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

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@ChickenHawk, I'd consider translating your bestselling novel and/or entire series into Spanish, French, German, and Italian. There's a lot of money to be made on these less competitive markets and it won't cost you much time.

I thought the same thoughts!

@ Chickenhawk, why didn’t you let it translate already?
 

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ChickenHawk

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@ChickenHawk, I'd consider translating your bestselling novel and/or entire series into Spanish, French, German, and Italian. There's a lot of money to be made on these less competitive markets and it won't cost you much time.

Thanks so much for the suggestion! After I saw your recent post about your translation successes, I thought, "Hmmm...Boy, I need to look into that." And then I recalled that I looked into it a few years ago, so I dug out my notes and remembered why I never pursued it.

According to the thread I was following, good translations cost about $0.15 per word. My books average about 90,000 words, which means that a single translation for a single book would cost $13,500.

My all-time bestselling book(s) is a two-part series with a cliffhanger in the middle. Together, they are around 160,000 words. At $0.15 per word, that's about $24,000 for a single language.

I'd love your insight on this. Do you think the rate of $0.15 per word is about right? And if so, what do you think my odds are of making up the initial investment in a reasonable amount of time?

I'm recalling that your books are shorter than mine, so I'm thinking that your translation costs are a bit lower than mine would be. Given the length of my books, do you still think it's something I should pursue?

I'm definitely intrigued! I just don't know if my books are too long to make it a good investment. Thanks for any thoughts or insight!
 

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I'd love your insight on this. Do you think the rate of $0.15 per word is about right? And if so, what do you think my odds are of making up the initial investment in a reasonable amount of time?

It sounds expensive, but fiction might be different than non-fiction (though non-fiction can be often more difficult to translate so I'm not sure if that's the case).

Depending on the language, I paid between $0.04-$0.06 per word (and that includes editing done by a second freelancer) to translate one of my best performing books.

My books are much shorter so of course it was cheaper and the risk was lower. But I made up to 90x the investment on the best performing translation and on average, including every single penny invested in every translation (translation, editing, cover costs, audiobook production), my return is still 4.7x (that includes 49% of translations that haven't yet made a profit).

But of course, there are no guarantees here and there's one important caveat: most of my revenue from translations was from the old ACX bounties (though these days my income from translations is still stable and some still make up to $1000 a month).

In your case, assuming you can translate for $0.10 per word (including editing), it will cost you 16k for both books. If they're selling well in English, it's very likely they'll sell well in other languages, too.

Since you're spending 10k a month on Facebook Ads it doesn't really sound like that huge of an investment for something that can generate better returns and for years to come, assuming your sales are mostly Kindle (if it's an audiobook, then you'll have additional huge costs to record the translation).

I don't have data so I can only guess that it's possible to recoup your investment within a year or so (assuming these two books generate at least $2000-3000 a month in English and expecting $1000-1500 a month in Spanish), but like I said, there are no guarantees and I can't say with absolute conviction that it will be worth it to you.
 

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It sounds expensive, but fiction might be different than non-fiction ... I don't have data so I can only guess that it's possible to recoup your investment within a year or so (assuming these two books generate at least $2000-3000 a month in English and expecting $1000-1500 a month in Spanish), but like I said, there are no guarantees and I can't say with absolute conviction that it will be worth it to you.

That's all great information. Thanks so much for that!

Fiction has been pretty weird for the last few years. When I spend $10,000 a month on Facebook ads, it's generally only for a new release -- partly because that's when it actually pays off. My best-selling series (the two-book one I mentioned) made just over $100 last month (alas, not $2,000 or $3,000). On one hand, any amount of passive income is nice. But on the other hand, it goes to show just how short the shelf-life has become for fiction books, even monster bestsellers. I'm sure that figure would've been higher if my newest release hadn't crashed and burned.

What fuels my sales these days are new releases. If I don't have a hot new release, man, it's hard to keep those numbers up. Just thinking out loud, I'm wondering if books might have a longer shelf-life in foreign markets, because they're not being shoved down the ranks by a constant firehose of new titles. It's certainly food for thought.

