The amazing Gay Yellen is back with another exciting romantic mystery!

The amazing Gay Yellen is back with another exciting romantic mystery!

A mysterious murder. A future in doubt. Does a missing laptop hold the key?

Ex-PR exec Samantha Newman hopes her new job at KHTS-TV will lead to a successful career in broadcast news. But when an intruder with a gun sends the station’s investigative reporter to the hospital, Samantha is in the hot seat to complete his assignment on deadline. Among a pile of hate mail addressed to him, she discovers some cryptic clues that point to a motive for his murder. As word gets out that she’s finishing the investigation, her life is threatened, too. Believing the perpetrator could also be her mentor’s killer, she sets out to uncover the truth. In the midst of the turmoil, she’s offered the opportunity—and the love—of a lifetime, but she’s too distracted to act on it. Will she survive another wrong turn? Or is it too late for the life she’s meant to live?

Grab your copy now!

Santa wants to bring you Felicity…Seeking Felicity that is!

We interrupt this winter to bring you sand, moonlight, and steel pan music, straight from the Caribbean!

By now, those of you that celebrate a holiday in December (mine is Christmas) might be ready for a quiet read afterwards…or before…and I’ve got you covered with the long-awaited 4th Katie Connell Caribbean Mystery, SEEKING FELICITY. Originally scheduled for a March 2022 release, the Kindle ebook, paperback, and audiobook are available right now! Watch for hardcover and large print to roll out as well.

In the words of my editor, “I love everything about this book, top to bottom.” <– I’ll take an endorsement like that!

About SEEKING FELICITY: Just as Katie and Nick are leaving for their room service-mandatory, clothing-optional, long-postponed honeymoon on St. Bart’s, the St. Marcos police detain her under suspicion of murdering the Don Corleone of St. Marcos, a wealthy client she’d clashed with minutes before his death. With Nick off to Texas to be with his ill father, Katie must fly solo to catch a killer whose sights, like those of the cops, are set squarely on her.

Ebook or paperback in the US: International readers, search for yours on your Amazon site, i.e., “Pamela Fagan Hutchins Seeking Felicity paperback.”

Audiobooks: Audible takes FOREVER to get books uploaded, so, while we wait on them, I’m offering the audio directly at a subscriber discount ($6.99!) here:

You can enjoy SEEKING FELICITY as a standalone novel, but to optimize the experience, you might want to read SAVING GRACELEAVING ANNALISE, & FINDING HARMONY first (or again).

Don’t forget: Signed large print/paperback and audio bargains: I’ve put together my own store of large print, paperback, and audiobooks, so I can offer the best prices, easiest to handle formats, bundles if desired for even deeper discounts, and offer signing of the print versions, across my entire library of fiction (nonfiction by request). I’m pretty proud of it and the deals I can offer.


Check it out Get an additional 10% off there for being my subscriber with discount code PFHNewsletter (case sensitive so highlight, copy, and paste in the box at checkout).

Non-English speakers on your gift list? Spanish, French, Italian, and Danish versions of my novels are rolling out on Amazon around the world, with German and classical and Brazilian Portuguese to follow.

Last but not least, here’s a recent interview I did with Austin Liti Limits about Stag Party, if you like that sort of thing.

Blessings and joy to you all!

5 Pro Tips For Online Book Promotion: September 2021

Pro Tip One: Mailing Lists: Resend to All Rather Than Unopened

You’ve heard by now that Apple no longer allows tracking of email opens for their iOS 15 email users who opt into their email privacy, right? This will essentially kill open tracking, although click tracking will still work. Essentially, all received email for Apple users in this category will show as opened to your newsletter service. If you have a subscriber list to whom you send email, this will impact you. If you want more details then the brief ideas below, see the bottom of this post.

  1. Auto resend: If you use the auto resend feature and in the past had it trigger to send to those who hadn’t yet opened, this will no longer be meaningful. You could choose to send it to those who didn’t click anything, but why not just resend it—with something meaningful added—to everyone on the list? This is especially important when you have a new release and are counting on the rankings impact your subscribers may help you achieve. You could offer them a new piece of insider info, or thank them for their participation in something successful, or offer them of a new deal or special price promo, or inform them about additional formats that just became available. And…repeat what the original email said about your new release.
  2. Bonus—Automation triggers: please don’t use “open” or “unopened” as a trigger. Pick a time lapse or click or anything else instead. My pick: time lapse.
  3. Double Bonus—List purging: don’t purge based on open or not opened. Pick a different criterion, like clicking. Or ask subscribers to re-up their subscription in a special email. Or ask them to let you know if they’d like to unsusbscribe. My pick: make it easy for them to unsubscribe early and often. I put a large, easy-to-find block offering a no-hard-feelings unsubscribe link and giving them instructions on how to do it. Why would I want to keep (and pay for) subscribers who are ambivalent about my content anyway? I want engaged subscribers who open, click, and read.

Pro Tip Two: Chirp Promotions on BookBub

If you aren’t on Findaway Voices with your audiobooks yet, I think you’re really missing out. (If you aren’t producing audiobooks at all, what are you waiting for? They are 7.5% of my royalties and growing. That’s the only 300% growth I’ve had in any format.). For diehards still distributing through ACX, imho, the greater distribution thru FV, especially with libraries, is a bonus, the ability to set your own price and to run price promotions is another, and the chance to put together box sets of all shapes and sizes for limited time or permanent distribution only on the retailers of your choice is gold. I also like that I am contacted by FV from time to time to participate in retailer-specific promotions, like on Apple or Barnes & Noble (I made $1500 off one in June of this year). For Apple, you can run inexpensive AudioThicket ads/promos announcing your discount promo too.

But by far the biggest benefit of FV, to me, is the chance to participate in BookBub’s Chirp promos. Chirp is a retailer to whom you can distribute to with FV. At the time I’m writing this, BB is still giving these Chirp promos free during beta, and they by-golly-work. You offer an audiobook at a discount for BB, and, if you’re selected, BB sends emails to their subscribers, and you spend 28 days with that discount live on the Chirp website, during which time you can run BB ads (if you’d like). I find running additional ads very lucrative (CPC, see Pro Tip Four, below). I also find that if I run my own FV discounts on Chirp for other related audiobooks of mine, that they make me additional money, b/c Chirp makes them highly visible on the sales page for your BookBub deal audiobook, which leads to impulse buy in bulk. Lots of volume.

Not convinced, ACX diehards? I make 75% of my audiobook royalties from FV, 25% from ACX. For equal numbers of books.

Oh, and I do my own audio. For myself and occasionally for others. I spent $1k to buy equipment and set up my studio in 2019. I invested one month in tears figuring out how to do them. I’ve made $20k plus in royalties per year since then.

Bonus: Indies sometimes have more success with BookBub Chirp applications with boxed sets.

Double Bonus: U.S.-based BookBub Featured Deals for e-book discounts always, always, always beat everything, when you can get them.

Need more on how audiobooks and online promo of them can increase your royalties? See bottom of post.

Pro Tip Three: AMS Ads for Reads and Rank

As I’m about to go into, my two fave and most lucrative types of ads—CPM BookBub Ads and Conversion Ads on Facebook—have both recently tanked. However, I know from many past years of lukewarm sales that without online advertising, my ranks fall, and if my ranks fall too far, it’s a death spiral. No matter how little I spend, I can’t make more than that. If I raise my ad spend sufficiently to get lead books in my series going again, I start to make money. (Transparency re my net income from publishing: 2020: $140,000 due to publishing an extra book, having COVID quarantine reading bump, getting 3 BookBub Featured Deals (!!), and enjoying pre-Apple-privacy-madness ad effectiveness; 2021 is looking like it will be, after investing in foreign translations, publishing less books, getting ZERO BookBub Featured Deals, and with the double ad whammy just mentioned, $90,000; I expect to continue investing heavily in translations in 2022 and stay on this more sane publication schedule and am aiming for $90-100k in 2022.

