Marketing That Clicks: What Works On You?

I usually ignore Facebook ads that pop up in my newsfeed, but today, I saw one that made my heartbeat quicken.

The ad was from the Facebook page of Bulgari, the maker of several perfumes I adore, announcing the release of a new Omnia fragrance.

“Omnia Indian Garnet,” it said. “Click to Experience.”

Indian Garnet? It sounded heavenly. I began to salivate, imagining a warm, heady juice, rich with the spices of India. I wanted to smell it! NOW! But how could I experience a fragrance online?

The ad promised I could. I was intrigued. So I clicked.

I was swept away to a special page on the Bulgari site with a form that promised me access to special events, if only I give them a few personal details. “Try the Fragrance,” it reiterated at the top of the form, still promising a sniff, only now it was becoming clear to me that the perfume wouldn’t actually emanate from my speakers. But would they send me some? A little vial, perhaps, for me to hoard like chocolate in the vegetable drawer?

I wanted it! So I gave them my name and address, all the while daydreaming about what might show up in the mail for me.

Obviously, I was a sucker. I know it. But I don’t care. I love their work, and I’d give them a hunk of my hair if they put me on a mailing list for free perfume samples. (I doubt that’s what they’re doing–it’s more likely that they’ll mail out a host of perfume cards, which are much cheaper).

But the whole experience got me thinking about Valerie Bowman’s article in the most recent issue of the Romance Writer’s Report. (Online copy here, RWAย membership and sign-in required). In “Painless Advertising for Busy Authors,” Ms. Bowman runs through a variety of helpful information, and at the end, she quotes indie author and advocate J.A. Konrath it when it comes to marketing, he doesn’t do anything that doesn’t work on himself.

Until today, I don’t think I’d ever clicked on a Facebook ad. So what was special about that particular ad?

1. I already loved the brand.

2. It announced something new and exciting.

3. It promised special access, perhaps even something for free.

That tells me that when it comes to clickable ads, at least, I need a reason to click. In fact, I probably need at least two out of three of the above elements to get my fingers to twitch.

For our published readers: Many of us are using Facebook ads, but are we seeing results? Are we incorporating at least three of these elements into our online marketing efforts? What types of freebies or special access are you offering? Facebook allows you to narrow your audience quite finely; what options do you select to be sure that you’re reaching potential fans? If you aren’t using Facebook ads, what are you doing to reach out to new readers online?

For our yet-to-be-published readers: What works for you? What have you clicked on recently? Do you ignore newsfeed ads? What about sidebar ads? Do you ever click on ads placed on book-centric sites, such as Goodreads, or any of the many review sites?

Let’s chat about what works and what fizzles when it comes to clickable ads!

47 responses to “Marketing That Clicks: What Works On You?”

  1. June Love says:

    Jamie, this is an interesting topic for me, and I’m looking forward to hearing what others will say. Sometimes I wonder how much online marketing is age related. By this I mean, for those like me who are “more seasoned” in life, how likely are we to take the time to follow a link? Or, how likely are we to trust a link?

    I do think FB has done a lot for people my age, but I’m beginning to see that less of my friends (talking about HS/College friends, not writing friends) are not online as much as they were at the beginning. Some are busy with grandchildren, some have retired and are busy traveling, and some I believe has just lost interest. I have to admit I’m one of those who rarely go to FB. I know this will have to change at some point, but seriously, there needs to be more hours in a day because FB can really use them up. ๐Ÿ™‚

    As for me personally, I don’t click on links. I have a mental block against them from the time I worked for an internet company. If I do see a great deal offered and it’s something I’m very interested in, then if I have the time, I’ll visit the product website in an attempt to find the deal that way.

    You’ve given us a lot to consider, Jamie. Great job!

    • It sounds like you’re one of the tougher nuts to crack, June. With your experience at an internet company, you’re probably immune to most pitches.

