I’ve always believed money flows to the author, not from her. I tried one ad and didn’t feel I got my money’s worth. I’m frugal and decided to try other ways. I’m a lurker on J.A. Konrath’s blogs, and he’s said that advertising isn’t the way to sell a lot of books. If you write great books, have great covers, write great blurbs and sell them for a reasonable price, your numbers should go up. (He’s given more advice on this, but those are the necessities.)
I’m not saying he’s wrong, but a couple months ago I joined Indie Romance Ink. A lot of group members have been advertising. And a lot have been selling more books because of this. For others, it hasn’t worked as well. For this article, I asked what worked and what didn’t. Here are the responses:
“I’ve used the $25 book posting on the Frugal eReader for several months and several books. I always see an uptake in sales when it runs. Elizabeth is great to work with. I don’t know how to quantify sales using that ad since I still have a free book available and that has had such a huge impact on my other sales. I do recommend the site because it is reasonable.
I don’t advertise very much, but do seek reviews almost every day and post on Authors on the Cheap facebook page. They are awesome to provide this service and will share listings with their sites The Cheap and Kindle on the Cheap and Kindled Hearts—very supportive community. I do giveaways and anytime someone posts on IRI [Indie Romance Ink] about a promo opportunity, I always check it out and usually participate if I can. I signed up months ago for a Kindle Nation Daily one day sponsorship that will run on Thanksgiving. The best thing I did was the free book—the exposure has been tremendous!”
“It only cost me $25 to book my slot on the Frugal eReader. I did make my money back but not much more. I am trying to raise visibility for the book and had hoped to have my new book cover in time for the ad, but it isn’t ready yet. Not sure if that would have helped sales. I would do it again. I hope to try Pixel of Ink when they open for bookings again. By that time I should have my new cover.”
“I had the most success with Ereader News Today and Pixel of Ink. With Ereaders News, the percentage change on Jockeys and Jewels was so great, I even made Amazon’s Movers and Shakers list. For me, the best advertising is the direct mail, not the static book covers. I use many of the usual sites but it’s hard to tell how well the monthly ads work. With a daily blast, the effect is more measurable.”
“The book I had on Frugal eReader was Deadlier by the Dozen (UF) and for NOR [Night Owl Reviews], I used Bittersweet (YA) and The Spider Inside Her (UF). My results were no movement on rankings and nothing worth noticing on sales. I don’t think Frugal eReader and NOR are bad because they obviously works for certain people. However, I don’t think it’s wise for people to think, ‘For $25, I’ll a bunch of books? Sign me up!’ I signed up because it was cheap compared to paying as much as $400 for an ad in RT (less if you do a co-op). If I sold some books with my $25, great. If I didn’t, then I didn’t lose much.
One thing that might have helped a little with my sales is hiring Author Island. Around the same time I hired them, I noticed my sales had gone up from about 10 books per month to about 12. It’s not a big jump, but I’ll take it. They do ads on their site and newsletter, and you even have your own author page. I’m trying them out to see what happens, but so far so good. I haven’t made my investment back, but I have another 10 months to try.
Oh, and I forgot to mention that I tried an ad with Goodreads and again, not much movement there. Sure, a lot of people clicked on my ad, but that was about it. If nothing else, I enjoyed running a contest on Goodreads because I liked seeing thousands of people put their names in a hat for a free book. Sure, that probably didn’t win me any new readers, but it was nice to know that they took time out of their days to enter my contests. In fact, I’m thinking about doing another one just in time for December and doing a multi-book deal with multiple winners.”
Bente Gallagher (aka Jenna Bennett and Jennie Bentley):
“All I know is that Facebook advertising doesn’t work. Lots of impression, very few sales.”
“I have to agree regarding Facebook. It’s gotten more traffic to my site but that’s about it.”
“I haven’t tried it yet, but it’s my understanding from talking to other writers that a Facebook ad actually can be effective, provided that you can narrowly target the advertising to exactly the type of reader who would be interested in your book. And that can work for some books, but doesn’t work well at all for other books.
Whether you can do this depends on how niche your book is. Let’s say you wrote a mystery that takes place at the NCAA basketball Final Four. Then it might actually be very effective to advertise by Facebook if you set up the preferences so that the ad will only display to people who have both ‘liked’ college basketball and mysteries. But if your books doesn’t have some kind of niche appeal like that, then you might just be targeting your ad to a group as broad and varied as ‘women between the ages of 25 and 50 who own a Kindle’ and as as well know, we all have very different reading tastes.”
Sophia Knightly on the debut of Wild For You:
“Ran a Facebook ad for 4 days with a budget of $50.00 each day, alternating ads for both books. I attribute the sales from abroad to the ad and also for generating a lot more traffic to my web site. I started off paying per impression and then changed to pay per click and got 231 clicks.”
