A few days ago, I received a letter from a listener who had 50 people tell her that they had reviewed her book on Amazon. But after months of waiting for those reviews to appear, Amazon never posted them.

Why?

 The people left their reviews during a Facebook party. This author was connected to all those people on Facebook, and they were all in a Facebook group together. Because of their Facebook connection, all the reviews got deleted.

Can you imagine the frustration of recruiting 50 people to review your book only to have every single review get deleted?

Many authors have faced this challenge using Facebook’s free features. The more active they are on Facebook, the more Facebook groups they belong to, the less likely their Facebook friends’ reviews will post to Amazon. Why? Because Facebook sells social graphics and data to Amazon.

I’ve harped on Facebook before, and you may think I’m 100% against using Facebook as a tool to promote books. But that’s not true.

There is still one method of Facebook marketing that still works to sell books and won’t cause your reviews to be removed.

That method is advertising. When you buy Facebook ads, you pay real money to Facebook to promote your book to potential readers. An effective Facebook advertising campaign can actually make you money.

If you’re indie published, you can make enough money on book sales to pay for the ads and make a profit besides.

But how do you do that?

While advertising is primarily a tool for indie authors, some traditionally published authors use Facebook ads to grow their email lists, which can attract a publisher. We’ve talked with one such author about how he grew his list from zero to 6,000 using Facebook ads.

Whether you’re an indie or traditional author, you can benefit from learning about Facebook ads.

To help guide us through the forest of advertising, I interviewed Alana Terry. She’s a six-figure author of more than 40 Christian suspense novels. She hosts the Successful Writer Podcast, runs the Successful Writer Academy, and loves to help authors reach their dreams of creative and commercial success.

Why does Facebook advertising still work even after all these years? 

Alana: The thing I love about Facebook as a marketing tool is that it’s such a large platform. Even if you’ve had a decent amount of word-of-mouth and organic growth, you’ll eventually run out of potential readers.

But when you start running Facebook ads, you can create audiences of millions of people and continually get fresh eyes on your books. Facebook ads are a great way to continually bring in new readers or reinvigorate a backlist book.

Thomas: The challenge with word-of-mouth marketing is that we live in bubbles. Your friends are a lot like you. My friends are a lot like me, and most of our friends live in our geographic area.

That phenomenon means you can be well-known in a local pond of readers, but the pond on the other side of the hill has no idea who you are.

I like to think of advertising as throwing stones into those other ponds, which can introduce you to a whole new group of readers. If your book is good, your first readers in the new pond will start talking about your book, and suddenly you’ll be well-known in the new pond too.

Alana: Then the pond can grow organically too. Some of my favorite Facebook ads are the kind where I’ve had maybe 300 comments and 500 shares. Many of those are people commenting to tell their friends, “This book looks great!”

On one of my ads, a woman tagged ten friends, and they started planning a book club right there in the comments section of my ad.

That kind of engagement helps. If somebody comments on your book or shares it, then your post will be organically seen by others as well.

Thomas: The beautiful thing about advertising (as opposed to the other way of doing Facebook) is that it’s very direct. You’re announcing, “This book is for sale. Please buy it.” In your comments, people discuss whether to buy the book or not. There’s none of this song and dance of trying to become friends with a stranger, build engagement, get them to like you, and then maybe six months later they’ll buy your $5.00 book.

An ad says, “Here’s my book. Do You want it? Yes or no?”

Alana: Authors also try to grow their reach by joining Facebook reader groups.

A sci-fi author might join ten sci-fi reader groups hoping to make connections, but it will take months to get name recognition in those groups. Some of those groups are filled with authors spamming the group. That’s not finding your ideal readers either. It also comes with risks of Amazon removing reviews because you’re connected to these people.

Facebook ads are an amazing way to bypass all the annoying things about Facebook. You can get to get right to the good stuff of growing an interested list, but you’ll still have that word-of-mouth benefit.

Thomas: It’s also a better use of time because you’re not engaging with strangers on Facebook for two hours every day. Facebook ads do take time, but they don’t take nearly as much time as the waste-your-life-on-Facebook method that used to be popular in the mid-two-thousands.

