formats of the book I offer),
  • be disappointed when the book doesn't behave as a book bought through Amazon (like synchronizing between devices, storing the notes and highlights on your Amazon account, etc.).
For non-fiction, that's slightly easier because people often buy PDFs alone and read them on their computers, but if you want to sell fiction, few people read it on a computer and many of them will not know how to send it to their Kindle device, leading to a frustrating buying experience. That's why you can't assume that 100% minus transaction fees is better than 70% from Amazon because the ease of buying there more than makes up for lower royalty rates. Of course, it's worth it to offer your book as a direct download, but particularly in fiction it will never be more than maybe a few percent of your sales.
That's a very good point, I hadn't considered that.
 
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Lex DeVille

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Unfortunately it's not that easy. Amazon doesn't just sell ebooks, they also sell the convenience of receiving them instantly to your Kindle device after one click. You can't offer the same smooth experience on your website because:
  • a customer needs to figure out how to buy the book on your sales page (vs clicking one button on Amazon where the process ends), even if you make your sales page super simple and clear it's still something new to your customer (while you can probably navigate to the Amazon buy button with your eyes closed),
  • enter payment details (plenty of time to abandon the cart, it's also super cumbersome if you don't have your credit card nearby),
  • receive and download the books (a lot can go wrong here and a lot does go wrong when there's a delay in delivery, email going to spam, etc.),
  • figure out how to send a book to their device (most people have no idea what to do with a book they haven't bought from Amazon - I know from my own experience that people struggle with it even with step-by-step instructions I provide, I even have people who don't know how to unpack an archive with the three formats of the book I offer),
  • be disappointed when the book doesn't behave as a book bought through Amazon (like synchronizing between devices, storing the notes and highlights on your Amazon account, etc.).
For non-fiction, that's slightly easier because people often buy PDFs alone and read them on their computers, but if you want to sell fiction, few people read it on a computer and many of them will not know how to send it to their Kindle device, leading to a frustrating buying experience. That's why you can't assume that 100% minus transaction fees is better than 70% from Amazon because the ease of buying there more than makes up for lower royalty rates. Of course, it's worth it to offer your book as a direct download, but particularly in fiction it will never be more than maybe a few percent of your sales.

Edit: forgot another big one: trust. Most people trust Amazon with their credit cards, but many will not enter their credit card details on a site they don't know, no matter how secure your billing system is.
This makes me wonder what would happen if fiction books were delivered by email. Each email could be a chapter. No download required. Each email ends on a cliffhanger leading into the next email which can be delivered daily (or faster if you use tags with clickable links).

So you would need a traffic source, such as ebooks on Amazon to draw people in (like I imagine they already do for an unpaid email list). A simple checkout. You already have their trust if they like your other book(s). Then charge a monthly or annual fee to be on the list that is higher than Amazon's book prices.

I bet a lot of people would read books as emails at work. Then it looks like you're doing your job when you're actually enjoying a slice of life!

:cool:
 

RazorCut

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I bet a lot of people would read books as emails at work. Then it looks like you're doing your job when you're actually enjoying a slice of life!
:happy: You deviant.

Personally I like a book to be a book as I have little spare time so dip in and out when I can so like to have instant access to pick up from where I left off. I can see others not being quite so bothered though.
 

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NicholasCato

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Wow! after reading through your progress thread and @held for ransoms progress thread, its a bit sad to say but I'm certain my self-publishing journey will not be fastlane.

First off your approach of constantly releasing titles as fast as possible and running ads is very interesting, and even though I'd like to say i'm capable of doing that, the artist in me just cant do it lol. At the moment I probably have about 3000 pages in me spanning two completely different stories and I want to take the time to make sure these stories match my "artistic vision".

This has been a great read thank you for sharing your journey!

I'm going to go out on a limb here.

I did a quick search of responses to threads and this thread is ranked third on the homepage. It was only behind "I read unscripted" and "I read TMFL".

Perhaps the gold is in teaching how to write, not the writing itself.

You have inspired thousands here. I think there are more out in that big ole' world.
Also I agree maybe you you could do a udemy course or something explaining your whole process from A-Z. theres tons of course on how to write, but not many on the business of being a writer.
 
