Self-serve Advertising: Not for Independent Authors


More and more sites that get a lot of Internet traffic are offering self-serve advertising. It is an easy-to-use, pay-per-click system that let’s you set up and run your own campaigns with whatever budget you have, large or small. You’d think this would be a great tool for independent authors, but that’s not the case.

Recently, I learned a little inside info on self-serve advertising; when I roll that into my own experience with using Google Adwords I can easily conclude that it’s a waste of time and money for independent authors. It’s really meant for businesses with a dedicated budget for marketing that have a variety of products with expected inventory turnover that they sell to trained consumers.

In my opinion, the only people who click on online ads and actually buy things are moderate to hardcore consumers. The mass of trained consumers out there shop more on impulse than on actual interest or need. We’ve all done it. Think about that new whatever you bought in the past because you weren’t feeling so great and the advertising convinced you it would somehow add meaning, identity, or promise to your life. But in most or all instances, the thing we bought didn’t fix our problems and it’s now sitting somewhere collecting dust (like my yoga matt, a fancy teapot, and the industrial sized mortal and pestle that Brooks bought me for my birthday that he now refers to as an art object).

The publishing industry focuses on sales during the initial launch of a book, and if those sales don’t hit a certain number the book doesn’t get much of a marketing push afterward. So many marketers target those moderate to hardcore consumers during the launch period, but because of this method most of the copies that are sold or given away for free just sit on people’s physical or virtual shelves, or worse end up in the trash or recycling bin. And some of the people who do read copies of the book end up not being the book’s audience, so of course they aren’t going to like it.

Word of mouth is still the most effective means of promotion, but it only works if the book is good and gets read by people who are genuinely interested in it (aka the intended audience). I’ve decided to take a grassroots approach; I pound the virtual pavement and reach out to people and communities who are into stories like The Alchemist’s Theorem. I don’t focus on hitting a high sales number during the launch period, instead I focus on consistently growing my audience by seeking out and connecting with people and communities who are into fantasy, alchemy, and an autistic protagonist.

Yeah, it’s slow going, but not at all discouraging because 99% of the people who read my book love it, so my interactions with readers are very positive. And my audience is always growing and never shrinking.

So in conclusion, I don’t bother with self-serve advertising because that’s not where my audience spends their time. Instead, they are hanging out in the countless communities scattered across the Internet. Finding them has become a foraging game, and each new-found audience member feels like a giant reward.


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