“As an indie author I don’t have tons of money. The key for many of us is getting reviews so we can approach a number of big sites. I finally had 5 reviews so managed to get into The Frugal Ereader – made a huge difference. I won’t know my sales figures until Sunday but it pushed Off Leash to the top 100 Amazon’s Best Sellers List for Best Childrens Boys’ and Men’s Books. Digital Books Today came out the next day and my ranking up went up to #34. I bought a $59 ad from Kindle Nation and that goes live on Nov. 15 so we shall see – but honestly the key is getting your name out there. I’d like to get into Pixel of Ink but I need 10 reviews – so far only 8 – so I’m hoping to beg people on twitter to do reviews.”
On Saturday, Nov. 19, Renee reported on her Kindle Nation ad’s success:
“The Kindle Daily Deal was amazing in terms of exposure. I paid $59 (US) and my stats went from 72,000 to as high as #13 in the Top Amazon Kindle list for Best Children’s Book for Boys and Men. In terms of sales 23 books look to be sold. What’s interesting is that this ad launched on Nov. 15th and even today – 4 days later (Nov. 19) while ranked now at #99 on the Top 100 list I’m still there. I would certainly do this advertisement again just for the exposure. Also I booked Pixel of Ink ad which is costly but it’s for Dec 10th and my 2nd nitty gritty book, Off Limits, launches around Dec 5th so I’m hoping this will also help sell books.”
Julianne MacLean (Nov. 9, from the IRI Yahoo loop):
“Holy Cow Pie!! I lucked out with features today on both Pixel of Ink and Ereader News Today, and I have sold 600 copies today! I think it really helps to book features on the same day, which causes a much faster spike. My ranking went from 10,317 this morning to 417 the last time I checked. I suspect the sales will slow down in the next twenty-four hours when the blog postings get bumped down, but I’ll enjoy it while it lasts!”
When I emailed Julianne to ask if I could use this, she agreed and said: “I sold 1200 copies by midnight.” Holy Cow Pie is right!
“Pixel of Ink was great for me. Even though the feature was for one day, sales soared for me and continued the following day. I would definitely recommend them. I am scheduled for the Frugal Ereader this weekend so I can get back to you on how that works.”
Liliana Hart on a Frugal eReader feature:
“I sold 31 copies of the book yesterday, which is on the high end of what I normally sell, so I don’t know if it made any difference at all. I have a P of I ad coming out soon, so we’ll see what that does. The best thing I’ve done is Kindle 3. I sold around 100 copies when it was featured.”
“While Pandora’s Gift didn’t make a list, the Kindle Lovers [Kindle 3] post definitely had an impact. It was sitting at 480,000 on Kindle and dropped in 2 hours to 21,000 before climbing slightly again by today to 32,000. This is a trad pubbed 25,000 word novella and the price is set at $4.99 (was 5.50). I am definitely aiming to have my self-pubbed book, Platinum Passion, on their promo list when it releases. Amazon list, here I come!”
“North Rim Delight was ranked overall at 319,528 yesterday at 11:00 a.m. before the Pixel of Ink ad ran. Last evening, it rose as high as #265 in overall rankings.
In smaller categories, it rose as high as #21 in Kindle Romance Contemporary, #27 in Books>Romance>Contemporary>#34 in Kindle>Fiction>;Mystery>Thrillers>Suspense.
Those rankings have since slipped as sales slowed down over night. And it didn’t take a lot of sales to do this to the ranking, but they happened in a ten-hour period. 199 sales over ten hours pushed my rankings to these new highs. But as I said, they are falling now (overall is #350 or so) because the concentration of sales has eased up.”
“Ambersley started up the ranks at B&N after an Authors on the Cheap post got picked up and added to their NookLove page. Actually, they featured me for a few days running. I was featured on Frugal eReads one Friday and that boosted my Kindle numbers.”
Amy’s only paid ads were with Google Adwords and Facebook Ads. She said:
“I’m not convinced either of those had an effect. Frugal eReads was a listing in their top 10 historical romances on Kindle. So, they just pulled me because I appeared on the list.”
The authors’ experiences differed, and I’m sure many factors contributed to this. My one paying experience was with Pixel of Ink last spring. I purchased it for my paranormal romance Dead People. It was 99 cents, and I was only getting 35 cents for each sale. I did sell a lot, but not enough to cover the cost. When the ad was over, my numbers rose quickly and I decided advertising wasn’t worth it. At the time, Dead People was in the top ten of three categories, and the ad wasn’t enough to do much more for it.
But after hearing about so many successes from other authors who advertised on Pixel of Ink, I decided to try again. This time I took a good look at the books that got huge sales. For the most part, they appear to be mainstream, romantic suspense, or mysteries. I don’t have hard figures. I’m sure other books do very well there, but that’s my impression. Because of this, I’ve set up an ad for Dragon Blues, which is a paranormal romantic suspense with a striking cover. It will be out in December. I have a good feeling about it.
For Frugal eReader, the featured books are a mixture, including non-fiction. I’m putting Cattitude up on Dec. 4. It’s light paranormal romance and I think (hope) the cat cover will appeal to a wider range of readers than my other covers. I bought another ad for December 27th. A humorous mystery that Karin Tabke and I co-wrote will be available soon. I might put that up. I have a good feeling about this, too.
I had a free $100 coupon for Google Adwords. Like Amy, I didn’t feel it was effective, nor did two friends who also used a free $100 coupon for Google Adwords.
