Facebook Ads: My Self-Publishing Experience, Part 10

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The number one question independent authors have is “How do I promote my book?” It’s a great question, especially when many classic options (book readings/signings/release parties/school assemblies) are not possible. This is where Facebook ads come in handy.

Before social media, advertising was not typically an approach DIY authors would pursue. It was generally too expensive, too hard to generate content, and much harder to target your ads to reach the people most likely to buy. (Nonfiction authors were more likely to have success than fiction.)

But Facebook has upended all of that, making it easy to create ads and target your audience while making the whole thing affordable. Say what you will about the social media giant (and its sister company, Instagram), the fact is, millions and millions of people use it multiple times a day — especially during the pandemic. This is where your audience is.

There are two ways to go about creating and running a Facebook ad. You can go through Facebook directly or you can have BookBaby do it for you. I tried both, so I’ll share what I learned below.

But first, let’s talk about what makes a great ad and what Facebook advertising can do for you.

What is a Facebook ad?

Just so we’re clear: a Facebook ad is not a post on your Facebook page (nor will it show up there). You can create ads this way, and Facebook will offer you options to “promote your post,” but you’re likely to get better results if you create an ad from scratch.

A Facebook ad will typically consist of an image of your book — along with text and a “buy now” button linking to Amazon or the bookstore of your choice — that will show up in the feed of targeted Facebook and Instagram users. (And yes, if you pay for a Facebook ad, that ad will also show up on Instagram.) All of your ad’s elements are customizable: you can use a headshot or some other image than your book cover, you can direct people to your Facebook page or your website, etc.

Most likely, you will never see your ad “in the wild,” which is a little weird, especially if you have ever run an ad in print before. So you won’t get that thrill of seeing your book show up in the medium you’re paying for; all you’ll ever see (aside from a preview) are the results, and we’ll get to those in a moment.

Creating a Facebook ad

Your goal in creating a Facebook ad is to drive the highest number of people to your ad’s destination (likely your book’s page on the bookstore of your choice). So, how do you optimize your ad to do this? The good news is you should already have most of the elements at hand.

Your audience

Let’s start with who you want to see this ad, because that will drive your creative content. We all know that Facebook and other major websites have way too much information about you. This is a chance for you to take advantage of that info.

Facebook allows you to drill down your targeting to an almost insane degree of specificity. You can target by gender, age, location, demographics (education, financial, life events, relationship status, industry, and people who are parents), interest (pages they have liked, etc.), and behavior (how they’ve used Facebook, purchase behavior, etc.).

In short: You will be able to find your audience.

I think nonfiction authors may have an easier time figuring out their targeting than fiction authors — for example, if you’ve written about a hobby, you can just seek out people who are interested in that hobby — but writers of fiction can find their audiences, too. Target fans of popular books that are similar to yours. (For example, I wrote a YA fantasy novel, so I targeted fans of Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Terry Pratchett.) Or you can target people who enjoy hobbies that may be tangentially related to your genre, like TV police dramas, yoga, video games, knitting, Renaissance fairs, etc. The more characteristics you use the better.

If you write children’s books, keep in mind that your ads should probably target parents, rather than children.

Your image

You need an attention-grabbing image that will successfully compete with all the other images showing up on your audience’s Facebook and Instagram feeds. Ideally, you hired a design pro to create your book cover so that image should fit the bill, but you may have something else in mind. Either way, your image needs to be a show-stopper.

Text

Hopefully, you have spent some time crafting your Amazon page copy, so you can likely use this, or some variation of it, to create your Facebook ad. But keep your target audience in mind.

Call-to-action

You don’t want to just get people interested in your book, you want to drive sales. When your book is first being launched, your best bet is to send people to Amazon. Once your book is established, send them to your BookShop page and earn better royalties.

Keep in mind that if your Amazon or BookShop page isn’t optimized, you can send all the customers to your site you want but you won’t be able to effectively close any sales. (See my post on Amazon optimization for more on this.)

Your Amazon URL. By the way, if you’ve ever tried to share the URL for your book’s Amazon page, you’ve probably noticed it’s loaded with tons of characters, which can make sharing that URL unwieldy. The best URL to use to direct people to your Amazon page is one based on your ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number). You can find it in the Product Description section of your Amazon page. For example, my URL for The Dragon Squisher is www.amzn.com/B08GQ9PS72.

When to run your ad

You want to straddle your release date. So, it’s good to run it a few weeks (ideally a month) before your book comes out and then a few weeks afterwards.

Budget

There are two factors to consider when budgeting for your ad and they amount to breadth vs depth. Is it better to pay for more impressions per day for a short period of time or fewer per day for a longer period of time?

