SPS-230: Raising the Stakes: Supercharging Sales with Amazon Ads – with Eileen Coleman
Eileen Coleman is the marketing half of her partnership with her writer-husband Christopher. In this episode, Eileen shares the story of how she got started with ads, what she’s learned, and her best tips for authors just starting to advertise.
- Starting from scratch with one book and ads
- The importance of investing in ads to gather data
- Why Amazon ad bid price matters so much
- Adding Facebook ads to the mix to drive sales
- The importance of tight ad copy
- Being prepared for fluctuations in sales and revenue
Resources mentioned in this episode:
PATREON: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon page
COURSE: The Ads for Authors course, which Eileen credits for much of her advertising and book sales success, is open for a limited time for enrolment. Click here to learn more.
WEBINAR: Back by popular demand, a second Amazon Ads insider secrets webinar with Janet Mango from The ‘Zon itself on June 17. Register here.
WRITING CRAFT: Join J. Thorn to learn how to supercharge your scene writing.
MERCH: Are you a ligneous beetle or a yawning hippopotamus? Get your SPF hoodies and t-shirts in the brand new SPF Store.
SPS-230: Raising the Stakes: Supercharging Sales with Amazon Ads - with Eileen Coleman
Speaker 1: On this edition of the Self-Publishing Show.
Speaker 2: If you're going to take this course, you have to be all in, you have to really pay attention and analyze it and go through the entire course, and then also be honest about what your limitations are.
Speaker 1: Publishing is changing. No more gatekeepers, no more barriers, no one standing between you and your readers. Do you want to make a living from your writing?
Join indie bestseller, Mark Dawson and first-time author James Blatch, as they shine a light on the secrets of self-publishing success. This is the Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.
James Blatch: Hello, and welcome to the Self-Publishing Show. It's Friday and it's James Blatch.
Mark Dawson: And Mark Dawson.
James Blatch: Hope you're having a great week writing, reading, because that's an important part of writing, and marketing.
Mark, you're slowly getting your new venue together there. If you're watching on YouTube, you can see a great shot of Mark and his background. I can see the side of his head, which is slightly better than it was last week, where I was talking to the back of his head.
Mark Dawson: Yeah. We're gradually working around. This time next week, you'll be able to see the front of my head. But the actual shot on YouTube, for those who are watching on YouTube, is pretty sweet now, actually.
James Blatch: How's the focus?
Mark Dawson: It looks all right. Yeah, it looks all right.
James Blatch: Good. Okay.
Mark Dawson: We'll see.
James Blatch: Look, we've got a few things to do before today's excellent interview with Eileen Coleman.
First of all, I want to say a big shout out to our newest Patreon supporters, Rose Griffin from Hampshire in the United Kingdom, Kevin Crowell from New Jersey in the United States of America, a S.E. Gowland from South Port United Kingdom, Matty Dalrymple, and Sarah Rockwood. We welcome you all to the Self-Publishing Show, to be a Patreon supporters. They've been to patreon.com/selfpubshow. Is that right?
Mark Dawson: No, no, no, no.
James Blatch: Why do I no longer know this link off the top of my head? Self Publishing Show.
Mark Dawson: I don't know.
James Blatch: It is Self-Publishing Show.
Mark Dawson: Dementia.
James Blatch: Patreon.com/selfpublishingshow, because that's what we are. Okay.
I also want to do a quick mention about the webinars that we're doing at the moment. We're recording this on Monday, the 8th of June. On Tuesday, the 9th of June, is our first webinar with Janet Margot, fresh from Amazon HQ, to talk about the inside track on Amazon Ads. It's a hotly sought after seat. I can tell you where we are now.
We've had something like 3,800 registrations for this webinar. We have a maximum limit of a thousand. We pay several thousand dollars a year, by the way, just to get that thousand. It's an expensive system. So what we'll do, we will put on another version of that webinar for all the people who inevitably will not get on tomorrow night. We know there's going to be some disappointed people.
You can go actually to the same URL, which is the selfpublishingformula.com/sixsecrets, S-I-X S-E-C-R-E-T-S. Will register you for the same webinar. We'll bring Janet back, so more chance to hear her talking live, more chance to ask her questions about Amazon Ads.
Her new course has been out in the wild for a few days, getting some really good feedback on that. I'm using it, going through my optimization now listening to Janet's Inside Track. As with, I think, I don't know exactly what we expected from Janet. We knew she'd know the platform inside and out, but what I'm enjoying is her theoretical approach to how you run your ads platform.
I think hearing it from the point of view of somebody who's designed the platform, this is how you should approach and run it, there's some good nuggets in there.
Mark Dawson: Yes. I wouldn't say she designed it. That would be the engineers, but she worked with them certainly to meld the system that had been working for sellers and vendors for a long time and maybe making it more appropriate for authors.
She does have an unusual degree of inside knowledge, certainly beyond what we have. It's a great course. I was looking through it again today. It is very, very detailed. We're going to add stuff to it as well. I've got a few tips I'll be adding to it over the next week or two. It'll be something that we, and I think without saying too much, there are going to be some changes to the Ads platform, we think, in the next six months or so. We will keep the course up to date as those changes roll in.
James Blatch: Yes, we are hearing our little bird in our ear telling us what's coming down the line. We're not at liberty to divulge too much of that, but there is some good things, really useful things coming down the line.
Talking of which, I had our first BookBub-featured deal last week, I think it was Tuesday, Mark. was a non US deal, UK, Australia, Canada, and India. Went really well. We did 460-odd books downloaded on that day and into the next day.
But actually since then, so here we are yesterday, we sold 45 books. This is on our Fuse account, the little publishing imprint that you and I have, just six books. I don't know whether that's the ads have suddenly got up to the next level. I mean, I am scaling them up because the various campaigns have been working.
But my benchmark, where we came in from, was 12 books a day. That's eBooks and POD combined. We did 45 yesterday. We did 39, 40 the day before. I've had 3 days over 40,000 page reads.
I'm really excited by how well that's going.
It's a bit difficult for me to disentangle the BookBub bounce. I don't know how much that would continue on the days that follow, Mark?
