Writer Wednesday: Goodreads vs Facebook Ads – an Experiment

download (2)Which works better for writers placing sponsored ads, Goodreads or Facebook? I can only tell you how it’s working out for me, so this is in no way a definitive answer. It could be that my text isn’t optimum for one platform vs. the other, etc.

But for better or for worse, I thought I’d share my stats for other writers who are contemplating using either of these two venues and what my success rate has been with it.

First up is Facebook. I’d run ads in the past for completely unrelated things, but this was five years ago, and maybe things have changed. Anyway, I knew I could create my own ad there and only pay if I got any clicks. On January 3rd I started my campaign and did the minimum bid per click, which at the time was .42. The next day I checked my stats and not only did I not have any clicks, I had no views. In other words, the ad hadn’t appeared in front of anyone at all. I bumped it up to .50 and was still not reaching anyone. I then changed it to .55, and as you can see below, the results are pretty miserable:


Sure, I could bump up the cost I’d pay if anyone clicked on it, but I’m on a really tight budget and this is as high as I’m willing to pay for someone to click on the link.

Now onto Goodreads. They also have DIY ads very similar to Facebook. I saw another author saying they had success with it, so Monday I checked it out. Approval was in a much shorter time frame than they warn during setup (only took a couple of hours) and I actually did way less than their recommended price per click. I started at .10, and once the ad started running, I had views. And then clicks. I had a little more space for copy, so maybe that extra little bit helps? Here’s the stats:


So as you can see, in just two days, my reach is much better than Facebook, for less. You’ll notice that the target audience is a lot smaller on Goodreads (20K vs. 400K), but who cares if it’s getting seen and acted upon? And from what I can tell, those 6 clicks resulted in the book being added 6 times by unknown people during that time period, a 100% success rate.

Perhaps the other difference is that folks on Goodreads are there for books and only books and so they’re more willing to look at the ads, whereas on Facebook, the audience is now trained to ignore that sidebar of ads that usually pushes dating sites and getting cheap insurance, things that normally don’t appeal to us?

Another option that Goodreads has is the ability to create multiple ads under one campaign, pulling from one bank of money you set up. So in the graphic above, you can see I have two. The first one targets genres, and the second one I’ve created to target specific authors. I’m not sure how either work– does it show to anyone who has those authors listed as their favorites, or only if you’re visiting one of their books? Same with the genre–does it only show if you’re visiting a book in one of those genres, or can it tell which genres a person likes and shows it regardless of where they are on the site?

Another possibility is that I have my targeting completely wrong on Facebook and that accounts for the lack of success there. But, just from my own browsing experience, I do tend to ignore Facebook ads more than I do Goodreads…

If you haven’t done either, you might be worried about costs getting out of hand if people start clicking on your awesome ad. But don’t worry, both platforms have a threshold amount for you to input your maximum. For Facebook, I set it up for $2/day and for Goodreads I set it up with a bank of $4 and have it auto-end when I run out of money.

Have you used either one? What success have you had with them?

49 Replies to “Writer Wednesday: Goodreads vs Facebook Ads – an Experiment”

  1. What a helpful post! Thanks for the info, Angela. I haven’t tried either of them but, from my own personal preferences, I think Facebook would be more of a bust. I tend to tune those ads out and think of them as sidebar clutter. Of course, I’m not a strong Facebook user.

    I think you made a valid point about people on Goodreads being there specfically for books. I have clicked a few ads on Goodreads whereas I haven’t clicked any on Facebook. Excellent post!

  2. Very helpful. I’m surprised at the extent to which traditional publishing doesn’t bother to collect data or doesn’t know how to, much less how to use it (Harlequin excepted). This is anecdotal, but comports with what I’ve heard from other authors. Facebook is not realizing its potential, and Goodreads is a good place to hang out.

    1. Thanks for coming by Grace! I agree, there’s a missed opportunity here for Facebook, but also the Big 6. And yep, my results are purely anecdotal, but I thought I’d share my data into the soup mix so others can compare and perhaps a general consensus could evolve over time.

  3. Great information, Angela! I do tend to ignore facebook ads, but I also like that you can pay per thousand impressions instead of click throughs. I haven’t used FB ads recently, and I did run a series of ads for an organization, and we spent around $40 with no obvious benefit at the end. Goodreads makes sense, and I like that you can target people who like particular genres. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I don’t know that I like paying for impressions since I don’t feel like I get to know if they do anything. Do they let you know # of clicks? Is it cheaper to do it by impressions?

  4. Such great info. You talked me into a Goodreads ad for “Melting the Millionaire’s Heart.” My publicist at Entangled agreed that they’d seen good results for Goodreads ads, so we’ll see how it goes!

  5. This is great information. Thank you for sharing. I did a Goodreads book giveaway recently and had 158 people add my book. I did limit the ad to North America, but plan to do another one and include more countries around the world.
    I think I’ll try a Goodreads ad.

  6. Thanks for the information, Angela. I haven’t tried ads so far, but I have to agree with your assessment. Facebook users are there mostly for socializing and Goodreads users are there for books. I know I ignore all the ads on Facebook.

    1. Yep, that seems to be the consensus. Which makes sense. Maybe when I did my ads back 5 years ago, we weren’t trained yet to ignore those on Facebook. I seem to remember then that the sidebar wasn’t all corporate ads then and so there was an incentive to look there before…

  7. Angela, I did a FB ad too on the 7th- 9th.. Here’s my data just for comparison for someone who spent more money and had a larger reach, but I too had dismal results.

