So what is Writing as a Business about, other than making a profit? The truth is, not much. After all, any business that doesn’t make a profit is pretty much doomed to failure. You can’t lose money forever, just like you wouldn’t keep going to work if your boss demanded that you pay him every day when you got there.
I’ll talk more specifically about profit elsewhere, but I recently finished a great course by Brian Cohen and another by Dave Chesson of Kindleprenuer and creator of the great Publisher Rocket program I use to help me with my targeting of Amazon ads. Both have shown me some things I didn’t know before, but they do prove that you can make a profit with Amazon ads. There are several keys though.
The number one mistake that authors make is poor targeting. They’re trying to abide by Amazon KDP rules rather than the AMS rules which are entirely different. While your KDP keywords can’t have things like other authors, book names, or things like “Bestselling” and other terms, these are actually encouraged in Amazon ads, which if you recall, were made for other products first, not books.
Second, authors (including me before I learned better) don’t target enough keywords, Even Amazon says that for a campaign to be successful, you need around two-hundred keywords or more. There are all kinds of steps you can take to find these keywords, or you can invest in a program like Publisher Rocket that helps you find awesome keywords for Amazon and Google if you have non-fiction or relevant books you want to market there.
It can also help you find relevant authors you may not have thought of to help you run BookBub ads. While that is an entirely different post, it does illustrate the power of certain tools like Publisher Rocket.
You must compile these terms and add them to your Amazon ads. I won’t go into detail here, but if you take Dave Chesson’s free course through Kindleprenuer, you will learn more about finding and organizing keywords.
For some of my books, I have nearly 1,000 keywords or more, and those have been broken down into categories and specific targeted campaigns. It works. But it is work to get things set up. Most books I now have at least six campaigns running with various niches and keywords.
Bidding and Amazon Ads
Amazon offers bidding recommendations when you are setting up ads. These are usually too high in popular categories for indie authors to set and make a profit. So what is the key?
First, even if you bid low, you can still get some ad placements. So if you bid starting at .25 for standalone books and .30 for series books, (those are cost per click, or CPC ads) the key is to bid in every category, but also to find keywords and categories in the hundreds you add for your books where that bid will win clicks.
Second, you can analyze your Amazon campaigns and see details of keywords where you are not only getting impressions or placement, but you are also getting clicks. Then you can increase your bid in those areas and move toward making a profit.
The good part of CPC ads is that you don’t get charged if people aren’t seeing your ad and clicking on it. So there is nothing wrong with leaving your lower performing categories running as long as you are not getting a bunch of clicks but no sales, in which case you are losing money, and should edit those ads or turn them off.
Unless you are running a standard ad that just shows your book, which is not always a bad thing, you will have ad copy. That ad copy is vital, but authors are notoriously bad at writing it. It is like a synopsis with fewer words. However, that ad copy can make a huge difference.
The key is research. Be sure that the ad copy you run has the keywords in it that your target audience is searching for. For example, for our Capital City Murders series, one of the target searches might be “murder mysteries.” First, I have a whole list of keywords, ASINs, authors, and book titles related to murder mysteries that are the keywords for that ad. But I also make sure the words “murder mystery” are in the ad copy. You’re using the same words your audience uses, a sure way to get more clicks and purchases.
Book Cover, Book Blurb, etc.
Ever try to search for a genuine charger for your iPhone on Amazon and come up with a bunch of junk chargers? Did you buy them? Probably not, especially if reviews were less than stellar. Why? Because the product wasn’t good.
Your book product needs to be good. A brief experiment I am doing, still ongoing, tells me that a book with more reviews gets more impressions. That translates to more clicks and sales, even if both similar books are targeting similar keywords and have similar ad copy.
Your book cover matters. It’s your first impression on a reader. The book blurb is second, at least the first part of your blurb. The third is reviews, and number and quality count. Finally, the last conversion part is the “look inside.”
All of these things must meet high-quality standards. If your ad is not performing well, revise your book blurb, and even get help if you need it from a service like Brian Cohen’s Best Page Forward. Get opinions on your cover and change it if you need to. Look at the first part of your book, and make sure it is top-notch with no typos or mistakes.
Monitor, Measure, and Adapt
Amazon ads, no ads really, are a set in and forget it deal. You must monitor what your ads are doing, and measure your profit and ROI. There are a variety of ways to do this, and Amazon gives you a lot of tools. Sales reporting is slow, but there is a new KDP Reports beta you can find on your KDP dashboard that is better than the standard one. This helps measure sales more accurately, and KDP Unlimited Page Reads if you have books in Kindle Unlimited.
Look at important stats on your regular marketing dashboard like impressions, clicks, cost per click, and conversion rates. Use whatever you are spending for clicks vs. your sales of a particular book to help determine if that book is profitable or not.
If it isn’t, make changes. If those changes don’t work, you may need to look at the book itself again, and determine whether it can be profitable at all.
Remember, to run Amazon ads, you must control the books you are working with on your KDP dashboard. If you have books that are with another publisher, usually you will not have the same advertising options you do with your own work.
If you are a publisher, you can control the ads you run for your author’s work. You must decide how much you are willing to invest in sales, and how much you expect the author to invest.
Since you are splitting royalties, that also affects how much you need to make to really be profitable. Remember, this number is the royalty you earn from your sales minus the cost of ads.
Writing as a business is all about making a profit. Otherwise, we should do something else. Amazon ads can be a part of that profit, but you must treat them the same way you would any other product or business.
Want to learn more? Check out my book Writing as a Business: Production, Distribution, and Marketing, and look for my upcoming podcast.