Mark Dawson: It will continue, definitely. I mean, the page reads, especially, those will ... people may only be made aware of the series with that BookBub email. You could expect to see a wave of reads progressing through the series. That could last for four weeks. Obviously, gradually we'll take her out. But it could last for a long time.
Same goes for sales. So people bought the first book, they will then go on, if they enjoy it, to read the second, the third, the fourth. Again, you'll expect to see a wave of readers as they progress. This is read through in action. You should be able to see, I'd say within the next few days, you should start to see a spike in book two. Then maybe a week or two after that, a smaller spike in book three and so on. But no, it's always good to see.
Those who say, "BookBub doesn't work anymore," are talking out their backsides. It works very well.
James Blatch: I can tell you, black and white, it's working.
Mark Dawson: This was the small BookBub. This wasn't a big BookBub. This was an international deal. Even in that case, it still worked really well.
James Blatch: I'm really pleased about it. My next question for you then is say, if you've got one series, you've used the BookBub or their international version, as you say, for book one. My next application, I think, would be for the box set, which goes pretty well on Amazon Ads actually. It's a profitable Amazon Ad in its own right, whereas the others do rely on read through to get into profit.
But how long would I leave?
Mark Dawson: You need to check their T's and C's, because the first book had the BookBub deal. So we'd be effectively including the first book. I can't remember off the top of my head if there's a restriction, because that has been featured before.
James Blatch: So it's 30 or 60 days, something like that, after looking at the terms.
Mark Dawson: Or minimum, it could be more. So yeah, check that out. Also, whilst I remember, we should say, you may not have seen this, but I think Carlin Robinson from BookBub was married yesterday, I think.
James Blatch: Yes.
Mark Dawson: So we should say congratulations to Carlin. I don't know what her surname is now.
James Blatch: Well, probably Robinson.
Mark Dawson: Possibly, yes.
James Blatch: Because that tends to be the way it is these days, but who knows? Yes. So congratulations to Carlin. And also congratulations to Jennie Nash, her mum, who's a friend of the show. It's a big day in any parent's life. We're a few years away from that, you and me Mark.
Mark Dawson: We're getting married?
James Blatch: Yeah, getting married, no, we both had that bit. But being a parent of the bride. But what an unusual ... I don't know, I haven't heard anything about the day itself. But obviously anybody who's been planning weddings for this period of time will have had everything turned upside down by the virus. Just, yeah, best wishes too. I'm sure that they had a fantastic day.
I think Jenny wrote a really lovely blog about this last week. Ultimately this is about the people you're with and the values of the day, rather than the trinkets and the bits and pieces around. Although obviously disappointing not to have some of your closest friends and relatives there.
I've got one more thing just to give a little plug too. He's another friend of the show, J. Thorn, who's been on a couple of times, who's running this scene workshop. It's a scene challenge. There's a few of these challenges going around at the moment. I'm tempted to do this one myself. We'll see if, although time may be a factor for me.
If you go to selfpublishingformula.com/scene, S-C-E-N-E, you can get all the details there. It's a five-day scene-writing challenge. It's going to up your game in terms of how you draw your ... give your protagonist and your baddies, for instance, give them purposes and roles and how you work out whether that's been successful in the scene, and this really good writer J.
We are an affiliate for that. We get a little kickback if you go on. I think it's free. I'm pretty certain this is free, but there will be something down the line, a mastermind workshop that will be offered up to you. We are an affiliate for that, I should say.
I'm so scruffy Mark. I want people to keep away from YouTube. This lockdown is not going well. I'm exercising a lot, but I do have a bit of lockdown belly from quite a lot of beer drinking. I need to cut that down. I haven't shaved in I don't know how long. My hair is getting out of control. I need this to end.
Mark Dawson: Yeah. Well, we just saw today, 55 deaths in the UK today. That's the lowest since lockdown began. You never know. We're getting there. Although I did see that we got an email from NINC, didn't we, on Saturday.
James Blatch: Yes.
Mark Dawson: Have to make a call as to whether we're going to NINC this year. I think probably got to make a call by Wednesday, I think.
James Blatch: Do we have to make a call by Wednesday? I didn't see that in the email.
Mark Dawson: By The 12th, yeah. Which I think is ... when is that? Friday?
James Blatch: Gosh.
Mark Dawson: Yeah. It's the eighth today. So yeah, we got to make a call on that. It is a tricky one because at the moment, we'd have to quarantine for two weeks going back, which isn't a problem because you just go home and don't leave the house, which is kind of what-
James Blatch: What we do.
Mark Dawson: -I've been doing for the last three months. But Florida, do we want to go to Florida at the moment? Well I do and I love Florida, but do we want to go to Florida with ... had a lot of outbreak yesterday. It's a funny one. We have to think about it.
Could we fly? Who knows? Who knows at the moment? It's just so messy.
James Blatch: We also have to look at insurance and all that stuff. We've paid for the flights already, paid for them back in January when this was not really on the radar at that point.
Mark Dawson: It was on my radar.
James Blatch: Was that on your radar at the time we paid for the flights, well?
Mark Dawson: Ooh, I don't know. I think I've been following this story since December. Possibly. I don't know even I would have imagined it being like this.
James Blatch: So all your conspiracy and paranoid fears, finally ... it's like a stopped clock that's right twice a day. Finally, you got one that did turn out to be a real thing.
Mark Dawson: Yeah. I bought masks in January, as we've mentioned before, and stocked up with food in January, which we've eaten now.
James Blatch: Yeah.
Mark Dawson: I suppose I was right about this one.
James Blatch: Right.
Mark Dawson: Great. Well done me.
James Blatch: Okay. Now we are going to talk to Eileen Coleman.
Eileen does the marketing for her husband who writes horror books. They're both civil servants. Do they use the expression civil servants in America? They both work for the federal government in Washington, DC and live in a lovely, beautiful, rural part of Maryland.
Eileen is just one of these people, Mark, who I think wants to say a thank you to you for somebody who knew that her husband could do better than he was doing in terms of his sales, that he had good ... the people who read his books loved them. She did your course.
Now the story comes out in this interview. The reason we've got the interview on is to hear how she approached it, what changes she made, and how she got to where she is, a bit of inspiration for the rest of it. We'll talk a little bit more detail about what changes she made at the end of the interview, but for now, let's hear from Eileen.
