“The reincarnation of Vladimir Nabokov” — and other, future ad campaigns

Before my panel at the Association of American University Presses last week, I caught the last half of a talk about Google’s “AdWords” program, which allows advertisers, including authors and publishers, to place ads in Google’s search engine using key words of their choice. The Google representative argued that the trick is to tailor the ads narrowly enough to your product to have users clicking through (Google will drop ads if the click-through rate is too low), while selecting words and phrases broad enough to alert a large segment of your potential audience to the book you’re advertising.

A few days ago, I received email from Roderick Maclean, a small press author who’s been trying to draw attention to his project by tying a Google ad for his novel to the names of popular and well-funded writers like David Sedaris, Dave Eggers, Jonathan Safran Foer, and Zadie Smith. (He’s ranked the authors by frequency of search on the day his ad was placed.) His ad reads:

Some novels are destined for greatness
Others novels are named Tropic/of/Cubicle

Maclean doesn’t estimate how many books he sold using the ads, but he does provide a ranking of the number of times authors’ names were searched in a three-day period. He calls the list “The Google Literati.” David Sedaris tops it.

An interesting facet of Google’s ad program is that anyone can launch a campaign and have the potential to reach hundreds of readers. I’m all for that.

On the other hand, now, instead of waiting for glowing blurbs from prominent writers, authors and publishers can just concoct their own, unattributed endorsements for the books they want to sell. Just think of all the would-be Nabokovs out there, waiting to be discovered: “Lolita‘s got nothing on this!” “the reincarnation of Vladimir Nabokov!”

Update: As Publisher’s Marketplace points out, there’s no discussion of cost in Maclean’s post. Here’s some information from the Google site:

There is a nominal, one-time activation fee for Google AdWords. After that, you pay only for clicks on your AdWords ads, and you can control that by telling us how much you are willing to pay per click and per day.

For example, a new advertiser paying in USD can activate his/her AdWords account with just US$5.00, and can then choose a maximum cost-per-click (CPC) from US$0.05 – US$100. Daily budgets start as low as 5 cents up to whatever limit he or she is comfortable spending.


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