Book advertising is the latest hot trend in self-publishing, so let’s look at some tips which may help you to make money, or at least, prevent you from losing money.
Over the past few months I’ve been chatting with authors who use many different forms of advertising.
Here’s a good list of paid and free advertising venues from Reedsy. Results vary, as you might expect. There’s a reason that many authors just toss their books into KDP Select; it saves time, advertising-wise.
Of course “free” is authors’ most popular form of advertising.
Book advertising: does “free” still work?
“Free” will always work. But you need to be careful with it.
As I said in Book Marketing And Freebies: How To Escape The Tyranny:
If freebies aren’t working for you, for whatever reason, stop offering freebies. Simple.
We’ve got more on freebies below, in our second tip.
Let’s look at three tips which will help you to navigate the choppy waters of book advertising for self-publishers.
1. Know your ROI (Return On Investment): it may not be money
You need a reason for whatever you’re doing in advertising. If you’re marketing a book, you want to:
- Sell copies; or
- (If you’re using your free days in Select) Bump your book up in the rankings on Amazon so that you get greater visibility; or
- Do a little branding; you want readers to become familiar with your name.
Here’s a step by step process to go through before you advertise
- Decide that you want, and set a goal, with a time limit;
- Decide how much money you want to invest;
- Have a way of tracking your ad spend and sales, so that you can see whether you’re making money, or are losing money.
As we suggested above, you may not be after direct sales. You may want to familiarize readers with your work. So, if you drop some money on Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) for a book and lose money, it will still hurt, but at least you’ve achieved your goal of becoming a little more visible.
2. Know what you’re doing with freebies: have a REASON for your freebie
I’ve spoken with several authors who were giving thousands of books away — with zero sales.
Unbelievable, right? I kid you not. My mantra for these authors, and for YOU if you’re taking this freebie thing way too literally is: “I SELL BOOKS”.
I know that online forums are packed with authors for whom freebies work, but think for a few moments about how free samples work in everyday life.
Let’s say you’re shopping at your local supermarket. It’s a Friday, a big shopping day. People from several food manufacturing companies are offering free samples. You can nosh on King Island Brie, plus a new sourdough bread; in addition, you can sample a new chocolate.
Think about what’s happening here. Does the King Island person offer you an enormous brie, the size of a dinner plate? Nope. You get a small teaspoon-sized wedge. What about the sourdough person? Does she hand you a sandwich? Nope. You get a tiny slice, the size of a spoon. The chocolate person offers you a square of chocolate, not a chocolate bar.
Sales people who offer free samples offer small samples, and the sample people are at a store for a day; or at most, a couple of days.
Sticking with our freebies in the shopping mall example. Go for a wander around the mall in your imagination. Here’s a bookshop. Excellent…
Look for the freebies in the bookshop. What’s that? There aren’t any? Well, fancy that. Ask the sales person what’s free today — she might give you a bookmark that a publishing company offers to promote its latest (they hope) hot seller.
You can stroll around the mall all afternoon. You won’t find full-sized anything for free, and while some stores have free samples, the samples are small, and they’re available only for a few hours.
3. Test and go slowly in book advertising: what works for others may or may not work for you
I adore advertising, because I’m a veteran copywriter. I read the ads in magazines as diligently as I read the content. I even read junk mail.
However, when it comes to spending money on advertising, I’m frugal, because you never know what will work for YOU. Yes, people can tell you that they made $5,000 last month on Facebook ads on a $500 ad spend.
That’s them. Your mileage will be different. You may be promoting a book in a different genre. Facebook may tinker with its algorithm, and offer your ad to people who’d never buy your book.
So, in book advertising, as in all advertising, go slowly, and test the waters. Try a small ad, for one book. Watch your numbers: how many sales did you make which are directly attributable to the ad?
Let’s say you use a Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising network. You make a ROI of 500% — you spent $100 and got $500 back. Magic — you decide to ramp up your advertising significantly. STOP. Please don’t do that. Increase your ad spend slowly, always slowly.
Here’s a rule of thumb for PPC. You don’t know what will work until you get at least 300 clicks. (Unless you’re paying $5 per click. In that case, kill the ad as soon as you become unprofitable.)
Book advertising works best when combined with other promotions
I know many authors who focus solely on advertising to promote their books. They have a mailing list, but only post when they release a new book. It works for them. For whatever reason — their book hits exactly the right tropes for a genre, or they already have a following — they sell.
In general however, paid and free book advertising works best when it’s combined with other marketing, such as blogging and social media, for example.
Good luck with your promotions, and please be wary of “free.” 🙂
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