I have to start by acknowledging how annoying it is to be asked to give feedback on every single thing we do online. Every restaurant visited, product purchased, entertainment site enjoyed, business connection made. Sometimes I review and sometimes I delete the request. There is one time, however, when reviews are important, to me anyway, and that’s when you purchase a book.
For those of us who are self-published and don’t have a publishing house behind us creating ads, applying for awards, and pushing orders by stores, your reviews are paramount. There’s Goodreads, but I am primarily talking about reviews on Amazon, because they drive sales.
Getting reviews is a challenge for indie authors. There are a ton of people in the cybersphere who review books. They may have thousands of followers (potential buyers), so a review from them would be great. It takes a lot of research to find the right ones for your book and then you usually have to send them a copy. A few months back I agreed to send a book to a potential reviewer in the U.K. It cost a bit to mail the book (no media mail for overseas) and I never heard from her again.
So that leaves the hundreds (if you’re lucky, thousands) of folks who purchase your book in a store or on Amazon. Books with hundreds of positive reviews are more likely to be purchased. And negative reviews can hurt. A few people recently posted negative reviews on my Laugh and Live, Advice for Aging Boomers. It’s clear they either don’t have a sense of humor or were looking for something other than what my ad promises. But without a lot of positive reviews, those few ads will get too much attention from potential buyers. So I’m asking people who have read the book and liked it to please post a review.
To do a review on Amazon, you have to have an Amazon account, so if you’re a “never Amazon” shopper, thanks anyway. But, even if you find a book some other way, you can still do an Amazon review if you have an account and shop there, even occasionally. Your review need only be a sentence or two, but those 4 or 5 stars make a huge difference for the author. So when you really love a read, please review it!
In 2019, I paid a consultant to create an Amazon Ad campaign for my book, Laugh and Live, Advice for Aging Boomers. I had experimented on my own early in the year, but I didn’t know what I was doing and the results were not worth mentioning.
With the consultant’s help prior to the holiday shopping period, I had two ads running which helped increase my sales, but the cost was high. In November my royalties were $342, but the ads cost me $390. Way to go, Amazon! I came out ahead in December by about $70. Not much, but I was happy to have sold 90 books. Fortunately, I’m not planning to live off my profits! Things got better in January of 2020, but in February and March, I lost money.
Lucky for me, once the virus put me in my chair staring at a blank screen and wondering what to do with my time, I happened on Bryan Cohen’s Amazon Ad Challenge course, a free, 5-day course on maximizing profits with Amazon ads. Believe me, learning about marketing is not something that rings my bell. Bryan, however, is an excellent teacher above all else. He presented the material in chunks that I could grasp, gave homework that urged me to understand, create ads, and post them on the challenge’s Facebook page for everyone else in the class of thousands to comment on. There were several sessions with communication directly with Bryan and his staff. I took voluminous notes.
For the month of April–I started the new ads mid-month–I came out $150 ahead. June is looking similar. My royalties, as I plot them from day to day, are averaging twice what I am spending on ads. Thank you, Bryan!
The Amazon adventure is way too complicated to boil down to a few simple rules and I highly recommend you to Bryan. He has an ongoing school for which he’ll charge you, but I am satisfied with what I learned from the free week of classes. Here are a few of the things I learned.
- Have lots of ads, new ones all the time, and make them short range–a month or two.
- Do automatic ads and category ads and keywords ads (the latter work the best for me)
- Write new ad copy all the time.
- Bid low. Bryan suggested 30 cents a click
- Look at your keyword data–which ones produce the most clicks?
I’m not a baby. And I’m not emotionally fragile. But the poor dog had to try to figure out why I was yelling obscenities (“Not you, baby!”) and sobbing at the computer today. The digital world is just too much for me sometimes.
I saw the first email from Go Daddy weeks ago: “Your domains are about to renew.” I looked at one of those emails to determine that yes, I still do have two domains on their server and they will be billing me soon. I even remembered that the credit card in my account was no longer valid. I used to change all my billing information on every site that bills me automatically every time my credit card got cancelled due to fraudulent use. But it’s happened too many times in the last 6 months, so I just decided the last time, “They’ll let me know when it doesn’t work and I’ll give them the new one.”
