The current buzz in book marketing is paid on-line advertising. Some authors report excellent results, other complete disappointment. This study is divided into two parts: the Good News and the Bad News, as reported by authors who have paid to promote their books.
The study started with a conversation with a fellow author whose blog helps support fellow authors for a nominal fee to cover the costs. Her newsletter has a modest membership and provides a good service to authors.
While discussing paid on-line book advertising, one of her first question to me was “Is there a payback to the author who pays to promote their books?
Her next question was “Do some authors really get turned down?
I love a good study. That is my thing along with writing mystery novels. And I have a group of outstanding, award-winning authors that have my back. Almost 50 authors responded to my plea for assistance. I will try to summarize my findings so you can get something out of this post.
Disclaimer: I am not judge and jury on this. Some of the results depend on the genre, the author’s brand and recognition. That said the authors in this post are all outstanding in their own right and wanted to share their experience with you.
There are many options for authors to advertise their books. Some are free and some they have to pay for. Some bring results and some do not. Here is a brief list of the major options available to authors. I know as soon as I publish this list, I will hear about other options that are available. That is what the comment section on blog posts are for.
Amazon drives the show with KDP and their free Kindle Book promotion.
This is by far the most popular method used by authors today. The result is not always good but it is free under certain conditions.
Todd Borg is the award-winning, bestselling author of the Owen McKenna Tahoe Mystery series. Here is what Todd had to say about KDP.
“Free promotions through Amazon are great. Free ebook promotions work well for getting people to try your book. If you have other books, they may go on to purchase those.”
Another method that is gaining momentum is the book/blog tour with giveaways. Some are free, some are not.
Author Cate Beauman is a Romance, Mystery & Thrillers Writer. Cate had this to say.
“I actually don't pay to advertise my books. I was given advice long ago never to pay for advertising. My business manager and I promote my work for free using blog tours and giveaways which have worked out quite well for me.”
Some authors use the free resources of Social Media, Internet articles, their own blogs and other author’s blogs plus support groups to promote their books.
Brae Wyckoff @BraeWyckof is the Author of The Orb of Truth book series. Brae is the founder of The Greater News Facebook page! And Host of Prophetic Underground radio! Brae said this about promotions.
“I have used paid advertising for radio and Internet within several forums. The key is to find the right avenue that fits the genre of your book.
There are plenty of free things you can do to get the ball rolling. Find bloggers to talk about you and your work. Build relationships with other readers and writers in the unlimited Facebook groups.”
Print Ads – traditional – direct mail campaigns
Self-published Author Anne Carter @PamRipling (aka Pam Ripling) is an award-winning writer of romantic mysteries, lighthouse fiction and a variety of other works! She is the founder of Murder, We Wrote. Anne says ‘NO’ to print ads.
“I do believe that print advertising is no longer very effective in the book marketing world. I once paid quite a tidy sum to advertise in Romantic … Magazine and saw virtually no return.”
This is the meat of our discussion. I will start with the various options authors have and present a experiences from our outstanding study authors.
Google Adwords and Facebook Pay-to-click
We will start with a couple of favorite sites. They promote your book and charge you a click charge as people access the detail of your book. That doesn’t mean you made a sales but someone was interested enough to take a look.
UK Author Christoph Fischer @CFFBooks writes Historical Fiction. Here is Christoph experience.
“I had a free Facebook promotions voucher but the process was not transparent and I ended up cancelling the entire promotion. There was little help as to how expensive the advert was in the various options and I had not even extra likes on my page.”
Author Ron Fritsch @RonFritsch is a self-published Historical Fiction Writer. Ron followed up with this.
“So far, I've only used Google and Facebook for targeted pay-per-click ads. (I haven't tried to place ads on any of the sites that turn authors down.)
The clicks were remarkably inexpensive. Some of them appear to have resulted in sales, but they certainly didn't turn me into a best-seller.”
Alan Jacobson @JacobsonAlan is the bestselling author of jaw-dropping thrillers. Alan added this.
“I’ve used Facebook promoted ads and they definitely had reach. It definitely got the word out about an event we were doing.”
Joseph Lallo @jrlallo is a bestselling author of the Science Fiction & Fantasy series: The Book of Deacon Trilogy. Joseph finished with this.
“The only form of advertising I've had a somewhat significant amount of experience with is Facebook Fan Page post promotion. While I cannot say that my promoted posts have resulted in significant sales improvements, they have been quite effective at spreading the word about various book updates.”
Goodreads is another popular group to promote your book. This is what some of the Spotlight crew had to say about them.
Award-winning Author Mohana Rajakumar @moha_doha is a writer based in Qatar. Mohana said.
“I have tried a variety of ads including on Goodreads for specific titles. The most successful types of services, in my opinion, are experienced blog your organizers. It did increase visibility which led to a modest spike in sales.”
Best-selling Author David Rashleigh @DavidRashleigh writes in the Mystery, Horror and Ghosts genre. David added this about Goodreads.
“The only paid advertising I have used is on Goodreads, which is on a pay-per-click basis. Obviously, it only applies to Goodreads’ members who should be a well-targeted audience.”
