I've written before about how to improve the content and look of BookBub ads for better results. But how do you choose which readers to whom to advertise? In particular, how do you find books similar to yours and their authors?
You can keep scrolling in any direction to see what other books the ones that appear near yours connect to.
Learning About Other Authors And Genres
I often discover books and authors with which I'm not familiar near mine on Yasiv, and I don't always see the books I expect. That's why Yasiv is so helpful.
Instead of guessing which readers will like your books and spending money advertising to them, you can instead target authors and books you see on the Yasiv graph. I've used these authors for both Amazon and BookBub ads.
Experiment with other sales platforms as well, not only Amazon.
For example, I found Harlan Coben, whom I target with ads for Kobo for my Q.C. Davis series, through Yasiv. Ads targeted to his readers on Amazon, though, don't work that well for me.
Yasiv also helped me see that a lot of sci fi readers like my Awakening series, despite that it has no hard science at all. But it loosely falls in the sci fi/fantasy genre and it's a four-book series, which often appeals to fantasy readers.
Connections To Your Own Work
If you have a number of books published, you'll be able to see whether readers move from one to another. The later books in my Awakening series (The Unbelievers, The Conflagration, and The Illumination) appear pretty close to The Awakening.
That didn't surprise me, as I generally see sales of the later books after a spike in sales of Book 1.
What did surprise me is that When Darkness Falls, which I think of as my orphan book, also appears pretty near The Awakening. I'm surprised because WDF doesn't sell much. Occasionally I run a Free Day through Kindle Unlimited and people download it or borrow it.
It's a standalone that loosely fits in the same genre as The Awakening but has significant differences.
WDF is a paranormal romance that features a woman in love with a man who has become a vampire-type creature but doesn't know it. In contrast, The Awakening has little romance and no supernatural characters. It's about a young woman against a powerful cult convinced she'll trigger an Apocalypse.
I had thought about making When Darkness Falls wide (available on multiple ebook platforms) like my other books. Now that I know that free downloads of When Darkness Falls drive some sales of The Awakening, though, I decided to keep it in Kindle Unlimited.
I also learned that not many readers cross over from the Awakening series to my Q.C. Davis series, a suspense/mystery series with no supernatural or occult elements. Disappointing, but it confirms that I need to target entirely different readers for the two series.
A CVS I once shopped at every week closed the other day. Its disappearance made me think about customer service and how that relates to the business of being an author and publisher.
An Unsurprising Store Closing
The CVS that closed was once directly on the way to my office, which is how I started shopping there. When I switched my place of business, I detoured a few blocks out of the way because the pharmacist was helpful and cheerful, and I was in the habit of picking up things like toothpaste and Advil there.
Gradually, though, going a few blocks out of my way became less and less appealing.
It started when CVS put in self-checkout machines.
No matter how long the lines were, how many employees were stocking shelves, or how many machines errorred out and stopped working (I found them very unreliable in the beginning), the employees rarely opened up a regular cash register to ring people up.
Also, working or not, I find the machines cumbersome and awkward to use.
There's no room to put anything down, as the machines are jammed against one another.
The only shelf is for bagged items you've already rung up, as the mechanical voice sternly advised me when I momentarily set my purse there to keep from dropping it.
All of that means that when it's twenty degrees and sleeting outside I have to juggle my umbrella, hat, mittens, shoulder bag full of files, wallet, credit card, and items to check out with only two hands. While sweating under my winter coat.
Other times the specific item I need is out of stock.
Or it's been recategorized and shelved elsewhere. (I don't have kids, so it doesn't occur to me that I might only find cotton swabs, for instance, in the infant aisle.)
While I occasionally buy a few things at CVS, these days I usually order online. And that's despite that because I now work in my home office I'm looking for reasons to take walks and interact with other people.
CVS simply makes it far too hard for me to spend money there.
What Good Service Looks Like
My first order with Amazon might easily have been my last.
Early on when Amazon sold only books I ordered five on the origins of monotheism and on goddess cultures. I wanted them for research for what eventually became my Awakening supernatural thriller series.
Local bookstores didn't carry the books.
Amazon offered free shipping. But weeks after I ordered I'd gotten nothing. Happily, I pretty easily found a link on Amazon to report the missing books.
A few days later a box of books came. No questions asked. Two weeks later the original set of books also appeared at my door. But Amazon had already told me to just keep them if they ever showed up.
I was thrilled. One set stayed at home for close study. I kept the other at work to read in those rare times when I had a break.
I also became a customer for life. Especially later when one-click ordering made it even easier to buy.