Eileen Coleman, welcome to the Self-Publishing Show. Great to have you here.
Eileen Coleman: Thank you.
James Blatch: Do you know what? We talk a lot about, well, it sort of is a trend that it was everybody's favorite trend last year, talking about retiring husbands, because there are a lot of female writers. They retire their husbands who become their other half of the publishing partnership. But you are a retiring wife. Is that right?
Eileen Coleman: Uh-huh.
James Blatch: So your husband is the writer and we should say that John Dyer and I dropped in on you in beautiful, rural Merryland. Is it Merryland?
Eileen Coleman: Yeah, Maryland.
James Blatch: Oh, I said it wrong. Merryland, I said, you said Maryland.
Eileen Coleman: Maryland.
James Blatch: Maryland. Okay. We've been to beautiful, rural Maryland. It's quite hard to say that. The one thing I remember, well I remember your lovely hospitality, your lovely house and spending a nice time chatting to you there. But the one thing I remember is you can drive for many hours away from DC and you are still surrounded by everybody who works for the federal government in DC.
Eileen Coleman: Oh yeah.
James Blatch: And spends hours in cars, queuing to get in and out of your nation's Capitol. I think probably a liberating factor for you is working on publishing side of things at home.
Eileen Coleman: Yes.
James Blatch: How many hours, between you and your husband, do you think you've spent in cars? Because he also worked for the federal government going in and out of DC.
Eileen Coleman: Oh my gosh. It's actually pretty terrible, the commute. It's amazing. I don't know how any of us, well, now we're all working from home, of course. But yeah. But a lot of time and a lot of hours. My commute is two hours door-to-door, each way.
James Blatch: Wow. That's a waste of of living, isn't it? Sitting in a car-
Eileen Coleman: Yes, it is.
James Blatch: -In that traffic. Just update me on the situation, because I think you were still working for the federal government at that time that we met.
Eileen Coleman: Yes.
James Blatch: What is the situation now? Are you both on this publishing lock full time?
Eileen Coleman: No, not yet. We're both still working for the federal government and trying to make this happen full time. But we have a goal in mind and until we meet that goal, we're just not comfortable saying goodbye to the day job just yet.
James Blatch: Okay. So you're working towards it. You do need to have a bit of a safety net, that's for sure. You've also got to do what's comfortable for you in terms of the long ... I think everyone's individual situation is different, but it can be a very stressful.
We had an interview with James Sumner a few weeks back, who did make the move from his job to full-time author, and it didn't work out for him for all sorts of other reasons. I do think it's a big decision, and one to get right. Doing it a bit late is fine, in a way, because you've got an overlap. You could build up some security. Doing it early can be stressful for people.
Well, let's catch up with you then. I know a bit about the background.
Why don't you tell us exactly how you got to where you are today. Talk, first of all, perhaps about the books.
Eileen Coleman: Okay. My husband's Christopher Coleman, he's a horror thriller author, and this all started back in 2015. October 31st, 2015.
James Blatch: Halloween, good for a horror author.
Eileen Coleman: Yeah. He had written this, well, I think it's an awesome book. He had written this book called Gretel, and he did things quietly. I didn't really know he was writing a book, and then one day he just told me. He was really deep into this book he was writing.
I talked to him about self publishing. I knew a little bit about self publishing and I had said, "Okay, do you think when you're done, you want to self publish this? You want to try query agents and go traditional way?" At that time he really wanted to go the traditional way. He was like, "I want to give that a shot and just see." He wasn't sold on self publishing at all.
He queried literary agents. He got real close to getting signed, but it just didn't work out. It just didn't work out. He put the book away, and I encouraged him not to give up. I was like, "Come on. This book is good. I could put it up on Amazon, Kindle." I pushed him, to be honest. I was like, "I can do this for you. I'll do it all. Don't worry about it." We did, we published October 31st, 2015.
I have a marketing background. I had done some research on ads, and what to do, how to get it out there, because I knew you couldn't just throw it up on Amazon and hope that everyone just finds it. That's not realistic. We did a little bit of work, did a Facebook page, but nothing serious when it came to ads. He as making a little bit of money, like a little bit. A tiny bit. But it was encouraging. I was like, "Okay, he's getting a small following."
Then spring of 2018, is when things started changing. I was doing more ads. I had read more, so I would already ... I started Amazon ads for him, some Facebook ads. We were seeing a significant improvement in sales, like huge improvement.
When I heard about Mark Dawson was releasing his Ads for Authors course in early June. I wanted to take Chris to the next level, and so I talked and I was like, "Look, I think we should do this. I will learn the course and take it to the next level, if you trust me and I do this course and you trust me to do this." He was like, "Absolutely, let's do it."
James Blatch: Okay, I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to stop you there, because this is a cliffhanger because you're about to do Mark's course in the ... But I want to quiz you a little bit about those early days, pre-Mark.
Eileen Coleman: Yeah, sure.
James Blatch: That early research you did by yourself and what you did. In terms of things like a cover, and a blurb, where did you get your ideas from? How did you source things? Because you're, at this stage, I guess you're not surrounded by friends who are writing and publishing books, right? You're on your own.
Where did you get your ideas from? How did you source things?
Eileen Coleman: I'm on my own, but I had joined a couple of Facebook groups that I'm no longer a member of. There were a couple of Facebook groups that I was ... I started mimicking other authors that were successful, because why reinvent the wheel?
I basically just looked on Amazon and paid attention to what was selling and then copy the Amazon description for those books. How those books, those descriptions were being written, and what the rank was. I obviously didn't know how many books these authors were selling, but I could get an idea.
I would look at the ranking, and I would look at the top 100 bestselling books. I did a lot of mimicking. I looked at Stephen King books, and looked in his descriptions. A lot of testing, it was a lot on my own. A lot of reading, a lot of analyzing, a lot of Google searching. I literally would put in, "how to sell books."
James Blatch: Well that sounds like a brilliant way to do it.
In those early days, did you go into Select? Did you just put it up? Did you know what Select was even at that point?
Eileen Coleman: I did know what's Select was, and we went straight to unlimited Select, just because at that time, I didn't have the bandwidth to deal with all the other publishing platforms. We were just giving this a test. We had no expectation. We just started with Amazon.
James Blatch: Tell us about those early sales figures.
