Promotion Trumps Writing But the Best-Written Marketing Sells Even More E-Books

girl with ideas

Ever wondered how some indie publishers manage to sell hundreds or thousands of downloads of their eBooks? Is it because their writing is superior in some way? Do they have more friends, family, fans and subscribers?

Mayhap they do. But the Number 1 reason some indie publishers sell so many books (and you don’t) is that they are fantastic marketers.

Here’s a relevant example currently in action:

Joker vs. Gemini Man

In Joker we have a highly publicized, ultra-marketed product. Employing the Trump Media Technique, Hollywood decided they didn’t have to advertise Joker as the greatest comic book movie, or even as a good movie; they didn’t need to compare it. Instead they flouted it as ‘controversial’ (a highly clickable keyword) and hyped it as culturally stirring. It might prompt people to violence! Or so they warned. The stirring publicity even went so far as to have the military endorse it by issuing warnings. (Dirty, clever move, that.) It didn’t matter and doesn’t matter if the movie is any good, if it is an actual quality product. It earns because of the hype, because of keyword inducements and because of the propaganda. As President Trump proved (for better or for worse), the most talked about product is the one that often wins, even if the talk is contrary or negative.

Gemini Man on the other hand received very little advertising or promotion. Despite enjoying a budget nearly 3 times the amount Joker was given, and employing a likable, bankable star, Will Smith’s Gemini Man is hobbling along with a paltry showing. It could be a good movie with great production values. It’s set in the future, whereas Joker is set in the past. It’s main actor is a proven talent in Hollywood, whose string of $100,000,000 pictures made him a household name and a sure thing (back when a $150,000,000 movie was considered a success).


But none of that mattered because there was very little marketing for Gemini Man and what promotion it had was second-rate, an afterthought. Now it’s paying for this minimal addendum effort.

That was just an example, but you can see that the quality of your end product is not always what brings success, but your attention to marketing.

Here’s the skinny no writer likes to hear:

Marketing has more effect on your bottom line than the quality of your writing. This is why second-rate—and in some galling occasions even hack—writers do so well while you struggle to make a pittance. To a point, marketing is a skill. Fortunately if you can learn to write you can learn to market like a pro. I suck at marketing. Seriously, it’s a continuing struggle for this shilpit of a businessman. But I’m learning and I continue to work at it.

I want to save you similar struggle and frustration. So here’s a crucial tip to help you focus your efforts on the part of your business that needs the most TLC:

The 2 Most Important Selling Points for Any Indie Publisher are (1) Marketing and (2) Reviews.

You may be the greatest living novelist, the literary love child of Marion Zimmer Bradley and Guy Kay, but if your marketing looks like a creodont cobbled together a few words, and you haven’t collected many reviews, your brilliant epic fantasy will sit there at the bottom of Amazon’s Best Seller Ranking, remaining # 1,254,720 until more new books are published to push your work further down the slushy ranks. It will become lost in the Dungeon of Forgotten Books, aka Oblivion.

Sorry to be a crepehanger here. I’m trying to show you how the system works. It may not be the best and it certainly isn’t fair, but it’ what we got.

In my rare case I have only one family member who cares about my writing and encourages me. My friends are not readers, and since I believe social media is anything but and I avoid that troll pool like it’s the facebook plague, my only recourses for garnering reviews are Secondary Gatherings; Leaving requests at the end of my books, freebies as incentives and the finger-crossing method of hoping a kind soul will take the time to write a good review.

If you don’t collect those reviews, it won’t matter how great and inspiring and intelligent is your writing.

You will sell a few during your Initial Purchase Offering and a few more through your AMS Ad Campaigning, but then sales will taper off.

Odds are you’re smarter and more outgoing than me. Put your intelligence to work for you and learn from my struggles; edit and revise your marketing campaign ad words and ad text just as you do your manuscripts and your query letters.

As for reviews, you might check out excellent tips and guides at self-publishing school, or kindlepreneur, both of whom are wiser resources than my own regarding marketing and promotion. (Isn’t it refreshing to encounter a writer who knows his weaknesses, owns up to them and helps you in cultivating your strengths?)

On a personal note, tommorow we hear the results of my dads scan. I’m excited and scared to hear if his tumors have shrunk. Considering the recent influx of subscribers here (God bless you), I’m hoping some are prayer warriors and will kindly pray for him. Thank you, and best wishes in your marketing!

Tips on Tweaking AMS Ad Campaigns to Sell More E-Books

If you are self-publishing e-Books on Amazon and not using its AMS (Amazon Marketing Services) ad campaign setup, then you are missing out on a great and cost-effective opportunity.

DID YOU KNOW that there are more product searches performed on Amazon than on Google! Everything you need to start promoting your awesome book is right there at your fingertips; Amazon makes it easy. It’s not a perfect system yet, but it can help you make sales today. And if you select its ‘Sponsored Products’ ad campaign, it is also cost-effective. For as little as 14 cents you can win over a potential customer who is browsing for books like yours, and sell her your $2.99 e-Book.

The best part is that once you’ve sold a few copies, your customers (assuming you’ve written a book they love) might start promoting your book to their friends at no cost to you. How’s that for free advertising?


The great thing about promoting your books on Amazon is that the people who shop there are ready-made customers. They are browsing Amazon’s voluminous shelves because they are ready to buy. You are not annoying people on Facebook or Twitter or anywhere else with pop-ups or with uninvited promotional material and desperate-sounding memes and ads. The people on Amazon are there because they want your book—they just don’t know it yet, not until you show it to them.