Due to changes in ACX/Audible/Amazon, I've mostly stopped producing audiobooks, too -- just because it's gotten increasingly hard to recoup the initial investment. As you've mentioned in your thread, the bounty system was recently changed NOT for the better. Plus, Amazon/Audible has introduced this program "Audible Escape," where they offer unlimited listening to romance novels for a low monthly fee. If your books are enrolled, you make a pittance when someone listens. If your books aren't enrolled, you're competing with all of those free listens.

It does seem as if we're being squeezed on all fronts.

But the foreign market IS intriguing. Thanks again for all the great info!
 

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Thanks for asking! I haven't released a book in seven months, because I'm implementing plans to release books more closely together. As a result, my income is waaaaaay down. For example, my daily income is currently averaging around $20/day. (Yikes!) No surprise there, given that success in my genre is highly dependent on new releases.

I knew this would likely happen, but I took this approach anyway to implement the rapid-release strategy. If it works, it should be worth the temporarily suckage in revenue. Regardless, it will be interesting to see how the strategy plays out.

Happily, I have two new books coming out within the next couple of months. The first one is a whopping 103K words. The second one, I'm still writing, but will probably end up around 80K words. I've still got 40K words to go. *Beats self with stick.* Must write faster!

I'll make sure to post another update as these books roll out. Stay tuned...
 

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Thanks for asking! I haven't released a book in seven months, because I'm implementing plans to release books more closely together. As a result, my income is waaaaaay down. For example, my daily income is currently averaging around $20/day. (Yikes!) No surprise there, given that success in my genre is highly dependent on new releases.

I knew this would likely happen, but I took this approach anyway to implement the rapid-release strategy. If it works, it should be worth the temporarily suckage in revenue. Regardless, it will be interesting to see how the strategy plays out.

Happily, I have two new books coming out within the next couple of months. The first one is a whopping 103K words. The second one, I'm still writing, but will probably end up around 80K words. I've still got 40K words to go. *Beats self with stick.* Must write faster!

I'll make sure to post another update as these books roll out. Stay tuned...

This is extremely discouraging as a very creative person writing their first fiction short story to be published on Kindle. I have written before but this is the first time I plan to make money from it.

Well, I guess this is why it might be better to have more than one stream of income in case one source isn't bringing as much as you would like. Not good to put all your eggs in one basket.
 

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This is extremely discouraging as a very creative person writing their first fiction short story to be published on Kindle. I have written before but this is the first time I plan to make money from it.

Well, I guess this is why it might be better to have more than one stream of income in case one source isn't bringing as much as you would like. Not good to put all your eggs in one basket.

The market has definitely gotten tougher, that's for sure! But even in the gold rush days, it would've been tough to make any significant amount of money from a single short story. When you say short, how short do you mean? And were you looking to publish multiple books?

Alas, these days, it's a real challenge to make money off a single book of any length. Still, if nothing else, a short story can help you build a readership and get good feedback.

Also, to be fair, one of the reasons my earnings dropped so low was because I drastically reduced advertising, mostly because I wanted to save my "ammo" for when I had a new release. I get more bang for my advertising buck when there's more cross-promotion potential, which is another reason it's so tough out there with a single book.
 

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The market has definitely gotten tougher, that's for sure! But even in the gold rush days, it would've been tough to make any significant amount of money from a single short story. When you say short, how short do you mean? And were you looking to publish multiple books?

Right now, I'm working on a short erotica. I'm gonna say I'm shooting for about 5-10K. (Words AND profit! Haha jk). I'd be happy with 7K that's a nice mid range length. I'm still new to the publishing space, but I've been writing stories since I was like 8. 20 years later...yes I am hoping to publish multiple books. But I'm no hack- I am obsessed with making my stories a quality read. I took a creative writing class in college at 23, my feedback was extremely good from my classmates (often being told my project was the "best" in class.
 

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Right now, I'm working on a short erotica. I'm gonna say I'm shooting for about 5-10K. ... I'm no hack- I am obsessed with making my stories a quality read...
The good news is that from what I hear, erotica is one of the few genres where you can make money with short stories. The bad news is that apparently, it's an even quicker churn-and-burn than full-length romance. This means that success largely depends on publishing quickly -- lots of books with very little time between releases.

I'm also sorry to say that quality (beyond a certain point) might not be a huge factor in the success. These days, I think quantity is the biggest driver of sales. It's kind of a bummer, actually, but there ya go.

