13 Must Know Tips For A Successful Business Page

 

Further to the ‘Ten Facebook Advertising Tips For Writers‘ post that I put up a couple of months back, here’s a handy wee graphic from the folks at both Gherchic and Quill.

These days, as well as being an outstanding place to post cat photos, Facebook is an important tool for writers in the process of building their author brand.  Given the sheer popularity of Facebook, your author page (and I’m sure you have one of those) is one of the most important platforms that you can use to help build your audience.

Have a look at the graphic.  It’s got some nice reminders about the etiquette of using Facebook as a business platform.

 

Click to Enlarge Image

13 Must-Know Tips For a Successful Facebook Business Page

13 Must-Know Tips For a Successful Facebook Business Page
Infographic by Quill

Why Indie Authors Should Celebrate Short Fiction

 

For emerging indie writers, it’s important to produce work on a consistent basis.  If you want to build a following and generate some kind of income from your writing, you need to be consistent and above all else they’ll tell you – write more books.  That’s because more books mean more marketing opportunities and that in turn, means visibility.  More books provide you with the means of offering special deals to your customers and creating product funnels and doing all that marketing stuff that as people like to say nowadays – increases your ‘discoverability’ – what a word that is.

Think of it this way – as a fiction writer, writing books is your primary method of content marketing.  Not writing blogs or recording podcasts or anything like that.  Writing books.

Writing a book is hard.   Writing a load of books, huh?  Sure – let’s just knock off a sequel to War and Peace before lunch.

Eh, not quite.

From start to finish, novels demand a serious time commitment on the part of the author.  And that’s just writing the book because if you’re a good indie author, you’ll also be working with an editor to shape the book and a professional graphic designer to design the cover.  You might also do all the formatting  yourself – which is my own worst nightmare.

So there you are.  You’re working your ass off – you and others to produce a top-notch novel, which is roughly 50/60,000 words (or as is more likely these days, way, way, waaaay above those numbers – how’s that consistency thing working out George RR Martin?)

You can’t rush your book, but if you’re keen not to leave long gaps in between releases, writing back-to-back novels could be a problem.

Fortunately however, the digital revolution happened.  And with new technologies came new possibilities of product consumption (God, that sounds so creepily capitalist).  The twentieth century model of how mass market fiction is consumed – novel, novel, novel – is no longer the only means available to readers.  Thanks to ebooks, there are other choices available.

Now one of the best things about opting the way of indie publishing (or author-publishing if you prefer that term) is that you are your own boss.  You can do what you want.  So that means if you want to stay in bed and eat chocolate and drink Red Bull till you spout real actual wings and fly through the ceiling then you can.  I don’t recommend it, but the point is that you’re in charge.  And with that, you have a freedom that was unavailable to writers just a couple of decades ago.  There are less restrictions on how you deliver stories to readers and if you want to be a consistent indie author, then consider the most obvious way of delivering quality products in good time.

Write shorter books.

This is not a new or radical idea.  Not by any means.  But in terms of both reading and writing, I’m an advocate of shorter books, which goes against the trend of recent years for books to be very long.  And I think too many emerging writers are trying to write long books just because they think they should.  But for me, this is the old model of thinking, which is still geared towards the novel as the be-all and end-all.   Now I love novels –  they’re beautiful things.  I think every writer’s backlist should have novels in them because they’ve proven themselves to be immensely popular with readers.

But novels aren’t the only thing available on the fiction menu.  There are other choices that writers should consider – and guess what?  They have even cooler sounding names.

 

Interlude.

Of course you might be one of those weirdos who say they can write a novel every week or two (yeah they’re out there – I read about this one women who said she writes a novel per week – a NOVEL??  Per week?  Ah c’mon now!  I mean, either she’s the greatest thing since Shakespeare and sliced bread in the same room or there’s something wrong with those books.  Seriously wrong.  There has to be something wrong with them, no?  Or is it just me? 

Interlude Ends.

 

Experiment

Indie publishing at its best is about innovation.  So think outside the novel box.  Thanks to the popularity of ebooks, words like novella and novelette have made a return in recent years and if you ask me, this is a good thing.  In the past, if you were an unknown author and you approached a traditional publishing house with a novella, they wouldn’t have touched you with someone else’s extra-long barge pole.  It’s not marketable, they would have said.  And yet at the same time they’d continue to publish classic novellas like The Old Man and the Sea (26,601 words) and I am Legend (25,204 words) and call them novels.

(For a brief list of outstanding short books by word count click here).  

It’s simple.  You want to write great books but you don’t want to sit on the sidelines for months working on full-length novels.  Well congratulations.  You’re an indie author and you can publish your work in whatever bite-sized chunks you please – be it on Amazon, Wattpad, or direct to the reader from your own website.  You don’t need to think like a writer under a slave, oops, I mean trade contract.

Digital technology is at hand.  Novels no longer need be the default choice of fiction writers.

Little Bits of Post-Apocalyptic London

For example, here’s what I’m thinking about doing with a current project.  In April or May this year, I’m hoping to release my first full length novel (yes, a novel and it didn’t take a friggin’ week to write either!)  It’s called L-2011 and it’s an alternate history novel in which the London riots of 2011 don’t stop (as they did after four days in this reality) and as you might guess, shit goes very bad in the Big Smoke.

I’m not giving anything away by saying that the ending is open.  The option for future development and further exploration in that fictional world is there.  And it’s a world in which I want to keep writing but I don’t necessarily want the series to be full of just novels.  That would leave too many long gaps between instalments because unlike some people, I can’t write a novel in a week.

So how about trying something else?  For example, I could take one character’s story and write a 15,000 word novelette about what happens next with them.  15,000 you might say?  That’s nothing – that’s not a proper book.  No, I would say – it is.  It’s a novelette and it’s actually something quite cool.  Remember that the first of Hugh Howey’s Wool stories – the one that gave him his big break – was a novelette of about 12,000 words and we all know how that worked out for big Hughie boy, don’t we?

So I could follow up my novel with a novelette.  Then how about a novella of about 30,000 words which explores another character or facet of that world?  Or I could write a short story.  And then maybe another novel – who knows?  Couldn’t you do the same thing?  And the more we write and publish, the more we’re world-building, expanding our fictional universe and doing it faster than if we were just concentrating on longer forms.

There’s just something about short fiction.  It’s a brief dalliance, a beautiful fling and not a long grinding slog like some longer books inevitably are.  Short books leave you wanting more and in a good way – not in a way that leaves you unsatisfied.  

“Leave them wanting more and you know they’ll call you back.” – Bobby Womack

Pricing

Once you have a significant number of books on the market, you can establish a variety of prices and make sure that (a) the reader is not overpaying and (b) you’re still earning something for your work.

You’ve got to be sensible here.  You can’t sell a 20,000 word ebook for more than £1.99/$2.99.  And if you ask me, that’s pricing it at the absolute max.  I know, you want your seventy percent royalties but you’ve got to treat the reader with the utmost respect and NEVER rip them off.  It’s a simply pay-off.  Be generous and they’ll consider coming back – and back.   Novelettes and short stories – I would initially price these at 99p/c and when you’ve got enough of them on your backlist, make some of them free.

And make sure to write short stories in a way that introduces your fictional world to newcomers.  If these become perma-freebies later on, it’s a great way of luring in potential readers who are are more likely to test the waters with one of your free products.

All of the numbers above are just suggestions and how you price your work is entirely up to you.   It’s all about experimenting and there is no one-size-fits-all formula.  If something’s not working, then try something else and start again.  You’re essentially just jamming here and trying to find the perfect groove.  But try to escape the old mentality that says short books aren’t marketable.  That sort of thinking belongs in the past and it had nothing to do with books themselves or their ability to convey a story, but the print publication costs.  And that’s irrelevant in the digital era.

“Very few really long novels earn their length. My fingers are always twitching for a blue pencil.” – Ian McEwan

Smartphone Reading

Another reason to embrace shorter fiction is the rise of smartphone reading.  More and more people are choosing to read books on their mobile phone.  Why?  I’d say it’s the sheer convenience of it.  Not everyone wants to carry a paperback or an e-reader around in their bag (that’s if you even have a bag!)

But almost everyone has a phone.

The smartphone, not the e-reader, looks set to become the driving force in digital book sales.  Personal preference aside, it makes sense given how close our phones are to hand.  With a mobile phone, you can read anywhere – on your lunch break, in the back seat of a taxi, standing in a queue at the shop, or even going up and down in an elevator.  It’s an extremely convenient way of consuming books and this is why the number of people reading on their smartphones will rise in 2016 and beyond.

