Warning: get a drink. This is a long post. Readers, this one is for the authors out there, and it involves a LOT of nitty gritty about the publication world. You are, as always, welcome to read and ask any questions you may have, but you may find this boring. This is my way of trying to help other authors learn something very, very complicated and very, very important for their careers.
In May 2020, I posted about doing a $20,000 sales drive for a novel in my best-selling series, which has been on USA Today several times, three times in box set formats, one of which was a single-author set, and once as a single novel. (The single novel hit as a result of the sales drive.)
I am mentioning that for one reason: ceilings for sales copies are imaginary. Just because your launch flopped (Hint: launches flopped on ALL of my books that later hit USA Today during sales drives) doesn’t mean you cannot revive your series or hit with a book later. It usually takes a large-scale sales drive, but sales drives can have a huge value for future building.
Do! Not! Fall! Prey! To! Believing! A! Flopped! Launch! Is! A! Flopped! Book!
You can 1000000% fix a flop through cover revamps, description rewrites, polishing your book, and then trying again through advertising.
Note: While this can apply for KU titles, this is really meant for those who are selling their books at multiple vendors. The market research and targets part of this is definitely for everybody, but there comes a point where acknowledging some ad systems are better for wide authors vs KU authors is necessary.
Bookbub is, traditionally, a venue best for wide authors. How have I come to this conclusion? It’s pretty simple: I have compared my earnings and profitability compared to KU authors who have had features in the same category I have had. I’m wide, they’re in KU, and we have somewhat similar books, to the point I’ve used *those authors* as targets.
Spoiler alert: they didn’t work too well as targets, much to my surprise. (Very few KU authors have worked well as targets for wide books. Interestingly enough, the reverse also applied.)
My results were better. Period. My earnings were better, my tails were longer, and I usually walked away happier with my results than they were with theirs.
There’s actually a reason for this.
Bookbub has cultivated a buying readership. They are expecting traditionally produced books they pay for, with traditional quality in mind. They are less receptive to KU—and a lot of them have an attitude against KU books. They will freaking flip over typos, and they have a very low threshold for their tolerance for any form of mistake.
This is a shame, as there are good KU books out there. The problem is, their prejudice against KU books applies to even when the books are discounted. They see KU, and they start making assumptions. So, when you’re working with the Bookbub audience, you need to be aware of this, and your book has to beat the assumptions.
Then, there are the KU readership, who typically does not want to buy books. In my tests, KU-specific authors rarely convert as well for sales. (Yes, I have tested this rather extensively. But, I’ll revisit this point in the targeting and marketing research portion of this.)
For this sales drive, I am taking a three-prong approach. I am not explicitly trying to list. Will I list? It’s possible; I’m certainly throwing enough money at this venture. However, my goals for this drive are to connect with new readers and extend the tail of my advertising for as long as possible. The more readers you already have, the harder it is to connect with new ones. This is an unfortunate reality of publication.
There is a ceiling authors hit in the writing world, and busting through that ceiling is tough. For me, it was about $7,000 in earnings (before expenses!) a month sustained with minimal facebook ads and frequent Bookbub featured deal promotions. This is with a monthly release model.
Basically, my ceiling was this amount in earnings with the ‘hands off’ approach and very minimal advertising. To earn more than that, I had to significantly step up my advertising efforts.
I have found promoting my backlist has done a better job of making me more money than promoting the latest release unless the latest release has a wide street appeal. Right now, I have a fairly strong lineup of upcoming releases. (And by strong, I mean 2,000 preorders before release.)
A book with 2,000 preorders before release is about $8,000 in raw earnings. If I’m doing a sales drive prior, and I plan to have some basic launch week promotions, that 2,000 preorders can often turn into closer to 4,000-5,000 sales by the end of its first week or two of life.
That’s up to $20,000 in earnings on a book that cost me $2,000 to produce (excluding audiobook editions). Those are the books that make sure I can pay my staff and otherwise covers all my expenses… plus pay the rent.
Of course, it can also end up being only 3,000 sales by the end of the first week or two. There are no guarantees in this business, but I have definitely noticed a significant increase in how many people are willing to buy my books as new titles as time progresses.
One part of that is always striving to produce better and higher quality books, and one part of that is through cultivating my fanbase. While I also rely on things like word of mouth, paid advertisements and a few kind shout-outs from other authors have been incredible.