BookBub is a very popular group with good results for authors. They have mixed results that you will pick up as you read this study.
New York Times and USA Today Best Selling Author C.J. Lyons @cjlyonswriter is the writer of sixteen Mystery & Thrillers and Romance novels. C.J. had this to say about BookBub.
“But one form of paid advertising that did work for me with a direct impact on sales was targeted, permission-based email. In particular, BookBub (although there are others offering a similar service) was quite effective.”
Best-Selling Author Debra L. Martin @dlmartin6 Science fiction and fantasy writer. You can also find her writing Romance novels as Debra Elizabeth. Debra followed with this.
“I've used a number of paid ads from BookBub, Ereader News Today, Digital Book Today, and Kindle Books & Tips. The most effective ad has been with BookBub. The downside is that BookBub is extremely expensive…”
Mystery Author R.P. Dahlke @rpdahlke is the author of The Lalla Bains mystery series. She is the sponsor of the All Mystery E-newsletter. Rebecca said.
“I get into BookBub every time I submit. Authors who submit do so first--they check to make sure the books at least a 4.0 average, good book cover, good blurb, lots of reviews. Then, they send you an acceptance and an invoice. They will redo my book blurb every time I submit.”
Some of the other authors in the study had these comments about some of the popular paid advertising sites.
Award-Winning Author Jade Kerrion @JadeKerrion writes the DOUBLE HELIX series. Jade had this to say about ENT.
“I have had, hands down, the best results with EReader News Today (ENT). Often, I've paid for a promotion and my sales barely break even on what it cost for the promotion. It's not the case with ENT's "Bargain Book of the Day" promotion. ENT tracks the sales made through their website and charges you a percentage of the royalties you've made. You literally cannot lose money on this promotion.”
Lisa Kessler @LdyDisney is the Author of the award-winning Night Series. Lisa said this about KND.
“I've had great experience with Kindle Nation Daily and have seen a bounce in my sales numbers every time I work with them. I've also had great luck with "I love vampire novels" and their email advertising program that is geared toward vampire novel readers. In the past, I've placed ads on some blog review sites, but it's harder to tell what the impact might have been...”
Author Emily Tippetts @EMTippetts is a YA Romance writer. Also she writes Science Fiction and Fantasy as Emily Mah. Emily added this about KND.
“One is Kindle Nation Daily. Though they never generated a landslide of downloads, ads with them did increase my sales noticeably. The other is BookBub, who send my sales rocketing up by 24 hours whenever I advertise with them. I've yet to be turned down by them, but it's always a possibility with one of my lesser known books. I seem to fit their profile, though, since they gave me a free slot in December without my knowing it and took my book all the way up to the Kindle top 100.”
This is a good promotion opportunity for Mystery Writers.
Mystery Author R.P. Dahlke @rpdahlke started All Mystery Newsletter and Dirt Cheap Mystery Reads in 2010. She had this to say about her newsletter.
“Our motto is ‘No vampires allowed unless they solve crime in their spare time.’
I started with a colorful, linked newsletter which now goes out to 2,000 fans of mystery/suspense/thrillers and all the subgenre. Along with the newsletter, authors also get tweets, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest posts. Readers and authors are encouraged to join and post book news, FREE and discounted books at our Facebook Pages, and at our active group of writers, readers, reviewers on our Yahoo and Good Reads Groups.” Check the Author information page.
Terry Ambrose @suspense_writer is the author of the McKenna Mystery series and a member of Murder, We Wrote. Terry said this about All Mystery Newsletter.
“One of the paid advertising sources I've used is the All Mystery Newsletter, which gave me access to readers I wouldn't have crossed paths with otherwise. The thing I like most about the newsletter is that it goes directly to the email inboxes of readers, so I know there's a higher likelihood of my book being seen and I don't have to rely on them finding my ad.”
Another ad opportunity mentioned was Book Blast.
Amy Metz @authoramymetz is the Author of Mystery & Thrillers as well as a blogger and book editor. Amy weighs in on Book Blast.
“I’ve only used paid advertising a few times—once for an ad on a website, once for an ad in a magazine, and once with a Book Blast tour.
I do know that with the Book Blast, one of the tasks readers were required to do was to “like” my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter. I saw a big increase in both of those due to that aspect of the tour, although I’m not sure how many of those I’ve retained.”
So what is the good news here? Is there a payback for the money? What can I expect from my limited budget?
There is definitely an increase in sales for some authors. Here are some of the comments from the HBS Author’s Spotlight crew.
Australian Author Karin Cox @Authorandeditor is the prolific author of more than 28 titles, from travel guides, to natural history, to illustrated children's storybooks. Karin had this to say about sales.
“The most expensive but also the most useful (most books sold) was BookBub, but I have also had success with Free Kindle Books and Tips and Kindle Fire Department, as well as Pixel of Ink and Ereader News Today.”
Brent Hartinger @brenthartinger is the author of The Russel Middlebrook series. The movie version of his novel: Geography Club will be released later in 2013. Brent followed with this.
“I have only just started doing online advertising, and just last week, I did use BookBub to advertise one my books, which had been reduced in price to $.99 [I had] enough downloads which more than paid for the promotion.”
