Thinking of Running a Facebook Ad? Proceed with Caution

19 October 2016

From author Martha Conway via Jane Friedman:

For the past year or so, I have been hearing about the effectiveness of Facebook ads around the social media water cooler. As an author with three novels published and a new one scheduled to be released next year, I try to get the word out about my work as much as possible.

I’ve tried Amazon ads and Google ads with very limited success (neither one paid out, but they increased awareness of my books—I hope). The conventional wisdom in book publishing is that ads aren’t an effective way to increase sales unless the author is mega-successful already, and my experience with Amazon and Google advertising seemed to confirm that.

However, I couldn’t ignore the many people I respected who seemed to think Facebook ads were worthwhile. And I told myself that perhaps the Facebook platform was more controlled, and possibly more targeted, than Google. So I took the plunge.

Wow. What a roller coaster ride. I went from thinking This is the greatest piece of promotion I’ve ever done to thinking I might as well have burned that fifty dollars in my backyard Weber.

It wasn’t all bad, because I figured out where I went wrong after a few days and adjusted my ad settings. But if it weren’t for my husband, who works in the advertising industry, I probably never would have figured it out.

. . . .

I targeted an audience who was in and around the Chicago area, as my novel takes place in Chicago, 1921. I limited it to women (who generally buy more novels, especially historical novels); I set the age from early twenties and up; and I targeted those with interest in mysteries, literature, fiction, jazz music, reading ebooks, and a few other interests and behaviors.

I also set my daily budget and set a schedule for seven days.

So far, so good. But there was one more step in the Facebook campaign specs process: to choose my ad’s “Placement.” Here is where things went seriously wrong.

. . . .

I received 166 clicks in one day. To give you some context, most of my Amazon or Google ads received only about 100 clicks over the course ofone week.

Not only was the number of actual clicks enormous, but the click-through rate (i.e., clicks divided by impressions) was 5.34 percent, whereas my ads on Amazon or Google typically had click-through rates of 0.46 percent. Here the Facebook click-through rate was over ten times higher—to industry experts this would be a red flag, but I just thought it was great.

Checking my Kindle sales page for that day, however, I saw that, for all those clicks, I had sold only two books. Not great, but the ad campaign had just begun.

On September 7 my ad received 157 clicks, and on September 8 it got 172 clicks. Of course, each of those clicks cost me money (approximately $0.12 per click), but hopefully they resulted in some sales. If these ads performed as well as Amazon ads (and Amazon is able to calculate approximate sales their ad campaigns generate), I would expect at least five book sales each day.

But I didn’t get that. Nothing like it.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman and thanks to Nate for the tip.

Here’s a link to Martha Conway’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

How to Make the Most of Goodreads Giveaways

29 September 2016

From Digital Book World:

Authors looking to boost book promotion efforts should consider incorporating a presence on Goodreads. It’s an established site filled with potential to really boost book marketing plans. In fact, some authors have elevated this to an art form and have become Goodreads rock stars. (If you need tips on best practices, read this article.) Once you’ve established yourself on Goodreads, adding Goodreads giveaways to your marketing plan is a solid next step.

Many authors are hesitant to do a Goodreads giveaway, and this may be because they’ve heard that others have had mixed results. Doing a giveaway correctly can really help boost exposure for your book—Goodreads readers love giveaways. According to Goodreads, more than 40,000 readers enter a giveaway every single day.

. . . .

You’ll see that there are four tabs on the giveaway page: Ending soon, Most Requested, Popular Authors and Recently Listed. You want to be in one or even two of those categories. Ending Soon and Recently Listed will help to maximize your exposure on the site. As a rule, I recommend giveaways last one or two weeks. Also, it’s a great idea to run giveaways back to back.

. . . .

Take a look at popular end dates, and then choose something else to avoid competing for visibility. The list may thin out after a day or two, so watch for days that don’t have as many giveaways ending. As you get ready to kick off your giveaway, keep in mind that Goodreads requires a seven-day notice before launching, and giveaways must run for a minimum of seven days.

. . . .

