SPS 229: Starting Ads for the First Time – with Mark Dawson
James and Mark walk us through a new advertising campaign for a six-book series that had languished. James shares the mistakes he made, the things he’s got right and what he expects to see in future book income.
- The importance of a benchmark when starting with book ads
- Why read-through matters when it comes to calculating an ads budget
- Keeping an eye on click through rates (CTR) and impressions to gauge ad effectiveness
- The valuable information in your also boughts
- Where your advertising copy really matters
- Different ways to track if your ads are working
Resources mentioned in this episode:
PATREON: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon page
WEBINAR: Latest on Amazon Ads with Janet Margo. Reserve your seat here.
COURSE OPENING: Ads for Authors is open for enrolment for a limited time. Learn more.
MERCH: Are you a ligneous beetle or a yawning hippopotamus? Get your SPF hoodies and t-shirts in the brand new SPF Store.
SPS 229: Starting Ads for the First Time - with Mark Dawson
Speaker 1: On this edition of the Self-Publishing Show.
James Blatch: At the bottom of the waterfall is this pool of water. Obviously, the water cascading in, and the pool of water is sales and page reads. Ultimately that's what you want to adjust. If you're an engineer or a landscape gardener, you don't go into the pool and start changing things, because you can't control the water coming in from down there, so you have to start at the top of the waterfall.
Speaker 1: Publishing is changing, no more gatekeepers, no more barriers. No one standing between you and your readers. Do you want to make a living from your writing?
Join indie bestseller Mark Dawson and first-time author James Blatch as they shine a light on the secrets of self-publishing success. This is the Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.
James Blatch: Hello, yes, it is Friday, which means it's time for the Self-Publishing Show with me James Blatch.
Mark Dawson: And me in my newly decked out office, Mark Dawson.
James Blatch: Look at that. You look like You're about to anchor the CNN Evening News.
Mark Dawson: I'm not sure about that, but it is ... yes it's been a busy ... Well, started this remodeling all this office space about six weeks ago, a bit more than that actually before Christmas and only now just been able to move in. It's pretty much done now, so just getting used to a new setup.
James Blatch: We should say of course, for people watching on YouTube, they can see all this. For people, most people who still listen to the podcast, it doesn't really matter. You could be naked and hanging from a tree.
Mark Dawson: I'm not naked.
James Blatch: You might be. You have to go across to YouTube to find out. Yes, looks very nice and nice setup, and I know you've got some new toys to play with, including a nice new monitor. We've talked about your electric bike. I think you've become restless with your checkbook during this lockdown period.
Mark Dawson: Yes, I have a little bit. Actually, I went out with a friend and played golf for the first time yesterday and I told you this earlier this morning, and now I'm quite tempted to go and buy some golf clubs, so we'll see. I probably won't for a while.
James Blatch: It's all happening. The first thing we want to do is to welcome our new Patreon supporters. Let me say a very, very big hello and a shout out to David Stewart from Basingstoke in the UK, to Chelsea Davis, from Texas in the US, Kitt Oliver, Chatona Havoc, Kristin Shaffer and Joyce Hammock, who are all joining us as supporters of this podcast at patreon.com/Self PublishingShow. Thank you very much indeed.
Want to give another shout out to a fellow podcaster, another podcast actually, who I really like. It's slightly different from ours, quite a few crossover in guests. But they get some pretty good writers because of the two guys who are running it. This is J. Thorne and JD Barker and JD Barker in particular, very well connected in the writing world. They've had JP. They've had James Patterson.
Mark Dawson: JP?
James Blatch: JP. Jim as we call him.
Mark Dawson: You and Jim, close friends obviously.
James Blatch: We are. Had James Patterson and James Rollins and a few of those big names. They're a little bit shorter than our episodes, but I really, really do like them, and I'm particularly shouting out because I am the guest on this week's podcast.
Mark Dawson: Are you?
James Blatch: I am indeed. It's called Writer's Inc and you'll find it at writersincpodcast.com.
Mark Dawson: How did you manage that?
James Blatch: Well, because ...
Mark Dawson: They didn't ask me.
James Blatch: I know they didn't because they're fussy. They're very selective about the guests they have on. They will have you on, there's no question about that. They talk about you, which is even greater than being a guest is being talked about. There's only one thing worse than being talked about.
Mark Dawson: That's been not talked about, yes, I know. Yes, I was on Joanna Penn's podcast this week, so that was fun. It's out today actually as we record this.
James Blatch: Oh, there you go. No, I really like, and the two guys are great. I admire them hugely, both as writers, and JD Barker in particularly his enthusiasm for what is the best thing to do in marketing, as well as writing and he's somebody who's discovered us didn't he at ThrillerFest I think, and discovered Indie and got a little bit more enthused about it all, and has really concentrated on your instruction I think Mark in accelerating his career. A good story. JD Barker, the next thing they're going to do is that JD is going to mentor some of J's writing, which I particularly am going to be interested in.
Shout out to their podcast. You could head over there and have a listen to them.
Okay, one other thing to mention is that we have, we're in the process ... Have you actually selected our next book club book too? I know it's on your desk at the moment Mark.
Mark Dawson: No, no, no, too busy.
James Blatch: It's on your desk. Actually, I've got some input looking at that list into who might be a good victim there. But if you want to be considered as somebody who goes forward to our book lab episodes, where we take one of your books, we look at the Amazon page, we bring in the experts to really give critical analysis to the various components that go to making the buying decision.
If you are a Patreon supporter, that is a qualification, so you have to go to patreon.com/selfpublishingshow and support the show that way for as little as $1 an episode.
