Paid Advertising (Results and Numbers)

Well, I’m hoping this post is still topical and helpful to you by the time it hits the blog. I’m scheduling it well in advance, because I’ve just got so many goddamn posts lined up already that it’s difficult to figure out where to fit it in.

I recently had a sale on the first book of the Realm Keepers series, Midrealm. The full price of the book is normally $7.99. I made it $2.99 from October 15th-October 18th on all platforms (Amazon, Kobo, Nook—not iBookstore, because it takes too long to update).

I paid for a promotion from BookBlast.co, sending it to their YA mailing list. This mailing list has 8,500 subscribers. The cost to advertise to the list (for a $2.99 book) was $10.00.

That’s pretty damn cheap! The other eligible list would have been the Fantasy mailing list. That mailing list has 11,000 subscribers, but the cost to advertise would have been $40.00. In retrospect, it might have been better to advertise to the Fantasy list. It’s not much larger of a list, and it’s four times the cost, but according to the people I’ve spoken to at BookBlast.co, the Fantasy list is much more engaged.

In exchange for my payment, BookBlast.co sent out a very nice email ad for my book (along with several others). Here’s what the ad looked like:

BookBlast.co ad of Midrealm

So, that’s a pretty nice-looking ad. I was happy to send that out to people.

It’s now 1:00am on October 16th (the wee hours of the morning after the ad went out). At the time of this writing, from this promotion I got exactly…

14 sales.

Oy vey. Ouch, right? I mean, that seems like an ouch. Let’s just call a spade a spade here. I’ve got to provide for my family, and so I need to be making a certain amount of money per day, AND I’m splitting royalties on Realm Keepers with my co-author, Z. C. Bolger. So 14 sales a day is NOT cutting it.

However, let’s look at some other facts:

  • Normally, Midrealm was selling a copy every one or two days. So let’s be optimistic and view this not as a far cry short of what I need to be selling, but instead, view it as a 7X increase.
  • I make about $2.10 per sale at the $2.99 price. With 14 sales, that’s about $29.40. And I only paid $10.00 for the ad. So, that’s a ROI of 2.94. So, at least I didn’t lose money on this deal.
  • Every one of those sales is a potential for more “also-bought” placement in Amazon’s algorithms. Hopefully Midrealm will start showing up at the bottom of other books’ product pages.
  • Even with only 14 sales, we experienced a ranking jump from about 200,000 to about 14,000. Not too shabby.

Okay, so it’s not all coming up roses and unicorns. Realm Keepers isn’t doing what we need it to do yet. But I’m playing a long game here, not a short one. Things that would make paid promotion more effective in the future:

  • Advertise on a bigger site. BookBub.com is currently the top dog. But to advertise to their Fantasy list costs $450. That’s not in the budget right now. However, at some point in the future, it might be.
  • Get more reviews (HEY! HAVE YOU READ MIDREALM? HAVEN’T LEFT A REVIEW? PLEEEASE DO BY CLICKING HERE!) See, these sites email people and tell them your book is available and on sale. Then, people click on your book (hopefully). But then what? If they see that it’s only got 5 reviews (which Midrealm does right now), they’re not super likely to buy it. If they see it’s got 10,000 reviews and an average rating above 4.5 stars, they’re extremely likely to buy it.

These are just my current thoughts on paid advertising. Even if I didn’t earn back the money I spent, I’d have considered this a good investment. The also-boughts and the ratings jump would be worth it alone.

Tomorrow (as I write this) I’m doing a paid Kobo ad with trindie.com. If you’re interested, drop a note in the comments below and I’ll report back on how that promotion went.

Any other good tips on self-publishing paid promotions? Drop them in the comments.

EDIT: I saw no discernible uptick in sales from the trindie.com ad. I sold a couple of books a day, which is totally average for me on Kobo. In fact, during my whole Kobo sales run I didn’t see any marked increase in sales.

Garrett Robinson

Over 100,000 readers have read and loved Garrett's books, like the fantasy hits Nightblade and Midrealm. He's also a film festival favorite with movies like Unsaid, and a tech guru who posts lots of helpful how-tos for writers and filmmakers over at garrettbrobinson.com.

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