Goodreads gives you a 1,500-character limit for your book description. The first six lines matter most since they appear next to your book cover during the giveaway. Consider editing the standard copy that Goodreads suggests, namely the “Enter for a chance to win one of X copies.” Although these details are essential, they are included under “Enter Giveaway.” For the first few lines, consider adding any big blurbs or great reviews. Remember, people like what other people like.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

How Publishers Can Cure “Ugly Sample Syndrome”

28 September 2016

From Book Business:

What if publishers could sell more books by learning the secrets of selling chicken sandwiches? In my hometown of Atlanta, GA, Chick-Fil-A is the dominant fast-food restaurant chain. Started in 1967, the company’s annual sales now eclipse over $6 billion. In addition, their stores generate more revenue per restaurant than any other fast-food chain in the US.

When Chick-Fil-A first entered the fast-food landscape, they setup locations in the food court of shopping malls. I can remember walking past their storefronts where an employee was usually placed among shoppers with a large platter of free chicken nuggets. They would kindly offer, “Would you like a free sample?” Who can turn down a hot, tasty, free chicken nugget? It would be downright un-American to decline.

On multiple occasions, Chick-Fil-A’s strategy of offering free samples lured me right up to the counter where I would order a chicken sandwich, waffle fries, and a lemonade. One free nugget led me to willingly purchase an entire meal. Sampling is a simple business concept that works throughout our economy.

Yet, publishers are woefully stingy when it comes to handing out free samples. Visit the average publisher website and you won’t see any samples up-front. Instead, the home page is covered with one book after another begging to be purchased. When a consumer comes by, the publisher websites seem to say, “Buy this book! Buy this book!” Click deeper onto any subpage in the website and same the issue occurs. “Buy this book! Buy this book!”

. . . .

Publishers might defend their actions by pointing to all of the sample chapters they offer. But, let’s be honest. Most sample chapters are bland, similar to cold, tasteless, chicken nuggets. I call it the “Ugly Sample Syndrome.” Consumers look at the sample, don’t see anything appetizing, and just walk away.

The best parts of a book are usually after the first chapter as a novelist builds the story to a crescendo or a non-fiction author gets into the meaty part of their teaching. Thus, publishers need to go beyond giving away trite sample chapters in order win consumer interest.

Link to the rest at Book Business and thanks to Ryan for the tip.

10 Things Authors Need to Stop Doing on Social Media Immediately

27 September 2016

From Digital Book World:

Almost every author has been told at some point, “You gotta get online and promote.” But only a small percentage of authors have actually been coached on social media best practices, resulting in hundreds of authors using social media completely wrong and turning readers off rather than attracting them.

If you are guilty of any of the following social media practices, for the sake of your readership, please stop immediately.

1. Overusing hashtags. A hashtag is not the secret to getting discovered, and no one meaningful is going to follow you based on a tweet in which eight out of 10 words are hashtags. Instead of trying to game the system and latching on to various trending hashtags, consider posting meaningful content that would attract your target audience.

. . . .

3. Auto-tweeting Facebook posts. We’re all looking for ways to save time, but this isn’t one of them. If your Facebook posts automatically aggregate to Twitter, you’re not using either platform effectively. Facebook posts tend to me longer and meatier; tweets, on the other hand, are short and pithy. If your lengthy Facebook content is tweeted, those tweets will be cut off with an ellipsis, and followers won’t understand your content. If you post shorter, pithy content to Facebook, that content won’t perform as well. Take an extra few minutes and translate your content for both platforms.

. . . .

9. Only sharing other people’s content. The purpose of social media is to establish your online brand and create relationships with potential readers and influencers. How can you do that if you’re only re-tweeting and sharing other people’s Facebook posts, not posting any content of your own? When I see authors only sharing other people’s content, it’s usually because they’re unsure of what content they should be posting. Which brings me to the final social media don’t…

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

Facebook Overestimated Key Video Metric for Two Years

23 September 2016

From The Wall Street Journal:

Big ad buyers and marketers are upset with Facebook Inc. after learning the tech giant vastly overestimated average viewing time for video ads on its platform for two years, according to people familiar with the situation.

Several weeks ago, Facebook disclosed in a post on its “Advertiser Help Center” that its metric for the average time users spent watching videos was artificially inflated because it was only factoring in video views of more than three seconds. The company said it was introducing a new metric to fix the problem.

