I Sold Products Totaling $112,700.00 in Fifteen Days Using Facebook Ads

This is one of two commercials my studio created for our latest Facebook advertising campaign.

Internet marketing has changed quite a bit since I started out back in the mid-90s. In those days we sold shareware on a much smaller web and many of us did quite well. If you want to know how well, look up a game called Doom. My first commercial software application for Windows was pretty successful, and my first game project remained my best-seller for a number of years.

Cost-per-click advertising was in its infancy then. For most, success was hit-or-miss, and measuring the effectiveness of a campaign involved more than a little guesswork. I built an enormous webcomic marketing platform around a banner advertising service called Project Wonderful, and did the same for a series of online games using a pre-roll interactive ad service called CPMstar. Our webcomics had more than 70,000 readers a day. Our top game had more than 1.7 million plays. But it was still difficult to tell if our advertising investments were paying off.

Then I discovered Facebook. It took me seven months, a lot of experimentation and a lot of spending to figure out the right way to turn targeted CPC ads into sales and profits. The footwork and analysis weren’t easy. It required time and dedication. Once I got it right, however, the results spoke for themselves.

My first major success was marketing my military science fiction novels. I correctly determined not only the demographics of my readers, but I also employed an innovative “extra step” in focusing my message. As a result, the relevance of my ad creatives skyrocketed, reaching a perfect 10 out of 10. My cost per click plummeted to single digits, and I ended up earning as much as six to one returns on my spends. That means for every dollar I spent marketing my four-novel series, I earned six dollars in sales.

Over the following months, I continued studying the targeted ad market. I examined how my creatives interacted with social media in general and with Facebook and Instagram specifically. I identified key strategies that would allow my campaigns to reach customers rather than just audiences. I began to see how the most lucrative buyers could be found, and how to make sure my ad creatives would be relevant to them. As a result, I became capable of analyzing a campaign and knowing ahead of time if the numbers made sense. After all, there’s no point in advertising if at the end of the campaign you aren’t making anything. The longer my campaigns ran, the more they made.

In September of 2019, my services were requested to help promote a benefit for a local historical society. Our goal was to sell tickets for a steam locomotive excursion in Southern California. Tickets were a few hundred dollars each. All we had to do was find fans of the old-style steam trains of the past.

Using Facebook’s tools, I did just that. I built a creative that came right out of the gate with a nine out of ten relevance score and reached a 10 out of 10 relevance score within a few days. Sales poured in. Our click-through rates were in the double digits. Our conversion rates were nearing five percent, meaning that for every 100 people who clicked on the ad, five people made a purchase. At a retail price of several hundred dollars each, it didn’t take long for sales to climb into the thousands and then tens of thousands.

It was during this campaign that I put something I call my “Maximum Sales Principle” to work. When I was marketing science-fiction novels, I had to rely on a strategy that incentivized customers to buy the entire four-book series rather than just one book. Why? Because the Maximum Sales Principle requires that revenues support the marketing costs. It’s not enough to just get sales. My method has to produce sales that cover costs and also produce profits.

When I put the same principle to work for the steam locomotive project, my creatives and campaign helped generate $112,700 in sales for my client in fifteen days. The average cost per click was eleven cents, which means given our estimated 4.7% conversion rate, each sale had a total advertising cost of about $2.34. For every dollar spent on advertising, we generated $149 in sales.

One hundred forty-nine to one returns.

My Maximum Sales Principle is an equation that tells me if a marketing campaign can be successful. It takes into account data like the price of the product, the average cost of an advertising click, the length of a campaign, whether there is an audience for the product or not, and so forth. Essentially, it tells me if an ad campaign can make money or not.

You could be offering freelance services, selling a mobile or PC game or looking for new clients for your law firm or accounting business. You could be crowdfunding. You could be building subscribers on a YouTube or Twitch channel, finding customers for your plumbing business, marketing a series of thriller novels or selling products at retail on a popular e-commerce site. Why, you might just be looking for readers for your new comic. I’ve marketed them all, and marketed them profitably.

No matter what your business is, whether it’s full-time or just a side hustle, I can put the Maximum Sales Principle to work for you. I can build your creative, identify your buyers and reach them locally, nationally or worldwide.

Now that you know what’s possible, what do you suppose you can achieve? Let’s talk about your advertising goals.

Million Dollar Artist: Your Own Bookstore

In my Million Dollar Artist™ series, I’m going to show you how to open your own bookstore. You might be asking yourself “who needs their own bookstore?” Well, that’s why I picked the title I did, because I’m about to show you the answer to that question.

Parts One and Two of this series covered The Future of Digital Publishing and The Shopify Revolution. Part Three brings it all together.

It’s 2018. With the right tools and an hour of spare time you could have an original product for sale on the web. Anyone in the world will be able to pull out their credit card, order your book from desktop or mobile and have it instantly available for download.

You keep more than 96% of the cover price. All you pay is the credit card processing fee. The rest is pure profit.

