Goodreads Ads Case Study

Matticus Primal

Journeyed there and back again
#1
I'm leaving my strategies here in case any other author wants to use them or has any other pointers to employ that I missed.

First off, I started with this article outlining Goodreads advertising strategies. Basically it boils down to running several ads at the same time, each one targeting a particular demographic rather than just a general genre blanket ad such as "fantasy."

So I identified several aspects of my book that I think it stands out in: 1. Gunpowder Fantasy, 2. Strong female protagonist, 3. Self-published, 4 Epic fantasy WITHOUT elves/ dwarves.

With those in place, I identified authors that fit said categories using our own bestfantasybooks lists of subgenres (THANK YOU for providing that) as well as lists of "best" off of Goodreads, eg. Django Wexler as a fellow Gunpowder Fantasy author, Sarah J Maas as writing strong female protags, Will Wight as someone who's successful as a digital self-publisher (the idea being his audience might be more open to a new self-publisher), etc.

Note: I made sure there were at least 30 authors for each of these five categories (yeah, I know I only listed four, but the fifth is a catchall combining all these into one).

Now to the ads themselves, I focus grouped a whole bunch of taglines on this forum (again, thank you), and selected the top five; even though two of them had very little to do with my book (give people what they want, I say). These top five I matched to each of my categories (eg. "Marta Childress: Spy, Traitor, Soldier, Savior" aimed at my "strong female protagonist" group of authors). The tagline that had very little to do with my book, I used for the catchall.

The pretty great thing about the Goodreads ad campaign is that it can be done on the cheap. As in I only put $10 USD into it initially and it's been running for about six weeks with loads left over. You can also set your maxes for what you'll be willing to pay per click, as well as daily limits.

Now I will note that my clickthrough rate is pretty abysmal at around .2%. However, my goal is not so much getting people to click on it (because, come on, who actually clicks on ads on Goodreads?), more to make sure people in these demos are seeing my book cover on the regular.

As such, I'm much more interested in my total views, which has been 44,000 in 48 days as of the writing of this. That's a little over 900 views per day, though I should note those totals are spread throughout all five of my ads. Some days ad #1 does most of the legwork, and other days it's ad #5; but for the most part my views have stayed steady at an average of around 900 per day. And, interestingly enough (or not), that seems independent on what my bid for clicks is: I've experimented with prices ranging from $.35 to $.75 per click and the needle has moved not one bit. So I'm sticking with an average of $.45 just for the hell of it.

So there you go. Please let me know if this is useful or if you know of a better strategy.
 
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Tanniel

Hired Nicomo Cosca, famed soldier of fortune
#2
44,000 clicks sounds very impressive! I know you've done the AMA at reddit and possibly other things to promote yourself; do you know if all these clicks are from your GR ads, or are they an amalgam of all your efforts?

Either way, you've definitely made me consider buying a few ads myself, that's basically no money to spend. My only problem is, I am hopeless trying to think of any taglines and such for getting people's attention (same reason twitter is no good for me; my loquaciousness doesn't lend itself well to the format, and yes, sometimes I use big words to sound more photosynthesis). In many ways, my book is a very standard fantasy work (setting, plot, characters); if it stands out, it's in style, world building and the way the plot is presented. None of which I have a clue on how to present in an ad. Unlike yours that has several distinct, unusual or almost unique features to highlight and grab people's attention in a micro second.

Well, I guess that's a challenge to be overcome, if I could get even a tenth of your clicks by doing so. If/when (oh god so many other things I also need to do) I investigate into how GR ads work, I'll probably shout in your general direction for help, if you don't mind that.
 

Matticus Primal

Journeyed there and back again
#3
44,000 clicks sounds very impressive!
I should reiterate that the 44k was VIEWS rather than clicks, which I think is closer to something like 8 (no, it is EXACTLY 8; I just looked it up). And this isn't sour grapes (at least I don't think so), but I'm more interested in the views than clicks.

