Click Testing Ideas And Selling Direct With Steve Pieper

What are the pros and cons of selling direct and building an ecommerce business for your books? How can you use click testing on Meta to help refine your creative and book marketing ideas? Steve Pieper explains in this interview.

In the intro, The Hotsheet with Jane Friedman; 20 ways you should be using AI in publishing [PerfectBound]; Artificial Intelligence? No, Collective Intelligence [Ezra Klein with Holly Herndon]; AI may take our jobs, but not our creativity [Claire Silver on The TED AI Show].

Plus, De-Extinction of the Nephilim; my webinar on Discovery Writing as part of the Kickstarter – you can buy it in the bundle or just buy the ebook and get the webinar as an Add-On. Only available until 18 June at; Writing modern thrillers based on ancient relics and historical places; Ancient Heroes Podcast;


Today’s show is sponsored by my patrons! Join my community and get access to extra videos on writing craft, author business, AI and behind the scenes info, plus an extra Q&A show a month where I answer Patron questions. It’s about the same as a black coffee a month! Join the community at

Steve Pieper is a USA Today bestselling thriller author under the name Lars Emmerich. He’s also an entrepreneur and business consultant, specializing in digital marketing and selling direct with his course, AMMO, Author Marketing Mastery through Optimization.

You can listen above or on your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and the full transcript is below. 

Show Notes

  • Why more indie authors are embracing selling direct
  • How the emergence of courses has helped mature the indie author market
  • Differences in the process of selling a print book on Amazon vs. Shopify
  • Cash flow management when selling direct
  • When does it make sense for an author to start selling direct?
  • Using click testing to test a book idea with your target audience
  • Steve’s Click Testing and Direct Sales courses — If you’re interested, please consider using my affiliate link and supporting the show:

You can find Steve at and his books at

Transcript of Interview with Steve Pieper

Joanna: Steve Pieper is a USA Today bestselling thriller author under the name Lars Emmerich. He’s also an entrepreneur and business consultant, specializing in digital marketing and selling direct with his course, AMMO, Author Marketing Mastery through Optimization. So welcome back to the show, Steve.

Steve: Thank you very much. It’s such a pleasure to be here, Jo.

Joanna: So you were last on the show in January 2023 when we went into your background. So we’re just going to jump into the topic today.

It seems like selling direct has gone mainstream in the author community since you were last here.

What do you think has happened to make authors embrace selling direct in a much bigger way over the last 18 months?

Steve: It’s a great question. I think a few things have combined to make it more mainstream, as you say. I think the first thing is that Amazon has effectively capped eBook sales prices at $9.99, and nobody’s capped the advertising expenses at any particular number.

So it becomes more and more important, as ad costs to generate interest in your books continue to increase along with everything else—aside from eBook prices—it’s more and more important to be able to track your metrics.

You want to be able to reach people who are purchasers, as opposed to people who are just nearly kind of curious.

Those things are made possible when you sell direct because your store knows exactly who purchases from you. You get their email address, you get their name, your store processes their credit card.

That information can be fed back to Meta, so Facebook and Instagram, to make your ads operate more efficiently and to bring you new purchasers more profitably. So I think that’s the first part of it.

I think the second part is that we’ve heard plenty of stories of some fairly high-profile authors having trouble with their Amazon accounts, often through no fault of their own.

Whenever you run a big enterprise, such as Amazon, you have to pay attention to the quality of the listings and the quality of the accounts. You also have to deal with people who are trying to abuse the accounts to make a quick buck.

The only way to do that at scale is algorithmically, which means the machines are making decisions about whose account to close and leave open. Often Amazon doesn’t even ask the authors what was happening, you just find that your account has been closed. So I think those things have combined to make direct sales a more viable option for people.

The third reason is that we’ve noticed, and this has been true since I first started selling directly in 2017 —

Whenever you advertise for your direct sales system, there’s this beautiful thing called a cross-channel effect.

This is where your book advertisements that point to your store so that people can purchase from you, they produce sales through your store, but they also get people excited who are diehard Amazon customers, for example.

So they might see your ad for your store, like what they see, but just prefer to buy from Amazon because of convenience or familiarity or whatever else.

So it’s kind of a two-for-one deal, and in some cases, like a three- or four-for-one kind of deal, depending on who you are, in terms of advertising dollars and sales that come in.

