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A peek at my fantasy office. No, really! There's a delightful misconception in the literary world, a near-legendary tale that authors are fueled purely by coffee—cup after cup of that intoxicating brew, our muse for every page turned and every tale spun. But here's a little secret from my corner of the fantasy realm: while most authors are downing espressos and lattes, I'm sipping on apple cider. Yes, you read that right. Sparkling apple juice is my potion of choice, the golden elixir that fuels my tales of enchanting worlds and passionate shifters.

Learning Amazon Ads the Hard Way

The Path to Self-Publishing is Hell

Editing is a pain
Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

When I started my path to self-publishing I knew it wouldn't be easy but I didn't think it would be extremely tough. Most of that is because of my stubbornness to not stick to writing to market. The other factor to consider is I'm doing this out of sheer lack of experience.

About six years ago I dabbled with a short story. I thought to myself, 'Erotica is probably easy to break into as a beginner.' Not only was I wrong but I since have left that category to the professionals. A good thing too because I utterly fail at writing sensual scenes. I tend to write emotionally driven stories. Basically, lots of talking and scenery description.

Anyways, I left that short story to sink into a dark abyss of obscurity.  Fast forward to last year and I started to genuinely try to write the novels in my head. Which meant I had to learn everything a traditional publishing company does for their authors. Editing, formatting, book covers, and marketing. And that's what this post is about!

Marketing a New Author

So, how do you market a new author? There are a gazillion gurus out there that will tell you for the price of their $150+ books, courses, and videos! They will tell you catch-all general advice that you can find online with a google search. What none of them actually tell a newbie author is that when you start from scratch---you really start from the bottom of nothing.

Amazon ads taught me a lot. When you start from scratch, the amount of time to start scraping valuable keywords to use and customer book searches come with time. A lot of time. A lot of waiting. Did I mention... a lot of time?

A new author has to scratch, claw, and bite their book's way to relevance. I had to target general categories to be seen then meticulously block the searches and books that had zero relevancy with my book. For example: Urban Fantasy. I put my little short story in a category ad. I have no reviews on it and so I had to put it in an ARC service to get four reviews on it. Only then did customers start clicking past the first ad tagline to get to the landing page.

People say, the reviews don't matter! Well, mostly. They do when you're brand-spanking new and want readers to take you seriously. No one wants to be the first to take a chance on an unknown author. They'll pass you up and go after the established books on their list. Therefore, don't overlook free or paid ARC services when you need a helpful boost. 

Where was I? Oh, and so when customers started clicking on that little UF story I began to collect information. The kind of searches they used to find my story. The ASINs that were used and there were a lot of hits and misses. Some of the searches had nothing to do with my book genre. I had to block those. What this does is train your ad-bot to recognize where you want your book to show.

And it takes a lot of patience and time. Especially if you have a non-existent budget and using low bids to gain impressions. These days ads are climbing higher in bid spend. For UF it's in the dollar range. Unless your book is extremely relevant in Amazon's eyes then don't expect to get many impressions on a low bid. It can happen but I'm not about to go into that at the moment. 

I just wanted to show how your book can start to gain traction from the very beginning without also-boughts, without a mailing list, and without anything but a hope that your book will be read.If you're already established as an author and have all those things then of course the advice of those gurus will probably help out. I mean, they got where they did by selling their product through marketing in the first place so it makes a little sense that they know what they're talking about in some areas.

But if you're brand-new, start slow and steady. Make an ad, target your keywords, asins, author names etc. etc. with great care and focused only on relevant targets.

Also, make sure that you have a book series. 

I just learned my ads were nicely successful only to realize that because I didn't have read-through in any series that my ads ended up costing me quite a bit. 

Who knows if this will help anyone but it was nice to jot it all down somewhere. The path to self-publishing is paved with good intentions and brings a lot of blood, sweat, and tears if you're just trying desperately to find your tribe of readers.

Hopefully I'll find my tribe soon.
-Wendy May


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