What Does Your AUTHOR PICTURE Say about You?



This is the question that authors should be asking when trying to find or create a good author picture.

Your author pic can:

  • help to reinforce the message that your product page conveys
  • help to lend credibility at the time of purchase
  • help with author branding


The picture shown next to the author’s biography is worth some thought, time, and effort. I’m not saying that customers are out to scrutinize the author page. But when customers do encounter the author photo, it can play a valuable role:

  • When I’m looking at a product page and I feel undecided, while I’m thinking it over, I continue browsing the product page. As I scroll down, I naturally see the author’s photo. Sometimes, I see the photo, and it sends a great visual message (see below for examples). But sometimes a golden opportunity is lost. When a customer is on the fence about buying your book, you want to send the right message to the customer.
  • When I want to find more books by the author, I find the author page. In addition to finding a list of other books, I see the author picture. This visual message comes at another pivotal moment, where I’m thinking about buying more books from the author.
  • I often find the author’s photo when I reach the end of a book. This is yet another occasion where I may be thinking about finding more of the author’s books.
  • And for all you authors who have blogs and social media, I see your author pictures several times every day. A good author picture is a valuable part of your branding process.

In the past, I have experimented with my author photo, and found that it could make a very significant impact on sales. One time I put up a picture that cut the daily sales on most of my books way down (while for two books that were related to the picture, sales went up). When I put the original picture back up, sales immediately returned to normal. A few weeks later, I found what I believed was a better picture, and sales improved significantly.

But there have been a couple of times where a new picture scarcely made a difference. It depends on the pictures. Sometimes two different pictures make roughly the same impact on the customer.

The right picture can help to send the right message, and if everything else on your product page is favorable, it can make a difference. On the other hand, the wrong picture can deter sales.


Here are some messages that an author picture can convey visually to customers:

  • This author looks knowledgeable. This is a great message for nonfiction authors.
  • This author looks businesslike.
  • This author appears family oriented. This can make a difference if your target audience includes parents (that’s the case with children‘s authors).
  • This author seems funny. Important for authors of humorous books.
  • This author has personality. This depends strongly on your audience. With most nonfiction, for example, you want to convey professionalism and be taken seriously: You don’t want too much personality to take away from that. But with some fiction genres and a few nonfiction subjects, some degree of personality can add the right touch. This is the kind of thing I would experiment with to try to get it right.
  • This author has experience. This is often important with both fiction and nonfiction (and the younger the author’s appearance, the harder this is to convey).

There are many other kinds of messages that an author picture can send. The first question to ask is, what message do you want your author picture to send. Then you want to work to create an author picture that sends the desired message. Finally, you need to get feedback from your target audience to find out if your author picture accomplishes the task.


You need to ask fans, prospective readers, followers, etc. the following question:

“What’s the first word that comes to your mind when you see my author picture?”

Don’t make it multiple choice. Don’t plant the word you have in their head. If most of your audience immediately says (with a positive reaction) the word you have in mind, you nailed it.


  • Change up your author picture when sales are slow. Don’t mess with your Author Central page when things are going well.
  • When you create your author picture, you need to consider such things as lighting, shadows, resolution, aspect ratio, red-eye, bags under your eyes, five o’clock shadow (not necessarily bad), your hair, camera angle, how close to the camera to stand, how much to zoom in or out, what the background looks like and how it works with you and your clothing, etc. Use a search engine to learn more about the art of creating an author photo.
  • Take several pictures and carefully sort through them. Don’t be afraid to start over.
  • You don’t necessarily need a photo or a picture of yourself. I’ve seen many alternatives (some good, some not so much). You might find a picture of an item related to the kinds of books that you write. You might use a variation of your cover or logo. If you absolutely don’t want to show your own face (or if you use a pen name and want to remain anonymous), there are options out there.
  • Spend some time browsing Author Central photos of other authors. You will see a variety of ideas, and you may learn from a few mistakes, too. Something you see might give you inspiration for your own picture.


