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

| Posted in Advertising |

24

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?

My Experience Advertising My Ebook on Twitter

| Posted in Advertising |

10

Every now and then Twitter sends me an email to let me know about their advertising options. I ignored these for a while because the original site they directed me to didn’t seem very intuitive (I have the patience of a gnat, and if I can’t grasp something like this in a few seconds, I wander away). They’ve made some changes though. Last week when I clicked and logged in with my Twitter account, I found everything laid out quite simply. So I decided, what the heck? I always love the idea of pimping my books via advertising (if it proves effective) because I’m at the point where time is more valuable than money, and that’s the least time-intensive way to promote a book.

Here’s the Twitter Ads homepage if you want to take a look.

A wizard walked me through writing a tweet (or choosing an existing one to plug) and allowed me to choose who to display the ad to by keywords. (There was one for “science fiction & fantasy”.) I had the option to find more possibly interested people by choosing to also show ads to followers of certain handles on Twitter. For instance, if you think your books would appeal to @NeilGaiman fans, you could display your ads to his legions of followers.

You can also choose where in the world you want your tweets to be displayed. I opted for the United States for this experiment, since I was going to send people to my book’s U.S. Amazon page.

Once you’ve chosen who you want your tweet-ad displayed to, you’re ready to plug in some money. You can decide how much you want to spend overall, how much you want to spend per day, and how many days you want your campaign to run. You can also choose whether you want to get new followers or for people to follow a link.

My goal was to get people to click on my link (which led to the Amazon sales page for the first Emperor’s Edge book, a free download). Here’s what it looked like:

Like heroic fantasy? Quirky heroines? Deadly assassins? Try the first Emperor’s Edge novel for free: http://www.amazon.com/The-Emperors-Edge-ebook/dp/B004H1TDB0/ (Twitter automatically shortened that to a t.co link to fit.)

Twitter charges you based on “engagements.” They won’t charge you to display the ad, but they’ll charge when it’s clicked on, retweeted, responded to, or when you’re followed.

My results

Since I was only dabbling, I  set this up for one tweet (normally with advertising, you would want to split test — create multiple tweets to see which performs best). I spent $100 over two days, bid $1.50 per engagement (the minimum they suggested, though they said I would usually pay less), had 181 engagements (158 clicks, 17 retweets, 1 reply, and 5 follows), and paid an average of 55 cents per engagement. I have no way of knowing with the clicks, but a lot of the retweets and the reply came from my own followers, people who would have done those things anyway, so I was a little meh at being charged for that.

According to Twitter (I got a lot of emails about my campaign for the couple of days it was running, and even after that), I had a higher than average engagement percentage (1.67%). That’s good, since I didn’t spend much time tinkering and trying to come up with scintillating copy. I’m sure it would be tougher if you were trying to sell a book instead of giving away something for free.

Did I get more than the average number of free downloads from Amazon on those days? I would guess I might have gotten about 50 extra over the two days, so it wasn’t very significant. (By comparison, spending a couple hundred on a Bookbub ad, if you can get accepted, would be good for thousands of downloads — even the $1 I paid the Fussy Librarian to plug the also free Flash Gold recently resulted in at least 100 extra downloads.)

In the end, I don’t mind that I spent the money to experiment, but I probably wouldn’t do this type of campaign again. I did, however, like the set-up and targeting and detailed dashboard, so I could see using Twitter advertising for something else. (I should also note that if I had taken the time to set up a real landing page that had links to all of the places my freebie could be downloaded, I might have had better results, since not everybody shops at Amazon or has a kindle/kindle app.

Have you tried advertising on Twitter? How did it go for you?

 

Book Blog Tours That Accept Self-Published Authors

| Posted in Advertising, Blogging |

27

A book blog tour is when you “appear” on a number of blogs over a week or two (some authors go bananas and schedule a different blog each day for a month) to promote your book. This usually involves being interviewed or writing a guest post for the site. Some blog owners will also read and review your book.

You can arrange tours yourself and hand-pick the blogs, keeping in mind that some people won’t respond or be interested in hosting you, or you can pay someone else to arrange things for you. Prices vary, as do the quality of the blogs that participate (naturally, you want to appear on established sites with a solid readership).

It’s been a while since I did a book blog tour (almost three years), but I may check into them again this summer, since I’m working on some new series. As I recall, the two or three tours I did weren’t all that useful insofar as selling books, but they did result in me getting some much needed reviews back in the days when I didn’t have any readers yet. Several of the hosts reviewed my book on their own sites and also posted the reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.

