Amazonian Advertising Practices

So, for the last month, I’ve been experimenting with Amazons Marketing Services. Or, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, what amounts to paying Amazon in exchange for Amazon running ads for your product based on keywords and the like. So if someone searches for, say, The Expanse on Amazon right now in the books section, Colony comes up, because the two are similar Science-Fiction.

After a month, I’m starting to see a few of the things I’ve been told about AMS confirmed. One of the reasons I’d avoided it until now was because my research into other authors trying it out came to the conclusion that it was basically a way to get advertising for your books … but to in turn make almost no money off of them, if not none. This because of the strange way Amazon runs its ads, and the system by which they do it.

See, how it works is you set a book to be advertised, followed by a per-keyword ad cost and a daily limit to how much you want to spend. So the keyword may be “action adventure.” You set a cost of 25 cents, and then a daily limit (say, a dollar).

Now what happens is that whenever someone searches for books with the keyword “action adventure” Amazon performs a “bid” for the highest paying ads for that keyword. The ones paying the most go up, and then if the viewer clicks them, it pays one cent more than what that bid beat—so, for instance if the 25 cent bid beat out a 22 cent bid, then it would pay Amazon 23 cents—and the viewer looks at the book, and that 23 cents is counted towards the daily limit.

A little convoluted, but not bad, right? Well … there’s a catch. There’s obviously a catch. See, as was pointed out to me long before I ever tried Amazon Ads, and one of the big criticisms leveled against them is that Amazon has more data on who buys what than the Ad service uses. It simply acts off of keywords, rather than Amazon’s own “We know you’ll like this” system. And so you may end up with clicks that lead to nothing at all quite frequently, because the person who search “Science Fiction” reads Foundation and Hyperion, not Colony. Amazon knows this, but they let the clicks go through anyway.

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Nips, Tucks, and Other Site Changes

The attentive among you may have noticed some small changes here and there across the site. Particularly the removal of ads, and the rearranging of the sidebar on the right side there. I’ve moved a few things around to make a few of the more important items (like the search function, we’ve got a five-year archive of writing guides here!) more easy to access.

Everything’s still in it’s infancy, however. A lot of these changes are just minor, quality of life changes designed to make the site a bit more user friendly, easier on the eyes, and distinct. Which … is easier said than done. When I learned how to code a web-page, it was not only basic stuff, but it was back when HTML was new. So not all of it carries over.

But past that, I’m trying to work with the look the site already has. Having my own domain and whatnot does open up a lot of other “looks” and ready-made themes other than this one which I can slap across the site (in fact, this one is legacy support, so if I dumped it, I’m not sure I could get it back) but I’ll be fairly blunt about these other options: even the “clean” ones look cluttered and ugly compared to the current setup.

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The Knee Post

Yeah, this one’s actually newsworthy enough it’s getting it’s own post.

First of all, don’t worry about this affecting my writing. That’s one thing I can say is that the news I got back after my MRI this week isn’t going to affect my writing life. Other facets, however …

Turns out, the doctor was wrong. Even he was surprised by that … though looking at the actual result, I can’t quite blame him. It’s a little unexpected. Especially at my age.

The initial knee injury? Long since healed. The pain and swelling now? That’s my cartilage. That’s right, I, at the ripe age of 31, have light arthritis in my right knee. And it’s only going to get worse from here.

Yeah. The MRI showed a big old ball of nasty (I’m guessing scar tissue and the like). Apparently, in my 31 years of life on this ball of rock, I’ve done a good 50-60+ years of living on my knees … and now I’m reaping the reward of living that way.

Granted, it’s not too bad yet. There are definitely some jobs, hobbies, and workouts that I have to give up if I don’t want my knees to explode and need a total replacement before I’m 40. Of that list, the hobbies and workouts one, especially where they cross over, hurts the most. A couple of those just got wiped out. I can still go hiking and level running (I think), and biking is fine as long as I’m not pounding my knees or taking big jumps … though the doc was unsure on mountain biking. Jobs that involve lots of squat-lifting are out too, since that’s going to explode my knees very quickly.

On the plus side, none of these things involve writing. So I can at least keep writing and selling books. And it’s a good thing I’ve got an income stream I’ve been working on there, too, because I hate to think what kind of mess I’d be in right now if I’d been banking on a physical job, because that’d be it for me in that career.

On a side note, Colony‘s new advertising seems to be doing a decent job of getting eyeballs on it, and maybe even a few sales. It’s a little early to tell yet, so I’m not quite uncorking the celebratory Martinelli’s (though that would be nice, as this week hasn’t given me much to celebrate with the core of this post, though I must say that the Alpha Reader reactions to Shadow of an Empire continue to be encouraging), but as of the beginning of the experiment, it’s at least paying for itself, so there is that.

