A Bookworks member has asked about targeted advertising strategies: what works (or doesn’t)?
Here’s the first in a series of posts we hope will help answer that question.
Targeted Advertising Strategies
Advertising of some kind or another is all around us, and many people develop strategies for tuning out much of it. At least one web browser, Firefox, has a one-button tool allowing readers to crop out everything but the main core of text on a web page: Great for reading news stories, not so good for the advertisers who pay for space there. In many ways, this is becoming a more challenging age for advertising.
Should indie authors nevertheless look seriously into advertising?
They should, although that doesn’t mean throwing money at whatever mass medium comes your way. A great deal of advertising is wasted, but very carefully targeted advertising can help you sell your books. Sometimes good ideas can come in unexpected places.
I live about an hour inland from Oregon’s highly popular ocean beaches. Two highways leading there bear almost all the heavy traffic from the east, sometimes enough to create jams, as people head to the coast in search of something to do.
Suppose you had published a travel guide to the Oregon coast, and made it available on eBooks as well as print. Now suppose you rented a billboard along one of those two highways advertising that book, offering an inexpensive, coast guide eBook available by wireless download to travelers right now, minutes in advance of arriving at the coast? Might that sell enough copies to make a profit?
It might, because that billboard would be precisely targeting the exact audience of that particular book, at a moment when the subject is of great interest, and in a way that would allow immediate purchase.
One of the most important points about advertising (for books, but not only books) is to reach your specific audience, without wasting money reaching the masses of other people who aren’t and never will be your readers.
It can be done.
Facebook, for Example
Indie novelist Mark Dawson, who is estimated to have sold more than 300,000 books, has done it. He uses a number of marketing approaches but has doubled down especially on advertising in Facebook. An article in Forbes reports that he spends substantial amounts daily on Facebook advertising for his books. His advertising is so carefully targeted that he more than makes the money back while building a long-term reader base. The precision of his advertising is the key: He has worked out in detail what his readers have in common, and sends his message to those people.
Dawson expanded his reach by using a feature in Facebook called “look-alike audiences.” This allows him to submit an audience list to Facebook, which will find a second base of people whose attributes closely match those of the first. It’s almost like replicating a highly responsive audience. The potential sizes of these audiences that Facebook can provide ranges up to the millions. (As they get larger, of course, they also get more expensive.)
He has used that advertising strategy to help create a growing fan base, with which he keeps in close contact.
To use some of these advanced Facebook features, you first need to create a Facebook business account, which is separate from your individual account. If you want to set up an author page, choose “Artist, Band or Public Figure” and if you want to set up a page for your book, select “Entertainment”. From your account page, click “create ad” which takes you to an “ad manager” page. The Facebook ads creation tools, also let you target (and test) your intended audience by location, interests, behaviors and demographics. However, people who have used these features point out that either a considerable time or money, or both, is often needed to get good results. Extensive market testing is equally important. This may not be a form of advertising practical to newcomers, but is worth bearing in mind (and exploring further) for future possibilities, since Facebook is a vast potential pool of readers.
Other Places for Advertising
Not every form of useful and highly targeted advertising is as well-known or high tech.
One writer remarked in an online forum that, “I actually like placing ads in conference program books like Sleuthfest, Bouchercon, RavenCon (I write cross-genre so try to mix it up), horror conferences, etc. Sometimes it’s difficult to determine the outcome since sales sometimes aren’t always the day or week the ad comes out, but for the nominal fee I think it’s worth it. By nominal I’m talking under $250.”
Targeted advertising works differently for different kinds of books, of course. I’ll be back soon with more on targeted advertising strategies for fiction and nonfiction books in Part Two of this series.