Eileen Coleman: I think the first month, I'll have to go back and double check, but I think the first month we made $800.
James Blatch: That's pretty exciting.
Eileen Coleman: It was really ... Actually we were jumping up and down. It was like we were rich. We made $800. Oh my God. I remember my husband saying, "Why are people buying the book? I can't ..." I'm like, "What do you mean, why? You wrote a great book."
We made just in the hundreds for the first couple of years, actually, nothing huge. We didn't have any huge sales numbers, but we were happy with it, because we were still testing things.
James Blatch: It found its audience pretty organically early on. Did you say you looked into some ads early on?
Eileen Coleman: Yeah, I did. I launched a couple of Amazon ads for him, but I didn't know what I was doing. I really did not. I just launched them and hoped for the best. I didn't know how to optimize them. I lost a lot of money. I'm like, yeah, let's stop those ads right now.
Just on that point, I think it's worth just mentioning that is a tricky time when you first start advertising for a book, even if you've got all the knowledge that you get from Mark, because you need data at that stage, and you have to effectively buy it, don't you? You have to buy it, and you have to wince a little bit at the fact that you're "losing money" in inverted commas, because it's an investment at that stage to find out what's working, what's not, keywords and so on. Then just see that as an investment.
I think some people can't afford, necessarily, to do that, which is understandable. Some people also don't understand that bit of the process is valuable in its own right, will bring you to where you need to be. It's a rather necessarily painful, but at the beginning, even we've done it recently with some books that and Mark and I are now publishing on behalf of an author.
We've run some pretty heavy loss-making campaigns, but the data you yield from that, you can start throwing away ideas you thought we're going to be good at the beginning, and narrowing down a little bit. Just the point to make at that point, that early bit of advertising is painful sometimes.
Eileen Coleman: Oh yeah. It can be very painful, but it is necessary. I agree.
James Blatch: You took Mark's course. This was the Advertising for Authors course. Where are we now? Is this 2016?
Eileen Coleman: No, I didn't take his course until June, 2018.
James Blatch: Oh, okay. You were going a couple of years, two, three years, maybe at this stage. More books from Chris?
Eileen Coleman: More books. He published his first book, Gretel, and he was going to be done. He was like, "That's the only book I'll write. I'm happy with it." Again, I pushed him. I was like, "You got talent, you need to do this."
He released the second book in what became the Gretel Series, like November of the following year. It took him a year to publish the second book. I would purchase newsletter placements, like e-Reader News Today, I think that's what it's called. Bargain Booksy and all of those, Robin Reads, that's basically where I spent my marketing dollars, and they're great.
But we weren't looking at anything huge yet. We were still testing. We took our time. We knew that you had to invest a little bit of money, but we didn't want to mortgage the house over it. We really did, we took our sweet time. We still had our day jobs that we have now, we were quite happy doing what we were doing.
James Blatch: Did you have, at that stage, a mailing list?
Eileen Coleman: No. Well, that's not true. Let me step back. He did have a mailing list that I set up for him through MailChimp. I think he had like 10 subscribers.
James Blatch: Okay, you and your friends.
Eileen Coleman: That's why I said no originally, because technically we had a mailing list, but you know, 10 subscribers.
James Blatch: Okay. Well you have to start somewhere. Did you know the other nine?
Eileen Coleman: I may have known two of them, and I think one of them was me.
James Blatch: Well, that is how you start with a mailing list. You were starting slowly, but nonetheless seeing a few hundred dollars each month, which is great, right? When you're both working anyway, that's your vacation fund or something.
Eileen Coleman: Right, yeah. That's how we saw it.
James Blatch: I should ask also, you keep mentioning Gretel being the first book, was it this as in Hansel and Gretel?
Eileen Coleman: Yeah.
James Blatch: It's a little twist on the old fairytale, which are always perfect for horror stories, of course. They're grim as it is.
Then you started to ratchet it up a little bit.
What did you learn from the Ads for Authors course? And what difference did it make?
Eileen Coleman: I enrolled in the course in June, early June of 2018. I studied it. I just went really deep into it, everything. That was my life for a week, two weeks, just studying the course.
I went and implemented Amazon ads using what I learned in the course, and some Facebook ads. It was pretty much overnight. I'm not exaggerating the difference. I didn't pay attention for two days. Let me just tell you that I launched these ads using what I had learned. I was like, "Okay, I'll look in a couple of days. I don't want to become too obsessed. I'll look at the stats in a couple of days."
James Blatch: Which is another really good thing to do by the way, leave it. Don't look at it every five minutes, and then post on Facebook saying, "I haven't had a sale." Just leave it, let it breathe, then go back to it.
So what happened when you it a couple of days?
Eileen Coleman: I left it a couple of days. It might've even been almost a week. Then one day I was just laying on the couch with my iPhone and I'm like, "Let me log on and just see what's going on with sales. Let me look into the Amazon ads platform and see what's going on."
I really could not believe what I was seeing. It was actually crazy. I wish I could show you my screen. I couldn't believe it. It was tons of sales, a lot, it was double. I was like, "Am I really seeing correctly?" I'm not an analyst. Sometimes I mess the numbers up and I don't know what I'm looking at.
I had to look at it and then Chris was watching a movie and he was sitting on the other couch and I was like, "Can you pause for a second? I got to talk to you about these ads."
I'm like, "Honey look, I think it says the click-through rate ..." or whatever we started going through. Look at your spike and log onto Amazon Kindle, KDP. We were both shocked. We were jumping up and down, it was crazy. It was pretty amazing. I think what was important is that we left it alone.
We set the ads, left them alone, and then we went back and we could see what was working. There were certainly some ads that were not working that I had spent money on that I had to shut off. But there were quite a few ads that were going crazy. That was a pretty amazing experience.
James Blatch: What did you learn that made the difference? Because you were running some ads anyway.
Eileen Coleman: I'll tell you, and I'm going to go back and make sure this is correct, but I think that I am correct in this answer. There was a very specific suggestion that Mark made with Amazon Ads that I hadn't heard anywhere else. In fact, I had heard the opposite, not to do this specific thing.
