The Power of Advertising

It’s only August 13th and so far I’m having my second-best month ever with self-publishing.  I’d love to say that it’s because sales have organically grown over time and that with each title I release I see a little bit larger audience purchasing it and driving it up the charts.

Unfortunately, that is not the case.  (I had a follow-up release to a popular title recently.  It did well for about three days and then flat-lined.)

This month I’m seeing sales across four separate pen names, two that haven’t even published anything new this year.

So why the sudden increase in sales?


I put my novel back in Kindle Select and signed it up for Amazon’s pay-per-click ads.  And…$100 worth of advertising has led to 26 sales and 13,000 pages read on a title priced at $3.99.  (On a title that hadn’t sold a single copy on Amazon in a few months.)

So, I spent $100 and I made, at this point, $138, so $38 in profit.  (Assuming .005 cents per page read.)

I also ran a free giveaway recently on the first in a series.  That also cost me $100.  So far?  I’ve made $200 from it.

So, I spent $100 and I made at least $200, so $100 in profit.

Now, does that mean that you can just advertise anything and make a profit?  HELL NO.  I spent $80 to advertise a title back in March or April and I think I made $10.  And I’ve spent $5 on an ad and not made that back.

You have to have a product that enough people want for advertising to be profitable.

What it does tell me is that you can have a product that’s packaged well enough to sell and is engaging enough to attract readers and still not make sales unless you put in the extra effort to get that title in front of your audience.

Now, I will say that both of those titles I just mentioned sold well initially without any promotion.  They didn’t knock it out of the park, but they had much better sales numbers for week 1 than anything else I published.

So I had some early hints that advertising might be beneficial.

What does this mean for anyone else struggling with this self-publishing thing?

I’d say if you have a title that you put out there and you saw twenty-plus sales the first week (not to your friends and family) and it’s not selling anymore, then try promoting it.  Put $100 or $200 into advertising it and see what you get.

(Remember, scared money don’t make money.  You gotta pay for the advertising to get the results.)

You can promote other titles that didn’t seem to sell well initially.  But, chances are, they won’t pay for their advertising as easily.  Another two titles I’ve been seeing sales on this month were both ones that didn’t really do much on release. With some advertising this month I now have 10-12 sales on each one and some pages read as well.  Probably never going to pay for their $100 advertising costs, but they didn’t completely sink.

I hesitate to tell anyone to spend too much promoting a single title that isn’t performing well.  I know if I’d done that back in 2013 when I published my first titles, it would’ve been a waste of my money.  My formatting was a little screwy and so were my covers.  I couldn’t see it at the time. I needed to learn and improve before I understood what changes were necessary.

So, this is not a GO ADVERTISE AND YOU WILL FIND SUCCESS post.  I don’t think that’s true for all titles.  And the earlier someone is in their publishing journey, the less likely it is to be true.  But, if you saw initial glimmers of success and now they’ve died?  Yeah, give it a go. Find a way to get back in front of your audience of potential readers.

About M. H. Lee

M.H. Lee is a speculative fiction writer currently residing in Colorado whose stories are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes darkly funny, but hopefully always thought-provoking and entertaining.
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