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Session: From $2k to $10k: A Case Study in Boosting Backlist Sales.

Follow along with Best Page Forward CEO Bryan Cohen as he embarks on a journey to hit a $10k month in book sales through advertising his existing backlist. You’ll gain a better understanding of how to revive and promote your own backlist. Learn from his successes and mistakes and start your journey to 10k today.

Format: Video

Audience: All Levels

This post is part of London Book Fair Self-Publishing Advice Conference (#SelfPubCon2019), an online author conference that showcases the best self-publishing advice and education for authors across the world — harnessing the global reach of the Alliance of Independent Authors’ network. Our self-publishing conference features well-known indie authors and advisors, for 24 sessions over 24-hours, in a one-day extravaganza of self-publishing expertise straight to your email inbox. We hope you enjoy this session. Let us know if you have any questions or input on this self-publishing topic. Visit our Facebook Group and join in the conversation there, or leave your questions and feedback in the comments section below.


Hey everybody and welcome to Three Lessons Learned From My 50 Plus Day Deep Dive Into Amazon Advertising. I’m Bryan Cohen. Some of you may know me from the podcast I cohost, The Sell More Books show. Others of you may know me as the creator of Best Page Forward, a copywriting agency for authors that writes book descriptions and advertising copy. And this year 2019 I have set up a challenge for myself in an effort to help myself and help others. And that is I am actually on a quest to turn my existing book sales, which range from the thousand dollars a month to $1,500 a month to $10,000, mostly from promoting my back list with advertising. And these first two months of 2019, I have focused primarily on Amazon advertising. So I’m going to go over some of the lessons that I have learned and hopefully some of them you will find extremely helpful.

There’s a lot of new things that came about in January with Amazon advertising, with some ad types being changed, some being completely removed and some new opportunities that have come about. So let’s first talk a little bit about this challenge of mine. So I was looking at my sales, this is from Book Report, my sales for last year and, and kind of my last month of the year was around, $1,280. You see a couple of my books, my nonfiction books being my biggest sellers, then my fiction, then some of my other books. And I am perfectly happy to, to see 50 to 60 something dollars a day as I have a lot of different things going on in my business. So this is almost completely passive income, not many ads running, but advertising is becoming kind of the way that you can increase your sales if you know what you’re doing, if you are consistent about it.

I was very much not consistent about it. So what I decided to do was, and you can kind of see some of my numbers here from the month, one of the things I decided to do with every single day, in my Selling for Authors Facebook group, I decided I am going to share the sales I made and I am going to share how much I spent on ads. And as a result, I would see what my return on investment was. So what is return on investment? Let’s just get that in there. We’ll create a little document here so I can type a few things in here. So what is return on investment? Well, essentially ROI, return on investment equals your sales minus your advertising spend. We’re going to put those in parentheses to show that that is one figure and then you’re going to divide that by your advertising spend.

So this is how you determine whether or not your ads for that day have been successful or not. Now, there’s a couple things to consider. Readthrough is important. That is kind of your projected earnings from your first in series sales/kindle unlimited pages read. So what does that mean? This means that if you sell a first book in your series or you get someone to download it for free, if it’s a permafree book or if someone downloads your book on Kindle Unlimited reads your book on Kindle Unlimited, you can look at your numbers and figure out how many people are like, how many of those people are likely to continue on in the series. There’s a very good book that goes into this. It’s Help My Facebook Ads Suck by Michael Cooper. That goes into the nitty gritty of how readthrough works. Yes, it does take a little bit of math to figure out, but once you do figure that out, then you can say, “Alright!” As I did on this day, I’m showing here we have $75 and 79 cents in sales and read through. So if you are looking at, we’ll look at that particular day. That is February 28th. We’ll go to the 27th, which is what the report would be for.

And we can see that I reported $75 and 79 cents in sales, but I’m only showing $70, which means that I calculated from people buying my box, set these pages read and my first in series The Dark Souls. I calculated using my own formula for 2018’s numbers that those pages read tend to get approximately, I mean, the, real deal number is for each page read of my box set, I tend to get 0.855 pages read of the rest of the series. For book one, it’s 1.922 for, so each page read ends up getting another 1.922 pages read cause people go on to read book two, three, four, five, six, seven et cetera. So when I calculate that every day I multiply, we had 326, I multiply 326 times 0.855 and then multiply it by last month’s Kindle Unlimited page rate. And I do the same with my book one to figure out, “Oh this is the projected read through I’m going to get based on those numbers.” Now we’re getting a little into the weeds already, but I just wanted to say that when I’m figuring out there’s return on investment, it’s my sales and my read through minus my advertising spend divided by my advertising spent. So on this particular day, zoom in, it was 75.79 minus 50.96 so about $24 and change divided by 50/96 which led to .487 so a 48.7 return on investment.