Some ad agency executives who were also informed by Facebook about the change started digging deeper, prompting Facebook to give them a more detailed account, one of the people familiar with the situation said.

Ad buying agency Publicis Media was told by Facebook that the earlier counting method likely overestimated average time spent watching videos by between 60% and 80%, according to a late August letter Publicis Media sent to clients that was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

. . . .

“We recently discovered an error in the way we calculate one of our video metrics,” Facebook said in a statement. “This error has been fixed, it did not impact billing, and we have notified our partners both through our product dashboards and via sales and publisher outreach. We also renamed the metric to make it clearer what we measure. This metric is one of many our partners use to assess their video campaigns.”

The news is an embarrassment for Facebook, which has been touting the rapid growth of video consumption across its platform in recent years.

Due to the miscalculated data, marketers may have misjudged the performance of video advertising they have purchased from Facebook over the past two years. It also may have impacted their decisions about how much to spend on Facebook video versus other video ad sellers such as Google’s YouTube, Twitter, and even TV networks.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

Make Your Blogging Time More Efficient by Batching Posts

4 September 2016

From How to Blog a Book:

I have one word to offer when someone asks me how to manage blogging time efficiently. That word is “batch.”

If you aren’t batching your blog post production, you soon will feel burned out and resentful. And you’ll always feel like there’s a blog post hanging over your head waiting to be written and produced…because there will be!

. . . .

When you have as many blogs as I do (three active sites with one or more posts per week and one active site that I post to occasionally), time management becomes a huge issue. There have been times when I felt like all I did was write and produce blog posts. Indeed, that was my primary task each day.

. . . .

I batch. From a time-management perspective, this is the easiest and most efficient way to keep up with a blog schedule—whether you publish one or seven posts per week.

Think of batching this way: If you want to have a homemade cookie, you don’t mix up and bake just one. You make a batch.

Batching blog-post production uses the same concept. Write and produce a month’s worth of posts in a few days per month rather than one per day or week.

Here’s how to batch:

  1. Go to your calendar and schedule one day per week or a few days per month that you devote to blogging.
  2. Block out time on those days to write posts, shoot videos, create visuals, or anything else required to get your posts ready for production or publication.
  3. Block out time on those days or on different days to upload your content to the site, design the posts, add the visuals, and proof the posts.
  4. Schedule the posts for future dates. Remember, WordPress offers this option!

Link to the rest at How to Blog a Book

Discoverability: The New King of Publishing

1 September 2016

From Digital Book World:

Consumers are overwhelmed by the choices they have in front of them, as the abundance of content makes it difficult for them to find the right product. As a publisher, it can be equally difficult to reach relevant consumers amidst this sea of content. You can avoid getting lost in all the noise, however, with a discovery strategy.

Moreover, with the right discovery strategy, you can increase your products’ visibility, as well as your revenue.

Last year, an estimated 500,000-plus English-language books were published. In order to survive the crowded space, some publishers are enhancing their efforts to help with their books’ discovery. Quality content has always been the top priority of successful publishers. However, with growing sales through online retailers, a book’s discoverability has become nearly as important.

. . . .

At a publishing house, back office and marketing managers are often responsible for writing the relevant metadata for each published book. This includes the cover description, which, for today’s online retailers, is located next to the book’s cover image. In addition, the publisher usually supplies the ISBN, title, authors and any other descriptions.

However, information that online retailers need in order to better identify and recommend the book is often left out. This information doesn’t get included simply because the publisher does not see a need to supply it, or their distribution system does not allow it.

Most books are sold through aggregators or distributors that receive the books with their metadata, and in turn supply the online retailers with this information. If the retailers’ systems do not allow for added metadata fields, the information will never reach the reader, and the books’ visibility will be diminished.

Personally, I have seen publishers add an excessive amount of genres to their books’ metadata in an attempt to show up in as many categories as possible on online retailers. They do this with the belief that the more people who see their book, the more copies it will sell. This strategy isn’t successful, though, as it simply adds to the noise, flooding consumers with suggestions that don’t fit their needs.

. . . .

