One fantastic way to generate (eventually) passive income online is through ebook sales. The most popular platform for this is Amazon’s Kindle, which allows self-published authors to easily upload and distribute their writings to potentially hundreds of millions of customers around the world. The main obstacle? Actually, getting the word out about what you have written, and getting people to plop down the cash and download your book. This can be extremely difficult if you don’t have a built in audience who can get you those initial sales, reviews, etc. to push your Kindle book to the top of the category rankings. So, as an alternative or complement, you will need to have a marketing campaign to drive sales and one specific way to do this is creating a campaign through Amazon Marketing Services. In this post, I want to share my experiences thus far with AMS, my campaign strategy, and if I think it is a platform worth using for other self-published Kindle authors.
Self-Publishing on Kindle
So, over a year ago, I published my first ever ebook and uploaded it to Kindle. It is a short book in the dating niche, geared towards men in the 18-30 age range. I never expected to make a ton of money off of it, certainly not a living wage, as I set the sale price at $2.99. Essentially, I’d be making roughly $2.06 per each copy sold. Not exactly a blockbuster wealth creator, but selling even one copy per day would generate $751.90 a year in pre-tax income, which is equivalent to having a $25,000 dividend stock portfolio yielding 3%. Sure, it’s not going to make me rich but it is a few less dollars I’d need to worry about making.
Now, this is to be the first of multiple books that I was to publish. As such, I wanted to use this one as a sort of flyer, to test out marketing and the best way to go about selling lots of Kindle books. For the first few months, I did some marketing on forums related to the topic, by answering specific questions or problems guys were having for free and then offering further advice through the purchase of my book. This direct strategy worked in getting the ball rolling on my book sales, but it wasn’t ever huge.
I would sell 10-20 copies per month using this strategy, which cost me more time to implement, and obviously didn’t yield big returns. It did however, drive sales for months on end and get me my first three reviews. BUT, the one thing that I had failed to accomplish is to create an organic stream of purchases on the Amazon platform itself. My book failed to appear on other Amazon sales pages in the ‘Customers who bought this item also bought…’ section, which is how book sales can begin to really grow organically and spur demand well into the future.
After a few months of this, I let my direct marketing strategy lay fallow, and sales began to slip to 1-2 copies sold per month! I basically gave up on this book and publishing other Kindle titles in the near term to focus on other projects which would garner me a better return. It wasn’t until I started researching alternative advertising options for a client of mine that I even knew that Amazon had its own ads service, it hadn’t even crossed my mind.
Creating an Ad Campaign with Amazon Marketing Service
It finally clicked in my head that I should try advertising my book using AMS and see if I could push my book into the realm of being a consistent seller. Now, I knew right off of the bat that turning a profit off an ad campaign by selling a $2.99 book, probably wasn’t going to happen. The conversion rate would have to be really high in order to keep up with the cost per click. Yes, going into it I knew that I was going to lose money on advertising (at least initially).
My real goal with the advertising was to drive sales in order to get even more reviews and hopefully get my book on other Kindle books ‘Customers also bought’ section in order to finally reach escape velocity. I want a stream of royalty income that I don’t really have to do much in order to maintain and builds on itself with time and sort of snowballs in the same way dividend income would. Losing some money in the short-term was an investment in the long-term profitability of the book, which can be bringing in the cash years and years down the road.
The strategy for this first month of campaigning was not to push sales in any way possible. I wanted to isolate this book’s sales solely through Amazon Marketing Services. That way, I could see the type of results I should expect without me influencing the sales through more direct methods of promotion (which I will get to starting up here soon).
My advertising strategy was to have a specific and appealing ad targeted at who I knew my audience would be (18-30 year old men). This meant that I’d have to search out that audience and not waste time promoting on pages geared towards women or business folks or history buffs. I had to break things down and find out exactly what books guys were buying within the dating/romance/sex/personal development niche and run my ads only on those Amazon product pages.
In order to launch a campaign, you have to start with at least $100, which is what I put in to start. I spent a few hours looking up other books that were related to mine and decided to run my ad on about 25 other product pages (which I later expanded to 35). I opted to spread out the spending over a 30 day period rather than trying to go through the $100 as quickly as Amazon could spend it. A steady trickle seemed like the best option.
My Advertising Campaign Results Thus Far
What shocked me for the first 5 days or so of the campaign, was that, my conversion rate was staying in the 18-20% range the entire time! This meant that I was almost breaking even and it seemed that running the campaign would only cost me about $4-5 for the month after profits, which would have been awesome, all things considered.
I then upped my campaign amount to $200, figuring that I could probably capture more sales. What actually happened is the during the following six days, I sold zero copies. Not one stinkin’ sale for almost a week. Amazon actually couldn’t even spend my whole $200 budget allowance because there simply wasn’t enough traffic in these category of books, even if there is a huge market of potentially interested buyers…just not as many on Amazon as I would’ve thought. I spent just over $100. It appears that going to directly to my potential customer base is going to have to be apart of any strategy to push sales.
28 days in…
20 copies sold
8.13% conversion rate
Is It Worth It for Kindle Authors to Use Marketing Services?
It honestly depends on your specific book. In my case, I do still think that it is worth it as a part of an overall strategy of selling Kindle books, and can definitely help sell more in the future. 8.13% is a damn good conversion rate, in my experience, especially when these people aren’t specifically looking for my book. This is a total blind buy for them. I did have that long period of six days with no sales but it has been pretty consistent otherwise, so perhaps, a 12-15% conversion rate would be doable in an average month with more positive customer reviews and whatnot.
The real question is the long-term effects and whether or not I can get my book featured on other product pages to generate more random sales on a daily basis. All and all, I’ve put about $60 into when figuring my book sales and getting 2x points from American Express by charging my ad campaign to my card.
If I had a more expensive book in the $5-7 range I’m sure I’d at least break even each month. Alas, I kept it cheap for a reason. I am going to do at least one more month advertising and seeing if I can help get this over the hump. Again, this single book isn’t going to make me rich but I am determined to make it a piece of the puzzle.