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ChickenHawk

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Also, when you see people talking more about business than writing, that's a signed that the whole things has become extremely competitive and might even be close to a cycle burst. I've seen this in the video games industry already. Too many business folks talking at conferences, sign of things becoming unsustainable.
That's some great insight, and I could totally see this. Just based on activity on writing forums, it does seem that the conversation has shifted away from writing and more to marketing, etc. It's kind of funny to think that writers actually had it much better when there weren't many ways to advertise. Weird, huh?

Can you reuse the same pen name for a new niche? Al least some people would associate it with quality. But you know better, sounds like this doesn't really make sense for writers.
Alas, you're right. Unless I shifted into a similar genre, I couldn't use the same pen name unless I wanted to risk making a whole bunch of readers unhappy by not meeting their expectations. I could, however, let my regular readers know that I'm writing cozy mysteries (or whatever) under my new pen name and invite them to give the new book(s) a try. So there might at least be a little crossover, which could definitely help.

Breaking even on ads spend with a $4 book is hard... but if you put them into an upsell where they could pay $30 (or whatever) for your entire collection... would that work? If you have an audience already, can you expand your offering - maybe a t shirt with a catch phrase from a fan favourite character?
Thanks so much for the ideas! While I agree with @MTF 's excellent assessment about this, it's always nice to get ideas for brainstorming. I do know that a few romance authors sell swag, and I understand that some find this to be a nice supplement to their income. For me, though, it always comes down to focusing on where I make the most money, which is producing more books. If I ever find myself with more free time (*pause to laugh and point at myself in the mirror*), I could see doing this as a fun vanity thing, but at the moment, anything that takes away from writing time is probably a losing proposition in my case. Still, thanks for the ideas!

Perhaps the gold is in teaching how to write, not the writing itself. You have inspired thousands here. I think there are more out in that big ole' world.
Thanks for the encouragement and idea! When looking at my skill sets though, I still think my best asset is the actual writing. Another funny thing is, I'm not sure I'd really recommend writing as a path at the moment. If the market is so challenging for me and @MTF at the moment, I could only imagine how it would chew up and spit out those who aren't quite ready for prime time. Even if I were interested in teaching and/or promoting writing as a career, I'd feel like I'm selling tickets to the Titanic, at least right now, when Amazon has such a stranglehold on the market. It would be really nice to see that change, but I guess only time will tell.

To me the most viable funnel option for books leads to a "fan club" of some sort, especially in the fiction space. You've already got an audience. They already like your brand. If you present them with an opportunity to more closely identify with you, or gain more personalized attention from you (even if that isn't necessarily what joining the club entails) then they will happily buy.
Thanks so much for the ideas! It's a thought-provoking concept, but being a one-gal operation, I shudder at the time-investment, just because (here's where I'm a broken record, LOL!), I'm nearly positive that this time would be better spent writing more books. It really does stink in a way, because there are so many great ideas but implementing the more intriguing ones would surely further take away from my writing time, which is already so strained. It's such a frustrating catch 22. Still, I really do appreciate the brainstorming! Just because I can't see myself pursuing it now, it's good to have some ideas in the back pocket.

IMO the goal is to figure out how to make the most of writing, not shift to a non-writing job like teaching how to write or selling t-shirts or other merchandise. Of course, this can be a supplement to your main business, but the idea of "authorpreneurship" is that you're an author, not a marketer building cheesy funnels or a business guru because this is a completely different business.

One could argue that it's a forum for entrepreneurs and you shouldn't attach yourself so much to a specific business model, but I just wanted to emphasize that many suggestions here mean completely changing @ChickenHawk's business model which is mostly akin to giving up, forgoing her skills and experience, and doing something else. It sounds like a giant waste of talent and her efforts until now (though maybe she doesn't agree, I'm curious to hear her opinion).
I agree with this 100%, so THANKS for this! While I truly do appreciate all the ideas and suggestions, nearly all of them would greatly shift my focus away from my most profitable activity, which is the actual writing. A side note...There are some writers who are part of a husband-and-wife team, where the husband handles the marketing/promotional/finance stuff while the wife focuses on the actual writing. For a couple like this, these ideas might be pure gold. But for me, anything that takes significant time away from the writing itself is probably a losing proposition. I know some people will suggest that I implement these ideas but farm them out to a freelancer or whatever, but even that would cost more time/money/energy than I'd be willing to spare.