So how do I keep my ranks up on my series leads? Amazon (AMS) ads for my regularly priced series and box sets and for price promos. I am really aggressive with them, too.

I need to keep people coming to those Amazon sales pages, to buy all my formats and read in Kindle Unlimited. KU especially is dependent on these ads, and every add-to-device is a ranking bump.

This may help you see why: Here’s my income breakdown—ebooks are 60% of my royalties with actual sales of ebooks 60% of that and Kindle Unlimited reads 40% of it; 20% of my royalties are from online print sales (with $1k a month through Ingram; see Pro Tip Five for more), including paperback, large print (except for box sets), and hardcover; and 7.5% of my royalties from online audiobook sales. {Yes, I make money from other things. I make as much from consignment print sales as I do from audio; I have a healthy Patreon stream; I do exclusive direct sales of some ebooks and audiobooks; I narrate audio; I teach retreats; I critique manuscripts. <–any indie wanting to succeed in publishing finds side hustles to keep the income stream alive!}

AMS ads are too in-depth for me to teach you how to do them here. But for those already conversant in AMS ad speak, I have most success with Auto Ads, Brand Ads, and Manual Targeting of my best comps. I always use dynamic up/down bidding, I monitor and increase bids by high performing placements, and I only use manual ads. Need more on AMS ads? See end of post.

Bonus: I keep a close eye on my projected revenue per sale, know how that translates to a profitable Average Ad Cost Per Sale (ACOS), and monitor my ads in 7-day and 30-week loopbacks.

Pro Tip Four: CPC Ads on BookBub

Well, Apple’s ios15 Privacy changes didn’t just affect your email. They impacted BookBub’s as well. Historically, I’ve been big on CPM ads on Bookbub for discounted books. CPM ads are ones where BookBub serves impressions by the thousand, counting that thousand up based upon…wait for it…OPENS. Since Apple’s changes mean BB will over count opens, BB knows this means they will be asking you to pay for impressions that may not be happening, and, that as a result, your ads may be far less effective. BB has been pretty transparent about this and that they expect a negative impact and will be working to figure out how to mitigate it. But in the meantime BB CPC (cost per click) ads won’t be effected. Use those to your heart’s content.

Bonus: Be sure you know you have targeted the right type of comp authors, which won’t be the same as the ones you use in your AMS or FB ads (which in turn won’t be the same as each other). BookBub ads work best with authors whose readers are in the 10,000-75,000 range. I regularly use up to 175,000 if the author is great for me. You can help tighten up your numbers by applying a genre target as well, but big name authors generally don’t work well. For Facebook, only the biggest authors are even options. For AMS, use both indie and trad of all sizes, and then sit back to see which ones work.

Want more on this? See the bottom of this post.

Pro Tip Five: Traffic Ads on Facebook

This time it is ios14 and not ios15, but, the result is the same: a negative impact on ads, this time ads served online via social media. Especially Facebook conversion ads, which used to be crazy effective but rely on tracking of users online habits and movements. Because, hey, that’s how you target ads, right? By info like what authors users click on and what they buy and much more. Info that Apple ios14 and higher users can and do opt out of tracking.

(Gotta say here, that before you go applauding Apple on their protection of users, note that they still track all this on their own users. Yep, you heard me right. They just made compliance with these privacy changes a condition for app owners who want to appear on Apple devices. In other words, they used something they could promote as altruistic as a competitive advantage for themselves. So, yeah. I like privacy, and I like ad success, and I like open competition. In this case, I am super unhappy with Apple.)

So, overnight last spring, right after the release of ios14, my Facebook conversion ads bit the dust and my income per day fell by one-third. ONE THIRD. A full whopping, terrifying one third. And that’s not just for sale of ebooks. Remember, when I direct someone to an Amazon sales page, I get sales of all formats. And, with my FB ads, I occasionally get Facebook and Amazon follows, too. I quite frequently get newsletter subscribers from my call to action in my books offering a free and exclusive story in the series for subscription; books sold via these ads. More than you’d think, I get Ingram sales too, from people requesting my books in their libraries or brick and mortar stores, or for readers that want print or audio outside the world of Amazon and search it out on other sites, like Barnes and Noble, or a myriad of others.

In other words, I NEED Facebook ads to work.

A word on the info above: I sell hardbacks, large print, paperbacks, audio, ebooks, subscription, and “follows” through Facebook ads. If I only sold ebooks, my ads would not be profitable. Ebooks are only 60% of my income. Roughly another 30% is digitally sourced, but comes from print or audio. Some of this digital income comes from being in touch regularly with my past readers, who have followed me on Facebook, Amazon, or BookBub, or subscribed to my newsletter. I would die without the “circle of life” that ads feed, especially FB ads.

This year, too, I have greatly increased my Ingram revenue. If I didn’t have hardcovers, paperbacks, and large print available through Ingram, they wouldn’t be available to digital buyers at a great royalty rate (because I set the price to insure sufficient royalty) on all the non-Amazon sites, like B&N or Indiebound. I wouldn’t have gotten contacted by Baker & Taylor about how to get my books for their library customers. I would be missing out on $1k in royalties per month, and growing, half of which is hardcover and large print.

It costs me only the price of generating covers, a per book set up fee (which you can usually get waived if you gripe enough, like I did, and use Ingram Spark (which I don’t)), and an annual fee per book of $12. My theory is that it takes a lot of streams to make a mighty river, and a lot of rivers to feed a vast ocean. I want the vast ocean of income. The hard part is writing the book. Do everything you can with that darn book, in every format you can, and then continue selling all of them forever online. One time investment per format, a lifetime of figuring out how to monetize them.

I got some of the income I lost after ios14 back by reinstating my Facebook traffic ads, which I have experimented with over the last few months. Traffic ads are served based on how likely FB thinks it is that people will click on an ad like yours, not by all the other factors that contribute to converting an ad to a buy. They are not nearly as profitable as they used to be post ios14 but still not as impacted as conversion ads were. Combined with AMS ads, they are sufficient to keep the ranks of my books at a profitable level. I still want more. I’ll still keep looking for new ways to increase my net income.

Bonus: On that note, I will add that as soon as we monetize all these in-the-works translations in 6 new languages, I will blog and teach on that. In the meantime, I recommend Tanya Ann Crosby’s DIY Translations.

The End of Post For Those Needing More, More, More!

For more on advertising and promoting books online, I’m organizing a fall 3-day virtual retreat. First to signup will help me anchor the dates, which will be either a) October 25-27 (Mon-Wed), b) Nov 9-11 (Tue-Thur), or c) December 7-9 (Tue-Thur). All classes run from 10 am – 6 pm ET with half hour lunch break. Past online ads course attendees can audit free (highly recommended, you can pick and choose your topics, things change dramatically and what worked 6 months or a year ago may not be working now). Payment is $600 and is due when you sign up via check, Zelle, or Venmo. Space will be limited. Write to me at pamela at PamelaFaganHutchins dot com to reserve your spot.


Be safe and well out there! Let me hear from you about how what’s working for you!

Pamela Fagan HutchinsUSA Today bestseller, repeat top 100 Kindle author, repeat top 25 Kindle bestseller, and winner of the 2017 Silver Falchion Best Mystery winner for her mysteries, including the thrilling Patrick Flint Series, writes hilarious nonfiction (What Kind of Loser Indie Publishes, and How Can I Be One, Too?), too. She teaches writing, publishing, and promotion at the SkipJack Publishing Online School (where you can take How to Sell a Ton of Books, FREE) and in her writing and publishing retreats, and writes about these things and more on the SkipJack Publishing blog.Pamela resides in the frozen north of Snowheresville, Wyoming, where she runs an off-the-grid lodge with her husband on the face of the Bighorn Mountains. She has a passion for great writing and smart authorpreneurship as well as winter sports, long hikes, and trail rides with their giant horses and pack of rescue dogs. She also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound (if she gets a good running start).