And short books make sense for smartphone readers.  Especially if you’re reading on the move, such as during a regular commute.  It’s easier to keep track of shorter works – you can read complete short stories in one sitting, novelettes and novellas in several – rather than keep coming back to an epic novel in which you might have forgotten crucial details from earlier chapters.

Short fiction and smartphones.  That’ll work.

Quality

But of course, it doesn’t matter what length your book is if the reader isn’ t impressed.  So don’t think that short means skimping on quality.  Putting out short fiction is not a shortcut.  But the truth is, if you’re looking to get work out there, it will probably take you less time to write a great 25,000 words than it will 100,000.  So I guess it is kind of a shortcut, but you know what I mean.   You want to write a 30,000 word novella – write a great one.  You want to write a 200,000 word epic – write a great one.  And so on.

NEVER (and I apologise for e-shouting here) NEVER sacrifice quality for speed.  Never do it.

The Future

So have fun with it.  These are good times to be a writer.  We no longer have to submit our work to slushpiles and chance and literary limbo.  Neither do we have to write one or two novels a year because that’s what writers have been told to do for so long by their masters in publishing houses.

(You, dear reader, are the masters!)

If you’re an indie author, then prepare to lead the way.  As long as we’re providing quality and value for money (as well as working our arses off elsewhere), the readers will come with us on our journey.  So revel in your newfound status as the punk rockers of the literary world.  Do things differently and do them well.

And speaking of punk – what was it The Sex Pistols said?

“Don’t be told what you want,

Don’t be told what you need.”

 

The Crossroads: Indie or Trad Publishing?

 

Emerging writers.  Perhaps you’re on the brink of showing your work to the world.  If so, you might have been asking yourself the following questions recently:

How do I want to be published?  Do I want to pursue the traditional route?  Do I want to submit my work to literary agents and publishers in the hope of landing an elusive publishing deal – for so long the holy grail for aspiring writers?  OR – do I want to try that new indie thing that people are talking about?  In which case I won’t just be writing stories and passing them on – I’ll be a businessman/woman and I’ll have to oversee all the other aspects of making a book – the editorial requirements, the cover design, the marketing – and then there’s the making a career out of it, maintaining an author platform, website upkeep, social media and so on?

Let there be no doubt – the decision you’re about to make is an important one.  The brief paragraph above only hints at how different the indie and traditional paths are.

So I’ve written a post with you in mind – the new writer who’s standing at the twenty-first century author’s equivalent of the crossroads.  It might help, it might not.  Who am I to talk anyway?  I’m not a bestselling author or anything like that.  In fact, I’m barely out of the starting blocks with my own writing career and you have no reason to listen to me whatsoever (bye then!)  But what I do have is some genuine experience in wrestling with this particular question – whether to go indie or trad.  And I did wrestle with this question for quite some time.

To be offered a traditional publishing deal!  Wow.  Well that’s the dream right there, isn’t it?  Writers submit to publishers and agents because – well – that’s just what they do.  For so many years, a yes from the gatekeepers was our equivalent of the official stamp of approval from the gods.  When you tell people that you’re a writer, the first question on everybody’s lips is – have you been published?  Has somebody said YES?

Yes, being traditionally published was a goal of mine.  But as I was learning the craft, I was well aware too, of the growth of indie publishing and the evolution of DIY author style.  There was a tremendous amount of innovation taking place and notably, it was coming from outside the publishing industry.  It was the retailers who were moving the goalposts and doing extraordinary things that would have tremendous implications.  Amazon KDP came along in 2007 and kicked the doors open.  I read the subsequent success stories – the Hugh Howeys and Angela Hockings.  It was hard not to get excited by such things.  The possibilities at last seemed to be within the writer’s own grasp.  Imagine that.  But even more important than the Howeys and the Hockings were the people who weren’t making millions from their writing.  The real story was the people who were simply making a good living from writing and publishing their work independently.  Writers who were supplying readers directly and getting paid for it.  No agents.  No publishers.

I’m going to tell you what happened to me in September 2015.  I’ll keep this as brief as possible and new writers – I hope it helps you somehow.  It’s my own opinion and it’s biased – I’ll say that now.  Take it on board if you like or throw it away with the rest of the Internet garbage.

September 2015.

I had just moved to Australia from Scotland.  On the second or third day after arriving in the land down under, I joined Writers Victoria, a very reputable organisation located in the heart of Melbourne.  Being a new writer in town, I was keen to attend some of the WV workshops, of which I’d heard good things about.  So I looked online to see what was coming up in August/September 2015.  Nothing particularly grabbed me until I saw this baby listed in the brochure: Behind The Scenes –  Intensive Two Day Publishing Workshop.  This event would feature four speakers, each one delivering a three-hour workshop.  The course was to be spread out over two days and the speakers themselves represented different facets of the publishing world.  We had:

1- A traditional publisher.

2 – A literary agent,

3 – An indie publishing expert.

4 – A media/publicity advisor.

Basically, like Robert Johnson at his crossroads, my soul was up for grabs.  I just needed to be convinced.  One thing I was already sure of however – by the time these ‘intense’ workshops were over, I would have chosen either the indie or traditional route.

Day One.

Traditional Publisher.  This first workshop was taken by a very nice lady who ran her own publishing company in Australia and who’d also worked with some of the big boys of trade publishing.  For three hours, we gathered around and talked about the ways and means in which a new writer should and would approach a traditional publisher.  To be honest, it was pretty standard stuff that went along the lines of how to promote your work – how to promote yourself, that kind of thing.  It wasn’t useless – definitely not – but it was certainly nothing new.  Truth be told, you could get most of it on the Internet probably.  But anyway, this is what I took from that particular workshop.

  • Writers beg the gatekeepers.
  • They beg a lot.
  • Your story  – it’s good, but that doesn’t matter.  It’s all about business and how to sell things.

 

Day One – Part 2.

Literary Agent.  Now I’m not going to name the literary agent who pissed me off.  And yes, she really pissed me off that day.  Don’t get me wrong, she was actually a nice lady.  There was nothing wrong with her as a human being as far as I could tell.  But it was her approach to us writers that pissed me off – it was what she was saying without actually saying it to the group (hidden truths galore!)  How to explain?  Well, this was the overall message that I took away from the literary agent’s workshop: you know, well really, you should submit to us and well really…hope for the best, but it’s well really…really unlikely that we’ll take you on…

Really?

Literary Agent proceeded to show us a collection of books from the authors she’d worked with.  Yawn.  In the end, this workshop felt like one big advert for her authors and her literary agency.  It was most certainly not about us – the writers who had paid (a fair chunk of change by the way) to come and learn about the industry.  About our way into the industry and hey, maybe even a little encouragement to boot.  What’d ya say?  And boy did she struggle to fill in the allotted three hour time slot that day.  I mean, how many ways can one person say: you know, well really, you should submit to us and well really…hope for the best, but it’s well really…really unlikely that we’ll take you on…

Taxi!

She also said something else that pissed me off.  It pissed me off because it wasn’t true and even then I knew it.  This is what she said: ‘You need to go traditional in order to make it‘.  Eh?  Need to?  What was that?  Now that was a BIG FAT lie.  Maybe it was a lie she needed to tell herself over and over in order to believe it.  But it was a desperate move and man it really, really turned me off.

END OF PART ONE!

Day Two.

Indie Publishing expert. (NOTE: The Media session was also held that day – I won’t go into this; it was okay – but mostly geared towards selling yourself to agents and publishers).

The indie publishing workshop was given by Euan Mitchell, a local writer and speaker.   And what a contrast it was from the events of the day before.  This workshop was crammed with information; literally jam-packed full of tips, hints and sources about the possibilities of independent publishing.

Euan’s message was simple.  Here’s what YOU can do to put your work in front of readers.  And to hell with the middlemen – yes really, to hell with them or at least to hell with the writers always having to beg part.  Indie publishing looked exciting, but it also looked like hard fucking work.  But at least it wasn’t the traditional line – submit – hope for the best – maybe you’ll get lucky – you probably won’t get lucky – don’t give up the day job (All this sounds a lot like the lottery)

The technology is here.  The options are available.  Here’s what you can do.  It was the positivity, not to mention Euan’s energy, that stood out in contrast to the sheer hopelessness offered by the representatives of traditional publishing – the literary agent in particular.  It was the realisation that the writer’s life didn’t have to be so negative and passive.  Things are changing and new doors have opened up to us.  We don’t have to go cap in hand for the rest of our lives, just to get our work tossed onto a sky-high slushpile and then face probable rejection and if not, get shafted on the percentages.  At last, it’s all about the readers and writers and if that sounds like it’s too good to be true, then it just goes to show you how fucked up things have been for so long.

So what did I learn that day?

