For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been working with the good folks at Crimespree Magazine to spruce up their website. The new one will be live on March 1, but you can get a preview here. One of the things we’ve done is add banner advertising to the site. Which has me thinking about online advertising generally as a marketing vehicle for books, authors and publishers.
Now, before you get all up in arms and disgruntled and feel the need to express your abhorrence for online ads, please take a look at the site and finish reading this post. Thank you.
By way of disclosure, I should mention that approximately a million years ago, I worked for ad agency McCann-Erickson, in Dublin, Ireland and Chicago. It was a good experience—great colleagues, fantastic clients—and so I’m slightly biased in favor of advertising as a general rule. That said…
We all know that advertising has changed dramatically in the last decade. TV advertising is and will always be both incredibly powerful—and also beyond the means of most authors and publishing imprints, assuming we’re not talking about books penned by the likes of a Grishman, Patterson, or King. Radio has become an on-demand medium, except when it’s consumed in cars. Outdoor—billboards, bus wraps and shelters, taxi tops, signs in airports—can deliver value to authors, but this is a topic for another post.
Which brings us to online advertising. You know, those boxes or links that nobody will ever admit to clicking (keeping in mind that everyone lies—no offense). The bane of Facebook denizens. Yeah…that.
Just like any marketing tactic, for online advertising to be effective and worthwhile, you need to have clear and simple goals defined. By simple, I mean that you have three choices:
- Increase brand (book and/or author) awareness
- Sell books
- Grow your audience
If you’re not looking to accomplish one or more of those things, online advertising is not for you.
Next, you need to have a budget, which should be divided into a “campaign test” and “campaign execution.” Because advertising has so very many moving parts, it’s crucial that you test everything you’re doing before dumping your entire spend into, say, Google Adwords. In determining a budget, think about your customer acquisition cost—and the value of those customers. What portion of those who buy your latest book are likely to also buy your backlist titles? Or tell their friends about your books?
Now, consider where you want to advertise.
- Ad Networks—like the aforementioned Google Adwords, give you broad and potentially targeted reach, but they’re not easy to navigate. Their plethora of options can deliver real bang for your buck if you have some idea of what you’re doing. There are lots of ad networks out there, so even choosing one—never mind using it—can be a bear.
- Media Networks—Time Inc. is a good example; this is a group of publications that are all under the same corporate umbrella. As a general rule, you can get better advertising rates if you advertise in more than one “property” (website) and some of these networks even have mobile-specific programs available now.
- Social Network Advertising comes in two flavors, Facebook and Twitter. Yes, there are others, but they don’t really matter. If you’re looking to grow your audience in either of these venues (and you have the means in place to maintain a strong presence there), you need to consider social media advertising. Be warned, though, it’s really easy to waste money on both or either of these; you need to understand the options available and use them effectively.
- Specific Websites can reach your readers directly. This is the category Crimespree falls into (and the reason it makes sense for them to have curated ads on their site), as does Mystery Scene, Ellery Queen, Spinetingler, and others, not to mention blogs. Not all accept online ads and it’s impossible to make generalizations about these sites, so it’s important to learn about each to determine whether they’re right for you. Keep in mind that with these outlets, you’re not just buying eyeballs, but rather a qualified, self-identified reader audience, and as such you’ll pay more per click or impression than with a network…but you’ll also see a (much) higher conversion rate.
Once you’ve determined what you want to accomplish with online advertising, how much you want to spend, and where you can best reach and interact with your audience, it’s time to figure out what kind of online advertising you need. You need to learn the definition of a lot of terms to do this… online advertising has an entire lexicon with which you need to be familiar (if you think I’m kidding, the Interactive Advertising Bureau has a helpful wiki that includes 569 of these terms).
By this point, you’ve likely decided that given its complexity, online advertising can’t possibly deliver a return equal to other marketing activities. Not so. Like all marketing, it’s not to be taken lightly. There’s a reason professionals specialize in this; it’s not easy. Just because you don’t like online ads (yeah, yeah…you never click…I remember) as you browse the interwebs doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use them. When done well—often with the help of a professional and as a part of a marketing campaign—it can actually be one of your most powerful tools.