I have gotten to this point through promoting my backlist more than anything else, and that is what my latest sales drive is for.
The main goal of these drives is to be able to sustain a decent income while moving to releasing a book every two months, which is a much more comfortable pace for me. Essentially, if I can build my fanbase enough, I can sustain a good wage for myself while being able to enjoy my work more. With my quality requirements, one book a month at the length I write is… tough work. (It’s basically 5,000-7,000 words a day plus exhaustive editing. My current editorial team consists of 16 people, some paid, some volunteers.)
In my personal experiences, Facebook is middle of the road, but it’s fully possible to do a one week ‘listing blitz’ for books to expand readership. I have not yet successfully done a listing run through AMS, although I have received positive ROI from some of my ads. I generally do a small-scale campaign throughout my sales drives with AMS to help boost visibility, but I do not use these as a ‘main driving force’ for my sales. Can the system be effective for large scale?
Frankly, I do not know, and because I’m wide, I won’t be finding out. AMS is an ad system that just works better for KU authors. (It’s just a flat-out cluster if you’re wide, and I can’t recommend it for anything other than making the algos like you a little more during a drive.)
My budget for AMS for a week, when I want to get a bit more visibility, is about $100, and I only target the cream of the crop for my books, so I’m hunting for high traffic, higher bid keywords that are more likely to boost my book’s visibility. I do not care if they buy the book or even click the ad for AMS. I want them to see the cover and become familiar with it. Branding is the art of building familiarity so you instill customer confidence in buying your product.
If a reader is confident you will provide a good book, if they are familiar with your product, they are that more likely to buy.
Background: I used to work in corporate marketing. We considered anyone who hadn’t seen our ad more than ten times to be a pretty cold audience. After ten times viewing our product, they start developing a familiarity relationship with the product… after eighteen to twenty or so views, that is when audiences were more likely to purchase and they’ve ‘warmed up’ to us.
You will, of course, get snap buyers, but many people need to see a name or a product numerous times before they become curious enough to buy. A lot of authors rely on snap buyers, and fixing that (through better promotional material) can really help your bottom line.
That’s okay. It’s a common consumer behavior. So, don’t freak out if it takes a while to actually sell your book. If you land the sale at the first view, great. If your product is good enough to survive the 10+ view gauntlet and continue to draw interest, you’re doing great. That’s exactly what you want. You want the snap buyer, but you also want longevity in your brand. This is why covers, descriptions, and your writing are so important to marketing. The more often a reader looks at a product, the more time they have to doubt—and you want to beat that doubt. If you land that, you’ll be golden.
(My motto: Always do better.)
So, before you start on any major sales drive, make sure your product is up to that standard. That’s what will ultimately fuel your conversion rate.
Terms you will need to understand:
BB: Bookbub, an advertising platform dedicated to books. BB has several advertising streams authors can use. The most popular and cost effective is their “Featured Deal.” This is when they showcase a book to their mailing list, which ranges between 200,000 and 2,000,000 readers depending on genre.
BBFD: Bookbub Featured Deal.
BBNRFD: Bookbub New Release Featured Deal is a newsletter that comes out every Tuesday showcasing the week’s hottest releases as picked by the Bookbub Editorial Team. BBNRFDs have a reputation of being hit or miss. If you’re going in for a BBNRFD, you need to bring your A Game to the table.
My books do really well with BBNRFD, and I almost always turn a profit for them. Recently, one of my pen names (contemporary romantic comedy) got a ‘dry’ BBNRFD, and it did spectacularly well. I made a lot of profit on it. No one in the BB audience had seen my brand OR my books before, so this came as a pretty notable surprise. I usually wait to get a BBNRFD until I’ve had at least three strong BBFD to maximize the chance of people buying the book.
Apparently, I had done my job on the cover, description, and the writing on that one.
CPM: Cost Per Mille: this is how much 1,000 impressions (ad displays) will cost you.
CPC: Cost per Click: This is how much a click costs you.
IMP: Impressions, or when a site displays an ad to you. Every time you see an ad (or even when you DON’T see it but the server issued the impression,) this counts as an impression. The reader need not ever view the ad for it to count as an impression.
CTR: Click-through rate. This is how often someone clicks your ad, typically counted as a percentage. However, it can be displayed in a “1 in 1539 views resulted in a click” fashion.
