Indie Authors: Earning Money Through Ads/Sponsorships

Selling ebooks is not the only way to earn money from a book. Authors can also take part in subscription services or give away books for free to upsell other products. But there’s also a third option: ads/sponsorships. 

Two years ago, Digital Book World posted the results of a survey of 5,000 people that found book buyers said they preferred to read a book for free with advertising than pay even 99 cents. The survey was clear that the ads would last at most 15 seconds and be placed at the beginnings of chapters. (Interestingly, a study by Frank N. Magid Associates for the Online Publishers Association in 2012 found that people who paid for content responded more positively to ads and were more likely to make purchases.)

This month, that option became a reality with the beta launch of Readfy. Readfy is a German-based ebook platform that gives users a choice: pay a monthly subscription or access the catalogue of 15,000 ebooks free, with ads.

According to The Digital Reader, ads display over the text and require online reader. But Nate Hoffelder, who admits to not liking ads, doesn’t think the model will last:

…this service has to walk a careful tightrope. It has to bring in the right amount of users, advertisers, and content, and failing on any one of those could doom this effort if Readfy isn’t careful.

Of course, authors can also place ads directly in their books. Product placement is common in TV and movies, and some books have already experimented with it. DBW reported last year that best-selling author Lisa Renee Jones wrote adamandeve.com, a real site, into her book, Being Me, “as the ‘go to’ place for the naughty goodies the main characters share.”

Publishing Perspectives has been advocating sponsorships for books since 2011. In a post titled, “Cashing In on Cache: How Authors Can Take Advantage of Corporate Sponsorships,” Jane Ubell-Meyer shared advice on how authors could earn additional income via sponsorships. According to her, there is a “deep well of cash,” though authors need to have a detailed marketing plan and know their target demographic well. It’s important to try to contact the CEOs of companies and to ask around for introductions, or at least cold call, and “to create a list of companies that are in alignment with your book.”

One way to find potential sponsors or at least get an idea of who might best fit a particular book is to browse the site SponsorPitch. It’s a recommendation engine with nearly 35,000 sponsorship professionals.

Having a well-crafted letter can also help. Book Market shared a letter that Kaayla Canfield, author of Simply Going Green in 3 Years or Less, wrote that netted her $10,000 per sponsor. In her letter, she gives enough detail about the book to show how it aligns with the company and she lays out her marketing plan. 

What do you think? Do you have any experience in getting sponsors for a book? Please share in the comments!

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