Why Advertising on Facebook Made Me Change My Entire Year Production Plan (Hint: I Haven’t Started Advertising Yet) (#18)
I left a bit of a cliffhanger in my last post about the summit, didn’t I? What can I say—if you hate cliffhangers you:
a) shouldn’t read a fiction author’s blog
b) shouldn’t read a copywriter’s blog
Am I right or am I right? You’re still here, so I can’t be held responsible for your anguish. You are a glutton for punishment. 😉
In my last post, I talked about the two major insights I gained from the writer conference I attended a few weeks ago. The first was about audiobooks, but unfortunately none of it is usable for most independent authors at this time (including myself). It’s something to think about a few years from now, so I won’t waste your time with it. (I’m keeping it in my back pocket until then, because I do intend to implement it. It’s a very important part of my long-term strategy to write a television show in the next 10 years.)
The second is about Facebook advertising. A number of indie authors are excited about a new (currently free) mini-course by Mark Dawson at SelfPublishingFormula.com that goes through exactly how he builds his email list and builds sales for his fiction books—using Facebook ads. Lots of authors are testing his ideas in his secret Facebook group and seeing great results. I loved his ideas because he showed exactly how to make all of this work for fiction—something no one else in the industry has done (most Facebook advertisers are creating high-end digital courses and the like, not selling $5 ebooks—a much harder proposition for you getting your money back).
I went through Mark Dawson’s mini-course and highly recommend it. I’ll probably buy the full course when it comes out. The reason I like Mark Dawson’s course is because it’s going to be relevant years from now. Sure, the details of doing ads can change, but the great thing about advertising is that very few authors will take the information and actually do something with it. It’s HARD to get advertising right. It requires great books, great sales funnels, great email list conversion, great landing pages, and more. On top of all that, it relies on having money to play with and having a personal risk profile of spending money to make money.
Do you know how many authors this rules out? Mark Dawson is literally teaching people how to print money—and like, 99.9% of authors will never do it. That’s the kind of growth hacking that I love—the kind that no one else will use because it requires a ton of work and a mindset that most authors don’t have.
Bookbub is another great example of advertising that indie authors are using right now. And while I do not think it will last forever (it’s too easy, which equals overcrowding), I do think that the smart authors who are seeing success have mastered the Bookbub ad and its requirements. It’s a tactic that’s working to get traffic now—and that’s always a good thing to use to your advantage while it continues to work.
In both these cases, I’m all on board with advertising in theory. Of course I believe that spending $500 to make $2000 makes sense. What smart person wouldn’t?
In practice, I am not ready to start. My catalog is not strong enough to turn on these faucets. I have a lot of work to do. And up until now, I’ve put it off in favor of writing more books and developing my craft.
It’s time to turn on the faucet and start making more money at this. After the summit, I spent several days completely overhauling my plan for the year to focus on how I can get ready for advertising and building my email list in other high-impact ways. (Not saying exactly what here—but if you’re curious, get on my email list. I’ll be talking about it in the behind-the-scenes content.)
Here are some of the things I focused on in my plan:
#1 – Deeper Sales Funnels
Right now, I only have one true sales funnels and lots of other starts to series. My plan right now is to build out my one sales funnel and make it deeper (there are only six novellas in it), while also aggressively building two more funnels that have a ton of potential. That will give me three sales funnels (one for each pen name/vertical I have) that I can then turn on traffic for in various ways, advertising only being one of them.
Before, my plan for building assets was methodical but also scatter shot. I wanted to release a book or two under each vertical every few months. Now, my plan for building assets is focused on deep funnels, even if it means a bunch of books coming out at the same time. There’s no point in pacing or worrying about launches if I can circumvent Amazon’s algorithm and send traffic in other ways.
#2 – Optimized Product Descriptions and Covers
Right now, I haven’t touched my product descriptions or covers, feeling like they were “good enough” for my purposes. While I don’t believe optimization is ever done, I do believe that I can spruce up the books that are part of my three deep funnels. This means cleaning up the stories inside if necessary, changing up the covers (as best I can, on my budget), fixing the descriptions and adding HTML in the backend (something I hate doing) to make them look more professional, fleshing out my Amazon author page, changing or cleaning up front and back matter, and making the book as presentable and attractive as possible.
I’m lucky that I’ve tested many of these pieces already and have systems that work in place already for most of these books. It’s really just a quick touch up before putting money toward it all.
