Paid Ads for Authors: Ultimate Ads Guide for Self-Publishers

POSTED ON Oct 15, 2023

P.J McNulty

Written by P.J McNulty

Home > Blog > Business, Publishing > Paid Ads for Authors: Ultimate Ads Guide for Self-Publishers

In today’s competitive book market, paid advertising is an indispensable tool for self-published authors seeking to reach a wider audience and sell more copies. 

However, the landscape of digital advertising is complex, and without effective measurement and optimization, you can quickly drain your budget without seeing any return on investment.

So what should you do if you want to use paid ads to boost your book’s sales and success? 

Read on to discover some tried and tested ideas and action steps.

This complete guide to paid ads for authors covers:

  1. How to set clear objectives for your book’s paid ads campaign
  2. Which paid ad platforms are available for self-published authors?
  3. What are the main key performance indicators (KPIs) for a paid ads campaign?
  4. What are some of the major tools and analytics options for paid ads?
  5. How can authors use a/b testing for better paid ads performance?
  6. How to use ad targeting and retargeting to sell more books
  7. How to set an ad budget and choose a bid strategy for your book
  8. How to monitor and adjust your paid ad campaigns
  9. How to analyze your paid ads campaign after it's over

Let's start by exploring the overall purpose and objectives of a paid ads campaign.

How to set clear objectives for your book’s paid ads campaign

For self-published authors, understanding the purpose behind a paid advertising campaign is critical. 

Are you looking to increase direct sales, drive traffic to a landing page, or simply raise awareness of your book? 

A clear objective acts as a target, guiding the direction of the campaign and informing the metrics that will be most relevant.

Equally important is the distinction between branding and direct sales objectives. 

Branding campaigns aim to increase awareness and create a favorable impression of your book among potential readers. 

On the other hand, direct sales campaigns have the primary goal of generating immediate sales

Knowing which objective you’re pursuing will determine the type of ads you run and how you measure their success.

Which paid ad platforms are available for self-published authors?

Without the backing of a traditional publisher, you’re responsible for choosing and executing the marketing tactics that will move the needle for your book. 

Paid ads are no exception. 

The first thing on your list of paid ad tasks is to find the most suitable platform, or combination of platforms, on which to promote your book.

Some of the most popular paid ad platforms for authors include:

Amazon Advertising

This platform allows authors to display ads directly on Amazon, where readers are already looking to buy books. 

Pros: Highly targeted, especially for readers of specific genres. 

Cons: Can be competitive and costly for popular genres.

Facebook Ads

Through Facebook, authors can target specific demographics, interests, and behaviors

Pros: Wide reach and powerful targeting capabilities. 

Cons: Ad costs can add up, and the platform requires frequent monitoring and adjustment.

Google Ads

This platform displays ads on Google search results and partner websites. 

Pros: Vast reach and can capture intent-based searches. 

Cons: Can be expensive, especially for competitive keywords.


Designed specifically for authors, BookBub promotes deals on books to a massive email list of avid readers. 

Pros: Highly engaged audience specifically interested in book deals. 

Cons: Competitive and not all books are accepted for promotions.


Owned by Amazon, Goodreads is a social network for book lovers and offers advertising opportunities for authors. 

Pros: Direct access to a community of readers and book enthusiasts. 

Cons: Ads may have lower click-through rates compared to other platforms.

Of course, these five paid ads platforms are by no means the only place for authors to advertise their books. 

However, when you’re just starting out, it’s better to pick one of the most popular platforms for the purpose of learning the ropes. 

You can always choose to pursue more obscure options for your paid ads campaign further down the line. 

What are the main key performance indicators (KPIs) authors need to know about when running a paid ads campaign?

The only way to run an effective paid ads campaign for your book is to measure and collect performance data. 

But all data isn’t equal. 

You want to save yourself time and only measure the metrics that have the most direct relevance to your book and its performance. 

Here is a quick guide to some of the KPIs you can use to make better decisions about your paid ads campaign.

Click-through rate (CTR) 

Serves as a pulse check on your ad’s engagement. 

It represents the percentage of viewers who click on your ad after seeing it. 

A high CTR indicates that your ad resonates with your target audience, while a low CTR suggests a disconnect, necessitating a revision in ad design or targeting.

Conversion rate 

Your conversion rate is a critical metric for any direct sales campaign. 

It measures the percentage of users who take a desired action (like purchasing your book) after clicking on your ad. 

A low conversion rate could indicate issues with the landing page, pricing, or the ad’s messaging.

Return on ad spend (ROAS) 

ROAS is a profitability metric, indicating the revenue generated for every dollar spent on advertising. 

A ROAS greater than one indicates that the campaign is profitable, while a ROAS less than one points to a loss. 

This KPI is essential for you to ensure you’re not spending more on advertising than you’re earning back in sales.

Cost per click (CPC) and cost per thousand impressions (CPM) 

These two metrics are pricing models for ad campaigns. 

CPC charges you each time a user clicks on your ad, while CPM charges for every thousand impressions or views of your ad. 

Selecting the right model depends on your campaign’s objective: CPC is best when driving actions like sales, while CPM is ideal for awareness campaigns.

