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This page is a little weak, but I hope it helps get you pointed in the right direction. For more in-depth advice on author advertising, see BookLife’s advertising page.

Unless readers already know who you are, print ads are rarely effective for indie fiction titles, even in major publications with good circulation. Online ads are less expensive and can be more cost-effective. However, they require a lot of experimentation and tuning. You should expect to lose some money in the short term as you define your target audience and hone your ads.

Facebook Ads

Facebook ads can be effective, if you know what you’re doing. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you can waste an enourmous amount of time trying to define audiences and trying to come up with ads that work.

There’s a reason whole books are written about Facebook advertising: it’s a complicated enough subject to warrant hundreds of pages of explanation. Facebook advertising is complicated enough that it may be worth your while to hire a knowledgeable firm to handle ad campaigns for you.

The biggest key to success in Facebook advertising is having an existing following. If you want to use Facebook and you don’t yet have a following, spend some time building one before you pour your money into ads.

Amazon Advertising

In my experience, and in the experience of other authors I know, Amazon ads have been much more effective than Facebook ads. Amazon users are often on the site specifically to buy a book. That alone makes them a more qualified prospect than most Facebook users.

Amazon ads are easier to create and target than Facebook ads. All you need is:

  • A tagline or hook to appeal to the right readers. This can be no more than 150 characters.
  • A list of authors and/or titles your target readers like.

Amazon has created videos to help you get started with their ad platform. A few things to note are:

  1. Keywords cost much more than they did a few years ago. That makes it difficult for indie authors to run profitable ad campaigns. If you run a break-even campaign, you’re doing well.
  2. Give a campaign 10-14 days to see if it’s working.
  3. Check your keywords daily. Amazon lowers the suggested bid on high-performing keywords, and if you lower your actual bid to match the suggestion, you’ll save money.
  4. Books enrolled in KDP Select will often earn more in Kindle Unlimited page reads than in actual sales. Amazon’s ad console now reports estimated page reads, though this figure often understates the actual number of page reads. In many cases, Kindle Unlimited readers will download your book after clicking on an ad, but won’t start reading it until weeks later. While the ad console doesn’t seem to track these reads, the KDP reports console does, and you get paid for them.

Paid promotional sites such as Bookbub and Just Kindle Books do work, with some caveats:

  1. They can help you sell a lot of 99-cent copies or give away a lot of free copies of your book.
  2. The effect is short-lived, usually limited to a special promotion period of just a few days.

The idea is to get as many books as possible into the hands of interested readers with the hopes that, having sampled something good, they will pay full price for your other books, now or in the future.

For more information, see the page on Paid Promotional Sites and the list of promo sites in the Resources section.

Other Ad Platforms

I’ve heard of a number of non-fiction writers getting good results from Google ads. All of these writers seemed to have two things in common. They had at least a rudimentary understanding of how to target Google ads, and they were selling books with valuable practical and/or technical knowledge. That is, programming books that help software developers do their jobs, investment books that help people grow their wealth, etc.

I have not heard of writers getting good results from ads on Goodreads, Readers’ Favorite, or other similar platforms. When considering whether or not to pay for an ad, ask yourself if you have ever purchased a book because you saw an ad for it on X website or in Y publication.

Last update: 2022-02-09