I’m fairly certain most bloggers and tour operators don’t guarantee reviews, but it’s natural that some of the bloggers will be curious about the authors they host and might check out your book of their own accord (you can also include a free copy with your post or interview).

In case you’re interested in trying out a book blog tour for yourself, I’m posting a list of some of the tours that accept indie/self-published authors and that aren’t hugely expensive (thanks, Elise, for putting the list together for us!):

Book Blog Tours

Bewitching Book Tours

Genres: paranormal, urban fantasy, and paranormal erotica

Cost: $40-$175

Notes: Geared towards the new author, the ebook author, the small and independent press author, and the mid-list author. Also for the author who doesn’t have a huge marketing budget but wants the most bang for their promotional buck.

Enchanted Book Promotions

Genres: accepts all genres (though geared towards scifi, romance, fantasy)

Cost: $29-$249

Fire and Ice Book Tours

Genres: most genres accepted

Cost: $35 – $90

Notes: Not accepting new sign ups at lower package rates.

Worldwind Virtual Book Tours

Genres: accepts all genres (though geared towards scifi, romance, fantasy)

Cost: $110-$340

Notes: Price includes $50 Amazon card giveaway

Pump Up Your Book! Virtual Book Publicity Tours

Genres: all genres

Cost: $299 and up

Notes: Clients have some national media placements; website is difficult to navigate

Jitterbug PR

Genres: Many

Cost: $55 – $180

Notes: Not exceptional website graphics or quality of writing on blog. Also a PR, marketing and publicity company.

Xpresso Book Tours

Genres: focuses on Young Adult & New Adult tours in all genres of both pre-release and post-release books

Cost: $150 – $250

Notes: Professional easy-to-navigate site.

Read Between the Lines Blog Tours

Genres: specializes in fantasy

Cost: $25 – $100

If you have any comments on these outfits or want to suggest any other book blog tour sites, please let us know below.

The Art of the Amazon Sale: Improving Rankings, Selling More Books, and Gaining Exposure

| Posted in Advertising, Amazon Kindle Sales, Book Marketing |

24

I’m not a master marketer. I never hand someone a business card unless they ask, I rarely plug my titles on Twitter and Facebook, and if I had to sell my books face-to-face I doubt I’d have moved more than ten copies in the last three years. But with Amazon, if you can figure out how to sell moderately well, the company’s algorithms tend to reward you by promoting your books beyond what you could have done on your own (via Top 100 lists, also-boughts, and emails to readers who might be interested in your title). It’s worth it to tinker around over there and try to make things happen, even with a series where you’ve long since released the last book, and sales have started dwindling (especially with such a series).

Running sales is a way to create interest in your books among new readers, so long as you’re willing to do a little promotion (which may be as simple as buying an advertisement) in concurrence with these temporary price drops. I personally haven’t seen much of a sales difference from simply dropping the price without making announcements and increasing my promotional efforts.

How I ran my last sale

For my latest promotion (just a few days ago), I took out a Bookbub ad to plug the first book in my Emperor’s Edge series, which has been free for the last couple of years. It’s hard to run a “sale” on a book that’s already free (more on the true sale coming up), but any time you can increase the visibility of a perma-free title, it’s an opportunity to get more people into your world, and that’s a good thing.

That said, I had run a Bookbub ad on EE1 before, and I wasn’t sure how many downloads it would get this time around. I hoped at least some people on the company’s fantasy list would be new, and I thought it might still get a couple thousand, enough to bring it back up to #1 in free fantasy for the day, something that would give it some new visibility at Amazon for readers who hadn’t chanced across me before.

To make this a true sale, I decided to also drop the price of my second and third books to 99 cents for the weekend (the Bookbub ad ran on the 7th, and I left the other books at 99 cents until the 10th). 35 cents (what you make on a 99-cent ebook sale) per copy is kind of meh, but since I have seven books total in that series, I figured I could still do well if readers got into the series and went on to buy the others (my regular price is $4.95 for each novel, earning me $3 and change per sale). Also, I thought that by pricing Books 2 and 3 at 99 cents — for a limited time — some folks grabbing the freebie might pick up those on the same day, rather than waiting to read Book 1 first. With three of my books on their kindles, I also reasoned that they’d get around to trying my series sooner rather than later (one wonders when and if freebies will get tried when they’re downloaded by Bookbub readers, because those guys get free book offers every day).

