Does online advertising work for books?

Cover of IBPA's The Independent showing computer keyboard

For a recent article in IBPA's The Independent, Linda Carlson put the question of which advertising works to independent publishers and got some interesting, and insightful answers.

Linda's questions focussed on:

  • Print Media Coverage
  • Paid Reviews
  • Giveaways and Deep Discounts
  • Public Relations, and
  • Online Ads

The consensus from those responding were were singularly unenthusiastic about online ads. An example being Devorah Fox's comments, president of Mike Byrnes & Associates in Port Aransas, TX, who reported:

“When we hit 100 likes on our Facebook author page we received $50 in free Facebook advertising. We used it to advertise our book The Lost King with an ad that—per Facebook—could be seen by 22 million people and a Sponsored Story that targeted 940 users. There wasn’t a single click-through, and we can’t attribute a single sale to it.”

The full report is available at: IBPA online - Marketing whatever you have to market - promotion opportunities and issues - part 2

Back in November 2013 I wrote about a recent poll  conducted for USAToday and Bookish, a website designed to help people find and buy books, which asked readers what factors created interest in a particular book for them. The poll got the following responses:

  • 57% - their own opinion of the writer's previous work;
  • 43% - opinions of a relative and friend (ie "word of mouth");
  • 17% - professional reviewers and other writers;
  • 16% - the book cover; and
  • 10% - internet opinions by non-professionals (10%).

In short, people are interested in a book based on previous knowledge of the author's work, word of mouth, or professional reviewers. Advertising simply doesn't get a look in. And if you don't believe that then you need to consider the click-through rates we get on our own adverts:

  • Click Through Rate = 0.05%, i.e. for every 2000 views of an advertisement, we expect to get 1 person clicking the advertisement to visit our site; and
  • Click Rate = 2%, i.e. for every 50 people visiting our site we expect to get 1 sale.

Back in May 2014, for a series of blog-ad designed to be viewed 86,000 times we were paying $330. That probably gave us 43 click-throughs, and some where between one and two sales. It simply doesn't make financial sense. For more information you can read my previous post on this (Marketing for authors: what to expect from click-through and conversion rates).

So does online advertising work for eBooks work? In a word - no.


If, however, given this information you still want to undertake some social marketing then you may want to check out the article in the same edition of The Independent:
IBPA online - A practical guide to social media advertising part 1

For more information about the USAToday poll, and another poll conducted by ebookfairies you can read my previous posts concerning them at:

 

,

One Response to Does online advertising work for books?

  1. Malcolme Rogers September 19, 2015 at 6:41 am #

    After reading this article Andrew, my thoughts move to the idea of having giveaways to the same value as advertising on places like Goodreads etc. At least you are getting books out to people, and all going well the word of mouth will happen. 43% is better than nearly 0%