Following my Call to Arms, a number of you responded by sharing with me your book marketing experience. I now have about a hundred responses by some fifty authors. Although some of the responses were expected, there were quite a few surprises in there for me.


For anyone wishing to take a look at the raw data, you can download this Excel spreadsheet. I grouped the results according to whether the book was offered full-price, discounted or free. I also have a fourth category titled Other, that includes any entries where this was not specified.

To compare the various ad media, I came up with a number that represents the ratio between number of sales and cost of advertising. In other word, if you spent $1 and had one sale, then this number would be one. If you spent $1 and had two sales, the number would be two, etc.

Essentially, this represents your value for money. The greater this number, the more effective the campaign. Naturally, websites offering free ads come out pretty well (to avoid dividing by zero, I gave them a nominal value of $1).

The Best Place to Advertise your Full-Priced Book

From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

The first observation is that the best place to advertise is through an author newsletter. This is because it is free, yet effective. Besides, a recent study by McKinsey Consulting revealed that email is 40 times more effective than all social media combined at acquiring new customers.

The second one concerns Facebook. This can be a hit-and-miss affair. The above results fail to reveal that someone advertising for free in author groups had nine sales, whereas someone who spent $500 only had three.

Goodreads included another kind of outlier. An author who spent $5,000 had zero sales as a result, whereas someone who only spent $15 had 50 sales. This leads me to believe that things like genre, book cover, blurb etc play an important role.

Finally, blog tours can be great for brand-building, but do not lead to direct sales.

The Best Place to Advertise your Discounted Book

From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's booksThe Midlist comes first here, because it’s free. Its great success has led to the point where you need to submit your book four weeks before the discount date.

Bookbub came third, although this hides the sheer volume of books sold. In one instance, an author who spent $210 had 2,773 book sales as a result. This is the sort of number that can generate a lot of interest in a book.

The Best Place to Advertise your Free Book

From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's booksChoosy Bookworm came first, because an author who had spent $8 gave away 5,000 copies of their book. However, an author who used Bookbub to advertise the giveaway, spent $65 and gave away 40,000 copies.

Other Places to Advertise

From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

On average, Amazon Marketing Service had a pretty low ratio, but, as I have explained in my post, A Second Look at Advertising with AMS: Brand Building vs. Ad Sales, it can be pretty effective at brand building.


Once again, less is more. Some of the more expensive places turn out to be ineffective. I had an author who spent $7,000 to advertise with the Tate advertising group. Sadly, this led to no more than twenty sales.

On the other hand, there are some excellent places where you can advertise your free days. For example, an author spent absolutely nothing on Read Cheaply and got 300 downloads as a result. Another spent $8 on Choosy Bookworm and had 625 downloads. This means that, contrary to the hype, free days are still important.

Which brings me to my next conclusion: Price matters. The most ineffective way of advertising concerns fully priced books. The worst example of this concerned an author who spent over a thousand on Goodreads to generate a mere 33 sales.

Therefore, my suggestion for a marketing plan would be to keep one book each month on sale (or free), and advertise it using one of the cheaper options. If you have, say, six books, then you can rotate these, which means that each book will only be on sale twice per year. This should bolster sales of the rest of your books, while ensuring your high Amazon author ranking.

Small Print

One problem of this survey was the relatively low number of participants. Even with a hundred results, these concern only about sixty advertising places. This means that, for most of them, the numbers came from only one or two sources.

Another problem concerns genre and price. A book on a 99c sale that belongs to a hot genre and sold originally for $9.99 will do better that one in an obscure genre, selling originally for $1.99. This sort of factor was not measured by this survey, but can have a significant effect. Also not measured was seasonality – Christmas promotions will probably be more effective.

Speaking of genre, don’t forget that many of these places are better suited to certain genres. Sales of a non-fiction book advertised on Romance Junkies will probably soar like a lead balloon. Whenever possible, try to fit your genre with the advertiser, preferring specialized ones.

Further Resources

Before you go, I suggest you also take a look at this spreadsheet by C. Gockel that lists pretty much every single book advertising medium there is, along with reach and whether they are free or paid. A great resource for anyone wishing to advertise their book!

You may also wish to check out SPR’s 35+ Alternatives to Bookbub, for a nice selection of advertisers, as well as Ruth Nestvold’s list.

Author Ana Spoke has shared her extensive experience in an excellent post.

Also, check out Jackie Weger’s take on the subject here and here!

Most importantly, don’t forget to share your book marketing experience! I plan to update the results periodically, so I’m always on the lookout for further data.

If all these numbers do your head in, you can always chill by reading my award-winning children’s book, Runaway Smile for free!

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