What it was, I was bidding really low with Amazon ads. Really low. 8 cents, 10 cents, 4 cents. These ads were not taking off, nothing was happening. They were just sitting there, no impressions. I had learned, just leave them alone, they'll eventually take off. It was like two months, nothing had taken off.
The one thing I really want to point out that was so different with his ads is I remember him saying he bids, and he recommended, again, I'll make sure, but I'm pretty positive it was 50 cents. 50 cents. I had not heard that anywhere else. In fact, all I heard was never to do that.
I thought, "Well, this guy is really successful. He's saying 50 cents. I'm going to do 50 cents." It was scary, but I bid 50 cents for all the new ads. That's what made the difference. My ads went insane. Lots of impressions, lots of sales, lots of clicks. The great thing about it is, I wasn't being charged 50 cents. I bid 50 cents, but I wasn't being charged 50 cents. I just want to make sure that that was one thing that made all the difference when it came to Amazon Ads.
James Blatch: Well, at the moment where I'm speaking now, we'll probably ... It's going to make complete sense for us to release this interview at the time that Ads for Authors is out, because it's very organically a great advert for it. Thank you, Eileen. That'll be June, but where I am now, I'm in the middle of editing the new Amazon Ads for Authors course, which is being done by Janet Margo, who's one of the architects of the Amazon ads platform inside Amazon, is now on the outside writing the course for us.
One of the little nuggets I've learned from her going through, is that 70% of people never got off the front page. The first page. 70% of all sales happen on that first page. If you're bidding lower down, even if you're getting impressions, you're already down to just 30% of people who get onto that second page.
Eileen Coleman: I believe that.
James Blatch: And the third or fourth page. That high bid, you need to be on that front page where the action happens and where the vast majority of sales are happening. But there's a lot more to it, by the way, don't simply go off and put 50 cents in or a dollar in or whatever, but it is a more subtle and complex platform than I realized before I saw Janet tearing it apart.
That's a really exciting story. And I think it was after that that we came to see you. We were in the area and we drove out to Maryland and spoke to you and you were both beaming and excited. I have to say Christopher was a slightly reluctant interviewee I think at that stage. He's obviously happy writing his books and happy for you to be the front of the business. But nonetheless-
Eileen Coleman: He's an introvert.
James Blatch: Yeah, many writers are. But we were very, very happy for you.
At that point, had you run any other paid ads? Was it just Amazon ads you'd run?
Eileen Coleman: It was then we did Facebook ads.
James Blatch: Okay. So you started that after you took the course or were you running some Facebook ads before?
Eileen Coleman: I had been on and off running some Facebook ads, but I wasn't really seeing what I wanted to see so I had shut them off. I would periodically turn them back on. So it wasn't serious for me yet.
Nothing really became serious until after I took the ads for authors course. So that's when my Facebook ads also took off.
James Blatch: What do you use the Facebook ads for? Was that for building a mailing list now, or was this for direct sales?
Eileen Coleman: When we first started, I still at that time was not sold on using Facebook ads for building a mailing list. I was very set on the sales. I know that we need to have a mailing list, but I was very, like, "I just want to see the sales, it's all about the sales." So I use them to drive traffic to his books on Amazon for sales.
James Blatch: Okay. And that worked as well because that can be... I mean, depending on genre and, I'm not sure what the factors are actually, because we talked to lots of people and some people say Facebook ads just work nonstop for them and other people say, can't get them to go at all and it's Amazon ads and vice versa and I've yet to exactly nail down what it is.
But for you, you found Facebook ads profitable?
Eileen Coleman: I did. And I think what I had been doing wrong, looking back, was that my copy wasn't tight enough, like the actual ad copy. It was too long. It was clunky and it was way too long and I'm pretty sure I was using all the wrong images.
So what I learned through the course was just tightening up that copy. That was huge. And making it more enticing. When I first started doing Facebook ads, I was really shy. It was like, "If you think you might like this book..." Kind of in that vein. "Click here but you don't have to, it all depends on what you want to do."
But with when I took the ads course, I became more confident. So the copy was tighter and it was also more direct. Like, "You're going to love this book," versus "You might like this book." It was, "I'm telling you, you're going to absolutely love this book." So it was just little things like that. If you don't want to miss out on this book, click here. So it was the copy what really did it for my Facebook ads after the course.
James Blatch: That's interesting. And do you know what? You can say that because I've just been scanning the Amazon page and the reviews that Christopher gets and they're outstanding, aren't they? So people love his book. He's obviously a very, very good writer.
Thank goodness you persuaded him to a, publish his first book and then write his second one.
Eileen Coleman: I'm obviously biased. I'm his wife, his best friend, his biggest supporter. But I think that's the other thing that's important is the quality of books. I knew just early on just by, even those little ads and E-reader news or Bargain Booksy, I could tell that his books were being well received. So it all started with that.
If he had gotten really bad reviews, really negative reviews, overwhelming, then we don't really have a product. I kind of saw it like that. So once I started seeing some good reviews and a small readership being built, I knew that I could take him to the next level.
James Blatch: Where are you now then? You're being cautious perhaps about your retirement plans, but it must be more than a few hundred a month now.
Eileen Coleman: It is. And as with anything, I think it's also important to say, everything fluctuates. You're going to have some good months where you're on top of the world and you think, "Wow, this is it." And then you're going to have a couple of months where it's a setback. Something's not working. The books aren't selling as they work.
So you have to be okay with that. You can't go in thinking that every single month from here on out you're going to make thousands of dollars. So we've been in the thousands of dollars range for a long time.
But, just as an example, this month, it's like a thousand dollars so far. So you have to be okay, you have to understand that, I hate to use the cliche, the market fluctuates, but it does. And you just have to keep trying to stay motivated and keep implementing new things.
James Blatch: That's really interesting that you say that you've had a slightly lower month because we've been talking a lot about the COVID-19 impacts on sales and generally it's been good, there's no question about it. People are seeing spikes in sales numbers and they're reporting that as well. However, it's the type and the genre of book and it does seem to be with a worldwide global pandemic, people are not reading dystopian horror at the moment. They're reading light and fluffy escapism.
And now my theory is the dystopian stuff will come back in probably stronger in the same that, and I quoted this on, we were riffing about it on a podcast a few weeks ago, in the same way that Japanese culture was dominated by post-apocalyptic stuff for 30, 40 years after the bombs went off. But you can imagine the first five years after those nuclear bombs, nobody's sitting there, "I'm going to read a horror story about a desolate landscape."
