In 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, author Krysten Harlow talks about using ads to support her first foray into a new genre with the launch of an epic fantasy series.
Check out the other posts in this series to learn how first-time advertisers…
Preparing to advertise
Krysten released The Exiled, the first book in a new fantasy series, in March 2021. After extensive research into her advertising options, she set up 30 BookBub Ads campaigns during release week.
“BookBub Ads is the most user friendly of the three big advertising platforms (Amazon, Facebook, and BookBub). I’ve heard that BookBub Ads, if implemented correctly, can lead to the greatest converting traffic.
I read David Gaughran’s outstanding book on BookBub Ads, and attended Mark Dawson’s comprehensive course on all things to do with book marketing before attempting ads myself. My goal for a successful campaign was to achieve a high click-through rate (CTR), and to use cost per thousand impressions (CPM) bidding, which can get more bang for your buck than cost-per-click (CPC) if the ad is optimized.”
On her first day of advertising, Krysten created 18 campaigns. Each one used the same ad image, but different targeting. After the first day, she also tested out different taglines in her image.
Designing ad images
“I’m a big fan of Book Brush to make images. I tested them against professionally done ones and found that mine actually won! The background art of the book cover seems to perform very well as the backdrop (versus a custom-made background) — but nothing is set in stone, so always test (use the exact same targeting, and change only the image). I would recommend a clear offer, i.e. NEW, $0.99, FREE etc. This should stand out from the rest of the imagery.”
Choosing ad targeting
“Testing is king. I start off by selecting similar authors that I think will be a good fit and I combine it with my genre — in this case, Fantasy. Initially, I used good targets on Amazon ads for BookBub — but I was prepared for the results to differ and some did. These targets were gleaned from checking top sellers in the subcategories of my genre, Also Boughts, and BookBub’s own search function. I found that the sweet spot was usually 1,000–25,000 readers (for the smaller ones that didn’t have enough readers to be in standalone campaigns, I bunched them together into one campaign).
I then set up individual campaigns for each author or group with a low budget. Each target that achieves more than 2 percent CTR is added to the ‘winner’s circle’ and combined into one mega campaign.”
Setting bids and budgets
Krysten started with a budget of $5 for her author target test campaigns and $20 for her “mega campaign” of winning targets.
“If the mega campaign continues to sustain a CTR of above 2% I continue to add budget to it.
For bids, I would recommend something higher than the average during the testing phase, so that you can get data and impressions fast. For example, if the CPM bid range BookBub displays in the ad form is $8–$15, I would set it as $17+.”
Analyzing campaign results
Krysten relies on CTR and conversion rates to measure the success of her campaigns, using a CTR threshold of 2 percent to determine which campaigns she should continue running and adding additional budget to.
“I use affiliate codes to determine the number of conversions — that way, I know exactly which sales have come from the BookBub Ads campaign itself. The only downside is it takes 2–3 days to get the data needed, so you will be flying blind at the beginning. But as long as CTR is solid, it won’t be an issue. The other issue is determining the number of Kindle Unlimited page reads that have resulted from the campaign as this cannot be directly attributed — but as a benchmark, I’ll compare the page reads before the campaign goes live, and after the dust has settled.”
Editor’s note: You’re welcome to use your own affiliate codes in the click-through URLs of your BookBub Ads campaigns (as long as you comply with each retailer’s terms of service!).
Krysten spent $255 on her release week ad campaigns, driving over 21,000 impressions and 239 clicks between 30 separate campaigns. Her highest CTR among the release week campaigns was 2.7%.
“Despite doing my research, the results were still astounding, as I never imagined the CTR to be so good!”
After the success of this first round of campaigns, Krysten created three new campaigns in June to promote her Chronicles of Lethia series, including a free deal on book one and the launch of book two. Her most effective ad promoted both books and combined the compelling offers of “free” and “new”. She used 10 author targets plus Fantasy category targeting, driving an incredible 8% CTR and over 1,500 clicks:
Advice for other advertisers
Krysten’s advice for other advertisers running BookBub Ads for the first time focuses on the importance of the testing process to gain key insights for future campaigns.
“Start with a small budget per campaign and keep testing continuously. Do not be afraid to ‘go into the red’ with the tests, because the data collected is valuable. This will help to execute even stronger future launches as you will already have a core group to target.”
What other advice would you share with newer advertisers launching a new series? Share your own tips and experiences in the comments!
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