Join us as we chat with author and influencer David Gaughran about advertising and marketing for authors, as well as his own fiction career. And possibly we’ll get really deep into the roots of Calypso music in 1920s Trinidad & Tobago, per his request. Visit David online at

Episode Notes

David Guaghran is an author and inde-author influencer who pens works of fiction between guides to help the self-publishing community. In this interview, David talks about the benefits of marketing using Facebook and BookBub advertising.

Find more about David and his work at

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David Gaughran—Marketing and Advertising for Authors

Kevin Tumlinson  0:01

Hey, everybody, thanks for tuning in for another D2D Spotlight. I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while, ever since I reached out to book him, because I was really curious how much beard we were going to get in the frame. But I’m talking to our good friend David Gaughran—author, influencer, man of great beard girth, and sporter of an “Okay, Oklahoma” t-shirt, man. Look at that, representin’! That’s D2D’s home turf. How you doing, man?

David Gaughran  0:50

I’m good, man. Good to see you, Kevin. Hello to everyone else. Yeah, I actually made this t-shirt myself. I was over at a conference in Oklahoma last year, so I decided to make up a t-shirt and use, like, you know, whatever cheap tricks possible to get the crowd on my side nice and early. I’m not above that kind of thing, as you might know.

Kevin Tumlinson  1:09

Yeah, that was popular. I didn’t realize you made it yourself, man. I might need to talk to you about getting one.

David Gaughran  1:15

Yeah, you can, you can. And it’s just something I’ve been doing, messing around in Canva for the last year or two, just as practice to try and get try and get better at it. Because, you know, as we might talk about in a moment, branding and all that kind of thing has become so important over the last few years. I’ve just been trying to get better at designing little bits and pieces. So I just do little fun things like this just to practice.

Kevin Tumlinson  1:39

So, is stuff like that gonna be part of your merch offering, the way you’re marketing yourself?

David Gaughran  1:48

Well, maybe, man, maybe I’ll start doing merch. But at the moment, it’s just me messing around for fun and just trying to improve my skills.

Kevin Tumlinson  1:57

Yeah, well, why not? And Canva is, you know, cheap if not free. I mean, depending on how you’re coming in. I went ahead and paid for it because I use it so much. Like, I get so many things out of it.

David Gaughran  2:09

Yeah, me too. They quite sneakily added a few features that once you’ve had a taste of them, like being able to do that magic resizing and stuff, I don’t think I could go back to the free version now.

Kevin Tumlinson  2:22

I know, I know. That is real handy. And I cheat—sometimes I’ll do something in Photoshop, and I’ll bring it into Canva to do fancier stuff. Or not fancier, but to make some things easier.

David Gaughran  2:33

Oh really, so you actually know you actually know how to use Photoshop but you’ll still use Canva now and then?

Kevin Tumlinson  2:39

Yeah, because it’s faster. If I need a quick graphic, I can do it in seconds in Canva. But if I want to do it in Photoshop, it does take longer, you know? Because there’s all kinds of things, you get off in the weeds. But Photoshop is also, you know, it’s made for someone to go in and hands on design. Canva more automated. So there you go.

David Gaughran  3:01

It’s for dummies like me, you mean?

Kevin Tumlinson  3:04

Yeah, no, it’s good. I’m curious to see what you—because I know you do all your blog graphics, email, newsletter graphics and stuff in there?

David Gaughran  3:14

Yeah, pretty much everything except for the book covers. I’ll leave that to the pros, but um, all the other stuff—my newsletter graphics, Facebook ads, BookBub ads, you know, website, graphics, all that stuff. And it’s just so much easier now. I used to hire people to do it, or try and lean on people for favors. But just being able to do it all yourself. And I actually just love doing it.

Because, you know, like, we’re doing this thing now where we’re writing books and trying to try to get people to buy them and try and improve our craft all the time. So there’s always—you don’t have that sense of pure play maybe that you had when you were first starting out and just writing for yourself. So for me, actually, my favorite part of my week every week is designing the header for my newsletter every week. And I just love doing it because it’s just pure creative play, and there’s no pressure on it to be brilliant or whatever, you know. So I just get to enjoy the process and not worry about whether it’s going to get a one star review or not.

Kevin Tumlinson  4:06

Right? Yeah, exactly. It is nice to create knowing that there’s not necessarily a Sword of Damocles hanging over your head.

David Gaughran  4:14

Yeah. Or, it’s something that’s not under pressure to put food on the table, you know?

Kevin Tumlinson  4:18

Yeah, exactly. So that’s, uh, okay. And I want to add one more thing about Canva and we can move on. Because that’s not why you’re here necessarily, although we can talk about Canva the whole time.

David Gaughran  4:31

Did I blow up the agenda within 10 seconds?

Kevin Tumlinson  4:33

Eh, there was no agenda. So you mentioned covers, and I do tell authors, like, if you don’t have a budget, and you have no other means of doing it, Canva does have an e-book cover template. And you can do some pretty cool stuff with it. So—and you can make it an original cover. It doesn’t have to, you know, it won’t be a template you’re gonna see in a thousand places. So, it’s pretty good.

David Gaughran  4:56

I might give it a go someday. You know, I’ve got my pen stuff coming in a bit. So maybe for that I’ll give it a whirl or at least try it first before, you know, splashing the cash.

Kevin Tumlinson  5:07

When I have like a novella or something, and I’m just gonna put it out there—if I don’t want to get deep into trying to design, I’ll do a quick cover on Canva just to just to make something available, you know. So just a tip.

