Should Writers Buy Ads?

Oh my, the lagoon feels awesome today. Just what I needed in the midst of promo madness for Passion Creek.

Hold on a second, let me sink a little lower in the lagoon’s fizzy jets. Ah, yes, it’s right between my shoulders. Love. It.

Okay, what was I talking about? … That’s right promo. I had an interesting conversation via Twitter with a few folks recently about why would an author (or publisher) buy an ad on a specific book blogger’s site and what they wanted from the site. Then, I had a conversation with a lovely group of authors who said they rarely, if ever, bought ads.

So should authors buy ads and if they do, what should they consider when making an ad buy?

I don’t have the 100 percent right answer for everyone on this because truth be told it’s different for everyone. However, here is why I buy ads, what I think about before creating an ad and what I look for in a site prior to buying an ad.

I buy ads because I am establishing a brand for myself. It’s a crowded market and I work with a small, digital-first publisher. Ads help me reach readers, book bloggers and other authors. Ads help me to get noticed. For each book release, I set a promotional budget. This covers all areas of promo from swag to hiring someone to book my tour to creating a book trailer to getting my website up-to-date to my time for writing guest blogs and seeking spots to buying ads.I believe you have to invest money to make it. Not everyone agrees.

Before creating the ad, I think about what I can do to make this book stick out. For Passion Creek I decided I really wanted to play up on the passion label and hopefully get some of the 50 Shades market. So I came up with the idea to have a ’50s-era doctor prescribing more passion and recommending reading Avery Flynn. I work with a great designer (Cristen E. Rose) who took my vague ideas and turned it into the ad to the right. As you can see (if I uploaded the gif correctly), I wanted to showcase the entire Layton Family series with one ad, thus getting more bang for my buck.

Finally, I have to figure out where I want to run the ad. For ads, I try to go where the readers are – I know, duh! There are ad options for almost any budget. For example, Night Owl Reviews has a featured cover ad spot for $30 a month. Many sites offer cover spots for less than that. Then there are other sites with ad spots for many hundreds of dollars. The thing is that you have to decide what’s important to you that fits within your budget. Find out how many unique visitors a site averages every month. If this isn’t available on the site’s advertising/promotional page, shoot the book blogger an e-mail requesting that information.

A site’s traffic isn’t the only important thing to consider. Look at the other ads on the blog, are the books they’re promoting in the same category as yours? For example, a cozy mystery ad may not get any results on a site that specializes in urban fantasy.

Some may consider it wrong, but I consider the feel I get from the site. Is it one that I love to go to and who I want to support with my ad dollars? There are book blogging sites that I work with that don’t have huge traffic numbers, but I love those sites. I figure that I write what I love to read and that if I’m going to these book blogging sites to find a new book that I love, then others who go there may like my book too.

There’s a ton more I could talk about on the ad buying topic, such as how to determine your return on investment, but that will have to wait for another day – a cute merdude just swam by and I need to go get a closer look. 🙂

About Avery Flynn

Writer. Smart Ass. Lover of Chocolate. Bringing steamy romance with a twist of mystery to the masses, one hot book at a time.

22 thoughts on “Should Writers Buy Ads?

  1. Hey Avery, this is a topic I think about a lot. For my last release, The Reckoning, my publisher bought ad space on the bigger book websites like Book Browse, Book Riot, etc. as well as Goodreads. The ads linked back to my website so I was able to keep track of how many clicks we got (except for Goodreads.) I bought ad space on book blogs and Facebook. I’m not as disciplined as you in that I don’t set up a plan (I know! Bad author.) I tell myself that it’s ‘research’. And I’ll tell you why I do this: since my books don’t fall into one particular genre, there are some genre websites that won’t review it. If I still want to try to reach their audience, I’ll buy ad space on their site. If I don’t get many clicks, I won’t advertise there again.

    Finding a good graphic designer who is in sync with me, can turn stuff around fast and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg has been a challenge. Always looking for referrals for designers, so I’ll check yours out.

    Nice seeing you at the WRW meeting Saturday, btw. Nice presentations.

    1. I was so sad that my leaving the meeting early meant I didn’t get to sit down and chat with you. 🙁
      Ad plans can be as simple as a spreadsheet listing possible targets, dates for the run and a goal (sales, image, whatever) for what you’d like that ad to make happen.

