Using Promoted Tweets to Sell Books

Coming on April 20, 2016!

Coming on April 20, 2016!

I’m doing a bit of a marketing frenzy this month, in the lead-up to the launch of Duality on April 20. Since Duality is a sequel, I’m advertising my first book Entropy. The theory is that if people read the first book, they will have no choice but to buy the sequel. To that end, I’ve lowered the price of Entropy to $2.99 (and I’ll be running a $0.99 promotion on the four days before the launch).

I’ve tried a lot of things in my quest to raise awareness about my novels. Nothing has been all that successful, to be quite honest. The bread and butter of what success I’ve had has been Twitter: talking to my followers and getting them interested enough to buy. Sometimes that leads to subsequent word-of-mouth sales. Everything else (advertising $0.99 sales on free sites; giveaways on LibraryThing, GoodReads, and Amazon; creating character accounts on Twitter; participating in “Author Chat” on GoodReads; this blog) has led to only a handful of sales at best. But I’m keeping at it, and next up in the hit parade is Twitter Ads.

It’s still early, but it looks like I may have found my silver bullet.

If you are on Twitter, you’ve seen promoted tweets. They are everywhere. It’s super easy to give Twitter your credit card number, and start promoting your tweets. I did that with my character account @entropy_sir. Then I started running little $5 campaigns, to see how they worked. I’ll spare you the gory details and jump to the conclusions.

Ignore the real-time data

It’s really fun to watch your ongoing campaign and see what’s working and what’s not. Except it’s all bullshit. The numbers in the columns usually don’t even add up to the totals they show. And any conclusions you draw will be wrong. Wait until 12 hours after the campaign is over, then go look at the numbers.

Twitter has no idea what your gender is

I actually knew this already. I once looked at the Twitter analytics for an account I have that is followed by only women, and Twitter thought it was followed by a majority of men. This was confirmed by campaigns I targeted at people who follow romance writers. That audience is going to contain almost no men, yet Twitter was sure about a quarter the people viewing were male. Lesson: Don’t choose “Women” as a way of narrowing your audience because you’ll lose all those women that Twitter erroneously thinks are men.

Include a link to your book, no picture, no hashtags you have two similar tweets but one has a picture (like the one I included here), you will get a lot more clicks on the one with the picture. But you will get a lot more book link clicks on the one with no picture. It seems people have one click in them, and if they spend it on looking at your picture, they are not going to click on your book link. Remember that when you include a link to Amazon, it puts a picture of your cover and a little of your blurb and your ⭐️ rating. So even if you only have a link to your book, it’s going to have a picture anyway. But clicking on that picture will take them to your book.

Don’t use the word “Erotic” in your tweets

BannedThis is really silly. Twitter doesn’t want you advertising “adult” things, whatever the fuck that means. And when I tried promoting a tweet in which a reviewer called my book erotic, Twitter refused to let me use that in my campaign. But yet Twitter is okay with tweets that don’t mention that about my book. It’s the same book! So I guess it’s okay to promote adult things as long as you don’t say they are adult things. Or something. I have no idea.

Big using the “Maximum Bid” option

There are a bunch of different ways to bid on ads, but only one that makes sense for promoting books. Buckle up, because I’m about to walk you through it.

First, make sure you are targeting a huge audience. I found that the best bet was to put in account names of popular authors in my genre (EL James, Anne Rice, Alessandra Torre, etc.) and big presses like Harlequin.  Most authors have almost no followers, so it took some digging to come up with a list that would add up. Whenever you add an account, the setup page will suggest similar ones. I looked at those suggestions, and a lot of them were right on target. Make sure you uncheck the box that says “Also target your followers.” Those people already know you wrote a book. When the page says your audience is a couple million people, you’re good. With a huge audience, you can make a low bid, and still get seen. You will be paying per click, so every person who looks at your page on Amazon is going to cost you money. If you lose money, there’s no point in this exercise. Let’s take my books as an example.

Assuming they buy the Kindle book, and further assuming that someone who reads my first book will read my second, I’m going to make about $5 in royalties from each buyer. Now, suppose I know that 1 in 100 people who look at my book page will buy it. That means I need to pay no more than $5/100 = $0.05 per click. Here’s the catch: I pulled that “100” number out of the air to make the math obvious. That’s not the right number. That number depends on the quality of your audience targeting (picking the right account followers to show ads to), and the quality of your cover and title and blurb, and the quality of your reviews. That number is different for everyone, and the only way to find it is to advertise and watch your KDP dashboard. Take the number of “link clicks” Twitter tells you, divide by the number of sales KDP tells you. That’s your conversion rate. Make your bid per click your total expected royalty divided by that rate, rounding down to the nearest penny.

Here’s a little worksheet to use to choose your bid:

  1. Number of link clicks from your first campaign: _____
  2. Number of sales from that campaign: _____
  3. Line 1 divided by line 2 (this is your conversion rate): _____
  4. Expected lifetime royalty earnings from a reader: _____
  5. Line 4 divide by line 3 (round down): _____

Line 5 is your maximum bid. Use $0.10 for your first campaign, and then put the results in the worksheet to get the bid for your next one. And keep tuning. Note that you can put in a lower number than the number on line 5. If your number is a lot higher than $0.10, go ahead and cap it at $0.10. Using a higher bid is like paying for expedited shipping on your proofs. It gets you the results faster, but in the end it’s just a waste of money. Patience, grasshopper. We’re in this for the long haul.

Note that if you find that your bid per click is too low to get any impressions, then you need to increase your target audience. Don’t increase your bid higher than line 5 because you will lose money. And as I’ve argued before, you should never lose money when advertising.

Promote tweets with snippets of your reviews

It really doesn’t matter what tweets you use, because you are only paying per click. So if you tweet something that doesn’t garner many clicks, it just means you’ll have to wait longer to spend your money. Nonetheless, it certainly couldn’t hurt to promote tweets that actually draw more clicks, right? I tried all sorts of things, and the ones that got the most clicks were the ones where I included a snippet of a review. This tweet is the champ:

My theory as to why: it establishes credibility, it makes a bold statement, it doesn’t actually say the book is good. So it makes the viewer curious. There is an effective sales technique where you tell the prospect, “My product probably isn’t for you.” The prospect then instinctively tries to convince the sales person that the product really is for them. I have no idea why it works. But I think this tweet kind of does that when you put it in the face of romance readers, which is exactly what my targeting did. (That is from an actual review by the way. I didn’t just make it up.)

Another tweet that did really well in getting clicks followed the same pattern:

Again, it didn’t say the book was good. I had a bunch of other review tweets that talked about how great the writing, and the character development, and stuff like that was. Those didn’t get anywhere near as many clicks.

So while you should use reviews (and only five-star ones, obviously), my advice is to grab words that are intriguing, rather than complementary.

Is this the silver bullet?

Maybe? I just started this, but the results have been outstanding. My conversion rate (line 3) is 8. One out of every eight people who look at my page by the book. That’s insane. No book should have that rate. When I ran my first couple tests, where I didn’t target romance readers explicitly, I had no sales at all. So picking the right accounts to chase appears to be important.

My line 3 number will probably climb to something more reasonable over time, and I’ll do an update when I have more experience with these. But so far, I’m loving Twitter ads.


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