Image: Matthew Loffhagen
There’s an old saying that claims, ‘you’ve got to spend money to make money’.
A lot of big book publishers certainly think that’s the case, judging by their marketing budgets. You’ve probably seen advertisements for popular bestsellers in magazines, on billboards, and sometimes even on television.
As most self-published and small press authors don’t have access to the big funds that large publishers throw around, it’s often difficult to commit to spending money on advertising. It doesn’t help that reports about the success of online ads tend to vary wildly between authors.
A lot of authors prefer to stick to free advertising techniques, but many may wonder whether paid ads would make the process of building a readership quicker and easier.
So are paid online ads worthwhile? Unfortunately, the short answer is: maybe.
I’ve tried paid ads a few times myself, and I’ve had generally positive experiences. To be honest, though, paid ads are a lot like skinny jeans – they might work really well for some authors, but others will struggle to get into them.
Ultimately the only way to find out whether paid online ads will profit your book is by giving it a go. The good news is that you can try ads out for fairly cheap, and a lot of services like Google Ads and Facebook give away free credit quite often.
If you’re thinking of buying some online ad space, bear in mind the following important tips:
Adapt to survive
Paid online ads are easy to set up – services offered by Google and Facebook are very user friendly and it only takes a few clicks to produce your first text ad, or possibly a bit longer if you’re going with some visuals.
That said, getting the most out of your ads involves learning, studying analytics, trying out different approaches and finding the best solution for your book.
Advertising perfection is a goal that even the most experienced marketers are still working towards, so don’t feel bad if your ads don’t gain traction immediately. Just be ready to make changes and try different approaches to learn the best way to promote your book.
Self-published author Shantu Tiwari has described his experiences with relatively cheap ads as he attempted to learn the ropes of online ads.
He found that in his case, paying a lot of money for ads didn’t benefit him – he was looking for a small, niche audience that were best served by ads in obscure but specific places.
It can take some experimentation to find the perfect place for your ads, and the perfect words or visuals to use to draw in readers. A savvy book marketer will always be changing their ads to try and find a more successful magic formula.
Google and Facebook like to keep detailed profiles on all their users, which may be bad for personal privacy, but it’s fantastic from a marketing perspective. Using their clever ad systems, you can target users with specific interests and preferences, making sure that your ads only appear to people who will be interested in your book.
An example from my own life: a while ago I gave a try to using Facebook ads to advertise a comic strip I draw. Magipunk is a steampunk scifi-fantasy story, so it’s got a very niche appeal.
With Facebook, I was able to make sure that my ads were only seen by people who’d previously expressed an interest in stories like Harry Potter, Firefly and Doctor Who. This ensured that my ads made their way to the people who’d want to see them.
Bestselling author Mark Dawson has said that his success has come from carefully targeting his ads to meet the right readers. He spends hours analyzing trends and pinpointing which keywords work best in finding his audience.
He also pours a lot of money into advertisements – over $300 per day – but he makes double back in book sales. Even authors with smaller budgets will be able to see success if they make sure their ads are carefully tailored to their potential readers.
No effort is wasted
Often, advertising is about more than just getting users to click an ad: you’re trying to build brand recognition.
Some people buy books on impulse, but a lot of ad campaigns rely on the slow burn, wearing buyers down by showing them several ads before they’re willing to make a purchase. Getting users to click on a single ad may not always be enough to guarantee a sale.
Author Meljean Brook has said that she actually prefers ads for her books which are seen a lot but don’t get clicked often. This is because if users are seeing her ads more often, they’re more likely to remember her name and, eventually, buy the book.
This uncertainty of course makes it all the more difficult to pinpoint exactly what does and doesn’t work with online paid ads. Ultimately, if you’re going to pay for ads, you’ll have to rely on trial and error to find the perfect ad campaign for your book.
Do you have any experience with paying for ads? Do you have any questions or ideas you’d like to share? Leave us a comment below – we’d love to hear them!