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Today I’m talking with Brian D Meeks about Mastering Amazon Ads.
We have a really interesting chat about some of the biggest things people get wrong with Amazon ads as well as how to integrate ads into a wider marketing plan – plus, how running a Facebook group can be a mixed blessing when it comes to book sales and energy management.
I'm away on a walking trip so there's no extended introduction this week – expect a mega-show next week 🙂
Today’s show is sponsored by all the listeners who support the show through Patreon. Thank you SO much for your ongoing support. It means so much to me that you enjoy the show enough to contribute! If you’d like to become a Patreon supporter, you can support the show for as little as $2 per month and receive the extra Q&A show monthly. Click here to find out more.
Brian D. Meeks writes detective novels, thrillers, and science-fiction under his own name and that of one of his characters, Arthur Byrne. He has co-written several books in the Prosperous Writer's series with Honoree Corder and his latest nonfiction book is Mastering Amazon Ads: An Author's Guide.
You can listen above or on iTunes or Stitcher or watch the video here, read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and full transcript below.
- Blogging as a way to find your author voice
- The most common mistakes authors make with Amazon Ads
- Tips for successful Amazon Ads
- The surprising number of ads Brian runs
- Are Facebook groups effective for marketing a book?
You can find Brian Meeks at ExtremelyAverage.com.
Transcript of Interview with Brian Meeks
Joanna: Hi everyone. I'm Joanna Penn from TheCreativePenn.com. And today, I'm here with Brian D. Meeks. Hi, Brian?
Brian: Hello. How are you today?
Joanna: I'm great. Great to have you on the show. Just a little introduction.
Brian writes detective novels, thrillers, and science fiction under his own name, and also that of one of his characters, Arthur Byrne. He has co-written several books in a prosperous writer series with Honoree Corder. He's also been on the show.
His latest nonfiction book is Mastering Amazon Ads, An Author's Guide, which I know everybody wants to hear about.
Brian, tell us a bit more about how you got into being a full-time author and what you did before and how that shapes your focus now.
Brian: Well, my story is I think a little different than most in that on January 2nd, 2010, I hated writing. I thought writing was something you only did when you were being punished by your eighth grade English teacher. She was a terrible woman.
And so January 2nd, 2010 rolls around there was a football game that I wanted to watch. It didn't kick off till later in the day. And so I was just surfing around the web. I came across blogger.com. And the day before, I'd had some foibles in learning woodworking. It was a new hobby of mine, I was teaching myself. And so it had been kind of funny, and I came across Blogger, and as I wrote a little post about all the things that went wrong the day before.
And when that was done, I hit submit and I moved on and came across a woodworking forum where I would spend an hour reading about these amazing projects, these talented men and women that love woodworking. I joined the forum and as soon as I did, there was a button that said blog.
Well, I had already blogged, so I copied and pasted it put it in there and left to go watch my football game. The next day, I came back because I wanted to read more about other people's woodworking, and 300 people had read my post, and 25 people had left comments that were, ‘Oh, this is hilarious, please write more. Funniest thing I've seen in five years.'
It's amazing how external validation can change your mindset on something. I went from really disliking writing to, well, I'll write another post. And I actually wrote a blog post every day from January 2nd, 2010 through March 26, 2016.
My first seven novels were written as blog posts. And so that's how I got into writing.
Now prior to writing, and this is probably the reason that well I know it's the reason I was able to take it to the point where I could do it full-time, I was a data analyst an auto insurance company where I learned about looking at numbers, and asking the right questions so that I could then improve the bottom line for auto insurance products.
And knowing that skill set really helped and it's way more fun to try to improve the bottom line for having your own project, your own products. And so, my background is in data analytics, and it has served me well, and has allowed me to now I'm coming up on two years full-time as an author.
Joanna: That's awesome. I really love that story because many fiction authors have this ambivalence about blogging these days, which I kind of hate because I don't think I ever could have written fiction without blogging because as you say, it helps you speak outside of your comfort zone.
You probably wrote manuals, and reports, and things at your insurance company. But writing, like entertaining people is something that you've learned through blogging.
So if people are right now struggling with writing as you did, do you still recommend blogging a way to kind of release your voice?
Brian: Well, 100%. Absolutely. And I mean the only reason I stopped doing it is that I was now a full-time author, and so, if I'm going to sit down to write, I want to continue working on my projects.