Still, all of these thoughts and ideas truly have been an incredible help, if only to make me recall what makes me the most money, which is getting out those words. Too often lately, I've been bogged down with other things. I've also been writing books that are longer than necessary, which means that I'm putting out fewer books than I could be, even with the same amount of words.

The nice thing is that I KNOW I can compete with the biggies. I already am as far as the writing and credentials are concerned. But if I plan to stay in my current genre, I'll need to be more brutal in my decisions -- shorter books, releasing faster, not obsessing over minor plot points, etc.

I can definitely do better. And seriously, a HUGE THANKS to everyone for all the input and ideas. It's more helpful than you know!
 
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ChickenHawk

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Reading MTF's comment, it reminded me of a Sci-Fi collection/saga that my father was totally hooked on: Perry Rhodan. ...The marketing cost of acquisition of a reader matters less if down the line you have readers who are HOOKED and you can feed them new quality romans on a regular basis (e.g. 1 per month)
This is a great concept and also really popular in genres like cozy mysteries, for example, where the same characters have different adventures from book to book. If I were just starting out today, this might be the path I'd pursue. Or, who knows, this might be a path I pursue if I give up on the romance market. I'm not sure I'd ever go the ghost-writer route, but for this concept, I might feel more comfortable farming out at least some of the writing. It's definitely something to keep in the back of my mind. Thanks for the insight!

Amazon doesn't just sell ebooks, they also sell the convenience of receiving them instantly to your Kindle device after one click. You can't offer the same smooth experience on your website... Most people trust Amazon with their credit cards, but many will not enter their credit card details on a site they don't know, no matter how secure your billing system is.
Man, this is so true. And in addition to your excellent points, here's something else that's a huge factor. If you play your cards right (AND get lucky, since alas, this is a factor), Amazon will sell your books for you. One primary goal of advertising isn't just to get that immediate sale, it's to get Amazon's algos to peg your book as a winner worth recommending. If/when this happens, Amazon will still do a nice chunk of the heavy lifting for you. Unfortunately, it's getting quite pricy to get that whole process rolling. In fact, it's gotten so pricy that if/when it doesn't pay off, you can actually lose money in the process. (Yikes.)

Speaking of luck, I had some bad luck with my latest book. There was some weird glitch on a whole bunch of books released at the same time as mine, where the "also boughts" didn't populate for like half a month. This KILLED my organic sales out of the gate and is part of the reason that my current marketing costs are so high relative to my sales. Amazon did none of the lifting for like a whole month, which meant that I had to eke out every sale myself. If I'd only released the book a week later, I'm sure it would've done a ton better out of the gate. But eh, you win some, and you lose some, right?

Good to see you're back @ChickenHawk. Have you ever considered to sell your ebooks on Gumroad?
Do you sell physical copies of your book on Amazon or only ebooks?
Thanks for the welcome back! Embarrassingly, I haven't heard of Gumroad, but thanks for the info! Although my Kindle Unlimited books are exclusive to Amazon, I do have some that are published wider, so it might be worth a look. Thanks for the info!

I DO sell physical copies of my books, which is a nice way to have some presence on Barnes & Noble, for example. But my ebooks outsell the physical books by such a huge margin that by now, the paperbacks are almost a vanity thing. It's crazy how much things have changed in just a few short years. Here's a funny example. My latest release has been out for less than two months. During that time frame, the ebook has grossed nearly $17,000, while the paperback has grossed $60. Funny, huh? In some ways, the paperback isn't even worth it from a financial perspective. But it DOES give the title a more "official" look. Plus, I do paperback giveaways for my advance reader team, so they're good to have anyway.

