Is it worth it to pay for book advertising?

Book advertising video

Click to play the video lesson about book advertising.

Can you pay people to notice your books?

Yes, to some extent. Book advertising can boost visibility and drive up sales. However, not all advertising is equal. It is very easy to spend more money on ads than you get in book revenue.

Here are three things to consider before you pay for advertising:

1. Figure out how much you're willing to pay for each sale. (Max cost per conversion)

You can figure this out by dividing the total amount spent on the ad by the total sales received.

total spent on ad / number of sales = cost per conversion

Let’s say you are traditionally published and you make about $2 per sale. You know if you spend $100 on ads, they need to result in at least 50 sales before you even break even.

Breaking even is not always a bad result for an ad. You won’t make any money, but you may increase your book’s visibility and earn more reviews. Plus, if you have a good offer in the back of your book that brings people to your site and entices them to join your email list, you have the opportunity to sell to them again in the future.

Once you know where your cost per conversions no longer result in profit, you are in a better position to evaluate your advertising. 

TIP: Here's a free online advertising calculator you can use to see if your ad was worth the money you paid.

2. Evaluate the audience scale and fit.

The better fit the audience is for your book, the higher your conversion rate will be.

If the audience is highly specialized and targeted, you might see a much higher rate of conversion. In that case, you could get a great result even with smaller audience size.

If the audience is more general, the conversion rate might be very low. You will need your ad to reach a large number of people in order for it to pay off.

3. Improve your book page conversion rate.

Getting people to your book page is just the beginning. Once they get there, it’s up to you to make sure they see a compelling offer.

If you are sending your ads straight to your Amazon page, here are things to consider:

Is my cover design professional and appropriate for the audience?

How many reviews do I have?

Is my book description clear and compelling?

Are there any official reviews I can add to the page?

Did I complete my author biography section?

If you would like more control over your conversion rates, I highly recommend send your ads to your own website. You may experiment with different offers and provide a sample or free resource in exchange for joining your email list.

Now that you have some new ways to evaluate ads, let’s look at two sample scenarios.

Scenario One:

Let’s say you are considering a $100 ad on a website that reviews all kinds of books. The website says they get about 50,000 visitors per month.

This would be considered a general audience, but let's assume you get a fairly high click-through rate of 2%. You’ve found that once people get to your page, about 10% will buy the book. You will make $2 per book sale.

1 sale = 10 people clicked = 2,000 people who saw the ad

Let’s work backwards to see how many people need to see your ad for it to be worth the $100 spend. You know you need 50 sales to break even.

50 sales = 500 people clicked = 100,000 people who saw the ad

So, this website needs to be able to promise a minimum of 100,000 views (or “impressions”) before you even have a chance of breaking even. Your $100 ad will run for a month. During that time, they say their website will receive 50,000 visitors.

Verdict: Not worth it.

Scenario Two:

Let’s say you spend $210 to place an ad on the specialized ChickLit lists on BookBub. Bookbub actually tells you the average conversions for each of their lists. They report that this list is send to 620,000 people and usually results in 730 sales.

Because you must discount your book for BookBub, let’s say you set the price at 99 cents and you make 30 cents per sale.

30 cents x 730 sales = $219 in revenue

While you might only make $9 in profit if you choose this ad, those 730 sales will result in more reviews and a higher placement on the Amazon lists. Once the ad ends, you may still experience higher sales for a week or so due to increased visibility.

Verdict: Worth it!

Additional considerations

Optimize your amplification:

Schedule multiple ad channels at the same time into order to maximize impact. If you score a BookBub placement, schedule Facebook ads or or other advertising at the same time to piggyback the chart climbing momentum.

Sobering reality: 

Online ads across all formats have an average click-through rate of 0.06%*. That means there is less than 1 click per 1,000 views.

Facebook ads in America have an average click-through rate of 1%*. Just because someone clicked on the ad, doesn’t mean they are going to buy. You must adjust your projections based on the conversion rate of your landing page.

*Source: Doubleclick (part of Google advertising) 

Get more help with online advertising

Enroll in my Online Marketing for Authors Masterclass. Learn how to make your ads more effective while building a lasting audience. (Blog readers get $100 off the full course with the code BLOG100.)

Watch this quick, 2-minute video about how to improve the conversion rate of your Facebook ads.

Get this free advertising evaluation calculator I made with Google spreadsheets. Download and input your own numbers to see if you ad was worth the expense.

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