BookBub Ads is the platform where I’ve seen most growth in the last year, to the point where it is rivaling Facebook, especially when factoring in conversion. The amount of money I can spend effectively on BookBub — and by that I mean get an immediate return on investment — has quadrupled in the last twelve months.
This might sound incredible, in the literal sense, to anyone who hasn’t cracked BookBub Ads yet. It can be an unusual platform for those more used to Facebook or Amazon Ads, leading to an unexpected learning curve, perhaps. But I find that if you take the time to understand what works on BookBub, it’s the most responsive and consistent ad platform out there. Getting over that first hump is where many authors seem to struggle though. I know that from running an eight-part series on BookBub Ads to my mailing list earlier this year.
Well, there’s help on the way. I’ll have a book called BookBub Ads Expert coming very soon — make sure to sign up to my list to hear about that first and get an exclusive launch discount that will be offered nowhere else — and I have a wonderful guest post today to give you a headstart while you’re waiting for that.
If you have attended any major writer conference in America over the last couple of years, you will probably have encountered Carlyn Robertson and her BookBub colleagues — who spend a lot of time understanding author’s needs and taking feedback. She has a very useful guest post for you today which is filled with high-level insights and actionable takeaways.
Here’s Carlyn with more:
The BookBub Ads platform is the most flexible marketing tool BookBub offers right now — it gives advertisers the ability to target narrow, customized audiences of active BookBub readers, to run promotions entirely on their own schedules, and to have complete control over their costs and budgets. This flexibility means that you can use BookBub Ads to supplement any kind of promotion or marketing initiative.
David has discussed how he uses BookBub Ads to tactically support launches and other promotions when he needs a last-minute, sure-fire boost in sales, so we wanted to share some additional ways authors are successfully using BookBub Ads to support different marketing goals and sell more books.
Boosting New Release Sales
A new book is a chance to both re-engage your current fan base and to introduce new readers to your work, so new release launches are often an important time to make big marketing investments. BookBub now offers several marketing tools dedicated to new release promotion, and many authors have made BookBub Ads part of their launch plans. You can use Ads to promote your book throughout the launch period and personalize your messaging to target existing fans or hook new readers.
To reach existing fans, you can target yourself with BookBub Ads. Unlike other ad platforms, nearly every author with published ebooks is available to select as an ad target on BookBub. This audience includes not only your BookBub followers, but any readers who have interacted with you on our platform, whether by visiting your profile or clicking on one of your books in an email. If you’ve run a Featured Deal before, this means you can retarget any readers who clicked on that deal to tell them about your new release.
You can also target the fans of similar authors with BookBub Ads, which is a fantastic opportunity to reach a relevant audience of new readers who are highly likely to be interested in your books. To find comp authors, many authors look at their also-boughts on retailers, study trends in their genres, or even ask their readers for suggestions. We recommend searching for your potential targets on BookBub.com to confirm that they have a large enough audience on our platform. You can also browse popular BookBub authors by genre here (note that this page won’t display any authors you’re already following on BookBub!). You can find additional tips from a number of successful advertisers on choosing and assessing comp author targets here.
CD Reiss targeted both her own fans and the fans of similar authors for the launch of a second book in a duet, using different strategies to appeal to each audience.
The ad on the left targeted CD Reiss fans on BookBub during the last four days before the book’s launch. The copy — “How will the game end?” — appeals to readers who have already read book one and are dying to know what happens next, and the launch date further builds anticipation and entices them to preorder. The ad on the right targeted fans of CD Reiss and fans of a number of comp authors she’d tested during the launch of book one. It was meant to appeal to readers who were either waiting for the duet to be completed before purchasing or hadn’t heard of the books before and would want to start at the beginning with book one. Both of these ad campaigns had over a 3% CTR.
Lauren Blakely used BookBub Ads to support her launch of Mister O, which hit multiple bestseller lists in its first three months after publication. Lauren was more focused on exposure than ROI, so she targeted broadly, set a high CPM bid, and invested her budget on ads with high CTRs. She reached thousands of readers with this campaign and drove sales for her new book at $3.99.
The ad on the left was targeted to just her own fans, and drove 1,400 clicks at a 4.9% CTR. The ad on the right was targeted to her own fans plus those of 34 comp authors, generating over 5,000 clicks at a 1.3% CTR.
Gaining Marketing Insights During Preorder Periods
One of the best times to run A/B tests for an upcoming release is during the preorder period. Preorders can be a tougher sell for new readers, but you can still gain valuable insights by comparing the CTRs of different ad images among different comp authors’ fans. Once you know what images and targets deliver the best results, you can invest your budget in those ads as soon as the book is live and hit the ground running.
Jules Barnard ran tests during her preorder of Tempting Levi with a goal of simply breaking even rather than driving a positive ROI. She used this time to figure out which ad designs and copy would drive the most engagement among new-to-her audiences so she was prepared to ramp up her spend on the most effective ads during launch week. Her ads were one part of a larger marketing plan that helped her hit the USA Today list with this book.
