The post below is an amended version, by request of Kirkus and by agreement with the author, of a post originally published on Friday, March 8, 2013. The original article contained some factual errors around dates and the order and nature of communications.
“When my first book came out, advertising budget dollars were the last thing on my mind. Having spent $3000 on self-publishing my paperback, I was feeling miserly. And I had three more finished novels to pay for.
“So I wasn’t thinking of advertising more elaborate than tweeting or Facebook posts and pay per click ads on Goodreads — until I read an enticing line on the Kirkus Reviews website, offering a display ad service in their prestigious magazine.
“A Kirkus review offered an unbiased review from a well-respected source. My book would be reviewed, hopefully positively, and then possibly presented in an authoritative newsletter sent to booksellers around the world.
“A heady proposition indeed.
“I needed validation from somebody beyond my adoring family, and Kirkus would either give it, or be the catalyst to send me back to a nursing job. I jumped at the chance.
Costs of Services for Authors
“I got a great review. It was what I needed to keep writing, spending money I didn’t really have as retirement drew near.
“A review costs between $400 and $500. I still don’t regret having my first three books reviewed. I skipped the next two in the series, and finally last fall, had the last book I wrote reviewed.
“Again, it was a good review, but I found myself wondering if the reviewer really read the book.
“I went back to their website and as I was reading, a sad thought came to me as I read all the services for authors: that they were definitely jumping on the indie publishing bandwagon.
“It’s big business, all of us who are compelled to tell a story. It occurred to me that what I had done by being enticed by the concept of advertising in Kirkus's magazine was waste $8000.
How I Got My Review
“Following the directive of the online offering, I requested more information. I set up an appointment the next day for a phone conference. I was so excited. I just knew this would be the ticket for my book to be placed into bookstores around the world, and that a lucky agent would discover what would surely be the next bestseller when they saw my ad.
“Let me preface this by saying no one at Kirkus promised me that any of this success would happen. It was my own egocentric yearning.
“To make matters worse, my mother was taken to the hospital the morning of my call with Kirkus. I talked about my writing future in the hospital parking lot while my mother lay dying.
“Then to make life more exciting, my daughter had to have an emergency C-section the following day. My husband and I packed up our RV after the undertaker came and rushed across the country to be with our new grandchild. A little more than a month later, I decided to purchase advertising.
“When I think of it now, I do so with a smile; the comedic aspect would be good book fodder. But at the time I was just numb.
“Aside from about ten expanded distribution sales which amounted to ten dollars, the ad didn’t do anything for book sales. I didn’t get any agent calls or publisher interest. It was a waste of money.
“But I often take longer to learn lessons than the average person.
“The following year, I reached out to Kirkus about purchasing more ads to promote my first book along with two new ones that had just received positive reviews.
“They discounted my ads to give me exposure in multiple issues of the magazine while staying within the $5,000 budget I dictated. I didn’t think twice, sending the credit card and the contract back as quickly as I could.
“For all that money, I got one response. And it was from a public relations firm, not an agent.
“Kirkus sent me the magazine in which my ad appeared. I was happy with it at the time, but as I look at it now, it seems hideous. It screams EGO.
Display Ads Don't Sell Books
“I wasted $8000 on ads that were never going to do anything for me because display ads don’t work for books. I have read that over and over again since.
“Hindsight and all that.
“Once again, I take full responsibility for such a stupid decision. My positive reviews are still posted on their website, and I do use the information in book promotion.”
I just wish I had that money now so I could publish a few more books.