At Amazon’s Author Central (available in the US, UK, and a few other countries, but not all of them—and you must visit each separately), you can do more than just add a photo. A complete Author Central page can be impressive:

  • author picture
  • author biography
  • author video (you can’t show book trailers on the product page, but you can have a trailer on your author page)
  • from the author (several possibilities and ways to utilize this space)
  • pictures of your author books at the top (in addition to the vertical list; this is automatic)
  • additional author pictures and recent blog feeds under the top row of covers


Following are a few examples of author pages. Note how mine ends with just my name and not all the funny numbers that show up by default: You can do this from the Author Page tab (look for Author Page URL). This is great for business cards or other places where customers can’t click on a link, but must manually type it in later.

There are many other authors whom I know who have great author pages. Let me apologize to all of you whose name isn’t on my list.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2016

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.


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What Did Kindle Unlimited Pay per Page in August, 2016?

Image from ShutterStock.

Image from ShutterStock.


The Kindle Unlimited per-page rate dropped slightly, down to $0.004575 per KENP page read for August, 2016 (compared to $0.00481 for July).

There have been small fluctuations, both up and down, for the past several months.

It has held fairly steady for 2016 (while up considerably from $0.04 in January).

The KDP Select Global Fund was $15.8M for August, 2016, slightly higher than each of the past few months.

Write happy, be happy. :-)

Chris McMullen

Kindle Unlimited Per-Page Rate for July, 2016

Images from ShutterStock.

Images from ShutterStock.


The Kindle Unlimited per-page rate held steady at $0.00481 per KENP page read for July, 2016.

For the past 4 months, the per-page rate hasn’t drifted below $0.004686 (May) or above $0.00495663 (April).

This stability is nice. (It’s also a lot higher than January’s rate of $0.00411.)

The KDP Select Global Fund was $15.5M for July, 2016, slightly higher than each of the past two months.

Even the Global Fund is showing stability.

Write happy, be happy. :-)

Chris McMullen

Per-Page Rate Back Up for June, 2016 (Kindle Unlimited)


Kindle Unlimited paid $0.004925 per page read, which is up 5% from May’s rate of $0.004686, almost back to April’s rate of $0.00495663.

The per-page rate has flip-flopped up and down 5% every month since March, but every month has been considerably higher than January’s rate of $0.00411.

The KDP Select Global Fund for June was $15.4M for June, 2016, slightly higher than May’s $15.3M.

To see the payout in other countries, see here:


What does all this mean?

  • The per-page rate has held fairly stable for half a year, between $0.0045 and $0.0050 per page.
  • The per-page rate has risen as high as 5% on multiple occasions. So while it occasionally dips as much as 5%, it rises almost as often.
  • There was a tendency for the per-page rate to dip initially, which also happened when Prime borrows were first introduced, and also happened when Kindle Unlimited was first introduced, but both of those programs stabilized after the first handful of months. It appears that Kindle Unlimited v2.0 has finally reached a point of stability.
  • Kindle Unlimited is thriving. Amazon is paying $15M per month in royalties just for pages read (and that’s on top of All-Star bonuses). The KDP Select Global Fund is still on the rise.
  • Since the Global Fund continues to rise, whereas the per-page rate appears to have stabilized, it looks like the Kindle Unlimited program continues to grow.

Write happy, be happy. :-)

Chris McMullen

Amazon Prime Day, July 12, 2016


Tuesday, July 12, 2016 is a special sale for Amazon Prime members. It’s Amazon Prime Day.

Last year, when Amazon Prime Day made its debut, Amazon’s sales exceeded their previous Black Friday record.

It is a huge day for Amazon. It’s a huge sale for Amazon Prime members.

And many customers will be signing up for Amazon Prime memberships or trials to take advantage.

I remember waking up early in the morning last year to discover that the items I most wanted had already sold out. The most popular Kindle devices sell out fast. But there were deals going on throughout the day. When a great deal starts, you need to act fast. You can sign up for notifications, which may help.

Prime Day isn’t just about books. In fact, if you browse the offers, you’ll see all sorts of sales in other departments, and books don’t jump out at you.

However, most customers think of books when they think of Amazon. So what’s apt to happen when millions of people buy other products at Amazon is that they’ll shop for books, too, even if books didn’t bring them there in the first place.

