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Facebook advertising for authors: A quick-start guide

Hootsuite, a platform for managing social media, reports that Facebook ads have click-through rates that are 8 to 9 percent higher than normal web ads.

What’s more, Invesp, an an online marketing services firm, reports that 92 percent of social marketers are using Facebook advertising.

Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

I’m thinking that advertising on Facebook could be a good strategy for many authors.

“Where do I begin?”

But if you’re new to this, as so many authors are, the question is, “Where do I begin?

That leads to: What works with Facebook ads? What doesn’t work?

And . . . How do I figure it all out?

The best way to start is to decide to invest in learning how to do it. You will need to invest time, energy, and probably some money if you want to learn how to do it right.

And you do want to learn how to do it right. Otherwise, you’ll waste nearly every dollar you spend on this massive social networking site with 1.13 billion daily active users. What’s the point of using Facebook ads if you’re throwing your money away?

Because I’m connected to hundreds of authors on Facebook, I see a lot of ads. I’m going to be honest here: Most are bad. As in, really bad. I’ve seen ads with:

  • Typos
  • No “call to action,” meaning, something that tells me what you want me to do now that I’ve seen your ad.
  • Confusing imagery.
  • Videos that are so author-focused that I start to feel sorry for the authors.

I’m no advertising expert, but I’m in touch with what motivates me as a consumer. When it comes to books, it’s not spelling mistakes, vague or confusing messages, and videos that are all about the author and nothing about what the book will do for me, the reader.

3 ways I’m learning about Facebook advertising

And because I’m not an advertising expert, I’m learning about Facebook advertising at the same time you are. Here are the three things I’m doing to get as smart as I possibly can before I spend a single dollar on ads:

  1. Taking a Udemy course. I’m working my way through “Facebook Ads & Facebook Marketing Mastery Guide 2017” (affiliate link). I’m watching the videos while walking on the treadmill, which is something of a two-fer, right? (UPDATE: Carol Dunlop reminded me in a comment below about Facebook’s training. Thanks, Carol!)
  2. Maintaining a “swipe” file. I save both good and bad Facebook ads on my smartphone with a screen grab when I see them in my newsfeed. Most of my good examples aren’t from authors, though. They’re from successful information products marketers or marketing services firms. Start looking for ads from companies and products whose pages you’ve liked, and grabbing screen shots of those that you think communicate well or motivate you to take action.
  3. Looking for information online. I’m interested in finding articles that help me understand what I should be learning about or paying more attention to.

Articles on Facebook advertising for authors

Here are some articles that you might find helpful as a starting point or to fill in some gaps in your knowledge. I’ve provided the title and first paragraph; click on the title to read the entire article:

Facebook Ads: A Guide for Indie Authors: As the number of social media networks continues to grow, indie authors have more and more platforms on which to spread the word about their books. But the granddaddy of all social networks is still Facebook, which boasts more than 1.65 billion active users per month, according to VentureBeat. And it’s this huge user base that makes Facebook an ideal destination for self-published authors looking to market their books and build their readerships.

This is How You Use Facebook to Sell Books: I read the recent DBW piece “Why Facebook Cannot Help You Sell Books” with surprise, and I respectfully disagree with its contentions. I’m pretty much the definition of a midlist author: I write full-time, I’ve hit a few Amazon best-seller lists over the last couple years, and readers seem to enjoy my books. I was making a very good income with the usual forms of advertising throughout 2014—BookBub and the other advertisers, permafree first in series, etc.—but when I turned on my first Facebook ads I immediately saw a massive spike in business.

(Note: The article above is by Facebook ad course instructor Mark Dawson, who offers three free short training videos here.)

How to Use Facebook Ads to Sell More Books: This is the third post in the series to show authors how Facebook Ads Marketing can help sell more books as well as build a viable author platform . . . . In this third post, I will be dealing with how authors can use Facebook Ads and it’s extensions to sell books and grow a sizable author platform.

Day 12: Keep Your Facebook Fans Warm With a Boosted Post: One of the chief purposes of marketing these days is all about keeping your fans and followers warm. A warm audience is a marketing phrase that designates a group that has already opted in to one of your marketing platforms. They have signed up for an email list, liked your Facebook page, or claimed an offer on your website. One of the best ways to keep your Facebook fans warm and engaged is to consider an occasional boosted post.