It seeps into your culture. So I think the future is bright for horror and these types of even more sort of non-fantasy horror, but at the moment that doesn't surprise me that maybe you've seen a dip and there'll be some romance authors listening to this going, "What? You've had a low month. I've had double my normal month."
Eileen Coleman: Yeah. And that's okay. You have to be okay with that. And right now I cut back on the budget.
I think I have like six Amazon ads and two Facebook ads running. So we're just watching, I'm just watching carefully to see how things play out so I'm not going to throw a ton of money at ads right now. And again, that's okay. I'll see what next month brings and maybe up the budget and test things. But for right now we're keeping it on a low budget and again, we're okay with it.
James Blatch: Now, let me ask you how easy you found all this. You said you had a marketing background. Is this something that you say to other authors, "Yeah, you can do this, it's not that complicated." Or do you think, "This is not for everyone, it's really quite difficult to get your head around"?
Eileen Coleman: That's a great question. I'm really into marketing and advertising, but my honest opinion is that I do believe in my heart that most authors can do this. I'm not going to say any author can do this, but I'm going to say most authors can do this and I think it's relatively easy to learn although that level of easiness depends on your background and perspective. I completely get that.
My advice would be, if you're going to take this course, you have to be all in. You can't just buy the course, click on the link and then read one thing or listen to one session and then wonder why things didn't work out. You have to really pay attention and analyze it and go through the entire course.
And then also be honest about what your limitations are. So for me, I didn't get the Pinterest part of it. I remember looking through and I was like, "Okay, that's okay. I'm not going to do Pinterest. That's not what I'm going to do." So I focused on Facebook and Amazon ads and a little bit of BookBub.
My recommendation would be just know your limitations and it's okay but also go all in and make sure that you're going through the course and you're testing and you're analyzing and you're implementing because a lot of people, and this just generally speaking in life, buy courses, sign up for courses, buy books, they never read them.
James Blatch: Yeah.
Eileen Coleman: So that would be my advice.
James Blatch: That's been one of our things right from the beginning is encouraging people to do it. That's why the Facebook group is there to shepherd people through it and keep that... And it's the best way to sell an online course, actually, is for people to do it, implement it, and then talk about it. Obviously the course has to be very good, which Mark's are, very good. But yes, I completely agree with you.
In terms of the work where you are now, how much day to day work, how many hours do you think a week do you put into this marketing effort?
Eileen Coleman: Great question. So right now, not a lot of hours. We're all home. We're safe and healthy and those are the two most important things right now. But when I say we are all home, I have two dogs, a husband and two kids.
James Blatch: That's a busy house.
Eileen Coleman: My two dogs, my husband and my daughter are locked in the basement right now so I didn't have any noises in the background, dogs barking.
So I would say that right now, I'm not spending a lot of time. I maybe spend, I would say about two, three hours a week looking at the ads and implementing new ads or kind of taking things a little slowly right now. But on a normal week, normal, I would say I probably could spend two hours a day really digging deep into the ads, what's working, what's not, tweaking ads, writing new copy, that kind of stuff.
James Blatch: What do you think you need to do to scale up from where you are now? What are your top priorities?
Eileen Coleman: That's a great question. He's got three books coming out later this year, one for each of his three series. So right now I'm focused on driving pre-order sales. So I think for me what I would like to see is I'd like to see right at launch, thousands of preorders versus just hundreds. That's very ambitious.
No doubt, that's an ambitious goal, but I think that's where we need to be. To scale up, I'd love to see him launch day one with thousands of pre-orders.
So that's what I'm working on now, that's where I'm putting all of my energy to how to get those preorders up at full price, not at 99 cents. We used to launch a lot of his books at 99 cents, which worked. That's a strategy, that's a tactic, but right now at this level, I priced all his books that are coming out at $2.99. Full price, but not terribly expensive.
And I understand some authors would charge more than that, but I'm not quite comfortable yet charging more at the pre-order stage. So $2.99 seems to be where we're at right now. So I'd like to see when he goes July, I think it's July or August, one of his books is coming out, I'd like to see him in the thousands.
James Blatch: And what's your mailing list like now?
Eileen Coleman: More than 10 people on it now.
James Blatch: Yes, that's good. Eight other people.
Eileen Coleman: Yeah.
James Blatch: Is that the key? Because Mark's mailing list is a hugely important part to this day of his marketing, particularly pre-orders.
Eileen Coleman: You know, it is. I have to say that at first, I wasn't quite a believer, but every time that we send out a newsletter, and he doesn't have that many subscribers yet, he's got about 2400 and we're working on it. I have to dedicate some Facebook ads toward building his mailing list, which I've done in the past, but I sometimes shut them off if they get too expensive. So I think that's key honestly.
I would love to see him get to 20,000 subscribers, I know I can get him there, but every time we send a newsletter out, he gets sales, every single time, and that's what drives the pre-orders. So yeah, it has to be hand in hand. In order to get those thousands of orders, I've got to bump up those numbers for his newsletter subscribers.
James Blatch: I'm pleased to see there's more than 10 on the list now. That's a good start. But I sort of think, I don't know, looking at him, his writing, his style of books, the language and the reviews, I just think that a community of people or fans of his would do really well. That's my outside advice is maybe focus a bit on building that mailing list so that pre-order strategy for the future will be a bit easier to obtain when you've got an army. I think Mark's got a hundred odd thousand, 140,000 or something on his mailing list now. So when he says "Pre-order date is here..."
Eileen Coleman: It's incredible.
James Blatch: Yeah. That is thousands of pre-orders before you-
Eileen Coleman: That's like his mini BookBub. That's incredible.
James Blatch: It is. It is amazing, but of course the knock on impact of prodding the Amazon beast, the algorithm on launch day... I get emails from Amazon saying, "Mark Dawson's got a new book out," and he hasn't paid for that. That's Amazon saying-
Eileen Coleman: So do I.
James Blatch: Yeah, there you go. And that's Amazon saying, "People are buying this book. It's doing well. We're going to push it," because Amazon likes things that do well. So getting that beast awake is key. It's an excellent range of books, just looking on the Amazon page.