That gives you a place in the hat and then just drop us an email [email protected] with the Amazon link and the book you'd like us to consider and we will be looking ahead to the next round shortly.
We should say that Ads for Authors is open. We are actually recording this on Monday, the first of June. Can you believe it's June already? It's going to open in a couple of days from now. But it will be open by the time this episode goes out. You can read all about it at selfpublishingformula.com.
Mark Dawson: Stop saying that.
James Blatch: Read all about it.
Mark Dawson: Every episode.
James Blatch: Do I say read all about it? Do I?
Mark Dawson: Yeah, almost every episode. Yeah. It was annoying the first time, it's much more annoying now.
James Blatch: I've never even noticed I've said it, once. You can find out more information at-
Mark Dawson: That's better.
James Blatch: ... selfpublishingformula.com/adsforauthors. Is that all the parish notices?
Mark Dawson: I think so. One thing if you're watching on YouTube and I'm a bit fuzzy, it's because I've set my camera up and James hasn't done it for me. It could be a little out of focus. But that's, who cares? That's how we roll.
In the same spirit, my wife did my hair. My wife cut my hair this morning, so it's a little bit slapdash, SPF Towers at the moment. But you know, that's the spirit of the times. We are allowed to do that.
James Blatch: My daughter cut my hair, and she cut the back of it. I think she cut the back of it quite well, if I turn around for people on YouTube, but she didn't do anything at the front, so it's ridiculous. People should also know, because of the strange setup that you've got now is I'm looking at the back of your head.
Mark Dawson: I know. We'll work this out.
James Blatch: We will work this out. Anyway, you're looking into camera, which is the important thing as long as it's recording. I can see the red light. It's definitely recording.
Mark Dawson: Yes.
James Blatch: Good. Well, look what's quite exciting for me. This is a bit of a breakthrough episode, because, up until very recently when we talked about Amazon ads and Facebook ads and a lot of the detail of this stuff, I was an outsider because I haven't published my book famously, I don't run the ads and whilst I can absolutely get a hold of things, I do run social media campaigns. I've been running our AdWords campaigns since day one. I do run some other campaigns, little bits of Amazon ads I've run for our SPF books in the past, but haven't properly used them in anger.
Whilst I'm all over things like keywords, I've done some of those sessions. I've been basically asking you questions about this, and whilst I will always be asking you questions about this, what has happened recently is, on February the 1st, Fuse Books, which is our new little imprint that Mark and I run along with Stuart Bache, who's our in-house designer, we took over the books for a series of books, six books written by Robert Storey, and I have been pretty much solely responsible for marketing them, using paid advertising and everything else we can, mailing lists and so on.
I've been using a lot of the things that we've been talking about for the last couple of years in anger, if you like and got to know the system, getting to know the system very quickly, come up with my own spreadsheets. I know you've got excellent spreadsheets Mark, and I've looked at them, but I also think it's just the way I work I think, is I like to put everything into spreadsheets and start analyzing it, and putting the data in a way that I want to look at it.
What we thought we'd do today is first of all, the main aim of the episode is to test the temperature of these paid ads platforms, find out where we are with them, what's working, what's not, what's changed, what's in the pipeline.
We're going to do all of that. But we're also going to talk perhaps specifically about the adventure, the journey since ... Journey word, since February the 1st when I took over this account. We'll talk about benchmarks first thing, because what was quite good about this account, so tragic story behind it. But from our point of view and the data point of view is it had no advertising at all, running to it in 2019.
You perhaps should explain what we mean by benchmarking why it's so important.
Mark Dawson: I will actually go slightly ... Don't forget to ask him that question in a minute. But I think we add a little bit of context first of all, why this is going to be an interesting episode for people is because one of the things I get a lot, and if you're on the SPF mailing list, you will have seen the pre-ads emails that we've been sending out over the last few days, which reminds me, I've got to do one of those later this afternoon.
But the thing that I get quite a lot is recipients will occasionally email and sometimes quite angrily and say, "This is all well and good, but how can I possibly afford to spend thousands of dollars on advertising?"
John, who answers most of those is very polite, and will always remind people that, I didn't have that budget to start with. I did start with $5 a day, and then gradually built that up. I understand why people look at those numbers and don't feel there's any relevance to where they are at the start of their careers.
What this has enabled us to do, and we came up with this whilst we were chatting this morning, was that the Fuse account is new. It doesn't have any history in terms of advertising, and we don't have a massive budget.
We're not spending a ton of money, certainly not compared to the amount that I spend most of the time on ads. It's a really good opportunity for people to look at what the effect that ads can have, budgets that don't feel quite so daunting. That's a bit of context.
Now on benchmarking, what we mean is there's lots of ways to judge the effectiveness of ads, and it's very important that you choose one, probably more importantly you choose more than one so you've got redundancies, so you can check to see whether if you think you're making money, you can double check it with another to make sure that you're confident that the ads are doing what you want them to do.
Benchmarking is the easiest way to check, and very simply you look at your books over the course of time, where you've not advertising at all, and then you compare the same amount of time. Let's say you take six months worth of history, when you weren't advertising or even a month or a week, it doesn't really matter. You just need a period of time where you weren't advertising, you then switch on the ads.
It could be Facebook, Amazon, both of them, but whatever. Then you compare the results that you've seen after the ads have been turned on.
The difference provided that nothing else is happening, and it should be easy to say whether it is or it isn't. The difference between the ads being switched on and the ads been switched off, is the amount that you can say was the uplift was caused by the ads. Then when you have that number, you can start to do things like comparing it to the amount that you spent.