Wow! after reading through your progress thread and @held for ransoms progress thread, its a bit sad to say but I'm certain my self-publishing journey will not be Fastlane. First off your approach of constantly releasing titles as fast as possible and running ads is very interesting, and even though I'd like to say i'm capable of doing that, the artist in me just cant do it lol. At the moment I probably have about 3000 pages in me spanning two completely different stories and I want to take the time to make sure these stories match my "artistic vision". This has been a great read thank you for sharing your journey!
You're so welcome! About the Fastlane aspect, sadly, I don't think that writing is nearly as Fastlane as it was just a few years ago. And here's why: Amazon has a HUGE strangle-hold on the market. My guess is that they're losing money on Kindle Unlimited, but making up the difference by charging for visibility. As a result, the only way writers can gain an edge is by releasing book after book as quickly as possible.

But this might not always be the case in the future. Oddly enough, things are better now than they were a year ago, when the whole romance market was getting slammed by scammers. (Ugh.)

Still, when I started out just a few years ago, things were a lot different. Barnes & Noble was still giving Amazon a decent run for their money, and Apple seemed to be a much bigger player in the ebook market. But with Amazon cornering so much of the market, things have gotten a whole lot worse for writers. Even with audiobooks, things have taken a serious downturn (as @MTF can attest firsthand). Aside from changing their incentives, Amazon has also started offering unlimited listening packages, which have put a serious dent in the profitability of individual titles. In fact, I stopped producing audiobooks at all, at least for now.

All this to say, the market isn't great terrific right now because with Amazon's domination, the command of control is under some serious strain. But this could always change, especially if Amazon is broken up or if another competitor steps up their game. If only we had a crystal ball, huh?
 

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Just some questions and thoughts. Maybe they are of value.

I am curious, is it possible that your ROI% for advertising is higher than it actually seems to be?
Your backlist must be pretty big I assume?
Is it possible that there are more sales of your older books because of your advertising than it seems? I guess this is super hard to track accurately.

Could you increase your advertising budget without effecting your ROI%? Would it be possible to spend $3k per day and just increase the profits by sheer volume?

I heard that your organic sales increase by using Amazon Ads because it boosts the rankings of your book. Have you seen this to be true?

Did I understand it correctly that your books are standalones?
Could it be an option to create a book series with the goal of being able to spent a lot more money on advertising while seeing a better ROI%?
I would assume it is hard to bid against other publishers that are advertising a book series and because of the higher LTV they can bid higher while also seeing more profit on their advertising budget.
 

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I'm on Google. I'm looking up when Agatha Christie was born, and I see an ad for a murder mystery book.
I’d say that wasn’t good keyword targeting.

Would it be better to show an ad to people searching for “murder mystery books”?
 

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@ChickenHawk Thank you for updating this! I'm in the fiction genre (not romance) with a rapid release strategy and managed the grow the business by 30% in the last few months using FB ads for list building.

I'm not sure how big your backlist is, but I've seen authors use FB ads to get 20c -40c subs in the romance genre and the strategy is pretty straightforward if you have a permafree: put it on bookfunnel with an email capture, run FB ads there and let your autoresponder direct them to other books in your backlist over the course of the month.

I'd also advise on breaking those longer books into 2-3 shorter books and into a series. A higher series price with a good read through is going to allow you to spend more money on ads and compete.

Right now I'm assuming you're running direct sell ads to a standalone title at 99c or 3.99. One option is to box up some of your titles and run FB ads there as a 99c title where the high visibility and KU reads will make up for any cannibalization in sales. You can also experiment with price flipping it to 9.99 later where your KU reads would also spike but your sales rank might go down. If things don't work as intended, you can always unpublish it and be right where you are. This is probably the easiest win and worth a try.

I've also noticed that the publishing space has gotten much more competitive over the last few years. To succeed, you definitely need a constant stream of new content along with really good marketing.

There's a lot of marketing suggestions in this thread but they're not proven in the publishing space that's dominated by Amazon. I wouldn't recommend gumroad, google ads, and anything involving paperback for fiction. FB ads still work, Bookbub email blasts are always solid, BB PPC ads work for a 99c title but aren't scalable and AMS ads worked last year but the higher costs have made them unfeasible now.

