In our most recent post in this series, Develop Your Book Audience, we designed a guide to get you past the apprehension of “My audience is all over the place” to a place of audience understanding and subsequent development that will help you build meaningful author, title, series, character, and publisher brands. A refined audience will generate engagement and direct relationships with readers and influencers, helping you build a strong brand recognition and ongoing consumer relationships.
Now that you have a well-developed audience it is time to reach the untapped readers who want what you are selling. The time has come for paid media and promotions — the online beast that seems to intimidate every online marketer – often experienced and inexperienced marketers alike. This can feel challenging at first, so let us help get you past any trepidation to a place where running ad campaigns is intuitive, effective, and inexpensive.
When to Advertise
Your organic and earned media efforts alone are unlikely to cut through the noise — advertising can amplify your message to a targeted audience and expand your reach to the precise consumer. The key to executing a successful – and cost-effective – digital advertising campaign is knowing when, where, and if it makes sense to spend.
In particular, social ads are great for granular, narrow and multidimensional targeting (combining demographics, psychographics, and behavioral traits to form a target audience).
Key Questions You Need to Answer Before You Decide to Advertise:
- What is my goal?
The most common goals advertising can impact your book marketing efforts are driving pre-order awareness, purchase (before other marketing and publicity efforts have had time to reach likely buyers) and maintaining momentum on a successful book (where there is likely to be greater untapped sales potential in new audiences).
Advertising can also give you a relatively low-risk way of testing a hypothesis. If you believe a book will resonate with a certain audience, it is worth testing your theory with a small advertising spend before launching a more resource-intensive campaign.
- Will it be difficult to reach this audience without advertising?
You may wish to advertise if you are competing against other big books, online media (e.g., blog posts, articles, videos), or other products. You can help your book break through the noise by making sure your ad targets a specific audience segment with attractive, targeted messaging.
It is also important to pay attention to the absence of certain leading indicators that would tell you people are becoming aware of the book—the lack of media attention, reviews, pre-orders, search interest, and website traffic. If any or all of these are low, advertising may be a good idea.
- Can you, with any degree of certainty, reach this audience with advertising?
Based on the criteria for creating a targetable audience, you can construct an advertising campaign in correlation to a book or series. The key here is specificity and granularity of consumer attributes. For advertising to be cost-effective, the ad needs to be narrowly aimed at a very specific audience.
Be aware of competitors advertising in the same space, especially if they have deep pockets. Keep in mind that these competitors may not necessarily be other book publishers, but could be travel companies, media companies, or others in the same general topic area.
- Do you have adequate resources to effectively launch and manage a campaign?
In terms of a budget, digital advertising is often seen as inexpensive. You don’t necessarily need to spend a lot to run an effective ad campaign. However, spending is directly proportionate to human resource requirements. Time and effort to choose the right platform, develop the target audience, create the ad units, monitor performance, manage your budget, and react to engagement are what make campaigns effective and efficient. It is necessary to go into an advertising campaign with a clear view of all the resources required. Advertising can help greatly, but it does demand time and attention to execute successfully.
Examples of When to Advertise:
- Pre-order sales: If early buzz is not picking up as expected, that could be a sign other marketing and publicity efforts have not yet had time to reach likely buyers. Consider a pre-order campaign targeting fans of the author (to make sure they're aware of the new book) and close comp authors (perhaps featuring a great review quote from a known name) to drive pre-order awareness and purchase.
- Maintain (or regain) momentum: Recent success is a great predictor of future success. For successful titles past their peak, you may find untapped sales potential among price-sensitive buyers (a promotional offer could get them to finally buy) and other adjacent audiences who may not have been the primary targets for your launch campaign (perhaps fans of similarly-themed TV or movies who also shop at Barnes & Noble).
- Break through the noise: You may wish to advertise if you are competing against other big books, online media (e.g., blog posts, articles, videos), or other products in search. Targeted keyword ads in Google and Amazon can improve discoverability in a crowded field – and if successful will improve your organic rankings as well.
- Make some noise: It is also important to pay attention to the absence of certain leading indicators. These indicators will tell you people are becoming aware of the book—media attention, reviews and ratings, search interest, and website traffic. If any or all of these are low, advertising may be a good idea.
- Testing ground: Advertising can also give you a relatively low-risk way of testing a hypothesis. If you think a book could resonate with a certain audience, it may be worth testing the theory with a small advertising spend before launching a more resource-intensive campaign.
Where to Advertise
Using targeted paid media and promotions to reach new audiences, boost your signal in a crowded marketplace, and make the sale can often prove very effective for publishers.
Using Social Media
The key is to target by demographic and psychographic. Narrow down your audience to their applied values, opinions, attitudes, and interests. All of these attributes are available to you through Facebook Ads Manager, Pinterest Ads, LinkedIn Marketing Solutions, and Bookbub Partners
A sample audience may resemble this:
Location: New York City
Interests: Netflix, Barnes & Noble, Reading, and Stranger Things (TV Series)
Using Amazon Marketing Services
Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) is Amazon's targeted cost-per-click text and banner advertising platform.
Four Ways to Target:
Use suggested keywords for keyword-targeted advertising campaigns to reach consumers who are searching for terms and phrases related to your product. You may select keyword match type (exact match, phrase match, or broad match) as well as specify negative keywords.