What’s Working in 2021 Online Book Ads

I’ve had been pleased with some recent experiments and discoveries. A brief mention of a few:

Facebook Conversion Campaigns:

CAVEAT: with the advent of IOS 14, ads on FB are becoming more expensive! Know your upside revenue so you’ll be sure whether an ad is worth it at what it will cost you. 

I’ve been successful with Facebook Traffic Campaigns for the last year. But I started running Conversion Campaigns in the 4th quarter of 2020 and I LOVE them. They are a lot of work to set up, but I find them more effective, and, if you run them fully automated, they save lots of effort down the line.

**A Conversion Campaign is where FB targets people it predicts are more likely to convert to a sale, whereas Traffic Campaigns are targeted to people more likely to click. **

With automation, the premise is that FB can figure out which of your ads are working best, where, and for what audiences, if you simply set up a choice of audiences, images, and copy. I’ve been feeding FB the max number of choices for the ad images, and it’s saved me from having to go in and monkey with the ads every month or so when my audiences grow tired of the images.

Let’s ge real: I can’t pretend to teach you how to do Conversion Campaigns here. They’re not easy. It’s an hour long segment of my retreat now. But whether you learn from me or someone else, I highly recommend you invest the time to figure them out. It’s all I’m running on FB now.

Bonus for my FB ads: I’m making some serious $$ monthly on Ingram paperback sales from non-Amazon online buyers, and I am convinced they are resulting from these ads. It’s a nice bonus, given that I don’t advertise anywhere but to Amazon. Crazy. And wonderful.

Amazon Marketing Services Brand Ads: 

Recently, AMS opened up my dashboard to brand ads. I’m including them here because they work well to sell paperbacks and to sell through into the depths of a series. This is great for driving rank and discovery, and the ads  appear at the top of search pages, showing up to three books in your series or body of work, with a custom tagline. In other words, these ads are very much about branding, and less about immediate return on investment. As part of an ongoing campaign with branding goals, these ads make great sense. If you’re chasing ROI, these may not be for you. And remember, your costs are higher (royalty lower as a percentage of sales price) with print, so your ACOS must be far lower to be profitable.

Bonus for my AMS ads: I’m having a lot of success right now with Auto targeting using dynamic up/down bids. I used to be terrified of the UP part of a dynamic bid, but I’m now a fan.

BookBub Ads for Discounted Chirp Audiobooks: 

Mixed results here, depending on size of the discount. I actually think deep discount (99 cents) don’t perform as well as higher priced discount audiobooks. Audiobooks priced $2.99-4.99 I’ve been able to move with BookBub ads with positive ROI, with one caveat: you need a good image and a good hook. I’ve had a lot of trouble moving a mixed-author audio box set, because our tagline is more general and based primarily on value — 3 books, 3 authors, great deal. My success has been in finding taglines that make listeners want to invest their time in a particular book or series. Invest in good, proven copy first.

Of course all of this presupposes you have the ability to discount your on audio. I use Findaway Voices to distribute my audiobooks, and thus control my prices and discounts.

I don’t find BookBub ads particularly effective to sell discounted audio on Apple.

Bonus for discounted audiobooks: I think Written Word Media’s new Audio Thicket promotion works well on Apple for discounted audiobooks.

Barnburner Whole Series Discounts through KDP (with associated advertising): 

I specialize in horrible timing. I launched a new book and spent thousands promoting it after the 2020 U.S. presidential election, right when the controversy started over the legitimacy of the votes. Needless to say, it underperformed while people were watching real life drama instead of turning to books. Then in January, I did an enormous promo of 15 books, each priced at 99 cents each—an entire series—the week before the inauguration, thinking we’d all be settled by then (and I needed a promo). Well, wouldn’t you know, that’s when the Capitol Riots occurred. Again, no one was paying attention to books. That being said, I made back every cent I spent on that 15-book promo and $1000 more (above my baseline revenues) in the month following it. I think it would have been an even greater success without the distraction feature. I focused on advertising the entire series using an Amazon series page link (be sure you’re setting those up through your KDP dashboard), and I booked promo sites and used AMS product and brand ads, BB ads, and FB Conversion Campaigns. I’ll definitely try it again next year … probably to coincide with a natural disaster this time 😉

Bonus from this promo: I did notice an uptick in read through to my other series.

Want to learn more?

We’ll talk about all of this and so much more in my April 27-29 Indie Publishing Success Retreat, which will focus on Ads, Promotion, and Subscriber Lists, and How to Optimize and Integrate Them. Past attendees of this retreat are welcome to audit the class for free but need to sign up in advance. Email me.

What’s next?

Next up for me will be a book launch where I price the lead book at 99 cents (pretty standard for me) but will include me giving the lead to my entire 15k mailing list along with a new lead magnet short story in the series that is an epilogue to the first book, and is now included as a call to action at the end of it. If you’re on my regular mailing list, you’ll see that  “gifting” and will be able to download the books and see how I include lead magnets/CTAs. (If you want in on this, sign up HERE.) I’m also including hardcover and large print editions in addition to ebook and audio for this launch and will be able to report on whether they had an impact. In fact, based on a successful experiment with large print in the latter half of last year for my series lead and library requests for hardcover, I’m adding in large print and hardcover for all the books in the series to coincide with the launch.

I’ll let you know how it goes!

Sign Up For Advanced Advertising Retreat

Be safe and well out there! Let me hear from you about how what’s working for you!

Pamela Fagan HutchinsUSA Today bestseller, repeat top 100 Kindle author, repeat top 25 Kindle bestseller, and winner of the 2017 Silver Falchion Best Mystery winner for her mysteries, including the thrilling Patrick Flint Series, writes hilarious nonfiction (What Kind of Loser Indie Publishes, and How Can I Be One, Too?), too. She teaches writing, publishing, and promotion at the SkipJack Publishing Online School (where you can take How to Sell a Ton of Books, FREE) and in her writing and publishing retreats, and writes about these things and more on the SkipJack Publishing blog.

Pamela resides in the frozen north of Snowheresville, Wyoming, where she runs an off-the-grid lodge with her husband on the face of the Bighorn Mountains. She has a passion for great writing and smart authorpreneurship as well as winter sports, long hikes, and trail rides with their giant horses and pack of rescue dogs. She also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound (if she gets a good running start).

Election Doldrums and One Cool New Amazon Feature

This year in the book industry, sales lulled—as they do historically—in September. The change came with worsening sales in October instead of the anticipated rebound, and things are only now starting to improve, although far worse than pre-August levels, according to the authors and publishers with whom I regularly interact (it’s a pretty deep and broad spectrum). I’d love to hear how your experience was.

I made the expensive error of dropping a few thousand dollars to promote the launch of a new book in a successful series. I comfort myself thinking that the money spent kept my sales from being even worse than they would have been. But I literally have traditionally published friends who are resuming day jobs they left behind long ago due to the failure of launches in this unfortunate season. I think in general the fact that I had a strong and effective advertising strategy kept me right-side-up. I’ve also discovered an advanced new Facebook ads strategy that is a game changer, with spectacular results. I’ll be teaching it in my January Indie Publishing Success Retreat, which will focus on Ads, Promotion, and Subscriber Lists, and How to Optimize and Integrate Them.

So let’s talk about a bright spot instead of doldrums.

