Monday 30 October 2017

Does Online Book Advertising Even Work? + Giveaway - Kara Isaac

Ads, ads, ads. They're on buses, billboards, in your letterbox and always wherever you go on the internet. But do they provide results for the people paying for them? 

In June, I independently released my third book, Then There Was You. There are many pros to indie publishing but one of the challenges is that you, the author, are solely responsible for trying to create "buzz" around your book and get it in front of readers. No small feat when a new book is published on Amazon every three minutes and the odds of it being "discovered" by a new reader purely by chance are slim to none. 

As a result, I've had to delve into the wonderful world of paid online book promotion. So, over my next two posts I thought I would chat about the different types of promotion that I have tried and my thoughts/experiences! 

This post I'm going to talk about Facebook Ads/Boosts and GoodReads ads and giveaways. Then next post I will be talking about Amazon ads and email promotional lists. 

Facebook Ads/Boosts
Anyone who is on Facebook will have seen sponsored ads or "boosted" posts show up in their newsfeed. The reason for this is because even if you like the page for your favourite author/speaker/restaurant Facebook still won't show you anything and everything that person/organization posts. Instead, clever Facebook, makes people pay if they really want a post to be seen.

Pros: When well targeted, boosted posts and ads can get you back in front of your target audience with important news or announcements. They can increase engagement with your page (and when someone engages with a post it makes it more likely FB will show them more things from you in the future) and Facebook provides good metrics on the results you have gotten for each promotion.

Cons: No ability to see if a paid promotion has directly resulted in sales. Facebook can be very picky about the content/format of a boosted post. For example, if they think you ad has too many words then the algorithm will limit how may people it will be distributed to but if you are running something like a giveaway you have to have a lot of words to set out the terms and conditions!

Thoughts: Know what your goals are for each boosted post or ad so you know whether your investment has delivered the outcomes you want. Do you want more page likes? If so how many? A certain reach? A certain number of entries or comments? If you don't meet your goals analyse the results and try and work out why rather than shrugging your shoulders and putting it down to the Facebook algorithm having it in for you.

Be strategic about what you choose to boost.  The truth is that most of my posts are only of interest to my really committed readers and Facebook will usually show them my posts organically because they have a history of engagement with my page. If you want to reach a broader audience then boost posts that will appeal to them. For me this is giveaways, sales and big announcements (book contracts, cover reveals etc). Also, the Facebook algorithm is smart so if you boost often it will know that it doesn't need to offer you a good reach to get your money. Whereas if you boost sporadically it will offer you a bigger reach to try and get you to spend more money, more often :)

GoodReads Advertisements
GoodReads offers the ability to create advertisements that appear in members' newsfeed and sidebars. You pay "per click" and can target you advertisements to specific readers (for example people who have read books by other authors you nominate and rated their books 3* or higher)

Pros: To date I haven't found any.
Cons: Unlike most other providers who charge you retrospectively per click, GoodReads requires upfront payment (minimum of $50 USD) which then acts as a credit that they deduct your clicks against. I have run six different ads across my three books and, after a year and many attempts at rewriting and retargeting the ads, have spent $12.30. At that rate it will take me until 2020 to spend the $50!

Thoughts: Don't bother. Amazon ads (which I'll cover next time) are a far better spend for your money.

GoodReads Giveaways

With GoodReads there is an option to give away paperback copies of your books. You nominate the number of copies, the dates the giveaway runs and the countries it is available to.

Pros: Gets your book in front of readers who may otherwise never see it. You can see a direct correlation between the giveaway and people adding your book to their "to-read" shelves.

Cons: No way of knowing if it is directly responsible for any sales.

Thoughts: You don't seem to get any greater benefit/visibility from giving away a heap of books versus a smaller number. I personally think the sweet spot is 5-10. It's enough to make people feel like they have a chance at winning one but not so many that it's going to cost you a fortune to fulfil it. (Obviously this only matters if you are having to fulfill the winners yourself. If you have a publisher who will deal with the costs of books and postage then even better!)

Writers - have you tried any of these activities or are you intending to? What was your experience? Readers - what are your thoughts/reactions when one of them shows up on your screen? I've got a Kindle copy of Then There Was You for one commenter!

*Entries close Wednesday, 1 November, midnight CST*

Kara Isaac lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She is the author of Close to You, a RITA Award Double Finalist, and Can't Help Falling, an RT Review Top Pick. Her latest book Then There Was You released in June. When she's not chasing three adorable but spirited little people, she spends her time writing horribly bad first drafts and wishing you could get Double Stuf Oreos in New Zealand. She loves to connect on her website, on Facebook at Kara Isaac - Author and Twitter @KaraIsaac


  1. I did Facebook ads for a self published devotional a couple of years back and while it got lots of 'likes' it didn't generate much sales. What it did do was generate an increase in followers on my Facebook page but they are not active followers, so in that sense it wasn't the greatest.

    1. Hi Leila! Yes, the thing with the FB algorithm is that you have to keep "feeding" your page for FB to keep showing your posts to people. I've had some people say you should be posting multiple times a day which I think is ridiculous but I try and post at least every second day, even if it's something like a meme. I find consistent posting not only gives me a greater reach but it also seems to help get more people engaged.

  2. Not feeling inspired to try any of these options. Thanks for your helpful post.

    1. I can understand why! It is definitely tough getting cut through!

  3. My two attempts at Facebook ads didn't generate any results that I could see. They promised me a voucher ($10 free credit) both times, but still charged & kept upping the spending limit with no way of back tracking that I could find so for me, it was a negative experience and big waste of money, partly due to not knowing the ins and outs and a not very user friendly interface that is more about enticing you to spend than providing a good service, imo.

    I haven't done Goodreads ads. GR Giveaways do raise visibility and get to-reads on your book. How many result in sales or reviews - my impression, not many if any. On the other hand, they say it rakes up to ten or more times of seeing a new product before a buyer is enticed, so visibility shouldn't be discounted. And you do get a copy or copies of your book in readers hands. You can only do giveaways with print books though.

    1. I can totally understand why that Facebook experience would put you off, Jeanette. It would have done the same for me too! And you're right, it is definitely targeted at being a huge revenue stream for Facebook over being a user friendly experience.

      It is definitely true that visibility is worth something even if you can't see a direct outcome. I've heard anything between 8-18 impressions for a product or service before most customers will take chance on something new so you never know which "impression" is going to be that final one that gets them over the line!

  4. Hi Kara, so good to get this feedback and information. It's so valuable to authors.

    I'm looking forward to your next post. Amazon ads are the latest and greatest and like all things apparently get good traction but the more authors that become aware of them and start using them the greater the battle to get eyeballs. So you as early adopter I hope have seen good results.

    1. That's so true, Ian! It's like Facebook boosts and ads. The first people who were willing to out their money there saw huge benefits which have slowly been whittled back as the rest of us jumped on the bandwagon!

  5. Hi Kara, Thanks for sharing your data :) Have you tried used unique bitly links for each promotion? For Facebook boosting, in particular, you can use Bitly to track the clicks through to Amazon and the other book sellers from a specific Facebook boosted post. This can be helpful if you're doing simultaneous multiple book promo activities.

  6. As a reader, I have noticed the ads on FB. I have to say that sometimes it seems I am seeing the same post constantly. Therefore I start ignoring it when I see it. If I am interested, I will usually look at it in the first few times I see it. As for Goodreads giveaways, I almost always enter those because, well, who doesn't want to win a book! Having said all this, it is more likely that he ads I see will make me watch for the book to come to my library or maybe be free sometime. Sorry to say I don't spend much on books, as much as I would love to!


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