GoodReads Sponsored Ads: An Indie Perspective

So, I’m in the doldrums between book releases trying to promote my current releases (Dominic’s Nemesis and When Lucifer Met Calamity) while I’m working on my next book (Gabriel’s Demons).  To past the time, and to learn a thing or two about promotion in preparation for the design and creation of a marketing campaign for Gabriel’s Demons.

What to expect from Sponsored Ads

screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-2-04-43-amDespite all the bad press I’ve heard about the self-serving ads on GoodReads, I decided to give them a try.  These are the less expensive ones that appear as “sponsored ads” on any page/section of GoodReads where members are searching for and exploring books.  They will look like this (sideline image) …

Sponsored Ad Basics

  • Easily create an ad for your book (its very user-friendly).
  • Add credit to your account by prepaying. Each time someone clicks your ad, the bid will be deducted from your GoodReads account.
  • Your ads will show on GoodReads in locations where members are searching for and exploring books.
  • Target your ad by book genre, location, gender, or fans of specific authors.
  • View custom stats for your ad to see views, clicks, and the number of GoodReads members who add your book.

Its best to have realistic goals when you do sponsored ads.  Don’t expect the ad campaign to launch your book into best-seller status.  If it were that easy, everyone would be doing it.

I stared my ad campaign with a couple of goals in mind:  increased visibility of my books and myself as an Indie author…increased traffic on my blog, increased likes on my Facebook author page, increased pins/saves on Pinterest, and of course to increase book sales.  Another more subtle goal of mine was to learn a bit more about paid advertisements and ad campaigns so that when I finish my current book, I can design and implement a killer marketing and promotional campaign for its release.

The Results

So far my experience has been surprisingly positive, especially given the fact that about 90% of the posts, articles, and comments I’ve read regarding sponsored ads on GoodReads ranged from blasé to negative.  The most common complaint…long running ads with no clicks.  Surprisingly enough I did not have this experience at all.

I started Broader Reascreen-shot-2016-09-12-at-5-54-18-pmch, my ad campaign over Labor Day weekend (which actually may have helped me when I think about it retrospectively.  Most folks were off-work and probably online in higher numbers than the average weekend).  I started with just two ads under Broader Reach, one for each of my books.  Which if you look at the screen shot of the daily status report, only garnered a measly 43 views…so I decided to tinker with it pretty quickly.  I edited the two existing ads and created several additional ones.  My edits consisted of taking off the gender targeting.  That’s why you see the “awaiting approval”, GoodReads has a vetting team that makes sure the ads are not offensive or riddled with typos, etc. before they post them.

screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-7-29-28-pmHere’s how the completed ads appeared…and you can see my genre-based targeting.  I didn’t just target to the genre that each book fell into, I targeted to all related genres as well.  ‘When Lucifer Met Calamity’ is a Contemporary Romantic Comedy, but I also targeted to Click-lit because there are elements of that genre within the book.  Likewise, the two main characters are African-American, so I targeted to that genre as well…etc.  For Dominic’s Nemesis, a paranormal Gothic Romance in a historical setting, I targeted to historical fiction…plus suspense and mystery because those (along with others) are significant elements in the story.  So I think readers of those genres will be interested in the book.  (More about this in the list of Do’s & Don’ts)

So what was my overall click through rate?  (This is the number of clicked the ad(s) get per view the ad gets.)   Or a better question is…how many clicks did I get?  In the end, my list of ads ballooned…as did my click rate/clicks.  Below is the daily status report (for yesterday Sept 12th) that GoodReads e-mails to recap the activity on all the ads under Broader Reach for the previous day.  I ended up with 18 ads.  I got a little lazy with the names as the list grew, sorry about that, lol.


