Facebook advertising is a core part of my business now, and I only started using it because of Mark Dawson. In this interview, we discuss why Facebook Ads are so powerful and some specific examples as to how to use them, wherever you are in your author career.
If you’d like a demo, you can also join Mark and I for a free webinar this Thurs 9 June at 3pm US Eastern/8pm UK. Click here to register for your free place. You can also check out Mark’s Facebook Ads for Authors course here (limited time as it closes on 12 June).
In the intro, I mention the latest Author Earnings report that reviews the number of indies making a living from their book sales at Amazon. Here’s the Passive Voice roundup. Plus, I go through my own data from 1 year of book sales, including my split per vendor, format, genre and country of sale.
Plus, if you’re writing non-fiction, or you’re an entrepreneurial fiction author (or want to be either!) check out the Self-Publishing Success Summit.
The corporate sponsorship for this show pays for hosting and transcription. This podcast episode is sponsored by 99 Designs, where you can get all kinds of designs for your author business including book covers, merchandising, branding and business cards, illustrations and artwork and much more. You can get a Powerpack upgrade which gives your project more chance of getting noticed by going to: 99Designs.com/joanna
Mark Dawson is an internationally bestselling thriller author with the John Milton and Beatrix Rose series. He also shares his knowledge with authors at SelfPublishingFormula.com and has a fantastic course on Facebook Advertising for Authors (open for registration until 12 June, 2016).
- On the marketing advantages of having many books in several series.
- Mark’s shift from exclusivity to cross-platform distribution.
- Balancing attraction marketing and interruption marketing.
- Why Facebook ads are powerful, even for those on a budget.
- The two strategies to use with Facebook advertising, depending on where you are in your author career.
- Mark’s advice on ROI for ads.
- Mark’s results on ads for audiobooks.
- Why video is so important on Facebook right now, and Mark’s advice about video ads.
- Common mistakes from authors jumping into the Facebook advertising space.
Transcript of Interview with Mark Dawson
Joanna: Hi, everyone. I’m Joanna Penn from thecreativepenn.com and today I’m here with Mark Dawson. Hi, Mark.
Mark: Hello, Jo. How are you?
Joanna: I’m good and welcome back on the show. And just a little introduction for anyone who doesn’t know you, Mark is an internationally bestselling thriller author with the John Milton, and the Beatrix Rose, series’ and other books, and he also shares his knowledge with authors at selfpublishingformula.com and has a fantastic course on Facebook advertising for authors.
And today we’re going to talk a lot about Facebook advertising which is just really interesting, but let’s start with, Mark, you were on the show last in June 2015, almost a year ago. Time flies.
Give us an update on what’s been happening for you over the last year creatively.
Mark: That’s a good question because I suppose it is easy for people to think that I do Facebook ads courses and not much else, but my focus…if you said to me today, “You’ve got a choice of two things. You can either be a teacher or a writer,” I would always choose to be a writer. That’s always been my passion, and things have gone amazingly well since we spoke last time.
I think it’s probably too many things have happened for me to cover all of them, but in terms of the highlight points, I continue to release books quite regularly. My last one was out last Friday actually. As we record this, it’s been out for about a week, and it’s called “The Jungle,” in my John Milton series, and it’s been my most successful launch. I got to number two worldwide on Apple.
Joanna: Oh, fantastic.
Mark: It hit the top 100 on Amazon, the top 50 amazon.co.uk. Been really, really amazing. Really the best launch I’ve ever had. I’ve got another one out next month with Thomas & Mercer, that’s a book that I wrote, probably submitted that to them January or February this year. That’s in my Isabella Rose series. So that’s coming out and I’ve been busy all the time, and I’m still keeping up a fairly active publication schedule, churning books out at a reasonably good pace.
Beyond that, I’ve had a lot of success with books going to Audible. Audible Studios records my books for me. They buy them in a traditional fashion and then put those out.
And then bubbling away in the background, I can’t remember if this was happening when we spoke last time, but I’ve had a very big Hollywood producer option one of my series. And there’s only so much I can say about that because it’s mostly confidential, but a very well-known director is attached to the project now, and they’re in the process of trying to find a screenwriter to adapt the books so that they can take it to the next stage.
So that’s a two or three-minute runaround what I’ve been doing apart from…and of course, Facebook ads.
Joanna: Yeah, and I think it’s really important and I guess a lot of this stuff, the reason why you’ve done ads yourself and then also teach others is because that’s partly what you’ve used to get your platform and your readership up to the point where you can do these things. I think this is the point that we’ve got to remember.
How many books do you have out there right now? You’re not just a new author, are you?
