Friday, August 21, 2009

Tips for Authors - Reviews vs. Ads

This week's tip focuses on a marketing tip rather than a book design idea.

Many new authors, in their excitement, will begin to place ads all over the internet as well as through more traditional methods such as newspapers and magazines. They want to get word out about their new book. Is it worth it? Will you, the author, get back your investment plus a little profit from these ads? The simple answer is... probably not.

Large, traditional presses are known to place ads, particularly is places such at Publisher's Weekly and other journals where the important library and bookstore buyers linger. But they also get their books reviewed in those journals. True, they also advertise in newspapers and magazines, but typically, those ads are for books by established, best-selling authors. First time authors with the big presses aren't normally given ads unless there is some unusual buzz about that author/book.

For the small press/self-publisher, ads rarely give a good return on investment. The reason? The buying public is much more likely to buy a book based on a good review or on word-of-mouth. An ad is simply the publisher's hype about a book (in the buyer's mind). Why should they believe it?

What about internet ads? How about placing ads on websites, and/or using resources such as Google AdWords? Talking with numerous authors, we've rarely heard of successes with these venues. True, it can sometimes be hard to measure the success of these ads. They do help build recognition of a product, a key element in creating sales. But do they, by themselves, sell books? For the most part, no. Also, consider how many books you'll need to sell to pay for that ad, let alone make a profit. For example, an ad on a popular website in your book's genre might cost $300/month. The book retails for $9.95, and when sold through Amazon (using Amazon Advantage, will garner the author/publisher $4.48. You'll have to sell 67 books just to break even (and that doesn't even take into account the actual profit on that $4.48 after you deduct shipping to Amazon, printing costs, design costs, etc., etc.)

A few ads placed judiciously might work in your niche, but try and swap ads for services, a free book to the site's owner, etc. Then concentrate your efforts on reviews. Readers trust reviews, readers buy books from reviews!