Book promotion, when it is done effectively, isn’t cheap. And a question we hear all the time is “is it worth me spending the money?” If you have to ask the question whether it’s worth spending money to get your book into the hands of readers then the answer is no. Effective promotion gets your book noticed by new readers, the more the better, but if you don’t have the confidence in what you have written that it will then be embraced, and that those readers will go on and recommend your book to their friends and so-on, perhaps it’s time to think again about your future as an author.
This is one of those salesperson tricks of challenging someone's pride. It's like you go to a car dealer and say you want the sensible sedan instead of the convertible and the salesperson says, "Well if you think that's too much car for you..." Thus challenging my pride so I'll get the convertible to avoid looking like a wimp.
In this case, I ask if it's worth spending the money because if I'm spending $100-$500 I don't want it to go for a banner ad that will be ignored or blocked. Or an ad on a site that only gets 50 views a day--and all from robots. Or a professional "review" that will be published on the back page of some rag no one will ever read.
It's not because I don't have confidence in what I wrote. Acting like this is what people typically mean is a salesperson's trick. "Oh, well, if you don't think your book is good enough..." It's horseshit. Only someone really dumb or really insecure (or both) is going to be baited into parting with hundreds of dollars on such passive-aggressive taunting.
Early on I was stupid enough to pay for ads. I bought a Goodreads ad and I have no idea if anyone ever saw it or not. It was a complete waste of $100. Because of that I've never bothered with Amazon ads or Facebook ads.
Recently too some crummy website mentioned they were promoting Eric Filler's Transformed for St. Patrick's Day. And then suggested I should pay them to promote other books. I checked and I sold 0 copies of that book in that time frame. So I asked why I would want to pay considering I hadn't sold any books? They gave me some BS answer. Finally I told them to unsubscribe me. Seriously, if your site doesn't sell any of my books, what good is it?
The thing is the Internet is a big, almost infinite place so anyone can start a website to promote books. That doesn't mean anyone will actually GO there except the people suckered into buying ads.
My philosophy on ads is pretty simple: when was the last time you bought a book because of an ad? Maybe if it's a sale; most of the books on my Kindle came from Amazon's Daily Deals or sales from Open Road Media or some other publisher. Otherwise I don't click on ads. I doubt most people click on ads, just as if given the chance people won't watch commercials on TV; that's why people like Netflix. That's why Hulu allows people to pay more to NOT watch ads. Except during the Super Bowl people don't like ads. And yet advertisers keep plugging away, so I guess on some level they might work.
Notable idiot Guy Kawasaki said you should spend a minimum of $15,000 on promoting your book. Maybe if you throw around that kind of cash you can generate some sales, but probably not enough to make back your money. Unless you can afford to buy prime time TV ad time or billboards in a well-traveled area or get a stadium or bowl game named for your book, it's not going to do much good. Not because your book is bad, but because people aren't going to take notice in enough numbers for it to be profitable.
People who say "you have to spend money to make money" are either people who have money to waste or the ones wanting to take your money. There are plenty of shysters out there; it's up to the author to be careful.