After creating 1,144 BookBub Ads over the last six years, I’ve learned that surgically precise targeting and a low-priced first book are the two most important factors in my ads’ success. And I’ve learned when to scale my campaigns up and down to see consistent daily sales.
If you’re thinking, “I tried BookBub Ads once and spent $20 on one book sale,” rest assured, I made the same mistakes. Maybe you targeted your ads by category only; or you intersected authors and genre, but didn’t mention those authors in your ad copy. Maybe the price of your advertised book was too high. In this post, I’ll share how I used BookBub Ads to gain steady sales as I continued to build my series.
The benefit of BookBub Ads
Seven years ago, I started using Amazon ads to sell my epic fantasy novel A Facet for the Gem, the first and only in a now-complete four-book series. My sales soared, and I suspected I was about to begin the life I deserved as a full-time writer. I was actually about to learn a very harsh but essential lesson. The gratification from selling my one and only book made me ignore what I was spending to achieve that, until I couldn’t spend any more.
Because my book was new and selling well, Amazon’s algorithm seemed to push it toward customers for a month after I’d dialed back my ads. Seeing a new wave of sales with little investment on my end, I celebrated again, until those sales fizzled. The Almighty Algorithm, it appeared, had marooned me to navigate the crushing tides of Amazon’s marketplace.
Then, like a nearby rescue ship, a BookBub Featured Deal filled me with hope. After relentlessly vying for that day of promotional paradise, I got it in 2017. Priced at $0.99 across all bookstores, A Facet for the Gem (The Tale of Eaglefriend, Book One) sold over 1,300 units in 36 hours.
However, the key to lasting success with that holy grail of book promotions is to have sequels that readers buy at full price, which I didn’t at that time. So once again, just like when Amazon’s algorithm steered me into rich waters, I uneasily wondered: How long can this good fortune last while I’m at the mercy of forces beyond my power? The time to celebrate is when I’m in control of my own destiny, seeing consistent daily sales from campaigns I maintain.
BookBub Ads appealed to me because potential readers who see my ads are not as “cold” as those surfing Amazon or Facebook. Every BookBub subscriber is looking specifically for book deals in genres they enjoy, and that’s exactly what I’ve been giving them with all four of the books in my series published so far.
So far, I’ve used BookBub Ads to score around twenty conversions per day on the first book in my series, and 20% of my BookBub readers buy all four books in one click. This chart shows my KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) sales of all four books from April 29th to July 26th. Notice the drop when I relied only on Facebook ads, and when I paused my BookBub Ad on July 23rd. I was exclusive to Amazon (for Kindle Unlimited) this whole time.
Based on my experience, I can offer the following tips.
Optimize for low-cost clicks
With BookBub Ads, you have two options to choose from to bid for ad space in BookBub’s daily emails: cost-per-thousand-impressions (CPM) or cost-per-click (CPC). Try both, until you find the approach that gives you the most clicks at the lowest cost.
CPM means you bid for every 1,000 people who see your ad. If your image and pitch don’t appeal to that audience, you end up paying a lot for nothing but impressions — thousands of people who see your ad but don’t click.
With CPC, you pay for clicks, meaning you might understandably try to bid under $0.30 for a $0.99 book. I found this leads to a useless, low number of clicks.
Testing both methods, I targeted fans of authors whose works are comparable to mine. With CPM, I got thousands of clicks for cheap because my image, ad pitch, and targeting were a great match. I sold hundreds of copies of my first book (usually priced at $0.99) until it seemed I’d saturated those audiences — more on this later.
This screenshot shows my two ads with the most clicks. Archived is a CPM ad that targeted fans of Anne McCaffrey. BookBub Ads allows you to target authors as well as specific genres, and I test just one author at first. I felt strongly that McCaffrey’s readers would enjoy my epic fantasy series, The Tale of Eaglefriend: Set in a world of eagle-riding knights, at its heart is the friendship between a young hero and the giant bird of prey whose loyalty no other man could win. Nearly 8,000 clicks averaging $0.29, hundreds of sales, and positive reviews proved me right.
Live with over 10,000 clicks averaging $0.39 is a CPC ad, the only BookBub Ad I run anymore. Now that my four-book series is complete, I can tolerate a higher cost per click thanks to readers who buy the entire collection. This ad targets six comparable authors for an audience that usually provides 100-200 clicks per day. A $0.55 CPC bid currently costs me between $0.40-0.45 per click, with one new customer conversion in every 10 clicks. Occasionally a bid I’ve used for months brings a huge number of clicks with a poor conversion rate, so I lower the bid for a healthier ratio.
As for making sure my image and ad pitch appeal to my target audience, I explicitly name the author I’m targeting in my copy. Here’s the ad targeting Anne McCaffrey’s readers:
These are successful ad images (omitting the text that varies from ad to ad) I’ve constructed with the free tools at Canva using art from my stunning book covers from Damonza’s designers (on the left) and from scenes I’ve illustrated using the AI art program Midjourney (on the right). Each ad’s upper box contains a written appeal to fans of the author(s) I’ve targeted, while the lower strip has a call to action like, “Grab Books 1, 2, 3 & 4 Now!”