In the past, if you wanted to have a linked series on Amazon, you had to write to them through Author Central to ask them to set it up. The results were hit or miss, too, on whether they did it correctly. Occasionally, they’d also put together their own series page for you, and it was usually…horrific.

But now there is an option in your KDP Dashboard to create and manage your own series. It looks like this:

This is what the Series Setup Page looks like:

If you want to manage an existing series, scroll down to your titles. By each one, it will show the series they are linked to:

If you click that, you get choices. Edit the details, manage the series, or to view the content and manage it from there. Note: Related Content (which can include novellas, short stories, epilogues, prologues, box sets, series guides–anything you want–isn’t live yet, but they encourage you to go ahead and add it).

If you choose to manage the series, you can add a title, create a title, or delete the series.


This is what Add a Title looks like:

This is what Create a Title looks like:

This is what it looks like if you open the related content tab (and have something in it). 

And the kicker? Here’s what my series page looked like before this feature — it was just the blurb/description for book one in the series.


After I got to create my own series page, I was able to edit the description to a true series introduction, which I am very excited about. Unfortunately, I can’t edit the image. It’s just the first 3 books in the series.


I’m also pleased that they’ve improved the automatic content on the series page. In the recent past, readers seeking paperbacks or audio were super confused and it was hard to tell them how to find those formats. While the series page still favors bulk Kindle ebook buy, or individual Kindle Unlimited Adds, the other formats clearly show up in a nice format beside each book cover.

Finally, why are series pages important? They not only show series readers the other books directly from your book page, like this:

But they also are a really nice link to use when you are doing advertising or promotion. Why not make it easy for people to buy more than one of your series books at once when you first guide them to your content? You may never get that chance again!

Let me know how it’s been going for you guys out there…


Pamela Fagan Hutchins is the USA Today bestselling and Silver Falchion Best Mystery winning author
of Switchback, Saving Grace, and a whole lot of other novels, a fangirl video/podcaster, and a big dog and rescue horse enthusiast who splits her time between Wyoming and Texas. Join her January 26-28, 2021 for a virtual indie publishing success retreat. Space is limited; details at

Findaway Voices versus ACX: What’s Working and What’s Not

After a year with Findaway Voices and seven with ACX, I finally feel able to give a status update and my recommendations. Findaway Voices (FV) is a great alternative (or companion) to use with ACX. For a new author, I would recommend going with FV at the get-go, if you can afford it. Which is a big “if” and raises the an important discussion on what does and doesn’t work…and why. But we’ll save that one for last. First let’s talk about the easier issues to understand.


FV is a big winner over ACX when it comes to distribution. ACX offers exclusive distribution to Amazon, Audible, and Apple, or non-exclusive, which means you can put it elsewhere yourself. FV, on the other hand, offers two plans. Standard and Voices Plus. Use Standard if you want to upload to retailers outside FV/Authors Direct. Use Voices Plus if you want to use FV as an aggregator to nearly 50 retailers and library distributors. The royalties are the same for each FV plan with each 80%, compared to ACX who offers 40% for exclusive and 25% for nonexclusive. Below is the general definition of each and the potential retailers if you’re in Voices Plus. However, note that you can opt out of any of the retailers, and also that there is a 6-month cancellation timeline upon notice for VP.

But the big benefit: VP puts you first in line for retailer promos. See below.

For me, the library distribution options has generated a lot of additional income and discovery over what I make for audiobooks via ACX.


FV is a big winner over ACX when it comes to pricing, allowing rights holders to set their own prices, although they have a tool which calculates recommended prices as well. ACX sets its own prices. Period.

Promotional opportunties:

FV is a big winner over ACX when it comes to promotion, in 3 ways.

  1. FV partners with BookBub’s Chirp audiobook platform. Not only is this a distribution opportunity, but Chirp selects audiobooks for promotion through BookBub. Rights holders apply for these promotions via Bookbub’s Author/Partners Platform. At this point in time, the promotion is in beta and is FREE. I don’t know how much longer it will be free. I’ve had 2 Chirp promos. The first ($0.99 for an individual novel) I made about $650 on. The second ($1.99 for a 3-novel box set) I made several thousand.
  2. FV allows rights holders to set promo prices for their own books. Then the rights holder can promote the discounted price however they’d like, including ads on BookBub directly targeting audiobook fans. I have a 3-novel tiered discount set up this month that I’m promoting on BB ads.
  3. FV partners with Apple and some other audiobook vendors to select books for free discounted promos. VP members are first in line.
  4. ACX win on promo codes: Like ACX, FV gives rights holders free codes (which work in the US and EU/UK), with additional free codes to those enrolled in Voices Plus. But on ACX, if you published prior to April of 2020 or thereabouts, ACX paid you in full for a sale when those promo codes were redeemed. Plus, redeemers on ACX could leave reviews on Audible, whereas people that redeem FV codes cannot leave Audible reviews. (They can review the audiobooks on Amazon, however).

Customer service:

ACX customer service is notoriously impersonal, takes forever, gives inconsistent answers, and basically sucks.

FV has good customer service, but they’re limited in what they can do for you as an aggregator to the retailers in their distribution network. Most notably, with ACX. I have a box set that has made me thousands of dollars this year on FV that has never been approved (8 months and counting) on ACX, even though the individual novels in the box set have been. And FV has no bargaining power to get them to do anything to break the logjam. ACX (Audible, Amazon) is an important retailer, even when you’re on FV, and this inability to work with their business partner is a significant drawback. On the other hand, see above. ACX is slow and difficult even when you’re working with them directly.

This one is breakeven between the two.

Paying for narration:

The discussion point we’ve all been waiting for…

On FV, you have a choice of uploading your own narration OR using one of their narrators and paying for finished produced hours (PFH). The upside is that if you own your own video this is a simple process for something already paid for. If you don’t, you can either choose one of their narrators OR talk your favorite narrator into signing up for FV. The cost can be thousands of dollars. Whereas on ACX you can choose a 50/50 royalty share agreement for 7 years rather than a PFH (if you choose PFH, the cost is the same as on FV).

So let’s say you produced an audiobook on ACX using PFH. If you have a nonexclusive sales arrangement with ACX, you can also upload that same video on FV, because you own it outright. If you chose exclusive arrangements with ACX, you can request them to convert it to nonexclusive aftera one year on ACX.

If you produced an audiobook on ACX using royalty share, things get much, much more complicated. You can buy-out your narrator at a negotiated lump sum, then mutually write to ACX to let them know that you have canceled your royalty share agreement. Once that is done and shows you as the sole owner, you now own the audio and can use it elsewhere, like on FV. If you are unable to negotiate an agreement for sole ownership, then, after 7 years, you can ask that the books be taken down. Then, things get tricky. You solely own the narration after 7 years. But, depending on when you entered the agreement with the narrator using ACX’s contracts, the language is a bit iffy. You own the audio, but…it may read that you always split royalties on ACX. If that’s the case, arguably, you cannot republish that narration unless you pay the narrator their share of the royalties that come from ACX. Trust me, that’s a nightmare, especially if you have lots of audiobooks. But you could certainly just agree to provide them the FV sales reports and pay the correct dollar amount to them on an agreed periodic basis of the ACX-derived royalties. Or you may have entered the agreement on ACX when the language didn’t restrict you to paying them ACX royalties forever after the 7 years has elapsed. It appears it was always their intent to release the audio to the “rights owner” (author) after 7 years, but their early-days contracts were just ambiguous.

I’m VERY VERY interested to hear stories in the comments from authors and narrators on how this has worked for them. If you do, please give the year the audiobook was first published on ACX.

