Wednesday 1 February 2017

Paying to be Number One: The Power of Paid Advertising

Paying to be Number One: The Power of Paid Advertising 

by Lucy Thompson

Stats for Land That I Love box set, Aug 11, 2016

I have a secret: my books were bestsellers because I paid for that title. 

😱😧Shocking! 😧😱

Let me backtrack just a little before y'all start boycotting me on facebook or throwing my books back at me. 😉

Amazon releases many, many books each year. Like hundreds of thousands of books on Amazon. Some to very famous authors whose name alone sells a gazillion books. Others to housewives whose dream it is to see a book in print, but who isn't well-known apart from family, loyal friends, and shopkeepers who I gush to…umm…where was I again? Oh, yes. Amazon also releases books of authors who aren't very well known.

How do I find readers and convince them to buy my book?

Enter the middleman. 

Companies with a well-padded subscription list of readers hungry to fill their Kindles with new books. 😍📚📲 
I'll put some links to advertisers who've worked for me at the bottom of this post.

Yay! Let me find that ASIN number and hit "send". Oh. Wait… They want me to pay money for the privilege of sharing my awesome book with lucky readers? (That was sarcasm, btw.) 

In this day and age, to get books in front of new readers (that's readers outside of the people you know personally or see down the shops) you have to pay for them. Approximately $30+ per ad. For one day. To a couple of thousand people who may or may not even open their email or click the link. It's a gamble, people. And sometimes it works. Works really well.

See that picture at the top with the #1's? Where it says #897 in Kindle Store? That was a box set my first book, Mail Order Surprise, was a part of called Land That I Love. Sadly, that box set is no longer available, but when it first came out, myself and the other four authors paid a ton of money for a whole bunch of ads--thirteen different advertisers if I recall correctly, which well and truly paid for themselves. We hit #1 in all our listed categories and crept up to #784 in the entire Kindle Store. That means that (at that time) our book was the 784th bestselling Kindle book in the whole of Amazon. Yay! 😃 Lots of new readers. Hundreds and hundreds of thousands of page reads. Thousands of book sales. Yay!

But only because we paid for that. 

Call me jaded, but when I see books, particularly box sets, with Bestseller banners and high Amazon rankings I immediately think "paid advertising" not "well-crafted book". Ouch. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy for those authors and cheerfully applaud them. But I'm more aware of what it takes to get to those numbers now.

Does that mean that I should rest on my laurels and not pay attention to craft? NO. Not if I want readers to read anything else I ever write. Because they're watching. 😏

 Yes, there is power in paid advertising. But there is also power in a well-crafted book that speaks to the soul. The Lord has the power to open doors that would otherwise seem impossible (hello, there was my name next to Lynnette Bonner! Next to Janice Thompson!). 

Our words have power. Let us use that power wisely. 

All the best as you write for His glory,
   Lucy Thompson
Writer of Words, Worth, and Wit
Books: A Cowboy's Dare:

P.S. As promised: some links to helpful paid advertisers. 😊 Prices are approximate and in US$.
Robin Reads $60  FKBT $30 for a .99c ad. Fussy Librarian $26+ Faithful Reads $25
BookBub (the best and most expensive, but hard to get into) $190


  1. Wow! Illuminating post, Lucy. Thanks so much for sharing.

    1. All good. :) I don't think a lot of authors talk about HOW they got to #1. I know of a group of authors who put out a box set and advertised the heck out of it with the sole purpose of hitting the NYT best seller list--which they did. So now they can add "NYT Bestselling Author" to their bio. Which IS true. But again, it's only from paid advertising.

    2. On the plus side, at least they didn't literally buy their NYT status. They advertised, and readers bought the books. I heard about one author who paid a consultancy to buy enough copies of his own book to make sure he hit the list.

    3. wow. That would be a serious amount of dosh. :O

    4. Iola, I agree. It's not unethical for authors or publishers to reduce the price of their books to increase sales. Whether or not it's a wise business strategy in the longer term to give readers an expectation of an endless supply of cheap or free books is a different question.