  • The times are changing.
  • Not to mention that the entertainment industry is changing – that is, the way people consume books, music, and TV (I strongly urge you to read Kristine Kathyrn Rusch’s outstanding blog on this – click here)
  • Innovation and experimentation are wonderful things

Oh yeah, and….

  • I was going to be an indie author.

 

FIVE MONTHS LATER:

Mark is now residing in an institution for the mentally insane…

NO.  I’m not.

I’ve embraced my business side.  I didn’t even know I had a business side.  I’ve had to engage with graphic designers, formatters, and editors.  And then there’s marketing…sweet Mary mother of God.

You’ll have to do it too – if you choose indie!

Indie publishing is a hard, hard road, but it’s a road in which you – the writer – have control of the wheel.  That’s a big draw and if creative control is important to you, you may want to go indie.

Traditional publishing.  It’s up to you and if that’s the way you want to go then all the very best.  I mean it.  And for some, the traditional route remains the truly credible choice.

Personally, I think it’s a relic.  Publishers and agents, I hope they keep their jobs by all means, but they have to adapt to the changes in the industry.  Let them come to the writers for a change.  Accept the fact that writers simply don’t need you like they once did.

You need to go traditional in order to make it‘.

Bullshit.

The Society of Authors recently sent an open letter to publishers asking them to address the issue of falling author earnings.  The SoA point at a drop in the percentage of writers in the UK making a living solely from writing from 40 per cent in 2005 to 11.5 per cent today.  They’re also asking publishing companies to increase writer royalties on ebooks – to raise them from the standard 25 per cent to 50 per cent, and for writers to be freed from contracts once their books are no longer being marketed.

Remember, traditional publishers have a business to run.  They have expenses to cover and the author’s income is not their priority.  It never has been.

Elsewhere, September Publishing founder Hannah MacDonald has called for publishers to offer constructive criticism along with the scores of rejection letters they send out to aspiring authors.  MacDonald did this because she understood that publishers can’t just treat writers like the shit they find on their shoes anymore.  Think that’s extreme?  I’m not so sure.  Anyway, writers looking to get published have other options thanks to the likes of KDP, CreateSpace, iBooks, Kobo and so on.  MacDonald – and fair play to her for trying – recognises the need for agents and editors to “communicate with the authors of the future”.  They need to catch up.  Otherwise as she puts it, these authors will “abandon the industry and become self-publishing authors.”

Yes, I’m biased.  You’ve probably guessed that.  But I’ve done my research too.  And to me, the old ways have become increasingly obsolete.  Think about those adverts you see in writing magazines and websites about how to submit the perfect query letter to agents and so on…I mean, why waste the time and energy on something like that?  You have the tools to publish directly to readers.  Instead of spending so long learning how to communicate with the gatekeepers, take that time and energy and spend it on building your author platform and finding your readers one at a time.  It’ll take a long time and you’ll face bad breaks and setbacks, but do you want to be a writer or not?

And exhale!

This is just my tuppence worth by the way.  Feel free to agree or disagree.

Now it’s back to you new writer – you standing there on the crossroads.  It’s your move.

 

 

‘FAB’ Excerpt – ‘What If John Lennon Had Lived?’

 

Take your mind back.  It’s the 1980s.  Correction, it’s an alternate 1980s.  And in this alternate 1980s, former Beatle John Lennon (aka ‘the Walrus’) is still alive.

So what happens?

Still giving peace a chance John?

Or perhaps he’s gone the other way entirely?   After all, this is the 1980s and Gordon Gekko’s ‘greed is good’ philosophy is all the rage.

What else?

Do the Fab Four get back together?

Does he have big hair?

Does he have any hair?

And what’s going on with John and Yoko?  Are they still together?

Beware Beatles and in particular, Lennon fans – it’s probably not what you’re expecting.

Below is an excerpt from ‘FAB’ containing Chapters One and Two.  For a brief synopsis of the book, click here)

 

FAB

 

1: Interview

 

April 7th 1988. FBI New York Field Office.

 

Two men sit across from one another in a small room with no windows. A single spotlight hangs over the scratched wooden table that separates them.

 

VOGEL: All set Murphy?

 

JAGGER: Sure. Hey call me Jagger, huh? Nobody calls me Murphy. Except my sister.

 

Special Agent Frank Vogel pushes a tape recorder further across the table. At forty-eight, Vogel is one of the FBI’s finest operatives. He sits back in his seat and straightens up, showing off a lean and well-maintained body underneath his dark suit. His hair, neatly groomed and slicked back across his head, is still naturally jet-black.

 

VOGEL: Sure Jagger. No problem.

 

Murphy ‘Jagger’ Salmon acknowledges this with a lazy smile. But the milky white skin around his eyes is haggard and his long, violent red hair – a gift from his Irish heritage – hangs in part over his face, as if shielding him from the glare of the spotlight above. His thick beard is huge and unkempt. And in contrast to Vogel’s slick suit and tie, Jagger is dressed in a Hawaiian shirt, bright red and splattered with white floral shapes, and a pair of faded cream chinos and suede loafers.

 

VOGEL: I can’t believe I’m sitting here interviewing the legend. Murphy Salmon.

 

JAGGER: Just Jagger.

 

VOGEL: Right. Sorry.

 

JAGGER: So…

 

VOGEL: I have questions Jagger. Do you mind if we get going?

 

JAGGER: (Shaking his head.) No. Shoot.

 

VOGEL: We’ll start at the beginning then.

 

JAGGER: I was born? I was raised? You mean that beginning?

 

VOGEL: (Smiles) Not quite. How about we go back to Monday 8th December 1980? Eight years ago. You remember that day, huh?

 

Jagger leans back in his chair. He stares hungrily at the cigarette pack on the table.

 

JAGGER: You mean, the night I tripped up?

 

VOGEL: (Nods) Right.

 

JAGGER: You’re not the first person to ask for that story.

 

VOGEL: (Nodding) I’ll bet.

 

Jagger reaches for the pack of cigarettes. He pulls one out and taps it off the wooden surface three times. Then he pushes the cigarette between his lips and tosses the pack back onto the table.

 

JAGGER: Sure. I’ll tell you a story. Why not?

 

 

 

***

 

john_lennon_by_urbanartz

 

***

 

 

2: Saving Mr Lennon

 

December 8th 1980. New York City.

 

Murphy ‘Jagger’ Salmon was drunk. That much was certain. He might have even broken his own personal best when it came to rapid-fire consumption of Guinness. It was always the same when he walked into an Irish bar. He’d stroll through the door, tossing his long red hair all over the place like a shampoo ad for the gingers of the world. And when the tossing part was over, he’d wield his Celtic heritage like a club, pretending to one and all that Murphy was in fact his last name and not his first.

 

“Free pint o’ the black nectar?” Jagger would ask the barman in his best Irish accent. “I’m from County Cork you know.”

 

Most of the bartenders saw him coming. But for some reason, the staff in the Emerald Inn fell for his bullshit act. Not just one, but two freebies were given out that night. Jagger was so shocked that when he thanked the man for his second complimentary pint, he nearly lapsed back into his natural Brooklyn accent.

 

I’ll stay here awhile, he thought, watching the man pour another gift. He studied the man’s scientific approach to pouring the perfect pint of the black stuff – the tilt of the glass, the forty-five degree angle, leaving it to settle until a clear distinction had emerged between the dark body and the white head.

 

For sure he’d stay here a while.

 

Several hours later, he almost fell through the door of the Emerald Inn. He’d been watching Monday night football and he might have tried to tackle the front door. Jagger couldn’t remember. Still he turned around and gave the bastard a dirty look. Then he straightened himself up and tried to focus.

 

Where was he?

 

He was on West 72nd Street, he could remember that much.

 

Fucking hell, your Brooklyn ass is lost. He was even thinking in an Irish accent now. Hail a cab, said the drunk Irishman in his head. But Murphy ‘Jagger’ Salmon scoffed at the notion of seeking help. Like all drunks, he was indestructible.

 

“To hell with that,” said Jagger. “It’s only a five-minute walk to Annie’s apartment.”

 

But which way?

 

“Shit.”

 

Jagger was a New Yorker. It wasn’t like Manhattan was Madagascar to him. But he came from the other side of the Brooklyn Bridge and the streets of Manhattan were unfamiliar to him. He only came here once every five years to see his younger sister Annie, and to spend time with her two kids who he’d seen little of over the years. And in true form, on his first night with the family, Uncle Loser had gone for a ‘walk’ and ended up in the Emerald Inn, spending over half his weekly budget on drink.

She was going to be so pissed. Especially if he couldn’t get back to the apartment on his own.

 

Oh you absolute fuck up of a brother!

