I couldn’t include images in BookBub Ads Expert for all sorts of reasons. Chief among them: Amazon deducts file size costs from our royalties and images really bulk those files, eating into our precious moolah.
Instead, I created this handy reference page instead for all the purchasers of the book – which will also be easier for me to update. If you haven’t checked the book out, this page will be of little use to you. It’s not a complete guide to using BookBub Ads by any stretch and you will miss all the good stuff that will help you build truly profitable campaigns, including my soon-to-be-indispensable ninja tricks and killer moves. I strongly recommend looking at the description for BookBub Ads Expert to see what you’re missing. (Spoiler Alert: everything!)
For the glamorous and discerning people who have already purchased the book, all the resources I mentioned there are below. This page is pretty long but you can click whatever you’re looking for from the below list and navigate directly there easily via techno-tomfoolery.
We’ve got a gallery of winning images, followed by a step-by-step guide to ad creation – with some handy screenshots, I’ve got some up-to-the-minute information on the Also Bought situation at Amazon – with some useful workarounds for those affected, tons of detailed optimization advice – with some talk through my own process, links to a bunch more tools and resources – including some great case studies, a place where you can ask questions and get help, and ways that you can spread the love about BookBub Ads Expert!
If you have read BookBub Ads Expert you will have heard me go through the elements which make a winning BookBub Ad in exhaustive detail. I also explained how to create an ad which embodies those principles, and how to brief your designer along those lines if you are outsourcing.
As a reminder, a winning the BookBub beauty contest requires pro design, a clear offer, communicating the niche clearly, and putting the book cover front-and-center.
Below is a gallery of images which embody these principles – some of which I commissioned, others I designed myself, and then some are just ones which I spotted and liked.
One last thing on images: these “rules” aren’t cast-iron Laws of the Universe or anything. Data always beats the most convincing theory. If you want to test a different approach, feel free! And if it works, it works.
To underline the point, here’s an ad I saw in my own daily BookBub email which breaks my “rules,” but works brilliantly.
(Apologies to the artist – I snapped this on the move and the resolution isn’t great, especially when blowing it up for illustrative purposes. Sorry for butchering your wonderful work!)
Anyway, if you click through from that ad above to the Amazon page for this book, you’ll see that it was breaking the letter of the law rather than the spirit – the ad art matches the cover art perfectly. And the illustration is good enough to make this book an autobuy for me and many other fans of the genre, I’m sure. A great use of great art.
Also Boughts and Comp Authors
I talk about Also Boughts in the book, particularly how they are often a fruitful source of potential comp authors for your first test ads. They are also important and useful in lots of other ways too, of course, which causes a lot of grumbling when Amazon fiddles with them, as it routinely does, often testing various iterations of our product pages. More on that phenomenon here (note there are further links to more posts on Also Boughts, if you want to go deeper on the topic):
I’m not worried about Also Boughts permanently disappearing because I think they are too popular with readers, but it can mess with your testing if that information source is closed off temporarily, right when you need it. There are workarounds though.
If you are currently seeing Also Boughts in the US Kindle Store, then don’t worry. All I would suggest is making a note of your Also Boughts, particularly the authors and books which feature near the top, and those that make multiple appearances, as it’s likely that Also Boughts will disappear for you (temporarily) at some point in the future.
But if you are not currently seeing Also Boughts in the US Kindle Store (or elsewhere), first of all, don’t panic. They will likely return at some point; they always do. Here are some workarounds in the meantime:
Check your book pages internationally – i.e. in the Canadian, Australian, and UK Kindle Stores. At least a couple of those should have Also Boughts at any given time, and while they won’t be identical to your US Also Boughts, it’s still useful information and is often a close approximation.
Check your author page on Amazon. Those Also Boughts not only have never been messed with by Amazon, they are also usually stronger potential comp authors too, as they are aggregate Also Boughts across all your books. (Multi-genre authors must take care here though for obvious reasons).
Explore the other sources I outlined in the book for generating your comp authors too. Sometimes you have to lean on this very heavily anyway, especially if many of your comp authors are all-in with Kindle Unlimited, or otherwise haven’t played in BookBub’s sandpit very much. You can get a very strong list of comp authors without using Also Boughts whatsoever.
Overall, don’t sweat it. Amazon regularly cycles through different iterations of our book pages, sometimes moving Also Boughts to the bottom of the page, sometimes ditching them altogether. They always come back eventually.
One last tip: sometimes you can see a different version of your book page by using a different device or browser. Worth a try.
