British indie author David Penny shares a case study of his own Facebook advertising campaign, which he’s using to promote the first in his historical crime thriller series, The Red Hill, set in medieval Moorish Spain.
There’s a saying only 50% of marketing works—but nobody knows which 50%. Having spent many years in business I can vouch for this—even to the extent of experiencing the entire 50% that doesn’t work!
So when it comes to my writing I’ve grown cautious.
Doubly cautious when it means spending money, and what I earn from my books is meagre at best. I warn you, I’m no bestseller. Sometimes I’m barely a seller at all.
So when I saw recommendations for Mark Dawson’s Facebook advertising course I approached it like a mongoose creeping up on a cobra. Except Mark didn’t bite – I did.
I should say there are many other courses out there, as well as free training resources, but something about Mark’s approach resonated with me. He didn’t promise I would become a bestseller overnight. He didn’t even promise his approach would work, which was refreshing.
My Self-Publishing Journey
When I started the course in October 2015 I wasn’t an ideal subject. I don’t have many books in a series, although I do have a series, and I don’t have a box set. What I did have was two books which have garnered a few good reviews, but those books were bumping along around the 150,000 sales rank in both the UK and US. That’s on a good day. On bad days it’s closer to 250,000.
My initial concern was whether I was too late into the game. There were so many success stories around I feared the market might be saturated. But no, it appears that’s not the case.
I started by listening to the course introduction, then skipped the second module and dived straight into the Sales section. I was impatient. I wanted results and I wanted them now.
So—what has my experience been?
Well, like I said, my UK ranking before I started was in the hundred thousands for The Red Hill, a little lower for Breaker of Bones. After running ads for a month The Red Hill currently stands at position 18,080—just outside the top 200 in Mystery, Crime and Thrillers > Historical > Mystery.
Along the way I’ve made some mistakes, but I’ve also done a few things right.
- Not understanding the way people buy. I tried to be clever, thinking like a writer. People make up their minds whether to click on your ad in milliseconds. Clever doesn’t cut it in that time period.
- Being too British—my first ads were far too polite, and I didn’t push myself enough. Only when I broke through that reserved mindset did my ads begin to resonate with the public.
- Keep it simple. Don’t complicate your image. Don’t add more than one point of focus.
- Don’t try to explain your book. Instead, sell it. As I said before, people make a decision in an instant. If an image grabs them and the words don’t put them off, they might click on your ad. Too many words and they’ve already moved on.
- Targeting specific times of day helps. Currently I only show my ads between 6pm to 10pm, with some extra slots Saturday/Sunday morning, and I start earlier in the evening on those days too. I base this on my own habits. I surf over breakfast at the weekends, and can often be found swiping and pinching in the evening in front of the TV.
Well… this did. I tried several things, but the ad below appears to catch people’s attention.
Interestingly, when I added the word FABULOUS and 5 yellow stars, my click through rate fell. This version gets social proof with likes and comments, and it sells books. Not millions, not even hundreds, but it sells enough books to pay for the advertising and a bit more. And notice the lack of British humility in the strapline of “An accomplished new voice”. It took me ages and two whiskies to get up the courage to write that line!
DISCLAIMER: I have no direct connection with Mark Dawson, and paid full price for his course, which is currently closed for applications but opens up again in Spring 2016. In the meantime you can check out some of his free videos here.
OVER TO YOU Have you had experiences, either good or bad, advertising on Facebook? If so ALLi would love to hear from you about them in the comments section below.