      I’ve noticed the same thing with Facebook. I simply don’t have many friends below the age of 30 (if that!), and yes, they don’t seem to be posting very often. Maybe we’ve all taken to heart the warnings about posting pics of kids on Facebook, or maybe we’re all busy.

      Ideally, we’re all connecting so well in real life that we don’t feel the need to connect online as much. I certainly do miss my long-distance friends, but I hope they’re all just too busy having tea with each other to bother with Facebook!

    • Diana Layne says:

      Yes. This is me. FB is a time suck and I try to spend minimal time there. Some days I don’t succeed. I also do not click on ads ever. Like June, if it sounds intriguing, I’ll search it out on my own. But I can’t really think of anything I’ve seen that would make me take that much effort. I’m a tightwad deluxe though. I have reread The Tightwad Gazette many times and keep my copy close at hand, lol.

  2. jbrayweber says:

    I’m interested to hear what others say. I’ve tried different things that would not be too hard on my tiny checkbook based on the success of others. I’ve not had the same success, for sure. Perhaps it’s because my books fit into a niche, and not for a wider audience (I thought everyone loved pirates! lol) It’s a crap shoot. What works for one doesn’t work for all. But there is always a chance I’ll strike gold. That’s why I’m willing to keep trying new things, even if that means staying above the curve.

    Great post, Jamie!

    • I’ve spent some small change on ads, although I confess that I went a little crazy on the day I was the Kindle Daily Deal in the UK. Might have been worth it — I got to #5 overall and had a great sales day. The results continue to ripple.

      What DOES work on you, Jenn!? Are you like June and Tammy — another tough nut?

      • jbrayweber says:

        I haven’t found anything that works for me. Part of this is that I don’t have the time to do the research needed or the capital to put towards new ideas. All I do is try to keep up my presence on social media. *sigh* If only I had the answers.


  3. Tamara Hogan says:

    Jamie, I’m so glad you wrote about this.

    Re: Konrath, and his statement that when it comes to marketing, he doesnโ€™t do anything that doesnโ€™t work on himself? I shuddered in recognition when I read that statement in Bowman’s RWR story, because…honestly? NOTHING works for me. I don’t click on online ads. Ever. I loathe being marketed to. Nothing I’ve yet discovered provides enough incentive for me to participate in the data exchange that goes on behind the scenes with each and every click.

    That being the case, I feel hideous internal conflict about promoting my own work. I know I should be doing more, and I know that others don’t share my abhorrence, but promoting feels…hypocritical to me: If I hate these approaches myself, why should I inflict them upon others? So what little promoting I do tends to be at conferences and at in-person events, where people can approach me in person if they’re interested.

    I honestly feel so out of synch with our industry, like a writer out of time. I think I need a t-shirt that says #PROMOFAIL. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Can’t wait to read what others say!

    • Ah, Tammy! You are every ad person’s worst nightmare.

      Honestly, I thought I was tough, but man, that Bulgari ad just hit me where I’m soft. Right in the nose.

      Have you EVER collected a promo item at a conference that stayed with you? Maybe you never actually bought the book, but you used the item? I have several like that. I love little notepads and high-quality bookmarks. I’ve definitely made the tea that someone (Nancy Naigle? It’d be perfect for her…) gave away a few years ago. And I like PENS.

      For conference season this year, I’m thinking about putting together small packets of seeds for herbs found in the region where my two novels largely take place. My work is complimented for it’s strong sense of place, so it seems appropriate.

      I have a few cherished “promo” things that authors have given me personally, but that’s different. I adore drinking out of my “Jane and the Damned” mug from Janet Mullany!

      • Tamara Hogan says:

        –> Have you EVER collected a promo item at a conference that stayed with you?

        Stayed with me? Yes. I too love pens, and I pick up a couple of tubes of lip balm at every conference I attend. Chocolate’s always good. ๐Ÿ˜‰ But…does it even register whose name is on the promo item? Honestly? No. Just last weekend, I found a gallon-sized Ziploc bag of the swag items I picked up at RWA National last year…sitting in the bottom of my closet, abandoned, since last July.