Mark: No, the Milton book that was out on Friday was the ninth in the series with two novellas. There are three Beatrix Rose books, two Isabella Rose books, another five or six novellas across both series, two traditionally published books from way back when, and two novels in the Noir series I started self-publishing with back five years ago. Probably, in total, must be around about 25 now.
Joanna: Yeah, so and that’s another really important point to go into this is the more books you have, obviously the better the books will be because you’re a better writer. But also the more ability you have to do marketing, whatever type of marketing it is, because you can change prices and that type of thing.
And also, it’s great that you mentioned Apple, you mentioned Audible, and we’re going to talk a bit about that.
It’s not just about Amazon, is it? Although I know you signed with Thomas & Mercer as well, but you’re also cross-platform at this point.
Mark: Yeah. I wasn’t for ages. I was exclusive to Amazon. I did really well in Kindle Unlimited. I got all sort of bonuses when they started out. I got several of those which was great for my ego and also for the bank balance. It’s quite nice to get an extra few thousand dollars. I love Amazon. They’ve changed my life completely, but I’m a bit like you, kind of predisposed against exclusivity. I like to have my eggs spread around several baskets.
I made a big push over the last 12 months or so to start to foster relationships with the guys at Apple and they’ve been amazing. Kobo too. Also, Kobo is a great company to work with. I’ve had a lot of fun working with them. And even for us in the UK, not quite so easy to get to Barnes and Noble but Dan Wood at Draft2Digital has made big strides on my behalf, and I hit their number one spot on Barnes and Noble with a book six months or so ago.
It’s been a very deliberate strategy to go a little wider to make it easier for readers on all devices to get my stuff. It’s benefited me quite a lot in that because I think about quarter of my income comes from non-Amazon sources now, which is quite a nice situation to be in.
Joanna: Yeah, that’s great. I think mine would probably be…yeah, probably 20, 25% at this point, and I would love to get to 50-50. You kind of think that would spread across everybody else. And this is the point, we’re in this for the long haul, so all of these things work together.
You also mentioned deliberate strategy there. I am very organized and I write nonfiction books. I’m big on organizing things, but you have taught me a lot about deliberate strategy because I find you a very focused person who doesn’t just try loads and loads of different things. You’ve been very focused with your career which is why I think you’re so successful.
I wanted to talk about strategy around marketing in general because in my experience, there are two types of marketing, two broad types of marketing. So attraction marketing which is when you pull people towards you with say free books or things that cost time but not money. And then interruption marketing which is mainly advertising, which you have to pay for, which costs money and not necessarily years and years of time.
How do you personally balance attraction marketing options with the interruption marketing?
Mark: I think I originally got into self-publishing about five years ago, which is around about the right amount of time. For about the first half of that it would’ve been all attraction marketing. So it would’ve been putting out more books. So that’s the most obvious clichéd piece of advice, but it’s completely true. It would be fostering relationships with readers as they email and comment in, building up a social media platform. All those kinds of things I was concentrating on, especially focusing on mailing lists and getting people onto the list. All that kind of thing.
And then about two and a half years ago I discovered Facebook advertising and everyone…well, lots of people will know how big an effect that’s had on my career. I was doing quite well before that point. I built a solid platform, good foundations to build on.
But then going into the paid advertising marketplace took me from being a quite good seller to being a very good seller. And I think you need, as you say, you need to balance both.
I think you could probably start with attraction marketing. I think that’s completely fine to start like that and build up your platform, get yourself into a position where you can start to benefit from activating paid ads and that kind of stuff.
And then from that stage on, I think it’s something that you can run in conjunction with one another.
Joanna: Yeah, and I think that’s probably the best idea is to run them together, and I think obviously a perma-free first in series is something that both of us talk about and use. And advertising that first in series can be a good way to get people into your series. I think it’s important that you say upfront they both are good.
But let’s just get into Facebook ads. We’re going to get into some detailed stuff for anyone who’s an expert or non-expert. For anyone who’s already tried, we’re going to go into a whole load of new stuff.
For anyone who’s just starting or considering it, why are Facebook ads so powerful for authors with a budget to invest?
Mark: They’re powerful for lots of different reasons. When we first spoke about this a year ago it was much more open. There weren’t as many people advertising on Facebook, and then partly because of my own fault, as I’ve taught quite a few people how to do it since then. There’s more competition now, but I get this question quite a lot.
People say, “Has the time passed where Facebook advertising is effective?” And the answer to that is an unequivocal absolutely not. It’s still very early on in the piece for authors to be advertising on Facebook.
There are over a billion people on the platform, and their check in rates are very high, so it’s still a very live platform and very good for advertising. But the reason it works so well is because it has the most powerful targeting options available. Facebook knows almost everything about us. If you’re on the platform, it’s always noting what you’re doing, what you like, what it thinks you like, all that kind of good stuff.