But the blogging, and doing it for six years every single day because I didn't miss a day of that time, is incredibly useful. And then, you start to get a few regular readers. And by writing the first seven novels, four of them were the mystery series, I wrote a thriller, a young adult and my first satire, Underwood, Scotch, and Wry, all on the blog posts.
I didn't worry about the words. I mean, I would write it once, probably not even read it post it. My readers would like it or say, ‘That was dumb.' If I made a mistake, they would point it out in the comments and I'd fix it.
The point was I just wanted to get the writing down and by doing it every single day, I got better. And if one were to read my first book in the mystery series versus the writing that I'm doing now, I've absolutely improved.
My 13th novel is up for preorder, and I've written, like you mentioned, three books with Honoree Corder. My Mastering Amazon Ads, and it's a skill that really comes with practice.
If somebody isn't quite sure what sort of books they want to write, then blog the every day just polishes your skills. So I agree with you. I think people who are considering blogging if they've not done it before, they will become better writers if they do.
Joanna: There are so many lessons from that. You did it for six years. We're going to get into talking about ads in a minute. But I think the point is, you, as you said, you've been writing a long time so it's practice.
You've been writing every day, so you have discipline. You've improved over time so you have a good product. All these things are the fundamentals.
Do you think all of these things have to be in place before people go anywhere near ads? Are these the things that have led to your success?
Brian: Yes. And I do think that back in 2010, 2011 and 2012, there weren't many resources for somebody that wanted to get into the author game.
Now there are podcasts like this, there's lots of books out on the subject of being an indie author, and so it is much easier for somebody who wants to dip their toes into this to get the information they need.
When you and I started, we had to figure it out on our own, and there was a small tiny group of people doing this, and we shared with one another. Now it's a large community.
And so, maybe in 2012, 2013 every blog post, every forum that talked about being an indie author all started with the same thing. You need quality editing, you need a first rate cover. 100% you have to do that. You don't even see that anymore because it's understood. But you do.
We've gotten to the point now where everybody has said it so much that we all understand we need that high quality.
Obviously, you need to be able to tell a story. You need to understand what echoing is in paragraphs where, you know, don't start the paragraph with the same thing. He did this and then the next paragraph, he did this, and so forth because it's just bad writing.
But once you get to that point, the Amazon ads if you've got a book, and you've got a handful of reviews, and it looks like people like your book, and nobody has told you your cover is horrible, then Amazon ads really can change your life.
My best year prior to Amazon ads was 10,000, the year before that was 5,000. The first year with Amazon ads was 33,000, then 107,000. Entirely driven by Amazon ads.
So to answer your question, I think people do still need and will always need high-quality product, but the ads allow them to sell their product at full price which is another thing, mindset.
If you've never tried Amazon ads and you're coming into this for the first time, and you've done 99 cent ads, and you've done free giveaways, your mindset may be that people will only pick up your book at those price points. The people shopping on Amazon, there are avid readers reading four or five novels a week. They're not as price-sensitive as you might think.
Trying to do Amazon ads on a 99 cent book, very little margin. But if it's for 99 now you've got 10 times the margin and a better chance of success.
I went off track a little bit on your question, but yes, I mean people should have the basic fundamentals, the things that you talk about in your podcast down before they start investing money in Amazon ads.
Joanna: Fantastic. Now, I've got a number of extra questions to come back to you on that.
Brian: Fire away.
Joanna: The book obviously gives lots of help. But I wanted us to start with kind of the negative side.
We've already mentioned covers and editing. If people say what indies get wrong often it's a terrible cover, and they haven't edited the book.
What are the things that people get wrong with Amazon ads that you see time after time?
Brian: The most common, most pervasive error people make, is that when they're starting out, they will run maybe one sponsor product keyword ad, which is where you're picking a bunch of keywords, and one product display interest ad.
The keyword ads tend to start right away where they begin getting impressions. What they don't know is the product display interest ad often takes two to six weeks before it begins. And so what happens is, the first ad begins, they get some impressions, they get a few clicks, they maybe get a sale or two, and after a week the other ad is still at 0 or maybe seven impressions but not a significant amount.
And so, without statistically significant data, they determine oh, product display interest ads don't work. And so they never do them again. They didn't wait long enough.
I mentioned how well I've done on the ads. I've spent $42,000 on Amazon ads. $100 has been spent on keyword ads. The rest of it is on product display interest ads which everybody, if you go to any random forum, will tell you just don't work.
And it's that misconception because people give up on them too early.