My only problem is, I am hopeless trying to think of any taglines and such for getting people's attention
We authors all are terrible at condensing our own work, and this extends to my screenwriting buddies as well. You need an outside perspective to create a tagline, and this forum is a great opportunity. I know at least two others here have read your book (finishing it is my last 2016 resolution), and personally I think you should work up your "hard fantasy" angle (akin to hard sci-fi). While mine is more pop-fantasy, I think you can aim yours more for the hard-core fantasy fans.

And yeah, definitely reach out if/when you put one together. And for brainstorming on at least four taglines.
 

Matticus Primal

Journeyed there and back again
#4
None of which I have a clue on how to present in an ad.
Also, you can run quotes from reviews in your ads, which can be a selling point for you. I believe @Elvira had a wonderful quote about Eagle's Flight being akin to a gift. See if she wouldn't mind being quoted in your ad.
 
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jo zebedee

Journeyed there and back again
#5
Very useful, cheers. I won't quote, but tag, since I'm a tech amoeba.

@Matticus Primal - both Goodreads and Amazon are useless, imho. Both cheap, yes, both extended views, neither sells anything. Better to go with 15 quid for a Book barbarian ad, or something like a bargain booksy. I haven't run one for ages - my whole mentality has changed, tomorrow's blog might talk more on that. I just want to write - but I've always covered my costs.

@Tanniel - tag lines are pigs. But you also need more confidence in your work. So what if it's classic? That can be its own selling point. Review quotes are great. But so is If you like, you'll love....!

Anyhow, basically WHO is the story about, WHAT do they want to achieve and what stands in their way?

Also, to learn how to write a blurb (I churn them out now, and used to hate them) go to Absolute Write's Query Letter Hell and let them maul what you have. It hurts like hell but you learn what's needed.
 

Matticus Primal

Journeyed there and back again
#6
Better to go with 15 quid for a Book barbarian ad,
Yeah, I think my next push with go with Book Barbarian (which I believe you mentioned in a different post long ago). But at the moment I'm trying different strategies, one at a time, to see what gets the traction. I tried a different service early last week, and will put up that case study next week to go into more detail (I needed this ad post first because it was part of my free give away strategy), but Book Barbarian is definitely next on my list.

Review quotes are great. But so is If you like, you'll love....!
It's so obvious now that you say that! I think I might make 10 more ads aimed specifically at a single similar author and see what that gets me in terms of clickthroughs.
 

jo zebedee

Journeyed there and back again
#10
The latter. We all write because we want to (or are compelled, I guess), but books are a lot like boats in that they're just big holes you toss your money into. At least from personal experience.
Yes, they are. Sort of.

But the first isn't entirely about being doomed to be a writer just because I need to be. I could walk away tomorrow amd cope happily enough. I have an insanely full life.

But I don't want to. But I want to do it on my own terms. I've stopped seeking a big six etc - I don't write easily marketable books - but, also, I'm doing okay. I'm getting enough strokes. I need no more (but I'm odd in that I don't want to give up the day job).

In deciding the latter, I think, ironically, I'll do better. I can be true to me and my stories. Multi generational, character led in all sorts of genres. Those who like what I write are joining in that journey (or some are) . In the meantime, I'm free to say to heck with it. This is me. Like or not like it. And that honesty can't be replicated - and has brought me more sales, buy-in and fans, than any amount of paid for promo. I am brand Jo Zebedee - which is person Jo Zebedee, nothing more or less. Of the two, that's by far the more important.
 

Tanniel

Hired Nicomo Cosca, famed soldier of fortune
#11
Ah, I forgot about the distinction between views and clicks, thanks for clearing that up, @Matticus Primal. Regardless, for $10 I'm ready to make a few test runs. Would you be willing to share how your ads look? I'm just curious about the visual presentation (you can just e-mail it to me if that's easier for you). Oh and good luck on
the resolution! I just hope the book doesn't cause you any frustrations to finish.