So okay, speaking of marketing, that happens to be one of your “fields of expertise,” we’ll say. And I agree with this, you’re very good at the marketing. So that’s why we wanted to have you here, man. But one of the things that you do that a lot of people ask about all the time—and it’s really difficult for me to answer these questions about advertising, because there’s so many different platforms, there’s so many different ways to go. But you’ve actually done the majority, the biggest platforms that authors tend to lean in on. What’s your sort of strategy when it comes to advertising?

David Gaughran  6:01

Well, that’s quite a tricky question. I think the first thing to do is to recognize, you know, first your own your own strengths and weaknesses, and also to look at what each platform is particularly good at, because I don’t think they’re all good at the same things. And it’s just in terms of my own strengths and weaknesses. Amazon ads has always been the one that has given me the most trouble. I can eke out decent results now and then, but I find it hard to string that along consistently, or to ramp it up to a really meaningful scale like I can with Facebook and BookBub. So I recognize that weakness that I have personally, and I just use Amazon ads for a very, very specific task, which is nailing down those autobots on Amazon right after release.

And you know, I will have a small amount of campaigns running and I will try and catch a wave here and there, but I lean more on the things that I’m good at, that I’m comfortable with, that I know how to use. When it comes to Facebook ads and BookBub ads, I probably use them both equally at the moment, like spend similar amounts on both platforms. Even though the audience is that much larger on Facebook ads, I’ve been able to get some very good results with BookBub ads. But I’m often not aiming at the same authors, right? So I find Facebook generally—and especially the way it’s changing in the last couple of years. And I think this is something people need to wrap their heads around. Like if they were getting good results on Facebook in 2015, 2016, and they’re not in the last couple of years, it might be because they haven’t kind of shifted with the way Facebook is going.

Facebook is trying to make it easier for everyone to advertise there. And it’s trying to make it easier for you to target these larger, broader audiences. At least, that’s been my experience. So I find Facebook ads generally, it’s a lot easier to target like those big trad authors, you know, those household names, the guys in the airport bookstores. And then BookBub, at least for me and how I use the platform, I find it much more effective drilling right down and those kind of small to medium-sized indies or smaller trad authors, I find I get much better results with that. And I end up in pretty much the same place in terms of, you know, CTR, CPC, and just raw sales. But just targeting totally different audiences and just being aware of what each platform is good at what I’m actually good at and not good at, too.

Kevin Tumlinson  8:23

Yeah. So let’s talk about Facebook for a second. So Facebook ads, there seems to be two camps. And one of them is using Facebook ads for sales, trying to move readers to buy the book. And the other is moving them to join your mailing list. Do you do both of those things? Or do you lean heavily on one or the other?

David Gaughran  8:44

I mostly use it for sales, and I mostly use it specifically when I’m running, like, a discount or doing a launch or in a kind of a limited window and I’d like to go really big for you know, five days, seven days and then ease off. I might have some very small ads running outside of that, but I generally like to concentrate my ad spend when it can get the maximum effect and then try and just coast once the promo is over.

Other people do it in very different ways, even when they’re just looking for sales. Some people are very comfortable and get good results from having ads constantly running. And again, this depends on what you’re good at, but also your own circumstances for your business. Like, until recently I didn’t have any permafrees. But now that I have a permafree, it makes more sense to start exploring more kind of constant, always-on promos than going for those, you know, big bursts of sales. So it really depends on your strategy.

And you know, someone who’s maybe a wide author rather than someone who’s in KU is going to be leaning on different tools, or going to be using different tools. An email list is always important, of course, but it’s much a bigger part of the puzzle if you’re a wide author, just like using something like BookBub feature deals will be a much bigger part of the puzzle for a wide author because they’re more likely to get them. So you’ve got to recognize your circumstances. I always try not to swim against the tide too much. Like, if Facebook is forcing me towards bigger targets and bigger audiences, I’ve learned it’s best not to fight that and just go with it.

Kevin Tumlinson  10:11

Yeah. Okay, before I ask the next question I want to tell everybody watching, no matter where you are—Facebook or YouTube—make sure you’re asking questions in the comments, because in the last 15 minutes of the broadcast, we’ll answer your questions live. Actually, I tried pre-recording answers to everyone’s questions once and it didn’t pan out. So make sure you’re asking those questions we’ll get to in the last 15 minutes.

So I wanted to, you know—BookBub has become a big player in the ad game. So a lot of us already know about the feature deals. The ad platform isn’t entirely new, now. It’s been around for a while. You’ve actually—you’re the guy who literally wrote the book on the subject.

David Gaughran  10:55

I think I’m still able to say it’s the best book on BookBub ads. Because it’s the only book on BookBub ads, so I can still say it out with a straight face.

Kevin Tumlinson  11:04

I’m gonna throw in—my good friend Nick Packer did release a book on BookBub ads. I’m just gonna throw it out there, it’s not competitive.

David Gaughran  11:10

Wasn’t his more about the platform in general, like how to get featured deals and how to use the full features of the platform, rather than [inaudible]. Which means, which is great. I don’t have to—

Kevin Tumlinson  11:20

I think you’re complimentary, is the—

David Gaughran  11:22

Yeah, I don’t have to take out a hit on him or anything.

Kevin Tumlinson  11:27

You guys would get your beards all tangled.

David Gaughran  11:30

Yeah, no, I look forward to reading that actually, and seeing what tips he has to share, because I think it’s always good to expose yourself to as much information as possible. The only reason I haven’t read it yet, actually, is because I’m just working on a couple of nonfiction books myself at the moment. And I have such a magpie eye that I can’t read in the same niche that I’m currently writing in until I’m done with that book, or else I’ll start finding like phrases and things just start creeping in just because I’m thinking about them. So I have to kind of like, just keep my mind kind of pure, you know? I just read like science fiction when I’m working on historical fiction, or just read historical fiction when I’m working on science fiction. I have to stay away from what I’m working on.

