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
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
The 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
Choosy 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
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.
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.
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!
Great information here, Nicholas.
Thanks! Glad you found it useful 🙂
Wow, that’s awesome, thank you Nicholas! And, of course, thank you for mentioning my own research…I now have a lot more add to the list!
Yay! We should all join forces – it’s the only way to avoid scams and poor services.
True – otherwise they all claim the same. I’m trying out BargainBooksy tomorrow!
Excellent! I’d really appreciate it if you shared your experience on https://nicholasrossis.me/2015/03/02/take-the-3-question-ad-results-survey/
Ok, will do!
Thank you!! 🙂
Great info Nicholas thanks for sharing. 🙂
A pleasure! Hope you find it useful 🙂
Thank Nicholas I’m thinking of going Indie, so may well come in handy. 🙂
Awesome! Let me know if I can help 🙂
Thank Nicholas will do. 🙂
Lots of valuable info here.
Thanks! I like to think so 🙂
Reblogged this on Tim Hemlin.
Reblogged this on Journey Taker and commented:
Interesting results of advertising places. I will have to keep this handy!
Reblogged this on Ruth Nestvold – Indie Adventures and commented:
This is a great analysis! Sharing to my blog, where I can keep an eye on it. 🙂
Thanks for compiling this data and posting about it. I have some new strategies to employ as I gear up to publish my second novel. I look forward to any updates.
Glad to hear you found it helpful! If you do advertise, please consider sharing your experience 🙂
Another site to list your free or discounted eBook is https://newfreekindlebooks.com
Thanks for that, but what I’m looking for is feedback from authors who have actually used a service, so they can share their results 🙂
Well Nick and Jimsgotweb, I am always on the lookout for new promo sites that deliver, so I’m off to try a promo with newfreeekindlebooks.
Thanks for the heads up.
Thank you so much for the information! I am new to the publishing/book marketing business and it can be very overwhelming and daunting. It’s nice to know I am not alone in my struggles and encouraging to see the successes of others!
Oh, absolutely: we’re all struggling here, but that’s okay. At least we’re having fun and meeting some great people along the way 🙂
I visited Laughing Leopard Press. The team of Buzzelli and Schall are publishers and educators with excellent credentials. But not indie authors. The books I saw on the site come with lesson plans for teachers–so that is an entirely different promo arena for educators and school libraries and priced accordingly.
Thanks for checking and sharing 🙂
Great post, Nicholas, thanks for sharing.
Thanks for reading and welcome! 🙂
For non-fiction I recommend Buck Books. They are free, so I think they would have crushed it in this ranking. The least I sold ($0.99 promo as the name suggests) was 80 copies. A few times I sold over 200 copies in one day.
Many thanks for that, I’ll add it to the list! How much did it cost?
If you could submit your past and future data through the 3-question form, that would be hugely helpful 🙂
As I said, they service is free. However, it’s not so easy to get featured. They are swamped with submissions.
Reblogged this on C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m.
I guess my previous comment never made it. Reblogged at https://www.GraceBrannigan.wordpress.com. I am trying out targeted Facebook marketing on a shoestring as a test to see how I do and if it’s a viable option for me. I’m over throwing money at things that don’t work and I’ve tried many of them, including some of the big ones out there for authors. So my budget until the end of the month is $5 a day to targeted customers that I “think” will be interested in what I have to offer. I write romance, YA, picture books and Mandala books for art. I am only targeting this experimental ad to customers of my Mandala art books. So we shall see how it works. It’s incredibly complex using the Facebook Ads Manager, only in trying to figure out who to target. If you hit on that, I believe Facebook can be a very useful tool!
Agreed. But it takes a lot of trial and error, which means you need deep pockets to do it properly.
You’ve convinced me…I need an author newsletter!
Lol – yep, that was a pretty clear conclusion 😀
Why is that? Is it just the power of if you want something you need to ask people for it?
Probably. Or just the fact that we’re all so overworked, that we need a reminder every now and then.
Thank you for posting the information. I’m currently trying out inexpensive but highly targeted facebook ads for my books. We shall see.