Disclaimer: You can't put out poorly edited, poorly structured garbage. I'm just saying, editing/tweaking/polishing beyond a certain point might not be worth all the effort, when the time might be better used to write another book.
 

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The good news is that from what I hear, erotica is one of the few genres where you can make money with short stories. The bad news is that apparently, it's an even quicker churn-and-burn than full-length romance. This means that success largely depends on publishing quickly -- lots of books with very little time between releases.

I'm also sorry to say that quality (beyond a certain point) might not be a huge factor in the success. These days, I think quantity is the biggest driver of sales. It's kind of a bummer, actually, but there ya go.

Disclaimer: You can't put out poorly edited, poorly structured garbage. I'm just saying, editing/tweaking/polishing beyond a certain point might not be worth all the effort, when the time might be better used to write another book.

Well that's no good. I guess I will finish my current book and then try to get more made quicker. Are you in the genre yourself? Erotica isn't the only genre I want to do though. I also have ideas for fantasy, childrens/young adult, non-fiction information, fitness, romance, etc.
 

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ChickenHawk

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Well that's no good. I guess I will finish my current book and then try to get more made quicker. Are you in the genre yourself? Erotica isn't the only genre I want to do though. I also have ideas for fantasy, childrens/young adult, non-fiction information, fitness, romance, etc.

Nope. I'm in romance, but I do have at least a couple of fairly spicy scenes per book. I like your idea of finishing your current book. Publishing that first one will tell you a lot. :)
 

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Just popping in for a quick update...
As I mentioned above, I'm experimenting with a rapid-release strategy, where you release several books within a condensed timeframe. (For example, if you're planning to release three books a year, you don't release a book every four months, but rather stockpile them to release them closer together.)

So far, the results are promising, but man it's a lot to juggle. And I'm spending money like a firehose on advertising, sometimes $700/day, because I'm pushing two new books, not one. That's probably pocket change to many Fastlaners here, but it's still a lot of loot to me.

One nice thing, though, is that I'm getting a much better bang for my advertising buck, because often a reader will purchase book #1 and move onto book #2 with no advertising needed. Plus, the Amazon algos seem friendlier with two new releases, not just one.

You can see the bump in sales here.
Progress-2020-WithNewReleasesToo.jpg

Also, here's an interesting dynamic unrelated to the rapid-release strategy... When I have a book(s) hit, I usually see a nice bump in earlier titles. This chart (below) illustrates what this looks like: This chart does NOT include the new releases, but rather shows how older titles will start selling again thanks to exposure generated by a new release. In fact, there are days where I lose money on my new release (especially in the Amazon USA Store), but make it up by sales of other titles.
SceenCapture2020ThroughAug15.jpg

I have another new release coming out in only six weeks or so. (Yikes!) I say "yikes" because it's only one-quarter written. That's part of the reason I've been scarce here. I try not to do anything else until my words are done, and sometimes they're not done until very late.

Some takeaways:
Now that I've tried rapid-release, I think I'll stick with it, at least for now. It does seem to boost profitability and generate a better bang for the advertising buck.

In my genre at least, a backlist is a huge benefit, but you really do need to keep those new releases coming or sales of prior books dry up.

I'll keep you all posted as I move onto book #3 in this series. *Crossing fingers!*
 

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Thank you for the update. That's very interesting.

Now that I've tried rapid-release, I think I'll stick with it, at least for now. It does seem to boost profitability and generate a better bang for the advertising buck.

It makes sense that you're essentially getting two sales for the adverting cost of one.

The only concern for me, based on my results, is that once you stop spending so much money on advertising your sales will be back to their baseline level and all that ad spend now will not generate a positive ROI even over the next few months...

Hopefully it will in your case, but just something to consider from a fellow disgruntled author.
 

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It makes sense that you're essentially getting two sales for the adverting cost of one.
Exactly! And I've noticed a big bump in profitability as a result. Plus, I spent much of December/January analyzing why some of my books sold so well while others didn't do so great. As part of this, I also read a few more books on plotting (my weakest point) and found areas of improvement. I'm hoping this will lead to more consistent results, but only time will tell.