        I know! I’m horrible!

        The one exception I can think of is Darynda’s 5 x 7 “Grave” wire-bound notebooks. They’re great, usable notebooks, with her cover on them, but the reason I use them, keep them, is because I know Darynda personally. I’d already bought the books.

        Don’t mind me, everyone. I realize I’m an outlier. ๐Ÿ˜‰

        • Elizabeth Langston says:

          I gave out lip balm for my first book. It was the swag that always disappeared the fastest. So it was quite popular–but my publicist is skeptical that it actually sold any books ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Tammy, when you design the t-shirt, let me know and I’ll order one. I’m in the exact same boat. I hate marketing, have left very good jobs because they required us to market to our customers (I left when they started making us stay after work and cold call our customers – uh, no thanks).

      Truthfully, I’ve had about as many in-person sales as I have online. I have yet to figure out what to do to make the ebook sales jump. Changing covers has come up to see if it will appeal to a wider audience. Like Jenn said, what works for one person won’t necessarily work for another, and it’s even tougher if you’re working with a small (read: non-existent) budget.

      If I figure out a fool-proof method, I’ll let you know!


  4. Marketing? Oh, how I wish I had the answers! LOL

    I’ve clicked on very few Facebook ads, and usually it’s something I need or am shopping for currently (like a dress for conference – man, I hate shopping for clothes). If it’s something that would make my life easier, and seems plausible, I might follow the link. For instance, regarding June’s comment above, if I saw an ad for “get more hours in the day” I would click on it in a heartbeat! LOL

    • So, you’re vulnerable to ads featuring items you need, or are already seeking. Not so much wish-fulfillment (like me and my Bulgari fragrance, which I certainly wasn’t seeking), but rather need-fulfillment.


  5. Laurie Kellogg says:

    Great post, Jamie!

    I must admit I’m clueless when it comes to Facebook ads. One of the reasons I am is that I also subscribe to J.A. Konrath’s advertising philosophy. I’ve NEVER clicked on a Facebook Ad, therefore I don’t buy them. I have boosted posts however.

    This is also why I’ve never done promotional bookmarks or pens is because I’ve NEVER bought a book because I’ve received a freebie. I save my advertising dollars for CHEAP things that have worked on me.

    • I think that Bulgari blip was my first one. They really got me good!

      Sometimes I feel like we authors bring a bunch of swag to conferences mostly because we think we’re supposed to, or because we want to have something physical to give to people when we’re otherwise flustered for words. I’ve never done it, but I figure it feels pretty good to talk past the goody table and see your cover, or to see people using your swag.

      Somewhere else, perhaps again in Ms. Bowman’s article, I’ve seen it said that your best giveaway is your book. Cherry Adair is renowned for giving away books like they were candy – to her hairdresser, cab drivers, anyone! She actually just opened up her own online bookstore, and in her Facebook announcement, she noted that her accountant hopes she can sell more books than she gives away.

  6. Hope Ramsay says:

    Oh boy, you’ve got me started.

    Facebook ads happened because Facebook went public and needed to figure out how to generate revenue and please its stockholders who paid too much for the IPO.

    About the same time FB it started pushing ads, it also changed the way fan pages work. So you bust your butt to get 2000 likes on your page and that now means absolutely nothing. Unless someone comes onto your page and likes a post or posts a comment or interacts with you a couple of times, they will NEVER EVER see your posts in their Facebook news stream.

    After Facebook did this, they then offered you the option of advertising, pushing you to spend this money, which, actually does very little to a) sell books or b) boost engagement on your fan page.

    Ugh! It was at that time that I decided Facebook was next to useless as a means to sell books.