I hope it’s a huge success. But please share your results either way 🙂
Reblogged this on Books and More.
Reblogged this on FastPencil.com Self-Publishing Blog and commented:
Great leads here, thanks so much!
Thank you for the follow and such delightful, informative posts.
That’s such a kind thing to say; thank you! 🙂
Reblogged this on Anna Dobritt — Author and commented:
Reblogged this on …And Everything in Between… and commented:
This is a great blog and this post has all kinds of resources for authors
Great post! Thank you for doing this. Are you planning on doing another one in say a year or so? Now that more people know about what you did here, maybe you’ll get even more responses. 🙂
I’d love to think that more responses are coming. Part of the reason of publishing these results was to attract more attention. Please share and help spread the word, encouraging people to share their numbers on the survey page: nicholasrossis.me/2015/03/02/take-the-3-question-ad-results-survey/
As soon as I have enough data (say, another 100 responses), I’ll update the post 🙂
Reblogged this on quirkywritingcorner and commented:
So helpful! I’m delighted to come across this.
Thank you for posting this! This is very insightful for all indie writers like myself who are looking for the best marketing approach that will yield more results for your money. I wish I stumbled across this post sooner. I just finished my free run two days ago and this would have been so helpful. I’ve tried some of those sites on your list but there some I haven’t heard of that I’m eager to try out now.
Thanks, I hope you do find it useful in the future. Do share your results, please! We can all learn from each other 🙂
Reblogged this on theowlladyblog.
Wow, how could nobody be using BookBasset? I adore them and it’s one of the best bang-for-the-bucks that I’ve found. I’ve tried pretty much all the ones listed on here, too. Or did I miss the entry for them?
I’d love for you to share your experience! Please fill in the survey on https://nicholasrossis.me/2015/03/02/take-the-3-question-ad-results-survey/ and I’ll be happy to add it to the results 🙂
Reblogged this on Riley Amos Westbook and commented:
Can’t believe I missed this Nicholas! Thanks for taking the time to put this together! #SupportIndieAuthors!
Reblogged this on MISSION POINT PRESS.
I’m trying to promote my first, and so far, only book, an eclectic anthology of short stories, ‘Just for Fun’ https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/517883. I’m also on Amazon KDP, B&N, and Kobo. It is hard work. Being a baby boomer, I am IT challenged and find some of the advice hard to follow.I have a website http://www.henrytobias.com, on which I have short stories and use for blogging. I also blog on Google +. I tweet, but don’t really know if I’m using Twitter properly. There are videos on You Tube, but so many I don’t know what to watch. I can’t afford to spend money on advertising. I will soon be on CreateSpace in print. I have two other books in the pipeline and various other stories waiting to be revamped into readable material. My philosophy is ‘slowly, but surely’, however I do want to know I’m going about it the right way.
Sounds like you’re doing pretty well 🙂
For Twitter, I suggest you read Rayne Hall’s excellent guide, https://www.amazon.com/Twitter-Writers-Authors-Tweeting-Success-ebook/dp/B00KUCPG6G
I also suggest you have a look at the posts on my marketing page, as you will probably find them very helpful:
Hope this helps, and welcome! 🙂
Really helpful and interesting information, Nicholas. Thanks for the hard work that made it possible. 🙂
A pleasure! Thanks for reading (and the always sweet comments) 🙂
Reblogged this on Candylittle's Blog and commented:
Thought I’d share this as it has some wonderful info for marketing. Enjoy!!
Reblogged this on Michelle Eastman Books.
Very helpful. Thanks! 🙂
Thank you, Bette! I’m glad you think so 🙂
Thanks for the shout out. The spreadsheet I made can’t keep up with all of the new options that are appearing. I strongly recommend if you hear about a new advertising site that you ask around on Kboards. There are definitely scams out there that want to take advantage of authors. Also, just from experience, I can say a mark of a good new business is they will advertise your work for free and let you know about it after the fact, even BookBub did that back in the day.
