I’m in a lot of writers’ groups and have been for eight years now. That means I see a lot of similar posts and comments from people at various levels of experience and success. One of the most common refrains I hear is, “I don’t sell a lot of books because I suck at marketing.”
Hmm. I’ve asked a few people what they mean by that and get answers ranging from “I hate posting on social media,” to “I don’t have much of a budget, so can’t succeed,” to “I just want to write and have someone else market my books.”
Let’s address that last objection first. Unless you are a unicorn, that’s never going to happen. If you beat the odds and find an agent, and that agent spends a year or two and finally manages to get your manuscript placed with a traditional publisher, that publisher is going to want you to do your bit to push the book. By that, I don’t mean glamorous appearances on NPR or The Today Show. No, I mean that they will want you to have an established platform on social media and use it effectively. Just the same as if you had indie published. In fact, many trad publishers are inquiring about the size of your social media platform before they agree to publish.
Let’s address another objection: “I hate posting on social media.” The truth is, marketing can have very little to do with interacting on Facebook, Instagram, etc. In fact, you can avoid social media entirely and still be successful at marketing. It’s harder, but it’s possible.
Cost Per Click advertising.
CPC ads are what are driving many, if not most, successful author’s careers right now. Amazon Marketing Services, Facebook Ads, and Bookbub Cost Per Click Ads can absolutely move many copies of your books and turn you into a bestseller. Or, even better (in my mind), a steady seller.
“So,” you might ask, savvy cynic that you are, “why isn’t everyone just pouring a few bucks into Cost Per Click ads and getting rich?”
Let’s back up a bit here. First, for CPC ads to work, you’ve got to have a good-to-great, genre-appropriate cover. That’s what is going to do the heavy lifting to gain attention and get that valuable click. Next, you’ve got to have an excellent blurb for your book that leads off with a hook and poses enough tantalizing questions that someone wants to know more. A simple summary of your story will not accomplish that.
Here’s some tough love. If your covers and blurbs aren’t top-notch, CPC ads won’t work for you. In fact, they will harm you.
How? The worst thing that can happen is to pay to deliver someone to your Amazon page, only to have them click away five seconds later. You paid the freight but didn’t get the sale. When many people have said, “I suck at marketing,” because Facebook or Amazon ads didn’t work for them, I’ve looked at their book’s page on Amazon. It’s often easy for me to see why their ads aren’t working. All an ad can do is deliver eyeballs to your book’s page. That page must close the sale for you.
Which brings me to another hard truth: most people who click on your ad won’t buy your book. In fact, if one out of eight or ten buys your book, you’re doing very well. Without an ideal cover and blurb, your ratio is much more likely to be one out of thirty or worse.
If you’re paying $.30 per click, that’s obviously a huge difference. If you convert one out of ten, each sale is costing you $3.00. If it’s only one out of thirty, you’re paying $9.00 for that same sale.
At those numbers, it looks impossible to be profitable on a CPC ad, but it’s not.
Here’s why: read-through. You need to know what your read-through is before you can know if a campaign is profitable. For instance, I have a twelve-book series. I’ve done the math, and so I know that, on average, each time I sell the first book in that series, I’m going to earn a little over $18.00. That takes into account the people who stop reading after the first book, those who read all twelve, and everyone in between.
Obviously, paying $3.00 to sell that first book in return for an eventual royalty of $18.00 is a good deal.
How can you figure your own read-through, so you know how much you can afford to bid? I highly recommend “Help! My Facebook Ads Suck” (Second Edition) by Mal and Jill Cooper. They have included a plug-in formula that’s easy to use that will help you determine what the sale of each first-in-series book will ultimately be worth to you.
And that leads me to my final point, for now: pick a platform and master it.
It can feel overwhelming, trying to learn FB ads, Amazon ads, Bookbub ads, etc. Pick one and focus on it. The book I just recommended is an excellent place to start for understanding Facebook ads. Whichever you choose, there are classes and courses to get you started. Dave Chesson has an excellent free course on AMS ads here. David Gaughran has a free course on Bookbub ads here.
Once you choose which platform you want to master first, my advice is to start slow, with low bids, and exercise a lot of patience. I often see people say, “I put a FB ad up four hours ago and don’t see any sales.” Impatience will not win the day. Starting with just a few low-dollar ads will help you learn what works without costing you much money. The idea is to identify which ads are working and slowly build those up, while killing the ads that turn out to be ineffective.
Notice that none of this requires you to be a social media genius. With a bit of time, energy, and a willingness to learn, you do not need to suck at marketing.