    Do I still spend time posting there? You bet.
    I use FB to connect with the fans who are interested enough to interact with me. And that’s useful. Those fans sell books. And they buy your next release. And the game is to get them engaged on your page so that they click and like the stuff you post. That way your stuff gets into their news feed for free.

    I would never spend money on FB advertising. It’s a total waste of time and it only gets you people who are not truly engaged with your brand.

    • Oh, that’s right. I almost forgot how it USED to be!

      Yes, I honestly don’t use my Facebook page anymore. No one sees my posts, and I feel like a sucker whenever I boost something. I wonder how Facebook will evolve, whether people will just stop using it altogether, or what new thing will spring up to take its place.

  7. Like you, I pretty much ignore ads except if they’re for something I’m already interested in. With books, it doesn’t necessarily mean I have to know and like the author (though that helps). But if I don’t know the author, the ad would have to make it clear the book is in a genre I like with a premise that speaks to me.

    • I figure we’re all mostly like this — I certainly am. That’s why it’s hard for authors breaking in to a new genre to get clicks.

      Like Jenn. There are people who like pirates and pirate movies, but turning those consumers (who might not even be regular readers) into fans of pirate books is harder than finding readers who are willing to buy more apocalyptic YA. In her Facebook ad options, I imagine Jenn struggles a bit to find similar authors whose fans she can target. Sure, she can try to cross-reference people who’ve “liked” some of the pirate movie pages with people who’ve “liked” the activity “reading,” or whatever, but it’s more of a stretch than a contemporary romance writer just selecting “target people who like Jill Shalvis.”

  8. Elizabeth Langston says:

    I clicked on a Facebook ad exactly once. It was a celebrity expert that I trusted…up until I clicked on that ad. The stupid thing took over my browser. It took me a couple of minutes to regain control– I don’t trust the expert anymore and I will never click on a FB ad again.

    Teens don’t really spend much time on FB, so it’s not a good place to promote. I have a presence on twitter and tumblr instead.

    • Yes, that’s a big problem with Facebook ads..or any ads. Do you really ever know where it’s taking you?

      I certainly hesitated before clicking on that Bulgari ad, wondering if it was legitimate. I took an intentional chance, though. Many, many people aren’t willing to do that, especially if they haven’t heard of you. I know I wouldn’t. I sometimes even see ads for friends of mine, but I don’t click on them, partly because I know they might be charged for the click, but also because there’s always the question of whether or not someone’s just trying to get my goat.

      And…teens aren’t spending much time on Facebook? THEN WHO IS??

  9. Kim Law says:

    I don’t click on a lot, but I will occasionally. I think along with your three items, Jamie, if it’s attractive it will catch me eye. Then depending on what it says, I might click.

    I should be more skeptical, I’m an ex-IT person. I know what people will do with their links! But I also like to find new things so sometimes I click. I just pay well for virus protection ๐Ÿ˜‰

    As for whether I buy after I click? Rarely. But word of mouth matters a lot. I’ve now seen their name/their item. When I see it again, will I buy? Who knows. I’ve been known to.

    Also, as for ads popping up, even if I don’t click, again, it’s providing name recognition. See a name/product enough, I start to wonder if it’s something so great that I just need to try it. And yes, this has gotten me over the years. Both in other products and in buying books.

    I’m marketing person’s dream ๐Ÿ˜€

    • MMmmm, it sounds like you’re adding that extra element of “surprise me!” You like to be delighted by new things, and aren’t afraid of taking chances.

      I get a bit like that on occasion. I still rarely actually click on an ad. I’m more likely to type in the web address, or search for a product on Amazon.

      I know — I’m denying these sites their referral fees! I’m the worst.

      • Kim Law says:

        I DO like to be delighted by new things! And bad Jamie. Won’t even let a company get their referral fee. Tsk tsk.

        But then, sometimes I’m evil and click a FB ad just so the person has to pay for the click ๐Ÿ˜‰ Shhh…

        • Oooh, you know what you’d love?

