How to screw up an ad on Reddit for your self-published book

I wanted to drum up some interest in my recently-published fantasy book Nyx, so I decided to experiment with an ad on the popular site Reddit, where I spend far more time than I should.

I decided to focus on the Fantasy subreddit, since Nyx is a fantasy book and Fantasy focuses on Fantasy books. The minimun for a targeted ad on Reddit is $30/day, and I decided to spread it over 3 days, just to see what would happen.

Here’s what the ad looked like:

Screen Shot 2013-04-14 at 11.26.50 AM

And here are the results. First, the graphs on total impressions vs. clicks.

Screen Shot 2013-04-14 at 11.27.08 AM


Not so great. Less than one percent of the people seeing the ad clicked on it.

Here are the numbers:

Screen Shot 2013-04-14 at 11.27.14 AM


Only 42 people total clicked on the ad. That means I spent a little more than $2/click, which is crazy-expensive.

But what about sales? During the three days the ad ran, I got a total of two ebook sales, which means I made about $4.

So I ended up losing about $86 on the ad. Boo. Hiss.

What went wrong?

First off, it appears the Fantasy subreddit is a bad place for me to advertise. It could be my ad text sucked, or that everyone had installed AdBlocker, or people in Fantasy don’t like to be advertised to.

Second, once those 42 people clicked on the ad, only two of them bought the book. The successful and generous author Michael J. Sullivan told me that I made a classic new-author blunder: I drove people to my book when it had no reviews on Amazon. Of course he’s right—I wouldn’t buy anything on Amazon that had zero reviews unless I was absolutely sure about it.

Lesson learned.

Now what?

I’ve sent about 40 requests for reviews to indie book reviewers, and several have responded. I’ll continue to send those out. Once I have about 10-15 reviews, I’ll consider advertising somewhere, or doing a giveaway on amazon.

Also, it’s time to start contributing to GoodReads forums, and genuinely contributing to that community for a couple months before I try to sell them anything.

And, of course, keep working on the sequel.

12 thoughts on “How to screw up an ad on Reddit for your self-published book

  1. Very true. I read reviews and cover blurbs when I find a book by an unknown author, and that usually decides my purchase . I’m also fond of Amazon recommendations, for author backlist and the similarly themed.

    I’m on Reddit fairly often, paid the 30 bucks for gold. I don’t recall seeing your ad. I don’t frequent the Fantasy subreddit, but I do subscribe to many of the writing related.In any event, I will be checking out Nyx, and I’ll be sure to give you feedback.

  2. Just repeating it here, in case you don’t read the Reddit responses…

    You’re about to commit another serious mistake. Do NOT ask for reviews from friends and family. Usually they can be spotted miles away. Instead start browsing book review bloggers (they usually post their reviews also to Amazon and Goodreads).

    I’d suggest you’d join Kboard’s Writers’ Cafe and ask for more help:,60.0.html

  3. For more reviews, you might also try a librarything giveaway. They allow electronic-only giveaways, so the cost is essentially nothing. I got about 1 good review for every ten I gave away, but a couple of those reviewers really liked my work and reviewed another book for me.

  4. If I may make a suggestion – web-based advertising is laughably ineffective. I don’t think your campaign failed because of improper placement, but it failed for a reason related to the lack of reviews – obscurity. Unless you have a bit name, most people will fail to take a chance on you. Just think of how many ads per day you completely ignore – a lot, right?

    Just my opinion, take it or leave it 🙂

    • Antoinette, I totally agree about spammy reviews being a turn-off. If any of my friends leave a review, I hope it’s an honest one. If not, and they’re all spammy crap, then, well, I’ve learned not to do that any more. This is all something of an experiment.

  5. I don’t think the # of reviews will help. I have a ton of 4 and 5 star reviews for my book, and while $100 in reddit ads generate a fair number of clicks, there’s very little in the way of follow-up purchases. I just don’t think reddit is a very good place to advertise books…at least not paid targeted ads.

    If your book managed to generate good buzz as a discussion in a subreddit, the effect on sales might be much greater.

  6. I just had an almost identical experience attempting to promote a novel my fiance wrote! Great post. I’m currently looking to find active community forums and things to post in, do think goodreads is one of the better communities?

  7. As a review blogger I can tell you that usually once you get a few good reviews behind you with some of us the pack will slowly start to follow. You can consider a Blog Tour with a few giveaways. I do believe the Rock Star Book Tours service is free however they are very choosey about the books they will promote and set up a tour for. I think you’d stand a good chance.

    Being part of the reviewing community by reaching out via open discussion with readers/reviewers is more likely going to garner you book reviews. Don’t open in with you’d like your book reviewed but the more you interact with them by perhaps following their reviews and commenting/ discussing etc I think they would be more inclined to take a chance on your indie book and read/review it.

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