As an independently published author, I’ve noticed a lot of advice floating around about building my author platform, establishing my brand and the importance of having a social media presence. What I haven’t seen people blogging heavily about is the value of Facebook ads for indie authors.
If you’ve been in this business long enough to have published even one book, you’ve likely heard about Bookbub and other discount ebook promotional venues. Offering by far the likeliest guarantee for success, Bookbub lets you promote your book (discounted for a limited time) to their extensive mailing list. It’s not uncommon to sell 1000 books or more with a single Bookbub ad.
The problem with Bookbub is you can only use their services once every 6 months. Even when they were taking advertisements every three months, this still didn’t provide a consistent flow of book sales.
Every author wants their book to sell for reasons unnecessary to mention here. Amazon’s algorithm also rewards higher-selling books by promoting them more often through its “also-bought” feature. So how do you get that steady sales flow?
The answer could very well be Facebook ads.
Let me give you some statistics: on August 10th, I started testing three Facebook ads and saw an immediate spike in book sales. By the end of the month, I’d sold over 800 ebooks just from these three ads. September saw over 1000 ebooks sold off the ads, and October is shaping up to be the best of the three. These numbers do not include my print editions, which also jumped up exponentially.
I’ve run a Bookbub ad and seen a similar spike in ebook sales (but only ebook sales). Moreover, there’s a difference in my return when I sell 1000 books for $0.99 on Bookbub, versus 1000 ebooks at their regular price ($2.99 or $3.99). There’s also a difference in the quality of reader; i.e. if they’re interested enough in the book to be willing to buy it at full price, they’re more likely to read it instead of letting it sit in their kindle library along with all their other $0.99 “finds.” And as mentioned above, Amazon rewards me when my book shows consistent sales by presenting it to more people—again contributing to more sales.
If these stats don’t convince you Facebook is worth a look, here are three reasons that Facebook advertising is an indie author’s unsung hero:
1. You can choose your exact target market.
Facebook lets you communicate with people who have interacted with and liked your Facebook page, but they also let you advertise to people who have never heard of you before.
Using keywords, you can drill-down to very specific interest areas. You design your ad around these interest areas. For example, my best-pulling ad targets people who like two best-selling fantasy series that most every self-respecting fantasy reader will have read. Facebook looks for users who have listed in their profile that they like either of these series, and it shows my ad in those people’s news feeds. I couldn’t ask for better targeting to find an audience who appreciates and enjoys epic fantasy. This is practically like putting an advertisement in the back of a best-selling book.
To achieve similar success with your ads presupposes that you know who your target market is and that you have a well-designed ad that relates to the interests of the target market you’ve selected. This is important. You shouldn’t advertise for people who like romance and then take them to a link selling horror. Bait and switches and false advertising only cost you money (because you pay every time someone clicks on your ad, whether or not they end up buying your book). Worse, it aggravates the Facebook users you’ve targeted. If you use false advertising in any form (bait and switch, misleading positioning, listing incomparable novels to trick them into clicking on the ad) people will annihilate you in the ad comments (see point 3 below).
2. You can choose exactly how much money you want to spend over any length of time.
Facebook works on a cost per click basis, similar to Google AdWords. The amount of money you pay per click depends on a number of factors, mainly surrounding your target audience. There’s a lot to learn about this area, and you should learn it if you intend to invest significantly in Facebook advertising. All you need to know to get started, however, is that you’ll be paying a small number of cents every time someone clicks on your ad.
Let’s say you have $500 to spend on advertising over the next two months. You can easily set this as the “lifetime spend” on your ad campaign and set your campaign expiration to two months out. Facebook will spread out your ad’s impressions over the following two months, ensuring that you don’t go over budget. If you want to add more money to your campaign to get more impressions (and hopefully more clicks), you can do so at any time.
A well-designed ad to a properly targeted demographic should show a steady inflow of sales during that two-month period—assuming you’ve written an excellent book boasting great reviews, and that you’re targeting the right market with your ad.
For a well-designed ad, more money spent equals more impressions, more clicks and more sales. Understanding how your target market settings affect the cost per click is how you’ll get more bang for your buck; i.e. you’ll get a lot more clicks for the same amount of money when you’re paying $0.06 per click versus $0.25. You can adjust these costs somewhat by narrowing or expanding your target market settings.
