Report From the Promo Trenches

I knew squat about promotion late last year as I was about to launch Implied Consent, a Maureen Gould Legal Thriller. Since then, I’ve learned some. To be honest, I have a lot more to learn. But I thought I’d share my knowledge and strategies for those who are starting out.

You Aren’t Going to Make a Profit on One Book.

There’s no way around the fact that the most effective promotions (i.e. those that generate sales) cost money. The less you spend on your ads, the fewer sales you’ll get. But if the readers like the book you advertised, they will buy your other books. That’s called “read through.” That is why you will see some authors release three books in close succession – so as to maximize their advertising investment.

Regardless, I decided to release and promote Implied Consent earlier this year because the topic was timely. When I was pitching it to agents and publishers, I often heard “we already have a #metoo book.” I figured I’d beat those to the market and if they did well, I could draft their audiences, like a cyclist follows a frontrunner and lets him drag them along.

You Need an Awesome Cover.

It needs to look good in thumbnail, catch the eye and be immediately identifiable. Hire a professional. You’ll be glad you did. I’m pleased with mine.

Social validation is Imperative.

 If you see an ad for a book with 1,000 reviews and one with 35 reviews, which one are you most interested in reading? If I’m spending 4.99, I’ll go with the 1,000 reviewed book.

Get Pre-Release Reviews.

For purposes of promotion, reviews are gold. They tell you what real human beings liked about your book. This is where you get the pull-quotes for your promotions graphics. “Keenan Powell brings new life to courtroom drama!” is a pull quote.

Booklife: Booklife is the self-publication review department of Publisher’s Weekly. If you don’t like the review, you don’t have to publish it. Even though Booklife is a paid review service, it is accepted by Amazon as authoritative, and you can post it on your book page.

Netgalley: Netgalley is a site that allows readers free access to your book pre-release (or you can post it after your release). A word of wisdom: I should have delayed the Netgalley package until close to the release date to make it easy for the reviewers to post on Netgalley and then click over to my Amazon page to post.  Don’t forget to advertise on Facebook that the book is up on Netgalley.

You can do Booklife and Netgalley on your own, or you can join  Independent Book Publishers Association ( and get reduced rates for both services.

Book Giveaways/Kindle Unlimited

Why would you give away your books? To get reviews. The current wisdom is that only 10-13% of readers post a review. So, if you want a lot of reviews, you have to get your book into the hands of a whole lot of readers. If you’re unknown, the best way to do that is through giveaways.

If you distribute exclusively through KDP (Amazon), you can give away your book for 6 days, grouped or individually, during a three-month period.

Also if you’re exclusive to KDP, you can list your book on Kindle Unlimited. To be honest, as of this writing, if someone reads my book on KU, I get less than half the royalties I would have if they bought the e-book or paperback. (I priced the e-book and paperback so that my royalties would be about the same.) But there is a huge market for KU and most of my royalties come from those page reads so it’s worth it to me.

Price Competitively

For a new e-book, $4.99 is common. For a new paperback, $9.99 is common.  If you’re unknown with few reviews, pricing higher than that risks lost sales.  Because I’m exclusive to KDP, I can run “countdown” price promotions, selling my books as low as $.99 for a limited period of time.


The platforms I’ve used with varying success include Amazon, Facebook, Instagram, Written Word Media (Free Booksy, Bargain Booksy, Hello Books), Bookbub.

Facebook. For mystery writers, your demographics are in the Facebook audience. But it’s a walled garden, meaning there is a limited audience which you will exhaust. I find that my ad will “die” in about ten days, meaning that the cost per click is going up while the click through rate is going down. I invest $10 per day initially. If the ad does well, I increase the budget slowly, like $5 more per day.

I’ve done a variety of ads on Amazon and the one that got the best response I call “Red Raincoat.” It has a close-up from my book cover as the only image. Above that is the opening passage from the book. Beneath the image is “Page-turning Legal Thriller – Free on KU” and the “Learn More” button. You have a few choices for the language on the button, but I notice that “Learn More” is used more often by big-name publishers.

Instragram. I just started advertising on Instagram. To do that, you go through the Facebook ad platform. In Instagram, you need a pretty picture. My “Happy Birthday” ad did well. When you first advertise on Instragram, it’s a good idea to build separate ads for Facebook and Instagram so you can see which one is or is not working quickly. I find the Instagram ads die more quickly but get a good response initially.

Written Word Media. Free Booksy is excellent if you have doing a free day on Amazon. I got thousands of downloads the first and second times I ran a free day on Implied Consent and promoted it through Free Booksy. The third time, not so much. Bargain Booksy is for books priced at $4.99 or less. The results weren’t as impressive as Free Booksy but they were good.

Bookbub. Go to Bookbub Partners to find out about all the promotion opportunities they have. I’ve done well with New Release for Less. They also have Bookbub Ads, which is dedicated space on their site and emails. The nice thing is that about Bookbub Ads is that if your ad isn’t doing well, they’ll send you an email within a day or two. I invest $10 per day initially. You can also check the Partner Dashboard as often as you like to see how its doing. Also check out the Marketing Tools section. They show you how to promote and how to build an ad that readers will respond to.

Amazon. The trick to Amazon is your keywords when you set up your book page and your targeting. It’s highly technical and if you’re only promoting one book, you’re most like going to lose money on it.  But this is the biggest place that people go to when they’re looking for a new book, so it behooves you to learn it.

Building Graphics.

I get my ideas for ads from what I see on Facebook or Instagram. If I see an ad I like, I click it to see how that book is doing in reviews and ranking. If it’s doing well, they are doing something right, so I try to copy their format.

The two main sites for building graphics are Canva and Bookbrush. I use both.

Canva is easier to use and they have a phone app so when you’re sitting around playing with your cell phone, you can experiment. But working on the computer is easier. Canva has a free plan so you can play around with it before you make a commitment. The “Happy Birthday” ad is from Canva.

Bookbrush is a little more slick. They have pre-built templates for different platforms. They also have cool templates where you can drop your book cover into a photo, like the one here of my e-book on a table with a cup of coffee.

They also have a template for Amazon A+ graphics which is that flashy three-part graphic. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure that A+ is worth the hassle. (Building mine took most of the afternoon and was frustrating.) I’ve seen authors with A+ who aren’t selling and vice versa. But if you want it, Bookbrush is where to find it.


Sharon Ward’s book is great for a well-rounded introduction to promotion Smart Self-Publishing Strategies: A Roadmap for Beginners: Ward, S L: 9781958478059: Books

Robert J. Ryan has written a series of books on promotion. He also hosts and is very active on a Facebook page (Authors Unleased). Author Unleashed: Advanced Publishing and Marketing Strategies for Indie Authors (Self-publishing Guide Book 1) eBook : Ryan, Robert J.: Kindle Store

Mark Dawson has a catalogue of promotion courses at  Self Publishing Formula. He comments on the posts from time to time. Follow him on Facebook. From time to time, he’ll offer a free introduction.

Ibpa: Independent Book Publishers Association (

Bookbub: Partner Dashboard – BookBub

 Written Word: Written Word Media – Book Promotion for Self-Published Authors

Home – Canva

Book Brush – Ads & Social Media Images for Authors


  1. This is so useful! I wonder if traditionally published authors can use any of this? I never know what is available to me and what is not. Thank you for sharing!

  2. An excellent post, Keenan. Glad to see your book doing so well, because I loved it. (And thanks for the plug. 🥰)

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