What are some of the major tools and analytics options for paid ads?

Tools and analytics offer self-published authors such as yourself the ability to track, measure, and optimize the performance of your paid ads, helping you achieve the best possible ROI.

Here are two major ways to get data and insight into your paid ads:

1 – Amazon Advertising reports 

Amazon provides a comprehensive breakdown of how your ads are performing directly where your books are sold. 

These reports give insights into metrics like impressions, clicks, sales, and advertising cost of sales (ACOS). 

By analyzing this data, you can discern which ads are most effective and which keywords or targets yield the highest returns.

2 – Pixel tracking

Pixel tracking. primarily associated with platforms like Facebook, is a tool that places a small piece of code on your website or landing page. 

This code, known as a pixel, collects data on visitors, allowing you to retarget them with ads in the future or track conversions from specific ads. 

It bridges the gap between the ad click and the user’s behavior on your site, ensuring you understand the full customer journey.

How can authors use a/b testing for better paid ads performance?

A/B testing, also known as split testing, is the practice of comparing two versions of an ad to determine which performs better. 

By systematically testing different elements of an ad, authors can refine their campaigns to achieve optimal results.

But which elements of your paid book ad should you consider tweaking in order to boost performance?

Here are three common ad elements that are perfect choices for split testing:

1 – Ad creative testing 

Split testing your ad creative involves comparing different visuals or graphics in ads to determine which resonates more with the audience. 

This can be as simple as testing two different book covers or as complex as comparing entirely different ad designs. 

The objective is to identify the imagery that captures attention and drives engagement.

2 – Headline testing 

Headline testing is crucial for peak ad performance as the headline is often the first (and sometimes only) piece of text the audience reads. 

By experimenting with different headlines, you can find the phrasing that best captures the essence of your book and intrigues potential readers.

3 – Call to action (CTA) testing 

CTA testing centers on the button or link you want users to click. 

Whether it’s “Buy Now,” “Read a Sample,” or “Learn More,” the phrasing and design of the CTA can significantly impact click-through rates. 

It’s vital to test different CTAs to determine which drives the most conversions.

How to use control and variant groups when split testing your paid ads

Setting up control and variant groups is a crucial aspect of A/B testing. 

The control group sees the original version of the ad, while the variant group sees the new version. 

By comparing performance between these groups, authors can isolate the impact of the change made in the variant ad and determine if it’s beneficial.

Measuring statistically significant results ensures that the outcomes of A/B tests are not just random occurrences but are genuinely due to the changes made in the variant. 

Tools like statistical significance calculators can assist you in determining if your test results are reliable and worth implementing on a larger scale.

Split testing tools for authors

Now that you know the basics behind the concept of split testing your paid ads, let’s delve deeper into the practicalities. 

To make the process of split testing aspects of your ad campaign easier, it's essential to choose the right tools and apps. 

Here are four options to help you gain insight into any split tests you run for your paid advertising efforts:

1. Optimizely

A user-friendly platform for website and app A/B testing.

2. VWO (Visual Website Optimizer)

Offers both split testing and multivariate testing options.

3. Unbounce

Primarily a landing page builder, it also offers robust A/B testing capabilities.

4. Google Optimize

A free tool from Google that integrates with Google Analytics for website testing.

It’s important not to try too many tests or variations related to your ad at first. 

We suggest honing in on one element to test and using one tool only initially.

Once you gain a level of familiarity and competence, you can always progress to using additional tools and running other split tests.

How to use ad targeting and retargeting to sell more books

Reaching the right audience is a cornerstone of any successful advertising campaign. 

Without proper targeting, even the most captivating ads can fall on deaf ears, leading to wasted ad spend and missed opportunities.

When it comes to ad targeting, several approaches can help you refine your audience and make sure only the most relevant people are targeted:

Demographic targeting

This strategy involves reaching potential readers based on factors such as age, gender, education level, and marital status. 

For instance, if you’ve written a young adult novel, you might focus your ads on the 13-24 age group.

Interest targeting

By focusing on users’ interests, hobbies, or affiliations, authors can reach readers more likely to be intrigued by their book’s theme.

A historical fiction novel might resonate with those interested in history groups or pages related to specific historical periods.

Behavior targeting

This approach aims at users based on their online behavior—like the websites they visit, the apps they use, or the content they engage with. 

An author of a cookbook, for example, might target users who frequently visit cooking websites or apps.

Retargeting is a powerful technique that allows authors to re-engage users who’ve already shown interest in their content. 

Whether someone visited your book’s landing page or clicked on an ad but didn’t convert, retargeting lets you present your ads to these potential readers again, increasing the likelihood of conversion. 

By reminding them of your book, you capitalize on their prior interest, making them more likely to make a purchase.

Now that you have a solid understanding of the fundamentals of paid advertising for your book, let’s delve deeper into the practical side.

How to set an ad budget and choose a bid strategy for your book

Establishing a daily or campaign budget ensures you don’t overspend while also allocating enough funds to gain meaningful data and results. 

It’s essential to be realistic about what you’re willing to spend versus the potential return on investment. 

