In July I decided to find out if Facebook ads would make a difference in my sales. So in the month of August I ran ads every weekend. I didn’t pay for any other ads for the first three weeks so I could attribute increases to FB. Here’s what happened:
I increased my sales by a tad over 50% from July, and I made back the $100 I spent (so far, I’m writing this on 8/31). Sales did go up and I saw the difference immediately. For me it was mostly KDP royalties. No movement on my Nook sales until the end of the month. So much for FB ads not selling books. Still, I’m not convinced it’s worth the money. Sales didn’t shoot up dramatically. But here’s why I may continue.
I know from my traditionally published days that promotion has a cumulative effect. My efforts at branding and getting my name out the first five years after I sold paid off. After a while I didn’t have to make those calls. The opportunities came to me. It just took time. In 2000 I got a better deal from HarperCollins and some sweet royalty checks. I attribute it to my early efforts at marketing.
Now in the days of Bookbub, Kindle Daily and other venues, authors want instant big numbers. My experience leads me to favor the long tail. I may extend my FB ad experiment until the end of the year. I’m not selling a ton of books, but I’m extending my brand. And I’m not losing money. In fact I would argue that I’m extending my brand globally in a way I never could have in traditional publishing. I get to reach FB users in as many countries as I choose who listed “reading” as an interest. In January 2014 I’ll see how long the bump lasts. I won’t keep doing FB ads indefinitely, because that wouldn’t make sense to me. Unless there is a lasting cumulative effect I mean.
Here are my tips if you decide to give it a try. Some of these I learned in researching the use of FB ads before I started my project.
- Set your ads to run on weekends. I found that the advice I’d read is right. Weekday ads just don’t get the same amount of traffic. I experimented and found that Friday to early morning Monday were the best days.
- FB offers ways to advertise that cost as little as $5 for three days, these are called “Promoted Posts”. There are ranges for created ads as well. The lower the price, the fewer people they’ll expose your ad to, so look at those numbers. The good thing is FB will show you the range of how many people will most likely see your ad.
- Target your created ads by age and interests. When you go to the “Create an ad” page you’ll see what I mean. You can target your ads to people who are interested in reading/literature, and recently they’ve narrowed it down to genres such as “romance” or “mystery”. You can also target people interested in horror movies, romance, sports, etc. They might be interested in giving your book a try if it contains those elements. This is great because targeted advertising is the most effective.
- Select which countries you want your ad shown to. I missed this feature the first go round of ads I did (not paying attention!). Now I typically select US, UK, Germany, Italy, Brazil, France, Japan, Puerto Rico, Canada and Mexico. I select others based on if the number of potential views increases. I go for any country that I know has a sizeable middle or upper-class with disposable income.
- Set your budget realistically. If you can’t afford more, don’t go into debt. Try it and watch your sales numbers. But be patient. Unlike KDP select and other tools, don’t expect thousands of downloads in a few days.
- Remember that people don’t visit FB to shop. They visit FB to be social. Which is another reason I say don’t go all in and spend big because you see won’t sales that match those huge numbers FB says will see your ad.
- FB favors the visual, so use pictures! Just writing a pitch won’t be as effective. Facebook favors showing photos and graphics. You’ll get more views.
- DON’T use book covers. FB will reject photos that have more than 20% text. That means book covers. I use the stock art used for my covers before the text was added or other stock photos that fit the book.
- I found that trailers worked best for me. The ads with just photos and a link to a product buy page didn’t work nearly as well (the ads I did before this August experiment).
- People on FB tend not to want to leave FB, so external links got very little love. Remember, people are on FB to be social. That means they want to keep hanging out to post and get updates from their pals. So make sure you give them a fun experience so later they’ll go buy (while they’re still online, but done socializing!).
A quick word about trailers – keep the length to less than two minutes. I’ve read advice that says they should only be a minute long. I’ve had a tough time doing that so far! But remember you’re not trying to tell huge chunks of the story. You should whittle your pitch down to main the conflict. Also add music. Trailers with good music are way more attractive in my experience.
About the audience – if you’re going global consider that Kindle is not the number one device in most other countries. In Canada and Japan Kobo is on top. This may explain why when I stopped doing Kindle or even Nook product page links click through rates and sales bumped up.
I suggest you have a “Page” that is just about your books. You can brand a page to match your website and customize the header. That way your book posts won’t be mixed in with posts to Aunt Millie and photos of your sister’s new kitty. Looks more professional. Besides does Aunt Millie really want people in Brazil knowing she’s had surgery? I don’t think so. Anyway, back to the page. Here is a big “BUT… Put fun and interesting content that isn’t about pitching your books. If people think it’s just a page full of ads you won’t get much traffic. The main reason I did ads is because people know they what they are and choose to read more. Once they’re on my page they tend to “like” posts unrelated to my books.
Finally, “Likes” don’t equal sales. Period. The advice and articles I read turned out to be so true for me. Before I did FB ads, I got lots of likes. I started my “Page” with just over 950 “Likes”. I posted, got a few more likes. Sales went nowhere. I did those inexpensive $5 promoted posts. Got more likes. Sales continued to be stagnant. I got up to over 2,000 “Likes” and… you guessed it. Zero sales increase. It’s nice to be liked, but don’t be surprised if the love doesn’t translate to dollars.
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