Offer a steep discount to encourage sell-through
I’ve found BookBub Ads work best for promoting heavily discounted books. It’s exciting to sell 5-10 copies of your advertised book priced at $2.99 or higher, but in my experience, the amount of clicks (and money) this requires can sell 15-20 $0.99 books per day. And when you have sequels for readers to purchase, it’s more valuable to bring more readers to your series.
When I was learning how to utilize the audiences BookBub Ads provides, on some days I sold 35-50 copies of my first book at $0.99. I only wish the sequels had been available back then like they are now. These days, pricing books one AND two at $0.99 brings the best sell-through for my series, with books three and four at $3.99 and $4.99, respectively. With this pricing model, about 40 percent of my book one buyers grab book two, and 20 percent of book one buyers grab the whole series in one click.
Manage your ad costs for sustainable growth
Earlier I mentioned the gratification problem of pursuing sales at all costs. When you start bargaining with yourself—Oh, just another couple days rising through the Amazon Bestseller ranks, and the algorithm may finally kick in and sell my books like it did years ago. People spend money on vacations and luxuries all the time. Advertising my books and expanding my fanbase is a much more worthwhile expenditure that will pay major dividends in the long run — you may want to reassess your investment.
When readers buy my work, they’re receiving a beacon that transmits the very best of my heart, soul, and intellect. It was an intoxicating high before I was diagnosed with cancer at 29, and it became even more addicting during months of chemo. Brain tumor radiation and difficult medical complications couldn’t stop me from finishing the final chapters of book two, and my urgency to reveal the fullness of my characters drove me to finish books three and four by age 33. I’ve been clear of cancer for close to three years now, but I continue to experience long-term side effects of the treatment and medications, including occasional seizures. So, naturally, what do I do when this tangled medical web gets too sticky? I look to sell a bunch of books. The positive feedback from those who find my creations worthy of their attention is a kind of medicine.
But, that medicine is expensive, even with my techniques to gain one new reader with every 10 BookBub Ad clicks. This strategy won’t be economically sustainable for me until I have two to three more books to sell in my series. While I write those new books, and can’t always afford the big bursts of sales I get from BookBub Ads, I prefer to find a happy medium rather than let my sales stagnate.
Scaling back to Facebook ads is one method I use to pull back from the hardcore rush of hourly sales from BookBub. Those BookBub sales almost always bring several purchases of my entire series per day, but I can settle for smaller doses of that gratification when Facebook delivers a few sales plus a connection to wonderful people:
Keep testing new targets to grow your audience
BookBub Ads author targeting allows you to reach any reader who follows the author — or has clicked on one of their books — on BookBub.com. Those readers are automatically added to the author’s BookBub Ads audience, some of which are tens of thousands of readers strong.
40,000 people have not obtained my book through BookBub… yet. That number must reflect the clicks my ads have accumulated. Mr. Rothfuss is a household name, and while his 92,000 BookBub readers would respond hungrily to an ad associated with him, a BookBub Ad targeting his readers with “the hot new C. L. Murray title” gets hardly any action, because people don’t recognize that name… yet. But when I target only myself using ad images with messages like “for fans of Patrick Rothfuss”, I get some of the best results I’ve seen. So why do I target fans of other, more popular authors rather than just target “C. L. Murray’s 40,000 readers”?
These ads targeting myself reach readers who aren’t as “cold” as others because they remember seeing my books before, and sometimes it takes a couple of clicks to convert them. But if clicks are the fuel of my well-oiled bookselling machine, how far can I expect to get with just 40,000 readers? If my educated theory is correct, there are still hundreds, maybe thousands of barrels out there for me to collect (sorry if the pun is a bit… crude).
At the writing of this post, Anne McCaffrey has over 181,000 readers in her BookBub Ads audience. It didn’t take me very long to exhaust that much larger audience, even changing my ads’ graphics, bid, and pitch periodically. So it’s important to continually test new author targets as well as fine-tune my pitch to those audiences in order to keep growing my own audience.
I’m writing more books and finding more authors whose BookBub readers I can successfully target while narrowing down a bidding “sweet spot.” As I continue to garner thousands of clicks, we’ll see how high above 40,000 my number of “BookBub readers” climbs. After these six years, I don’t see myself running out of the resources and consistency BookBub Ads provides. If that day ever comes, C. L. Murray might just be a household name with over 100,000 enthused readers — a large enough audience to fall back on as I continue my series.
The views and opinions expressed in this guest post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of BookBub.
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Click to tweet: Use BookBub Ads to boost series sales by:
👆 Optimizing for low-cost clicks
🤑 Offering a steep discount
👥 Testing author targets to grow your audience
@AuthorCLMurray explains this strategy and shares his results: https://bit.ly/3EU2Nod
Click to tweet: .@AuthorCLMurray shares the strategy he uses to skyrocket series sales using low-cost BookBub Ads 🚀 https://bit.ly/3EU2Nod