Hopefully, you'll see that you're making more than you've spent and the difference obviously is your profit. We've been able to do that with the Fuse account for these Robert Storey's, six books and I think it will be quite a good episode for people who just want to see how ads can work in the early days of a business.
Also, it's worth bearing in mind, I am not running these ads. I'm on the end of the phone if James has a question for me, but James is running these ads so I don't have my hand in these every day.
James Blatch: Yeah, I'm much closer to an author who's come to this fairly green than you might think. People might think that I've got some massive inside track on this, but the truth is it rubs off on me some of this stuff but if you're vaguely familiar with how they work, you're probably roughly the same place as me when I started with these.
Okay, so the background is that these books of series of six, the last number six published late 2018. The series began life with a different name and then Robert settled on Ancient Origins as being the series names as books one to six.
Tragically, Robert lost his life in March last year, and in the following months coinciding with Mark and I talking about potentially running an imprint and we had heartedly done a year or so before. We had a lot of submissions from people, became a bit overwhelmed and realized we didn't have the bandwidth. I exchanged emails, obviously in terrible circumstances with Terry and Maureen, Robert's parents and I hesitated but it occurred to me straightaway that this could be a perfect opportunity for both of us, because I could tell from Terry who was in his 70s that he wanted the books to be out there.
He wanted the books to find new readers, and he wanted to continue the income from them because they had some income from them, of course. He wanted access to the course, but I could also tell that there was a slight reluctance there that this is a whole new world they'd have to learn.
After thinking about it long and hard and hesitating at first, I did then send Terry an email said, "Look, we are thinking about starting this publishing company. I wonder if this is going to be the right fit." Well, they thought right from the beginning this would work for them.
Long story short, we got to the point of contracts, we got that all drawn up, set up the company. We took over the books on the 1st of February. Now my point of view is the interesting thing, because I know a lot of you, we do get submissions all the time. I had another one this week. A lot of you think about this and how this works, and Mark and I talk about this. We had a chat with another author recently. The only point in us doing this is if we can do better than the people who hold the book. If you're an author ...
Mark Dawson: I would say much better.
James Blatch: Yeah, much better. If you're an author and you're under the age of 70, perhaps when you're in your 70s, 80s maybe things change, although maybe not. I don't want to absolutely, don't want to rule out the fact that, how old was Colonel Sanders when he started KFC? Was famously, late 60s, I think, but ...
Mark Dawson: Why do I get the impression you're about to insult quite a large section of our audience.
James Blatch: I'm, not. I'm basically saying that if you're able to run your books, you should be running your books. That's our number one thing we say to people. That's exactly what we said to someone recently who came to us and asked us about potentially taking over their books, that nobody will work hard for your books than you.
The mathematics of this is we have to do basically a 50:50 deal here. 50% of the revenue is going to come in to us, 50% is going to go back to you. Well, that's a big chunk of change to take away.
On the off chance that you can't run your campaigns as effectively someone else, so we've got to do not just what they were doing before, but at least double the income in the long run. Which is why benchmarking is important for us in terms of, does this contract make sense for Rob's parents, number one for us, and we absolutely if we thought it wasn't, we would change things. But secondly, to measure the money you're putting in as Mark says, into the campaigns. The first thing I did is I looked back over the last year.
The beginning of the year, the sales were going okay, by the end of the year, they were dropping away. I guess they had that momentum that comes from advertising at the beginning of the year, and that gradually dropped away. I took the last six months as being the benchmark, so July to December 2019, and worked out that the monthly income, the average monthly income, total revenue and they're in KU by the way, I should say from the beginning. It was $2,846.61, so not bad a month for six books, doing nothing with no paid advertising running to them.
That's $92 a day. That's where we started from. Everything else, I can look at page reads and I can look at unit sales, and I've got all them benchmarked as well, but the bottom line is important here are we going to be able to raise those sales?
Month one was an interesting one for me, Mark. I went in there and I think I did take your advice. I think you said run an auto campaign or two at first.
Mark Dawson: On Amazon.
James Blatch: On Amazon. Yes on Amazon, so start on Amazon. I only started Facebook ads this month actually, which I'll come on to. I think probably, looking back, I did make mistakes in that first month, which I think you're going to do. I actually ended up spending $1,000, which is a huge amount of money, when we didn't really have any money in the kitty at that point.
I let a couple of campaigns run and get a little bit out of control before I then started properly looking at them. That may be a difference between you and me if you're listening to this. You may think, "Well, I haven't got $1,000 I could throw at a campaign in month one."
I probably shouldn't have done that. I should have started more cautiously. By comparison, in month two where I started to feel like I knew what I was doing, I was able to read the campaigns a bit. I spent $484 that month. Now that is $16 a day. If I tell you where we are today, remember we started at $2,846 a month. That was the average for the previous six months. I've just started up May, it's June 1st today, and we did $4,764 in May. We are on our way to doubling that monthly revenue.
That's a big jump in May. Probably didn't need to let a couple of campaigns run away. I didn't do that much with the data. They just didn't really work, low CPCs, weren't really generating sales. But looking back Mark, may well have fed into the beginning of that momentum, because of read through.
Should we pause for a moment and now talk about read through before I talk about what you look at day-to-day on your sales and how you measure that?
Mark Dawson: Read through is, we cover this a lot. It's a very important concept to understand and it is just basically that you got to put yourself in the role, in the shoes of a reader. If you read a new series that you like, doesn't have to be a series, a new book that you like and you start with book one or you start with the author's, the first book that you see, there's a good chance if you enjoy that the next book you'll look at, and this is encouraged by Amazon on the Kindle, because they will probably present you with another book by the same author.