3 case studies

These “how I did it” case studies from authors are helpful, too:

Facebook Ads: One Author’s Experience: British indie author David Penny shares a case study of his own Facebook advertising campaign, which he’s using to promote the first in his historical crime thriller series, The Red Hill, set in medieval Moorish Spain.tip of the month

My Tale of Boosting a Facebook Post: Many authors I know are hesitant to spend money on Facebook advertising. Without a clear correlation between ads and sales, it can be hard to shell out cash when you don’t know if you’ll see a return on your investment.

Case Study: Amazon Best Selling Book in Just One Day – With Facebook Ads: Meet a contrarian author, H. Ann Ackroyd of TransomPress.com, a Historical Fiction writer. She is one of the authors who took me up on my One Hour Book Marketing And Author Platform Strategy CallAnn isn’t like any other Historical Fiction writer; she writes her two books in a rhythmic prose format, which isn’t a common phenomenon among authors in the same book genre.

I tend to learn by doing, but this is a big and complicated topic, so I decided to invest in a course rather than use the teach-myself approach.

If you’re using Facebook ads without any training, I’d encourage you to pause your campaigns and commit to learning more about best practices so you get the most for your Facebook advertising dollars.

Are you running Facebook ads? Please us about your experience in a comment. Are they working? What’s your best tip?

Tip of the Month

Amazon best-sellerI always share a “Tip of the Month,” a free resource or tool for authors, on the last Wednesday of the month.

This month I recommend a free and short e-book that I know you’ll find helpful.

Kathleen Gage’s Hit #1 on Amazon walks you through the process she follows to get the top category position for her books. (Note that’s category best-seller status, not all-of-Amazon best-seller status.)

Use my affiliate link to get your free digital download of Hit #1 on Amazon immediately.

Kathleen’s advice applies to fiction and nonfiction. I’d love to see you give it a shot.

Subscribe to the free Build Book Buzz newsletter and get the free special report, “Top 5 Free Book Promotion Resources,” immediately!

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  1. Thanks, Sandra. I love that your e-mail notifications include the text of your posts. I’d still love to know what plugin you use. *hint*

    Good information. I’d be interested to find out how the FB success rate compares, dollar for dollar, with book promo packages. I intend to check all the links you provided for an in-depth analysis of this process.

    Bravo for maintaining such an informative blog!

    1. Thanks, Kathy. I think the plug-in for email notification of new posts is Jetpack, but I’ll double check that. If you aren’t already on my newsletter list (see subscription box in the upper right or at the bottom of the post), you’ll want to add yourself so you also get special deal offers, too.

      I’m interested in knowing more about the “book promo packages” you’re referring to. Many of those I’ve seen are designed to make money for the promoter, not the author. Facebook works differently…it might not be an “apples to apples” comparison.

      I’m so glad you find this site helpful. Yay!


      1. Jetpack notifies of new posts, but it restricts the notifications to include just a teaser for each.

        I was referring to sites such as readingdeals.com. They offer both free and paid options. I’d be interested in comparing sales results per dollar spent.

        Yeah, I know, it’s a huge wish. So many of these opportunities are difficult to equate to sales. However, exposure is beneficial, no matter what the method.

        1. I forgot to circle back on the plug-in, Kathy. It’s definitely Jetpack. My assistant set it up.


  2. Sandra: Thank you so much for all this great information and the links. I participated in Bryan Cohen’s copywriting webinar that included Facebook ads (thank you for making that connection for me). But that was months ago, before I was ready to try to Facebook ads. My book launches Tuesday (yikes!). I realized I can’t do ALL the book marketing I’d like to before launch (I’m hanging on to the shreds of sanity I have left–LOL–but I’m having fun and learning so much!). I decided something had to wait until afterward…and that’s Facebook ads. I’m so ready to get started on this and keep thinking, “I need to dig in. I’ve got to wrap my head around this before I start investing, so I know I’m doing it right.” Thank you. Thank you so much for today’s post!!! <3

    1. Karen, you really know how to make my day! Thank you so much for that feedback!

      Launch is Tuesday! Yikes! How exciting! You’ve waited a long time for this and I’m sure all will go well. And yeah, there isn’t time for everything so I’m glad you’ve postponed learning about Facebook ads. Big picture, I recommend picking 1 or 2 tactics you’ve figured out will work for your book and focusing on them, even though there might be 4 or 5 or 6 that will work. There just isn’t enough time to do it all, especially if you’re not a full-time writer. Keep us posted on your success!


