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doubling down on marketing and promotion

Writing is just part of an indie author's toolkit

In search of the elusive BookBub

The Holy Grail of indie authors is scoring a BookBub promotion. BookBub is an email book promotion service that reaches millions of readers. It’s expensive (averaging between $400-1,000, depending on your genre). But it can result in thousands of sales of your book (the company claims that the average author increases sales by 196 times with a BookBub promotion). As soon as I reached 20 reviews on Amazon (the minimum to apply for a BookBub), I applied. And…drumroll, please! I was rejected the very next day. Only 20% of applicants succeed, so the strategy is to try, try again. I will keep applying every month until the end of time.

The next best things: Ads on Facebook and Amazon

If BookBub isn’t ready for The Girl from Oto, Facebook and Amazon certainly are. And why not? I’ve decided to plow my earning from sales over the past three months into advertising. I ran my first Facebook ad in December for a “Kindle countdown deal”. It was OK (I sold 70 copies), but I knew I had to up my game. So this time I rolled up my sleeves, whipped up an ad on Canva, learned how to erase backgrounds from photos without spending money on Photoshop (here’s a link to instructions for doing it in Preview on a Mac), then headed over to Facebook’s Ad Manager. It’s important to spend some time targeting your audience. I did this with the help of a few instructive bloggers (here’s a good list of tips from author Mark Gillespie), and I’ve also learned some basics from Mark Dawson, who’s an author and Facebook Ad ninja. Finally, I studied this article by fellow indie author David Penny, and borrowed some of his tried-and-true strategies for advertising a book on Facebook. Here’s my ad. I spent the lowest you can possibly spend, $5 per day, for a month.

My second Facebook ad, running for a month.

But wait, there’s more!

As if blatant bragging all over Facebook about the greatness of my novel wasn’t enough, I headed over to Amazon to flex the full muscle of my status as a KDP Select member. (I sell my e-version exclusively as a Kindle book, and for that I get the privileges of running occasional promotions, getting paid about 4 cents per page when people read my book in Amazon’s “lending library”, and running ads.) Actually I believe you can run ads even if you’re not exclusive, but for the sake of this blog post I will continue to revel in my special status as a KDP Select member. Again, I needed instructions on how to set up an ad campaign, so I turned to this great article by author Chris McMullen. Then I spent several hours researching keywords and product target pages on Amazon and set up my ads. They’re cheaper to run than Facebook ads, so I’ll probably run them longer and tweak them more than I will with the Facebook ads. The payment system is a bit confusing to me. Basically you “bid” for a “cost per click.” The advice I followed was to bid really, really low. I didn’t go as low as advised (2 cents per click), but kept it at about 25 cents max per click. So far in one day I’ve gotten 30,000 impressions, 14 clicks and 1 sale. Here’s one of my Amazon ads:

My Amazon "sponsored products" ad

My Amazon “sponsored products” ad

Lessons learned

As a total newbie, I was frustrated with the setup process for both sites, but I was more frustrated in the end with Amazon because 1) I had to manually search for and enter 300 keywords (I really hope when I set up another ad campaign I can save those keywords to a new ad instead of manually entering them in again); and 2) I wasn’t able to go back and edit after submitting the ad for approval. There is a typo in this ad (there should be another hyphen between ‘500’ and ‘year’). It is apparently stuck there forever, or until I take down the ad. Sigh.

Facebook, for its part, has a very high-tech system for setting up ads and figuring out the ideal audience. The first time I created an ad, for my Kindle Countdown Deal, I had a rough time getting approval for the ad because it had too much text in it. I kept resubmitting the ad and getting shot down. This time, I set up the ad in the “Power Editor” and I’m pretty sure I never consciously submitted the ad. I typed in my text, uploaded my image and suddenly my ad was “pending”…and then a few minutes later it was “accepted.” This made me nervous because what if I wasn’t happy with that ad after all? Maybe Facebook magically intuited that it was a pretty darn good ad.

Let’s face it, I’m at a toddler level when it comes to this stuff. But that’s OK. It’s all a learning curve and at the very least I’m sure I’ll have some good stories to tell when the dust settles.


  1. Erika says:

    Amy – I’m amazed with your perseverance in sorting through all of this!! Sounds like a ton of work and a lot of learning. Thanks for sharing. ?

    1. Amy Maroney says:

      Yes…my hope is that by recording the process here, I can a) help others who are going through the same stuff; and b) remember what the heck I did when I set about publishing book #2!

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