That’s where AMS Ad Campaigns come in.

We’ve already covered how to set up your campaign previously, and also in this article.

Here we are looking to master some tweaks to improve the success rate and ACoS of your ad campaigns. So, here are 3 quick and easy tips:

  • Ad Copy: this is the short description of your e-Book that appears beneath the cover
  • Daily Budget: Start at a minimum of $1.00 per day and increase if you feel you are not getting enough click-throughs. You can increase it to any amount and still be confident that you will not be spending that much a day
  • More and Better Keywords: Here is where your homework comes in to play

Given the absurdly few characters you are permitted for your ad copy—about 130 characters, including spaces—you will need to come up with some clever phrases to entice potential buyers. There’s really no room for detail, so just employ the hook you used in your longer book description when publishing it, and shrink this down to the heart of the plot. Make it shine!

AD COPY WARNING: Don’t use terms like ‘bestseller’ and ‘award-winning’ or any other type of self-aggrandizing hype, as the folks at Amazon who review your ad will likely reject it for these reasons. Also, try not to include any punctuation outside of periods and commas—one of my ads was rejected for ‘use of unofficial punctuation’ for the exclamation mark I used, and I kid you not!

Along with your e-Book cover and starred reviews, the ad copy is really what will sell your book.

Don’t worry about starred reviews, right now, though. I always manage to sell numerous downloads when I first publish a book and it hasn’t garnered any reviews yet. There are a few kind buyers who are willing to take a chance on non-reviewed books, so long as they don’t have to pay a lot and they are intrigued by your cover art and description.

The daily budget deal is a whack-a-mole. It’s hit or miss and tends to vary from book to book and genre to genre. You will have to play around with it. Make copies of your ad campaign (just hit COPY all the way to the right on your AMS ad campaign dashboard and POOF, you have another campaign you can tweak) and simply alter the daily budget amount and nothing else. This should give you an idea—after a week or so—of which budget does the trick.

Your keywords are the DNA of your ads

Instead of Adenine, Guanine, Cytosine and Thymine, you’ll have fantasy, magical beings, trolls, books about magic schools, or whatever. You should shoot for at least 200 keywords. Use synonyms of popular keywords (since the most popular keywords will be oversearched and therefore of little value to you and unlikely to display your book to potential buyers, as these words will be used to advertise best-sellers). Use comparisons, as in book titles of similar books, and author names of writers who have similar books for sale. You can do this manually, by searching Amazon, by using Hoth (a free keyword tool), or by employing kindlepreneur’s KDP Rocket, software designed to do all the hard work of keyword searching and collecting and collating swiftly and automatically. But it’ll cost you.

Once you have submitted your ad campaign and it has been approved, and once your numbers start trickling in (this could take a week or so), you can go to your dashboard and see which keywords are earning clicks, and which of these is making you sales. Go ahead and delete the useless keywords that aren’t even getting impressions. You can add more keywords if you find them, too. Here you can change your ad copy if you aren’t earning any sales.

UNSOLICITED SUGGESTION: Run two or three simultaneous ad campaigns, with the only difference being your ad copy. This will tell you which description is winning over shoppers. Once you discover your golden goose, you should tweak your other (black swans) ad copies to sound more like their big sister. Now you can tweak your daily budget.

I hope and trust you have found something useful to take away from this post, something you can use to improve your ad campaigns. Good luck and keep tweaking!

How to Turn Your Book Idea into Money in the Bank, Part 1: Conception

Hello writers/self-publishers! Let’s jump right into a new series. Take it to the Bank is my latest resource for helping new writers develop their careers in the most frugal manner possible.

Each of these 9 posts will provide you with a quick exploration of successive chapters in the book, with links and helpful tips provided throughout.

The AHA Moment
Today we are exploring Conception–a titillating subject. One of the great joys of writing is first conceiving your book idea, that ‘aha’ moment, when inspiration strikes like Cupid’s arrow and you want nothing more than a few hot minutes to explore the idea.

When it strikes, everything else seems to stop. You must take advantage of this moment and jot down your idea.

The physical act of recording your inspiration will reinforce its importance in your mind, firmly establishing it in your memory cortex and moving it from a fleeting short-term thought to a vital initiative on which your creative mind will unconsciously dwell.

Fantasize About It

Remember when your school teachers snapped at you for fantasizing during class? Well, they were wrong-o! The best thing you can do at this point in your journey from Idea to Money in the Bank is to fantasize about it.

Let your mind wander down twisted corridors of imagination. Let it stroll through ancient enchanted forests. Let it lead you down the path of most resistance, where difficult quesitons are not merely examined, but hoisted, weighed, smelled, licked, and smashed with Nordic hammers. Let your mind fill up with scenes and plotlines. Let it run amuck.

Reader’s Digest has a nice simple post showing you 5 ways to come up with story ideas, while Ali Luke of Aliventures (who also wrote Publishing E-Books for Dummies) provides a comprehensive list of methods for you.

We explore in greater detail the importance of fantasizing your idea into an entire world, fully supported by characters and social systems and history, in the first step of Take it to the Bank, recently published and available for a short period for only .99 cents, here.

Enjoy, and have fun conjuring your idea into a book that will–through 8 more steps–lead to money in the bank!