Regularly reviewing and adjusting your budget based on campaign performance can help optimize spend and maximize returns.

When it comes to bidding, there are two primary strategies:

  1. Automatic Bidding

Platforms like Amazon or Facebook will automatically adjust your bids to get the most results for your budget. 

This method is user-friendly and relies on the platform’s algorithms to optimize performance. It’s particularly useful for those new to advertising or those who prefer a hands-off approach.

  1. Manual Bidding

This strategy offers more control, allowing advertisers to set their bids for specific actions or results. 

While it requires more monitoring and expertise, it can lead to better cost efficiency and more tailored campaign performance.

Now that you know the two main ways you can bid on paid ads for your book, let’s move beyond the basics and take a look at some tried and tested tips.

To optimize bids for best results, consider the following ideas:

1. Start with competitive bids to gauge market rates.

2. Regularly review campaign performance and adjust bids accordingly.

3. Consider the time of day and week when setting bids.

4. Use bid adjustments to increase or decrease bids for specific demographics or devices.

5. Test different bidding strategies to determine what works best.

6. Set maximum bid limits to ensure you don’t overspend.

7. Prioritize high-performing keywords or audiences with increased bids.

8. Reduce bids or pause low-performing ads to conserve budget.

9. Stay updated with industry benchmarks and adjust bids to stay competitive.

As time goes on, you’ll get a feel for what works for you. 

But feel free to use any or all of the above to guide your initial efforts.

Related: 3 Ts of Book Advertising: Simplifying Book Marketing

How to optimize and refine your paid book ads

Let’s look at some practical tips to help you get a better return on your investment in paid advertising.

The first thing to keep in mind is both the placement and format of your paid book ad have an impact on its performance. 

Placement dictates where your ad appears, be it in a sidebar, a news feed, or as an interstitial. 

Equally, the ad’s format—whether it’s a video, image carousel, or simple text—influences your audience’s experience and level of interaction.

With that in mind, what are some practical techniques you can use to optimize and improve your paid ad campaigns? 

1. Regularly analyze performance metrics to spot trends and areas for improvement.

2. A/B test new ad formats or placements against current ads to see which performs better.

3. Update ad visuals and copy seasonally or around events to keep them fresh and relevant.

4. Pay attention to audience feedback or comments on ads—they can provide direct insights into refinements.

5. If an ad is underperforming consistently, don’t hesitate to pause or replace it.

Make sure you’re regularly attending to the above five points – a failure to do so leaves a massive competitive vulnerability that a rival author could easily exploit.

Why landing page optimization matters

Getting a potential reader to click on your ad is only one step in the process. It’s a little like getting them through the door of your shop – an important step, but not enough to guarantee a sale.

Ensuring your landing page is as effective as possible is a key part of turning casual visitors into committed customers.

But what are some of the things you need to be aware of when optimizing a landing page that’s displayed post-click?

  • Your landing page needs to be fast – both in terms of its loading time and its performance after loading.
  • Your landing page should be responsive – that means scrolling in the right way, and having all buttons and other elements behave as your visitors expect when they click on or interact with them. 
  • You need to tailor your landing page around the promise you made the person currently visiting. Don’t get distracted. Simply aim to deliver what they expect in the quickest, most accurate way possible. 

If you need inspiration, check out one or more landing pages from your top three competitors. 

If you notice any commonalities, there’s a strong chance these have been tested and shown to work. 

Make sure to use them on your own landing page, albeit with your own unique twist!

How to monitor and adjust your paid ad campaigns

Regular monitoring is essential in the rapidly-changing world of paid ads. 

Even an effective ad can lose its power over time due to changing audience preferences or increased competition. 

By keeping a close eye on ad performance, you can ensure you’re not wasting your author budget on underperforming ads.

But when you notice a dip in performance, what should you do?

Whether it’s tweaking your ad’s copy, changing its target audience, or altering the bid, making real-time modifications based on performance metrics is an essential part of success.

Above all, scaling up successful campaigns and pausing or refining underperformers can make a significant difference in ad ROI. 

By allocating more budget to high-performing ads and refining or replacing the less effective ones, you can optimize your author ad spend to get the best results for your book.

How to analyze your paid ads campaign after it's over

After the conclusion of a campaign, it’s essential to evaluate its overall performance against the objectives set at the beginning. 

Was the goal to increase sales, or was it to enhance brand visibility? 

By comparing advertising outcomes with objectives, you will gain clarity on the campaign’s success and areas for improvement.

Aside from that, what are some ways you can adjust and improve your paid ads?

Here are five things to think about when conducting an analysis of a completed paid ads campaign:

1. Identify what worked best and replicate it in future campaigns.

2. Pinpoint areas of underperformance and diagnose their causes.

3. Seek feedback from the target audience for qualitative insights.

4. Compare results with industry benchmarks to gauge relative success.

5. Stay updated with platform updates or changes that can influence future campaigns.

You now have everything you need to have an effective start to your paid advertising efforts.

Are you ready to see how paid ads can help your book?

Paid advertising is a great way to get your name out into the world and draw attention to your new book and author career.

You now know everything you need to get started and have a good chance of success. 

Why not start today?

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