Conversion Rate / CR: Conversion rate is how often your clicks turn into a sale. The lower the better. This is usually presented as a “1 in 20” number, but it can be also displayed as a percentage. It is better for it to be shown as a flat number in my opinion.
Target: An audience you wish to target, typically an author, a novel, or a book series. Targets can also be a genre, such as paranormal romance.
Market Research: The art of learning which targets you should aim for when advertising.
This will focus predominantly on Bookbub, which is my current ad system of choice. Before I get into the nitty gritty specifics of how to prepare for testing Bookbub ads, building the specific ad, and so on, let me showcase the strengths and weaknesses of each ad system first.
AMS: Great for KU and general branding. It allows your covers to be displayed to active shoppers. However, the shopper may not be looking for a book to buy depending on your specific keyword targets. (They could be looking for movies, they could be looking for toys… they could be looking for something other than books. So be aware of that when selecting your targets.) AMS is not so great for transparency. Frankly, their system is designed to make you go into a lot of this stuff blind, and they have less-than-stellar conversion tracking.
Facebook: This system can be great because you can interact with new readers and potentially close the sale yourself, but it’s kinda less-than-ideal because you’re working with a 100% cold audience. You can target readers, but you have zero idea if the reader is actively buying books at the time the ad is displayed. This can get really expensive really quickly, but you can access enough readers to do a huge sales drive on Facebook alone.
I have listed a boxed set (single author) in my Magical Romantic Comedy (with a body count) series using facebook for main advertising with a BBFD bringing in not quite 2,000 of the 7,500 sales accrued during the week.
Boxed sets/novel anthologies are a much easier sale than a single novel title.
Bookbub: Most of this post will focus on Bookbub, performance of ads, how to build an ad, but more importantly, how to target for your ads.
So, let’s begin.
Market research is your first step in launching a successful Bookbub drive. For the record, my target CTR is 1%. If my ad is not getting 1% clicks after eight hours of the ad having been delivered, I shut the ad off. It’s mathematically not going to be productive for my needs. (This is due to the conversion rate. Generally, 1%+ CTR equals a potentially productive ad once the CR is considered.
Recently, I ran an ad for a full-priced preorder, and here were the results: I purchased 10,458 imps, received 434 clicks, and had a CTR of 4.15%. Yes, I’m hiding the amount I spent and the CPM. Why?
The CPM is how much I’m bidding to receive an impression, and you hold that close to your chest, because if you tell others what you’re bidding, you can a: be outbid b: have your costs driven up b: CPM is a personal decision.
Basically, I’ll share a lot, but as I will be using very similar numbers on an ad drive I’m starting very soon, I don’t wish to shoot myself (or my ad drive) in the foot. I will share these numbers after the sales drive is over, on the post that discusses the math and the final results of the drive, win or lose.
I will say this much: I did spend a somewhat significant amount of money on those impressions.
I will also say this much: I made profit. The book is selling for $5.99, and those 10k imps turned a profit on that ad. So, hooray! It wasn’t as much profit as I wanted, but profit is profit, and I was running this ad to see if I could make a profit on a mid-sized BB ad.
Fun fact: BB’s best ad practices state to include the cover as part of your ad.
I did not include the cover as part of my ad.
Experiment. There is no one right way, and this ad proved it. That said, book covers are more likely to do better if you don’t know what you’re doing with building ads. But you can also build ads without your cover on them and have them make money.
It’s okay to trailblaze, but it’s important to remember failure is always an option.
Now, here’s where I’m kicking the tires. My ad drive campaign is a loss lead campaign. This means I’m planning on taking a huge frickin’ loss on the book being sold in exchange for making more money on my other titles.
That is what selling books at $0.99 (or giving them away for free) is for. Please do not sell your brand new money makers at $0.99. That is how you lose money. You have nowhere else for the readers to go because you sold your latest and greatest for a pittance. While some readers will go back and catalog surf, the reality is, your newest release should be driving your earnings.
Seriously. If you want to loss lead, loss lead, but loss lead smartly. Loss lead a book that has already made you money.
Your latest and greatest should be whatever your current full price is. Mine is typically $5.99. (This is the amount most readers are willing to pay for my titles. Many new authors find $2.99 or $3.99 is their sales price ceiling because they are unproven authors.)
Your latest and greatest isn’t going to magically earn letters just because you’re throwing it at people on the cheap. (You need advertising dollars and a strong game plan to earn your letters. Spoiler alert: letters are not going to magically earn you money. You’re not going to slap them on your cover and magically enjoy a higher conversion rate.)
