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Thursday, May 05, 2016

Indie Corner - Should You Pay to Advertise Your Book?

Dan Walsh is the bestselling author of 16 novels, including The Unfinished Gift, The Discovery and When Night Comes. He has won 3 Carol Awards and 3 Selah Awards. Three of his books were finalists for Inspirational Book of the Year (RT Book Reviews). Dan is a member of ACFW and Word Weavers. He lives with his wife, Cindi, in the Daytona Beach area where they love to take walks and spend time with their grandkids. Click here to connect with Dan or check out his books

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Let me say 2 things right up front: First, I mentioned in my headline that this post is for “Indies,” but traditionally published authors are welcome to read it. Although, having been one myself (for 13 novels), I’m not sure why you’d want to. Spending your hard-earned book money on a product where at least 80% of the return would go to others (the retailer and publishing house), seems like a losing proposition. 

Secondly, if you are an indie or hybrid and wrestling with the idea of spending some of your hard-earned book money on advertising, you might want to read my first post on this topic written in Novel Rocket back in January. CLICK HERE to read it. At that time, I had learned how to use advertising (especially on Facebook) a few months earlier and talked about becoming more serious and deliberate about doing this in 2016.

That was 4 months ago. I've advertised consistently since then and have learned some additional things to share. Part of the reason I chose to revisit this topic is seeing so many active discussions about it among indies on social media.

Now let’s consider some new thoughts, especially thoughts about spending money to promote your book. I know there are things we can do to promote our books that don’t cost actual dollars, just hours of our time. We can blog about our book, go on other people’s blogs to promote it (I’m doing a little of that right here), we can tweet about it, or even create fun little ads and post them on a myriad of free Facebook groups. I've done all these things myself.

Some of them have proved to be fruitful. Others, a complete waste of time. And speaking of time…isn’t it really something of a myth to say that we do all these things “for free?” There is something in business called the money-value of time. In short, it means your time (especially when working) has monetary value. All the hours we spend doing these “free” things are hours taken away from writing and rewriting and all the other essential tasks an indie author must do to be a success.

The idea of advertising--if it's done effectively--is that the ads are doing all kinds of work for you. Actually, if done right, they should be doing a much better job of promoting and selling your books than you could do on your own. The money spent should provide a return that pays for the ad and nets you even more money besides (called ROI, return on investment). Not to mention, all the new readers that are reached because of the ads (who may have otherwise never heard of you or your book).

Here is a screen capture of an ad I created for Facebook (it's essentially the same ad I began with back in January) for my novel, Rescuing Finley.

I spent a few hours creating it. Since then, I've "hired" Facebook to get this ad into the Newsfeed of readers. Not just any readers, but specific readers who are very likely to already be interested in a book just like this. It's called a "Targeted audience."

I asked them to show it to people who they know have already expressed strong interest in Dogs, the Humane Society, and who also own Kindle devices or apps (turns out, about 2.5 million people on FB match that criteria). 

When they click on the "Learn More" button, they are taken to a "landing page" on my website (CLICK HERE to see it). This page shows the full cover of the book, highlights some great reader reviews, updates the number of reviews and Stars (which is now up to 167, still at 4.8 avg), and gives them a chance to click on a big Amazon button, which takes them right to the Amazon page where they can buy it. I also have a link embedded on this page that tracks everyone who visits, so I can re-visit them specifically at a later date (like when my next book comes out).

I'm slowly making my way through this 2.5 million target audience. Here's a graphic to show how the ad did just last month:

See that number? 17,878 people have seen this ad for my book just in the last 2 weeks of April. See that little light orange shading in the beginning of that darker orange bar? If I hover my mouse over it, it tells me these are the people who saw my ad "organically." Meaning, for free. The darker orange area shows who saw it because of the money I was willing to spend. Turns out, the ad only reached 1,250 people on its own. That's nice. But an additional 16,628 people saw the ad because I paid FB to show it to them.

The result? I had a 90% ROI on this ad last month. Meaning, I made enough sales to pay for the ad, plus receive 90% more money for myself. I didn't have to spend hardly any time on this. I also added around 300 brand new readers (many of whom are now checking out my other books). These readers and I would have never connected.

I've just done some additional Facebook ads last week promoting my brand new release, Remembering Dresden (just came out this past weekend...the cover is the first pic above on the right...CLICK HERE or on the title to check it out). For these ads, I used the Boosted Post feature. No time left to give you the details, but I made over a 500% ROI on these boosted posts in sales.

Well, that's my update. Feel free to ask questions. If I can help, I will.


  1. Thanks so much for this peek into the process, Dan.

  2. You are most welcome, Normandie.

  3. Yes, FB ads were really effective for me when I did one with a vlog of my author reading of a bit of my free book. Downloads shot up while it was live and the second book sold well. I think the key with FB ads is making them engaging somehow to viewers--either a video that pulls them in, or something that really makes them want to read this book. I also love the targeting feature. It's a new tool in my marketing arsenal, for sure! We also recently used it for my husband's political campaign and it was easy to plug in zip codes of the voter area.

  4. Dan, this was great to read! Thanks for all the info. I'm thinking that this is something I'll jump into this summer, once the homeschooling is done and I'm a free woman.

    I would love, though, to see that boosted post! I've heard so many say that boosting a post doesn't pay off, to do ads instead. You're the first I've heard of who's had success with a boosted post.

  5. Sally, if you go on my Author page, the boosted post should be at the top or near it. One thing that might be different for me (in terms of why it's working)...I have over 3,800 Likes, built up over a while. I'm boosting the post to these folks and their friends (you probably know, FB changed things so that most of the people who Like your page don't see it...think it's down to 1-3%). Oh, the page is

  6. Heather,

    That's what I've found. It's not the only thing, but it's opened up a way of reaching people in between the other things I used to do. As time has gone by, I've gotten a little better at it. It's certainly not an easy thing to get your hands around. Hoping some day they simplify the process, so more people could use it.


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