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5 ProTips For 2020 Online Book Advertising (plus 5 more because I couldn’t help myself)

Each of these could be a blog post (or  book chapter) on their own, but in the interest of hitting the intersection between quantity and quality, here’s 5 ProTips I’ve garnered through my three BookBub runs in 2020 to-date, including paid rankings of Top 30 for three separate books.

  1. BookBub Ads (4 Tips in 1!) Optimization: When I discount, I use BookBub ads (in addition to Featured Deals, when I can get them) to push my book. I’ve had my best results ever recently, both while discounted, and while FULL PRICE, so I wanted to share the three things I think made the difference. First, I invested heavily in researching new authors using Publisher Rocket. I tested 75 authors on the campaign that took my novel SWITCHBACK to #25 on Kindle. Next, while my deal was running, I used brute force bidding on CPM, to be sure my ad was served in the best time slot–below the early morning Featured Deals. This worked great while I was getting the kind of click-through that results from a 99 cent price book. I identified two really high performing authors and decided to continue the ads after I went back to full price. They tanked. Then I stepped back and decided to lower the bids from the $15 that I’d used to during the discount (the highest price I paid in Crime Fiction for CPM was $14.62) to $7. It turned out $7 was too low and I couldn’t get my budget to spend. I raised the bid to $8. And…I have a highly, highly profitable ad running daily now for a full price book! Lastly, I played with the auto image ad generator in BookBub ads because I felt like the ads I was creating were too busy. My test ad using my image on Facebook that has killed it went head to head with the one I created in BookBub, and…the simple BookBub ad won by a landslide. I used it for the entire campaign and I’m still using it. (In case you were counting, that pro tip went from 1 to 3, and here’s a 4th: I customized the text on the BookBub-sourced images by author. I think that helped a lot, and I would never have invested that time making individual images for 75 authors in Canva.)
  2. Chirp Deals for Free Audio $$: Get your audiobooks on Findaway and apply for the rocking new audiobook ads on BookBub called Chirp. As of the time I’m writing this post, they’re still in Beta, so they’re FREE. Imagine how that ROI will look when the cost is Zero (hint, really freakin awesome). I had my first Chirp deal right before my SWITCHBACK BookBub Featured Deal. The discount ran only on the Chirp platform. It did not seem to cannibalize my full-price sales on other platforms (or if it did, it wasn’t noticeable). I did about $1000 in royalties on the discounted audiobook in the month it ran. Listeners can’t review on Audible, but they can on Amazon, and it’s especially great if you have full price audiobooks in a series following your deal audiobook. I have another set to go in two weeks, and I can’t wait.
  3. Facebook Ads Audience Insights for Scaling (plus a bonus pro tip)I had a steadily performing ad on Facebook that I had scaled up, but the audience for the target author wasn’t as big as I wanted. I tried a number of different authors, but they just didn’t yield those perfect results. So I went to Audience Insights (under Ads Manager, Analyze and Report) on Facebook Ads and looked at the Page Like Affinities for this author, and added a number of additional NON-AUTHOR targets with strong affinity to my target author (100x or greater), and my audience size scaled up…and so did my ad performance. It was fantastic. Facebook Ads bonus tip: take the time to “mine” likes by inviting everyone that responds to your ads to like your page. Quality page likes of ideal readers benefit you later in creating lookalike audiences, they are social proof to other readers, and they then become an easier to reach audience for you to communicate with even, potentially, without paying for ads. The process is manual, but I get about 10% conversion on these invites, and have created some super fans out of these ranks. Simply pull up the ad post from your Facebook page notifications, click on the likes to open them, and start inviting with the handy invite button. I find it easiest to do on my phone’s Facebook app, because for some reason it puts the likes in reverse chronological order, whereas on my laptop, the order is totally random. Reverse chronological means I just move right to the new ones and click invite instead of scrolling, hunting, clicking “more,” scrolling, hunting, etc.). Here’s some screenshots to show you what I mean on the Facebook Ad Audience Insights Affinities, by the way:
