SPS-283: BookBub: More Than Just Featured Deals – with Carlyn Robertson

Carlyn Robertson from BookBub shares how to best use the platform to grow the audience for your books. She and James discuss both featured deals and the ads platform and the strategic ways to use both.

Show Notes

  • What is BookBub and how does it work?
  • Tips for successfully applying for a Featured Deal
  • The differences between a Featured Deal and a BookBub ad
  • How targeted ads can reach fans of a particular author
  • Requirements for ad images and copy
  • Being strategic about when and how you use BookBub ads

Resources mentioned in this episode

PATREON: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon page

ADS IS OPEN: The SPF flagship course, Ads for Authors, is open for enrolment for a limited time

FREE WEBINAR: Carlyn from BookBub is leading a free webinar on Monday June 21st about the platform and how to run profitable ad campaigns.

COUPON: If you’d like to attend InkersCon, use the code DAWSON for $50 off the admission price

MERCH: Are you a ligneous beetle or a yawning hippopotamus? Get your SPF hoodies and t-shirts in the brand new SPF Store.


SPS 283: BookBub: More Than Just Featured Deals, with Carlyn Robertson
Speaker 1: On this edition of The Self-Publishing Show ...

Carlyn Robertson: The primary thing that the editors are looking for is fit with our audience. We have a set list of categories, we've got our set audience of readers. Of course, it's always growing, but we have a very good sense for what that audience of readers is looking for in each of our genres.

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 and welcome to The Self-Publishing Show with me, James Blatch.

Mark Dawson: And me, Mark Dawson.

James Blatch: It's a sign of summer. I've had to turn my air conditioning off.

Mark Dawson: Oh. I've got a big fan behind me, just over there as you can see on the YouTube feed.

James Blatch: I know you had a big fan. You've got big fans everywhere.

Mark Dawson: I've got big fans.

James Blatch: Yes. We've actually got the air conditioning on in England, which is amazing. It's been a beautiful weekend and England are off to a winning start at the time of recording. And when this goes out in the Euros, they're playing the Battle of Britain in the evening against Scotland.

Mark Dawson: Very true, Scotland are losing at the moment, as we record this.

James Blatch: Yes. Good luck Scotland as well as England, apart from when Scotland's playing England. That's the way that works. Okay. Most people aren't interested in football.

Welcome back to the show, everybody. I want to say a very hearty congratulations to one of our Patreon supporters. His name is Padraig Nally. Padraig, congratulations because you have been awarded the Mark Dawson's Ads for Authors course, a very nice gift indeed. The course is given away to one subscriber to our Patreon supporter,

If you're a gold level, you get an opportunity to win Ads for Authors and the other level. Silver, you get an opportunity to win 101. So thank you very much indeed for being a loyal supporter, Padraig, and I hope you enjoy. I hope I'm saying your name correctly, and I hope you enjoy the course.

And we should give a shout-out, Mark, because Ads For Authors is open. We may open again this year, but probably not until 2022. We decided just because of the way things stack up at the end of the year. So this is your one and only chance to get into Ads For Authors. If you wish to do so, you can go to and read all about it. Everything you should need to know, will need to know is there on that page, and you can email Mark, me, or anyone personally and ask us if it's going to be worth it for you.

And we do often say to people, we do from time to time say, "No, you're not ready. We don't think it'd be the best investment for you at this stage." But if it is, and someone wrote to me the other day saying they got four books, they've set one Permafree and they've got the others. After all this, I'm ready for that. And I said to them, "Yes, you're exactly ready for that. So I think it's exactly where you need to be."

And in fact, I'm still pleased, I'm still making a small profit a day with one book at the moment, having tweaked my Facebook advertising campaigns for The Final Flight. I'm really pleased about that, so long may that continue. I should try and slowly scale it up. What else we got to say? Oh, I do have a couple of things to say. You haven't said anything. So I haven't asked you any questions yet.

Mark Dawson: There's two Patreon supporters who have joined recently. Thank you to Stephanie Dos Santos in Texas and Kimberly Irwin. We don't know where Kimberly is. Thank you to both of those for supporting Patreon, which is always very much appreciated.

