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 Lena Alison Knight describes how she approached her first ad campaigns for the release of her debut novel.
Check out the other posts in this series to learn how first-time advertisers
Preparing to advertise
Lena published The Stars Within, a space opera and the first book in a planned trilogy, in January 2021. She began her very first BookBub Ads campaigns on release day.
“I was familiar with BookBub as the gold standard in promotions for Featured Deals. I knew a Featured Deal wasn’t realistic for my just-published debut book, but BookBub Ads seemed like a good opportunity to still get in front of an audience that’s very engaged with books.
I made extensive use of the BookBub Partners Blog, the FAQ, and the tool overviews when I was planning out my first campaigns. In particular, the examples of top-performing ads were extremely helpful as a place to start.
My initial campaigns were all about learning (well, and I wanted to sell books, obviously). My day job is in marketing (though not handling paid ads directly), so I wasn’t totally starting from zero, but I still had to experiment a bit to figure out my targeting and what kind of ad creative would resonate. Even if a campaign was a complete failure from the click-through rate (CTR) or conversion perspective, it helped me learn what didn’t work. That helped me refine my approach to future campaigns.”
Lena created four campaigns on launch day scheduled to run from the end of January to the end of February. Over the course of that first month after release, she set up 20 campaigns in total.
Designing ad images
“For the ad image, I looked at all the examples I could find of ads that had performed well, which gave me an idea of the kind of layouts that were successful. I also knew I wanted to heavily feature the cover (which, let’s be real, is probably a bigger draw than the ad copy anyway).”
Choosing ad targeting
“Initially I did a terrible job on my targeting. I chose three rather famous authors whose work I thought matched the general theme and feel of mine. But this was not at all apparent to the reader. The genres were not the same, and the covers were miles apart. Unsurprisingly, my very first campaigns did not work at all. At that point I was like, wait, I know better than this. I’m not centering the customer here, this connection only makes sense to me. Once I put my marketer hat on instead of my author hat, it got a lot easier.
I searched Amazon for keywords similar to mine. A whole new set of authors popped up, and targeting their readers was much more successful. I’ve been experimenting on that method ever since, and slowly building my best targeting list. Sometimes authors who seem like they ‘should’ be a good targeting fit just aren’t effective at all, and others perform way above my expectations. The only way to find out is to try.”
Setting bids and budgets
Lena used CPC bids on the high end of our suggested range, with overall campaign budgets ranging from $15 to $30.
Analyzing campaign results
One of the most important parts of running successful ads is reacting to the results and adjusting your campaigns as you go. Lena paid attention to the stats for each of her author targets to determine which were and weren’t working.
“Digging into the stats on an early campaign, I saw that the overwhelming majority of my impressions were going to the author whose work was least obviously matched with mine… which was also a lesson in grouping my authors, since her huge audience meant that the CTR was getting dragged down before anyone from the better-matched authors’ smaller audiences even saw the ad. So I did a new version dropping that one author, which did better.”
To assess whether her campaigns were successful, she relied primarily on CTR and her retailer rankings.
“To an extent the results will always be a black box, and that’s just the nature of display ads. You don’t actually know which clicks converted to sales and which didn’t, and with Kindle Unlimited (KU), it’s not obvious if someone borrowed the book or not. I try to look at overall sales ranking changes during the ad period, since this is the best proxy I’ve got for KU downloads.”
In her first month of advertising, Lena won over 33,000 impressions and drove 81 clicks across all 20 campaigns, spending $87 in total. To date, she has created over 60 ad campaigns, both to continue introducing readers to The Stars Within and to launch the next two books in the trilogy. Here are the results from her top-performing ad so far:
“I’ve been running campaigns pretty regularly since my series launched earlier this year, and I plan to keep up with that at regular intervals. In particular I plan to test out some new audiences later this summer, possibly alongside a sale.”
Advice for other advertisers
Here are the top tips Lena would share with other advertisers starting out with BookBub Ads for the first time.
“Center your audience. Think about your ad from their perspective. What do they see when they see your cover? What are they looking for, and how does your book deliver it? My early mistake was not asking these questions.
Test, test, test. Don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t work out the first time (or the first several times). Look at it as learning more about what is and isn’t successful.”
What other advice would you share with newer advertisers promoting a debut novel? Share your own tips and experiences in the comments!
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