Working Strategies for Display Ads – Marketing for You, the Indie Writer, Part 9

| June 24, 2014 | 8 Comments

My Pound Puppy - Lincoln, 7 years agoToday we look at specific display ad strategies that produced great results for two indie authors. Awareness or display ads are often misunderstood by indies because they aren’t aimed at selling directly and don’t have a great ROI. But they can be highly effective. Use display ads to build interest, anticipation, or awareness for your product prior to your Direct Response ad.

If you’re new to this series, I am blogging Marketing for You, the Indie Writer. So far the topics have ranged from social media to email subscription strategies to advertising methods.

Indie writers are looking for one buyer for every three thousand readers — a needle in a haystack. That means you need to maximize the effect of your direct response campaign with display ads, also known as awareness ads, which you probably think of as web-ads.

Awareness ads are designed to make the viewer aware of your product with the expectation that the consumer will think of you first when he/she has a need. An example of this are Geiko’s gecko ads on TV. For best results, you should saturate a media platform with display ads then follow up with a direct response ad. For authors, indie or otherwise, that means hitting as many reader sites as you can afford before you run a direct response ad.

Here are three sites that come up every time I pose the question among writers:

Kindle Books and Tips (KBT) – This site is one of the rare sites to produce in-the-black ads, you’re likely to sell enough books to cover the cost of the ad.

Ereader News Today (ENT) – This site has a unique, and to my mind, fair way of charging: they take a percentage of your revenue only from books they sold.

Kindle Boards (KB) – One of the oldest sites in indie land, there are mixed reviews about advertising here. IMHO, it’s best to participate in the site’s unique culture before buying an ad and adjust your pitch accordingly.

For a more comprehensive list of sites, click on this great post by Digital Pubbing’s Sabrina Ricci.

Strategies for maximizing display ads are crucial to your success. Here are two authors who’ve had huge success recently utilizing display ads in conjunction with BookBub direct response ads. Keep in mind, both these authors ran free-book promotions in niche markets which have strong followings and respond well to promotions (and Mr. Houston has a dog on both his book covers, an age-old sales tactic*).

YMMV, but if you follow their example of using display ads for awareness followed by a direct response ad, you will have better results than running either type alone.


RichardHoustonRichard Houston – 76,000 downloads of his free book after a BookBub ad on 18-May led to $6,000 in sales of his other book at the regular price supported by “every free (display) ad I could find”. He waited three weeks, enough time for the freebie-takers to read the first book, and then ran an ENT ad supported by a KDP Select Countdown for both books on Amazon. This strategy produced the results shown below (freebies removed for readability, click to enlarge): RH-Chart


Joanne Phillips – 64,000 downloads in the more competitive “families” niche after her free promo on Bookbub. Joanne also posted 17 display ads, some free and some paid, in the two days leading up to the direct response ad. Her other book, regularly priced, saw dramatic sales increase at the time and continued at a higher level after the initial drop:JP-Chart


My heartfelt thanks to both Ms. Phillips and Mr. Houston for sharing their data and experiences with us. Because of their phenomenal successes, I’ve decided to work on a blog called “Advertising Strategies” in the near future. But, because there will be actual work (research) involved, I’m not sure when we’ll see it. Stay tuned.

Peace, Seeley


* In the ‘50s Time Magazine discovered that dog covers sold better than anything else. Chocolate ran second, bikini-clad women something like 7th or 8th. I’d forgotten this fact until I saw Mr. Houston’s books. Being an expert at thieving good ideas, I’ve not only stooped to putting a seven-year-old picture of my puppy on this post, I’ve also started redesigning my upcoming novella cover (yes, the story will feature a puppy in a small but significant role).


Category: Marketing for You the Indie Writer

Comments (8)

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  1. smanke says:

    Those real world stats really help put things in perspective. That was very generous of Richard and Joanne!

  2. It looks like the more books you have, the more options you have. But I don’t like the idea of free. Will this work with other price ranges?

    • Seeley James says:

      The downloaded numbers will go down as the price goes up, but the consensus is that the royalty made will be the same. I’ve not done A/B testing, but I think the reviews will be better on a $0.99-2.99 book than on a free.

  3. Pam says:

    Another great article. Thank you for your helpful advice. I never knew that puppies were that marketable (statistically speaking), but it totally makes sense. I mean, who doesn’t gravitate towards a puppy in the park when it and it’s owner walks by.

    • Seeley James says:

      That’s why I take my dog on my morning mountain climb. All the young college girls want to gush over him. Sleazy, but it works. :)

  4. R.Q. Garcia says:

    Very helpful article. Really appreciate Joanne and Richard sharing the information.

  5. Adrijus says:

    Are BookBub ads really Direct Response ads? I think they are more mix of both, not a real DR ad…

    • Seeley James says:

      No, they’re direct response. You used to get them in the mail from Columbia House Records or Time Magazine, “Buy now and save 75%!”.

      They offer a deal and you can take immediate action. They are sent to you rather than have you stumble on them by watching a football game or checking a website.

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