You need to discount with a purpose. Discounting your latest and greatest sends this message to readers: Your new books aren’t worth paying full price for. Why should they pay full price when they know you’ll toss away your newest books for a pittance?
So, yeah. I make money because I never discount my newest releases. I work hard on those books and I deserve to be paid.
And if you’re in KU? There is literally no reason for you to discount your newest title. They’re going to check it out before buying it unless they’re a hardcore fan, so why are you shooting yourself in the foot?
Please. Stop discounting yourself. Discount older books early in the series so you can earn good money on your newest releases.
Market research is the art of figuring out what other books your readers read. This is tough. It’s not matching your book to a book that might be like yours. It’s matching your readers with what they also like to read. People mess this up a lot.
It does not matter if a book is similar to yours if the book’s readers won’t like your titles because you do a certain element differently.
Fun fact: I’m constantly compared to Shelly Laurenston. Shelly Laurentson is a terrible author target for me. I don’t write sex on the page.
Let me tell you, not having sex on the page is a huge no-sell to Shelly’s regular audience. Her readership likes their books hilarious and dirty.
My readers want their books hilarious but not so dirty.
So just because we both write paranormal romantic comedies does not mean we match well to each other in terms of readers buying books.
Boy, do I wish I could use her as a target though. She has a wonderful audience.
But I can’t.
While my books are similar, we have a significant mismatch in sexual content. This is also why my books are never featured on Bookbub as a paranormal romance. Bookbub’s audience wants the sexy funtimes!
My books are more focused on the relationships and the plot than the sexy funtimes.
Now, here’s a practical lesson for you. Get out a sheet of paper or a word doc and make a list of the following:
1: Your book’s primary two genres. (Example: My Magical Romantic Comedy (with a body count) series is paranormal romance and urban fantasy.)
2: Your book’s primary tones: AKA, is it humorous, dark, light-hearted, sweet, sexy, etc. Make a list of what you feel your book’s general tone is.
3: Sexual content: Sweet (no sex on page, no naughty thoughts, often clean language), Clean (sometimes sexy thoughts but fade to black sex scenes, sometimes naughty language. My books are typically classified as clean with a hint of steam. I literally do not understand this qualification but I guess my characters are just good at being naughty without actually being naughty.), Steamy is light sexual content on the page, usually meant to make people want to fan themselves off. Hot AKA Erotic/Erotica/High Heat has pretty graphic sex on it, and the distinctions are usually how crude the sex is, but the sex is definitely present. Knowing where you fall in the sexy category is important, as this is a HUGE qualifier for if readers will want your books.
Yeah. That blows, especially if you’re like me, who writes clean with a hint of steamy.
4: Trigger content: Do you have a lot of triggering content? This is important because there is a huge number of readers who explicitly avoid books with triggering content. So if you have it, you do NOT want to target authors who explicitly avoid it. If you sometimes have it, you can end up in quite the pickle, which is something that happens with me. I try to be delicate about it, but… it’s tough. Understand where you fall in terms of triggering content, so when you’re doing your market research, you have a better understanding of why your ads may succeed or fail with that target.
5: Language: much like triggering content, language can really miff readers off. If you’re going to be dropping the f-bombs, you do not want to be targeting authors who write sweet religious books. Really bad mismatch there. (Same applies with sexual content.)
6: Is the author wide or KU? Yes, this matters. Wide buyers shop for books differently from KU buyers, and they consume their books in different fashions. If you’re KU and you hunt wide buyers, you may find your pages read really suffer, and you’ll get limited sales due to prejudices. While some people can get away with mixing the pot, it can be difficult. For your first ventures into serious ads, put like with like. That’ll help you partner with readers who consume books in the way you’re selling.
Now, take your list and put it aside. Make yourself a spreadsheet or grab a piece of paper. We’re going on an adventure.
Hit up your favorite book vendor, goodreads, or some other site dedicated to books. You can even go to google for this if you would like.
Type in one of your genres from #1 along with authors. So, in my case: paranormal romance authors.
Now is the time for us to have some fun. You should have a bunch of covers, names, and so on for you to explore.
You want to click on any book that seems to match your criteria from your list and check out the description. If the book seems to match all of your criteria, write the author’s name and the book title/series down.