I have a group that deals with Amazon ads and so forth. And the people that are succeeding are doing both, and they're doing both well.
You have to approach them almost as two entirely different entities because they behave differently. And so if you're giving up on half of your advertising opportunities, that's a pretty big handicap.
I think if you were to say, ‘What is the biggest mistake people make?' Is just not understanding the way the two outs are different because product display ads, they came first with Amazon. The keyword ad didn't come until last year.
I would suspect that they're actually running on two different systems, and they really are like two different ad opportunities. And so if you don't understand that, you may be leaving 50% of your opportunity on the side.
Joanna: Yeah, that's fantastic.
Maybe then things will start changing, now everyone's gonna trying doing what you've said.
Brian: A lot of people are. I've seen people go from under a thousand to five figures in the group. And they're doing it like I say, with a combination of both ads.
Another thing is that the bidding. You don't assume that what you're bidding on keyword ads is what you should be bidding on products display ads because it's a different market, it's a different level of competition, and if you bid the same amount on product display interest ads, you'll be way overbidding. And so that's another tip.
Joanna: I've had Mark Dawson on the show talking about this. This year Amazon ads has really gone massive in the community.
Do you think that there is oversaturation like people are feeling with Facebook ads? Things have become more expensive. Or do you think because Amazon is so big that it just is a drop in the bucket?
Brian: I do think that it's vastly more competitive. It is harder to do well now, but two years ago, I was typically making 300% to 500% ROI, which is massive. I mean that's almost offensively successful.
Now it's a 100% to 200% ROI, but it's still a 100% to 200% ROI. I have to work a lot harder, I have run a lot more ads, it is more competitive, but the thing that people don't necessarily think about because again, everybody is doing keyword ads is that you don't need to overbid.
I have one chapter in the book where I compare five ads. They're product display interest ads, three of them at 15 cent bids, one at 17 and one at 20 cents. And as far as number of impressions, the three at 15 got the most. The one at 17 was dead last. The one at 20 cents was in the neighborhood of the 15, but at 20 cents it's 33% more expensive.
I just had a woman yesterday who sent me a Facebook message. And I've been working with her a little bit. She does very well, I mean she does a mid five figures every single month. And she was doing it, and grotesquely overbidding.
She makes a lot of money because she has really good read through. She has a lot of books. She was bidding a ton more than she needed to.
She read my book, she's cut back her bids, her level of impressions has not changed, but her ROI has doubled. And so now she's going to be making giant piles of money.
And so, going back to tips. Another thing that people do is they will take one or two ads, look at how they've done, and that will sort of become their mindset, ‘Okay. I bid 35 cents. And it worked for me.' They never test.
What if they bid 30 cents? What if they bid 15 cents? And you constantly have to be testing.
This is the summer right now, and it's a lot harder to do well on Amazon ads in the summer. The fall, there's more readers, and it becomes easier.
And so if you have found something that works for you right now, you still, once September hits, you need to run some ads that are low. It doesn't matter if some of them you bid too low and they never turn on. If you can find one that is coming in and costing you 20% less, you know, that's a huge amount to the bottom line.
Constantly be looking for that lower bid. And most people, I mean probably 95% don't do that. And so your listeners now know that, and it is more competitive. Amazon ads are certainly a lot of work.
If you put in the time and constantly are looking for a better price, you will still get really good ROI. I mean, let's be honest. If you only made 20% ROI every single day, you would spend as much money as you could all day long because bank accounts make 2% over a year. Now 20% a day is still like printing money. But again, you know, right now, maybe 100% to 200% if you're putting in the work.
Joanna: I want people to go to your book for the numbers because you are a numbers guy and I want to just also say that at the beginning you said before 2010 you hated writing and then you changed your mind.
I want people to keep that attitude in mind when they come to your book and see a lot of numbers. I want people to think, ‘Okay, so maybe even if I'm not feeling so great about numbers, I'm gonna come to this with a good attitude because I can potentially sell more books.'
And again you mentioned the external validation of people liking your work, and external validation in sales is what we all want.
I just want to point people at your book for the real deal of numbers. We're not going to get into how to calculate ROI and how to look at that.
But one think you mentioned around the bid I think is really important because if people haven't been on to that. AMS or amazon.com yet, the very first thing is if you put in an ad, right?
It will default like 25 cents or whatever it is as a bid. And when I first started doing it, I just accepted whatever they suggested for.
Brian: That's when everybody does.
