Does Paying For PPC Advertising Work For Ebooks And Authors?

Does Pay Per Click advertising help sell ebooks

Does PPC work for advertising ebooks?

PPC (Pay per click) marketing, or paid search, is the most common form of advertising on the Internet. But how well does it work when it comes to selling ebooks?

The leading players in PPC are Google, Facebook, and, more recently, Twitter. There are many others, including Goodreads as well as Amazon AMS service, which are both directly related to selling books.

I won’t go into an extended essay about the pros and cons of each service. There is a lot already published online about each service. But I will give you a summary of my experience. Before I start, however, you should know that using PPC is not cheap.

Spend carefully

Google. Google is the biggest PPC provider through its Adwords service.

I used Adwords for many years for businesses I had in the past. It can be quite effective. But does Google PPC for advertising ebooks work? No, not well at all.

Because their ads are placed on websites and blogs, ads often end up being placed on sites that have low relevance to book buyers.

Sure, you get clicks, but the ratio of clicks to sales is extremely low. So it can mean a lot of money spent for a tiny return.

Facebook. I also used Facebook for a long time in previous businesses too, which gave me good results.

Mind you, I was selling high-cost services. So the cost per click was cheap in comparison to gaining a sale from Facebook.

Ebooks are a cheap product. If you pay $0.45 per click, it means that making a return on ebooks priced between $0.99 and $2.99 is highly improbable.

But there is still a good use for Facebook ads, which I’ll explain later in this post.

Twitter. I haven’t used Twitter PPC, as I have a large following on Twitter already.

Because ebook sales are hard to come by directly via Twitter anyway, I can’t see any value in paying for Promoted Tweets when I already have over 120,000 followers.

If 120,000 doesn’t create good sales volume, I doubt paying to increase my reach will have a more positive effect.

Amazon. KDP Select PPC was only available to those enrolled in Kindle’s Select program and had granted exclusivity to Amazon.

However, it is now available to all authors, I believe.

I was enthusiastic about this service and set up an ad immediately. It means ads on Amazon book pages, which is precisely where you want a book ad to be. But oh, dear.

Amazon has some way to go with this. I set up my first ad a few months ago. The first problem was that my author name was reversed in the ads. Instead of Derek Haines, it reads Haines, Derek.

It took three weeks of messages back and forth to KDP Support NOT to get this issue resolved.

Update: Amazon PPC has now fixed the reverse name issue.

Then there is a real problem with their ad dashboard and reporting.

It is very basic, at best. After setting up an ad, there is so little information and data, which takes days to update, and so little that can be edited.

On top of all this, the minimum budget is $100.00. A bit rich for ebook advertising.

But as I discovered, you do not need to spend the whole amount. Amazon uses this ‘budget’ to stop a campaign from overspending. By comparison, Facebook has no minimum.

I will persevere with KDP PPC and hope that KDP can lift their game in the future, especially on data reports.

Goodreads. I used this a couple of times for no return at all. I was confused by their setup, to be frank.

Perhaps since Amazon took over Goodreads, it may have changed. But judging by my recent experience with KDP, I doubt it.


What’s my take on investing money in advertising to sell ebooks and books?

Pay per click has very limited value for advertising ebooks. The cost per click is normally too expensive in relation to the price of ebooks and books to make it a viable long-term strategy.

In other words, it will almost always run at a considerable loss. However, there is a use for PPC if you alter your goals and use it for a different reason.

The key to selling ebooks on Amazon is to have a high sales rank. If your book is at #3,456,666, it stands little chance of selling.

But if you can get it up to say, #150,000 or higher, organic sales typically increase. This is where PPC can definitely help, and for a very modest investment.

Firstly, increase your ebook price just before you plan to have a free ebook giveaway on Kindle.

This makes your book seem like better value for free. $3.99 for free will be much more enticing than a $0.99 ebook for free. (Human nature and greed at work here.)

Run the KDP giveaway for 2-3 days and no more. This should increase your book’s ranking, which will make it more prominent to buyers.

Then narrowly target your Facebook PPC ad audience by readers, genre, gender, age-range, country, etc., to suit your book.

Run your ad immediately following your free ebook giveaway on Kindle to take advantage of your higher ebook ranking and higher sales price.

Remember that higher-priced ebooks gain more ranking per sale. At the same time, you could also run a PPC ad on Amazon. Again, with the aim of getting a ranking boost.

Surprisingly, you will only need to gain a handful of sales from PPC to make your ranking jump considerably. You should run your Facebook and Amazon ads for a week or so.

Yes, you will probably lose a little money here. But your higher ranking is your real return. I usually set a daily budget of $5.00 for seven days on Facebook, so my investment is only $35.00.

Very often, I recoup this from Facebook generates sales, but some books work better than others, so no promises.

Now, when you stop your PPC ebook ads, immediately return your ebook to its normal price. Then keep your fingers crossed for flow-on sales.

Rinse and repeat each time you do a free ebook giveaway to keep your ranking high.

Now, if only Amazon would get their KDP PPC ads working better, I would stop using Facebook. But for the time being, I’ll use both.

Derek Haines

A Cambridge CELTA English teacher and author with a passion for writing and all forms of publishing. My days are spent writing and blogging, as well as testing and taming new technology.

Avatar for Derek Haines

4 thoughts on “Does Paying For PPC Advertising Work For Ebooks And Authors?

  • Avatar for Deborah Klee
    June 24, 2020 at 9:55 am

    That was really helpful thank you. I will save this post and return to it for my marketing strategy,

  • Avatar for Don Tjader
    November 26, 2019 at 6:42 pm


    I am trying to help a friend to promote his ebook, and seems like a highly competitive niche! Is there an outsourcing company you recommend using? Thanks for the blog post.

  • Avatar for Derek Haines
    November 8, 2015 at 10:11 am

    Thanks for your comment and question, Patsy.

    Yes, there are free ebook bestseller lists on Amazon for each genre, and they do help in gaining overall sales ranking for both the ebook and the author. I would have to check, but as I recall, each free ebook counts at around 10% of a real sale. So yes, free ebooks do help an ebook being discovered through a higher sales ranking.

  • Avatar for Patsy Trench
    November 8, 2015 at 3:24 am

    Hello Derek

    First of all thank you for all the extremely useful info you publish so regularly – one of the most helpful self publishing blogs I’ve come across.

    My question is to do with free ebooks. I don’t really understand how making a book free automatically pushes it up the rankings. If a book is not being discovered at say £2.99 why should it be discovered at £0? Is there a separate list for free books or something?

    Thanks and best wishes

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