Why Bob Should Have Worn Sunscreen OR What is Targeted Advertising?

I recently discussed the need to advertise your book using targeted advertising – but what IS targeted advertising, and how do you do it?

image from openclipart.org
image from openclipart.org

Meet Bob, the knife salesman. Bob is a go-getter, and he wants to sell as many knives as he can. He makes sure the knife store has plenty of his knives in stock – Only hundreds of knife salesmen also have knives there. There are so many kinds of knives there that people don’t see his – unless they’re looking for them.

Bob needs to advertise.

First he goes to his family and close friends. Many of them buy knives, not necessarily because they need them, or even want them, but because they like Bob. Bob’s a great guy.

Flushed with success, Bob decides it’s time to go out into the wide world. He picks a park where lots of people go and sets up at picnic table. A few stragglers wander over, and he makes a sale or two, but for the most part people ignore him. They’re at the park for a picnic, not to buy knives. Unhappy with the number of people who purchased, and getting hot from all the sun exposure, Bob climbs up on the table and announces the knives again – and again, and again, and again. He then wanders around and butts into people’s conversations, shoving knives under their nose. The results are no better (though luckily no one calls the cops).

Disheartened, Bob hears about a place where he is guaranteed to sell. Other knife salesmen have had success there in the past. Hopeful, he hurries over to the emporium. He gets set up, he puts up his sign, and he starts his demonstration – only to discover that almost everyone else in the emporium is also a knife salesman. Sure, a few buy (he is selling different knives than they are), but it’s not the success he was promised because most of the fellow salesmen are there to do the same thing he is: sell, not buy.

Desperate, Bob dumps his inventory in the knife store (more on that later) and starts writing articles for newspapers and magazines. he writes about how to sell knives. He writes about how to sharpen knives. He even writes about the different kinds of knives, but the people who read the articles don’t buy – most of them are also knife salesmen. SO he thinks he’ll be clever and spend his time hanging out where the other salesmen hang out – he’ll leave engaging comments on their articles, but the only attention that really earns him is from – you guessed it – even more fellow knife salesmen.

So how can Bob sell knives? How can he get discovered?

Aggravated, he moves his knives to a smaller store with more discover-ability. Maybe he even makes his own store – only now he has a new problem. No one has heard of this new, small store. So what does he do? He goes back to the park, shouting and waving signs to tell people that this little store exists – the problem is, the people in the park STILL aren’t looking for knives.

Just as Bob has a hard time finding his customers, so do authors. We have the same discover-ability problem he had at the knife store. There are thousands upon thousands of books on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, and all the others. Unless you’re a best seller, or someone is looking for your book, there’s a good chance a customer will never see it, let alone buy it.

To combat that, we hit up our friends and family, then we go to Facebook and post, post, post. Only most of the people on facebook don’t want to buy a book from us – they want to see cat memes and read about how our kids/parents/pet fish are doing. They probably don’t mind us mentioning the books sometimes (they are a part of our lives) but they’re not interested in advertisement after advertisement. The same goes for the other social networks. We rely on shares and word of mouth from our “army of friends” but, unless you’re luckier than I am, those 700+ facebook friends *might* yield one or two shares of any promotional material, and generally they stop there – far from the viral-ity we’ve been promised.

So we run to Twitter. As authors, we’re told that Twitter is the be-all-end-all for book sales. I don’t know about you, but I recently organized my followers in “lists”. Of the 1,600+ followers, almost 900 are fellow authors – and those are just the ones I know personally or who say “author” in their description. 140 of the remainder are author promotion sites (many no longer any good), 130 are friends from facebook, and 60 are artists or photographers (following me for photos). Then we take away bands, news sites, inspirational quotes and the 25 brands/celebrities who follow me back, and that leaves me with a potential 265 people, most of which are Russian (I don’t know what they’re tweeting – they could be spam for all I know), and 50 of which are book reviewers who are probably there to advertise their reviews and services.

So how many readers am I reaching? Am I mostly just advertising to fellow authors, like Bob did at the emporium?

