Book Marketing by the Numbers

Two Valuable Book Marketing Statistics

Consider the following two numbers:

  • 1 out of 1000. That’s a rough estimate of how many strangers will click on a typical link to an Amazon product page.
  • 1 out 40. That’s a rough estimate of how many strangers who visit a product page for a book will purchase the book.

First, we’ll discuss these rates, and then we’ll discuss them in relation to book marketing.

Click-through Rate

The first figure, 1 out of 1000, is called a click-through rate (ctr).

A ctr of 0.1% (which equates to 1 out of 1000) is typical of internet advertising.

I’ve placed over 100 ads for a variety of books under multiple pen names on Amazon itself using Amazon Marketing Services (AMS), and most of my ctr’s fall in the range 0.05% to 0.2% (varying from 1 in 2000 to 1 in 500).

Some books get better ctr’s than others. Here are a few factors that affect the ctr:

  • compelling book cover (if the cover is seen with the link, this can be a strong factor)
  • effective title (conveys content clearly, reinforces cover, concise, and/or catchy)
  • effective branding (recognition of the author name, title, or series, for example)
  • audience targeting (the book appears to be highly relevant to the people who see the link)

Conversion Rate

The conversion rate is the percentage of people who purchase a product after visiting the Amazon product page.

A conversion rate of 2% to 4% (1 out of 50 to 1 out of 25) is relatively common. However, the conversion rate can vary considerably. A few books command conversion rates of 10% (1 out of 10) or more, but there are also a significant number of books with conversion rates well below 1% (1 out of 100).

Some books’ Amazon product pages get better conversion rates than others. Here are a few factors that affect the conversion rate:

  • compelling book cover (draws visual interest)
  • compelling description (arouses curiosity, creates suspense, promises desirable information, and/or reads well)
  • compelling Look Inside (professional appearance, fantastic start to the story, reads well)
  • audience targeting (the description and Look Inside reinforce expectations created by the cover or the information available with the link that brought the customers to the product page)
  • other factors such as customer reviews, author photo, author biography, etc.

Illuminating Example

Consider a book where the author does no marketing whatsoever: The only people discovering the book are shopping on Amazon. In this extreme example, the author didn’t even tell a friend or family member about the book.

The book does get discovered. Maybe the cover and title show up in an occasional keyword search, or maybe a customer discovers it browsing in a subcategory (perhaps using a Last 90 Days search filter). Once the book sells enough, it may also be visible on other books’ customers-also-bought lists.

Let’s suppose that the book sells 1 copy per day on average. Obviously, this number can be much more or much less, but the math is very simple with 1, so it’s a good place to start.

Let’s also go with the rough averages: 1 out of 1000 people who see the cover and title on Amazon click on the link to visit the product page, and 1 out 40 of the people who visit the product page purchase the book.

Wow! With these “rough” averages, there are 40,000 people visiting that book’s product page every day.

But only 1 out of 40,000 who saw the book cover and title actually purchased the book. Another wow!

This number isn’t far-fetched. It’s actually pretty common.

I have much experience advertising books on Amazon through AMS (over 100 ads on a variety of books in multiple pen names), and have discussed advertising statistics with several other authors. Many of the ads show in keyword search results, and others ads show on other books’ product pages. Advertising increases the overall number of impressions (the number of times that customers see the cover and title), but the ctr’s and conversion rates are typical of ordinary customer searches. A ctr of 0.1% (1 out of 1000) and a conversion rate of 2% to 4% (1 out of 50 to 1 out of 25) are rather common.

(I have over 25 ads that individually made over 1,000,000 impressions, so I have plenty of my own data to analyze, but I also interact with many different authors and discuss advertising with some of them.)

There is significant traffic on Amazon. There are millions and millions of customers. And they are seeing covers and titles of many different products. Obviously, the top sellers are seen millions of times per day, but even products that sell once a week are seen roughly 10,000 times per day.

Here is another way to look at this number: For every sale that you get from a complete stranger, roughly 40,000 people saw your cover and title, and roughly 40 people visited your product page. (But it’s a rough estimate. Maybe 100 people visited your product page.)

How to Improve Your Sales

There are two ways to go about this:

  • Work hard to get more impressions (to get more people to see your cover and title).
  • Make your product page more compelling (cover, description, Look Inside, beginning of story, author photo, author biography, etc.).

The first point is saying, if you can get 400,000 impressions per day on average instead of 40,000 impressions per day, you can sell 10 times as many books.

The second point is saying, if you can get 1 out 10,000 people who see your cover and title to buy your book instead of 1 out of 100,000 people, you can sell 10 times as many books.

Really, you want to do both things. If you can make your product page more compelling, it will make all of your book marketing more effective. It’s too common for a book’s Amazon product page to have some kind of deterrent such that only 1 out 100,000 (or worse!) customers who see the cover and title purchase the book. It just takes a few too many typos in the description or first chapter, or a cover or description that is bland, or a description that doesn’t set clear expectations to significantly deter sales.

