Book Review: Mastering Amazon Ads

Mastering Amazon Ads


This month I have another friend who is contributing a review. This one is much different than our last guest review– we are reviewing a non-fiction book, Mastering Amazon Ads, but with a focus on promoting self-published works. Melanie is a self-published author who also promotes her books on Amazon. Check out her Twitter to find out more about her. 

Self-publishing is still pretty big these days. A few years ago, figures seemed to indicate that sales of ebooks had exceeded print books for the first time, heralding the dawn of a new age. Soon, the printed book would go the way of the cassette tape and the vinyl record. And yet things seemed to stabilize again and print books are still with us, while ebooks have not gone away and remain an important part of the marketplace.

Many of these of course are self-published. These days anyone can write a book, publish it, get a professional cover, and even promote their masterpiece. Yet what can provide a distinct advantage when it comes to selling books that you’ve published yourself? We can’t force people to buy our books but considering the bewildering number of methods, you can use to market your work, which one works best?

Brain Meeks is an established author who has published a number of novels and nonfiction books but this work is his way of passing on his knowledge of Amazon Marketing to other indie authors.

One of the key things I took away from the book is the need to be patient. Amazon marketing is really not that different from any other form of advertising and you’re unlikely to obtain instant results. Meeks take you through each stage of the process as you build your ads, keyword lists, settle on pricing and so on. He also provides real examples both from his own experience and testimonials from other self-published authors, which contribute to convincing the reader that this avenue is worth pursuing. Sometimes ads might not work but the tips and advice Meeks provides teach you how to tweak ads and make adjustments, again remaining patient while you get it right.

I have to admit that I found the sections of analyzing statistics and trends a little more difficult to understand, but Meeks does acknowledge that. If you take the time to study these sections of the book until they make more sense, it will indeed impact sales in the long run. Without analyzing the numbers and results to determine how ads are performing, it’s difficult to know what you’re doing right and what needs improvement or need to be reworked.

This guide to the somewhat confusing world of Amazon advertising is written in a very lighthearted tone, with a fair amount of humor. This approach was a great help since at first, this can seem like a very daunting topic with a steep learning curve. Meeks’ method of imparting this information makes the book an easy read. If you’re just starting out as an indie author you’ll have to study the book more than once, since some parts may not be clear on first reading. However, this is a great starter guide for those either just beginning to use Amazon ads or those have been using them for a while but would like to be more profitable.

Although this is a book about promoting your work rather than a guide to being a writer, the text does have a number of typos, errors, and punctuation mistakes that can be a little glaring when you encounter them. Meeks is not trying to show us how to write perfectly of course, but perhaps a more detailed edit before publication would have been a good idea.

That being said, I enjoyed the book and have been able to implement some of the tips as I become more familiar with Amazon advertising. No book will ever provide all the answers, but this one goes a long way to help you generate sales and hopefully firmly establishing yourself as an independent writer and publisher.

Grab the book on Amazon. 

Book Review: Water For Elephants

water for elephants book cover
I know it has been a while since I last submited a review! But this time we have a special guest reviewer! Stephanie Gauthia is my friend, educator and fellow book lover. While she often focuses more on children’s stories (she actually helped point in the direction of this recently reviewed children’s book about the loss of a pet) she couldn’t help but review one of her favorite books: Water For Elephants. Animal stories are always close to both of our hearts. You can find out more about Stephanie by checking out her Twitter.


Water For Elephants, which was written by Sara Gruen, tells the life story of Jacob Jankowski. Water For Elephants is narrated by an elderly Jacob, who reminisces about his decision to quit veterinary training at Cornell University, after his parents’ untimely death.


At the start of the book, readers follow Jacob’s story as a bright-eyed 22-year-old Jacob ends up running away with the circus and falling in love with Marlena, the circus’ star performer. However, Jacob and Marlena’s romance is anything but smooth sailing as Marlena, who happens to be married to August, the circus’ equestrian trainer, is hiding a dark secret or two. Can Jacob and Marlena’s love triumph over the dark challenges that face them? You’ll have to start reading, to find out.


While Water For Elephants is at heart a historical romance, which uses a traveling circus as a backdrop, it’s also worth reading if you’d like to read about what goes on behind the scenes of a circus. As you follow Jacob’s page gripping tale, you’ll get to vicariously discover what it may have been like, to run away and join the circus, in Depression-era America. A time period which tested every American, from businessman to circus performer.


While Water For Elephant definitely features plenty of glitz and glamour, Sara Gruen beautifully paints a picture of the two sides of a circus. The glitz and glamour and the dirty reality of circus life. While the circus may not seem like anything special, when the lights go on and the crowds arrive at the big top, Jacob and Marlena’s circus truly comes to life. Thanks to Gruen’s vivid descriptions.