Joanna: Exactly. So immediately you'll say and of course, you don't necessarily get charged that, but what you're saying is you can lower that bid.
I also made the mistake of just putting up the bid. I thought, ‘Well, I want to win more, so I'll put my bid up.' But then, of course, I lost money because I was like I was winning everything and spending just serious amounts of cash. So really great tip there.
Brian: Can I just point out one great thing that you just said?
Brian: I don't want people to miss what you just said, is you started out the way almost everybody does. You took the low bid or the 25 cents bid keyword they suggested and then your assumption was, in order to scale was to raise the bid, and you did but then you started losing money.
I've seen a lot of people that have gone through that steps, but they didn't take the time to actually look at their bottom line. And so you're much more familiar with this business than most people, but you are smart enough to see that. ‘Oh okay. I raised a bid. I did get a lot more clicks, they were more expensive. Now I'm losing money.'
People forget the step of checking how much they're spending versus how much is coming in. And I mean, you didn't, so you get a gold star.
Joanna: Yeah, I got a gold star. I also I want to talk about that because people are seeing the ACoS score, the Amazon Cost of Sale.
Brian: The horribly inaccurate number.
Joanna: Explain why it's inaccurate and what it doesn't measure, so people know.
Brian: Yes. That's such a good question. ACoS is a number that people look at and they associate it with ROI, which is an entirely different calculation. The issue with ACoS is that one is very slow to report sales.
And that's something that when you start Amazon ads at the top, they tell you. The data may be 72 hours before it shows up on your report. And if you think about that, that means you look at your report today, and it says so many clicks. Those probably happened over the previous three days.
You need to understand that. ‘I had a huge spike in clicks today but I didn't have any sales. What's wrong?'
Well, you did have sales but they were when the clicks happened. Not when they reported. The ACoS number that's reporting the sales is much slower.
If somebody turns off an ad today, that ACoS number could continue to grow for two more weeks. And so, I know, it is not a number.
I preach don't use it to make decisions because if you're making decisions about an ad today based on a number that won't be accurate for two more weeks, you're going to be wrong almost all the time.
I look at a lot of people's data, and I ask them question, ‘Well why did you turn off this ad?'
‘My ACoS was really high.'
‘What is it now, it's been two weeks?'
‘Now it's really good.'
And you lost two weeks worth of data.
What I tell people is to run the ads and keep a close eye on your KDP report because the KDP report is real time. You're getting that data as it happens, and there is for most people, there isn't a lot of organic sales.
The Joana Penns and the Mark Dawsons of the world, you have a huge audience, and so you will always get organic.
But for the masses, you have to earn almost every sale. So if you start an ad tonight and it doesn't show any impressions tomorrow, but you've got two sales on a book that you haven't had sales on in a week, it probably did get impressions and clicks. It just hasn't shown up yet.
You need to be aware of that. Watching KDP as opposed to ACoS is going to give you a much better sense for how the ads are doing.
You made the comment about people not liking numbers and so forth. One thing that humans are really good at is recognizing patterns. If we're driving down the road, our street signs, we don't even need to see be able to read the sign. We know by the shape what it says.
Parents, if they're in the house after school, and all of a sudden, it's really quiet, that isn't good news. You don't need to be a child psychologist to know that if there's quiet, something is afoot.
We naturally recognize patterns. And if you just get into the habit even if you don't like math, if you just say, ‘Okay, I did an ad today, it's not showing anything but let's look at the numbers over here. They changed a little bit.'
Or the KENPC, the page reads, which is another thing about ACoS is it's not if you're exclusive, it is not factoring in the revenue you're getting from page reads which also makes it not accurate. Amazon ads are great at driving up page reads as well.
There's a lot to factor in, don't be afraid of the data if you just start looking at it on a regular basis without even digging too deeply, you'll become more accustomed to recognizing patterns if that make sense.
Joanna: I think I've got some really good advice because it is patterns and people can look at their dashboard.
It also doesn't measure print sales, does it, or audio book sales.
Brian: It sometimes measures print sales.
Joanna: That's no use. ‘Sometimes.'
Brian: Again, it's a bad number to use. But I have author friends who write children's books. That's a very tough market to sell in. Since they've done Amazon ads, they're seeing that they're ACoS number, or their sales of their print books has gone up, and the ACoS is showing some of it.
