Running online advertising campaigns can be challenging! Between finding the right target audience, optimizing your creative, and perfecting your budgeting, bidding, and pacing strategies, there are a ton of decisions to be made and many different elements to tweak and test. However, online ads also allow for some of the most sophisticated and efficient marketing available, so it’s worth the time and effort to figure out how to make them work for you and your books!
The BookBub Ads platform allows any author or marketer to promote books directly to BookBub’s audience of power readers at any time. Ads appear in a dedicated space at the bottom of BookBub’s daily emails, which reach over 10 million readers across five countries every day. 94% of our members use BookBub to find new books to purchase, so they’re an eager audience of active book-buyers for you to reach. Our self-serve ad platform gives you total control over every element of your campaigns and the flexibility to achieve a number of different marketing goals, no matter your budget.
A big part of successful advertising is learning from your mistakes — what worked, and what didn’t? Each ad that doesn’t hit the mark is a learning opportunity that can help you figure out how to create more engaging, better-targeted, or more cost-effective campaigns in the future. To help you optimize your own ad campaigns, we’re here to share some of the most common mistakes we see on the BookBub Ads platform, and how to fix them!
1. Targeting too broadly
We’ve discussed the importance of granular targeting before, and it really can’t be said enough — the most effective way to run ads with a positive ROI is to reach only the readers who are most likely to purchase your book.
There are four ways you can target readers with BookBub Ads:
Region. BookBub readers are based in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and India.
Retailer preference. When readers sign up to BookBub, they let us know which retailers they use to purchase ebooks. When you add a retailer URL as a click-through link for your ad, we’ll automatically show it to only the readers who use that retailer to buy books. You can target your ads to readers on Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo, or Google Play.
Author interest. Refining your ads by author interest allows you to reach any reader who follows an author or has clicked on one of their books in a BookBub email or on our website. You can target fans of similar authors, fans of popular authors in your book’s genre, or even your own fans!
Book category. When readers join BookBub, they sign up to certain categories, and you can target your ads to reach all readers subscribed to a particular category.
One of the biggest mistakes we see advertisers make is targeting their ad by book category alone and expecting to see a positive ROI. We’ve found that author targeting is much more effective than category targeting for reaching a narrow audience of readers who are more likely to be interested in the book you’re advertising. Many advertisers look at the authors who appear in their “also boughts” on retailers or browse BookBub’s popular authors by genre to find authors who write similar types of books. You can read more about the strategies some successful advertisers have used to choose which authors to target here.
A caveat: If your goal is to maximize the number of readers who see your ad rather than the number of readers who purchase your book, then broad targeting can make a lot of sense! Your goals should inform how you set up your ads, so make sure you know what you’re trying to accomplish with each campaign.
2. Forgetting about other regions and retailers
BookBub Ads offer authors the unparalleled ability to target readers in particular regions and retailers — if you want, you can reach only Kobo readers in Canada, or iBooks readers in Australia. However, many of the ads we see are only targeted to Amazon US readers. Since this segment of readers is targeted so frequently, it’s a much more competitive audience to reach, which means getting your ad in front of them can be more costly.
If you distribute your books to multiple retailers, make sure you include all of them in your ad campaigns! And if your books are exclusive to Amazon, don’t forget to include Amazon readers in non-US regions. We split up reporting by retailer and by region, which makes it easy to include multiple audience segments in a single campaign and track the results for each. For greater control over how much you spend in each region or on each retailer, you can also “copy” a campaign to create different versions.
3. Unprofessional ad images
Your ads should always look professional, whether you’re creating the ads yourself or working with a professional designer. A sloppy, blurry, or cluttered ad is unlikely to entice readers to give your book a chance.
Ad creative should have clear icons, graphics, fonts, and images, and the copy should be easy to read and free of typos. There are a number of free tools you can use to design your own eye-catching ads, including Canva, Book Brush, and RelayThat. Well-designed custom images tend to consistently be effective for driving reader engagement, but BookBub also has an easy-to-use creative builder right in the BookBub Ads setup form — just upload your book cover (or add your book at the top of the page to pull the cover in automatically!) and enter the text you want in your ad. The creative builder is a fast and easy option that advertisers can take advantage of, particularly for testing out different blurbs.