And what about blogging? Sure, we might make a sale here, or a sale there, but if we’re blogging about writing topics, who are we going to attract? Most readers don’t care about “show don;t tell” or “25 secrets to success” – it’s fellow authors who want to read those articles. Yeah, one of those authors might read our book, but is it worth the time for that one sale? *

This is why our advertising needs to be “targeted”. Posting “ads” in unexpected places may make a few sales (I once sold a book because of an image on Flickr!) but it’s not an effective strategy. When gauging the success of a “campaign”, we need to look at not only results, but how much time or money went into getting those results. Did we sit at the park all day – composing tweets, posts, sales images, and replying to hundreds of blogs – like Bob, and make 5$? Or did we spend twenty minutes filling out a form and make 20$? $1 a minute is certainly better than a 1$ an hour, and it can be done by targeting your ads to people who actually want to buy.

How do we target our advertising?  Rami Ungar has posted his results with targeted facebook advertising, and, as many authors mentioned in the comments of my last post, email lists can be a great thing (In the next day or two I’ll post my results from several different sites.). There are website listings, and forums and facebook groups just for advertising books to people who are *looking for books*. In fact there are hundreds of places promising targeted advertising. But  how do you choose which to use?

This is where fellow authors come in. Before you spend money advertising, or lots of time, take five minutes and either ask your author friends (you should have some kind of group you belong to, whether on FB or google groups – like the Ink Slingers) or just do a quick google search. Usually you can turn up a forum post from someone else asking the same question, and you can then quickly scroll through the answers they got.

If Bob had done that, maybe he wouldn’t have had to sit at the park all day getting sunburned.


How do you target your advertising?

EDIT: *I’m not saying that author blogs are a waste of time – I enjoy writing posts to help fellow authors – but I do it for the enjoyment, not for sales. The same for an author blog where I post stuff pertaining to my books. It’s more fun than profit, and I do it that way accordingly. There’s nothing wrong with doing something that could be construed as advertising that doesn’t REALLY make sales if it makes you happy instead. But if you’re just doing it for sales that aren’t appearing – and you’re not enjoying it – then you’re wasting your time.

20 thoughts on “Why Bob Should Have Worn Sunscreen OR What is Targeted Advertising?

  1. rami ungar the writer June 18, 2015 / 6:21 pm

    What I did with my latest Facebook campaign was think about what sort of people I was looking for, what sort of interests they had. I also had to think about where exactly they may be, so I expanded m search to several countries. The results were that I had several people checking out my work because they were into science fiction or horror stories, and even a few more downloading my books.

    • Joleene Naylor June 18, 2015 / 11:03 pm

      I think expanding the countries was a really good idea! I know as authors we often forget about all the other “amazons” out there and concentrate on just the U.S. I’m guilty of this one, too.

      • rami ungar the writer June 19, 2015 / 10:56 am

        I only remembered that after I remembered that KDP asks me to set prices for other countries. That gave me the idea. I didn’t really think I’d get so many sales from those countries, and yet I did. Still a little shocked by it all.

        • Lauralynn Elliott June 19, 2015 / 1:08 pm

          You never know what you’ll sell in other countries. On iBooks, I sell more in Australia than anywhere.

          • Joleene Naylor June 19, 2015 / 2:53 pm

            I give away a lot of free ones on apple to Canada and Scandinavian countries and France, but they don’t buy anything. I’ve yet to figure out how to sell on apple. They love the freebies – I give away more there than Amazon – but they refuse to buy.

  2. Jean Wilson Murray June 18, 2015 / 6:27 pm

    Great example! I call this the “better mousetrap myth.” I think it was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, “If you make a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door.” Not true. Thanks for telling it like it is.

  3. Lauralynn Elliott June 18, 2015 / 8:22 pm

    I’ve always heard a newsletter is one of the best ways to advertise. The question is, how do you get people to sign up for your newsletter?

    • Joleene Naylor June 18, 2015 / 9:20 pm

      I’ve recently started one – I lured people with a preview of the book that was coming out in a couple months – but it only works to advertise to people who already have heard of you and want to keep up, it’s not really going to attract new readers. That said, I do think it’s important for that “keeping you with” thing, so fans can find out about new releases they might miss otherwise.

  4. dwhirsch June 19, 2015 / 12:21 am

    These promotion tips come at a time when I seriously considered this. I published a father-daughter memoir short story last year on–you guessed it!–Father’s Day. The week before FD is a good time to promote…right? These recent posts make me think about that. Of course this is a good time–a great time!–but a hook alone or a timely market doesn’t guarantee sales/exposure, even with advertising. Right now, it’s been a soft sale on social media, and maybe offering it free on FD is an idea. I don’t have definitive answers–and luck always has something to do with it–but I’m enjoying these discussions and posts. Educational.