Also, if you’re putting money down and they say that they will advertise your book on FaceBook, go see what their following is, and more importantly what their interaction rate is. A post that only gets liked 15 times or so isn’t going to do well for you.
Excellent advice, thanks for sharing (and for the great spreadsheet)! 🙂
Fantastic work, Nicholas. I hope people still keep collecting data. It all mounts up to clear help and invaluable support for authors doing the tough job of marketing themselves.
High praise indeed, coming from you! I was a little worried you’d spot a glaring error in my methodology 😀
We can all only feel our way round the methodology in this arena as it’s so new! Hopefully in a few years we can talk about how primitive it used to be for the early statisticians
Lol – I’m already looking forward to that chat! I take you’ll be serving tea?
Only if you’ve done something wrong 😀
Reblogged this on The Art of Procrastination and commented:
An excellent article for authors to take a peek at. Where should you spend ad dollars?
Thank you for following my blog.
A pleasure! 🙂
Here are my results from doing promo ads. Most were for sales at $.99, some at $1.99, some at full price $3.99.
201 Ereadernews Today
90 Ereadernews Today
53 Ereadernews Today
36 Book Gorilla
8 Fussy Librarian
7 Free Kindle Books and Tips
2 Fussy Librarian
1 Wanton reads
0 Readers in the Know
0 Author Marketing Club
Oh my, Lorain! I have Coquina hard on my TBR list. I love stories set in Florida. I lived in the historic district in St. Augustine for a dozen years. Great good luck with Coquina Hard.
No Perfect Secret
Hi Jackie. Wow, 277 reviews, I am jealous! 🙂
Great info. New follower who “Liked” it. I have a question for you.Do you have any information or links about the best promotional sites for nonfiction/self-help books?
Hi Kristin, thanks. Followed you back 🙂
Not as such. Most of these places have nonfiction newsletters, but I’m afraid I haven’t done any categorization-based research. Perhaps in the future 🙂
Fantastic information, Nicholas! Downloaded both spreadsheets! Great links on the second spreadsheet as well. Thanks for sharing!! Useful information. Have a great Saturday!!
You too! I’m glad you found the spreadsheets useful. I’ll keep adding to them, as more data comes in.
Great!! Thanks again 🙂
Very informative, as usual.
Thank you so much, Juliet 🙂
This makes for very interesting reading, despite limitations of the sample. Thanks for collating and sharing, Nicholas.
A pleasure! Thanks for reading 🙂
Reblogged this on chrismcmullen and commented:
Where are the best places to promote your e-book? Check out these numbers to see. Thank Nicholas Rossis for gathering this invaluable data and putting these results together, and to everyone who shared their numbers.
Thanks for sharing this data! I’m in the stage now where I’m about to make some important decisions about how I’m going to spend money marketing my first book. This saves me a lot of time. Definitely going to share this with others.
Thanks! BTW, I’m using some great info you have on reviewers for a future post of mine (crediting you, of course) 🙂
That sounds great! Looking forward to it.
As others have said, “well done.”
What’s the old ad joke? “Half of our advertising and promotion doesn’t work; and we don’t know which half.”
Or as book insiders have been saying (discreetly): “No one knows how to sell a book; that’s why we throw everything against the wall.”
However, the one thing we do know that absolutely sells a book is word of mouth. and therein lies the rub…
smh, how come there’s no spell check on this thing?
Erm, what thing?
just a joke, I misspelled a word…I was referring to my Premium WordPress subscription!
Lol – I often correct typos in comments to save people the trouble, but I didn’t even catch that one 😀
Lol – absolutely.
Thanks and welcome! 🙂
Nicholas: I think your idea is great. But unless we know the book, it is impossible to get a foothold on the data. So much depends upon genre, category, length, book description and cover with results to sales. I structure my book campaigns differently depending upon my goal. If for reviews, a first free run will be much smaller than a FREE campaign in which I am looking for volume downloads for a good placement in sales ranks when the title returns to priced, plus downstream sales and borrows for a return on investment. Go here to read the actual results and downloads on eight sites you mention, suggesting the sites do not produce–if I’m reading the data correctly. Not certain. https://bit.ly/1GCCOA6.
