Friday, 13 May 2016

Beirut - An Explosive Thriller And The Dynamics Of Free Vs Amazon Advertising

Warning. Very long post about book marketing.

So here's the skinny. In Mid-March, I dropped the price of Beirut - An Explosive Thriller and Olives - A Violent Romance to FREE on Apple, B&N, Kobo et al.

This then forced Amazon's Amazing Algorithms to 'price match' the books and make them free on Amazon. This is not something Amazon lets you do otherwise, only letting you make a book free for 5 days per quarter if it's enrolled in Kindle Unlimited and therefore exclusive to Amazon.

Note, as per my previous post on this, you have to change to the 35% royalty to do this, otherwise Amazon gets shirty.

Amazon's big machines decided to chop Beirut and Olives in the US store (.com) but only Olives in the UK store ( The volumes are markedly different: 30 free Olives downloaded in the UK compared to 700 in the US.

As of today, Beirut is now free in the UK store. You can go here and get it. Do please feel free to share the link on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or another other platform where you think your followers, friends and family might enjoy a fabulous international spy thriller packed with guns and bombs and babes and stuff. [endplug]

So what has all this 'free' told us?

For a start, people have found Beirut a lot more attractive than Olives: 3,000 downloads compared to 700. As you can see from the covers side by side above, the title and cover of Olives don't really cut the mustard. Not sure what I can do about that, to be honest. However, it would appear Beirut got a bit of a lift up on some unseen list or another, because its early trajectory was amazing, speeding it to #1 free thriller on for a few halcyon days.

What has the knock-on effect been? A handful of Shemlan - A Deadly Tragedy sales have been bubbling along, 14 copies in April and so far 4 copies in May. Sales of A Decent Bomber and Birdkill have also slowly started to lift (6 and 7 copies respectively). However, Beirut's downloads have slowly declined, dropping from a relatively steady couple of weeks at 30-50 copies, then a couple of weeks ranging from 15-30 copies and now running at 5-15 copies per day.

There have been a couple of additional reviews of Beirut and Olives alike on Amazon, 4* and 5*, thank you. But the maths is amazing - almost 3,000 downloads to drive 10 book sales and two reviews.

Generally, as my books have got better (IMHO), their sales numbers and therefore number of reviews has declined. Which is wonderful, really.

Amazon Advertising

I've also been running an advertising campaign for Birdkill on Amazon over the past week. This has been interesting, particularly compared to the experimental Twitter campaign I ran. I have kept relatively quiet on other platforms to better isolate and judge the results and impact of the Amazon campaign.

$100 of my hard-earned spent a while ago on Twitter was targeted not so much at keywords as at followers of a number of book promoters, publishers and book recommendation accounts. That resulted in 29,707 impressions and 90 clicks. I think I sold one book, so we're doing better than McNabb's Law of Clicks would have us believe should be the case.

I thought Amazon advertising was likely to be more impactful. Here, you're targeting people at the moment of browsing and purchase and you can target by genre. If you think about it, that's nigh on perfect. It's like being on someone's shoulder in a bookshop with the ability to whisper, 'That one. There. Birdkill by McNabb. Do it.'

Amazon lets you serve up a number of ad formats, placing the ads on other book pages, newsletters, into Kindles and so on. Like Google's Adwords, you bid for your clicks. In my genres for Birdkill, (Literature & Fiction: Action & Adventure; Mystery, Thriller & Suspense: Conspiracies, Mystery, Paranormal as you ask) the bidding was in the range US$ 0.40-0.50. In reality, I had to raise my bid to $0.55 to start getting impressions and eventually raised it to $0.60. My average cost per click has come in at $0.53.

The bidding works just like Google: your bid is accepted above the second highest bid, rather than just topping all bids.

So far, we're not quite done yet, Amazon has yielded 22,057 impressions, 118 clicks and two book sales and we're about 60 bucks into my budget. That's better than Twitter and again better than McNabb's law of clicks, but it's a pretty impressive catalogue of fail - Birdkill is a well packaged book and to see 118 clicks turn into 116 bounces is pretty depressing.

There has been no appreciable impact in the sale (or download) of any of my other titles since the campaign started. Unless you count one copy of Space...

Here are the Birdkill ads in the various formats Amazon supports, all auto-generated out of the base data you supply them - you don't have individual control over each creative:

 245 x 250
Didn't know those paltry two reviews would show. Five stars, mind, which is nice, but not enough reviews really. Funnily enough, that doesn't seem to have affected the CTR (Click Through Rate to you, mate), which has been just over 0.5%.

270 x 150

I like this one best of all. Those reflections are right classy...
270 x 200

300 x 250
402 x 250

980 x 55

And, finally, I is in ur Kindle...

It's worth bearing these in mind when you look at your advertisement format and the text you're planning to use... The 'astounds and horrifies' line did quite well on my Twitter campaign, which is why I decided to re-use it here. Do people want to be 'astounded and horrified'? Who knows? All this stuff is merely trial and error. If it were a science they'd teach it in school.

And so at the end of a two month campaign of experimental free offers and advertising campaigns targeting keywords and followers on Twitter (as well as messing around with a lot of organic Twitter targeting: is a powerful dashboard for measuring the impact of tweets) and a genre-targeting campaign on Amazon, I am none the wiser. Although arguably better informed.

If you know anything wot I don't, or have any new angles on the above, please do feel free to share.

And don't forget to drop an Amazon review when you've read your free books!

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