Alana: Facebook ads allow you to get sales right away, whereas if you join a group, it might take six months before people know your name and decide to look for your books.

What are the different kinds of Facebook ads?

Thomas: When an author goes into Facebook’s ad builder, they’re often overwhelmed with the number of options. Walk us through the different kinds of Facebook ads.

Alana: It is overwhelming. One of my superpowers is to help simplify it.

As an author, you’ll go to your Ads Manager Dashboard and see about a dozen choices. Almost exclusively, you’ll want to choose the traffic ad. You might want to dabble in a few others, but I primarily run the traffic ad. When people click on my traffic ad, they land on my Amazon sales page.

It’s called a traffic campaign because you’re driving web traffic to your sales page.

Authors also might want to explore lead generation ads as a cool way to get people to sign up for your newsletter. Facebook lead generation ads are my favorite way to grow my email list.

I also sometimes use brand awareness and engagement ads. The goal of an engagement ad is to get people commenting, liking, and sharing. Facebook has all the data, so they know which of its users tend to like or comment on everything they see.

I’ll sometimes run a brand awareness and engagement ad before running a traffic ad to an audience that has never heard of me. I run the engagement ad to people who know me (people from my emails list), and I’ll get a hundred comments saying, “This was a great book.”

Then when I run a traffic campaign with the same ad, all those comments serve as social proof for people who haven’t heard of me before.

But 95% of the ads I run to get book sales are the traffic ads.

Should the ad send people to my website or Amazon?

Thomas: Are you sending them to a page on your website or Amazon’s sales page?

Alana: I send them to the Amazon page.

I have experimented, and I concluded that people see Amazon as a trusted source. When they see my ads have a link to amazon.com, they know they’ll go to Amazon. If the ad said, AlanaTerry.com, they might feel uncomfortable purchasing from an unfamiliar website.

Also, Amazon has done so much testing to make their sales pages convert well that I choose to rely on their research. I let them tell me what would work best. I use the method that allows the reader to click the fewest times.

My books are also published wide, so I’ll include links to the other online stores at the bottom of my ad text. I see a big jump in sales when I run my Facebook ads that way, but the primary goal is to get traffic to my Amazon sales page.

Should the ad send people to my ebook or paperback page?

Alana: If authors have a hard time deciding which to use, I tell them to figure out which one sells the most units. For most people, that will be the ebook.

I get a good number of paperback sales even when I use the ebook sales page. Since customers are used to buying from Amazon, they know how to click to choose the Kindle version, paperback, or even the audiobook.

I can attribute 25% of my audiobook sales to Facebook ads. I include links to all the formats, but I send people to the Amazon Kindle page.

Thomas: If their credit card is already on file with Amazon, they could be three clicks away from reading your book when they see your ad. They click the ad, they click “buy,” they click “read now” or “buy now,” and they’re off to the races!

Alana: It’s a process that readers are familiar with, and they trust it.

Thomas: Those clicks and purchases also look like organic traffic to Amazon.

If somebody comes to Amazon from a Facebook ad, Amazon knows what kind of traffic it is, and they don’t identify it as fraudulent. They know it’s traffic that has been paid for legitimately.

Amazon doesn’t want to discourage authors from buying ads for Amazon on Facebook. It’s a big win for Amazon when you spend money to advertise their platform instead of anybody else’s platform.

What kinds of books are well-suited for Facebook ads? 

Alana: With Facebook ads, you can target just about anything.  

If you’re writing books in a sub-sub-genre and feel you’ve exhausted your potential readership, you could probably build a Facebook audience for that niche.

I like the feature that allows you to narrow your audience, so I’ll create an audience by telling Facebook, “Find readers who like this genre, and they must also like these authors and these kinds of movies.”

If you’re writing Western cozy mysteries about a gardener who has a horse, you can find people who love horses, gardening, Western music, and reading mysteries. It’s a great way to find people.

It can be expensive to advertise to some of the subgenres. For certain nonfiction books, the audience is more expensive. If you’re selling a business book, be aware that your cost-per-click will be higher than somebody selling Amish romance.

Many romance and paranormal writers do well with their Facebook ads. I’ve been running them for my Christian suspense and sweet romance for a while.