Run ads that will be seen by consumers looking at related, similar, and competitive products. You may select the product detail pages for specific products where you want your ad to appear.
Rather than targeting specific products, you may instead choose to target consumers shopping and browsing in related product categories.
Reach consumers with a demonstrated interest in specific subjects or genres. Interest is determined by Amazon based on past consumer behavior and is not specific to where those consumers are currently shopping.
Three Ad Types:
Sponsored product ads
These keyword-targeted ads appear as sponsored listings in mobile and desktop search results as well as on relevant product detail pages. (Placement is determined by ad rank, based on your current bid, keyword relevance, and ad performance.) These may be automatically targeted using Amazon's suggested keywords, or manually targeted using your own keywords.
Product display ads
Advertise your book across Amazon (desktop and mobile) by targeting specific products, categories, or interest areas. PDAs may appear on product detail pages, the bottom of search result pages, on customer review and offer listing pages, and in Amazon merchandising emails. (Note that PDAs cannot be targeted by keyword.)
Headline search ads
These are highly-branded, keyword-targeted ads that appear above search results. You may advertise multiple products in a single headline search ad, and you can drive traffic from these ads to a brand page or customized landing page on Amazon. These are especially powerful to improve brand recognition for authors and series.
References & Resources
- Getting Started [Amazon Marketing Services help documentation]
- Book-specific guidelines for Product Display Ads and Sponsored Products [AMS help]
Who to Target
Ads can and should be targeted, controllable, and measurable. For all ads, make sure you can create a targetable audience that is a fit for the book, author, or series.
Expand Your Reach
- Recent success is a great predictor of future success. You should consider investing more dollars or resources to reach untapped sales potential among broader audiences. Larger affinity groups who are interested in other forms of related media—movies, television, music, games, news outlets, podcasts—are highly attractive if they're a good fit. They tend to be much larger than typical book and author audiences and capturing just a small percentage of that larger group can mean very meaningful sales for a book.
- Target broader adjacent audiences to reach many new potential readers.
- Target fans of similarly-themed media (e.g. TV, movies, music, or magazines) or other large brands with a high degree of affinity with your audience (e.g. a popular health brand for a diet book).
- Target consumers generally interested in your categories, topics, or genres.
- Target fans/followers of well-known media and influencers who have reviewed or blurbed the book. (Creative should include a quote.)
- You may want to narrow your targeting to improve conversion by layering in other "book" affinities, for instance you might target fans of Stranger Things who also buy on Nook.
- Be sure to use compelling creative (quotes from known influencers, eye-catching visuals) and a strong call to action (e.g. discounted price for a limited time).
How to Measure Potential Return
How to Measure at the Moment of the Ad
Think back to the section, When to Advertise, knowing your goals will provide a sense of hope for your outcome. Do you want to drive pre-order awareness? Increase sales? Maintain momentum on a successful book? Knowing your goals will help you determine KPIs that are directly related.
Initial descriptive KPIs to focus on:
- Click-through-rate: the number of people who click on your ad compared to how many people see it on their feed
- Cost-per-click: the goal here is to not be spending an outrageous amount of money on clicks — $12 per click is way too much
- Measure of success: is the money I am spending selling books?
The end goal is to have a sense of what everything is worth to you.
- Email address: $1
- 1 book sold by author with extensive catalog: $5
- 1 book sold by author with no catalog: $2
How to Holistically Measure Your Ad
Do not stop your analysis! Continue to measure results after your ad has finished its run. Your KPIs will not be as one-to-one descriptive or directly attributable as time goes on but you will almost always see a knock-on effect of paid advertising, with a lot of the value being captured after the ad finishes its run.
KPIs to measure holistically:
- Rise in sales and increased search rank on Amazon
- Increased Amazon author reviews
- Sales lifted across the authors whole catalog
- Search rank for the book’s product page (growth made during a paid ad campaign does not disappear when the ad is finished but translates to positive organic growth)
Learning how to advertise online is part of your ROI. This is a key holistic measure for your online strategy. As you become a savvier online advertiser, you will notice a well-targeted ad campaign does not need to be resource-intensive and will elicit tremendous ROI.
So, how much should I spend?
This is an oft-asked question. Our suggestion is to begin with “small bets” and measure the KPIs closely. As you begin to see what is working, stop small spends where the ROI is not there or where ways to improve the ROI aren’t clear. Any time something is working, double down and continue to monitor. Holistically. Ideally, as you learn, you will develop a sense of a reasonable opening budget for certain title conditions and what types of initial KPIs you’ll need to see before you are able to make the go/no-go decision. It takes some time, but often not as much as one might think. Advertising platforms, after all, want you to succeed! (So that you’ll spend more, of course but that’s okay if the ROI is there.)
This is a 30,000-foot view of the opportunities available for expanding your reach. We hope the information above will help you develop a feel for the game and encourage you to take a stab at advertising to your target audience. Remember, you do not have to spend a lot to be effective. Small spends can provide impressive movement on your titles.
For publishers and book marketers alike looking to drive online book sales, a little insight into how certain online platforms steer the customer journey, reveal authors and titles, and enable discoverability and purchases, can make a world of difference. We hope the information provided in this Marketing Insights series helped turn your “ifs” and “buts” into actionable data you can use to optimize messaging, build your online audience, improve your marketing results, and grow sales.