I made sure to announce that Books 2 & 3 were on sale in the blurb area for Book 1, the book that everyone was popping in to check out. Here’s a screenshot of what that looked like (click for a bigger picture):

Book-1-freebie-bookbub-sale

In the blurbs for Books 2 and 3, I also announced that the novels were on sale, making sure to point out that the regular price was $4.95 and that the sale would end in a couple of days. I’m never sure how many sales tricks I want to use to tweak the copy (I have an aversion to used-car-salesman tactics), but I’ve read various marketing studies that show people are more likely to act (buy) when there’s a chance they might lose something than when there’s a chance they might gain something. So I tried to emphasize that with the words “don’t miss out” and “for a limited time.” I’m sure lots of people see through those gimmicks, but, hey, you never know!

Results

I’ve been at the top of the fantasy charts before (with new releases) and have never taken off in a huge way, so I didn’t expect that this time, but I did well overall with the sale and more than recouped my money on the $90 ad (advertising a free ebook on Bookbub is the least expensive way to go — their sliding scale means it costs more, and in some genres a lot more, for books discounted to 99 cents or $2+).

On the day the ad ran, The Emperor’s Edge was downloaded about 6500 times (remember, I’ve advertised to this list before so you might very well get more downloads for a new fantasy freebie), enough to get it in the Top 20 free overall and enough to keep it at #1 in the epic fantasy free category until Sunday morning (the ad ran on Thursday). As I write this on Tuesday afternoon, it’s still at #3 in epic fantasy and 255 overall. It’s now been downloaded about 10,000 times since Thursday morning. (It had only been downloaded about 200 times in the week prior, November 1st to November 6th).

Before running the ad, I was selling less than 10 copies a day each of Books 2 and 3 in the Amazon US store, and each had 50-odd sales at the time of the ad (books at full price). Between the 7th and the 10th (the days of my sale), both titles sold more than 550 copies each, and both jumped into the Top 20 of the epic fantasy paid listings for about three days (these are books that had been out for two years and that hadn’t been anywhere near the Top 100 in quite some time). About half of those sales came on Day 1 of the ad and were probably Bookbub people, but I’m guessing about half of them simply came from people who saw the 99-cent books in the charts (or who saw EE1 at the top of the free chart) and decided to give them a try because of the low price.

So, have I made a ton of money? Well, not really, since I only get 35 cents per sale on those 99 cent books, but I made about $400 minus the $200 or so those books would have made if they simply sold their average number of copies per day at full price and minus the $90 for the ad. So, I came out ahead by about $110 for the weekend.

And, of course, there are the less tangible benefits:

  • I’m already seeing an uptick in sales in the later (full-priced) books in the series, and expect that trend will continue for the next month or so, as people get through the first three books and decide to go on.
  • More readers are checking me out right now (sometimes the pure math doesn’t look that good with these 99-cent titles, but when it comes with an increase in sales — more people trying your books — it may mean that you gain more long-term fans who will stick with you for future books).

This is the first time I’ve run sales on following books at the same time as advertising my perma-free title, and it’s something I’ll definitely do again. This way I got to break even on Day 1 rather than hoping people who picked up the freebie would eventually try the other books in the series. I also got to spend less on the ad than I would have to promote a 99-cent title.

I should point out that on Barnes & Noble, where I couldn’t change the blurb text on the free book (because it’s free via Smashwords, and it would have taken too long for the update to filter through), I only sold about 25 extra copies each of the 99 cent titles over the weekend.

But what if I can’t get into Bookbub?

I know, I know, everyone loves Bookbub because it makes it much easier to run an effective sale on Amazon, but for those who can’t get in (they’ve gotten picky about what they accept) or who don’t have the money to buy one of their slots, you can also opt for less expensive advertising sites (here’s a KBoards link where someone listed a bunch of sites that accept freebie/bargain books) or just plan do a bunch of extra legwork on the social media sites during your sale.

A lot of authors are going in together right now (i.e. ten people selling ten thrillers for 99 cents), so it’s a group effort for promotion. This lets you reach a lot more people with less individual work. Some people with series are even putting their Book 1s together into box sets to sell on Amazon for 99 cents, so readers get a great deal and can try a number of new authors at a time.

Just remember that you will probably need to do more than drop your book to 99 cents (or whatever your sale price is) to increase your numbers.

Lastly, don’t forget to change your blurb to let people know that the book is on sale until Date X and what the regular price is (for those in KDP Select, you can make things easier by using Amazon’s new Kindle Countdown Deals). You’ll probably want to change the blurbs via Author Central rather than the KDP dashboard, as you can add bold, italics, and bullet lists that way.

That’s it from me. If you’ve run your own sales and had good results (or even if things didn’t work out as you’d hoped), we’d love to hear about it. Please comment below.