Department stores made Black Friday famous. Amazon has done the same thing, but even better.

Whereas thousands of stores compete for Black Friday traffic, Amazon created a special day in the middle of July, when sales aren’t normally so hot, and Amazon did this in such a way that no other stores are competing for Amazon’s traffic. It’s ingenious.

On top of that, Amazon is using the day to sell all kinds of products. So this is a big boost to Amazon’s usual business, and gets some customers in the habit of thinking of Amazon when they’re shopping for other things besides media products.

For authors, hopefully this boost in sales will trickle down to books, if not on Prime Day itself, hopefully sometime after. As more customers get into the habit of shopping with Amazon Prime, that will hopefully lead to more books being read.

Write happy, be happy. :-)

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2016

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.


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Kindle Unlimited Pages Read, May, 2016

Image from ShutterStock.

Image from ShutterStock.


For May, 2016, Kindle Unlimited pages read paid $0.004686 per page, which is down 5% from April’s rate of $0.00495663.

Since the per-page rate was up nearly 5% in April compared to March, it’s basically just come back to where it had been.

However, it’s still considerably up compared to January’s rate of $0.00411.

Kindle Unlimited continues to thrive, as the KDP Select Global Fund has risen to $15.3M for May, 2016 (compared to $14.9M for April).

(Sorry I haven’t been active lately with my blog. I’m caught up in more projects than normal. But I’ll continue to update Kindle Unlimited payments. Hopefully, in the coming weeks, I will get back to blogging more regularly.)

Write happy, be happy. :-)

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2016

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.


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Write Selflessly… to Sell More Books #WriteWithCare



By selfless, I don’t mean giving away your books for free.

I mean a distinction between selfless versus selfish in how you go about the writing, publishing, and marketing.

Really, there aren’t two extremes: one who goes about this 100% selflessly or 100% selfishly. Everyone is apt to fall somewhere in between overall.

But let’s look at one possible extreme. Let’s label this as completely selfish (even though from some perspective, one might not agree with this label—don’t worry, we’ll explore this perspective, too):

  • Write whatever comes to mind.
  • Don’t write for a specific audience.
  • Write however you feel like writing.
  • Focus entirely on writing, if possible.
  • Give as little attention to formatting, cover design, marketing, etc. as possible.
  • Avoid interacting with readers or potential readers.

One way this might seem selfish is that you would be writing for you, not necessarily for the benefit of any particular reader. Will any readers actually appreciate what you’ve written?

Another way is that this ultra extreme example doesn’t entail learning or at least exploring the craft of writing itself, such as the elements of storytelling or characterization or making the writing flow.

Finally, this extreme is selfish in not wanting to meet or interact with readers, not to take a vested interest in marketing, not to add a personal touch to the reading experience, not to be willing to get out of one’s comfort zone with marketing, or to not want to take a more authoritative role in cover design, formatting, or the blurb.

Let’s compare with the other extreme, completely selfless (in a sense):

  • Considering your abilities, knowledge, experience, creativity, etc. and how to harness these to match up with real readers.
  • Thinking of ways to attract, engage, and please (or perhaps better, to wow) your audience from the front cover (the moment the reader lays eyes on your book) to the ending (that fulfilling climax and beyond). (Oh, yes! The writing and selling process is a romance, even if the book isn’t.)
  • Researching, learning, and exploring ways to apply elements of effective storytelling, characterization, communication, etc. with a style that suits your writing.
  • Looking beyond the writing itself, appreciating the challenge of trying to hook the reader with the cover and blurb, taking an interest in how the design of the book can supplement the feel of the story, and feeling motivated to share your passion with readers through marketing.
  • Wanting very much to meet readers and potential readers, and to interact with them.

To be fair, there is another perspective to consider.

If you write so much for the readers that you lose yourself… you sacrifice your own style… you write about topics that don’t strongly interest you… your writing goes against some of your own beliefs… you write in ways that you hear are best, but you don’t really believe in them… your motivation becomes to sell as many books as possible, whatever it takes… or worse, you engage in unscrupulous behavior to reach more readers… then you are apt to feel like you’ve sold out.

