I promised a thread sharing my experience of advertising/self-publicising a book - This is a very long and content-rich thread


Mar 11, 2014
I note that this thread could be updated at a later stage; this is early days for my current book

The purpose of this thread is to give readers one factual real example of book marketing (your own experience may differ)

My experience of advertising/self-publicising a book
It’s hard, expensive, and ‘return on spend’ is flaky.
However, there is a process that I have had some success with in the past.

Tiny bit of background
I’m an independent Sci-Fi author I have just written my 4th full-length Sci-Fi novel.
All of my books are standalone Sci-Fi. They have all been subbed to Agents in the past, I have never received any queries/responses etc. The books themselves are reasonably 'hard science' and I'd say 'thoughtful' ... some people find them a bit heavy going.
I have spent money getting all my books professionally edited, professional book cover, formal Beta read etc. etc. etc.

I'd like to highlight that I don’t think my books are amazing quality and that the agents have overlooked me; I think they are decent books that have had plenty of care/thought in their production but they're not for everyone in terms of style/content.

Previous Books
With regards the numbers for my other 3 books (just to give some more background as to what I have historically managed)
Published Sep 2014: “Emergence” (by Nick M Lloyd) did very well. It got ~15,000 sales (mixed between $2.99 & 99c) and 400+ reviews on Amazon.
Published Mar 2017: “Disconnected” (by Nick M Lloyd) didn’t sell at all ... maybe 200 copies in total (mostly to friends)
Published Feb 2019: “Immortal” (by Nick M Lloyd) did pretty well got ~3,000 sales (mixed between $2.99 & 99c)
Note: I've a mental block with regards to permafree, and have never gone down this route ... but then again I've never written a Book Series (for which a permafree Book 1 is probably sensible)

So ...
So, for this book ... Published in Jan 2022, it’s called “The Lay of Sargon” (the title is a tribute to Tolkien, and I slightly worry it's a bit obscure).
I did marketing the same way as for other books.

1) On day of publish, spam out emails to friends&family
I got the statutory '12' sales

2) Send emails to "professional" Sci-Fi reviewers
I sent 32 personalised emails with offers of a free book etc and after 4/5 weeks, I'd received '0' responses.

3) Registered with BookSirens
I got 2 readers and 2 reviews on Amazon/Goodreads

4) Tell people on Chrons (here)
No idea ... probably like Mouse I got 2 sales


Drip feed AMS adverts (literally no more than $3 of spend a week and '0' sales)

Started looking into other Book Bloggers ... I researched BookTok style SciFi readers who specialise in TikTok reviews of books ... I gave up when the fifth person I reviewed (who had only 400 followers) stated they only dealt with major publishers ...

My goal was to get to 10 Amazon reviews ... and then buy a full week of email adverts.

9a) The Plan
I took the view that I would reach 10 Amazon review by mid-March (2 months after publication), so I booked the following (European date format dd/m):
Fri 24/3 Kindle Daily Nation,
Sat 25/3 Free Kindle Books and Tips,
Sat 25/3 Fussy Librarian,
Sun 26/3 Many Books,
Mon 27/3 Ereader News Today,
Mon 27/3 BookSends,
Tue 28/3 Book Barbarian,
Wed 29/3 One Hundred Free Books,
Thu 30/3 Bargain Booksy.

I was rejected by RobinReads and Book Bub was too expensive so I didn't bother.
I also booked a Kindle Countdown Deal for this week (24th March to 30th March) $3.99 down to 99c

9b) The Goal
My goal was to get a spike in sales so that
i) Word of mouth would have a chance
ii) More reviews on Amazon would make the book look more credible
iii) A spike in Rankings could get me the attention of the Amazon Algorithm

It is not really possible to entirely accurately attribute any sales to a particular email service as readers will have emails in their inbox from days previously etc.
I also note that the total cost of the advertising was $625, which is well beyond what many people would choose to invest in. I'm still convincing myself that I'm still only spending profit from my first book! (Lol!) But more seriously, I do think that books from nobodies like myself do need to be jump started.
I can understand how many people will think that spending this money would fall under the category of "vanity publishing" ... and I suspect there's some truth in that (but, you know ... I don’t drink and I don’t smoke, so if Adam Ant was to ask me "what do you do" then I'd say 'I puff my own books')

The numbers … in tabular format (may be hard to read on Mobile devices - sorry)
Obviously, there are four big factors: book cover, blurb, author recognition, and current number/state of reviews ... I don't know how my thing stack up here

Email Lists
(Mindful that sometimes an Order relates to a previous day's advert)
Cost ($)
Cost Per Sale on that day if attributing all sales to that day's emails
Kindle Daily Nation
24th March
0 UK​
Free Kindle Books and Tips
25th March
Fussy Librarian
25th March
19 USA
2 UK​
Many Books
26th March
14 USA
1 UK​
Ereader News Today
27th March
27th March
40 USA
0 UK​
Book Barbarian
28th March
22 USA
0 UK​
One Hundred Free Books
29th March
14 USA
1 UK​
Bargain Booksy
30th March
29 USA
0 UK​
137 USA
4 UK

12) Sales Ranking
It's pretty brutal ... after the Sales on 27th March, I got inside the Amazon top 10,000 for a day
I'm currently at ~13,000 and well down any lists.

And I find it pretty funny that much of the list "Alien Invasion" is alien-romance type stuff

a) If you wanna go to the dance you gotta buy a ticket ... so we'll see
b) I have zero idea how to target the UK market with these type of email adverts (please tell me if you know of good services)
c) next steps ... looking at my metadata/Amazon ads to try to target more readers

Thanks for posting this. I need to mull it over properly, but I'm also trying to sell several self-published novels, and it's useful information.
Just on bookbub don’t let the price put you off: it more than pays back - if you had invested the 600 odd dollars into it, you’d have seen a good profit. I just can’t be bothered anymore applying to them (or doing anything outside of the odd free week)
Hi Jo,
Yep - I've heard that Book Bub crushes the opposition in terms of "return on investment". I took the stance that with only 12 reviews on Amazon, I was never going to get picked ... I may well apply around November/December.

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