Joanna: Yes, just coming back on that Amazon cap on $9.99. At London Book Fair, I actually talk to an Amazon person, and said, “Look, it’s been capped at $9.99 for like forever. A while ago, it wasn’t that big a deal, but it is a real big deal now.”

I mean, I write nonfiction as well, and nonfiction, in particular, can take a lot higher prices on eBooks. So I agree with you that this is a bit of an issue. Do you think they’ll ever change that ebook cap? I mean, inflation is hitting everything, it seems, except eBook sales prices.

Steve: Exactly. I don’t know for the life of me why they haven’t yet. It seems in their best interest, as well, because they’re taking 30% of the sale price.

So I don’t know what economics they’re looking at, what data they have. I mean, I can’t imagine they have much data on sales performance above $9.99 because you earn half the royalty above $9.99. I can’t imagine many authors at all have chosen to take that route.

So I have no idea why they haven’t made those adjustments yet. I mean, I think it’s far more appropriate that if there were a cap at that royalty rate, it seems to me that it would be on par with what you typically see traditionally published eBooks priced at, like around $14.99.

Joanna: Yes, exactly. So that will be interesting if they ever change that. I guess they’re still trying to push people to subscription for eBooks.

I also wondered whether another thing that shifted is almost the maturity of the indie author market, and also the emergence of different ways to learn. I mean, your course has been around for a number of years now, but there are other people starting to teach.

[More on selling direct here.]

There are, I guess, even people like myself being more vocal about it, even though I sold my first PDF online in 2008, but it certainly wasn’t the way you do it. So do you think there’s also maybe this confidence? I mean, it was 2007 when the Kindle launched, so we’re at 15 years of an indie author market now.

Steve: I absolutely think the indie author market has matured.

I think in the beginning, the people who did really well in the early days of the Kindle, were those folks who had a catalogue and had their rights returned to them, or who had repurchased their rights.

They had a dozen or fifteen or so books to place on the platform, and they were midlist authors in sort of a traditionally published ecosystem. They found tremendous purchase in the new eBook ecosystem, and there were some really high-quality authors there.

I think what’s happened over the next, like you say, 15ish years in the meantime, is that many, if not most, really high-quality authors, they’re just not seeing much economic advantage to the traditionally published route. The royalty split is not attractive.

There’s a lot of authors who are in our community who are doing extremely well, who at one point were traditionally published, and their careers only began accelerating when they got their rights back and when they became their own business owner and their own business manager for their career.

Joanna: Let’s get into the benefits and the challenges of selling direct.

You mentioned the data that you get and the cross-channel effect, but what are some other things? What are some of the good things, and also some of the challenges?

Steve: So once you start getting into the advertisement game, and with sixty million titles available 24/7, 365, at least on Amazon and many other retailers, it’s really hard to have anyone discover your books unless you’re actively advertising.

Or if you’re spending a tremendous amount of effort to build a brand, a personal author brand, that also works. It tends to take three to five to seven years to do.

As soon as you get into that ecosystem, you are not just a writer, you are now an entrepreneur. You have to run a real business there. You have to pay very close attention to your cash flow and you need to be a professional about how you test and create your ads.

The other thing that happens is that as soon as you start spending real money to bring eyeballs to your books, it rapidly exposes any weaknesses in your product quality. The first inkling you might have that things aren’t quite right is that people just aren’t buying your books.

So what you find along the way is that you have to pay a good bit of attention to exactly how you’re presenting books, both on your Amazon product detail page, but also if you’re doing direct sales, on your Shopify pages and your sales pages leading to a Shopify purchase.

So it opens the door to business operations, and many authors just want to do the thing, we just want to write.

Again, in a world with sixty million books, it’s fine if you just want to write because you love writing, but —

If you have commercial aspirations, if you’d like to make a living or you’d like to make additional money on the side, it takes a more disciplined approach and more methodical approach.

That can certainly be a challenge for authors who are already busy, or sometimes holding down day jobs, and raising kids, and all of those things.

Joanna: So let’s come back on this. I feel like for many years, we did say that we were entrepreneurs. I certainly did. I have a book, Business for Authors: How to be an Author Entrepreneur. So I did use the word entrepreneur.