In exchange for you paying to use that platform to advertise, it provides all that information to you. So on a super basic level, you can send an ad…I’m talking for you now, Jo. You could send an ad targeting James Rollins’ fans knowing that there’s a very good chance that they like his kind of books, they’re also going to like J.F. Penn books.
And because you know all that information, it’s not a cold audience. You can make certain assumptions with regards to what they like. You can then craft your copy accordingly. It just makes it so much easier than the old analog. The example from the offline world where you put a billboard up and you try to attract attention from everyone who goes past. This time you can be very focused, very laser precise, and the conversation rates or the sales generated by the ad tend to be much more significant than would otherwise be the case.
Joanna: Yeah, and I just wanted to comment on the, “Is it too late to do Facebook advertising?” Because people say the same thing, “Is it too late to self-publish?” It’s like one of those, “When should you plant a tree? Today, or 20 years ago obviously, or today?” And I’ve had an issue, personal issue with Facebook for years. I love Twitter. I’m not a Facebook person, but in the last year, you were responsible for turning me around. But actually another thing convinced me and that was Facebook and Oculus Rift.
Now Facebook are not just a Facebook company anymore. They are investing in the future of what I believe will be the Internet. If the Internet is going to be virtual reality and Facebook own Oculus, then they have a future in whatever the other tech is going to be. They’re also investing in bringing the Internet to the developing world. So I’m now more of a believer in Facebook as a future even if it may not be the system that we see right now. It will be something else. So I definitely believe in longevity. Yeah, so that’s one thing.
The other thing is, what are a list of ways that people can use Facebook advertising? Because it’s not just send an advert to a book page is it?
Mark: No, there’s lots of different ways. I can just break it down into two strands. But before we get into those strands, I’d say there are some basic things that people need to do, so it’s have a Facebook page rather than just a Facebook profile.
Mark: The profile is where your friends and family would share pictures of cats, and the page is your business presence with you author career. So make sure that is optimized, it looks good, get a nice banner image. You should certainly link out from the banner image to say your MailChimp landing page. I probably add another 5 or 10 new readers a day just from people who just drift onto the page and decide they’d like the free books.
But once you’ve got all that sorted out, there are two main ad objectives as I see them. The first one is using ads to build your mailing list, and the second one is using ads to drive sales. You can decide to run one or run both depending on where you are in your career.
For new authors with one book, my view on this is start concentrating on building your mailing list so that when you’re then ready to release your second book, you’ve got a warm audience. You’ll be fairly confident that you’ll get some sales straight off the bat which means that Amazon will notice it a bit more readily, will start to market for you etc., etc., etc., and then repeat that because it gets more powerful every time you release something.
Then when you’ve got some stuff to sell, then look at using ads to sell directly to readers who you think will be interested in your books, and there’s no reason why they need to be separate. I run those, variations of those campaigns all the time. I spend quite a lot on Facebook ads, probably a quarter of a million dollars this year.
Joanna: But we’re not advising that for anyone else.
Mark: No, no, absolutely not, and that’s another question I get quite a lot, people saying, “I can’t afford that. I’m not going to do Facebook ads because I just can’t put that budget in.” And the answer to that is I didn’t start with a quarter of million dollars. I started with one ad for five dollars a day, and then that made money almost immediately. And I reinvested that money back into other ads.
And then when I could see that it was something that was sustainable, then I invested a bit more and a bit more, and you’ve had Adam Crofton on the show before. Adam is probably THE student of the course. He’s done best in terms of sales ads, and that’s exactly what he did. He started slow and then gradually scaled up and to the extent that as he was doing so well towards the end, he was maxing out credit cards to fund ads, and we’re not advising that for anybody.
Joanna: No, we’re not advising that either. He had the figures to show that he would get the money in 60 days’ time. But that’s the difference, isn’t it?
The Facebook money goes out of your account quite regularly whereas you get the money from the other platforms after a period of time.
Mark: Yes, yeah, exactly, yeah. So that’s what I was saying. Definitely, they can and perhaps should be run in conjunction. But for newbies, I’d say just concentrate on low budget ads. The minimum is five dollars a day, and start to build your mailing list because that will…there’s no two ways about it. That will be your most valuable marketing asset for your author career.
Joanna: I have a question on this and I feel a bit embarrassed asking this because it’s so basic, and I do a lot of advertising actually. And as this goes out, I had a blog post that lists out all the different advertising I’m doing. Now my Creative Penn page has quite a big audience. It’s very easy to advertise to that audience. Nonfiction in general I think is easier than fiction. So I’m finding that’s great and I can use the audience insights to discover the other pages, who to advertise to, who to target.
