Sunday, January 16, 2011

Kindleboards advertising results

Warning: This post is full of number-crunching analysis. It is not for those who quail at the mention of math and accounting. If you want to skip all the analysis and head straight for my conclusions, scroll down to the Conclusions and Advice sections.
On Wednesday, January 12th, 2011, my banner ad for my ebook Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance went up on In this post, I’ll give you numbers, analysis, and recommendations about this advertising.
Kindleboards charges a fee of $40 for this advertising opportunity. In return, your 728x90 pixel leaderboard banner ad will cycle with one other ad at the top of every Kindleboards page. This means that, for one day, 50% of the pages that people see will have your ad on it. You can have the banner ad link to whatever URL you desire – your blog, your website, your Amazon book page, etc. I had my ad link to my Amazon book page.
Here is the ad banner that I used (click to enlarge each image):

My results
Here is the one-day traffic data for my banner ad, reported to me by Harvey from Kindleboards:
74,752 impressions
45 clicks
1 sale
Unknown number of samples downloaded
This traffic computes to the following online advertising performance:
Cost per thousand impressions (CPM) = $0.54
Cost per click (CPC) = $0.89
Clickthrough rate (CTR) = .0006
Conversion rate = 2.2%
Comparisons with other advertising
I have also paid for advertising on Project Wonderful, Bing, and Google (I compared them in this post). Here are some traffic performance comparisons. (Project Wonderful, Bing, and Google data is based on multiple ads across multiple days. kindleboards data is based on one ad on one day.)
Cost per thousand impressions (CPM)

Kindleboards has the highest CPM (cost per thousand impressions) and is therefore the most expensive. CPM can be used to evaluate the overall traffic that a website gets. From this data, it seems clear that Kindleboards is charging more than the going rate for their ad banners based on the user traffic that they provide. For example, a quick search of Project Wonderful advertisers with 70,000 – 75,000 impressions/pageviews per day (over the last 5 days) reveals costs ranging from $0.20 to $9.00 per day.
If Kindleboards can deliver a more targeted audience, however, a higher CPM is warranted. In this case, we can assume that near 100% of the audience owns a Kindle. That is certainly worth a somewhat higher CPM. We probably cannot assume that with most of the sites available on Project Wonderful, Bing, or Google. A quick search for the tag name “Kindle” on Project Wonderful comes up with only 3 websites (my blog being one).
CPM is not the only factor in determining the “worth” of an ad banner. If the clickthrough rate of a site is very high, it can make up for an expensive CPM.
Clickthrough Rate (CTR)

One way for a website to make up for a high CPM is with a high clickthrough rate (CTR). A high CTR is an indication that the user base for the website includes a large percentage of people interested in your product.
For my ad, Kindleboards had a VERY low CTR of .0006, compared to .03 for Google and .1 for Project Wonderful and Bing.
CTR can fluctuate considerably based on the ad banner, ad content, and website user base. The .0006 CTR for Kindleboards tells me that my ad banner was not compelling to the Kindleboards membership. This can be my fault, for designing a poor banner, or it can be a result of the Kindleboards user base not having many scifi fans. I could experiment with different ad banners to try to improve this CTR. However, each Kindleboards ad experiment costs $40. I cannot afford that.
Cost per Click (CPC)

The cost-per-click of an ad is another way to grade the performance of website advertising. Generally, a low CPC means that the user base for the site has a large percentage of people interested in your product.
Unfortunately, Kindleboards’ CPC is more than double Google, triple Bing, and 11 times Project Wonderful. What this tells me is that Kindleboards does not have very many scifi fans, or that my ad was just very poorly designed.
Conversion rate
The conversion rate is the ratio of people who clicked on the ad who ended up buying the product. I only have this data for Kindleboards (conversion rate = 2.2%). There is no way for me to get conversion data from Amazon for my Bing, Google, or Project Wonderful ads. Therefore, I cannot make any solid comparisons in this area.
Sales trends 
Here is a chart of my daily sales.

