Using Facebook Ads

Those that have worked in mobile and social games can appreciate the concept of virality, that tipping point where when you send it to one person, they send it one person, who sends it to other people, which continues to fork broadly.  Facebook ads use their meta-data on users to help target most likely targets for your ad.  You can target your friend’s-friends, or the public at large. Interestingly enough, it costs slightly more to reach your friend’s friends than the general public.

The good news is you no longer have to throw large sums to do a Facebook campaign.  You can actually throw ANY amount at it.  If you want to reach a few thousand people, you can do it with $10.  That’s pretty cool.

Now, the messages have to be crafted to attract the right people and convince them to click.  This is standard pay-per-click strategy stuff.  Don’t just “promote” a general post.  Instead, craft it along the following:

– Two-Three SHORT, punchy sentences

– Get their attention and enable them to identify your message is right for them (Like Science Fiction?)

– Get the product name in (D’mok Revival: Awakening by Michael Zummo.)

– Get quickly across the value proposition (Top 20 Science Fiction Saga on Amazon)

– Include an action statement like “Get it now!” (This is the call-to-action)

– Include a time-boxing to create urgency “Today only!” or “On Sale Today!”

– Image of the product will help


Like Science Fiction? Get D’mok Revival: Awakening by Michael Zummo, on Amazon’s Top 20 Science Fiction Alien Invasion stories. On sale today: $2.99!

The better crafted your message, the more your target will be able to identify it as important to them.

In order to determine pertinent information and the appropriate call-to-action, you need to understand where in the consumer sales funnel you’re trying to hit.  If your series is new and no one knows about it, a general awareness campaign may be better.  In this case, send people to a free preview of your book. If you’re trying to appeal to those that know about your story but have yet to purchase it, perhaps a more sales focused message will help convince them like “On Sale Today.”

The bottom line is this: be deliberate about your messaging. Know what your goal is. And try to track your progress.

For instance, if you have a URL going to your site add a tracking tag on the end like ?tracking=Nov2013Promo.  This does not hurt the URL and creates additional information in your server logs (or Google Analytics) for you to see how many people really followed THAT promotion.  If you’re going directly to Amazon, I have yet to find a good way to trace it, other than watching your actual purchase numbers and trying to make weak correlations between the promo and the sales.  This also doesn’t help you track the long-tail purchases that happen as a result of your promotion but after it ended, or the resulting word-of-mouth traffic it generates that leads to later sales.

This isn’t an exact science, and it’s different for each book and market. Try things out knowing you’re going to evolve your messages, links, and even targets over time.

Your baby is ugly

One of the things you must be prepared for when you publish your work is the public’s reaction.  Before going into my experience thus far, I just want to reiterate how important it is to remind yourself why you write, and what your goal is.  Here’s an obvious warning: if you want to please everyone throw in the towel now as it will never (ever) happen.

Anytime you venture into the whimsy of consumers you are going to have people that LOVE your work (and everything about you), and *HATE* your work (and everything about you), and every shade of gray (far more than 50) in between.

I’ll be honest, logically this all sounds well and good.  After all, it’s to be expected. But thinking this through is much different than the barb your heart feels when you read something grossly negative.

I’ve been very lucky to date. I had four fantastic reviews of Readers’ Choice, and a number of positive responses on Amazon.

But I have had two very negative reviews. I found myself wanting to talk with those people to understand things better. In the end, rather than responding, I just absorbed it as information to trend against other reviews I receive.

Don’t bother looking for the bad reviews, here they are:


“Zummo’s space saga, a planned trilogy, is based on a short story and role-playing game he created in the late 1990s. Unfortunately, the resulting tale is a derivative take on several sci-fi series. The protagonists are two-dimensional characters seemingly targeted to appeal to certain demographics: there’s the widowed hero learning to use his newly acquired superpowers; an anime-inspired techie and her robotic pet; an ancient and wise teacher who may be the last of his kind; and a young girl whose talent is defense. Even the powerful and evil aliens are never fully realized as bad guys; in one world they’re simply in the technology business. Too many grammatical mistakes mar the prose, more showing and less telling would have ramped up the action and the ending is simply the jumping-off point for book two.”


Amazon, Sixiron

“While the writing isn’t bad at all, the story telling and plot is a mess. From the very beginning you dont(sic) have a clue whats(sic) going on or motivating people other than vague notions. As things progress and characters are added, not much makes sense at more than a superficial level. The plot is absurd and follows its own logic, what passes for logic at any rate. I struggled to finish it as our expanding group of heroes bumbles into one absurd thing after another. Plot convenience is one thing but this takes it to new levels. I wont(sic) be buying a sequel.”


Everyone is entitled to their opinions. People have their preferences for the type of story they enjoy (for instance: hard-core action or hard-science vs. soft fiction, etc.). Perhaps the book was far outside the type of science fiction they enjoy.

I would prefer people who post their “reviews” would do so in a professional manner looking at the things that were and were not to their liking, citing specifics, and kept a civilized tone.

(Really brief rant)

My favorite review word is “derivative.” It’s such a generic and dismissive term to describe someone else’s work. Sure, high story arcs sound the same, but it’s the details that make them unique—it’s the individual characters and their actions that differentiate “my story” from “your story.”  If people want to see derivative, look in any genre.  Anything having to do with individuals having abilities/super powers could be said to be “derivative” of Stan Lee’s work. Or how about space adventures? Star Wars, Star Trek, Babylon 5, FarScape, Firefly, Battlestar Galactica, V, and so many others present materials that directly inspire so many other series. Okay, I’ve made my point on that word.