Step By Step Ad Creation
This is just a simple guide to creating a test ad so you have something you can easily refer to in another tab while making your own. For the full breakdown on what makes a successful ad, refer to Part II of BookBub Ads Expert. Ensure you have also gone through the process outlined in Part III before running your first test ads. That will save you a lot of pain.
Assuming you already have a BookBub Partner account — if not, set one up as soon as possible — then log in, click on the Ads tab from the navbar at the top of the screen, and then select the green button in the top-right of the interface marked Create New Ad.
Note that I have used the same headlines for each step below as should appear on your BookBub Ads interface for ease of reference. You can thank me via statues.
Step 1: Choose A Book (Optional)
This should be obvious, but sometimes the system misses your book. Add it here if you can, but if you still can’t select it — even after adding your book — don’t worry. I find this to be a little glitchy at times, but it doesn’t ultimately matter. The only function this serves, aside from tracking some data for you to analyze later (which you can do manually) is auto-populate the links for your ad, which you can also do manually yourself. It’s wise to add your book anyway if it’s not already on BookBub, but don’t worry about this otherwise.
To be absolutely clear: there is zero effect on the performance of your ads and this step can be comfortably skipped.
Step 2: Ad Creative
You should already have a pro graphic to drop in here in the section named Upload Existing Creative. (Or you will shortly.) Whatever you do, don’t use BookBub’s tool here to build your image — which appears when you click Build New Creative, if you are curious. While this tool doesn’t do a bad job per se, you can do a lot better than that yourself — and little differences can be crucial on this platform. Don’t get lazy here! Put in the effort to make your image amazing and you will reap the rewards in terms of improved CTR, lower CPC, and better conversion.
Step 3: Click-through Links
If you associated a book with your ad in Step 1, you will see that one or more links have auto-populated in this section. We will be restricting ourselves to Amazon US for the purposes of these tests so remove any others the system as inserted by clicking the on/off button to the left of the link. However, if you didn’t associate a book with your ad in Step 1, then simply insert the link manually yourself in the indicated spot. The system will automatically recognize which retailer and territory it relates to using cyber-sorcery.
Whether your link was inserted by the system or by you, triple-check that link. As in, actually click on it, don’t just glance at it. This is a great habit to get into, by the way. While mistakes are rare and usually on the user side, to be honest — getting this right is important enough to devote a whole click into checking whether your ad is pointing at the right place. From personal experience, mistakes are most likely when your eyes glaze over after doing lots of test ads, or complicated campaigns pointing at different places. Be especially careful in those situations.
There also a known bug involving links that you have switched off at this stage turning back on again on the confirmation page — but I’ll return to that when we get to that confirmation screen as you can’t do anything about it right now. Consider the problem flagged, yo.
Step 4: Audience Targeting
As you already have your possible author comps from the process outlined earlier, the only wrangling here is deciding how many to lump together. Obviously, you will get the cleanest read from testing one author at a time, but some of your potential comp authors might only have 500 or 1000 BookBub followers. In such cases, throw a few similar authors together. Aim for a total of a few thousand followers to get enough serves (you are shooting for at least 1,000 impressions here). Keep in mind that some of those following a given author will be based outside of America or shop somewhere other than Amazon; others won’t open their email that particular day — it varies quite a lot.
This sounds a little hazy. But don’t worry, there is a handy visual indicator in the form of a colored dial beside the Book Category field. Don’t aim for the yellow zone on the right — that’s an indication your targeting is too broad. You really want it up the middle, with the system saying “Defined,” ideally. If you are in the red zone, that means your audience is too narrow for the ad to serve and you need to add more authors. And possibly coffee.
Just make sure to also filter by genre (“Refine by Book Category” in the parlance of the interface). Remember, many authors write in more than one genre, and it’s important to narrow your audience or your CTR will drop — and BookBub is a platform where small margins can make a very big difference, which I will repeat until this mantra is tattooed on your brain by a drumming of woodpeckers, which actually is the respective collective noun, I’m reliably informed.
Step 5: Schedule & Budget
It doesn’t really matter which dates you pick as you will be pushing to serve the ad as soon as possible, but it’s always wise to put an end date in of tomorrow or some such. Without wanting to pack you all off to the monastery, this is another good habit to get into. While it hasn’t happened to me on BookBub, I have started an experimental test campaign on Facebook without putting in an end date, then promptly fell sick for a few weeks, and then wept uncontrollably when seeing what my card was charged at the end of that month — with very little to show for it in terms of sales. I can’t even bring myself to type the amount; I may need sustained therapy before I’m able to take that step. Or perhaps my old friend Mr. Whiskey could take care of those brain cells for me and we’ll call it even.
