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A Chat with Bryan Cohen


Hello, Dear Readers, 

Let me tell you about an amazing resource I stumbled across a while ago, but just really dove into: The 5-Day Author Ad Profit Challenge.

The challenge coaches authors on how to run Amazon Ads to make a profit. You learn by doing. This means you go into your KDP account, put in your credit card info, and start setting up those ads after watching each day’s video. I was a bit skeptical at first, and I’ll admit, scared. I was terrified of making a mistake and being charged thousands of dollars or perhaps finding out that my book isn’t profitable.

But I took the chance, and I’m glad I did. 

After video 1, I set aside my concerns and gave it a try. The ad bids are low, and if you follow directions, you shouldn’t have any astronomical expenses. I’ve run ads for a week and haven’t spent over $2. This will vary per author, but the goal is to run the ads until you get the needed data. So this first step won’t break the bank. 

Throughout the challenge, I learned so much! I learned about auto ads, keyword ads, category ads, and ads with ad copy. I learned how to analyze the data to calculate the conversion rate of my book to determine its profitability. 

I have to say I’ve never had the slightest interest in marketing my books, but I kind of like it after this challenge. I want to get more data and see what my conversion rate is. And I want my readers to find my books. 

I didn’t just learn about ads. I learned to get in touch with my inner zen lemur. Ha. I learned about things behind the scenes–the metadata–that can contribute to your ads’ success or failure. I learned how to evaluate my book’s blurb, cover, and seven Amazon keywords. I got valuable skills and tools to help make my book more profitable. And I can use this info for all of my books!   

Besides the daily challenge video and homework, there were also live Q&As. Bryan Cohen, the creator of the challenge and CEO of Best Page Forward, really knows his stuff. He and his team of experts are professional, patient, and kind. I don’t think there was a question that they didn’t answer, and some of these questions were asked over and over again. 

And then there’s the rest of the community. The challenge has a Facebook Group where challengees can post their homework, connect, and cheer each other on.  I got to help other authors, which is something I am passionate about. I got positive feedback and constructive criticism. (I also got some books to add to my TBR!)

This course is a valuable asset to any author. I was sad to see it come to a close. But there’s good news if you want to keep going. The 5-Day Author Ad Challenge runs once a quarter, and if that isn’t enough, you can enroll in Author Ad School and have lifetime access to all Bryan and his team have to offer. 

Bryan also has some great books dealing with Amazon Ads and Marketing.

I’m not affiliated with The 5-Day Author Ad Profit Challenge or Author Ad School. I truly enjoyed the challenge and being an indie author with no marketing background and in need of a marketing plan, I found it very enlightening and useful. If you’re in the same boat (or even if you know a little about marketing) and even if you’re traditionally published, you’ll benefit from this. This challenge will give you the tools to assess your book’s profitability and the tools to troubleshoot if you’re not as profitable as you’d like. 

I’m excited to see some results from my efforts and see my book’s current profitability. This is the part where being in touch with my inner zen lemur will come in handy. 

I asked Bryan for an interview, and he graciously agreed.  

Trista: Hi, Bryan. Thanks so much for joining me for this interview. Would you like to tell our readers a little bit about yourself?

Bryan: Sure thing. I love helping creative people. This is the thing that gets me out of bed every morning. Even before I was an author, I knew that I would enjoy helping other authors. I started with a blog back in 2008 that was specifically about helping other writers. It wasn’t for two more years until I became an author myself, and my first book was about inspiring writers to tell their stories.

I’m not sure what it was that made me really enjoy this initially, but now that I’m over a decade into my journey as an author and a teacher, I have absolutely no regrets.

Trista: You’re like the Mr. Miyagi of Amazon ads. How many authors have you helped via your challenge and ad school?

Bryan: I really love that comparison. I am a big Karate Kid fan, and I think a lot of authors who try running Amazon ads for the first time feel like Daniel after getting beaten up in the beginning of the first movie.

It is not easy to come into a platform like this and figure it out from scratch. That’s one of the reasons we created our five-day Author Ad Profit Challenge.

We have had over 50,000 authors come through this event, and it’s given us this wonderful opportunity to connect with so many people who write in so many different genres and who want to tell their stories.

