I’m listening again to a podcast about promoting sci-fi and fantasy books. The specific episode I’m listening to today is SFFMP 108 which is titled: Amazon Ads, Mastering Email Marketing, and Effective Social Media. In this episode, Jo and Lindsay chat with Tom Corson-Knowles, a non-fiction author and entrepreneur. He is all about branding and improving ebook sales, so the discussion covers things like Amazon advertising, email marketing, and social media.

All this promotional stuff is the sort of thing that - cards on the table - makes my skin crawl. I am so not a sales person, and any kind of advertising efforts seem like unspeakable showing off to me. I do want to make enough money from my books to enable me to quit my day job though, and so if there are any tips that are easy, I’m thinking that I could at least give them a try. Of all the things mentioned, the thing that is really tempting me to actually do something is advertising directly with Amazon in some targeted, inexpensive way.

Tom addresses just this, and he talks about Amazon’s Product Display ads versus their Sponsored Product Ads. I had already read that Sponsored Product Ads are better, and Tom agrees. He also says that the results of your advertising are reported using a term called COS. Apparently 70% COS is just breaking even, which is obviously bad. What you need is COS in the 5% to 15% range because this is equivalent to spending one dollar and getting seven dollars back.

He points out that what you advertise needs to be a good book, well written, and with a good cover. He talks at length about the cover, and it makes me think that my cover for Galaxy Dog could be better. The host, Lindsay, says that your book has to be more appealing than the book on the page the customer landed on when they saw your ad, which is a nice way of putting it. Tom then moves on to the actual content of the book, where he keeps coming back to something he calls branding. He talks about branding the story in a similar way to the way people talk about writing to market, and that is something I’m not a fan of.

One of the biggest parts of actually setting up an ad is choosing well targeted key words. He is quite vague about keyword targeting, but his advice is sound. He hints that you can use author’s names as key words, but doesn’t come out and say it. This advice doesn’t seem sensible to me because the type of match is set by default to “broad” which means typing Alastair Reynolds as a key word will match my book with any book written by anyone called Reynolds.

They also don’t talk about one of the decisions that Amazon asks you to make for each key word, which is your default maximum bid for each click, or CPD bid. My research is telling me that the default of 0.25 dollars is low, if anything, so I’m not going to mess with that for now.

Next I had to come up with keywords for my advert, which is horribly difficult. Building on my few ideas, such as “spaceship”, by seeing how Amazon auto-completed searches starting with “spaceship” didn’t help much either, because Amazon was far more likely to suggest irrelevances like “spaceship cookie cutter” than something relevant such as “spaceship battles”. In the end I just came up with a list of keywords, pretty much, off the top of my head. I started really struggling after around twenty keywords, but they were well crafted ones, so I thought they might be useful.

There is a preview at the bottom of the page where you create your ad, but mine didn’t seem to be working. I submitted the ad anyway, sight unseen, and made sure that it had a date range and average spend per day that would mean the entire thing cost me around ten dollars at most. As this is less than my books have already made me organically over the last couple of days, my credit card should not be bothered by Amazon, even if the ads don’t bring any return at all, and end up being just a cost.

I realize this is a very cautious experiment, but I’m timid by nature. I’ll post the results of this tiny experiment here at my blog, and you can also check out the book I’m pushing with these ads, which is called Galaxy Dog and is the first book of a series.

Galaxy Dog (Dark Galaxy) Start Reading the Dark Galaxy Trilogy

The first book in the Dark Galaxy Trilogy, always the best place to start, is Galaxy Dog. It’s a little more old-school and fun than a lot of the sci-fi that is around at the moment. It has spaceships, robots, battles, and brave warriors rebelling against an evil empire. Click the book cover and go to the storefront you prefer to buy it now, or follow this link.