Monday, August 31, 2020

Facebook Ads *Avoiding* Kindle Unlimited

In the past I've posted here extensively about my various Facebook ad campaigns. Although Facebook ads moved copies in ways that Amazon ads generally didn't, none of my earlier campaigns made a profit. The closest I ever came was making $43 royalties on $50 spend. Although there were times money from con sales or random hand sales could cover those costs, COVID-19 means a lot fewer conventions and those remaining are a lot smaller.

However, in early August I wondered if my ads might've been flawed--in order to make it clear that I was selling e-books (i.e. I didn't want people thinking the book I was selling was a video game, then costing me money by clicking and deciding not to buy) and attracting people with the magical word "free," I emphasized the book was "free on Kindle Unlimited." This meant thousands of Kindle Unlimited page-views per month, but at slightly under half a cent per page read, this came out to $4.80 per 1,000 pages read--aka not much even if I got thousands of page-reads (and believe me I did). Even though I made outright sales, no combination of sales and KU page-reads covered the costs. This applied even when I released The Atlanta Incursion, the sequel to The Thing in the Woods and advertised Thing in hopes people would buy it and then move onto the next book. Furthermore, based on my experience KU readers seem less likely to review than people who made full purchases and I was in severe need of reviews, especially for TAI.

So I created a new $100 Facebook ad for Thing with ad copy stating it was "available in e-book and print" rather than "free on Kindle Unlimited." Based on advice from a Facebook ad consultant (buy enough ads and they'll start wanting to call you to chat), I was also sure to include "engaged shoppers" as a behavioral characteristic--per the consultant these were people who are more likely to buy things. I also made sure to max out the spend at $5 per day, which is a recommendation I got from Help My Facebook Ads Suck, meaning an ad campaign running from 8/8 to 8/28.

The first day went pretty well. I sold two e-books of Thing and one e-book of TAI for a $6.18 royalties gross on $3.91 ad spend for a net of $2.27. There were also a few Kindle Unlimited page-reads, but we're talking less than a dollar. The sale of TAI took a little effort on my part--one person who commented on the Thing ad said he'd like to see the back-story for the titular monstrosity and I told him it would be in TAI, which was now available. He was glad to see it and bought it. I made another such sale on 8/10 (in which I suggested making a two-for-one series buy), so let that be a lesson--engage your fans on the Facebook posts. :)

Of course, one good day doesn't make a profitable campaign or a wise strategy, so I watched and I waited. Even after the campaign formally ended, I held off on commenting for a few days in order for the last Kindle Unlimited reads to come in and see if any sales came off the shares of the boosted post (there were 12 shares).

As of morning 8/29 when the post was no longer boosted, Thing and TAI between them had nine e-book sales and one paperback sale for Thing (per Amazon for royalties of $21.28) and five e-book sales for TAI ($10.30 royalties) during the advertising period. No additional sales were made for either book on 8/29, but the day did feature nearly 400 KU pages read for Thing. The Kindle Unlimited revenue for Thing in this period as $21.83 (a little over 4,500 page-views) and for TAI was approximately $3.55 (739 page-views). Overall, the ad campaign generated $56.96, $59.02 if one counts a Thing sale made 9/1 that might've been from a shared post. There's actually a decent amount of read-through from Thing to TAI in terms of purchases, but not nearly as much in KU. Also got one new review for Thing from one of the people I engaged with on Facebook, but no TAI--that's later on her reading list.

Ironically in July I had 19 Thing sales and 3,167 KU pages read, with a Facebook ad emphasizing Kindle Unlimited. There were nine TAI sales and 1,071 KU pages read (although this is skewed by the fact the book premiered in July), but even with those the ad didn't cover its costs. And this new ad ran for much longer at a lower cost per-day. I'm thinking that emphasizing free on KU might be a good idea, not a bad one. However, I also suspect I'm reaching the point of diminishing returns, even if one treats advertising as a loss-leader rather than something that should pay for itself each and every time.

(Bad idea--Samhain Publishing at one point had a banner ad in Times Square advertising to millions who'd never buy their books when that same money advertising in genre magazines would've been much more useful.)

However, before I decide on no more Facebook ads (at least until the third and perhaps fourth "Long War" books are done for more series read-through), there are more avenues I have yet to explore.

Firstly, as part of a multi-author promotion, I have set Thing to $0.99 from 9/2 to 9/7. I could advertise that on Facebook, hoping that the fact there's a sale generates more interest and that KU reads and read-through into TAI compensates for the greatly reduced royalties (35% on anything below $2.99 but 67% on $2.99 to $9.99). After all, I advertised Battle For The Wastelands when it was free as a COVID morale-booster and moved not only 250 free copies but at least some KU reads from people who didn't want to have the book permanently. And I got some reviews on Goodreads and perhaps on Amazon, something that TAI in particular needs. With the Augusta Toy and Comic Show coming up this weekend (Sept. 5-6) and the Next Chapter Con Sept. 19, I can afford another loss-leading ad.

Secondly, one of my reviewers (I can't remember whom) suggested that one really didn't need to read Thing to enjoy TAI. In late July after the presumed premiere boost wore out, I'd spent $100 on a Facebook ad selling TAI to fans of the Lovecraftian role-playing game Call of Cthulhu, horror fiction, and e-books (that didn't cover its costs and didn't even generate that many clicks for that matter), but blogger Matt Stienberg explicitly compared TAI to the X-Com game series. Given the focus on the Gray aliens on the cover art and throughout the book, X-Com fans might be a better target market for TAI on its own. Thing is, so long as TAI doesn't have any Amazon reviews, that might be quite a risk even if I emphasize that magical word "free" and use the KU ad copy.

Thirdly, I could send people to the Amazon series page showing off Thing and TAI together. That might be better to wait until I have more books, since a two-book series isn't exactly impressive.

Another alternative is to continue advertising but not spend so much money. Although the longer ad campaigns made more sales and grossed more, they also lost more money. Meanwhile, the $50 ad buy came within $7 of breaking even, and that was pushing Thing without TAI.

We'll see. I'll need to make a quick decision if I want to push the $0.99 campaign.

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