When I look at now how to run a Shopify store and essentially an ecommerce business, I think, actually, we didn’t know what we were doing before. So just on that, the process flow of—let’s just take print, I think print is a really good example.

If you sell a print book on Amazon, compared to selling a print book on your Shopify store, what’s the difference?

Because I feel like a lot of people don’t understand the difference.

Steve: That’s a terrific question. So hidden behind the Amazon paperback purchase is also an Amazon logistics operation to print a copy of your book that is just sold.

Or you may have negotiated a wholesale order with a third-party printer and shipped those books to one of Amazon’s warehouses for them to fulfill and pick from the shelves and package and ship to your customer.

All of that’s happening behind the scenes if you are selling paperbacks on Amazon, but you have to actually understand how to do those things and set them up so that they function if you’re selling paperbacks from your Shopify store.

You should, especially now, we’ve already talked about the delta between book prices and how they’ve gone, compared to advertising costs and how they’ve gone. So depending on your genre, pretty much anything other than romance, you’d really need to be very serious about a paperback operation as well. So it opens a few different discussions.

There are print on demand services, and depending on where you’re at, they can make a great deal of sense logistically. They do tend to be quite expensive because they have to do all the logistical things, but also run their company, and provide profit for their shareholders, and all of those things.

So you can hook those up to your Shopify store. such that whenever an order comes in, they’re just fulfilled behind the scenes for you by a print on demand company.

The difficulty with that arrangement is that depending on your format size and your page count, your profit margins can be prohibitively thin, and it can be difficult to recoup costs.

The other way that folks go and the other things to think about is to negotiate a wholesale order to drive your per book cost down. That increases your gross profit per sale. So for every sale at a given price for your paperback, you make more money because your expenses are lower.

What that means is that you either have to fulfill that purchase yourself, meaning you have to pack and ship, and many of our authors do that. Or they’re also author assistants who will pack and ship on your behalf.

Then there are also third-party logistics companies that will warehouse your titles until sold, and then when they’re sold, they will pull them from their shelves in the warehouse and pack and ship them.

There’s a host of considerations that you suddenly have to think about if you’re selling directly to your readers.

It sounds scary, and it certainly can be. It really helps to have a few tools to help you calculate costs and make heads or tails of the process of finding the right source for your books at a good compromise between cost and quality, and also fulfillment time.

You have to look carefully at the prices in your genre to understand under what circumstances it’s likely to be profitable for you.

So as you mentioned, it’s suddenly a whole host of things that are really common to an ecommerce business, but have not been as common to the author world, especially the indie author business, over the last five-ish years.

Joanna: I think this is really important because I’ve had more and more emails recently saying —

“Oh, it’s really hard to sell a book on Amazon now. Oh, it’s really hard to sell direct. So what should I do?”

I’m like, you could try pitching traditional publishing. I think it’s really important that we emphasize that we are running this ecommerce business by selling direct.

If you do want to work with a traditional publisher, then there is a reason they get most of the money. It’s because they also have those logistics set up and all of that.

So I do feel like it’s a choice to go this way. I use Bookvault here in the UK, and they have great print prices. So I find that I actually can make more on selling a paperback than I even do on some of my eBooks, in terms of profits. I think this is very exciting.

[Click here to go to the interview with Alex from BookVault.]

So I guess I would say to encourage people is that once you get it set up—this is the other thing, isn’t it—once you get your head around this, you get it set up, it is just a sort of plug and play the next book.

I found there’s a lot of work upfront, and then the work is much less going forward.

Steve: That’s absolutely right. Once you’ve figured out how to get it uploaded to your store or to the service, then it’s pretty smooth sailing. has a tremendous reputation in the UK, and they’re in the process of expanding over into the US. What they’re finding over here is that they’re subject to the existing printing and shipping infrastructure in the United States, which leaves a lot to be desired.

The distances that have to be covered here in the US between customer locations and business locations, those change the economics quite a bit for those printing companies. So it’s a bit harder.

Here in the US, the print on demand company primarily, at least with a terrific Shopify interface, primarily is Lulu. I have been extremely happy with their quality. They are expensive, and it does eat into profit margins.

So Bookvault is a beautiful solution in the UK, currently. There’s not currently a beautiful solution, at my page count, in the US for print on demand. It’s doable, and a lot depends on the quality of your marketing assets.