Writer Matthew Iden @CrimeRighter is the bestselling author of Crime fiction, suspense, dark humor, fantasy, science fiction and more. Matthew added this.
“I'd have to say that only a few sites (BookBub and KND) actually offer good return on investment. The others either don't have enough reach, a qualified audience, or they drown their subscribers in book deals.”
Sometimes there is more to a promotion then sales. Some authors see a payback in the exposure they gain.
Best-Selling Author Helen Hanson @HelenHanson writes Mystery & Thrillers and Suspense novels. Helen had this to say.
“Paid advertising can be a prickly subject with indie authors. It’s expensive, takes energy away from writing, and isn’t necessarily going to increase sales. The mantra being that we pay to gain exposure–institutional advertising as opposed to expecting an immediate return on the investment.
When I recently advertised 3 LIES on BookBub, I got great exposure while it climbed the charts, but they wouldn’t have accepted the book if it didn’t already have a healthy number of quality reviews.”
Author Barry Parham @barryparham is an award winning humorist and short story writer. Barry followed with this.
“Personally, I've had better luck buying ads that promote appearances and readings, than I've had purely promoting books for sale in stores or online.”
Some authors see a payback in receiving a high ranking on Amazon which they can use in future advertising. Like being able to state in your advertising that ‘this book was ranked number one in the Mystery genre.’ Or to sell to readers who use ranking to influence their decision.
Another International Best Selling author had this experience.
“Back in April, I signed up to do BookBub for “Whether I’ll Live or Die” as a $0.99 feature. It was put into the Women’s Fiction category… it had thrown my ranking up into the number 1 spot in several categories.
With that said, BookBub says that with a discounted book (not free)… my sales were just below average for that.”
Another payback is for the author to expand his audience. If they download this book they may buy some of the author's other books.
Terry Ambrose @suspense_writer is the author of the McKenna Mystery series and a member of Murder, We Wrote. Terry said this about his payback.
“My experience so far has been that paid advertising can help expand my reach, but may not always pay for itself. While I think that paid ads are a necessary part of any promotional campaign, I think that they only provide a temporary boost to sales.”
Some of the outstanding authors in our study discussed their use of a combination of promotions to get the best results.
Best-Selling Author Claude Bouchard @ceebee308 writes Mystery & Thrillers novels in the Vigilante Series. Claude had this to say.
“I've used paid advertising, particularly when doing a KDP Select promotion. It made a huge difference each time, resulting in high numbers of giveaways and strong post-promo sales.”
Author M.R. Mathias @DahgMahn is an award-winning, self-published Fantasy Writer. He is noted for his epic fantasy novels and his prolific social network marketing activity. Mike said this about combo promotions.
“I advertise in two big bulk sessions during the Christmas months and the during the summer months. I do this because three months of an ad is cheaper AND it is more effective for the reader to see you several months in a row as a sponsor of their fav magazines etc... I choose where I advertise wisely because I want to hit my target market.”
Frederick Lee Brooke @frederickbrooke is the author of the Annie Ogden Mystery Series. Frederick echoed the same thing about combos.
“I’ve used several paid advertising sites, including Google AdWords. It’s hard to say if any one particular initiative is really working, because I’ve always got several going at the same time.
The problem is, you can write a really good book, but it’s extremely unlikely anyone will find out about it if you don’t get active on social media, with paid advertising, with blogging, and so on.”
Author, Editor and Poet Robert Yehling @WordJourneys writes, teaches creative and spiritual writing and conducts workshops around the country. Robert weighed in on combining your promotion.
“I promote very selectively with online paid advertising – just to get the buzz going. I find it effective when used in conjunction with a promotion.
As for on-line advertising sites skewing retailer rankings, I don’t like that at all. It’s not reflective of what is really hot. I liked the old way, where they polled bookstores nationwide, got their top sellers, and built the lists from there.”
Author Jake Needham @jakeneedham is a best-selling Mystery & Thrillers writer. Jake followed suit on the combo promotions.
“Each time I have done a free promotion on Amazon I have used some form of paid advertising, and generally paid advertising from a combination of different sources. Careful fine-tuning of the process has each time raised the number of downloads I experienced during those promotions… I have been the #1 free title on both Amazon US and Amazon UK.
…that the point of the promotion is to get a lot of books out there and into the hands of people who might become new readers but have probably never heard of me.”
Amazon Best-Selling Author Cheryl Bradshaw @cherylbradshaw is the creator of the Sloane Monroe series and the founder of the hugely successful Indie Writers Unite group on Facebook. Cheryl talks about combining her promotions.
I use paid advertising on a monthly basis combined with other promotional opportunities to keep my name visible, my books visible, and my brand visible. I've tried all kinds of advertising sites. There are a few I recommend over others mainly because they boost my sales the most, but I like using a variety so I can spread things out.
Award-winning and best-selling Author Katherine Owen @KatherineOwen01 writes Contemporary Romance and Women's Contemporary Fiction. Like Katherine said in a previous post, “Your mileage may vary”.
Please Check Part 2.
Book Marketing Using Paid Advertising - A Study - The Bad News posted 7/16/13
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