This is the promised followup post to Barbara Hinske’s Facebook Really Can Help You Sell Books and my Can Facebook Really Help You Sell Books? posts, and the first of a 3-part special on Facebook ads. I spent some $350 on Facebook ads in December with the twin aim of getting more subscribers to my newsletter and promoting my new bundle.

So, how did I fare?

The Ultimate Bundle of Fantasy Novels and SF Short Stories Is Born

The Ultimate Fantasy, Science Fiction and Speculative Fiction Short Stories Mega Bundle | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's booksI designed the campaign with help from my author friend, John Logsdon. John is a brilliant, fun guy with a great head for marketing. He’s also the author of some brilliantly funny SF novels.

The very first thing he suggested was that I bundle all my work. As he pointed out, to run an ad, the first thing you need is a bargain.

So, Rule #1: don’t bother advertising a full-price book.

It turns out that, if someone bought all of my fantasy/SF books individually, they’d have to pay some $20. By bundling them up and selling them for $9.95, I offered people a 50% sale – which still leaves a healthy $7 profit for me. This dramatically increases the chances of recouping any money spent on ads.

So, Rule #2: because of the small percentage of people who will end up buying your product, don’t advertise anything that sells for under ~$10.

Preparing the Landing Pages

FB ads - blog | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's booksI also needed to prepare landing pages for my ads, complete with Facebook tracking pixels.

Without wanting to get too technical, I created a new blog, based on ideas from Mark Dawson’s Self Publishing Course. Specifically, I got the ad-layout idea from websites featured in his course.

I advertise my books there, but the main purpose of this blog is solely to act as a landing page for my ads.

With that complete, the next step was to prepare the free material that would encourage people to subscribe to my newsletter.

Preparing the Giveaway

As I mentioned, I had two aims for my ads: to gain new subscribers, and to promote bundle sales. This means I had to design two distinct ad sets.

The first ad set was designed with new subscribers in mind. Before I could even work on this, though, I had to prepare a giveaway. I prepared a special edition that contained Schism, the first half of Rise of the Prince and bonus material (the Robinson Companion).

The giveaway is there to offer an incentive to people to subscribe, but the trick is that they’re then led to a tripwire” (or “upsell“) page on the new blog. This allows me to sell them the afore-mentioned bundle. The idea is that enough of them will do so, that I’ll recoup at least part of my ad costs. Using this technique, John has managed to actually turn a small profit in most cases.

Which leads to Rule #3: Whenever possible, make people pay to subscribe to your newsletter!

Designing the Subscriber Ad

FB ads - subscribers | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

Click to open in Facebook

The next step was the actual design of the ad. I used an eye-catching background courtesy of Alex Saskalidis, and pasted my giveaway books.

I then wrote a small blurb and went through the usual steps of creating an ad: choose an audience, select where the ad is to appear, upload the image etc.

I set up the ad to run, and waited for a few hours for it to be approved, which it did a few hours later. I gave it a daily budget of $10.

Then I sat and waited for the impressions to start.

And waited.

And waited.

Three days later, I started thinking there might be a problem with it, so I deleted the campaign and started from scratch. This time, it started performing right away.

The lesson here is simple: Facebook runs on code. And every code has bugs.

The Subscriber Ad Results

Between December 7th and 23rd, I had reached 17,779 people. 46 of them had clicked on my ad. And I had gained 28 subscribers, after spending $45.75.

This means that each subscriber cost me some $2. Therefore, 8 of them – or 17% of the people that visited the page – needed to have bought the bundle for me to break even.

The real rate, of course was much lower, which is why I stopped the ad on the 23rd.

Designing the Sales Ad

FB ads - sale | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

Click to open in Facebook

The second part was to design a sales ad. This would help me promote my bundle, even if it gave me no subscribers.

As before, I used Alex’s background, and created two ads – one with a single image, and one with a carousel. The latter allowed me to emphasize how many books were included in the bundle.

After going through the usual steps of creating an ad, I scheduled it to run on a $5 daily budget for 7 days. I then submitted, and the very next day it started performing.

An Early Success…

After the week ended, I was ecstatic. I had spent $57 and made a little over $80. This means that, for the very first time ever, I had actually made money off ads! Woo hoo!

My ad had reached 8,000 people, and 124 of them had clicked on it. This gave me a Cost Per Click (CPC) of only $0.46, which is fairly decent.

After screaming, “I’m rich! RICH!” and giving myself a thorough pat on the back, I decided to run the ad again. Only this time, I’d scale it, by increasing the budget to $10 daily, and running it continuously. It was December by now, so Christmas was near. Which can only be a good thing, right?

…Followed by Failure

Wrong. As expected, this ad performed much better. It reached 38,525 people, 686 of whom clicked on it. This meant a slightly lower CPC of $0.42. Still, because of the higher budget and many clicks, I found myself spending some $250 in record time.

Which would have been fine, had I not only made $40.

I felt, in the words of a Scottish friend, that I’d managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. I had spent over $300 and made $120.

Why was that? I suspect that Christmas is to blame. As the holidays approached, people would click on the ad, but not buy the books. This might be because of some weird Christmas effect – they probably felt they’d rather spend the money on a Christmas-related book, or on Christmas tree ornaments or an elf or something. I honestly don’t know. I’d have to repeat the experiment at a different time, which I plan to do, only not just yet. When I do, I promise to share the results.

In the meantime, my next post will show you two alternative ways you can use Facebook ads to gain subscribers and to promote a giveaway.