One little detail can persuade customers to walk away. It takes strong appeal all around to command a killer success rate of 1 out 10,000 or less (customers who see your cover and title and then purchase your book), and this is quite rare. (This figure combines both the ctr and conversion rate together.)

Book marketing is important, too. It starts out slow because you can’t get tens of thousands of people to discover your book every day when you first begin to market your book. You have to start a blog with content that people may search for in the future, set up social media and interact online, find your target audience both online and offline, publish additional books, and look for other ways to get your cover and title out there (local newspaper, guest post on a blog, write an article for a website, podcast, local radio, conference, seminar, etc.) so that you can gradually grow the number of people who discover your book each day.

Another way that book marketing is important is that it can improve your conversion rate. When you have a positive interaction with your target audience (online or in person), those potential customers are more likely to purchase your book, review your book, or ignore reviews already showing on your product page.

On Amazon, only 1 out of 40,000 complete strangers who see your book may purchase it.

When you create positive interactions with your target audience in person, you might sell books to 1 out of 10 potential customers (or better), if you succeed in coming across as knowledgeable, or if you succeed in creating interest in your book or yourself.

When you create positive interactions with your target audience online, it’s probably not as effective as interacting in person, but you can reach many more people online, and online interactions are probably much more effective than marketing to complete strangers on Amazon.

Branding. Branding. Branding.

If 40,000 see your cover and title today, but only 1 of those people actually purchases your book, all is not lost. There is still branding.

39,999 other people who saw your cover, read your title, and saw your author name are potentially “branded” to some degree. These represent potential sales at a future date.

Branding is a very important part of book marketing (and all forms of advertising and marketing).

Your book cover is a visual brand. Your book title is another brand. Even your author name is a brand.

A brand is anything that customers come to recognize through repetition. In general, very few people purchase a product when they first discover it. Most people make a purchase after branding has occurred.

When you see a commercial on t.v., do you hop in the car, drive straight to the store, and purchase the product? If you watch t.v. for a few hours, you probably don’t buy the 100 different products that you saw the same day, right?

But when most people are purchasing a product, whether it’s a toothbrush or toilet paper, they usually prefer a “brand” that they recognize.

Branding is another reason that you should look for effective ways to market your book long-term.

The best brand is one that customers recommend to other people. When you write a book that is so compelling (or a nonfiction book where the information is so helpful), for example, that it generates significant offline recommendations (in addition to online reviews), this can really help your sales soar.

Three Kinds of Marketing Traffic

It’s important to realize that there are three kinds of traffic relevant to book marketing:

  • Shoppers at who happen to see your cover and title (in keyword searches, in subcategory searches, customers-also-bought lists, or ads placed with AMS, for example).
  • People who discover your book off Amazon (blog posts, social media, advertisements, Goodreads, business cards, and any of your other online or offline marketing endeavors).
  • When customers recommend your book to their friends, family members, coworkers, or acquaintances. It takes an exceptional book to garner significant recommendations, but books that achieve this can have their sales really take off.

If your book isn’t selling well enough to strangers at Amazon, your alternative is to try to get people to discover your book elsewhere (both online and offline). Ideally, you want both types of traffic to be significant.

Amazon Measures Your Click-through and Conversion Rates

The algorithm at Amazon knows which books are more likely to lead to clicks and purchases.

Suppose book A and book B are very similar, and suppose that the algorithm knows that 1 out of 500 customers who see book A’s cover will click on it, but 1 out of 2000 customers who see book B’s cover will click on it. Or suppose that 1 out of 20 people who visit book A’s product page will purchase it, but 1 out of 80 people who visit book B’s product page will purchase it.

Which book do you think is likely to display more prominently in customer searches (all else being equal)?

This is one more reason to make your product page as compelling as possible. Improve your cover, iron out your description, perfect your Look Inside, and write a quality book that exceeds the customers’ expectations. If you can improve your ctr and conversion rate, not only will you get more sales from the traffic you already have, but you might also get much more traffic.

Improved sales can also get additional exposure through customers-also-bought lists. Amazon’s system tends to reward authors who scrupulously help themselves (by making a more compelling product page, publishing a compelling book, or who generate sales through their own marketing).

You Should Also Measure Your Ctr and Conversion Rate

Amazon’s algorithm knows what your ctr and conversion rate are.

You should figure these rates out, too.

Once you see where you stand, you will have a better idea for how much room you have to improve them.

For example, if you knew that 200 people clicked on a link to your book, but only 1 person purchased your book, you would know that your conversion rate is very low (0.5% in this example).

How are you going to figure these rates out? Amazon doesn’t tell you in your reports, right?