The only concern for me, based on my results, is that once you stop spending so much money on advertising your sales will be back to their baseline level and all that ad spend now will not generate a positive ROI even over the next few months...
Oh yeah. They'll eventually drop down. But one nice thing is that if I have a book(s) hit, lots of readers go on to read my previous books (without advertising needed). Since I have like 20 books on my backlist, this can take a while for sales to drop down so low. But your point is still valid. This has become very much a pay-for-play thing. In August alone, I've spent nearly $19,000 on advertising (ranging from $428/day to $775/day), and I won't see the royalties until nearly November. This whole game has gotten very pricey.

I can't help but wonder if more people will drop out of the game, just because it's so easy to lose money these days, and the amount of time and money needed for advertising keeps going up. It will be interesting to see what the future brings for all of us.
 

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Thank you so much for this!

I have a question on a release I'm holding off on... I have a fiction trilogy coming out. Books 1 and 2 are ready.
The major storylines are wrapped up by the end of the book 2.

I haven't written the 3rd book yet.
I'm thinking of waiting until all 3 books are ready and then doing a rapid release every two weeks or similar.

I'm a bit confused by the various promotion strategies out there - there are so many!
Would love your thoughts on what worked best for you in terms of your trilogies.

Thanks!
 

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I have a question on a release I'm holding off on... I have a fiction trilogy coming out. Books 1 and 2 are ready. The major storylines are wrapped up by the end of the book 2.

I haven't written the 3rd book yet. I'm thinking of waiting until all 3 books are ready and then doing a rapid release every two weeks or similar.

Since I'm a newb at rapid release, I can only share some random thoughts, but here they are for what it's worth. :)

About releasing every two weeks, I wonder if that's a little short of a timeframe to maximize your bang for your buck. It's true you'd get a nice bounce after releasing book two, but you'd also fall off the charts that much quicker. For my recent rapid-release trilogy, I released books #1 and #2 about five weeks apart, which meant that book #2 came out just as book #1 started to slide. Releasing the second book gave the first book a nice boost just in time. Also, if you're planning to advertise heavily, you'll be advertising multiple books in a very short timeframe. That can get pricey, especially considering that you won't receive royalties until 60-90 days later. In my case, I'm releasing book #3 ten weeks after book #2. That's not really rapid, and it would be better if it were sooner. But in a way, I'm glad it's delayed, because by the time book #3 comes out, I will have received some decent royalties from the first two books, which will be a HUGE help in paying for ads.

About waiting until all three books are ready, that sounds like a smart plan (one I didn't follow myself, LOL!). An exception might be if you hope to use any feedback from books #1 and #2 to fine-tune your story, or if you're uncertain as to how the first two books will perform. For example, if book #3 is optional, you might want to see how book#1 is doing before investing so heavily in book#3, as opposed to starting another series or standalone, etc. It's always so hard to say for sure. And alas, I haven't yet hit the book#3 part of my own rapid-rapid release endeavor, so I don't have much firsthand experience yet. In two or three months, I'll know a lot more, or at least I sure hope so!

But those are just ramblings for a rapid-release newb. For an advice from a real pro, here's a terrific book, Release Strategies by Craig Martelle. It's the book I read to decide on my plan, and it was a huge help. (You might have already read it, but I figured I'd mention it just in case.) It discusses the pros and cons of various release schedules, and I think it would be a huge help as you consider which plan you're looking to pursue.

I hope you'll keep us posted! And good luck on whatever approach you take. :)
 

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Since I'm a newb at rapid release, I can only share some random thoughts, but here they are for what it's worth. :)

About releasing every two weeks, I wonder if that's a little short of a timeframe to maximize your bang for your buck. It's true you'd get a nice bounce after releasing book two, but you'd also fall off the charts that much quicker. For my recent rapid-release trilogy, I released books #1 and #2 about five weeks apart, which meant that book #2 came out just as book #1 started to slide. Releasing the second book gave the first book a nice boost just in time. Also, if you're planning to advertise heavily, you'll be advertising multiple books in a very short timeframe. That can get pricey, especially considering that you won't receive royalties until 60-90 days later. In my case, I'm releasing book #3 ten weeks after book #2. That's not really rapid, and it would be better if it were sooner. But in a way, I'm glad it's delayed, because by the time book #3 comes out, I will have received some decent royalties from the first two books, which will be a HUGE help in paying for ads.