The chances are, and you can deduce this a bit with the mailing list and the back matter and all of that kind of stuff, to encourage readers to go from the first book to the second book. Then if you have a series like Robert's with six books in it, if you can get them into the second book, then you usually see the percentage of readers who read the second book, get to the end then read the third book, that percentage should remain reasonably static.
So just as a rule of thumb, if you can get a read through, say between 40 and 50% from book one to book two, it's pretty good.
You'd then expect to see maybe 80% plus from book two to book three, and that can maintain ... You may even be able to get up to 90% if your series is good. Once you get people deeper into the series and the read through tends to be fairly strong, and by working out that number ...
There are a number of ways of doing it. We have a spreadsheet in the ads for this course. It will enable you to work this out in a way that most authors use these days. If you can work out how much the sale of the first book is actually worth, so let's just say it's being, you're selling it at 1.99 in the UK, so you're making about 1.20, 1.30 in terms of the 70% royalty.
If you can work out that the sale of that is not just worth 1.30, because you're going to start factoring in the value of other books further down the series or other books that you've got, you can then start to make decisions as to how much you want to invest in advertising to sell the first book, because it's not worth 1.30.
It might be worth just plugging a figure out there, it might be worth £10 if you've got a deep series. That opens up all kinds of things. You can then afford to be a bit more aggressive with your advertising. You can afford to pay a little bit more for the CPC.
Those kinds of things just open up and enable you to make more nuanced and accurate decisions, on how much you're prepared to spend to acquire a reader in the first place.
James Blatch: Yeah, and the reason I wanted you just to talk about read through and reminds us about why it's so important is because, if I look back at the lifetime of the campaign's I've run on Amazon, only one of them shows a profit on Amazon dashboard.
Mark Dawson: By profit, you're looking at ACoS?
James Blatch: Yes, I'm looking at the ACoS. Only one of them is below. So ACoS is also something that I've heard bandied about, and I knew basically what it meant, but it takes a little bit of adjustment to work out exactly how it's presented in Amazon.
ACoS is your return on your advertising spend. 100% means that you've spent £10 and you've made £10. Anything below 100% means you're in profit. Anything above 100% means you're making a loss and I put it in inverted commas, because two things, one is where we're talking now on June the 1st, the Amazon dashboard not include page reads.
That's particularly significant for these books, because if I look back at that six month history again, something else to be aware of where your money's coming from, the average monthly royalty from eBooks and print books was about $700. The average monthly royalty from page reads was over $2,000.
There's a big percentage split there between the way that people were choosing to consume Robert's books, which meant it's quite difficult for me to run these campaigns and look at these results.
If I took them on face value, I would have stopped all these campaigns and I'd throw away the idea that Amazon ads are going to work for these books. But because of the benchmarking, and I'm looking at the page reads coming in, and I'm also looking at the bottom line, in terms of the royalty check at the end of the month. Something clearly is making a difference and it has to be until the middle of May when I started writing my first Facebook ads, it has to be the money we're putting into Amazon ads.
Mark Dawson: Yeah, there's nothing else really changed. The only thing that we did change was we got new covers. We had six new covers.
James Blatch: Recently.
Mark Dawson: But it was after the campaign was running. If you eliminate everything else that could be contributing to that uplift, then the only thing left is what you can assume is the cause of that uplift. That was the only change was that we were advertising. It has to be that.
It is kind of, if you're advertising for the first time and maybe you're a little bit averse to maths and there's nothing wrong with that, because I'm no mathematician.
But you do just have to grit your teeth a little bit and assume that your books are, of course you don't have to spend the amount that we spent in those first few months. You could just spend $50 in a month and then, do you see a rise in the revenue that you're making from your books? If you are and nothing else is changing, then it's the same. The principle is still the same, just that the amount that you see rising will obviously be less, because you're not advertising quite as much.
But it's very important to understand that, because otherwise if you didn't know about read through, you might have switched all those campaigns off because you would have thought, "Actually, I'm losing money on this."
James Blatch: Yeah. Interestingly and not surprisingly, perhaps the one campaign that is showing a positive ACoS is the box set, because that's a slightly higher value item, more immediate and it's less dependent on read through because of course you're getting half the series in one sale. There's only one more item, if people are going to buy box sets there's only one more item for them to buy afterwards. You can factor that in but that is making ...
In fact, now I'm looking at that, Mark. One of the things I think I said to you this morning in our morning chat is that, I need to do some optimization on these Amazon ads.
That's something I've just done the optimization session from Janet Margo, which is our new Amazon ads course in-house for authors. One of the things she talks about ... I will just explain this concept, now that we're talking about looking at your campaigns and working out what to do next, which effectively is what optimization is.
She comes up with a concept called the waterfall. This is the language they use inside Amazon. Remember Janet Margo is the author of our new Amazon ads course, and just comes straight from Amazon. This is the language they use inside Amazon.
At the bottom of the waterfall is this pool of water, obviously the water cascading in and the pool of water is sales and page reads. Now, if you want to adjust that, ultimately that's what you want to adjust. If you're an engineer or a landscape gardener, you don't go into the pool and start changing things because you can't control the water coming in from down there. You have to start at the top of the waterfall and the top of the waterfall she says is CTR, impressions and CTR but CTR mainly which is your click through rate.
That's how many people are seeing your ad and what percentage of them are clicking on it and going through. That is something you can see on your Amazon dashboard very clearly regardless of whether they then go on to buy a book or go into KU and read it.