 

The task was simple. Get home. You’re perfectly capable of walking back to your sister’s apartment. It’s on West Sixty-Something Street, remember?

 

New York City.

 

But seven pints of Guinness and three (or was it four) Jack Daniels and Cokes were conspiring against him.

 

Jagger clenched a fist and shook it at the night sky.

 

“C’mon! Show me a sign or something.”

 

His Brooklyn accent had returned. Attempting to pull himself together, he turned on the switch. There’s an invisible switch inside every drunk and it goes on every time they walk through a pub door in a state of blind drunkenness. It’s like a homing beacon for alcoholics and no matter how far gone the individual is, it always brings them safely home. At least that’s how it usually worked for Jagger in Brooklyn. But this was Manhattan.

 

He looked to his left and right. With a shrug of the shoulders, he chose left and started walking down West 72nd Street. Like a lost tourist, his eyes searched near and far, seeking a glimpse of something familiar. He tried to keep track of the numbers on the various buildings, which he noticed were going down instead of up. Were they supposed to be doing that?

 

It was almost 11pm. That night was surprisingly mild for a New York winter. Good thing too, considering Jagger was dressed only in a pale green Hawaiian shirt, cream chinos, and a pair of Vans ‘Old Skool’ shoes.

 

He made his way down 72nd Street, walking past a blur of tall buildings. After about five minutes of moving in the same direction, he gradually became convinced that he’d made a mistake. That he should have turned right instead of left outside the pub.

 

Jagger stopped and looked around. Nothing looked remotely familiar. Turning his head in the direction from which he’d just travelled, he considered turning back towards the Emerald Inn. Maybe even partake in another free pint?

 

A little further along 72nd Street, a limousine pulled up at the side of the kerb.

 

A-ha. Maybe these rich assholes can point me towards West Sixty-Something Street, he thought. He walked closer to the vehicle, trying with all his might not to look like Mr Random Drunk Guy homing in on a flash car. But the more he tried, the more spectacularly he staggered.

 

“Ah fuck,” he said.

 

He looked down at the feet that were so cruelly betraying him.

 

“Now there’s a thing,” Jagger said.

 

The laces on both Vans were loose.

 

There was no time to do anything about it. The rear door of the limousine opened and a small Oriental-type woman got out. A man got out and followed at a short distance behind her. Jagger approached them, keeping his eyes on his laces, fearful of tripping up.

 

Somebody else was there too. On approach, Jagger noticed a chubby guy, skulking close to the vestibule. Jagger watched him take a few steps backwards towards the street. There was something in his hand but it was too dark to make it out.

 

Jagger turned his attention back to the business of staying upright. His laces were in an even worse state now.

 

The limo couple were getting away. They were heading towards the entrance of the building. With one eye on his laces and the other on the couple, he steered in that direction too. It was at that same moment that Jagger finally realised where he was. What this massive building beside him was. It was the Dakota building. Of course. Now as he walked after the rich assholes, he gazed up in awe at the gigantic and brooding apartment complex, its high gables poking into the night sky.

 

This building’s famous, Jagger thought, straining his neck. Didn’t Roman Polanski make a film about devil worshippers or something in there? That’s so…

 

CRACK. A sound. There was a high-pitched scream.

 

Jagger didn’t have time to think about what he’d just heard. At that moment, his knee collided into solid matter. He’d hit someone. A man cried out in pain and collapsed onto the ground. There was another sound too; the metallic clang of something hitting the concrete nearby.

 

“Watch where you’re going you fucking asshole!” Jagger yelled as he too fell backwards, nearly spilling onto the road.

 

The Irish accent was back.

 

Jagger felt nothing of the fall. This was largely thanks to the alcohol cushion he had on, not to mention the thick wall of beard protecting his face.

 

He lifted his head and saw something lying on the ground. Was that a gun?

 

Turning towards the Dakota, he saw the Oriental woman and the other guy, who had a 1950s Teddy Boy haircut, hurry into the safety of the building. They ran into the vestibule and in matter of seconds had vanished out of sight.

 

By now, the doorman of the Dakota had leapt on top of the gunman. Another person had jumped in to assist him. Between the two of them, they pinned the would-be-shooter down, flipped him over and twisted his arms behind his back, locking them up.

 

Jagger recognised the gunman. It was chubby guy from just a few moments back.

 

“You were going to shoot them,” the doorman screamed into chubby guy’s face. “You were going to kill them both. Weren’t you?”

 

Jagger climbed onto his knees. He watched as the doorman wrestled chubby guy to his feet. The gunman’s face was blank, emotionless, as if there was no one at home. He looked at Jagger with dead eyes as he was led away.

 

Jagger felt himself sobering up.

 

He tried to put the pieces together. What just happened here? The doorman said that he was going to shoot ‘them’. ‘Them’ who?

 

Others quickly arrived on the scene. Along with the Dakota Building’s doorman, they dragged the gunman closer to the building and held him down against the concrete.

 

“Call the police.” A voice shouted.

 

A moment later, the doorman hurried over to Jagger.

 

‘My friend,” he said. He spoke in an accent that was perhaps Latin American, and with all the enthusiasm of someone greeting a long lost brother. “You saved them. You’re a hero!’

 

The doorman offered a hand. Jagger took it and in one swift motion was pulled up onto his feet.

 

“I tripped actually,” Jagger said. “That’s the truth.”

 

“You’re too modest,” the doorman said. “Just like a true hero should be.”

 

More and more people were arriving outside the Dakota by the second. It was becoming a scene. And a crowded one at that.

 

“Uh…do you know where Annie Salmon lives?” Jagger asked the doorman. “She’s my sister.”

 

The doorman put an arm around Jagger. His grip was ferocious and Jagger found himself being led towards the crowds. Exactly where he didn’t want to go.

 

“This man is a hero,” the doorman declared to the world.

 

Some of the people gathered there broke into a round of applause. Jagger was too busy looking for gaps in the crowd to notice. There had to be a way out.

 

But the doorman had him locked up good. Occasionally, he would lean over and kiss Jagger on the cheek. Jagger relented and decided to go with it. So much easier to give in than to resist.

 

Sirens could be heard screaming towards the Dakota. In a matter of seconds, several police cars had pulled up outside the building. Some of the officers eyed Jagger, who was still on wobbly feet, with suspicion, as if they were thinking about grabbing him.

 

The doorman pulled them in the other direction.

 

“Not him. This guy,” he said.

 

Jagger put a hand up to shield his eyes from the flashing lights. His head was throbbing and if he’d done such a good thing then why had his hangover turned up so early? Was sort of a reward was that?

 

A huge crowd gathered to watch chubby guy being placed under arrest by the police. Even the excitable doorman got distracted. Jagger saw this as his chance to get back to the Emerald Inn.

 

“Shoulda called a cab,” he said, taking a few steps away from the scene.

 

Just then, a massive arm thrust itself around Jagger’s shoulder.

 

“Where are you going red-headed hero?” the doorman said. You saved them. It’s a Christmas miracle. Hallelujah.”

 

“It’s cool,” Jagger said. “No charge. But I gotta get back home fella.”

 

Jagger kept walking. The doorman walked with him, his arm still stubbornly positioned around Jagger’s shoulder.

 

“You’ve got to meet them both,” the doorman said, almost spitting out the words. “They’ll want to meet you. You’re their saviour.”

 

“Yeah,” Jagger said. But he was too busy thinking about Annie. And how she was probably waiting up for him with that pissed off look on her face that she did so well.  Getting ready to kick his ass.

 


The Outsider Tales – Cover Reveal

Very happy to reveal the latest cover art.  This is for a batch of five stories – ‘The Outsider Tales’ – about society’s black sheep – that is, the weirdos, the losers, and the indescribables who don’t fit in. Out February in the usual places, but FREE to the lovelies who join my mailing list – sign-up to the right!) More details to come, but even if you join the list now I’ll get it out to you when it’s released early February.  With a big Thank You!

Mark X

outsider

Ten Facebook Advertising Tips for Writers

 

A recent Alliance of Independent Authors article took a look at paid marketing options for writers.  Marketing is important because as indies, we have to make our books visible in order to be seen and (hopefully) bought.  Not surprisingly, and given how fast things move in this game, there are many different types of paid marketing options out there.  Some of which revolve around the power of social media.

Facebook ads for example.

The aforementioned Alli article stated that Facebook ads were the current ‘hot favourite’ amongst writers.  But how many of us are using these ads to their fullest potential?  In particular, I’m thinking about audience targeting and setting things up in such a way that your ad is likely to be seen by someone who will realistically consider buying your book.