A lot depends on your marketing assets in general. Like a terrific book is table stakes to be a professional author, and a terrific marketing system and process is also table stakes to be a successful indie author today, I believe.

Joanna: I kind of think it always has been, but certainly it’s just changed. The things that used to work more easily back in the day, now, as you say, are more expensive, or just things have changed, or there’s more books.

Let’s just talk about one of the very, very good things about selling direct, which is how fast you get the money.

This is such a big deal. I feel like people don’t understand it.

If you’re traditionally published, you might not get paid for months or sometimes years. As an indie author, you still only get paid 60 days later, 90 days later, sometimes longer depending on the contract and the system.

I have my Shopify set up to pay me every day. Now, I know some people don’t have that, they have it every week or whatever, but I really like making money every day.

So talk a bit about the cash flow with the print books. Because that’s also different in terms of when you get the money and who pays for things.

Steve: Absolutely, it’s so important, so critical, not to have to carry your own advertising costs for two to three months. If you spend $1 today on an ad and it produces a purchase, you want that dollar back because your credit card company is going to ask for it when your credit card bill is due.

If you’re waiting that 60 to 90 day window for Amazon to issue their royalty payment to you for today’s sale, well, you have to float that cost.

So that either means that you can’t advertise to your full capacity, you can’t sell as many books as you would otherwise be able to sell, because you can’t afford personally to keep paying these ad costs without getting cash flow back.

So it’s a much slower ramp up to selling books at scale when you have to wait up to three months to get paid. Whereas if you buy your ads today, and today or tomorrow, like the next business day, that money shows up in your bank account.

I’m like you, I want I want that money deposited every single day. I love those deposits. I don’t like them sitting wherever they’re at, I like them in my account. So you can pay off that credit card bill for your advertisements every single month, and it just makes everything much healthier.

The other thing is that if you’re waiting for royalty payments to come in, and you’re purchasing your own copies of your paperbacks or your hard covers to sell, those orders come out of pocket while you’re waiting for those royalties to come back.

So again, it’s just a much slower and much less responsive scaling capacity. That’s important because there are seasons in an author’s year, and also in an author’s career, when you catch a bit of a flyer where there’s a lot of demand suddenly for what you’re offering.

It’s really important to be able to take advantage of that, but if you’re waiting around three months to get the cash available to purchase more books to sell to the people who want them right now, that’s a really frustrating position to be in.

The cash flow management in an author career is a thousand times easier when you make a sale today and the money shows up tomorrow in your account.

Joanna: Yes, and as you say, if you do hit some big thing, like I know someone who had a really massive day on TikTok, and say you get a thousand orders for your paperbacks through to your store today, you get that money, but you also have to pay the printer.

So one of the confusions that I feel people have is that at the moment, you don’t have to “pay” for Amazon to print your book if you go through KDP print because they take it out of the sales. So you never have to pay them out of your pocket.

Whereas when we’re selling direct, we’re paying for the printing, and then a customer pays us. So I feel like this is so important, this cashflow. If you’re doing a massive campaign, then just remember this cash flow management. When does the money come in? When does it go out? Again, once you get it sorted, you can manage it.

When in an author’s journey might they consider selling direct through your methods?

You’re mainly talking about Shopify, which is quite different to Kickstarter. Some people might be on Payhip, some people might sell at a local school, for example. So at what sort of points should authors consider this?

Steve: That’s a terrific question. The platform that you’re selling from, whether it’s Shopify, or Payhip, or Samcart, there’s a bunch of them out there, the considerations are quite similar.

What we’re seeing across our community, and we’re close to 1200 or 1300 authors strong in our community at the moment, and we have some folks who are doing really well and can generate a purchase of a bundle of their books for $6, $7, or $8 in advertising costs. Those tend to be outliers.

What we’re seeing on average, is that the average cost to bring in a new paying customer is between $12 and $20. That’s a range, it’s not like Author A gets good sales at $12, and Author B gets sales at $20. That’s a range that every author experiences throughout the week or day or month.

There’s a lot of fluctuation running any kind of business. You can tell this just by looking at your Amazon purchases back in the dashboard. Some day you sell more books than others, and it’s the same when you’re selling directly. So that $12 to $20 customer acquisition cost, it’s relatively agnostic to the advertising platform that you’re using.