But somewhere in between is a happy medium, where the author retains a strong sense of identity, but where the author writes more selflessly, trying to put the author’s talents, experience, knowledge, background, style, etc. to effective use to please actual readers.


  • C-are
  • A-bout
  • R-eaders’
  • E-xpectations

Back to the romance analogy with writing, publishing, and marketing, you don’t want a one-night stand. You’re looking for readers to commit to your book. Your series. So you need to commit to your readers. It’s mutual.

Think about how much you C.A.R.E. and how showing this impacts sales, not just now, but in the long run.

  • C.A.R.E. enough to make it easy for your audience to tell what kind of book you’ve written from a glance at your cover.
  • C.A.R.E. to dress your book up in an attractive cover, one that tells readers, “Hey! This author C.A.R.E.s.”
  • C.A.R.E. to stimulate the reader’s interest in the blurb, to not ruin the story for the reader by giving too much away, to show what kind of book the reader should expect.
  • C.A.R.E. to learn and perfect the craft of writing to become an effective storyteller, to create strong characters, to communicate clearly, etc.
  • C.A.R.E. to put the best possible book on the market, one that you will be proud of, one that readers will feel was well worth the money and time spent.
  • C.A.R.E. to find out what readers think, to meet readers, to interact with potential readers, to let your passion show, to get out of your comfort zone and help readers discover your book.
  • C.A.R.E. to think about how readers shop, how they will discover your book, what will pull the reader to your product page, what will make the reader take a chance on your book, how the beginning of the story will hook the reader, whether or not your story will engage the reader throughout, and whether your story is powerful enough to make the reader crave more.
  • C.A.R.E. to make your book so good that it leads to word-of-mouth recommendations.
  • Just C.A.R.E.

This works beyond writing books. How selfless do you write for social media? How selfless or selfish is your blog, for example? Is it meeting the needs of actual readers?


Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2016

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.


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How Much Did Kindle Unlimited Pay per Page Read in April, 2016? (Good News)

Image from ShutterStock.

Image from ShutterStock.


The Kindle Unlimited per-page rate improved nearly 4% up to $0.00495663 for April, 2016. (Compare this to $0.00477885 for March, 2016.)

This is up 21% over January’s rate of $0.00411. A nice trend.

The KDP Select Global Fund held steady at $14.9M for April, 2016 (identical to March).

The improved per-page rate and steady global fund are positive indicators. The nearly $15M per month global fund is a huge amount paid out in royalties to indie authors (and that’s on top of royalties for sales). The per-page rate has almost returned to half a penny per page. When many critics have predicted a drop below $0.004 to come fast, the payment has nearly returned to $0.005.

These trends are consistent with seasonal effects of the original Kindle Unlimited version as well as the original Prime KOLL borrows back before Kindle Unlimited was introduced. The payments for borrows were always lower during the holidays and increased significantly afterward.

In other countries:

  • United Kingdom: £0.00315 per page (British pounds).
  • Germany: €0.00333 per page (Euro).
  • Canada: $0.00487 per page (Canadian dollars).
  • India: ₹0.108 per page (Indian rupees).
  • Brazil: R$0.0114 per page (Brazilian Real).

Write happy, be happy. :-)

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2016

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.


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Kindle Unlimited Pages Read: March, 2016

Kindle Image


The Kindle Unlimited per-page rate held steady at $0.00477885 for March, 2016. It’s nearly identical to the $0.00479 for February, 2016.

Both February and March are up considerably (about 17%) over January’s rate of $0.00411.

So it’s nice to see the per-page rate hold steady at about $0.0048 per page.

There is more good news: The KDP Select Global Fund increased to $14.9M for March, 2016, up 6% from February’s $14M.

This combination is a good sign. Ordinarily, the Global Fund increases when the per-page rate decreases, and the Global Fund decreases when the per-page rate increases. The per-page rate and Global Fund usually exhibit inverse behavior, as shown here.

This time, the per-page rate held steady while the Global Fund increased 6%. Amazon paid $900,000 more in March compared to February, and they paid it at the same per-page rate.

