Tuesday Tidbits: On the right track!

It’s been a while since I wrote about reviews. It’s also been a while since I received any. Coincidence? Probably.

I decided to run a promotion with Itsy Bitsy Book Bits (IBBB) for my poetry book after reading some Goodreads forums on marketing sites. They do rely heavily on social media presence, along with their pool of reader/reviewers. I’m not that active on social media, so I’m probably not taking total advantage of the package, but so far, while it hasn’t translated into any sales, I have received more reviews.

The underlying theme of many of the reviews mirrored one of the reasons for publishing my poems as the forward in my book stated:

I hope that my writing and drawing makes you smile, think, wonder, reflect, laugh, and cry (in a good way-we all need to cry sometimes. It’s not as good as laughing but it serves a purpose). If you can relate to something that I have said, and it makes sense to you, or at least you are entertained, then I have accomplished the second thing that I set out to do.

That was my intent and reason, and these are some of the comments:

“Being a beginner with poetry, this was a great book to start with…The personal points of view which are portrayed are easily relatable and resonates with me on a personal level.

“It is certainly on book that will make you stop and think… also injecting humour making me laugh. If you are up for something a little different then Leon’s book is just the thing.”

“I have read books of poems before but Lines by Leon touches on topics that really make you think.” 

“This is an easy to understand… I know you will find something in one of these poems or short stories you will connect with.”

“These speak to me at this time in my life… You will be amazed as I was at how these short works will grab your heart.”

“… there is something that will connect with everyone.”

As you can see, that goal of my decision to publish has been met, and it warms my heart to get such wonderful feedback. Now the next goal is to reach more readers.

  • If you live in Canada or the US, you can get a signed paperback copy of my book, Lines by Leon – Poems, Prose and Pictures directly from me: https://linesbyleon.com/books-and-merch/
  • You can purchase a copy from most major online retailers: Universal Book Link
  • You can tell someone about the book on your social media

Here is a link to the IBBB promo page: https://itsybitsybookbits.com/2021/07/lines-by-leon-poems-prose-and-pictures-by-leon-stevens/

All of your support is appreciated!


Leon Stevens is a blogger, composer, artist, and an author of three books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and PicturesJourneys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar and The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories.

Purchase paperback directly for the author!

The Purge: Redux

I periodically purge my email subscriber list. I have done three since I started with my mail host. The last purge email was opened by 3 subscribers, so they remained on the list. The others? Well, they get archived and are not counted in my stats. Which means my open rate goes up. I rather have 50 subscribers who are interested in my writings than having a large list and low open percentage.

I do state in my sign-up that subscribers should check their spam folder if they don’t receive the welcome email. Often, the welcome email is the only one that is opened and sometimes it is not even that.  I assume that most of the addresses that have no opens are the secondary ones that people use to sign up for free stuff.

Here is what I send:

Dear Subscriber,

Ever see the movie, The Purge? Don’t. It’s a terrible movie. I can’t believe they made more than one, two more actually. Anyway, this email is going out to subscribers who haven’t opened any emails for at least 2 months. I may have made a mistake and accidentally added you to this list, so I apologize and you can stop reading now. 

I am glad that you wanted to read my books and subscribe to my newsletter. Part of being a writer is to entertain readers. I hope that I have been doing this on a weekly basis.

However, nobody likes unwanted email, and I don’t want to contribute to the digital trash folder. If you no longer want to receive my newsletter and updates, please let me know by unsubscribing at the bottom of the page. If you have any comments or feedback, I would love to hear it.

I’m sad to see you go, but hopefully you will drop by my website from time to time, or follow me on social media. Cheers!

Yours sincerely,

Leon Stevens

I add “Important Unsubscribe Information” to the subject line. Does that get more opens? If it is opened by a subscriber with no previous opens, then yes. I probably could put “More Free Stuff!” but that would not be nice, would it?

One of the marketing tips I hear over and over is to build a mailing list. That makes sense because the readers of your books are the buyers of your books and have an interest in your career. Just like blogging, it’s a way to make a connection with people who are genuinely interested in what I am doing.

Do I hope my subscribers purchase my various offerings? Of course. Will I continue to inform and entertain regardless? You bet. That’s what I enjoy doing.


Leon Stevens is a blogger, composer, artist, and an author of three books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and PicturesJourneys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar and The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories.

Purchase paperback directly for the author!

Thursday Thoughts: Free books and formatting

My computer is filled with old files. Many of them are different versions of the same thing – mostly poorly formatted eBooks.

When I decided to publish my book of poetry, I thought that it would be a good idea to put together a free sample book of some of my poetry so that reader’s could “try before they buy”, like the free samples at the supermarket*. I later found out, through my continuing research, these are called reader magnets, and learned how important they are to authors (and readers).

My first one was hastily prepared, due to the fact that I was new at this digital publishing thing. There are many options available to prepare the various formats that readers use. Here’s one thing I learned:

What you see in Word isn’t necessarily what you get. Sometimes, it’s not even close.