Hope this helps to clarify some of your data.
eNovel Authors at Work
Many thanks for your comment and link. I have a whole section, as you probably noticed, on why my data is not sufficient to offer anything but an indication of trends. As you correctly point out, there’s a score of factors at work here that can influence the outcome of a campaign.
Thanks again for sharing your data, as I will continue to add to my “Call to Arms” in the hope of producing ever more reliable information 🙂
Nicholas. Yep, I read that entire section. You brought everything together nicely. I am not tech savvy so that is amazing to me. Here is what I know: When a site does not move a title on free, discounted or priced, the indie author blames the site. Bless me, it is never the book description… or the misspelled words on the first page of text or the cover or the category. I am new at this. 2014 was my first full year of indie authorship. The earning curve is horrendous. I seldom if ever promote a book on full price without mentioning read free with Kindle Unlimited. Once Amazon released Kindle Unlimited and signed up a million subscribers, it took the shine off of 99¢ books in KCD. I am telling you, I know how to promote and sell books, but it is a slog to move a book in a Kindle Countdown Deal. Most promoters built their sites and subscriber list by offering FREE books. It is not an easy landscape to master. Going FREE is much easier, and has greater returns. That much I’ve learned the hard way.
I appreciate those promo lists you link to. I found 5 sites, I didn’t know about. I added them to my list. That is win-win.
eNovel Authors at Work
Glad you found the lists helpful 🙂
I agree completely. Despite the hype to the contrary, free does have a big part to play in promos (I’ve written a few posts on this). It just has to be used wisely. And countdowns are infinitely harder to pull than freebies, let alone full-priced books.
Thanks for the helpful insights 🙂
Jackie’s got some excellent comments.
I’ll add a few thoughts
Here is what I know: When a site does not move a title on free, discounted or priced, the indie author blames the site. Bless me, it is never the book description… or the misspelled words on the first page of text or the cover or the category.
* Authors should consider this aspect. Nearly all sites are one book per genre per day to a captive audience. If you get lower sales than other authors are seeing, then it’s worth it to ask yourself what you can do to improve. Promo sites can only put the book in front of the reader.
I am new at this. 2014 was my first full year of indie authorship. The earning curve is horrendous. I seldom if ever promote a book on full price without mentioning read free with Kindle Unlimited. Once Amazon released Kindle Unlimited and signed up a million subscribers, it took the shine off of 99¢ books in KCD. I am telling you, I know how to promote and sell books, but it is a slog to move a book in a Kindle Countdown Deal.
* Store Algorithms want to replace $1 deals with $3 to $7 deals, and replace Free with Free on KU/Subscription services. That’s why since beginning of the year it’s tougher and tougher to improve sales ranks and sales of $1 deals and free books. Until and unless Apple etc. become big the existing ebook stores have the ability to squeeze out the competitive advantage indie authors have of using free and cheap
* Indie Authors who became very big were nearly always using specific strategies like
1st Book Free
So it’s in indie authors’ interest to keep them viable. Because if pricing is the same then Publisher books will win due to better brand reognition and marketing resources.
Don’t let the book stores nullify the HUGE advantage indie authors have on pricing.
Most promoters built their sites and subscriber list by offering FREE books. It is not an easy landscape to master. Going FREE is much easier, and has greater returns.
*** Yes, this is HUGE.
See what all the promo sites advertise with
‘Thousands of Free eBooks’
Just see the Google Ads they use. There’s no mention of anything other than free books.
So there really needs to be some channel built that addresses readers willing to pay a reasonable price ($5? $3?). FreeBooksy are building a New Releases service. However, no idea if that’s just for new releases or also for general books that aren’t free or $1.
That’s a wonderful comment! Care to write it up as a guest post and send it over? I’d love to give your ideas the attention they deserve!
thanks Nicholas. I’ll have to put a lot of thought into it to make it a guest post. If I get some time I’ll email you
Awesome, thanks 🙂
Reblogged this on The 960 Writers and commented:
This is fascinating! Thank you so much for doing this!