          My husband had me getting it for a while. Once a month, they send you a little box full of samples, like makeup, skin care, hair care. It was a lot of fun to open it up and see what they’d sent.

          And I just found out about a personal shopping site that does something similar —

          I like getting little surprises in the mail, although I think the stichfix thing can get pricey. Don’t know if I’m going to try it, but their questionnaire was fun.

  10. Ingrid says:

    I click almost no ads. Actually, I run ad blocker. I don’t want Facebook ads telling me how I can have help passing better for a woman. Or how to meet Christian singles. (I’m married and not religious.) I despise being marketed to and think that billboard ads along highways should be outlawed. I want a break from being told what I want/need/must have constantly! I watch tv on hulu and will mute my laptop and go to another page while the ad plays. I just don’t care any more. I am as vulnerable as the next person to marketing, but I also know that stuff does not equal happiness. In fact, too much stuff just stresses me out because I have to manage it all, and that feels like a huge waste of time. Happiness comes from my connections to people–my relationships, my community. (My pets probably, too.) And connecting to people and myself through stories.

    Stories, of course, mean that books are a different story for me on the subject of marketing. It’s all about the cover for me. Beautiful cover = I will most likely click. In fact, all it takes is a beautiful cover for me in RT or something to go to the author’s website and look on amazon. That doesn’t mean I’ll buy, especially in light of the fact that I am feeling guilty over my shelves and shelves and shelves stuffed with TO READ books, but I put stuff on my private wishlists all the time.

    • Ingrid says:

      I always say I want to live inside a perfume commercial. Beautiful people prancing around some beautiful location, usually the beach or some palace with flowing curtains or something. No internet, no phone, no marketing. Just connection to place and to people.

      But I don’t need to buy the (probably toxic) perfume to get that. Just rent a cabin far away somewhere, pack up my likely-reluctant screen-addicted (but very lovable) husband, take a couple or a dozen books, and take a break from the screens and phones and stuff and just come back to what’s important.

      • Who wouldn’t rather take a vacation than do…almost anything else? But for many of us, vacations are unimaginable luxuries. So I enjoy accumulating little pleasures, like small perfume samples or high-quality truffles, especially ones that don’t take up much space. These tiny escapes aren’t dissimilar from books. I eat or breathe them in, just as I’d read, and my mind drifts. My body shifts. They are breaks from reality, just like a vacation, only in smaller doses.

        But I enjoy these things just as I relish working in my (very small) garden, watching the tulips pop open and our seeds turn into sprouts, as my son putters next to me, dirt under his fingernails, joy in his eyes.

  11. Katie Graykowski says:

    As far as ads go, I’ve done several. I advertised in the RWR-total flop, don’t do it. I’ve advertised on Goodreads-total flop, don’t do it. I’ve tried Facebook-again, total flop, don’t do it. I’ve tried Storyfinds—They are so nice, but I’d have to give it a thumbs down too. The two best marketing tools I’ve found are BookBub and the Amazon Count Down Deals. Both require you to lower the price of your book, but it’s worth it.

    I’d love to know what works for other people.

    • I haven’t heard of Amazon Count Down Deals. Off to Google…

      What works for you? Have you ever clicked on on an ad at one of the sites you mentioned?

  12. I’ve never clicked on Facebook ads. Don’t think I even notice them. I do click on BookBub though, but only if I’m hunting for a book to read.

    • BookBub must be something that spawned in the last two years – AKA, my extended maternity leave — and so I have no idea what it is. But the Rubies are always talking about it…I really need to Google it up…

  13. Jamie,

    Thanks for mentioning my article. I’m so glad you found it thought-provoking. I’ve become *obsessed* with this idea lately as well. In fact, I have been seriously considering when I buy a new book (especially if it’s an unknown author or an author I don’t normally read) what actually made me buy it. The answer the last TWO times was the title. Which I find interesting. One book was called, “Ridiculous!” It’s a Regency romance (my favorite) but the minute I saw the title I thought, “Oh, yes! I need to see what that’s about.” I didn’t really even look at reviews or anything else just Regency romance + amazing title = sale.

