Successfully advertising your book on Facebook involves a lot more than loading an ad and choosing a daily budget and getting clicks to where you sell your book. There are ways to maximize the ad’s attraction for people who have a high potential of buying your book.
To start, Facebook is a focus group and should be treated as such. This means testing different ad copy, creative, and targeting with advertising spend to get a deep understanding of how prospects react. Studying your competitors’ ads and developing interesting concepts of your own that motivate people to take action which in this case is purchasing your book.
All this while managing expenses and having reasonable expectations of returns on the ad spend. It is a challenging space, but very fruitful if done right.
Facebook (Meta ads) uses machine learning to optimize ad results. The ad system learns the more often your ads get engagement. This learning phase is the first period during which the ad delivery system is figuring out the best audience to deliver your ads to. It does this through a shotgun experimentation approach where it sends the same ads to unique audiences and “learns” which audience achieves your goal the best. To get out of the learning phase, your ad set needs to reach 50 optimization events in a 7-day period. An optimization event is something like an Add-To-Cart or Conversion. Striving to get out of the learning stage as quickly as possible is massively important, because after the learning phase comes “optimized delivery”. This means more consistency in conversions and stable KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) like CPAs (Cost Per Acquisition) and CPMs (Cost Per Thousand Impressions). Essentially, the algorithm has learned enough to take your ads to the next level.
There are a ton of SkillShare courses on Facebook too. Or you can read a couple classic books on Facebook Ads: Killer Facebook Ads: Master Cutting-Edge Facebook Advertising Techniques by Marty Weintraub or The Ultimate Guide to Facebook Advertising by Perry Marshall.
When you decide to advertise on Facebook, the fear is that you spend a lot of money on Facebook ads and not get the desired results which are, of course, to get conversions or take the potential buyer to the location where the book can be purchased, like your website or Amazon.
Facebook is filled with impulse buyers. One of the challenges of selling a book written by an unknown author is that people are unlikely to purchase the book on impulse. Without fascinating prospects with amazing ads, or an established brand reputation as well-known authors, people are not going to buy the book without reading reviews (which you can and should buy) or comments on social media. It becomes a discretionary purchase. That requires demand generation, which is challenging.
Authors like Stephen King and J. K. Rowling have name recognition and social support, and readers know in advance they will probably like the book. The purchase becomes, “I have to read the new book!” Their conversion rate will be spectacular. A new or unknown author does not have that kind of support, making it more of an uphill battle to achieve spectacular conversion rates.
Yet many of you reading this article will still believe that “you are going to do it anyway”. This is what Don Moore describes as overconfidence in his masterful book Perfectly Confident. Simply put, new booksellers often have unreasonable expectations about the net profit they can make on Facebook conversions. Here’s why:
The per-click cost for Facebook ads can be as low as 50-cents or above $5.00. Many factors influence the cost per click. Your expectations for making a profit should be based on how many clicks it will take to drive a conversion. Let’s say you’re trying to sell your book for $20 and it takes 30 ad clicks to drive a sale that would be a 3% conversion rate. If clicks cost $0.50 that is a CPA of $15 to sell a book that costs $20. Well then we have to consider the other costs that bring us to the contribution margin. It's very likely in this situation that you’re actually in the Red.
That makes it sound like no one should try to advertise their book on Facebook. Not true! We just need to set expectations here… You must create a funnel and ecosystem behind your brand. People need to see 7-15 ads before they convert. And they need to buy from you again in the future bringing the overall profitability of that customer up. But more on that later. Let’s get back to Facebook ads.
Early on the real point of Facebook advertising is to build brand awareness and social support, similar to the big-name authors, and then convince ad viewers to take action. As you build a customer base, your conversion rate will improve. Better conversion rate, less cost per sale. So how do you launch and get to profit as fast as possible? We’ll dive into that in the next sections. For now the most important parts to improving your conversion rate and ultimately making Facebook ads profitable are the quality of creative, proper testing, and the website conversion rate. It takes time, so keep your expectations reasonable to avoid getting discouraged. It is one thing to spend money on advertising and know you may not make a profit for a while versus spending money on advertising and expecting to make a 50 percent profit.
This book will help you understand the perspective of founders that should have succeeded but didn’t: Why Startups Fail. Don’t make the same mistakes.
Like any advertising campaign, online or elsewhere in the physical world, you need to adhere to some principles known to engage people and keep their interest
Videos – Videos are one the best advertising tools for capturing interest. The issue with a book is that a book is not unique. The content within it is. A book is not interesting and creates no demand. You must use video to showcase the features within that attract people to an ad. This usually means a funny and entertaining video that makes people want to watch.
The best thing to do is present an idea that challenges the norm. Your book is a revolution in new information, ideas, or concepts and everything else sucks.
Ads need to be youthful in the sense of conveying enthusiasm, active, fast cuts, and emphasize product features and benefits. You’ll want test layovers and music. It should be scroll stopping and attention grabbing.
There are a few types of ads you definitely want to create. Author Video: Telling the story of why you wrote the book and who it is for. Reader Testimonial: Their personal experience loving the book and encouraging others to buy it. Unboxing: Show us the amazing experience when you unbox the book and use voice overs to share the story of why it's great. Product Shot Walkthrough: Open the book to a few sections or talk about the chapters using voiceover and 3rd artwork to make the book move even if it's just a GIF. This is easier than you think with a site like Fiverr.
