you’re a published author wondering how to market your books, then you’ve found an incredible interview with a highly successful and generous romance writer, Skye Warren. In the past year, she has discussed marketing, and specifically spending money on Facebook ads, at the Romance Writers of America writers’ conference and in various interviews. Before you start groaning about ads for books, I encourage you to keep an open mind and feed on the positive vibes that Skye presents to us in this interview about marketing, finding new readers, and writing in general.
“Skye Warren is known around the blogosphere as the author who spent $100K on Facebook ads and generated $850K in profit from those ads.”
Skye is known around the blogosphere as the author who spent $100K on Facebook ads and generated $850K in profit from those ads. Her secret is to test multiple ads at one time, spending low amounts of money, until she finds the ad that works to find new readers. Once she figures out which ad is “winning,” she spends more money on that ad or an ad similar to it. She explains more below about her philosophy of marketing and what to consider below. Your head may be spinning when it’s over, so grab a notebook and pen, and get ready to take notes from an author in the trenches.
WOW: Welcome, Skye, to WOW! We appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to us today about marketing. Let’s start with what I guess you may becoming famous for, which is knowing how to correctly use Facebook ads to market your books and your success with Facebook ads. How do you use these to promote your books? What is your success story with these ads?
Skye: Thank you so much for having me, Margo! I’m Skye Warren, New York Times bestselling author of dangerous romance, such as The Pawn.
And ohhh, hey, Facebook ads.
A few years back, I was making five figures as an author and really struggling with doubt and uncertainty because I had no way of knowing how many books I would sell the next month. Running my business felt like a gamble, and that’s a very scary thing when your family relies on your income. The ways that we could spend money to promote our books—with blog sidebar ads or with attending a reader convention—had low return-on-investment (ROI) or cost quite a lot. The first time I tried a Facebook ad, I spent $100 over seven days. I was shocked to find that it returned a profit—a modest one at the time, but that was more than I was ever able to measure with other marketing efforts. The truly best thing was that readers would leave comments saying thank you for the ad because they were happy to find a new book. That really changed the way I looked at marketing across the board, as something that helps both the author and the reader. Facebook ads allowed me to take my income to the high six figures and find more financial security for my family.
The main thing I’d love to share with other authors is the way we think about ads: instead of thinking, Oh man, I have to do this.
This is definitely not mandatory for authors. Instead, it’s an opportunity to find new readers. And the way that I think about marketing is getting in front of readers who are actively looking for your books.
“Facebook ads allowed me to take my income to the high six figures and find more financial security for my family.”
WOW: I absolutely love your entire answer. First, I like the fact that you wanted to figure out which marketing strategies were working for you! I think so many authors still feel like they’re blindly throwing twenty-five darts at the same time and hoping one hits the bullseye or even just the board. Plus, changing our thinking about ads (or maybe marketing in general) is a great point. Of course, we all want to find new readers! Sometimes, I think we lose that fact in the middle of worrying about marketing. So let’s start at the beginning of a book’s life. What is your strategy when promoting a new release?
Skye: My overall release strategy is to blanket the town. I want readers to tell me, “I’ve seen your book everywhere.” In fact, when I don’t hear that, I tend to hear the opposite a few months later: “I didn’t know you had a new book out.” That goes hand-in-hand with the idea of working with readers, working for readers, who actually want to hear about your new book. And no one, not Facebook or Amazon or Goodreads, owes it to each individual author to spread the news for us. That’s our job as authors.
However, this can be a tricky area when it comes to Facebook ads. This [releasing a new book] is where I find most authors want to start using ads, but it’s the hardest to track whether they’re working. So even if you’re getting good click through, if it’s not converting on the Amazon page, it can be hard to tell when you have lots of new release buzz happening at the same time.
“Backlist ads are the place where Facebook ads really shine.”
WOW: That makes sense because when a new release hits the shelves (electronically or physically), many strategies come into play from interviews to ads, from book signings to press releases. How about a backlist book?
