When I first published The Never Hero, I bought a Goodreads Self-Service Ad Campaign. If you’re unfamiliar with this advertisement service, see footnote (*) at the bottom of post.

For the sake of disclosure, I paid in 75$ for a trial run of the service. I knew before investing this money that a number of authors reported lack luster results. I tried to stay positive, hoping that if the ads didn’t translate into immediate sales, they would help me target my “real” demographic as opposed to my “theoretical” demographic. Also that they would help me identify what imagery and wording drew people to my ads.

As most first time authors soon realize, this is easier said than done. Even with the handy feedback tools that goodreads provides for an author to analyze results.

A Brief Overview of Service Mechanics

Goodreads allows you to select an image, usually the book cover, a title, and a short description. Some example of adds I tried:



These boxes than display along the sidebar of users who are logged into Goodreads. The users who see the ads can be targeted to your specification based various criteria: Genres, Association to other authors of your choice, country of goodreads user.

My first disappointment with the service was the max image size.


In my first ad, I tried using my original black and white cover, and immediately ran into issues.  At such a small scale, with no color, I doubted anyone but me knew what they were looking at. Case and Point:

Original B & W Book Cover

So I eventually swapped out the cover for imagery that you see in the examples above. I choose pictures that I felt gave an impression of the content. Hence the hand gripping a chain, and the face of a man with deep shadows.


After a month and a half of trying different targeting techniques and playing with titles and imagery, raising the amount I paid for a click up to 3$, I had received a whooping total of (hold on I need to grab my calculator): Zero Clicks.

I’d get a report from goodreads once a day that looked like this:


Unfortunately, no data is seldom useful. All I could gleam from this was a list of possibilities:

  • Goodreads may not be where individuals interested in my novel can be found.
  • I am targeting incorrectly or have not found an effective promotional angle.
  • Due to the targeting I choose, the same people are seeing the add, and none were persuaded to click.

Short of ideas, becoming convinced I’d thrown away 75$, I tried something else.

  • I removed all targeting

Results after one day:


Given the shear number of people the add was sent to, these numbers aren’t stellar, but there are some take a ways from the information:

  • My targeting was wrong, and there is some other demographic that is actually interested in the ad. Though I can’t identify them from these original numbers because I set too wide a net. Still, they exist!
  • Add one is more effective then add two.
  • For Data Junkies
    • 89% of a months worth of ads took place in 1 day
    • 100% of clicks resulted from targeting everyone instead of who I’d figured would be interested.

This gives me new direction. Step one, target to the opposite of what I expected my audience to be, see if results remain the same. Slowly I should be able to identify what genre categories are responding to the adds.

Note: I’ve had a lot of issues trying to pick a genre for this title, see most recent post on the topic here: The Unnamed Genre | Psy-Fi

*What is Goodreads self-serve advertising?

The Goodreads self-serve advertising product is an affordable and practical way to reach the broader Goodreads community. The product runs on a cost-per-click (CPC) model, where the advertiser determines how much to invest in the overall campaign and sets a bid per click. Ads consist of a small image, a title, a description, and a destination URL, which the advertiser can set up directly via the advertising dashboard on Goodreads. Advertisers can create an unlimited number of ads within a campaign at no extra charge.

Goodreads Campaign | The Quest for the Click
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3 thoughts on “Goodreads Campaign | The Quest for the Click

  • October 20, 2014 at 12:28 am

    Goodreads is definitely NOT one of my favorite places. Even though it wouldn’t exist without authors and their books, we’re treated like lepers by so many on there.

    • October 20, 2014 at 2:59 am

      Hmmm. I haven’t really had any bad experiences yet, but the book has only been published for a month. Do you mean the users or the people who run the site?

  • October 20, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    Well the tech department was great when I needed some help, but the users (not all) and the librarians (not all) can be rude and mean at times; especially if they think you’re an indie author. (I’m speaking from experience. BUT, I’ve also had experiences with really awesome people.) I know some indie authors have been jerks on there, but that doesn’t mean all of us are that way. It’s ridiculous for them to assume that because even traditionally published authors can be huge jerks. I’d tell you what happened to me, but it would take too long to type. 🙂


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