What does this mean? It means that more pages were read in March, and Amazon didn’t reduce the per-page rate to compensate. It’s probably a sign of more Kindle Unlimited subscriptions.

With KDP Select books earning $14.9M in royalties per month just from Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Prime borrows, it’s clear that Kindle Unlimited has become a huge market. Any book not enrolled in KDP Select is missing out on this $15M per month market share, and needs to make up the difference through other venues. Not an easy task, though sales and even borrows usually don’t come easily.

The Kindle Unlimited market itself is highly competitive, with 1.3M books vying for a share of the approximately $15M monthly Global Fund. (But vying against 1.3M books for a slice of $15M is better than vying against 4.4M e-books for sales. The market for sales is much tougher than the market for borrows. The borrows actually help with potential sales, as each borrow helps sales rank.)

This means the average KDP Select book earns about $11 per month from borrows ($15M divided by 1.3M books), though hardly any books actually draw in this exact average. The top books, the KDP Select All-Stars, see a million or more pages read in many cases.

If your book gets over 2300 pages read per month, it’s doing better than the average KDP Select book. (That’s how many pages read it takes to earn the average $11 per month.)

A few other countries:

  • United Kingdom: £0.00303 per page (British pounds). Almost identical to February.
  • Canada: $0.0047 per page (Canadian dollars).
  • India: ₹0.1 per page (Indian rupees).

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2016

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.


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What I Love about Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) for KDP Select



My post will include both the benefits and challenges of using Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) to advertise KDP Select e-books.

I don’t intend for my title to imply that it will give instant success to all books. It won’t.

I will begin with what I like about AMS—for which there is much—and then I will address some of the challenges and offer tips for attempting to use it effectively.

A few years before AMS was introduced to KDP, I had discovered the Amazon Media Group. Many big vendors for a wide variety of products have used and continue to use the Amazon Media Group’s advertising services.

I had a conversation with the Amazon Media Group about their advertising services several years ago about possibly running an advertising campaign for one or more of my books.

This was before indie authors had the opportunity to advertise directly on Amazon using AMS via KDP Select.

The problem was that the minimum campaign budget was $10,000. If I recall correctly, an ad would generate 10,000,000 impressions over the course of a month.

If you achieved a typical click-through rate (ctr) of 0.1%, you would net 10,000 visitors to your product page. If you achieved a better than average closing rate of 10%, you would net 1000 sales.

But then you would need to earn $10 per sale just to break even.

And if your ctr was below average, or if your closing rate was 1% to 5%, which isn’t uncommon for e-books, and if your royalty was around $2 to $3 per book, you could easily lose thousands of dollars on the deal.

I didn’t place an ad back then because it was very high risk. I’ve since heard stories of a few authors who shelled out the big bucks for a campaign back in those days who lost big.

That’s one reason I love the AMS option for KDP Select e-books.

A minimum campaign budget of $100 is tiny compared to $10,000. AMS made advertising accessible to KDP Select authors.

It’s much lower risk now. It basically wasn’t an option before, as most authors didn’t know about it and those who did generally couldn’t afford it (even if they had the funds, the risk was high).

And you don’t even have to spend the $100 budget. You can pause or terminate your campaign at any time, keeping any losses to a minimum. (Though there are reporting delays, so even after you end a campaign, for several days it can continue to accrue costs. By not bidding too high, you minimize this risk.)

Every author naturally wonders if advertising will help. Now by enrolling your e-book in KDP Select, you can find out, and it doesn’t cost too much to see the results (provided that you don’t get impatient and bid too high). Then you won’t have to wonder if advertising is the answer you’ve been searching for: You’ll know firsthand.

Here’s another thing I love about AMS.

You can advertise your Kindle Select e-book right on Amazon itself.

That’s prime real estate.

People who see your ad are already at Amazon, shopping for products, with their wallets out, ready to make a purchase.

When you advertise your book anywhere else, your ad is basically asking people to stop whatever they are presently doing, leave the website they’re currently at, and visit Amazon to shop for a book.

For several years, indie authors have pleaded for a reasonably priced advertising option at Amazon.

Well, here it is.