If you are wondering what metadata information could be included when describing your book, here is an example of the information you should be supplying:

Author, title, ISBN, publisher, genre, language, original title, translator, media review, date published, subject, keywords, book length, number of words, chapter length, time period, readability rating, pace, key attributes, content rating, dialogue, word types, distinct word prevalence, mood, sentiment, entities, specific references, places, people, action, character ages, expected same readers as specific books.

The retailer can potentially match the book’s metadata with the purchasing pattern of the store’s customers and the demography of the readers—age, location, etc.—or even specific store information, like the time of purchase, time of consumption, pace of consumption, reader’s rating, reader’s rating relative to similar books, reader’s previous purchases, reader’s next purchase, and if the book is trending (views, purchases, sample reads, etc.).

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

PG suspects he is far from the only consumer of reading material who feels delighted, not overwhelmed by his content choices.

He also notes that no one does a better job of helping its customers discover the next item they want to buy than Amazon. For all their other virtues, physical bookstores, chain or otherwise, are entirely unable to afford entry into the same electronic discoverability universe where Amazon thrives.

Amazon started serious work on book discoverability before it opened in 1995 and has never stopped that work. Discoverability is still an important priority today and Amazon spends serious money on its priorities.

Who am I: Writer or Bookseller?

25 August 2016

From Lit Hub:

I work at a bookstore, and I wrote a book: The Sadness. I see who buys it. Sometimes people order it online, and as a bookseller, it is my job to pick up the phone and call those people when the book arrives. But as an author, what’s my job? I don’t know.

. . . .

When Unnamed Press agreed to publish The Sadness in the summer of 2015, I was two years removed from [the university] community of writers. Instead, I was in a community of booksellers, no longer talking to people about writing but talking to people about books, mostly new releases. I hadn’t written new fiction in some time, but the people at Unnamed were very smart, and in their smartness they understood that publishing a bookseller could have its perks.

Booksellers have been responsible for pushing several recent books to prominence. Their blurbs appear on many successful small press titles, including those by Yuri Herrera, Valeria Luiselli, and Martin Seay. Even big publishers understand the power of bookstore support: readers of Lit Hub surely saw the advance copy of Garth Risk Hallberg’s two-million-dollar-behemoth drowning in bookseller blurbs.

. . . .

Michele Filgate has become one of social media’s most vocal writers, but if you search for her on YouTube, you find, toward the top, an interview she conducted with Paul Harding as part of a literary event. The description of the video identifies her as a bookseller, but the video itself identifies her, with superimposed text, as an author. To me, the suggestion here is that you are one or the other—that even if you want to be both, they cannot exist in the same space.

Yet I wonder which label she prefers—and I wonder which label I prefer, because, sometimes, it seems like being a bookseller/author is a novelty act. Everyone walks around with something superimposed over his or her face. Is there room for two labels?

. . . .

In the month that my colleagues featured The Sadness—a new release by a fellow employee!—I kept walking into the store and thinking like a bookseller; that is, after all, the label superimposed over my face most of the time. So, let’s think like a bookseller walking into my store: there’s this book by some guy named Rybeck sitting at the counter, with no shelf-talker on it, except one that mentions he works there. A couple people on staff have read The Sadness: the first works mostly in the back and liked the book; the second, if told that selling my book was the only way to keep the store open, would suggest closing the store (workplace politics ain’t always pretty). But no matter, who has read it and who hasn’t: anyone you ask about the book (at my store, at least) will happily recommend it—they are sweet people, after all—and will tell you, with pride, that a fellow bookseller wrote it.

Link to the rest at Lit Hub

Indie Booksellers: Book Clubs Are for Children Too

22 August 2016

From Publishers Weekly:

Most of the five million Americans whom the New York Times recently estimated as belonging to at least one book club are adults wishing to mix reading with socializing. While book clubs are not as prevalent among children and teens, who have to contend during the school year with classes, homework, and after-school activities, and then summer’s outdoor distractions, a number of bookstores around the country have launched book clubs for young customers – with varying degrees of success.

Some readers, according to Lisa Baudoin at Books & Company in Oconomowoc, Wis., need “a social aspect” to their reading, which book clubs provide. “It’s especially important for kids,” she added. The store hosts an in-store group for middle grade students and teens, in which the members read the galleys of their choice provided by the store and then discuss them. The store also partners with a school librarian who distributes six copies of a galley at the end of the school year to rising fourth-graders and sets dates during the summer to meet to discuss it. There are eight children as well as teachers and librarians in the group, called the Meadow View Book Club.