Once you have your manuscript ready (or so you think), you need to convert them into any of the following formats: Kindle (for KDP publishing), MOBI, EPUB, or PDF. Preferably all of them since not everybody has 7 – or more – different readers. Once you do that, you have to re-do them because they don’t look quite right. Unlike a physical book, eBooks display all your hard work in various different ways, depending on the font size and line spacing the reader chooses. So, if you want a certain line or graphic to be at the top of a new page, you may be out of luck. I say maybe because you can always force a page break (ctrl/enter), but that may mean that the previous page may not look like you planned.

I created many versions, downloaded them to my e-reader, and repeated until for me it was “good enough”. In hindsight, good enough isn’t good enough. It needs to be perfect. With my increased knowledge of the various programs, I reorganized on several occasions, adding important things that I learned about marketing and online publishing. I’ve taken out parts that didn’t fit anymore, and added content.

Why did I decide to write about this? You guessed it. I’m doing it again. How long will it take? Not as long as the first time…


*Author’s Note: In the days before Covid, we used to be able to share everything with everyone – even public food on toothpicks. I don’t think we will be going back to that anymore. But I do have fond memories of college, when my roommate and I would save money by eating lunch by going to supermarkets and partaking in the samples. Psst, If you take a hat and a different coat, you can sometimes get away with two rounds…

Thursday Thoughts: Book Bub Ads

Last week I complained a bit about Amazon ads, so to be fair, I’ll give BookBub some airplay.

BookBub operates in much the same way as Amazon does, it that you have to win bids to get your ad shown, and if someone clicks on your ad, you get charged that amount. So, you have to know what your profit margin is for each book and price your bid accordingly-you don’t want to pay people to read your book. But if you don’t bid high enough, your ad doesn’t get shown. Also in the mix is that if someone clicks your ad, the likelihood that your ad gets shown goes up.

Their ad design is straight-forward and there is no vetting like Amazon does, so once you create your ad, it’s live. There are many variables for the ads, so it’s difficult to compare one author’s ad to another. If your ad is not doing well, they email you and suggest that you either up your bid (of course) or redesign. I’ll show the ad that BookBub uses as an example of a successful ad, along with the one I created.

One of the suggestions was to use BookBrush to create ads. I suspect they are owned by BookBub. What is nice about it is the ad is the correct size (300 x 250), so no tweaking required, and you can layer text and images for a professional look.

They give you a chart to show how well- or poorly- your ad is doing:

The best I achieved was 5 clicks on ~2000 impressions. Not great. As you can see, this is ad #14.

There are many variables for success. The popularity of the genre, bid amount, etc. The one controllable variable in all this is the cover. People do judge a book by its cover. Since I like my cover, it’s hard to step back and critique, so what do you think? Let me know.

Leon Stevens is a composer, artist, and author of three books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and Pictures, The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories, and Journeys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar

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Amazon Ads: Here, Mr. Bezos, take my money and run.

Now that Mr. Bezos has stepped down, I’ll do a little bitching.

Are creating Amazon ads making you want to bang your head on the wall? No? Then you’re not doing it right, I guess.

It took me almost two weeks to get an ad running on Amazon. Now, this wasn’t my first attempt–several had run recently–but this time was quite frustrating. Everything has a learning curve, and Amazon’s ad platform is no exception. Reading through the tutorials and the FAQ’s gives you a cursory knowledge, but by no means does it cover all you need to know.

I did other research online, there are many others before me that have done the legwork and produced good lessons. Still doesn’t make it any less confusing. I’m sure my rambles here won’t be any different.

It all comes down to getting your ad to show on a customer’s search page or on their Kindle. You do that by winning a bid–like an auction–against other ads in your genre. Highest bid wins and gets shown, reader sees it and hopefully clicks on it and buys.

I was doing an online course where one author was quoting that when he started his adds, he was getting 200 000+ impressions/week @ pennies/click, which translated to a very cheap advertising campaign and high sales. After digging deeper, those statistics were from 2016. Four years makes a lot of difference when it comes to competition.

I would love to be able to win a bid to have my ad shown to potential readers for > $0.10 when I create my ad, most of the suggested bids for each of my keywords* run from $0.50 to more than $1.00. Which means if someone clicks on my ad, I pay Amazon–let’s take the lower amount– $0.50.

Let’s break it down for profit. I get ~$0.60 if it is read on Kindle Unlimited (approximately, because just like the ads, the royalty structure for KU is not easy to grasp), so I make $0.10. So, I do a lot of free promotions for this version. If it is bought as a Kindle eBook, I make $2.00 – $0.50 = $1.50. That’s not too bad. The problem is that not everyone that clicks the add will buy. It would be nice to have 100% conversion, but that is never going to happen. Even 50% is a lofty goal, in reality it is around 10%. I also have a paperback option which is a higher royalty still.

So basically, with a low conversion, I usually wind up paying more in fees than I make in royalties. I know that advertising and marketing are essential to book sales and all advertising costs money. I would be satisfied to break even since I’m just starting out. Where are those bygone days of $0.05 clicks?

With all my rambling, I still didn’t get into my dealings with customer support, which was the impetus for this this post.**


*That’s another topic.

**That’s another topic as well.

Leon Stevens is a composer, artist, and author of three books (so far): Lines by Leon: Poems, Prose, and Pictures, The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories, and Journeys: Eight Original Pieces for Classical Guitar

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