Gruen also achieves a remarkable feat in creating a sense of dread and magic, which seems to be waiting behind each turn of your page. You’ll never know what to expect magic or terror, which creates a sense of suspense, that never wanes.


While Jacob’s story definitely takes center stage, each character has depth and has a side story to tell. You’ll follow the story of Uncle Al, the psychotic owner of Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth, who is reported to throw performers who he is unhappy with off a moving train and Kinko, a dwarf who shares Jacob’s tight living quarters.


Another key character who you’ll grow to love is Rosie, an elephant who is purchased from another circus, to perform with Marlena as the circus’ main attraction. If you love animals who have a larger than life personality, you’re guaranteed to fall in love with Rosie. However, it may pay to have tissues on hand as Rosie faces as many challenges and obstacles and Jacob and Marlena.


If you’re looking for a light-hearted read about a circus, where everyone gets on, you may want to opt for another book. However, if you’re looking for a riveting story which boasts plenty of drama, romance, and intrigue and you have a soft spot for historical novels, it may be time to run away with the circus and pick up or download a copy of Water For Elephants.


Book Review: When A Pet Dies by Mister Rogers

I love cats. Maybe a little too much. And while it hasn’t come up in any previous book reviews it is relevant to this one. I warn you, this is a bit of sad post.

This week I am reviewing a book called When A Pet Dieby an author you have likely heard about before: Fred Rogers. He often goes by the name, Mister Rogers. Yes, I’m a reviewing a book by the soft spoken, sweater wearing Mr. Rogers of PBS fame. I have four cats. Well, I had four cats. Now I have three. My friend for 16 years passed away last week after a prolonged struggle with kidney disease.

old cat Samantha
I will miss you, friend.

Her name was Samantha. And I knew it was coming but that doesn’t make it much easier.  And it sadly isn’t the first cat I’ve lost. But it is the first cat that my 5 and a half  year old daughter has lost. While we were nearing the end, I asked my veterinarian, Dr. E, what her advice was for dealing with grief and the loss of a pet when it comes to young children. I figured if anyone had experience with this, it should be a veterinarian. She pointed me to When A Pet Dies and mentioned it was by Fred Rogers. The name didn’t click for me at first but then she explained that it was the sweater wearing gentleman from the neighborhood.

book recommended by veterinarian about pet loss. When A Pet Dies by Mr. Rogers
As per usual, don’t judge it by its cover.

After a bit of back and forth, she assured me that this was the book to read to my daughter, Lindsay.  Well, I should trust the veterinarian right? So I ordered the book and had it in hand before any final decisions were made for Samantha. A few days later, I went back the animal hospital but this time not for book recommendations. Sadly it was time. My little feline friend stopped eating. Something I had never seen her do before. In fact, my little cat Samantha had one of the most voracious appetites of any cat I’ve had before.

My veterinarian was great throughout the process and made it clear from the beginning that I knew Samantha and so I knew when it was time.  As a side note, (and I realize most people don’t live where I do) but if you are anywhere near Aurora, Colorado I highly recommend Dr. E and Parkside Animal Health Center. Because of how great they were throughout the process, because of how kind they were to my cat and for the book recommendation that made things easier for Lindsay for myself, I have to give them a plug. If you happen to live in Colorado and you need a vet in Aurora, please see Dr. E and her animal hospital team. They made the impossible, manageable. Because in a situation like this that’s really all you can do: try to manage.

The Good

Right away, I liked the book and knew it would be great for Lindsay. Hell, it helped me! Everything was very simple and basic (of course) but no punches were pulled. We are a secular family and so it was important to me to find a book that had a nonreligious viewpoint. I didn’t want anything even remotely religious either. Stories like the Rainbow Bridge (which is the story of pet heaven basically) cover up the reality of the situation. If you are raising a young skeptic, they will eventually call you on your stories. But even more important, a story like the rainbow bridge is basically like Santa Claus. While you can believe in the idea of heaven or some variation of it, for your entire life,  you won’t believe in Santa Claus forever. So either commit to handling grief within your religious perspective or take a secular approach but creating a child specific version of either can be counter-productive in the long run.

This book does not do that. It gently and carefully tells children the truth. Your pet is gone. But your love isn’t. Its okay to be sad. These are all basic concept that we know but the book handles them in a way that anyone can understand. It also preempts many of the questions that children can have. As is so often the case, language is the barrier and this book gives parents and children a simple language to explain some very heavy concepts.