Actually, there is a way. If you advertise a book with Amazon Marketing Services (AMS), the report for your ad campaign will show you the number of impressions, the number of clicks, and the estimated sales for the ad. If you publish a Kindle e-book with Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), you can advertise on AMS via KDP. (Your book no longer has to be in KDP Select in order to take advantage of this.)

Note that advertising carries a risk. The royalties that you earn from your ad might amount to much less than the cost of the ad. Monitor your ad report daily so that you can pause or terminate your campaign if it doesn’t seem to be performing well enough. Although there is a minimum budget of $100 to advertise with AMS, you’re not obligated to spend your entire budget: You can pause or terminate your ad campaign at any time. However, note there are sometimes reporting delays, such that the ad report may continue to accumulate impressions and clicks for a few days after you stop your ad campaign.

If you can afford it, ideally you would like to hundreds of clicks to obtain meaningful results. Note that this data may come at a significant cost, especially if you place a high bid for your ad. For example, if you bid $0.25 per click, it may cost up to $50 to obtain 200 clicks worth of data.

To determine your ctr, divide the number of clicks by the number of impressions. To express this as a percentage, multiply by 100%. For example, if your ad has 100,000 impressions and 120 clicks, your ctr is 0.12%.

Another way to look at it is to divide the number of impressions by the number of clicks. In my example, you would get 833, meaning that on average 1 out of 833 people who saw the book cover and title clicked on the link to visit the Amazon product page.

To estimate your closing rate, you must first estimate the number of sales. The AMS report instead shows your sales as a dollar amount. If you didn’t adjust your list price during your ad campaign, divide the sales amount by your list price to estimate the number of sales. For example, if your list price is $2.99 and your sales column shows $14.95, you had approximately 5 sales during the ad campaign.

To estimate your closing rate, divide the number of sales by the number of clicks. To express this as a percentage, multiply by 100%. In my example, there were 5 sales and 120 clicks, so the closing rate is 4.2%.

Another way to look at it is to divide the number of clicks by the number of sales. In my example, you would get 24, meaning that on average 1 out of 24 people who visited the Amazon product page proceeded to purchase the book.

I like to combine the ctr and closing rate together. Specifically, divide the number of impressions by the estimated number of sales. In my example, there were 100,000 impressions and 5 sales, which means that 1 out 20,000 strangers who saw the ad ultimately purchased the book.

A killer conversion rate (number of sales divided by clicks times 100) is 10% or more. It happens occasionally, but it is quite rare. However, such books tend to sell very well on their own. A conversion rate of 10% or more is something to strive toward. If your conversion rate is 2% or less, your product page has significant room for improvement. Your product page isn’t as effective as it could be. Give your cover, description, Look Inside, and first chapter a close inspection.

Click this link to learn more about advertising on Amazon.

Imagine a mere 1 out of 1000 people who reached the bottom of this article proceeding to click the above helpful link. Well, hopefully the ctr will be better than that for my blog. 😉

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2017

Click here to view my Amazon author page.

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

How to Assess Your Ad Campaign at Kindle Direct Publishing

Background image from Shutterstock.

Background image from Shutterstock.


Amazon recently launched a new tool for KDP Select authors.

  • Find it on your KDP Bookshelf.
  • Look under the KDP Select column.
  • Click the Promote and Advertise link.
  • Click the Create an Ad Campaign button.

Advertising is a risk. You want to monitor your ad campaign at Kindle Direct Publishing.

And you want to know how to assess your risk. I’ll show you what, exactly, to look for.

There is a $100 minimum budget for the ad campaign and you must bid at least 2 cents.

However, once your campaign is up and running, you can click Pause or Terminate if you’re not happy with the results.

(What about the $100 minimum? Good question! They don’t bill you up front. They bill you incrementally as you get clicks. I don’t see how that $100 will get charged if you terminate the ad early, though if this concerns you, perhaps you should contact KDP support before you begin an ad.)


If you place an ad, you’ll want to monitor its progress.


Unless you choose to target your ad based on a small number of similar books, you’ll probably see impressions not too many hours after your ad begins.

That’s kind of cool.

Until you see hundreds of impressions, but no clicks.

But don’t worry. Impressions are free! You only pay for clicks. If I could have 1,000,000 free impressions right now, with zero clicks, I’d take it. Don’t sweat free exposure. Impressions are good.


Then you’ll notice that you’re getting very few clicks from those impressions.

Don’t sweat a tiny percentage of clicks.

You don’t pay for impressions.

You only pay for clicks.

The fewer clicks, the less money you pay.

More impressions per click actually works in your favor. That many more people saw your book without you having to pay extra.

The click-through rate (ctr) may be about 0.1%. That’s 1 click for every 1000 impressions. It varies from book to book, but it’s typical of advertising on the internet to get a ctr of about 0.1%.

Most businesses sweat the ctr because most businesses pay for impressions, not for clicks.

We don’t have to sweat the ctr because we only pay for clicks.


