Which Online Advertising Vehicle Sells More Books?

By most accounts, my latest novel, a spiritual fiction entitled Now and at the Hour of Our Death is pretty good. It has an average of over 4.2 stars out of 5 on Amazon and Goodreads and I’ve received some wonderful reviews (by several people who aren’t my mom!). But sales have been sparse, at least compared to my other books, so I’m thinking either the subject matter is too niche or the word just needs to get out.

I decided to try online advertising to see what kind of return I could get from a little investment. I tracked the results so as to help out other authors looking to promote their own books. What I found was pretty shocking.

The first up was Google Adwords. I ran a good-looking visual ad on Google’s content network (non-Google sites running their ads). I spent $42.82 in seven days for 163 clicks to my Amazon page and sold 6 Kindle ebooks, 1 print book, and 0 audiobooks. Clearly, the return did not match the investment.

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Next, I decided to try Goodreads automatic advertising service. I love Goodreads and its community, but their ad service is not even in the same ballpark as Google’s with regard to ease-of-use or network. They recommended that I direct people to the Goodreads book page and while I did receive an uptick in to-read clicks, I didn’t see an increase in sales. I spent $29 on 62 clicks and sold 4 Kindles, 1 print, and 0 audiobooks.

It’s possible that the 14 users who saved my book during the advertising will eventually turn into customers, but it’s hard to say. Again, the results weren’t promising.

The last advertising vehicle I tried was Facebook. On the surface, the Facebook platform seems ideal since advertisers can target users who have claimed specific interests (like church or miracles). I split these ads between directing users to the Amazon book page and to liking the Facebook page for the book. I spent $36.33 on 121 clicks over the same time (7 days) for a grand total of 0 Kindle sales, 0 print sales, and a whopping 1 audiobook sale.
Again with Facebook, I have a couple dozen new likes, which may eventually turn into sales, but that’s not clear.

After this experiment, I can’t endorse any of the advertising vehicles to increase book sales. The point of advertising is to increase the sales of whatever you’re advertising, not lose money. This wasn’t a complete waste, however. Before the experiment, I tracked my sales in order to gain a baseline. I was doing no paid advertising, but I had a Twitter account that had a link to the book in its description. Just by engaging with other Twitter users who share the same interest, I was able to gain followers and possibly even some book sales. The baseline sales totals during a week of this type of promotion was 8 Kindle, 3 print, and 1 audiobook.

Method days clicks spent kindle print audio
baseline 7 8 3 1
Google Adwords 7 163 42.82 6 1 0
Goodreads 7 62 29 4 1 0
Facebook 7 121 36.33 0 0 1

I don’t have the budget to test this on other products or services, but based on my experiment here, I can say that paid advertising doesn’t work! Only genuine interaction between you and your potential customers will increase your sales.