Part of the Indie Authors Series
Last week we covered how to create a brand, how to display that brand on social media, and determine which authors are your competition. This post is going to delve into my experiences with Facebook and Goodreads ads, iBooks opportunities, the missing element in our experience, and what’s next for Chandler Steele.
To put the word out that Chandler exists, I posted regularly, and linked many of those Facebook posts to her blog so readers might visit the website and get to know her (and her books) better. I made sure the posts were relevant and (hopefully) interesting and didn’t shout “buy my stuff!” constantly.
Even with that effort, it was incredibly slow building the Facebook Page Likes. So much so that my publicist and co-author of Socially Engaged: An Author’s Guide to Social Media (Tyra Burton), suggested a Facebook ad campaign. Let’s see how those ads performed.
She chose to run two different campaigns. The most successful was the Page Likes campaign which was geared specifically toward women who loved romance, suspense and mysteries. Once those folks were identified, Tyra sorted for women who owned Kindles (because the books were only on Amazon at that point.)
Over the roughly thirty days the campaign ran, we added over 200 followers to the Page at a cost of approximately 66 cents per Like.
One of the supreme joys of Facebook is its analytics. From this graph, I know that of the 2442 women reached, 8.2% of them Liked Chandler’s page. See the big red down arrow? That’s when we should have changed or suspended the ad because it was no longer as effective. The same people were seeing the same ad. Unfortunately, neither Tyra nor I caught that and the ad kept running beyond its peak effectiveness.
I know some of you are thinking, “But you didn’t make any money!” Let’s face it, to promote yourself you’ll have to spend some cash, whether that is on ads, or on travel and meal expenses for conventions, book signings, or other appearances. For me, the ability to remain at home, working on my next book rather than traveling all over the U.S. (or abroad), was worth it. Conventions certainly have their place, and I’ve done a ton of them over the years, but online advertising can be as effective. It all depends on your goals and your budget.
Of course, only a small percentage of those new folks on Chandler’s Page will see her posts because FB wants to sell ads. That’s why I started inviting those newcomers to join Chandler’s mailing list so they will (eventually) receive her newsletter. Mailing lists are powerful, and to be honest that’s the single biggest marketing mistake I made when I began in 2001: I did not build a mailing list over all those years. I can only imagine its size now if I had.
Author Mark Dawson built his massive mailing list off Facebook advertising, which proved to be highly successful in reaching new readers and selling books. He offers a free online course, and has a weekly podcast you might find of interest. His information has proved to be of value in my efforts.
The key thing is to tweak your ads as needed. They are much like indie e-book pricing, they’re designed to fiddled with. Find out what works, track your progress daily, and suspend or alter an ad when it’s no longer effective.
I was surprised to find that the ad I ran on Goodreads didn’t work. No matter how many times I altered the ad it never earned much notice. I had a few reads, but little follow through. I had similar disappointing results from hosting giveaways on GR: The hope that I’d receive at least a few reviews from those free copies proved wishful thinking. I’m not quite sure how to best utilize this site now, other than posting my love for other authors’ books.
Online Facebook Events
These are a hit and miss thing. Some went brilliantly and allowed me to soft sell my series, while adding people to my mailing list and Page. Some events even resulted in books sales (or KU reads). The ones that didn’t hit the mark were poorly attended. The more interaction the better.
One of the events I attended as Jana Oliver worked well because the hosts were not all authors. That event’s organizer drew from other walks of life (a psychic, a former Marine, etc.) which livened up the conversations. Especially since many of the attendees were authors themselves. Chandler will do something like this down the line, and it'll be a lot more fun for those attending the online event.
The Key Missing Element
What do you have in your toolkit that Chandler didn’t? Networking. Both Tyra and I knew it was important, but because of the constraints we established right up front (my readers remaining in the dark until I “outted” Chandler), we were hamstrung. Boy, did that make a difference in our results.
Networking proved as equally as important as writing good stories and consistent social media engagement. Sadly, you can produce top quality books and have fabulous marketing, and still not be found by readers. Networking with other authors and reader groups is vital in establishing your readership and fan base.
How to Connect
Definitely consider joining like-minded groups appropriate to your genre. They’re out on Facebook, Pinterest and on specially-targeted blogs. It doesn’t matter if you write Regency romances, or paranormal love stories, there’s a home for you. If you can’t find one, create one. But be aware that you need to be active in those groups, not do a drive-by promotion whenever the mood strikes. A consistent approach is what builds your base, and the fans will love you for it.
What’s Next for Ms. Steele?
Our foundation is solid so now it’s time to move in new directions since some things worked and others flopped.
