5 Pro Tips For Online Book Promotion: September 2021

Pro Tip One: Mailing Lists: Resend to All Rather Than Unopened

You’ve heard by now that Apple no longer allows tracking of email opens for their iOS 15 email users who opt into their email privacy, right? This will essentially kill open tracking, although click tracking will still work. Essentially, all received email for Apple users in this category will show as opened to your newsletter service. If you have a subscriber list to whom you send email, this will impact you. If you want more details then the brief ideas below, see the bottom of this post.

  1. Auto resend: If you use the auto resend feature and in the past had it trigger to send to those who hadn’t yet opened, this will no longer be meaningful. You could choose to send it to those who didn’t click anything, but why not just resend it—with something meaningful added—to everyone on the list? This is especially important when you have a new release and are counting on the rankings impact your subscribers may help you achieve. You could offer them a new piece of insider info, or thank them for their participation in something successful, or offer them of a new deal or special price promo, or inform them about additional formats that just became available. And…repeat what the original email said about your new release.
  2. Bonus—Automation triggers: please don’t use “open” or “unopened” as a trigger. Pick a time lapse or click or anything else instead. My pick: time lapse.
  3. Double Bonus—List purging: don’t purge based on open or not opened. Pick a different criterion, like clicking. Or ask subscribers to re-up their subscription in a special email. Or ask them to let you know if they’d like to unsusbscribe. My pick: make it easy for them to unsubscribe early and often. I put a large, easy-to-find block offering a no-hard-feelings unsubscribe link and giving them instructions on how to do it. Why would I want to keep (and pay for) subscribers who are ambivalent about my content anyway? I want engaged subscribers who open, click, and read.

Pro Tip Two: Chirp Promotions on BookBub

If you aren’t on Findaway Voices with your audiobooks yet, I think you’re really missing out. (If you aren’t producing audiobooks at all, what are you waiting for? They are 7.5% of my royalties and growing. That’s the only 300% growth I’ve had in any format.). For diehards still distributing through ACX, imho, the greater distribution thru FV, especially with libraries, is a bonus, the ability to set your own price and to run price promotions is another, and the chance to put together box sets of all shapes and sizes for limited time or permanent distribution only on the retailers of your choice is gold. I also like that I am contacted by FV from time to time to participate in retailer-specific promotions, like on Apple or Barnes & Noble (I made $1500 off one in June of this year). For Apple, you can run inexpensive AudioThicket ads/promos announcing your discount promo too.

But by far the biggest benefit of FV, to me, is the chance to participate in BookBub’s Chirp promos. Chirp is a retailer to whom you can distribute to with FV. At the time I’m writing this, BB is still giving these Chirp promos free during beta, and they by-golly-work. You offer an audiobook at a discount for BB, and, if you’re selected, BB sends emails to their subscribers, and you spend 28 days with that discount live on the Chirp website, during which time you can run BB ads (if you’d like). I find running additional ads very lucrative (CPC, see Pro Tip Four, below). I also find that if I run my own FV discounts on Chirp for other related audiobooks of mine, that they make me additional money, b/c Chirp makes them highly visible on the sales page for your BookBub deal audiobook, which leads to impulse buy in bulk. Lots of volume.

Not convinced, ACX diehards? I make 75% of my audiobook royalties from FV, 25% from ACX. For equal numbers of books.

Oh, and I do my own audio. For myself and occasionally for others. I spent $1k to buy equipment and set up my studio in 2019. I invested one month in tears figuring out how to do them. I’ve made $20k plus in royalties per year since then.

Bonus: Indies sometimes have more success with BookBub Chirp applications with boxed sets.

Double Bonus: U.S.-based BookBub Featured Deals for e-book discounts always, always, always beat everything, when you can get them.

Need more on how audiobooks and online promo of them can increase your royalties? See bottom of post.

Pro Tip Three: AMS Ads for Reads and Rank

As I’m about to go into, my two fave and most lucrative types of ads—CPM BookBub Ads and Conversion Ads on Facebook—have both recently tanked. However, I know from many past years of lukewarm sales that without online advertising, my ranks fall, and if my ranks fall too far, it’s a death spiral. No matter how little I spend, I can’t make more than that. If I raise my ad spend sufficiently to get lead books in my series going again, I start to make money. (Transparency re my net income from publishing: 2020: $140,000 due to publishing an extra book, having COVID quarantine reading bump, getting 3 BookBub Featured Deals (!!), and enjoying pre-Apple-privacy-madness ad effectiveness; 2021 is looking like it will be, after investing in foreign translations, publishing less books, getting ZERO BookBub Featured Deals, and with the double ad whammy just mentioned, $90,000; I expect to continue investing heavily in translations in 2022 and stay on this more sane publication schedule and am aiming for $90-100k in 2022.