As you can see, even though I sell only a few books a day, I did not get much of a bump on the day my Kindleboards ad ran. Yes, I did get a spike there, perhaps even a 33% increase in sales. But, it was because of 1 book. If I sold 50 books a day, such a spike would make a Kindleboards ad worthwhile.
Was my ad on Kindleboards a success?
I certainly wanted my ad on Kindleboards to be successful.
Kindleboards came in a distant 4th in all online advertising traffic performance data that I could compare. Also, I spent $40 to earn $2.
I don’t think I can call the ad a success in any way.
Maybe some of those 45 people who clicked on the ad also downloaded samples. Maybe they will buy my book in the future. There is no way for me to know that. I can only grade the performance based on the hard data I have.
Why did my Kindleboards ad fail?
I do not blame Kindleboards for the failure of my ads. I blame myself for the following reasons:
1.    It was my banner ad that failed to connect with the Kindleboards users. I’m not a professional marketing expert. I’m just a self-publishing author doing all my own advertising. The banner ad was not compelling enough to get people to click on it.
2.    Could be my genre is not popular with the Kindleboards users. My ad indicates science fiction and action. A tiny fraction of users found that compelling enough to click on the ad. Does Kindleboards have a large scifi fan base? It doesn’t seem like it.
3.    Perhaps my $2.99 price was too expensive. But, if Kindleboards users are not interested in $2.99, then they’re not the audience I want to advertise to.
4.    Maybe my book title isn’t interesting enough for the members? Or maybe it’s too violent?
So, to put it in a nutshell, I do not believe that Kindleboards is the correct website to advertise my science fiction novel. However, due to the lack of membership demographics, there was no way to know that until I actually advertised.
My ad failed on Kindleboards.
My ads perform significantly better on Project Wonderful and even Bing and Google. The reason my ads perform better on Project Wonderful is because I can target them to receptive users, cheaply experiment with different banners, and buy multiple repetitive ads at a significantly lower cost.
On the other hand, other authors have indicated on the Kindleboards message boards that they have done significantly better than me. Some have had up to 30 sales or more on the day of their Kindleboards ad, and saw significant jumps in rankings. Obviously, there are many factors that determine success. It would be great to get some hard data on these success stories, such as genre and price. Then, prospective advertisers could better assess the chances for their own ads.
My advice to other authors
While Kindleboards advertising did not work for me, it might work for you. Maybe you have a better banner ad, or your genre connects with the membership.
I encourage you to buy at least one ad on Kindleboards so you can evaluate your own success. Part of a self-publishing author’s job is marketing, and it is your responsibility to seek out and find the best places to advertise. Kindleboards might be the place for your book or genre, even though it wasn’t for mine.
If you have advertised on Kindleboards, please add your results to the comments section.
Suggestions to kindleboards
To the fine folks who operate Kindleboards I would just like to say that I did not write this post in an attempt to diminish your service. You folks were nothing but helpful with my advertising on your site. However, I must honestly report on my results and, unfortunately, my results were not good. But, I think the reason for that was that my book and Kindleboards are mismatched, or my ad banner was really bad.
Here are some things that I think could help entice me to advertise on your site again:
1.    Lower your price. At $40 a day, and a $0.54 CPM, you are far more expensive than other ad services out there. You’re also pricing me out of experimenting with different ads on your site, or trying repetition to see if that can improve CTR. At $40 I’ll only ever advertise on your site once. Of course, it seems that you have the demand to support that price, so it probably isn’t in your best interest to lower it.
2.    Switch to using Project Wonderful to serve your ads. Project Wonderful provides great features to advertisers, including robust daily reporting and tracking. It is also an auction system. The marketplace determines how much your ad banners are worth, but you can set minimum bids. You probably won’t get $40 a day for your banner ad, based on other sites I’ve seen with similar daily pageviews/impressions. But, Project Wonderful supports 7 different banner sizes and you could put two or three on your forums. You might be able to get more than $40/day with 3 different ads. Who knows? Maybe you could experiment. (Project Wonderful does get a cut of your earnings.)
3.    Provide some more demographic data about your users. You have almost 30,000 members and it would be great to know more about them. Do some polling on your forums asking people to tell us what e-genres they buy, how much they spend per month on ebooks, country of residence, and so on. Provide these results in prominent locations.
Whether or not you investigate or experiment with any of these suggestions, I wish all of you folks at Kindleboards the best of luck and continued success.


  1. This is a great post! Kindleboards does seem somewhat more expensive than the others. I was thinking about trying out Project Wonderful.

    Thanks for the info.

  2. This is very helpful data, but I think you might have overlook one possible reason, it may have been that the genre was not objectionable, and the banner was well done, but it may be that readers of kindleboards do not click through banner ads very much, as compared to users of the three other broader based platforms. It would be interesting to see what would happen to the click rate if the same ad ran without the simple removal of the two words "science fiction" which does seem to be less popular than suspense and romance genres, and your banner is very noir looking. (and very well-designed imho). But the would be too expensive an experiment, based on your datat. I think you saved me some money! Thanks. And I'm going to check out Project Wonderful too.

  3. Very, very informative post Derek (as per usual). Sorry to hear the ad didn't quite come through. I think your analysis is great and really helpful to me.

    I'm going to check out project wonderful...

  4. Solid data always makes me feel warm and fuzzy on the inside <3

    I'm surprised your Kindleboards ad didn't go as well as planned. Have you thought about advertising on Kindle Nation? I've heard good results from them, but it's far more expensive... over $300 and they are booked through next March at least...