Any genre can benefit from Facebook ads if you find the right targeting. But in some genres, finding the targeting might be harder, or it might be more expensive.

Do Facebook ads work for Christian authors?

Thomas: Facebook recently made changes to their targeting, and they implemented a new restriction against targeting people based on their religion. As a result, Christian authors can no longer target Christian books or fans of Christian books.

Does Facebook advertising still work for Christian authors, or do they have to target secular genres?

Alana: There are some workarounds. A couple of times each year, Facebook changes the algorithm or the targeting. If a huge chunk of your book sales revenue comes from Facebook ads, the changes can feel alarming. I always advise authors not to panic.

There will always be a way to figure it out. There will always be a workaround.

If you ran ads before this shift happened, which was probably in early February of 2022, then you have a lot of data, and you don’t really need to worry about it.

If you’ve already run ads successfully, you can build audiences of people who have clicked on your ads in the past. You can target those people. You can also target a lookalike audience, which means Facebook will find you millions of people who are the most like that group.

If you’re just now starting ads, it’s going to be a little harder. I recommend you get a bit more creative with your targeting.

For example, I used to build an audience for my Christian suspense by targeting well-known mystery-thriller writers in the secular sphere. Then I would filter that group by things that I knew a Christian reader might like.

I’d tell Facebook, “Target people who like this well-known secular mystery-thriller writer and Christian music or Bible studies.” But those are the kinds of targets that we can no longer access.

So new advertisers have two choices.

Choice 1: Target “Good Enough”

You can work with the options Facebook gives you and then let your ad do the rest of the refining.

Remember that Facebook has a lot of AI running in the background, and they have tons of data about people. On the first two days of my ad, Facebook might show my ad to a lot of people, and only 20% of them would be interested in my genre by day three or four.

Facebook will see that and know that “people in this age range who have this kind of lifestyle are clicking on these ads, so we’re going to show that ad to more of these people.” In some ways, it is okay to target “good enough” and then let your ad and Facebook’s AI do the rest of the work.

If you go that route, be very upfront about what genre and sub-genre you’re talking about, and understand that you might get some weird comments right away.

If I target Stephen King for my Christian psychological suspense book, and my ad copy talks about faith, I might get some weird comments asking, “Why is this ad being shown to me?” But as Facebook gets more data about who is clicking on that ad, it’s going to work out.

Choice 2: Target Creatively

Your second option is to get a little creative with your targeting.

In my case, I might target people who like thriller authors and people who like Hallmark movies. I’ll try to find that nice mix of my specific readership.

Don’t feel obligated to find targets based on reading habits. You can find targets based on movies people like or what music they love, or in certain cases, maybe even where they shop. You can get creative with how you mix and match your audience.

You can also make sure your ad speaks exactly to the people you’re trying to target and then let Facebook’s AI do a little bit more of the work.

Thomas: In the Novel Marketing method, we talk about having a Timothy. Your Timothy is a real-life human being who is your target reader. If you have a real human being who represents your target reader, you can ask that person questions about what movies they like and where they shop.

Then you can describe them in many different ways, and the algorithm will go find more people who are like that Timothy. If you’re starting with a fictional persona rather than a real person, you’re building from a stereotype rather than a real person with idiosyncrasies.

It requires some flexibility, and it puts a lot of pressure on the book cover. The book cover is critical for a successful ad campaign. It must communicate the genre immediately and incite someone’s interest.

In my experience, the main reason ads don’t work is because people have a bad cover. Often, it’s not the right fit for the genre, and it doesn’t meet reader expectations. Sometimes it’s too pretty and not effective.

It doesn’t matter how much you, the author, like the cover. The primary question is whether the cover makes people click. And are those people the kind who want to buy your book?

Alana: Readers need to be able to recognize it as a book from a specific genre.

We’re talking about people who are scrolling. You need to grab their attention fast. Your ad text doesn’t have time to do that, so you rely on the cover to grab their attention.

Thomas: The other thing that will help you create a targeted audience is a large email list. You can upload your email list and create a lookalike audience from your email list, but that strategy works best if you have thousands of people on your email list rather than hundreds.