We use Meta because they’re by far the best. I test these every year, spend thousands of dollars, and I have always wound up at the same place. Facebook and Instagram are where book buyers mostly are, at least from an ad perspective.

When you have to recoup a $12 to $20 customer acquisition cost, that dictates how you need to structure your business.

So you have to have enough products to sell to make that money back in profit, and then some, so that you keep selling for your store.

So if you’re a novelist, and you’re selling one or two titles so far, it’s really rare to do that profitably anywhere, including on Amazon, but it’s really rare to do it profitably if you’re selling directly due to those acquisition cost reasons as well.

The number of books that you have is important. Each of them have to be professional quality, professional grade.

They have to be so good that your readers know that they’re going to love them and tell their friends about them.

So that’s what you’re aiming for product quality-wise, and you need a bunch of products that way. So if you write in the romance genre, we typically see around eight to ten titles being sort of the price of entry for all the goodness that comes from selling directly to your readers.

In other genres where there are typically longer page counts and a slightly less voracious reader community, we see in the neighborhood of five to eight titles.

It’s useful to know too, like what’s a sustainable number of titles. A good metric for that is, I like to think of it in terms of looking across our community and asking myself, what’s the smallest number of titles that an author has had that they have used to sell over a million dollars’ worth of their books?

What’s magical about a million dollars? It’s just a nice milestone, but what it really tells you is that their setup is resilient. So it’s not like they have a good week, and then everything falls apart.

To sell a million dollars’ worth of your books, you’re in pretty rare air, which means that you have a system that is working really well for you. You have the right number of high-quality titles to work for you.

So if you are a novelist, the smallest number of titles that an author has used to sell over a million dollars of their books is eight.

If you’re a nonfiction author, this is an interesting one, the smallest number of titles that one of our nonfiction authors has used to sell over a million dollars’ worth of their books is three.

That’s a little bit misleading because it was one main title with a workbook and an associated poetry book. So it was like a suite of three products, but really the vanguard was led by that one individual title.

So I mention that just to give you a sense for what you can expect if you’re looking to build a sustainable business that produces enough cash flow to be really interesting and really worth your time. So those are good numbers I think to aim for. If you are topically on point in your nonfiction title, that can be done with a single title, but it’s really rare.

If you are a novelist, then I would be looking more toward five to eight as really the point when you can expect, if you’re doing a good job, testing your marketing assets and elements, and testing your books, and writing high quality professional titles, that’s when you can reasonably expect to start doing so profitably in a direct sales context.

Joanna: I’ll put a little caveat on this, which is if you have one or two books but you still want to do this, you just can’t do big paid ad spend.

If you’re building up your author brand slowly, you can sell direct just through driving your own traffic through building an email list, or if you have a podcast like I have had for many years.

This is how I’ve done it. I’ve moved platforms over the years as things have grown.

I do think that some people are just launching on either Kickstarter or through Shopify, and they don’t necessarily have to do a lot of ad spend, they don’t have to sell a lot of books. Your course and your system is for the very, very ambitious people who have more books.

That’s what we all want, but sometimes if people are starting out now, I wonder if going through building the store and learning the business can also be beneficial, even if they’re not expecting the massive sales. Just with the caveat that they’re not spending a ton on ads.

Steve: I believe that’s absolutely true. That’s what I mean by the brand building. Like if you’re building a brand through podcasts, and in emails, and newsletters, and appearances at conferences, and media appearances and such, that is absolutely effective. In fact, that’s ultimately where all of us need to end up if we really want to grow into a really recognized and successful brand.

I will say that there are certain elements that we teach that are quite important no matter where you are in your author career. So it’s not like you should wait to engage with paid ads until you have eight titles or five titles, it’s actually kind of tragic to do that.

The reason is that we tend to overestimate the quality and marketability of our own work. So one of the worst situations, and I see it, unfortunately, over and over again, where people come into the community with lots of titles, which need lots of work.

So the way around this is not to ask your friends if they like your work or not, to ask your family members if you’re going to be a star author, but to —

Test your ideas in front of total strangers who are known to read in your market.

This is different than sending a survey out to your email list. It’s different to asking people in person for feedback because they’re solving a different equation. They’re thinking about their relationship with you and your feelings.

So they’re not directly answering this question, “Would you buy this right now?” That’s the question. You can’t ask them directly, you just have to put things in front of them that give them the opportunity to show you, yes or no, how resonant, how effective, your messaging is.