Kevin Tumlinson  12:09

Yeah, yeah, no, I understand. I get caught in that too. And there’s so many nonfiction books I want to write, but that, you know, I love the fiction. I don’t know, I get torn. And I could do like a book in the morning and a book in the afternoon and keep it separate that way if I needed to. But then I come away exhausted.

David Gaughran  12:30

Yeah, like, sometimes I get into that groove where I’m doing fiction in the morning and nonfiction in the afternoon, because I find I need more creative energy to do to do fiction. But for me personally, anyway, I find I can only do that for a little while before my brain starts to melt completely. I start talking about Facebook ads in the middle of, you know, 1800s Tasmania, or something like that. You know, break the fourth wall fairly conclusively, and you might want to do that.

Kevin Tumlinson  12:57

Yeah, yeah. Keep your silos separate. So I think you were the one who actually originally told me about some of the things that BookBub ads can do that I found kind of surprising. Like you can actually—among other things, you can actually use a BookBub ad to send people to your own page, your own website. Where your book is available.

David Gaughran  13:19

Yeah, I think, you know, I think because—when you’re creating a Bookbub ad, the system kind of prompts you to associate a book with it right away. And people then assume that if you can’t do that, you can’t move forward from that step. That’s actually an optional step. And that, once you realize that, it frees you up to do all sorts of cool things. Like one thing I talked a lot about in my book that people are getting amazing results from is running ads to their series pages on Amazon. But then another thing people don’t realize you can do is running ads to your own site.

Now, I should very clearly say that BookBub has a rule against using ads to generate leads, so you can’t use it to run ads to your reader magnet, for example. And that’s a very strict prohibition against that, so don’t even try it.

But if you’re doing something like I was doing—I think it was last September or October, I was doing a big group promotion with another 11 or 12 authors. And because it was a wide promotion, and we were putting all the books on one page, and some of us had several books in the promotion, I think they were all 99 cents. And there were just gonna be so many links and, you know, we’re all sharing with our lists and doing all the usual cross-promotional things. But you couldn’t put all those links in an email or else you know, most of those emails are going to end up in spam or not get read at all.

Yeah, so we just wanted one link. And it’s just easier to focus everyone’s attention on sharing one link. Share this link with your list, share it on Facebook, share it wherever you have a platform. And then on that page itself, we built out all the links, and they had geo-targeting and all that fancy stuff. So if someone in Australia clicked on the Amazon link, it would take them to the right store that had all the Kobo links and wherever anyone was buying books. And we were actually able to run BookBub ads to that page.

People don’t realize you can do that and BookBub are perfectly happy with that. As long as it’s going to a page where someone can buy books or click one link and get taken to a retailer, they’re perfectly fine with that. And they were actually hugely effective, and we were watching conversion as well, because that’s always the worry when you put in an extra step. But I think whenever we were losing from the people who might have been annoyed they weren’t getting taken straight to Amazon—and there always be a few of those—or straight to Kobo or whatever their retailer is. Whatever we were losing on that, we were more than making up for in in terms of conversion. Especially because people were making multiple purchases, they were all buying several books each. I think the average purchaser on the page was buying something like 2.6 books or something like that, which is huge on a promotion like that.

And yeah, like being able to throw something like BookBub ads at that wasn’t something I’d tried before. And I was a bit wary, like, you know, are people going to click on this and are they actually going to complete the sale? Are they going to click through to the retailers? Will this be a useful way to spend money? And it was actually extremely effective and it’ll be one of the first things I do next time I do a promo like that.

Kevin Tumlinson  16:02

Yeah, I love that whole idea. You know, what would make that really easy is if you used the D2D Reading Lists for that. I’m just saying.

David Gaughran  16:12

Yeah. Well, that’s a very good idea. I’m gonna have to explore that the next time, Kevin.

Kevin Tumlinson  16:18

Because then you get the affiliate dollars, too.

David Gaughran  16:20

Yeah, I’m pretty sure we were using books to read links. But we were also, I think we gave people the option. I think we wanted to put everything in just because we weren’t sure whether, you know, this was going to be like ….. If we were testing this BookBub thing, and then people weren’t converting, I wouldn’t have known if that was the fault of not using the direct links, or what, so you want to just minimize the variables in a kind of a test scenario like that.

Kevin Tumlinson  16:44

Yeah, no, I’m with you. You’re very scientific method. You always have been. And we’ve—I think we’ve actually had like an in-depth discussion about that, like the last time we hung out, I think, like the whole scientific method. I have a vague memory.

David Gaughran  17:01

For a second, I thought you were talking about the famous last podcast Kevin, the greatest podcast of all time that you accidentally deleted.

Kevin Tumlinson  17:09

We don’t speak of the lost podcast. I’ve never, you’re the only person that’s ever happened to for me.

David Gaughran  17:16

I’m still so traumatized by that, my performance has been about 20% lower in all subsequent podcasts and I totally blame you for that.

Kevin Tumlinson  17:26

So if there’s been a dip in David’s sales or his productivity, you can trace it back to the Wordslinger podcast.

David Gaughran  17:34

That’s where it all started to go wrong.

Kevin Tumlinson  17:36

That’s right. It all went downhill. It even booted you out of your own country and shoved you into a whole other country.

David Gaughran  17:41

Yeah, I think I might have actually libeled someone in that podcast so maybe you were doing me a favor.

Kevin Tumlinson  17:46

It’s probably for the best. The universe looks out for you, right? Because I think we mentioned—we named names, I remember, over a certain incident that we won’t go into.

David Gaughran  17:57

Yeah, no. I think that’s good.