Alana: Lookalike audiences can be a really good way to build an audience, and they tend to be some of my cheaper clicks.

They’re also a nice way to branch out into some targets outside of the US. I can upload my email and tell Facebook to create a lookalike audience of people in Australia who are the most like the people on my email list.

Suddenly, I can start targeting a very reasonably priced audience in Australia.

Thomas: When you run that ad to Australians, you’re sending them to the Australian Amazon site and not the US Amazon store.

Some authors will make people in other countries hate Amazon.com because there’s no good way to get from amazon.com to amazon.co.uk. The customer must type the new website URL. Then they have to search for the book. It’s a huge hassle.

What are some mistakes authors make with Facebook ads? 

Alana: I see authors blame Facebook’s ad platform for unprofitable ads when, in actuality, their ads are doing fine.

Mistake 1: Blame poor performance on the ad platform.

To determine how well an ad is performing, I look at the click-through rate because that shows me how the audience is responding. A 5% – 10% click-through rate tells me people like the ad.

If the ad is getting attention, But if you’re not making book sales, it’s probably because once they get to your Amazon page, there’s something about it that they don’t like.

In that case, the problem isn’t your ad. It’s your Amazon sales page. Facebook ads can only get people to click and go to your Amazon sales page.

If your sales page shows a bad cover, poorly formatted blurb, or a blurb without a call to action, you might be losing sales. But it’s not the fault of the Facebook ad.

Now when Facebook ads don’t work, that would mean you’re not getting many clicks at all. Clicks vary from genre to genre. In some genres, a click-through rate of 1% is totally fine, but when you’re targeting an expensive audience, your cost-per-click is going to increase.

Mistake 2: Only consider cost-per-click when evaluating ad performance.

Another mistake authors make is to only look at cost-per-click to gauge whether they’re ad is good.

They may be thrilled if they’re getting a low cost-per-click of 15 cents, which is very cheap by today’s standards. They look at that number and believe their ad is doing well.

But if you’re targeting the wrong people or those who aren’t going to buy your book, it’s actually not a good ad.

On the other hand, you may have an ad getting a 40-cent cost-per-click, which is a little higher than average for fiction authors. But if enough people are clicking on the ad and going on to buy your book, then you’re making a profit, and the ad is fine.

How do you track sales while running ads?

Thomas: Do you send those clicks through an Amazon affiliate link to track the clicks? How are you tracking the sales rate on Amazon?

Alana: There’s are two schools of thought on using affiliate links to track.

Tracking Using Affiliate Link

If you have access to an Amazon affiliate, that means you can use a specific link, and if people click on that link and buy, you’ll know where they came from.

For example, I can send people to Amazon through an affiliate link and find out how many people clicked that link and bought the book.

It is very good for tracking data, but it’s not 100% above board. Facebook doesn’t care what you do because they get paid no matter what. Amazon does not want you to run paid ads using your affiliate link. Some people choose not to use their affiliate links because they want to remain 100% above board.

Some people choose to do it because they get such good data. The reason that the worst thing that could happen is that they’d lose access to their Amazon affiliate account, and that wouldn’t be the end of the world.

Tracking Using Total Expense vs. Income

The other method is to compare your sales to how much you spent. It’s a much simpler method. If you’re not advertising anywhere else, and you’re making less than one sale per day on average without any ads, then you only need to make sure that you’re making more than what you spend.

I know my sales baseline. I know that if I spend $2,000 on Facebook ads in a month, I can attribute $4,000 of my royalties that month to the Facebook ads.

If I’ve added a BookBub click ad in that same month, I could say that whatever is above that amount can probably be attributed to my BookBub click ad. It won’t be a perfect science, but even using the Amazon affiliate link isn’t perfect.

There is always some lag time and discrepancy. There’s no way to know with 100% certainty whether someone bought your book because they saw your ad or because someone recommended it, or because they read something else you wrote.

I try not to go so deep into the data that I’m pulling hair out. I just look at the bottom line. Am I bringing in more than I’m spending on ads?

Thomas: It’s the blacksmith box method. You put all the sales of horseshoes into the box, and you pay all your expenses out of the box. At the end of the day, if there’s still money left in the box, then it was a profitable day.