What if that number is negative? So let’s say it was $45 then I would have ended up with a negative return on investment. So I’ve been reporting on these every day in my Facebook group and over the course of the last 57 days, I’ve kind of kept track of things. So last month we had that 1280 this month or January 2019 got up to 1900 and in February got up to 2100 but return on investment is very important here. So if you’ve never even been into your ad account, you can click on reports. You can sneak in to my account. Just kidding. So you click reports, ad campaign and view your ads dashboard. So let’s take a look at, you can pick the dates, we’ll go to last month since we have that up. You can see that February, 2100 dollars in sales plus some sales from my, ACX of my audio books. So it’s a little more than 2300. You see here, $1,600 spent, $1495 and 76 cents in sales tracked. Now that’s very interesting. My KDP dashboard, it says $2,300 in sales, but my ad dashboard says 1495 in sales, which is more accurate.

This, this is more accurate. And we’ll go into this a little more in depth, but you always want to keep track of your sales that Amazon reports, not necessarily what shows up in your dashboard. So let’s take a look at February. And when I go in here, I like to kind of sort by spend. I want to sort by what did I spend money on and we see just looking at my top 10 ads. I’ll try to zoom in a little bit more. My top 10 ads. We have a mix of different ads here. We have the sponsored product ad, that’s what SP stands for and that is manually targeting. So I choose the targets. We have a lock screen ad which is choosing a manual target. We have a sponsored product ad and if you scroll all the way you can actually see that it’s a paperback ad.

So we have that. It’s a sponsored product ad that is automatically targeted. So Amazon is choosing those targets for me. And then we have another lock screen, ad lock screen, ad lock screen ad lock screen ad. So you can tell these spent a lot of money because they’re in my top 10 of spend. Then we have a sponsored product, manual ad and lock screen, lock screen. So these are the main ads that spent money for me. But let’s take a look at my actual sales, my actual orders. So we’ll sort by orders and it’s a bit of a different story. So let’s scroll back over here. So these are my top 10 sales ads that actually got me sales, sponsored products, sponsored product, some manual, some, a lot of automatic, look at all those automatics, one lock screen ad and then a couple more sponsored product ads.

So you’ll note that while my sales, while my spend came through a lot of these lock screen ads and my sales actually came more from sponsored product ads. So what are these ads? Well, if you create a campaign, you have an opportunity to create a sponsored product ad, a lock screen ad, and you used to be able to create a product display ad lock screen ads have actually replaced product display ads, product display interest ads used to show up on black and white kindle devices. Now lock screen ads show up on your black and white kindle devices and colored kindle devices. But here’s the problem with lock screen ads. They like to spend a lot of money and product display interest ads were kind of one of these go to ads for the community. A lot of people liked using lock screen ads at kind of these lower bids between 12 and 15 cents. But one of the problems with lock screen ads is, and we’ll just look up l, we’ll just say I still use product display interest ad PDI to search these, but let’s take a look at one of these.

The problem is, we’ll zoom in, your click does not necessarily lead to, when someone clicks on one of these ads, it doesn’t send them right to the sales page. It sends them to a middleman page. A detail page view occurs when a shopper visits one of your product detail pages, your sales page after clicking on your ad. So there’s 727 clicks that costs around 11 cents, but that only led to 369 people actually visiting the page. And so as a result, it’s almost like you’re paying twice as much for a click that actually gets people to the page. So this is a bit of a problem. Plus, let’s look here. $79.44 cents spent $5.98 in sales. Now this does not as one of the problems of Amazon ads is it does not share how many people have downloaded your book on Kindle Unlimited and read it. So you always have to cross reference with your actual sales. But I ran a fair number of ads that were lock screen ads. If you look at my overall sales or my overall spend was 1600 if you look and my sales were $1495 if you look at my lock screen ads, that was almost a quarter of what I spent, but only $28 in sales tracked. So got a lot of clicks, 4,600 clicks, but did not see that really get a success for me. And so these lock screen ads, Amazon has a bit of a problem on their hands because they do not seem to be converting well for the majority of people. And if you look even at January, let’s look at January, it’s even more, it’s even a bigger deal. Let’s look at my overall spend was $1800.