Facebook provides real-time statistics and a robust analytics and conversion tracking system. The more tech-savvy you are, the more you’ll be able to dive into your ad metrics. Not tech savvy? You can easily see from the graph on Facebook’s ad dashboard how many people have seen and clicked on your ad over any period of time you choose.
3. You can interact with both prospects and readers.
Though I’ve listed this last, it’s almost more valuable to me than the book sales themselves and is pertinent to why Facebook ads are far more valuable to an indie author than Google Ads.
The ad I mentioned above that targeted fans of two fantasy series has more than 723 likes, 217 shares and over 150 comments.
Fantasy people love talking about fantasy books. I love talking about fantasy books. My ads have become forums for commentary about great fantasy books—and not merely the books mentioned in my ads. In those 150+ comments, people have carried on fascinating conversations about the fantasy genre and their favorite fantasy stories and authors. Getting to interact with so many others who enjoy reading in the same genre is rewarding and fun.
Even better, prospective buyers have been able to ask me questions about my novel—what other works does it compare to? Will they like my novel if they like this other one? What inspired it? What other fantasy authors do I read…on and on. I’ve been able to answer all of their questions; many of these conversations have turned hesitant prospects into buyers.
I have a personal social media policy I call “good roads and fair weather.” It means I never enter into contentious communication in a social media setting, and I always look for some way of validating the commenter’s point of view. If you’re going to run Facebook ads, I recommend adopting a similar social media policy—because ultimately you’re advertising on a social site. People are going there to interact and engage, and they will engage with your ad—for better or worse.
Occasionally someone has left a comment on one of my ads of a derogatory or negative nature. I always replied to them in a way that was nonjudgmental, and I looked for some way to validate their point of view. One for one, those people replied back to me, and we entered into dialogue. Many of them ended up purchasing my book—and took the time to find my ad again to tell me so.
Countless people purchased my book simply because they read the comment stream and saw that I (the author) was personally interacting with everyone. How do I know this? They left that exact comment on the ad.
Many, many people purchased my books based on the comment stream. Many of them were people I had interacted with, but many others simply purchased a book and came back later (or wrote to me later) to tell me so.
Dozens of people have written to me via my page after seeing the ad, often to ask questions or offer feedback after having read my novel. Many people left a later comment on the ad’s comment stream about how much they were enjoying the book(s) and how glad they were to have seen the ad. This is priceless word of mouth!
I’ve gained nearly a thousand new likes to my page through these ads. Most of them are people who are honestly interested in my books and want to interact with my page.
(As a note, I didn’t run an ad for “page likes.” Facebook offers a type of ad that’s supposed to deliver likes to your page, but I’ve read some not great reviews about that function, and I don’t recommend it.)
Advertising a product (your novel) on Facebook is an entirely different scene.
In the novel advertising world, Bookbub has always been a friend to me, but these days, Facebook has my heart.
I would love to hear any experience you’ve had with Facebook ads or any other advertising that increased your book sales, especially if it might help others find similar success. Please leave your comments below.
Great post! This is exactly the type of stuff I’m looking into at the moment… Can I just ask which type of facebook ads you ran or where they linked to? You said it wasn’t an ad for “page likes”, but I’m not clear which type it was… especially as people could comment. A boosted post? I’m starting to learn all the differences, and it’s crazy! 🙂
My ads are optimized for clicks to my Amazon book page. People are able to comment on the ads themselves as well as like the ads, like your my or share the ads. Hopefully this helps!
Thank you for this wealth of information you are sharing. I am a new author and have been writing my novels for the last five years, an I am trying to learn all I can before publishing my first book in early 2020. I had originally planned on going Trad (or trying to, as you may know, its a difficult area to land in) but my mother became sick and I ultimately have decided to go Indie.
Right now, I am learning all I can about Indie publishing. I can literally spend hours reading about this and still feel like I am always learning something knew.
Could you make a blog, or please, direct me, and those like me who look up to authors like you, to information?
I have joined 20booksto50K on FB, and spend much of my time reading the archives. But I really like to outreach my research, so if you have anything that you relied on and would like to share, please email me, or please make a blog about it. If I have missed it, please let me know 🙂
Hi Mercedez, that’s very exciting about your upcoming book. I recommend Twitter as the best source of information and learning out there. Don’t use it for advertising your book. Do use it for connecting with other authors and learning about the industry by using and following #writingcommunity and #indiepub.
