Advertising is a necessary evil for an Indie Author. You don’t want to do it. If you studied literature or writing you did it to improve your craft. It’s not likely you studied marketing which means it can really feel like you’re flailing around in the dark feeling for a light switch. I don’t like marketing. It’s hard and I don’t always understand it. I’m reading every book and article I can get my hands on, watching videos, just to teach myself how to do it, how to do it well, and how to do it more efficiently, so I can write more and hopefully one day make enough money to do this as a day job. Today I’m going to talk about my experiences with Facebook Ads, especially what worked for me and what didn’t. Marketing requires a lot of knowledge about your target audience and so I’ll talk a little about that too.
I also want to preface this article with: it’s been some time since I last ran a Facebook ad. I discovered last week that Facebook Ads has now been incorporated into the Facebook Creator Suite software and somethings may have changed. I planned to run a test ad in the near future, and when I had that data back I’d write another article with the changes (more on why I won’t be doing that at the end of the article), but this information was accurate the last time I ran an ad (circa May 2020).
One of the great features I found Facebook Ads has is the ability to save pre-set audience groups. You can set up a profile for a specific group of people and then the algorithms the software uses will try and pick up people it believes you want to market to based off those key words and demographics. I had two profiles one for an American audience and one for Australia. If I remember correctly each ad run only lets you use one profile at a time which may be something you need to consider to make the most of your budget.
Getting your profiles right can be tricky. For example I intended my target audience to be 20-40 year olds, but most of my sales have been in the 50+ age bracket. This may be because this age bracket has more disposable income or is more inclined to stay home and read, or it could be that I haven’t identified where my ideal market actually is. The ability to save these audience group profiles helps you save time if you want to re-run an ad, or at a future date run another ad to the same group (i.e. you might run an ad to advertise your newsletter signup and another one several months later for a Christmas Sale). It also has the potential to tell you what doesn’t work. Set your last ad to view only in Orlando, Florida and got 0 views/clicks? Your audience might not be there. Next time you can try somewhere else like California or New York.
I admit I haven’t done extensive research/experimentation with FB ads due mostly to financial limitations. Being an Indie Author is tough, especially financially, when you don’t have steady sales money coming in to reinvest in your brand as advertising. Which, as an Indie Author promoting your first book, you probably won’t have. I invested money from my normal income into publishing and advertising costs but funds were still limited and I had to choose strategies to get the most for my money. I always try to be real with you in these articles and unless you have a large enough “day job” income, a partner willing to support you emotionally and financially, or are very creative with how you spend your money, the financial side of being an Indie Author is super hard. It’s doable, but it’s hard.
Some of the leaders in the Indie Author scene advocate for reinvesting 30% of your income as an author as advertising. While this may be effective I find this highly unrealistic for new authors trying to make a name for themselves. Reinvesting your spare funds in your author business is important if you want to turn it into your day job, but being realistic about how you spend your money is important too. You have rent/mortgage payments, food, utility bills, etc. Everyone’s financial situation is different so I personally would advocate for assessing your own finances, setting a budget for your life, author business, savings, and anything else that is relevant to you that you need money for.
I seem to have gone off on a slight tangent there so let me redirect back to the topic: Facebook Ads. A second feature I found useful to use is the ability to choose your daily rate. Facebook does not offer advertising packages to choose from (i.e. $50 for a week’s run of ads) it offers you the option to choose how much you want to pay and how long you want your ad to run for. The more you pay and the longer you run your ad then the larger your viewing audience will be. It’s a little bit of you get what you pay for in some ways but it allows authors with a limited ability to financially invest to still get their ads in front of readers. I would recommend if you only have a small amount to spend then you want to be specific with your audience profile. It may take you a while to play with the features and figure out what works for you, which I admit isn’t something I’ve spent a great deal of time doing. My target audience so far hasn’t been buying my books, but the demographic that are buying my books are the 50+ women on Facebook. For some reason The Kingston Chronicles has been most popular with this demographic.