The number you should sweat is the conversion rate.

Take the # of sales and divide by the # of clicks. That’s your conversion rate.

The conversion rate shows you how well your ad is paying off in the short term.

Sales reporting may be delayed compared to impression and click reporting. So when you look at your ad campaign report, you may have sales on there that you don’t know about.

Also, a customer may click on your ad, but might not buy your book until a later date. The customer was busy doing something else when your ad came along. There is a good chance that the customer will add your book to your cart, if the customer wants to buy it, but wait days or weeks to actually make the purchase.

If the customer buys your book within 14 days of clicking on your ad, the sale will show in your ad campaign report. Thus, sales reporting could be delayed up to 2 weeks.

Multiply your conversion rate by your royalty. Let’s call this Z.

  • If Z is less than your average cost-per-click (CPC), then you’re losing money short-term.
  • If Z is greater than your CPC, then your ad is paying off short-term.

Your ad might not pay off short-term.

But that may be okay.

The question is: How close are you to breaking even short-term?

  • A small short-term loss is likely to be rewarded by long-term gains.
  • If you’re taking a large short-term loss, it may be in your best interest to pause or terminate the campaign.

And what about Kindle Unlimited? Suppose the customer clicks on your ad and reads it through Kindle Unlimited? Will that show up as a “sale” in the ad report? That’s a good question. Unfortunately, at this time, I don’t have the answer. But it’s something to keep in mind.


Suppose that you have:

  • $2.99 list price
  • $2 royalty
  • 2-cent bid
  • 300,000 impressions
  • 300 clicks
  • 3 sales

The impressions look great. But just 300 clicks out of 300,000 impressions may freak you out at first. But that’s typical. Remember, impressions are free, it’s the clicks that you pay for. The more impressions, the merrier.

Your conversion rate is the number of sales divided by the number of clicks: 3 sales divided by 300 clicks equals 0.01. Your conversion rate is 0.01 (or 1%).

The quantity I called Z is the conversion rate times your royalty: Z equals 0.01 times $2. In this example, Z equals 2 cents.

Hey, Z equals your bid.

That’s ideal!

Look, it cost you $6 for those 300 clicks. To make 300,000 impressions for a mere $6 would be a great deal.

But you only made 3 sales. However, those 3 sales earned you a royalty of $6.

You broke even. Your 3 extra sales compensated for your investment.

That’s actually very good. If you can break even short-term, it’s worth it for the long-term benefits.

Even a small short-term loss is worth taking for long-term benefits.

Don’t worry about a small ctr (i.e. very few clicks compared to impressions).

Don’t worry if sales are low, as long as your value of Z is comparable to your bid.

If your bid (CPC) is much larger than Z, then you should worry!


Here’s why it might be worth taking a short-term loss to run an ad campaign at Amazon.

These are some possible long-term benefits:

  • If you generate extra sales through the Amazon ad, if any of those customers enjoy your book enough to recommend it to others, this gives you possible long-term sales growth.
  • One extra sale now might result in many extra sales later, if the customer likes your book enough to want to buy more of your books.
  • A customer who clicks on your ad, but who was busy doing something else at the time, may place your book in the shopping cart and check it out days or weeks later.
  • Customers who saw your ad may recognize your book the next time they see it, and, thinking, “I’ve seen this before,” may be more likely to buy your book through branding.
  • Any extra sales can help improve your sales rank, which can help with exposure in many ways, such as customers-also-bought lists, improved visibility in search results, landing on bestseller lists, etc.


Following are some factors that go into whether or not your ad will come close to breaking even.


Just bid 2 cents. What’s wrong with that?

If you pay $100 for 2-cent bids, you’ll get 5000 bids if you spend the entire $100 over the course of the campaign.

If you bid higher, you get fewer clicks and fewer impressions.

Don’t bid higher unless there is some urgency with enough benefit to offset the cost. If you really need to advertise RIGHT NOW for some compelling reason, you might bid more.

Otherwise, what’s the hurry to spend your money?

Whether you spend $100 in 2 weeks or 2 months, it’s still $100 spent, right? My recommendation is to bid 2 cents.

Just take whatever clicks and impressions you’re getting, and be content with that.

Focus on Z and comparing Z to your CPC. If Z is close to your CPC, be happy.

If you raise your bid, it will be harder for Z to compete with your CPC.


A higher royalty means you don’t need as many sales for Z to match your CPC.

If you’re earning 34 cents per book with a 99-cent list price, you need 1 out of 17 clicks to result in a sale just to break even on a 2-cent bid.

If you’re earning $2 per book with a $2.99 list price, you just need 1 out of 100 clicks to result in a sale in order to break even on a 2-cent bid.

The list price does show in the ad. So more customers are likely to click on the ad if the price is more compelling.

But that’s actually not important here.

