Monday, August 12, 2019

Sell Ads to Help Finance Your Self-Published Book or Promotional Book

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, 
author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series 
of books for writers

I hate the word “monetize.”  
And I especially don’t like it when this word (it’s really ugly, isn’t it?) is mentioned in the same breath with books. But I’m going to talk about it anyway because, if authors do it right, using ads in their books or other promotional materials can subsidize the cost of publishing a book, costs like great editing, great cover design, and great indexing that they often scrimp on. 
Most every author is self-publishing something themselves these days. If not their books, then e-books or white papers that help them promote their work. Many of these books—are perfect for paid ads and ads in barter. You might also think about trading an ad for another service you need like a blog tour, book cover art, or printing. 
So, even if you do hate the idea, I’m asking you to keep reading. It’s important because many authors never make the money they spend of self-publishing back in royalties or even back-of-the-room sales. Read it with an open mind. You might change your mind, or you might think of way to adapt the idea to your needs and thus help assure a more profitable career as an author. And—trust me—you will discover at least one way you’ve seen back matter ads in books for a long time—all the way back to high school.
Ads in the back matter of books are becoming more accepted (and more ethical), if they are focused on the book’s target audience. Not too long ago, the LA Times reported Amazon puts ads in some Kindle readers and that they then sell them at 18% less than the ad-free device ($114.00). I figure they got that wrong. They might sell them for more because they can enhance the perceived value if the ads  include a discounted offer or essential free resource for its readers. 
Ads in disguise have been used in literary journals and other books for years. They usually come as an order page or a list (subtle or not-so-subtle) of related books that might interest a reader. Your high school yearbook featured pay-for ads, but they called them “sponsors.”  
So, if you decide to put ads into your books, how would you do it? 
~Offer ads or sponsorship in the backmatter of your book. Be sure your offer includes the ways the ad will benefit the advertiser or sponsor including how you will feature your benefactor in social networking you’ll be doing during the launch. 
~Accept only professionally produced ads. 
~Accept only ads that would interest your target audience. Be prepared to refuse some with the “not quite right” phrase that literary journals use to reject submissions. 
~Limit the number of ads to just a few. 
~Encourage ads that give discounts or freebies to benefit your readers. In fact, you could offer a discount on the price of the ad to those who do.
~Don’t undersell your ad, especially if you already have an extensive platform. 
Did I mention that when you use ads this way, your reader benefits. They learn about new resources and special discounts and those discounts may easily pay for the book (yours!) your reader just bought?  Ahem. 
If you are uncomfortable with this idea, start small. Start using ads only in your promotional e-books. Then move on. Eventually your readers may benefit from ads in your full-fledged, honest-to-goodness paperback or hardcover book!  
PS: Anyone with a product (yes, books are products!) or a service that would appeal to readers of The Frugal Book Promoter may e-mail me ( for details of how we might partner on something like this for one of my new releases. I’m planning to update my little booklet, Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips which is for sale to be used as an inexpensive thank-you greetings or gifts for writers but is also given as a little extra when writers sign up for my newsletter. Spaces are limited. 
Carolyn Howard-Johnson is a novelist, poet, and the author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers ( That site includes a huge, free section of Resources for Writers. She also blogs writers’ resources at Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites pick


nashvillecats2 said...

This was very interesting to read Lee aas I have just commenced my fifth book to celebrate my late sons' life. I will read this post many times to ensure I have all the details correct. Thanks for sharing.
Enjoy this new week.


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Lee - Carolyn has some really interesting ideas ... which are worth thinking about - thanks for posting - cheers Hilary

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Most authors are already advertising their own books - why not other books and stuff as well?

L. Diane Wolfe said...

I think ads are a viable option. They're at the end of the book so they don't intrude on the experience.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Interesting idea that I never thought of. Thanks. I like Diane's suggestion too about putting them at the back of the story.

Fundy Blue said...

Thanks for this thought-provoking post Carolyn and Lee. I hate the word "monetize" too, but I kept on reading. Definitely something to consider!

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Yvonne, glad you liked it. Starting off with a little budget to spend never hurt. Good luck on your 5th!

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Love that take on it,Alex!

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Hilary, maybe in the thinking you ‘ll come up with a great promo ebook idea! 😊

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

And they may keep the reader involved a little longer if they show a related product or service! Hugs, Diane!

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Natalie, they can be made less obtrusive by making them business card size.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Fundy, we’ve been acculturated, but if you think about it, most of us write a book hoping for a few royalties and don’t assign any negative ideas to that!😊

Tyrean Martinson said...

Wow! This is an excellent idea! I love it! Thank you!

Pat Hatt said...

Sure not a bad way to go, can be a win for everyone if done right.

cleemckenzie said...

This post has been so interesting, and I see others found it so, too. Thank you Carolyn.

Juneta key said...

Interesting approach. Some great ideas.

Powdered Toast Man said...

An aol email address? Are we still living in the '90s? I have to go check my yearbooks now for ads.

Elizabeth Seckman said...

I think this is an awesome idea. I love writing for the spirit of it, but I also like to pay my bills on time. Adding the Frugal Promoter to my buy list!