. . . .

“It’s heavy on the boys,” Baudoin noted about the club members, ascribing that to the personality and efforts of the librarian who moderates the group. But, she wonders, “Why do we have them when they’re younger and lose them when they’re older?”

It’s a sentiment echoed by Clarissa Murphy, a bookseller at Brookline Booksmith in Brookline, Mass., who spoke to PW about a book club of boys moderated for several years by one of her bookselling colleagues that is now in hiatus: its members ranged in age from eight to 12 years old. “Then they turned 13,” she said, “And they were interested in other things.”

In contrast, Holly Myers, a buyer at Elliott Bay Bookstore in Seattle, says that the club she moderates for customers in grades six up to 12 has been doing well for the past two years with no signs of a loss of interest in its membership. Its dozen or so members are primarily female, though; they meet monthly to discuss the book of their choice. Many of them also have their own blogs, upon which they post reviews of the books they read.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Why I Started Using Pop-Ups on My Website

12 August 2016

From Jane Friedman:

I’m not a fan of pop-ups. Like most of the Internet world, I find them at best a minor annoyance and at worst a reason to stop reading. I can’t recall a time that I ever signed up for someone’s email newsletter list as the result of a pop-up. I abandon sites when I’m assiduously and repeatedly begged to sign up for an email list. I also get extremely impatient when I’m entirely prevented from reaching someone’s homepage (or content) without first being asked to sign up for an email list—when I’m forcefully diverted to a full-on sales pitch for someone’s whatever-it-is. That’s always strikes me as incredibly presumptuous—shouldn’t I get to experience you or your content for at least a few seconds before you ask for my email address?

See, I’ve already digressed into how annoying these tactics are! I hope it demonstrates how reticent I’ve been, in all my years of running this site, to place any kind of pop-up that would interrupt the reader’s experience. While I know from experience and reading case studies that pop-ups work, I rarely like how they work. They feel like a trick or a betrayal of some kind. I always figure: If people really like me, then they’ll end up on my list. I only want truly devoted people.

I’ve begun to change my mind, however.

. . . .

[The article] showed that with an exit-intentpop-up (I’ll explain that in a moment), a site’s bounce rate remained the same. That means people weren’t leaving in higher numbers after the pop-up was added. Also, there were some pretty amazing stats on how effective the pop-ups were: one person found the pop-up drove 1375% more subscribers than a sign-up in the site sidebar. (The sidebar has been my default placement and still is for blog subscriptions.)

I was convinced it was time to try a pop-up myself. Here are the results.


In this graph, the light blue is my existing email subscriber list; the dark blue is the number of new subscribers added each month. I added the pop-up in March 2016. I had roughly 5,200 people on my list before I added the pop-up; now I have 12,000. That means I more than doubled my list size in less than six months. My website traffic remains steady (it’s even increased a bit), and my bounce rate remains the same as before.

. . . .

  • I’m using an exit-intent pop-up. An exit-intent pop-up only appears when people leave the site. If it works as it should, then visitors are not interrupted while reading blog posts or browsing content. They only see it once they demonstrate clear intent to leave. Then the pop-up appears.
  • The pop-up does not show on smartphones. Pop-ups tend to be most frustrating and annoying when you’re using a small screen and can’t easily get them to close. Therefore, my pop-up only appears to readers who are using desktops and tablets.
  • The pop-up does not keep re-appearing on subsequent visits. Some of this depends on how a visitor accesses my site, but once the pop-up has been seen and closed, it should not appear again for that visitor for at least another 180 days. However, it is possible to see it again if the reader switches browsers, devices, or locations.
  • It’s easy to make the pop-up go away. Some pop-ups are sneaky and don’t make it clear how to close them. My design has the traditional “X” in the corner.
  • I do not guilt people into joining the list. Have you ever noticed that some pop-ups make you feel stupid for not joining someone’s list? They’ll say something like, “No, I don’t want to become a better person!” I dislike that kind of overt and silly manipulation.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

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