You say three series now. So considering he's still working for the government, he's working hard as well. It's not just you doing a few hours a week.
Eileen Coleman: Oh no. He writes great books and he's also really dedicated. It's kind of amazing. He has a set schedule. That's how his mind works, on a schedule. So, "From this time to this time, I'm doing my day job, obviously, so no writing is happening. From this time to this time I'm working out. From this time to this time I'm writing books." He just has his schedule.
I don't keep schedules. I'm more willy nilly like, "I guess I'll do this from 10:00 to noon, but maybe not. We'll see." And he's more like, if he puts it down on his Google calendar, that from 10:00 to noon on Saturday, he's writing, you're going to find him in his office from 10:00 to noon writing. So he's really dedicated.
James Blatch: In those early days, the first book, Gretel, did he have editors and stuff?
Eileen: No. He self-edited, sent it to me, I read through most of it and helped him out. And then we hoped for the best. And the thing is, let me just say also he had sent it out to literary agents. So one thing, nobody was coming back saying, this is a mess.
They were coming back and saying, you're obviously a good writer and I did enjoy the story, however, I'm not sure I can sell this. It was more in that tone. So we kind of had that, knowing that his writing was not a mess. And that's why we were, and we didn't have the money to pay a really good editor. So we eventually did get Gretel professionally edited, and we uploaded a new version. But when we first put it up October 31st, no, it was self edited.
James Blatch: That's interesting, isn't it? Obviously, yeah. Goes against some of the advice, but then we do hear these success stories of people who just upload their books and then, yeah maybe do it afterwards.
You said you're going to do pre-orders and I guess what's as immediate tactic, I guess what's underpinning that in terms of your strategy is more books, right? That's your key thing is, what's it, doing three books a year at the moment?
Eileen: He does about two to three books a year. I think maybe one year he did four books maybe, but yeah, he's doing three books. And actually technically he's doing four books because he's editing one book right now based on suggestions from his literary agent. So that's another piece that we're working on. He's going to be a hybrid author, fingers crossed.
James Blatch: Okay.
Eileen: That's happening.
James Blatch: So you do now have an agent.
Eileen: He's got an agent now and I can tell you honestly it's as a result, not only as a good writer, but he had to sales to back it.
James Blatch:That's interesting. And also, presumably I don't want to pry about negotiations, but you have the sales to back a negotiation with a publisher today whereas before, where the traditional way is a new writer just sits there naked saying yes, thank you, whatever you're going to offer me.
James Blatch: Whereas you can say, well, this is what we make at the moment. So what are you going to do for me?
Eileen: Fingers crossed. Basically that was in the email. We were very transparent. These are the sales, what do you think? And so he ended up connecting with a really awesome agent. The experience working with him has been amazing. So you never know what's going to sell, you may sell it. You may not, but so far so good. We'll just have to wait and see. And if he doesn't sell it, then we'll put it up on Amazon Kindle.
James Blatch: Is that a new series he's written just for the publishing contract?
Eileen: Yeah. It's a brand new book. Nobody has seen it outside of me and his agent.
James Blatch: And it's still horror.
Eileen: Still horror.
James Blatch: Are you still thinking, you're scaling up, you've got a literary agent, potentially a deal there. You're scaling up with products on the shelf.
Eileen: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
James Blatch: What is your kind of five years, this is a very boring interview question, what is your five year plan here? Do you still see you and your husband leaving your paid jobs for the government and living off this?
Eileen: Absolutely. I have pretty big goals. We have pretty good big goals. And one of the reasons that we encouraged him, like we should contact a literary agent is because that person can open doors, quite frankly, for him that I can't open. I can take all the courses in the world, but I'm not a literary agent.
If I could pick up the phone and call Netflix, they're not going to listen to me. I don't have those levels, I don't have that type of connections or expertise. And I happen to think that Chris's success has only just begun. And so I'm really excited to see what's in store for him. So we have big goals.
I would love to see him get like a film deal. I can't do that. He may or may not get that film deal, but he's definitely not going to get it if it's just me not having a literary agent because I don't have those kinds of connections or expertise. So I see huge things for him. I really do. And he's really excited about that. So that's what we're hoping.
We're going to keep him as a hybrid author for now. Still keep his self-published books, but also working with a literary agent who can open up those doors that I can't for him.
So five years from now more books, a million dollars a year.
James Blatch: Yeah. That's definitely what you should be aiming for.
James Blatch: Well, when he's got his big film and his Netflix, that would be awesome by the way, the type of books he's writing. And I will say there was a grownup Hansel and Gretel film wasn't there, a few years ago. Was it Jeremy Renner, someone like that? I can't remember.
Eileen: Yeah. It was.
James Blatch: Which was pretty kitschy, wasn't it? Kitschy fun, lots of weaponry and violence. And I can imagine there's a first for it. Maybe Gretel's been done, but he's got his new ideas.
James Blatch: Okay. So finally, Eileen, what would you want to leave people with? So people who are either considering doing the course, or more or less at that stage where they're tinkering with campaigns and paid ads.
From your experience of where you've got to today, what are your key clues to people they should be focusing on?
Eileen: I think if they're realistic with themselves and they're ready to go to the next level, whatever that next level is, obviously it's different for everybody, I would encourage them if they have the budget to take the course. Absolutely. That's a definite for me.
And then once they take the course to go through the course. And then also be realistic with their expectations. For example, you may lose money in the beginning, don't beat yourself up over that. Just don't do it. Just keep your eye on the pie, on whatever your goal is, and set a realistic goal for yourself. And that can be, I want to sell and I want to make $200 per month. And that's a realistic goal. Try to work toward that. Don't go out saying, this month I need to make $10,000. Start small if you're at a small stage, is what I mean.
And then set realistic expectations and be really okay with the fact that you're going to have some highs and some lows. Don't get down about it. Just keep going, stay strong, keep going, keep learning and know when to back off.
If you're spending a lot of money, you don't want to mortgage your house and get into major debt. I don't think you should do that, but know your level of risk and what you're comfortable, what kind of risk you're comfortable taking. But if you're thinking about the course, you think you might be ready for it, I would say, go ahead and do it.