The Not So Good

The book could some updating from an aesthetic sense. The images are from the late 70’s and some of them will be considered too heavy for our current times of hyper political correctness. There is an image of parent digging a grave for their lost dog. There are images of veterinarians having serious conversations with an older cat in the exam room. All of this is real and all of this happens but if the book was printed today there would be a lot more cartoons and sugar coating. For some this is negative and others a positive. While I think there is little to sugar coat when it comes to death, I do think some lighter imagery would help kids related a little more. Black and white photos aren’t common but when this book was first printed it was the standard. These images can seem even more confusing to a young child who won’t’ understand why the photos don’t have color.

Others may be uncomfortable with how cut and dry the book lays it out. However, I don’t see this as a problem. The experience is emotional enough. My veterinarian (and various animal hospital staff) are some of the few people to ever see me really cry. I mean sob. Weep, even. The last thing I need is a book injecting additional emotional stress into the situation. When A Pet Dies keeps the conversation factual and almost unemotional.

Veterinarian Approved, Codices Endorsed

At the end of the day, I believe this book is well worth the time if you are going through the loss of a pet. It should go unsaid but realize this book is not a replacement for tough conversations. I would only even let my child see the book if she was old enough to process some of the pictures. The real value of the book is in giving you a language to communicate death to young children. Mister Rogers was the best at relating and communicating with young minds. This book is a tool that allows you to try and communicate powerful and sad concepts with the same grace and simplicity as the child television pioneer.

You can pick up When A Pet Dies and other books from Mister Rogers at 

Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus

I stumbled upon Rabid last week and read the book yesterday. In addition to being a voracious reader, I also spend a lot of time listening to NPR. Since I had listened to everything interesting I could find I started looking into the archives and found this book review of Rabid. The book is written by a husband and wife team, the former a journalist and the later a veterinarian, who review the history and massive cultural impact of the virus. The book, like the duo writing it, combined cultural and scientific information into a seamless and smooth story.

Rabies is an interesting subject for sure and it ripe thousands of years of history. The authors argue that the concept is rabies is so terrifying because of that fact that it can affect both animals and humans. Few diseases can do this, short of worms and other internal parasites which have a far less dramatic effect. The couple argues that classic literally archetypes and monsters likely spawned from the virus. Claims that vampires, werewolves and even zombies may have come from rabies seems a little heavy handed but still certainly plausible.

The most interesting point I think they make is in the discussion of the connection between animal companion and the virus. Part of the impact of rabies is the fact that animals close to you can become infected in a way that makes them murderous. The dog has been with man for thousands of years and along with the dog has been rabies. It would be one thing if this was only a disease of the wild animal but the fact that it infects the domestic as well creates an entirely more dramatic image of the disease. That which was once your friend is now you enemy.

Overall, I love these types of books that give you an expansive, cross-cultural view of a particular thing across time. This isn’t an official book review but nonetheless, I would recommend Rabid to anyone who has interested the disease or who wants to learn more about how much of a historical impact the disease has had on the human psyche. Short read and well worth it.

Book Summary and Review: The E-Myth Revisited

The E-Myth is a small business classic by Michael Gerber. He has spent several decades helping small businesses get a better grip on what is holding them back. The main premise is that different personalities in us run our businesses. When these characters do not reach a compromise, the venture fails. They include technicians who deal with the technical issues at the workplace. And equal to the technician is the manager and the entrepreneur. These are all part of the new business owner and these personalities are in all of us. While we may be highly inclined towards one of them, we possess all of them. If you want to run a successful venture, all the three must play a role. Here’s how Gerber breaks them down:

  • The entrepreneur is a dreamer. He sets out something new to do. His life, thoughts, and actions are in the future, thinking of what could be instead of the present. Under normal circumstances, he or she is irritated by the sluggish movement of the world.
  • Technicians have high expertise and technical ability. In most cases, they offer services like cooking, writing computer coding and maintenance. Technicians are happy doing what they do at the expense of other tasks. By ignoring other duties, the chances are high that these people end up failing- at least in the entrepneurial sense.
  • A manager is a detail oriented person. He or she is an individual who aspires to see an organized world without flaws and surprises. He remembers everything including paying suppliers and bills on time.

All three of these components are necessary for the foundation of a successful business. Much of Gerber’s book goes over how to consolidate all three of these personalities into one successful entrepreneurial venture.

How to Grow

For an enterprise to flourish, they must grow beyond the owner A business that depends wholly on the proprietor is not a business but a burden to the proprietor. Every time you take a vacation gets sick the business stops running. That’s not a business, that’s a job.

