Wren sales & Facebook ad lessons – Writing Wk9+10 2021

Mike GristWeekly Writing Update, Writing Leave a Comment

2 weeks ago I felt like I was teetering on a highwire – sales rising crazily, ads working like never before, selling books like hey were hot cakes. I had no idea if it was a weird blip or a one-off, and feared any single change I might make could mess things up.

Well – that hasn’t happened, though I’ve done a number of things that messed things up, reset the ads and dropped my rank. A torrent of horrible reviews hasn’t rushed in, crushing my star rating, and if anything, people have been saying very nice, positive things.

There was the one review that called the book WOKE TRASH, but really it’s about time I got something like that. Better problems, really. They’re not horrified by the gore, bored by the side stories, confused by the incoherence. It’s the social message that gets them. That’s a problem I’m happier to have.

So, what has been happening these last 2 weeks?

I learned a lot about Facebook ads. In the glory days of 2 weeks ago, I was getting good clicks at 13p. Amazing. That rose after a few days toward 20p, and I tried to stop/offset that in a couple of ways:

  • I started some video ads, served to video feeds. As ever, these achieved nothing while wasting a bunch of money. Lesson learned (again).
  • I swiched my whole performing campaign over to Campaign Budget Optimization. This reset all the algorithms knowledge, and ended up just pushing all my budget to the chepaest, but least converting ad sets I was running.
  • I undid that, then tried making 4 new ads, 1 for each of the other books. These got converting clicks at the old, cheaper levels – but didn’t sell book 1 – rather I sold more copies of book 2. I guess that is good, but it feels a sub-optimal experience. It’s better readers start with book 1. So I turned those ads off.
  • I experimented briefly with narrowing by Engaged Shoppers. This made no discernible difference to conversions, but did halve my audience and potential clicks, so I turned that off.
  • After that, I can’t get the cpc back down to 13p, and am starting to accept that is reality. I’m targeting some big audiences, millions in them, but what % of those millions are 13p clicks? Maybe not many. With big ticket advertisers on FB, I’d guess clicks can cost up in the high dollars range. So that is reality.
  • As a result, I’m going to raise my bid caps. One thing I’ve learned about bid caps, is they are not in any way a control or an incentive to FB. If I say, don’t bid above 23p a click, that doesn’t really push the algorithm to get me cheaper clicks. It’s already trying to get me cheaper clicks. It’ll just throttle the ad if there are no cheap clicks available anymore.
  • When that throttling happens, the ad set become Bid Limited or worse, Learning Limited, and it needs to be re-started so it can do the Learning Phase again. That’s all wasted Learning time, not optimized. So my aim now is to have looser Bid Caps, and manage things with the overall budget. That has to be managed gradually, to avoid going back into the Learning Phase.
  • I’ve also learned about hard caps on daily spend per audience. If I have a lot of ads serving to the same audience, they’re all in competition with each other. There’s overlap and it’ll cost me. Some audiences can only sustain a certain amount of daily spend – they just can’t be ramped up higher and stay profitable. I’m looking at my revenue per click, and it’s somewhere around 40c per click. So I can afford anything up to 40c bids before I start losing money – as long as that conversion holds. Somewhere between here and there will be a profit sweet spot – I need to figure that out.
  • Currently I’m running mostly ads to book 1 and a couple to book 2, hoping to get cheap book 2 clicks while book 1 maintains a workhorse-like stance.

So all that has kept me busy. I have also been rewriting some. In these last 2 weeks I wrote a whole new opening for book 2, which starts Wren off in Minsk attacking a dark Internet server farm. I think it’s pretty cool. The last few days I’ve been speeding up the book 3 opening, and trying to come up with a new way to frame the income inequality core issue.

  • Essentially, I was worried about the current Handel Quanse arena stuff because a- it’s grotesque and b- would that really kick off mass rage against rich people? I tossed and turned with this question for a day and a night, and now I’ve come to an answer. It’s fine. It works if I frame it correctly. People are already angry and afraid. This is a catalyst. It’s good.
  • This doesn’t resolve other issues. The way Wren gets access to the social media companies is brutal, and I can soften it. Also what he does to coerce the CEO is very tough. Maybe I can make it less so.
  • His raid on Anti-Ca is also harsh. I already softened this, but maybe can make it feel more righteous. I’m always putting Wren against soft targets, when they should be hard.
  • His reaction to Yumiko burning alive is way overboard. With this new, ready-made tougher Wren, I can undo much of that. I think readers probably found that way too emotional. It may be a big part of the reason book 3 has a lower review score than book 2. Crazy, but true.

So my plan for March is to finish reworking books 3 and 2, take a look at 4 and 5 if there’s time (mostly just to remove the side stories, which will make them match the others in the series), then I really need to focus on book 6. The launch date is July, so I’ll have 3 months. I want to hit that date, so we’ll see.

Not much else going on. We’re still locked down, though the country is gradually loosening up. Work keeps me pretty occupied. Main goal is get that readthrough up, and optimize the max number of clicks per day to get the max profit. Also – keep trying to crack Amazon ads!

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