Advertising your book can easily be the most expensive aspect of publishing, and for many authors, it is. While Reedsy places publicity at the lower end of publishing costs at $50-$200, a reasonable rate affordable even to starting authors, some advertising services quickly get far more expensive. This is especially true if you want to focus on Amazon or Facebook ads or choose a deluxe advertising package like Bookbub (which can easily run for several thousand dollars for popular genres).
At what point are you just throwing money away?
If you’re new to publishing or have only a handful of books under your belt, it’s important to have an educated idea of what you’ll get out of your publishing. Otherwise you could pour hundreds of dollars into a void with only a handful of sales attempting to make it up.
There’s no way to know for sure what you’ll get out of a book advertisement. Getting a sense for what works and what flops is something that comes with time, practice, and failure. But there are some tips if you’re getting started and want to make the best possible return:
1. Your mailing list is your best publicity.
If you haven’t put any thought or effort into your mailing list, now is the time to start. Put together a reader magnet, start getting those subscriptions. Some book advertising services include promotions whose sole purpose is to get subscribers onto your list.
When you have a good list, selling your book becomes so simple that you hardly need to worry about advertising at all. Your readers are already waiting to hear about the next book you have coming out, and they’ll buy it on a simple email.
In short: Before you spend money on an elaborate promotional campaign for your new release, you might want to slow down and win readers organically onto your list first.
2. Judge your book by your cover.
No matter how much you pour into advertising a new release, no one will buy it if it doesn’t look professional. Don’t expect results if your cover and blurb can’t compete with the standard release being promoted.
This is easily the biggest make-or-break factor in your promotional success. It’s true on any platform and with any type of promotion. Even if you spent hours on Photoshop, painstakingly piecing your graphics together, readers won’t care if it isn’t competitive. If you have to choose between a $500 promotion and a $500 cover, the cover wins every time.
3. One dedicated promotion outweighs several halfhearted promotions.
It might be tempting to split your advertising into multiple venues, especially if you’re starting out and don’t know which of your efforts will best pay off. That’s fine if you can afford to try everything. Multiple venues will reach more streams of readers.
Unfortunately, some advertising venues need a stronger investment to work well. Facebook and Amazon ads are notorious for thriving in larger investments, often with the need to test multiple ads to learn which operates better in the end. It can’t be rushed or skimped.
4. Always track your promotional efforts.
It’s impossible to know exactly how successful various promotional efforts will be and which will work best for you as an author. Because of this, keep track of what you get out of everything that you try. Track clicks, track sales and page views. If you decide to go with more than one promotion, track everything else that you do.
If tracking everything overwhelms you, try staggering your different promotions over different days or weeks. When you review your sales records at the end of the month, your best bumps will probably correlate to the most effective marketing tool you used, so you can know where to focus for future books.
5. Advertising isn’t mandatory.
The best part of self-publishing is that everything is in your hands. If you want to hit the publish button and sit back, waiting for organic sales to roll in without advertising, you absolutely can—it might even be a good way to know how your categories, keywords, and book cover perform on their own. No one is forcing you to pay for advertising, and there’s no set budget you’re expected to spend on a successful campaign.
Advertising, like everything else, is an investment. It’s a show of confidence that proves that you’re passionate about your books and can’t wait to share them with people—and that you’re savvy enough to pull off a competitive publishing job, even if you’re operating under a strict budget with limited expertise. Don’t be afraid to start small in the beginning and work your way up later as you become more established. By then, readers will be excited to see that you have a solid back-list of books also available.
What do you think is an ideal advertising budget? Are expensive promotions worth the cost? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below or join my group for self-publishing fiction writers at the button below for further discussion.