Kevin Tumlinson  18:02

So it all worked out for the best. So um, moving on very quickly. So, BookBub ads have been very useful to me. I mean, and you’re the one who turned me on to this stuff. And then Ernie Dempsey was the one who kind of explained what you were explaining so that I understood it better. He used slower words, smaller words. You guys just blow my mind, by the way. Like how do you have the time to dig in and find, discover how to do this stuff and still write books? How do you do that?

David Gaughran  18:36

I don’t know man, maybe that’s part of the reason why I’m a slower writer. I don’t know. But I like playing around with this stuff. Like, I did definitely have the advantage of coming from—like I’ve been working in digital advertising and digital marketing for, on and off for over 15 years now. So right, like that’s a huge advantage to have, and specifically at the interface between marketing and tech, so, you know, none of these concepts were that alien to me when, you know—

But the funny thing is, I didn’t really get into advertising books myself that strongly until three or four years ago. I was just more focused on other things like content marketing, blogging, and that side of things and figuring out the algorithms. And when the ad explosion took off, then I was like, “Okay, let’s take a look at this.” And, you know, some of it was a lot different to what I was used to, which was Google AdWords specifically. But once you get your head around the ways in which each platform is different—and they are different even in more ways than, you know, the audience that you’re targeting. But once you get your head around that, and then as I said before, don’t fight those quirks, you know, just try and embrace them. And once you take that approach, I think, you know, it’s a lot easier to start getting somewhere.

Kevin Tumlinson  19:48

Yeah, yeah, I agree. Yeah, it’s been interesting. I have started diving into some of that stuff more and more, following your example and other people’s examples. So I’m starting to learn the ins and outs of some of that stuff. I’ve always been very content oriented, so it’s a little bit of a shift.

David Gaughran  20:09

Yeah, it’s cool. Like, you know, there’s all these tools that we can use, you know, and people can have a good career without ever running an ad of their life. People can have a good career without ever sending an email in their life or writing a blog post. But it’s about putting the pieces together in a certain way, which will, you know, just make your life a little bit easier. Like, content marketing is great. I love it. And it has been very effective for me on certainly on the nonfiction side of my business, but I don’t think it’s so effective at fiction. Well, certainly not blogging, I think directly. I think there are very smart ways that you can use content marketing to build up an audience and I’ve actually been experimenting with a fair bit of that myself for my historical fiction name. And that that has been a lot of fun, you know, and just posting like short little stories on Facebook, and sometimes turning them into ads and not even looking to sell something, just trying to build up a few likes on the page, build up an audience who is engaged, and then trying to sell them something.

So like content marketing is useful, but it’s a slower burn, right? Like you can’t—let’s say you have a launch next week. Okay, you might be able to do a bit of outreach, you might be able to do some guest posts and stuff. But there’s kind of a ceiling to that. And it’s not like you can just—like with BookBub ads, you can just, you know, fire up a campaign and dump a bunch of money in it and throw your book into the charts. You can’t do that with content marketing. It takes much more planning, it’s more of a slower burn. It’s a bit of a lag before you see the results. It’s not so direct.

So it’s good to have those tools at your fingertips, like when you need—like one of the things I love using BookBub ads for in particular is to have a “get out of jail free” card, because it is the most responsive platform in terms of, you know … Like if I fire up an ad on Facebook, it can take a few hours, sometimes even overnight before it gets approved, depending on whether there’s a word in there that the robots aren’t happy with. And then if Amazon likes it your ads can go live reasonably quickly. But the lag and reporting, sometimes you’re waiting three days before you find out if the ad is a stinker or not.

And with BookBub, you can throw money in there, you can fire up an ad and start serving almost right away and start spending your money almost right away. The reporting might take an hour or two sometimes to come in, but that ad is serving and it’s spending money, like right away. So I always like to keep a bit of my promo budget, whether it’s for a launch or a backlist thing, I always like to keep a little bit in reserve, and I will drop that money fast on BookBub if something goes wrong. Maybe someone that I was doing a list swap with couldn’t get their email out that day, and I’ve got a big gap in my launch. And you know, there’s all sorts of things that can go wrong, especially with the kind of more involved marketing plans that we tend to have these days versus when I started. There’s so many moving parts that, you know, there’s so many things that can and often there’s at least one thing that will go wrong during launch. So I like to keep a couple hundred dollars in reserve and get ready just to drop that on BookBub ads. Just to keep things relatively even-keel, you know. I always like to have a reasonably similar amount of sales every day during a promotion. I think that usually for the algorithms that usually works out the best.

Kevin Tumlinson  23:12

Yeah. So in terms of the Facebook ads, are there some best practices that you kind of lean in on? Like, do you—for example, boosted posts. Do you use boosted posts?

David Gaughran  23:24

Well, when I’m giving out advice on something like BookBub, I’d be much more prescriptive, saying: “Do it this way. Don’t do it another way.” Facebook is such a complex system that you you can probably do anything any way really, and make it work. So I want to stress that this isn’t prescriptive advice.

But what has worked very well for me, definitely, is using the book cover in the ad. I know that’s a point of argument, often, between self-publishers. This might be down to genre in a lot of cases. Like, I see romance authors getting wonderful results on Facebook, not using their book cover at all. And, you know, if something’s working for you, don’t change it, or just try out one thing with a smaller ad and just compare the results.

But I find when I’m doing something like science fiction, if you don’t use the book cover or if you’re just using an image of, you know, robots or spaceships blowing up or something, it will get great clicks. And sometimes it will get a better CTR than using the book cover. Sometimes your CPC will be lower. And all of those metrics, it looks like the ad is doing better. But then when you factor in conversion, I find there’s a dip in conversion when you don’t use the book cover. At least that’s what I’ve seen, over lots and lots of campaigns and in a couple of different genres.