Don’t get me wrong – there are a lot of smart indie authors out there.  Smarter and more advanced in the game than I am.  The insights in this post might be nothing new for these authors who’re plenty experienced in the marketing side of things.  If you’re one of these and you’re getting the most of out of Facebook ads, then good on you.   The truth is that some people are simply better at this kind of thing than others.  Personally I’m okay.  Not great.  Not terrible.  Just okay.  But willing to learn.

When I released FAB in December 2015, the Facebook ads came soon afterwards.  I initially tried to set it up myself withouth any help but I was doing all the wrong things and making stupid tactical errors.  Specifically, I was targeting way too big an audience when I should have been closing a net over a smaller group with specific interests and combination of interests.

Thankfully my brother Robert – who has worked in digital marketing for ten years – was willing to share his expertise with me.  It was both an eye-opening and humbling experience and it made me realise that I have a lot to learn when it comes to marketing books.  Anyway, I thought some of his insights into Facebook ads might be helpful to others.  So if you’re new to Facebook ads or you just want to revise your strategies, read on.

Here are Robert’s top ten Facebook Advertising tips…

Mark

## ## ## ## ## ## ##

Ten Facebook Advertising Tips for Writers and Authors

 

Chances are, you’ve probably heard quite a bit about Facebook Advertising and how successful it can be for independent authors…

…or maybe you’ve already tried it and had a bad experience?

Worry no more.

This post will cover what I consider to be 10 of the most important Facebook Advertising tips to help you get up and running with a successful ad campaign in no time at all.

By the end of this post you’ll:

  1. Know exactly how to use Facebook’s ‘Audience Insights’ to find the perfect targets for your next ad campaign (No more guesswork).
  2. How to set up a Facebook Ad the right way without blowing your budget
  3. Understand what numbers you must know so you can tell if your campaign has been a success (and how you can scale it up the right way)

 

Ok, but why should Indie Authors, or any Author for that matter consider promoting their books or written work via Facebook?

Well, this one is simple…

The answer is ‘Attention’.

Think about it…

Where do the large majority of your target audience hangout?

FACEBOOK!

Even if you’re not a Facebook fan or user…

Facebook is by far the best way to reach your fans, and at scale. And for us marketers, it’s the greatest data company of all time by a million miles.

Facebook is quite literally sitting on huge amounts of data that you can use to target your ideal audience with laser precision.

Want to promote a children’s book to parents with 2 kids under the age of 3, that live within 5 miles of London, and like peanut butter? It’s easy on Facebook!

(Weird example I know but you get my point!)

It really is that powerful a tool for marketing your book offering.

Put simply, you can reach the audience who is most interested in what you have to offer without wasting anyone’s time.

And this is what can help you sell more books!

But who am I to talk about this subject matter?

Well, as Mark already said, I’ve worked in the ‘Digital’ space since 2005 when I set up my first e-commerce website and paid advertising campaigns on Google AdWords to help me sell high end shaving products across the globe.

I was fortunate enough in 2007 to get nominated as a ‘UK Entrepreneur of The Year’ finalist and have since went on to expand my skills to cover all aspects of Digital and Social Media Marketing.

Recently I got nominated on the Inc 5000 list which was amazing!

Currently I work as ‘Head of Digital’ for a large finance leasing firm in Scotland, in addition to working freelance on Digital and Social projects for clients across the world.

So, I’d like to think I have some useful knowledge to pass onto you in the world of Digital and especially Facebook Advertising.

Hopefully you’ll enjoy the article below and take some useful information away with you to help you with your next Facebook Advertising campaign.

Enjoy and good luck!

FB Ads Tip #1: Research – Know Your Target Audience

 

It all starts with research…and Facebook’s ‘Audience Insights’ tool…

Yes, it might not sound exciting for some of you who want to just get stuck in, but without this phase being done correctly the rest of what I’m about to show you won’t matter.

However, once you do start looking at Facebook Audience Insights, after a few minutes you’ll realise how powerful a tool this really is for helping to promote your book in the most optimal way.

And at the same time I think you’ll find it quite interesting as well as eye opening!

So what is Audience Insights and where is it?

First of all, you’ll find audience insights as a ‘Tool’ inside your Ads Manager. Once you click on it, you will see this:

Audience Insights

Click ‘Everyone on Facebook’ and we are good to go.

But what does it do?

Well, this is where FB holds all of its key marketing data for us marketers.

For example, it can tell us how many people like certain interests on FB, by what age group, by country/city etc…

If I wanted to target someone who likes Peanut Butter I can find them in here…it’s that powerful.

It also tells us what Facebook Pages are likely to be relevant to your audience based on pages they currently like.

That’s one of the key aspects of Audience Insights.

Here’s an example that will help make sense of it all…

Say I select the United States as the location I want to target, and I leave all the other options such as ‘Age’ alone just for now….

Facebook Advertising Tips for Writers

I now go down to the ‘Interests’ section which is the main one we will be using here.

Using my brother’s book ‘FAB’ as an example, I enter ‘John Lennon’ as my main interest. And then I select the ‘Page Likes’ tab next to ‘Demographics’ on the main section of the page.

Scroll down the page a little and you’ll now see a list of ‘relevant’ pages:

Facebook Audience Insights for Writers

Take a note of these pages, as these are some of the key ‘interests’ we may want to target later on when it comes to setting up your ads.

You can also look at the ‘Demographics’ tab to get a feel for the age group of your target audience on Facebook.

In this example, the typical age group of people who are interested in John Lennon.

All of this data helps to ensure your targeting is the best it can be when it comes to the creation of your Facebook advertising campaign.

It will save you so much guesswork and money.

Play about with Audience Insights. Add in more interests.

Play about with Age Groups.

All the data you need to run a successful Facebook campaign is in here.

Once you have a note of all your key findings, we are almost ready to start creating your ads.

FB Ads Tip #2: Target Audience Segments in the 500,000 – 1,00,000 range

 

This tip follows on nicely from the first one.

After playing about with the Audience Insights, you want to try and find individual or bundled audience interests to target that number in the region of 500,000 – 1,000,000 people.

The closer you can get to an audience size of 500,000 the better.

This is very important as you want to be able to target and realistically ‘reach’ as many people as possible within that audience segment.

This allows for much better ad performance and data reporting.

Data reporting is key and I’ll come onto that later…

But, if you find an audience segment that is working well, you can confidently scale up and spend more money on that segment. At the same time, you can cut the losers fast.

For example, if you simply bundled the USA, UK, and Australia audiences into one large segment, you will never know to an accurate degree which country performed best.

Also, you’d have no idea what age groups responded better to your ads within what country.

This is just a basic example of why you want to ‘niche’ down with your targeting.

Smaller is best.

I’ll show you in tip #4 exactly how we can take your key target interests and aim for that magic 500,000 audience number.

I’ll also show you how to quickly create different audience segments within your campaign for optimal ad creation.

FB Ads Tip #3: Choosing The Right Campaign Objective

 

This one is pretty straightforward.

What is the objective for your campaign?

Is it book awareness, leads, or sales?

Once you’re clear on that, you can move on.

To get started with your ad creation – unless you’re an experienced Facebook Advertiser – you will probably be using the standard ‘Ads Manager/Create Ads’ which can usually be found here:

Setting Up Facebook Ads

Click on ‘Create Ad’s and we are ready to go.

Now, whilst I can’t read your minds…

I’m pretty sure you’re reading this because you want to send more people to the page where you’re selling your book.

Now that might be Amazon, or it might be your own website.

That being the case, you should choose from either of the following two campaign objectives:

Choosing your Facebook Advertising Campaign Objectives

1.     Send People to Your Website

2.     Increase Conversions On Your Website

Now, I’m going to gamble and go with the Amazon assumption here and choose ‘Send People to Your Website’ as my overall campaign objective.

(Ignore the ‘website’ part – it does not mean it has to be your website. It’s just a piece of terminology.)

But why are we not looking to ‘Increase conversions on your website’?

Great question…

Well, unless you have your own website, and you’re able to track conversions properly using Facebook tracking pixels (that’s another blog post entirely) you should not really be selecting that option.

Now that we have chosen ‘Send People to Your Website’ as our Campaign Objective, you now need to enter the page URL where you’ll be sending people to AFTER they click on your ad.

URL Selection

Once you’ve done that, click next and let’s move on to ‘Audience Targeting’.

FB Ads Tip #4: How To Set Up Your Ad Sets for Maximum Reach

 

This is where the Audience Insights research we talked about in Tip #1 comes into play.

I am going to use one of the actual segments we implemented with Mark’s ‘FAB’ promotion as an example.