In simple terms, you should be looking at a higher click rate to show that your ad is relevant, that the targets match your book, your readers are well matched to what you're targeting. If your CTR is very low, then there's a mismatch there between the people you're serving your ad to, and their needs and wants, if you like as readers.
How do you respond to that? Well, obviously, if it's a low CTR, you want to be looking at your targeting. You might actually want to be going back to fundamentals and looking at your cover and blurb and other things. Just make sure everything's properly aligned, but do those one at a time.
On the other hand, and a very important part because we're all perhaps naturally a bit pessimistic, is not to forget when a campaign's doing well, which is why I'm thinking out loud here, looking at this box set, is you want to be starting to double down on that. You want to be starting to get more impressions on a campaign that's doing well.
There's no reason not to, right? It's giving you a positive return, so scaling up on that front. That's a very broad way. The session is an hour and 45 minutes long, so I've summed up a little part of it with some detail, but that's a broad way of looking at that analysis.
To this day, I don't know what your campaigns look like, Mark. Do you have probably more eBook purchases than KU reads, or where is your split there?
Mark Dawson: Well I can't say can I, because we don't have that data. Just generally, the split across every month is around about 50:50 at the moment, edging towards KU a little bit now, because I've been in KU for a while. But yeah, around about 50:50.
But you can't determine that from the ads. Hopefully that will change in the short term; we hope that you might be able to start getting that data.
The waterfall it's another word for a funnel. To try to increase the amount of readers that are getting to the top of the funnel, the top of the waterfall, you want to get them down to the bottom, into the pool as Janet says.
You can either do that by increasing the CTR, and that's looking only at the ad. You can't look at the product page, because the click through doesn't relate to that. It's you see an ad, do you like the cover? Do you like the ad copy? That's pretty much it.
You can try to tweak that to increase the CTR. Another way is to choose a different audience because perhaps you've got a great ad, but it's being shown to the wrong audience. You want to make sure that there's alignment between the ad and the audience to make sure that they are more likely to click through.
That's one way to increase the number of readers that get into the pool is to make it more clicky, so that they go through to the sales page and then buy. The other way, as you say is just to increase the impressions, so put more readers up at the top.
Ideally, you do both. You'd increase the impressions and you'd make the click through higher so that more and more readers progress to the sales page, where you can then wow them with your blurb and persuade them that your book is the next one they need to have on their reading list.
James Blatch: Yeah. Okay, shall I talk a little bit about the actual campaigns I've been running? I think people might be interested to know, how we did the targeting and so on. Just on that box set one, I'm not sure why I did this. I may have taken a tip from you or read it somewhere, but I actually targeted readers of the second book to turn them on. Yeah, looks like I've done that, which is interesting, to send them onto the box set and that actually has worked quite well.
Mark Dawson: Just explain how did you target readers of the second book.
James Blatch: Actually what I did, let me think, I'm thinking out loud here, trying to decipher. What I targeted is I did a product target of the second book product page.
Mark Dawson: Yes.
James Blatch: That's people who'd read the first book, were moving on to the second book, and instead of clicking to buy the second book, they would click, hopefully they'd be tempted into clicking a link to get books one, two, and three. I've already read one probably on the second page, but it still makes financial sense for them to get the next two books cheaper than they'd buy one of them together. I think 4.99. Yes, that's correct, they would.
That worked well, which is one I wanted to scale up on.
The other thing I'll mention Mark here is, in terms of scaling up, you can't always get Amazon ads to spend your money, particularly if you're on a product page that doesn't get visited that often.
It's powerful when they're there, but it can be a bit frustrating even if you put in 10, $20 a day. It spends seven or $8 of that, because it can only spend it so many times.
Mark Dawson: If you're lucky.
James Blatch: Yeah, sometimes if you're lucky. Is there any way around that? There's not really is there?
Mark Dawson: No, because it's a CPC auction rather than a CPM auction. CPM means you're paying for the number of impressions that you get. CPC means you're only getting charged per click, which for me that's great.
I'd rather it was that way around. You get to have free impressions this way, and just seems it's a much more equitable way of being charged. But you're right, you're only going to be getting those ads on a page if people are actually looking at the page.
For Robert's second book, you could try to scale that but there's going to be a very low ceiling, because we've only been doing this for a little while, and there won't be that many people looking at that page.
We may have already hit the ceiling on that one. The trick would then be to, is to think, "Okay, where will readers who like these kinds of books be hanging out?" They will be hanging out on the Da Vinci Code page, and they'll be hanging out on AG Riddle's Pandemic book page and places like that. That's where they'll be that kind of dystopian fiction, end of the world stuff. You find out where they're going, and then that's where you place your ad, because you know that's where the readers are.
James Blatch: Yeah, so that's the other thing I did. I'm not running any automatic ads anymore. What we mean by that is, when you run a sponsored product ad you can leave ... In fact, I think the default is you go into the campaign is you leave it to Amazon to work out where the best place to place your books is. I don't want any of those anymore. They didn't do particularly well for me.
Mark Dawson: You should try them again.
James Blatch: Yeah, I should try them again. I was going to say, we were starting cold and there's a lag, of course between starting to see results. It's not always instantaneous, not leads, because the actual dashboard doesn't report very instantaneously and so on.
It is important you do revisit some of those strategies, but I then moved on to picking up authors. Where do we find those authors? Well, you mentioned a couple just off the top of your head because you know what the genre is of this book is sci-fi/action adventure, archeological books, a bit of almost like history.