James Blatch: Yeah, that's brilliant. Thank you very much, indeed. Stephanie and Kimberly.

Now I should also tell you about a discount code we have for Inkers Con. Inkers Con is an online conference, which will be live from the 17th of July. It's organised by our friend, Alessandra Torre, who's been on the show in the past. I didn't attend last year, but I did look at one or two of the sessions and they looked so very good to me.

I've seen some comments in the group from people saying that they thought it was well worth the money that they paid out last year. And they're going to go again this year. So they've got a really good lineup.

James Blatch: You can find out all the details that all one word. And here is a coupon code just for you for listening to the self publishing show. If you type in Dawson, it'll save you $50 off the full price, which is a good discount to have. So just putting the code Dawson it's in capitals here. So I imagine it might need to be in capitals. And I hope you enjoy Inkers Con.

Mark Dawson: Because you don't pay attention to the legal requirements, that's probably an affiliate link. So we will get a little share of the ticket from Alessandra, just so that you know. We don't recommend things that we don't think are worth your money or your time. And this is one of the conferences that I would recommend is worth having have a look at.

James Blatch: I fly in the face of legal requirements. That's how I roll.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, there's a reason why our company has been going for six years. And it's me acting as kind of a lightning rod for these kinds of legal issues.

James Blatch: The in-house legal team. That's you.

Mark Dawson: Of one.

James Blatch: I knew you'd go in-house at some point, okay, how's the lawyer joke, right? Something else to talk about is BookBub. And our guest today is the very wonderful Carlyn Robertson who I'm going to be chatting to her in a moment. And we are talking about, obviously BookBub, its services, how it's expanded, how it operates.

We start fairly basically for people who don't know what BookBub is and haven't used it yet. And then we get into the nitty-gritty towards the end of that interview. We talk about the ads platform, which BookBub has. We don't obviously have time in this interview to tell you how to use the ads platform, which is really useful, valuable information. That's exactly the sort of thing we we teach.

We have had Carlyn sit down and slave over a very detailed mini-course, which is part of, or actually a full course part of Ads for Authors. But in addition to that, we've persuaded her to join us live for a webinar, just to talk for 90 minutes or so, and answer your questions. But to take us through how the platform is set up, how best to use it, some real tips and tricks to try and make sure it delivers value for you. And you can find a profit or profitable way of running ads on the BookBub platform.

It is definitely not one to miss, it'll be a very good presentation. That is next Monday. So this is going out on the Friday. So you haven't got long it's next Monday, which is the 21st of June. So I hope you listened to this in time. And if you want to register it, you have to register in advanced to be invited to the live event.

It's free of course, you can go to So it's, and you will be a registered guest for the webinar on Monday night. They are very popular, very occasionally we bust that thousand limit we have. So just get there a couple minutes early, if you're there on time or a minute or so early, and you've got your seats, you'll be guaranteed to get in. I think if you arrive a few minutes late there's a possibility if we've been really popular, but we tend to settle around the 700, 800 points of attendees, which is comfortable for us.

It's just a warning. Sometimes it does bust that limit. I'm looking forward to that on Monday, Mark. We're in the middle of a busy period. Lots of learning to do. It's kind of perfectly set up for this environment aren't they? Because they're all online and we're doing quite a lot of that ourselves at the moment, but hopefully moving slowly one inch at a time outdoors at the minute although not too much outdoors. Mark because you're suffering from the old hay fever? I think it suits stay indoors.

Mark Dawson: I've got hay fever today but a good way to cure that it's just to jump in the swimming pool. So I'm going to be doing that at some point. It was really hot here.

James Blatch: Yeah. That sounds like a great thing to do. Okay. Well look, should we talk to Carlyn?

Mark Dawson: Why not?

James Blatch: Let's do that. Let's talk to Carlyn Robertson and then Mark and I will be back for a quick chat off the back.

James Blatch: Carlyn Robinson, welcome back to the Self-Publishing Show. You've definitely been on before at some point, haven't you? I think maybe I interviewed you in person somewhere?

Carlyn Robertson: I think so. I feel like I have been at least a guest at some point, yes.