But here the issue is that for those of us that don't sell too many print books or relative to the Kindle books, we either are getting 35% or 70% to somebody that's doing lots of print books. Maybe they're getting 43%, and then you're mixing it in with some 70% Kindle sales if they're getting some of those.
And so for the masses, if ACoS was accurate, you could look at it and say, ‘Oh, it's under 70%. I get 70%.' So it's 62%. That means I'm in the black, and I haven't even counted my page reads.
You don't even need to do any analysis. 62% is great. If you're selling books at 99 cents and it's under 35%, oh, it's 21%. I'm doing great. Plus I get all of the KU page reads for somebody that predominantly is print books, that is even muddier. I'm glad you brought that up.
Joanna: I think it's important for people to be looking at sales figures. That's basically what you're saying.
I think it just another thing that people get wrong, maybe you'll agree, is the people who say, ‘Oh, it doesn't work,' have maybe tried a couple of ads and then given up quickly, and haven't gone through that testing.
You said earlier you run a lot of ads, but you haven't actually said the number of ads you're running at any one time.
Can you just give us an indication of that?
Brian: Last week, I killed all my ads. I turned them all off. I'm starting over from scratch as a test because like everyone, I'm building a course on this stuff. And so I wanted to get brand new fresh data.
But typically, before last week, I would have running between maybe 70 and 80 ads at a time. Now again, most are product display and because those take two to six weeks, I'm putting in ads every few days knowing that okay, five weeks from now they'll turn, on it'll run for a week, it'll stop but the ads that I then started four days after that will come on.
And so it's not 70 ads that are producing for me simultaneously. It's having a lot in the pipeline so that ads, they come on. And this is another important point.
People think that Amazon ads, once it gets rolling, will run for a long time. If you're overbidding, yes that's true.
But if you're going for a really good ROI, then they may run for a week, and then they drop off and they're dead and they're dead forever.
You constantly have to be doing more. I know people that have 400 or 500 ads running. They have larger catalogs than I do, and so they have more books. But I run 80 to 100 ads, and I do it for the first book of my satire series, the first book in my mystery series, the first book in the science fiction series, and the two box sets.
I'm really only advertising five books most of the time. I have a sixth book that I use as a control group when I'm doing testing. If I have a new idea I will use my Thriller as the control group, and so I'm constantly testing.
So your point about something that does two or three ads is valid in that you don't have enough data. It takes months and months and months. It took me six months to get to the point where I was doing $7000 a month, and I quit my day job. I came into it as a data analyst with seven years experience. I'm very good at Excel. I had the tools to do it.
If somebody isn't quite so good in Excel, if they are afraid of math, they've got a little bit extra learning to do. It's not something that you're going to pick up over a weekend.
Joanna: Yeah. And I think the important thing there is obviously getting up to $7000 a month is not something that necessarily everyone has to do. So what we're also encouraging people is if you've just got one book, this is still useful.
Like you say, you can use this on just one book you can give it a go to just start getting some traffic to your book. So I think wherever you are on the author journey, this is really interesting.
I do want to ask you about auto targeting because this seems really interesting, so this works for me, for my nonfiction.
For example, the Successful Author Mindset on auto targeting, It just does amazingly well. Now I can only assume that that is because it has a very clear genre audience that Amazon can identify by its also bot.
But with my fiction, it doesn't work at all.
Would you agree that auto targeting only works when it's a very clear genre and maybe only for nonfiction?
Brian: I wouldn't go as far as to say only for nonfiction. I would say that your experience is not unusual, but there are lots and lots of different genres.
I couldn't speak to whether auto targeting would work for Westerns. I don't write Westerns, I've never run an ad for Westerns. It's a very small niche. There are all sorts of niches out there that I don't have any data on. I wouldn't make a blanket statement like that.
What I would say though is setting up an auto targeting ad only takes three minutes. So set up 10 of them, set up one a day for 10 days, test it for a month. If you get some traction, do some different things.
It's a very little time commitment compared to the manual keyword ads which take initially a lot of time investment to build up that keyword list.
Now, of course, you can do something like KDP Rocket, Dave Chesson's program which really speeds things up and that's how I build my keyword list now. But prior to him putting in the key word specific function, it took a long time, 8, 9, 10 hours to really build a good list.
Of course, that's a one-time cost, you can use the list over and over. But then also, with product display interest ads, those are like the auto targeting ads and they don't take three minutes to set up. And so it's a very little time commitment to get those going.
And so again, I trust that you've looked at your data enough that your statement is absolutely accurate for your books and it completely makes sense. And I'm sure that a lot of people would find something similar.