Here are two screenshot images of the audience targeting we set up for the recent ‘FAB’ promotion:

Facebook Targeting Options

 

Fab 2

As you can see our final targeting options were as follows:

  • Location: UK only
  • Age: 18-65
  • Gender: All
  • Detailed Targeting: John Lennon AND Novels AND Amazon Kindle AND Fiction Books.
  • The interests we are targeting above were not just made up. These came from careful ‘Audience Insights’ research as outlined in Tip #1.

And once we had combined these interests together we had an audience size of 480,000.

Perfect.

It’s worth noting the ‘AND’s here with the detailed targeting.

You could lump each of these interest segments together without the ‘AND’s’ but that would give you a much bigger audience size because it would mean they just had to like one of the interests you selected in isolation.

I have the ad set created so that the audience we are targeting must like ALL of the interests.

This is how we can get to a point where we are really targeting a specific audience segment…

…and that’s how you’ll be successful when it comes to promoting your ads.

Now, we could easily have used Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, and several others as part of our key target interests based on our Audience Insights research.

And maybe for the next promotion we will. That way we can dig into the data to see what interests perform best.

FB Ads Tip #5: Budgeting and Ad Placements

 

The next step inside your Ad Sets is to choose your budget and ad placements.

Simply enter your chosen Daily Budget, and select a Start and End date for your campaign.

Facebook Advertising Budgets and Placements

If you can get your target audience size to around the 500,000 mark, I would start with a budget in the region of £5 – £10 a day per Ad Set so you can get some feedback on your ads without blowing all of your budget in one go.

This next point is important so take note…

IF your Ad Set is performing well and you want to add more money to the budget, DO NOT just triple or quadruple your budget in one go.

This can really screw up Facebook’s algorithm, and your performance could suffer accordingly.

I’ve seen it so many times, and I have a lot of people in my network who have seen it as well.

It’s a real problem and a mistake people make all the time.

To get round it, scale your budget by around 50% every few days. So if £5 works, then go up to £7.50…measure performance…and if all is ok, scale up to £11.25 and so on.

Keep an eye on your performance data (coming to that later) to make sure the numbers remain consistent. Once you hit a point where your metrics start to suffer, scale back down and leave it at the daily budget amount that last worked best.

You’ll now have found your optimal daily budget based on your audience segment size.

As for Placement…

…I would stick to ‘Mobile News Feed’ and ‘Desktop News Feed’ only.

You could experiment with ‘Desktop Right Column’ if you wish, but you’re more likely to see poorer performance data as your ad images will be smaller, and the copy they can see promoting your book is much more limited.

That’s you done with Ad Sets.

FB Ads Tip #6: Writing The Perfect Ad Copy

 

Unfortunately, this blog post won’t be going into all the nuances of creating compelling Ad Copy for your Facebook campaign. That again is another blog post in itself.

The fact that a lot of you reading this post are writers will mean this comes quite easily to you though.

However, here’s a few tips or guidelines to follow.

One to consider is the PACE formula.

This is used quite a lot when it comes to creating effective ads, but to be honest, it needs to be tweaked a little for book authors as you will see below.

But I’ll show you it anyway for reference:

Pain – Identify a pain or in your case an opportunity or clear benefit to be gained from reading your book

Attention – Grab attention with a powerful image.

Command – ‘Click here To Learn More’. A clear call to action.

Expectation – You’ll get/Curiosity/Book summary. What they should expect next.

You can also tweak the copy used in your ad to be very specific to the audience we are targeting.

If we are targeting people who we know ‘like’ John Lennon, we can reference that.

If we know they like ‘The Rolling Stones’ we can reference that.

Here’s one of the Ads we created for Mark’s campaign:

Facebook Ad Example

As you can see, we have used some (not all) of what I talked about above in the PACE formula.

We decided to come up with some ‘curiosity’ based text as that works really well on Facebook, or anywhere for that matter.

“What if John Lennon had lived?”

That’s pretty strong text for creating curiosity as it grabs the Facebook users attention as they are scrolling down their news feed.

We are targeting John Lennon fans after all.

A question is always a good one to use in ads as no one can ignore a question!

Next, we quickly led with “Find out what happens…” as that attempts to satisfy their curiosity as well as leading them into the plot of the story a little.

FAB Ad

After that we have an ‘ok’ image next.

Mark will tell you himself, we rushed this part a little as we didn’t have time to get a better image made.  So we used the only one we had available in the right dimensions suitable for Facebook.

As I said, it’s ok. It could be a lot stronger, the text could be much easier to read, and the book itself could be more prominent.

One key thing you need to be aware of when it comes to images…

Facebook has a ‘20% Text Rule’.

This means your image ‘space’ can only be taken up by 20% text.

The other 80% must be imagery, and imagery only.

If you don’t meet this rule, your ad will be stopped.

To test your final image meets the guidlines go here http://www.social-contests.com/check-image/

Next we have our ‘Headline’. This is what Facebook calls this section.

Facebook Power Editor Example

As our campaign objective was to generate sales with this ad, and we had a promotion running, we led with a price offer headline.

Note it was in the currency of the audience segment we were targeting.

We also added in some scarcity as the offer was only running until Christmas day. This helps create a sense of urgency within the ad.

Next in the ‘News Feed Link Description’ we added in some additional benefits as to why they should buy this book right now i.e. ‘A last minute Christmas gift idea for Beatles fans’…

Lastly, we choose a suitable ‘Call To Action’ button.

For most of you it may be ‘Shop Now’ or ‘Learn More’ depending on what your objective is.

So, if you look at the flow of the ad from the top to the bottom.

FAB Ad

We first of all try and grab their attention with strong attention grabbing text and imagery. The copy then helps to entice them in a little more.

We then put an offer with some scarcity in front of them, and then finish it up with some compelling benefits as to why they might enjoy the book.

That’s it for your ad creation.

FB Ads Tip #7: The Power Editor

 

This is a powerful one if you start to feel confident and more comfortable with the Facebook Advertising platform.

I said earlier that most of you will create your ads using Facebook’s Ads Manager.

Well, there is another way to create Ads and it is using Facebook’s Power Editor.

If you click on ‘Manage Adverts’ you’ll be taken to a page like this:

Power Editor 2

Click on Power Editor and you will end up at a page like this:

Power Editor Full Screen

But why should I use the Power Editor I hear you ask?

Facebooks standard ‘Ads Manager’ tool is good and works perfectly fine. But it does have some limitations – some very frustrating ones.

But Power Editor solves them.

Power Editor is Ads Manager on steroids!

It has so many additional options that will help make your ads look better, the setup process much quicker and easier and so much more.

I love the Power Editor.

Word of caution though.

It can be very awkward at first, and it does have a steep learning curve associated with it if you only use it from time to time. So please play about with it before jumping in head first.

However, if you are interested in learning more about the Power Editor and what it has to offer…

I would maybe run a search on YouTube first and watch a few training videos.

There you’ll learn all you need to know in terms of the benefits of using Power Editor over the standard Ads Manager.

A couple of big Power Editor advantages for me are:

1.     Text limits do not exist in Power Editor. When you create ads in the standard Ads Manager, you are limited to the number of characters you can use within each section. Power Editor let’s you type as much as you want, giving you more freedom to express your thoughts.

2.     You can duplicate whole campaigns, ad sets or ads with just one click. So if we want to create a new Ad Set, and the only difference is we want to target the USA instead of the UK, we just duplicate the original, go into the settings, change the country and that’s us done. Big time saver.

There’s so many benefits I could just go on, but if you’re really interested, go watch some videos, or Google ‘Benefits of Facebook Power Editor’ and read a few articles.

You’ll soon love it as much as me!

FB Ads Tip #8: Split Testing Is Essential on Facebook

 

Split Testing on Facebook is fairly straightforward. Don’t get worried by the terminology.

Just for clarity…

Split Testing in its simplest of terms is the process where you create one Ad (let’s call it Ad A), then duplicate it (let’s call that Ad B), but maybe change the image in Ad B for something different to what is used in Ad A.

So the only thing that is different between Ad A and B is the image. Or maybe everything is the same apart from your initial text copy.

That’s it.

Once you have created Ad A and B, Facebook should now show both variants of your Ad equally to your target audience. From there you can then check your reports to see which ad is performing better.

Cut the loser and go with the winner. Then try and beat your winner by changing something else.

Rinse and repeat this process.

Got it?

Split Testing is so important for your success going forward…

Even though you create Ad A with the best of intentions – using your favourite image, your best copy, a killer headline and so on – what you think might resonate with your audience may not be the best option.

For your whole campaign to go from losing money to making money, may only require a different image – and you will only ever know by split testing different ad variables.

That’s the great thing about digital advertising – you get instant feedback on what’s working and what’s not.

And you can test so many different things for not a lot of money.

And small percentage uplifts in performance can make a huge difference, especially when you go up in scale and start increasing your advertising budgets.

