Part 13: Advertising and Expectations

The Definitive Guide To Self Publishing

A Goal Without A Plan…

Your book is published. You’ve ordered some copies. It’s available for POD (Print on Demand). You’ve made your author profiles across the web. Now it’s time to start selling beyond friends and family! But how do you want to do that? And what do you want to achieve?

In this section I will go over the benefits and pitfalls of paid advertising and the importance of setting realistic goals that you want to achieve.

Be Honest With Yourself

Aside from friends and family, it’s relatively safe to assume that at this moment no one knows who you are and no one knows you have written a fantastic novel. That also means no will really be inclined to purchase something that has zero credibility and zero reviews.

So, what’s your first goal? It should not be to sell 1 million copies by the end of the year. But what does a first year of success look like to you? Is it 25 honest reviews on Amazon? Is it 200 copies sold? Is it 5000 Kindle or Nook eBook pages read? Maybe it’s all three! The point is, these are all realistic and obtainable goals for your book’s first year and they should each be considered and celebrated.

In the Self Publishing Checklist, I have included a section for goal tracking. Think about what you want to accomplish in year 1, year 2, and in year 3 of this venture. You can do it!

How To Get Reviews

I personally think reviews are the bread and butter of an author’s ability to succeed. The more reviews you have on a certain platform, the more visibility you will gain and the more opportunities for discourse you will have. Did that sound like Yoda? You get my point.

Getting those little stars and opinions on your work = more sales from people who stumble upon / are referred to your work. Below is a list to help you with your review-acquiring journey.

  • Friends and Family: I know this one is redundant, but they are your first hurdle. You need to not only (politely) ask them to read and review your book, you also need to follow up with them a month or three later. I also believe it’s important that you communicate that you want an HONEST rating/review of your book and on what platforms you want it on. Share the links with them to make their job as easy as possible.
  • Advanced Reader Copies (ARC): You’ve probably seen the phrase “ARC Readers” before and not really known what it means. Basically, you promise to give someone your book in advance for free, and they promise to read it in a reasonable amount of time and submit a review. Each platform is a bit different, but below are a couple to consider. *Remember* Your book must NOT be published yet when applying for ARCs.
  • Giveaways: One way to solicit to potential reviewers is to offer a free giveaway of your book or eBook. Although fun and good for some social media traction, it does come with a bit of risk. Just remember you may be mailing/emailing a copy of your hard work to someone from whom you will never hear back again. If that happens, just imagine that your book is on their bookshelf in 10 years and one of their friends visits for a dinner party. The friend notices the book while sipping their wine, then asks the person that shorted you if they could borrow it. They say, “Oh, I completely forgot about that! I got it for free somewhere. You can just have it.” Their friend brings it home, reads it, loves it, reviews it, and tells all of their friends about it. Finally, a decade later, you login to Goodreads to find that everyone is now talking about your first novel!
  • Little Free Libraries: Not everyone will do this, but I enjoy putting a few of my books in the little yard libraries around my city a couple times per year. Inside each book I leave a note saying, “Thank you for reading and reviewing this traveling copy of…”. It may or may not work, but it does bring a smile to my face every time I walk by and my books are no longer there!
  • The Book Itself: Finally, hopefully the book itself does all the talking for you. Hopefully it’s so good that people can’t help but talk about it!

How To Advertise

Got a little cash left to play with and want to take a stab at advertising your book? Well there are a great many resources more qualified to teach you the ins and outs of online marketing, but I want to share my experience with you.

First of all, EVERYONE is trying to sell you something. Careful when you go to a resource for information only to find out that you can only learn everything by purchasing their webinar or eBook. I find the best way to learn is by doing and that’s exactly how I like to teach.

As far as online marketing goes, I by far had the greatest success with Amazon and Facebook ads. It shouldn’t come as a surprise; they have the numbers; but other outlets mostly felt like I was throwing money away. Well, I still felt like I was throwing money away, but I did get a healthy amount of sales from the endeavor.


First, I want to share my results for my first novel, “Man, Kind”. I ran an Amazon Ad campaign over the course of 2021 and made slight tweaks along the way. At the end of my budget of $800, I came out with 88 book orders, 1,396 clicks, and an average cost of $0.55 per each click. I have a fair amount of digital marketing experience since I’m a web developer, but there are plenty more people out there way better than me.

What You Should Know

  • Keywords: When setting up a campaign, you need a MINIMUM of 100 keywords. 200 is probably better and 300 is probably better than that. Why? Because there are a zillion people on Amazon and each of them have different tastes. Don’t worry, it’s easier to make that list than you think. Start with a blank doc and start listing: title, subtitle, genre (basically all of your Meta Doc, wink, wink!), then move on to locations, similar books, similar authors, similar movies and tv shows. Then move on to little phrases like real people would search. An easy example is, “Books that are set in South Dakota”. You will have a list of 100+ before you know it!
  • Diligence: An online ad should be treated as a living organism. If you are committing to a certain amount of time or dollar amount, check back on your ad weekly (or daily) to make adjustments. As you comb through your keywords you will see the data of what people are engaging with and what they aren’t. Keep an eye out for trends. Did a new similar show/movie/novel come out that everyone is buzzing about? Get those keywords in your ad and updated it. It does take time and practice, just like anything else, but you’ll get as much out as you put in.
  • Budget: This is important. Set aside an amount before you even begin to run an ad and tell yourself that this is the absolute maximum you will spend. Having this budget in mind will help you make more informed decisions as opposed to just “seeing how it goes”. In the above example I was willing to spend $1000, but stopped at $800 to re-assess my annual goals and to use some funds towards my next book.
  • Flexibility: Be prepared for life and goal changes. Perhaps you want to run an ad in a local publication. Don’t over extend your pocketbook one way or another. Online ads can easily be paused and resumed. If other opportunities present themselves, know that you aren’t trapped.

Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Social Media Ads

Any information you have in your Meta Doc will suffice to get you started on social media ads. These experiences will be far more guided and will have more strict guidelines for images, keywords, and genres. I was fortunate to have a friend that is a professional animator so he made super cool animations for both of my books that I could in turn advertise on Facebook and Instagram. But cover photos, illustrations, or any sort of graphical work you can do on your own will suffice to catch eyes.

What You Should Know

  • The money you are spending on social media—at least before you have a strong following and review base—will mostly go towards likes, hearts, follows, subscribers, etc. Not necessarily sales. That being said, make sure whatever link you use with your promotion leads to where your book can be purchased.
  • Images and videos catch the eye more than words so try to come up with content that works. Even a simple graphic like the one below will make you look like a professional author with a highly anticipated book! (This is 5 layers and took 5 minutes: background, translucent overlay, text, book, and border. You can do it too!)
  • Prepare plenty of current and upcoming posts/content on the platform you are paying to advertise on. If someone sees your ad, they need a reason to follow you and then a reason to return to your page. (Easy yet interesting post content could be book covers, author photos, illustrations, etc)

Other Paid Online Ads

  • Unless you have setup your own website with ecommerce functionality, I would avoid a straight up Google Ad. Google Ads have a steep learning curve, are generally more expensive, and are a bit finicky with what they consider a “strong” or “weak” ad. I would set this is a year 3+ goal once you have more experience and a stronger reputation…or if you’re just looking for a good challenge!
  • A final reminder—as in Part 11Use What You Use! Think of where you spend your own money. Probably not some book promotion website you’ve never heard of, right? No, you buy books on Amazon, at bookstores, and occasionally from someone you follow on social media. That’s where the eyes are and that’s were you should focus your monetary efforts.

Be The Guerilla

Guerilla Marketing can be the most cost effective, influential, and exciting advertising you can do! It only requires a minimal amount of money, some ambition, and a lot of creativity. Below are a few ways I have fun marketing my books:

  • Bookmarks: Order bookmarks with art from your book cover on them. This is a stupidly inexpensive way to hand out “your book” without actually handing out your book. Pretty much anyone will take a cool looking bookmark and kids love ’em! Just make sure they have your name and book title somewhere on them!
  • Free Little Libraries: Not only are these a good way to get reviews for your book, they are also a great way to, well, get your actual book out there! The best part is you can go for an afternoon stroll and plop a book in any one you see. All it costs you is your printing cost and a little fresh air. *Pro tip: Leave a personalized note in each one. Something like “Thanks for reading this traveling copy of…” or, “Thanks for supporting authors from our city!”.
  • Local Ads: And I don’t mean your local newspaper. Perhaps a local theatre is putting on a play with the same vibe as your novel? They would LOVE to sell you an inexpensive full page ad in their program. Or perhaps there’s a local independent magazine that all the youths are talking about. I’m sure they’d love to cut you a deal on ad space as well! Keep an eye out for unique opportunities like this in your community. Artists love helping artists!
  • Collaborate: Hit up your creative friends or local podcasters or local performers. Maybe there’s a collaboration you can do together to promote two projects at once! For example, my friend Mo runs a podcast series called Fear Falls Radio Theatre in Sioux Falls and let me feature one of my spooky short stories as one of the episodes. It was a really fun experience and people enjoyed the listen!
  • Local Readings: This one may push you out of your comfort zone, but contact your local library or book store and ask if you could host a local reading and/or book signing at their venue. Trust me, once you get your first laugh from the audience most of the anxiety washes away.

Your Content Is King

It’s 6:00am. You just ran 10 miles. You’ve now got your iced coffee, your Bluetooth headset, and your Oakley sunglasses. You are a marketing force. The whole world will know about your book by the end of today. I’m kidding! But hopefully you learned a little bit about some of the ways you can advertise your beautiful book. None are required, and all should be fun, challenging, learning experiences.

And remember, it’s important to get out there and be a part of your local artistic community. You may not think people want to leave their comfy couches to go watch you read a couple stories, but trust me, they do. Humans yearn for unique experiences and thought provoking stories. If you find ways to combine the two, you’re good as gold! Oh, and a venue that sells cold beer never hurts! 😉

Wow, you graduated from whatever this university is. I give you Summa Cum Laude for seeing it through. Now it’s up for this book to stand the test of time on its own while you move on to write your next one…then your next one….and your next one…

Don’t forget, the Self Publishing Checklist is a 100% free resource for you to download and use as many times as you want! But if that or any of this guide was worth the price of a coffee to you, donations are greatly appreciated and will help me to keep this content alive and updated.

Now, keep setting new goals and keep working to achieve them!

❤️ Chris

*Note: This is a living guide, which means I will consistently make updates and improvements as new technology and resources become available!