I agree with you on the importance of using one advertising method at a time until you’ve mastered it. It’s so much easier to interpret the data.

If you were getting one sale per day before you ran Facebook ads, but now you’re spending $1,000 per month on Facebook ads and getting 25 sales per day, you can reasonably conclude that 24 of those sales are from Facebook. You don’t know that for sure, but it was probably pretty close.

Then you can do the math.

24 (sales per day) x 30 (days) = ?? 

Is that enough money? Is there money left over? Only then can you gauge whether it’s working or not. If it’s not working, you have enough data to start sniffing around to discover where the problem might be.

Is the ad broken, or is it the Amazon page?

How do I set up a Facebook ad campaign?

Thomas: Facebook’s option to “Boost Post” is never a good use of your money. It’s the button that lets you give money to Facebook for free.

Step 1: Start in the Ads Dashboard

Alana: First, make sure you’re starting in the ads dashboard. If you’re in something that says “ad center” or anything that does not say “ads dashboard,” then you won’t have as many options, and it will be like those boosted posts. Facebook will just take your money.

Start in the ads manager dashboard. In general, you’ll want to create a campaign.

Step 2: Create a Campaign

Authors will generally start with the traffic campaign. It allows you to send traffic to your Amazon page.

Step 3: Create an Audience

When you create your audience, you tell Facebook who to target. This is when you say, “find me women who are older than 29, who like romance novels and also watch these rom-com movies.”

That targeting happens in what’s called the “ad set.”

Step 4: Create your Ad

You’ll provide an image and a headline, and then you add some text.

I like to consider where a scroller’s eyes will go when they’re on Facebook.

The image is what will cause them to stop scrolling long enough to read your headline. If they like your headline, they might read your text. If you get them to click the “see more” button to read more of your text, then you’ve created some momentum.

Your image has to stop the scroll. That’s hard to do because we’re talking about scrolling and skim readers.

Your text must be easy to skim. Break it into small paragraphs, and then if you get them to click the “see more” button, you’ve created a starting point where things can snowball in a good way.

Hopefully, they will click on your ad and land on your Amazon sales page, and finally click “buy now.”

If you’re familiar with Amazon ads, you’ve probably been measuring your conversions—how many ad clicks you get before you make a sale.

Facebook’s conversion is not usually as strong as Amazon’s. When people are looking for a book to read, they go to Amazon, and they’re ready to buy something. Nobody goes to Facebook and scrolls through their newsfeed to search for their next book.

On Facebook, it might take 25 or 35 clicks to make a sale. In comparison, Amazon ads might take 10 or 15 clicks to make a sale.

Facebook offers a lot of bells and whistles in the dashboard, but they do a pretty good job of making their defaults the simplest. If you wonder whether you should select “campaign budget optimization” or “dynamic creative,” stick with the default, especially when you’re just starting.

I’ve been running ads for years, and most of the time, I don’t change those defaults.

You have many choices in the dashboard, and you can ignore many of them. Authors can get intimidated by the ads manager, so it’s important to know what they can ignore so that they don’t freak out in every step.

Thomas: When in doubt, choose the default. It’s a good rule of thumb.

Remember, you are using the same dashboard that large companies are using. They spend a million dollars per day on advertising. Some of those choices might make a .01% difference. A .01% difference only matters when you spend a million dollars a day. It won’t make a difference for most authors. You’ll never see it in your numbers.

How much should an author spend on Facebook ads?

Thomas: If someone wants to spend $100 on Facebook ads, how long should they run those ads? How much should they spend?

Alana: I recommend starting with a $5.00 to $10.00 daily budget for a minimum of three days. It’s $30 worth of ad-spend just to allow Facebook to gather enough data to learn who’s a good target for your ad. After that, you can go into your KDP sales dashboard and see whether you’ve made more than $30 above your average sales in those three days. If you have, you can keep that ad going at a smaller budget, or you could start increasing that budget.

I grew my ads gradually. I wasn’t using credit cards, so I ran ads until I ran out of budget. I kept them paused until I got my next royalty payments.