But wait, how do you know if the author really does have readers who might like your books? Honestly, sometimes, you might just have to start reading samples of books and checking for yourself. You may have to troll reviews to see what readers have to say. This is really an important element of book marketing research.
This list is critical. This is a potential target for your ads, because this author has written at least one book that is a close match to what you are writing with readers who might want to read your books. That last bit in bold is really important. That’s your goal. You don’t actually care if you like the author you’re targeting. You can hate their books if you’d like. Your feelings about their books means nothing for this.
You are looking for the readers who like the types of books you write. That’s what market research is all about.
This is the heart and soul of market research. You are learning who writes like you do, following the criteria of what readers will purchase for their personal libraries. Because readers can be so picky, it’s really important you match as many criteria as possible, or you will suffer mismatches. And mismatches aren’t good for you. It’s wasted advertising dollars.
It’s so tempting for me to target Shelly Laurenston (I do it every! Time!!! With the same result. Her target does NOT work for my books. It won’t work for my books. But I loveeeeee her, so I always go “maybe it’ll work this time!”)
It won’t work this time. I don’t write sexy content. She does. We are critically mismatched. I am stubbornly about to throw away $100 in advertising dollars on Shelly’s readers when they aren’t typically going to buy my books.
Yes, some of my readers absolutely do read and love Shelly’s books. But for advertising purposes, this is a critical mismatch.
Please learn from me despite my tendency to continue to advertise to her target even though it never frickin’ works.
Yes, there IS an audience for paranormal romance that does not have sex scenes on the page. I make over $20,000 a month writing that kind of book. I just can’t advertise to targets who typically write sexy books with the focus being more on the sex.
My books don’t appeal to readers who are looking for that sort of book.
Once you have found ten authors who are complete matches for your books, keeping in mind you’re trying to match with readers who will want to buy based on the above criteria, it’s time to start making use of these targets.
Since my ad drive is BB based, let’s talk about their system, how it works, and how you can make your ads work. I can’t help you pick the ad image for this. BB has a lot of references you can use and best ad policies to read through. Read their resources. They really want you to succeed with their platform.
What I’m going to do is help you demystify the process a little.
So, let’s build an ad, shall we?
Note: You need 1,000 followers to qualify to use BB’s ad system, and you have to apply to gain access to the system. If you do not have BB followers, hunt for them using the same metrics I listed above. You want readers who are interested in your books. Otherwise, they’re just dead leads who don’t actually help you.
It will take time to cultivate the list to be useful, but it’s really worth while. Try hard to cultivate your follower list to hit your targets. (Also, getting BBFDs can help boost your follower counts.)
The Ad Creation Process
Step 1: Pick your book. There will be a button that allows you to select your book. You will need to add the book to your account. Assuming the book is being properly maintained in Bookbub’s system, it should autopopulate the links for your vendor targets.
Step 2: Upload or build your ad. Bookbub gives you the choice to use a template they provide with some text, which uses colors from your cover for the background and your cover plus a little button and a spot for text.
Honestly, I’ve had ads that worked just fine using the template they provide, but I usually get better performance from a custom-made ad. I often hire a designer to make something for me, and it has text or does not have text depending on my mood at the time. If it doesn’t have text, I add text with either Photoshop or another program.
Step 3: Select your targets.
Take those ten authors you found and plug them into the author select box. Click their name to add them to the ad. Bookbub’s system will tell you how many people have shown interest in this author’s books/ads. This is not their follower count.
Ideally, your ad will say Audience: Defined Max Daily Reach: 10k to 50k impressions. Audience Defined Max Daily Reach: Below 10k Impressions is also a-okay.
Target is broad can be bad because you’ll have toooo many readers who just aren’t interested in your stuff. Listen to the Bookbub’s little meter. It is not a lie, and if you keep it to “Defined” you will have better results. However, if you’d like to do a ‘catch all’ grab, you can do just a category listing, but your targets won’t be all that good and you may pooch your personal author target. (Not recommended.)
Step 4: Select your categories.
Taking your two primary genres/subgenres from your list, select one or two categories that best fit your books. This means that you will ONLY show imps to readers who have expressed interest/signed up for those categories and readers who have expressed interest in the authors you have chosen. This will lower your pool of readers, but they will be better readers for your books.
Now we’re going to get into the trickier stuff.