  2. I've bought a few of those box sets, and while there are some winners, it's disappointing to find not all the books reach the same standards. And it's interesting to learn how the advertising does help make a bestseller.

    Thanks for sharing, Lucy.

    1. I share the same disappointments. :/ One problem of going indie, I guess. There are some gems though! :)

  3. Lucy, thank you for your transparency. I'm sure there are many other authors who have done likewise but perhaps haven't shared it as one of the enablers of their success. There is no harm in paid advertising, hey Google AdWords, has been revolutionary for thousands of small businesses to get their names up on that first page of a Google search.

    I know many authors are fans of FB ads and one FB expert I know says it is really the only these days you can guarantee any post of your is successfully viewed by a large number of people.

    I wonder if you'd have the time to write a post on how you went about it - or is it as simple as clicking on those advertisers and following their instructions?

    1. Hi Ian! I've only dabbled in FaceBook ads a few times. Like you say, it's often the only way posts are viewed by a number of people. I follow a blog post I read about posting ads on FaceBook. I'll share it once I find where I bookmarked the page... Cheers!

    2. All righty! Found the email I'd saved with all these wonderful links. Misty Beller is the lovely lady with all the know how. Find her online and follow her. Seriously. ;)

      Link no 1. Find your target reader:

      Facebook ads demystified. With PICTURES!!

      Hope these help and that I'll see your ads soon. :)

  4. So interesting! Thanks Lucy, this was not something I had heard of. :)

    1. it's one of my pet peeves: Christians don't like to talk about money. Especially money and books. Or money earned from books. :/ One of the reasons I like my agent, Chip MacGregor. He shares the money side of things in the publishing world. :) Glad to share a li'l bit of enlightenment. :)

  5. Lucy, I’m really not sure why you find the idea of paid advertising outrageous? Books are products and book selling is a business. Our recognition of brand names of bestselling products doesn’t happen by accident. Successful businesses invest in advertising as part of their marketing plan.

    Paid advertising gave you an opportunity to reach readers in your target audience. I subscribe to all the emails lists and follow the trends. In recent months, the Bookbub ads in Christian fiction have been dominated by books published by traditional publishers. Eg. Today’s Bookbub Christian fiction deal is for ‘Sincerely Yours’, a 99c ebook deal on a historical romance novella collection published by Revell in 2014. I clicked through to Amazon Australia and the ebook is climbing the lists, currently sitting at #2 on the Christian Fiction bestseller list. #1 is ‘Rooms’ by James Rubart that’s on sale for 99 cents and #3 is ‘An Aussie Summer Christmas’. We released ‘An Aussie Summer Christmas’ in September 2016 and it has stayed on the Amazon Australia bestseller list in Christian fiction/Christian romance for the last 4 months. There are authors who can send out a newsletter for their new release and hit the bestseller lists from their newsletter subscribers buying the ebook.

    1. Hi Narelle, thanks for stopping by. :)
      I never said I thought paid advertising is outrageous...

      Writing is both an art and a business. I get that. And paid advertising is what gets books in front of new readers. Not all authors know that though. Hence my post. ;)

      Congrats on hitting the bestseller list on Amazon Australia.

    2. other people, mainly readers, may find the idea that the "number one bestseller" they just brought isn't all it's cracked up to be and be feeling a little outraged.
      I was on Amazon earlier today and saw some very jaded and upset reviews on some large box sets for a similar reason.

    3. I have friends who bought print copies of Fifty Shades for $9 or $10 and felt ripped off. I also have friends who thought it was a great book for a great price and deserved to be a bestseller. Who is right and who is wrong? Opinions on books and personal tastes will always vary. When you're paying 5 cents or less per story in a large box set, is it a big deal if you don't enjoy a couple of the stories? You can refund Kindle titles within a certain time period if you're not happy with your purchase.


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