James Blatch: You're well used to all of this and BookBub is such an important part. It's a funny thing BookBub isn't it? Because outside of the Indie world, obviously you've got your reader's list, which is huge, like 20 million odd people. But actually it's not a name that travels beyond Indie publishing, but within Indie publishing, you're like the Royal family.

Carlyn Robertson: Oh, that's very kind. Yeah. I would say that. I mean the Indie publishing world is certainly our world.

James Blatch: It's a hugely important service. And we should probably start because there might be people out there who don't know exactly what BookBub is. You could perhaps explain the service and what it offers to Indie authors.

Carlyn Robertson: Absolutely. So for anyone who has not heard of BookBub before, or maybe you've heard the word BookBub and you want to know what all the fuss is about. We are a marketing platform for authors, publishers, book marketers, and a book discovery platform for readers.

We've got around 20 million readers signed up to use our services. And when they sign up to BookBub, they let us know which genres they liked to read and where they purchase their eBooks. So we serve Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, and Google, all the major ebook retailers.

The main thing that BookBub's known for is our featured deals email. So every single day, we send those readers, an email with deals in their favourite genres, with links to purchase at that preferred retailer. And all of our other tools that authors and publishers can use spring from that beginning.

BookBub is now 10 years old, nine years old. We've been around for awhile now. So it was just featured deals in the beginning, but we've launched a lot of other tools since then to help readers discover books in new ways, and then help authors and publishers get their books in front of that audience of readers who are looking for new books at a really rapid rate. Many of them are reading a couple of books every month. Some are reading a book of a week, a book a day. So they are always looking for new books.

We've found that by offering that deal in the Features Deals email, it's a fantastic way for a reader to take a chance on an author that they haven't heard of before and discover someone new.

James Blatch: Yeah. And this is now quite an operation. You say you send an email out every day to somebody who's a reader.

It's a clever system because even if you're into multiple genres and emails bespoke for you don't end up with 10 different emails do you?

Carlyn Robertson: So if you're a subscribed to one category, you might see one or two deals. If you're subscribed to all 40 plus categories, you might see a whole lot of books in your email.

James Blatch: And despite the voracious nature of readers and how many emails you send out every day, you're massively oversubscribed in terms of those slots on the email from an author point of view.

Carlyn Robertson: Yes. So the way that we get those deals to our readers is authors and publishers submit books that they want to discount. I think we're getting an average of 300 submissions every day and we keep a pretty limited number of spots in that email just to make sure that every deal we send out gets a lot of attention from our readers. So it's highly competitive to get selected for a spot.

We have an editorial team that reviews every single one of those submissions coming in and selects the ones that they think will be most appealing to our readers based on the book's content, how appealing that deal price is a lot of factors they're digging into. And I can of course talk more about the selection process if we want to get into that later.

James Blatch: We're going to talk about ads which are more universally available and that's definitely a platform that people need to know about and need to know whether it's going to be a big part of their marketing future.

Let's just focus on the featured deal at the moment, as you say, it is something that people talk about and it is without question, I know it will be the most asked question to you is how do I get a feature deal? Because if you've not been through this process and Mark and I have, and lots of other people have.

You get a series of rejections and every now and again it's like winning the lottery when you get a place on the email. So I should say at this point, I had a series of books we were marketing for Fuse and they had a very slow start, very low. And the BookBub deal was absolutely transformative for that series. We had 30 odd, 34,000 downloads. I put it to free for a day. And the book went from... I can give you the figures.

It went from doing something like $17 a day to doing $450 profit, this is profit on top of ad spend. And now it's settled down off the BookBub tail's gone, which is six weeks, eight weeks ago, we're still at 250 pounds UK, it's $300 dollars a day profit. BookBub did that.

So if anyone ever says, "do featured deals still work?" I can tell you they work sensationally well still. And maybe we call it the genre or whatever. Anyway, they are definitely worth going for.

People will get those rejection emails. You talked about it then, there's a process, it's a human process, right? It's not a machine or computer that analyses the applications.

What are they looking for and what's the best advice you can give people who are frustrated they haven't had one of these deals yet.

Carlyn Robertson: The primary thing that the editors are looking for is fit with our audience. We have a set list of categories. We've got our set audience of readers, and of course it's always growing, but we have a very good sense for what that audience of readers is looking for in each of our genres and it's not always necessarily what might be most popular in that genre, in the wider world of readers.