So my advice is simple.

Once you’ve created your first campaign, duplicate the Ad, and change something you think might be worth testing.

 

FB Ads Tip #9: Data Reporting – What to look out for…

 

Ok, so your campaigns have been running for a short period of time now and we have some data to look at…

So, what now?

Well, we’re now into the optimisation and scaling stage.

Me being a data geek, I love this stage – however I know it can be daunting for many of you, so I will try and keep this simple for now.

It’s important to note however, that for those of you sending traffic from your Facebook campaigns direct to Amazon, it’s impossible to track performance accurately.

Amazon does not give you the feedback and metrics required to tell you if that book sale you just made came as a result of your Facebook Campaign.

Bit of an issue really, but one we cannot get round for the time being I’m afraid.

You will however be able to report on a number of other key performance metrics.

Here’s what to do…

Go to ‘Manage Adverts’ and you should see ‘Reporting’ as an option in the navigation area. This may differ depending if you are using Ads Manager or Power Editor. It’s easy to find, so don’t worry about it.

Facebook Reporting Information

This is how you get your ad performance data.

To get some meaningful data, I would go to the columns option, and select ‘Performance and Clicks’ for now.

Performance Screenshot 2016-01-24 12.19.02

Here you’ll find…

  •       The ‘Reach’ your ad had i.e. the number of people your ad was shown to…
  •       Impressions i.e. how many times the ad entered someone’s screen for the first time. Remember someone could see your ad several times…
  •      How many clicks your ad received…
  •      What the CTR% (Click Through Rate) was for each of your different ads. Remember, we should be split testing different Ads, so we can find out here which is performing better.
  •      CPC – What your Cost Per Click was. This is one to watch, as you’ll soon find out that the different interests and demographics you target will have different CPC’s.

For example, in Mark’s recent campaign, we targeted the same interests to a USA audience vs UK Audience.

Our CPC for the USA audience was £0.74, whereas the UK audience was £0.54. That’s a 27% cost saving!

And 27% cost savings when you start to scale campaigns can save you hundreds and thousands of pounds/dollars.

Tracking your Ad Performance inside Facebook is very important.

You need to know what’s working and what’s not and adjust accordingly. Don’t get scared here.

Just look at the data outlined above. Maybe put it in a spreadsheet so you can look at it on a daily basis.

Whatever works best for you. But make sure you know your key metrics.

And this leads nicely onto Tip #10.

FB Ads Tip #10: Conversion Rates – Know your funnel numbers

 

Whilst this is my final ‘tip’, it could easily have been my first one.

You need to know your numbers and why you’re running Facebook Ads – is it to make money, sell more books so you can get more reviews, is it to build brand awareness, is it to build an email list etc…

The reason I say this, is because it can be very hard to actually make money on Facebook Ads if you are selling a 99p or 99c eBook.

I’ll demonstrate this to you right now by way of a typical sales and marketing funnel…

Here’s an example using some basic numbers…

Let’s say you can get a CPC (Cost Per Click) of £0.40 from your best performing ad, and you get 100 clicks from your ad over to Amazon. That would cost you £40.

So far so good.

Now, if you’re selling an eBook for £2.99, you would need to sell 13 books just to break even. (That’s not allowing for Amazon’s cut, but you get my point. In reality it will be more than 13 books.)

That’s a conversion rate of 13%! (13 sales divided by 100 visits).

13% is quite hard to achieve. I know as I’ve done it a lot!

It’s also hard to track performance as I mentioned before – Amazon doesn’t give you the data to track the source of each sale!

And if you’re selling an eBook for just £0.99, that conversion rate jumps up to over 40% in order to break even!

You MUST know your numbers.

Only you can decide if the cost of advertising is worth it – again this will be subject to your campaign objectives in the short and long run.

I know many successful book sellers who take a longer term approach, and lose money initially, but they make more book sales and money in the long run by marketing correctly.

Here’s one very quick strategy I know can work very well…

You could promote an offer on Facebook – maybe a free chapter of your book plus another bonus.

The ad then takes them direct to a nice landing page on your website. They enter their name and email and they are then sent the free chapter.

You now have their email – so why not follow up with them using email marketing (all automated) with an offer to buy your book, with maybe a coupon/discount code?

This process is all trackable, and maybe more profitable in the long run.

Clearly you would continue to sell your book on Amazon for organic traffic.

It’s just something for you to think about.  There are lots of ways to skin a cat.

Be creative with the funnel process.

Bonus Tip #1: Watch for time zones in your account…

 

When I jumped into Mark’s Facebook Ad account in December and set up his ads for him, all was looking good.

Our ads were going to go live at 8am UK time.

I’ve set up thousands of Facebook Ads – so nothing to worry about eh!

Well…

The next day I checked Mark’s account around 10am to make sure all was ok and to my surprise nothing was running. Very strange. My ads were still inactive it said.

Mmmmmmm…

Cutting to the chase, after an hour or so of pulling out what hair I have left, I realised that Mark had left his account settings set to US Pacific Time – so even though I thought the ads were going live at 8am GMT, they would not be going live for another 8 hours due to the time difference!

Moral of the story – double check your account settings!

Bonus Tip #2: Remarketing!

 

It’s likely that most of you reading this are writers…

So, just like any good novel series, here’s one final twist 🙂

Remarketing in digital advertising is king right now when it comes to increasing conversions.

It can significantly help convert the 90% of visitors who don’t buy from you the first time round…

So how do we set this up on Facebook…

Well…this is how you do it…

Ready?

“Oh no…”

“I can’t believe it,” Robert said.

You couldn’t make this up.

Robert’s battery died and he couldn’t type those all important words needed to make the remarketing process a success…

Looks like I’ll need to leave that for the next post in this marketing series 😉

(If I do get enough comments below on the points I’ve discussed here I’ll come back and finish this off for you – deal?)

So what next?

Well, if you do have any questions about the above article or Facebook Ads in general, please post a comment below and I’ll get back to you.

Or, you can get in touch with me on Twitter. My username is @blackamex1.

I’m also on Snapchat (big social platform for the next 2 – 3 years so watch this space). My username on there is ‘digitalmarketc’.

And if you want to keep up to date with all things happening in Digital and Social right now, you can always enter your email on my website (currently being updated but you can enter your email at the top ok) over at www.DigitalMarketingEtc.com

Good luck!

Congratulations. You’ve Written a Book. What Next?

Congratulations.  You’ve written a bookBlog2.  You actually did it like you always said you would.  You spent all that time (months, maybe years) crafting your baby from nothing into something beautiful.  It began with an initial idea – that spark of eureka – and the journey went on until the moment your baby packed its bags, left home and became available for all the world to enjoy.

Thank God that’s all over, huh?  Time for a beer or something even stronger.  Sit, back, and reap the rewards of a job well done.  Watch your books fly off the e-shelf.  One by one by one.  This indie author malarkey – it’s not a bad life, no?

No.  It’s not a bad life.  But…put that beer away (or at least drink it fast!)  And when you’re done get back to work because as those who’ve written more than one book know, there’s still a ton of work to do.  That’s if you want your work to get noticed.  You see, the great and shitty thing about being an indie is that no one else is going to sell your book for you.  It’s shitty because it would be nice to kick back and let someone else do all the work.  But it’s also great because you have all the control.  You are the man or woman in charge.  But one thing’s for sure – don’t do nothing.  Because if you let your work drift away it’s going to drown.

Now I’m relatively new to this indie author thing.  But I’m learning fast and finding things out as I go along.  Here’s where I’m at just now.  Maybe other writers in the same boat can relate.

On December 8th, I released my first book ‘FAB’.  It’s an eBook (but the paperback will be coming out soon paperback fans)  Like many others before me, I distributed the book to the usual digital publishing outlets – Amazon, Smashwords, and this time I used Draft 2 Digital to distribute to the likes of iTunes, Kobo etc (In my opinion, D2D are more user-friendly than Smashwords)

As I was writing the book, I thought about little else other than getting it finished.  And getting it finished on time.  That’s because ‘FAB’ had a serious deadline attached.  It was written and released to coincide with the 35th anniversary of John Lennon’s death.  I only started working on the idea in late October when my wife suggested getting it out on time for the anniversary.  It was a good idea, but shit it was scary too.  It was certainly going to take some doing on my part because I’ve always thought of myself as a slow writer (in actual fact, I’m a slow editor!)  I’ve never written anything at such breakneck speed.  I was kind of going along with NaNoWriMo, but only in the sense that I was writing fast.  I  also had to be aware of not sacrificing quality for speed.  It was a hard slog.  I was working every day from morning until night but it was happening and hey it was exciting too.  The finish line was always in sight.  Brain cells were lost in the process, but so what?  I was on my way to completing my longest piece of fiction yet.  My longest piece of writing!  Over time, the novelette became a novella and thanks to my helpers – my wife, brother, editor, cover designer, and formatter, we got there.