I'll put the old thinking cap on, I suppose, and consider what ways there are to market in this succinct way. I saw something similar on another forum, where apparently there are these hashtag trends on twitter for pitching your book, and agents will like your tweet if they're interested in hearing the full pitch. I don't use twitter, but I tried just as an exercise to make a tagline for an old sci-fi story I wrote as practice; didn't turn out well either. Going by similar authors seems like a useful idea though; just need to find the right ones to latch on to.

Thanks for your suggestions also, @jo zebedee. I think it's too late at night for me to say anything more useful, but I'll keep your advice in mind tomorrow when my brain works again.

Though one last thought: the brief aside in this thread about writing because you feel a need reminds me of this thought that's been tumbling around my head, categorising writers according to their reason for writing. I don't think it's something that will garner much interest (why I haven't written anything about it yet), but I do feel a little curious now to present my pet theory and hear what other writers think of it (and which category they would throw themselves in).
 

Lyric Blade

Philosophizes with Kellhus
#14
I'm not quite at the point of doing ads just yet but I am getting there! This thread will be a valuable resource for what will hopefully be the near future.

Though one last thought: the brief aside in this thread about writing because you feel a need reminds me of this thought that's been tumbling around my head, categorising writers according to their reason for writing.
I would be interested in seeing the categories you've / would come up with! I wonder if it would be possible at all to create a definitive list of such. Would you mind elaborating?

Question for all: when you're working on the drafts of books, do you send drafts to alpha readers, a single editor or a few- or do you not have anyone read your work at all until it's ready to publish?
It seems to me, going into this, the first readers one gets for even the drafts of a book could be a major part of promotion- even if just by word of mouth.
 

jo zebedee

Journeyed there and back again
#15
I'm not quite at the point of doing ads just yet but I am getting there! This thread will be a valuable resource for what will hopefully be the near future.


I would be interested in seeing the categories you've / would come up with! I wonder if it would be possible at all to create a definitive list of such. Would you mind elaborating?

Question for all: when you're working on the drafts of books, do you send drafts to alpha readers, a single editor or a few- or do you not have anyone read your work at all until it's ready to publish?
It seems to me, going into this, the first readers one gets for even the drafts of a book could be a major part of promotion- even if just by word of mouth.
My writing group see it from infancy, my full book betas if I have any when it's a little honed. Then any presubmission editor. (But that's a step not everyone takes - and I won't be doing it for my next book initially as I have a published wanting to see it instead)
 

Tanniel

Hired Nicomo Cosca, famed soldier of fortune
#16
I would be interested in seeing the categories you've / would come up with! I wonder if it would be possible at all to create a definitive list of such. Would you mind elaborating?
It's a pretty simple theory and probably not definitive at all, but I'd be happy to. I think of writers in three categories; writing because you want to, because you can, or because you must.

The first category is those, for whom it is a creative outlet, like playing an instrument or drawing. The aim is to express themselves, be creative, and typically the writing is shared with people around them or like-minded communities. Fanfiction is basically this in a nutshell.

The second category is those, for whom it is a skill. They have an ability to write books, and it's more profitable than other pursuits available. The typical example are journalists, adept with language and e.g. having worked the crime beat knows how to string together a good crime story. The aim is to be published and make an income - typically you find these writers in the crime and romance genres, as those are the easiest to make a profit in.

The third category is those, for whom it is necessity. People who think about writing and books all the time, to the point of near obsession, and for whom writing is not an outlet, but an urge. It cannot be substituted or quenched any other way. Whereas it is almost coincidental for the first two categories that they end up writing, this sort would write no matter what. The aim is to create something new, something unique, an addition to the literary pantheon; money is secondary as is fame (except perhaps the recognition of their writing peers). I think most of the great authors fall into this category, because only a person obsessing over writing will be able to write something ground-breaking. Kafka, who spent his life working as a patent clerk and on his deathbed asked his friend to burn his manuscripts (presumably plagued by self-doubt), is a classical example of this. James Joyce, with his small first edition print of Ulysses, is another.