Jules found that “less was more” in her ad designs. The image on the left had a CTR below 2%, which didn’t meet her goals. She was much happier with the performance of the image on the right, which earned a CTR above 3%.
Gaining Branding Insights
Ads allow you to gain practical marketing insights that can inform future ad campaigns, but they can also provide big-picture branding insights.
We hosted a panel on preorder promotion at BookExpo featuring marketers from top traditional publishing houses, and one takeaway was they consider their preorder periods testing grounds for marketing copy. Ads help them determine which elements of a book are resonating with readers the most — and they were often surprised! These insights allowed them to shift gears in their promotional plans to adjust to the signals readers were sending and to better align with their preferences before launch. And at RWA, indie author Skye Warren said she’ll even change her book descriptions if new ad copy outperforms an ad using quotes from her existing description.
BookBub Ads are particularly efficient for running tests because they start serving right away and report results within the hour. But you can test more than just ad designs or blurbs—Tricia O’Malley used BookBub Ads to A/B test her covers! Her goal was to see how the fans of authors whose readers she wanted to acquire responded to new cover designs before updating her series. She ran five rounds of tests, investing $20 to $40 in each test ad, and has already seen a 40% increase in downloads of book 1 after switching to the winning cover design.
Stacking Promotions for Discounts to Hit Bestseller Lists
As David’s written about before, BookBub Ads are excellent for promoting discounts. BookBub readers are always on the hunt for new books, and discounts are an extremely effective way to hook new readers to your brand — 95% of BookBub readers have purchased a book from an author they hadn’t heard of before because of a discount.
Andrew Watts supplemented a $0.99 Featured Deal with a BookBub Ads campaign and other promotions to hit the USA Today list for the first time. He ran low-budget tests in the lead-up to the feature.
In his tests, the image on the right performed 40% better than the one on the left. Andrew started running this ad before the Featured Deal and continued throughout the promotion week. He used a high CPM bid to reach as many readers as possible, since his goal was unit sales rather than ROI.
Continually Promoting a First-in-Series
Promoting the first book in a series to readers who haven’t heard of you before can be a really effective way to introduce new readers to your brand. It’s also easier to run profitable ads for books in a series because advertising the first book usually results in sales of the rest of the series, too. This increases the value of the readers you acquire, which in turn increases the amount you can afford to pay to acquire them.
Continuous ads offer authors the ability to set a low daily budget and run ads on an ongoing basis, driving consistent clicks and sales to a series. Eva Pohler used a continuous BookBub Ads campaign to promote her $3.99 first-in-series in the lead-up to the launch of the 3rd book in the series. With a budget of $10 per day, she doubled the daily sales of book 1 from 2-3 to 5 or more and increased sales of books 2 and 3.
Eva targeted her ad to her own fans as well as the fans of 20 similar authors. She set a high CPC bid ($2/ click) to ensure her campaign would be competitive in the auction, but ended up paying far less than that on average ($0.65/ click). She ran this continuous campaign for over a month, and including the revenue from series sell-through, it remained ROI-positive during that time.
Final Takeaways and Trends
There are a few things all of these successful campaigns had in common that you should keep in mind when setting up your own ads.
1. Design custom creative
We provide a simple template to build your ad creative directly in the ad set-up form, but well-designed personalized ad images tend to drive higher click-through rates. As you can see from the above examples, clean and simple with just a few elements tends to work best! You can easily design your own ad images using free tools like Canva or Book Brush. For further inspiration, check out some engaging BookBub Ads designs here.
2. Target readers based on author interest for high CTRs
Choosing the right author targets is key to generating clicks and sales from your ads. Category targeting alone is usually far too broad to achieve a positive ROI, but if you’re targeting authors who write across multiple genres, you can combine category and author targeting to narrow your audience to only the most relevant readers. You can find some tips from successful advertisers on identifying author targets here.
3. Clearly identify and prioritize your goals
If you want to maximize sales or exposure, you may have to sacrifice ROI. If you want a positive ROI, you may have to sacrifice scale and target a narrower audience. If you want to run certain tests or gain particular insights, you may have to sacrifice sales — for example, testing different cover designs could impact conversion rates if readers click through and see a different cover on the retailer. However, if you know what you’re trying to accomplish with your ads, you can identify the tradeoffs you may have to make and set up your campaigns accordingly.
4. Run tests
Running tests is the best way to determine which targets will be most effective for your books and which ad images will encourage readers to click. Use low budgets ($5-10 can be sufficient!) and a high CPM bid when running test ads to win impressions and gain insights as quickly as possible.
Ready to sell some books? Create a new BookBub Ads campaign now! If you have any questions about your own campaigns, feel free to contact the BookBub team at firstname.lastname@example.org at any time! We’ll be happy to offer advice, tips, and guidance to help you achieve your marketing goals.
Carlyn Robertson works for BookBub’s Partners Team, where she ensures that authors and book marketers know how to use BookBub’s tools to accomplish their marketing goals and effectively promote their books. Follow her on Twitter at @CarlynAtBookBub.