As for the budget, just drop in $10 or $15. You might not spend all of it and you definitely don’t need to spend more — that will get you around 1,000 impressions which is more than enough to know whether an ad will work. Select the option to “Fulfill as quickly as possible” as you don’t want to spread out the serving and drag out the testing process; you want results now. (Although I often choose this option even when not in the testing phase, as I prefer to micro-manage the budget — more on that later.)
Step 6: Bid
We are testing, and we want results quickly. This means bidding aggressively and bullying everyone else out of the auction. You might bid a little more competitively in the future (a lot more competitively if you are doing a drip campaign on a permafree, for example), but now is not the time for niceties—there is precious data to be harvested.
Choose CPM ads, as they will serve quickest and most reliably, and will also keep your test ads away from the BookBub website, where you definitely don’t want them as the CTR will plummet —a nd CTR is the metric with which will determine the relative strength of a comp author.
Enter a bid that easily exceeds the higher end of the range BookBub is suggesting for your genre/author targets (i.e. $12 or $13 – it varies based on demand and targeting).
Check Your Work
All that’s left on this ad creation screen is to name your ad — e.g. “Get Rich Quick Scheme #5186” — and hit continue. You’ll then come to a new screen where you will review all your information before your ad goes live, and absolutely do that: check your image, targeting, links, the lot.
Sometimes you make a mistake, but sometimes the system switches back on a link to Amazon UK or Apple Australia that you had previously switched off. Other bugs have popped up previously — like the image associated with the ad disappearing. In short, if something looks funny on this confirmation screen, don’t ignore it. Usually this is a sign that something has gone awry. Simply click the button below to go back and fix it. Make sure to thoroughly check everything at this point because the ad will serve very quickly and spend your money just as fast too.
BookBub has made some minor changes to the ad creation interface. It happened just as I was proofing the book, and I was able to make minor adjustments to the ad creation guide just before formatting. I’d like to talk about these changes in a little more detail though as they are causing a little confusion.
You might remember from the book that I talk a lot about how many followers an author has, but also stress that your ad gets shown to a lot more people than that. If you target an author, you will get shown to their followers AND anyone who has clicked on their Featured Deals or Ads in the past. All that BookBub has done now is bring that total number to the surface so we can actually see it when creating ads.
Which is very handy, if a little confusing to some!
It also proves that the difference between the number of Followers and the number of Readers – as BookBub is calling the latter group – can be quite considerable.
For example, one author I sometimes target for my writer books is Gary Vaynerchuk. With just 596 Followers, you could reasonably think he might not be worth the trouble of targeting. However, I have been targeting him recently as he had a Featured Deal not too long ago. And as you can see in the below screen shot, he actually has 7,422 Readers you can potentially target.
This is all brand new, of course, so we’re still figuring out best practices, but my suggestion is to proceed as normal, follow the process in the book, but if you have someone with a low Follower account like Gary Vaynerchuk that you really would like to target as they are a strong comp author on Amazon or Facebook or elsewhere, then definitely check their Reader count in the ad creation interface to see if they would be a fruitful target, as in this case.
One last thing to note: don’t expect to be able to hit all those Readers at once. Not only will some of them be based in different countries and shop at different retailers which you may not be targeting with that campaign, remember that readers are not like us. They don’t necessarily check email every day. And they don’t necessarily open all their emails on the days they do check. I strongly suspect you’ll reach less than half those Readers on any given day, even if you target all retailers and countries.
Factor that into your calculations.
Were your first results crap? Well, you’re in good company because it’s the same for almost everyone. Even if you did stumble onto a good CTR, you’ll probably struggle to replicate it and you’ll certainly strike out when you try to scale. We need to do some optimization and analysis first.
Waaaaaaait, that sounds boring. Let’s talk about MONEY.
BookBub Ads are the perfect Get Rich Quick Scheme… for Mr. BookBub. And if you close your eyes you can almost hear him chuckling over the sound of his golden helicopter powered by author rejections.
The responsiveness of the platform is a definite plus, but it also means you can lose your money in an instant if you aren’t paying attention or if you don’t spend enough time/effort making sure your image is top quality and one that aims squarely at your target audience. Your targeting better be spot on too, because one bad author-egg is enough to ruin the entire Omelet of Success.
