Please Do Not Pay Money for an Online Ad Until You Read This


Articles about the ineffectiveness of online advertising are a dime a dozen. (See this one and this other one, from just this past WEEK!)

I rarely advocate authors spend money on advertising, in part because it takes a specialized skill set to do it well. Plus you have to know how to reach your target market, and some authors don’t even know the definition of that term.

But if you think advertising might be helpful to you or your work, here’s an introduction on how to do it well.

  1. Is your ad meant to build awareness or to make a sale? Most authors I know are interested in advertising to boost sales. If that’s the case, keep reading.
  2. Does your ad have a call to action? You need one. A good example might be, “Download a free sample now,” or “Explore the TOC now.”
  3. If your ad has multiple versions or multiple frames, make sure the call to action appears in every frame and version.
  4. Provide as much info as possible about the pricing or promotional offer. Discount offers and discount codes attract attention.
  5. Refer to deadlines or limits in quantity, if applicable. That will persuade people to take immediate action.
  6. An effective ad is well-designed and balanced. If your ad is more than just a text-based ad (i.e., a display ad), you should probably hire a professional designer to ensure it’s easy to read and hangs together.
  7. When people click on your ad, they should go to a landing page that matches the message in the ad, and offers more detail about the offer or product. Sometimes it is appropriate to link directly to an Amazon page. Just make sure that Amazon page has all the information it should (full book description, about the author, praise/blurbs, reviews, etc).

Other tips

  1. If you have little or no experience copywriting, then gather as much feedback as possible from other authors and readers about the effectiveness of your message and call to action.
  2. Your ad needs to be targeted to an audience that will be receptive to your message. The biggest site is not the best; rather, choose a site that has a devoted fan base that you know will be interested in the type of work you’ve produced.
  3. Consider what other ads (or noise) you might be competing against on a particular site. The position of your ad also matters. If it’s buried at the bottom of the site, or in a sidebar with a ton of other stuff, it might not register with visitors. (This is particularly important if you’re paying a flat fee for the ad, rather than a rate based on how many clicks the ad gets.)
  4. If you don’t know what CTR means, or you can’t define “conversion,” you’re probably not ready to start experimenting with online ads. Educate yourself fully (see resources below) before spending a dime.


If you’ve tried online advertising before, where did you decide to advertise and why? Was it successful? Will you advertise again?

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