What AMS is and what it isn’t.

Advertising with AMS via KDP Select is an opportunity. It’s a tool.

Like the opportunity to self-publish on Amazon itself, and like all other marketing tools, some authors and some books will utilize it more effectively than others.

It will work well for some books, okay for some books, and poorly for others.

What AMS isn’t:

  • It’s not a magic genie.
  • It won’t yield instant success for each and every book. (But for some books it will help.)
  • It probably isn’t the solution for a book that hasn’t been selling on its own. (But you sure can find out.)
  • It’s not guaranteed to provide a positive return on investment (ROI).

If AMS were guaranteed to yield 100% ROI, every author would use it, and then we might as well wrap up every customer in the world with wallpaper packed with Amazon ads.

Using AMS effectively comes with some challenges.

AMS won’t bring instant, automatic success to most books.

But for many books, there exists some beneficial way to use it effectively.

Here are the challenges:

  • Landing a decent impression rate when many other authors are also running ads for similar books.
  • Not bidding more than you can afford to bid.
  • Getting a strong conversion rate.
  • Earning a positive return on investment (ROI).

Too many authors don’t use AMS as effectively as they could:

  • Blindly using KDP’s recommended bid, which is fairly high.
  • Impatiently raising the bid.
  • Not running enough controlled experiments to learn how to optimize the variables.
  • Not using enough creativity with targeting methods.
  • Bidding more than they can afford to bid.
  • Not being content with a low impression rate, if that’s all you can afford and manage to get out of it.

I see many authors make one or more of these mistakes, and then terminate their campaigns.

But you don’t need to terminate your campaign. Your last resort is to greatly reduce your bid and accept whatever impression rate you can afford, even if it’s meager. It may not be what you want, but if it doesn’t yield a negative ROI, even rare impressions are better than nothing, and you only pay for clicks.

On top of this, your ad is competing against authors who have a distinct advantage:

  • Series authors have the potential to generate multiple sales from a single click. They can afford to bid higher, banking on those future sales.
  • Authors with several similar books also have the potential for multiple sales. They can also afford to bid higher.
  • Successful authors know they will have ample royalties from regular sales even if the ad performs poorly. They are playing with the house’s money, so to speak.
  • Some authors use advertising for other purposes besides immediate profits. They might bid higher, not minding a short-term loss, with their sights set on branding or building an initial fan base.

And then your ad also competes against newbie authors who don’t have an advertising advantage, but who bid much higher than they should.

Here are suggestions for how to optimize AMS advertisements.

My first tips are:

  • Be very, very patient.
  • Bid very low to begin with.
  • Always wait a few days before raising your bid to allow for possible reporting delays. Even better, wait a week.
  • Only raise your bid very slightly. I’m talking pennies.
  • Don’t be in a hurry. Waiting diminishes your risk, and makes it easier to assess what may or may not be working.
  • Run multiple campaigns for the same book.* With one campaign, use narrow targeting where customers are very likely to be interested in your book. In an experimental campaign, try to be a little more creative with your targeting, thinking of other kinds of books or non-book products which are likely to appeal to your target audience.**
  • Your bid isn’t the only factor, or necessarily the most important factor, in landing impressions. Amazon measures ad performance. Good targeting and product page appeal can improve your ad performance. If you get a strong initial click rate, your ad can generate more impressions at a lower bid. This is one reason that raising the bid often isn’t the solution. Instead, you should strive to improve your targeting and improve your product page to help improve on ad performance metrics.

* Don’t worry: Your campaigns won’t bid against one another. Any campaigns on your KDP account won’t bid against any other campaigns on your same KDP account.

** Beware though that if the targeting isn’t relevant enough, if you get fewer than about 1 click per 2000 impressions, your campaign is likely to be stopped by Amazon. This doesn’t mean you can’t explore though.

