Author Advertising for Beginners

author advertising

Some authors tend to panic when thinking about advertising their books.

As mentioned before, there are three ways to reach customers: through marketing, publicity, and advertising. Marketing is anything you do to spread the word, such as blogging on a website, soliciting reviews, passing out leaflets in the street. Publicity is what you can get someone else to write about you. Author advertising is anything you display before your audience that you have to pay for, from buying an ad in a convention program, launching a Google AdSense campaign, or buying a billboard.

career indie author logoThat’s a simplified way of looking at it, and as you’ll see, the techniques you learn in one area can be applied elsewhere. The way you research keywords used to place your ebook in online stores, also applies to keywords used when you buy ads on Amazon, Facebook, or Google. The tagline you write for your book’s front or back cover could also be used to create an ad. Determining the audience you wrote your book for also affect where you’ll advertise it and how you’ll shape its message.

A. When Should I Start Advertising and How Much?

If you don’t mind risking a little money, say, less than a hundred bucks, it’s possible to start with your first book. Setting up a month-long campaign through Amazon Media Services (AMS) that puts your book in front of readers who are searching for its keywords or authors in your genre could be limited to a budget of a buck or two a day. You shouldn’t expect a huge return from it, but it gives you practice in placing a simple ad without too much risk.

You don’t have to start author advertising immediately. If you’re writing a three-book series to be released within a few months, you may want to hold off until they’re all ready to go. Or you may want to learn more about advertising before you dive in. That’s all right, too.

As for how much to advertise, it was a common belief in advertising that an ad had to be seen many times before the consumer would remember it. This “effective frequency” number has been researched since the 1880s, when German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus tried to figure out the best method to learn something: all at once or over a period of time. He even came up with a term to describe it: the “learning curve.”

The most popular theory was developed in the 1965 by psychologist and researcher Herbert E. Krugman who concluded that it took three exposures for an ad to be effectively recalled. He didn’t say it would be remembered, however. His genius was to argue that there were three reactions to be exposed to a product. The first time, the viewer asks, “what is it?” This is a simple recognition that the product existed. The second time, the viewer has recognized the product, and is instead asking “what of it?” That is, “what use is it to me?” It is only on the third viewing that the may viewer decide, “I want that.”

Even then, he argued, the consumer may not remember that they do want that product until they come across it in a store. In fact, he argued, “There is a myth in the advertising world that viewers will forget your message if you don’t repeat your advertising often enough. It is this myth that supports many large advertising expenditures…I would rather say the public comes closer to forgetting nothing they have seen on TV. They just “put it out of their minds” until and unless it has some use . . . and [then] the response to the commercial continues.”

Not surprisingly, perhaps, this view has been challenged, particularly by those who make their money by creating and running ad campaigns. They’ll claim that Hollywood studios in the 1930s determined that it took seven ads within a few weeks to get a customer to buy a movie ticket. I researched this online, and found no authorities quoted, but that doesn’t stop marketers and blog post writers claiming that this is true.

Another argument points to the longevity of advertising slogans, such as “Just Do It” (since 1988); “Breakfast of Champions” (1927); and “Got Milk?” (1993). If these people were smart to continually advertise their products, the argument goes, why not you?

A century ago, department store magnate John Wanamaker said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” Fortunately, you don’t have to worry that you’ll waste half your ad budget.

1. The Power of Feedback

When you run an online campaign, you’ll have access to a variety of statistics. Depending on the service, you’ll be told the number of times the ad appeared (“impressions”), the number of times it was clicked on, and if you’re using AMS, how much money was made in sales. It’s not an exact number; if someone clicks away and later buys a book, it won’t get counted. Plus, I believe that if the customer buys the trade paperback version instead of the ebook, that doesn’t show up in your campaign’s results.

How do I know? Because I keep track of my monthly book sales. One book in particular, The Complete Annotated Whose Body?, always shows an uptick in ebook and trade paperback sales when I advertise.

That’s the benefit of feedback. If you keep track of your monthly sales, then launch an ad campaign in one market, you’ll get an idea of its effectiveness by comparing your sales figures. You’ll learn which keywords worked and which ones didn’t. This allows you to redesign your ad copy, or swap non-performing keywords for better ones, and try to improve your sales.

Next week, we’ll look into the basics of writing effective ad copy.