For my fiction site…and I think a lot of people listening will be in this situation. For a fiction page, your audience insights are either nonexistent or not very good if you have a low number of likes on the page.
For the J.F. Penn page, up until recently I only had like a 1,000 people because I didn’t even concentrate on it. And how Facebook works, obviously the more people that they get liking a certain page, the more information they know about those people, therefore the more you can use the audience insights to work out who to target. Because as you said, I can say “Yeah, my books are like James Rollins’. People who like Stephen King will like my books.” But there’s so much more potentially I can find, like people who like tattoos, or graveyards, or that type of thing.
So what I’ve now started to do is actually use the five dollar a day idea to try and get likes. I actually target the other authors to get likes in order to build the insights on my page. Now, and that, as you say, that’s trickling through into mailing list signups.
I feel like this is a really basic strategy but if someone just has a Facebook page with five people on it, probably their mom and some mates, is that the best way to start actually building an audience on a page?
Mark: No, I wouldn’t do that actually.
Joanna: That’s why I said I’m embarrassed asking.
Mark: I wouldn’t advertise for likes, although I know why you’re doing it.
Joanna: Yeah, to get the reporting.
Mark: I think there are other ways to do it that wouldn’t cost you any money at all. But the five dollars a day for likes, that would be something that would’ve been very effective two years ago when Facebook’s organic reach was higher. By which I mean, for those who don’t know, if you do a post onto your Facebook page, the reach is how far through all of your fans that will go, and it used to be about 50 or 60%. Now it’s about 1% because Facebook is a pay to play platform now.
You’re actually right. The Audience Insights tab is really useful for digging out information on people on Facebook, potential audience members, people you could target with ads. And I’ve got 20,000 likes on my page, and I don’t come up either when I search myself in Audience Insights, and the reason for that is Facebook’s indexing is a bit spotty, so it doesn’t pick up everybody. And it doesn’t really matter whether I’ve got a 1,000, or 20,000, or a 100,000, some people just won’t turn up.
If I was in your shoes, what I would do is focus on James Rollins’ page and then branch out from there and find out who likes that.
Joanna: No, I’m not looking for me to turn up. I want the reporting on people who like J.F. Penn so that I can work out who else to target other than James Rollins. I am advertising to James Rollins, I am advertising to Stephen King for lists and sales, but I also want to know what else I might find out about those people.
Other than obviously polling your mailing list, how else do you find out where your fiction audience will be? So I am very cross genre. My books are difficult because they sit between supernatural and thriller but they’re not paranormal. If only I could just write in a blooming genre. So this is why I’m using this, I want to get more information through the insights. I guess it’s a slightly weird situation, but I just thought I would mention it. So it’s not for me to appear on anybody’s list.
Mark: Yes, yeah, no.
Joanna: Or to get organic reach.
It literally is to try and work out what people who like me also like.
Mark: I think you may find that even if you build up a big number of likes on your page, you may still not come up when you search yourself. And that’s just because Facebook is, as I say, is a little bit…I don’t know what the reason for that…actually, I have asked Facebook a couple of times why that isn’t incomprehensive, and it just…you don’t get a great answer and it just isn’t.
Joanna: Does that mean people can’t target you?
Mark: Yeah, it does. Yeah, it’s great.
Joanna: Yeah, but of course, you share everybody, you target and people…well, a lot of it, and people have been poaching your likes.
Have you noticed that your advertising costs have gone up?
Mark: Yes, they have, yeah. I mean, not to the extent that it’s not profitable for me to do ads anymore. I would’ve been one of the first authors to get into this, and I was probably turning around 2 or 300% percent return every day which is…as you think about that for a minute, it’s ridiculous to make that huge profit.
I probably make 50% now which is still absolutely amazing. It’s certainly not something to be taken lightly, but yeah, I see a lot of people targeting Lee Child fans now, often with the exact copy I used.
Joanna: Yeah, I’ve seen that too. Can we just talk about that return on investment because I think this is really important? I’ve done a lot of ads and I’ve basically failed most of the time. I’ve had a bit of time where I’ve had positive ROI, but I don’t want people to obsess over that because actually, we pay for marketing.
I don’t know why anyone would expect to make money from marketing, especially if it’s a new book launch or…there are lots of things where you wouldn’t ever expect to make a positive ROI. And in fact, most people are happy, if they do a BookBub, they’re happy if they break even, or if you’re advertising a free book, you’re expecting to have a sell through to the rest in series.
Is that an incorrect obsession that people should expect to make money out of the ads?
Mark: People do, too many people do make money out of ads. But I’m so glad to hear you say that because that’s a very savvy comment, and people do come to me and say, “I’m not making any money back on these ads.” And I’m thinking, “Well, just look for a minute at how far your ad went. How many eyeballs were exposed to that ad?” And they’ll come back and say, “All right, so it’s about 200,000.”