    J. E. Medrick

  5. Thanks, all. Shiy, $300 is way beyond my advertising budget, unless Kindle Nation can convince me I'll seel 150 books. I'll look into them, though.

  6. Of course now that I want to, I can't find the link. But... supposedly people who've used them jump significantly in rankings, like up into the top 1,000 and sometimes 100 in their categories.

    Problem: Prohibitively expensive, which is why I probably won't use them either :P But, you know, if they have the demand, they can charge whatever they want, I suppose. (Like you mentioned with Kindleboards)

    J. E. Medrick

  7. Thanks for putting this out there, it's very helpful. I've found google adwords a great way to experiment, at least when it comes to different types of ads for the same product. I was surprised at some of the stuff I learned just experimenting that way. Most of it wouldn't apply here because I write fantasy, but I thought I'd mention it. It doesn't sound nearly as effective as Project Wonderful.

  8. A well-done analysis of your results, Derek. As someone with many years in the ad business, however, I'd like to point out that your trial missed measuring one of the biggest factors that make ads in all media work--repetition. Quite frankly, if major marketers like P&G and Pepsi depended on the results of one single day's exposure of the message for a given product, they would never advertise at all. They know that the effectiveness of an ad is cumulative--the more times it's seen, the greater the impact on the consumer. A one-shot test is bound to fail.

    Unfortunately, in the book business building cumulative exposure is prohibitively expensive, which is one big reason major publishers don't do it. Your sale of one book for a $40 expenditure is not economic, of course, but probably quite normal. In fact, your conversion rate of 2.2% is very good in comparison to advertising in general and the CPM is quite acceptable.

    Repetition is essential for a couple of reasons:
    1. People have to notice the ad, consume it, decide whether the product offered meets a need they have, then get off their fat wallets and take action to buy. That's tough to accomplish with one two-second exposure (or however long they spend looking at your ad).
    2. At any given time, only a small slice of the population--even those interested in a product like yours--are in the market to buy. If they're not, they won't act on your ad no matter how good it is or where they saw it.

    Here are a few other pointers on advertising you might find of interest:

    Cheers--and thanks for keeping us all in the know.

  9. Excellent analysis, go information.

    Thank you for sharing!

  10. IF the ad itself is the issue, might it have something to do with color. I noticed that you have an ad from PW on your site now. Well, it was on the screen right beside your blog post and the picture of your banner ad. Granted, the sample of your ad was smaller, but the ad for the Rys Chronicles was definitely the one I noticed first. As you can see, it is more colorful and might draw the eye more.

    Then I saw that she was offering the first book in her series for free, so I figured I might as well download that now and read it some other time.

    The banner ads I'm having made for Violet Skies will probably feature mauve as the dominant color. I think that will stand out against just about any website background and attract attention. I know a guy who is studying commercial art and knows about the use of color in advertising, so I'll ask him.

    Just my observations, FWIW.

  11. Thanks for sharing this info. I had not thought about using a banner ad and don't know if I will in the future. Like you, I have little or no ad budget to work with so I am going to have to focus on reviews, blog tours, that sort of thing. I noticed that Edward mentioned your ad color. I didn't think it was an issue, but you never know. I recently designed two book covers of my own. If you'd like to vote, check it out at My covers are in black and white, so if there's a problem with yours, I may have a problem with mine. I guess we'll see. Are you considering changing your banner ads?

    S.A. Huggins

  12. Derek, I enjoyed looking thru the data - being an engineer by training - and it seemed to me the biggest thing missing is what the Kindle people actually buy. Some demographic info is srsly missing. OTOH, Kindleboards could probably charge even more if they could provide that detail. Otherwise, as you point out, you have to develop it yourself, and that is done through repetition as Mr. Donelson said.
    thanks, tony.

  13. Derek:

    I've posted a possible cover that I did for a short story I want to e-publish. Can you take a look and let me know what it needs.

    It's a love story and the vehicle shown in the cover plays a small role in the story.

    Thank you!

  14. Okay here's what Josh had to say:

    "I'm not an advertising expert, but what shade of purple you use will have an impact. A royal purple is the safest bet but may not have the connotations you are looking for. That said a banner should be eye catching, composition matters more than color."

    And he knows more about this stuff than I do.

    @Dave Donelson: I read your page, and my main takeaway from it is that I will have to think about my target audience. I hope that my book can have a pretty wide appeal, but there is always a target market most likely to buy and that's where I should focus any advertising efforts.

  15. @Edward L Cote: You're absolutely correct about needing to target an audience. That should really be the first step--everything else from the color scheme of the ad to the placement flows from that. It's almost impossible to be too specific about who your potential buyers are. Here's a blog post based on an excerpt from my book about that very subject: It's not specifically about selling books, but the basic rules for marketing a product apply to just about everything.