Why not? That just spends your ad money faster. It’s not how fast you get your clicks that matters. You pay for those clicks whether they come quickly or slowly.

What matters are (A) how likely the customer is to buy the book after clicking and (B) how much royalty you earn for the sale.

Maybe customers are, in general, more likely to buy a 99-cent book than a $2.99 book. But probably not in this case. Remember, they see the price before clicking on the ad. They’ve already factored in the price.

You may get your clicks faster at 99 cents, but that just means that your campaign will end sooner. It doesn’t matter how fast you get your clicks. (Unless you have major URGENCY with benefits that outweigh the added cost.)


This is where the $$$ is whether you’re advertising or not.

People are visiting your product page.

One thing running an ad campaign will show you is that only 1 out of 1000 people who glance at your book will check it out, and only 1 out of 100 people who visit the product page will purchase it.

Well, it could be 1 out of 50 who visit your product page make the purchase, or it could be 1 out of 5000 who make the purchase.

The conversion rate is something that you can impact:

  • Did the cover and title shown in your ad signify the correct genre? If not, your conversion rate will be awful.
  • Does your blurb wow the customer? If yes, they’re looking inside. If not, they’re outta here. Typo in the beginning of the blurb? Facepalm!
  • Does the Look Inside magnetize the customer to read the beginning? Does the beginning grab the customer and make the customer want more? Or does it bore the customer, or deliver something that wasn’t expected?
  • Does the Look Inside appear professional?
  • Is your book a great value? Does it appear to exceed the customer’s expectations?
  • Was the book good enough to generate some good, honest reviews? (This is NOT the MAIN point.)

If you have a low conversion rate (sales divided by clicks), one of these areas can be improved.

If you improve your product page and run another ad in the future (or pause it now and resume it after making the improvement), you’ll be able to compare conversion rates and see whether or not the change appears to have any impact. One great thing about these ads is that we get valuable DATA.

One great thing about investing a little money in a KDP campaign ad is that you can find out what your conversion rate is. A rate of 1% is fairly common. If your conversion rate (sales divided by clicks) is much lower than 1%, it may be a sign that you need a more marketable book or a more marketable product page. There is something to improve. Once you make a change, you can run another ad to measure your conversion rate again. This way, ads can help you perfect the marketability of your book and product page.


The ad is automatic. It includes:

  • your cover thumbnail
  • the first few words of your title
  • the average star rating (shown visually, like ****)
  • the number of reviews
  • the list price

A compelling ad gets you clicks faster, but you’re going to pay the same amount regardless of how fast you get your clicks. Your ad will just run out sooner if you get the clicks faster.

Yet it’s still worthwhile to make a compelling ad:

  • If your thumbnail is more attractive to your target audience, that will help your conversion rate once they reach your product page.
  • The more effective your ad, the better the branding impact your unclicked impressions will make.

However, the ad is pretty small. See this example:


It’s just a couple hundred pixels across.

To really stand out and aid with branding so that you benefit from all those unclicked impressions, you need:

  • a cover that’s still visually attractive at super small thumbnail size
  • a cover with a very simple, yet effective design
  • a color scheme that sends the right message
  • 2 HUGE words in your title so they can be read even in mini-mini size
  • a short title so that part of it doesn’t get cut off
  • enough good reviews (getting reviews is NOT the MAIN thing)

Another important factor is targeting. If you choose product targeting and research your product list well, this can improve the effectiveness of your ad.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.


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Book Marketing through Paid Advertisements

Fourth Quarter Pic

The first question is whether or not it may be worth paying to advertise a book. See my previous post for more information on that.

Once you decide to advertise, there are many advertising services to choose from.

What you really want to know when making this decision is this:

  • What percentage of the people who see your advertisement are in your book’s target audience? Don’t buy advertisements that aren’t effective at reaching your target audience.
  • How many people are likely to see your advertisement? (It will certainly not be 100% of the readership or viewership. It will only be a fraction of the published circulation number.)
  • Do the possible additional short-term sales and/or long-term prospects outweigh the costs of the advertisement?
  • How good will your advertisement be (image, strapline, and any additional description)? Will it interest your target audience? Your advertisement needs to be marketable and geared toward your specific target audience in order to be effective.
  • Is your book highly marketable? Advertisements won’t help a book that lacks marketability.

There are many different ways to advertise.

Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook offer advertising which is geared toward businesses hoping to get views (branding), clicks (visits to their websites), Likes (popularity), Follows (interest), and reposts or comments (interaction). The question is whether or not you can effectively target your audience and, if so, how responsive those people will be to an advertisement for a book in this context. Note that Twitter lets you target followers of specific people (could be authors of similar books). If you’re going to target a category, make sure it’s a very good match for your specific target audience (targeting books or readers, for example, is way too broad to be effective).

