If you’re interested in ways to manage your Facebook ads more efficiently, you’re in luck. The following post is by Ricardo Fayet, one of the founders of Reedsy* (a network of world-class publishing professionals that provide authors access to a diverse roster of talented editors, designers, marketers, and ghostwriters). Ricardo walks us through five key ways to implement Facebook and Instagram ads that get results.
(Note: Links marked with as asterisk denote affiliate links, which means that your choice to buy the service or product will result in a commission for Your Writer Platform – at no extra cost to you. For more information, click here.)
While Facebook ads for authors are becoming increasingly competitive as more and more independent authors make use of them (and target the same audiences), they are still one of the best avenues to market a book.
Since Facebook has data about pretty much anyone out there, their advertising platform makes it easy for any author — no matter how niche their books are — to find their audience and serve ads to their readers directly in their Facebook or Instagram feeds. More importantly, ads are relatively cheap to test: you can get started with $5 a day and see results.
The only issue is, Facebook’s Ad Manager has become quite a complex interface, which changes almost every month as Facebook rolls out new features and possibilities. While these are generally a good thing for experienced advertisers, they make the learning curve even steeper for authors looking to get in the game.
In this post, I’ll help you cut some steps in the learning curve by giving you five actionable tips you can implement right away — whether that’s to improve the results of your existing campaigns, or to set up your first one!
Tip #1: Design specific ads for each type of placement (i.e. don’t use Facebook’s automatic placements)
The main thing many authors get wrong is the ad itself. You’ll find a lot of advice out there on designing an attention-grabbing ad image (which should ideally be done by your cover designer), and writing captivating copy. While these elements are obviously crucial, there is another factor that comes into play: the size and placement of the ads.
Facebook ads now show up in a multitude of places. If you select “automatic placements” in your targeting criteria, Facebook will potentially show them in your target audience’s:
- Desktop news feed
- Desktop right sidebar
- Instant articles
- Mobile news feed
- Instagram news feed
- Messenger inbox
Additionally, your ads might show up on Facebook’s “partner network” — a bunch of sites whose advertising is run by Facebook.
Facebook will test your ad in all those placements, determine which convert better (based on the objective you set for the campaign), and focus on those.
Why is this important? Well, because your ad won’t look the same in all these different places. Here’s one of my Reedsy ads previewed in Facebook’s Ad Manager, for example:
Note: if you’re curious about the book launch checklist that’s mentioned in this ad (and you should be!), you can download it for free here.
Depending on the length of your news feed text and headline, they might very well get cut off on mobile news feeds, desktop right column and instant articles. Instagram is a whole different game – the headline doesn’t even show up!
By previewing your ads, you can already determine where your ads are not going to convert (I’ve never seen an ad with a cut off headline convert very well…). So you don’t need to let Facebook spend your money to determine that for you. Instead, you should manually select the placements that make sense.
To sum up:
- Don’t select Facebook’s “automatic placements”
- Manually select one or two placements max (in either desktop or mobile) for your ad
- Optimize your ad image and copy for those placements
Tip #2: Use Facebook’s “split test” campaigns to A/B test your ad image and copy
There’s only one way to find the perfect ad image and copy combo for each placement: you need to test a lot of various alternatives until you nail the winning one.
A lot of authors do this by simply creating a bunch of different ads with little variations within the same ad set. The problem with this is that Facebook will automatically give more reach to the ads that seem to perform best. And while that makes sense (Facebook wants you to get the best results), it also completely skews the results of your tests… If one ad gets 10,000 impressions and the other one just 500, you can’t draw any conclusions.
There have been many times when I had to pause the “well-performing ads” so that the other ones could get some reach. And in numerous cases the ads that were being limited actually started outperforming the ones that were getting all the reach.
The good news is that Facebook recently released a cool new campaign type that makes accurate A/B testing a lot easier: “split tests”.
In a split test campaign (which lets you test either the creative, the audience, the delivery optimization or the placement), your budget will be spent equally between your different ads (meaning they’ll get more or less the same reach).
At the end of the test, Facebook will even give you a percentage statistic of the probability of getting the same winning ad if you were to run the same campaign again.
To sum up: if you’re going to run A/B tests on ad creatives or audiences, make sure to set up “split test” campaigns instead of running several ones. Only test one thing at a time and make sure the campaign gets enough impressions for the result to be statistically significant.