 

The Fussy Librarian: A New Book Recommendation Site (and advertising option)

| Posted in Advertising |

10

As authors, we’re always trying to find ways to get the word out about our work, and as readers, we’re always looking for good new books to try. The Fussy Librarian is a new site that offers a little of both.

I first heard about the site a few weeks ago and decided to submit my perma-free novel, The Emperor’s Edge, for inclusion in one of their daily emails. A week or two after I sent it in, the novel was listed in their fantasy/steampunk section. It received an extra 400 downloads on Amazon that day. Not bad for a free advertisement! (I’ve had poorer results from ads I’ve paid for.)

The FL will be charging once they’ve built up a larger readership, but they promise to keep their rates more affordable than some of the other book recommendation sites.

If you’re a reader, you can sign up here to get free book recommendations:

If you’re an author, you may want to read this short interview I did with Jeffrey Bruner from the FL before submitting your book:

fussylibrarianWhy The Fussy Librarian? What does it offer that’s useful for readers and what are your future plans?

At their heart, the most important part of any book-recommendation website is “the match” — are you going to receive tips about books in your daily email that you’ll like?

So we set out to create a better match than anyone else. We offer the most genre choices (30 and growing) and we’re the only website that gives you content preferences regarding language, violence and sexual situations. If you like your novels without profanity, for example, all of your recommended books will be free of foul language. We also have “I read everything” buttons and some choices in the middle.

We’ll keep adding categories and content options in the future. One thing we discovered in our first month is that even though we already offer five different romance categories, we need more to handle the volume of book submissions we’re receiving.

Why should authors consider submitting to the FL?

I think The Fussy Librarian is set up in a way that is very author friendly.

We don’t force authors to discount their books and our price limit is $5.99. I really want to do everything possible to move readers away from their free/99 cent addiction. It’s not unreasonable for them to spend $2.99 or $3.99 — the cost of a meal at McDonald’s — on a novel. Authors have a shot at making a living as a novelist once they start sell at $2.99 and up.

Our book submissions are currently free until we grow larger. I don’t feel it’s fair charging authors during our start-up period. Even when we do charge a fee, we’re going to keep it reasonable.

What types of books are you looking for? Do you ever accept short stories or novellas?

Yes, we do accept short stories and novellas! We include a note in the blurb so readers are aware it’s not a full-length novel.

In fiction, we accept pretty much everything that’s an ebook. Our most popular genres are contemporary romance, mystery, thriller, fantasy, young adult and women’s fiction. But we also accept books in smaller genres like religious fiction, horror, literary fiction and historical fiction.

If you write nonfiction, I can pretty much guarantee we can find you a spot within 10 days after your book is submitted.

It sounds like you’re already getting a lot of books coming your way — are there some common mistakes that will make you reject one right away?

Believe it or not, the most common mistake is authors forgetting to fill out the price! We don’t reject those books — we just go look up the price. But that surprised me.

Many authors submit blurbs that are, in my opinion, way too long. It needs to be compact and powerful to get the reader to click and go to the next phase — your page on Amazon, B&N, Apple, etc. Save the longer synopsis for the Amazon page.

The one thing that will get a book rejected right away is submitting even though the book doesn’t meet our review requirements.

We all know certain genres have larger readerships than others, but it’d be interesting to hear if you’ve seen any themes as to which books sell best.

I think the books that sell — whether it’s “Twilight,” “The Hunger Games” or “Fifty Shades of Grey” — are ones that allow readers to escape. People want to be reminded that good can triumph over evil, that flawed people can redeem themselves, that our imagination will always allow us to escape the tedium of everyday life.

Any final tips for authors?

First, make sure you budget money for a professional proofreader, formatter and cover designer. The saying really is true — people DO judge a book by its cover. They will never discover your brilliant writing if they think your cover is amateurish.

Second, if you price your book at $4.99 or $5.99 (or more) and aren’t pleased with your sales, consider experimenting at $2.99. You still get the higher royalty rate but you’re selling at a price point where more readers are more comfortable buying. I think too many people see John Grisham selling ebooks for $11.99 but forget that he can do that only  because he already has a built-in fan base of tens of millions of readers.

Last, write what makes you happy! If your story requires mixing genres, then mix genres. Don’t waste time worrying about rules and “branding” and all that nonsense. You’re not a reality television star. You’re a storyteller. Period. Spend every drop of energy and emotion telling a great story. Then when you’re done, come find me and we’ll help you find new readers.

Thanks, Jeffrey! I’ll be looking forward to my fantasy book recommendations.

~

Here’s the sign-up page for authors.

 

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