Goodreads has a similar advertising structure compared to Twitter and Facebook, while being focused on books and reading. On the other hand, there are several authors and publishers advertising on Goodreads, and many of these ads look highly professional and flash different images to get attention. The basic self-service advertisement (which is much cheaper) shows a very tiny image (it says 50 x 66 pixels) and is static. It may be tough for indie authors to compete with advertising on Goodreads. However, the giveaway program is much less expensive (just the cost of the book plus shipping). You might not get any reviews or sell any books through a giveaway (it happens), but you might get a few hundred to a thousand (or so) views. This is an affordable way to gain some exposure, create a little buzz, and help a little with branding. The possible long-term benefits may be worth the small investment even if the giveaway doesn’t help with short-term sales or reviews.

There are a variety of websites and email newsletter subscription services that may be helpful for short-term promotional discounts (not necessarily free). Examples include BookBub, Ereader News Today, Kindle Books & Tips, Book Gorilla, Book Blast, and Pixel of Ink. Note that some of these specifically service e-books. Some of these services have minimum average-star or other requirements, but some don’t. These services can be very helpful in getting more exposure from a free promotion, and can also help to promote a sale that isn’t free. (In the case of a freebie, you have to ask yourself if you really want to invest money in the advertisement on top of giving away books. If you’re going to advertise, it might seem desirable to recover some of the investment quickly with some early royalties. If you have a series, though, a promoted freebie may lead to sales for the other books in your series.) Yet another consideration is whether the market is primarily in the US, UK, or elsewhere.

You can find many other websites online where you can advertise. Search for online websites, magazines, newsletters, and activities that are likely to attract your specific target audience. If you can find a place to advertise that’s a good fit for your target audience, that may turn out to be more effective than going with websites with bigger names.

Another route is the blog tour. Depending on the tour, it may be better for you to plan ahead and try to contact bloggers individually. Also, people you follow and interact with regularly may be more receptive, since you have a rapport together and often support one another, than a stranger; this also gives you more insight into the blogger and lets you see firsthand how many active participants there are on the blog and how many of those are a good fit for your target audience. If you’re looking for exposure from bloggers, you definitely want to ensure that the blog is a good match for your specific target audience.

There is also the potential for offline advertising, like small newspapers, magazines, and circulars. Once again, the magic words are “specific target audience.”

Research the advertising service.

Advertising services generally publicize relevant statistics, such as:

  • Size of the viewership, readership, or circulation.
  • Classification of the circulation by genre (e.g. what percentage is mystery, romance, fantasy, etc.).
  • Average percentage of views, clicks, Likes, follows, or sales. The average isn’t a guarantee, but is a compromise between ineffective and highly effective advertising. The marketability of your book and of your advertisement are very important, as are additional promotional activities (especially, free and low-cost marketing to supplement your advertisement). Some authors who have large fan bases to begin can drive these averages up.

Even if you don’t have any intention of advertising on Twitter, Facebook, or Goodreads, it’s worthwhile to check out their advertising options because they have a lot of helpful information and tips. Also, when you check out the stats of other advertising services, you can compare it to the information that you see at these websites. Any data you find here will give you some type of benchmark, like the average percentage of clicks at Goodreads.

In addition to numbers, try to find authors who have used the service and learn what they have to say about it. (Another issue is how much you can trust the published numbers.)

Only a fraction of the circulation number will see your advertisement.

The first question to ask yourself is how much of the circulation consists of other authors. Authors who want to advertise with an email newsletter probably subscribe to it first as readers to check it out.

However, authors are readers, too, and many indie authors are likely to read other indie books when they aren’t writing. So to some extent it’s okay if there is a healthy percentage of authors in the circulation. But it’s probably desirable to have many readers who aren’t authors in the circulation, too.

Many people won’t open an email newsletter that they have subscribed to; or they may only open it once in a while—e.g. when they happen to be in the mood for a book.

No matter how you advertise, some people in the circulation won’t see your ad. Even on television, some people watching the show will be in the bathroom, cooking, or on the telephone during a commercial. In a magazine, most people who read it won’t see every page. And so on.

Of those who see an advertisement, only a tiny fraction will actually click on it, visit the website, Like a page, Follow you, or buy a book. Just the percentage who click on it compared to those who see it is typically very low—although this number can vary considerably depending on the marketability of the book and the effectiveness of the advertisement. It can also vary considerably from one advertising service to another.

Gear your advertisement toward your specific target audience.

Any image in your advertisement needs to attract your target audience. It’s just as important as cover design is for marketability. The image might even be your book cover (but not necessarily). Check the size of the image, aspect ratio (you definitely don’t want this to be distorted), and quality (e.g. pixilation). Ensure that the text is legible and crisp on the photo for the ad.

You need a good strapline that’s likely to draw interest from your target audience. If you’re advertising a short-term discount, contest, or free content of some kind, for example, this may draw more interest than simply advertising your book.

