Earlier this year, we published our first novel entitled, “Endangered Species, Book 1: Diary of an Eco-Warrior“. We deliberately didn’t seek out a publisher, or an agent to represent us. Some might say this was foolish, but the truth was – we wanted to learn as much as we could about self-publishing, book promotion and publicity.
We used a variety of means to get the word out: Facebook advertising, Facebook Group marketing, Google Advertising with Adwords, Goodreads promotions (including a Giveaway), StumbleUpon, Reddit, Amazon Kindle KDP exclusives, Kindle forums, and Bookbub.
In this article, we’ll explore what we did and how well each of these different channels performed (for us).
We decided to approach the promotion of the book in several ways: (1) click to a landing page on SEAM that introduced the book, (2) click to an Amazon page that sold the eBook, (3) click to a landing page on FB that introduced the book, and, (3) click to gain likes on FB for SEAM in the hope that our page updates for the book would be seen in future.
The hardest part was deciding who we should promote to.
First off, the book sits between genres, which is never a great situation to be in. It’s an Action-Adventure Comedy. But, it’s also a Comedy Thriller. And – it deals with environmental issues (in this case, “Mass Extinction”). At first blush, we figured it would appeal to two camps: (1) Satirical book enthusiasts, and, (2) Environmentalists. However, we still didn’t know much about the demographics of each group, so we’d be making stabs in the dark.
Stabbing in the dark is never a good idea when spending money to advertise online, as fees can rack up pretty quickly. But we had to start somewhere.
We started with Facebook. We created an account for our author, “Vaulte Kamish”, a Facebook Page for SEAM, and tried a variety of paid posts and advertisements.
We did this, because Facebook offers a lot of demographic targeting, so we figured we could place the ads in front of people who would be more likely to act upon them, rather than blasting to the world at large. In particular, Facebook allows you to target people with certain interests – such as causes, celebrities, specific types of entertainment, etc. This seemed like it would offer fantastic granularity for targetting.
In the beginning, we had assumptions about who would like our book and we ran a number of ads testing those assumptions. Unfortunately, our click-through rate was only around 0.02%, which was horribly low. Thankfully, we only paid for click-throughs, as we ended up with hundreds of thousands of impressions.
This led us to believe that we may have made some erroneous assumptions about who are potential readers were. We needed some way to figure this out, before we could make any meaningful placements.
Using StumbleUpon to test our assumptions about the target demographic seemed like a pretty good idea.
For the unfamiliar, it’s a very popular service in which people define their interests and then get a bunch of Web pages served up to them, which they can vote on. At roughly ten cents a stumble, it’s an interesting way to find out who is most interested in your Web page. In return, StumbleUpon will give you a bunch of data, including: the age, sex, and interest category of the stumbler, plus how long they stayed on your page before stumbling to the next one.
We created several different book offering pages with different copy aimed at various segments and then targeted different demographics to those pages using paid stumbles. We sent them to both our FB pagers and blog pages.
Unsurprisingly, we discovered that people who are interested in the environment and ecology took roughly forty seconds (on average) to read our page, which was significantly above the norm with a representative sample. However, we learnt that people interested in animals spent twice as long on our page (in fact, they liked our SEAM page more than our FB page – more on this later). People who identified themselves as “Survivalist” were equally as engaged. Also, those interested in “Activism” scored high on our FB page, but not on our SEAM page (we’ll come back to this later, because it’s interesting in the context of our FB ads).
People interested in “Movies” scored higher than those interested in “Action Movies”. And those interested in “Writing” and “Books” seemed engaged with our SEAM page, but not our FB page.
After running many different tests, it seemed at first that our audience was predominantly under 25, male, and interested SciFi and conspiracies. However, the number still seemed low and we worked to find alternatives.
Overall, men seemed much more interested in our pitch than women, if time spent on the page is anything to go by. This is corroborated by anecdotal evidence in terms of people who have read the book.
In terms of age, the 13-35 yr olds males and 18-35 yr old females were the most engaged. So, it seems that the males skew a bit younger.
In terms of countries, the strongest interest came from Mexico and Canada – UK in the middle – and low scores from the US. Broken out by age, however, female interest only came from Canada.
We hit a rather large jackpot when we tested against men and women of all ages who were interested in activism, the environment, ecology, and animals. This improved when we tailored our copy to include the message, “Save the Planet & Save Ourselves!”
Putting all this together, it seemed that our pitch was most interesting to younger males living in Mexico, UK, and US and slightly more mature women living in Canada – all of whom are interested in movies, animals, survivalism and the environment. Environmental activists were a sweet-spot.
To be honest, we spent a fair amount of money trying to use StumbleUpon to figure this out. They offer a simple metric of success that has to do with how many people who stumbled upon your page actually clicked that they ‘liked’ it. Otherwise, it’s a hit-and-run.
Also, their interface makes running complex analysis on the data rather poor, even if you download the data yourself.
Overall, I’d say that StumbleUpon offered more promise than reward. We did figure out that our main genre was most likely “Action-Adventure”, even though we thought that “Satire” was more appropriate.
Probably the biggest problem with targeting StumbleUpon users is that they are stumbling and not staying. They’re using the service to ‘cruise the Net’ and don’t stick around for very long. It may be an effective way to increase page views in the short-term, but not much else.