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There are some internet marketing courses that teach you how to create break-even funnels for the product. "Break-even" means that for every dollar you buy ads for, you get at least one dollar in sales.

Basic principle:

  1. You set up 3 different ads.
  2. The first one targets people who never saw your book. The ad itself doesn't sell anything but presents some information that may be interesting for the readers (e.g. a blog post). Note that the ad platform keeps track of people who clicked on the ad.
  3. The second ad is shown only to people who clicked on the first ad. There is another piece of content and a call to more serious action (like subscribing to your list). The ad platform again notices whenever a person clicked on that ad.
  4. The third and last ad is where the sale happens. It is shown to people who clicked on both previous ads. It's here that you offer to buy the book (e.g., a collection of 3 short stories at 3 dollars each, which you can get for 7 dollars if you buy them all).

Sounds good, but I'm not sure if it would work for books as well. As far as I know you can test the whole thing for 10 dollars per campaign until it works (generates more money in sales than you spend on advertising). Then you could theoretically pump money into it (yours and that of other people) to boost sales with predictable ROI.

Are there any resources with empirical data on how to build such funnels for short fiction (short stories or collections of up to 3 short stories)?

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    Do you see any reason to suppose that advertising sells books at all? When was the last time you saw an ad for a book? When was the last time you bought a book from an ad? – user16226 Apr 5 '17 at 23:18
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    @MarkBaker If you think advertising doesn't work, then how do you sell your books? If you know a better alternative that really works, I'm all ears. – DP_ Apr 6 '17 at 8:03
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    My books (which are technical, not fiction, as yet) seem to mostly sell based on: the platform I developed through my blog, which in turn I developed by posting thoughtful responses on other blogs in the field; comments I make on other professional forums; reviews, which I got by sending review copies to people in the field, conference presentations and webinars, and word of mouth, As far as I can tell, reviews and word of mouth are what works for fiction too, along with bookstore placement. – user16226 Apr 6 '17 at 11:44
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    What if you keep on testing it and you never reach the break even point? – Chris Sunami Apr 10 '17 at 21:06
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    Books are often advertised, it's just a matter of where. The advertising that appears to work is largely done in places you know readers will visit: backs of books, cons, literary magazines, reading lists, store fronts, and publisher web sites. Covers are advertisements. Word of mouth is the golden apple for most markets, including books. All of that is to say that you may not find your target audience in a book buying mood on the internet by using a banner with certainty. This concept of break even sounds like the northwest passage of advertising. Also, find advertising experts, not writers. – Kirk Mar 22 '18 at 14:11
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I've worked in web marketing and direct marketing for a few years now.

Be wary of internet marketing courses. The results are rarely as promising as they claim and tend to require a lot higher initial investment of money and time than they claim.

That said, you can certainly try it and see if it works. Most online sales are based around a sales funnel of one kind or another.

https://www.leadpages.net/ should have the resources you're looking for. They have landing page templates you can customize with a drag and drop interface (no coding required). They also offer A/B testing and reporting software to track your results.

The free trial is for 14 days. After that, it's $25/month for the basic plan or $48/month if you want to access important features like A/B testing and the ability to accept payments.

So already you're now at $10 per campaign and $50/month.

You'll also need to create the banner ads. You can do this yourself if you're a designer, but if not you'll need to hire someone. You can find freelance designers on Upwork, Fivver, or 99 Designs who will work on a per-project basis.**

If you have some starting money and you're running ads on Facebook -- or someplace else that's very targeted to your niche -- this strategy can work. But nothing is guaranteed. Don't get too invested and be prepared to cut and run if it's not delivering the results you're looking for.

Good luck!

**Actually, you might be able to use a free platform like canva.com to make banner ads, especially if you're advertising on social media.

  • Good warning -- remember the old print paper ads: "How to write an ad that pulls" with a phone number. Buy the product, it's a copy of the ad you responded to... – Zeiss Ikon Apr 19 '18 at 17:13

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