Step 5: Pick your dates the ad will run. Ads start delivering at 3 AM EST on the date you selected and stop in the evening of the last day selected. I prefer 2 day campaigns, but I have run week long campaigns successfully. I’ve even run a month-long campaign successfully. There is no right answer for this one.
Step 6: Pick your campaign type. Deliver as quickly as possible will dump out imps at a higher cost, as the system will stagger your spread (and often get you slightly cheaper!) imps in the ‘spread across range’ category. There is no right answer here. I’ve run both types with great success.
However, if you really want your imps served, select “deliver as quickly as possible” while being aware the imps will probably cost you a bit more because you’re trying to snap up as many imps as possible. (Catch those imps! Catch them all!)
Step 7: Pick your budget. This is a “maximum liability” number. BB will stop serving imps at around that budget number. (In my experience, it’s usually a cent or two over the budget number selected.)
If you pick a low CPM, you may not have any imps served at all. It’s a bid system. BB will serve imps to the highest bidder until they run out of imps to serve. Those who bid higher pay more but get the imps. If you bid lower, you may not get the imps, but if you do, they’ll be cheaper imps.
You will need to experiment. If your ad is not getting any imps, your bid is too low, so you will need to go in, edit the ad, and raise your CPM.
Note: You do have the option to do the CPC system with BB, but honestly, I don’t. I have far better luck (and higher quality) leads (AKA readers) with the CPM system. But, experiment. Your experience may not be my experience. My books and my targets work better with CPM vs CPC.
There is no wrong answer here.
Step 8: Name your ad. I usually name my ads Book Title – Targets – Categories – CPM Bid $Amount – Ad I’m using.
Example: PwF – Shelly Laurenston – PNR / SS – CPM A bazillion Dollars – Sparkly Ad 1
That way, at a glance, I know what ad is doing what with what target and bid type. PNR is Paranormal Romance, and SS is Supernatural Suspense. A bazillion dollars is what I wish I could spend on advertising my books. Really, you need to decide for yourself how much money and how much you’re willing to pay on an ad view.
I will say this much: Bookbub’s ‘average bid’ amounts is a rough guideline. Can the upper end of that work? Yes. Will it? It depends on who is bidding what at the time. Worse case scenario? You start an ad with a too low CPM and you have to go in, edit the ad, and figure out what is the sweet spot for you.
Hint: Don’t fret if it takes you a week or two to figure out what you should bid. I know my targets only because I’m experienced with the ad system and have had time to gather information on how much I can spend on a lead and still make good profit.
My CPL (Cost per Lead) is $10 per sale on a $0.99 priced book. Yes, if I spend $10 to sell a $0.99, I can make a profit on those who buy the rest of my books. I have a fantastic lead margin. This is where sell-through saves my bacon. If you’re writing good books, readers will go buy more books. It essentially takes someone buying 3 of my titles to earn back their money at $10 per lead.
Generally, for those who are starting out with ads and have a small catalogue, your CPL will be much lower. Only you can decide what your CPL is.
My catalogue is over 40 books, and it isn’t uncommon for new readers of my books to binge. The series I’m promoting has fifteen active books in series with three future preorders. There’s also an anthology with a short novel in it coming out in January. That is a lot of good news for me, because it’s a lot of paths readers can go in the future, and they can preorder all those books now. One of the active books is a title scheduled to release September 1. (I consider a preorder ‘active’ once it’s 30 days or closer to its release. Odds of people preordering are substantially higher, hype among fans is building, and the release is right around the corner.)
Promoting Book #15 is the reason I’m doing the sales drive. I’m also doubling down by adding a sample of a first chapter of another new release in the back of Playing with Fire. (Hoofin’ It will receive a sample from another book, so I’m more like tripling down on the BBFD / advertising.)
Oh, yes. By the way, a very short sample of another book from chapter one of another book in the back of your book can really, really help sales. You don’t even need a link to it. If the sample is catchy, they will go get it without any help from you. And they’ll often put in reviews “I found this in the back of $x book, loved the sample, and loved the book.”
I do recommend you limit to no more than 2-5% of the book’s total length to be considerate of readers who do keep an eye on the % into their books. Amazon currently allows up to 10% of a title for backmatter, but I would use caution.
In my personal experience, readers are more likely to read through to a sample that’s declared in the table of contents then check out a list of books, links, and heavy promotional material. My backmatter currently consists of “Where you can find out more about the author” and a link to the newsletter(s) I have. Sample is after my biography. I do not shove a lot of marketing material at them. Who I am, where I can be found, newsletter, and social media. This works really well for me.
