Price promotions can be a super effective way to reach new readers and entice them to buy your book. While your first thought for promoting a discount may be to run a Featured Deal, BookBub Ads can also be a great tool for marketing your sale and hitting your goals for a promotion — whether you’re aiming to boost permafree downloads and hook readers into your series, pump up backlist sales before a new release, or anything in between. We talked to five authors who ran campaigns for their free and discounted ebooks on BookBub Ads, and they shared their goals, strategies, and best tips for making the most out of your ad campaigns during deals.
In Part 1, we cover ads for free books. Part 2 shares insights on running ads for $0.99 and $2.99 deals.
A.Q. Owen, I Am Eve (Free deal)
As he began composing his creative image, A.Q. focused on researching covers and artwork popular in his genre that would translate well to his own campaigns and clearly communicate his book’s genre to readers. A.Q. tested out different background graphics and ad copy to get a feel for which style would resonate better with his target audience, but kept other elements consistent in all images. In each image he tested, he included a cover image for I Am Eve, as well as a prominent banner calling out the limited-time free deal to entice readers to click.
“I run tests until I reach 1000 impressions. I change variables such as copy, button color, call to action, background image, all that. If clicks aren’t where I want them at that point, I kill the ad. I judge it purely on cost-per-click. I compare between them and whichever one is getting the cheapest clicks wins.”
A.Q. ran separate ads with the images above to the same audience and with the same bid. The image on the left performed best, generating a 7.5% click-through rate (CTR) and an effective cost-per-click (eCPC) of $0.28 compared to a 6.2% CTR and $0.34 eCPC for the image on the right.
Having never before run ads for this book, A.Q. was exploring new targeting options to find the most effective combinations that would deliver him the most new downloads via cheap clicks. He started by looking for comparable authors in his genre through retailers — both in his also-boughts for this book and the similar authors listed on his author page.
To test out his author targets, A.Q. used cost-per-thousand impression (CPM) bidding while targeting one author per ad to determine how well each individual target performed. Depending on the results, he’d increase the budget to keep reaching a strong audience or stop the campaign to reassess and improve upon it. Testing the above image on the left with different author targets resulted in CTRs ranging from 0.5% to 7.5% and eCPCs ranging from $0.24 to $1.65 (see the results of his best-performing test below!).
A.Q. chose CPM bidding as a quick way to serve ads that resulted in a low cost per click. His bid was on the high end of the average range that BookBub displays in the set-up form, which he noted was dictated by the audience that he was marketing to: “big names cost more money to serve ads to.” By setting a high bid, he ensured that his ad would start serving right away and consistently win impressions among competitive audiences.
A.Q.’s campaign lasted 4 days and generated over 500 clicks to his retailer pages across all of his tests, resulting in significantly more downloads than his daily baseline without any additional promotion.
Ty Hutchinson, Suitcase Girl, permafree deal
After running a BookBub Featured Deal for his permafree first-in-series Suitcase Girl in August, Ty Hutchinson set up a BookBub Ads campaign to keep the momentum going. His goal was to drive a high volume of downloads at the lowest possible CPC.
Ty was confident his cover art was an intriguing image that would catch readers’ eyes when they viewed his ad, so he decided to feature it prominently in his ad creative. He already had a blurb that had served him well for Facebook Ads, but due to the smaller ad size on BookBub, he had to cut the copy down in a way he didn’t feel served his book quite as well. Ty decided to revise the blurb into something shorter and snappier that better fit the space he was working with. To tie it together, he included a mention of the discount; coupled with the engaging visual and copy, “Free” was a final push to lead readers to click.
Ty tested two sets of author targets: one group of names that he selected from his retailer also-boughts, and another group of authors he’d found whose audiences he thought would be similar to his own. His test campaigns targeted one author each, and he kept his image, bid and budget consistent across all tests so that he could determine the impact that each target had on his campaigns’ performance. He cut off any ad that didn’t deliver an eCPC below $0.30. These tests revealed that his strongest targets were his retailer also-bought authors — and the authors whose audiences he thought he shared actually turned out to be the weakest!
Instead of spreading his ad spend across a variety of author targets, he selected the one author who, at the time, was delivering the highest number of clicks for the lowest eCPC and threw his full advertising budget behind that target. When that author’s audience showed signs of slowing down — such as a consistent drop in clicks day-over-day or an increasing eCPC — Ty switched to a fresh target. He noted that this strategy gave targets he’d already used a chance to revitalize:
“An ad wasn’t delivering the usual amount of clicks for the budget, clicks were starting to slow, and the CPC had climbed. I paused the ad for three weeks I think. When I started it again, clicks rebounded back to where they should be, and CPC dropped. Sometimes an ad needs a rest because of factors beyond my control: time of month, number of ads targeting that author, or whatever. Giving that author a rest pays off.”
Ty used a high CPM bid for his campaigns in order to maximize the number of readers seeing his ads. By running tests and optimizing his ads to achieve high CTRs, he was able to drive down his eCPC and increase the efficiency of his daily budget.
“The objective is to get as many people to click on the ad before I deplete my daily budget. Sometimes I killed an entire ad if the CPC for all the stores and locations were high. Sometimes I killed a store in a certain country, if the rest of the CPC were low. If I allowed a CPC of $0.50 or $0.70 or even $1.20 to continue, my budget depleted quickly. A high CPC for Amazon US, say $1.14, would screw up reaching Kobo CA with a CPC of $0.15. Maybe I’d get 25 clicks from Kobo CA before Amazon US ate up the budget. Without that high CPC, I might have gotten 50 clicks from Kobo CA, which means a higher chance of people downloading, and actually reading the book. It’s a numbers game.”
Ty’s campaign was a success: it propped up the downloads that started with his Featured Deal, generating over 22,000 clicks across all of his tests. September was his best month ever as a self published author. The key was recognizing when he’d hit a sweet spot:
“When I have an ad that’s working, and downloads are high and sales are great and the algorithms at Amazon, iBooks, Nook, Kobo, and Google Play are working in my favor, I know to open up the wallet and let it flow.”
These were the results of his strongest campaign over the course of his advertising period, which racked up more than half of his total clicks:
BookBub Ads offer a great way to promote a free deal, whether you’re pushing a limited-time sale or trying to draw readers in with a permafree book. No matter the length of your discount, here are some things to keep in mind as you plan ad campaigns for free books:
- Consider your goals before you get started, and make sure you’re setting up your campaigns to achieve them.
- Run tests, and use those results to optimize your campaigns. Find an audience that’s engaging with your content, optimize your ad image to be attractive to those readers, and try out different bids to get your ad serving as effectively as possible.
- Free books can be a great way to hook new readers, and targeting fans of authors whose books are similar to yours can help you tap into new audiences that are likely to be interested in your work. Try looking at your also-bought authors on your retailer pages, and check out some successful advertisers’ other tips for choosing who to target.
- Feature “Free” in your creative image — readers love a bargain, and they should be able to tell at a glance that they’re getting a steal!
- Monitoring the ROI of campaigns for a free book can be tricky since you’re not earning revenue off your downloads, so keep a close eye on your sell-through rates to other books to determine your returns. Our free bid calculator can help you calculate what you’re earning back from your ad campaigns.
- Start running ads after a Featured Deal to capitalize on the momentum and keep up a high volume of downloads.
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