I’ve talked a lot about buying sponsorships on book blogs and mailing lists such as Bookbub, Ereader News Today, Pixel of Ink, and sites of that ilk, but I haven’t covered pay-per-click advertising much, not since a very early (three years old now) post on my experience advertising on Goodreads. The main reason is that it’s hard to make pay-per-click advertising work when you’re selling something with as small of a profit margin as an ebook. If you have to pay for every click, and each click costs 40 or 50 cents and only 1 in 10 people end up buying the book, you’re not going to make money on a 99 cent or even 3.99 ebook.
Facebook operates under the same paradigm. You can buy pay-per-click advertising and create little ad campaigns (limited space to type in your copy), or you can pay to promote one of the regular posts you make on your author page (no limit on space). Either way, you’re charged when people engage with your ad (i.e. click on it or like it).
You may be thinking, but wait… shouldn’t people who like my author page see all of my posts anyway? Alas, no. That hasn’t been happening for a while. Facebook openly admits that you’ll only reach about 16% of your audience with your page’s posts. If you want more people to see those posts, you have to pony up the money and boost your post.
The cost varies based on the number of likes you have and how many people you want to reach. With 3,000-odd likes, Facebook recommends I spend $100-$200 to boost a post these days. It used to be more like $30 to $50. (Fortunately, you don’t have to spend as much as they recommend.)
So… is it ever worth it? Should you pay to boost a post when you have a new release?
I’ve tried boosting posts a few times over the last year, and it never seemed to do much in terms of sales. I usually use my Amazon affiliate link when I plug one of my own releases, so I can see how many sales I get from those plugs. The trend is for Twitter to be negligible, for Facebook to be slightly less negligible (promoted posts or not), and for the vast majority of my new-release sales to come via my newsletter (I’m only counting the ones I can measure with my affiliate link of course).
A somewhat different experience with a multi-author urban fantasy bundle that I’m in
This weekend, a group of us launched Nine by Night, a nine-author, nine-novel, 99-cent urban fantasy collection. We’re staggering our newsletter announcements, and I’m not supposed to do mine until later in the week, so I haven’t done a blog post about it yet. However, we decided to try and kickstart things by announcing the release on the social media sites.
Yesterday morning, I wrote up a quick Facebook message with a link to the Amazon page (an affiliate link, of course). I was on my way out the door for a Sunday morning hike, so it wasn’t the most scintillating marketing copy — I’m sure you could do better! I decided to pay $100 to boost it to people who like my page and their friends (in most cases, I’ll boost these to people I target by sex/age/interest such as women who like urban fantasy, but since a couple of the other bundle authors were already doing that, I went with the people who have already liked my page (and their buddies since that’s built in)).
For my money, I got a reach of about 25,000 with a post engagement of 327 (note: this includes likes, comments, shares, etc., not just clicks on the Amazon link). That’s a much lower engagement percentage than I get on organic posts or on posts where I ask a question or do something that encourages more interaction, but when I’m paying for the likes, clicks, comments, etc., I don’t necessarily want people to engage just for the heck of it. I want people who are going to buy the book!
Overall, those 327 “engagements” translated into 108 sales (actually, it’ll probably end up being more like 150 since this ran for 24 hours, and I can’t yet see Monday’s affiliate sales). That’s actually not bad at all — much more than I usually get for promoting my own single-author releases on Facebook (doh!). I suppose that’s not that surprising since this is an awesome deal for readers (a chance to get nine complete novels for 99 cents).
In this case, I felt like the promoted post was worth it, not only for the sales, but because when you start adding those kinds of numbers to other promotions (i.e. newsletter announcements and blog sponsorships), you can potentially get the momentum you need to appear on the top of Amazon category lists where browsing buyers can find you organically. As I type this, the ebook is at 346 overall in the store, two days after its release (I’ll do another post later on that covers how the bundle went from my point of view, but it’s already been a cool experience; it’s great having multiple people with something invested and thus multiple people working on promotions.).
Note: I spent a lot more on the Facebook promoted post than I earned (about $10 in affiliate commissions; if I’d been the one to publish the book, I would have earned another $40 or so in sales), so in the case of making it into the black, it’s a money loser. Frankly, that’s going to be the case with any 99-cent title and a pay-per-click campaign: you just can’t ever make that work in your financial favor. That said, if it’s a loss leader and you have more books in a series for people to go on and buy, you may be able to end up ahead of the game, especially if you’re doing this in conjunction with other promotional pushes. Your mileage will vary, so track your advertising investments!
How about you? Have you tried Facebook’s promoted posts scheme? Good results? Bad results? What do you think?