Everything you wanted to know about advertising your book (book promotion through Google, Facebook and More)

Everything you wanted to know about advertising your book (book promotion through Google, Facebook and More)

I’m a casual browser of book marketing and promotion sites. I also deal with a lot of authors asking about book promotion companies and services. In general, I say to steer clear. Paying someone else to market your book is a losing gamble, and you’ll very rarely make even a fraction of your money back. As they say on their websites, they can’t guarantee sales. Which means, they don’t really give a shit. So they may not take the time to write the best press release, craft the best ad or sales pitch, write the best Amazon summary.

online book promotion guide

Tip: Here’s an easy way to tell if they secretly think you’re an easy mark – they let you pay them to market a book with an ugly cover, no reviews and poor sales copy on the Amazon page. They know that no matter what they do, it’s all in vain, and nobody’s going to buy your book anyway. But they’ll still go through the motions because hey, you paid for it.

I don’t believe in charging money without promising results, which is why I haven’t moved into book promotion or book marketing yet. When I find a way to promise results – as in I could promise that you’ll double your money or I refund you – then I might offer a book promotion service.

Yes, it’s easy money, and a lot of authors seem to have a big budget and no iadd-banner-ad-blogger-trickdea how to use it. I just visited a mediocre, PR2 blog about books that allows advertising for $150 a week. They already have 6 books in their sidebar, which means they’re making $3600 a month doing nothing but cashing in on the desperation of indie authors!  It’s true they might get a lot of traffic (doubtful, I also caught some spelling errors in their own banner ads!)

But even if you’re getting a lot of impressions (people who see the ad) that doesn’t mean you’re selling any books.

Book advertising has to be smart.

And it can totally work.

I’m much more supportive of advertising than I am of being annoying on Twitter or Facebook. Social media sites are meant to be social – not salesy.

It’s not a place to tell people how awesome your book is. If you’re doing that – stop.

And many authors are spending money on marketing that would be so much better spent on a new book cover, an editor for their sales copy (that one or two paragraph description is CRITICAL – make it AMAZING!) or some reviews (I support paid reviews as long as they are honest, genuine and not necessarily positive – and they don’t have to be expensive.)

And I think you need to test your conversion. So start small.

Advertise on Facebook or Project Wonderful. Hire someone to make amazing banner ads, or use this www.bannersnack.com to make something really cool (better yet, don’t: hire someone on fiverr.com to make you nice ads.) Spend $20. See if you make enough sales to earn your money back.

If not, get a stranger (on fiverr.com?) to give you feedback on your sales copy and cover. Tweak everything. Make it stronger. Make sure you have at least 10 reviews. Then do it again.

On Project Wonderful you’ll be able to test different things like advertising on different blogs, and you pay per day not per click.

So first of all you need to figure out, how many views or impressions does it take to get how many clicks.

Facebook will also give you these details – they’ll tell you the impressions/clicks. And you can choose viewers by what they like – so for Facebook ads, target viewers who have “liked” books you think yours compares to. If I wrote a legal thriller, I would want my ad to show up for people who liked “The Firm.”

But it’s not all about clicks!

You also need to figure out if the people clicking are buying anything.

There are fancy tools to do this but I’m lazy, so I would just estimate. Say I usually sell 1 book a day: that’s my baseline. Then I run Facebook ads and sell 4 books a day. If 100 people clicked my ad today, and I sold 3 extra books, that means for every 33 (approx.) people who click my ad, I only get 1 sale. That’s not too bad, but not great.

Maybe my ad is awesome, and 1000 people click it – but I still only got 3 extra sales… then I would be in trouble – especially if I’m paying per click.

online book promotion guide

So you don’t want your ad to appeal to everyone.

You want to get rid of everybody who’s not a serious buyer. You do that by providing enough information. Be clear about the book, the genre, the setting, the main conflict (hint, don’t actually give it away). You need to hook only the kind of people who are really going to love your book, and not a bunch of people who won’t. You want LESS clicks, but more conversions.

If you are converting 1 in 30, you could probably improve your Amazon page or sales page. Even if your book is not great – they don’t know that yet. If you have a great sales description, a great cover, an average of 3.5 stars and at least 10 reviews, you should be able to close 1 in 10 visitors who clicked on your ad.

This is why you don’t want to advertise your book on just any blog’s sidebar – you’re paying to show that ad to everybody. And the people visiting a book marketing blog are probably not your target readers!

It would be much more effective to figure out who your readers are and where they are.

Google Adwords

You can do this with Google Adwords also. Figure out the Keywords that your readers search for when they want to find a new book.

Maybe they type “paranormal romance” or “books like Twilight” or “dark teen fiction.” Figure out what they search for and find a keyword with a lot of searches but not much competition. Then write a Google ad saying something that appeals to those readers. For example, “Miss Bella and Edward? Yearning for some more Supernatural Love? Click here” (that’s too long for Google but you get the point).

Write an ad that is about your readers, identifies what they want. This will work way better than the far more common:

Great book! This reviewer says, “Awesome!” On sale today!

Readers don’t care about reviews until after they are interested – you need to interest them first by targeting and fulfilling their needs.

Google Adwords is also pretty great because you can target specific blogs.

