The Blitz

Marketing: Pay to Play is the Name of the Game

Organic reach is at abysmal lows. Authors need to be smart about where they put their money.


Today’s online world is a pay-to-play marketing environment.

How Marketing Works

While you can still build an organic following using only your website, an email list, and Instagram, the days of building an organic following on social media or Amazon are basically over. They are certainly over if you are selling something.

Pay to Play is the Name of the Game

As an author, you are a small business and every small business has a marketing budget. So, figure out a budget and put that money to good use. You don’t need to do everything. Be very stingy about where you spend money. It must work for you. Below are some ideas for your paid marketing.

Understand your target reader

  • Don’t do a thing until you understand exactly who you are targeting.
  • Who reads the type of books you write?
  • Develop that persona: How old is your reader? Does he or she work? If yes, what do they do? What movies and television do they watch? How do they spend their spare time?
  • Once you understand who reads your work, now you can look at how to find them online (aka: target them for your work)

Buy ads

  • Facebook Ads – use this to help grow your FB Group or email list
  • Instagram Ads – use this to help grow your following or email list
  • Amazon Ads – use this to sell that book
  • Bookbub Ads – use this to sell that book
  • If you’re selling books, focus on Amazon and Bookbub. If you’re building a following, focus on Facebook/Instagram.

Learn keywords and phrases

  • Think about what your ideal reader is looking for.
  • Use Google Trends, Keywords Everywhere and other keyword analytics databases to help you find the correct keywords and phrases for your particular type of book
  • Use Google search engine…type in the genre of your book and look down the suggested list
  • Keywords is what you are bidding on in Google and Amazon ads. If you win the bid, your ad will be shown to the potential reader

Study and learn ad copy

  • If you’ve won the keyword or phrase bid, now it’s up to you to capture the potential reader with your ad
  • The copy needs to be clear, succinct and to the point. Don’t mess around with too much “back story.” They just need to know what you’re offering and what you want them to do
  • Remember the reader. What do they get out of your book?
  • Book covers are not ad copy. They can be part of ad copy but not the ad itself.
  • Use compelling pics if you aren’t using the book cover

Test, test, test

  • Use a/b split testing to see which of your target audiences prefer your ad
  • Apply the split testing for the same audience but with different ads on the same product
  • Use different keywords and phrases
  • Always tweak and test. Give it 3-5 days to see if anything moves and try again


Spending money on marketing is simply something writers have had to do for years, just ask Mark Twain or Charles Dickens. We’ve been spoiled a bit in the marketing world with free social media, but that has changed, and we must change with it. Think of your author career as a small business and this is simply the marketing line of the small business spending budget.