One of the most important things your image should accomplish is conveying the genre, tone, and mood of your book to potential readers. For inspiration, you can see some examples of engaging ad creative here.
4. Overly vague or wordy copy
You only have a small amount of space to convince a reader to click on your ad, so use it wisely! Your ad should include a short and snappy blurb crafted to capture readers’ attention, spark curiosity, and offer them a clear incentive to click and learn more.
A deal or a discount is one type of incentive that consistently drives clicks, so if the book you’re promoting is discounted, it’s worth including the deal price in the ad design. Other eye-catching copy can include a quote from an author the reader already loves or a plot they can’t resist. What classic genre tropes are in your book? What other books, TV shows, or movies is your book similar to? What’s the central conflict, or what challenge does your protagonist face? What will the reader learn from your book? Try to put yourself in your ideal reader’s shoes and think about what they would find most enticing.
While you should try to be specific in your ad copy about why readers will enjoy your book, it’s also important to remember that the goal of your ad is primarily to hook readers, not to tell them everything about your book! Once they click, you have your entire book page and description to convince them to purchase, so don’t overload your ad with too much information.
It’s tough to give specific advice on ad copy since it’s so dependent on both the particular book you’re promoting and the particular audience you’re targeting, but you can find some general tips on crafting engaging marketing copy here and some additional examples of ads with effective copy here.
5. Not bothering to run any test campaigns
Testing and iterating is essential to running successful ad campaigns. We’ve seen many advertisers set up a single campaign, let it run out their budget, and then call it quits if they were unhappy with the results. However, it’s unlikely that you’ll hit the perfect combination of audience targeting, message, and ad image on the first try. In order to optimize all of your campaign elements, you have to run tests to determine what works best for your books.
We have a couple excellent case studies on our blog from authors who tested elements of their campaigns before ramping up their spends. CD Reiss ran tests to identify the best authors to target for the first book in a duet in the months leading up book two’s release. When book two launched, she already had a list of authors to target that she knew would be effective. Jules Barnard tested her ad copy and design for a book during the preorder period so she could increase spend on the creative that worked best during release week.
We recommend starting with low-budget A/B tests — $10-$20 can be enough to see results! — to test one campaign element at a time. Some things you might consider testing in your own campaigns include:
- Targeting one author’s fans at a time to compare results between audiences
- Different blurbs, including quotes from authors, quotes from reader reviews, excerpts from your book description, or other copy
- Including the book cover in the ad image
- Including the book’s price in the ad image
- Fonts, colors, and layouts
6. Thinking inside the box
When people think of BookBub, they usually think of discounts. Many partners have had success promoting limited-time discounts with BookBub Ads, but there are other creative ways to use this tool, too! Here are a few ideas:
Drive long-term exposure. BookBub Ads have no timing limitations or restrictions, so one strategy we’ve seen be successful is running long-term continuous campaigns with set daily budgets (sometimes just $5!) for permafree first-in-series or KU books. These kind of campaigns can increase exposure and consistently bring in new readers.
Drive follow-on sales. 74% of BookBub readers purchase full-priced books in addition to deals, and one of the main reasons we launched BookBub Ads was to give our partners a more flexible marketing tool that could be used to promote a wider range of books. For instance, you can use BookBub Ads to drive follow-on sales of later books in a series after a Featured Deal for a first-in-series. If you target your own fans, you’ll reach not only your followers, but any readers who have clicked on one of your books, including those who clicked on your Featured Deal for book one — this makes BookBub Ads an excellent tool for retargeting readers.
A/B test cover designs. One of the most creative campaigns we’ve seen used BookBub Ads to A/B test new cover designs. Tricia O’Malley ran a series of ads to test new covers for her books. She compared the click-through rates among both her existing fans and the fans of comparable authors to determine which cover designs would be most engaging.
As long as you’re promoting a book and following our policies, you’re free to be as creative as you like!
7. Going it alone
Many authors don’t realize that there is a friendly and knowledgeable support team at BookBub who can help them out with their ad campaigns (or anything else!). If you email our partners team at firstname.lastname@example.org, one of our reps will be happy to offer advice and guidance, answer any questions you have about setting up BookBub Ads, or even take a look at your campaigns and provide feedback. We want to help you run effective ads, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us!
What are some tips you’ve learned from running your own ads? Share your own mistakes and insights in the comments!