Ads in Books

http://www.flickr.com/photos/31216636@N00/3253842434/I’ve noticed that in following the news around e-books, topics seem to come in waves. For example, this week I’ve found several articles written about ads in books. Most have been negative. By a happy coincidence, I had an post outlined on this very topic. The difference is that I support ads in books. So I find myself in the minority, but I still think ads in e-books are a good idea, as long as guidelines are followed. Allow me to explain.

First, let’s look at what ads are. Most of the time they are nothing more that irrelevant clutter. On the way home from work today I saw an ad to rent a building, an ad for coffee, an ad for industrial supplies, about a dozen ads for restaurants, and more. Not a single one of these ads pertained to me and my needs at that moment. They were clutter. I’ve heard the average person sees over two thousand ads per day.

But sometimes ads are a good thing. For example, I love boardgames. Sometimes I read a blog post or an article about a game that pushes me over the edge. I decide that I must have that game. At that moment, an ad for that game is very useful and relevant. In fact, it’s a good thing. It’s exactly what I want.

What about ads in books? First, a quick story. I first met Brandon Sanderson through Rob and Dan Wells. Once, at a signing for Elantris, I went and talked to Brandon for a good ten minutes. Nobody else stopped by (that doesn’t happen anymore, visit Brandon at a book signing and be prepared to meet many of his fans). I really enjoyed Elantris, and I enjoy that genre.

Several months later Brandon Sanderson came up to speak at a writers group in Logan. With him came a man I’d never even heard of before—David Wolverton. Brandon spoke very highly of David, as well as his books. I was introduced to David and his work through Brandon.

Brandon Sanderson can only write so many books in a given year. I can read more books that Brandon can produce. So if I really like Brandon’s books, why not have an ad in an e-book that points a reader to similar titles? An ad that introduces me to David Wolverton? I’m not talking about ads in the middle, or ads that interupted the reading experience, I’m talking about ads in the back of the books that say something like, “if you love epic fantasy, you really should check out…”

Authors should support each other. I don’t consider Rob Wells the Pepsi to my Coke. He’s the peanut butter to my jelly. There are plenty of readers out there, and as authors we should look for every opportunity to help a fellow author.

Let’s look at how this might work. Imagine I have an e-book that is selling 100 copies a month. I put an ad in my book for Author B and charge her 10 cents for each of my books that is downloaded. That would run Author B 10 dollars a month. You might argue that you’re only advertising to 100 people, you could rent a billboard and reach tens of thousands. But there is something special about those 100 people. For my book, we know their rough age, we know what genre they like, we know they already have an e-reader, and we know they have a credit card. In other words, we can be very targeted with our ads.

Let’s say 100 people see Author B’s ad and 10 of those go on to buy the book. If Author B sells his book for $2.99 on Kindle, he’s just made $21, or doubled his money. This doesn’t take into account the friends of those ten new customers who will tell their friends, and drum up even more business.

And if I run five ads in the back of my book, that brings my profits up from $2.10 per book, to $2.60, an increase of almost 25%. But more importantly, I’m helping a fellow author, as well as helping my readers find other books they will enjoy.

David Wolverton recent wrote an article that spoke out against ads. The ads he spoke of were ads that interrupted the reading experience. Imagine you’re on your iPad, and at the climax of the story you have to stop to watch an ad for a new car. You can’t skip the ad, you have to watch it all.

This does not sound like a good experience for the reader, and I agree with David that this could alienate readers. I would not want ads like this in my book, with one possible exception.

If ads like this made a book free, and readers could choose between a free ad-supported book, or to buy a book ad-free, then I would support ads of this nature. The reason I would support this is that even in our wealthy America, with libraries in every community, we could use more books in kids’ hands. If watching an ad allowed some kid somewhere to read a book he might not otherwise get a chance, then I say bring on the ads. We’ve live with ads on TV, and we’ve lived with ads on the radio. If ads put more books in more hands, then I say we don’t dismiss them too fast.

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3 Responses to Ads in Books

  1. chuckarama says:

    Would the form of advertising known as, “Product Placement” work in books. There are two types of Product Placement that I’ve personally taken note of in television, that come to mind and might work.

    First is the very obvious form where a Snickers bar, Reebok sneaker or some obvious branded product is made mention of or shown in a very conspicuous manner. If it doesn’t harm the work, could authors make deals with companies to place those mentions in their works and generate a little additional advertising revenue? In e-book format, a good ad-engine would detect the Reebok reference (or named board game) and maybe put forward a place you could purchase them from. If adds are going to come up in an e-book, this would be a way to front load them and create additional opportunities for the author AND the book provider to generate revenues.

    Second method I’ve observed in television that may translate well for authors is along the lines of your Sanderson-Wolverton experience. There is a form of Product Placement called, “The Crosssover” that is a form of internal advertising where a couple of characters from completely different shows will have a quick crossover moment where they bump into each other. Imagine if Sanderson and Wolverton collaborated their works to generate one small scene in the story where this could happen. Of course all things have their place and this wouldn’t always be desired, but it could be fun for the readers as it becomes an outlet to another authors works, and they come to feel like they are in on the little secret. Again a good ad-engine would detect the cross-references and display an appropriate ad for the associated book. Both authors win, as they introduce their audiences to each other and the e-book seller comes out further ahead as well.

  2. Karlene says:

    There have been ads in the back of paperbacks forever. Yes, usually ads for similar books, but the same author or publisher, but ads nonetheless. The idea of forced ads in an ebook, like you mentioned, would be intolerable for a reader and I think would very soon be dropped. But ads at the end? Who cares?

    I also don’t mind the idea of product placement ads in a story, as long as it’s done naturally.

  3. Pingback: Ads in Books Part II | The Open Author

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