So how do I keep my ranks up on my series leads? Amazon (AMS) ads for my regularly priced series and box sets and for price promos. I am really aggressive with them, too.

I need to keep people coming to those Amazon sales pages, to buy all my formats and read in Kindle Unlimited. KU especially is dependent on these ads, and every add-to-device is a ranking bump.

This may help you see why: Here’s my income breakdown—ebooks are 60% of my royalties with actual sales of ebooks 60% of that and Kindle Unlimited reads 40% of it; 20% of my royalties are from online print sales (with $1k a month through Ingram; see Pro Tip Five for more), including paperback, large print (except for box sets), and hardcover; and 7.5% of my royalties from online audiobook sales. {Yes, I make money from other things. I make as much from consignment print sales as I do from audio; I have a healthy Patreon stream; I do exclusive direct sales of some ebooks and audiobooks; I narrate audio; I teach retreats; I critique manuscripts. <–any indie wanting to succeed in publishing finds side hustles to keep the income stream alive!}

AMS ads are too in-depth for me to teach you how to do them here. But for those already conversant in AMS ad speak, I have most success with Auto Ads, Brand Ads, and Manual Targeting of my best comps. I always use dynamic up/down bidding, I monitor and increase bids by high performing placements, and I only use manual ads. Need more on AMS ads? See end of post.

Bonus: I keep a close eye on my projected revenue per sale, know how that translates to a profitable Average Ad Cost Per Sale (ACOS), and monitor my ads in 7-day and 30-week loopbacks.

Pro Tip Four: CPC Ads on BookBub

Well, Apple’s ios15 Privacy changes didn’t just affect your email. They impacted BookBub’s as well. Historically, I’ve been big on CPM ads on Bookbub for discounted books. CPM ads are ones where BookBub serves impressions by the thousand, counting that thousand up based upon…wait for it…OPENS. Since Apple’s changes mean BB will over count opens, BB knows this means they will be asking you to pay for impressions that may not be happening, and, that as a result, your ads may be far less effective. BB has been pretty transparent about this and that they expect a negative impact and will be working to figure out how to mitigate it. But in the meantime BB CPC (cost per click) ads won’t be effected. Use those to your heart’s content.

Bonus: Be sure you know you have targeted the right type of comp authors, which won’t be the same as the ones you use in your AMS or FB ads (which in turn won’t be the same as each other). BookBub ads work best with authors whose readers are in the 10,000-75,000 range. I regularly use up to 175,000 if the author is great for me. You can help tighten up your numbers by applying a genre target as well, but big name authors generally don’t work well. For Facebook, only the biggest authors are even options. For AMS, use both indie and trad of all sizes, and then sit back to see which ones work.

Want more on this? See the bottom of this post.

Pro Tip Five: Traffic Ads on Facebook

This time it is ios14 and not ios15, but, the result is the same: a negative impact on ads, this time ads served online via social media. Especially Facebook conversion ads, which used to be crazy effective but rely on tracking of users online habits and movements. Because, hey, that’s how you target ads, right? By info like what authors users click on and what they buy and much more. Info that Apple ios14 and higher users can and do opt out of tracking.

(Gotta say here, that before you go applauding Apple on their protection of users, note that they still track all this on their own users. Yep, you heard me right. They just made compliance with these privacy changes a condition for app owners who want to appear on Apple devices. In other words, they used something they could promote as altruistic as a competitive advantage for themselves. So, yeah. I like privacy, and I like ad success, and I like open competition. In this case, I am super unhappy with Apple.)

So, overnight last spring, right after the release of ios14, my Facebook conversion ads bit the dust and my income per day fell by one-third. ONE THIRD. A full whopping, terrifying one third. And that’s not just for sale of ebooks. Remember, when I direct someone to an Amazon sales page, I get sales of all formats. And, with my FB ads, I occasionally get Facebook and Amazon follows, too. I quite frequently get newsletter subscribers from my call to action in my books offering a free and exclusive story in the series for subscription; books sold via these ads. More than you’d think, I get Ingram sales too, from people requesting my books in their libraries or brick and mortar stores, or for readers that want print or audio outside the world of Amazon and search it out on other sites, like Barnes and Noble, or a myriad of others.

