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Advertising and Marketing

“Why can’t I make money advertising?” – A Common Question from our Mailbox

By: Ginger on June 12, 2020

Hidden Gems Books ARC service.

By: Ginger on June 12, 2020


Each Friday, we try to post blogs aimed at helping authors get their heads around self-publishing, marketing, and advertising their books. Often, these posts will spark a lot of discussion and debate, and we’ll often receive questions from writers needing a bit of clarification. Here’s a question we’ve received recently – and we hope you find the answer helpful!


Dear, Hidden Gems,

Whatever happens, I can’t seem to make my advertising profitable. What am I doing wrong? It’s so frustrating to spend more money on advertising than I get in book sales, but otherwise I don’t seem to be getting any traction at all.

I’m using Facebook and Advertising on Amazon, but I can’t keep throwing money at it like this. Help!


Okay, so if you’re in this boat – you’re not alone! Making any form of advertising profitable is tough, and when you’re marketing ebooks it’s even more difficult!

Normally, however, there are clues you can follow to help you understand what the problem is, and even from the few clues you’ve given us in this email, it’s possible to come up with a pretty good guess.

So, the first clue you’ve given us is that you’re spending more money than you’re making in book sales – which means you’re spending money!

That’s actually a good sign – even if it might not feel like it, with your book sales languishing. Facebook and Advertising on Amazon work with a pay-per-click model, so if you’re spending money it means you’re getting clicks!

That’s a good thing, because it means your ad is appealing enough for people to take a chance on clicking on the cover (or ad design) when they see it in their Facebook feed, or on the Sponsored Content ribbon of another book’s product page. This means your image and title are strong, and your tagline (if you have one) is compelling enough to make people click and find out more.

That’s when things go wrong.

When that potential reader gets to your product page, something falls flat. Their curiosity doesn’t ‘convert’ into becoming a paying customer, so you’re paying for the click that brought them to your product page without actually making a sale.

First off, if this is your problem – don’t panic! It happens to every author. Even the biggest names in the industry will have only a fraction of their advertising traffic ‘convert’ into paid book sales. The key to success is to make that percentage as high as possible.

Remember, it’s all about profit margins. If you’re retailing an eBook at $2.99, you’re getting about $2.00 in royalties for each sale. At Amazon’s default bid of $0.75 per click, assuming you pay that much, you’ll have less than three clicks to turn traffic into a paying customer before you’re in the red, and losing money on your advertising.

The solution is twofold:

  1. First, polish your product page as much as possible – until it shines! Your cover is good enough to earn clicks, so don’t worry too much about that – but work on polishing your blurb and your Look Inside content, and make sure you click ‘Helpful’ on all your best reviews, and ask your friends and family to do the same (so they’ll get bumped to the top of the review list.) This will help make your book as ‘sellable’ as possible, and hopefully make a higher percentage of your paid traffic convert into paid sales.
  2. Secondly, work on your advertising strategy. Try to reduce the amount you’re paying for bids – either by expanding the number of keywords and campaigns you’re running, or by using ‘Adjust Bids Up and Down’ or ‘Adjust Bids by Placement’. The math is undeniable. If you’re paying $0.75 per click, you have less than three to earn a book sale before you start loosing money. If you reduce that to $0.50 a click, suddenly you have four clicks to remain profitable. The most successful authors are earning clicks at half that, or lower. 

The thing is – you have to do both these things in combination. If you work on your strategy or product page independently, you’ll see certain improvements – but when they work in combination, your book will begin reaching its full sales potential. Remember to think like a reader, and follow their journey towards clicking ‘buy now.’ The secret to success is to make that journey as seamless for a reader as possible.

What it really comes down to, though, is the oldest rule of advertising there is – your advertising doesn’t sell your product.

Advertising drives traffic – pairs of eyeballs. In the old days, that could have been making the connection between a billboard on the highway and the brand of cereal it advertised, when you saw it on a supermarket shelf. Today, a digital trail of breadcrumbs connects your advertising to the final marketplace; but your ad still doesn’t sell your product.

People will only buy products that are worth buying – so if you’re truly struggling to get your paid traffic converting into paying customers, you’ll have to have a deep, introspective look at your book and see if it’s something people want to buy.

And, if not? Write another one!

That’s truly the secret to successful self publishing – always have the next book started. Each book gives you an opportunity to correct the mistakes of the previous one, and hone your craft a little more. That’s not just in terms of writing, either – it’s the opportunity to use what you learned from the marketing of your other books to make this one a more attractive proposition.

The most successful self-published authors on Amazon aren’t necessarily more talented, productive, or better than you – they’ve just often been in this game longer, and have used that extra time to develop the skills and strategies needed to thrive. Be open minded, always keep learning, and never stop writing. 

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