Over the past few years, advertising via BookBub Ads and other display ad platforms has become an increasingly important part of many authors’ book marketing plans, but getting started with ad campaigns can be a daunting experience.
To help guide authors who are dipping their toes into digital advertising for the first time, we interviewed four authors who created their very first BookBub Ads campaigns earlier this year. We’re sharing their experiences in a four-part series where they each discuss why they decided to start running BookBub Ads, what resources they used to set themselves up for success, how they set up their first campaigns, and everything they learned along the way!
In this post, cozy mystery author Sophie Brent — who also writes traditionally published romance and self-published nonfiction guides for writers under the name Nina Harrington — shares the lessons she learned about running ads to establish an audience for this new pen name.
Check out the other posts in this series to learn how first-time advertisers…
[If you’re brand-new to BookBub Ads or display advertising, we recommend you start with our tutorial to learn the basics of the platform and advertising terminology.]
Preparing to advertise
Sophie began ad campaigns for her cozy mystery Dead Pairs with Red — the first book under a new pen name — in the days leading up to its March 2021 release date.
“BookBub Ads are a unique opportunity to share my work with readers worldwide, including those who prefer to buy books outside of the Amazon online bookstore. And I understand the power of having an ad delivered directly into the inbox of my ideal target audience.
I had read widely about the BookBub Ads system. BookBub Partners Blog posts were a brilliant resource, especially these three posts. I also purchased the book by David Gaughran and watched online videos and training. I deliberately set myself two goals:
- To alert readers that my book existed in a crowded marketplace, building awareness for my author brand and my niche.
- To drive sales for this first book in a new series.
My expectations were low. I used a new pen name for this series and as a result, I do not have an established readership who are looking out for my author brand. I really was starting out from nothing, so I did not expect a high conversion rate.”
Sophie executed a rigorous series of test campaigns to identify the ad images, author targets, and regions that would deliver the best results for her books.
Designing ad images
“I took screenshots of ads that came in my daily BookBub email that caught my eye and made me want to click through to find out more. I did a lot of testing of ad images, using Canva and occasionally Book Brush to design all of the images for my ad campaigns. There were five factors that I wanted to capture on the ad image:
- The book cover.
- The discounted launch price of $0.99.
- The fact that this is a new cozy series.
- A colored fun background or a plain one that made the book stand out.
- A reference in the text to something that a reader of this genre will know about. In my case, it was a TV show like Midsomer Murders or popular authors such as Joanne Fluke in the US, and Agatha Frost and Steve Higgs in the UK. This wording promised the reader that my book will deliver the same kind of emotional experience as this show or book they are familiar with.”
Choosing ad targeting
“For the test campaigns, I targeted the Cozy Mysteries category and seven authors whose books have the same fun, witty style as mine and are commercially successful on the Amazon bestseller charts for cozy mysteries in the US and UK. All of my test ads included click-through links to Amazon US, UK, and Canada.”
As a reminder, this means the audience of readers who were eligible to see her ads had to be fans of at least one of those seven authors and subscribed to Cozy Mysteries on BookBub.
Setting bids and budgets
“For my test ads, I set up continuous campaigns with a budget of $10 a day for each advert design. I went for a CPC bid of $0.50, which I thought was large enough to get traction.
After the tests, I set up continuous campaigns with a budget of $60 a day in the US and Canada. In the UK, I set up two ads: one continuous campaign with a budget of $50 a day, and a four-day campaign for the launch week with a total of $150. Since my goal was to drive sales, I went for a CPC bid of $1.00 for all of the final campaign ads to ensure that they are as competitive as possible.”
Analyzing campaign results
After a few rounds of tests, Sophie split up her campaigns by region, focusing on the UK separately from the North American markets. For each set of regions, she used her top-performing author targets with high retailer rankings in her genre in those particular markets.
“I tracked the results of each campaign using an Excel spreadsheet. The goal was to determine which advert led to the most unique impressions, unique click-through to the Amazon book page, and the highest CTR. I also looked at the Stats by Author data in the ads details in the Dashboard to determine which authors were generating the most clicks, and turned off the other authors. Tracking the data meant that I could pause the ads that were not generating clicks after 48 hours and work on optimizing the design and layouts.”
Sophie won 13,800 impressions and generated 120 clicks in total in the first half of March, spending $65 across 12 campaigns. Here are the results from her highest CTR campaign, which targeted two authors plus Cozy Mystery category subscribers in the UK:
“My first campaign was to support the launch of the first book in a new mystery series. In retrospect this was not ideal, since reviewers were very slow to review the ARCs I had sent out several weeks earlier, and the ad sent browsers to book pages without reviews. Going forward, I plan to use BookBub Ads to boost sales of books with existing reviews and an established ranking.”
Advice for other advertisers
Sophie’s advice for other advertisers reflects the lessons she learned from this experience and the approach she plans to take with her future campaigns.
“Set your expectations before running BookBub ads. I write both fiction and nonfiction, and the results can be very genre-dependent.
Leverage the power of BookBub to reach an international audience that prefers to use non-Amazon ebook readers or apps. I plan to create Kobo-specific campaigns in markets such as Canada and Barnes & Noble in the US.
Wait until you have reviews. Unless you are an established author, I would wait until the book has at least 10 good reviews before running an ad campaign. This level of social proof could be the deciding factor in converting a browser to a buyer. Combine this with a great discount to create a compelling offer. This can mean waiting a few weeks post-launch.
Promote a series. If you have a series of linked books with an established readership, promoting the first book in the series is a winning strategy. If you are wide, drop the price down to $0.99 on all platforms and invest a large budget in promoting the first book. If you are Amazon-only, use a three-freesop-days promo in Kindle Select to offer the first book for free — and link to book 2 in the back pages of book 1. The income will then be generated in page reads or read-through for the next books in the series.”
What other advice would you share with newer advertisers promoting a new pen name? Share your own tips and experiences in the comments!
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