Monday, June 20, 2011

Tales From An Indie Author: Advertising

Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing, but nobody else does. ~Steuart Henderson Britt

So you've written a book. What now? Tell people about it! That, my friends, is advertising. Specifically, today, I'm talking about PAID advertising.

Catalog Listing

My book, NOT JUST FOR BREAKFAST ANYMORE, was printed by Lightning Source and I advertised in the Ingram catalog (The one they send out to bookstores).

My sales were disappointing, but I was only offering a 35% discount (I've since learned that 40% to 50% is a minimum enticement for bookstores). Next time I will price my print book to accommodate this discount. We'll see.


GR recommends linking back in their ads to their site to create a buzz (discussion + internal links (TBR)). This does not necessarily result in sales. So I also tried linking directly to Amazon.

My findings? Good return on investment, but surprisingly more on the print side. Ebooks are usually an easier lift for an indie than traditional books. Mine sell that way, ten to one. But that could be because of the demo of GR's more than anything else. Next time I will devote more resources for GR's ads. Didn't try Facebook ads, but will next time.

Kindle Nation

A must try. Best ROI. Also, the most expensive. Their audience of dedicated ebook buyers is exposure you need. Together with their family of affiliate sites, there is a place for your book somewhere. I had my best luck with their daily kindle sponsorship, some with their ipad ad, and to a lesser extent with their weekly newsletter (though that could be advertising fatigue, it ran last).

Google Ads
I took their free money (trial) and ran a campaign alternating print book ads and ebook. Nada. Zippo. I just don't think that Google ads—as currently set up—are well suited to selling books; the profit is so slim that their low-priced ads generally get pushed too far back to be seen regularly.

Other Ads
No luck with static book ads on well-traveled book review sites. This might just be me, but I've yet to hear different from anyone else.

Kindle in the Wind styles itself like Kindle Nation, but at a much cheaper price. My experience is that it updates irregularly (and only listed my book for twelve hours instead of twenty-four). When my original ad failed to run at the appointed time, their customer service was underwhelming.

What I've Learned

My takeaway from this first campaign is to focus on advertising to ebook buyers. That's the driver of indie success. Hello Amanda Hocking! McQuestion anyone? My next book will be more geared to that demo. And now that I know of proven performers in advertising, I'll be able to make better use of my marketing dollars.

How about you? Any lessons learned you'd like to share?


  1. Good post, PV - lots of worthwhile info. Guess I'll check into the Goodreads thing one of these days. Honestly, I'm so busy that promoting my books isn't even on the radar screen - but I am writing, so that's good. BTW, I did respond to your FB message the other day.

  2. @David

    Hopefully somebody's going to learn from my missteps. :)

    Yes, I got your FB back; ready when you are, boss.

  3. I've never found Google ads useful for any form of advertising. In my business life I spent a lot of money for zero return.

    I shall certainly check out some of those advertising methods, but one Amazon method can be quite interesting. If you get friends and family to buy your ebook whenever they get something from Amazon, and promising to pay them for the copy if they don't want to spend their own cash, you get the 'people who bought this also bought' links. These can add up and although I've not tried this yet, due to a lack of organisation I know of one person who has and did well out of it.

  4. @Martin

    Good Tip!

    When I did the Kindle Nation ad, my 'people who bought this also bought' were a disparate mix. It's important to get buyers of similar products for this feature to be effective.

  5. Did you try Facebook ads yet? This is one that's on my radar, but around November.

    And have you put your book into ebook format? You could price it low to get interest in owning the hard copy.

    Thanks, I did learn something from your experiences.

    PS. I found out what 'hanging from your own petard' means

  6. @Donna

    No FB ads yet.

    Not only is it in ebook format, that is how it is selling the best. Kid's book don't seem to be price sensitive, but all that might change once kid's are getting ereaders in their cereal boxes.

  7. Mine are also in ebook format, but I haven't put them out their yet. Heard a lot about the need to crop illustrations, etc. to fit ereaders. What did you do, go through someone before uploading? Or did you do the process by yourself?

  8. @Donna

    I do it myself: DIY all the way. However, my books have no illustrations except for the cover.

    Yours are chock full of pictures. That is problematic because of reflowable text. Traditional e-ink won't show off your book well.

    Have you seen those read-a-long color Nook books? I can see that for you. And (supposedly) Amazon is coming out with a color tablet.

    That's your distribution platform. Color tabs.

    I don't know how that's done, but there has to be somebody out there to help you.


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