And my personal belief is that—firstly, especially in a genre, maybe this is less the case in romance. But in something like science fiction, someone sees that image, like it could conceivably be for a video game, it could be for a movie, it could be for a TV show, and I don’t think people often read the description that clearly. Especially if it’s a really, really cool image, you know, like if it has that what I call the “trifecta of space porn,” which is the laser, the exploding ship and the planet in the background. You know, that that would just get clicks on its own. And people might not read that clearly, they might think it’s a mobile game or anything else.

So I think that’s one of the reasons why conversion can tank in those genres, and maybe you don’t see that as much in romance. But the other reason—and this is more of a theory, I don’t have a lot of solid data on this. But my theory is that, you know, especially, this is more of a problem on Amazon than the other retailers. Because if, you know, if you send a reader to your Kobo page, there’s not too many distractions on that page, you know. There’s not that many click-aways, not compared to, like, the craziness when someone arrives on your Amazon page, especially Amazon U.S.

I think, during a book launch a couple of years ago, I actually counted the number of books that were being advertised on my page. And I use the word advertised loosely. I mean, in all those kind of slots everywhere, not just the Amazon ads, but the also-boughts. Little places where Amazon will have, you know, other products and books. And there was 248 other titles being advertised on my page. So I was, you know, spending all this time and money and effort driving as much traffic as possible to that page. And there was 248 other books trying to woo away that reader that I had paid to bring to the ball, you know? And so there’s all this noise on your Amazon page. And I think, especially with Amazon, if a reader pauses, there’s a chance you’re going to lose them.

And I just think sometimes if the ad image doesn’t line up with the image they see on the page—that’s what the eye is drawn to first, is that book cover when they get to your retailer page. And if they do have a cool image that’s getting clicks, and then they click through, and they don’t see the book cover, I think they just pause and I think there’s a chance that you’ll lose them to someone advertising underneath your book, or one of the other hundreds of things that Amazon has there to distract them.

So I always like to keep that experience smooth and as frictionless as possible between the ad and the landing page experience. So like even these days, I will use very similar language between my blurb, my description, and the ad text. And often I will use the same opening line—usually that’s a good and hookey tagline or something that’s drawing readers in. So you know, if that’s selling the book really well on your Amazon page or your Kobo page, it should have the same or similar effectiveness as the ad text on a Facebook page. So I try and line everything up so nothing is causing them to pause, and they just complete the transaction as quickly as possible.

Kevin Tumlinson  27:32

Yeah. How about video? I’ve heard a lot of people recommend using video in their advertising on Facebook.

David Gaughran  27:40

Video is really fascinating on Facebook for a couple of reasons. Firstly, obviously, it’s something that jumps out of the feed. I think, you know, a lot of people are just kind of scrolling, scrolling, scrolling on Facebook, and sometimes they don’t even realize they’re doing it or they’ve been doing it for a while. I think it’s deliberately designed in that way to kind of trap you there.

And so anything that jumps out of the feed is always good. And video tends to do that especially if—you might have noticed yourself, if you’re scrolling down through Facebook, you pause for a second and the video will start following you so it’s got a chance of reeling you back in if you’ve scrolled past. But there is a bit of a danger there though, you know, if your video …. I know some people are doing very short videos because they think people have a short attention span. So they might just do something like a tick tock video, you know, like, eight seconds or even less or something. And they’re doing really short videos and I understand their logic, but I would I would urge them just to try a longer video. Try 60 seconds, try 45 seconds. And if most people aren’t engaged by that, great. Because what you’re looking to do is, you’re looking to siphon off the most engaged people. You’re actually looking to turn off people and that’s something I have, you know, a lifetime’s of expertise that I could deploy in this moment. I was born for this moment. Here we go.

So yeah, you want to turn off people. So what I often—what I sometimes do with video is and I think this is gonna, you know, be something that’s gonna be tricky for people on Facebook over the next little while. I think some authors have noticed that, you know, they might have established five or six or seven really good authors that they target regularly on Facebook. And lately they’ve been disappearing. I’ve talked to a couple authors now who have said that their targets, you know, they spent time and money establishing that these audiences work for them on Facebook, and Facebook suddenly pulls it away overnight. And then what do you do, you know? You’ve got a launch coming up and you don’t know who to advertise to.

Video can be great when you need to reach out to a broader audience, like I was running some science fiction ads, and couldn’t target any of the comp authors. And you can’t even target science fiction as a book genre on Facebook, or at least you couldn’t when I was running this campaign, so I had to run out to the science fiction films. So now you’re going to a broader audience, these guys might not even read. And you know, this could be a waste of money and it’s certainly a really, really cold audience to just say, “Hey, I’ve got a book out, you know, do you want to buy it?”

So with an audience like that, a colder, broader audience, I might run a cool piece of video and it might be 45 seconds, might be 60 seconds long. And I won’t even try and sell anything, I won’t even tell them to like my page, I won’t even tell him to sign up to my list. But then I’ll run maybe a few days later, an ad, only targeting the people that watched up to the 30-second mark and beyond. And Facebook allows you that level of granularity with video, and you can only do this with video, you can’t do it with anything else.

So you can say, I only want to target the people who watched, you know, 75% of this video or up to a certain point, it’s really really granular, and you can do it on each specific video as well. So if there’s a certain point where you feel people are committed—like I’ve got a 60-second video that someone watches … I’ve actually tested this, you know, I tested it like running ads to someone who’s watched 45 seconds versus 30 seconds. And usually if they’ve watched half a minute long video on Facebook, they’re usually really good targets for ads.