Before, I focused on content first and was content to let the algorithms work their magic. Now, I’m focused on turning each series into a sales funnel machine.
#3 – Optimized Reviews
All of my reviews are 100% organic and I haven’t yet done any of the typical things authors do to get more reviews. For my books in the deeper sales funnels, though, I need to run a review campaign to get the numbers (and star ratings) up. This will allow me to go for Bookbub ads and the likes—I’ve never submitted for one before.
Before, I let people review if they wanted. Now, I’ll be aggressively going after reviews to get to ~100 or so, in order to prep for something larger. (I did this with a series called Socialpunk a few years ago—75 legitimate reviews in one month. Lots of ideas to improve on that campaign!)
#4 – Killer Auto-Responder
It’s pointless to build an email list if you don’t have a plan to follow up. For one of my funnels, I have a decent auto-responder, and I’m developing better ones for my two other funnels. I think about auto-responders very differently than most people and have been taking notes of how I do mine. Very excited to share this information in the future, but for now, I’m still at the testing phase of it all.
Before, I had a welcome email. Now, I’m putting a thought out sales funnel “guider” into place for each of my pen names.
#5 – Promotions Schedule
No author should rely solely on one source of traffic or one tactic for getting traffic. This is an argument I have with authors who rely too heavily on Bookbub. So while I’m excited to turn advertising on, it’s only one of about five high leverage strategies I’m hoping to use to both build my email list and generate more book sales. I would never want to get stuck on one tactic, and luckily the work I’m doing to build deeper funnels and optimize my product packaging is going to work for any source of traffic I send to it.
Before, I had no promotions schedule. Now, I’m looking at spacing out my promotions across five different “areas” (advertising is one of them) so I can increase my sales significantly behind the scenes. I’m all for anything that’s easy to run (once you have your system in place) and that doesn’t rely on Amazon’s algorithms.
Overall, the summit got me excited to market my books again. My books have done okay on their own with no or very little marketing, but there’s a lot of room for improvement. I’m not making a full-time income with fiction, which is something I’ve been very upfront about on this blog. I’m hoping to put enough in place that all of that changes by September—a sort of personal deadline for various reasons. (I’ll also continue to earn money in other ways because I have a lot of personal stuff coming up and simply need to earn.)
The full-time fiction income piece is more of a game for me than a real do-or-die goal. You have to understand that I’m really happy right now and have everything I could ever want or need. It can be hard to get extremely ambitious from that place. Additionally, I don’t have the fiction sales beast figured out, so I can’t fully predict when everything is going to click in place for me with it. It would be different if I knew what I was doing, but right now I’m still in the experimentation phase.
For the first time, though, I feel ready to actually go after such a lofty goal. One of the things I’m wrapping my head around is not trying to be perfect or having the perfect solution before marketing my books. I was in a state of waiting—waiting until I had better covers, better product descriptions, more books, more time. In the meantime, I was losing sales—and thus, losing months of time that I could have been more aggressively building my author platform and readership.
So, although I want to get a lot of this done before I start, I have a hard deadline of June 1 for turning on advertising. It’s going to move forward with or without my optimization—which means I better get a lot done in the next month! But also, it means using the assets I have right now to the best advantage I can.
A great question I’ve been asking myself lately is, “How could I start this by [insert tight deadline here]?” I find myself coming up with creative solutions. For example, under Monica Leonelle, I only have a few series started but nothing fully developed and worth putting into advertising. It will probably be another six to twelve months before I have something. But after I asked myself, “How could I start on June 1?” I came up with the idea of running an ad for just my starter library sign up. This uses the first-in-series books that I already have and only requires me to spruce them plus put an auto responder in place. Perfectly doable by June 1st.
Is it the ideal solution? No, of course not. It would be better to have five books in each series before turning something like that on. It would be better to have 5 books in each series PLUS targeted campaigns for each series that attract readers to that specific first book. But baby steps. If I wait until I have the ideal solution, I’ll be waiting for years. Better to get people on my list now in the meantime.
These are just some of the things I’m working on right now. I’m being a little cagey about it all because I am still testing a lot of ideas and I don’t want to publish before I’m confident that those ideas will help other authors. Similarly to Write Better, Faster (which I collected data for in 2013 and published in 2015), I collect data for a long time before I publish. I won’t wait a year and a half with this data, but it might be a few months before I can share.
The first people to know will be my email list, so make sure you’re signed up if you’re interested!