Does it pay to advertise? by Ali Bacon

A Kettle of Fish book cover
Ali Bacon's debut novel
Well does it? Until recently I hadn’t even considered it.  When A Kettle of Fish was published in late 2012, I already had a healthy online presence. Using my ‘platform’ to sell my wares, I could also call in online favours to shout about my new e-book without spending a penny. But two years on, while reluctant to conjure up images of deceased equines, that’s pretty much what I feel I’m dealing with. Surely my online audience and real-time contacts have by now either bought it or decided against?  Yes, I think it’s time to find a new audience by doing some advertising. Will it pay? Maybe I should have consulted my blogging associates first, but having woken up one day with a sudden desire to go for it, here’s what I’ve done so far.

The first thing I considered was a listing with one of the increasing number of e-book marketing services. With these your book is  emailed out to readers who have usually indicated a genre or set of genres that interest them. To test the waters, I signed up as a reader to three of these, Fussy Librarian (well I used to be one!) E-book Soda (nice name) and Bookbub (not a nice name but seems to be the biggest). Emails arrive daily with listings in my chosen genres with links to retailers and I have even bought one or two, so I can see that the system works. All of these services have or claim to have a basic quality control mechanism for submissions and some of them insist that the book is discounted from its normal price or have an upper price limit. The cost of these  services is usually linked to the circulation stats  for the chosen genre. These examples are all for a single day listing in the women’s fiction category.

Cost per listing



Free book    $220
$1 book       $440
$1-$2           $660


Bookbub is the only one to give estimates of sales.  They claim a paid-for book will sell an average of 2000 per listing but the spread is from 400 to 4000. Even if I make my book free (average downloads 19000) it’s a lot of money for a business with minimal profits. And no guarantees of the uptake. On the day I checked, the E-booksoda price was only $5 and I took the bait. It will be mailed in two days time on September 24th. If there’s limited impact, at least I won’t have broken the bank!

Ali Bacon writer
Author, salesperson, ex-fussy-librarian
Meanwhile my POD publisher Feedaread was offering an advertising deal via Writers Magazine and Writers Forum (combined subs 13000 plus retail distribution 33,000) in which readers will visit Feedaread website and choose to read an extract from any of a number of novels for the chance to win a substantial prize. I have some reservations about this and would not have taken part if I hadn’t negotiated that the e-book as well as the paperback will be mentioned in the promotion. (Yes, there’s hard woman in there somewhere!) Let’s say the cost is a lot more than $5 but still considerably less than the cheapest Bookbub deal.

I have to confess my approach in all of this has been far from systematic and you can probably see there are other factors I haven’t gone into here. I’m also hoping that by the time these promotions run, I’ll have access to my own detailed sales figures which are at present only seen by my (micro) e-publisher. 
I’d be fascinated to here how others have dealt with any of this and how they have fared. I do have other marketing plans including face-to-face events, but I’m also aware that the best plan of all might be to bring another product to the market. 

Yes, never mind the sales pitch, time to get writing!

Ali has her own website at or follow her on Twitter @AliBacon


madwippitt said…
Be interesting to hear how these work out ... Bookbub looks horribly expensive. Has anybody actually used it and turned a profit from the investment?
JO said…
Do come back and tell us what works and what doesn't. I confess to hiding under the blankets at the mere thought of marketing, would much rather be writing.
Lydia Bennet said…
Hi Ali, congratulations on your first post for AE! John Logan has done a lot of this sort of thing, I think he used bookbub and others. he found it worthwhile for his book. Bookbub is very expensive for some kinds of books but quite cheap for YA I seem to recall. I tried Fussy Librarian with no discernible effect! but at least it's cheap.
AliB said…
Hi Everyone and thanks for having me here at AE. Interesting what you say about YA on Bookbub, Lydia. 'Kettle' could theoretically fit in that category (it's about a young adult!)but I prefer to sell it as adult fiction which is how I see it. I'm off to be a student (MA Creative Writing!) as from next week but will try to put my business hat on from time to time and let you know how things are going.
Interesting. I've used The Fussy Librarian, and - although he seems to be a nice obliging guy (yes, he's a real person) I'm not at all sure that it had much effect on sales. I've just signed up to e-Reader News today for a forthcoming promo for a 99p offer on The Curiosity Cabinet (early October, a Countdown deal) and I'll let you know how it goes. Cost about £15. I have submitted to Bookbub twice and been turned down. Once with TCC and once with Bird of Passage. Both books have masses of positive reviews and decent sales but there seems to be no rhyme or reason to their acceptances and rejections. It doesn't seem to have much to do with quality. I may or may not try again because it is hellish expensive, but some people tell me they have had excellent results. I think Jan Ruth on here has. My biggest successes have been with Countdown deals on popular fiction. I put them in Select, put them on at 99p or 99 cents for a week (I don't bother with any price rises) and see what happens. With a bit of luck, after a day or two they show up on Amazon's Countdown deals listing. TCC has done very well because it shows up on the same page as Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series and that does it no harm at all. But the knock-on effect of visibility, the last time I did this with Bird of Passage, meant that it remained in the top 100 of its category for three weeks more, at full price. I don't think Countdown works at all for non-fiction though - I've tried and failed. The holy grail, as far as I'm concerned, is access to that huge US market. That's where the real money is. And I think that's where Bookbub gives you visibility. So I may keep on submitting. They'll probably accept just when funds are very low!
AliB said…
Hi Catherine
Up to now I've had no control over my e-book price, but all this is now to come!I admit I feel 'safer' in the UK market, but I'm sure you're right, US is the key.
Lydia Bennet said…
India would be the bees's knobbly bits, but breaking into that isn't easy, I've tried! huge market there and English speaking/reading.
According to kboards, Bookbub is THE place to advertise (YA is cheaper because they don't have so many subscribers for that genre). But I understand they can be very fussy about accepting you, even if you're willing to pay them hundreds of dollars... I've not tried them, but people seem to think you need a decent number of 4 and 5 star reviews and a professional cover as a minimum to get considered for a listing.

In the UK, there's also indiebookbargains - still free, I think? And you can get an ad on for a minimal charge.

AliB said…
Thanks Katharine
I'll check ou the indie bargains site.

Popular posts

A Few Discreet Words About Caesar's Penis--Reb MacRath

The Year of Just Being There: Dipika Mukherjee looks back at 2016

A Week of Three Libraries -- Julia Jones

Close Reading | Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose | Karen Kao

Rules is Rules, discovers Griselda Heppel, Even When They're Not.