Do book ads work?

Do book ads work? At least once a week an author will email me to ask if a specific website is a good place to advertise their book. I often tell them that online ads do not sell books. Ads create book awareness, but reader recommendations remain the primary reason a book sells. A Publisher Weekly review may help make a book known, but it’s those Amazon and Goodreads reviews that cause consumers to click and buy. (Note: a PW review is not an ad and thus carries more clout with readers.)

That said, at LPC we have advertised on any number of websites to see if we can find one that provides steady consumers for our books. Here are a few we’ve tried.

The Vessel Project – 4 stars

The good: Price. For around $21, VP will promote your book to their subscriber email list, tweet your ad, mention it on Facebook, and give your ad its own page for the duration of the promotion. (5 days, I think). Each book promotion ad is tweeted at least five times to a following of 30,000 readers for an estimated impression value of 150,000. VP followers may also retweet a particular ad. Add to that the 8,000 VP Facebook followers and you have exposure to close to 200,000 readers. If you’re an author who earns at least $1 per book sold, then you only have to sell twenty-one additional copies to cover the cost of your ad. The owner is responsive – always a plus.

The bad: Your book may not appeal to VP readers. We’ve seen upwards to seventy-five books sold in a day and as few as none. I suggest you subscribe to the VP newsletter, visit a book’s Amazon page the morning the newsletter releases, (8:am), check that book’s sales ranking, and review its ranking later in the day. If you see a noticeable increase in the book’s sales ranking, then take note of the author, genre, number of reviews and stars, and its sale price. That might give you some idea of which books work best for VP subscribers.

In summary: We are pleased with our advertising results on the Vessel Project.

Goodreads Ads – 3 stars

The good: Goodreads ads are great for book branding. I cannot say with certainty that each ad generates new sales for us, but for print copies, we noticed a slight uptick in sales when a book was featured on Goodreads. We normally select a 20-cent per click charge with a $5 daily budget.

The bad: Goodreads ads do not seem to help eBooks. For us, it’s primarily a print book advertising option. As more authors advertise, the less exposure your ad may receive. And if you have multiple books, this can be an expensive way to advertise.

In summary: Goodreads ads seem to create reader awareness. You only pay for clicks, not impressions, so for the money, these ads can be an effective way to get your book in front of readers.

GoodKindle – 2 stars

The good: Price. Each ad is only $19. Each book gets its own page and (so far) that page remains on their website, thus providing an evergreen, SEO affect.

The bad: We tried one book and sold one copy as a result of the ad. Maybe it was the time of year (right before Christmas) but we expected better results.

In summary: The owner of the site responded to our inquiries and that’s always encouraging.

Readers in the Know – 1 star

The Good: You can create an account with up to three books in your account. We took advantage of their 60-day free trail. The latest pricing on their site shows this service is around $30 US dollars. Each additional title (you can list up to three for $30) is around $1.50. The interface was easy to use and the ad ran as scheduled.

The bad: We did not see any increase in sales.

In summary: Maybe we tried this service too soon. I seem to recall the owner was building his business so he may not have had lots of traffic to the site. Still, even $30 for an ad that doesn’t generate any sales is too much to spend.


There are lots of websites that charge to advertise your book. The challenge is finding sites whose ads translate into sales. As a general rule, for ever dollar you spend on advertising you will need to sell one book to cover that expense. My general impression is that the real winners in online advertising are the sites selling the ads.

We’ve tried advertising on Facebook but Facebook has this weird policy that precludes any ad with text that exceeds a certain threshold. (I think it’s around 15% text). Since most book covers have a title, author name, and tagline or quote, our books fall outside of Facebook’s guidelines. (And I’ve yet to see Facebook deliver increase sales for the ads that did meet their guidelines.)

I’ve heard Bookbub is a great place to advertise your book but ad prices range from $55 to $1,700.

If you had success advertising your book online, I’d love to hear your thoughts.