Does Advertising a Book on Goodreads or Facebook Even Work?

"Ask a Publicist"


Dear Book Publicist,

I have heard so many mixed opinions on whether or not paying for advertisements on Goodreads or even Facebook is worth it. Many indie authors seem to think you don't make your money back. How can I make sure I am not wasting my small marketing budget on something that doesn't correlate into sales profits?

-Linda Nelson

This is a hotly debated topic among self-published authors. As you mentioned, the most common complaint I hear from authors is "unsuccessful" ads. They've spent a certain dollar amount on the ads, and since they didn't get the same amount of money back from book sales within the ad's timeframe, the ads were a waste of money. While this conclusion might seem logical and financially responsible, it's oversimplified and not really the way marketing works.


Yes, there should be a correlation between marketing dollars spent and dollars earned, but this data is generally measured and analyzed over certain periods of time taking into account long-term revenue, upfront investments, sales cycles, and other consumer and retailer behaviors and statistics.

Your Book = Your Business

If you think this sounds too complicated for your book sales, think again. When you self-publish, your book is your business and the more you treat it that way, the more successful your business (book) will be.

Keep in mind that businesses need an initial investment to be successful, and some risk is always present. Hey—if you published the best book you could, you should feel confident enough to put some bucks behind it. After all, why bother to put a book out there if you aren’t going to tell anyone where to find it?

Does Book Advertising Work?

Back to Linda's specific question about Goodreads and Facebook Ads and if they're worth investing in. I say absolutely, and here's why: First of all, you have to do at least some marketing to meet even small sales goals, and there's a finite amount of options available, especially if you can't devote long hours each week.

Much of your target audience is likely on Goodreads and Facebook, and you can do some pretty good strategic targeting on both sites, which can get your book in front of hundreds of your target readers with less than $200. That's really good bang for the buck. Think you can't afford $200? Try skipping your lattes for a few months and making coffee at home. (You didn't think I was going to say give up coffee altogether, did you?)

Will everyone who sees and clicks your ad buy your book while your ads are active? Absolutely not. But remember to think long term. Will you make $200 on sales during your book's lifetime? If you have a quality product, the answer is likely yes.

Why It's Best to Think Long Term with Book Sales

Books that make it big usually start with a snowball effect, but this cannot happen if the ball never gets rolling. Investing in marketing at the beginning of your book's life is your best chance, and both Goodreads and Facebook are affordable, easy, and targeted places for ads.

When you consider how to market your book, get inside the mind of your target reader and try to think like they do. Some people even find it helpful to create a persona. Let's say your book is historical western romance and your target reader is Betsy, a mom and craft store owner in Eugene, Oregon. She sees your ad on Goodreads and clicks on it. She likes the sound of it, so she puts it on her "to read shelf."

books on a shelf

But before she can take action, her kids run into the house with their shoes full of mud, getting her new braided rug project all dirty, and completely distracting her from your book. Fast forward several months to when she's searching for a new title to read and goes back to her "to read shelf," and there is your book, which she promptly orders from Amazon.

People have all kinds of circumstances that keep them from purchasing what they see in an ad the day they see it. Have you ever seen an ad for something and dropped what you were doing to purchase it? Then why do you expect your readers to?


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