I get this question from authors all the time. I’ve even seen recent conversations about it on LinkedIn. Here’s the primary question: “Should I be running a paid social ad campaign — like Google Adwords, Facebook ads, or Amazon ads — to increase awareness about my book?”
And the answer? Well, that’s almost always a resounding “no.”
Any time you invest money in something — especially advertising — what you’re looking for is a good ROI, or return on investment. In other words, you want to make sure you get more money back than you put in. That’s a pretty basic concept.
And yet, when it comes to authors investing in paid advertising campaigns, the ROI generally doesn’t add up.
Here’s why: If you sold jewelery, for example, and your margin of profit on each piece of jewelry sold was $500, you’d be more than willing to invest a fair amount in advertising in the hopes that you sold just one piece of jewelry. As long as you spent less than $500, you’d have a good ROI.
But when you sell books, the numbers are drastically different. As one LinkedIn user by tne name of Richard Milton breaks it down in regards to Amazon’s ad campaigns:
As the most efficient book retailer in the world, Amazon knows perfectly well (but don’t tell you the advertiser) that the industry standard click through rate is 0.1 per cent (one visitor in a thousand will click your ad) and the highest industry standard conversion rate (Amazon’s own) is 4%. This means that if 25,000 people see your ad, 25 of them will click on it and 1 will buy your book.
The average cost per click on Amazon currently for fiction is around $0.60 – $0.65.
Unless you are a megastar author or your book is a runaway best-seller, this means that you will spend more than receive.
I have found the same soft of logic to be true in relation to Google Ad campaigns and the like.
Let’s Do the Math
Here are the basic numbers that I saw when I was looking at these types of campaigns for authors…
Let’s say you’re spending 75 cents per click on your Google Adwords campaign, and you’ve capped your budget at $500/month. That means you get 667 clicks a month.
If you have a conversion rate of 5% — which would actually be relatively good — that means that 33 of the 667 visitors will have bought your book that month.
Now, let’s say you yourself make $3 per copy sold (and that would be a lot less for Kindle versions of your book). You would be bringing in $99 that month, significantly less than the $500 you invested.
Is It Ever Worth the Money?
I’m not one to be making grand statements that something does or doesn’t work for everyone. If you happen to write a great book about a topic that is extremely popular, it’s possible that you could make money off of these types of campaigns. After all, if your conversion rate is a lot higher than the 5% cited above (more like 25%), you would at least break even.
But based on everything I’ve seen, heard and read, I have yet to find one author for whom this is the case.
As another author in a similar LinkedIn conversation added: “Unlikely. I tried it for a while but got nowhere with it.”
So What Can I Do?
I highly recommend authors use many of the free promotional online tools. These include:
- Search engine optimization
- Creating Facebook/Twitter profiles
- Starting a blog
- Reaching out to other sites about guest blogging
Here’s a recent post I wrote about free (or almost-free) ways to market your book. All you need to invest is time.