I don't know, it's difficult to explain it out loud, but Da Vinci Code's quite a good match for that. I found a few other authors A.G. Riddle, Dean Koontz, I thought as well. In fact, Dean Koontz I got because he came up in the also boughts. When you go to the product page, looking at the book, it'll say somewhere on there, people who bought this book also bought this book, or this is where they went next and so on.
This is all valuable information for you. This is a glimpse inside the Amazon algorithm, how it's trying to direct readers. You can piggyback that golden information.
For Dan Brown, I set up a campaign delivering two keywords around Dan Brown. I use services like AdWords, which is free. It's actually called Google ads now. If you've got a Google Ads account, which is a little bit fiddly, but we do show how to do that in our course.
You get a Google Ads account, you can actually put in Dan Brown or The Da Vinci Code, and it will generate a list of keywords based of course on another very powerful search engine, which is Google's. You can copy and paste those. I also use a service called Merchant Words, which is a pay for service.
It's cheapish for one territory and quite expensive if you want to use it globally, but that will also generate words and use it. It scrapes from Amazon, so it uses that data. That's very, very valid data.
Mark Dawson: Another one is Publisher Rocket Dave Chesson's software.
James Blatch: Yes, of course.
Mark Dawson: We should certainly give a hat tip to Dave, because that's a really good author focused piece of software, that will enable you to find keywords and other things as well.
James Blatch: And a fantastic investment, a onetime thing I think. Very easy to use as well, Dave Chesson's bit of software. You pick up those keywords, and then you say to Amazon, and we're not going to go into all the details here. We don't have time but you build your campaign.
And when we say keywords, well they're really search terms aren't they? That's what we're talking about here. You put them in there and you can say either an exact match or broad match and so on. You can even set your bid, how much you're prepared to pay for somebody to click per individual keyword. It doesn't have to be the same across the entire campaign.
I started building campaigns like that towards the end of February into March. We used Dan Brown. I've also used Dean Koontz. There's another author called James D. Prescott and David Leadbeater. I'd heard of James D, sorry David Leadbeater. I hadn't heard of James D. Prescott. He's quite big author, you must have heard of him Mark, haven't you?
Mark Dawson: No.
James Blatch: No you haven't either. There you go. Neither of us have heard of him, but his books kept coming up as also boughts, when I was looking at Amazon. They've got similar front covers, similar types of themes. I started running campaigns usually 10, five or $10 a day initially.
I've now scaled a couple of those up, so they're running at 10 and $15 a day. If I go back to my spreadsheets, as I mentioned earlier, I spent just $484 in the whole of March and we saw the income go up.
But seeing the income go up is not enough, is it Mark? Because you then have to take account of your advertising spend, which is what this spreadsheet's about.
Now, you've got a spreadsheet that you use. I think it's in the course as a default thing, right? This is somewhere you ... It makes it easy for people to put in these figures and then see their bottom line.
Mark Dawson: Yes, I have one for Amazon. Actually, the one I use day-to-day covers every platform, every cent that I'm spending on ads. At the moment, Facebook and Amazon both, but in lots of different territories. So France, Australia, Germany, US, UK and some of those will be Amazon, some of those will be Facebook. It enables me to see all of those.
It will display whether those ads are profitable with or without read through, and its all color coded. If I see lots of red, I know I need to check things out. Then it also, it presents a summary page where I can project what the month fee was going to look.
We think money in the bank at the end of the month and I can see percentage of revenue spent on ads. I actually quite enjoy doing it. It's a bit weird. It's quite a male thing kind of, like bubble wrap and spreadsheets of things that I like and I entertain myself with. But it takes me about 20 minutes a day, maybe half an hour a day at the moment, because I'm investing across a number of different platforms.
Also it should be fun because if it's going well, you are effectively looking at your business growing on a day-to-day basis. I usually feel quite good about it.
James Blatch: There is also an investment in the future. These campaigns, they're almost like animals. They gather traction and momentum that starts to yield results a little bit later. You can look at it day-to-day absolutely and that will spot immediate errors and problems, but you also have to bear with it a bit, I think and let momentum build, visibility build.
With complete transparency, let me tell you exactly what those figures were then. For that February month when I started off a little bit gung ho, a little bit clueless.
We spent $1,008.81 on ads. The revenue went up from 2,846 benchmark to 3,119. The revenue went up above the benchmark by $273.21, which meant, on the face of it, I made a loss of $735.60 on ads. I think I did make a loss that month. There's no way of sugarcoating that. But it was a search and find out episode.
Now month two, March, that month I spent much less on ads, but the ads were more targeted and more optimized. I spent $484.70 on ads. Revenue went to $3,305.71, which is $459.10 above benchmark, which if you're paying attention means I made a loss of $25 on the ad spend over the month, which I was happy with having seen February, and happy most of all Mark because moving in the right direction.
Revenue going up, the ads above benchmark going up and getting much closer.
Mark Dawson: That's not really taking into account read through because it's unlikely that a lot of those readers will have then bought, say two or three of those books in the time that you're monitoring. Read through certainly you'll ... It's great when you see it. I've shown this before.
You can invest say in a fresh market where no one knows me. You see a spike of the sales of the first book that you're advertising and then two or three weeks later, you'll see a similar smaller spike of the second book. Then two or three weeks later, you can see it's like a wave, you'll see a smaller spike of the third book. We'll be keeping an eye on that to see how that plays out.
James Blatch: So it proved in fact, as we moved on to April. Remember still not running any other ads, just Facebook ads. April's spend on ads was $512. I won't do the cents anymore, it's doesn't make sense. The income rose to 3,560, say up about $250 on the month. The revenue above the benchmark now hit $713. That meant that we went into profit for that month on the ad spend by $201.
