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Are Facebook “Promoted Posts” Ever Worth It for Authors?

| Posted in Advertising |

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I’ve talked a lot about buying sponsorships on book blogs and mailing lists such as Bookbub, Ereader News Today, Pixel of Ink, and sites of that ilk, but I haven’t covered pay-per-click advertising much, not since a very early (three years old now) post on my experience advertising on Goodreads. The main reason is that it’s hard to make pay-per-click advertising work when you’re selling something with as small of a profit margin as an ebook. If you have to pay for every click, and each click costs 40 or 50 cents and only 1 in 10 people end up buying the book, you’re not going to make money on a 99 cent or even 3.99 ebook.

Facebook operates under the same paradigm. You can buy pay-per-click advertising and create little ad campaigns (limited space to type in your copy), or you can pay to promote one of the regular posts you make on your author page (no limit on space). Either way, you’re charged when people engage with your ad (i.e. click on it or like it).

You may be thinking, but wait… shouldn’t people who like my author page see all of my posts anyway? Alas, no. That hasn’t been happening for a while. Facebook openly admits that you’ll only reach about 16% of your audience with your page’s posts. If you want more people to see those posts, you have to pony up the money and boost your post.

The cost varies based on the number of likes you have and how many people you want to reach. With 3,000-odd likes, Facebook recommends I spend $100-$200 to boost a post these days. It used to be more like $30 to $50. (Fortunately, you don’t have to spend as much as they recommend.)

So… is it ever worth it? Should you pay to boost a post when you have a new release?

I’ve tried boosting posts a few times over the last year, and it never seemed to do much in terms of sales. I usually use my Amazon affiliate link when I plug one of my own releases, so I can see how many sales I get from those plugs. The trend is for Twitter to be negligible, for Facebook to be slightly less negligible (promoted posts or not), and for the vast majority of my new-release sales to come via my newsletter (I’m only counting the ones I can measure with my affiliate link of course).

A somewhat different experience with a multi-author urban fantasy bundle that I’m in

This weekend, a group of us launched Nine by Night, a nine-author, nine-novel, 99-cent urban fantasy collection. We’re staggering our newsletter announcements, and I’m not supposed to do mine until later in the week, so I haven’t done a blog post about it yet. However, we decided to try and kickstart things by announcing the release on the social media sites.

Yesterday morning, I wrote up a quick Facebook message with a link to the Amazon page (an affiliate link, of course). I was on my way out the door for a Sunday morning hike, so it wasn’t the most scintillating marketing copy — I’m sure you could do better! I decided to pay $100 to boost it to people who like my page and their friends (in most cases, I’ll boost these to people I target by sex/age/interest such as women who like urban fantasy, but since a couple of the other bundle authors were already doing that, I went with the people who have already liked my page (and their buddies since that’s built in)).

For my money, I got a reach of about 25,000 with a post engagement of 327 (note: this includes likes, comments, shares, etc., not just clicks on the Amazon link). That’s a much lower engagement percentage than I get on organic posts or on posts where I ask a question or do something that encourages more interaction, but when I’m paying for the likes, clicks, comments, etc., I don’t necessarily want people to engage just for the heck of it. I want people who are going to buy the book!

Overall, those 327 “engagements” translated into 108 sales (actually, it’ll probably end up being more like 150 since this ran for 24 hours, and I can’t yet see Monday’s affiliate sales). That’s actually not bad at all — much more than I usually get for promoting my own single-author releases on Facebook (doh!). I suppose that’s not that surprising since this is an awesome deal for readers (a chance to get nine complete novels for 99 cents).

In this case, I felt like the promoted post was worth it, not only for the sales, but because when you start adding those kinds of numbers to other promotions (i.e. newsletter announcements and blog sponsorships), you can potentially get the momentum you need to appear on the top of Amazon category lists where browsing buyers can find you organically. As I type this, the ebook is at 346 overall in the store, two days after its release (I’ll do another post later on that covers how the bundle went from my point of view, but it’s already been a cool experience; it’s great having multiple people with something invested and thus multiple people working on promotions.).

Note: I spent a lot more on the Facebook promoted post than I earned (about $10 in affiliate commissions; if I’d been the one to publish the book, I would have earned another $40 or so in sales), so in the case of making it into the black, it’s a money loser. Frankly, that’s going to be the case with any 99-cent title and a pay-per-click campaign: you just can’t ever make that work in your financial favor. That said, if it’s a loss leader and you have more books in a series for people to go on and buy, you may be able to end up ahead of the game, especially if you’re doing this in conjunction with other promotional pushes. Your mileage will vary, so track your advertising investments!

How about you? Have you tried Facebook’s promoted posts scheme? Good results? Bad results? What do you think?

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Comments (24)

I have just about given up on Facebook, even for social stuff. Even on your private profile, posts only ever go out to a fraction of your friends, and this makes the whole thing utterly useless.

Doing advertising well seems to require a degree in online advertising to navigate all the options and pick the best ones. That’s OK, but I already have a job.

It might be worth it if you’re a bit of a “name” author, but then again, you would probably reach those people in some other way.

I definitely think the best conversion is going to come when promoting the ad to people who already have some familiarity with your work (maybe they dropped by once to like your page but weren’t passionate enough to sign up for your mailing list and all that jazz). But, yes, it’s hard not to be bitter that you have to pay to reach those people when you’ve already reached them once.