  4. AMS Scaling: Talk about problems scaling, ugh AMS is the worst. I had optimized my AMS ads to the point where each of my advertised books’ ads were performing well, so I wanted to spend more money for the same results. Good luck, right? I tried adding more ads (lots of little ones). That helped some. I tried creating “all star” ads from my best performing targets, and that was nice. I added fresh targets using Publisher Rocket. I increased budgets on my best performing ads from $101 a day to $1001 a day, trying to signal to Amazon that I’d pay as much as they wanted for repeated great performance, but the algorithms weren’t listening very well. All good, but not great. So I went in and raised all my bids across the board on my top performing book’s ads. I mean I RAISED EM UP. $1.01 became my lowest bid (crime fiction), with dynamic down. At first the results were fantastic, then a few problems cropped up. I lowered some bids, especially for auto ads and category ads, but overall, my bids remained much higher than the $.79 for targets and $.45 for categories I’d done before. Performance is great, and the ad spend scaled up. I tried to repeat this for older books, in a slightly different Crime Fiction audience, and it blew up on me. I really had to cut back my bids in the categories, because AMS was ready to build a new warehouse on my  spend. Not all of the spend was wasted of course, as my reads climbed (and my rank got better), so right now I am fine tuning with a close eye on reads and rank until I find the sweet spot for category and auto bids. But in the end, I got my scaling up, and I recaptured the type of financial performance I was looking for. Here’s a picture. Don’t let this picture scare you on ad spend or ACOS. I’m pushing a 15-novel series, so I can get aggressive–my Sell and Read Through (or, as I’ve started calling it, my PRPS — Projected Revenue Per Sale) is very high. Not to mention I believe that AMS ads really pay off with higher reads than other ads do, for those in Kindle Unlimited. Focus on “white space under the trend line.” That’s where the payoff is occurring as long as the ACOS stays in line (and as long as my relevancy, which I define as Clicks/Impressions or CTR {Click Through Rate} of 0.2% or better on average for my non-category targets, and my conversion, which is sales/click, of at least 3%, stay intact). In the end, if my numbers are right, then I can keep increasing spend as long as I have it in my budget, given that royalties lag 60 or more days behind payment of ad costs.
  5. Follow the numbers: Which brings us to my last pro tip: follow the numbers. As the AMS pro tip showed, follow your numbers. Your first number is your budget. How much do you have to spend NOW given that royalties will lag 60 or more days behind your spend? Your second number is your PRPS (see above). To calculate your PRPS, come to one of my virtual indie publishing retreats, or read this free blog post or both ;-). Your third number is your rank. Your rank will move positively (or not) before you see page reads occur, for those of you in Kindle Unlimited. Think about it: someone sees an ad, they add the book to their KU library, but they have 8 other books ahead of yours to read. It may take them a week or two to get to yours. And the last number to follow is your Net Income. I like to see it positive, because I’m crazy that way, or at least trending up in the times where I am aggressively pushing a spend that looks to be super profitable in terms of future collected royalties. I calculate mine per day. Want to see how? Here’s a sneak peek. Retreaters learn more about how to follow these numbers, but it’s my top tip for 2020 so far.
  6. BONUS PRO TIP–use the right ad or promo for the right job: Most indies will achieve best results by reserving promos and ads for when they discount their books to 99 cent or free, and then, results will be best if you rigorously test your audience, images, copy, and even links/landing pages before you scale up your spend. If you find yourself with a really high performing ad, like I have with a few of mine, you can experiment with advertising at full price. I find that AMS is easiest to advertise at full price, but not as great if you aren’t in Kindle Unlimited, and that Facebook is second easiest. BookBub is really, really tricky at full price, but it can be done with appropriate testing and flexibility, and a series. Last but not least, whenever possible, when using a promotion site (the ones that send your deal to opt-in subscribers), please try to only use the sites that target readers by genre, as you don’t gain much by downloads to people who don’t care about your genre. The Amazon algorithms especially can get really messed up in trying to figure out how to get your book to your ideal reader if the wrong readers are downloading (and then not reading, not reviewing, and not moving on to your other books).

Okay, not to brag, but I think I just created 10 pro tips out of 5 there 😉 That’s what I call some serious scaling!!!

Be well out there, and I hope you found these tips helpful. Don’t forget about my retreats — next one is June 24-26.

If you’ve got any super 2020 pro tips to share, drop them in the comments?

Pamela Fagan Hutchins is the USA Today bestselling and Silver Falchion Best Mystery winning author
of Switchback, Saving Grace, and a whole lot of other novels, a fangirl video/podcaster, and a big dog and rescue horse enthusiast who splits her time between Wyoming and Texas. Join her June 24-26 for a virtual indie publishing success retreat. Space is limited; details at


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