Mark Dawson: No, exactly. That's what I expect to see. It's definitely moving in the right direction now. Go on, yes so go on about May.
James Blatch: May was a big month because we launched the new covers in May, which may have had an impact and we also started running Facebook ads on the 13th, I think 13th or 14th of May in the middle of the month.
At the end of May, income $4,764, ad spend 1,580. Another significant thing that's three times the ad spend in one month and yet I felt because I was now monitoring it day by day. I was now on top of the ads, looking at the Kindle page reads, looking at sales coming in, starting to take a slightly more relaxed view that takes a couple of days and not to panic on individual days.
I felt comfortable scaling up and adding in some more ads. Even though that's a three times leap, you probably wouldn't recommend I guess Mark in one go. But nonetheless, revenue above the benchmark was 1,918. The ads profit on the month $338.20. Again, not massive considering how much more the revenue was.
That's still a big chunk of advertising spend but everything moving in the right direction as far as I'm concerned. Income going up, ads profit going up. At the moment, we're heading I suppose if we extrapolate or project forward on the basis of that, we're talking about income of about 70,000, $80,000 a year.
But I would like to get 150, 200,000. That's the mark we need to get to really do justice to Robert's parents here and be worthy of the trust they've put in us. As far as I'm concerned, we're moving in the right direction.
Mark Dawson: We should probably mention we've signed a five figure audio book deal for the first six books, so that certainly helps. We probably won't mention here who it's with. I guess we're not supposed to, but we've done a deal with a very well known audio book production company for quite a decent chunk of change. That will certainly help get those books, get the income moving in the right direction.
James Blatch: Yeah, five figure deal. I was just looking into audio books and how we were going to go about that. Quite looking forward to that whole production process, and then we got this email from parents say, "Well, Rob was talking to these guys. They've reached out again."
Mark knew them and we had a conversation and yes, we did a deal very quickly with them. A nice five figure deal is going to suddenly start paying back that contract rather well. Okay, we've talked a lot about Facebook ads. I think the big takeaway is that they work, which is an obvious thing to say, but they really do in this case.
Where the books were flatlining, they were going down and we've reversed that trend, started moving in the right direction by running paid advertising on Amazon. Even though the latest month is a little bit more sweetened with Facebook ads and new covers, even before that moment, there could have been no other explanation for that rise in sales, for running those ads.
But I do want to just mention Facebook ads, because we've started running them and this is another new world for me.
You were the Facebook guy, right at the beginning, it was your main thing, it was the only thing wasn't it when we started this course?
Mark Dawson: It was, yeah. They're not as powerful as they were. There was 400% return in the early days, but they're still really powerful. I'm running, as I said ads to multiple jurisdictions on Facebook at the moment and they're all working pretty well.
Amazon and Facebook, I think they're the two. You could pick one or the other. I would say most authors would better advise to pick both. There's different elements you need to learn but they're not particularly difficult and they can still be really, really effective.
James Blatch: Briefly with Facebook ads. While I've really enjoyed running Facebook ads, there's a lot more creative work that goes in. You design the ad, you do some copy. You can do a little bit of copy on Amazon ads, but probably doesn't make any difference according to Janice or anyone on inside they've seen their metrics. That custom text makes a difference.
But in Facebook, your copy clearly does play a significant role. I've enjoyed that aspect of it. I've really enjoyed the custom audience aspect of it as well because that's given me the greatest results. I started off with very similar campaigns.
I picked up Dan Brown, picked up Dean Koontz and people who are interested in those authors on Facebook and started running ads to them. The Dean Koontz ones didn't run so well. I ended up paying about 60 ... I can say exactly 61 pence per click for them.
Mark Dawson: Too high.
James Blatch: Yeah, too high.
Mark Dawson: That's very high.
James Blatch: I'll go back over 30 days actually. Actually 54 pence over 30 days. Dan Brown was 29 pence per click. Still quite high, but I felt it was making a profit because what was interesting about the Facebook ads is, they suddenly led to a sale in eBooks and in fact print books. I could see that happening day-to-day.
I think I phoned Mark excitedly, said we just suddenly sold 30 eBooks one day rather than these, I think 11 was the average over the previous six months. Clearly an impact in a slightly different way from the Amazon audience, who seem to be more Kindle Unlimited orientated.
But then I let them run for a few days. Did the tinkering, found it a little bit easier to optimize these. I think I preferred the platform. Then I uploaded an audience from Robert's mailing list. We've got about 5,000 people on his mailing list and I've been sending out emails to them keeping them in touch with what's happened, and letting them know the news via an email from Robert's parents and all the rest of it. Had some lovely emails back from them. We took that list and we generated ... Actually I have a question for this which I might do on air for you.
I have generated some lookalike audiences, so Facebook looks at this audience, finds people who are like them and generates a list of a million people who are a bit like Robert's audience. Those campaigns are running and returning clicks at 17 Pence, which is a lot better, right?
Mark Dawson: Yeah. What's the question?
James Blatch: The question is, when you create your look alike audiences, it asks you how many audiences you'd like to create? What is that about?
Mark Dawson: Well, you can create more than one look like. It's basically based on a percentage. It's percentage accuracy to your seed audience. It's a bit more complicated than that, but you can have one to 2%, which is what it offers you to start with. It'll be a smaller audience but more like your base.
Then you can go, you can set the sliders to pick out how we want the percentages to play out. You could go from three to 4%. A bigger audience perhaps, but not quite as similar to your seed, and then you could have one from say, five to 10% if you wanted to have a really big audience of maybe 5 million people.