Bookstore owners like me can take full advantage of crowdfunding, video marketing, blogging, social media and subscription services, and do it in a way that is light years beyond anything a third party retailer will ever offer you. You can publish your work cheaper, faster and more attractively.

But the question remains. Who needs a bookstore?

Bloggers

Take a few minutes and look up the bloggers who have turned their articles and other writing into books. What better way to amplify your message than to put a cover on your best work and make it available for sale? Not only does it add value to what you do, it gives you considerable marketing advantages. The title “author” inspires respect and gives you credibility. Nothing is more important for a journalist or a writer.

Now imagine having your books promote your blog and your blog promoting your books. Exactly. That’s your lightbulb moment.

Video Channels and Hosts

If you run a channel on YouTube, you’ve probably run into problems monetizing your work. You face a lot of the same problems self-published authors have faced over the years. Since you’re building an audience on someone else’s site, you are subject to rules that can damage your relationship with your viewers. You may have even been “de-monetized.” As it gets harder and harder to sustain your income, you’ve likely turned to things like crowdfunding to stay afloat.

Having books to sell and a place to sell them literally changes everything. It fits right in to your current business. You can sell your books directly from your videos and you can offer them as rewards to your contributors and viewers.

Game Developers

Who better to publish hint books, character adaptations or comics featuring video game characters than the developer? Have you been watching Blizzard lately? Here’s a billion-dollar game developer rushing headlong into both publishing and animation as fast as they can. Why? Because both of those categories strengthen their core business and produce new revenue streams in the process.

Consider the average role-playing game. Even if the developer publishes a great deal of material about their game online, no medium can go into the kind of depth a book can. Your players want to know more. Give them what they want and enjoy the profits.

Authors

You might be wondering why I put authors fourth. It’s because authors can leverage all the advantages in all the other categories in addition to acquiring a supercharged marketing platform of their own. If you are used to publishing on third-party sites, the fact you will instantly increase your income by as much as 30% should be enough of an incentive, but you should also consider the fact you have zero pricing restrictions and zero formatting restrictions on your own store. If you’ve been publishing for any length of time I’ll leave it to you to imagine the possibilities.

Oh, and you’re going to be astonished at what you can do at conventions and book signings.

Business Owners and Entrepreneurs

Every business has a need to communicate with its customers. From marketing to instructional materials to technical manuals, getting good information into the hands of the people who matter most to your business has always been a top priority. Running a bookstore gives you a central place to serve as a communications channel with your clientele. Even if all you need to offer is free instruction manuals, once you get your customers used to the idea of visiting your bookstore to get more information about your business, the potential exists to turn publishing into another revenue stream.

Publishing enhances any business. In an era ruled by entrepreneurs, new enterprises and new ideas, the need for quality documentation, instruction, inspiration and entertainment has never been greater. The tools to make all these things possible have never been more powerful or less expensive. If you’re looking for ways to enhance, amplify and accelerate your work, starting a bookstore is a great next step.

If you’d like to learn more, I recommend joining my mailing list. I publish in a lot of different genres, so don’t be surprised if you get e-mails announcing new releases in my fiction, comic or game series. But do watch those newsletters, because in them you’ll find links to new articles, tips and tricks and some special offers you’ll find quite useful.

The Shopify Revolution

You’ve likely seen one or more commercials on your favorite video or social media site lately extolling the benefits of opening your own Shopify store and using it as a platform for drop-shipping. If not, allow me to briefly explain how the drop-shipping business model works.

I’ve already written about the future of digital publishing. Now we’re going to explore the infrastructure needed to put it into practice.

You open a Shopify store. In it, you can list nearly any product for sale. So, like any retailer, you get products from a supplier and then list them in your store. You add a markup of say, 20%. When someone buys the product, you order it from the supplier.

The “drop-shipping” part is when your supplier ships the product to your customer instead of to you. As the store owner, you provide the shipping information directly to the supplier, and they send the product straight to your end customer. This means you have no inventory or any of the expensive and potentially burdensome requirements of running a store.

You likely charged the customer for shipping, so you use those funds to pay the supplier the shipping charge.

Let’s say the supplier price was ten dollars. You charged the customer twelve dollars. You keep two dollars profit.

Now, why use Shopify? Well, they handle all the back end financial details for you. You get merchant-style credit card processing and the ability to collect money from sales at the point of purchase. You pay Shopify a monthly fee plus a small percentage of each transaction and you keep the rest. A few days after you make your sale, Shopify deposits the money into your bank account.

Shopify also provides you with everything you need to open and operate your store. They give you the site and the tools to set it up the way you want it — all available in your browser. In this respect they are very much like Wix and Squarespace. All you really have to do is plug in your product images, prices and descriptions. In the drop-shipping model, the image and description are provided by the supplier. You set the price.

Throw in some good marketing and you just might have yourself a revenue-positive business.

Sounds good, right? Well, remember that ten bucks you had to pay the supplier to get the product to sell? What if you didn’t have to pay that ten bucks? What if you got to keep all the money? Stay tuned, because I’m about to show you how you can take the Shopify drop-shipping model to the next level.