Putting It Together
What I learned from these experiences about retail business:
Make it easy, not hard, for your customers to give you money
Make your products easy to find
If you make a mistake, fix it quickly and add some value
These seem like obvious points. Yet I go into stores all the time that don't follow them.
Authors And Customer Service
What does all of this have to do with your author business?
Most of us sell through other companies like Kobo or Amazon, so we we have limited control over how easy it is for a reader to buy.
But one thing we can do is make our books available in as many places and in as many formats as possible.
Audiobooks, for example, took off very slowly for me. But the other day I sold my 1,200th audiobook, not counting The Worried Man, which is published by a separate company. And the great thing is that I either did a royalty-share deal or paid the narrators up front. So all royalties to me are pure income at this point.
Similarly, at first I issued only ebook editions. But as I met more people who only bought paperbacks I decided I ought to make those available too.
Now about one-third of my sales are paperback editions.
Having books in multiple formats and on multiple platforms also makes them easier to find. Having your own website that lists all the editions also makes it simpler for a reader who hears your name to track you down.
In addition, covers and book descriptions that accurately convey your genre will help readers determine quickly if your books might interest them.
If you learn that there's a typo in your book, or if you discover your book description is giving people the wrong impression, if you're a self-published author you can fairly quickly make changes and updates.
And, as an author, sometimes fixing an issue means responding to a reader who emails you. If the reader didn't like the ending, you can say thank you for the feedback, empathize, and let the reader know that with the next book you'll keep those thoughts in mind.
It doesn't mean you need to change your writing style. But if you're thoughtful and appreciative in your response, the reader may give your next book a try. And you may learn something.
For the last 3 months I've been running BookBub ads for my novels and non-fiction books. (More on why I started doing this in Advertising Books in 2019.)
Here's what I learned about split testing and ad appearance so far:
Split Test To Learn The Why
On BookBub you can target readers of one particular author at a time. So I regularly tried the same tag line in one ad targeting a particular author's readers and a different tag line in another ad to the same readers.
This approach is called split testing and I'm so glad I did it.
Otherwise, had I tried a tag line targeting one author and gotten few or no clicks, I might have assumed that author wasn't a good target for my books. Or that the tag line didn't work.
Instead, for example, the tag line “One woman stands against an ancient and powerful cult” resulted in Amanda Carlson's readers clicking on it 10%-20% of the time.
Douglas Clegg's readers, though, barely clicked on ads with that tag line at all.
But Clegg's readers clicked often on a different tag line: “They thought she would give birth to a messiah….” This ad led to sales of my Awakening series 4-book box set at $9.99. That set is my highest priced item, so finding an author whose readers it interested made a big difference to my bottom line.
Had I not done the split testing, I would have thought Douglas Clegg wasn't a good choice for my Awakening series at all.
Create Ads Similar To Target Book Covers
I also played with different background colors and typefaces in ads. That didn't seem to make a whole lot of difference in clicks or sales.
In in Month 3, however, it finally occurred to me to see if I could evoke the color schemes and patterns of the target authors' book covers.
When I targeted Harlan Coben's readers with an ad for my domestic thriller The Worried Man and tried to echo themes I saw in many of his book covers the click-through rate doubled.
To the left is the latest ad, which I created on Canva.
If you click through Coben's covers here you'll see many use similar shades of yellow. Also, many have a sort of distressed or cracked look in the background.
Echoing Key Words
When I looked at Coben's book descriptions, too, I noticed they often referred to “secrets.”
As The Worried Man includes the main character discovering secrets about her boyfriend (the victim) and various suspects, I added the word into the ad copy above.
This month I plan to try a variation on this ad with a shorter tag line. I'll let you know if that works better or not.
Today I'll cover the Three-Quarter Turn, the Climax, and the action following the climax.
Warning: As before, spoilers below. If somehow you haven’t read The Hunger Games or seen the film, do that first and come back. I'll still be here. Or the article will at least.
Moving On From The Mid-Point
As we talked about last week, at the Mid-Point of the novel Katniss suffers a serious reversal. Badly injured, she climbs a tree to evade her enemies. But all they need to do is wait her out. So she drops a hive of tracker jacker hornets on them.
This action results in her first kill in the games and serves as her Mid-Point action to commit and go all in.
Further, as it should, Katniss' action at the Mid-Point propels the story forward.
Because of it, Katniss allies herself with Rue. Rue helped Katniss spot the tracker jacker hive. She also helps heal Katniss heal from tracker jacker stings. The two form a plan to go after the supplies of the group of tributes who trapped and tried to kill Katniss.