A lot of people thought we were crazy for giving away over 10 hours of free content every single quarter, but it has led us to working with over 2000 authors who’ve joined our premium offering, author ad school. But the thing that excites me the most is that there are plenty of authors who’ve never paid us a dime, who were able to get hundreds or thousands of dollars in additional book sales just from taking the free challenge. That tells me that our efforts to help the community, even if it doesn’t benefit us financially, have been a big success.

Trista: When you started, did you do the research planning to write a book and start an ad school about Amazon ads, or did you research for your other books and realize you were onto something?

Bryan: So as some people know, when I started in the self-publishing business, one of the things that I
began teaching was book descriptions, AKA blurbs. My company, Best Page Forward, has written over 5,000 book descriptions for the author community.

But after some of our customers would get our book descriptions, they would have a hard time reading the numbers to understand if their profitability had actually gone up. They needed a system to help them figure out, has their conversion rate actually improved? And most of them really had no clue on that front.

So we needed a method to determine, how could you tell the before and after a major sales page change like a blurb? I had a theory that if you ran Amazon ads before and after the change, you would be able to compare the two pretty easily.

So I set out on a journey to learn the ads, and I actually started charting my public progress on Facebook and through a podcast called Relentless Authors Advertise. After doing this for about six months, I realized that the podcast wasn’t going to be the best way to share everything that I had been learning from my experiment.

So I began connecting with other authors to see if what had worked for some of my books with advertising would also work for them. That was the beginning of Author Ad School, and the challenge. Just seeing if this system to determine if a book could be profitable in that moment allowed us to share this system with the whole author world.

Trista: Have you and your team solely focused on Amazon, or have you tried other platforms like Barnes and Noble and social media ads?

Bryan: As far as what we teach, we’re pretty much focused entirely on Amazon ads. But we’re always learning. We’re always having other teachers come by with our audience, and teach different tactics. We’ve definitely played around with Facebook ads and Book Bub ads. To my knowledge, the less said about Barnes and Noble Ads the better.

But we think that there is a place and a time for every type of profitable advertising. Personally, I’ve spent over $150,000 on Facebook ads, but many of these ads were about building up my email list of hungry readers.

Now, I think that Amazon ads tend to serve as the best beginner entry point to the world of advertising. But later on down the line, if your book is extremely profitable, then Facebook and Book Bub ads could have a place for you.

Trista: You’ve published over 40 books. Which is your favorite, which has been the most profitable?

Bryan: I love this question of, which is your favorite? That’s like picking your favorite kid, right? Well, I think that every book I write gets a little bit better. I am a big fan of my latest book, Self-

Publishing and Email Marketing, but I have a soft spot in my heart for Self-publishing With Amazon ads. It’s a book that is part story, and part reference guide, and I think it turned out really swell.

The profitability question is very interesting. I would say that some of my most profitable titles are my workbooks for kids. I’ve sold tens of thousands of copies of them, and they respond really well to advertising. But, and this is
extremely important for my non-fiction authors out there, if you have a product in the back of your book that people can purchase, there is a chance to really supercharge your profitability.

I have a feeling that my first blurb book, How to Write a Sizzling Synopsis, may have actually been my most profitable. Because plenty of authors read that book and then purchased my blurb service. In fiction, profitability is all about retaining those readers and getting them to purchase books, two books, three books, four and so on.

But in nonfiction, you can sell a course, a service, or coaching and still get a really great return, even if you lose money on ads to the book itself.

Trista: What other genres do you write?

Bryan: Over the last 13 years, I’ve tried my hand at a bunch of different things. The vast majority has been non-fiction. As I mentioned, I’ve published some workbooks for kids. I’ve written eight novels, including seven superhero novels and a fairytale retelling of Cinderella as an assassin.

I’ve really enjoyed the fiction, but now that I’ve started writing non-fiction books that are half in a fiction style, I feel like I’ve really found a nice space for myself. Not everybody enjoys the part-story books for conveying information, but I really enjoy writing them. And sometimes you just have to gravitate toward joy.

Trista: After you’ve collected data, updated your metadata, et cetera, and determined one of your books to be unprofitable, should you un-publish said book or do you think there’s a chance it could be profitable at a later time?

Bryan: One of the interesting things we’re seeing with our agency clients who we actually run the ads for through our author ad agency (only available for authors earning over $10,000 a month in royalties) is that success can come for books in many different ways.

We have seen some books that are not profitable on their own with ads, but those books can find success through building a massive email list, and-or from selling that book directly off your website. Doing this route is extremely difficult, and has a very steep learning curve, but we have definitely seen some authors pull it off.

