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3 “Great” Book Marketing Ideas That Were a Waste of Money

Indie author Duke Diercks talks about Facebook Ads, digital marketing, and how he “stalked” Adam Sandler…

Small Town HoIf you’re paying attention, I put the word great in quotes. That’s because perhaps I alone thought these ideas were great – at least one of them anyway!

Here’s the deal: as a newly self-published author, I was eager (read: desperate) to get my book noticed. I also have a background in digital marketing so I am familiar with certain online advertising avenues. Immediately, I came up with two ideas to get some exposure:

  • Facebook Advertising
  • Advertising on a High-Traffic Blog

The third idea I had – the one that maybe only I thought was great, came when I huddled with an old college friend who talked me into writing my book in the first place. We thought: “Wouldn’t it be great to get a celebrity to read the book and then talk about it?”

Of course we weren’t delusional enough to think that we could get a celebrity to actually read the book. But we were delusional enough to think that we could get one of their underlings to read it and then maybe pass it on to their celebrity. So we hatched a plan.

(Although I’ve already spoiled this story in the headline, I’ll take you through each in detail, and for the first two explain why I think the campaigns failed, and why it might possibly work for you.)

Facebook Advertising:

As a digital marketer I knew that due to algorithm changes, Facebook has drastically limited the reach of someone’s “pages.” In the old days, you could get a fair amount of exposure just posting organic updates to your page. Now however, the reach is very limited, enticing people to either “boost a post” or take out an ad. (Also, even if the reach was unchanged you were limited by your audience size!)

I decided then to take out an ad. The beauty of Facebook ads is that they let you target specific users by their location, age, sex, interests etc. Since my book is a humorous memoir about relocating to rural northern Idaho, I chose to target adults, 30-55 years old, living in the West, who liked reading and humor. Seemed like a home run to me.

Here’s what happened:

  • I did, in fact, get quite a few people to see the ad.
  • A ton of those people just “liked” it – something that has ZERO benefits (you either want them to click on the ad and buy the book or at the very least “share.”)
  • The ad had zero effect on book sales.

Now, the ad itself wasn’t terribly expensive. Another benefit to FB is that you can limit how much you are willing to spend each day and so your exposure is not that great. You can see this in the screenshot below:

The question is: would it work for you? My answer: maybe. I think it depends a certain amount on genre- from what I’ve read, romance books, for example fare much better with advertising than a memoir about small towns. Also, if you were to use Facebook, I would try to get a post or mention on a page that has a ton of followers, or advertising through someone whose Facebook presence inspires trust.

At the end of the day, I spent about $100 on Facebook advertising with little to show for it.

Advertising on a High-Traffic Blog:

This one, too, seemed like a no-brainer. I had success advertising products on blogs, using banner ads, and advertising on email newsletters, so I was confident. I had two criteria: the first was that the blog had to have a lot of traffic, the second was that the blog had to tie-in to my book. (So, I wasn’t considering advertising my humorous memoir on a debt-relief blog!)

Using a site like Alexa, and googling different keywords, I found what I thought to be the perfect blog. The site had advertising, was well-known, and in their media kit exposed their traffic numbers: an average of 100,000 visitors per month!

I took out an ad for $300 per month. Also, rather than just have a link to Amazon, I got fancy and set up my own landing page for the link. (Don’t worry if you don’t know what that is – just think of it as its own dedicated page about the book, some review blurbs, my picture and a “buy now” button.)

Here’s What Happened:

  • I got over 42,000 people to see the landing page!
  • I got ZERO sales from it.
  • I then changed the price of the book for just the blog readers to $.99
  • I also gave away a free chapter of the book.
  • I got ZERO sales again.

Would it work for you? My answer: again – maybe. Not to sound like a broken record, it might depend on the genre. Also, if you have a great blurb by someone well-known, or a review from a publication, I think that would help a lot as well. (I had neither.)

Now we come to my ace-in-the-hole. The Celebrity Outreach!

I’ve already explained the rationale (as flimsy as it may be) so I’ll tell you how I did it:

I used a website called Contact Any Celebrity. The site costs $47 per month but they have a free 7-day trial. I signed up and did all of my research in 7 days ( I may be deluded but am not a complete moron.)

I made a list of comedians, comedy producers, and talk show hosts since my book is humor based. I then researched them as well as their agents, publicists and anyone else that seemed relevant. I put all of these in a spreadsheet with their addresses. (If the address seemed like a real residence I used Google maps to take a look at their house – just for kicks.)

Then I wrote a letter to them about the book and enclosed it along with my “sell-sheet” and the book itself and mailed it away, waiting for the hundreds of phone calls!

I did get one call: it was from Adam Sandler representative asking whom to send the book back to. They told me they weren’t allowed to read it!

Then I got this review on Amazon scolding me for doing what I did (and then apparently liking the book!)

Confused, I reached out to a college buddy who works as a producer in Hollywood. He explained that because of liability reasons, only works submitted by agents etc. can be accepted. (This makes sense: if somehow they were to create a show about my topic – I might be able to sue them and say they stole it.)

I spent approximately $450 buying the books and paying for the postage. The results other than those mentioned above?

Crickets. Zero sales. Zero mentions.

Of course, I’ve had marketing successes. But, these three strategies were largely a waste of time and money – especially contacting celebrities!