If you look on Blogads, for example, savvy blogs are already charging a few hundred bucks for a week of advertising.

And if you contact a specific blog directly, they may quote you as much. But a lot of the same blogs use a combination of advertising, including Google Adwords.

Note: I was planning to tell you about how you can choose specific blogs and websites, and advertise only on them (rather than anywhere). But I can’t find that feature in Google Adwords any more…

But I found some other cool stuff. You can go to “Tools and Analysis” and “Display Planner” to get ideas of where to advertise.

For example, type in the keyword “Technothriller” to find some sites you can advertise on; click “individual targeting ideas” then “placements.”

I was looking for something like “Thrillerbooks.com”, unfortunately all I found were a bunch of much bigger book websites.



Sure you could advertise on Goodreads or Librarything to try it out, but it isn’t very targeted. Big traffic sites cost more to advertise, so you spend more, but your ad is showing to a lot of people who aren’t looking for a thriller. Still, if you’re paying for clicks and your ad says “Technothriller” then you’ll only pay for the Technothriller fans who click the ad.

Try it and see if it’s worth the money.

What I was trying to find were small sites with less traffic, but very primed traffic. “Primed” means ready to buy.

People get more specific with their search terms as they get closer to purchase.
For example if I’m buying a laptop, I’ll search for “Best laptops 2013” and then “17inch I-7 Acer notebook.”

So you could use Google adwords to buy very cheap ads on some small sites with not much traffic, but experience much better results (I like projectwonderful for this – lots of little but specific sites that don’t have a lot of traffic, so they charge next to nothing).

Getting back on track…

“Tools and Analysis” and “Display Planner”… choose some websites, add them to an existing campaign, save to account.

(It’s a lot of steps and things have changed since I last used Adwords for book marketing. I’ll use it a whole bunch soon to launch a new book, and post a more detailed account).

If nothing is showing in Google, search yourself for the keywords.

When I searched Google for technothriller, the first 3 or 4 pages were just huge websites, but there was a Yahoo Answers with a question like “What are the best 10 thrillers you’ve ever read.” Since it came up early in search results, that’s gonna get a lot of traffic. And Yahoo answers is free – you can login (better to have a friend do it) and say “hey I just read this book (your title here) and it was great, check it out.” Boom, free advertising.

Otherwise make a note of mid-sized blogs with good traffic but that aren’t real slick or business-oriented. If they’re running Google ads, you can advertise on their site – often for much less than it would cost to advertise directly with them.

Update: Something I didn’t mention was Facebook sponsored ads. This is something Gary V. talks about in Jab, Jab, Jab Right Hook, here’s how to use it: IF you see something you posted on Facebook get better than average interaction (people seem to be liking, commenting and sharing – THEN you should pay for a sponsored ad to help it reach more people. BECAUSE, Facebook’s algorithms will automatically start promoting your post naturally, even if you’re not paying for it, because they’re cool like that. AND when people lose interest in your post and it’s not causing as much interaction, Facebook will automatically stop charging you and sharing your content.

The trick here though – unlike what I’ve been talking about – is to make a story that’s emotionally relevant to your audience but isn’t directly selling anything. You’re creating something they can consume/enjoy without expecting anything in return. You’re just doing it because you’re awesome. That’s a “Jab” and Gary Vaynerchuk stress the importance of making it look like “native content.”

“Smart, native social media to enhance the consumer’s interaction with the platform, not distract him from it.” So if you’re using social media properly and making posts and content people like (rather than ads/promotion) you should use Facebook’s sponsored story. But if you’re lazy and would rather just buy targeted ads on the sidebar, that can work too.

Final Points

Shit it’s 4am again and I’m losing my train of thought. (I haven’t decided whether or not Creativindie is the type of blog that curses… is it offensive? I feel like it’s more authentic and transparent, more like me being me – because I say “shit” quite often. But I’m unsure how it comes across to readers. More trustworthy? Less professional?)

1. Don’t use a shotgun approach and pay to advertise your book anywhere. Make sure you’re advertising to readers who will be interested. Make sure you screen them by using a detailed ad that only appeals to readers very likely to buy.

2. Don’t spend very much. Spend $20, then tweak, then another $20. Make sure the people who click the ad actually buy the book – or at least a lot of them. Tighten things up, see if you can get it down to 1 in 10.

3. Your book cover, sales copy (book summary) and sales page (your own site or Amazon) are probably not good enough. You need at least 10 reviews. If you’re trying to advertise with a mediocre book cover, average ho-hum sales description and a handful of reviews, you’re almost certainly throwing money away.

4. IF you figure out how to advertise so that you’re making money – as in, for every $20 you spend, you sell 20 books (and make $40) then brilliant – go all in. Spend $200 and see if you can make $400. But keep in mind at some point you will saturate your targets. After everybody who’s seen your ad has bought the book, they aren’t going to buy it again – so if you keep advertising in the same places, eventually your results will drop.

5. I feel like I haven’t done a very good job in this post… I plan to launch my book marketing book in a couple weeks, test the crap out of Google and Facebook advertising, revise the book with updated content and then write a big, more in-depth post with screen shots and detailed instructions. So you should come back and read that… later.


UPDATE: this is a really old post… I made a more recently post on advertising for authors:

You can also download my new publishing and book marketing guides:


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