Here’s our plan:
1. Pull the books from Kindle Select/Unlimited, though they will remain on Amazon
2. Launch all three books on iBooks, as well as Kobo, Barnes & Noble and GooglePlay
3. Launch pre-orders for Book 4 (KNIFE EDGE) on iBooks, Kobo and GooglePlay
4. Make CAT’S PAW (Book 1) perma-free.
5. Offer Book 1 as an incentive to sign up for Chandler’s newsletter. (Mark Dawson has done this with great success.)
6. Begin sending Chandler newsletters once per month. Eventually we will roll these subscribers over into a combined Jana/Chandler newsletter to help reduce the e-mail clutter.
7. Create book trailers because Facebook loves videos
8. Do Facebook Live Broadcasts as those are given priority in timelines over more static content (FB wants to compete with YouTube)
9. And NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK...
To backstop the launch of these books on the other platforms, we will be doing retailer specific advertising. For example, once the iBooks are up, my Facebook ads will tout the fact they’re available and that KNIFE EDGE is on pre-order. I’ll also include an excerpt from that book to whet reader interest.
Thinking Outside the Amazon Box
I learned several things at the NINC (Novelists Inc.) conference last September. One of the big ones is that both iBooks and Kobo are eager to work with indie authors. So much so that they wanted to know when Chandler’s series arrived on their websites so they could give those books a bit of an extra push.
It never hurts to e-mail your e-book retailers to find out if they have any special promotions which dovetail with your books. (Kobo always something going on.) Having a contact inside the organization is a great way to ensure both you and the retailer are working together to market your books. It’s a win-win for both of you.
One of the Cool Things About iBooks (Pre-Orders)
I had a one-on-one meeting with an iBooks marketing rep at NINC and learned that they allow pre-orders on new titles for up to a YEAR in advance. (GooglePlay does as well.) No cover or book content is needed to load your pre-order on their site. Of course, it’s better if you have a cover, back cover copy and an excerpt, but it’s not required. Not sure of your publication date? It can change as well. They prefer an excerpt that isn’t the first chapter, a compelling snippet from the story.
Why is this a big deal? iBooks pre-order sales are counted twice: Once on the day the sale is made, and then all those pre-orders are counted again as sales on launch day. That second counting pushes your new release much higher in the lists, which gains you more visibility. In case you don’t think that’s important, iBooks is now the second largest book retailer in the world. I suspect Amazon is starting to feel these folks breathing down their neck
All in all, the Chandler experiment taught me some new tricks and reinforced a number of lessons I’d learned over the years. Amazon is not the only force in the e-book world now and to some extent their size has made them lose their innovative freshness.
To compete in today’s overcrowded market place, you need to have a definitive brand image so readers know what kind of story they’re getting. For instance, you buy a book by J.K. Rowling, you know what it’s going to be like. Pick up one by her pseudonym (Robert Galbraith), it’s something different.
Interacting with your readers (and potential readers) can be fun. It shouldn’t be a chore. If you find it’s that way, you might be on the wrong social media platform. Both Jana and Chandler enjoy Facebook, but neither chirps much on Twitter or Instagram. Chandler is much better at blog posts than I am, something I have resolved to fix in 2017. Other authors are Twitter mavens and excel there. It all depends on your personality.
In all honesty, while we have more tools at our disposal than in 2001, it’s still going to take time to establish Chandler in the readers’s minds. That was my guess going in, but I was kinda hoping for a magic bullet. (Hope springs eternal.)
The bottom line is that it’s going to take time, whether you’re an established author launching a new name, or a newbie. There will be days you’ll want to chuck it all go make donuts for a living. (Bless those people!) Just like you craft your stories, you’re crafting your message and your image. Be patient, have fun and don’t give up! I’ll update how the launches on iBooks, etc. go and the results. Please feel free to ask any questions!
About Jana Oliver
Best known for her young adult Demon Trappers series, she writes what intrigues her, and spends a good deal of time fretting about whether demons actually exist.
When not wandering around the internet researching exorcisms, or posting on social media (eerily similar, those two), Jana can be found in Atlanta with her very patient husband, and a rapidly dwindling collection of single malt Scotch.
Jana Oliver | Chandler Steele | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Indie Bound |
About Cat's Paw
Because of the Russian mobster, Morgan Blake lost both her husband, and her career at the FBI. Now working with Veritas, she's eager to take Buryshkin down. So eager, she's willing to do anything to make that happen, even sacrificing a certain ex-con, if needed.
As a load of tainted cocaine hits New Orleans' streets, the body count quickly rises. To prevent more deaths, and a potential drug war, Morgan and Alex must learn that revenge comes at too high a price, and that love always has its own agenda.