Let’s Talk to Patrick Kelly, author of Hill Country Greed

hill country greedI’ve talked about the problems of online advertising before, both here on Raynfall and in The Author’s Marketing Handbook. Although I don’t recommend it in general for authors because of the danger of losing a lot of money on useless services, I do include a caveat: go for it if you know what you’re doing.

Today I’ve caught up with Patrick Kelly, a Texan with a flair for mystery thrillers, who’d like to share his experience of online advertising as an author. As a former CFO, he definitely knows what he’s doing.  Take it away, Pat!

Lessons Learned from Online Advertising

Most of the self-publishing advice I’ve read about paid online advertising goes something like this: DON’T DO IT!!!

Still . . . it’s awfully tempting to search for a magic formula.

Think about it. Each Kindle sale of my book pays a net royalty of $4.74. If I pay Google fifty cents per click-through to my book on Amazon, and one click in eight results in a new sale, I’ll be ahead by $0.74 for each book sold. That is what’s known as a money machine.

I had to try it for myself.

I decided to proceed with caution. As a general rule I limit my spending on marketing and promotions to the royalties I have already earned on my book. That accomplishes two objectives. First, it keeps me from over-spending. Second, it forces me to choose carefully between alternative marketing tactics.

I tried advertising on four large platforms: Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, and Goodreads. Each site allowed me to establish a daily budget and offered different algorithms for paying for my ads. In most cases I could choose to pay “per click-through” or to pay “per thousand impressions”. For my experiments, I selected the pay per click-through method, limited my bid per click-through to fifty cents, and allocated a maximum of fifteen dollars for each test.

Google Results

The Google results were the most interesting. The Google Adwords tool allowed me to aim my ad at specific search keyword combinations. Once I had selected keywords, the Adwords dashboard promptly informed me that my bid of fifty cents per click-through was not high enough to land my ad on the first search page for those keywords. Google suggested increasing the bid to $2.50 per click – too rich for me.

But a funny thing happened. At night my ad started to serve up on a few of the keyword combinations, and I got a bunch of impressions. Over the course of four days, and at a total cost of $20.00, I got 44 clicks to my website. The average cost per click-through was $0.45.

The resulting visits to my website have not generated enough incremental book sales to justify the cost; however, the results were encouraging enough for me to continue experimenting with Google using small money.

Observations from LinkedIn, Goodreads, and Facebook

Here are my observations from the other experiments. Your results may differ.

  • Linkedin: too expensive to be useful in advertising my novel.
  • Goodreads: too crowded for me to successfully attract attention to my novel.
  • Facebook: useful for attracting likes on my fan page and visits to my website, but not yet driving book sales.

The bottom line is I haven’t found that magic money machine, but I will continue to experiment within my budget constraints.


My advice to self-publishers is to test advertising using small money. You never know what technique might be a winner and if you do find that magic formula, the results could be extraordinary. Be disciplined about how much money you commit to the experiment and take advantage of the tools provided by the website to carefully track your results. Good luck!

Excellent advice there. I’ll also add my usual marketing advice, if you’re going to take the plunge – any method of marketing is worth trying (if you’ve got the tech know-how and financial savvy, in the case of online advertising), but if you’re not seeing results, don’t keep doing it! You should never keep paying for what clearly doesn’t work.

Thanks to Patrick for this post, and be sure to check out his new book, Hill Country Greed: An Austin, Texas Mystery over on Amazon. Check out his website for more info on Patrick himself, and his plans for his next book, Hill Country Rage.

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