And then when a few days later or a week later, I’d run the ad you know with the new release or the sale, whatever it is you’re pushing, just targeting the people that have watched 30 seconds of that video. And the CTR on those ads was crazy. It was starting out at like 15% and then it would go down to 10%. And holding there, which is excellent. And certainly with that audience that’s a really, especially if you’re not pushing a free book or anything, that’s a really great CTR. And of course that CTR then drives your clicks down really, really cheaply. And once you’re getting those cheap clicks, and you see they’re converting, then you can turn it off.

And boom, you’ve actually carved out your own audience and one that no one else can easily target. So you’re kind of getting ahead of everyone else. And I think that should be your long-term strategy with Facebook, and not just targeting authors, because they can disappear overnight. But building your own custom audiences, your own databases—like your mailing list is one, your website traffic is another ,people who engage with your page is another. Build up those custom audiences, because those are going to be more effective long term anyway. And also it’s an insurance policy against Facebook, as they do every couple of years, changing up who you can target on Facebook.

Kevin Tumlinson  31:55

Right. And I just want to add Cheap Clicks is Gaughran’s cover band.

David Gaughran  32:05

That’d be a great, great name for a band. And end it with an X as well, Cheap Clix.

Kevin Tumlinson  32:10

End it with an X. So man, this is good. And I know we go, I definitely see some questions popping in. So we’re going to get to the Q&A now. But everybody watching, feel free to keep asking questions as we go. So we’ll get to as many as we can. But first up, we have this question coming in from Facebook: Is BookBub ads viable for nonfiction books? Seems hard to target in the same way you can with fiction.

David Gaughran  32:37

Well, yes and no. Like, I’ve been able to run successful campaigns for nonfiction, but I’ve seen other authors in different niches kind of struggle. What I would say is, you know, try something like a little outside of what you might usually target. Because it really depends, right? What I would say is, for BookBub ads, just like with any platform, and this goes for Amazon ads, Facebook ads, BookBub ads, you need to develop a unique list of comp authors for each platform. Because each platform is different. You will be surprised at the variance you will get. Okay, you’ll have some really close comp authors that might work for you on all platforms. But I often find my list of comp authors can vary greatly between platform and platform. So you’ve got to, you might have to kiss a few frogs, with certain nonfiction niches, but just keep testing. Do those little $5, $10, $15 tests. And when you get something that that seems workable, then just start iterating the image to see if you can get a better response and just get those clicks cost down to where you need to be.

Kevin Tumlinson  33:40

What’s a good target for costs?

David Gaughran  33:43

Well, I hate giving out a number and everyone always wants a number, which I understand. Because it really, really depends, you know. The click cost that someone who has a 10 book series with excellent sellthrough can tolerate is much much different than the click cost for someone with a trilogy, where there’s a big drop-off after book two because of a controversial cliffhanger or whatever. So you have to establish that. And it’s important to go through that process to establish what click cost you can tolerate and still make a profit.

But everyone hates that answer, so I’ll just say 2%. Because usually, if you’re getting a CTR—and I recommend doing CPM ads, you know, because that will work out cheaper in the long run once your ads are good. If you’re getting a CTR of about 2%, that will, for me, that usually brings click cost down below 50 cents. And that’s usually something I can work with. And I like to aim for a bit higher than that. So that gives me room to scale the ad. But 2% I think when you’re testing, if you’re getting anything above 1.5% during your test, I would start separating out those authors and then running different images to see if you can improve that and get it up to 2, 2 and a half, even 3%. And sometimes higher, sometimes higher if you get a really good match, sometimes you can get a little bit higher.

Kevin Tumlinson  34:56

Yeah, I like it. Okay, so do you give your email list links to your books using both Amazon and Books2Read links and/or BookBub?

David Gaughran  35:08

This is a constant. I don’t think anyone has a good answer for this question, right? I think everyone is always testing the thresholds on this. At least, I certainly am. And one thing that I would recommend when testing your own thresholds …. And I recommend, sign up to your own list. Set up a dummy Gmail address that you never ever forward stuff to or use for anything, just use it for testing your email list. I actually have two because I’m pretty anal. So I have two Gmail addresses that I only use for this purpose. Sign up to your list. It’s also good to see your onboard or firing your welcome sequence. See how it looks from the other side of the fence, make sure everything’s all hunky dory. But when you’re—like when I’m sending out my newsletter, I will first do a test send to those email addresses. I want to see, first of all, how the email looks. Secondly, whether it’s going into spam or whether, you know, it doesn’t arrive at all. And thirdly, and this is the one that I actually have to spend the most time on, whether it’s landing into promotions tab or going straight into inbox. And you obviously want it to go straight into inbox, or you’re going to see a big dip in that open rate.

So the question then is, you know, how, where is the threshold? How many links can I include? If my sales are only 1% on Google Play, is it worth putting that link in there and possibly dropping my open rate by 5%? You know, these are the things you have to figure out for yourself. What I often do is put in the Amazon link, and then the Books2Read link, or the Amazon link and my website link. I play around with a few different ones to see what reader response is like. Will they prefer using Books2Read, or will they prefer going to my site and then choosing their retailer? And I don’t have a clear answer on which is better, I’m still kind of testing that out.

But I would say, sign up to your own list, test a few different things. And there’s actually other ways that you can stay out of that promotions tab other than reducing links. Like reducing images I find has a bigger effect. And look out for spammy words, both in the email itself … There’s a list—you can Google it—of the words that will add to your spam score. And it’s cumulative as well. So if you use the word “free” 20 times in your email that’s going to add up, increase your spam score. If you use the word “free” in your subject line, that increases it a lot. I remember, I had a problem getting out my reader magnet for a while. I was just getting a lot of emails from people—and you always get a few, but I was getting a lot of people saying they weren’t receiving it. And it was because I changed my subject line to kind of set it up a bit, and I put the word “free” in there. And so it was going to a lot of spam folders or, you know, the promotions tab. But once I changed it to “here’s your complimentary book,” or “here’s the book I promised,” or something like that, then it was going straight into inbox.