But perhaps with a passing resemblance to your seed audience. I would test all of them. I often will build out three look alikes, and then as long you label them correctly in your ads, and then you'll run ... Let Facebook basically decide which one will be best just from a campaign budget optimization, something like that. Facebook will then look at the audience and get the best result according to what you tell them that you're looking for.
James Blatch: What gets quite difficult now Mark, this isn't the forum to go into the type of detail that we're doing the courses, which is where I'm sliding to in this conversation. I'll reel back a little bit and just to say that we're running these Facebook ads, starting to see a good cost per result.
In terms of attracting this precisely, I found that quite difficult. I've used the affiliate tracking link, but it's still a little bit of really the benchmarking is the best way of measuring the success. What I probably need to do, is something that Janet advocates is to move your benchmarks when you need to.
I need to look out how we were doing before we started running Facebook ads, and probably even project forward on how much momentum we were getting just with the Amazon ads alone, to really try and extrapolate whether the Facebook ads are genuinely contributing to the bottom line.
Mark Dawson: Yeah, you'll need to check. The affiliate tracking is inaccurate, but it's a decent measure and it always undercounts. You're not likely to lose your shirt. If you think you've sold 20 books, you probably have done but you may actually have sold 30 books. It's just redundancy.
You need to have different ways of calculating the effectiveness of the ads. Ranking is another one, is your book ranking better? Is it selling comparatively more than it was compared to other books, post ads? There's several that you can look at together.
But you should just be able to see and see where the momentum is, and whether the ads are working properly.
James Blatch: I can't tell you how much fun I've had running these campaigns and seeing some results. It's a very satisfying thing to understand something, to learn something, to make changes. Be a little bit patient. Wait a couple of days.
Don't panic on day-to-day things necessarily and start to see result, or start to see things moving in the right direction. I know you've been saying for some time Mark that paid ads work for authors and here we are, living proof of that. We get emails from people all the time saying, "Look at my graph since I understood how this works," so fantastic.
Mark Dawson: They should get you to do a testimonial James.
James Blatch: I can film myself. The final thing I want to say is that, I said to Mark, "I've applied for a BookBub feature deal." He said, "Yeah, you won't get it." I said, "Oh, okay." He said, "You won't get, particularly as you're in Kindle Unlimited." What happened after that? I am one for one on BookBub featured deals.
Mark Dawson: Well, what you don't know James is, I called BookBub and asked them to give you it.
James Blatch: Do you know why I know that is not the case?
Mark Dawson: I do. I didn't.
James Blatch: Because you can't get one for yourself half the time.
Mark Dawson: No all the time, no.
James Blatch: I got a BookBub feature deal, not for the US, but for UK, Australia.
Mark Dawson: Yeah, it's wat they call an international deal.
James Blatch: International deal.
Mark Dawson: So, yeah.
James Blatch: That's on June the 3rd. I can't give any results from that. It cost me $190 I think for that deal. I've had a chat with Mark. I think it's for another episode perhaps. Where I've had a chat with Mark about things that you should do around that, or shouldn't do around that necessarily.
Perhaps part one we'll revisit BookBub and BookBub ads. But yeah, that's where we are with our Fuse Books. At some point we need to find another author, and I know we've had a lot of submissions, so we don't need any more submissions at the moment. We've got a plan which we're working on quietly in the background on that front.
Mark Dawson: It's probably someone who isn't with us ... we'll get about this another time, but it's particularly good for us to be able to take books that otherwise would just die, and see if we can give them a bit of momentum. But yeah, we'll have to think about that.
James Blatch: Yeah, it's a very sensitive area to talk about authors who've passed away, but it's a shame particularly in Rob Storey's case for his parents to suddenly lose that income, and most importantly they were incredible creations of Robert.
Mark Dawson: Well, people love the books honestly. We're doing right by the books and readers obviously have enjoyed them. The reviews are really good. We've had some lovely emails back, so to introduce more readers to those books is a good thing, and if we can make a bit of money for his parents at the same time, then that's all good.
James Blatch: I would say if you're in a very similar position, then maybe you should get in touch with us. But we are quietly working in the background on another acquisition. We're also quietly working in the background on about 15 other things so we're maxed out.
Now, if you want to know more, this is the advert. But if you want to know more about the detail and see if you can do this with your books, then I can personally recommend Mark's instruction and his teaching. If you go to selfpublishingformula.com/adsforauthors, you can read all about what's in the ads for author's course.
It breaks everything down into the modules for Amazon ads and as I say, we've got a brand new Amazon ads course, very comprehensive Facebook ads, BookBub ads and so on. There's never been a better time to be a writer.
Mark Dawson: Yeah. Someone said that once.
James Blatch: Someone once said that. That's been my little, can I ... I can't say journey? Been my little experience-
Mark Dawson: No.
James Blatch: ... so far this year, and I'll always be transparent and open about this, as we always are, if things start going south and we start having emergencies with this, let's cover that as well in time. But hopefully we can keep those fingers, keep that momentum going at the moment and keep scaling up.
Mark Dawson: Yes, if people are interested in the course, it is at what's the URL James?
James Blatch: Selfpublishingformula.com/adsforauthors.
Mark Dawson: There you go, ads for authors. Yeah, that's that. We'll be back next week. Some more on advertising next week, haven't decided exactly what we're going to do yet. We've got a couple of good ones in the works. I'll wrap it up so ... well you can wrap it up, James. Wrap it up.
James Blatch: Well, the only thing that's left to say is it's a goodbye from him.
Mark Dawson: And it's a goodbye from me.
James Blatch: Goodbye.
Mark Dawson: Goodbye.
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