So we're really trying to serve that unique audience that we have on our email list. Reader reviews are of course a hugely important part of that process. The editors will look at the content of the reviews, not just the total number of reviews with average rating. They really want to know what have readers loved about this book, or what did readers maybe not love about this book and how does that match up with what we know of our own audience and what they tend to gravitate towards?

Obviously the cover and the book description are a really important part of that. So they're looking at everything that a reader would use to assess whether or not they want to purchase a book and using their knowledge and all the data that we have in the past features that we've run to inform which books they think are going to be most successful with our readers.

And then it ultimately comes down to a numbers game. Usually there's a great number of books that we think would be a great fit for our readers. And we've only got maybe one or two spots left in the calendar. So at that point, they have to just do some really tough evaluations and comparing those two books and deciding at this moment based on that calendar and what else we know we're sending to our readers, which one is going to be the one that we send out.

The number one piece of advice I can give, and James alluded to this, is just to keep on submitting because every time you submit, it's going to be a different pool of submissions that you're compared to, our calendar will look slightly different. We do ask that you wait 30 days before resubmitting the same book, even if you're going to change the category, the editors always consider alternate categories when they review a submission.

So wait 30 days and then absolutely come back and submit again. That is the best way that you can give yourself the highest odds that your book will have the stars aligned that it'll work with our readers' tastes and with the space that we have available on our calendar.

James Blatch: Yeah, resubmit it. I remember that's always been your advice. And I guess if you've got through to that very last stage and it's really a numbers game, as you say about slots and you end up unlucky. So it possibly comes down to a bit of luck at that point for you as an author. So there is a reason to resubmit in 30 days.

It's not as if there's something fundamentally wrong with your book, it's just catching the right time. Okay. So there are the featured deals and they are hugely powerful.

And because of that, because you know this email is a warm receipt received email by readers, you've started to open up this bottom third of it to an advertising programme, which is probably a couple of years old by now?

Carlyn Robertson: Probably four or five years.

James Blatch: Is it really that old wow? Things happen quickly, okay. So you developed this ad platform. Just talk to us about that and the difference between that and the featured deal because you pay for a featured deal, right? It's a bit like advertising. You pay, it can be a few hundred dollars for a featured deal.

What is the difference between that and the advert?

Carlyn Robertson: There's a few differences, yes. The featured deals are highlighted, curated placements in the email. Every single one of them is going to look the same. We write the blurb for that and then we charge a flat fee based on the price of the book and the category.

There's a dedicated space at the bottom of every email we send out. So everyday to all of those millions of featured deal emails, as well as the new release alert emails we send, when authors released new books, we've got emails with blog articles or sending a tonne of emails to our readers. And at the bottom of every one there's a chance to have your ads show up to whichever particular reader has opened that email. This is a auction based ad platform, similar to Facebook ads, AMS ads, Google adverts, and it's entirely self-serve.

So there's no selection process, which means that any author has a chance to get their ads and their books shown to BookBub readers through this placement. And you're bidding to reach readers so you get to set your own target audience.

Your bid determines how much you're willing to pay. So the cost is really up to you. You've got a lot of control really over every element of that campaign in terms of what it looks like, who you want to reach.

There's a lot to fiddle around with which we can talk about. But yes, that's available to every single author to get their books in front of our audience of readers. And you know that when you serve an impression of your ad it's reaching a BookBub reader who's opened an email from us so they're actively looking for a book. They're coming to us to discover new books, to buy new books. So yes, like you said, a very warm audience to reach.

James Blatch: Let's talk about the targeting because it's such an important part of any ads platforms. I know from the various campaigns that we run.

What are your targeting options?

Carlyn Robertson: You've got the categories that our readers are subscribed to. So again, that's when they've opted in to BookBub, they let us know what genres they like to read. You've also got region and retailer preferences. So again, those are the opt-in information that we collect from our readers.

We've got readers right now in the US, UK, Canada, India, and Australia. So those are the regions that you can reach. Retailers again, is the Amazon Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, and Google. And then the most powerful targeting option that we offer, and this is unique to BookBub ads, you can't target this way with feature deals is you can reach readers who are fans of a particular author.