Of course, the same person may cross over or write books that belong in another category. Someone may start writing fanfiction and turn out to be so good at it, they can earn money from writing. Or someone like Thomas Pynchon may write a book because he is strapped for money, like The Crying of Lot 49, though the rest of his work falls in the third category. It's a pretty rough and unrefined theory though, so I am sure holes can be poked into it.

when you're working on the drafts of books, do you send drafts to alpha readers, a single editor or a few- or do you not have anyone read your work at all until it's ready to publish?
I send my first draft to my strongest reader, so that he can find as many flaws as possible before I start revisions. Second draft goes to beta readers. Penultimate draft (typically the third) goes to the editor, and then I make the final polishes before publishing. With The Eagle's Flight, I did end up at the sixth draft before I was done, but that was my first novel, in a foreign language, and took some extra work that I can now implement directly in future books as I write them.
 

Nuomer1

Journeyed there and back again
#17
Hey, thanks guys! Particularly Matticus Primal!
I am too busy to get involved this close to Christmas, but I have flagged the thread, and will be taking a serious look at all this advice come the New Year.
Muchos Gracias!
 

Lyric Blade

Philosophizes with Kellhus
#18
Thank you for the detailed answers to my questions!


My writing group see it from infancy, my full book betas if I have any when it's a little honed. Then any presubmission editor. (But that's a step not everyone takes - and I won't be doing it for my next book initially as I have a published wanting to see it instead)
Jo Zebedee, I am curious about the writing group that you mentioned. Is this a close circle of friends, or more a professional arrangement, or...?

Same question for Tanniel about his best reader.

I'm asking because I am at the point where I hope to be sharing some chapters very soon. Having just moved, my contacts are few locally and otherwise scattered all over... so I have ideas about who to look for in a best reader or writing group, but I would like to know what authors who have been through the process do- and who they chose / happen to have in their groups.

It's a pretty simple theory and probably not definitive at all, but I'd be happy to. I think of writers in three categories; writing because you want to, because you can, or because you must.

[And then many interesting things follow!]
You've certainly got some pretty solid examples to back it up as a start at least. It seems to me that the same person could fall into more than one and not just between different books.

What would you say about someone who writes for another person? For instance, I believe Tolkien originally wrote the Hobbit for his children.

I'm sure one could come up with outside examples- though many of such may be able to consolidated into the three categories... it seems like it would be an interesting exercise at any rate.
 

jo zebedee

Journeyed there and back again
#19
@Lyric Blade - we're a peer review group. It was formed from another forum I'm on and I was invited on with three others. One of the original has now moved on and we have had two new members since then - so now we are five. Of those 5, I'm about to release my 5th book, another is about to be published, one is agented and another has full requests on their manuscript - so I would say we moved from almost entirely amateur to pretty professional.

We have 1 Scot, 1 English, 1 Aussie and 2 Northern Irish at the mo.

We crit excerpts of up to 2k, technically every fortnight, but really we do what's needed. I'' betaing one of their novels st the mo and reading a review ARC of another. They're mauling my shiny new baby's proposed opening.
 

Tanniel

Hired Nicomo Cosca, famed soldier of fortune
#20
Same question for Tanniel about his best reader.
I have a bit of luck in having studied literature at university, meaning I have a large circle of friends who ended up working as publishers/editors or with experience in the field. I simply contacted all of them and asked for their help, sending my book at various stages to them. Some of them I had already made use of when writing short stories as practice and knew what to expect from them in terms of critique. By reviewing the critique I received back, I determined who was most useful as alpha reader, beta reader etc.

What would you say about someone who writes for another person? For instance, I believe Tolkien originally wrote the Hobbit for his children.
I'm sure one could come up with outside examples- though many of such may be able to consolidated into the three categories... it seems like it would be an interesting exercise at any rate.
You're right that the same person can waver back and forth - even in my very short and meagre career, I have already written different things for different reasons. Perhaps it is more correct to think of these categories as what drives someone to start writing in the first place, but over time, that drive can change or take on aspects of the other categories - like Tolkien writing something just for his children, which sounds like the first category, though his obsession with language and given how early he started making up stories makes him a prime candidate for the third category.