If we look at my lock screen ads, that’s $1,000 out of my 1800 for only $44 in reported sales. So lock screen ads right now, I would not recommend starting with those, but there are some ads I really would recommend starting with. So let’s look at last month again and let’s look down at, we’re going to go back to the ads that got the most orders for me. So my top orders ad was this thousand creative writing prompts volume to paperback ads. So this is a paperback ad and you can’t see this now, as we scroll back, this is automatically targeted. I can scroll, automatically targeted to the the keywords that Amazon is choosing. You don’t even get to see them.

So it’s picking the keywords, it’s going to show automatically targeted. So if we look at, and you’ll notice I have very high daily budgets of $6,000 but it never spends more than $5 a day. This is just to get Amazon’s attention. I would only do this with a lower bid of 30 cents or less. So if you’ve been seeing this and you’re like, Brian does, Brian spent $6,000 a day? He does not. As you can see, my cost per click is 23 cents. I’ve spent $76 so $76 and 96 cents in spend $302 and 39 cents in sales. So that’s a really nice looking average cost of sale. But as always, we need to check back to the numbers. So we have spent $76 and 96 cents so we would like to see in the month of February, did I sell more than $77 of that book? So we take a look, we take a look back down here. We look at the sales and we see, yes, I sold $127 and 47 cents of this book, which means yes, it was a positive return on investment, probably in the 35 to 40% range. So you always have to check back. But to set one of these up, and I would recommend if you have a paperback book, you run ads to it. These paperback ads are not always used, but they’re very strong in one humble man’s opinion.

So you’d go to your sponsored product, you name it, you put the start date and the end date, put a daily budget. If you’re going to do a low bid, you could put that very high, $1,000. It’s rare that you’re going to spend more than $10 automatic targeting. So that’s how you do automatic. If you wanted to pick your own keywords, you would do manual automatic targeting. Custom text add means you can put in your copy. Standard ad means it doesn’t have text, then you pick your product. So if I was going to do my volume two, I would pick the paperback edition. You could also pick the ebook edition, but for this I would recommend doing paperback. You don’t need to worry about the product, you don’t need to worry about the keywords because it’s doing it for you. And then I might select 30 cents and then launch campaign. Now one of my other successful ads has been these category ads. Let’s see if I can do a little search for category.

I think I labeled them as SPP sponsored product, sponsored product product ads. So these have been really interesting. I would start with those auto targeted ads to your paperbacks. You could do them for your ebooks as well, but these ads are really interesting because they allow you to choose an entire category and target it. You see that while my average cost of sale is not great for these, I am seeing some orders come in. So if you click in here, you can take a look and you can see if we go to targeting, we can see that I am actually targeting entire categories. So this is targeting every book in that category with the bids that I have chosen. For some of these it’s a little bit higher, but you could do lower bids and I’ve seen a lot of impressions. Even with lower bids, you’re picking an entire category and targeting every book in that category. Let me see if I have an example of a lower bid. Just want to see what my cost per click is. So this is kind of my lower bids. I don’t have a lot of sales on this ad, but I just wanted to show it off for the bid.

My bids are pretty low. 31 cents, 20 cents, 22 cents. But look at this with a 31 cent bid, which is lower than the suggested bid that Amazon has suggests. And that category is the super hero comics and graphic novels. You are seeing 31 cents over half a million impressions, over a hundred clicks coming to that book from a 31 cent bid. And so that is kind of the power of these category ads. But as you can see, not a lot of sales registered. You cannot exactly tell if Kindle Unlimited downloads came from that. So you kind of have to just refer back to the numbers. But if you want to try out one of these category ads, the way you do it, we create a campaign, it’s in sponsored products and you pick your stuff, you name your thing and do a high daily budget, low daily budget. If you’re picking a higher bid, gonna pick manual targeting, you decide whether or not you want to have copy. Let’s just say it’s The Dark Souls, we’ll pick my fiction here. Add.