Check all of your writing very carefully. Any mistakes in the little writing you do in the advertisement won’t bode well for the quality of thousands of words written in a book. Remember that the goal of any writing in an advertisement is to catch the interest of your target audience and make them curious for more. Get feedback from others (especially, in your target audience) before placing your ad.

The cost of an advertisement can be calculated in different ways.

Some services charge a flat fee—e.g. $80 to place the ad.

Some services charge a fixed fee that depends on choices you make, such as the price of your book. For example, it might be $60 to place an ad for a freebie, $120 if the price is 99 cents, or $180 if the price is $1.99.

Some services charge a fee based on activity (like a fee per click, or a fee per Like or Follow).

Some services require you to bid on the ad. For example, you might bid 5 cents to a few dollars. In this context, different ads compete with one another for the chance to be viewed. You can usually place an upper limit on your daily spending and/or on the total amount for your campaign. For example, you might bid 25 cents for the ad with a maximum daily limit of $5.

When you bid on your ad, very often views of the ad are free, but you pay based on activity (e.g. a click, Like, or Follow). In this case, your ad may actually benefit from hundreds of views without any charge to you. What percentage of people view your ad actually click, Like, or Follow can vary significantly depending on the effectiveness of the ad and the content you’re advertising. Also, at some sites, clicks, Likes, or Follows are much more likely than at other sites.

The bid is usually the maximum that you’re willing to pay, and will often be less. For example, if you bid 50 cents for the ad, sometimes you may be charged less than 50 cents (any number from the minimum bid to 50 cents). Your ad competes against other ads in an auction format, so when you bid 50 cents, you’re basically saying, “50 cents is the most I’ll pay, but if possible I’d like to pay less.”

I recommend starting out at the minimum bid with a cap on your daily spending. Monitor your stats for a few days before raising your bid. This way, you can see what effect your bid has while keeping the risk low in the beginning. If you’re happy with the results, then you can safely avoid higher bids.

Don’t rely on the advertisement to do all the work for you.

I discussed the need to supplement advertisements with free and low-cost marketing in my previous post. Advertising isn’t a substitution for the need to market your book; it’s a supplement that can help improve the sales of a marketable book.

How would you like to participate in a Black Friday type of sales event designed specifically for books? Check out Read Tuesday. It’s going to be HUGE!

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 1 (formatting/publishing) and Vol. 2 (packaging/marketing)

Paid Advertising Options for Book Sales

Fourth Quarter Pic

The success of any book depends on a combination of effective marketing and the degree of marketability.

  • Effective marketing strategies help customers in the target audience discover a book.
  • Creating a highly marketable book improves the chances that a customer who discovers the book will purchase the book.

There are numerous free and low-cost marketing ideas out there. Some of these can be quite effective. The great thing about free and low-cost marketing strategies is that there is very little financial risk.

There are also ways to invest money in the marketing. One way to invest money in marketing is through paid advertisements. This is the focus of this article.

What advertising won’t do.

Let me begin by saying what paid advertising won’t do. It doesn’t do the marketing for you.

If you’re tentative about marketing or inexperienced with marketing, paying for advertisements is not a substitution for marketing. You can’t just throw money somewhere to relieve yourself from having to market your book.

So if you were hoping that paid advertising would be the solution to your marketing dilemma, think again. If you’re in this boat, I recommend putting several months of effort into free and low-cost marketing to develop some firsthand marketing experience.

First gain some marketing experience.

If you want paid advertisements to be effective, you will need that marketing experience. There are decisions you must make and things that you need to design where poor marketability decisions will render the advertisement ineffective. You need this marketing experience to help make better advertising choices.

Furthermore, you need to promote the advertisements in some cases, and in any case you need other marketing strategies in place to supplement the advertisements. It will take marketing experience to do this effectively. It will also take connections to help with your promotions. The more time you spend marketing with free and low-cost methods, the more connections you will build through networking in the process. Remind yourself that you’re not just trying to promote your book: You’re also networking and hoping to develop helpful connections (especially, win-win situations, where help runs both ways).

Identify your goals.

What are you hoping for the advertising to accomplish?

If your main goal is to turn a profit, then you need to do a cost-benefit analysis and weigh the risks versus the possible rewards carefully. Figure out how many books you must sell to recover you investment. Try to research data that can help you project how plausible this is.

However, if you are more concerned about initial exposure, but aren’t concerned about recovering your investment quickly, then you should be focusing more on what kind of exposure you might gain from the venture. The risk still matters. The distinction is whether you’re more focused on long-term potential or short-term profit.

What’s your net?

Advertising may lead to an increase in sales. If you have a steady baseline (how many books you sell per day on average), this will help you gauge the effect of your advertising. Specifically, this tells you how many additional sales you are getting per day on average.

What you really want to know is your net profit or loss. Compute your net additional royalty and subtract your advertising expenses.