Forget the strategy so many authors use – a picture of the book at an angle and a plain background. If you insist on using an image, then at least make the background interesting with eye catching text layovers.
Ad copy – Videos and images are very important, but the ad copy can tell you much more about user behavior and what is driving action. At the top of your ad, you will write a couple of sentences called primary text. This is something that must be tested to death. Before you even try to write ad copy, read the book Competing Against Luck. It will help you understand why people buy your book. Like the real real reason.
Let’s say you’ve written a book about “closing sales.” If the person buying this book is doing it because they want to stay self employed rather than go back to a corporate job, the motivation for buying the book is different than someone who wants to make more money to buy their family a bigger house or someone who wants a promotion. You need to write copy that speaks to all these people and find out what works the best!
Run a Clicks To Website campaign to test all these headlines against each other and use the same creative as your control. If the CTR (Clickthrough Rate and Add-To-Cart rates are best with “stay self employed” you’ll want to create new images and videos based around that. Then run a Conversion for Purchase campaign using this angle and improve your chances of success because you are spending money in an optimized fashion.
Positioning – Positioning refers to addressing the question someone will have when they see the Facebook ad. “Why should I buy and read this book?” Advertising is really all about demonstrating your product or service can meet a need. No book appeals to everyone, so you need to decide the audience you want to reach. Who will the book appeal to and why? If you wrote a fantasy book and some people have compared it to A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin, you want to position your book in front of fantasy fans and leverage the reviews.
Targeting – Once you have it clear in your mind the people most likely to be interested in your book, you can choose how you target them with your Facebook ads. Some authors may have an email list of potential people, and that is a good place to start. Many authors who self-published do not have a large audience though.
If you do not have a large audience already, you can target by interest. Interest targeting means creating an ad with the terms and information likely to attract the readers who would be most interested in your book. For example, you wrote a self-help book on job hunting and resume writing and a science fiction book. Clearly, you would not advertise the same way for both books. For advertising purposes, you will break up the interests into different ad sets so you can use the right terms for each.
Facebook does not inform advertisers as to who is converting on interest audiences. The implication is that having multiple interest groups in your ad sets will not inform you as to which interest audience is buying your book. Build interest audiences of approximately 6,000,000 people and then create a new ad set with interest targeting.
Though Facebook will automatically show your ads to viewers most likely to have an interest in your ad based on “likes” and Facebook activity, there are three other audience selection tools. One is the core audience which is defined by criteria like interests. Other parameters include age, location, and demographics. The second is custom audiences consisting of the people who have engaged with your ad on Facebook and/or author website. The third category Facebook calls “lookalike audiences.” These are new people whose interests are similar to the interests of your current customers.
If you’ve been putting it off, it is time to start building your personal brand. The data you collect is very valuable.
It will take an average of 15 touches for people to convert on your book. That means you’ll need to follow them around the internet promoting it. This is called Retargeting. You can’t Retarget successfully with the same content. People need to see something different on day 1 and day 10 because they’ve already seen 4 of your book ads. There must be variety otherwise they’ll go ad blind. You’ll need to make a few best practice ad types for Meta ads.
Unboxing - Without a doubt this is the most cost effective way to make an ad. Have a friend hold the camera directly over the package as you take the book out of the box. Sounds silly, but these are very effective in keeping attention. The issue here is that you’re unable to pass a lot of value very quickly as viewers move on once they’ve seen the book. BUT, they’ve seen the book and that is an important part of the process.
Here is an example of a wristwatch company Original Grain which always included textbook unboxing videos.
Author Video - This is most necessary for an author. You’ve poured your heart and soul into this book and people need to know why and how you wrote it! These videos can be long and short, but you’ll want to make them and make them high quality. It is perhaps the best way to create fascination. Viewers need to walk away from your ad saying to themselves two things: “Who is this person” and “that’s interesting, tell me more”. If you’re unsure what to discuss in the video I would read Sticky Branding and Fascinate to get some inspiration.
Here is an example of a coffee replacement company Mud Water that does a lot of founder videos.
Testimonial - Reader testimonials are very impactful. These testimonial videos are typically sent in by readers and filmed with an iphone. They are normally a little shaky and low quality. But that is great! Remember we need to be in front of people 15 times before they convert and there must be a good variety of high and low quality assets. So far we’ve got a founder video which is high quality, an unboxing video, and professional product shots. The balance between these assets keeps potential book buyers interested.
Here is an example of a gym apparel brand Ten Thousand that mashes up testimonial videos all the time.
Product Shots - These can be obtained locally or from far away. Many photographers offer product shots as a basic offering. You should expect to pay $40 per photo. Get 10 and make sure they are a mix of white background and lifestyle. Meaning if it's a children's book, the background should be playful and maybe have legos in it. If it’s a business book, the background should be in an office or coffee shop environment. Or if you’re business book is promoting that idea that you’ll make more money after reading it, then you need to have money in the photos. You get the idea.
Here is a link to Quest Nutrition's ads that include product shots which are very well done.
Your strategy for a Facebook ad campaign must include a variety of elements so the ad is successful. It may not be as easy to sell a book by a self-published author as it is to sell a book of an author with a recognized brand, but you have to start somewhere. Facebook ads are a good place to promote and sell your book with some planning. Too many authors jump into posting ads and are disappointed when unable to sell books. Everyone has heard of the success stories, but success comes through the development of a good strategy.
You might also enjoy our articles about marketing on LinkedIn and TikTok.
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