I agree about FB – I’ve pretty much abandoned it. I’ve not yet learned how to use Twitter effectively (after I’ve finished writing this last book in the series, honest) and I occasionally play an online game where I get constant FB ads. There’s just not enough incentive for me to click on them – although if I’d gotten the bundle ad from Lindsay, it would have tempted me for sure. 🙂

Haha, I had to pay for the ad-free version of Words with Friends because I couldn’t stand those ads. They were never about books or anything cool! 😀

Congrats Lindsay, you did okay from your boosted post.

My ad was totally not worth it. Made 1 sale of $77 for $60 ad campaign for a business website. Most of FB traffic was fake, stayed for less than 1 second on my site and only looked at homepage. Regular traffic coming from other sites spends 2-17 mins on my site and visits up to 8 pages.

There’s no where to complain to FB to demand a refund or challenge the fake traffic. Most companies who are honest and value their customers provide a refund or complaint service.

Years ago I used my credit card to buy bit coin credits over FB. For this ad campaign, FB charged my credit card and they don’t have my current expiry or new 3 digit card security code. How does this happen?

Lindsay – how has using Goodreads ads changed for you? Has it gotten better or worse? Are you still using them?

I haven’t done anything with it for about three years. Now that I get a lot more sales, I don’t know how I’d be able to judge which sales came from the ads. I may, however, give it a try when I release the first novels under my pen name later this summer. Then I can see if anything is still working over there (I haven’t heard great things from other authors).

Lindsay,

A few of your Goodreads links to Amazon do not resolve correctly.

Hi, M-S. Are you talking about on the old post I did about Goodreads advertising? I don’t think there are any links to Amazon in that post. There’s a picture of one of my ads but the link wouldn’t be clickable. I may not be understanding what you mean though. Sorry!

Lindsay,

When I look up your books on Goodreads there are links to buy them from Amazon, B&N, iTunes, etc… When I click on the Amazon links for some of your non EE books they don’t resolve to the correct amazon page.

Sharon, I’ve tried Goodreads ads four different times, the last one being about nine months ago … nada to negligible on each attempt.

I think the value of this kind of ad would increase if you did it multiple times. The three impressions rule and all that.

Great post Lindsay. I’ve been poked and prodded many times to try this avenue but have yet to convinced, mostly because I was told that the traffic was often unrelated. However, it seems something that I will possibly give a try in the future.

I’ve done a few promoted posts and in some cases it is definitely worth it. But I pick and choose carefully.

I’ve done a few promoted posts. Just boosting the post with no criteria didn’t do much, but I had a good response from doing a promoted post targeted to women over 40 (my target demographic) who read urban fantasy. Once I got over the idea that I had to pay for something that used to be free, I realized it’s cheap advertising, and I can tailor it very narrowly to make sure the post shows up on the feeds of people who might actually care.

I’m a new author and my goal was to break past my personal network and their friends and try to connect to some strangers. I spent $25. I got several likes to the post from women all over the country, a few author page likes, 50+ sales, and a 5 star Goodreads review. (I also got an email from my childhood best friend who I haven’t seen or heard from in nearly forty years who got my promoted post!) I’ll definitely try more promoted posts in the future.

Hi Lindsay,

I think it depends on where your readers hangout. I’ve heard romance authors having much more success with facebook, which may explain why the paranormal bundle you are in seems to be doing better. Your high fantasy may not have the readers there.

I’ve tried using Facebook for promotion, but I’ve never found it to be too great either. After reading Your First 1000 Copies by Tim Grahl, I’ve found that it really isn’t the best way to sell your novels. He suggests having a mailing list and using social networking sites to promote the list using freebies and stuff, then using the list to sell your work. It’s a really good book…worth it for every author to have, I think.

Take care,
Renee

P.S. I’ve been reading your Emperor’s Edge series over the last couple of weeks and I’m really enjoying it. Best series I’ve read in a long while.

Thanks for posting and reading, Renee! 🙂

[…] Are Facebook “Promoted Posts” Ever Worth It for Authors? | Lindsay Buroker […]

My husband tried promoting my FB posts and tracking the click-throughs and sales. It was definitely NOT worthwhile or effective. IF a person clicked-through to Amazon and bought something, 75% of the time it wasn’t my book. It was someone else’s book — or a coffee maker — or glass owl. Seriously.

As for the “likes” — many of them were very weird. Suspiciously so. I’ve heard a couple authors wonder if they’re not even real accounts.

My husband (can you tell he’s my sales guru?) says we had a much better success rate with ads on Goodreads. So if you’re going to invest the money in ads, GR is probably better than FB in my opinion.

I don’t think promoted posts are worth the hassle to be honest, though I think Facebook Ads have potential. I think the trick is to set up tracking pixels on blogs you have written about a subject matter item which is relevant to your book and then advertise to that. Promoted posts for the blog might make sense if you currently have very little traffic though. Of course I have yet to get around to doing this so this is just my theory at the moment…

I have used Facebook ads to groups like Kobo users in Canada and seen fairly unprofitable results, but they are a way to get a foot in a door in a market if you want to then get say “also-boughts” and chart rankings to take your sales on.

My experience so far is that advertising dollars are pretty much wasted, Facebook advertising dollars doubly so. It’s very irritating. And now that you have to pay in order to make sure that your own fans see your post? Crazy.

Oh, gosh. I’m not the one who uploaded them, so I have no idea about it. When I tried to edit one of the books, I didn’t even see a place to add or fix store links. It’ll have to go on my to-do list for whenever I finally get around to hiring an assistant.

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