Keep in mind that sales can fluctuate, increase, or decrease all on their own. There are many complicating factors that you’re likely not to be aware of. The more data you have prior to your advertising campaign, the better you can gauge this statistically.

Advertising doesn’t always lead to an increase in sales. Like any investment, advertising carries risk. The more experience you have with marketing and the better you understand marketability and marketing, the better your advertising prospects; but even then, there are no guarantees.

Some of the benefits are long-term.

Advertising isn’t just about generating short-term sales.

There are many other possible benefits of advertising:

  • Build buzz to hopefully stimulate initial sales, reviews, and word-of-mouth news.
  • Help the target audience discover a new product.
  • Tell people about a short-term sale.
  • Try to boost sales to get onto bestseller lists, which may help to stimulate sales further.
  • Try to stay on bestseller lists once getting there.
  • Brand the title or author name through repetition.
  • Brand the cover by sight through repetition.
  • Get people to associate your book with a distinguished quality.

Commercials very often don’t generate immediate sales. What they tend to do is create a brand name through repetition. Months later, when the customer is buying a product, the customer is most likely to choose a product that sounds familiar. This is called branding. It’s a very important aspect of marketing.

Branding requires patience. It can take many months before a customer has seen your book enough times to recognize it, and then it may take many more months before the customer is in the market for a book like yours.

Advertising can be one part of your branding efforts.

The more people in your target audience hear your book’s name, your name, and see your cover, the more branding occurs.

Advertising can help with this, especially if the ads are targeted to your specific audience. However, advertising shouldn’t be your only attempt at branding. You need to get your cover, title, and name out in front of your target audience through a variety of different resources (a blog, website, social media, blog interviews, blogger reviews, etc.) to improve the chances for the same potential customer to see your book multiple times. This is one more reason that you need to combine free and low-cost marketing with paid advertisements. (You don’t necessarily need to do the paid advertising; that’s optional. You definitely need to do the free and low-cost stuff.)

Advertising books is different from advertising household products.

You’re probably familiar with commercials and other advertisements for household products that you buy in stores or online. What you need to realize is that advertising books is much different.

How many different brands of toilet paper do you need to choose from at the grocery story? You can probably count them on your fingers. You probably recognize a few of these brands from t.v.

Now think about going to buy a book. If you want to buy a mystery, for example, you have to choose from thousands of books. There are many, many more alternatives.

Advertising toilet paper is cost-effective because millions of people will use it and there are only a few brands to choose from. Although millions of people read books, there are also millions of books to choose from.

There are thousands of other authors trying to promote their books. There are also many publishers doing this. Some of the bestselling authors and top publishers invest a considerable sum of money into their advertising campaigns.

All these factors make it a challenge for you to reap a short-term reward from advertisements.

Since advertising is a risk that may result in a loss, the safe thing to do is stick with the many free and low-cost marketing alternatives.

What else can you advertise besides your book?

When you advertise your book, people immediately realize that it’s an advertisement. People generally don’t like advertisements because they are interruptions. For this reason, most people don’t click on advertisements and most people don’t buy the product in the near future. However, the people who see your advertisement and don’t click on it or buy the product may still recognize your book in the future. Advertisements are often more effective through branding than they are in short-term sales.

However, there are other things that you can advertise besides your book. Some of these things may be more effective at generating clicks or sales.

  • Advertise a website rather than the book. If the website has content that will attract the target audience and this is clear in the advertisement, then customers may be more likely to click on it.
  • Advertise a short-term sale. This may help to create a sense of urgency.
  • Advertise a contest. The chance to win something may generate interest. (On the other hand, there are many people who feel that they never win anything, so don’t bother to enter, and there are so many contests that it would be a lot of work to enter them all. Not everyone thinks this way, though, and some people still love contests.)
  • Advertise something that’s free and that your target audience will want to have. There are many possibilities. A free PDF booklet, for example, won’t cost you any money to make, and if it looks nice and has information that your target audience will want, it may draw interest. This can help to get people from your target audience to visit your website and discover your book.
  • Advertise a series. You don’t have to actually advertise a series in the advertisement. You could advertise the first book or the most recent book, and this may help to draw interest in the whole series. If you have a set of books, this makes advertising more economical when you think about the cost per book.
  • Advertise an event, like a workshop or start a special week that relates to your book.

How marketable is your book?

Paid advertisements won’t make up for poor marketability.

A highly marketable book will sell through free and low-cost marketing.

It doesn’t take paid advertisements to sell a highly marketable book; it just takes discovery.

If a book doesn’t have marketability, advertising isn’t likely to help.

Advertising can help a marketable book get discovered and thereby sell more frequently.

See the following link for help assessing your book’s marketability:

In one of my next posts, I’ll discuss some specific advertising options at a few websites that many authors are familiar with.

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 1 (formatting/publishing) and Vol. 2 (packaging/marketing)