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Clever ads that sell the story, not the book.

Clever ads that sell the story, not the book.

Mike Doane

7 examples of book ads that speak directly to readers’ imaginations.

These ads do much more than sell books — they tell a story that stick with readers.

Great advertising does a few things well.

It grabs its audience’s attention, tells a story, and generates enough curiosity that its most-qualified viewers want to find out more about what’s being sold.

I remind my clients of this a lot. I tell them that writing an ad is a lot like telling a story.

You see, when I’m not spinning up tall tales for businesses, I’m writing fiction and helping authors navigate the world of book marketing.

So today, I wanted to bring together these passions together and explore some of the best book ads I could find.

There’s life in a book

Penguin’s ad campaign is incredible because it doesn’t market any particular book. It simply uses words and punctuation to tell a story.


It’s memorable and appeals to readers in a way that an image of a book cover couldn’t. It makes little jokes and puns of the words that show up on pages.

And it gets readers curious.

Is this quote from a book I haven’t read? Let me see…

Become someone else

The appeal of reading is that you can step in someone else’s shoes. Books allow you to enter the mind of another and live their life, if only for a short time.


Mint Vinetu’s ad campaign captures this perfectly.

It’s tagline, “Become someone else,” pairs perfectly with the images it uses in the advertisements.

It’s call to action sweetens the deal.

Come to our bookstore to “pick your hero.” Who wouldn’t want to go?

Come with a story, leave with another

What makes reading even better is that it is an exchange of ideas. It is a conversation between the author’s words and the reader’s imagination.


Colsubsidio Library’s ad campaign uses unique illustrations of popular characters and settings to get that conversation going.

Its tagline and call to action — “Come with a story, leave with another” — does a great job advertising the library’s book exchange program.

Bring one of your favorite books and trade it for another.

A reader’s dream.

Beautiful books make perfect gifts

Folio Society doesn’t sell books to your average reader. They make high quality books that collectors like to display on their bookshelves.

These are the types of books that make a great gift to a recent college grad with a literary disposition.


This ad for their edition of On the Road plays on that.

It suggests that this book is the perfect gift from a father to his adventurous son. They also play on some good old-fashioned dad humor to sweeten the deal.

There’s always a book that suits you

Great ads speak directly to their audience. They don’t try to be a one size fits all.

This first ad understands that readers of mysteries like being part of the action. They like to connect the dots and find all the clues along with the main character.


The ad brings them into the action and says, can you solve the mystery of the backwards sentence? If you can, you might just like this book too.

The next ad considers who might read classical works of fiction, specifically the Greek Tragedies. This person is probably well-read, but also has an interest in current events.


Sick of the tragedies in modern politics? Pick this up instead. What you’ll quickly realize is that people haven’t changed in one-thousand years.

This final ad continues that train of thought. Readers of middle eastern fiction probably know all about middle eastern politics.


So they make a little joke. Remember when Jimmy Carter signed that peace deal? Didn’t last long, huh? Well, we’ve got some fiction that’s a heck of a lot cheaper than what taxpayers payed for that little game.

Sure, you could run ads that promote book discounts and popular titles, but it’s ads like these that really stick with readers.

— Mike Doane