Chickens, Eggs, and Sales (Advertising Your Book Before You Get Reviews)

A question I often get is how to advertise a newly-released book that has few or no reviews.

This issue causes a lot of stress for self published authors, including me, because it’s the old chicken and egg problem. It’s hard to sell books if you don’t have reviews. But it’s also hard to get reviews without a lot of sales.

The best places to advertise e-books are always evolving.

That’s why I periodically search the Internet for articles with up-to-date lists.

Best Book Promotion Sites 2018 is a good example of this type of resource. It includes descriptions of many sites as well as bonus discount codes for some of them.

Caution When Advertising

Below are some advertising options I’ve used in the past–and intend to use in the future–for new releases.

A few things to keep in mind before you advertise:

  • It’s often hard to make your money back on advertising, particularly in the beginning when your book has no reviews.

For this reason, I try to keep my advertising spending at a level I can afford even if it takes a long time to sell enough books to make a profit or cover the cost.

  • The options below are ones that I found helpful, but results vary depending on your genre, the price at which you’re offering your book, whether your cover appeals to your target readers, your book description, and how readers feel about your first few pages (among other things).

So sites that worked well for one of my books may not be helpful for one of yours, or for a different book I published.

  • Before you advertise anywhere, sign up for the newsletter or study the books listed on the site.

That way you’ll see whether the books being promoted are similar to yours.

  • I also find it helpful to see how high advertised books rank on Amazon on the day of the ad.

This gives some clues to whether the platform is effective. Keep in mind, though, that authors may be advertising on more than one platform at a time, so a book in the Top 100 overall or for a category may have gotten there based on a combination of ads.

Digital Book Today

Digital Book Today offers a New Release option for Kindle books. The feature has no minimum review requirement. For 14 days, your Kindle book will be featured on the website’s New Release page and will be included in a dedicated blog post with just 2 other books.

Right now it costs $30. 

The site also offers some genre-specific pages, including one for Mystery, Suspense, and Thriller, which is where I’ll be advertising my new mystery release The Worried Man for 30 days beginning on May 1 (the ebook release date).

While I haven’t found Digital Book Today webpage listings to be as effective as enewsletter options, which go directly to readers’ In boxes, I have seen boosts in sales when I listed my books there.

Digital Book Today also offers some listings for free.

Bargain Booksy

Bargain Booksy lists ebooks on its site and in enewsletters.

You can advertise ebooks on numerous platforms, including Kindle, Kobo, Nook, iBooks, and Google Play, as well as include a paperback link and an audiobook link. You can list books that are priced anywhere from Free to $5.

Bargain Booksy’s website says that it has no minimum review requirement, but “every book goes through an editorial review process. If your book does not meet our editorial guidelines, we will email you within 72 hours and issue a full refund on your payment.”

So far, I have not had a book turned down for lack of reviews when it was a new release. I suppose that might happen, but why not try and see?

The price for listing in the enewsletter varies based on genre.

For mystery, right now it is $55. (This site is the only other one so far where I’ve scheduled a new release ad for The Worried Man.)

Q.C. Davis Mysteries, Book 1

Free books can be listed on Freebooksy, a related site/enewsletter.

Fussy Librarian

Fussy Librarian is also a website and enewsletter service.

If you have a new release, you can advertise there before you have reviews so long as you have another book with an average rating of 4.0 with between 10 and 19 reviews (or an average rating of 3.5 you have more than 20 reviews).

Fussy Librarian also lists ebooks on multiple platforms and includes an audiobook link, which is one of the reasons I like advertising there.

As most of my books are wide (meaning they are available on multiple ebook platforms), I prefer advertising venues that allow me to list all my links. Also, I’ve found that when I advertise a discounted Kindle book on Fussy Librarian, I often see additional audiobook sales.

The prices for Fussy Librarian vary by genre and by whether your book is offered for free or at a discount. Right now to list a Mystery/Female Sleuth, it’s $18 if the book is offered at a discount.

Fussy Librarian also offers an enewsletter dedicated solely to free ebooks.


AwesomeGang will include books in its enewsletter that have no reviews.

According to the website and an interview I heard of the founder, that’s because he had trouble getting noticed when he had new books and he wanted to offer an option for authors in that same position.

Listings are available free or for $10.

I’ve only used AwesomeGang once when the service was just getting started, and I couldn’t tell whether or not it really boosted my sales.

For the price, though, I feel it’s worth trying again in the future.


JustKindleBooks sends out enewsletters and lists books on its site.

Despite its name, it includes links to both Kindle books and iBooks.

Listings cost between $18 and $38 depending upon the features you want.

I could not find a review requirement on the website. The site does state, however, that authors are better off launching a book promotion “after your book has some reviews.”

I agree, but in my opinion, it’s sometimes worth spending to get some initial sales. Those may in turn generate reviews, making advertising more effective in the future.

Books Butterfly

Books Butterfly provides many options over a wide range of price points for advertising your ebook in its enewsletter, on several websites, and through its social media pages. You can include links to multiple platforms.

I did not see any review requirements listed.

The cost ranges from $50 up to thousands of dollars, so I personally use some caution in using this service.

The site offers a guarantee of sorts for some of the promotion options if you don’t sell as many books as projected. Read the fine print, though, as there are caveats on that guarantee.

Book Zio

I also did not see a review requirement anywhere on this site.

The cost ranges from free to $49. You can include links to multiple ebook platforms.

I advertised The Awakening, a supernatural thriller, through Book Zio and was very happy with the sales, but at that time the book had about 100 reviews. I do plan to try for The Worried Man, but probably when I have at least 10 or 20 reviews and am offering a significant discount, as I feel I’ll get the best results then.

Ereader News Today

For me, Ereader News Today, or ENT, has been one of the best places to advertise. Through its newsletter, I have usually sold enough books to pay for the ad the day it runs and earn some extra money.

As with Book Zio, though, I have not used it when I had a low number of reviews.

Also, it’s unclear whether a book with no reviews would be accepted.

The website says “while we do not have a minimum number of reviews [that] are required, we do look at the reviews to get an idea of how well the book has been received by those that have read it.”

Further, the site says that it will accept preorders and, if those books have no reviews, ENT will consider reviews of previous titles.

Both of these comments suggest to me that you probably need to have some reviews to be accepted by ENT. Personally, though, I’d submit a book regardless and see what happened.

The cost varies by genre and by the price at which you are offering your book. For mysteries, right now it is $45-$120.

If you found other places to list books with limited or no reviews, I’d love it if you’d share them in the comments so that other readers can see them.

Until next Friday–

L.M. Lilly

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