None of the BookBub ads performed as well as I had hoped, but the clear winner was this one:

Which I did not expect to use, but I tried this version when various other version proved unexpectedly disappointing.

Things that did not help: Red boxes around the text. Adding “All Books On Sale.” Adding “All Books in KU.” Having a statement about the books rather than a quote from another author, and this quote from Rosamund Hodge did better than the one from Sharon Shinn. It’s a more memorable quote, so maybe that’s why? It uses capital letters, so maybe that’s why? This exact quote didn’t work as well when the ad showed the first book large and all the other books lined up small at the bottom or when the text boxes were red. I have no idea why.

Other comments: Yes, you can easily switch out images at any moment. You can add or subtract targeted authors at any moment, change your bid amount, change the amount of money you’re spending, all sorts of things. This rapid adjustment allowed me to try the ad above just to see what would happen, and that was good. You can also pause or stop an ad that is doing really horribly, which is also good, because wow, you can blow through money fast running ads and get practically nothing for it.

Were ANY of the ads actually cost effective? Though some were better than others, I don’t think any were actually cost effective. I think running BookBub ads lost money. This was money I was willing to lose; that’s why I was experimenting with ads; but frankly I thought the ads would do significantly better. My best guess is that running BookBub ads led to fewer than 200 people downloading or buying books, which is quite terrible compared to Freebooksy, pretty bad compared to Fussy Librarian or Robin Reads, and about the same as EReader IQ or BookRunes — and the BookBub ads were more expensive to run than even Freebooksy.

I agreed with you all that the red text boxes ought to “pop” more and they didn’t, or if they did, it didn’t help. Running the ads in Canada as well as the US and UK didn’t do much. Did any of the ads do ANYTHING? Yes; series books sold slightly better than when using promotion services alone. That’s true even for Freebooksy series promotions, and at this point I don’t think the series promotion via Freebooksy is worth the additional cost.

Overall conclusion: At this point, there’s no doubt in my mind that good promotion services give you a lot more bang for your buck than BookBub ads, unless and until you really figure out how to run the ads. Also, as a bonus, promotion services are MUCH EASIER and involve almost no learning curve at all.

This result doesn’t make me eager to play with ads in the near future, though I’ll try running the Black Dog series ad anyway because why not, it’s set up already. I may try a few versions, with relatively low amounts of money per day. Also, when I have time … late this fall or maybe next year … I should try testing author names the way David Gaughran suggests and then try another ad to see how that works. This is not a priority, and I don’t plan to look at how to do Facebook or Amazon ads right away either.

I did learn stuff about putting images together and how BookBub ads function, so overall this was a worthwhile experiment, even if results were disappointing.

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10 thoughts on “Surprise!”

  1. For a couple of years, I would receive daily emails from bookbub with daily deals of various genres of books. Idk why that disappeared but I really liked it, and tried a lot of different books from their curated list. Do you have any idea if your books can get on that type of daily email?

  2. Alison, that’s tremendously competitive. I’ve applied a dozen times. It’s hard to get your book accepted, especially if the book is in KU rather than wide. It’s also massively expensive, but it’s generally considered a good deal if you can get it.

  3. That is a surprise! Both that the black color with small images worked better, and that the ad overall didn’t work so well. I wonder if the audience differs on BookBub vs Freebooksy and others. Also, if your ad isn’t emailed out, where is it appearing?

  4. I think the purchased ads go on some percentage of the emails, at the bottom, after all the daily deals.

    And I’m wondering if the result was random chance, because I’m not seeing how this ad could actually have outperformed the ones with red boxes and “All Books in KU” and so on.

