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Ask ALLi Self-Publishing Member Q&A With Orna Ross & Mark Dawson

Ask ALLi Self-Publishing Member Q&A with Orna Ross & Mark Dawson

Ask ALLi Q & A badge v2Each month, Orna Ross, ALLi Director, invites a special guest into the indie author hot seat to answer ALLi Members’ self-publishing questions. This month's special guest is Facebook advertising expert Mark Dawson, and this session was recorded live during London Book Fair.

As well as being a best-selling author, Mark is the powerhouse and frontman behind The Self-Publishing Formula, which provides authors with tried and tested methods to self-publish and reach more readers. He started using Facebook Ads to increase his mailing list sign ups and boost his own sales figures, and a couple of years ago he turned that knowledge and expertise into his first “Facebook Advertising for Authors” course. Today he's sharing insights about Facebook advertising, but also covering the new kid on the block, Amazon Ads.

Our monthly Ask ALLi broadcasts are an ideal way to keep learning about being an indie author and the skills you needed to become a successful self-publisher. If  you missed our live Q&A session from London Book fair that was part of our Indie Author Fringe event, you can listen in on the conversation between Mark and Orna here:

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Summary of our Ask ALLi Broadcast

Orna and Mark at LBFIf you prefer reading a summary of the Ask ALLi Broadcast, here are some of the key takeaways that resonated with me and a recap of the questions that were posed by ALLi members.

Amazon Ads vs. Facebook Ads

When Amazon Ads were first launched they were only available to authors that had enrolled in KDP Select, and Mark was disappointed in their performance so he stopped using them. But when Amazon made Ads available to non-Select authors at the end of last year, Mark tested Sponsored Keyword Amazon Ads and found them more powerful and successful this time around.

Facebook Ads Pro

  • Facebook is one of the most effective ads platform full stop
  • All authors should be experimenting and using Facebook Ads
  • There's a large audience and you can use laser-precise audience targeting
  • No matter what your niche, it will be represented on Facebook

The main downside to Facebook Ads is that the audience is not on Facebook to buy books, they are there to socialise and share their own stories. You also need to be mindful of your daily budget. Whatever budget you set, it will get spent by Facebook.

Amazon Ads Pro

  • Amazon is the third largest search engine in the world
  • With One-Click purchasing they make it easy to buy product
  • Your audience is on Amazon with a mindset to spend money

Whereas Facebook is focused on spending your money, you will be hard-pressed to spend your daily budget on Amazon. So if you have a small book advertising budget, Amazon Ads are an excellent choice.

Q: Are you better to spend your money boosting a post or page on Facebook?

The problem with boosting a post on Facebook is that it's less effective than using the Power Editor of the Facebook Ads Manager. So take the time to learn how to set up and monitor Facebook Ads, and your activity will be more effective in reaching readers.

If you use Facebook Ads to boost your author page you'll get more likes. This was great years ago when your organic reach for your posts was high and your posts reached 50/60% of your page fans. But now Facebook has implement the pay-to-play approach, your reach has been greatly reduced. Building Likes costs money, you can pay to reach them, but then what? It's better to use Facebook Ads to build your mailing list so that you can communicate with your audience directly.

Q: I once heard that Mark would rather have a mailing list sign up than a sale, how can that make sense?

This way of thinking is a mindset change. If you can get your readers onto your mailing list by offering a free book, there's an increased chance that you'll entice them in to buy one of your other books. If you look at the lifetime value of a subscriber, it's best to give up one royalty for multiple future royalties from the same reader.

Q: I have standalone books (not in a series) will Facebook Ads still be effective for me?

It's a little bit more challenging to get Facebooks Ads to work for standalone books, but still very doable. Writing in a series makes it easier to hook people on the characters and story arch. If there's no way to tie your books together then the author needs to be the brand, and your writing should become the thread that ties them together.

Q: It seems like Facebook choose who in your target audience they post your Ad too. If I rerun an Ad it seems that it goes to the same target audience, how can I manage that?

