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Thursday, September 20

Author Advertising: Stacking Ads to Maximize Promotional Dollars

By John G. Hartness, @johnhartness

Part of the Indie Author Series


This is kind of a complex topic, and if you haven’t read Marcy Kennedy’s articles on ads here on Fiction University, I suggest you at least familiarize yourself with them now. Her excellent article on the basics of advertising will give you a basis for understanding what I’m talking about here.

There are a million book promo sites, and they range from the very inexpensive to the downright wallet-busting, and range in efficacy from negligible to chart-topping. Today we’ll talk about how to maximize the bang for your buck(s) and stack promos to make sure your book hits as many eyeballs as possible and hopefully insure you see a positive return on your investment. As always, here’s a caveat – your mileage may vary, and no results are guaranteed.

What is ad stacking? 


Ad or promo stacking is the process of lining up a lot of advertising, promo site blasts, newsletters, and blog posts around a book. This may be because a new book in the series is launching, the book has a new cover and is getting a relaunch, or because you’ve been awarded a Bookbub Featured Deal or a Kindle Daily Deal, and you want to maximize the effectiveness of these promotional opportunities. In this example, we’re going to focus on what to do when you get a Bookbub or Kindle Daily Deal.

Ideally, you should have promotion running for several days on either side of the big feature to both increase the sales rank of the book ahead of the promo, and to make for a longer tail on the back end. In this example, I will describe what I have done to promote Act of Will, a novel by A.J. Hartley that has a Bookbub Featured Deal this Saturday, September 22, 2018.

Leading Up


The lead up to the major promo started on Monday, when I lowered to price of the book from $3.99 to $.99. That’s the sale price, and it will hold for two weeks. I tend to do big promos on books that are either the first in long-running series, or books where I can drop the price significantly to make them more appealing to promo sites. Starting Wednesday of this week, I listed the book with various promotional sites to get the book a trickle of sales ahead of the big promo day and boost the ranking on Amazon and other sites. This increases the visibility of the title and gives a sales history so that the book has a better chance of moving higher in the rankings and staying there longer.

I have used a variety of promotional sites for this project, starting with BookRunes and BookSends on Wednesday. Both of these sites were fairly inexpensive, and this title is in a genre (YA) that is typically less expensive, so I plan to spend less than $500 on this promo overall. On Thursday, I ran a Fussy Librarian Promo, a service that I’ve used in the past with positive results. I also started a $3 per day ad run on Amazon’s AMS pay-per-click ad service. Friday I continued the streak of a smaller promo site by running a promo with Fantasy Book Deals. My total pre-Bookbub spend, not counting AMS pay-per-click advertising, was $99.

Saturday is the big day – the Bookbub Featured Deal. 


Bookbub is the current 800-pound gorilla of ebook newsletter promos, with at last count over 15 million subscribers to their daily newsletter. I’ve run one promo with the site in the past, and it was one of the few newsletter promos that I have actually seen a significant profit with. That ad made a direct 200% ROI (return on investment) on the promoted title, with significant sell-through to other books in the series. Right now, in 2018, no other promo service comes close to their effectiveness. Act of Will is the Featured Deal for the YA category for Saturday, September 22. That promo spot cost $254. I didn’t run any other promos that day, but frequently other sites will scrape the deals that are promoted in Bookbub’s newsletter and you’ll get some free listings on other sites. You can’t count on that, but any free promo doesn’t hurt, right?

Post-Featured Deal 


I had promos lined up on Sunday and Tuesday to keep the tail of the promo propped up. Sunday’s promo was with Book Rebel, another inexpensive site that I have used to some success in the past, and Tuesday I ran a Bargain Booksy promo, a service that I’ve had good results with in the past. Their free book partner is, oddly enough, FreeBooksy (bet you couldn’t have guessed that!). The idea of these trailing promos is to keep the book in front of more eyes, and to keep it in front of the same eyes multiple times, to let the increased sales look more like a slope than a spike.

Many people subscribe to multiple newsletters, and they may not read all of them every day, so hitting a wide range of newsletters gives you better market saturation, and continues to reinforce the product’s visibility with your audience. There are newsletters that are quite effective that I did not use in this promo stack, like Robin Reads or Book Barbarian, because they were all full for the dates around my Bookbub promo, and I was specifically looking to maximize response in that time.

Monday was the book’s feature in my own reader newsletter, which has a subscriber base of around 5,000 readers. These are people who are predisposed to purchase books that I recommend, but they may also be people that have already bought this title in the past, since this is not a new release. But that does not add any cash to the budget, and it’s time to send out my biweekly newsletter anyway, so I should make sure that this title gets a prominent feature. Total post-Feature spend - $45.

On Thursday or Friday after the Bookbub Featured Deal, the book’s price returns to its normal $3.99, and we take a look at the entire process and evaluate whether or not this was an effective promo. The total budget for this promo including AMS ads (if they use the entire budget every day) is around $425. If the book sells an additional $350 over the normal two-week revenue, then I will consider this a success. I hope to recoup my entire investment and more, of course, but that’s the difference between marketing and promotion.

Promotions are short-term activities designed to recoup an investment, and marketing is a long-term process designed to increase overall visibility and make money for the press overall. Promotions feed into marketing, and there are some ancillary effects for the press overall that allow me to afford to do marketing work that does not immediately recoup the cash outlay. Because promotion is a short-term part of marketing, which is a long-term project. Since promotions are part of my marketing, I’ll be happy if these stacked promotions recoup 75-80% of the cost.

So there you go – that’s my current strategy for stacking promos around a Bookbub Featured Deal or a Kindle Daily Deal. As I said earlier, your mileage may vary, and if you find something that works better, please let me know!

Have you tried stacking promos? How did it work for you? Are there sites you love that I didn’t mention? Leave a note in the comments!

John G. HartnessJohn G. Hartness is a teller of tales, a righter of wrong, defender of ladies’ virtues, and some people call him Maurice, for he speaks of the pompatus of love. He is also the award-winning author of the urban fantasy series The Black Knight Chronicles, the Bubba the Monster Hunter comedic horror series, the Quincy Harker, Demon Hunter dark fantasy series, and many other projects. He is also a cast member of the role-playing podcast Authors & Dragons, where a group of comedy, fantasy, and horror writers play Dungeons & Dragons. Very poorly.

In 2016, John teamed up with a pair of other publishing industry ne’er-do-wells and founded Falstaff Books, a small press dedicated to publishing the best of genre fiction’s “misfit toys.”

In his copious free time John enjoys long walks on the beach, rescuing kittens from trees and playing Magic:the Gathering.

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About A Hard Day's Knight: Book One of The Black Knight Chronicles

Batman meets The Odd Couple meets Dracula in this award-winning horror comedy series!

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