Thanks for all the golden nuggets you've shared over the years. I hope this helps!
 
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Just some questions and thoughts. ... Is it possible that there are more sales of your older books because of your advertising than it seems? I guess this is super hard to track accurately.
Oh yeah. That's a great point! When I have a new release, it really boosts the sales of older books, which is a HUGE help for ROI. If I didn't have a backlist of previously published titles, things would be a ton more challenging. In fact, there are some days where I make more money off my backlist titles than off my new release, just because those older titles benefit from the increased visibility, but they're not saddled down with the huge advertising expenses.

Could you increase your advertising budget without effecting your ROI%? Would it be possible to spend $3k per day and just increase the profits by sheer volume?
Oh man, if only we could! That's a great idea, and it SHOULD work. But for whatever reason, Facebook ads in particular are notoriously bad when it comes to scaling. For example, I might spend $400/day and average 19 cents per click. But then, if I boost my ad spending to $600/day, the cost-per-click goes through the roof. It might even double. It's really frustrating, especially because the plan should work. BookBub ads, though, are supposedly better for scaling. I haven't fully tested that theory yet, but it's something I'll be looking at more closely during my next release.

Did I understand it correctly that your books are standalones?
Could it be an option to create a book series with the goal of being able to spent a lot more money on advertising while seeing a better ROI%?
Oh yeah. That's definitely an option. But alas, in romance right now, standalones are the big thing. It was a ton easier a few years ago when series were huuuuuge. You could, for example, write three books starring the same couple, which meant that you could advertise book#1 and make really nice margins on books #2 and #3 because only minimal advertising was needed for those later books. Probably readers got burned out on cliffhangers and just wanted more stories that stood on their own. Right now I split the difference, writing standalone novels, but having them connect in some way, where I get at least a LITTLE momentum from book to book. (As an example, I might write two standalones, but each one stars a sibling from the same family so I get crossover sales.)

If I switch genres, I'll DEFINITELY pick one where series are more popular because you're absolutely right. That's a great way to boost profits.

Thanks so much for the insight! That's all really good food for thought!
 
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@ChickenHawk Thank you for updating this! I'm in the fiction genre (not romance) with a rapid release strategy and managed the grow the business by 30% in the last few months using FB ads for list building...
Thanks so much for all the great insight! That's a huge help! I've been doing some of what you've outlined, but definitely have room for improvement. Even if I don't break up previous books, I can definitely write shorter books in the future, which will be really helpful in shortening my release cycle.

At the moment, by the time I put out a new release, my most-recent release has already sunk in the charts. Even if I cut a month off the time between releases, that would go a long way in improving the situation and getting more Amazon algo-love. Thanks again for all the great info!
 
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Hey, just to illustrate how new releases can boost sales of previous titles, here's a graph of my Amazon income over the last 90 days, excluding sales/income from my new release. During this timeframe, I did nearly no advertising for those older titles, which means that the income boost is almost all organic to having a "hot new release."

In summary, a new book is a great way to advertise older books. Best of all, it's free. (Sort of.) There are some days, I swear a new release is simply a "loss leader" to sell older books. Crazy, huh? But from the graph, you can see how releasing books more quickly could really help me build momentum. I could be wrong, but I think this dynamic is more pronounced in the fiction market because readers tend to binge-read when they find a book/author they like.

26950
 

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What if you turned one of your books (one that doesn't perform well) into a permafree title and advertised it regularly to always keep it high in the free rankings? Assuming that many people binge-read in fiction, it should help promote the rest of your catalog (and promoting free books is easier and cheaper).

I have 3 permafrees in non-fiction but it doesn't work that well because people usually don't binge-read non-fiction in the same way as they do in fiction.
 
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What if you turned one of your books (one that doesn't perform well) into a permafree title and advertised it regularly to always keep it high in the free rankings? Assuming that many people binge-read in fiction, it should help promote the rest of your catalog (and promoting free books is easier and cheaper).

