BookBub Ads and Wide Authors

BookBub Ads are especially useful for wide authors. I decided a while ago that I was going back wide with all my books. Sales were pretty anemic to begin with (readers don’t magically discover books), but then I put together a little marketing plan. I don’t want to invest too heavily in pushing my historical novels until I have a couple more books in my series out, but I was curious to experiment with a few different approaches for pushing wide books.

After nabbing an International-only BookBub Featured Deal for Liberty Boy, I decided to build a little campaign around it, particularly looking at sales internationally, and off-Amazon. When you are in KU, it makes sense to concentrate sales. As detailed in this post from August, visibility turns into borrows and the best place to do that is in the US Kindle Store, where you can be more aggressive with ads and bids and have some confidence it will come back to you in page reads.

Wide is very different, as I teased out in this other post from October. One key point is that it doesn’t really matter as much where your sales come from. A sale in South Africa or the Netherlands, or on Google or Kobo, has nearly as much value as one in the US Kindle Store (visibility there is still the ultimate, but not as lucrative without reads).

There is less competition for wide clicks, which means they are cheaper. Sometimes a lot cheaper. And the readers in international markets are often starved of deals – books are much more expensive in places like Australia, and countries like Canada haven’t yet developed the full discount site ecostructure that is serving the market very well in America. Less deals means readers are hungrier for them, which usually means your CTRs and conversion rates can be far better than in the intensely competitive and discount-saturated American market.

It’s not all plain sailing though. Smaller audiences in the UK, Canada, and Australia means that your well-honed, rigorously tested targeting from the American market won’t necessarily work. The pool of readers you are targeting on Facebook or BookBub simply mightn’t be big enough for your ads to display, so you either have to expand your list of comp authors or otherwise broaden your targeting. This obviously requires some testing before it will really work for you.

For example, when running BookBub CPM ads, a good set of comp authors for me includes people like Edward Rutherfurd and Patrick O’Brian. However, when advertising in Australia and Canada, I have to throw in less exact comps like Bernard Cornwell that can be hit-and-miss for me in America. But because of the aforementioned cheaper clicks and hungrier readers, those broader comps work well for me there.

BookBub clicks aren’t always the cheapest, but it has immense value as a platform. It’s the only one which you can really switch on-and-off like a tap, and have a good idea in advance how many clicks and sales it will deliver, which means you can drop it in where you might have a gap in a promo schedule.

Phoenix Sullivan gave me lots of great tips on BookBub CPM ads when I was struggling to figure out the platform. In short, it’s all about CTR. If you can get a great CTR, those expensive clicks can get pretty cheap. She advised testing small amounts of money to make sure your CTR was good enough, and only then ramping up. This turned out to be much-needed advice as this platform can chew through your money in seconds, if you are not careful.

Great CTR on BookBub is about two things really: images and targeting. You really need pro-level ad assets and it’s worth dropping a small amount to get them made. It’s even better to get them done for your covers as you commission each new one.

Targeting is equally important. I usually find a tight group of four or five good comp authors works best, although that really depends on how many followers they have. For me at least, targeting very big authors can be risky as they have the broadest, most diverse audience. Although I know others get joy from that.

So how do you figure out your comp authors? Well, there’s a lot of data at your fingertips already. Just looking at your Amazon author page is a good starting point. Your Also Boughts are even better. And over time you’ll get a sense of who you share readers with.

Testing is still important though. An excellent comp author on Facebook or AMS might not be such a great candidate on BookBub – where their audience size will be hugely skewed on whether they (or their publisher) runs many BookBub Deals or not. You may also see variance from country to country. Just keep in mind that your result after 1,000 or 2,000 impressions is unlikely to improve, and ramping up a poor CTR without tweaking the targeting (or image) won’t result in a turnaround. Results usually decay with increased exposure, in fact.

You may not get good results at all. Chart spots last weekend were hotly contested, as you can imagine. But one of the great things about BookBub ads is their flexibility. If you are seeing clicks cheaper on Facebook you can just switch your BookBub ads off. Or if you have some deals running on ENT and FKBT and Robin Reads on one day, and nothing on the next, you can drop in some BookBub action to even out your push (much harder to do with Facebook, for example, and impossible with reader sites).

There are very few tools to jumpstart sales when wide, which makes BookBub Ads a valuable tool in the box. What other options out there let you explicitly and easily target to Apple Australia or Google US? It’s so handy to have such a precise way of reaching those readers.

When I had been wide before, my main alternative markets were Barnes & Noble and, to a certain extent, Apple. I never sold much at Kobo at all, and nothing whatsoever at Google. Now I’m starting to sell a little in both places which is great. I’m looking forward to experimenting further with micro-targeted campaigns at full price, reaching all sorts of different pockets of readers that were closed off to me before – Apple Canada, Amazon Australia, Kobo UK – the ability to target with granularity is so useful, as is the way results are broken down by each segment. You can switch on and off each market at will too.

The promo for Liberty Boy is about to draw to a close, and without really pushing on Amazon US, I pulled together around 500 sales for that title over the last few days, and a bunch on my other two historicals, with Kobo Canada alone was around a quarter of that. I also hit some genre bestseller lists in a bunch of retailers internationally. And I picked up a bunch of sign-ups too.

I’m sure that’s small beans for many of you wide veterans, but it’s really cool to be growing in new markets, and to test out strategies I can apply on a larger scale in the future. And I’m delighted to see the back of telling a reader they can’t buy my book at their chosen vendor.

The. Worst.

If you act fast, you can still get 99¢ deals Liberty Boy, Mercenary & A Storm Hits Valparaiso at the retailer of your choice!