So we do this, and the name of the process is called click testing.

[You can use my affiliate link for the course at]

Click testing has been used in about 75-plus different industries. It’s helped to drive over a billion dollars, including $200 million dollars per year in extra revenue.

Click testing is a way to test a number of your ideas very quickly, but also with high fidelity and a pretty high level of precision.

One of the things that we discovered—and this is like 800 authors, 6000 tests, 50,000 different individual testing elements—one of the really interesting things that we’ve discovered is that only about 5% of our ideas are good enough to move forward with profitably. So one idea out of twenty.

An idea might be a hook, or a tagline, or a title, or a subtitle. One idea might also be an image or a cover image.

So it’s extremely important to de-risk everything you’re doing, in my opinion, whether it’s advertising to bring traffic to existing titles that you have, or if you’re still building your catalogue and still writing, we found that it’s quite important to de-risk those future titles by testing your book ideas.

The process, again, that we use to do this is called click testing. It is the foundation of our direct sales program, which is aimed for people, like we talked about, who have a number of high quality titles and want to build a serious ecommerce business around them.

Click testing, on the other hand, benefits and has benefited authors selling anywhere from $0 per month, upwards of a couple million dollars per year. It’s actually quite a simple process that just involves running advertisements and treating them in a special way as experiments.

We run them for a brief period of time, and we have a very specific number of impressions that they’re shown for. That’s just like the number of people who get to see them.

Then we just look at the performance metrics of these little advertisements to guide us to give us an understanding of whether or not that particular idea is worth pursuing either as an advertisement, or even more importantly, worth pursuing at all to make a book out of or to include in your next book.

So the beginning of that process, the direct sales process, actually is click testing. It applies to pretty much anyone at most spots inside of your author career trajectories. Whether you’re already selling a lot of books, we’ve got folks who are multimillion dollar year sellers who have really dramatically improved their profit margins. So they took a lot more home.

Then we’ve got folks who were beginning who had financially successful titles through testing the ideas and the concepts. It’s not just the ideas and concepts, it’s also the specific words—as writers, we know this—but it’s also the specific words that we use.

So that’s a really important way to think, in my opinion. If you want to do this professionally, and if you want your work to be read, it’s really important to get midstream and early stream feedback on whether anybody might be interested in reading this book once you’re done with it.

Joanna: Yes, and I wanted to talk to you because I have been through the click testing module, and I’ve always been pretty resistant to this. I tried your course a while back, and it was a lot of data. So I’m not a massive data person, but I did this click testing process, and I actually found it quite fun.

I’ll tell you what’s different now, and this will help people listening, is ChatGPT. I basically was like, I can’t come up with fifteen different taglines, I just can’t. But ChatGPT can.

My brain can only think of one or two taglines, or maybe I can’t think of any. Maybe I can only write 70,000 words, I can’t put it all into like a tagline.

So I used ChatGPT to come up with a lot of the variants for the click testing. I put this on my email to you, but I changed the tagline for Spear of Destiny, which as we speak right now has just launched on Kickstarter. It’s already funded.

So I mean, who knows whether that tagline made all the difference, but I certainly changed it. When I did the click testing, and I put in whatever it was, fifteen different variants or however many it was, my one, the one I came up with originally, it performed like number eight or something out of the list.

So I switched it to the one that tested better, and I did that to a market that I normally sell to. So this is what’s interesting, this was a Kickstarter tagline. This was not necessarily a whole advertising campaign, but it really, really helped me.

I guess the other thing to say, because we talked before about the conversion ads which were more expensive.

These are click ads. So it doesn’t cost you that much to do these tests, does it?

Steve: No, not at all. In fact, we just run it at a relatively low budget of $30 per day. I recommend six tests. The number is six if you’re a novelist or a storyteller, or if you are a nonfiction author who solves problems for people.

So each of those tests last one to two-ish days at a $30 per day ad spend. So the whole thing is done in like two weeks. So maybe you’ve spent $200 to $300 to de-risk your title, or maybe you’ve spent $200 to $300 total, to arrive at a really high converting advertisement.

Like you mentioned, the things that you learn about what people like, they’re not just useful on the book itself or on the advertisement itself, they’re useful everywhere you’re interacting with your customers. So in your case, on the Kickstarter page. Also on your product detail page, whether that’s on your Amazon product page or on your Shopify product page.