James Blatch: That's very kind of you. I didn't prep you for that, but very gratefully received at this stage. And in terms of the kind of hands on stuff, you've given us a couple of tips already actually about bid pricing in Amazon ads, about tight copy in Facebook ads.
Any other key takeaways, little nuggets that might be helpful?
Eileen: There's so many. I think one of the things is be okay to change that description often if you have to. If it's not working, it's not working. So that was one of the things in the beginning that I kind of was reluctant to do. It's like, okay, you publish a book, this is the description. It has to stay like that forever, you can't change it. Well, yeah, you can.
You can change it as many times as you want to make it work. So nuggets would be pay close attention to the courses. Really listen, because I would not have picked up on that 50 cents. It was just sort of, he didn't really, Mark Dawson didn't even really hone in on that. He just kind of said it and it stood out to me. So my advice would be to get those nuggets, just pay close attention because they're there. Those little nuggets are there. So that's what I have to say on that.
James Blatch: It's always the good stuff down in the weeds.
James Blatch: I'm afraid you do have to get your hands dirty at some point if you're going to find that. Eileen it's been a real pleasure. It's a shame we're not in Maryland, Maryland. I can't say it. How do you say it? How do you say Maryland?
James Blatch: Maryland.
Eileen: Now I'm saying it like you, oh my goodness.
James Blatch: Maryland. I can't ...
Eileen: Say it however you want to say it. Maryland, Maryland, whatever.
James Blatch: The cookies, right? If we had the cookies when we were kids, the Maryland, are they from Maryland?
James Blatch: Oh, they're not even. They're from Illinois.
Eileen: I think it's like some, I don't know, I actually don't even know where the name comes from, so I'm not even going to make it up, but ...
James Blatch: Yeah. Okay. Well, look, it's a shame we're not there, but nobody's anywhere at the moment. We're all at home.
James Blatch: So I want to say thank you so much, indeed, for coming back on. We'll hopefully see you around at some point, maybe one of the conferences or if we're passing through the beautiful wooded Maryland again. Which feels a little bit like it could be where Hansel and Gretel live.
Eileen: Yeah, no kidding.
James Blatch: All around your house, it just goes on for miles, doesn't it?
Eileen: It's like a forest around our house, so you know?
James Blatch: Yeah. Slightly alarmed by that. Okay. Eileen, thank you so much. We'll catch up again soon.
Eileen: All right. Thank you. Bye.
James Blatch: There you go. So people who find their readers and find their living through paid ads, and organizing themselves as a business, and it is often that expression, Mark, that people say that's the bit I got from Mark was learning, he taught me to treat this as a business.
Mark Dawson: Which is not really what the course is about, but yeah, and I think that's fair enough to look at what are you spending on, being professional, making sure you know where you are and your numbers, and all that kind of stuff. So yeah, it's nice that people do take that away from it.
But the main thing really is to show people how to use ads to do well. And I'm finding at the moment ads are performing pretty strongly. Australia at the moment is going really well. So loads of ads to Australians that are converting are also doing what Germany, France, Spain, US, UK, all over the place. And they're all doing pretty well. I had a very big month last month, and I had a big month so far this month.
So yeah, it's lovely to see people like Eileen doing well. And also, given that the course is open at the moment, we're getting lots of emails from people asking for our opinion as to whether they are suitable. And we turned down, we don't turn down, we suggest quite often that people should wait. Others are easier to call, and one's in the middle kind of main advice is, look, you might as well just sign up. You can pay on the payment plan, and you've got a 30 day guarantee to check it all out. If you don't think you're right for it, just ask for your money back. And we always do that.
So yeah, we've had a few husband and wives asking whether they think the course would work. So it's always interesting.
James Blatch: Yes it is.
Mark Dawson: And I have to ask, sometimes I have to say to people, you're going to have to work with your spouse.
James Blatch: Yeah.
Mark Dawson: How's that going to go?
James Blatch: That wouldn't work in my household, I can tell you that. But for other husband and wife teams are fantastic partnerships because we've had Lucy and Tim, Lucy Scorner, partner Tim.
Mark Dawson: Yeah.
James Blatch: On here before. They work really well together. Okay, yes. If you want to know more about the course whilst it's open for the next few days after this, it is selfpublishingformula.com/adsforauthors. Good. Okay. Well, you and I had a little bit of a fraught time actually being able to talk to each other today, but we're through that technical issue.
I think I really do need to break out the razor. I can't live like this anymore, Mark. I'm like stick at the dump.
Mark Dawson: And I did buy a razor the other day and trimmed the worst of the beard off. And then Mrs. Dawson cut my hair, as I mentioned last week, but she probably needs to cut it again, so I don't know. Yes, soon as personal services, that sounds a bit wrong, those guys' business get open again, the better really.
James Blatch: My wife has booked a haircut. It's some way off, but her hairdressers, they phoned round all their clients and I think they've been given an indication. In fact, did I read somewhere this morning that they're saying June the 22nd for some sort of opening of pubs?
Mark Dawson: Yes. Pub gardens.
James Blatch: Pub gardens.
Mark Dawson: Pubs with gardens. And yes, we can have haircuts. There's a hair stylist in the Salisbury area who was cutting people's hair in their gardens.
James Blatch: Right.
Mark Dawson: Whilst wearing full PPE. So that sounds quite weird, but I don't know. I think it's a small price, isn't it, small price to pay.
James Blatch: What a weird time we're living through. Okay, good. Right. Thank you very much indeed, mark. Want to say a huge thank you to Eileen, and I thank you for hosting me and John, which is always a chore for anybody a couple of years.
Mark Dawson: Especially John.
James Blatch: He eats and drinks a lot. He does need feeding.
Mark Dawson: He does.
James Blatch: Like John Belushi when he goes in someone's house, just starts going through the cupboards and stuffing everything in there. Good. Okay, look, thank you very much, indeed. We look forward to speaking to you again next week.
I'll give you that webinar sign up again. If you go to selfpublishingformula.com/sixsecrets, to spend an hour and a half or so in the company of Janet Margot, me, and Mark, as we uncover in depth how the Amazon ads platform can work for you. Right, til then that leaves me only to say that it's a goodbye from him.
Mark Dawson: And a goodbye for me. Goodbye.
James Blatch: Bye.
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