And then think how much will it cost in the real world to get that kind of result. If you’re doing a media buy, how much would it cost to get that kind of branding out there? It would be tens of thousands of dollars, and maybe it costs you 10 bucks a day for three weeks or something like that. There are lots of different benefits on advertising. Brand awareness is a great one. I mean, sales is a great one too.
If you can get an ad that is making you a positive return on investment, fantastic. Keep doing it, spend more.
But there are lots of different benefits. You also get likes. I mean, my page, when I started doing this, I’d spent with a friend, he works in Facebook advertising, we did 500 dollars. And I went from like a 150 likes to 500, and I thought that was a big success. Since I’ve been doing that, I probably had 50 to a 100 a day now as a byproduct of advertising for sales. That’s why my page is much bigger now.
And then that opens up all kinds of other benefits. So one thing we might touch on later is things like live video. So now when I do a live video to my fans, I’m getting massive reach, and it enables me to, at scale, convert potential readers into real readers, then into fans and friends and all the positive benefits that flow from that kind of thing.
Joanna: So just on the positive ROI then; both you and I sell single author box set with multiple books in. I’ve got a seven book box set that I only sell on Kobo and iBooks, and I will also be selling directly from my website, but we can’t put on Amazon because of the 9.99 cap on 70% royalty. And actually, I’m not doing ads to that right now, but I think you are, aren’t you?
How much more can you risk if you have a higher profit basically?
Mark: You can work the maths out. We’re not going to do the maths right now because I’m not very good at maths on the fly like that. But if you’ve got let’s say a box set, I was selling for 25 dollars on Kobo, so 70% of 25 is around about 19 or 20, isn’t it? Something like that.
Once you work out how much it’s costing you to get a click onto that page, it’s a simple division to work out how often you need to make a sale in order to cover the cost of the ad. And because the royalty is so much higher, you can have many more clicks before you need to make a sale. So yeah, I’m doing very well on Kobo with that. I’m probably making between 50 and 60% on that 25-dollar item which is quite…that’s not an impulse purchase for most people. The conversion percentage is much, much lower than it would normally be, but it doesn’t matter so much because I’m making more money when I do sell one.
Joanna: And we should just say that you can target people say in Canada who like Kobo and who also like Lee Child with that box set, right? Are you only doing that in Canada for Kobo?
Mark: Yes, at the moment just because there’s only so many hours in the day. It’s available on Apple too, so it would work on Apple too. I should definitely be sending ads to Apple for that box set too, but it’s just a question of juggling stuff right now.
Joanna: And we should also say that of course, you can send people directly to the sales page on the site, but of course, if you do that, you won’t know who they are. So there’s pros and cons of doing either way.
But just also on audiobooks because this is something I haven’t done yet. If you advertise audiobooks, you can potentially get obviously revenue but also bounty which if you convert somebody new.
Are you seeing positive results with advertising audio?
Mark: I’m starting to get into that. Several of my students are doing really well, and I had a very good tip from a writer, Mark Cooper, who I think is a listener to the show. And what has just happened in the states with audible.com is they enable you now to gift audiobooks that you own. The economics behind this make no sense to me whatsoever, apart from the fact that Audible is spending a lot of money to get new listeners.
Say I’ve got one of your books, I could advertise it on Facebook. You have that individual link and every one of those, I think up to a 100, that is downloaded by a potential new listener, you get a full royalty on that.
It’s one of those situations which is like money for nothing at the moment.
Joanna: Yeah, it’s madness, and it’s funny you say it because I actually bought my own audiobook on Audible so that I can do that. And I’ve been holding back because it feels like gaming the system. As you said, I think it’s very short term. I think it’s like they did with the high royalties at the beginning to get people on ACX. I think they will change this. So everybody, take advantage of this right now.
But what about targeting people? Do people say they like audiobooks or say they like Audible? That type of thing. Is that the targeting you would do?
Mark: Yeah, the obvious one is to use Audible as the target so people who indicate they like Audible or audiobooks generally. If you can think of a place where people who like audiobooks hang out, there’s a fairly good chance you’ll be able to target them either directly on Facebook or by clever, indirect means. And it’s just a question of getting the ad out to those kinds of people and then hoping that it’s effective and that people start to click on it.
Joanna: Yeah, and then obviously a lot of nonfiction authors in particular but also fiction authors like yourself are doing courses now. And personally, I have found that the return on investment will usually come from advertising higher priced things like courses or even live events.