This scenario depends on how large your target audience is. If you use look-alike audiences you could end up with a couple of million people on the list. So having your Ad seen by the same people multiple times will be minimized. You should exclude fans of your page, and any names on your mailing list.

Q: Should I do sponsored or keywords Amazon Ads?

Product display ads aren't working as well, although some authors have experienced success with them. Sponsored keyword ads are proving to be more effective because they appear earlier in the buying decision process.

You can come up with your own keywords or let Amazon suggest them for you. Some keywords can be quite broad, so you're better off choosing more targeted keywords to make your Ad more effective.

You can visit author pages for the other authors in your niche and look at the authors that are recommended in the left hand side beneath the bio, and use these author names as keywords. Drilling down on keywords and similar authors will help you create some robust keywords.

Q: How do you scale your book advertising success?

This is the 64,000 dollar questions. You'll find it a challenge to get Amazon to take all of your money. Mark recommends setting a top-line budget $10 per day – but you won't be able to spend that much.

Rather than setting up one Amazon ad for $10 per day, opt instead for two ads with a $5 spending cap, or ten ads with a $1 cap. Throw up as many different ads as you can, with different variable.

How does this differ from scaling techniques on Facebook? If you set $10 a day as your spend on Facebook, Facebook will spend to your limit. So make sure you set a spending limit that you feel comfortable with. When scaling your ads, do it carefully. If you're getting 100% return on your $10 investment, don't increase your daily spend dramatically, be patient and let it run at your initial budget.

Then slowing increase it by 20-50% and monitor the effect. When it gets to the tipping point that your profits are slowing down, stop the ad. Duplicate the ad and scale up your second ad.

Q: How may keywords are optimal on your Amazon Ad?

Relevance is more important than quantity, but saying that Mark has some 1,000 keywords Amazon Ads running. But he also have some 30-30 keywords Ads running.

Your mantra for running book ads should be – Test, Monitor, Act.

#BookAdvertising - which is best Facebook Ads or Amazon Ads? #AskALLi @pbackwriter @ornaross Click To Tweet

Are you ready to start advertising your book?

Headshot of Jay Artale

Jay Artale

It's really easy to jump into Amazon Ads for books promotion, and if you're an advertising-newbie I highly recommend this option. I've tried using the Amazon suggested keywords ads, and also ads using targeted keywords I've chosen myself, and the second option is performing best.

I look at the ad stats every few days and check the spend to income ratio to make sure that I'm still in positive. It's working so far. At the moment Amazon Ads seems like an entry level route into book advertising, but watch this space we expect this platform to continue developing.

I'm slightly intimidated by Facebook Ads, but based on the success other authors have had with this book advertising method it is time to dip my toe in the water. To help us on our journey – Mark offers a free masterclass about how to use Facebook Ads to Build your Mailing List.

Free Facebook Advertising Masterclass


Where can I watch or listen to more Ask ALLi?

Interested in Joining ALLi? Besides being able to submit questions to this monthly Q&A, there are lots of other benefits of being an ALLi Member. Click this banner to find out more.

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Meet the Ask ALLi Hosts & Special Guest

Orna Ross Headshot Black and WhiteOrna Ross launched the Alliance of Independent Authors at the London Book Fair in 2012. Her work for ALLi has seen her named as one of The Bookseller’s “100 top people in publishing”.

She also publishes poetry, fiction and nonfiction, and is greatly excited by the democratising, empowering potential of author-publishing.

Connect with Orna on Twitter: @OrnaRoss

Mark Dawson Indie Author FringeMark Dawson was born in Lowestoft, in the UK, and is currently writing two series. The John Milton books involve a disgruntled British assassin who is trying – without much success – to put his past behind him.

The Soho Noir books, beginning with The Black Mile and continuing with The Imposter, follow the glitz and glamour of criminal life in London’s West End from the 1940s to the present day. Think of The Sopranos set in Soho and you’ll be on the right track. This series, too, has been downloaded tens of thousands of times.

Connect with Mark on Twitter: @pbackwriter


Learn and grow from this Ask ALLi #selfpub advice from @ornaross & @pbackwriter Click To Tweet


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