Ok..*drum roll* the results!  This next graph is (from Sept 13th) of the number of views the ads got from Sept 4th to today.   Dates are listed along the bottom, and number of views on the vertical axis.  Each ad is represented by a different color.  The noise at the bottom are the poor-performing ads that garner only limited views.  The spikes are the ads that performed well and got lots of views.  To my mind there are 5 winner ads (so far).   Three of the top performers were ‘When Lucifer Met Calamity’ ads…and 2 were ‘Dominic’s Nemesis’ ads.  Right now, my ads have a total of 82,005 views (of the total 18 ads).   Please note:  There is nothing to indicate that these are from 82,005 *unique* viewers.  GoodReads is strangely silent on the subject (which to me means that the views are not unique.  There’s probably a certain percentage of them that are repeat viewers.  I have no way to tell how high or low that percentage is.)  My point…take the viewer numbers with a grain of salt.screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-7-52-23-pm

Ok, in terms of clicks…the image below is a graph of the number of clicks that each ad got from Sept 4th to present (Sept 13th).  If you noticed there’s no noise at the bottom of this graph…and why is that??  Because only 5 ads (represented by 5 different colors) that have clicks.   These are the same five colors which represent the five top performers in the previous graph….so now you know why I called them the top performers.  These five (to date) are the only ads of the 18 that have yielded clicks so far.  Right now, my ads have a total of 27 clicks (spanning the five ads).


Other things to consider…

Clicks are not the end-all be-all.  For one thing, you’re only charged when viewers click on your ads so on the bright side at least you’re not paying for viewers to ignore your book.  The only reason you would want clicks is because then you know folks are at least engaged and interested in your book.  Of course even if no one clicks, your ad still might not be a waste.  If you don’t receive clicks, but your “books added” number increases, this is good news because likely it means, people noticed the ad and perhaps bypassed it (for whatever reason), and went directly to your book’s page and added it.  This is a victory in my view because this means, you got new viewers and increased interested in your books for free!

Other positives that I attribute to my campaign: new likes on my Facebook author page, crazy traffic here at the Writer’s Journal, new “to-read” adds on GoodReads…and my Pinterest is going nuts.


Do’s & Don’ts

Based on my experience, and my results, here’s what I would recommend if you’re considering it or planning to do an ad campaign on GoodReads.   I think if you do these things, your ad will be a worthwhile endeavor.


Don’t target based on gender.  I know it sounds like a good idea, particularly if you’re like me, writing in a genre that is dominate in one gender.  More women read romance so you’d think targeting to them would be a good thing, right?  The problem is…On Goodreads only about half of  its members even specify a gender, so if you target ads to women (or men, it doesn’t matter which.)…only the people who specified their gender will get it.  The member profiles that are unspecified are excluded!

Don’t just target to the genre of your book.  Check all the genres that are mildly related to your book or genres with fans that you think might enjoy reading your book.  For example, my book Dominic’s Nemesis is a Paranormal Gothic Romance set in a Historical time period.  I didn’t just check paranormal, romance and historical; I included history, historical fiction, horror, mystery, crime, suspense, and thriller in my genre targeting because I think that my book has elements of all those genres interwoven into the story as well…even though it is not a true representative of any one of them.  If that makes sense.

Don’t just do a couple of ads and let them run for weeks and weeks with no clicks.  That’s silly.   Either nix it completely and save yourself the time (and frustration) or go all-in, monitor them and try to get a sense of what’s wrong so you can spruce them up and make your ads more appealing. I noticed pretty quickly that my When Lucifer Met Calamity ads got more views and many clicks if they included a character quote in the body of the ad.  So I updated my ads to include character quotes.


Do: Create multiple ads from jump street.  As long as you put them all under the same ad campaign, they come out of the same money fund so it cost nothing to do more than one.

Do: Track each ad under your campaign.  Elect to get the daily status report email, its golden!  Specifically, it helps you to see trends right away.  The report gives you numbers of views and clicks of each ad…and you can adjust them accordingly.

Do: Monitor your ad campaign (daily if you can, which is what I’m doing).  If your ads are not getting many views…and no clicks, you should modify them.  Change the title to be more provocative/thought-provoking.  Re-write the body of the ad to be more compelling, add a character quote, etc.  If you have ads that are getting clicked, modify your other ads to include similar elements.  For Dominic’s Nemesis…I initially targeted one of the ads to fans of authors with books with the same or similar themes as mine…Bad idea.  The views were dismal (which was pretty obvious when I looked at the daily reports).  Thus, I modified it to target based on genre alone…and got much better response.

I hope my experience with GoodReads ads helps a fellow Indie Author!


Related Posts:  GoodReads Sponsored Ads:  The Final Stats

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