Kevin Tumlinson  37:43

That’s a good point actually, yeah.

David Gaughran  37:44

You, it’s really important to test your email send and don’t just don’t just take it by  chance. Sometimes it’s something silly like that. And you’d be able to squeeze in a few more links, and it’s just by changing the word free out. So test everything.

Kevin Tumlinson  37:56

Yeah. Okay, so this gentleman on YouTube is asking, Is there a way that you would recommend to use BookBub ads in conjunction with a featured deal to maximize the spike/long term sales?

David Gaughran  38:12

Yeah, I’ve seen I’ve seen a few cool approaches to this. And I would definitely watch what romance authors do in particular, because they’re always at the cutting edge and trying new things. But my personal feeling is that I like to run the featured deals directly after …. Or sorry, I like to run the BookBub ads directly after the featured deals because I feel like I’m going to hit that same audience in a much more kind of prominent way, and a way with much more social proof when that featured deals email goes out, and then I can follow up in the days afterwards. I can scoop up any stragglers, maybe people that saw the deal and then got distracted by something or didn’t complete the transaction for whatever reason. If they see an ad in their email the following day, there’s a pretty good chance I’m going to get that person and finish converting that sale. So I prefer to swoop in afterwards. But sometimes that’s not always possible. Depending on, you know, maybe you have a countdown deal and the featured deal is running towards the end of that window. So I wouldn’t sweat it too much if you’re, you know, doing a few ads beforehand. But if you have a choice in the way that you set it up, definitely run the BookBub ads afterwards.

And also consider like—let’s say, for example, you’re doing a free Book 1. A pretty common strategy, that people will make their Book 1 free for a few days, or make it permafree. And let’s say you have a feature deal on that Book 1, you might consider now …. I find BookBub such a deal hungry audience that you have to—like, you will see a big drop off in sell through between a free deal and to $4.99, for example. So consider for a day, or a few days, making that book, just reducing that step up in price. Put it at 99 cents for a couple of days around the time of your featured deal. And then try and sell that book in the bottom of the email where the featured deal is going out. Consider doing that as well.

Or you can have deals running across the series. Sometimes people run staggered price cuts throughout the series to try and get people to purchase as many of the books in your series as possible at once. Which I find not only, you know, not only have you sold more books and really got your hooks into a reader, I find there’s way less chance of a book just kind of languishing on someone’s e-reader for months unread, as can happen when you’re doing a free promotion. And you know, you have tens of thousands of people downloading your book from a featured deal. Sometimes, you know, a huge chunk of those will go unread, but I find if you can sell them two or three books from your series at once, it tends to jump right to the top of their TBR.

Kevin Tumlinson  40:47

You know, I’ve had discussions with people about the idea of running BookBub ads alongside your feature. I think you were the first person to tell me about that. You usually are.

David Gaughran  40:59

I might’ve been.

Kevin Tumlinson  41:01

Sounds like a good idea. This one’s for me, man. Question for Kevin: will throwing salt over my shoulder protect me from the curse of the Wordslinger podcast, or should I get a candle involved? I personally fall back on burning chicken bones under a full moon while dancing naked. So what you do is up to you. So we have, Regina asked, Mercenary was just published in January, how did you get to number one so fast?

David Gaughran  41:28

If I’m number one, that’s definitely news to me. So maybe I’ll have to run out and get some champagne. It was actually a republishing of that book that I did because I finally did something that I’ve been talking about doing for a couple of years, which was to republish all my fiction under a slightly different name. Because I made the mistake, when starting out of publishing—like everything under the same name, nonfiction, and fiction. Or nonfiction, historical fiction, science fiction as well, which was pretty foolish.

So for the last few years, I’ve been separating all my authorial identities. That’s a tricky one to say. My writerly identities. And separate, you know, separate mailing lists, separate websites, separate Facebook pages. And I relaunched, the first tranche of historical fiction all relaunched in January. I made a permafree, I made that book permafree, and I took another book off sale and made it an exclusive reader magnet, which was a pretty aggressive move when I only have three historical novels out now, to put one of them permafree and take another one and make it free. But the aim is to aggressively build up that new list in time for a launch, which might be three months away or something like that. So in the meantime, that’s kind of possibly taking away in the background for me, generating new signups all the time that are working their way through my new onboarder. I think the onboarder or takes five or six months to complete, which I hope will just be in time that will keep them you know, warmed up and interested, and then I’ll—bam, I’ll have a new book for them. That’s the plan, anyway.

Kevin Tumlinson  43:00

I think it’s a good plan. I think it’s gonna work for you, somehow, some way.

David Gaughran  43:03

Yeah, I think I had a I think I had a Freebooksy or something yesterday, so it might be number one in a subcategory somewhere. I’m not sure.

Kevin Tumlinson  43:11

So this question is coming in from YouTube. How do you increase sales through Scribd? Any recommendations?

David Gaughran  43:19

I have absolutely no idea how to increase sales on Scribd. I don’t think anyone in the universe could answer that question. All I would recommend is that, and this goes for any platform, especially the platforms outside of Amazon, and especially for readers outside of America. And this is something I have to remind Americans about, especially, like—include links to all the retailers where you’re available on your website. That’s number one. And it’s surprising how many people won’t actually do that. They might only just put in, you know, Apple and Barnes & Noble and Amazon. And then you know, they’re applying for a Kobo promotion and the Kobo guys might check out the website or the Apple guys might check out the website and they see you haven’t even bothered to put their links on your website. And they’re like, “Well, why should we promote you if you won’t even put in links to our website?”