Final analysis:

I have 8 books on FV, and I have 23 on ACX. In June 2020, I made $3040.32 on FV and $836.81 on ACX. I did have some hot, newer audiobooks on FV, and I am on royalty share for the books remaining on ACX, so double that number to $1672 to offset the royalty share. That’s still twice as much on FV as ACX. The big difference was a Chirp deal on FV, which is not available to me on ACX.

It’s always about net income for me. So, yeah, you can bet I’m continuing to move my books over to FV as fast as I possibly can…

What is your experience in Audiobooks?

Pamela Fagan Hutchins is the USA Today bestselling and Silver Falchion Best Mystery winning author
of Switchback, Saving Grace, and a whole lot of other novels, a fangirl video/podcaster, and a big dog and rescue horse enthusiast who splits her time between Wyoming and Texas. Join her October 20-22 for a virtual indie publishing success retreat. Space is limited; details at

SkipJack Publishing Welcomes Author Gay Yellen

We couldn’t be more excited to announce that Gay Yellen has moved her exciting, award-winning romantic mystery/suspense novels over to SkipJack Publishing. Please join us in welcoming Gay!

Gay has been sneezed on by an elephant, held at gunpoint and survived a killer California earthquake, which may explain her penchant for writing cliffhangers. She began working life as a stage and TV actor, then moved behind the camera at The American Film Institute (AFI) as Assistant to the Director of Production. A former magazine editor and national journalism award winner, she was contributing book editor for Five Minutes to Midnight (Delacorte), an international thriller. Her Samantha Newman Series of romantic mystery novels includes The Body Business (a RONE finalist) and The Body Next Door, a 1st Place Chanticleer Award Winner and a Readers’ Favorite Mystery Award Winner.

Gay is celebrating her move to SkipJack with a new cover and a new edition of THE BODY BUSINESS, which you can pre-order HERE.

Gay lives in Texas. She loves connecting with book clubs and community groups in person and online. You can contact her through her website,

5 ProTips For 2020 Online Book Advertising (plus 5 more because I couldn’t help myself)

Each of these could be a blog post (or  book chapter) on their own, but in the interest of hitting the intersection between quantity and quality, here’s 5 ProTips I’ve garnered through my three BookBub runs in 2020 to-date, including paid rankings of Top 30 for three separate books.

  1. BookBub Ads (4 Tips in 1!) Optimization: When I discount, I use BookBub ads (in addition to Featured Deals, when I can get them) to push my book. I’ve had my best results ever recently, both while discounted, and while FULL PRICE, so I wanted to share the three things I think made the difference. First, I invested heavily in researching new authors using Publisher Rocket. I tested 75 authors on the campaign that took my novel SWITCHBACK to #25 on Kindle. Next, while my deal was running, I used brute force bidding on CPM, to be sure my ad was served in the best time slot–below the early morning Featured Deals. This worked great while I was getting the kind of click-through that results from a 99 cent price book. I identified two really high performing authors and decided to continue the ads after I went back to full price. They tanked. Then I stepped back and decided to lower the bids from the $15 that I’d used to during the discount (the highest price I paid in Crime Fiction for CPM was $14.62) to $7. It turned out $7 was too low and I couldn’t get my budget to spend. I raised the bid to $8. And…I have a highly, highly profitable ad running daily now for a full price book! Lastly, I played with the auto image ad generator in BookBub ads because I felt like the ads I was creating were too busy. My test ad using my image on Facebook that has killed it went head to head with the one I created in BookBub, and…the simple BookBub ad won by a landslide. I used it for the entire campaign and I’m still using it. (In case you were counting, that pro tip went from 1 to 3, and here’s a 4th: I customized the text on the BookBub-sourced images by author. I think that helped a lot, and I would never have invested that time making individual images for 75 authors in Canva.)
  2. Chirp Deals for Free Audio $$: Get your audiobooks on Findaway and apply for the rocking new audiobook ads on BookBub called Chirp. As of the time I’m writing this post, they’re still in Beta, so they’re FREE. Imagine how that ROI will look when the cost is Zero (hint, really freakin awesome). I had my first Chirp deal right before my SWITCHBACK BookBub Featured Deal. The discount ran only on the Chirp platform. It did not seem to cannibalize my full-price sales on other platforms (or if it did, it wasn’t noticeable). I did about $1000 in royalties on the discounted audiobook in the month it ran. Listeners can’t review on Audible, but they can on Amazon, and it’s especially great if you have full price audiobooks in a series following your deal audiobook. I have another set to go in two weeks, and I can’t wait.
  3. Facebook Ads Audience Insights for Scaling (plus a bonus pro tip)I had a steadily performing ad on Facebook that I had scaled up, but the audience for the target author wasn’t as big as I wanted. I tried a number of different authors, but they just didn’t yield those perfect results. So I went to Audience Insights (under Ads Manager, Analyze and Report) on Facebook Ads and looked at the Page Like Affinities for this author, and added a number of additional NON-AUTHOR targets with strong affinity to my target author (100x or greater), and my audience size scaled up…and so did my ad performance. It was fantastic. Facebook Ads bonus tip: take the time to “mine” likes by inviting everyone that responds to your ads to like your page. Quality page likes of ideal readers benefit you later in creating lookalike audiences, they are social proof to other readers, and they then become an easier to reach audience for you to communicate with even, potentially, without paying for ads. The process is manual, but I get about 10% conversion on these invites, and have created some super fans out of these ranks. Simply pull up the ad post from your Facebook page notifications, click on the likes to open them, and start inviting with the handy invite button. I find it easiest to do on my phone’s Facebook app, because for some reason it puts the likes in reverse chronological order, whereas on my laptop, the order is totally random. Reverse chronological means I just move right to the new ones and click invite instead of scrolling, hunting, clicking “more,” scrolling, hunting, etc.). Here’s some screenshots to show you what I mean on the Facebook Ad Audience Insights Affinities, by the way:
  4. AMS Scaling: Talk about problems scaling, ugh AMS is the worst. I had optimized my AMS ads to the point where each of my advertised books’ ads were performing well, so I wanted to spend more money for the same results. Good luck, right? I tried adding more ads (lots of little ones). That helped some. I tried creating “all star” ads from my best performing targets, and that was nice. I added fresh targets using Publisher Rocket. I increased budgets on my best performing ads from $101 a day to $1001 a day, trying to signal to Amazon that I’d pay as much as they wanted for repeated great performance, but the algorithms weren’t listening very well. All good, but not great. So I went in and raised all my bids across the board on my top performing book’s ads. I mean I RAISED EM UP. $1.01 became my lowest bid (crime fiction), with dynamic down. At first the results were fantastic, then a few problems cropped up. I lowered some bids, especially for auto ads and category ads, but overall, my bids remained much higher than the $.79 for targets and $.45 for categories I’d done before. Performance is great, and the ad spend scaled up. I tried to repeat this for older books, in a slightly different Crime Fiction audience, and it blew up on me. I really had to cut back my bids in the categories, because AMS was ready to build a new warehouse on my  spend. Not all of the spend was wasted of course, as my reads climbed (and my rank got better), so right now I am fine tuning with a close eye on reads and rank until I find the sweet spot for category and auto bids. But in the end, I got my scaling up, and I recaptured the type of financial performance I was looking for. Here’s a picture. Don’t let this picture scare you on ad spend or ACOS. I’m pushing a 15-novel series, so I can get aggressive–my Sell and Read Through (or, as I’ve started calling it, my PRPS — Projected Revenue Per Sale) is very high. Not to mention I believe that AMS ads really pay off with higher reads than other ads do, for those in Kindle Unlimited. Focus on “white space under the trend line.” That’s where the payoff is occurring as long as the ACOS stays in line (and as long as my relevancy, which I define as Clicks/Impressions or CTR {Click Through Rate} of 0.2% or better on average for my non-category targets, and my conversion, which is sales/click, of at least 3%, stay intact). In the end, if my numbers are right, then I can keep increasing spend as long as I have it in my budget, given that royalties lag 60 or more days behind payment of ad costs.
  5. Follow the numbers: Which brings us to my last pro tip: follow the numbers. As the AMS pro tip showed, follow your numbers. Your first number is your budget. How much do you have to spend NOW given that royalties will lag 60 or more days behind your spend? Your second number is your PRPS (see above). To calculate your PRPS, come to one of my virtual indie publishing retreats, or read this free blog post or both ;-). Your third number is your rank. Your rank will move positively (or not) before you see page reads occur, for those of you in Kindle Unlimited. Think about it: someone sees an ad, they add the book to their KU library, but they have 8 other books ahead of yours to read. It may take them a week or two to get to yours. And the last number to follow is your Net Income. I like to see it positive, because I’m crazy that way, or at least trending up in the times where I am aggressively pushing a spend that looks to be super profitable in terms of future collected royalties. I calculate mine per day. Want to see how? Here’s a sneak peek. Retreaters learn more about how to follow these numbers, but it’s my top tip for 2020 so far.
  6. BONUS PRO TIP–use the right ad or promo for the right job: Most indies will achieve best results by reserving promos and ads for when they discount their books to 99 cent or free, and then, results will be best if you rigorously test your audience, images, copy, and even links/landing pages before you scale up your spend. If you find yourself with a really high performing ad, like I have with a few of mine, you can experiment with advertising at full price. I find that AMS is easiest to advertise at full price, but not as great if you aren’t in Kindle Unlimited, and that Facebook is second easiest. BookBub is really, really tricky at full price, but it can be done with appropriate testing and flexibility, and a series. Last but not least, whenever possible, when using a promotion site (the ones that send your deal to opt-in subscribers), please try to only use the sites that target readers by genre, as you don’t gain much by downloads to people who don’t care about your genre. The Amazon algorithms especially can get really messed up in trying to figure out how to get your book to your ideal reader if the wrong readers are downloading (and then not reading, not reviewing, and not moving on to your other books).