The Mid-Point also leaves Katniss confused about Peeta’s allegiances.
She pretends for the camera that she and Peeta have a secret pact, but she doesn’t know if he played along with the other tributes to try to protect her somehow or if he truly wants to eliminate her. After all, only one of them can win.
These feelings are the perfect set up for the next plot point at the three-quarter mark.
One Possible Three-Quarter Turn
Like the One-Quarter Twist (discussed last week), the Three-Quarter Turn once again sends the story in a new direction. This time, though, rather than being an outside force the turn grows directly from the protagonist’s action the Mid-Point.
I see two possible Three-Quarter Turns in the novel The Hunger Games.
The first happens on page 244, which is about 20 pages before the actual three-quarter point in the book. The gamemakers announce that two tributes can win this year’s game so long as they are from the same district.
This world change opens the chance that both Katniss and Peeta can survive. Katniss immediately sets out to find him.
At first this twist seems to come from outside because it is the gamemakers who make the decision. Katniss, however, prompted that decision.
First, she survived her reversal. Second, she acted as if she and Peeta were still allies, despite that she didn’t know herself if that was true.
Also, while we don’t know for certain because the book is told from Katniss’ point of view, it’s likely that her care and concern for Rue when the girl was dying moved viewers so much that they began clamoring for Katniss to have a chance to be happy with Peeta.
From the turn on Katniss struggles to find and heal Peeta and to ensure his survival along with her own.
If we go by page count, at the actual three-quarter point in the book the gamemakers have already changed the rules. When Katniss finds him, Peeta is badly injured and dying.
The Capitol, however, announces that there will be a “feast” where each tribute can get something desperately needed. Katniss is sure there will be medicine for Peeta. Equally sure it’s a trap, Peeta makes her promise not to go there. He doesn’t want her to die.
But Katniss will not simply let him die.
When her sponsors send sleeping syrup, she mixes it in berries and feeds it to him. That way she is able to leave without him knowing it to fight for the medicine.
I like this development as the Three-Quarter Turn because Katniss makes a choice, making it more clearly a turn due to her own actions.
Whichever part you see as the turn, though, it drives the rest of the story toward the Climax.
As we approach the climax of The Hunger Games, Katniss and Peeta fight the last tributes to the death.
But the true payoff is less about a physical fight and more about winning the battle against the Capitol.
When only Katniss and Peeta are left, the Capital changes the rules again so that only one can win. This switch brings together all the previous parts of the plot and the main characters’ arcs.
Peeta never believed he could win on his own. He did his best to survive but his main goal was to help Katniss win and get back home to help care for her little sister.
Katniss shared that goal, but once she knew Peeta also could survive she put the two of them winning together above her personal survival.
Now, in the climax, the gamemakers try to pit the two against one another again by reversing the rule change. Once again, only one can win.
Though once she strove to emerge as the sole survivor, Katniss is now determined to outwit the Capitol so both can live. That change occurs due to everything that happened in the games, her choices throughout, her growing feelings for Peeta, and her building outrage against the Capitol.
As a result, she refuses to accept the limits of the games. Instead, she encourages Peeta to (at least appear to) commit suicide with her. The Capitol stops them and declares both winners.
The awful choice Katniss faces and her quick-witted, determined response provide much more drama that a physical fight alone could.
The Falling Action
After the Climax, every good story includes falling action, which is what it sounds like — the results or fallout of the Climax.
The Climax and Falling Action together should resolve all the major plot points and show the consequences to the protagonist. It’s okay to leave a few open questions for the reader to ponder, but too many and you’ll leave readers unhappy and unsatisfied.
How long the section is depends upon how much needs to be resolved.
In The Hunger Games, it’s 27 pages.
Katniss discovers the Capitol now sees her as a threat because she outwitted the gamemakers. She also must deal with Peeta’s sadness when he realizes she exaggerated her feelings for him and with her own internal confusion over what was real and what wasn’t. Most important, she realizes the games really never end. She must play a part forever to avoid inciting a rebellion and risking the lives of the people she loves.
If you plan a sequel, it’s also a good idea to plant a few seeds for the next book in the falling action section.
The falling action in The Hunger Games works for it as a standalone novel and as Book 1 in a trilogy.
Katniss and Peeta survive the games, resolving the main plot. If the book was a standalone, that they will need to be mindful and play parts forever would be enough of a resolution, and the readers would be left to imagine how their personal relationship might or might not develop.
But these same points set up a sequel well.
In the next book, the reader can find out exactly what happens as they try to conform with the Capitol’s expectations, as well as how Katniss' mixed feelings for Peeta change her life.