Following are some more tips:

  • Don’t use ellipsis (…) or hyphens (-), for example, in your advertising phrase as these might be considered grammatical errors (!), preventing your ad from displaying on Kindle devices.
  • Read your ad approval email carefully, just in case there are any notes about your ad not being displayed on certain devices.
  • Experiment by running additional ad campaigns. Explore your targeting options. Analyze your data. Try to find the magic combination that will help you learn how to advertise more effectively.
  • If you’re getting fewer than 1 click per 2000 impressions, it probably means that either your targeting isn’t a good fit for your book or you cover isn’t attracting your target audience. Challenge yourself to improve your click-through rate. Although you don’t pay for impressions, this is a sign that your ad could perform better.
  • If you’re getting fewer than 1 sale per 20 clicks, it probably means that either your product page doesn’t match customers’ expectations based on your cover or advertising phrase, or that your product page isn’t closing the deal as effectively as it could. Maybe it’s the blurb or the Look Inside, for example. Challenge yourself to make your product page more effective.
  • If your impression rate is very slow for a couple of weeks, it could be a sign of poor scoring on ad performance metrics. If your initial click rate is low, try pausing the ad and running a new one in its place. But it could also mean that you should try to improve your targeting relevance or improve your cover or product page appeal or keywords or categories. You have so many variables to play with, it can take a while to learn how to optimize them.
  • You could have a higher ROI than you realize. The ad report currently doesn’t show Kindle Unlimited borrows or paperback sales. Customers may also buy other of your books in the future. If you can just break even, approximately, it will probably be worth it in the long run.
  • You don’t have to spend the whole $100 minimum budget. You can pause or terminate your ad at any time. If you’re losing money with your ad, don’t be afraid to stop it. But realize that due to reporting delays, you may continue to accrue clicks for several days after stopping your ad. The lower your bid, the less your risk. (If you bid very high, you can blow your whole budget long before it shows in your ad report. Another reason to bid low and exercise patience.)
  • Note that you can now copy an ad to preserve your original targeting when placing a new ad.
  • Avoid pausing or terminating an ad that’s performing well. An ad that’s generating good results has a high score on ad performance, and it’s hard to rebuild that ad performance. If things are going well, don’t touch your ad with a ten-foot pole. Well, you should edit the end date as needed so that the ad doesn’t expire.
  • Note that product targeting doesn’t actually target the products that you select. Rather, it targets customers who have browsed for similar products in the past. So if you target sci-fi books, your ad could show up on a romance page. If so, it means that the customer has viewed both romance and sci-fi books (at least once) in the past. Still, by targeting sci-fi books, your ad is being shown to customers who have viewed other sci-fi books in the past.

What do I know about advertising through AMS?

How do I know? Fair question:

  • I have placed over 100 ads through AMS via KDP over the past 14 months.
  • It took me a few dozen tries to get it to really work, but overall my last 70 ads have done well on average.
  • One ad has generated over 6,000,000 impressions and 3,000 clicks at an average cost of $0.28 per click.
  • I have several ads with over 1,000,000 impressions.
  • Overall, AMS has worked very well for me.

This doesn’t mean that you will have instant success with advertising. I’ve tried to share tips that I’ve learned from my experience, but you will likely need some experience of your own.

There is something to gain no matter what.

Even if your ad loses money:

  • You get information about what percentage of visitors to your product page actually make a purchase. This is valuable information. 10% is well above average. Strive for that. At around 5% or below, you know firsthand that your product page has room for improvement. Knowing that the best covers, blurbs, and Look Insides can close 10% of the time gives you a lofty target.
  • You discover that advertising wasn’t the magic answer you had been hoping for. At least you learned it’s something else. Is it your cover? blurb? Look Inside? Maybe the idea just isn’t marketable.
  • If you change your cover, blurb, or Look Inside, by running a new ad, you could invest a little money to get valuable data: You can find out whether or not the changes you made improve your closing rate (sales divided by clicks).
  • Although you should terminate an ad that’s losing money, you did get your cover and name out there, and you did get visitors to your product page. This is branding. You at least have hope for a few future sales. And if your ad drew in short-term sales, maybe a few of those customers will buy more of your books in the future, or even recommend your book to others. You gained some hope, if nothing else.

Advertising with AMS is relatively low risk, especially if you bid low and keep a close eye on your reports, prepared to exit early if need be.

Good luck!

Write happy, be happy. :-)

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2016

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

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