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Are Paid Ads Worth it? An Author's Guide

Should I invest in paid ads for my books? There are a few things to bear in mind.


Should I Invest in Paid Advertising for My Books?

The answer is almost certainly yes. But a more pressing question is – should I invest in paid advertising for my books RIGHT NOW?

A little context…

Selling books online – selling anything, actually – means building processes and systems that generate:

  1. Traffic – people seeing your books
  2. Conversions – people buying your books after seeing them

And, of course, doing all that profitably. Everything else is largely supplementary – and will ideally help you scale up either of those two things.

  • Building an email list? Great! That helps with 2.
  • Using permafree? Cool. That helps with 1.
  • Joint promotions? Awesome. That can help with both.

So what about paid ads?



Here’s the kicker.

Paid ads can only help get you traffic. An advert’s job – it’s reason for existence – is to get you traffic. To get more eyeballs on your books, your website, your author brand. It can’t do anything else.

So the question, “Should I run ads for my books?” is only part of the equation.

Really, we should be asking ourselves, “How can I profitably scale up my traffic and achieve a sustainable conversion rate that promotes scalable growth with a positive ROI?”

That’s a little more of a mouthful. But it’s a more useful question to ask yourself.

Because if advertising can help with getting you traffic – what about the second part? Getting a ton of traffic to your books is half the battle. The second part is making sure that traffic converts profitably. And there are a few things to bear in mind with that. Check out the video below for my run-down (or read on):


Join us for the Live Advertising Workshop on 10th June – Click Here to Register (and get the replay)


Transcript – Are Paid Ads Right for Me?

So, first thing people ask me whatever I’m talking about running paid ads for your books is is this right for me? Now usually the question comes to, “Oh and I’ve seen this work for thrillers. Does this work for romance? Does this work for sci-fi or contemporary or literary?” That does not matter.

Okay. There’s enough readers in the world that pretty much any genre that you write in there is going to be an audience. And running paid ads is a fantastic way to reach them, especially the big three. So we’re talking Amazon advertising, Facebook ads, and BookBub, the BookBub self serve ads, not the feature deals, which are awesome but you do have to send in a blood sample and some kind of ritual sacrifice just to stand a chance at getting one.

So it’s not something that we can really plan on or rely on as a long-term strategy. So the self serve ads, ones you can set up yourself and run with your own budget are the way to go.

But that being said, is it right for you personally? Now this isn’t a genre conversation. This is about whether your business is in the right position right now to start looking at investing in paid advertising. Now there’s a few things that I usually run through when I’m going to advise someone whether or not ads are right for them.



Three Questions to Ask

The first thing is do you have a book? Sounds obvious, but there’s a lot of authors out there, they ask me, “Should I start running ads before I’ve published my first book?” No. Don’t do it. Bad idea. Ideally you’re going to want to have a few books out there before you invest any serious budget in marketing.

And the reason for that is, with book sales the return on your investment doesn’t come immediately. It comes over the course of, usually, a series. Okay so if you write in a series this is particularly easy for you. If you don’t write in a series, not the end of the world, but what you’re looking at is what is your read through rate? So for example you might be running ads to book one or your first novel or your first book, but you’re not going to be making a return on that book.

The return comes from people buying book two, book three, book four. Then buying something else, buying the audiobook or buying something else like that. Your profit doesn’t necessarily come from just buying the first book.

So if you’ve only got one book out there or only two books out there, have a very big think about whether ads is something that you want to invest in right now. It’s certainly something that you can learn and something to build towards for the future, but if you’re going to be running ads all the times as a way of generating traffic, you’re going to be wanting to see a profitable return.

And the best way of doing that is to have a series. Not necessarily a series with the same character all the way through like Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series, but at least a collection of books that can stand as some kind of genre collection. For example Neil Gaiman doesn’t really write in a series, but all of his books share common themes and common styles. And that’s okay too.

As long as there is some kind of compelling way for readers to make their way through because you’re going to be making the majority of your return from people buying other books in the series.



Are Your Books Optimized?

On a similar note, we need to also have a look whether or not your books are optimized. And what I mean by optimized is do you have a proven track record of converting traffic into sales? The specifics of this come down to usually things like is your cover a good cover? And not just is it a good cover, but is it genre appropriate?

Now we had Bryan Cohen on recently talking about how he relaunched his series, which was originally called Ted Saves the World, and you can look that up, the books are still out there. He rebranded the whole thing as the viral superhero. Because his genre was young adults, kind of teen superhero fiction so he changed them up. Made them more appropriate and his sales more than doubled.

Bryan’s old covers were great, too. Professionally designed and eye-catching. But they weren’t as suitable to the genre Bryan was targeting. Which means – you can have a great-looking pro cover, and it still might not be quite right. A lot to consider. For more on cover design – and the process to use to come up with the right concepts – check out this video right here over at Write From Scratch.