    Campaign Reach? 26,770
    Frequency? 7.4
    Social Reach? 0
    Actions? 0
    Clicks? 20
    CTR? 0.010%
    Spent? $20.00

    1/8 19,374 people reached in 1 active campaign for $10.00
    1/7 15,907 people reached in 1 active campaign for $10.00

    My had had my cover (which is awesome) and the text: “Intriguing new contemporary western romance by Sara Walter Ellwood. Click for details.”

    Think the next time I do an ad, I’ll do a Goodreads one. I actually created an ad there, but since I didn’t really have my page for Sara Walter Ellwood (I’m also on GRs as Cera duBois) ready, I didn’t run it.

    Great article!


    1. Thanks for posting your data here Sara! Hopefully it’ll add to other data and we can know for sure which is better. Right now, it seems Goodreads is winning! Good luck with your GR ad when you run it!

  8. Thanks for the post, Angela! I haven’t done either, but I think I’ll check out a Goodreads ad next week as part of my marketing/promo attack. Thanks so much for explaining your results here!

  9. Excellent info, Angela – thanks for sharing! I’m finding Facebook more and more useless these days. I also ignore every ad they toss at me, but as you and others have pointed out, Goodreads is all about books (or ebooks!) I also need to get more acquainted with it.

  10. Hello Angela,

    I am so glad you had a good experience on our site! I wanted to clear up a few questions you had and also offer my email address incase anyone else has questions I can answer about our self serve platform.

    When you target genres or authors you are targeting users who have those genres/authors on their shelves. So if one of our users has one of your genres or authors on their shelf they will see your ad throughout the site. However it is a good idea to only target authors OR genres otherwise your user has to have both on their shelf and it becomes too limiting. We also recommend leaving out an age range as many users don’t enter their age and bidding around .50 to ensure your ad gets shown. You can see more of our self serve best practices here – https://docs.google.com/a/goodreads.com/file/d/0B9be60u7_Oc_VjQzcWkyYW4wUFU/edit or feel free to email me at mthrockmorton@goodreads.com for additional assistance.


  11. Great post, Angela! Thank you for sharing your experiences.

    I’ve never used any ads for my books (the darn budget thing) and because I know that authors pay per click on ads, I never click them, but go off and search items that catch my attention on my own. See how thrifty I am on everybody’s behalf? 😉

    Based on your info and experience, though, I’d consider running a Goodreads ad somewhere down the road. And I wish they allowed ebooks for giveaways too! That’s all I read anymore.

    1. I hear ya on the budget and I do the same thing re: ads (I don’t click on sponsored ones from fellow authors but search for it)! 🙂 What I love about GR is I’ve only budgeted $4!

      I wish they did ebook giveaways too 🙁

  12. I too ignored the Facebook ads, just had heard too many authors talking about the dismal returns on those. What I found most interesting was that the GENRE targeted ads on Goodreads produced great results for me (but only after I tweaked the text on the ad). The author targeted ads did not produce nearly as well. Once I switched my text to a blurb from a starred review the clicks started happening at a frantic pace (constantly hitting my daily max until I upped it)…but ONLY for the genre targeted ads. Even with the blurb the author targeted ads did not produce. Actually, the genre targeted ads so outperformed my expectations that I have kept the ad alive far longer than I had planned on, since it is still performing. My takeaway is that the text of the ad is vital in addition to the targeting, but that Goodreads ads are definitely worthwhile if you can find the correct text to use. In my case, my Booklist starred review contained a pull-quote that worked perfectly (calling my book ‘the thinking teen’s horror choice of the year’) and definitely produced.

    1. Wow, Pete, that’s some really great food for thought! And that IS a great pull quote. You’ve inspired me to add a 3rd ad with a good pull quote and what I like about GR is that it won’t cost me any extra since I can run it beside the others in the same campaign.

  13. I’d have to agree that for authors, Goodreads seems to make more sense. I know that personally, the only time I even look at ads on Facebook is to hide them. I don’t hide ads for books (because as an author I don’t want other authors’ books hidden) but for the most part the Facebook ads are all junk – if not downright offensive or misleading – so I’ve gotten pretty good at ignoring them. All things considered, this is really helpful information to have – thank you so much for sharing!

    1. You’re welcome, Susan! What you’ve said seems to be the running theme throughout the comments and that is, we’ve been trained to ignore Facebook ads… I think a clear winner can be stated: Goodreads.

      1. I think, in general, people (all one billion plus of them on the platform) look at Facebook ads as Spam. Though there are fewer people on Goodreads, they are self-selected to love books and, therefore, look at the ads differently. If Goodreads were to start running ads for anything and everything I fear they’d run the risk of spamming themselves, but for now, ads on Goodreads do not seem to be considered spam, which makes them very useful.

  14. Thanks for sharing your experiment with us. Food for thought. Now, looking at it it makes more sense to post ads on Goodreads. You’re going right to the target audience–people who are not just viewing the site, but there to FIND books to read. FB may have a larger audience, but they are not there solely to find a book to read. Your purpose gets lost.

  15. I’ve always had MUCH better results on Goodreads than on Facebook… I think the audience on goodreads is looking for books to read… Facebook, not so much! 🙂

    Great blog!

    Lisa 🙂

  16. I’ve been wary of doing either Facebook or Goodreads.

    My only online ad experience was in running Google ads. I burned through $100 in short order before I figured out how to work the system. (With them I couldn’t get any action for under 75 cents, but for most of my keywords, I had to pay over a buck a click.)

  17. Thank you for this post! It’s kind of funny, I first saw the link to this post on Facebook (Novel Publicity Network by someone else). I have been thinking about putting more effort into Goodreads and less on FB…my results are similar.

    On to creating a Goodreads ad and another Giveaway…

    Peace to you… 🙂

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