I’m ending with this thoughtful advice from Dale Mayer:
“I have tried a lot of ads. Figured I try anything once. The one with the most impact but short term is POI [Pixel of Ink].
It’s hard to measure other advertising ventures because they are usually over a longer time frame. My point in doing the ads, besides trying to gain sales, was to gain exposure. My name is nothing to most people and name recognition is a slow process. People need to see it over and over again before they start to recognize it.”
If you want to add your advertising experience in the comments, I’d love to hear it.[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]https://howtowriteshop.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/EdieColumn.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Edie Ramer is funnier on the page than in real life. A multiple award-winning writer, she writes paranormal romance about cats, dead people, dragons and aliens with attitude. CATTITUDE, DEAD PEOPLE, DRAGON BLUES, GALAXY GIRLS and her short story THE SEVENTH DIMENSION are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.[/author_info] [/author]
I’m with you about making money instead of spending it. When my first book with Kensington came out, I did as many ads as I could. I got bookmarks made, had an ad in RWA and on RT. I spent my entire advance (which wasn’t much at all) and still my sales weren’t that great. Since then, I’ve decided with my self published books that I want to actually make money and I’m very, very leery of doing an ad. But I’m glad to hear about goodreads and facebooks as I’ve wondered about them.
Lori, you know I’ll let you know my experiences. But I am starting to agree with Dale, that the exposure is cumulative. I think, too, that a lot of book buyers check out places like Ereader News, Frual eReader, etc. There’s so many ebooks out that it’s a way to find out about new books.
Thanks for gathering all this information, Edie. It’s super and so helpful to see everyone’s experiences.
I have an ad running with Kindle Nation today so will drop back and let you know how that one works. They offer a list of Free kindle books and a different author sponsors the page each day. I see Renee already used it and Christy is signed up. So many advertising options, it can get pretty confusing.
Thanks so much Edie for compiling all this great marketing advice. I think for us Indie authors it’s a progression, an up hill movement and the more books the better it will be for sales. Also Bev Pettersen had mentioned tagging on your next first chapter on your Amazon Kindle books and that’s a very smart move I will be doing next for all my books.
Great information. Thanks Edie for doing all the interviews. It’s amazing how Indie Authors don’t mind helping other authors.
Oooh, Bev, yes, come back and tell us how you did. I’m sure you’ll do great! I’ll check out Kindle Nation.
Renee, thanks for the advice on tagging on the first chapter. I’ll do that.
Pepper, I love other indie authors! We’re so generous in our advice!
Great advice. I was anxious to hear what worked for others as well. There are lots of options available so it’s nice to know what has and hasn’t worked for other Indies. Thanks for posting!
Christy, after reading everyone’s comments, I’m going to book an ad at Kindle Nation. May as well try it all.
A. Y. Stratton
Thanks for all your advice. I’ve done a few ads here and there for my romantic suspense novel, Buried Heart, but never figured out whether or not they’ve helped sales. After reading these comments, I feel more informed.
Anne, I learned too. My posts on the How To Write Shop are kind of “what I’ve just learned” or “am exploring” posts.
End of day report for the Kindle Nation ad and it definitely moved Jockeys and Jewels up in the rankings. Would do it again, maybe in the spring. The movement is short term, but it’s nice to have some control:)
I think this is a very helpful post especially for indie authors who are not sure whether or it’s worth paying for advertising. I agree with Julianne MacLean’s advice: if you want a bigger spike in sales rank to attract attention, try two (or more) campaigns close together.
Bev, that’s awesome! I signed up for Kindle Nation last night. Mine will be up on Jan. 4th. I’m doing a flurry of ads. lol
Gary, I’m glad it helped you. I learned from the shared experiences, too.
Good info to know.
As someone without any publishing experience, I’m curious: Do publishers do any advertising or is it all up to the author?
I suppose I should clarify: Obviously, I’m not referring to self publishing or big blockbuster books. So, for people in-between, do publishers advertise and authors can supplement or is it all up to the author?
James, that depends on the publisher and the author. I’ve heard that more and more the author has to do her or his own publicity.
James W. Lewis
Great information! This blog is right on point because I’ve been looking for good places to pay for ads. We’ve been very good with getting reviews, author interviews, and blog write-ups for our books, but I’ve never tried ads other than Facebook (with little success in sales), so I’m very curious about Pixel of Ink and the others. As someone already said, I’ll try anything once. Thanks for posting!
James, I’m glad my blog helped you.
Great information. Thanks, everyone, for sharing your experiences. My book just came out, so I figure I’d better try to get reviews first so when/if I do advertise, potential readers will be reassured when they click to my book on Amazon. Any suggestions on getting reviews? Thanks again, Pamela Hegarty, author of The Seventh Stone.
Pamela, there are book tours that you can sign up for instead of contacting book bloggers yourself. I haven’t done it, but other people I know have. A friend recently had one and she felt it really helped her. She went through Bewitching Blog Tours.
I don’t know what the tour charged. Since I didn’t use it myself, I can’t recommend them personally. But when my next book comes out, I plan on checking them out.