And that’s what I’m talking about with optimization. Looking at your covers. You know is it a professional design? Is it genre appropriate? Looking at your titles. You know is the title of the book interesting? Does it tell readers what they’re going to get? Is your product description optimized as well? Is it interesting to read?

Does it make people want to click on the book and read more? The looks inside, you know is the first paragraph got a big strong hook? Is it going to suck people in? These are all things that you need to get nailed before you start spending money on advertising. Because while you’re getting organic traffic through to Amazon or the other bookstores, this is all well and good.

But once you start paying for traffic the higher your conversion rate the better your return is going to be.



Budget and Scale

And lastly, it’s all about budget. You know if you’re going to be running paid ads, obviously you’re going to have to pay for them. It’s kind of a given. But the thing is what is the budget you’re going to set to this? So we’re all running a business here. This isn’t a hobby. This is a business. And you need to have a think about what level of budget can you assign to paid advertising?

Okay now the goal of course is to make a profitable return and you need to be able to measure that and optimize that over time. But you also need to have the budget to spend in the first place.

Now with all paid advertising, as you’ll see from the free material that I’ve sent out and more coming up soon, the best way to start off is very, very small. So just a few dollars a day here and there to test things, to find the right audiences and the right combination of ads and copy that are going to lead to a profitable return in the future.

But after that it’s time to start scaling up. It’s all well and good to have $5 a week on ads and then return $7 just on orders of that book. That’s fantastic. a 40% return without even taking into account read-through! But that’s not always something that’s scalable – as you reach wider audiences, that return often narrows.

If you want to grow your business using ads, you need to start looking at how you’re going to scale up, okay. Do you have the resources in place to consistently invest in advertising? To consistently spend the time to monitor, track, and optimize the process as well?



Recap – The Top 3 Factors

And these are really the three main things that I always advise people to think about when considering ads. So you know, number one, do you have more than one book? Ideally at least three and preferably all in the same series, in a genre that is commercially proven.

Number two, is your book page optimized as far as it can be? Do you have the right cover? Is it professional? Is it genre appropriate? Are your titles sorted? Is your product description sorted? Do you have reviews? All of these things are going to help you immensely.

And third, do you have the budget? Not only the budget in terms of time and money to learn and to develop and to optimize, refine, and tweak this for you, but do you have the cash to spend on this?

Now just having $5 a day to spend on ads is fine while you’re testing the waters, but eventually you’re going to want to grow profitably so you have to think about, “Do I have the budget? And if I don’t have the budget how am I going to get it?” That’s something that’s very important that people forget about long term as well.

So those are my top three considerations for whether or not you should be doing ads. I of course can’t answer the question for you, but I can hopefully give you some ideas as to how you can figure it out for yourselves.

And to give you some more helpful guidance as well, on the 10th June, Mark Dawson and I are hosting a free webinar that’s all about Amazon advertising.

We’ll take you through all these factors in more detail – and give you some practical steps to leave the workshop with a blueprint in your hand, so you can start building your own ads strategy right away.



Learn More – Free Workshop

If you’re trying to reach readers on Amazon, which hopefully you are, Amazon advertising is a fantastic way of doing it. Now there’s a lot of kind of bugbears about the system, a lot of fiddly things, and it’s not necessarily the most intuitive system to use in the world, but Amazon ads can be highly effective in reaching the right people at the right time and then driving all of that targeted traffic to your book.

In fact, Mark has used Amazon ads to not only help grow his book sales to beyond $1m per year, but has used them to grow his book sales in Germany – a market where he had zero audience – from almost nothing to $5k per month. We’d like to take you through that process during the workshop.

So if you’re interested in learning what the process is and how to get started, then you’ll see a button below that’ll take you through to a registration page. We’re going live on the 10th June at 8 PM U.K. time, 3 PM Eastern U.S. time. And we would love to have you on the line.

We can fit around 500 people on the live show, so if you would like to get involved or get the replay if you can’t make it, please do register and I’ll make sure Mark gets you a live seat and gets you access the replay as well. It’d be great to see you there.



We’re going to be covering a lot of information about Amazon ads and how you can get set up the right way so that by the time you are done, after about an hour and a half or so, you will have a step-by-step plan for you to go away and get started.

So I would love to see you there. Please bear in mind everything I’ve talked to you about today. And if you have any questions at all, just drop a comment underneath and I’ll be back as soon as I can. Been a pleasure and hopefully see you at the webinar.

And now we want to hear from you: What have been your experiences with paid ads? Is there anything specific you’d like to learn about during the workshop? Leave a comment below!


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