Okay, not to brag, but I think I just created 10 pro tips out of 5 there 😉 That’s what I call some serious scaling!!!

Be well out there, and I hope you found these tips helpful. Don’t forget about my retreats — next one is June 24-26.

If you’ve got any super 2020 pro tips to share, drop them in the comments?

Pamela Fagan Hutchins is the USA Today bestselling and Silver Falchion Best Mystery winning author
of Switchback, Saving Grace, and a whole lot of other novels, a fangirl video/podcaster, and a big dog and rescue horse enthusiast who splits her time between Wyoming and Texas. Join her June 24-26 for a virtual indie publishing success retreat. Space is limited; details at


Indie Author Survival Guilt

As an indie author, I live and breathe numbers. Did I sell enough books yesterday to support my Facebook ads habit? Do my Kindle Unlimited page reads suggest my AMS ads are working, or shall I consult the Magic 8-Ball for answers? Can I afford to stay in the game, or did my latest promotion tank and send me so cash flow negative that I’ll be taking out a second mortgage to finance publication of my next book? Believe me, if Big Pub comes knocking with a lovely advance in one of my weak moments, I’ll be wheeling and dealing my 18-mystery backlist in a hot second if only to get away from all the numbers and back to the words.

So along into my indie bubble came a little thing called quarantine. Novel coronavirus. COVID-19. And with it, a phenomenon. Digital sales—already huge—skyrocketed, as people sought literary oblivion, and did it without navigating the usual buyer traps at the front of their local Barnes & Noble. I won’t lie, I’m feeling an enormous amount of survivor’s guilt as I write this, because my royalties across all formats have more than doubled since March 1st. And they’d already been climbing since mid-January, in lockstep with rising public fear.

The numbers have been interesting. I’ve watched sales moving in their various bar graphs by format across my screen like the Loch Ness monster as buyer behavior has evolved over the days of social distancing and sheltering in place. First, sales of my individual novels shot up. Many times, all my fiction to a buyer in one fell swoop, led by my newest releases, but including my entire ten-year old backlist. Audio downloads rose and stayed robust. Next, paperback sales took over a larger share of the total as traditionalists moved from Main Street to online ordering. Then, Amazon offered a two-month free trial period of KU. Bored students taught grandparents to download the apps to their devices, and page reads climbed and climbed and climbed. As I write this, savvy KU subscribers are scooping up my three-mystery box sets as part of their allowed nine-title library, effectively tripling the number of books available for them to binge without the need to go re-hunt for things they like, and running the table on what I have to offer. Happily, I can sleep at night, because I’m not making out like a Prohibition bootlegging profiteer. My prices are modest. Downloads from a KU subscription are free.

An addiction to numbers means I move money between ads daily to invest in the surges. My organic newsletter game is strong as new readers respond to the calls-to-subscribe in my books. Meanwhile, authors of every stripe are book touring via blog and Zoom and podcasting and videocasting their introverted and currently germaphobic little hearts out.

The only thing I’m closer to than numbers is readers. If I don’t know them intimately (you’d be surprised how many that means “by name”), I can’t reach them with my stories. It’s from their ranks that I crowdsource my proofreading, advance reviews, and “emergency response” in case of a troll one-star bubbling to the top on Amazon days before a BookBub promo. I answer every email and Facebook comment personally, because I need these people. Each and every blessed one of them.

Because I communicate (and communicate and communicate) with my readers, I’m privy to their thoughts, and readers are thanking me like I’ve donated a kidney.

“I discovered you on a Sunday. It’s Friday, and I’m on book 12 of 18. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the escape.”

“Your books are keeping me sane during this lay off. I love them. Thank you.”

While it’s strange, since I didn’t do anything except have the books ready, existing, waiting for their moment, I feel an importance as an indie genre writer for the first time in the history of ever. Revel in this, my fellow authors—moving past providing mere enjoyment to being involved in something that feels, dare I say, more noble—contributing to our society’s ability to keep each other safe by giving them sanctuary from loneliness, sadness, and fear.

How long will it last, this egalitarian digital explosion? Certainly, it will decline somewhat when we’re released back into the wilds of our preferred brick and mortar stores (shout out to a short list of my favorites: The Brenham Book Nook, Sheridan Stationery and Books, Vroman’s, ABC Books of Springfield, Russell Kansas Specialty Books, River Oaks Books, and Murder by the Book). But I don’t think we will ever completely cap the bottle on this genie. A gleeful Robin Williams cartoon-voice will be looping a catchy tune in our heads, driving hands over keys. It’s easy. Buy online. It’s fast. Buy online. It’s safe. Buy online.

Magic 8-Ball says that the immediacy of digital gratification will be harder than ever for readers to resist, and the numbers don’t disagree.

Pamela Fagan Hutchins is the USA Today bestselling and Silver Falchion Best Mystery winning author
of Switchback, Saving Grace, and a whole lot of other novels, a fangirl video/podcaster, and a big dog and rescue horse enthusiast who splits her time between Wyoming and Texas. Join her June 24-26 for a virtual indie publishing success retreat. Space is limited; details at



Author Game Changer: Figuring Out How Much to Spend on Ads (Taking Charge of Your Author Career)

Last month I promised to break down my “Six-month Report: What’s Working in Kindle Unlimited” post into digestible chunks, for those that want to emulate some of the changes I’ve made on my way back to six-figure income. (If you’re the kind that likes a more hands-on approach, I have one spot at my Indie Publishing retreat in April, link below, where I work with a small group of authors on their business plans. It’s 100% customized to your needs. I’ll even help you build a Read-through Calculator and some other nifty tools.)