(/Really brief rant)

Then there’s when they get things wrong in their reviews. One has to ask “did they really read it?”

I will give the rtbookreviews post one concession; they saw the preview version of the original print which DID have more errors in it.  Those have been fixed in the new print and ebook versions.

So stripping out emotional reactions, what did I learn from the two negative reviews?

  1. Preview copies must have the same high quality as the finish product (blatent error on my part)
  2. “…more showing and less telling would have ramped up the action”
  3. There was a feeling the ending was “simply the jumping-off point for book two” and perhaps wasn’t as satisfying for the reviewer. Strengthen the “book’s” story arc more, while still supporting the trilogy’s progression.
  4. My intention of dropping people into the story is loved by some and reviled by others (“From the very beginning you dont(sic) have a clue whats(sic) going”). It was a deliberate decision I made because I wanted the reader to feel the chaos experienced by the main character.  Just because you’re the reader, I didn’t want “you to know” what was going on and the main character not. You know what he knows, nothing more. Some people don’t like that. My anticipation of this risk has been realized.
  5. My intention of traditional stories progression (especially following that of Japanese animes and video games) isn’t liked by all reader types per the comment “convenience is one thing but this takes it to new levels.”

Some positive notes:

  1. There was a clear level of chaos introduced at the beginning which readers picked up
  2. “The writing isn’t bat at all” (HURRAY)
  3. They picked up on the homage’s and ties to well established science fiction universes

There are always going to be people that hate your work. That’s expected and it’s okay. Do your best to take the emotion out of it (even if they were snarky and/or one-sided, or just flat out inaccurate about things they say) and see what you can learn. Something things have already adjusted my approach to editing in book 2. Other things I’ve just kept in the back of my mind, assessing when something may be appropriate to challenge a component of what I’m working on.

Future books and projects will be better off for absorbing and internalizing every piece of positive and negative feedback you get.  That doesn’t mean take it to heart, get disenchanted with sharing your stories, and quit. Nor does it mean you have to change your style of writing.



“Free” promotion on Amazon

When you’re a member of the KDP (kindle direct publishing) program you get 5 free offering days for each enrollment period (90 days).  They can be individual days, a block of five days, or any combination in between.

One drawback is you cannot select which Amazon can see the promotion.  If you set one up, ALL the Amazons (the internationals) get the same promotion.  I really would love to do targeted international promotions to areas that don’t have traction yet, but at this time you can’t.

Leading up to my promotion D’mok Revival: Awakening was moving between being 20-40 in rankings in the Space Opera and Alien Invasion categories. I had a brief peak at 18th. Remember, based on sales, this number adjusts constantly throughout the day (somewhere between every 1-3 hours).

Be aware that once the promotion begins, you completely drop out of the PAID rankings and get pushed into FREE rankings.  When you go to the “top 100” list for any category you will see two tabs: Top Paid 100, and Top Free 100.  I just want to reiterate, this means you will disappear from the previous list no matter what position you previously earned (because you have no new sales).  You will, however, appear now in the Top FREE listing.

I decided to try two days of free promotions to see what would happen.

Within a few hours D’mok Revival: Awakening went directly to number one in the FREE Alien Invasion ranking. It also went to #3 for FREE Space Opera.  In the US Amazon, I ended up with over 224 downloads a day (on average). That exceeded, by far, any single day sales to date.  This includes the 105 softcover editions sold over four days at Comic Con Chicago 2013.

What I didn’t think about at the time was the international implications.  I was happily surprised to see how well the free promotion worked in other territories.  Here’s the breakdown of the international Amazon’s when the promotion concluded:

us  449

uk  60

de  14

fr  0

es  0

it  1

jp  1

in  1

ca  5

br  0

mx  0

That’s 531 new readers!  AMAZING!

Now people may say, “aren’t you exhausting your market?”  Or “but shouldn’t you have just wait to get paid for those?”

Everything is a trade-off.  First of all, I’m not going to exhaust the science fiction readership.

Secondly, this is the first book in an unknown series from an unknown author. My goal isn’t to make millions, but rather to share the story with as many people as I can. It’s all about exposure and market penetration. It’s really more an “awareness” campaign.

In fact, I’m not making money at all.  Even if book one continues to sell electronically it could take a few YEARS to get back my investment from the editing, book printing, conference attending, and other marketing I’ve done to date.  That’s A-Okay with me. I believe in the story and since I have a fulltime job outside of writing, it’s do-able for me.

Lastly, those that download a FREE book may not have paid for it (even at the $2.99 price-point). However, if they like it, these people may recommend it to friends who may purchase

What happened after immediately after the promotion did unnerve me a bit.  I was worried that once I fell out of the PAID listings I’d lose a key promotion opportunity of being in the rankings which would negatively impact sales.

As predicted (and this IS how it works), when the FREE promotion came down I returned to the PAID rankings.  Since I had no paid purchases, I wasn’t far outside the top 100. I’ll admit I panicked when I didn’t see a single category ranking when I went to D’mok Revival: Awakening’s Kindle product page.

It’s important to keep in mind that, as long as there have been sales for your book, the Top 100 list isn’t your only point of exposure.  There’s the up-sell listing (“those who bought this also purchased:”) area, and the ebook “Recommended for you” emails that go to Amazon customers.

By noon I was back in the 60s for PAID Alien Invasion.  Three days later, I’m back in the range I originally was in before the promotion. So, everything appears to be going well.  Now, there were some outside promotions happening on Facebook and at Comic Con New York 2013 that may have helped in the rebound.

My next blog post will be about those other promotions and the results.