As I hope I’ve stressed repeatedly, margins for error on BookBub are tight. But that cuts both ways! One simple tweak can change a losing ad into a winner, so make sure you are testing everything in $10/$15 clumps on Amazon US-only — that is, until you are satisfied it is a good performer that can be ramped up and rolled out everywhere.
Don’t test an ad at Amazon Australia or Kobo Canada and declare yourself a genius when the first few hundred impressions are getting a CTR of 6%. Many half decent ads will garner that in those deal-starved markets. Stick to the tougher proving grounds of Amazon US until you have nailed everything down.
Enough preamble, let’s shake this money tree.
I’ve been running large-scale BookBub campaigns for well over a year involving thousands of dollars in ad spend. At this stage I have a solid idea of comp authors and the images are top quality, perfectly tickling the target audience in all its ticklish bits.
And yet, I still test every ad.
Before I roll out a new campaign, I still go through the testing process, because BookBub’s audience can be a bit of a moving target and an ad image you might think is perfect might need another tweak. So limit the budget to $10 or $15 or $20. Give it a quick spin at a higher CPM to make sure it serves fast, and you will get a fast read on whether it’s a loser or not. But what makes a winner?
There are tons of variables here when calculating ROI: the price of the advertised book, the royalty you are getting, whether it’s in a series or not (please say it is), and whether you are in KU and likely to get reads off the back of this promo too.
And then your tolerance of that ROI will be dependent on your goals: do you need immediate ROI? Are you happy to make it back in sellthrough to Books 2 and 3? Are you comfortable being more aggressive and going into the red this week to make it back (and then some) next week in KU page reads? Are you experienced enough to work that high-stakes system? Or are you allowing a small loss to get a new release moving and Also Boughts attached?
Everyone will have different answers to those questions depending on their situation, and those answers will likely change over time too, so I’m not going to do anything more than urge you to explore those questions in a systematic way before each campaign you run.
In very general terms, though, I can make an ad with a CTR of 2% or better work for me. I’ll need a higher CTR on a freebie, of course, and I’ll tolerate a lower CTR on a $2.99+ book, perhaps. However, when I’m doing the first test of a new ad pushing a different deal to a fresh crowd, I’ll be concerned if the CTR is as low as 2%, because that means the ad won’t have much shelf-life. I really want to be seeing 3+% on those tests to have confidence that I can run the ad for a decent stretch.
Word of warning: don’t judge an ad until it’s had around 1000 impressions. This is probably down to clicks and impressions being reported at different speeds, but sometimes an ad can have an artificially high CTR after a couple of hundred impressions, and you might think that ad is a solid gold winner, and then dump money into it.
You really need 1000 impressions before you can judge it properly. I should point out that the opposite can happen too. Other times, impressions seem to be reported before clicks, and you can deem an ad a loser, only to come back an hour or two later and see the stats have updated and it was quite a good ad after all.
So, wait for 1000 impressions, and then wait a little longer to be sure you have the final data. At that point you can decide to dump money in, or yank and tweak (or quit and wine).
This is a bad ad. That CTR of 0.88% means you are burning through your audience and interesting very few of them, and those clicks are coming in at $1.33 each. If you consider that even a good BookBub ad might need three or four clickers to get a sale, this is a way to go broke fast. This ad needs a lot of tweaking, probably both the image and the targeting, but sometimes changing one is enough. And often I prefer just to change one thing for each test, so I can hone in on the problem.
Don’t worry if your performance is even worse than that example above! I have had test ads with lower than 0.5% CTR. And sometimes it doesn’t mean ripping it up and starting again; a couple of simple changes can have a big effect.
In this particular case, I made a change to the image and that CTR improved dramatically.
Still not good enough. That 1.63% CTR is a big improvement, but I’m still burning through precious audience quickly at that rate, and those CPCs are too damn high. At this stage, one small little tweak can turn a nearly there ad into a sales printing machine.
This is a lot more like it. One tweak to the targeting (taking out an iffy comp author) dramatically improved the performance. I’m not burning through my audience pointlessly – something you don’t want to do when the effective audience is often limited. And that CPC is down at a nice $0.30 which is very workable indeed.
When your testing indicates positive outcomes, like in that last example, I will add some more money to the ad, but I’ll keep monitoring it — how closely will largely depend on the level it is being served at. And that’s generally related to the time of day.
If you remember from way back in Part 2 of this series, one of the critical differences with this ad platform is the way ads are served to readers. There is just one ad slot in each email, and the impression will only be served to that reader if they open the email. Like with any email send, most opens are clustered around the time of the send. Often you’ll see something like a quarter of the list open in the first hour, then half that again in the next hour, and so on akin to some kind of radioactive half-life yoke I’ll pretend to know about.