So this includes any reader who's followed that author on BookBub to get updates about their books, as well as the readers who have clicked on that authors featured deals in the past, clicked on their profile or ad campaigns for that authors books. So a lot of different signals that we use, but basically any reader who's engaged with that author or their books on the BookBub platform is someone that you can reach when you target by author interest.

James Blatch: That's interesting because of course you're gathering all this data in the background, for instance, the clicks. If somebody clicks on an author, this is something you weren't necessarily released to the public, but you can, as an author take advantage of by choosing those authors.

That seems to me to be probably the number one thought that should be in the mind of somebody using the ads platform is who are my authors? Who do my readers like?

Carlyn Robertson: Yes, I would say that's definitely one of the number one keys to success with this platform. I think one of the biggest mistakes I see a lot of new advertisers make when they come in is they'll target just by category because that's very easy, right? My book is science fiction. I want to reach all the science fiction readers or they'll think about just the absolute biggest authors in that genre. So what happens in that case is you're reaching a really wide audience. And if your goal is exposure to a lot of readers, that can be a great strategy.

But if you really want to think about which readers are most likely to buy your book, there's a huge range within science fiction and within fantasy, within contemporary romance of readers who have very different tastes and preferences and the deeper that you dig into comparable authors. So authors who write books that are really similar to yours, the more likely you're going to reach an audience of readers, who's looking for the exact type of book that you are writing and trying to get out to them.

James Blatch: And your authors, we should say, it's not just Indie authors because the traditional publishing houses use BookBub as well in fact they use it quite a lot. I've noticed in my emails recently.

So you will have the Robert Ludlums and Tom Clancy's as well as other Indie authors to target.

Carlyn Robertson: Exactly. You've got really any author who has a following on BookBub you can target. So we'll display right in the ad setup form how many readers that author has in their audience. So you can see whether it's a couple of hundred thousand or a few hundred, in some cases that would be really, really niche our audience at that point. But you do have a tonne of options in terms of which authors you might want to reach.

James Blatch: I'm going to come back to targeting a bit later because it is such an important subject, but let's just talk about the advert itself.

What do people need to prepare in terms of artwork and copy?

Carlyn Robertson: The only thing that you have to prepare in advance is a 300 by 250 pixel image. And there are a lot of platforms that make it really easy to design something in that shape. Book Brush is one, Canva is another, those are the two I hear most often that authors are using to design their ad images.

I believe they have a choice where you can choose that exact shape and then customise it however you like.

We also do have a very simple creative builder template right in the form. So if you don't want to mess around with any graphic design elsewhere, you can just upload a book cover type in some text and choose a background colour, and we'll spin up a really simple sort of streamlined image for you. So that's a great option as well.

In terms of what to include in that image, the most important thing to remember is that everything in the image is all that a reader is going to see. So unlike an ad on Facebook, where you've got a headline and a lot of other text that you can use, everything has to be contained in that image. A reader is not necessarily going to know how you targeted them or why they're seeing that ad. They just know what they see in front of them.

So think about from your reader's perspective, what kind of information is going to be really appealing to them to let them realise, oh, this book is exactly like the kind of books that I like to read. So your book covers obviously a great thing to include.

If you've got a deal price that is also fantastic, the BookBub audience in particular, again, to hook them in, to introduce them to a new author and then tropes are fantastic quotes from other authors. We've got a tonne of examples of really successful images on our blog. If you want to look for some examples of what kinds of designs work well.

James Blatch: So there's no extra copy. There is space for copy within the image. That's what you're saying.

Carlyn Robertson: Yes. And if you're doing a custom image you could pack the whole thing full of text. We don't recommend that. You want to make sure it's still going to be easy to read at a glance when someone's scrolling through that email. But yes you want to put any text that you want readers to see in the image itself.

James Blatch: One thing I'd definitely recommend is if you're not already on the BookBub reader list, get on there and start looking at the ads, start picking out the ones that you think work best. The book cover is important, I would say a simple text message. It might just be a tagline. As you say, might be a quote or five stars and a quick quote, like "unputdownable" to quote marks, something like that. Yes you don't want to get too wordy.

