John Wanamaker, the Gilded Age department store pioneer who was also something of a marketing genius made a famous observation about the money he spent on advertising. “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”
I would argue that while his observation is mostly still true today, we have many more tools to figure out which half was the wasted half.
Publishers are famously reluctant to advertise books and have traditionally relied on a small army of in house publicists to generate “earned media” for them instead. It makes sense. The cost of a single full page ad in The New York Times Book Review ($60-75,000) you can hire a great publicity manager to generate reviews, features, and grab TV and radio bookings for 20 books a year!
Nevertheless, publishers do run print advertisements for their big books on occasion, especially in the mystery thriller category where it’s so hard to generate reviews and other media. We sometimes work with one of the bigger advertising firms working in the publishing space and I often taunt them with a little smile, “Does print advertising really sell books?” “Of course!” they invariably say. But when I challenge them to prove it, they can’t.
But I don’t taunt them about online advertising because that’s the one place that I believe advertising your book can work. Online advertising is interesting because it pulls back the curtain and allows you to see which half of your money is best not spent. And it can be so cheap and so well targeted that I really think of online advertising as the Democratization of Advertising.
Online advertising runs the gamut from “roadblocking” a site with huge traffic (a roadblock is when you take over all the ads on a single site, say the New York Times Business page) which can be quite expensive and somewhat less targeted to running Facebook ads for pennies a click. There are two main ways that companies charge you to advertise: CPM or CPC. In my examples, the former is CPM and the latter is charged CPC.
With either CPM or CPC you can get analytics to see what your ads bought you. You can answer questions like: ”How many people potentially saw my ad?” or “How many people clicked on my ad?” With Facebook, you can ask “How many people clicked on my ad and then “Liked” my page. It may even be possible for you to see how many people bought the book after they clicked through to your ad.
That is a HUGE change from ol’ John Wanamaker’s age.
So while I believe Word of Mouth is still the best tool for selling your book, online advertising can help round out your publicity campaign. It can also help you figure out if your messaging is working. In my next post, I’ll talk about Google and Facebook advertising in more depth.