Paid Advertising For Your Book – Don’t bother, I tried that already

Back in February, I posted an article titled “More Thoughts on the Economics of Authorspace – It’s a business … who knew?” . In it, I ran through a few numbers based on my own very limited and new understanding of being an Independent author.

Part of those numbers was an estimate of $450 in promotion/ advertising. It is that number and how I’ve spent it that I want to talk about.

I’ll drop a table on you here in a moment, but the short version is that nothing worked. After about $400 in advertising for “By Any Other Name“, I can definably say that I got nine sales and two reviews as a result of my advertising. That is a cost per outcome of $44. Even if I double all my numbers, it’s still a lousy cost per outcome vs a $5 book.

Book sales for “The Sauder Diaries – By Any Other Name” have been a steady 2 copies per 3 weeks since the initial flurry after the re-release. Without rehashing the past, one item to keep in mind is that the title had already blown it’s “honeymoon period” in a first version, and so really, the only sales I have been making have been from my direct marketing efforts.

So here is the table first table:

Venue volume/ scope cost reviews sales notes
BookTown “Book Blast” 1 month $99.00 0 0
Goodreads Self—Directed Advertising 6 weeks $75.00 0 0 84 people added the book to their “to read” list
RaffleCopter Blog Hosted Giveaway 1 month, 2 copies $50.00 0 1 30 people entered
GoodReads Hosted Giveaway 1 month, 2 copies $50.00 0 0 184 people entered
Fan Swag 2 mugs, 2 free copies $80.00 1 7
ARCs 2 free copies $40.00 1 0

total cost $394.00
$43.78 per outcome

There are a few things to note. The most clear is that “book reader websites” that charge for advertising apparently produce no outcome. In fact, one of the worst things is there are no quantifiable statistics. I have no idea if anyone that cared ever saw my book info.

Secondly, Goodreads is amazing for generating noise, but not for sales. My ad campaign ran for about six weeks and generated over 199,000 views combined of two differently targeted and worded ads. However, that only yielded a total of 39 clicks and no sales that I can directly attribute.

Thirdly, giving stuff away such as free signed copies and brand-related swag does work. In fact, it’s the ONLY thing that seemed to work other than social media. I’ll talk about that at the end of this post.

Now I want to show you the net effect of The Other Thing I Did Last Summer:

Venue volume/ scope cost reviews sales notes
Kindle Direct Free Period 1000 copies global $3,360.00 1 0 locked out of other sales markets for 3 months

I know, I know, you’re saying “but the 1000 copies didn’t cost you anything”. Well, I can now tell you there are 1000 people who won’t buy a copy of “By Any Other Name“, for sure. Effectively, even if only half of those downloads was someone who would have spent the money, then giving it away cost me my share on that sale. Ouch. KDP Select is NOT my friend.

Now, if when I release “A Bloodier Rose” I sell 300 copies in the first week, then maybe KDP Select will get a kind word from me. But right now, it is not worth not having my book listed on Apple’s iBookStore for that 90 days.

Pretty dismal, all the way around, huh? So, what does work?

Firstly, Twitter live chats with your potential target readership are -amazing-. I can directly attribute at least 30% of my sales to hanging out on a Friday night yacking steampunk with the #steampunkchat gang. I can further directly attribute another 20% or so of my sales to word-of-mouth advertising; that’s when a fan encourages a friend of theirs to pick up a copy of the book.

Cost per outcome for those? Zero. I’m going to talk Steampunk with other steam-geeks anyway, and my fans all love what I do so they’re going to talk about my book anyway.

Another venue that has had a direct impact on sales is Six Sunday. It’s a bit more slippery to estimate, but I would say that 10% of my sales are a direct result of a compelling excerpt posted on my blog and linked to Few things make my Monday better than a praise-post on my blog or a sale notice on my dashboard. Again, cost beyond time is zero.

My Facebook page for The Sauder Diaries has not made any direct impact on my sales. It’s not the closer, it’s the follow up, as it were. People wind up there after they’ve bought the book because they want to stay in touch. The link is on the right hand side of the blog page, if you’re interested.  One thing I have not done is tried the paid-for advertising on FaceBook, but I am guessing that if it didn’t work on book-lover’s site like GoodReads, there is little reason it will work on more generalized traffic site like FB.

So, the free stuff works very well, the swag and give-aways work pretty well and the traditional advertising concepts did not work at all. So, for “A Bloodier Rose“, you can guess there will be a release party with swag and signed-copy give-aways and a live-chat on Twitter, followed up by Rafflecopter and Goodreads contests the two months after that.

Drop by and I’ll let you know how it worked out. “A Bloodier Rose” is due out at the end of October.

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to your comments.