But here’s the direction I would suggest going if you find that a book is unprofitable, and even updating the sales page hasn’t been helpful. You need to find the intersection of what you love writing, that also happens to be in a market with hungry readers.

This isn’t for everybody. But when you are really invested in a higher-percentage opportunity for success, writing to market in a genre that you truly, truly enjoy can be your best bet.

Trista: When is the ideal time to start marketing your book?

Bryan: When it comes to Amazon ads, you can run those as soon as your book comes out. If you are more of a planner, then you may want to consider building up an email list several months ahead of time to start building some buzz.

I have also seen authors on social media like TikTok build a following even further out than that, allowing their book to find great success upon its release. I am not the kind of person who could build up a following like that before release, because I’m too impatient. But if patience happens to be one of your strong suits, then that might be the direction you want to go in.

Trista: Do you think it’s important to have followers before publishing your book?

Bryan: I think that 99% of authors who publish a book don’t have followers beforehand, so I don’t think this needs to be a barrier to entry in any way. That being said, if you do have followers who are invested in the success of your books prior to application, then this definitely can be a benefit.

Trista: What’s your favorite marketing tool?

Bryan: Aside from Amazon ads, I think it is your own inherent ability to research. We love hunting down more info about our books.

Now, this is usually in the form of researching locations or researching characters. But with a little tweak, this can become the most powerful marketing tool in your arsenal.

Looking up your books, and books like yours, can help you to learn what readers are actually searching for. If you just write the story that’s in your head, and hope that you’ll get it right, there is a small chance that you will. But if you take the time to learn what the readers in your genre like, then your chances for success go way up.

Trista: Is your family supportive of your writing?

Bryan: Oh, absolutely. My parents have always been a supporter of my creative forays. Back when I used to act and direct plays, my parents would always be there in the front row. And when I started writing books, they were some of the first to read them.

I think it’s awesome, having that supportiveness from birth, but I know not everybody has that
luxury. My wife and daughter are also supportive, and I look forward to sharing some of my young adult superhero novels with my daughter when she’s old enough.

Trista: What’s your favorite book?

Bryan: The book, The Princess Bride by William Goldman that the movie ended up being based
on is so good. I really recommend it as a rollicking companion to the movie.

Trista: That’s my favorite book, too! In addition to writing and ad school, you also have an author, copywriting agency, and a podcast. How do you find time to do it all?

Bryan: I don’t do any of this stuff alone. I absolutely could not do it all if I didn’t have a team to help me every single day to take care of authors.

I used to try to do it all on my own, and it was just too much. For those of you with similar aims, remember, don’t compare somebody else’s middle to your beginning. When you’re first starting out, you’re just not going to be able to do it all, but you can do a couple of things really, really well, and that should be your goal.

Trista: Is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers?

Bryan: Just remember, don’t do this in a vacuum. You want to get really good feedback and advice the entire time you are writing, publishing, and marketing. It’s so easy to make little mistakes along the way, but you can avoid this by asking the right people the right questions. Doing this could end up saving you years of time wasted.

Thank you for this wonderful opportunity to talk to your readers, and I hope everyone who reads this has a wonderful day.

A huge thanks to Bryan for taking the time for this chat on behalf of Pikes Peak Writers and myself.

About the Featured Author:

Bryan Cohen is the creator of Author Ad School, the founder of author copywriting agency Best Page Forward, and the MC of Self Publishing Live. He’s also an author with eight novels self-published and over 150,000 books sold, as well as the co-host of The Sell More Books Show, a weekly podcast for self-published authors. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and daughter!

You can find out more about Bryan, his books, and his courses through these links:

5-Day Ad Challenge:
Best Page Forward Blurbs:


For even more on marketing, check out these great Pikes Peak Writers Writing from the Peak posts:

Marketing on a Budget

Balance Your Marketing and Your Writing

Marketing for Introverts Part 1

Marketing for Introverts Part 2 

Trista Herring Baughman is a blogger, the Managing Editor of Writing from the Peak (PPW’s blog,)  and the Managing Editor of Mississippi Folklore, a collaborative collection of Mississippi folklore and legends in a weekly blog. Her books, The Magic TelescopeHalloween Night and Other Poemsand Zombiesaurs (which she co-illustrated with her sons), can be found at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Trista on her website for more info.

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