One of my questions around that is, if I’m advertising let’s say a webinar with you perhaps that we will mention towards the end, is it best to set up a Facebook event and then advertise the event? Or is it better to send it to external traffic or both? And this would work whether you’re doing a webinar, say a book launch, say a live workshop that will cost money.
Mark: Okay, for a webinar, if you send them to an event, what you really want is people to have registered for the event so that they can be notified when it starts, all that kind of good stuff.
I’ve never tried to advertise it by a way of an event, but my instinctive response would be you’ve got to get their email address, and Facebook won’t necessarily give that to you. So for me, anyway, I would always advertise the webinar and then advertise the registration page. That would be the link that people click to. They then fill out the link, and at that stage, you have the email address. You control that interaction rather than relying on Facebook to do it for you.
Joanna: But for a book launch – an online book party, it would make sense to advertise an online event.
Mark: Yeah, and that’s what I did that last week, I did set up an event for the book launch, and then I advertised that, not with ads though, but with live video. You get really fantastic reach at the moment with video because Facebook is competing to be the place where video is consumed in competition with YouTube. And so you can get views on your video ads for like one or two cents per view right now.
So that’s on ads, but then with live video which we can touch on, is something that has only recently been rolled out for everybody. I’ve had it for about a year, and it’s always been very effective. But what you do is you basically open a post and then you look on the bottom. You can write a post, you can leave a picture, post a video or do live video. And it’s just like Periscope which is something else that I’ve been using before. It enables you to live broadcast to everyone on your page and the reach is instead of perhaps being 1 or 2%, it could be like 50% reach. It’s very effective.
Joanna: I have just had an email saying that my Creative Penn page is activated for Facebook Live, but I haven’t had that for my fiction page. So I wonder whether that is a function of page size.
Mark: I don’t know. I’d just say check to see whether it’s been switched on, and if it hasn’t, you haven’t been notified. Open a message and see if you can do it. I think it’s global now, but maybe it’s being incrementally rolled out, but it’s certainly coming.
Joanna: I got this email and I’m like…I don’t like doing live stuff. I mean, this is prerecorded. Well, we’re recording this obviously live together, but I don’t usually do live stuff. And we do webinars together.
I do find it difficult to do this kind of live stuff, and I know many authors do as well. Do you have any tips for Facebook Live?
Mark: For context here, I mean, we’re all introverts. When I was like 15, I wouldn’t make phone calls because I was terrified of picking the phone up.
Joanna: I still don’t like doing phone calls.
Mark: There you go. It’s just a question of exposure and practice. So I’m not natural. This doesn’t come naturally to me, but the more you do it, the more easy you’ll be with it.
I did this launch party on Saturday for about 90 minutes, and I had all of my fans or lots and lots of my fans turned out, over a 1,000 over the course of the hour. And it went much wider in terms of just the shares and people coming to see it as a recorded thing after the event. And it’s just wonderful. You’re saying to people, “Ask me anything about my books.” And I was getting only questions about my writing, my characters.
We did a live giveaway; Amazon got me to inscribe a Kindle at London Book Fair, so I gave that away. It was just fantastic. It’s very difficult to find that awkward when everyone is on your side and wants to know about the stuff that you love. So I’m a really big fan of that, and for people who might be nervous of it, it’s just a question of gird your loins and just try it. See how you get on.
Joanna: So you start the post and you turn the video on, and then you say, “Okay, does anyone have any questions?” And then you see the questions come up, and then you can answer them.
Mark: Yeah, it’s great.
Joanna: Yeah. Well, I do want to commit to doing this, so everyone listening on the podcast, I definitely want to do this. Come and join the Creative Penn page, and I know I want to do it and it sounds much easier. And I’m going to be doing more Q and A on YouTube where I have a more established channel. But it does seem like a good idea.
Let’s just talk about Facebook advertising with video because I did a video ad for Destroyer of Worlds, my latest launch, and the views were much cheaper, but the conversions were not as good as the static page.
Do book buyers really watch videos? Is that normal? It turned out that the conversion was much more expensive, even though it seemed to have a higher reach. So is it more for brand building than actual sales and what are your recommendations for book sales with video?
Mark: I would say, yeah, brand building and also audience building because there’s a little tick box you can tick on the ad. This is going to be a little bit technical. But on the ad level when you’re doing your Facebook ad, you can tick a box that says, “Build an audience of people who watch the video.”
Facebook will then present you with an audience of people who started to watch it but didn’t finish and then people who watched all the way through. And then you can start to serve ads to those people, so if they watched all the way through, they should remember you, which is a good start. And then you can build lookalike audiences, so Facebook will try to sample bigger audiences of people who it thinks look like those people. So that’s very valuable in itself.