As well as being able to set your budget on Facebook the app also gives you an estimated breakdown of the dollars per click your budget gives you. At the end of your promotion it gives you an actual breakdown of how much you spent, how many people viewed your ad, how many clicks you got, and effectively what each click cost you. “Click” meaning how many people clicked on the link in your ad to go through to the purchasing page. I know this confused me when I started. Views will usually be considerably higher than the click rate because not everyone who sees your ad is going to click through or be interested in your product. My click rate has generally been larger than the industry normal but its important to note click rate doesn’t translate to sales. It can be really exciting to see a high click rate (MailChimp even gives you an industry average click rate to compare to for your mailing list) and feel this is a sign that you’re heading in the right track. But getting a potential customer to click your link is the first step in the battle to get them to the point of purchase. You have to intrigue them with the ad, hook them with the blurb and cover art, and get them to want to commit to the purchase. It’s a lot harder than it sounds. If you find you’re getting a high click rate and not seeing corresponding sales then it can be an indication of problem further down the purchase chain. You may want to try changing the blurb or product description on the info page or your cover art. Your price point may also be a problem. I don’t have all the answers but I’ll come back to this topic another week and discuss how you can set a reasonable and realistic price on your book.
These audience demographics and flexible pricing points in Facebook Ads function together allow you to monitor which audiences are engaging with your content, which content they engage with, and can be an indication of spending habits. For example, I did an experiment with the two audience groups I talked about above and came to the following conclusions. American audiences are more geared towards buying books than Australian audiences. Based off using the same age bracketing, gender identifications, and other common factors, more clicks through to my book link were from the American audience. By cross referencing this with my sales records in KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) it also seemed there was correlation between my sales while running the American promotion while there were not sales during the Australian promotion.
There could be several reasons for this. There could be a cultural difference between the two, with Americans being more likely to buy books than their Australian counterparts. It could be a case of simple ratios: there are more people buying books in the American marketplace than there are in Australia as there are significantly more people in America. Likewise are Americans more engaged with Facebook than Australians, therefore more Americans see the ads than Australians? Are Americans more inclined to click on ads where Australian’s are more likely to ignore them? I know I tend to ignore ads on Facebook myself. Another factor to consider is the target audience data input into Facebook Ads was slightly different. From memory I believe setting up the profile for the American audience allowed more input options than the Australian one but I could be remembering it wrong.
Facebook Ads can be a useful tool but if you are not seeing the results you want it might be worth investigating whether your target audience is actually using Facebook. To effectively market your book requires a lot of knowledge about your target audience, a lot of which is usually learnt through trial and error. Author groups can also be a beneficial source of information. You can swap tips and tricks with each other and learn from each other’s mistakes. Not everyone has access to an Author/Writing group and that is one of the reasons I write these articles: so you can learn from my mistakes and be more successful faster.
To market effectively you need to have an understanding of your audience habits, especially buying habits, and audience visibility. I said this in my social media article, but if your audience isn’t on Facebook, Facebook Ads is not going to help you. If they are, it can be a useful tool. I’ve had way more success with advertising on Twitter (and I haven’t tried their advertising service yet) than I have on Facebook. This has nothing to do with Facebook Ads as a service and a lot to do with the fact it seems most of my audience hangs out on Twitter. I recommend you do your own research as for what works for your audience and try some of the free advertising strategies to market to them while deciding if Facebook Ads are right for you.
**Addendum: When I started writing this article I fully intended to investigate Facebook for Business thoroughly and look at re-establishing a presence on the platform. However during the course of writing this article I became aware my Facebook Business account was linked to my ex-husband’s business and, after over 3 hours of trying to fix it, I could not separate the two nor find any way of contacting Facebook directly to address the issue. As such I deleted my account and opened a new one in the hopes of starting over. This effort was hampered by Facebook banning me within 24 hours when my only post had been on my private profile saying this was my new account and I’d deleted the old one. Facebook had completely disabled my account permanently and given “violating the community standards” as the reason although there was no evidence/explanation given of what it was they meant by that. I appealed the ruling and received a notification that the decision couldn’t be reversed. As such I am no longer using Facebook as a platform and am thoroughly unimpressed with the whole shemozzle. I believe the issue to be a glitch in their system rather than anything I personally did but I have no intention of wasting my time fighting the matter on an app I was already hardly using.
You will still be able to find me on Instagram and Twitter at @bforresterbooks.