Most authors will market their books at one time or another through free online efforts, but have you ever wondered whether paid advertising is worth the investment? Or have you tried paid advertising with hit-or-miss results?


Determine Your Goal

Check ListBefore placing an ad in any medium—newspapers, magazines, radio, television or online—always determine your goal:

Do you want to raise awareness of yourself as an author and/or your books?

Do you want more people to visit your website?

Do you want more engagement on your posts—likes, shares, retweets, comments, etc?

Do you want more followers on a particular social platform?

Do you want to build your email address list?

Do you want to build your snail-mail address list?

Ultimately, we all want to sell more copies of our books but often it involves several steps: making someone aware that you’ve written a book, getting them interested in the book itself, being reminded the book is available for sale—all of this is part of the Sales Funnel. Very few people make any purchase without some thought.

Determine Your Target Market

Determine your target market. You can begin this process by looking at readers who already love your books and recommend them to others, or by developing the perfect reader in your mind’s eye. Never make the mistake of thinking that your book will appeal to everyone. It won’t. Even New York Times bestsellers do not appeal to everyone.

Man ReadingAre they male or female?

What age range?

What countries do you wish to target?

Do you want to target specific areas within a country?

What are their hobbies? Their interests?

By carefully developing your target market, you ensure that you aren’t going to spend good money placing your ads in front of people who are not likely to purchase your book.

Look at Past Performance

If you have been posting on social media already, you can take a look at those posts or tweets that engage your audience the most. What were the subjects of those posts or tweets? What tone did it strike—humor, entertainment, serious, controversial?

AuroraUse Multimedia

The best performing ads will be those that incorporate pictures and/or video. If you have a book trailer, incorporate it into your online ads. Use your book cover but other pictures as well—perhaps backdrops of your scenes, people representing your characters or objects representing the plot. There are many websites where you can get free images, such as

Make a note of the colors on the platform you’re considering and use colors in your ad that will stand out. For example, Facebook is blue and white; vivid reds and oranges will definitely stand out.

Straight text tends to be skimmed over, but the mind registers pictures and videos much faster and colors are processed in the mind first.

Optimize Your Landing Pages for Mobile

If you are sending someone to a particular page, whether it’s a blog post or a page on your website, make certain it is optimized for mobile. If it is not, it might display as a mishmash that is so disorganized that your readers may click out quickly, without ever seeing your information.

The Old vs. The New

AdvertisementThe Old Method of advertising tended to be more of a shotgun approach. For example, if you place an ad in a city newspaper, you might pay based on that paper’s reach. But if their reach is 100,000 people, how many of those are interested in historical romance with a vampire or a coming of age story?

Magazine advertising can be costly so it’s extremely important to select the right magazine for your message. If your book appeals to military men in their twenties, you don’t want to place an ad in Good Housekeeping.

You would also want to target radio stations, specific radio shows, television stations and television shows based on the demographics of your target market. Does your reader listen to talk radio or instrumental music? Do they watch the SyFy Channel or NatGeo or Animal Planet? And how does your book relate to the theme of that radio or television show or channel?

The New Method of advertising is Targeted. Instead of paying for the audience the channel reaches, you pay when someone clicks on your ad, engages with you (leaving a comment, a Like, a Share, etc.) or by the number of people who view it (called Impressions), which should be a clearly defined audience.

This is why you want to take the time to develop that persona for the perfect reader. Whether you choose Facebook or Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram, Google AdWords or YouTube or any other social media platform, the people who will see your ad will be those that you determined to be the ones your book is most likely to appeal to. This greatly increases your chances of making the sale or reaching your goals.

Why Advertise?

You might ask yourself why you should advertise when you can post something at no charge. Keep in mind that your posts may be seen only by those people that follow you. If you have millions of followers and they’re capable of sustaining your career, posting for free might work for you. But if you need more people to learn about you, you will eventually have to reach beyond your current circle. That’s what paid advertising does for you. It reaches people you don’t even know exist—and they haven’t known you existed, either.

Is It Worth It?

Don’t make the mistake of checking your sales and immediately determining that your advertising has failed if it didn’t garner immediate sales. As mentioned previously, most people don’t make immediate impulse buys. The sale might take place a few days or even a few weeks later. If you are traditionally published, it could take three or four months for your royalties to reflect sales through the traditional distribution network.

Corporate SalesHowever, there are ways in which you can determine whether your advertising is making an impression:

Do you have more people signing up for your email or mailing address list?

Do you have more followers?

Do you have more engagement on your posts?

Do you have more website or blog visitors?

Are more people following your blog?

A marketing strategy is never something you develop in stone. It is always fluid and professional marketers are always adjusting their strategy for those optimal results.

If you’d like to learn more about how to boost your book sales through free and low-cost options, consider subscribing to the 52-Week Marketing Plan, where each week you receive a video and documentation as well as personalized support to help you achieve the sales you deserve.

p.m.terrell is the internationally acclaimed, award-winning author of more than 20 books in several genres. Her first book was published in 1984 and she became a full-time writer in 2002. She has mentored authors for more than 15 years and is the co-founder of The Book ‘Em Foundation and the founder of the Book ‘Em North Carolina Writers Conference and Book Fair. For more information, visit