Book Discovery Strategies #7: Paid Advertising

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Last month, thriller author Mark Dawson made headlines after a Forbes article disclosed his Amazon earnings. The fact that he earned over $450,000 from self-publishing in a single year was remarkable, but it wasn’t the most important part of the article for indie authors. What mattered more was the strategy he used to propel his way to the top. Dawson spent over $300 a day on Facebook ads, and for his efforts, he was rewarded with a 100% return on investment. In layman’s terms, that means for every dollar he put in, he got two dollars back.

The seventh and final book discovery strategy we’ll discuss as part of this series may be the most challenging. Using Facebook ads to either add email subscribers or gain direct sales is hardly a given. Plenty of authors have spent hundreds of dollars without a return. Others have experienced minor gains, only to see their ads stop performing somewhere down the line. The Paid Advertising strategy requires having some money to burn for testing purposes, and you’ll need patience to keep yourself from giving up when your campaign looks hopeless.

Facebook advertising is an advanced strategy, and we recommend doing as much research as you can before starting it. Never assume you’ll get a certain type of results before you begin, because Facebook has a way of subverting expectations.

Why Does This Strategy Work?

Image from http://socialtasweeq.com/getting-started-with-paid-promotions/

The masters of paid advertising on Facebook work tirelessly to target their potential customers with the utmost precision. There’s a lot you can do to refine your targeting. You can upload the emails of your subscribers and create a Lookalike Audience based on their demographics. You can target by age, gender, household income, preferred mobile device, and a host of other attributes. You can retarget ads to people who’ve been to your website using the Website Custom Audiences pixel. The advertisers who experience the most success on Facebook use a combination of the above methods to improve on the most important statistics: Cost Per Click and Return on Investment.

Paid advertising works when you continually work to lower your cost per click, or the amount you pay Facebook for each time a user clicks your ad. When you target a general Facebook audience, there are going to be a ton of people who aren’t interested in your sci-fi/fantasy book ad, which means Facebook will need to display your ad to more people and raise the cost per click. When you refine who you target to people who enjoyed a similar sci-fi/fantasy book, the ad will be more relevant to the audience and the cost per click will go down. CPC is important, but return on investment (or ROI) is the key to your campaign.

You could get CPC down to five cents a pop, but that number doesn’t matter unless you’re getting people to do as the ad intended. For example, if you’re doing a direct sales ad, you at least want to break even by earning as much as you spend. If you spend $50 and get $100 in sales, you get a 100% ROI (the amount you earned minus the amount you spent divided by the amount you spent). On the other hand, if you spent $50 and only got $25 in sales, you end up with a -50% ROI. While a low CPC is a good benchmark, what you really want is a positive ROI. One of Mark Dawson’s students in his Self Publishing Formula group blew Mark’s numbers out of the water with a box set that earned over 400% ROI. Imagine spending $1,000 a month with that kind of return? When the system works, you can reap some pretty great rewards.

How Does This System Work?

Image from http://www.growthbusiness.co.uk/growing-a-business/marketing-strategies-and-research/2243373/retargeting-paid-ads-to-maximise-exposure.thtml

Paid advertising has a lot of moving parts, but it all starts with creating an ad that people want to click on. Start by investing in a high quality image that’s 1,200 pixels wide by 628 pixels high. Images that work the best employ contrast and a color scheme that fits with your book cover or the page you’re sending customers to. The images don’t require text, but if you use text in your picture, make sure it covers less than 20 percent of the image.

Facebook wants to create a positive experience for its users, so it tends to weed out pictures that are too sexy or too violent. If those traits are important elements to your book, then it’s best to imply things rather than display them. For example, a James Bond type character would be best suited holding the gun by his side rather than pointing it directly at the viewer.

Once you’ve got your image or multiple images ready, start writing your ad copy. There’s no formula for words that work every time in ads, but it’s usually best to keep things short, use succinct punchy sentences, and inspire emotions in the reader to get people to click. Sensory adjectives work well, such as heart-pounding action and terrifying horror. Check out the book descriptions of the best selling books in your genre and try to adapt their buzz words to fit your ad. Since there are no guarantees with ads, you’ll need to experiment with what works best for you.

Once you’ve got your ad image and copy set, you’ll want to start working on your targeting. If you have an email list with more than 500 people, then it’s a good idea to create a Lookalike Audience using the Audiences tool in the Facebook Ad Manager. Facebook uses your existing contacts to generate over a million users with similar characteristics. You’ll use and refine this Lookalike Audience to target your ad.

Once Facebook has generated your Lookalike Audience, you’ll want to reduce the million or so targeted people under 200,000 by selecting interests your ideal reader would like. For example, if you were a horror author, you might narrow your targeted audience by only targeting people who like Blake Crouch or Stephen King. You can narrow things further by targeting by the devices they use, such as a Kindle if your ad is focused on Amazon readers. You can go deeper on targeting by age, household income, and more, but try targeting an ad at between 50,000 and 200,000 people to start.

Now all of the above steps were simply to create one ad. To get the best bang for your buck, you’ll want to test multiple ads with multiple different audiences to see which ones work the best. Create a few different ads and target audiences to start.

Facebook ads can be tricky, and we’ve hardly had enough time to cover even the basics here. We recommend taking Mark Dawson’s free training at his Self Publishing Formula site to give you a more well-rounded explanation.

The Name Of The Ad Game Is Tweak

You’ll need to make a lot of small changes to find the best possible ads for your Paid Advertising strategy. Sometimes changing a word, an image, or your Amazon sales page copy will be the difference between a dud and an incredibly successful ad. If you’re doing a direct sales campaign, you’ll want to sell books that are high-priced enough for you to get a decent return. Multi-book box sets priced around $6.99 tend to do well when paired with a strong campaign.

It’s going to take time to get used to the ad system, and it’ll take even longer to find an ad or a series of ads that you’d label a winner. You’ll likely burn a few hundred dollars to find something that works consistently, but if you can find even consistent 10% ROI, you’ll have a guaranteed method for increasing your sales. In the right circumstances, such a marketing method in your corner can truly be a Holy Grail for your author career.



  • This is a good article, clearly written by someone who understands Facebook marketing. I’ve always wondered about the value of the Facebook “like” for authors. For some brands, the digital marketer can accept the $.60 – $1 per Facebook like because targeting an ad to their “like” audience lowers the CPA enough to justify the cost (in addition to the supplementary benefits such as organic reach and engagement). An issue with a book as a product is the typically low ROI per product sold (depending on your price point and the royalty rate, somewhere around $2 – $6) which demands a high conversion rate for an ad (if you are getting an excellent $.05 CPC, that translates to 2.5% – .83% conversion rate. But if it’s .50 CPC, then you’re looking at 25% – 8.3%). These conversion rates may seem low, but for an unknown author for a social channel (often seen as an awareness channel), this may be a challenge. So, can a Facebook “like” be justified for an author? Maybe for branding? Maybe for engagement, or giveaway announcements?