David Gaughran

David Gaughran

Born in Ireland, he now lives in a little fishing village in Portugal, although this hasn’t increased the time spent outside. He writes novels under another name, has helped thousands of authors build a readership with his books, blogs, workshops, and courses, and has created marketing campaigns for some of the biggest self-publishers on the planet. Friend to all dogs.

27 Replies to “BookBub Ads and Wide Authors”

  1. What would a good CTR be for a book priced at 2.99? I ran a few ads for the first time, and I got a CTR average of 3.28%. CPC is .29. Is this good?

    1. Yes it’s very good for a $2.99 book, assuming you are talking about an ad with a decent sample size (1000+ impressions) and targeting Amazon US. CTRs are higher outside Amazon and outside America, but that’s still good for anywhere. Especially good for the USA.

  2. Thanks from me too. I’ve been marketing on Amazon for a long time, but I’ve just started watching Bookbub, trying to figure it out. You’ve helped a lot.

    It’s nice to see someone doing well that isn’t in horror/vampire.

    I don’t think you mentioned Google’s Adwords. Have you given up on them? All I can get is a trickle of impressions without paying exorbitant fees..

    1. I’ve done considerably more promotion for the non-fiction, just not lately. The last big promo I did was cancelled by Amazon which totally screwed me over:

      But anyway, those books are getting old and new ones are coming to replace them, so I’m holding off on any promo until then.

      In general though, those books are easier to promote, even if the audience is a bit more limited – meaning they have historically sold better, despite being less evergreen. These readers are easier for me to find (other writers!).

      I haven’t, however, pushed them much on BB (or FB yet actually) so I don’t have any idea how they will do on those platforms. Previously they have done well on reader sites and as BB featured deals so maybe they will do okay. One problem with FB is that those clicks are very expensive thanks to vanity presses and expensive course sellers who will bid crazy amounts. But I can find other paths to those readers.

      Historically, sales have been driven by content marketing, guest posting, cross promo, box sets, 99c discounts, ads on reader sites, etc. The usual toolbox. But word of mouth is huge, obviously, and I’m always trying to think of ways to reinvigorate that (e.g. for the second edition’s launch, I gave free updates to everyone who had purchased the first).

    1. Depends whether you are talking about a 99c book or a freebie, and whether you can count on sellthru, if you are getting reads or not, whether it’s a big launch and you care a little less about immediate ROI, what the CPM at that moment is, etc.

      Roughly speaking, I often kill an ad (or tweak it) if it drops below 2.5% on a 99c book, but I’d want higher than that on a freebie. That’s on Amazon US. It’s easier to get higher CTRs outside of Amazon, and internationally, so if an ad was below 3% I might look at why it’s underperforming as you can often get 5% or more in the UK, or on Kobo Canada, etc. At least to start off with. And freebies and box sets do better again, usually.

  3. Thanks for another informative post, David! I went wide in August/September with my series, and just published Book 3. I had done decently in KU when I launched my Book 1 at the end of January, but by July, sales and page reads had dried up. I was also weary of the scams that kept cropping up around KU and the feeling that the boom could be lowered at any moment. Plus I really wanted to try my hand at being wide. I also wanted to better my chances at snagging a BookBub. It’s been a slow climb, but I’m getting results, especially now that Book 3 is out.

    Your insights on BookBub CPMs is very helpful, and if/when I am accepted into their beta, I’ll put them to use. I applied back in October, but have yet to hear back from them.

    Are you planning on more posts about marketing wide? This one and the October one had lots of useful insights. Thanks again!

    1. For sure, there’s a whole bunch of stuff I haven’t even got into yet. I’m working on a few different books for writers which has the mind chewing through this stuff.

      1. Digital 3
      2. Strangers to Superfans: Optimizing The Readers’ Journey
      3. (Secret Marketing Book which is very cool indeed)

      I’ll talk more about all of those when we get closer to publishing them, but Digital 3 is with the editor, Strangers to Superfans is partly done and the Secret Book is pretty well mapped out too. They’ll all come out one after the other, and I imagine the pre-order for the first of them will go up soon enough.

      I’ll probably blog about it at some point 🙂

    1. 1. No, not at all. You can choose to target any way you like. Everywhere, just all the Amazons, just Google Australia – it’s 100% flexible and all books can be advertised.

      2. It’s in beta. There’s a form somewhere to fill out but I’ve heard of people getting approved very quickly so give it a shot.

      3. It’s a CPM auction – meaning you are charged per 1,000 impressions. The winning bid gets the slot – there’s only one per email. Over Cyber Monday you might have needed to bid as high as $13 or $14 per 1,000 impressions to display on Amazon US, but more normally it might be something like $10.50 – $12. And then the price could be as low as $6 for Kobo Australia or whatever.

      BUT what really affects the price/ROI is the CTR. If you have a crap CTR of like 0.5% those clicks are going to get very expensive indeed – two dollars or more which is no good obviously. But if you have a great CTR you can be pulling in clicks for 20c or less. Which is competitive.

  4. Thanks for sharing. This morning did it for me. I’m going wide as soon as my first series comes off KU. I can’t live in fear of having the Amazon hammer come down and ruin my career anymore. Thanks for always being so generous in sharing your wisdom.

    1. As for me, there were a few different reasons for going back wide. I don’t like having all my eggs in one basket, and getting my Countdown Deals cancelled and getting threats from Amazon (just because some German store had a bug which put a load of books from 2013 back on sale) was confirmation of that. Amazon’s whole approach of light regulation with scammers and cheaters, and throwing the book at the innocent was another factor. Always good to diversify in that kind of atmosphere. BUT if I was killing it in KU I would have stayed. Ultimately this is a practical decision on what I think might work best for me. The scamminess of the KU pool and all the rank-stripping are general factors though, no doubt.

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