The Dragon Writers – Facebook Ads for Authors

This article was originally posted on the Dragon Writers website

It’s the subject of much debate: are Facebook ads worth it for indie authors?

The answer is: it depends. You have to go in with a very specific strategy to make it work and even then it’s not always going to pay off. Unfortunately all marketing is a risk, but hopefully the advice below will help you reduce that risk.

I’m not going to take you through how to run ads on Facebook – there are loads and loads of tutorials for this. Rather, I’d like to jump right in with some strategic points.

When should I use Facebook advertising?

Use it as part of a general marketing campaign when you have a specific goal in mind.

  • Don’t use it to get more likes on your author page. People will respond to an ad when they’re going to get something out of it. The only people (who don’t already know your work and your genius) getting something out of liking your fan page are going to be spammers and they will dilute the reach of your posts to fans.
  • Don’t use it for general awareness about your books. Again, people are selfish and they won’t care that you – this author they’ve never heard about – has a book out unless they can get something out of it.

So use it when you’re running a promo of some kind: a reduced price, a freebie in celebration of a new release, free books in exchange for newsletter subscribers etc.

Go into it having a very clear idea of what a “win” is to you. I would recommend a win is either a conversion (purchase/download) or a number of website visits. “People who’ve seen the ad” is not really a win unless they were driven to do something when they saw it. And as already stated, randoms liking your page is not a win.

Also, consider running the ad for a short space of time. Do it for a day, then see how it’s performing and adjust. You don’t want any ads going that aren’t paying their way.

Who should I target?

The more specific you can get an ad, the cheaper it will be.

  • Through playing with custom audiences, you can target people who have visited your website or who subscribe to your mailing list.
  • Don’t discount sending ads to “people who like your page and their friends”. Due to the Facebook algorithm, not everyone who likes your Page will see all your posts and promotions unless you pay. Also, people tend to be friends with those similar to them, so it can be a way of reaching new readers.
  • Target based on interests – send ads to people who like books similar to yours. Bear in mind that a lot of Facebook’s understanding of “interests” is guesswork.
  • Target based on demographics. If you’re marketing a children’s book, display the ad to parents only. If you’re marketing an Afrikaans book, make sure only those who speak Afrikaans can see the ad. Where are your readers based? Where is the book set? Bear all this in mind to trim down your audience.

What should my ad look like?

Use an eye-catching visual that has NO text on it (You are allowed 20% text, so you can get away with your book title and text like that if you have to). You have 3 spaces to put text: the headline, the link blurb and the post text. Post text and headline display across all platforms, link blurb will only show up on desktop.

Most people will only read the headline text. So make that your priority!

Here are some specs to start with:

  • Image: No text, low contrast (because of Facebook’s compression algorithm), pretty, bright, emotive. Upload in PNG (again because of Facebook’s compression algorithm). Create as 1,200 x 628 (it will be down-scaled to half that size).
  • Headline: About 6 words, one of which is an action word.
  • Post text: Written coming from the page/you, in the voice of the page/you.
  • Link text: More info on what you’ve said in the headline.

Where should my ad go?

When creating the ad, you’ll get the option of where to display it. To save money I’ve found the following works:

  • Strip away the sidebar ads and the audience network – those don’t display well and no one clicks on them.
  • If you really want to budget, go for mobile newsfeed only. I’ve seen the majority of clicks coming from mobile for months now.
  • It’s up to you if you want to go for Instagram – do you think your book will appeal to the kind of person who uses Instagram?

Conversions

Facebook has a tutorial on how to set up the Facebook pixel for showing conversions. So I’m not going to explain what a pixel is or a conversion is. What’s important is that when you want someone who comes through from an ad to take an action on your site, set up a confirmation page that is displayed to them once they’ve taken that action (like a “thank you for downloading” page).

You can instruct Facebook to tell you every time that page is displayed which will tell you how many times people have taken that action. This happens in real time, so you can measure your returns day-by-day and adjust accordingly.

If you find lots of people are visiting your site but not converting, it may be a sign to look at your website design and adjust that, not the ad, to make it easier for a person to follow through.

I hope this helps!

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