      1. I can’t help sharing–and you know I’m a big fan of yours so I should share! I’ve used so many of your free resources and purchased others. My publisher emailed me yesterday to say I’ve had one of the biggest pre-orders they’ve ever had and they are doing a second printing. Now, they are a small press, so we’re not talking “best seller” numbers here. But for an unknown, first-time author, I’m more than pleased! I have to credit Build Book Buzz! Thank you, Sandra!

        1. That’s FANTASTIC, Karen! I’m so happy for you! A second printing before the launch is a big deal. Whoohoo! But let’s give credit where credit is due: You have invested the time it takes to learn how to do this, and you’ve implemented what you’ve learned. Most authors don’t do that, so good for you. I’m both impressed and thrilled! Thanks so much for sharing that! Sending you big congratulatory hugs!


  3. Thanks Sandra for this great list of resources. I’ve read through your article and am now looking at the links. i like the advice about learning first then doing. Did you know Facebook has its own line of courses that talk about how to use their system also? Its kind of high on the techtalk side, but I’ve been going through a course at a time, kinda slowly though because the reading is sooo boring, to me anyway 🙂

    but I am determined to get a handle on it because I know that like any other advertising medium, it works, if you work it.

  4. The link for this: “Facebook Ads & Facebook Marketing Mastery Guide 2017” goes to the main home page there. Is there a direct link?

    I’m working through all the great links you’ve included here (thank you) but one comment is that marketing is very different for non-fiction vs fiction authors so I would be interested in seeing a list of resources like this that are just for non-fiction. A lot of the things that work for fiction have little relevance for non-fiction. For example, a lot of people swear by Mark Dawson’s course, however I recently chatted with him and he was pretty up front with me that his technique is really just for fiction and I wouldn’t get a lot out of it as a NF writer. So I’m really looking for resources directly targeted to my genre. Thanks.

    1. Brette, copy and paste the course name into the search box at the top of the Udemy page to find it.

      Your comment about fiction vs nonfiction is ironic because in general, it’s much harder to promote fiction than nonfiction, so it’s a big deal when we uncover a tactic that actually works for fiction! My recommendation is to start connecting with marketers who offer online courses, webinars, etc., so their ads show up in your newsfeeds. You can get good role models that way. And, of course, a good Facebook advertising course will give you the information you need to apply to your nonfiction books even if the course isn’t specifically for authors (the one I’m taking isn’t for authors — it’s more geared to small biz owners).

      Finally, you’ve given me an idea. Maybe I can gather a collection of FB ad case histories for both fiction and nonfiction and sell them. What would you pay for that?


      1. Thanks. I would buy something like that if it was NF only. I wouldn’t pay for something that included fiction. I don’t really agree with you about marketing being easier actually for NF. While it is true it is easier to show someone they have a need for something especially if it is prescriptive, when you write certain kinds of NF for things that are one-offs (like pregnancy or divorce – events that happen once and people move on) it isn’t worth the time (as much) to develop an email list and try to get “fans.” Those are tactics that everyone talks about for fiction that do not apply to all kinds of NF. They do work for some (such as cookbooks). Anyway, my experience is that NF is so different from fiction and I don’t find there to be as many resources. I do think that there are probably more people out there trying to sell their novel who are looking for resources for how to sell books which is why this is true (at least from my perspective).

    2. Quick update noted above in the post: I saw that Udemy has a $10 course sale through Friday, March 31, so I contacted them for the coupon code and to get a direct course link. I’ve added all of that above in the post.


  5. Once again, great information and resources, Sandra. Thanks. I plan on reading the articles. I passed this along on my social media sites.
    Gary Guinn

    1. I’m glad it was helpful, Gary, and thanks for sharing with your network. I appreciate it. I hope we can help more authors that way.


  6. Facebook is the one advertising medium I have not tried, I do use Amazon sponsored ads, which are working quite well. I am tempted to dip my toe in the water after reading this article. Thanks Sandy.
    Btw, I do agree promoting non-fiction is easier, having done both.

    1. Thanks, Shonah! I’d love to learn more about your Amazon ads and will send you a private message.

      (And yeah, anyone who has promoted fiction will say it’s harder. That’s why so many publicists won’t do it — it’s too challenging.)


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