    • Joleene Naylor June 19, 2015 / 12:24 am

      Yep! There is so much to the luck of becoming a best seller. A good book is important, but that’s no guarantee. I’ve read top sellers that were terrible (IMHO) and no-sellers that were stellar. I really think a lot of it is luck – right place, right time.

  5. ronfritsch June 19, 2015 / 9:08 pm

    Targeted ads on Facebook and Google seemed to be worth what they cost me. If I’d thrown a lot of money into them, it’s possible I would’ve sold many more books. Maybe in the next phase of my writing life I’ll give that a try. The shameless self-promotion I see every day on FB and Twitter isn’t for me.

    • Joleene Naylor June 19, 2015 / 11:47 pm

      Yeah I’m not very good at that either. I feel stupid plugging the books nonstop. Thanks for the tip! You’re the second one to recommend FB ads. Do you have any tips for authors using either Google or FB ads?

  6. ronfritsch June 20, 2015 / 4:36 pm

    Joleene, the only tip I have regards the content of the ad, which requires time and thought to get it just right. The process is especially difficult for writers such as myself who tend to mix genres. One of my genres, LGBT fiction, has to be disclosed somehow, or I’ll get angry readers and low-star reviews..

  7. Ruth Ann Nordin June 21, 2015 / 4:09 pm

    “The results are no better (though luckily no one calls the cops).” ROFL I love your humor.

    As you’ve pointed out, Twitter and blogging aren’t big in advertising. I don’t notice any significant sales from these sites. I do want to try a Facebook ad and will in a couple days. I finally decided what book I want to try.

    I am new in trying to build up an email list. I have a new “sign up for my email list” link at the end of a few books. I’m not going back and putting it in for all of them. That would be too much work. Instead, I put them in a couple free ones that do the best and am putting them in new releases. I am offering a prequel or epilogue scene to the currently released book. The scene is 1,000 to 2,000 words long, so it’s not a huge time suck in writing and will add something brief to the new book. I don’t know if this will be effective or not. So far, I have received 1-2 new sign ups every couple weeks.

    My list is under 300 people, but I don’t want a big number. I want those who will actually buy the book. I’ve heard authors have had wild success (like 10K emails in six months) by offering the next book in their series free when people sign up, but I wonder how many of those new subscribers drop the subscription once they get their free book.

  8. dwhirsch June 23, 2015 / 11:09 am

    I forget where I read it, but it is better to have 25-50-ish “Superfans” rather than 10K hanger-on-ers. Those Superfans love you, will always love you (presuming your writing remains stellar), and *they* will be the best advertising you have.

    You may need to find them, however, through a bit of shameless self-promo. Nothing wrong in believing in yourself and sharing that. It’s all about how you say it: “buy my book” or “check this out” Subtle but powerful.

    • Joleene Naylor June 26, 2015 / 5:00 am

      Very true, and that’s where social media can be a good thing – but it means building relationships and being social, not just posting lots of “buy this” links like we see so much on twitter. As you said, it’s all about subtle phrasing. As authors this should be our strong point. 😉 but it’s also a huge time investment and we need to write if we want something to sell. I think sometimes using a quicker means of advertising can help build an audience. Then we can connect with those fans who found us thanks to our marketing and be social with them on the social networks to turn them into the super fans. 🙂

      • Ruth Ann Nordin June 26, 2015 / 11:15 am

        Excellent points, dwhirsch and Joleene. I love the idea of using advertising to reach people initially and social media to build relationships with them. I never thought of it that way, but that is how marketing best works.

  9. dwhirsch June 27, 2015 / 1:38 pm

    Absolutely! I had a conversation with someone on Instagram, something about “why do our social media friends engage more than our real friends?” That stuck with me, and I think it’s because we connect with people of similar interests and struggles, ones our family and friends support but don’t understand. It’s the trust we build, that “I’ve been there” aspect, and that’s what builds relationships (like how we got friends old school). Selling at that point is more of a support by others. Recommendations by others (like our 5 Superfans) to their friends… and so on and so on… is how to build followers. Organic? A struggle? Worth it? I’d say yes to all of that.

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