  16. Derek,

    Thanks very much for the feedback on my cover ... I think you were pretty much on the mark.

    If I can be of any assistance on something you're writing or a project, if you need another set of eyes, let me know.

    Also, I wanted to make you aware of Patch ( Patch is a start-up community journalism web site run by AOL. My background is in journalism, so I've started to do some freelance writing for them. An article of 400 words or more is $50.

    But you don't have to be a former journalist to write for them. I know you're always looking for ways to off-set your "writing addiction," thought this might help.

    Patch is in Washington state, not sure if one is in your town or close by, but give it a look.

  17. I bought a book-of-the-day spot (comes up in September, laugh) on the KindleBoards and I'm expecting about the same. The problem with a kindle site is isn't not genre specific. Just because people have kindles doesn't mean they read SF/F.

    I'm having some luck advertising on Goodreads, though it's definitely hard to break even when you're paying per click. Some days I do, some days I don't.

    Some day, when it's more established with more traffic, I'm going to offer advertising on Kindle Geeks (only for fans of SF/F and geeky non-fiction). That's the kind of site *I'd* like to advertise on. :)

  18. PS. Kindle Nation is more like $80. I ran Emperor's Edge (high fantasy) there a couple weeks ago and sold 30 books the day it ran (I'm at $2.99 too so $2 for me per sale), and I believe a few that sold over the next couple days were a result of that sponsorship too. I also had more hits to my blog with people searching for my name that week.

    KN is another case of not really being for SF/F peeps (check out their spreadsheets to see how the various genres/price points perform), but there were enough that I felt it was worth the money to promote with them, and it was fun selling that many books in a day, hehe. Your cover is more professional than my EE one too so you might do better.

  19. Hey Derek,

    Traditionally, banner ads don't convert well. The last numbers I saw were about 0.2% and dropping.

    That being said, I would have expected that an ad for a Kindle book on the KindleBoards would (all things being equal) have a higher click-through rate. However you experienced a much lower one, which means something else is up.

    I don't see anything particularly wrong with your ad, but the numbers don't lie so that's the first thing I'd change. Maybe come up with a catchy one-liner for a tag line? Keep the price there though, that looks good. I'd also recommend looking at other banner ads to see what you like and don't like.

    The other thing is, why not create a banner ad for this blog? You can test different ads for free to see what works best. I know that the "paid sponsor" ad you have in the right sidebar is another experiment, but you are going to make a lot more money from advertising your own book than someone else's...

    Great blog, btw -- just found it recently. I really like the methodical approach you are taking to everything epublishing.


  20. Dave,

    Yes, it would have been nice to have some repetition on Kindleboards. However, it’s just too darn expensive. Each repetition costs me $40. I’m just a small fry and even that one $40 expenditure made me cringe. I don’t doubt that repeated ads on Kindleboards would increase my overall CTR on their site. I just wish I could afford to do it.

    A 2.2% conversion rate might be normal, but when it equates to a 5% return on investment it’s not enough. And, if $.54 CPM is acceptable for high traffic sites, I guess I’ll stick to the lower traffic sites that cost 10 cents or less. Yes, it takes more effort to monitor the ads and performance across many sites, but it sure saves money.

    Next month, I’ll be spending my money on Project Wonderful again, experimenting with different ads, sites, and repetition schedules. I’ll report how that goes.

    Thanks for all the info! It’s very helpful. Everyone should check out Dave’s site: Five Rules for Effective Advertising.

  21. Great info, Derek.

    I've considered advertising on Kindleboards, too. However, since my novels are Young Adult I didn't think that the demographics were right for me. Seems like top sellers are Suspense, Thrillers, Romance, and Paranormal for Kindle owners.

    Narrowing your marketing efforts to a targeted audience seems like the way to go--like you said. I'm definitely looking into Project Wonderful.

    Jason Ancona

  22. Derek, some excellent data, and worthy of consideration.

    As you've discovered, removing the inconsistencies of design from the possible success of an advertising campaign is difficult, especially when you have zero demographic data to work with, as is the case with Kindle Boards.

    I'm fortunate in that I'm also a designer and a writer, but that still doesn't insulate me from the demographic trap.

    BTW, I shared your article on Twitter.

  23. Thanks for the article.

    Kindle Boards are undoubtedly good for reaching out to both your readers and fans. It is also wise to diversify your advertising.

    Thus, I would like to share some good words on advertising which will provoke some constructive thoughts in readers.

    Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising. ~ Mark Twain
    Advertising is a business of words that capture the buyers' imagination to take action. ~ Sean Justin Preston
    It takes more than capital to swing business. You've got to have the A. I. D. degree to get by - Advertising, Initiative, and Dynamics. ~ Isaac Asimov

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