Skye: Backlist ads are the place where Facebook ads really shine. Through a very low spend, it’s possible to increase your baseline income, which gives you more reliable income month after month, rather than having extreme dips. These readers are happy to discover you and read through your backlist. And of course, this does end up benefiting your new releases indirectly, as some of those readers become long-term fans.
WOW: If someone is just starting out with their first book, do you suggest Facebook ads then? What would the strategy be for a first and only book?
Skye: Return on investment is really in the sell through, which is something that’s very obvious when you’re dealing with a first-in-series free book, but is also true when we’re dealing with a full-priced standalone new release. As long as you’re bringing in new readers with your ads, then those readers will go on to read more books by you. Which means that spending can be risky for a debut author. As a debut, I would focus on having your book read by influencers and getting the next book out, rather than paid advertising.
“As a debut, I would focus on having your book read by influencers and getting the next book out, rather than paid advertising.”
WOW: This is great advice. To sum up our last few answers because I think it’s important for authors to realize that different strategies work for different types of books and that possibly they won’t see “real” money until they’ve written several books. So, Facebook ads probably work the best for backlist books. If you can catch a new reader’s eye, then hopefully she will enjoy the book you advertised, such as the first in a series, and buy several more of your books. A new release is harder to track with a Facebook page because of all the promotion you are doing at the same time. And finally, a debut author should probably not spend money on a Facebook ad.
I’ve read around the blogosphere that you do a lot of testing of ads. How do you use these tests to decide what to spend your money on and how much to spend?
Skye: Testing is 110% important with any kind of paid advertising, including Facebook ads as well as BookBub bottom ads and Amazon ads. Authors already know how important a cover and book description are to selling a book. However, they may not realize how frequently the financial decision comes down to a guess. That works out great if your guesses always land on what readers love the most—and for very few authors, this [just guessing] works!
But for ordinary people, like me, sometimes what I love is not what readers love to click on. This goes for ad images and ad text, but it also goes for the book cover and the book blurb. I test ALL of it with ads; so when I decide on a cover or a tagline, it’s not just because I like it and my author friends like it, it’s because I know that NEW readers find it very clicky.
“For authors, a series is a pre-built marketing funnel.”
WOW: I like that term “clicky”. So basically, you’re testing to see which ads get the most click throughs, and then you can base future ads off of how you worded (or added images) to the successful ad. How do you keep track of your ROI on Facebook ads?
Skye: So in other industries, they talk about a marketing funnel. For authors, a series is a pre-built marketing funnel. They [readers] read book one and then go on to book two, etc. Once you have a well-built marketing funnel with strong conversion on the Amazon page of book one and good sell through to the rest of the books, ROI is pretty easy to track.
The thing I’ve found in working with authors is that it’s less about “how to do Facebook ads” and more about “how to improve conversion and sell through on the book themselves.” That means improving the sales page on Amazon and other retailers, that means improving the back matter, and it means focusing your marketing efforts on series that have stronger sell through. There are very few ways to send a steady stream of new readers to your sales page aside from paid advertising, so authors who are new to it may not even realize where the weak links of their chain are until they start testing.
WOW: More great tips on thinking about advertising! I know it’s difficult sometimes for many authors to think like a reader—but this is what you’re saying: for example, what back matter in a book (ebook or print book) do you find makes you buy another book? Then make sure your book’s back matter has this information in any free book you’re advertising or really, any book you’re advertising. Any other tips you have for these ads?
Skye: Start with small amounts of money, test more images and copy than you think, and keep an open mind about what will make readers click.
WOW: Great advice! Thank you for telling us about paying for advertising. Just curious, do you take out ads on any other sites besides Facebook? Why or why not?
Skye: I consider Facebook ads, Amazon ads, and BookBub bottom ads the ads that work best for authors right now.
WOW: Great! What’s another marketing strategy that you feel has worked well to sell your romance series?