Facebook used to have a rule, their 20% rule to discourage people overloading images with text. So there's a clue for you is that people who run these platforms know that lots of text doesn't necessarily work. I don't know how long it is you have when people glance at a book cover, it's less than a second I believe, something like that.

James Blatch: So that's what you have to bear in mind. Okay. So you've got your, your image. You don't have to worry about copy, that's nice and easy. It'd be like an Amazon ad or that you can put in one of them a line of copy.

Mostly you are just thinking about your targeting which we're going to come back to now because it's so important. So you have this option with authors, you have this option with your genres and so on.

What are the pitfalls for people here? You've talked about making it too broad. So potentially just choosing thrillers. Once you start going into more niche areas you can run out of audience though. Can't you as well?

I'm going to guess you've got to somehow find that sweet spot, whether you've got a big enough audience. And it's also the other thing to consider, just to throw this in there is not to be overly competitive, to give you a chance of scoring efficient ads. I guess I have summed up...

It just sound sounds harder than it probably is, but it takes a bit of trial and error.

Carlyn Robertson: Definitely a lot of trial and error. It's a lot of different factors to weigh and to consider. So actually taking a step back, the first thing I think when you're coming to set up an ad is actually knowing what your goals are for that campaign. So having a really strong understanding of what you're trying to achieve, and that can be multiple things, but knowing sort of what the primary thing is.

Is it you want to get a new release in front of as many readers as possible? Is it you want to drive cost-effective sales of the first book in a series? And knowing exactly sort of how much you're willing to spend, how much you're willing to pay, how much of a scale in terms of an audience you want to reach is really important from the outset in terms of knowing what is going to work for you and maybe what doesn't make as much sense.

You mentioned competitive, let's say that you target one of the biggest authors in your genre. You might find yourself competing with hundreds of other ad campaigns where other authors came in and that was the first name that popped into their head. So that's the target that they pick if that means that in order to be the highest bidding ad for that audience of readers, you're going to have to pay a lot more for that campaign.

Then if you found an author with maybe a slightly smaller following, but only let's say a dozen ads are targeting fans of that author. So the targeting has some bearing on how much your ads will cost and how hard it is for you to win impressions for the readers who fall into that audience. A lot of intersecting factors there.

James Blatch: But it is like all these platforms and it's a bit frustrating to Mark and me, and going to come onto in a moment, Carlyn, yourself as an author of a course in our suite of courses, is that people tinker a little bit, don't see immediate results and then leave a platform which happens with Facebook happens that Amazon ads.

But unfortunately there's no shortcuts to learning the subtleties of a platform and there's gold there, but you have to dig to use that metaphor clinically. So the idea of finding your niche, of finding efficient ways of advertising, a bit of trial and error, as you say. Your competition is mainly, I think, other Indie authors.

Are trad publishers using the ads platform as well at the moment?

Carlyn Robertson: They are using the ads platform. But I would say that Indie authors are probably the primary advertisers using this tool right now.

James Blatch: Yeah. So this could be a good period for Indie authors. I imagine in three or four years, the trads will. They do sort of tend to react a little bit slower to some technical innovations than Indies do. We're very agile lots. So it could be a really good period to get in, get your book in front of up to 20 million people. But don't be that broad with your targeting that's again everyone.

So now maybe a little secret, you've done a course for us. It's actually in its second launch, we're going to have coming up soon. I'm not sure exactly when this interview is going to go out, but Mark and I will make it clear when the ads course is going out. So you sat down Carlyn and you put together a really good comprehensive overview of this ads platform; more than we can possibly do in this half an hour interview.

Tell us a little bit about, of course on who's it aimed at?

Carlyn Robertson: The course is really aimed at someone who has not tried BookBub ads before, but my hope is that even if you have dabbled in it a little bit, or even have maybe run a lot of campaigns, that there are going to be useful nuggets in there for you.

I find that there's always more to learn about this platform. There's a lot of nuance in terms of how the different targeting options interact and how the option works. So my hope is that there's something in there for everyone, no matter what stage of your advertising journey you are at.

I break it down, both how our auction works, the details of how your ad actually gets in front of readers, tips for every single part of that ad creation process. We've tried to make it as simple as possible, knowing that most of the people using this tool are going to be authors, not trained professional marketers.

Although some authors are trained professional marketers and they certainly got a leg up. We have tried to make this process as tailored towards promoting books as possible. Hopefully it's pretty straightforward to tackle.

I'll talk about how to understand all of the stats that you get when you run a campaign and how to assess them to make sure that your campaign is actually doing what you want it to do, how to run tests to improve your campaigns. And then I go over some case studies as well of effective ad campaigns that other authors have run for a variety of different goals, showing you how they went about setting up that campaign, what kinds of tests they might've run in advance. Really digging into sort of the tangible examples there, sort of to see how other people have made this tool work for them.

James Blatch: We haven't mentioned discounting strategy for your ads which we know that obviously you have to offer a discount to be selected for a featured deal. And depending on it, I think probably you're going to side with free over 99 and 1.99 and so on. And certainly I would say they are more effective in my experience of being free.

In terms of what you're doing with your BookBub ad, is it the same thing that you're going to find free will work better, get more response than the 99 cents or 1.99?

Carlyn Robertson: Yes. As a rule free is always going to get the most clicks. So we actually did an analysis of, I think a thousand images looking at ones that had the word free in that image versus 99 cents, 1.99. And we've done that analysis for featured deals as well and free is always going to get more clicks and then followed by 99 cents and up from there.

So including a deal price and the lower the price, the better, the more likely you're going to get readers clicking on that ad. So again, in terms of thinking about what you want to accomplish.

BookBub readers use deals to try new authors, it's a really low risk way to take a chance on someone new, but they are willing to pay full price for the authors that they already know and already love. So if you have a new release, that's a great chance to actually target yourself and to reach any readers who follow you on BookBub have clicked on your deals in the past.

Let's say that book is 5.99, maybe not, maybe you don't want to put that in the ad image, but use another hook. So again, if it's readers who are already familiar with you, you can say, this is the next book in that series that you know you love, or this is that character that you're already familiar with.

Whereas if you're trying to pull new readers into a series, say the first book in a series offering free or 99 cents is going to be on its own a really exciting hook for many of our readers, again, to take a chance on someone that they maybe haven't heard of before. So your price actually interacts a lot with the audience that you're trying to reach and how successful you might be at convincing those readers to click on your ad and then learn more about your book.

James Blatch: Yes, so it's important to remember that people are on the BookBub list because of bargains, right? That's what's attracted them in there. It's access to new readers as well, but they are getting bargains, whereas Facebook and Amazon, not necessarily the case.

I'm thinking a good strategy will be you apply for featured deal, which you don't get, which is usually the case. That's the case with me and Mark as well as everybody else. Sometimes you get them, which is great, but if you don't get them, you are going to discount that book for that deal. So here's an opportunity for you perhaps to then say, "okay, I didn't get the featured deal let's run an advertising campaign using BookBub ads for that specific period at a discount."

That's probably going to be the best way you'll see results rather than running an ad campaign at full price.

Carlyn Robertson: Yes, in general I would say that that is true. And being tactical about when you use your ad campaigns. It's one marketing tool that's out there that's available to authors. So again, really thinking about why am I running ads right now? What do I want to achieve? Why did I pick this book for these ads is going to be a good way to sort of set you up for success and knowing what you want to achieve is also going to help you figure out if it's working or what you need to change to make it more effective.

James Blatch: Thank you very much for doing the course Carlyn.

Carlyn Robertson: Absolutely. It was a lot of fun.

James Blatch: I know from personal experience, it's got a lot of work as well. And the really fun thing is that we have a mother-daughter team now within our course network, your mother, some people might not know, but Jennie Nash, who's a very regular contributor to this show is also a course author alongside.

Isn't that funny that you've ended up working together like this? Did you foresee that a few years ago?

Carlyn Robertson: Did I foresee that? People asked me when I was growing up all the time, are you going to be a writer like your mother? And of course I was like, "No, that's not me that's her." But here I am working in the book world, just like she is.

In some ways it makes a tonne of sense that we are both in the same industry and it's a tonne of fun to be working in overlapping spheres and get to both be guests on podcasts.

James Blatch: I hope I'm not giving away a secret here, but your mother did once tell me she read some of your writing. And she said it was really, really good. And she doesn't say that lightly. And then she said, "I know she's my daughter, but it was really..."

Carlyn Robertson: She is quite biassed.

James Blatch: I know but she said it was really good. I don't know if you say you're not a writer, I'm not sure if that's really the case Carlyn.

Carlyn Robertson: I have dabbled a little bit. Yes, it's hard to be part of the Indie author community and part of this world and if you love books and love writing, not want to give it a try. So maybe someday. I certainly have not finished a full book at this point.

James Blatch: But that would be great. And who wouldn't want to read a Carlyn Robertson's book?

Carlyn, thank you very much indeed. The course is part of Ads for Authors. I would say the triumvirate of advertising platforms you need to understand and make your decisions about our Facebook ads, Amazon ads and BookBub ads and we've got those three cupboards where there's lots of other things in the course.

We couldn't get Mark Zuckerberg to do Facebook ads course or Jeff Bezos to Amazon ads but here we have Carlyn from BookBub in the heart of the operation, talking to you about the platform. I think you've given a lot of sensible advice there about getting your expectations aligned before you use the platform. That's such an important thing to do. So thank you.

I think the course looks great. I started dabbling before you did the course and I've got it on my radar. I've talked myself into this by the way of applying for featured deal, not getting it and then running a specific campaign to try and replicate what I was going to hope to do with the featured deal, which is to give a book a boost. So I'm now going to be listening to your course over the next few days, and we'll get those campaigns going.

Carlyn Robertson: Great. Yeah, it was really fun to have the chance to put together a course. Normally when I'm talking about ads, it's in a 45 minute or hour long session, and that is not nearly enough time to get into all the details. So it was great to just get to dig into everything and sort of go through every single lesson. I hope it's useful.

James Blatch: Yes, it certainly is. Carlyn I know we talked off air, there's some stuff coming up in the future with BookBub, but you can't yet talk about, but so we'll certainly have you back on at some point when the next iteration of the ads platform or BookBub gets released, though.

You're always welcome on the show and thank you for all you do for the Indie community. The royal family in Indie is such an important part of our community and we all love a bit of BookBub. So yes, thank you. And please pass it on to the team.

There we go Carlyn Robertson, interestingly talking to her so she's moved across the states now in Minnesota, I think from Cambridge were BookBub are based. And it wasn't that long ago. I think everyone from BookBub pretty much worked in the office. But now they are like a lot of the other companies ConvertKit at least lots of other companies I know are.

Well, ConvertKit has always has operated with people from home spread around. I think Bookfunnel's support team is spread across the US, mostly in Texas. But the new way of working Mark. Ironically, we're getting an office. I don't know if you know that we're going to get an office somewhere near Huntington and you're going to have to work nine to five, I am expecting.

Mark Dawson: It certainly is a trend though isn't it? Lots of people doing that. I'm doing it the other way around and starting to leave the house just go to the new office, which will be just safer that way, which is being built at the moment. So if anyone is hearing any dumper trucks, fairing rumble from over there to over there, that's the construction work going on. So lot's happening here.

James Blatch: I'm expecting a full tour of the office when you open it. In fact, I'm expecting to be invited to cut the ribbon because I'm the honourable James Blatch. I'm actually a very important person. I'm also a published author if you know that. So I think you should consider me.

Mark Dawson: I'll consider you. You've been considered.

James Blatch: Thank you for your application.

Mark Dawson: Scout is going to do it.

James Blatch: Scout the dog will bite through the ribbon. Good, okay. That's it from us. Don't forget there is that live webinar with Carlyn. Can't get enough of that BookBub info. Monday night it's going to be very valuable, very useful. If you go to to sign up for that webinar and just a reminder for another 14 days or something like that. 10, 14 days, we have Ads for Authors open probably almost certainly the last time in 2021. Your chance to get into the course that can change everything for you as an author. If you go to authors.

That is it. Into the pool you go Mark, out into the sun I go, although I've got two more calls indoors then I go into the sun and looking forward to it. Good luck Scotland and good luck England. And all that remains for me to say is, this is a goodbye from him.

Mark DawsonAnd a goodbye from me.

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