So, onto the motivation of spending a ridiculous amount on a loss lead. (I will reveal the bids, my actual costs, and everything associated with the sales drive once it is over, by the way. There shall be another post with all the data your heart could possibly desire.) It will have the successes and the failures, and most importantly, the results.
Anyway, by putting Playing with Fire on sale for $0.99, I will be cultivating readers to purchase A Chip on Her Shoulder, which will release approximately two weeks following the major push of my sales drive.
Essentially, I’m using my sales drive as a 2-for-1 special. First, I’m trying to connect with new readers in one of my most popular books. Second, I’m trying to promote my latest releases. (Playing with Fire will have a sample of another book in it along with a mention of Chip in the back, so readers have multiple paths to go after they’re done Poof! (Yes, I call the book Poof because fires go poof and this book has a lot of fire in it.))
Yeah, I’m a bit weird.
My previous sales drive ($20,000 in spend) was closer to the $5 mark for my cost per lead, and I used book five (Whatever for Hire) as the sacrificial lamb. This was a bit of a mistake, because people saw it was deeper in the series and abandoned ship. (I saw evidence of that on my limited FB ads.) So, this time, I’m loss leading books one and two. (Hoofin’ It has the BBFD at the end of the major sales week.)
I’m expecting closer to the $10 mark on the upcoming drive on book 1. Book 2 should make profit on itself because of the BBFD, and the BBFD may actually drive additional sales to Book 1. But as a general rule, I know with how much I’m spending, if I get near $10 per lead, I will make profit on that $0.99 sale.
This tactic is only viable for me because I have so many books in series and I’m hooking through books one and two. You can do a successful drive on a later book in series. I’ve done it. It’s a bit more expensive, and it’s just more work and your game has to be better than your best to get people to want to consider buying 2, 3, or 4—or more! books to reach the one you’re selling.
What I’m really hoping will happen is that readers will fall in love with my main series, check out the back of my books, discover my other two brands, and go through my entire catalogue.
That’s the backlist effect.
It’s also gambling on myself and my books, as my books need to carry the true weight of this gambit.
I am gambling that my books are written well enough that readers want to keep buying them until they’ve purchased the entire collection.
Right now, I’m earning approximately $50 for a complete read of the Magical Romantic Comedy (with a body count) series.
Essentially, one in five people need to buy the entire series to cover my costs of advertising. Everything else is gravy.
(And yes, for my books, one in five is not an unreasonable number for a complete readthrough of my series.)
When most books cost $4.99 or $5.99, that’s not bad at all.
Note: I price my books by length and age, but generally, all of my full-length (70k+) novels cost $5.99. The Mag Rom Com series has some older books I’ve marked at $4.99, although when I do another proofing pass on those older titles, I will likely raise their prices to $5.99 for the ones that are 70k or longer.
That’s just how I price because that’s realistically what readers are willing to spend on my books. What you can charge will vary. The only way you learn is to change the price and see how new readers behave when purchasing your books.
Every author’s ceiling is different.
For the sales drive this month, I am expecting to spend $35,000 on advertising mostly dedicated to a blitz $0.99 loss lead campaign for the first book in series. I will provide what I spent where, how I felt about each vendor for advertising, and the results. Generally, I am doing a massive market test of a ridiculous amount of market research I have done since my last drive.
I have done similar to what is listed above, and I am testing every target found individually on Bookbub for this sales drive. I may very well take a major loss in the search of market research data.
99% of the targets I am using are unknown to me. I haven’t read their books. They met a certain number of criteria selected, and they were plugged into Bookbub’s system. If the target was too small, I partnered the author with similar authors using my criteria, so I have a bunch of small target batches to try reader outreach that way.
To give you an idea of the scale of my market research efforts, I have almost 1,000 Bookbub ads currently loaded in their system. The majority of them are single target ads meant to gauge reader interest. Most of these ads are set to run for 2 days, and I have opted for higher cost ‘fulfill as quickly as possible’ campaigns. I’m expecting to pay ridiculous CPM amounts because bid wars happen. I am also expecting to have to crank bids higher because of bid wars.
Yes, I’m hiding the CPM number to stack the cards in my favor as much as possible because most of my blitz will take place over three days in August 2020, and I want to make the most of them.
