How I Made a Profit With Less Revenue Than Cost

This week I decided to try a new approach to marketing Lesson One: Revolution!, for which I just reduced the price for the e-book edition. I've been intrigued by discussions on KBoards.com about using offers on Fiverr to promote books, so I decided to try my first paid advertising for book promotion. After I finally got funds into my Dwolla account, I ordered my first "Gig" (a unit of work on Fiverr). At the current book price and royalty rate, I only needed to sell a few copies to fully cover the Gig cost. The person offering the Gig indicated the promotion would be visible to 4000 people, so I had some vague hopes that I could get those few sales needed to break even. One nifty result was making my first sale of that novel on the NOOK platform, which has always performed vastly lower than the Kindle for my books overall. But did I break even and get a positive ROI? It's a bit of a trick question, as I'll explain below.


Photo credit: Alvimann from morguefile.com

Despite the claim that the promotion would be visible to 4000 people, and despite the excellent match (in my opinion) of the ad content to the claimed political persuasion of the target audience, less than five people clicked through to find out what it was about. Of those, only one bought a copy -- the above-mentioned sale on the NOOK platform. That looked like bad news, i.e., a loss of a few dollars instead of breaking even and making a little profit. However, the story doesn't end there. I actually came out ahead, and not just in "experience" (although that was a gain too). Even though I spent $5 and only got one sale of an e-book priced at $2.99, I made a monetary profit. Sound impossible?

The real trick to this was being able to get in on a special offer from Dwolla. As a way to promote the use of Dwolla to pay for Gigs on Fiverr, and presumably promote Dwolla in general, they made an offer a few months ago that "the first 10,000 people to use Dwolla at checkout [would get their] first $5 Gig [for] free!" A few days after I paid for the Gig, the $5 I'd spent on it was returned to my Dwolla account. Rather than losing a few dollars, the royalties from that one NOOK book ended up being entirely profit -- courtesy of Dwolla. I now have $5 in my account again, which I plan on using to buy another Gig to promote a book (although possibly a different book, and definitely a different Gig).

Now that I've gained some experience with this, I've learned the following lessons:

  1. If you want to pay for a Gig on Fiverr with Dwolla, you need to make sure the funds are available in your Dwolla account first. They won't automatically tap your funding source if there are insufficient funds, but the error message you see may refer to your PIN rather than your balance.
  2. If you're going to pay for a Gig where somebody offers to give you exposure on social networks, find that person online and see how influential they really are. There was another Gig I was considering until I evaluated the Twitter account where I was supposedly buying exposure, and I saw that it would have almost certainly been a waste of time.
  3. Dwolla -- and especially this offer -- rocks! OK, I didn't really learn that, I already knew it! If you're not using Dwolla, you should give it a spin. Maybe you'll be lucky and get in on this offer too!

I'm sure I'll learn more as I experiment more, but if you're thinking about using this type of promotion for your own books, maybe those lessons will help you get the best results!