    I recently asked readers on FB what made them buy books. I specifically asked about the titles and many of them said they don’t pay attention to titles but I have been lately. So if I go with Konrath’s advice, I’m really going to begin paying a lot more attention to my titles. A fascinating topic and I could go on and on for days…unfortunately. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • I was just thinking a little bit more about your comment, and YES, I am suckered in by a good title!

      While researching erotica, I came across several books by Colette Gale with great titles, like “Entwined: Jane in the Jungle (The Erotic Adventures of Jane in the Jungle: Part 1).”

      WTF, right? I mean, if it’s well-done, how neat! And she has a bunch based on classic stories, like “Bound by Honor: An Erotic Novel of Maid Marian.”

      I almost don’t want to read them, because they have gorgeous covers and great titles, and since I’ve never heard of them before, I’m afraid they suck.

      • You should read them. She also writes amazing historical vampire books as Colleen Gleason, and is FANTASTIC

      • I bought Ridiculous several weeks ago and haven’t begun reading it yet. I may not read it for a while but I did BUY it and that’s what I’m interested in. Thinking about what makes me actually buy a new book (that’s not a friend’s, etc.) Thanks for lively discussion. So interesting!

  14. Ha! And now you’ve made me go and find “Ridiculous!” It does look like fun. ๐Ÿ™‚

    So, I don’t buy tons of books. I tend to have lots of free books sitting around, from old conferences, and I just pick them up at random. Or (this season, at least) there’s always something to judge.

    I rarely buy an author without knowing who they are first, and usually without already being a fan. So how does a new author sell to ME without being a personal friend, or at least an online acquaintance?

    I read the RWR cover-to-cover, and I definitely find new authors that way, but not usually from an ad. For example, I recently sought out “The Haunting of Maddy Clare” because of the author’s interview in the last issue. I’d heard of it before, and had wanted to buy it, but had forgotten. The interview reminded me to buy, so I suppose that’s a case of multiple impressions finally making an impact.

    I sometimes try to branch out as a reader, so I’ll research who sells the most in a genre, or who is the founding mother, and try to read a bit of their work. Like I’m trying to understand erotica right now, so I just bought a Selena Kitt novella. I actively sought her out, though. I think I finally found her via an interview on the Smashwords blog.

    And then sometimes, when a book gets really big, I’ll read it to see what the fuss is about. It’s usually well after everyone else has already read it.

    None of those things are particularly within an author’s control, except perhaps the authors who were interviews have made an effort to make themselves available to the media. Perhaps they sent out media kits. Perhaps they contacted the magazine/blog directly to see if an interview could happen. I don’t know, and obviously their existing success is what made those interviews happen. Journalists don’t usually interview nobodies.

  15. Fascinating topic, Jamie, and for writers – published and unpublished – these days it is a vital one. What makes me buy a book from a new author is word of mouth recommendations from people I trust and/or a title or blurb that peaks my interest.

    I do collect swag at conferences and I do actually read the information on it. I have a great crystal looking nail file from Robin Perini. I have had it for a couple of years and people ask me about it when they see me use it because it is so unusual. I don’t know if they followed through, but when I explained it was from a writer and I mentioned a few of her books I did see those people go onto their Kindles and do a search.

    I don’t click a lot of Facebook ads because they end up being entirely too much hassle.

    • Word of mouth and titles/blurbs — two very different things!

      I’m a sucker for a great cover, which includes titles and blurbs. But that’s the marketing department at work, and certainly some fantastic books suffer from terrible covers/titles/blurbs. I used to work for a publishing company, so I pay attention to how a book is packaged. I notice when it’s done exceptionally well. I guess I’m rewarding cover artists and copywriters and editors with my dollars!


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