Here’s the topics I have planned for this 10-part “Taking Charge of Your Author Career” series:

  1. Figuring Out Your Ad Budget and How to Fund It (this post)
  2. The Must-Haves in Your Author Presence
  3. Facebook Ads That Work: What’s Working in 2021 Online Book Ads
  4. Tips to Make Your Amazon Ads Succeed: 5 ProTips For 2020 Online Book Advertising (plus 5 more because I couldn’t help myself)
  5. Diagnosing Conversion Issues
  6. Promo Sites That Convert to Author Income
  7. Converting Box Sets to Cash
  8. Findaway Voices versus ACX: What’s Working and What’s Not
  9. Mailing List Magic: Reviews and Cash
  10. What You Really, Really, Really Must Measure to Succeed As An Indie Author

Note: the retreats focus on whatever my attendees request, at whatever level of expertise they are at. The posts above will lean toward intermediate/advanced. For articles skewed toward authors earlier in their learning curve, see some of my older posts, or my book What Kind of Loser Indie Publishes, and How Can I Be One, Too?


Do I have to advertise to sell books, aka do I have to have an advertising budget?

First, why does anyone advertise? IMHO, it’s to escape invisibility. Invisibility is a large and growing problem for authors, with the ever-increasing number of books for sale. Books that are evergreen and aren’t pulled down from the virtual “shelves” like they would be from a brick and mortar store once they were past their robust sales dates. That can be great for authors with large backlists. It doesn’t change the challenge of becoming visible in this vast sea of words, though.

Overcoming invisibility isn’t made any easier by the sales sites themselves. Whether its the less than transparent ways a vendor decides when and how to reveal books to customers or whether its their sweetheart deals with publishers (or on behalf of their own imprints), each retailer comes with its own unique problems.

You won’t become visible just by putting up your book and telling your friends it’s out there. Heck, your friends and family will probably be the last ones to buy your book (sorry, but it’s true). You need a lot more eyeballs on your sales page than that, and hopefully sales to go with them. Hence, promotion sites (like these) and advertisers, primarily Amazon, Facebook, and BookBub.

Your success will largely be a function of hours of effort times a factor of dollar-spend on advertising, in some combination that comes out to a large figure. Yikes. Whether you choose to build a responsive, captive audience laboriously, one subscriber to your mailing list at a time and use them to generate your revenue, or whether you use your time and money to create and run fabulous promotional campaigns with ads, you will have to invest to succeed. Warning: the labor-intensive method works better for a non-fiction platform, but, over time, will hopefully occur organically with fiction effort and expense (more on that when I write about mailing lists).

And, even if you rely mostly on sweat equity, you may be limiting your potential if you don’t augment your efforts with advertising.

So I guess the answer is that I think you (or someone) has to spend money on advertising to test the limits of your income potential. The question of how much to spend (and where to get it ) is a little harder. Bear with me.

You’re in Kindle Unlimited, Pamela. Do I still need to advertise if I distribute broadly?

Um, yes. I don’t even need a long answer for this one. How you calculate what you spend, and some of the strategy on how you spend it, will vary based on your distribution strategy. Otherwise, the problem of invisibility extends across all places and methods of selling books in all their formats.

p.s. I’ve only been in Kindle Unlimited for six months. It went really crappy at first. It’s going well at present. I’m still open to broad distribution, but I don’t want to upset the apple cart right now. 😉

But I don’t have the cash.

The only thing I can tell you is that I am sorry, I can’t change the world for you, and you’ll need to scrap together a small budget and try to use it to generate more money with which to continually reinvest until you can build a revenue stream. It may take awhile. And in the beginning it may not be profitable while you learn advertising and while you figure out your book’s market-to audience (more on that later when we cover advertising later in this series). If your book has problems—cover, description, or content—you ads may not be successful, and you might need to fix the problems before you can proceed. But it’s important to remember that if advertising reveals problems, that is a gift. It didn’t cause the problems. It gave you a way to figure out they were there before months or years had passed of heartbreaking underperformance by your book. The best thing to do if you have problems is to invest your budget in fixing them before you spend another cent on advertising.

I’m starting to not like you, Pamela. But I’ll listen a little longer if you can tell me how to set my budget for ads.

I understand. And I appreciate you hanging in there with me. The easy answer to how much to spend on ads yields a very unsatisfactory level of specificity. Because in my opinion you spend as much as you can while the ads are profitable up until the point your return on your investment tapers off and you can get more bang for your bucks by spending them elsewhere.


The harder answer is much, much more satisfying and specific, but scary. You can spend up to the value of the ‘read through’ for the book you are advertising. This varies by author and by book.

First, what is read-through? Read-through is simply the net value of royalties you will receive from the sale of this book and any others that you will receive because of the sale of this one book. If you have only one book to sell, then read-through is easy to calculate. It’s the net royalties of your one book. If you have multiple books, then the answer requires more math.  I know, yuck. Math.

So let’s say you have 3 books. Preferably in a series, but, they don’t have to be. Assume that for every 3 books you sell of the book you plan to promote, you sell 2 of the 2nd book, and 1 of the third book. You can express that relationship (and the net royalties associated with it) mathematically, and the value you end up with is the read-through. Then, you can tell whether or not the amount you spend on ads is profitable or not, in the long run, by dividing the amount you spend on the ads by the number of books you sell with the ads. That generates your cost per sale. If that cost per sale is smaller than your read-through amount, you are making money, by capitalizing on the lifetime value of your book (to me, lifetime value is read-through minus the cost per sale). Maybe you won’t make all that money today. But you are making some money today from the initial sale and future money on upcoming sales that together should add up to profitability (unless the internet breaks, or some other disaster occurs).

In fact, you may be making both money in the future and money today if your cost per sale is low enough. Your cash margin is the difference between your net royalties on just the book you’re selling, and your cost per sale.

But let’s get real. Most indies don’t price their books high enough to make a cash margin on an advertised book. Most indies make their money through realization of that read-through/lifetime value. That means, that unless you’ve got a high-priced book that sells and advertises well, advertising is most cost effective if you have multiple books to sell, with pretty good read-through to each of them from the book you want to advertise.

I think it’s time for an example. With pictures. And a spreadsheet. Because this stuff is hard to understand with words alone.

Let’s stick with an author with 3 books, but use a picture with numbers. Yay!

Below, we see sales of Book 1 or “SG” (the promoted book) of 34, then sales of 17 for “LA” the second book, and 26 for “FH” the the third book.

To figure out our read-through value for SG, we first need to know the cumulative sales read-through of each book that follows it. That’s a straight forward math problem. You divide the sales of the next book by the sales of the first book, in this case, we divide the sales of LA by the sales of SG, to get 91.18% Cum Sales RT. Then we divide sales of FH by sales of SG and get 76.47% Cum Sales RT.

To calculate our read-through value for sales of SG, we now sum the following:

Net Sales $ for SG (net royalty) (3.99 sales price x 70% royalty rate – $0.11 delivery fee): $2.72

+ (Cum Sales RT for LA (91.18%)   X    LA’s Net Sales $, which is $ 3.42 (see above)): $3.12

+ (Cum Sales RT for FH (76.47%)   X   FH’s Net Sales $, which is $3.42): $2.62

Based on these numbers, my read-through value for SG is $8.46

If I had more books (which I do), I could compute the read-through from SG through all the books in the series.

Note that by comparing your advertising cost per sale to a read-through number you’ve got a lot more room for advertising budget. If I didn’t have read-through, my advertising budget would only support a cost per sale of $2.72 or less (my net royalties for SG). Honestly, my read-through number on the real SG is . . . $30+, but that is due in part to Kindle Unlimited “page reads” income. And since that involves reading through 15 novels, it can take a good while to recoup the lifetime value. People can only read so fast. Anyway, I’ll explain the KU element in a moment.