But I wouldn't just assume it's gonna be the same for your books because it takes so little effort to test it and find out. And if it turns out that your specific niche, the auto works in fiction like I say, maybe Western or, you know, I don't know all the niches, but, you know, then you're finding an absolute gold mine. So spend the time to test.
Joanna: Yeah give it a go. I certainly think it's a good idea to try it. Why not?
I do want to ask you about other ways of selling. So other ways of marketing. As part of the marketing for this book, you set up a Facebook group for mastering Amazon ads, which is kind of amazing. And I'm in it.
Brian: You are?
Joanna: Yes. You are helping people with very intricate things, but you very sensibly asked for a commitment to buy the book when it came out. So you kind of did it as a marketing strategy.
What are the other ways that you are marketing your books? And do you think a Facebook group is an effective one of them for example?
Brian: The group has been incredibly effective for me. The whole book began in the 20 books to 50 K group, Michael's group where back in January, I was spending an hour or two a day just answering people's Amazon ads questions because I knew the answers, and that was what everybody was talking about. And I enjoyed it.
I kept answering the questions, and people say, ‘Thank you. When are you going to write a book?' And so finally I did.
I wrote the book. And on February 24th, about 50 people had expressed interest in being a beta reader and I said, ‘You can be a beta reader, you can get the book now, but when it comes out it's gonna $9.99. I want my seven bucks.' And so, they were like, “I'm glad to spend $9.99 on it.”
I started the group and I have yet to market the group. I mean, other than podcasters mention it and so forth, and it's grown to over 2300 now. And all along that time, I have been trying to help people with their questions and so forth.
And because of that I think I've built up some loyalty and I'm getting a lot of word of mouth and organic traffic. And it has really worked well because I started a group that solved a pain point for a lot of authors that's happening right now.
The group doesn't work if I started back in 2016 in February because at that point you had to be exclusive, and there weren't that many people doing Amazon ads. So it was a combination of timing.
But as far as other things to market books, Honoree and I have written two books on the subject, Finding Readersand Making More Money and Amazon ads is just one way to become successful in this business. Honoree is a ninja when it comes to thinking outside the box, and coming up with other ways to market books.
She sold and I won't give away her numbers. I forget, we give away the specifics in the book, but she sold to a group that wanted to include her book in a gift basket, and she sold a massive pile of books to them in one bulk sale. And it's because she knew this group was out there, that they needed things for their basket, and she had a contact.
She was able to in a couple hours sell more books than probably 99% of authors out there do in a year and she sold them in one day.
Joanna: And those book sales wouldn't be tracked on Amazon because she would have got a print run.
Brian: They don't show up. I mean, if she'd gotten credit, she would have been top two or three in New York Times list, but it's not the bulk sale to a private group.
She writes books that help people cope with divorce, she has done and this is brilliant. She sells in bulk to law firms that handle divorce. And if they buy X number and I don't know if it's 500 or 1000 but she will then do a custom back cover and it has their law firm on it.
Joanna: Honoree has been on the show to talk about that.
Brian: Oh, so then your readers already know about that.
There are authors out there that don't spend time on all these different advertising things. What they do is they produce a new novel every single month, and they're banging out 12 a year. And they're keeping the Amazon algorithms just by their productivity.
I'm in no way saying that the way I'm doing it is the only way. It's one of many ways to become successful. It's a way that I like because I enjoy the data, and for me, I have as much fun driving the sales as I do writing the books.
Joanna: I think that the Facebook group is amazing. But I did want to ask you because a lot of people set up Facebook groups. And I have a couple myself and it's a lot of hard work.
Brian: I spend all my time doing it.
Joanna: Yes. So you spend a lot of time doing it. And I think it was a month or so ago, you had a bit of it a, it all got a bit much, didn't it?
Brian: It did.
Joanna: Maybe just tell us how you manage…
Brian: A cautionary tale.
Joanna: How have you managed the balance between helping people and making money because now you spend a lot more time than that seven bucks.
Brian: When I started the group out, the first three or four weeks, I was spending three or four hours a day doing customer service. It got to a point where I was about 10 to 12 hours a day doing customer service, one on one with people, and I did that for a solid month.
And then I was just getting ready to put the book up, and turn it from the pre order to live, and something happened in Scrivener, and I lost eight hours of going through edits back from the editor. And I mean eight hours of lost work just, I don't know, there may have been tears. I don't recall if there were tears but it broke me.