The time of day that BookBub sends out its emails varies, but the main push seems to often be between 1pm – 2pm GMT (8am – 9am EST). So that’s when ads will serve super fast. Midnight EST or 9am GMT, not so much. Keep this in mind.
I’ll watch the performance of an ad to see if it starts dipping. If it heads towards 2%, I’ll yank or tweak, or start a new campaign targeting my silver comps instead of my gold ones. Or stop advertising altogether, depending. Like this ad, for example, which has reached the end of its effectiveness.
It was a good ad, with reasonable click costs, that converted very well, but the CTR has just started to collapse which is spiking those CPCs. You need to zap ads like this before they eat up all your winnings (I got to this one a little later than I would like). Don’t fall prey to the marketer’s version of Gambler’s Fallacy. You need to ghost that fool and get with your hot new thing.
Complication Alert! It’s not always as simple as eyeballing the dashboard though, especially not if the ad is running at a high level of serving over a few days. That number on your dash is an average, and could be masking a recent dip (another reason to keep a close eye on things when more money is at stake).
For example, check out this ad. Great performance. Delivered a lot of clicks and converted excellently. So why did I snip it?
AM I AFRAID OF MONEY AS WELL AS LOVE?
Normally, an ad’s performance will degrade over time, meaning the CTR will be best on Day 1, drop on Day 2, and drop further on Day 3, and so on. That nice-looking average on the dashboard may be masking a Day 2 performance which is below the redline. Or a Day 3 dip, as in this case. See:
So, yeah, that ad should be yanked, and ideally should have been done earlier in the day. But the dashboard isn’t really telling you that, unless you bother to click through and view the day-by-day stats, which you need to do periodically, especially on the higher spending ads. Just something to keep an eye on.
I hope all of the above suggestions helps you test and tweak and optimize your own ads, and generally monitor campaign performance. I absolutely recommend starting with smaller budgets and a large bottle of patience. It took me several goes before I getting half-decent results, and quite a few months of experimentation before I was getting genuinely good results.
But when you start hitting those good CTRs, you can ramp up your spend with confidence, as this is an audience of deal-hungry book buyers who convert very well. And that’s an incredible tool to have at your fingertips.
Tips & Tools
I thought it would be handy for you guys if I collected all the resources I mentioned in the book in one place for you.
I can’t stress enough that the above guide is merely a convenience for those that have worked their way through BookBub Ads Expert already. If you try and run campaigns just based on the information above, you will probably lose a lot of money. There are many other steps you need to take first, such as identifying a BookBub-specific set of comp authors to give just one such example. If you don’t read the book, you won’t understand why I use CPM Bidding 95% of the time, and why that beats the pants off CPC Bidding. And you’ll never be able to scale up BookBub Ads to the point where it can deliver you hundreds of sales in just a few days. You can get the book here:
The BookBub Partners blog which is a really excellent resource — particularly now that they have revamped it and made it a lot easier to explore it all by category — e.g. you can just view the posts and guides related to BookBub Ads only, if you wish. Dive in:
Canva is a FREE browser-based image wrangler and promo graphic maker extraordinaire. I have a bunch of blog posts about it here on this website too, but check it out here and see why I love it so:
If you haven’t downloaded Amazon Decoded already, I strongly recommend you do that while it is still free. Whether you are exclusive to Amazon or not, you need to know how the Kindle Store works and what changes you need to make to your launches and promos to get the blessing of the ever-capricious algorithms. It’s free when you sign up to my weekly newsletter:
There are lots of free 3D cover generators around, but this seems to be the best at the moment. Remember to save as PNG and then upload that to Canva. A JPG file won’t have the transparent background you need.
Nicholas Erik has a very handy list of promo sites on his website which is both curated and kept up to date. I pretty much agree with all his assessments too:
Nicholas Erik’s Promo Site List
There are a variety of ways you can calculate ROI, if you are so inclined. BookBub has a handy spreadsheet-based calculator, and Nicholas Erik wrote a lengthy blog post on this here site detailing his own method. Check them both out here, if that’s how you roll:
I have opened up little space here now where you can ask questions and get help – just pop your question in the comment section below. I’ll answer when I can!
Spread The Love!
If you enjoyed BookBub Ads Expert I would love a review from you where you purchased the book or at Goodreads.
And if you want to spread the love on Facebook and Twitter, here are some posts for easy sharing: