PPC Advertising Options for Authors
Advertising is a big topic that can be overwhelming even for experienced author-entrepreneurs. Packed with jargon and acronyms, conversations about it often sound like a different language that evolves constantly. One common acronym that sticks around, however, is PPC. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it’s short for “pay-per-click” and represents advertising options that charge you every time someone clicks on your ad. Famous examples used commonly by indie authors include some forms of Facebook and Amazon ads.
They’re effective because, unlike many non-PPC options, which are typically short-term and lead to a spike in sales, PPC ads create a constant drip effect. What’s more, they can be scaled profitably. Using them, many indie authors have experienced life-changing results, selling millions of books and riding high in the charts for months at a time. That only happens, though, if you know how to optimise them. If you don’t, as many authors have discovered, PPC advertising can teach you an expensive lesson.
Fresh-faced authors who don’t know what they’re doing often spend a fortune before realising their ads aren’t working. They target the wrong audiences, bid too high, or commit one of a hundred costly mistakes. The dashboards and options are confusing, but it doesn’t stay that way forever if you persevere. Discouraged by a lack of initial success, many writers give up. But that’s when others see an opportunity, aim for long-term improvement and become success stories.
If you’re new to advertising your books online, and PPC ads interest but intimidate you in equal measure, don’t worry. Nobody is born knowing how to run a successful campaign. Today’s blog post will give an overview of the major PPC advertising platforms that bestselling authors use every day to reach readers that enjoy their books. This high-level context will help you to make better informed decisions that you can use to build your author platform and sell more books to the right readers.
Amazon is a good place to start because of the simplicity of its advertising platform. I say this because Amazon ads have a hyper focus. For a start, they’re tailored to a bookstore, meaning that every person who sees them is: a) a shopper, and b) probably interested in books. Not only that, these ads target the biggest bookstore in the world. As you probably sell most of your books on Amazon (most authors do), it makes sense to start advertising on that platform first. That way, you make yourself more likely to get at least some sales even when you don’t have a lot of knowledge on how to target your ideal readers.
There are a few PPC Amazon ad options. What’s helpful about many of the ones available to most authors is that they only require your book cover to deliver. No ad graphics. Many don’t even need you to write ad copy (the text that usually accompanies an advert). As a result, authors with no graphic design or copywriting experience can jump right in without having to pay freelancers to help them. Amazon will take care of the rest, either by showing it in search results or on other books’ sales pages when customers browse the site. Yes, you’ll need to learn a little bit about keywords and bidding to target your ideal readers and make your ads profitable, but those are relatively short hurdles to climb when compared with the learning curves of other PPC ad platforms.
If you don’t know BookBub, then they are essentially a powerful email marketing platform that notify voracious readers when high-quality books get discounted. Having amassed a huge following, they have enabled a PPC ads solution that is arguably the second simplest option for new authors. Unlike Amazon ads, BookBub do require graphics, but the specifications are always the same because they only have one type of ad you can use – a box that’s measured 250 x 300 pixels. This might seem restrictive, but that’s what makes BookBub a great place to learn the ropes of PPC advertising. One type of ad is simpler to understand than the many variations offered by more complex platforms like Facebook.
On top of that, BookBub ads only show in the BookBub ecosystem. This means that they appear on BookBub’s website and (mainly) at the bottom of the emails they send out to several million readers every day. Knowing that BookBub ads only show to readers means you can ensure that you aren’t wasting money on shoppers who aren’t looking for books, even more so than with Amazon ads which sometimes show to other kinds of shoppers. The main differences with BookBub ads is that, while they are limited to targeting primarily ebook readers, they allow you to reach those who read on a variety of retailers, including Amazon but also Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, Google Play and Kobo. All of these factors combined make BookBub an effective option for new authors who want to reach a wide audience but keep their advertising strategy relatively simple.
Facebook ads are incredibly flexible and scalable thanks to Facebook’s audience of billions. Their main problem for many authors, however, is this same flexibility and power. There are so many ad options, so many variables, so many audience demographics that you can spend thousands of dollars in a few days and not even reach your ideal readers. A romance author, for example, might think that fans of Bridgeton would enjoy their regency books and, therefore, could target viewers of the TV show. But while the genres overlap, TV viewers don’t always buy books. Not only that, having skipped a testing phase, the author could mislead readers with a bad ad graphic or copy and get a tonne of negative feedback as a result. Facebook ads have so many variables that knowing where the problems lie in your strategy can be a job in and of itself.
Having said that, Facebook ads can be highly lucrative for authors who have taken the time to test and master the platform. They have a large range of applications, meaning that authors who use them effectively can do things that are impossible for others. Using Facebook ads, you can drive any format of book sales on any retailer, grow your mailing list, sell books directly from your website, build audiences tailored to your books, target readers in countries that go beyond the main BookBub and Amazon territories, and even sell non-book products and services. Many authors fear Facebook ads, but that just means that those who master them have a significant advantage over their peers.
Other Types of Ads
Facebook, BookBub and Amazon ads aren’t your only options as an author, but they are the most popular ones. Many online advertisers use YouTube or Google ads, as well as other platforms. It can be tempting to try everything – and you should, eventually, but not all at once or you risk spreading yourself too thin. Taking a long-term approach is best. After all, online ads change rapidly. New ad platforms appear every day, and old ones launch new options on a near-constant basis. For example, Barnes & Noble recently announced an advertising portal for authors and publishers who want to sell more books on their website. What didn’t work before might be the next big thing.
Just be careful not to overwhelm yourself. Yes, testing every platform you encounter can be tempting, but it’s not wise to try them all at once – nor is it necessary. Mastering one or, possibly, two of the tried-and-tested platforms is enough for most authors to sell books and build their author career over the long term. Once you are at an advanced stage in your career, and want to try new options as they appear, feel free. As a newer author, however, sticking with the reliable methods is more prudent, at least until you’ve developed your marketing knowledge and have a big enough budget to blow a portion on riskier bets.
Remember: if you feel overwhelmed by all of this, you aren’t alone. There’s a lot to take in and even advanced author-entrepreneurs struggle occasionally. Every time retailers change policies and platforms update, they throw even expert marketers into turmoil, forcing them to re-test and re-learn the system. If you stay on top and expect to be a life-long learner, however, you can sell a truckload of books, grow a legion of fans and live your dreams as a bestselling author using PPC advertising.
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