About waiting until all three books are ready, that sounds like a smart plan (one I didn't follow myself, LOL!). An exception might be if you hope to use any feedback from books #1 and #2 to fine-tune your story, or if you're uncertain as to how the first two books will perform. For example, if book #3 is optional, you might want to see how book#1 is doing before investing so heavily in book#3, as opposed to starting another series or standalone, etc. It's always so hard to say for sure. And alas, I haven't yet hit the book#3 part of my own rapid-rapid release endeavor, so I don't have much firsthand experience yet. In two or three months, I'll know a lot more, or at least I sure hope so!

But those are just ramblings for a rapid-release newb. For an advice from a real pro, here's a terrific book, Release Strategies by Craig Martelle. It's the book I read to decide on my plan, and it was a huge help. (You might have already read it, but I figured I'd mention it just in case.) It discusses the pros and cons of various release schedules, and I think it would be a huge help as you consider which plan you're looking to pursue.

I hope you'll keep us posted! And good luck on whatever approach you take. :)
Thanks so much, I really appreciate this. I think I will space out the releases too!

I'll check out that book by Craig Martelle as well. :)
 

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because often a reader will purchase book #1 and move onto book #2 with no advertising needed.
So in terms of a marketing jargon its an upsell :)

Do you put a cliffhanger at the end of each book?
If you structure the book or last chapter in a way that they would have to find out what is a plot conclusion in the next book, they would naturally buy the next one without being advertised to.

Congrats on those books and earnings!
 

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Do you put a cliffhanger at the end of each book? If you structure the book or last chapter in a way that they would have to find out what is a plot conclusion in the next book, they would naturally buy the next one without being advertised to.
Congrats on those books and earnings!
Thanks so much for the congrats!!!

Regarding cliffhangers, this used to be a terrific way to promote interest in the next book, and it worked really well with romance series that featured the same couple across multiple books (like Twilight, which featured Bella and Edward across four books). But alas, those fell out of fashion, and standalones are more popular now.

I'm still writing with a series structure, but these days, it's more like a series starring three brothers (or sisters, or friends, etc.), where each brother/sister/friend gets their own happily-ever-after in their own book. But to generate interest in future books, I'll introduce the other brothers/sisters/friends as I go, which isn't quite a cliffhanger, but serves a similar purpose.

But man, I do miss those cliffhanger days! They were a lot easier to advertise, too, because you'd spend the bulk of your advertising on promoting book one, and if book one took off, sales of book two or three were SO much easier to get. I'd LOVE to see them come back in fashion.
 

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I'm still writing with a series structure, but these days, it's more like a series starring three brothers (or sisters, or friends, etc.), where each brother/sister/friend gets their own happily-ever-after in their own book. But to generate interest in future books, I'll introduce the other brothers/sisters/friends as I go, which isn't quite a cliffhanger, but serves a similar purpose.
So you have a twist on the method.

As for cliffhangers, that was one of reasons that i didn't watched all those Breaking Bad's, Prison Break's and what not.

Counter-intuitively , i can remember tv series that had stand alone format you mentioned and i was doing my best to watch every episode.

P.S. I hope comparing books and tv doesn't bug you. I was slow reader till recently so i have very little titles on my bookshelves.
 

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P.S. I hope comparing books and tv doesn't bug you. I was slow reader till recently so i have very little titles on my bookshelves.
Nope, not at all! I was making the same comparison to my husband so we're definitely on the same wavelength. :)
 

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I have another new release coming out in only six weeks or so. (Yikes!) I say "yikes" because it's only one-quarter written. That's part of the reason I've been scarce here. I try not to do anything else until my words are done, and sometimes they're not done until very late.

How are things going? Did you release this book?
 

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Thanks so much for asking! Yup, I managed to get the book written, but it just about did me in. (Only half kidding.) But alas, the third book in the series underperformed for various reasons, as follows:

1. LESS-THAN-RAPID RELEASE. The release of Book#3 in the series wasn't "rapid" enough to fully capitalize on the momentum generated by books #1 and #2. To recap, here's what my release schedule looked like:
- Book #1.
- Book #2. Released five weeks after Book #1.
- Book #3. Released almost twelve weeks after Book #2.
Twelve weeks was way too long. By the time Book #3 came out, books #1 and #2 were already kind of tapped out, which meant that I needed to do a lot more advertising on Book#3 to make it pop. Unfortunately, the popping was seriously hindered by some pretty frustrating advertising challenges. (Onto points 2 and 3...)