My ads were start-and-stop for several months before I overcame some of those cashflow issues. It’s okay to stick with $5.00 per day for a couple of months. You don’t need to commit to more than that until you’ve got the money to spend.

Plus, after you’ve run a small profitable ad, you’ve got proof that if you spend more money, you’re going to earn it back.

Thomas: Before you spend money on ads, I’d recommend you spend money on training to learn how to create the ads. It’s really expensive to learn with your own money when you can buy a course that will walk you through it.

Alana, you have a course on Facebook ads for authors. Walk us through what you teach in that course.

Alana: My course is Facebook Ads for Authors (Affiliate Link). It’s designed specifically for fiction and nonfiction authors.

We cut to the bare basics of what you need to set up ads in the most time-efficient way.

You’ll learn how to

  • create different audiences
  • mix and match lookalike and warm audiences.
  • choose the right kinds of images
  • write the right kinds of headlines
  • write the ad copy text
  • set it up in the dashboard
  • analyze the ad’s performance
  • troubleshoot if you’re losing money

I use video screen shares to show you which part of the dashboard to use, where to click, and what to ignore. The course makes Facebook ads very accessible.

Most of the videos are around ten minutes long, so you can work through the course in chunks. You don’t need a four-hour window to do everything. You can learn it in pockets of time that fit your schedule.

Thomas: You also keep the videos up to date when Facebook changes the dashboard.

People have asked me for years to make a Facebook advertising course, but I don’t want to make a course where sudden changes require me to rerecord hours of video. I’m more than happy to send people to your course.

Alana: When you purchase the course, you get lifetime access. When Facebook does make changes, sometimes I do a simple update to one video, but there have been several times in the last couple of years where I’ve redone the entire course.

Anyone who has purchased a past version of the course gets the update.

The course comes with updates, whether that means updated videos, additional material, or a brand-new, up-to-date course.

Thomas: If you are considering Facebook advertising, I highly recommend investing in training before spending your own money. If you don’t, you can quickly spend hundreds or thousands of dollars per month making accidental mistakes.

What final tips do you have for authors interested in running ads?

Alana: I get several common objections when I recommend ads.

I don’t want to become an accountant!

First, I want to debunk the myth that when you write a book, you get to do the fun, artistic, creative work, and when you market the book, you have to become the Excel spreadsheet numbers geek, whose only concern is profit and bottom line.

The Facebook ads platform is an extraordinary medium that allows us to be creative as we write the texts and create audiences. There is so much room for creativity there.

If you are hesitant to start advertising because you think you’re going to have to turn into a Wall Street accountant stereotype, you need to know there are so many other ways to bring your creative side into your ads.

I don’t have the time.

Many authors just want to write more books. They feel they don’t have the time to learn a new skill. I will grant that it does take some time.

But when you invest in learning how to run ads, it can buy you tremendous creative freedom later on. For example, I ran ads, and those ads brought in more money. With that money, I was able to hire more help.

My ads have also helped me become more creative. There were certain books I wanted to write, but I wasn’t sure my readership would go there with me.

My more recent books are more like psychological thrillers than suspense. I was enamored with the genre and wanted to try it, but I wasn’t sure my audience would like it.

But because I was running Facebook ads, I had extra money as a buffer. I knew I had a backlist series that would keep on selling for me.

With the money I made from my ads, I bought myself permission to take some creative risks. You absolutely can’t put a price tag on that kind of freedom.

The time you invest in learning ads will actually buy you more freedom down the road.

Connect with Alana Terry and find out about her novels at AlanaTerry.com.

Sponsor:

Facebook Ads for Authors Course (Affiliate Link)

Find more readers and sell more books with Facebook ads Whether you’re starting from scratch or looking for ways to add to your existing Facebook ads knowledge, this course will take you from where you are to where you want to be.

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Personal Update

I’m sorry there was no episode last week. My whole family got COVID, including two of our little ones. 

Having a newborn is hard. Having a newborn with COVID is harder. And having a newborn with COVID while you also have COVID is really hard.

I’m way behind on email. If I owe you an email, I apologize. I am trying to dig my way out, and I just ask that you bear with me because we’re still recovering. We’re not there yet, but we are doing much better, which is very encouraging.

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