I was so crushed by that lost work and I just told people, I said, ‘You know what, I need I need some time off, I'm not gonna be able to do customer service for a while. I don't know how long but I just lost eight hours worth of work. I'm going to, you know, curl up in a ball.'
There may have been some Xbox playing, I don't know. But I did, I took a week off and rejuvenation. And then I was fine and I got right back to it. But the amount of time that I spend every day; when I woke up today before this podcast, I spent maybe an hour helping people when I get done, it's what I'll do most of the rest of the day.
And so it's an incredible time commitment. But on the flip side, now I have a group that is very responsive. When people ask questions more often than not, before I even see them, someone else in the group is giving the correct answer. And so there are now enough people that have had success, and they feel appreciative that they're helping with the group.
One should expect that it takes an enormous amount of time. It has dominated my life since February, and now we're in August. But the end result is a lot of good reviews. They can look on the book and it's, you know, 4.9 average, lot of sales.
Today is the 30th day since it went live and we're still getting north of 20 sales a day. And that's because mostly word of mouth. It has been absolutely worthwhile.
The other thing that's been key and this is something most people might not think about, is the group made the book better because the book that I thought I had done on the 24th, in no way resembles the final product. People gave me feedback and they said, ‘Well that's great, but I didn't understand what you meant.'
I would rewrite things and then I did more lists and more step by step instructions and they were like, ‘Now I get it.'
I ended up with a book that is better at teaching the subject than it was when I thought it was done. And so, were it not for the feedback of literally hundreds of people, the book would not be doing nearly as well and it wouldn't be as helping as many people.
So if you have a pain point, if there's something, and I don't know, I haven't done it for fiction. I mean there are people that have active fiction groups. And if you have rabid fans, you can absolutely take care of that. But like you said, it is a time commitment, and so, you have to be pretty sure that it's something that you're going to enjoy. Otherwise, I couldn't do it if I didn't absolutely love it.
Joanna: You didn't enjoy. And I think that's the point. Setting up a Facebook group to sell a nonfiction book can work, but it's better if your aim is to build a community around a topic that you love. And it's great that you're working on a course because you also have a market for that now.
I want to recommend Facebook groups but with a warning that it can turn into a much bigger thing than you expect. And if you want to build a community, it's awesome. But otherwise, it can be a lot of work. I wouldn't actually recommend it if you just have one book.
Brian: 100% agree.
Joanna: It would just not be worth the return.
Brian: You've built an enormous community around your brand. And I have to think that a good portion of it is because you really enjoy all the things beyond just the writing. How long has the podcast been on now?
Joanna: Since 2009.
Brian: Wow, I didn't realize it went back that far.
Joanna: I'm actually one of the oldest podcasts around.
Brian: So obviously, it's something you have a passion for, and that should be the first question.
If somebody is thinking about doing this, is it something that you want to spend a lot of your life doing it? If it is, then it can be great. If you just think it's a way to make money, you will, there's no way to put in the effort and do it if the driving force is money because money is nice and it's fun and all, but really it's not enough to put in 12 hours a day for 17 straight days before you take a day off. You just can't do it.
Joanna: Yes. Exactly. If you do want to make money then go and get Brian's book Mastering Amazon Ads, which is all about making money with your book. So we are out of time.
Tell us where can people find you and the book and all the things you do online.
Brian: Well, as you mentioned earlier, you can find Mastering Amazon Ads on Amazon.com. You can also find the books Honoree and I do.
In fact, today, we are releasing a box set of three of our books. The 15 Finding Readers and Making More Money which is I think helpful for newer authors. And as far as finding me, Mastering Amazon ads, if you do a search on Facebook you will find the group.
And literally, I don't even give out my I don't blog much anymore. I don't give out anything else because that's where I'm at all day long. So people wanna find me. But again the requirement is that you buy the book because there's a lot of information in there and I really kind of want people to have read it and then ask questions as opposed to asking things that I've already written 42000 words about. So that's where you find me on Facebook. Hanging out and talking book business.
Joanna: Fantastic. Well, thanks so much for your time, Brian. That was great.
Brian: Well thank you. I had fun. This was awesome.
Brian D. Meeks says
Thanks so much for having me on the show. It was a blast. I hope your listeners enjoy our conversation. I know I did.
re: Facebook Groups
I want to cosign everything Brian said. I see people talking about launching FB groups to promote their book. And really a group is a community, not a marketing platform. I have a 2 year old group with 35,000 members. It’s an active and awesome community.