I do find as a general point that conversion is lower for video. I think I have a suspicion it might be because people viewing trailers are comparing them with film trailers. And with all the will in the world and even with big budgets, we’re never going to be able to do that. If I was writing a superhero novel, it’s not going to look as good as the trailer for the Avengers.
Joanna: Or Superman or whatever, no.
Mark: Yeah, exactly. Better than Superman. That’s terrible, but it’s very difficult for us to compare with that. So I don’t think they’re great for sales. I think they’re very, very good for subscription campaigns.
One thing I do at the moment is just really, it’s literally me looking into the camera like I’m doing now, get my iPhone out and record myself with a decent mic, just hold up a copy of a book that I’m giving away, introduce myself saying, “I’m Mark Dawson. I’m the author of the John Milton series, and if you’d like the first book in the series for free, just click the ad and give me your email address and I’ll send it to you.”
I run those campaigns at like 10 or 15 dollars a day, and I’m having between 25 and 35 subscribers every day, completely passive. There’s no high production values. It’s just me in a room.
Joanna: To your email. So that email list.
Are they like lead gen so you get a download?
Mark: You can do them as lead gen or just generally as clicks to your website or to your landing page. It doesn’t really matter, both ways work quite well. So we do video ads for the course, the Self Publishing Formula Course so people, listeners in this space, there’s a fairly good chance they will have seen those ads because trust me, I’m trying to target you, different ways to find people who are interested in the kind of things that I’m talking about. So that works very well. So just running those kinds of videos.
The video is hot, but don’t expect masses of sales straight off the video. It’s great for awareness and subscriptions, things like that.
Joanna: Now we can talk forever actually because I have so many questions on this.
What are the most common mistakes that you see with people jumping into the ad space?
Mark: Okay, common mistakes for people just starting to advertise, some of them will be familiar from mistakes that the authors generally make. Not having a pro image or at least a reasonably pro image. Don’t try to do an image in paint. It won’t work. I mean, you can get your designer to do an image for you probably as part of the actual cover process for not much more. So when I get a cover done, I have a suite of 10 to 15 images that my designer, Stewart, does for me that I’m then able to roll out on Facebook ads, Twitter ads, Facebook banners, MailChimp, all that kind of good stuff is covered off. So definitely look at that.
I occasionally see authors who have an ad that works quite well at a low budget get greedy, and so they might have a five dollar a day budget, and then they’ll go, “I know. I’ll jump up to 50 dollars a day.” Now, I had a good chat with your husband about this, and he knows much more about data than I’ll ever know. And he understands how algorithms work, and so he had a very good explanation of why that can confuse Facebook’s algorithm which sounded…it was very credible from my perspective. And I’ve seen this happen many times before in practice, so I would say if you’ve got an ad that’s working reasonably well, then scale carefully. So 5, then go up to 10 dollars, then maybe 15, then 20, then maybe 30. Just do it gradually. Don’t get too greedy or the algorithm can make the ad stop working.
Treat it professionally though. Test your copy. You’ve got to do a lot of testing. I occasionally…well, quite often students will say, “This just isn’t working. I’ve tried an ad. No success. Facebook ads don’t work.” And then recently, I’ve had a couple of emails from people who were struggling, early do-ers, and I didn’t hear anything else from them, and then like six months later they’ve come back and said, “I just wanted to let you know I’ve continued at this and I’ve been testing.”
And it’s kind of like a veil has been lifted, and they’re suddenly finding tremendous success with ads. I mean, Adam, who we mentioned earlier, didn’t have success right out of the gate. He had to iterate it, and he’s projecting to make over a million dollars from one book this year through ads. Be patient, that’s important, and professional. And just be prepared to put in a bit of work because it doesn’t come easy but then all good things need a bit of work, don’t they?
Joanna: Yeah, and I think that’s the thing. I’ve been talking to you about this for oh, probably 18 months, and there’s lots I’m still not doing because I have this reticence and issue around Facebook that every time we talk I’m like, “I must just get over it.” And I am running ads, but I’m not running as many as I probably should be or could be. So anyone who’s kind of feeling that same thing as I am. Every time we talk, I commit to doing more, and I am going to do more.
And I still feel like it seems to be the best. I’ve also tried Twitter advertising because I have a very big Twitter platform. And actually what I’ve ended up doing instead of using Twitter ads which I just didn’t find massive return on, is I’m using Meet Edgar which is a scheduling tool with my content. And I’m actually getting a much better return on just using scheduling as opposed to advertising on Twitter, but it’s very different on Facebook I think.
