Saturday, March 30, 2013

Buying Advertising

There are tons of opportunities for free promotion for authors, but as the old saying goes "With free, you get what you pay for." It's chancy at best. For some of us, it's about all we can afford, but sometimes we have a bit of money and start thinking about buying a promotional package.

There are many places that will create promotional packages for authors. Likewise, there are a variety of advertising opportunities on websites, blogs, in
magazines, newspapers and ezines. How do you decide on advertising?

I spent several years selling advertising and then several more years helping people buy it. Here are a few things to consider:


You visit a book promotion website and you see that they will give you a promotional package for $100. The premium package is $150. The Super Colossal Premium package is $200. Another site has three packaged for $75, $95 and $125. The second site is the best value, right?

Not necessarily.  You know the old saying about comparing apples and oranges. To figure costs, you need a standard of measurement. That standard in advertising is Cost Per Thousand (CPM). Let's take an example to make this comparison clear.

You visit two websites of blog tour organizers. Both will place your information on 25 blogs. One charges you $100 and the other charges $150. So, the first is the best deal, right? Well, slow down, Amigos. We don't know from that description which is the best deal. The question we have to ask is how many "eyes on product" we are going to get. You have to dig deeper. What is the total average traffic to those 25 blogs?

Blog Tour A has 5,000 hits on average compared to 15,000 on Blog Tour B. Now for some basic math.

Blog tour A 100/5 = $20 Cost per 1000 impressions.

Blog tour B 150/15 = $10 Cost per 1000 impressions.

Blog tour B actually delivers more "bang for the buck" even though the package costs more.

Before buying any advertising find out the total readership or number of impressions that medium offers and then do the math.


Reach is related to cost since it refers to two factors: number of readers/viewers and number of ad impressions. Let's define each of these aspects of reach.

Unique Readers/Viewers/Visitors. This is the actual number of individuals who subscribe, buy, watch or surf to the publication. Don't confuse this number with total number of hits to a website. If one person visits a web site five times or visits only once and accesses five pages, that's five hits. If you want to know the number of people you will reach ask the ad representative to tell you the number of unique visitors to the website. The same goes for long term advertising in the broadcast media.

Total number of impressions. This is how many times someone sees/hears your promotional message. If five people visit a website and see your ad, that's five impressions. However, if one person comes to the website five times, that's five impressions as well. The number of impressions is important because advertising has a cumulative effect. The more often someone sees an ad, the more likely they are to investigate the product.

If you can find out these two numbers, you will learn a lot about the medium. Some media, like blogs and certain other websites, have impressions that outnumber unique visitors by many times. That means you have the same people visiting that website often. The same goes for a magazine with a good subscriber base and frequent publication.

What you want to have is some sort of balance. You want to have a medium that has a significant number of unique readers/viewers/listeners/visitors, but you also want something that will impact those people more than once over a period of time. Too few unique visitors and you don't have a large enough base to reach those few who are ready to buy. Too few return visits and you have to sell them on their first impression.


Not only is the number of people reached important, but also what people. You could be selling your book about dressmaking and find a magazine with hundreds of thousands of subscribers and a great cost per thousand, but if that magazine is Macho Man Weekly, it is unlikely to do you much good. There might well be some Macho Men who also make dresses, but probably not many.

A little common sense can go a long way. Ask yourself who the likely reader of your book is going to be. Don't say "everyone," because that isn't going to happen. I write cozy mysteries. So, an ad for my cozy mystery in a magazine geared toward World of Warcraft gamers is unlikely to be well received. However, an ad in a magazine that publishes who-dun-it short stories would.

Read the website/magazine. Look at the ads. If possible get back issues and see which ads have been running for some time. People wouldn't keep running their ad in a publication if it wasn't working. Are they for books similar to yours in terms of content or genre? If so, then that's probably a good place to advertise. If not, then go elsewhere.

Support Services

Sometimes you will find an advertising venue that has a great price, a good reach and the right demographics, but they don't provide much in the way of support. Are you comfortable creating your own ad? Do you know how to use Photoshop or some similar program to create a 200X300 pixel RGB 300 dpi resolution image. Do you know what that is? If you are buying radio or TV, can you produce your own commercial? Probably not. Will they provide these services as part of the price of the ad? Will you have to pay extra for it? Will they do it at all?

Other support services might include: analytics on your ad, click through counts, copywriting help, stock images, voice over, inclusion in other media like a radio station newsletter or a TV station website.

They say it pays to advertise. The truth is you pay to advertise. If you pay attention to these aspects of advertising, you can get more "bang for your buck."

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