Tip #3: Use Facebook Audience Insights to find new interest audiences to target
Most authors who advertise on Facebook use “comp authors” in their targeting. For example, a thriller author might target fans of Lee Child by selecting “Lee Child” as an interest in the “Detailed targeting” section of their ad set.
Quite a few famous (and often traditionally published) authors are available as interests to target this way. However, if you’ve been advertising for some time already, you’ll quickly find yourself running out of available “comp authors”… At that point, the main challenge for scaling Facebook ads is to find relevant new interests for your audiences.
One of the best ways to do so is by using the little-known “Audience Insights” tool. You’ll find it under “all tools” in the top menu:
Audience Insights is a nifty little tool that tells you pretty much everything there is to know about a particular audience: demographics, interests, education levels, job titles, etc. But the most helpful part is in the “Page Likes” tab.
Here, I can see all the other pages that have a strong crossover with the “Lee Child” page. Do this with your closest comp author and I guarantee you’ll find other relevant ones to target!
To sum up: expand your audience targeting by finding other comp authors through Facebook Audience Insights. Plug in your best-performing audience and see which pages it has a strong crossover with.
Tip #4: Advertise your series within carousel or canvas (collection) ads
90% of ads that pop up in my feed to promote books look the same: a static image featuring the book’s cover on a nice background. While that’s a format that has definitely proven effective, I can imagine readers getting as tired of it as I am…
So how about we spruce it up a little? After all, Facebook now has a bunch of other formats for authors to play with, and I’ve recently had a lot more luck (promoting books for friends of mine) with two of them: carousel ads and collection (canvas) ads.
Now, these only work if you have a series to promote. They basically allow you to display several of the books in your series within one same ad. Carousel ads will display them in a carousel, just below your news feed copy, with a headline, short description, and CTA (call-to-action) for each.
Collection ads add an extra step. They generally feature a main static image (or video) and a carousel underneath it, separated by the headline. When users click on it, they get taken to a full-screen experience that can be a mix of a video, carousels, images, text, etc. You can preview what that looks like (only on mobile!) through this link.
The great thing about these formats is that they allow you to promote your whole series. Don’t get me wrong, most readers will still only purchase book 1 through your ad (at least in my experience), but some might purchase the whole series!
More importantly, in genres that are series-heavy, these kinds of ads will be more effective because they immediately stress that this is a series we’re talking about. This will encourage click-throughs.
To sum up: if you write a series, definitely try out carousel and canvas ads. They’ll position you as a series writer and will help boost sales across your whole series.
Tip #5: Try the Instagram stories placement
This is one that has been stressed to me time and again by my Facebook Marketing rep. Instagram stories are available as a relatively new placement for ads, and are apparently being under adopted by advertisers (meaning they are much less competitive).
Instagram has pushed their stories feature a lot to compete with Snapchat, and ads on there seem to be getting a lot of reach. The only issue with the Instagram stories placement is that it has a very particular format: a full-screen mobile image or under-10-second video.
So while you could theoretically be using the same ad image and copy you use for your regular ads, I wouldn’t expect that to work too well. Instead, if you really want to test this placement, follow my Tip #1 above and create a specific ad for that format.
To sum up: if you’re ready to invest in one or several super short videos, give Instagram stories ads a try. Select only them as a placement and make sure to test different creatives in a split test.
If you do give any of these ideas a try, please let me know in the comments how it goes for you! I’m especially curious about the Instagram stories ads, since I haven’t run those myself yet…
If you have never tried advertising on Facebook before, these five tips are a good place to start, but you’re likely going to need to do a lot of additional research to tackle that learning curve. So I’ll leave you with some of my favorite resources to learn more about Facebook ads.
- Facebook Ads for Authors: a free Reedsy Learning course which goes a lot more in-depth into the basics of setting up your first campaign.
- Help! My Facebook Ads Suck: Michael Cooper’s excellent book on Facebook ads. He’s got his own way of making Facebook ads work, and you should definitely read about it and try to replicate his success, but don’t let that prevent you from testing other things (even ones he warns against). Facebook ads are all about testing.
- Ads for Authors: Mark Dawson’s famous paid course, which contains the most extensive and up-to-date walkthrough of setting up successful Facebook ad campaigns. It only opens up to new students once a year, but you can sign up to his waiting list.
Ricardo Fayet is one of the founders of Reedsy, an online marketplace connecting authors with some of the world’s best editors, designers, marketers and website designers. A digital marketing enthusiast, he’s currently writing a book to help authors manage Facebook ads more efficiently. He’s also the author of several online courses on marketing as part of Reedsy Learning.