Kevin Tumlinson  44:05

That’s right. And you make that a little easier with our universal book links. Just throwing that out there.

David Gaughran  44:10

So yeah, I always make sure after I publish a book that I’m, you know, refreshing those Books2Read links, making sure that it’s picking up when the books get published at Scribd and everywhere else. And then I include those Books2Read links on my website. And if I don’t include them in my email, just because I’m worried about linkage, I will point people towards my website and say, wherever you like to read e-books, you’ll get your link there. Just treat your readers with respect, and international ones too. It’s amazing how many people don’t use, like, smart links or whatever on their website.

Kevin Tumlinson  44:43

There’s an outside America? All right, so we got time for I think one last question. So this is from Hannah. And Hannah asks, What would be your advice for authors with a minimal ad budget?

David Gaughran  44:57

Yeah, well, it gets more difficult every year to outline marketing strategies that don’t involve spending any money whatsoever. But one thing—I think Hannah writes epic fantasy, if I remember right, because I think I saw her cover on Facebook. She’s got the most amazing cover. So what I would recommend doing is, she might like to look at some of those content marketing strategies that I was talking about earlier, because that’s something that costs time rather than money. Like you always got to pay in some way, right? You’re either gonna be paying with time or money.

So consider setting up a Facebook page and just putting your reader hat on rather than your writer hat. Try and think about all the content that you, as a fan of the genre, like to consume. Like for my historical fiction audience, I’ve been posting different things like book reviews. I’ve been posting like little stories. I think I did a story the other day about the movie adaptation of Zorba the Greek. And it was, I think it was Anthony Quinn’s birthday or something, so I used that as an excuse just to post something about this book. And then people respond to that kind of passion, you know. You just do it strictly with a reader hat on. And I’ve been spending very little money on this.

And I’ve just been, every so often if I see one of the posts, like I think I did something on the history of the guillotine, which for some reason was resonant with people at the moment. But yeah, so that was getting a lot of reaction. And I just found some quirky story in history about how it was invented and used and all that kind of thing. And people were really responding to that. And I was tying it back into historical fiction and related books. So I turned that into a little bit of an ad, I think I spent a very small amount.

And that ad was getting shown to a lot of people just because it was getting so much organic play already, right? And lots of people were organically sharing it. And then lots of those people ended up liking my page. And then every so often, I will actually post about my books. I’ll say, “Oh, you know, you can get a free book for signing up to my mailing list here. You can get another free one on Amazon or wherever else if you click through to here.” But most of time I’m just sharing content one fan to another, and then every so often I’ll remind them, hey, I actually have stuff too. That definitely doesn’t cost anything, you know.

Kevin Tumlinson  47:09

Yeah, exactly. And you certainly do have stuff, and people can find your stuff at your website at

David Gaughran  47:19

They can, they can. Lot of stuff. They can get a free book. And actually, this is going to be their very last chance to get this free book because I think they get—right now they get a free copy of Amazon Dakota because I’m just about to turn that into a full paid-for and full-length book that’s going to be on sale and release probably in about a month or so. So you know, that reader magnet is going to swap out for something else, so this is your last chance to get it for free.

Kevin Tumlinson  47:42

So rush over and sign on up. But then they get a new free book if they sign up later. So I’m gonna unsubscribe and re-sign up so that I get the new free book.

David Gaughran  47:51

Well you see, I always treat my existing subscribers with even more love and attention than I do the new guys, so they’re going to get that free book too. And not only that, they’re actually going to get special fine pricing on the book whenever it releases. And they’ll find out when the when the new free edition of Let’s Get Digital gets released before anyone else. So I recommend doing that.

Kevin Tumlinson  48:14

I do too. It’s one of the first books I read when I get into the business.

David Gaughran  48:19

It’s on the fourth edition now, I think it will be. Actually, I think this might be a world exclusive that I’m announcing this. The fourth edition of Let’s Get Digital will be coming out probably towards the end of May. I haven’t fixed the release date yet, but I actually just finished it about an hour ago. About an hour and a half ago, I actually finished it.

Kevin Tumlinson  48:39

Just before this call

David Gaughran  48:41

Just before this call, yeah. When I wanted to just tuck into a beer instead. I was dragged into this call.

Kevin Tumlinson  48:48

I never said you couldn’t have a beer.

David Gaughran  48:49

I’ll certainly be having one afterwards. But yeah, I just wrapped it up. I’ll be going—I’ll just read it once over, over the weekend, and I’ll be going over to the editor before Monday. And so yeah, looking forward to it.

Kevin Tumlinson  49:02

Well, we’re past our time. So I’m gonna go ahead and wrap us up, man. But I’m telling everybody listening, make sure that you go to Get on his mailing list, you’ll basically get two freebies if you sign up now. And be sure you are subscribing to him, like him on Facebook, do all the things and subscribe to us on YouTube. If you go to you can follow us there. We need all the subscriptions there we can get. And follow us on And of course, don’t forget to bookmark D2D live where you’re going to be alerted to things like this, you’ll see a little countdown you can access all the past D2D spotlights and any of the live stuff that we do. And that’s D2D Spotlight for today. Mr. Gaughran, thank you so much for spending the time with us, man.

David Gaughran  49:54

Thanks for having me, Kevin.

Kevin Tumlinson  49:56

All right, everybody. We’ll see you all tomorrow for another D2D Spotlight at noon Central. So make sure you’re tuning in. We’ll see you there.