For many advertisers, choosing author targets is one of the trickiest parts of running effective BookBub Ads campaigns. Unlike other ad platforms that have a limited number of authors available to target, BookBub Ads lets you reach the fans of any author with a following on BookBub, which means you have a lot of targets to choose from!
Author R.J. Blain has developed a rigorous process for testing BookBub Ads author targets to identify the best ones for her books. Back in October, she tested 64 individual author targets for a limited-time $0.99 deal on Hoofin’ It, the second book in a series of magical romantic comedies. During the 10 days the book was discounted, she served over 1.2 million ad impressions, garnered over 10,000 clicks, and sold an estimated 2,400 copies. And when she used the top performing targets to promote a new release in the series in May, it hit the USA Today bestseller list. Here’s how she did it!
Hoofin’ It was selected for a Featured Deal in our Supernatural Suspense category on October 22. This title is usually priced at $5.99, so R.J. used the $0.99 discount as an opportunity to test out new author targets for this title and this series. She was willing to lose some money on the test campaigns if she learned things that would improve her ads and set her up for success in the long run.
I wanted to see what reader behavior was like in October, try new-to-me targets, get a feel for general performance, and test new tools like the Related Authors suggestions. Additionally, I wanted to fluff my own audience for more efficient marketing later on, so when I do release a book, the audience is warmed and I spend less money for better results.
I ultimately get better advertising on a warmer audience. The general rule of branding is it takes people 18–20 times to become ‘comfortable’ with something due to exposure to it. So, by using an off-the-wall ad with a very limited audience, my self-target becomes a hive of people who are interested in what I have to sell. They’ll click more often AND buy more often.
When selecting author targets to test, R.J. looked for supernatural suspense, paranormal romance, and urban fantasy authors with sufficient audience sizes. Her goal was to find individual authors to target with each campaign, but if a promising author didn’t have a large enough audience on their own, she’d group a few together to bulk up the reach.
Anything below 5k tends to be too small and won’t give good results alone. Ideally, I’ll have a healthy group size of around 25k. That gets delivery.
Even more important than audience size was whether the author wrote similar content. She investigated each potential target to identify signals that suggested their audience would like her books as well. Some of the things R.J. considered when evaluating authors in her genre included:
- Do the tropes, tone, and mood of their books match hers?
- Would their readers be open to trying a self-published author?
- Would their readers like a quirky story, and be receptive to her style of humor?
I need to reach people who are open to self-published authors since I self-pub, but I also need it to be from the pool of traditional authors because my books are not in Kindle Unlimited. It’s a very difficult wire to walk in a lot of ways.
To identify authors, R.J. puts herself in the headspace of her ideal reader. She spends a lot of time reading books in her genre and browsing retailers and sites like BookBub and Goodreads that readers typically use to discover books and authors. For this batch of tests, she also tried out the “Related Authors” suggestions in the BookBub Ads form. One of her test campaigns included three new author targets who had overlapping audiences with an author R.J. had successfully targeted with books in this series in the past.
The Related Authors tool wasn’t something I’d used much, and Sarah Noffke writes quirky things similar to me. I didn’t want to use myself as a starting point, but I also didn’t want to use a trad author; Sarah is more along the indie line of things, so she made a very good foundation for readers who are open to indie titles and might appreciate my type of quirky.
In order to isolate the impact of her targeting, R.J. used the same ad creative for every one of her author tests. She used an image from the book cover of the protagonist and his alpaca sidekick, highlighted the limited-time deal price, and listed a few key elements of the story (“magic, mayhem, romance, & bodies”) to attract the right audience.
I want to find readers who will like my type of book, so I use an ad that won’t appeal to the masses; I want to catch those who like my style of humor.
Bid and Budget
R.J. used cost-per-thousand impressions (CPM) bidding and set her bid amount well above the average range displayed in the ad form to ensure she was winning impressions for the test campaigns. Because the primary goal of these campaigns was to collect information about the author targets, serving enough impressions for each was more important than winning impressions at an affordable rate. This allowed R.J. to gain valuable insights into how each audience of readers responded to her ads and which new author targets would be cost-effective options for future campaigns.
She started with budgets around $100, but checked the campaigns consistently to pause any that weren’t performing well before they spent the whole budget. She added additional budget to the campaigns that performed well so they could continue winning impressions during the discount window.
R.J. created 70 campaigns to test 64 different author targets and one category within the 10-day period Hoofin’ It was discounted to $0.99.
She created the first 16 test campaigns on October 14 — eight days before the Featured Deal on the 22nd — and scheduled them each to run for the next week. Fifteen of those campaigns targeted individual authors to isolate the results of those targets, and one targeted all readers subscribed to the Paranormal Romance category to see if she could get traction beyond the Supernatural Suspense audience who would see the Featured Deal. She created 45 additional campaigns targeting individual authors or small groups of authors in the week before the Featured Deal, adjusting budgets and end dates or pausing campaigns based on the results.
R.J. focused primarily on the click-through rate (CTR) of a campaign to determine if the author was a good fit. She has particular CTR thresholds that she looks for with these types of tests.
I can get a rough feel for if a target is worth pursuing based on CTR alone. Anything over 1% is something I would test again in the future. 5%+ is golden. If I’m running longer tests, especially if I’m optimizing budget, I turn off anything below 1% after 24 hours to make room for new tests.
Thirteen of the targets she tested hit her 1% CTR threshold. Unsurprisingly, R.J.’s own fans engaged at the highest rate of any of the audiences she tested, with a 3.8% CTR. The group of “Related Authors” she discovered performed well, too, with a CTR of 2.3% and 164 clicks at a rate of $0.87 per click.
Gaining insights into different targets wasn’t the only benefit of these test campaigns — they generated a lot of sales, too!
I was pleased with the sales boost. It didn’t hit USA Today, but it got close enough I bothered checking, so it did pretty well! I’m estimating I got roughly 2,400 sales outside of the Featured Deal from the ad tests. This ultimately bagged a pretty nice profit after a two month sell-through period.
R.J.’s testing process gives her valuable insights for future campaigns. In addition to identifying effective targets and generating additional sales of Hoofin’ It with this series of tests, R.J. also hit her goals of priming both her own audience and other targets for a new release.
Book 19 in this series, Plaidypus, released on May 17. In just seven days of running an ad for the new book with a similarly branded image targeting her own fans, she received over 3,300 clicks at a similar CTR and cost-per-click rate than her campaign for Hoofin’ It — even without the extra incentive of a discount price!
She also had good engagement from some of the other authors she tested for Hoofin’ It, particularly when compared to the results of a few new author targets she tried out for the Plaidypus campaigns.
The performance difference from cold audiences to warm ones for a full-priced book is substantial.
The investment in all of these campaigns paid off — the week after it released, Plaidypus hit the USA Today bestseller list.
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