Facebook, apparently, has an algorithm that learns and tweaks its targeting as your ad runs. Also, people often need to see an ad as many as three times before they act. Given that, if you have $400 to spend, it’s probably better to pay $100 for four weeks than $400 for one.

Of course, there are other factors to consider. In my month-long campaign for The Dragon Squisher, I saw my results slowly go down over time, as you can see in the graph below (taken from my BookBaby account page). You can clearly see my results (the number of people who engaged with my campaign, including link clicks, comments, reactions, and shares), go down and my cost-per-result slowly go up.

Facebook ads graph

So I don’t know if the depth approach is the way to go; however, I don’t know I can really offer up any sage advice given that I ran only one ad with BookBaby. (Ideally, you have a budget that allows you to test a few different campaigns so you can see which ads work best for you.)

By the way, for my $400, I wound up reaching 61,716 people and got 2,087 unique clicks, for a clickthrough rate of 3.3 percent, which is pretty good. (Industry average for Facebook clickthrough rate is 1.33 percent)

According to my Publishing Specialist, there are several BookBaby customers who run ads through them all the time. One customer spends $350/week, reaching an average of 38,000-53,000 people a day, and his Facebook ads are the number one driver for his book sales.

If any of you have had experience with Facebook ads, I’d love to hear your results in the comments below.

Note: Although you will be able to see your impressions and clicks, you will not know how many Amazon sales you get as a direct result of your Facebook ads because Amazon won’t give out those figures. BookBaby will tell you how many sales you’re getting through Amazon, but there’s no way to know how many of those sales are driven by your ads.

DIY or DI-with-BookBaby?

As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, you can either buy ads directly from Facebook or you can go through BookBaby. BookBaby charges $99 for their Facebook ad service, which includes designing the ad, writing the copy, and selecting your target audience. Here is the ad they created for me.

Dragon Squisher Facebook adBecause I bought the Deluxe Publishing Package, that Facebook ad design service was included in my package, so I only had to pay for the impressions, and as I said, I chose to go with $100 a week for four weeks. (BookBaby’s minimum purchase is $100 per week.)

After my ad campaign ran through BookBaby, I decided to run a very small test ad directly through Facebook. They make it very easy to create an ad and select your audience. On the plus side, it’s cheaper to go directly through Facebook. You can spend as little as $1/day. For my test, I ran an ad for $3/day for two weeks. I spent $41.60, reached 8,808 people, and had 188 clicks. So while my cost per click was very low (22¢), my clickthrough rate was only 2.1 percent. Now, I know it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison, but that’s what I got.

As for viewing your results, the BookBaby interface is much friendlier and offers the ability to see how your campaign performed over time. You can also view the comments people left on your ad. The Facebook performance results do not allow you to see comments, but you can see results by demographic.

So which one should you choose? If you don’t have a Facebook account and/or if you have ordered the Deluxe Publishing Package from BookBaby, I would use BookBaby to run your campaign. It’s nice having a marketing team design your campaign for you and great to have them do all the targeting legwork. If you’re on a tighter budget or if you want to test numerous campaigns and don’t mind spending the time to get it all done, then going through Facebook is a viable option.

Either way, you owe it to yourself to budget in at least one Facebook ad campaign in your marketing efforts.


Read the rest of the series:

My Self-Publishing Experience. Part 1: Placing An Order
Book Marketing and Social Media Promotion: My Self-Publishing Experience, Part 2
Book Editing: Part 3 Of My Self-Publishing Experience
Amazon Optimization: My Self-publishing Experience, Part 4
Metadata Optimization For Your Book: My Self-Publishing Experience, Part 5
How To Get Cover Design And Formatting That Fits Your Story: My Self-Publishing Experience Part 6
How I Landed An Audiobook Deal: My Self-Publishing Experience Part 7
eBook Distribution: My Self-Publishing Experience, Part 8
Successful Book Printing And Distribution: My Self-publishing Experience, Part 9


Related Posts
Amazon Optimization: My Self-publishing Experience, Part 4
My Self-Publishing Experience. Part 1: Placing An Order
Making The Most Of School Assemblies
Promoting Your Book (And Yourself) At A School Assembly
BookShop Videos: How To Make Coupons, Banner Links, and More

5 COMMENTS

  1. FB ads fascinate me because I can even target them to interests and on individual counties. I wrote a niche historical novel about CT, but only FB demographics allowed me to discover that the most clicks came from NY and FL! I never imagined such a result. Also, I can target only those persons interested in historical reenactment, the DAR, and genealogy.
    I appreciated your comment about repeated showing producing the best result. Hadn’t known that before!

  2. Scott, I found the ASIN for your book on Amazon. My book was also published by BookBaby, but I can’t find an ASIN listed on Amazon for it. Any idea why not?

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