2. TECHNICAL ADVERTISING ISSUES. Did you ever have a book that seemed cursed on the advertising front? Well, my Book#3 definitely was. I had a weird Facebook technical issue that hosed my ads for the first two or three weeks of the release and caused other sorts of mayhem. Just bad luck, but still, it really hurt sales out of the gate, and then for several weeks afterward. (Command of control strikes again.)

3. BAD TIMING WITH ADVERTISING. Last year, I vowed that I'd never release a non-holiday book during the Thanksgiving/Christmas season because advertising is way too pricey. But like an idiot, I never took into account that the presidential election would cause nearly as much grief. Ad prices in late October/early November were stupidly high, and on top of that, Facebook was extra-glitchy due to election-related scrutiny. Nothing seemed to work right, and I got caught up in some weird glitches that made everything that much more difficult and pricey. I won't make this mistake again.

SUMMARY/OBSERVATIONS:
About Book#3, its underperformance was a real bummer, too, because the book is/was well received by those who actually read it. It's still making money, and I'm glad to have it in my army of income-generators, but I'm also very aware that if I'd only released it a month or two earlier, I would've had massively better results. In fact, I believe I would've doubled or tripled my income on this book if only I'd released it five weeks after Book #2.

On the upside, the first two books performed fairly well. Book#2 in particular seemed to make money without a lot of effort, which sort of surprised me because I considered it to be the weakest in the series. I think it really benefited from the rapid-release.

Looking forward to next year, I'm planning another rapid-release trilogy for the spring/summer, and then a Christmas novella trilogy during the holiday season. If there's one thing 2020 taught me was that the rapid-release strategy can really improve profits. I just need to do better with it, that's all.

Side note: This year, I'd planned to do a Christmas novella trilogy, but ended up cancelling it because I simply ran out of time. Happily, I hadn't announced it to my readers, so no one was disappointed except for myself. :)
 

MJ DeMarco

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ChickenHawk

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May I ask how many words each episode is?
Sure! Here are the approximate word counts:
- Book #1: 103K
- Book #2: 84K
- Book #3: 93K

These are longish for my genre. I was especially concerned about the 103K word count for Book#1, but it turned out to be a real blessing, because lots of readers read the whole thing. As a result, the book made a decent amount of money in Kindle Unlimited.
 

ChickenHawk

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Can you push additional advertising to book 1? This way it gets them into the funnel for book 2 and 3, and repromote to book 1 purchasers?
Yup, for sure! This is a good strategy, and happily, I'm still advertising Book #1, but not quite as much as I'd like for four reasons, all related to timing:

1. Right now, advertising is really expensive due to the holiday season. If I seriously ramp up marketing now, I'll be overspending compared to what it will cost after Christmas.

2. I'm getting audiobooks made of the series, and would be smart to ramp up advertising when the audiobooks come out. Due to Covid, the approval process is taking a lot longer than usual. The audiobooks for Books #2 and #3 won't be out until after the first of the year. Once the audiobooks are out, I should be able to get more bang for my advertising buck by the strategy you recommend (a smart one, BTW).

3. My readers are nearly all female, and a lot of them are tied up with holiday shopping, etc. compared to how busy they'll be after the holidays. If I wait a bit, I might be able to snag more readers with my ads.

4. Right now, Amazon is running a 99-cent feature on Book #1. Although the extra exposure is wonderful, it makes it really hard to run profitable ads on this book, especially at 50-cents a click for AMS ads. Basically, the more I advertise, the more money I lose. It's crazy how pricey advertising has gotten. But once my audiobook is out, I'll stand a better chance of turning a profit from the ads.

It's funny in a way. I know I've mentioned this before, but it was a lot easier to make money BEFORE there were places to advertise. Now, I swear Facebook (and Amazon/AMS) makes more money off my books than I do. Crazy!!!
 

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