The Future of Digital Publishing

how do i set up my own book store

While it would be both entertaining and predictable to say this is a Jerry Maguire moment, the truth is anyone who has been in the business of publishing books, articles, comics, anthologies, non-fiction or anything else that starts out or ends up in a written form knows we’re at an inflection point. We’ve proven a dozen viable business models, but like all industries, things are about to change again. As authors and publishers we need to be aware, and do our best to influence the business for the better.

By now everyone has heard of e-books. The electronic book has been the subject of speculation since the earliest days of the technology industry and for decades in science fiction before that. Everyone remembers the ubiquitous devices in television shows like Star Trek that allowed the characters to read documents and technical manuals at a glance and even carry them from place to place. It was the 1960s version of the iPad.

During the 90s I continually predicted (and eagerly anticipated) that Apple would be the company that brought e-books to the marketplace in a big way. They already had a major presence in education. It was the logical next step. I was wrong about who, but I wasn’t wrong about what or how.

Over the last decade or so, digital publishing has grown up without a lot of fanfare. There were a few big winners in the early days of the early adopter platforms. Some authors sold a lot of books and some even managed to get traditional publishing deals as a result. The industry coalesced around one retailer and grew in relative obscurity. The average person didn’t know much about e-books and few were making any real effort to educate them.

By many measures, digital publishing is still dependent on those early adopters. Genres have become hidebound, sales are stagnating and the innovation that once drove the early adoption of enough e-reader devices to make a difference has all but disappeared. In fact, some might contend we’re moving in the wrong direction.

I’ve been publishing fiction professionally for almost eight years. I’ve had an opportunity to not only observe but experience many changes in the market for both fiction and electronic devices. Throughout this process, I’ve become increasingly impatient about the contraction and volatility of a market that should be expanding and becoming more reliable.

It became clear to me not long ago the market for digital books isn’t going to expand any further unless authors like myself make it happen.

Since I make my living writing, the best way I can contribute to the new era is to turn what I’ve learned into a course and a book series.  Since I’ve already written extensively about my experiences in freelancing, I decided the best way to organize my message was to combine the two and re-launch my Million Dollar Artist™ series.

I have some unique viewpoints on these matters because I have not only run a successful publishing business, but I also ran a fairly large animation studio and a fairly large webcomic network. Those two previous businesses succeeded largely because of my skill in sales. My goal with this new initiative is to teach those sales skills to others and show you how to adapt them to your creative business. What I have to say isn’t necessarily limited to the publishing business. It will definitely affect how you think about any creative enterprise. Even software development.

The biggest problem with relying on someone else’s store is they make all the rules: Rules which will inevitably infringe on your marketing plans. Only a fool builds his empire on someone else’s land. Why do you think Apple opened their own retail stores? Because putting their product in someone’s hands in their own building was the right way to sell technology, and they have a trillion dollars worth of market capitalization to prove it.

When I combine my business experience with my work in children’s television and interactive development, it provides me a lot of unique knowledge I think will be very useful. Along with several other authors, I’m spearheading an initiative called Enchanted Airship, which will finally do for middle grade and YA fiction what Broderbund and Leapfrog did for kids technology 20 years ago. If you happen to be a middle-grade or YA author, Enchanted Airship goes with “your own bookstore” like three jacks go with a pair of aces.

I started my first online business in 1995 (live in 95!) selling shareware through a service called SWREG. I opened my first online store in 1999. I’m happy to report things have gotten a lot easier since then.

In short, I’m going to teach you how to open and run your own bookstore.

You might be tempted to think a bookstore is only useful for authors. I will show you how having a bookstore can help any business. Books are venerated in our society like nothing else.  The title “author” carries with it considerable respect. Think blogging is a great way to get the word out? Having your own bookstore and your own publications is blogging with rocket engines! Bookstores and blogs are complimentary. One strengthens the other. For writers, marketing doesn’t get any better, or easier.

When you see what I’ve done and what you’ll soon be able to do, I think you’ll agree this is the beginning of a new era in digital publishing. The industry is growing up, and this is the next big step. The “feature list” of your new store will astonish you if you’ve been relying on third-party retailers up to this point. Plus, you can simply add your store to your retail network without interfering in your current distribution plans.

If you happen to be crowdfunding-minded, and you’ve wondered how to do for your books what all those enterprising folks on YouTube do with their video channels, running your own bookstore is going to provide you with a number of inspiring and lucrative answers. Yep, I have the key to crowdfunding for authors too.

If you’d like to learn more, I recommend joining my mailing list. I publish in a lot of different genres, so don’t be surprised if you get e-mails announcing new releases in my fiction, comic or game series. But do watch those newsletters, because in them you’ll find links to new articles, tips and tricks and some special offers you’ll find quite useful as you build your new and improved publishing business.

The future is here, and your writing is going to be a big part of it. Part Two: The Shopify Revolution.