I have 3 permafrees in non-fiction but it doesn't work that well because people usually don't binge-read non-fiction in the same way as they do in fiction.
That's definitely a compelling idea! I've been debating that with one of my books. It's Book#1 in what was a best-selling trilogy. As a start, I could even drop the price to 99 cents or run more limited-time sales to boost interest. I'm not sure how true this is, but I've heard rumblings that free books don't seem to generate the sell-through that they used to, just because readers have so many free books that they're overloaded. In contrast, supposedly fiction readers are much more likely to read (and follow through) on a book they actually paid for, even if it was only 99 cents. (Not sure how true this is, but that's what I've been seeing more and more.) Either way, this might make for an interesting experiment, so thanks for the idea!
 

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, Facebook ads in particular are notoriously bad when it comes to scaling. For example, I might spend $400/day and average 19 cents per click. But then, if I boost my ad spending to $600/day, the cost-per-click goes through the roof. It might even double. It's really frustrating, especially because the plan should work.
Yes FB is well known for fragility when scaling. The consensus is to increase you budget gradually (by no more than 20% every couple of days). The other way is scale sideways by duplicating your ads. Worth a try if you haven't already experimented with it.
 

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In contrast, supposedly fiction readers are much more likely to read (and follow through) on a book they actually paid for, even if it was only 99 cents.
On a second thought, that makes more sense. Even if fewer people buy it than download for free, at least you're getting people who are willing to pay vs people who might only be interested in free stuff without ever paying for anything (I have that issue with my list, a lot of people signed up after reading one of the freebies and I have a feeling they're on my list only to get more free stuff).
 

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On a second thought, that makes more sense. Even if fewer people buy it than download for free, at least you're getting people who are willing to pay vs people who might only be interested in free stuff without ever paying for anything (I have that issue with my list, a lot of people signed up after reading one of the freebies and I have a feeling they're on my list only to get more free stuff).
That's why I (currently?) only have a paid email list. I've enough free stuff scattered across the interwebs.
 

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On a second thought, that makes more sense. Even if fewer people buy it than download for free, at least you're getting people who are willing to pay vs people who might only be interested in free stuff without ever paying for anything (I have that issue with my list, a lot of people signed up after reading one of the freebies and I have a feeling they're on my list only to get more free stuff).
I got b*tched out the other day by someone who put their self on my list for a freebie. They used capital letters to scream fowl language at me for "spamming" them with a promotional email. I reminded him how he got on my list, pointed him toward the unsubscribe button at the bottom of every email and called him a douchbag (because I'm evil). He didn't have to worry about using the unsubscribe button tho. I banned him for life. Soon I'll be removing all of my free content upgrades on YouTube.
 

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They used capital letters to scream fowl language at me for "spamming" them with a promotional email. I reminded him how he got on my list, pointed him toward the unsubscribe button at the bottom of every email and called him a douchbag (because I'm evil).
Just goes to show you can never please everyone, even in a tight niche. Well done on the ban Mr Evil. Those following along would be right behind you as well, I'm sure. :thumbsup:

In fact I had a heated argument in a full shop of customers one evening over a video tape rental (anyone remember those?) that had been damaged part way through. Said customer insisted that we should watch EVERY movie returned ALL the way through to ensure it works perfectly before it was rented out to the next customer. I apologised for the inconvenience but told her she was off her rocker as it would require 20 odd staff working a full 8 hour shift, 7 days a week to accomplish that.

She then went off on a tirade of four letter abuse and I banned her and her boyfriend for life. When they left the shop instead of getting filthy looks from a crammed shop of people I got a round of applause. People will get behind you when some bell-end goes off on one.
 

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I think what we're seeing is a consolidation, where the market has shifted away from writers to marketers.
Bro-marketers ruin everything. Thanks for sharing your war stories here with us.

And just think, I'm looking forward to writing fiction, sounds like I should not be so optimistic.
 

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Pouring your heart and soul into a book and all of the intricate details of characters and plot development, only to give it away in order to sell more books for .99 cents - 3.99 just sounds like a shakedown in the worst way. This is clearly below even minimum wage with all of the hours put into creating and selling a book. Books should be selling for more without all of this lowest price point nonsense that Amazon encourages.
 

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