And we will do product targeting and you see you can target individual products, but you can choose some of the suggested targets and it will let you pick those. And then you can search and let’s say I wanted to search superhero then I’m seeing multiple targets I could put in. And then you go down and you choose your bid. I didn’t put a daily budget yet, so let’s pick that. So we can see, we’ll say 20 and then you can pick your bids. Probably want to go low for your first one. So you might even just do 20 cents on each one and you can adjust these over time and you’ve got your all those set up and then you can go and add your ad copy and launch your campaign. So we’ve got the category ads, we’ve got the auto targeted ads. I really recommend that you try some of these out and that maybe you avoid using the lock screen ads for now. But I will say the tried and true, the bread and butter of Amazon ads, is still these wonderful sponsored product keyword ads. If we go to my, we’ll go by sales.

Let’s see if we’re still by sales. We are. So I am still getting a lot of sales from sponsored product ads that are going manual. If we take a look, we’ve gotten my, this is targeting my, How To Write A Sizzling Synopsis. We’ve 33 spent, 47.94 in sales, which is approximately break even if I’m making 70%, on a book that’s going to be a 70% right there. So it’s right about at break even. But look, we are targeting keywords, we are finding keywords and we are targeting those keywords and these are pretty high bids here. I could probably be getting some sales on lower bids but look, we’re getting sales off of these wonderful keywords and look $20, $30 in sales on just three clicks and what is the word here? Self publishing. I’m targeting self published authors who want to buy my book. Just keywords and this was an ad actually I saw that the keyword self publishing was doing really well for me. So I created a new ad just around words. Mike Self Publishing. Let me actually see if I can get ahold of that ad for you. This ad hasn’t really served much yet, but I just wanted to show you, oh well it hasn’t served much. Let’s put in lifetime cause I only started it recently and look it’s already has a positive return on investment. I chose to put the everything, all the keywords are related to self publishing.

I’ve got a lot of terms that even start with self publishing, self publishing guide, self publishing for whatever, self publishing comics, self publishing books and now these are all focused around self publishing. I found a keyword and I will not take full credit on this Inez Johnson who is a frequenter of these Facebook posts in my Selling for Authors Facebook group, she said “Hey I’m taking the keywords that work and I’m creating whole ads around these.” So what I did to get these terms, one, when you are creating a campaign sponsored product campaign, just put in a budget here. We also need to put in manual targeting or it won’t give us the option to put in keywords if you type in a keyword. Of course it changed me back. If you put in a keyword, Amazon’s going to do something really interesting here. I might need to zoom out to show this self publishing. We’ll look at that, look at all these suggestions that Amazon gives me. So I’m going to select all those keywords. I also use a site called Merchant Words where we’ll do some searching. There’s also a KDP Rocket. See if I can get my password right.

Self publishing and I’m gathering some of these keywords so I gather up some of these keywords, gathered up the suggested keywords and put all of those into one ad. You can absolutely do that for the keywords that seem to be working well for your book as well. So the last thing I want to reiterate, let’s take a look at those numbers again. Overall numbers for last month, if I were to just look here, 1626.73 with 1495 in sales, it would look like I am losing money. But if you look at my actual sales numbers on my KDP dashboard, you can tell that that is not the case. You always, this is the number one lesson I have learned in my challenge so far. You can always, always, you should always go back to your dashboard, look at your actual sales numbers and that’s the only way you can know if your ads are being successful. Average cost of sale, these are not accurate because it does not reflect or advertising cost of sale or A costs does not reflect reality. You must look at your dashboard and cross reference your ads or you are going to have a the wrong point of view about your ad success.

So I hope that this was helpful. Remember, avoid lock screen ads when you’re just starting out. Try out auto targeted ads for both your ebooks and your paperback. Try out category ads with the low bid in the 20 to 30 cent range and see how those go for you. And then always check your numbers with your actual dashboard. So thank you so much for tuning in. If you are interested in following along with my journey, you can go to the Selling For Authors Facebook group, just search Selling for Authors or you can check out my podcast, which is Relentless Authors Advertise. We’ll pull it up here as I’m doing weekly reports on my podcast here, Relentless Authors Advertise. Just go search for that and you can learn more about this challenge and hopefully take some ideas from it to boost your own book sales too. So I hope you’re enjoying the Alliance of Independent Authors’ wonderful event here. Please let me know if you have any questions about this particular presentation and go out there, take one of the things you have learned and apply it today. Thanks so much.


From $2k to $10k: A Case Study in Boosting Backlist Sales https://wp.me/p9MsJE-NU via @bryancohenbooks @indieauthorALLI #SelfPubCon2019 #indieauthors Click To Tweet

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