Mark Dawson has several amazing books and classes on how to be successful in independent publishing. And a great blog to follow.
David Gaughran is also a great resource. Follow his blog and sign up for his email list. He sends out very useful info on a regular basis.
The Book Designer is another great website for indies. They also put out a weekly blog roundup where you can find a lot of new helpful blogs to follow.
All of these people are active on Twitter, and that’s how I found and connected with them. Researching on twitter is how I learned the business. Personally I found twitter more helpful than facebook groups. Twitter is a like a newsfeed that you curate, versus FB being more like a chat room.
If you’re not using a blog aggregator, I recommend Feedly. It will pull all of the blogs you’re following into one screen so you can see recent updates from each blog, as well as research their past posts.
Hopefully you’ll find some of these resources helpful. Best wishes and good luck on your release!
Hi Melissa. Great information — I have bookmarked your post. I am just about to try a Facebook ad linking to a click-through-to-Amazon page on my website. I may have to experiment with targets, though. I’m not sure how you drilled down to find readers of a specific series. I’m trying to reach purchasers of women’s fiction. Will let you know how it goes! – Susan
Definitely. I would love to get some feedback about your experience, Susan. I wish you the best of success!
Great article! Thanks for the information!
I love this article. I wish you had an example of one of your facebook ads because this is good stuff. I am doing the bookbub, Kindle Nation Daily, etc… advertising but I was looking for something like this to keep things running in between promotions. Thank you, Melissa, for giving me some ideas.
I’m glad you found it helpful, Frank. I didn’t include an example of the ads mainly because I think they’re more effective when they’re tailored to each audience and made personal to them. I’m not sure that my epic fantasy audience applies to everyone. 😉 I’m happy to share more information with you – just message me.
Melissa, I had to chuckle a bit after reading this article. I was about to finish Game of Thrones and was wondering what I wanted to read next when behold, On Facebook(FB) your advertisement popped up and I read the reviews and decided to go this weekend to pick up Cephrael’s hand. Now, here I am. FB worked on me lol.
I recently dove into the realm of writing and I love it! I’m nearing the end of my 20 year career in the Air Force and decided I want to chase my dream of writing a series that fans would love to read. The last two years I’ve had a story in my head that I just can’t shake so I started to research how to write then I began writing (I’m on chapter 5). The hardest part for me so far at times is actually sitting in the chair and writing. I found myself to be so serious about writing that I just enrolled in an online college for creative writing with a concentration on fiction in hopes that it will help my writing as well as structure some credentials when submitting to publishers. I welcome any thoughts on that.
I have to ask, do you think indie publishing is better than submitting to publishers? Congrats on the books by the way. It must feel good to read all these posts in regards to something you wrote and created. I really hope to know the feeling one day. Good luck to further success!
Bryant, thank you so much for your comments and thank you for being a reader!
I know writers who’ve gone the college route and others who haven’t. I’m sure there’s much value in that process and wish you the best of luck. When a story is sitting in our minds needing to be told, it can be agonizing not being able to get it out on paper. A solid understanding of the craft helps the words flow more smoothly. My blog really isn’t about writing, but I have written a few posts about the writing process that you might find helpful. Let me know if you do.
In terms of publishing, trad publishing involves gaining the interest of an agent and then a publisher by ingeniously separating oneself from the masses of others also clamoring for their limited attention. Indie publishing involves gaining the interest of readers directly. Both are similarly challenging. My advice is to research both routes fully before deciding. To do the indie route well means taking on all of the roles yourself. None of them can be omitted or what few readers you do gain will grill you for those omissions.
Hi Melissa, thanks for sharing this great post. Do you know if it’s possible to run a Facebook ad if you don’t have a Page? Meaning, you just have a Profile. I heard it was possible but the ad wont run in the feed, it will only run in the right hand column. Also, it will not have a “like” “share” or “comment” button. I don’t have an author Page, and I really don’t want one, so I’d love to advertise anyway if I can avoid signing up for the Page. I just don’t know if the other type of ad is worth it. Do you have any knowledge of these ads? From your post, it sounds like the “likes” “shares” and “comments” were equally as valuable to the success of your campaign as the book sales were. Maybe I should just suck it up, and get the Author Page! Any advice? Thanks in advance. P.S. I’ve also run the Bookbub promotion and had fabulous results but while I love the spike in sales, I’m looking for an extended spike!