Even a robust email list and thriving social media presence aren’t enough to guarantee your success as an independent writer. You will want to seriously consider putting some time and money—yes, money again—into advertising.
Marketing experts say that it takes five to seven impressions before someone will respond to an ad. This means that while your social media followers and newsletter subscribers may be ready to buy your next book at the first announcement, your undiscovered potential readers will need more coaxing and reminders before they decide to commit. Just like their personal information, people don’t like to part with their money easily.
Enter the ad campaign—a targeted advertising attack on members of your audience designed to convince them to become fans. A campaign is a group of ads that stack on one another or that work together to increase interest or awareness. Now, you may ask why would you be stupid enough to spend money just to get people to be aware of you? Well, remember that five to seven impressions thing. If you do an awareness campaign in the weeks leading up to a pre-order announcement or a book launch, then you’ll have done half the work beforehand to grab your potential readers’ attention.
Facebook is one of the best places to advertise. Not only are they completely geared toward effective advertisement, but the sheer size of their subscribers knocks any other platform out of the water. Facebook makes it super easy to plan, design, and execute ad campaigns. They have a new business manager that is free, and that automatically is set up when you create a business account. It is incredibly comprehensive—which unfortunately means it is incredibly UNintuitive. The menus change from one page to the next and it’s easy to get lost in all the rabbit holes of permissions and pixels and settings. But they also offer a lot of help in the form of videos and a blog that can clear a lot of things up. The best thing to do is to just jump in and explore, and try not to chuck your monitor at the wall.
One of the nicest things about the Facebook business manager is that it coordinates with Instagram (again, a maze of permissions and settings to navigate, but not too bad) so you can schedule posts and ads on both platforms, but manage them in one place. Again, do some research, try and try again, and you’ll find a good settling place where you know what you need to know and can ignore the rest.
Amazon is also a good place to do ads for books, because they are, well, the major bookseller in the world. But they like to make it harder for you by making you bid on your ads and figure out cost per click ratios and stuff. Again, not super user-friendly. But there are plenty of good websites and webinars available to help you learn how to advertise effectively on Amazon. David Gaughran and the Kindlepreneur have great advice on everything indie publishing, and even offer free online courses to learn how to do Amazon and Facebook ads.
A different but excellent type of advertising is the Book Promo. These are sales you run using promotion sites that will advertise your book to their extensive lists. Sounds fantastic, right? It can be, but there are a lot of book promotion services out there, and they are not all legit (Surprise!). Even the legit ones can be incredibly expensive without being effective, or cheap and ineffective. So how do you find out which ones are safe and good for you? Ask an expert.
Again, I like David Gaughran and the Kindlepreneur, both of whom have lists of reputable book promotion services that work. If you start from there, you have a much better chance of getting a bang for your buck.
The major book promo site is Bookbub, and while they are expensive ($500-$700 per promo), and are very picky about who makes the cut, their advertising is extremely effective. Their model is based on Featured Deals, where you discount your book for a limited time, then they advertise your Deal to a targeted group of their millions of subscribers. This model is extremely successful, and can bring an almost unknown author thousands of purchases, reviews, and followers—but it is because Bookbub only chooses to advertise the titles that they think are most likely to fly. These tend to be books that are late in a series, or that have won awards, or that have stellar editorial reviews.
But do not despair! Bookbub does tend to favor indie authors, so it’s definitely worth a shot. Generally, they recommend waiting until you have at least three titles out, with some good reviews, before applying for a Bookbub Deal. Then, just keep trying. Incidentally, Chirp is their audiobook arm, and their deals paid for through their taking a 10% cut of your profits from the sale.
Goodreads has two advertising options, but their ads are usually not really worth it. Their Giveaways, however, can be excellent exposure. The Standard Giveaway is totally worth the $119 pricetag—if you have at least 100 reviews on one of your books. Goodreads Giveaways work by contacting all your followers, friends, and people who have put your book on their want-to-read list on Goodreads, so the more people you have on those lists, the more effective a Giveaway will be for you. Your giveaway is also listed in the Giveaways section, where anyone interested can enter, and are given the opportunity to follow you, thus becoming a potential fan.
Advertising is a decent bit of work, and requires creativity and some design savvy. You can use free apps like Canva or Adobe Spark to create ads quickly and easily—they are optimized for Facebook and Instagram, and have templates that take a lot of the guesswork out of the design. One thing to remember is to only use images that you have the rights to, or you could get into some trouble. But if you don’t want to pay a professional to do your marketing for you, and you’re willing to learn a little ad sense from experts in the field, it’s not too too hard to do it yourself.