#Ninjahack: a blog series where Self-Published Authors share their success stories
I recently came into contact with Maximian Held via Twitter. I've been hard at work implementing the processes I have been talking to you about in the WTH Do You Do Next Blog Series and building my author platform. While I was making waves on Twitter I connected with Maximian and we started talking. Maximian himself reached out to me with a #Ninjahack he had recently just put to good use. He was definitely following the rules of engagement for authors, there wasn't a timid bone, he straight up said, "Hey, man I have something YOU NEED!"
THIS IS HOW YOU HAVE TO NETWORK! OFFER VALUE!
He told me he had just done a case study on how to maximize results when running Facebook Ads to drive readers to his book Whisper of the End on Amazon. I was instantly intrigued and you should be too because his strategy was really quite ingenious. So I asked him to draw it up and sure enough it was in my inbox in no time. So without further Adieu, let me introduce Maximian Held and the first issue of #NinjaHack.
MAXimizing your results on a $10 Facebook Ad Budget!
Yeah that was pun!
Getting noticed as an independent author is difficult, and promoting yourself becomes your second job the moment you hit “publish.” No one has ever heard of you before, and convincing someone to give your book the time-of-day is difficult. In the early days of Kindle, it might have been easy for a new author to be seen, but with nearly a million new books a year that’s not an option anymore. When I published Whisper of the End at 3AM, I woke up the next day and immediately started talking about it. As an unpublished, unknown author I’ve had my book downloaded ~320 times in the four months its been published. A third of them have happened organically, and the rest were the result of promotions and advertisements I was running.
I carry a copy of it with me everywhere I go, regardless of where I’m going.
When I went to HASCON in Rhode Island I showed it to every person I could lay my hands on. If someone talked about a book series they had enjoyed I mentioned how my book had something similar. I went to HASCON to enjoy the celebration of Magic the Gathering, but I was never off the clock as my own marketing firm. Even when I’m in school I have a copy of Whisper of the End with me. I think this mentality is important to the success of a book because it’s just like building any brand.
I have some experience with running ads on social media platforms and most important thing is targeting. An improperly targeted ad is nothing more then a hole for you to throw money into. If you’re going to run any kind of advertisement, then you need to spend time researching your target audience. Most self-published authors are squeezed for cash, myself included, so I ran an experiment:
How far could you stretch $10?
For my experiment I chose to compare 3 different methods of advertisement: Facebook Ads, Facebook Boosted Posts and a Promoted Tweet. Each of these options was given a $10 lifetime budget and a maximum daily spend of $2. The goal was to see how many impressions I could get as well as link clicks, as well as other interactions. As a control I compared my results to an earlier promotion I had run, which had a lifetime budget of $60 and a maximum daily spend of $10.
Analyzing the Results Bore Interesting Insights
Every ad, except the control, used the same targeting parameters. I wanted to test which platform offered the best return for a cash-strapped author. What’s interesting to note that while the Control Facebook Ad has six times the budget of the test Ad, and it has as many more Impressions, it has a lower engagement rate. The software behind the advertisements tries to show it the most interested people first, and then it moves on those it thinks are less likely to respond. While the results might seem clear-cut, spending more doesn’t ensure more engagement, the larger budget provided more downloads of Whisper of the End. This is due to the key factor of repeat viewing. People are more likely to buy something after they’ve seen it several times, the usual standard is 3 unique exposures for most consumers to purchase your product.
While my $10 ads performed far better in terms of cost-per-click then the control, they were only shown to a potential reader once. The control ad was seen an average of 2.67 times by every person, and I saw a noticeable increase in sales during the time it was running. That’s not say that these experiments had no value however, because I was able to demonstrate how my targeting had improved. The audience I’ve worked at narrowing down with a $10 ad is very responsive. The average Facebook ad engagement rate is ~0.17%, so my result of 4.43% is a huge success in my book. It waits to be seen if pumping more money into the $10 ad sets will yield proportionally larger results, but I don’t see any reason to doubt that it will.
You're Going to Run You Own Aren't You?
Final Thoughts on Promotions from the Maximizer!
Another useful tool for self-published authors, those on Amazon exclusively at least, is the free promotion days. Authors who agree to an exclusivity period of 90 days are given access to 5 free days of promotion for that period. These promotions are one of two types: Giveaway and Price Countdown. In both cases using these promotions bumps up your book in Amazon’s search results. I’ve used the giveaway promotion extensively, alongside word-of-mouth and a touch of electronic marketing, to reach #26 on the Top Fantasy Books chart. If you’re going to use these promotions, especially the free one, you really do need to spend some time getting the word out. Coordinate with any writing or promotional groups you may be a part of, set up automated tweets with the appropriate hashtags so people can hear about your sale. Getting your book to sell and be noticed is an intensive effort, it’s not just something you can ignore.
The most critical step is that you get yourself set up, before you publish. Don’t publish your book and then wait a week to create your social media accounts. Have them ready to go before hand with posts hyping your upcoming release. Get your friends and family involved, ask them to share what your author page puts out. Network with other authors for exposure and reviews, don’t be afraid to work with other people. Make sure that you involve yourself in online discussions and forums, your readers are out there but you’ll have to go them. You’ve already spent months or years putting your thoughts on paper, don’t let success slip by because you were afraid to get involved.
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Christopher Lee is the indie author of Nemeton, an avid history buff, mythologist, bardic poet, and keeper of the old ways.