Facebook ads seem to have hit that tipping point within the author community over the past year and become a popular tactic for reaching readers. This is in no small part due to a handful of top-selling indie authors who swear Facebook ads are their secret.
But look at these authors closer, and you’ll see there are a lot of other tactics at play they’re not mentioning. These authors typically have extensive backlists (20-plus in many cases), develop their books in a series in a hot genre, and release a new novel at least every few months.
So what about the rest of us? For authors who are earlier in their career or simply can’t turn around releases that fast, do Facebook ads still work?
Yeah, I think there’s a place for some carefully controlled Facebook advertising in most authors’ online marketing plan. But be sure to play it smart with these four guidelines.
Know your goal
What action do you want ad viewers to take when they engage your ad? Even more importantly, how will that action benefit your long-term writing career?
In general, I recommend creating ads for leads (readers share their email address in trade for something else, like a sample chapter or short story), as a way to build your email list. This is because your email list is your most direct line to your biggest fans, and no one else holds influence over how you communicate to this list.
On occasion, such as around a new release launch, you may want to direct readers to a web page for click-throughs for purchases. One thing you never, ever want to do? Advertise for Facebook Likes. You’ll get a fair amount of those from any ad you run, so focus on a different added benefit.
Limit your budget
Budget control is one of Facebook ads’ most author-friendly features. You can spend as little or as much as you like. But be careful—it’s easy to get caught up in the results and forget to watch how much you’re spending. Know how much you intend to budget for Facebook ads going in, and stick to it.
Target, target, target
Another author-friendly feature is Facebook’s extremely specific targeting. You can opt to show your ad only to people who say in their profile they love to read romance, or those who identify as a fan of a specific (similar) author.
Experiment with targeting fans of a few authors similar to you to see what works best. Also, pay attention to the automated recommended keywords that start popping up as you populate your targeting—these are based on what’s popular.
Don’t create a single ad and then just keep repeating it. Online, iteration is important—there is always room for optimization. What if you change the wording a little, or use a different image? What if you change the targeting to a different set of keywords?
There are a lot of factors to play with—and one rule: Only test one change at a time. Otherwise, if you run an ad that performs dramatically better, who do you know whether it was due to the new headline or the fresh image?
If you want the nitty gritties on the formulas and rules for crafting strong Facebook ads, there are tons of resources for this already. But for me, these tips have helped me enhance my platform growth far more than any rule about character count on a headline.
Don’t expect these tips to set you off in the footsteps of the indie bestsellers who advocate for Facebook ads (at least, not tomorrow), but I can assure that if you are consistent in your outreach and follow these tips, you will most certainly see your readership grow steadily, over time.
By day, Emily Wenstrom, is the editor of short story website wordhaus, author social media coach, and freelance content marketing specialist. By early-early morning, she is E. J. Wenstrom, an award-winning sci-fi and fantasy author whose debut novel Mud was named 2016 Book of the Year by the Florida Writers Association.