  2. This topic couldn’t have come up at a more appropriate time for me! With a release date of 12-07, I’m trying to decide what to do with the money I set aside for marketing. I agree with you, I’m building a brand, not one book.
    Deciding where and how to get the most bang for my money is daunting.
    I’m having a few ads designed and am selecting which sites I’ll use.

    Maybe someone will share their insight with you today and I’ll eavesdrop!

  3. Thanks for posting this today. I was once told that the only thing an author could really do was get reviews and put there work up for free and advertise it on sites that will tweet, email etc. to their followers that there’s a free book up. 9 He’s a publisher!! Ack!)
    I think this is a very near sited view! I agree with you that you need to concentrate on creating a brand not just advertise a book. That’s how you create a loyal following which turns into steady sales. It’s a fact that you have to do your own marketing and I firmly believe you have to spend money to make money.
    I also believe that we might be training a whole generation to expect books to be free or as close to that as possible. I already know a handful of people that NEVER spend money on books, they only shop freebies. That marketing strategy, which has been useful, may come back to haunt us.

    1. Oh the price of books. Sigh. I don’t even want to go there on a Monday. 🙂 I’ve seen plenty of books do well and tank in sales with and without advertising. What advertising does is to at least get the conversation going about your book in the reader’s mind. Advertising doesn’t make sales, it plants the seed.

  4. This was very helpful Avery. Being in the early stages i want to ‘build’ my business and advertising fits in there. But knowing where to go and how to budget is going to be a big stepping stone for me. This post is a great insight.

    Thanks, now you may commence with relaxing in the lagoon!


    1. Hey girlie! I think of my advertising budget the same way I think of the money I take into a casino. If I lose it all and don’t get anything in return, I’ll still be able to buy groceries that week.

      1. I like this attitude toward marketing bucks…a nice variation on the ROI thing…as long as we don’t get your expectations up too high, it makes sense, and I really like your analogy. This is a very informative post. Well done!

  5. Fascinating stuff, Avery. And I love your ad, with the doctor prescribing passion. Very clever, and I also think it represents you well. Good good luck with Passion Creek!

  6. Avery, what you say makes a lot of sense. Paying for advertising is not something I’d considered, but I may rethink that. Common wisdom says that it also helps to have more than one book available – the more the merrier, actually, to increase the amount of notice any of your books get. So is it worth it to pay to advertise your debut book, or save the $$$ for when you have more than one available? Hmmm. Spend money to make money says yes. Where’s an economist when we need one?

  7. A big topic for many writers is finding readers – I wonder if marketing/paid advertising is the way to deal with the gap, especially for digital-first publishers? I don’t know. Maybe there is a model out there on Internet paid advertising that could give some guidance. What you’ve outlined here – as I say above – is great information – you should do a workshop (mind at work:)…

  8. Hi Avery! The way my favorite but then unknown author hooked me was by handing me a free book at a convention one day. That was three years ago. I’ve since paid hard cold cash for 50 of her books! I can’t honestly say I’ve ever bought an unknown to me author’s book from an ad I saw. Not that I wouldn’t but my fave kind of advertising is grassroots, word of mouth. And I’m pretty partial to wearing this really cute tee-shirt out and about now and then…something about a series having to do with a creek… xoxoxoxo

    1. You know what though Carlene, I’d argue that the free book you got was an ad. Every piece of promo is an ad – it’s just some ads you get to walk away with. 🙂

  9. HI Avery,
    Even with a targeted marketing strategy, there’s no guarantee that your readers will see the ads – they might be offline all weekend, for instance. That was always frustrating for me. I overspent on advertising for the first few books with the “Build a brand” mentality. Did it help? I dunno. I’m not shooting through the roof with sales, but I do get a lot of interest in my new books and my backlist isn’t dead. Readers hang out at different watercoolers. I’ve done FB ads, goodreads giveaways, blogtours with giveaways, contests, posting excerpts, interviews. I find that I get more satisfaction out of doing the promotional styles I like. And once I have a reader, I make sure they are on my newsletter list. That’s liquid gold.

  10. Avery, that ad is brilliant. I love it! It tells me a lot about what I think I can expect from one of your books: passion, of course–and some sass and fun. That’s a perfect combination for me as a reader.

    I admire your chutzpah–go get ’em!

Comments are closed.