Earlier this week, we shared how two authors set up successful BookBub Ads campaigns to promote free books. Today, we’ll cover three campaigns for $0.99 or $2.99 deals. From long-running discounts to limited-time offers, BookBub Ads is a great way to get your book in front of new readers and drive sales.
Read Boosting Sales of Discounted Books with BookBub Ads [Part 1: Free Books] here.
Nana Malone, Cheeky Royal, $0.99 discount
In the months leading up to the next release of her Royals series in November 2018, Nana Malone ran a $0.99 sale on her first-in-series novel Cheeky Royal. She created a BookBub Ads campaign for her discounted book with two primary goals: to drive readers to the next-in-series release and to increase revenue for the series overall.
Nana switched up the elements she included in her creative images based on the author whose fans she was targeting and what kinds of books they write, aiming to appeal specifically to the narrow subset of readers that she reached with each target.
“If I target an author who writes more sexy brooding alpha males, I try to use sexier graphics. If the author I’m targeting writes light fun rom coms, I use lighter funny graphics. And the sale price helps. It just lowers the barrier to entry.”
Nana kept the Cheeky Royal cover image in each ad creative she tested, but otherwise made significant changes in her creative from target to target.
Nana used author targeting, testing one target for each campaign. When looking for targets, she considered her retailer also-boughts, authors with whom she’d run newsletter swaps, and bestselling authors in her genre. She had already used many of these authors as targets in previous ad campaigns — both for full-priced and discounted books — so she focused on the authors that had worked best for her in the past. She also looked at authors with similar content: authors whose novels aligned well with the tropes in Nana’s Royals series ended up being particularly strong targets for this campaign.
In some cases, an author target that she thought would be a good fit wasn’t as successful as she’d imagined they would be. When that happened, she abandoned that target and tried again with someone new: “Some targets you have just aren’t your readers, even if you think they should be.”
When testing images for each author target, Nana started with a CPM bid to determine what image was the best fit for each target’s readers. Once she’d established which image drove the most engagement, she switched to CPC bidding. In both cases, she set her bid just over the high end of the average range displayed on the ad set-up form — as long as it was within her budget!
Nana monitored her campaigns closely to make sure she never missed a drop in engagement. In her eyes, a successful ad earned back two to three times its spend per retailer. If a particular retailer link wasn’t earning back enough of her budget, she would shut it off, while letting the rest of the campaign continue; and if an entire campaign wasn’t performing as well as she was expecting, she’d turn off the whole thing.
Part of what she factored into this step was the conversion rate on each retailer. Some ads targeting readers on particular retailers would generate a lot of clicks, but relatively fewer sales; keeping a close eye on both the stats in her BookBub Ads dashboard as well as sales on retailers kept her on track for her goal of increasing revenue. One of her strongest tests specifically targeted Google Play readers (see the results of that test below!), so Nana tracked the sales that were coming in on that vendor to make sure that she was seeing her clicks convert.
Nana also watched her estimated cost per click (eCPC), although it wasn’t her primary focus when evaluating her ads. She knew that sales of discounted book one would translate into sell-through for the rest of her series:
“Since the book was $0.99 I tried to stay under $0.50. But honestly, I was willing to spend more because the series was a duet. And there was another duet right after it with the same characters in the world, so I knew I would earn it out.”
Martha Conway, The Underground River, $2.99 discount
Martha Conway decided to launch a BookBub Ads campaign to promote her novel The Underground River after it was selected as a Kindle Daily Deal for the month of July. She had already run BookBub Ads before for her book at full price. This time, Martha concentrated her campaign on her limited-time sale, and focused on driving as many raw sales as possible while the book was discounted.
When beginning her test campaigns, Martha created her own images in order to determine which elements she wanted to include in her final design. Her tests indicated that three key pieces led to the strongest performance: her book’s cover, an “On Sale” button or banner, and a mention that The Underground River had been selected as a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice. Martha aims for click-through rates of 2% and above, and this first round of tests generated CTRs between 0.90% and 2.83%.
Armed with that data about which design elements performed best, Martha hired a designer to create images that emphasized those three features. She used these final designs for the remainder of her month-long campaign and saw her CTRs consistently jump to 3% and above.
Martha opted to target primarily by author. To start off her tests, she looked at her retailer also-boughts, as well as authors whose writing style she thought was comparable to her own.
“The Underground River falls into the categories of both literary fiction and historical fiction. After experimenting with mega-huge authors like Ken Follett (CTR 2.04%), I found my sweet spot with popular authors such as Sara Gruen (CTR 4.03%), Amy Bloom (CTR 3.94%), Pam Jenoff (3.46%) and Geraldine Brooks (CTR 4.42%), all of whom write literary fiction that is set in the past — which is exactly how I would describe my fiction.”