  5. I experimented with Bookbub ads last year (after reading David Gaughran’s book), including doing all sorts of author charts and comparisons, and spending hours and hours looking for comparative authors and playing with ad design. It was fun until the money started disappearing like I was throwing it into a trash can and setting it on fire, and then… well, I stopped. Because I don’t have that kind of money. A couple years earlier, I did the same thing with Facebook ads — also fun — and at least with the FB ads, I was more or less breaking even. But then I had to feel guilty about the fact that I was giving money to Facebook, which felt a lot like, I don’t know, putting ads on cigarette packages or something. Or maybe owning stock in a cigarette company. Bookbub seemed like a better option, but I definitely did not figure out how to turn it into anything more than gifting the company my money. Someday, if I can ever manage to figure out the basic first step of writing a book more often than once every couple of years, I’m going to experiment with Amazon sponsored posts, because the books that seem to do unreasonably well, IMO, also show up in a LOT of sponsored posts. (I’m defining “unreasonably well,” as my personal opinion of “how is THIS book successful?” after reading it, not just covers or blurbs.) I suspect that mastering sponsored post advertising would also cost a lot of money, but if you can figure it out, it clearly pays off.

  6. Oh, and I meant to say, on FB, my best-performing ad was absolutely ugly. A big red box that said Free, very square, on top of a book cover, with nothing interesting about it at all. Not even a pretty gradient background. My nephew designed it, competing with his sister and me, in a minor family competition over best ad. She and I were both quite chagrined when it won.

  7. Thank you very much, Sarah! It’s really helpful to know that. Aargh, I do not want to take the time to figure out ANY ad platform. Probably I should try Amazon sponsored posts, as you’re probably right. Maybe next year … I just hate taking the time to deal with this, especially since I’m not all that keen on dealing with it in the first place.

    I’m laughing at the family competition — and at the ugly ad winning.

    Advertising is ridiculous. I would pay someone to create an advertising campaign for me if I knew whom to hire, but talking about throwing money into a trash can and setting it on fire — I don’t have any notion how to find out whether a marketing service is remotely competent.

  8. If I was going to hire someone — which I’m absolutely not going to do, at least not until I overcome the fundamental issue of not being able to finish anything — I’d see if I could get Nicholas Erik. I don’t know him personally, I don’t know anyone who’s ever worked with him, I don’t have any real-world proof that his methods are successful. But his emails are smart and realistic and very grounded, IMO. If you have time to add some marketing reading to your schedule, you might want to look at his books or join his mailing list. If you were really ready to make a big investment (BIG!), he does an intensive training course, 1 on 1, where he teaches you hands-on, with your own specific books and genre and keywords, how to do Amazon ads, via 8 weeks of zoom calls and homework assignments. But I’m going to guess that you should be ready to invest at least $25,000 total in marketing, between the cost of the course and the cost of the ads.

    The whole advertising thing is such a catch-22 — I can remember reading some post back when I was experimenting with Facebook ads where the author argued that spending $100,000 to make $106,000 was totally worth it, because at the end of the day, you’d have made $6K. He wasn’t wrong, really. But it would have meant giving Facebook $100,000! And that thought just pained me. Not to mention, of course, that I didn’t have the spare $100K sitting around to do so.

  9. Thank you, Sarah. I would have to grit my teeth pretty hard to handle that kind of course. I would expect to loath it. It doesn’t sound as bad as doing my own taxes, but on the other hand, dealing with it for eight intensive weeks, aaaagh, spare me. Maybe eventually.

    To me, spending $100,000 PLUS TIME INVESTED to make $106,000 would probably not be worth it. I mean, it depends, obviously, on how much time that would take. But let’s say it takes that much money plus 2 hours a week for six months. That’s two hours after the initial learning period. That’d be 48 hours of my time — invested in something I don’t want to deal with in the first place — for $6000, and I’m not saying I would never find that worthwhile, but I would be pretty reluctant.

  10. An excellent point about the time! Yeah, I would want every minute I spent in Facebook’s awful ad interface to be rewarded with substantially more than minimum wage.

    As for the course, yes. Anything that requires Excel knowledge is probably not my first choice of ways to spend my time!

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