I will say this much: if you are planning to do a big drive like this, shortly before you do your setup, test the waters to see what your CPM needs to be to remain competitive. Then you can better decide what your bids will be. Truth be told? Failure is always an option, and I’ve had this campaign set up for two months now.
I am expecting to have to edit 1,000 ads and slide dates a day ahead because I may have set my CPM too low. But we’ll see. (If I set my CPM too low, the money just won’t get spent, and I’ll have to try again after fixing my bid to be competitive.)
That’s the name of the game: you’ll see when you try.
Please insert me quivering in a corner because the last thing I need right now is to lose the money I earned from the last sales drive failing this one. (And yes, I absolutely DID turn around and take the profit from my previous sales drive and plan this sales drive. The goal of these is to build my readership, and that… unfortunately… takes money once you’ve reached a certain point.)
Wish me luck. I’ll need it.
This was a great blog and illuminating to me as a reader, but I think I must be a bit left field in my book buying because my criteria for buying a book by an author new to me is that their book must have a preview available for me to read. In the same way that you price your books to reflect your work and expect your readers to respect that (and I can assure you that I do) I expect in return the author to acknowledge that I need to make an informed choice to spend my money on their book. (I only buy my books from Kobo). Without a preview I can’t make that informed choice. That was how I purchased my first book of yours, which happened to be Whatever For Hire. I’ve since gone on to purchase 29 of your books and will continue to do so because I thoroughly enjoy them. So for me, all the advertising in the world would make no difference. I’m sure that I have missed some wonderful authors by doing this, but if they aren’t confident in their ability to persuade me to part with my money by allowing me to read part of their book, an advert telling me how wonderful they are (and for me, the price is irrelevant- if I want it I’ll buy it even if it isn’t on offer), just isn’t going to cut it.
The Sneaky Kitty Critic
Advertising is the art of getting a book in front of a reader, and we use these tools to get the book in front of the RIGHT reader. At some point, you found one of my books, probably through advertising of some sort. Because you hit those various boxes, you decided to look at the sample.
What’s being discussed here is all those various boxes that get readers like you *to* look at the sample.
Without advertising, chances are, you never would have discovered my books, because rankings exist even on Kobo. Because people were buying my books (as the result of advertising,) you were able to find the book on Kobo in the first place.
Advertising is what we use to get the book in front of readers. Period. Without it, we’re not discovered. Somewhere along the way, you were inevitably influenced by advertising–else you would not have found Whatever for Hire to read the sample.
That’s just how it works. Really. Promise.
But I still wouldn’t have bought it without a preview.
That’s how it works for me. Really. Promise. 🙂
The Sneaky Kitty Critic
Yes, but this isn’t discussing the actual final sales process, which is what readers do when they reach the book. That’s a whole ‘nother discussion point.
But at the end of the day, you aren’t ever going to read the sample if you can’t find the book. Advertising is what is used to make the right readers find the book.
What she’s talking about literally has nothing to do with reading a sample. She is talking about advertising, which gets books and images about books in front of readers, so they can click through TO the page selling the book, at which point they can CHOOSE to read a sample. This entire post is literally about getting readers to that page, nothing else. Samples are immaterial at this step.
This post is amazing information for authors! thank you so much for taking the time to write it up. Absolutely invaluable.
Lovely blog post and so informative. Sharing this now. Thank you for your time and efforts and being kind enough to share.
Found this very interested but what does KU stand for???””
The Sneaky Kitty Critic
Kindle Unlimited Library, Amazon’s $9.99 per month reading program.
Interesting read even if you aren’t an author. Just wanted to say what a lovely set of dice you have. DnD or other RPG?
The Sneaky Kitty Critic
I play second edition AD&D most weekends. 🙂
Having only played from 3.5 onwards, my GM husband explained to me how things work in AD&D 2 ed… So much maths – I could barely follow his explaination!
I just had a thought of how to make your books sell better. Put a picture of your cats on the cover. Whenever I am feeling overwhelmed (We are trying to open our school so that means I am feeling overwhelmed every day.), I look over my pre-ordered books to remind me that life will be good if I can just hold out till the release day. When I get to Catnapped, I always smile! It makes me so glad that I have a book coming. A good cover with an adorable critter is a great way to hook me in.
Thanks for the great information. I appreciate you sharing your knowledge, especially coming from a marketing background.