So sure enough, I got an email on Sunday that my credit card couldn’t be charged and my domains had expired. OK, not to panic. I just need to log in and give them a new credit card number. I got into my account and tried to insert a new credit card number. It just wouldn’t take. So after several attempts, I backed up and chose bank account and gave them the information for my checking account. At least that isn’t likely to be cancelled. So they had what they needed to bill me, but what appeared next was a menu of financial options—all of them much higher than what I have been paying on automatic renewal. So I figured I’d better call them.
At least Go Daddy still has a phone number. Still calm, I listened to the recording. “There is a 25 minute wait,” said the automated voice, followed by “please verify your PIN.” PIN? I’ve never had a PIN for Go Daddy that I could remember.
So, frustration mounting, I decided to go to the “chat” option. The written message, easier to swallow than that syrupy female voice that actually said, “we’re so happy to take care of you,” nevertheless announced silently that there would be an 18 minute wait. I did other things while the words in the box counted down, “you are number 160,” “you are number 130,” until I finally heard a human—who wanted to know my PIN. I told her I didn’t have one and she sent me to the login page to find it. Except when I got there, I was required to login and my password didn’t work. AND the chat was gone when I tried to go back.
That’s when the cusswords and tears started flying. “Am I going to spend my whole day on this?” I went back to the phone option and after only 10 or 15 minutes of waiting, during which I got myself under control–sort of–I connected with someone very calm and patient who helped me reset my password. I believe part of my problem was that the password I was trying to use wasn’t long enough. Go Daddy now requires it to be nine digits with one upper case, one lower case, numbers and, and, and. And the nice Go Daddy man (I wonder if he is a Daddy?) told me it would renew at the old rate and I would receive an email verifying that.
It’s several hours later, during which I have battled one other online account, discovered the last password I had for another no longer works, and failed to give the right answer to my own security question. I haven’t received a verification from Go Daddy that my account is up to date. But that’s enough swinging at windmills for one day. Time to go see if the reset of my modem for my wifi worked and to sink into the cushions in front of the TV with a glass of something to dull the pain.
It’s hard to believe it’s October, waning October at that. Trick-or-treaters will be ringing the doorbell in a couple of weeks. In my brain it feels like it should still be March or April, but those months are long gone. October means it’s time for Christmas shopping. I can start lying awake at night wondering what I can possible buy for my friends and family who just go out and buy whatever it is they want. There is no chance of finding a gift that will provide genuine delight.
Some people just give up and buy gift cards, but that still seems cold to me. It was funny when my brother and I, who share a birthday, used to send each other Amazon gift cards every year. We finally decided to forget about exchanging gifts.
When traveling abroad, I plan to pick up small gifts for friends and fellow writers–things they would never find at home. Only I haven’t done any foreign travel this year. So what could I buy that would be thoughtful but inexpensive? I could bake…cookies? Does anyone my age really want cookies? I had to tell my distant relatives to stop sending me sweets. The holidays are good for an extra five pounds from liquor and appetizers alone, so forget the fudge, please!
This is all my lead up to suggesting you buy books as gifts. Doing some research on what is new in areas of interest to your besties could produce a perfect and much-appreciated gift. Not everyone reads, but there are audiobooks for the folks who have long commutes and are too tired to read at bedtime.
Of course, I am going to suggest that you buy my books. A friend just left my house with fifteen copies of Laugh and Live, Advice for Aging Boomers, which she is going to give to every boomer on her list. If your boomer friends have a sense of humor, they will chuckle to read about such topics as “Waitresses Call You Sweetie,” and “Your Doctors are Children.” If you have dog lovers on your list, take a look at My Leash on Life, Foxy’s View of the World from a Foot Off the Ground. It has humor and pathos and is easy reading, down to age 10. And if you know a poetry lover, there is my collection called Leavings, which includes humor and poems on nature, distant lands, and loss. Nothing too complicated. I’ve been told people like it.
All of my books are on Amazon, and two of them are available as ebooks. In Napa you can find them at Copperfield’s, Jessel Gallery, and Bookmine. In Marin County they’re at Book Passage. If you want to order multiple copies, contact me and I’ll give you a special price. Happy shopping!
You can use this website to access my writing, reviews, videos, photography, and links to purchase my books. I would love to hear from you!