Definitely a keeper. Thanks for all the work you put into this and for sharing it so selflessly with all of us!
Thank you! I hope you find it useful 🙂
Reblogged this on Stuart Aken and commented:
Some interesting findings on book sales from advertising.
Such a quirky thing. Any and all ideas, information, and suggestions can put an author a step ahead when making decisions. Thanks. (Bookmarked)
Thanks for the bookmark 🙂
Very true. Thanks for the bookmark 🙂
Reblogged this on authorkdrose and commented:
An award winning author polls other authors and derives valuable information! Put this together with the info I posted a couple days ago from a BEA presentation and there is really good info for a full action plan for authors when marketing.
Thanks, Nicholas! Highly valuable information.
Thanks! I hope you find it helpful 🙂
Wow. I can’t tell you how helpful this is. Thanks for doing all the legwork!
So glad to have helped 🙂
Thanks Nicholas for your hard work. Very useful. As I have quite a number of books I’d been wondering about this. Your suggestion sounds good (unfortunately I write in different genres so not sure how mush one book can help the others but….).
Thank you, Olga! I, too, have book in different genres, so I wonder about that myself. I’ll let you know if I find out 🙂
Reblogged this on Have We Had Help? and commented:
Nicholas on the best places to advertise your book(s) 🙂
Reblogged this on Silver Threading and commented:
Wow! Check out this information!
Reblogged this on Author P.S. Bartlett and commented:
As always, Nicholas has his fingers on the pulse of all things author. Priceless marketing information lies within.
Reblogged this on Half a loaf of fiction and commented:
Really informative post on a variety of marketing methods for books (including freebies).
Terrific post. This will help set an advertising plan when needed.
So glad you found it useful! 🙂
Nicholas, this is a great post – really useful. There are a few sites you mention that i had not come across. This is proper next-level research! Thanks!
That’s so kind of you, thanks and welcome! 🙂
Great info., and so much work. It was so nice of you to spend your limited time to help others. Classic Nicholas.
Aw, thanks! 🙂
I had no idea there were so many places to market your books. Thank-you for the information and statistics!!!!!
I know, right? It’s so hard to choose among so many of them 🙂
Reblogged this on I Read Encyclopedias for Fun and commented:
Very interesting statistics regarding marketing. Check out what works and what doesn’t for a variety of book prices.
Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
VERY interesting statistics for Authors to think about 😀
Well done, Nick, a great and informative post! Your hard work and effort in bringing us this is much appreciated. And thank you to the authors who participated and shared their results and experiences with such great honesty and good spirit.
Thanks, Ali 🙂
Reblogged this on Anita & Jaye Dawes.
Your detailed research helps to show that there is no ‘magic wand’ when it comes to promoting books. The books have to have reader appeal, interesting covers, and reader reviews, to generate interest. More importantly, they have to be well-written, and have something slightly different to offer.
Great help and advice as always Nicholas.
Best wishes, Pete.
Excellent points. Perhaps that explains why the same medium can be hugely successful for some and a complete failure for others.
Fascinating Post, Nicholas and what a great deal of work you’ve done to bring us this information. I’m currently in KDP select so can’t advertise my e-book anywhere else at the moment (at least, as I understand it) but I will look at some of these for paperback marketing options. Thanks for sharing x
Thanks, Helen! Actually, you can advertise anywhere you want; you just can’t sell your book through others 🙂
Fantastically useful info Nicholas, thank you! This one’s going in my ‘keep’ file for further perusal. 🙂
Cool, that’s the best compliment you can pay me 🙂
This is a really great post, Nicholas, and very informative. I only wish you’d posted it a month back as I have a promo planned for this weekend! 😉
I promise to feedback my results and let you know how I get on, but thanks once again for all your work in supporting indie authors. 🙂
Lol – sorry to hear that, but I’m sure there will plenty of future promos for you 🙂
Hey, you can still share your data, then I can update the info 🙂
Great post! Even with the limitations of the data, it’s very useful
Thanks! Let’s hope so 🙂