Sunday, March 29, 2020

After-Action Report: Facebook Advertising for BATTLE FOR THE WASTELANDS

Once upon a time, I used Facebook to advertise this very blog and all was well, getting me 3,000 hits in a month. When the time came for me to promote my independent fantasy novel Battle for the Wastelands, I decided to go back to Facebook advertising. I created a new Facebook Page in order to use it, but owing to a clumsy and bizarre ad interface (the one I used years ago was much simpler), I ended up making two ad campaigns by accident. One was targeted too broadly (at pretty much everybody in the United States if I remember right) and although I did manage one sale, I shut it down pretty quickly to keep it profitable. The second campaign was more narrowly targeted, focusing on adventure fiction, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic, fantasy, steampunk, and e-books and didn't turn out very well. I spent $8.96 and made, as far as I know, no sales whatsoever before I shut it down.

After the failure of my initial Amazon ad campaigns, I decided to give Facebook another try. I went to my Facebook fan page and boosted a post pushing Battle that said it was free for the Kindle March 15 and March 16, although the ad campaign was slated to run for five days.

(By the way, using "boost post" on your Facebook page allows for much easier targeting than the ad interface. Furthermore, getting into Facebook ads through the Facebook page rather than going into the ads directly also allows access to a much easier interface. Perhaps Facebook has tweaked its operations again, or the easier ad campaigns I remember from years ago were done through my now-defunct "Matthew W. Quinn: Speculative Fiction Writer" page rather than directly in the ad system.)

For my free-book campaign, I targeted people in the United States interested in "steampunk" and "Western." I budgeted $50 for that ad campaign in hopes of moving a lot of freebies and thus getting a lot of reviews on Amazon and Goodreads in addition to helpfully providing people in coronavirus lock-down something entertaining to read.

And in that respect, my campaign succeeded massively. Although I also shared the link around to certain Facebook groups (skewing the numbers and also-boughts--for example, sharing in the Facebook group dedicated to author S.M. Stirling meant a lot of Shadows of Annihilation also-boughts), my ad reached 6,609 people and got 402 clicks. I moved 233 free e-books and at least five people on Goodreads marked it as "currently reading" or "to read," with one person giving it a rating (3/5 stars) on Goodreads 3/19/ If only five percent of the people who got the free e-book decide to review, that's 11 new reviews, something I very much need. During this period, I also got 470 Kindle Unlimited page-views, which comes out to be $2.68, even though since it was free on Amazon they didn't need to spend any money at all. And in the remaining days of the campaign, I also sold seven e-books ($19.18 royalties) and got 508 Kindle Unlimited page-views ($2.44). Although this combined $24.30 covered slightly less than half of the advertising cost, I'm hoping the additional reviews generated from the freebies  will set Battle up for long-term success.

Then I decided to see what Facebook advertising alone could do, avoiding the confounding variable of posting the freebie link in different Facebook groups, on Twitter, etc. After giving it a couple days for the sales to cool off (I still made one e-book sale, one paperback sale, and got twenty KU page-reads), I created two new Facebook ads. One was a retread of the original ad focusing on Western and steampunk, while the other was more ambitious, targeting people interested in fantasy books, dark fantasy (although Battle is not supernatural dark fantasy in the vein of Hellraiser, it's bleak and morally gray like A Game of Thrones), and Stephen King's Dark Tower series and The Gunslinger. After all, my sales pitch for Battle (which got me some print sales at Days of the Dead this past year) is "Dark Tower meets Game of Thrones." I led my ad copy with "Free on Kindle Unlimited" so people wouldn't think they were clicking on an ad for a video game or film, something I learned from one of my podcasts. I budgeted $150 for the first campaign, given its predecessor's success, and $60 for the second, not wishing to spend too much money overall and wanting to keep my ads fairly focused.

In terms of sales made, the campaign was a massive success. Although there are still some confounding variables (like a purchase that might have been from a member of my writing group reading my twice-a-month newsletter rather than through the Amazon campaign), I sold fifteen e-books ($41.10 royalties) and two print books ($5.81 royalties) between the ad's premiere on March 22 and its conclusion on March 28. In that same time period, there were 2,790 Kindle Unlimited pages read for a total of approximately $13.39. I also saw an uptick on sales rank for my first novel The Thing in the Woods and The Best of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly Vol. 2, a collection I have a story in, on March 23 and March 24. The first ad campaign reached nearly 21,000 people and got 655 link clicks, while the broader second one reached a little over 9,000 people and got 247 link clicks.

However, the gross revenues came out to be roughly $60.39 against the $215 I ended up spending. That actually represents a much larger net loss than my Amazon campaigns, although I brought in around four times more gross revenue. Although paperback sales don't post until they actually ship (and the coronavirus situation means shipping books is less of a priority), I doubt I sold enough paperbacks to make a significant difference. Hopefully this campaign will generate some reviews once people have time to finish reading--after all, four people on Goodreads marked it as "currently reading" in the 3/22-28 range and I got one rating (4/5 stars) on 3/25.

In conclusion, although Facebook advertising is still a money-loser overall (at least if I've got just one book in the series), I was able to move a lot more copies than using Amazon's advertising platform. This knowledge will come in handy when I post my own edition of Thing and its forthcoming sequel The Atlanta Incursion, since those who buy Thing might in turn buy TAI. Once I get "Son of Grendel" posted and especially once the second Wastelands novel goes up, then Facebook advertising Battle again might be a good idea.

And if I decide to go with another Facebook ad campaign for Battle, I think I'll use the first ad but narrow it further. In addition to "steampunk" and "Western," I'll add "Kindle Unlimited" and "Kindle" to the keywords keep the focus on e-books. Also a lower budget so it's easier to cover the costs--the first campaign covered half its costs (when two of the five days it was making KU peanuts), while the second campaign only covered a little over a quarter.

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