I recently conducted a little experiment in book marketing, placing an ad on FaceBook promoting the release of my three mystery/medical thriller novels as eBooks. The materials utilized for the experiment were no more than my laptop, a little electricity, a high speed cable Internet connection, and a credit card --- as well as some spare time that I did not have. (Perhaps I should have spent the minutes moving past page 100 of my work–in–progress, a fourth novel tentatively titled "Wiggle Room.")
The results of my non-scientific experiment are detailed in this essay and presented in the guise of a blog entry on my author’s website. While it is meant primarily to interest other authors or maybe publishers, I hope the piece is clever enough for my book fans as well. I was intrigued when author Jeffrey Marks recently reported his own experience with advertising on FaceBook, publishing an article and follow-up piece in the Mystery Writers of America newsletter. I decided to see for myself. When I mentioned my plans on a couple of Internet list serves that cater predominately to writers, I was asked to share the results.
The social networking site FaceBook does not charge its subscribers, so I assume that Mr. Zuckerburg made his billions from the sale of advertising on the site. Maybe there are some other related sources of revenue for the young guy, and maybe the newly released movie on the subject, "The Social Network," tells us. (I haven’t yet seen it … probably will catch it later on pay-for-view.)
The method of the experiment was to self-design the ad under the easy-to-follow format guidelines, wording the short copy to promote the release of "House Call," "Points of Origin," and "Fresh Frozen" as downloadable eBooks via Kindle, iPad, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble Nook, Kobo, and Diesel. I also mentioned that the books remained available in print in stores and online. I chose the color cover art for "Fresh Frozen" as the graphic with a link to my listing on Amazon once someone clicked on the advertisement. That listing offers all three novels as eBooks and in print.
After stipulating that I wanted to spend no more than $10 daily on the ad, I ran it for six days (really five and a half) starting early one recent Saturday afternoon. The handy Ad Manager link provided near real-time results regarding exposure and response to the ad. I had not only specified the daily amount I would spend on the ad (conveniently and promptly charged to my credit card), but I also bid on the amount I would pay for each customer click on the ad. Apparently, if you select the high end of the range of suggested amount of bid, your ad appears more frequently. I bid $0.78 per click up to the $10 daily maximum. The demographics I chose in running the ad included USA FaceBook clients only and those eighteen and older.
My effort cost a total of $53.70. During the ad’s near six-day run, FaceBook reported 320,717 impressions, defined as times the ad appeared on a unique FaceBook user’s page. Of course, there is no way to know if the user saw the ad at all (Ads appear in column arrangement at the far right margin of the page) unless he/she clicked on it. There were 33 clicks recorded during the ad’s run at an actual cost to me of $1.63 per click. As I said earlier, my understanding is that the higher one bids per click, the more unique subscriber impressions. My analogy of the benefit of $320,717 impressions of my ad is that if it had instead been a roadside billboard, then 320,717 vehicles containing only one passenger each would have passed by it during the almost six-day period. While I would hope that those drivers would not text the good news to their friends that Darden North’s novels were now available as eBooks or pick up their iPads or iPhones to order one or two copies while driving, maybe there was a subliminal marketing message.
I guess I should go ahead and end the suspense by revealing the results of my little experiment. One copy of "House Call" sold on Kindle during that time and my book distributor Atlas Books filled orders for a total of five print copies of two titles. There is no way to draw a clear parallel between those sales and the ad. I do hope that I gained some name recognition from the exposure, leading readers to bricks-and-mortar or cyber bookstores as well as to eBook downloads. I read somewhere that the average customer requires six retail exposures to a product before buying.
Once I was satisfied, I merely “paused” the ad’s run on my FaceBook Ad Manager site with plans to consider running it again in the future. Alternately, I might wait until my fourth book is released and try a newly designed advertisement with a revised expense threshold.
While I believe my experience mirrors that of other authors who have advertised on FaceBook, it was a fun experiment. I have certainly spent a lot more on other advertising venues that were not nearly as interesting for me.
------ Darden North