I think in terms of attention and which platform to focus on, it does still seem to be the best one. So obviously, people listening to this will not be able to see anything, and we haven’t done a live Facebook broadcast, but we are going to do two free webinars. And the reason we’re doing two is because last time we did one, we kind of blasted out the water and we had oversubscriptions, so this time we’ve got two. So just for people watching and listening, you can go to thecreativepenn.com/facebookone for Sunday, 5th of June, 2016 at 3 p.m. U.S. Eastern, 8 p.m. UK. So that’s thecreativepenn.com/facebookone.
And then we’re doing another one on Thursday 9th of June, same time, and that’s thecreativepenn.com/facebooktwo, and I’ll put the links on the video and in the show notes of the podcast.
What are you going to be showing us in that webinar, Mark?
Mark: We’ll do some basic stuff on how to optimize your Facebook ads. We’ll probably do…this is quite fun. The last time we did it I did…trusting my rural Internet connection holding up for five minutes as it did last time. It’s just to show people how easy it is to do a lead generation ad, and you can literally do it in five minutes. I timed myself doing that. So we’ll do that again probably. And we’ll have a long, as long as people want, we’ll do a Q and A which is quite fun. So we can answer any questions on social media advertising, Facebook, Twitter, we’re doing YouTube now as well. So anything like that, we can cover all those things.
Joanna: I know you’re doing the YouTube advertising because you appeared on my channel. You’re targeting my channel with your ads.
Mark: Yeah, yeah.
Joanna: I was like…and Johnathan was doing and he goes, “What’s Mark doing on our channel?” So yes, this is a really good thing. And of course, you have a course, Facebook Ads for Authors.
What can people find within that course?
Mark: I mean, everything. At the moment, I’m in the process of revising it, adding a lot of new stuff, but it’s kind of a Facebook ads 101 course. We’ve had, I don’t know, well over a 1,000 people or 1,000 authors have taken the course.
The first module is about general principles, second module is about how to use ads to build your mailing list. The third module is about how to use ads to make direct sales. It’s been a lot of fun to do that. We’ve had all kinds of amazing stories of people who’ve been in and taken the course, so I’m looking forward to getting that out there again.
We don’t make it available very often because the demand has been quite high, and I’m very conscious to make sure that I can help as many people as I can. And if it was open all the time, I think I wouldn’t write anything. My focus is still to write. But for a couple of times a year, we do open the course, and I’m helping people as much as I can to make this work.
Joanna: Yeah, and as part of the course, you have two Facebook groups, don’t you? One for just general, anyone can join and then another one which is people in the course only. And I’m in there, and people post their ads and get comments, and you’re often in there saying, “Maybe try this, maybe try that.” People post their results, and it’s a very good, professional level course, but you can still ask stupid questions.
Joanna: Like I probably still do, but that’s very good. And if people listening, you can find the course, Facebook Ads for Authors, at thecreativepenn.com/facebookfun. That is my affiliate link to Mark’s course, so you can use that link if you like. So you also now have a podcast.
Why in hell did you start a podcast and where can people find that?
Mark: I’m loving that. I mean, we’re recording this today, and I was on the call for an hour and a half with BookBub last night which was great. I haven’t had BookBub on a podcast before so that was really great to speak to them. And it’s just great to speak to other authors.
I think you’ve exemplified this, but it’s such a friendly and cooperative environment, and it is nice to be able to bring useful content to people in a format that’s fun to consume and actually also quite fun to make. I can say that with the benefit of being the one that doesn’t make it. My colleague, James, is an ex radio DJ, and he’s very good at that kind of thing. And so I just basically show up when he tells me to and waffle on for a bit. James makes it sound nice and then we put it out.
People can find that, it’s at selfpublishingformula.com. We have a podcast every Friday which has been real fun.
Joanna: I think actually you mentioned James is really good and there’s John as well as part of your team. And so if people are wondering how you get everything done, what you’re actually doing is collaboration. So even though you don’t collaborate on your writing, do you?
Joanna: You write yourself and you don’t co-write with anyone, but you collaborate on these other things and then you split the revenue.
Joanna: So this is a really great principle that I think all indies need to be thinking about going forward is we…that’s why I hate the word “self-publishing.” We don’t self-publish. We don’t do all this ourselves, right? We work with other people and that’s how we get stuff done. We use other professionals and that’s what we do. So I love that you’re collaborating with other people because as someone who also does courses, it can be way too much work and you don’t get any writing done. So yeah, I mean, collaboration is a whole other podcast, so we’ll do that another time.
Okay. Oh, and then we should just say where can people find your fiction, and your Milton books, and that type of thing.
Mark: Yeah, that’s on all good bookstores, but markjdawson.com is my online home, and people can see how I run subscription campaigns, and they can look at the books, and it’s a good place to get in touch with me as well.
Joanna: Fantastic. Thanks so much for your time, Mark. That was great.
Mark: Thanks, Jo.