IT TAKES A TON OF TIME. BURNOUT IS REAL. I and ~15 admins and probably ~100 exceptionally helpful members make it work. This is not a small endeavor.
Does this make sense in terms of supporting my book? I believe so but it’s hard to say. My book has only been out ~6 weeks and even so, there is no clear tracking for me to know “this purchase is due to the group.” My gut instinct is that 50% of my book sales are linked directly to the group. But I can’t prove that.
Bottom Line: running a successful FB group is not for the faint of heart. It may or may not be a helpful marketing tool. Who knows.
Robert Kroese says
Thanks for the great post, Brian and Joanna. I have a few follow-up questions, if you don’t mind. 🙂
1. Can you explain the factors that go into whether Amazon displays your keyword ad, other than the keyword popularity and bid amount? For example, I have two ads, for two different books. The two ads share many of the same keywords, I started them at the same time, and the bid amounts are the same, but the ad for book 1 gets 10x as many impressions as the ad for book 2. Additionally, the same keywords get the keywords get far more impressions on one ad than on the other. Is it a matter of keyword relevance? Or does Amazon learn in the first week or so that the second ad just isn’t getting results, so it shelves it? Is that what you mean by “But if you’re going for a really good ROI, then they may run for a week, and then they drop off and they’re dead and they’re dead forever.”?
2. I find it very frustrating that the report Amazon provides give one no way of looking at historical trends re: impressions, clicks and spending. For example, in the scenario I mentioned above, it probably took me a week to notice the ad wasn’t getting any impressions, because there’s no bar graph or anything you can look at that shows you performance over time. Do you take regular snapshots of the data and compare it in Excel or something?
3. Can you explain what you mean by “If somebody turns off an ad today, that ACoS number could continue to grow for two more weeks”? I thought the data was delayed by at most 72 hours. Also, do you mean the ACoS could *grow* for two more weeks or *shrink* for two more weeks?
Joanna Penn says
It’s best to ask these questions in Brian’s Facebook Group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/407283052948198/?ref=br_rs
Robert Kroese says
Peter Blyth says
So I’m confused – if you make anything less than 100% ROI then you are making a loss, surely ? Say you spend $100 and make 80% return on that spend , then you’ve made $80 for a net loss of $20 ?
Its not like bank account income where you still have the capital ?
I’m obviously missing something – need to read the book me thinks (although my strategy was to only do content marketting until I’ve got three full novels out so its not urgent)
Michael Jensen says
Hi! It’s amazing how Brian, you Joanna, Robert Kroese… can juggle terms and crunch numbers. What if one is like me, not a numbers person who keeps close watch on statistics etc, nor one to deal with complex ad results and effectively adjusting one’s ad strategies? I used Kindle formatting, spent $1 designing my cover at Canva, Kindle had 5 choices of letterings, so I chose one of those. I just launched “Book One”(I think it’s okay to say… titled “The Silver Slipper Affair, Book One, The Particles of Tunguska”), of my trilogy in Kindle Select 69 hours ago and everything is at zero except one ordered ebook, and even with Kindle Unlimited free read. I notified 3 friends and went to six people with a lot of friends on FaceBook and left a comment of my new Book One. I read this fine interview and you all are very intelligent and good with numbers and acronyms etc. What does one like me do who is, very low budget (thinking of spending $25 on ads yet could do $50), and pretty poor with, numbers, juggling terms, and spending major time watching figures etc. This is my very first book, and will release in next 2 weeks (all 3 books are written) the other two books, yet only after I see how Book One does. I have to keep cost low and do it all myself via Kindle Select. What I mean… what’s the next best thing to Brian’s method that I could do with Kindle ads? Does it mean I’m doomed if I don’t adapt to this ingeniously designed but too tedious and complex for me method? Is in my case my budget far too low to be effective? I have a FaceBook page and an author profile at KDP, but don’t want to start a FB circle as you describe as it sounds like it takes major time. I guess if I have to I will do this method, but just wondering of alternatives.
Thanks for all you do for writers! Also again, sorry if I wasn’t suppose to name my book.
Joanna Penn says
Hi Michael, check out Amazon Ads for Authors who Hate Math by Chris Fox 🙂 http://www.amazon.com/Ads-Authors-Who-Hate-Math/dp/1095692739/
Hope that helps!