Special Guest Post - Mark Dawson on Facebook Advertising

Posted by: Joshua Unruh 1 year, 4 months ago

Recently we attended BookExpo America and UPublishU, a large publishing-industry conference and tradeshow. While there, we had the opportunity to host a panel that included the talented and wonderful AD Starrling. Dr. Starrling talked with great excitement about Mark Dawson and his knowledge on how to market your self-published books via Facebook ads. Our ears perked up, but we really got interested when she mentioned that Mr. Dawson planned to offer a paid course in addition to all the free advice he'd given on the subject.

We listen when talented and successful authors talk about things that get them excited. So we reached out to Mr. Dawson and he was kind enough to give us this post on his success, and the course that will teach you how to share in that success.

I’ve been fortunate enough to be successful with my fiction, but I’ve always been interested in new ways to promote it. The guys at Draft2Digital make it very easy to get your book into stores, but, once you are there, you go into immediate competition with millions of other books all shouting for the attention of readers. I’ve bored many dinner party guests with my assertion that the next great [American/English/Insert Your Nationality Here] novel has already been written but will never be read, forever to languish unloved and undiscovered in a dusty corner of Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

I initially found success promoting my stories with sites like Freebooksy. Free runs were a big thing in 2012 when I started, and I gave away tens of thousands of copies and then rode the wave afterwards. I was one of the first authors to advertise on BookBub and I’ve worked with them on many occasions since. I share the seemingly near universal admiration for the power of one of their campaigns. Since then, I’ve advertised with all of the major sites and have had several retailer based promotions, too. All of those methods work, to one degree or another. And all of them should form a part of an author’s marketing arsenal.

And then, in late 2014, I found Facebook. And that took things to another level.

I had always glanced askance at social media advertising, tempted on occasion to boost a post but never inspired enough by the results of each attempt to dig any deeper under the bonnet. And, as Mark Zuckerberg transitioned his baby from a free-for-all into the archetypal pay-to-play platform, I became even less interested in it. Those 2,000 Facebook Fans that I had assiduously collected over the course of the last couple of years? As organic reach was whittled down from 75% to 50% to single digits, it became harder and harder to speak to them. It seemed like it had all been a big waste. I almost gave the whole thing up.

And then I read something about how powerful the full advertising platform was. Small businesses were taking reasonable advertising investments and doubling and tripling them in returns. That got me to thinking. If Facebook ads were effective in selling other digital products – online courses, webinars, and so forth – why couldn’t they sell eBooks?

So I started to investigate. I spent hundreds of hours and several thousand dollars teaching myself how to use the initially tricky interface and testing out ads, without much success. When I started I was trying to promote my Kindle Unlimited titles in an attempt to maintain my status as one of the inaugural All-Stars, but it didn’t work. I was selling books, but they were too cheap to generate enough of a return to cover the investment. I was losing money.

So I changed tack, and, since the turn of the year, I’ve been running two campaigns. One drives readers to a landing page where I convert them into subscribers on my mailing list (in return for a free novel or two). Then, they are added to an automation sequence that introduces them to me and my writing, and eventually promotes a box set to them. Results have been very good. I’ve added 5,000 subscribers in six months and I’m selling books to them.

More dramatic than that has been the use of ads to drive sales on Amazon. I’ve been selling one box set in particularly, and, since the campaign begun, I’ve generated over $40,000 in revenue with a return on investment of over 100%.

In other words, for every dollar I invest I’m making two in return.

Where else is that possible? (That’s a serious question – if you let me know I’ll invest tomorrow and give you half…)

Another author friend released a well-regarded course last year. It set me to thinking: I’ve been around a little longer than him, I thought, and I’ve sold at least as many books as he has – maybe I could do something similar.

While I was deciding whether or not I wanted to invest the time needed to get into something like that, I put a post up on Kboards directing forum members to a survey. I asked what they found the most frustrating thing about indie publishing. It was no surprise to me that the same two answers came back, again and again: it was impossible to generate sales and it was impossible to get reviews. Of course, those two are part of a particularly intractable vicious circle – you can’t get one without the other.

I knew that I could help. I was initially going to put together a grand course that covered everything from uploading a .mobi to building an author page, but it soon became obvious that both of those questions could be answered by advertising on Facebook. Building a sales funnel should be the first thing that a new writer sorts out when they start their career, and Facebook ads can pour new readers into it at a rate of knots. Building a list is a medium to long term play for those who want a career as a writer; my 20,000 subscribers ensure that I can launch my new books into the top #250 on Amazon and, from there, the algorithm will do all the marketing for me.

And for those who want the more immediate gratification of sales, Facebook is pretty good for that, too.

My own results have been replicated and, on occasion, comfortably beaten. My favourite story is of the student who took a box set that was making $2,000 a month and sold $12,000 in the first month of advertising using my methods. Her return is over 400%, and that is simply ludicrous.

I’ve been guilty of that authorial trait and polished the course until it is as bright as a button, but I’ve stopped doing that now. It’s ready and available for enrollment for 10 days only from Friday 12 June.

You can find all the details at www.selfpublishingformula.com/.

We obviously haven't had the opportunity to take the course yet ourselves. But this is the kind of advice we .