An Author’s Journey Into Advertising

As I prepare for the release of the first book of my new series, the Ladies’ Wagering Whist Society, I’m naturally thinking about ads. I’ve been marketing the book to my newsletter readers—sending them a chapter each for the past three weeks and the link to buy the book. I’ve gotten a lot of wonderful feedback from people who are enjoying the book and ten great reviews from my beta readers and those who asked to review the book for me.

But I’m also thinking about Facebook, Amazon and Bookbub ads.

I’ve never had a lot of success with any of them, mostly because I’ve got absolutely no idea what I’m doing. I refuse to spend $700 on a course to learn how to do Facebook ads (I’ve heard both positive and negative reviews on them). And I got bilked of over $600 the last time I hired a marketing company that specializes in marketing authors to do it for me (they were recommended by someone I know on FB, but they didn’t do what they’d promised and when I confronted them about it they stopped responding to my emails).

So many people swear by FB, Amazon and Bookbub ads that I really feel as if I should give them another fair shot. I tried a Facebook ad but was paying over a dollar per click, which is way too rich for me and my very limited budget. So, now I’m testing some ads with Amazon and Bookbub.

Let me pause right here to say that setting up these ads can be really complicated!! In the order of most difficult to least: Facebook (I felt like a blind person stumbling around in the dark), Bookbub (there was some light allowing me to kind of understand what I was doing, but different people were calling me in different directions), and Amazon (I could see very well and almost completely understood what I was doing).

Because I had absolutely no idea what I was doing with Facebook, I’m not even going to tell you what I tried because I’m absolutely certain it was wrong. I set up an audience made up of people who were friends with people who “like” my author page. I uploaded six images and six tag lines for the program to mix and match for me (although I never could figure out how to see which got clicks and which didn’t). I gave it a budget, but I had no idea how to configure it (you’ve got a lot of options, which I just picked at random not knowing how they would impact my ad. I spent $20 in four days and got 19 clicks. That was it. Not doing that again!

For Bookbub, I signed up for David Gaughran’s free course which he offers through Reedsy. You get one email a day (a little slow for me, but I survived) which tells you how to set up different aspects of a Bookbub ad (those are the ones at the bottom of their daily mailing, not the listings in the mailing itself. Those you have to apply for, are really hard to get, and they cost a boat-load of money). After five days of Gaughran’s course, I felt confident enough to go in and set up two test ads. I’ll spend $50 on the two ($25 each). They have slightly different images, but both conforming to what Gaughran suggested. In one ad I targeted a genre audience as well as readers who like particular authors in my sub-genre, the other I just targeted readers who like those authors.

Gaughran suggests you bid based on CPM (impressions, ie how many people view your ad) but Bookbub themselves posted on their blog an example of someone who ran a very successful ad based on CPC (you pay each time someone clicks on your ad). Since I wanted to test images, for both ads I chose CPM. If this is at all successful, I may try it a second time bidding on CPC and see how it does.

So, how did they do? Well, soon after I started my ad campaign I realized that I’d made a major mistake: I’d left my book at full price ($2.99). Bookbub readers are expecting .99 or free books. I quickly reduced the price of the book, and boom! It took off! I went from having 12 pre-orders to 80 in one day!

According to the Bookbub stats, they weren’t from there. They said that while 2400 people saw my ad, only 20 people clicked. But those purchases had to have come from somewhere!

Amazon ads are absolutely straight forward when you set them up. You don’t get to choose or design your own image, it’s just your book cover. You have to write great ad copy though, so my two test ads are testing that out. Also vital to Amazon ads are the keywords you use. Based on advice I got from a marketing specialist, I’ve got a bunch of long, genre specific keywords (Historical Regency romance England – for example is one “keyword”), a lot of shorter keywords (Historical romance) and a long list of authors who write Regency romance. Based on what others in my genre have said, I bid .50 per keyword (although Amazon will suggest an amount for each, sometimes more but usually less). You don’t have a choice to pay per impression, you only pay per click.

I ran two ads with only one variation in my copy – in one I gave my tag line and in the other I added the word “Regency romance” to it. Not a big difference, but this was a test.

My results: I had an ACOS (the total spent divided by sales) of 156% in the ad without the genre specification and 135% in the one with the genre named. So I had 9 sales for $26.50 spent for the first ad and 12 sales for the same amount of money. Naturally, you want those percentage numbers to be as far below 100% as possible – at 100% you are spending as much as you’re earning.

Do I consider these ads to be a total failure?

Actually, no I don’t.

The reason for that is because the more often someone sees your book cover, the more likely they are to buy it the next time they see it. They say it takes seven impressions for someone to act. That means that even if someone didn’t click on my ad when they saw it on Bookbub, if they then went to Amazon and saw again there, and perhaps popped over to Facebook where one of my friends shared my post about the book coming out, they’ve only seen the book cover three times. If they don’t know my writing, they’re probably going to need to see it a few more times before they’ll actually click on it and then, hopefully, purchase it.

Each impression is important. Having that impression spark a touch of interest, even more so. Once they see it enough, I’m sure they’ll buy it, read it and love it. At least I hope so!

So, the outcome of this journey is that I’m going to keep plugging away at these ads. I’ve got two more books coming out in the next few months (Book 2 in May and Book 3 in June). For each release, I’ll promote Book 1, dropping the price down to 99 cents and eventually leaving it there once all three books are published to act as my loss leader and encourage people to read the series.

Hopefully, with each book my ads will get better and do better.

Meredith Bond

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