Since The Underground River crossed genres, Martha also included category targeting in some tests. Selecting both category and author targeting limits an ad’s audience to readers who are fans of the author as well as subscribed to the category. Martha strategically combined targeting methods, such as including Historical Fiction when targeting fans of an author whose primary genre is Women’s Fiction, in order to narrow in on comparable authors’ readers who were likely to be interested in her book.
Martha spent the first week of her discount running tests to determine which images and targets drove the most engagement. She chose to use CPM bidding thanks to her experience with her previous full-priced campaigns, for which she’d found CPM bidding a more effective use of her budget. During her test week, she ran one-day campaigns with budgets between $10-20. A high CPM bid ensured that her ads won enough impressions to deliver insights in that short time frame that would be valuable moving forward.
After her week of testing, Martha selected the campaigns with the highest CTRs that generated the most clicks to continue with for the rest of her month-long discount period.
Over the course of her campaign, Martha saw her sales more than triple — achieving her goal of increasing her sales during her discount period. Here are the results from one of her best-performing campaigns:
Luke Mitchell, Red Gambit, $0.99 discount
Leading up to the release of the third book in his Harvesters series, Luke Mitchell ran a one-week $0.99 Kindle Countdown Deal on the first two books in the series, Red Gambit and Hell to Pay. Luke was new to BookBub Ads at the time, so he had two primary goals: to drum up excitement for the new release by increasing sales for the series, and to learn how to effectively generate cheap clicks on the platform.
Luke started by creating nine separate campaigns to test three creative images and three sets of targeting. After reviewing a BookBub blog post on top-performing creative images, he settled on images that included graphics from both of his books’ covers and the sale price. Though he used the campaign to advertise that both books one and two were discounted, he used the Amazon page for book one as his click-through link to draw readers into the series.
Luke tested out three kinds of targeting: first, a selection of his also-bought authors from Amazon; second, a group of authors that he thought would be a good fit based on their books’ tropes and settings (he included himself in this list); and finally, using category targeting to reach Science Fiction readers.
His also-bought authors and custom picks both generated strong results, with CTRs up to 3.86% and eCPCs as low as $0.26. Luke attributed part of the success of his custom picks to using himself as a target and reaching his own fans. His ads targeting the Science Fiction category alone performed significantly worse, with far lower CTRs than the other more narrowly-targeted ads.
Luke chose CPM bidding and set a bid above the range BookBub displayed to ensure that he would be able to win impressions and see results on each test. Each campaign started with enough budget to reach 1,000 impressions, at which point Luke would assume he had reliable enough data that he could extrapolate the CTRs he was seeing to a higher impression count.
“My initial test was whether an ad made it above 1.00% CTR. (I still think this is a decent place to start, though I ideally aim for >2.00% these days.) The winners pulled way ahead of this mark very quickly and naturally.“
Once he was able to see which campaigns were giving him click-through rates above his 1% goal, Luke began to allocate the rest of his marketing budget accordingly, adding equal amounts to each campaign that cleared the 1% line and a slightly higher amount to the campaign with the highest CTR (results below!).
Luke’s ads generated 761 total clicks over the course of the week that he ran his campaign — a number he projected to be profitable. On top of that, he gained deeper insight into how to best leverage the BookBub Ads platform for future campaigns.
Price promotions can help you achieve a number of marketing goals, including drawing attention to a new release or increasing sales and revenue. Advertising your discount with a BookBub Ads campaign can boost the exposure of your deal to make it even more effective, no matter what you’re hoping to achieve. Here are some things to keep in mind as you plan out your campaigns for discounted books:
- Consider your goals before you get started, and make sure you’re setting up your campaigns to achieve them.
- Reaching the right audience is key to driving engagement with your ad, so take time to find effective targets. Try author targeting to reach a more narrowly defined set of readers that are likely to be interested in your book.
“I’ve seen time and time again that, with a good, relevant author target, even so-so ad creative can outperform really good designs when those designs are delivered to sub-par targets. I’d recommend spending a lot more time on making sure you’re going after the right readers before you start wondering if you should be making that “Buy Now” button blue or red.” – Luke
- Start by running low-budget tests and be willing to adapt your campaigns to your test results. Learn what works and make adjustments to boost engagement before you invest more money in your ads.
“Although I feel it’s important to keep experimenting, know when a campaign isn’t working. I had a lovely quote that I stubbornly felt should generate interest, and yet time and again when I tried it, it didn’t.” – Martha
- Pay close attention to your campaigns, and be ready to adjust if you see your ad slowing down.
“Unlike other advertising platforms, you can run out of steam on a target. So you can’t just set and forget your ad.” – Nana
- Feature your sale price prominently in your image. Readers love a bargain!
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