A real business relies on the operating procedures. You as the reader should strive to make real systems and document them. In that way, you can stop working in the business and work on the firm. You need time to create a going concern entity that can stand alone. You do this through a commitment to standard operating procedures. The model that Gerber uses again and again (and many others in this space do too) is McDonald’s. You can go to any McDonald’s in the world and get a quarter pounder with cheese that looks exactly the same. That is standardization. That allows McDonald’s to hire just about anyone to do the job. Because the process is so refined, detailed and time tested.

Innovation, Quantification, and Orchestration

Gerber has a few terms that he uses in order to explain this process:

  • Innovation is the creativity applied in the production of a product efficiently and profitably. Change is essential if you want to improve and move ahead of the competition.
  • Quantification and innovation determine which idea works. If you cannot measure it, how will you ascertain the effect of the change in the firm? Before you inject money and other resources to the enterprise, check the returns. In this way, you will know whether it is worth it or not.
  • Orchestration involves the standardization of the idea that works. Enlist any idea that you standardize as a standard working procedure.

This is the three step process that every successful business, Gerber argues, uses to create a simple and effective system of standardization. Overall the book brings a lot to the table. However, there is a large amount of repetition. Additionally, Gerber brings his own poetic inclination to the book which for the hardcore business and self development reader can get a little tiresome.  Overall, we give the book 4 out of 5 stars. It is worth a read, especially if these concepts are new to you, but if you have read other materials on standardization and franchise thinking you can probably keep moving.

Find out more about Michael Gerber and other works he’s produced on small business development by visiting his website. 


5 Books That Will Lead You to Better Personal Development

No matter the career, the key to success is through self-development. With plenty of books that discuss self-management and transformation, we’ve narrowed down the best that will help you gain better knowledge on how to improve yourself.

Here are 5 books that will lead you to better personal development.

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

As a best-selling author, Don Miguel Ruiz discusses the self-limiting beliefs that create suffering rather than building positivity. The book is about the ancient Toltec wisdom, where the Four Agreements provide a powerful code that will transform lives into experiencing the sense of true love, freedom, and happiness.

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Explore the personal self-discovery of author Elizabeth Gilbert, who made a mission to find herself in travel. As an established American woman in her thirties, she thought she had everything a woman could want – a husband, a house, and a successful career. However, it was her inability to feel satisfied that led her to journey of self-discovery. She left everything behind to explore the aspects of eating and pleasure in Italy, having mindful prayers and devotion in India, and love in Bali.

 Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert

The beloved author Elizabeth Gilbert talks about her process to share her perspective and wisdom about creativity and how to gain inspiration. The book discusses empowerment and using creativity beyond the boundaries. With a sense of empathy, Gilbert gives us insight into some of the many mysteries of nature.

Daring Great by Brene Brown

The author talks about the center of fear and how vulnerable the human emotions can be. Author Brene Brown talks about the emotions we feel from the beginning of love to disappointment and belonging. The book provides useful into in the best behavior and attitudes we must live by.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

Marie Kondo writes about her revolutionary method that has shown detailed results with guidance and organization. Kondo discusses the various attitudes and behavior that we must stop and what we need to get the most out of our lives.

Have you recently read a book on self-development? Do you have any that you can recommend? Comment below and share them with us!

Top 4 Business Books To Read Now

When it comes to being an effective business leader, there are many skills that you must use to reach success. Aside from the actual understanding of the business, there are other roles to improve. Becoming a successful business owner is more than just owning an MBA. It is about various aspects of the business that will help you move towards your goal.

Here are the top 4 business books to read now.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change

Published in the early 90s, the book is now known as a timeless piece that has to be proven over with 10 million copies sold across the globe. Written by author Stephen R. Covey, the book explores the effect of daily life and positive thinking in business. This book is ideal for readers interested in breaking the habit of unproductive activities.

On Becoming A Leader

Written by the renowned guru in leadership according to Forbes, Warren Bennis discusses the details of how leaders are to be leaders and simply not born. Bennis talks about the qualities in leadership development and those few great examples to lead as motivation. You will find useful strategies that will help you grow in a stable position in business.

Growing A Business

Entrepreneur and New York’s best-selling author, Paul Hawken wrote his thoughts on growing a business. With over a million businesses opening each year, many of them fail due to the wrong use of resources and concepts. However, small businesses are actually bringing in more jobs than losing them. This book was written for readers who are interested in turning dreams into reality.

What Management Is: How it works and why it is everyone’s business

Whether you are looking to explore business education or want to fresh up your skills on entrepreneurship, this book provides you with useful tips on what you need to know to make your organization perform at its ultimate best. The book discusses the core principles of business management and why it is important to create a model and strategy for success.

Courtesy of

Got any books on business that you would like to recommend to us? Feel free to comment below and share your thoughts with us!