In other words, I NEED Facebook ads to work.

A word on the info above: I sell hardbacks, large print, paperbacks, audio, ebooks, subscription, and “follows” through Facebook ads. If I only sold ebooks, my ads would not be profitable. Ebooks are only 60% of my income. Roughly another 30% is digitally sourced, but comes from print or audio. Some of this digital income comes from being in touch regularly with my past readers, who have followed me on Facebook, Amazon, or BookBub, or subscribed to my newsletter. I would die without the “circle of life” that ads feed, especially FB ads.

This year, too, I have greatly increased my Ingram revenue. If I didn’t have hardcovers, paperbacks, and large print available through Ingram, they wouldn’t be available to digital buyers at a great royalty rate (because I set the price to insure sufficient royalty) on all the non-Amazon sites, like B&N or Indiebound. I wouldn’t have gotten contacted by Baker & Taylor about how to get my books for their library customers. I would be missing out on $1k in royalties per month, and growing, half of which is hardcover and large print.

It costs me only the price of generating covers, a per book set up fee (which you can usually get waived if you gripe enough, like I did, and use Ingram Spark (which I don’t)), and an annual fee per book of $12. My theory is that it takes a lot of streams to make a mighty river, and a lot of rivers to feed a vast ocean. I want the vast ocean of income. The hard part is writing the book. Do everything you can with that darn book, in every format you can, and then continue selling all of them forever online. One time investment per format, a lifetime of figuring out how to monetize them.

I got some of the income I lost after ios14 back by reinstating my Facebook traffic ads, which I have experimented with over the last few months. Traffic ads are served based on how likely FB thinks it is that people will click on an ad like yours, not by all the other factors that contribute to converting an ad to a buy. They are not nearly as profitable as they used to be post ios14 but still not as impacted as conversion ads were. Combined with AMS ads, they are sufficient to keep the ranks of my books at a profitable level. I still want more. I’ll still keep looking for new ways to increase my net income.

Bonus: On that note, I will add that as soon as we monetize all these in-the-works translations in 6 new languages, I will blog and teach on that. In the meantime, I recommend Tanya Ann Crosby’s DIY Translations.

The End of Post For Those Needing More, More, More!

For more on advertising and promoting books online, I’m organizing a fall 3-day virtual retreat. First to signup will help me anchor the dates, which will be either a) October 25-27 (Mon-Wed), b) Nov 9-11 (Tue-Thur), or c) December 7-9 (Tue-Thur). All classes run from 10 am – 6 pm ET with half hour lunch break. Past online ads course attendees can audit free (highly recommended, you can pick and choose your topics, things change dramatically and what worked 6 months or a year ago may not be working now). Payment is $600 and is due when you sign up via check, Zelle, or Venmo. Space will be limited. Write to me at pamela at PamelaFaganHutchins dot com to reserve your spot.


Be safe and well out there! Let me hear from you about how what’s working for you!

Pamela Fagan HutchinsUSA Today bestseller, repeat top 100 Kindle author, repeat top 25 Kindle bestseller, and winner of the 2017 Silver Falchion Best Mystery winner for her mysteries, including the thrilling Patrick Flint Series, writes hilarious nonfiction (What Kind of Loser Indie Publishes, and How Can I Be One, Too?), too. She teaches writing, publishing, and promotion at the SkipJack Publishing Online School (where you can take How to Sell a Ton of Books, FREE) and in her writing and publishing retreats, and writes about these things and more on the SkipJack Publishing blog.Pamela resides in the frozen north of Snowheresville, Wyoming, where she runs an off-the-grid lodge with her husband on the face of the Bighorn Mountains. She has a passion for great writing and smart authorpreneurship as well as winter sports, long hikes, and trail rides with their giant horses and pack of rescue dogs. She also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound (if she gets a good running start).

4 thoughts on “5 Pro Tips For Online Book Promotion: September 2021

    1. Pamela Post author

      And who knows what new things we’ll learn by then. Change is sometimes good…I’m hoping for that kind 🙂

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