Why Paid Book Advertising Services Fail
Disclaimer: When I mention “paid book advertising services,” I’m not talking about paid advertising, like Facebook ads or Amazon promotions. After all, you usually need to spend money to make money. Instead, I’m talking about those flashy gotcha services that pitch naive writers and tell them that for a hefty sum upfront, they’ll sell books on autopilot.
We’ve all seen them. Numerous services online targeting new authors and promising tweets, blog posts, and Facebook posts to boost your book’s visibility after a period of time. Some of these deals seem too good to be true. Twenty-five or fifty dollars can get your name on any platform that you want, featured before thousands of readers and heavily advertised. It’s a good deal, especially if you’re new to publishing and overwhelmed at the thought of promoting your books. But how well do these bundles actually pay out?
What They Offer
You first need to consider what these services offer. You do get more based on what package you pay for, but here are some of the tempting offers that your standard service will include:
One tweet per day for 30 days to over 500,000 readers.
Your book posted on Facebook to over 100,000 readers.
A permanent listing on our site.
A premium mention in our weekly newsletter.
With most services, these claims are technically honest, but misleading. They will often emphasize their high numbers of readers and followers to establish that they have something you do not: reach. But they make no guarantees of selling your book or of any new fans crowding around you. That's important to take note of.
How much do book promotion services actually pay out if you pursue them?
What You Get
Before you buy any service, it’s a good idea to do background research to see if it’s legitimate. In this case, you’ll want to visit the Facebook and Twitter followings the gig posts to, if you can find them, and check out how active they are. Are their posts actually getting liked and shared, or are they largely ignored?
Also, take note of who is liking and sharing the posts. One company I reviewed ran three separate Twitter accounts that each shared posts from the others with practically no outside reach. Their posts looked active at first glance, but upon further investigation, I realized that almost no one actually responded to the tweets.
Then you’ll want to study the authors who buy their service. Don’t simply look at the testimonials: type in the books on Amazon and see how well those books are selling. What ranks do they have? How are their reviews?
That second step can be as important as the first. If these authors are paying for premium service and still struggling to make an isolated sale here and there, you know it’s a bad investment.
You can also look for continuity in the authors. Would you want your book to be listed on the shelves near theirs? Do their books look professionally produced, or haphazardly slapped together on the spot?
Are book promotion services a complete waste of money?
If you have no audience, no social media platform, and plenty of money to spend, you might see a small return on your investment. Some book promotional services have a fairly broad reach and will present your novel in a favorable light, but these promotions make no guarantees of sales, and no new sales should be expected.
In the end, even if you have the budget to allow for a book promo service to share your book, there are probably better ways to spend that money.
What actually works?
Even if you don’t know anything about advertising, you can have much more success if you use familiar services like Amazon promotions or Facebook advertisements. These services work on a bidding system that can easily cost only a few dollars a day for as long as you want your promotion to run.
Another option with great returns is to optimize your personal social media efforts to make more sales. Cross-promote with other writers and actively work to grow your following so that when you announce your new release or sale, actual fans will hear about it and respond.
What promotional services do you use to sell books? Have any of them worked for you? Please share your experiences in the comments below or join my Facebook group for self-publishing fiction writers for further discussion.