Also, if you’re doing lead generation and getting people to sign up for your list, what you discover really resonates and really gets people excited to your click testing, guess what, it also gets them excited on the signup page.

Or if you’re bringing people to a sales page in a direct sales scenario for your bundle, or for a trilogy that you’re offering in paperback, or whatever, those elements really go a long way toward improving every aspect of your business.

You include them in your emails, you include them if you’re making videos, if you’re writing blog posts. It really is useful when you find beyond a shadow of a doubt the confluence of your particular voice and what you have to say, and also what resonates with your market.

It’s really nice when you feel good about the things you’re saying your market, and they really respond to it. So it’s a really cool tool that way.

Joanna: Yes, so because we’re talking about Meta here, we have to talk about what’s been going on recently. So we’re recording this at the end of May 2024, and the word in the author community in the last month has been the Metapocalypse, where—

Authors have seen a drop in revenue and effectiveness of Facebook ads. Is this the Metapocalypse?

Now, my personal thought is that Meta are rolling out a lot of AI tools, and they’re trying to make it easier on us, but these experiments have caused issues. A bit like any of these changes, it’s going to have an effect.

Some people have kind of freaked out, gone back into KU with their eBooks, wondering if it will ever come back. What are your thoughts on the short-term, but also the long-term, impact? What will change? What should authors be doing?

Steve: This is such a good question. I’ve been advertising online since 2003. Back then there wasn’t just one search engine, there were like six. So I was advertising on all of them. It was different business and different ecosystems, and they all sort of had their ups and downs.

Then the advent of, first, Facebook, and then Facebook and Instagram ads now under Meta. Those became a real player for us in like the 2015/2016 ballpark, maybe 2014 even. I look back, and about twice a year in some communities someplace, there is the Metapocalypse kind of meme that circulates.

It’s really important to understand that in any community of businesses, and authors are no different, at any given moment, we’ve got authors in our community who are having their best month ever.

Then we have authors in our community—same community, same month, same advertising platform—who are not having good months at all.

There’s this continuous up and down in any business, and ours is no different.

One of the things that sort of determines which industry takes up the meme, like the sky has fallen in Facebook land, is just which individuals are having a rough month.

If it’s somebody with a prominent platform and they’re writing about it, or it’s somebody who’s got a course on something and they’re having their turn in the barrel, as they say for a rough month, it can really feel like things are out of control and we need to make drastic changes.

So let me give you a resource that will stop this kind of anecdotal spread of information which may not be accurate. So there are a couple of analytics companies who connect to your Shopify store and they connect to all of the different ad platforms.

So they see every dollar that thousands upon thousands of ecommerce businesses are spending on every relevant ad platform. They see how much a click is costing, what are the click through rates, how much does it cost to bring in a new customer.

Since they have such a broad view across all the advertising platforms that are relevant to ecommerce and across so many different niche ecommerce stores, it actually gives you a real sense of what’s going on.

So the resource I’d like to point everybody to is So North like the direction, beam like laser beam, They have a Media Buyer Newsletter, and what they do is they send out their statistics monthly. So the main meme that the sky has fallen in Meta-land in the book world, that was on the strength of April’s results, for better and worse.

It was really interesting because the recent Northbeam media buyer newsletter, where you can see exactly what market share exists on like Meta vs Google vs YouTube vs TikTok, and you can see trends in whether it’s become more expensive or less expensive, more profitable or less profitable.

The April 2024 results were better than the April 2023 results. So from that perspective, there was no Metapocalypse this year, which is really interesting. You can see the difference between what happens socially and anecdotally.

You know, we talk to each other, but we don’t have the ability to see what’s actually happening from a numbers perspective. So when you fold in that data, it really helps you make more informed decisions.

So how would I use this differently? Like if that data came back and said, “Oh, my gosh, April 2024, it was 25% more expensive than it was in 2023. Things really are looking bleak,” I would consider making significant changes to my business, to the structure of it, to the strategy of it.

Given that it came back, actually, April 2024, was better than April 2023, numerically speaking, that’s different. Then my action is, okay, it sounds like I just need to work harder to test newer creative. Maybe test newer hooks, new images, things that are resonating now.