For now, let’s get back to YOU, and what you spend on advertising. Your advertising budget will start with what you have to spend (duh), which may initially be $5 a day. It will build from there as you generate positive lifetime value, and you will want to spend as much money as you can afford to put future sales into your pipeline by increasing your ad spend as long as you have a healthy margin between your cost of sale and your read-through.

Make sense? No? Want it to be easier? Okay, I created a spreadsheet for Landis Wade’s patrons, which I’ll share with you here. Easy peasy.

Want to see my actual Read-Through spread sheet? You’ll get that and a whole lot more of my trackers, pivot tables, and dashboard HERE. {You’re looking for a tab called ‘RT Calculator’. Don’t feel compelled to look at all the pages. It can be overwhelming. I just happen to love the power of data, so I gather it, slice it, and dice it every which way but loose. One of the things I do for folks that come to my retreats is build them a simpler version of my data tracker, RT calculator, and dashboard.}

Thanks for that, I think. Now, Kindle Unlimited…what impact does it have, and how do I calculate it?

If you’re not in Kindle Unlimited, you can stop reading now. Or maybe you don’t want to. This would be one way to see what you’re missing (or not!).

Now, how does Kindle Unlimited factor in to read-through and everything else? For starters, it’s going to mean you sell a lot less books because you only sell on Amazon, but the trade off is that you will get paid when Kindle Unlimited subscribers read pages of your books, for however many (or few) they read. You’ll probably actually have a gain in sheer number of readers. A KU “read” is worth less in $ than I charge for my individual novels, but worth more in $ than I charge for my box sets of novels. I’m making more money in KU, right now, than I did wide. I’m also working less hard to manage assets and ads across all the retail sites. So, it can be a positive.

The page rate Amazon pays for KU reads varies every month, and they tell you what it is after the fact. I generally do my read-through math based on the previous month’s KU rate.

Here’s how the read-through works:

In our example, above, SG has 27415 page reads. We compute READS read-through the same way we did for sales. Book 2/Book 1, or, in our example, LA divided by SG, then FH divided by SG. The Cum Reads RT for LA is 123.68%. Tsk tsk, it’s above 100%. That happens sometimes when book 2 is a lot longer, or you’ve got a backlog of readers from earlier advertising catching up with your reads. Honestly, in my case, it means I wasn’t advertising SG hard enough to stay ahead of the readers that month. But that’s neither here nor there. The Cum Reads RT for FH is 90.18%

Now, to calculate the read-through value for SG for reads, there are two additional steps to what we did for sales.

First, you need to know the KENPC for your books. It’s a made-up Amazon number that Amazon thinks expresses the length of your book. You find that in KDP’s promo page for that ebook.

Then you multiply that number–417 for SG–times the prevailing KU rate. Here we are using the Jan 2020 rate of .004411. That comes our to $1.84 per net read. Remember how I said it was less than I make on net royalties for a sale? It is. But I get a whole lot more of them than I do sales, so I trade volume for the higher royalty.

To see how many equivalent or “net” reads I got for SG, I  divide the Reads by the KENPC to convert the gross reads to equivalent full reads of the book. In other words, SG had 27415 page reads and is 417 KENPC pages long. That comes out to 65.74 equivalent full-reads of the book, which you above in the Reads Conv column. Nearly twice as many people read it in KU as bought it and read it. (That may matter quite a bit to those of you who care most about sharing your book with as many people as possible).

I’m ready to compute my read-through value for reads. I add up:

SG Net Reads: $1.84

+ LA’s Cum Reads RT (123.68%)    X    LA’s Net Read $ ($2.03): $2.51

+ FH’s CumReads RT (90.18%)   X    FH’s Net Read $ ($1.82): $1.64

For a total of $5.99

You would expect that every time someone reads SG in KU, you’ll get $5.99, its KU read-through value.

But wait, there’s more.

We don’t know who adds a book to their Kindle in KU when we run an ad. (I’ll tell you more about how we know when someone orders a book from one of your ads in later posts) All we know, usually, is if we sold a book. So in order for us to calculate read-through that includes KU reads, we need to know one additional piece of information, and that is this: for every time someone buys SG (our promoted book), how many equivalent full reads of SG in Kindle Unlimited occur?

That’s an easy value to calculate. You take the total of the Reads Conv column above (the equivalent full reads of SG), and you divide it by the number sold. So that’s 65.75/34 which equals 1.934. In other words, every time someone buys SG, 1.934 people read it in KU.

We now have everything we need to tally up our Read-through for books in KU. For our example, this looks like:

Sales Read-through: $8.46

+ Reads Read-through ($5.99)    X   Reads Conv/Sales (1.934): $11.58

For a total Read-through of $20.04

Wowza. Again, check out my RT Calculator HERE (RT Calculator Tab) if you want to eyeball some more real numbers. What these numbers tell us is that if I am advertising SG and it is in KU, that, with these read-through numbers, I can spend up to a max of $20.04 per sale through advertising and still do breakeven or better in the long run. As I mentioned earlier, my actual read-through is usually around $35, which illustrates the power of a series with fairly good read-through.

At first glance, it appears that KU is a no-brainer because if you advertise, you have so much more room to spend money to generate money. That is partially true. But you are giving up the sales on the other retail sites to go exclusive with Amazon, and it’s a lot harder to jumpstart page reads than you might imagine. Certainly harder than I initially gave it credit for. That being said, I have admitted I’m doing good now. (After six bloody, painful months, LOL, in which I discovered some problems with my covers, and, to a lesser extent, a description or two, and spent time and money to fix them, and started over.) So…there are positives and negatives to everything, as is the case here.

Yeah, you might be wanting that easy peasy spreadsheet for Landis Wade’s patrons, which I’ll share with you here. 🙂 So there you go!

And that, my friends is how you calculate read-through value, and, thus, how you decide what you can spend on ads. I think this is the most powerful concept in online book advertising. Once you’ve wrapped your head around it, you’re ready to start looking at whether advertising could be right for your books. And, don’t worry. You don’t have to rough those numbers out on a scratch pad every time you need them. Just pop your formulas into a spreadsheet and let it do the heavy lifting. Here’s a sample Book Read Through Calculator spreadsheet the awesome Mal Cooper has made available for you to customize. Or I can help if you’d rather; I do some stuff differently, although hers works fine, too. Just lemme know.

(Right now you’re wondering why I made you suffer through this whole blog if the answer was to use Mal’s sheet to calculate read-through, or the sheet I created for Landis Wade to calculate PRPS. And that one I can answer with clarity: the fastest way to end up in the red is to make financial decisions based on methodology you don’t understand. I need you to understand it, so you always know what your numbers mean in the fast-moving world of online advertising.)

Peace out. Comment with your adventures below <3


Pamela Fagan HutchinsUSA Today bestseller and winner of the 2017 Silver Falchion Best Mystery winner for her mysteries, including the thrilling new release SWITCHBACK, writes hilarious nonfiction (What Kind of Loser Indie Publishes, and How Can I Be One, Too?), too. She teaches writing, publishing, and promotion at the SkipJack Publishing Online School (where you can take How to Sell a Ton of Books, FREE) and in her writing and publishing retreats in Wyoming and Texas, and writes about these things and more on the SkipJack Publishing blog.

Pamela resides deep in the heart of Nowheresville, Texas and in the frozen north of Snowheresville, Wyoming. She has a passion for great writing and smart authorpreneurship as well as long hikes and trail rides with her hunky husband, giant horses, and pack of rescue dogs, donkeys, and goats. She also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound (if she gets a good running start).