The writing part was finished.

But now, like all writers with a new release, I have to make people aware of it.  That’s where things get tough.  Have you seen how many books there are on Amazon?  And all the other digital publishing platforms?  It’s incredible.  Inspirational and a little bit absurd, not to mention off-putting.  How will my book ever get noticed amidst all those gazillions of other titles? How am I supposed to compete with the likes of ‘Now That I’m a Ghost, I’m Gay’?  The joy of indie publishing of course is that anyone can publish a book.  Literally anyone.  However, just because everyone can do something doesn’t mean everyone should.  But lots do.  And truth be told, some of the indie books out there look bloody awful going by the covers.  But it doesn’t matter because even shit looking books are legit.  They’ll stand side by side with your work on the digital bookshelves, as will Stephen King and James Patterson and all those guys and girls.  The competition is fierce.  New books are at risk of death by obscurity.

But what the hell, right?  Give it a bloody good go.  Because it can happen.  You’ve just got to get your work noticed.

Take me for example.  I’m an emerging/mostly unknown indie author with zero marketing expertise.  I’m not too proud to admit that I need help and I’ll gladly lean on whatever wisdom people are willing to share with me.  Indie authors don’t have the clout of big publishing companies and their marketing departments.  But regardless of who’s doing your marketing, these days it’s up to the author to promote themselves.  Even traditionally published authors are expected to do a lot of their own legwork.  At the moment, I’m trying a bit of everything to see what works.  More experienced indies might laugh, but they’d be wrong to do so.  I’m trying.  And I’m asking for help too ‘cos I need it.  Fortunately I have a brother who’s an expert in digital marketing and he’s very kindly offered to show me the intricacies of setting up Facebook and Twitter ads.  That is, maximising your ad’s potential and making sure the specific settings will target the right people.

Even the more experienced indie marketers can do better.  If they think otherwise, they’re kidding themselves.

There are so many options out there when it comes to marketing and it’s easy to become overwhelmed.  But try things.  Try a Blog Tour (a reputable one though)  Try publicising your work on social media, which includes opting for those paid ads I mentioned.  You can feature samples of your work on sites like Wattpad and Bublish.  By all means, try it.  Look for eBook marketing sites.  Some of it will work, but some of it won’t.  Some of it you’ll have to pay for, but a lot of the best things – mingling on Goodreads or Library Thing for example – are free. Experiment, fail and try again.  The game is young and it’s always changing.

You also have to find the time to do it all.  See how hard it is?

It all comes down to how much you want it.

Be brave and enjoy the grind.  We’re trying to get people interested in the stories we tell and that’s a noble task.   Most of all, remember that being a writer is not a sprint – it’s a gruelling marathon on a twisted hot summer’s day.  Personally, I believe that the most effective piece of marketing is simply to keep writing.  Produce more books.  It’s that simple and that hard.  The more work you have out there, the better.  That gives you the ability to set up free promotions and create effective product funnels, and all that kind of stuff that’s easier to pull of with volume.  More books = more options.  But remember!  Produce a quality product.  This is so important.  Never sacrifice anything for speed.  Never.  One day, when your readers find you, they’ll thank you for it.

Combining Beatle fandom and a love of Alternate History

Hi folks. Thanks for stopping by and welcome to my brand new website. I’ve been meaning to get an author site up and running for some time now, but social media has been my platform of choice for so long that I didn’t think a website was necessary.

Yes. I was being lazy.

But as you can see, I changed my mind about the website. (And this is a good time to say thanks to my brother Robert, who did most of the hard work setting things up here)

If you’re wondering who the hell I am by the way, go to the ‘About Me’ page. I’ll even wait for you.

Having said all that, let’s get on with the first post.

This website has been launched to coincide with the release of ‘FAB’, my Alternate History novella, which asks the question – ‘What If John Lennon Had Lived?’ The book itself has been released to coincide with the 35th anniversary of the killing of John Lennon on December 8th. Yep, 35 years have passed since the world was robbed of one of its finest musical talents, not to mention one of its most interesting personalities.

So why have I written the book?

First off, I’m a huge fan of The Beatles. Such a huge fan that even in my late twenties and early thirties, if a family member had to buy me a birthday or Christmas present and didn’t know what to get, they’d usually just pick up a Beatle book. Mark will like that! In fact, before I moved to Australia in July 2015, I had so many Beatle books back home in Glasgow that I could have started my own shop. Unfortunately, luggage restrictions meant that I had to give them away. I hope they’ve gone to good homes. Who knows? Maybe somebody reading them might even be inspired to write their own Beatle Alternate History book (What If Thomas the Tank Engine Hadn’t Been Narrated By Ringo? – something good like that)

John Lennon was always my favourite Beatle. Why? Well, as the main character in ‘FAB’, Jagger (not Mick) comments at one point, Lennon was the craziest of the four. And I’ve always admired a little crazy in a person. I also had an Epiphone guitar as a teenager, which I made sure was the same colour as Lennon’s. Even now, I have an Ovation acoustic because that’s what Lennon had. I just liked him.

And what Beatles fan doesn’t want to envision a world in which Lennon wasn’t shot by a total dick/wretch of a human being? It was such a waste of a life. And another thing that makes Lennon’s death particularly sad is that in late 1980, at the time of his death, he was the happiest he had been in a long time. I did a lot of research for the book and there are plenty of archive interviews available on YouTube (film and audio). If you compare the earlier interviews with the 1980 equivalents, you’ll notice that Lennon is in a much better state of mind in the later ones. It’s true; he seemed genuinely happy, which makes what happened to him all the more gut-wrenching.

Which leads me onto the other thing.

I’m also a big fan of Alternate History. Be it films or books or whatever. I guess Fatherland by Robert Harris was the first AH book I remember hearing about. If you don’t know, Harris’s book is based in an alternate reality in which the Nazis won the Second World War. A lot of other authors have been inspired by the Second World War too, and it features frequently in Alternate Histories (Check out The Lucky Strike by Kim Stanley Robinson) The American Civil War is used by AH writers too. As you can probably guess, the possibilities are endless and it’s a great exercise for the imagination to run riot. For me, it combines my own love of both History and English. For those who are new to the Alternate History genre and are interested in exploring some of the titles out there – Uchronia – is a useful site, which lists over 3200 AH novels, stories, essays.

I’m particularly interested in the history of popular culture – music, films, sport etc. One thing I find strange is our historical obsession with iconic pop culture figures who died young: Jim Morrison, James Dean, Kurt Cobain, and Che Guevara, to name just a few. More recently, there’s the actor Paul Walker, who like Dean, tragically died in a car accident. Expect poster sales of Walker to skyrocket by the way.

It’s hard to pinpoint why we revere the young/dead/famous celebrity so much. But from an AH perspective, it’s fascinating to ponder what might have happened had these people lived longer. Going with James Dean for example, what would have happened if he hadn’t died in that car crash in September 1955? Personally I’ve always thought James Dean was a bit overrated and little more than a Marlon Brando imitator. It was tragic that he died at such a young age, but it was his death that made him a ‘legend’.   Had he aged, would we remember him as fondly as we do? What if Marlon Brando had died at a young age? What if Brando had been the one to die in a car crash not long after making On the Waterfront? We would never have seen the old and obese Brando, wasting his talent in many dross movies. Might James Dean have gone a similar way?

It’s the same with John Lennon. While not quite as young as James Dean when he died, Lennon had only just turned 40. For Beatles fans, it’s fascinating to speculate on what he might have achieved in the 1980s and beyond had he not been gunned down. Would the Beatles have gotten back together? Would he still be with Yoko today at age 75? That’s what ‘FAB’ is all about. Do I think the events depicted in ‘FAB’ are how things would have turned out? Probably not, but who knows? Given our obsession with celebrity and with the reality that was the Terminator Governor of recent years, anything is possible. Especially in America. It’s the speculating that’s fun.

So why did I write ‘FAB’?

Maybe I wrote it because it’s the closest I’ll ever come to saving John Lennon. Which is something every Beatle fan wishes they could do. If only time travel was really possible. I could hop into a flying DeLorean, set the Time Circuits to December 8th, 1980, 10pm, and find myself standing on West 72nd Street, New York City. Then all I’d have to do is find Lennon’s killer loitering outside the Dakota. That’s when I’d unleash the meanest Glasgow Kiss that’s ever been bestowed upon anyone. Drag the unconscious would-be-assassin away and John Lennon comes safely home that night.

Imagine that.

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