2021 was quite turbulent for Resurrecting Books. Our revenue dropped by almost 40% year to year, mostly because of opening the Canadian market for all authors back in August 2020.
But also because the competition increased, so in the end we sold fewer books than a year before. Which is a heartache for me as much as the financial loss.
However, like in every struggle there was a seed of opportunity in this decline. It forced me to step up to my business owner role, make the whole enterprise more lean and forced me to look for better ways of advertising on Amazon.
All in all, we sold about 30,000 copies of our customers’ books in 2021.
The Biggest Struggle
As Edison said, we found several ways how not to optimize ads in 2021. Speaking plainly, we dedicated quite some resources and time, and we weren’t able to provide results significantly better than our standard low-bid random campaigns.
We tried the lazy way of mining data from search reports and it wasn’t lazy after all, and the results were far from stunning.
However, we also scored some successes.
More Customers and Returning Customers
A couple of former customers got back to us. As imperfect as our process is, it’s still better than nothing. We are able to resurrect dead books with our system, and authors recognize it’s a no-brainer to use us when their books are dead.
I invented the 1-book offer for authors who wrote only one book and wanted to advertise it. We ran our ads for a month, and then I told them what I saw in their numbers. We had about 20 such customers, and a few turned into recurring customers.
I started a mastermind with a couple of other business owners involved in advertising on Amazon. I utterly enjoy our calls. We learn from each other, and I’ve already implemented a few solutions they encouraged in the way we are doing things.
At the beginning of 2021, I hired a Filipino VA. I was extremely stretched thin, and I needed some help. Well, that was a classic example of hiring fast. I had my doubts when hiring her, but I hoped we could figure things out as we went. We couldn’t. My VA appeared to be unteachable.
After several months, I demoted her to a freelancer role doing just a couple tasks she is proficient in. In September, I hired another VA, but this time I did everything by the book, and the results blew my mind. Michele is bright, hard-working, and she makes my life easier.
In December, I started another hiring process.
I’ve always said that an author is the best person to run and supervise their own ads. We are just the second best option. We serve those who don’t want to do that. Running Amazon ads the right way is a lot of workload.
In 2021, we experimented with a hybrid approach for a couple of new customers. Their book ranks were too good to dabble with our standard random approach. Our ads would have rather hurt their sales than improved them. So, in this new process, they are providing us the starting points for keyword research, and my team is doing the heavy lifting: we do the research, strip the research results from special characters so they can be used in ads, make sure the new keywords are unique, and we create the ads.
All the authors need to focus on are two tasks: providing the research prompts and pruning the ads we created.
So far, the results were promising. We sold more copies, and we didn’t dilute the books’ positioning in the market with random keywords.
I had a free coaching call with Seth, who is a branding expert. After the call, he inquired about what I’m doing and got excited about Resurrecting Books. His hour is worth thousands of dollars, so I told him I’d advertise a couple of his books for free in exchange for that call.
He looked at our ads and was amazed how random keywords provided him sales. He recognized Amazon ads as a great source of business leads for a relatively low price. Seth is also a marketer. He packaged my service into a bigger bundle containing also a landing page and a sales funnel, and he paid me $300 a month per his clients’ book. Currently, we advertise four such books, and this is the source of revenue that funds my new hires.
Solidifying and Delegating the Processes
For years, my sister has been taking care of some day-to-day management, like creating the orders for the ads and making sure they are served. Thus, I’m able to provide her a few hints and she is off to do the job. She is also completely in charge of our home-made rudimentary CRM system.
My eldest son went to the college this year and discovered he needs money to live. 😉 Thus, he became much more diligent in the work he is doing for me. He is in charge of my former VA and the new hybrid process. I can depend more on him, and I just cross my fingers that he doesn’t find a real part-time job. I need him in Resurrecting Books!
We advertised several books in Italy, and one book in France – all of them in the national languages. The Italian translations are for the romance author, and her sales just exploded there.
The French book provided a healthy 200%+ ROI, and it is a quite complicated book to advertise – something between a young adult and personal development genre.
2022 – The Way Ahead
We have only three items for the 2022 agenda, but two of them are significant ones.
Figure out the Optimization Process
I need to find the way to crack book advertising on Amazon. Otherwise, we will stay forever at the mediocre level; it will be better to advertise with us than do nothing with your book, but that will be the whole benefit.
Our ambitions are higher than that. Our mission is to Inch Dreams Closer to Reality, but we prefer to do it at the faster pace than the glacier pace.
Yet, I don’t have any bright idea how to achieve that. If you have any hints, I’m all ears.
Remove the Bottleneck
That’s me. I’m the brain and the heart of the whole Resurrecting Books’ operations. At last, I have more hands on the deck than ever, but hands alone will not do the whole job.
I need more brains and more hearts connected to the hands. And more hands too, it seems. The more I’m dabbling with the true optimization of ads, the more time-consuming it seems. We will need more people to do the keyword research. We will need more people to check on ads regularly. We will need more people to actually have any customer service at all. We will need more people to manage the whole process and more people.
But before “more people” will come into play, I need to become less of a bottleneck. Because right now, whatever affects my wellbeing, affects the whole company. When I got COVID in October 2020, it resulted in a 3-month slump because of the brain fog and a severe mood slump. There was no one else in my business to keep the ball rolling.
I already started documenting business processes. It happens very reluctantly, but it happens.
I’ll look for opportunities to use the standard Resurrecting Books approach in the European markets. Our initial attempts showed that the competition is much lower there, and our method can reap significant ROI in France, Spain, Italy and Germany.
I already took the first steps to expand to the Spanish market, which has the double benefit of reusing the ads for the vast US Spanish-speaking market.
Thanks to all our customers, who kept with us for the whole 2021, some of them since 2017! We want to inch your dreams closer to reality, and I sincerely hope this is what we’ve done in the last 12 months.
And thanks to my whole team! Ten of them, if I counted right! Amazing. Without you, I would’ve been buried under the mountain of tasks. Without you, I couldn’t get out of the COVID slump at the beginning of 2021. Let’s inch dreams closer to reality for all of us.