Skye: There will always be a place for influencers in this industry, whether they are bloggers, like five years ago, or bookstagrammers now. I owe influencers a lot when it comes to spreading the word about my books.
WOW: For our authors who are new or not published yet (or not on Instagram), “bookstagrammers” are Instagram users who use the hashtag #bookstagram when sharing a book-related photo. (More information on bookstagrammers can be found in this article.) What is a marketing strategy that you would not recommend to other authors?
Skye: Spending money on ads to build your newsletter—I think authors like that strategy because it feels safer. It’s easier to assume you can convert those people down the road than really try and do it up front. But if someone wants to buy a book, they’ll buy it right now and happily read it right away. I would say if you’re really intent on doing the newsletter building ads, make sure you segment and track them to make sure you really do get a positive ROI that way. An avid reader is always looking for more books to read, so that’s what they would rather do—much more than signing up for a newsletter to someone they don’t know and have never read.
“In terms of balancing time, the first thing to do is rest. The more well rested you are, the more you can do in less hours.”
WOW: Thank you for explaining this to us. Of course, it all makes perfect sense, and now we just need to implement this great marketing advice. How do you balance your writing and marketing time—you are extremely prolific!
Skye: Thank you! I write and publish about four books a year right now, which may sound like a lot or a little depending on where you’re coming from. They are category length (around 40-60K words), which is a size and frequency that works well for me as an artist.
I think it’s easy to get caught up in the idea of how—how do I spend enough time doing writing and enough time doing marketing. It’s easy to end up overworked, basically.
So in terms of balancing time, the first thing to do is rest. The more well rested you are, the more you can do in less hours. I work an average of two to four hours a day. I have a series of posts in the archives of my author newsletter about how I do that: https://www.skyewarren.com/authors.
WOW: I love your philosophy, and in my life, I have found that rest is important, especially sleep. It reminds me of that phrase we hear all the time: “Work smarter, not harder.” What is your strategy for your website?
Skye: It’s great to have a place where I can lay out all my books and links for readers who are interested. That’s also where they can sign up for my newsletter.
WOW: One author I know calls it her website her hub. How much time did you spend creating an author brand?
Skye: That was definitely an organic process, but right now, I say that I write dangerous romance because I like to break the rules, but I still love romance and that happily ever after.
WOW: What is an inexpensive promotional material or reward you’ve given readers that has been coveted?
Skye: Bonus scenes are always a great way to give back to core fans.
WOW: Bonus scenes—I love that. It reminds me of the movie industry, too. If you’re a fan of something, you definitely want more, more, and more! What are you working on next?
Skye: I’m working on a new trilogy that releases in early 2019! It’s about a child prodigy who plays violin, orphaned as a child. The man who took custody of her is a friend of her father’s. Now that she’s grown up, their relationship is changing in sexy, taboo ways. I’m really loving writing it!
WOW: Yes, I see from your Facebook page the first book is titled Overture. Is there any new marketing strategy out there that you’re undertaking this year?
Skye: I’m really focusing on audiobooks this year.
One of the things I don’t really talk about much is what to actually write in our books or even how often to publish. That’s not because it’s doesn’t matter. It totally matters, but I know that every author here is already studying craft, already giving your whole heart to your books. You’re already publishing as fast as you really can, so that’s why I focus my advice on how to earn more from the books we’re already writing.
The more you love your books, the more you believe in them, the more it makes sense to give them the widest possible readership—to put them in front of the readers who are actively looking for them.
If authors want more information, I write posts on the author business and marketing here: https://skyewarren.com/authors.
WOW: Thank you, Skye, for your time. I know we are all so appreciative of your expertise and sharing your success tips with us!
Skye: Thank you for having me!
Margo L. Dill is an online instructor and editor for WOW! She is also the author of children’s and YA books as well as running her own editing business, Editor 911. Check out more about Margo at www.margoldill.com or www.editor-911.com.
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