Anyway, the good news is that the knee injury isn’t going to affect my writing that I know of. But it’s definitely making me reconsider some things I’d taken for granted.

Op-Ed: The Indie Hypocrisy

Yup, an opinion piece. Kind of an odd one, too. But why not? After all, I finished the first draft of Jungle yesterday. I’m in a good mood. It’s been a while since the last one. And this topic has been on my mind for a good week or so; seems as good a time as any to bring it up.

Last week I had an interesting encounter. I was on a forum devoted to discussing video games (bear with me, this gets back to books fairly quickly) when something unexpected happened. In a thread discussing indie games and how great they were (games that are built and published without the oversight of a game publisher, just as indie books are written and published without the oversight of a book publisher), a group of posters started going off against indie books.

It was the usual argument. How could any book be good if it hadn’t been “approved” by some publisher. Publishers “only approved” good stories so anyone who wasn’t publishing through them was clearly not good enough to bother looking at. Publishers had all the editors, so an indie book would be rife with errors. You know, the usual junk that gets spouted off.

But what really made this whole chain jarring was the fact that this was in a thread devoted to discussing how great indie games were, games that did the exact same thing indie authors did—eschew a publisher in favor of their own efforts to bring a game to the world. So what it had boiled down to was “Indie games are great, indie books are horrible” and the same reasons for one being great were being espoused as reasons for the other being terrible.

This got me thinking about indie books and indie markets in general. It’s not hard to find someone slamming indie books on the internet. In fact, it’s just about the standard reaction. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that, at least from what I’ve seen, indie books are the only place that this happens. Everywhere else, indie is embraced by the majority.

And that doesn’t add up.

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Random Musings on Star Trek: Beyond

Nothing serious here, readers. Just some thoughts from this morning that were kicked off by an only tangentially-related internet thread.

But first, gotta pause for the advertisement. That’s how this works, right? Get it out of the way early! And that advertisement is: Don’t forget the Rolling Sale! Colony is 63% off right now, and you’ll be kicking yourself if you don’t pick up one of the most original Sci-Fi adventures you’ve ever read! Click the banner on the right and grab a copy now!

Otherwise you’re really going to feel left out a few years down the road when everyone else is talking about what’s going on in all the sequels, and you’re just sitting there thinking “Dang it! Why didn’t I read that before it was big?”

Right, aside over, back to the musings! So, Star Trek. Specifically, Star Trek: Beyond. Yes, I’m talking about the new, rebooted Trek movies (not the upcoming show that seems to have a lot of series fans biting their nails and glancing nervously at their communicators).

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Happy Independence Day!

Yup, I’m an American. And that means that once a year, when July 4th rolls around, I freaking love it.

Okay, yes, I know it’s tomorrow. But back home, when I was younger, it was a multi-day celebration (I believe it’s up to a week of events, now).

Anyway, long, roundabout way of saying no Being a Better Writer post today or tomorrow. It’s the 4th! Go light some fireworks, set up some boom. Do not light a forest on fire, though. Play responsibly, people! But if you’re American (or just want to celebrate the date of American Independence since we celebrate with lots of boom), have some fun! Get the grill out! Read a ridiculous pulp adventure! Whatever!

Oh, speaking of reading, though … Did you know that the Nominations for The Dragon Awards close in just 21 days, not counting today? That’s right, three weeks from today, the nomination period will be over! Which means that you’ve only got three weeks to check out all the different nominations you can make, form your own list, and hit submit! Don’t forget, whatever you nominate did have to release during the July 1st 2016 to June 30th, 2017 period though. After all, this award is for the new stuff released in the last year.

So, you’ve got three weeks to finalize your nominations! Get to it!

And enjoy your 4th of July. I’ll see you all later this week.

Happy Memorial Day!

As is the usual, there will not be a Being a Better Writer post today because “Hey! It’s Memorial Day!” Instead of reading on writing, go enjoy the holiday. Though, if reading about writing is one of the things you wanted to do to enjoy said day, there is a solid backlog of old, awesome articles here on the site.

Of course, if you’re just looking to read rather than read about writing, you may be pleased to hear that Dead Silver is now, as of last Saturday, three years published! As a result, it has seen its final price-drop in honor of its heroic status. You can now pick it up for $2.99! New Mexico, silver mines, chupacabras, missing persons … You can’t go wrong!

That’s all for now. Enjoy your Memorial Day, everyone!