Culture moves at a pretty quick pace, so things that worked, they work for a shorter period of time now. Things are moving so quickly in media and culture, so it’s important to be able to make strategic decisions like that with actual information.

It’s not like pages and pages and reams and reams of data, it’s usually summarized just in one chart, and it fits on your phone. So I recommend that everybody who’s buying ads in the book world, subscribe to that I’m not affiliated with them, I just think they’re awesome., and it’s called the Media Buyer Newsletter. So that’ll keep you from making emotional knee jerk reactions that you could live to regret.

Joanna: I think it comes back to what we were saying at the beginning around being an entrepreneur and having a real business. The reality is, it’s not all up and to the right forever. Unfortunately, not everything is like that all the time.

It goes up and down and things change, and that’s part of the fun of it, too. I mean, if it was always the same, then it would be so boring. So this is certainly interesting, and as I said, I find the course great. You’re a great teacher, and you’ve recently redone the whole course.

Tell people a bit about the course and who it’s most suitable for.

Steve: Thank you, I appreciate that. So there are two programs, and the front door for everybody is click testing because I’ve just seen almost universally positive results in a whole bunch of different industries.

The reason that the results are positive is because you’re learning more about what your market wants, like what do the people actually want and respond to. So it doesn’t matter where you’re at.

If you’re working on that first book, you would definitely want some information that your market is excited about the idea that you’re spending so much time, and effort, and energy, and probably money and love, to produce.

Also, if you’re selling well, but would like to increase your profit margins, or you’d like to be able to advertise more aggressively to produce more sales, but to do that, you have to be able to advertise more effectively, click testing is for you also.

Like I say it’s, it’s helped people who have zero books and are making $0 per month, and it’s helped people who have many books and who are really big names, not just an indie community, but out in the author world.

It’s improved the number of books they’re able to sell and the profit margin they’re able to sell it at.

So that’s called Click Testing for Authors. That’s the introductory program. It’s the foundation for everything, and the reason it’s the foundation for everything that we do inside of our processes is because it teaches you what your customers like. That’s really important.

For a subset of folks who have the number and quality of titles that we spoke about earlier, there’s a follow-on program called Direct Sales for Authors. Those two modules together are inside of version four of AMMO.

Direct Sales for Authors really hones in on the nuts and bolts of setting up a direct sales system. It gives you a bunch of tools to help you calculate your paperback costs, for example.

That can be a hassle, so we put some spreadsheets together to do all that math for you because people who write aren’t always people who love to do math. So that’s taken care of for you.

We also walk you through the process of getting your assets to work profitably. It’s one thing to set everything up so that it functions, i.e. when you put your credit card in, a book comes out on the other end of that. That’s one thing, but getting that process to operate profitably is another thing entirely.

It’s a whole process in and of itself, and there’s some art and science to it. So we provide tools for that, for those folks who are interested in building a direct sales business and interested in doing so at an exciting scale based on the number of books that you have.

So there’s two programs. The first one is Click Testing for Authors. That’s for everybody under the sun who writes books, in my opinion.

Then the Direct Sales for Authors is a more focused program for those folks who are in a position to most immediately benefit from a serious direct sales effort.

Joanna: Fantastic. If people would like to use my affiliate link, I’m a happy affiliate. I have done the course, and I think it’s great. It is, all one word.

Where else can people find it? I always like to give people the actual link because, of course, we don’t expect people to go through my affiliate. Also—

Tell people where your books are, as well.

Because you are a real author, and I think that’s really important.

Steve: Yes, thank you. So please do use Joanna’s affiliate link. Let’s support Jo’s podcast and your efforts in everything that you have done for our community for all these years.

If that’s not your thing, perfectly fine. A-M-M-O like Author Marketing Mastery through Optimization. is sort of the front door. If you want to check out my trashy spy thrillers, they’re at L-A-R-S-dot-B-U-Z-Z.

Joanna: Or “zed, zed” if you are British.

Steve: Depending if you’re on the correct side of the pond or the incorrect side of the pond.

Joanna: Right. Well, thanks so much for your time, Steve. That was great.

Steve: Thank you so much, Jo. I really appreciate it.

The post Click Testing Ideas And Selling Direct With Steve Pieper first appeared on The Creative Penn.

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Author: Joanna Penn

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  • June 9, 2024