Facebook Ads for Authors 301

By now, you’ve got a good sense of what to do when you build ads to promote your writing on Facebook. The next question is how to do it. Ad targeting is the instructions you give Facebook’s algorithms about who to show your ads. If you target well, you’ll make more sales per dollar spent. If you target poorly…well, look at it this way. 

Imagine you write high fantasy books, in the vein of Tolkien, Feist, and McCaffrey. You get a chance to do a reading and book signing at the following places:

  • A renaissance fair two towns over
  • A local romance book shop
  • A sports bar

You would clearly choose the renaissance fair every time. The book shop might have lots of readers, and some might also like high fantasy, but it’s a tangential connection at best. Though there’s probably one or two high fantasy fans watching the game at the sports bar, most of them would be low-quality leads. The renaissance fair, on the other hand, is full of people who love high fantasy so much they dress up on weekends. 

On Facebook, you can take it even deeper. It’s like going to the renaissance fair, and hiring the organizer to bring you only the people there with Lord of the Rings t-shirts and tattoos, who they overheard talking about the Dragonriders books during lunch.

That’s the power of ad targeting with your Facebook promotions. But only if you do it right. 

Let’s talk about how to do it right. 

Facebook Ad Targeting Mastery

Before we dive into the steps themselves, we need to understand what a Facebook Audience is. This is a defined group of people you want to target with your advertising, selected by traits like age, gender, job title, location, interests, and buying habits. When we use “Facebook Audience” or “Audience” later in this post, that’s what I mean. 
With me so far? Great. Let’s move forward with…

Audience Options

There are two kinds of audience when it comes to Facebook marketing: Cold Traffic and Retargeted Traffic. 

Cold Traffic

Cold Traffic is people who are unaware of you and your books, and who have never before visited your site, Facebook page, and similar online assets. Facebook lets you target cold traffic based on their interests, brands, events, changes to profile status, age, gender, location, and language.

When you set up the ad, you target them as best you can, trusting their similar interests to spur at least some to come over and see what you’ve got going on. Cold traffic ads are best for bringing new potential readers within your reach. 

When you build your ads for cold traffic, you must focus on clear descriptions in your ad copy. These people don’t know about you or your books, so your main job is to communicate what you’re all about as concisely as possible. A few of the best ways to keep your descriptions clear include:

  • A list of the benefits and features: “Learn Spanish in 14 Lessons!”, “A thrilling page-turner set in Renaissance Egypt”
  • Making the title clear and evocative, but short: “The Whole Grain Cookbook”, “The Next Harry Potter”
  • Sell less and inform more: don’t ask for money in this ad, just lead them to new information
  • Images clearly showing the book: a picture of the opening paragraph
  • Videos showing the book in action: you in a chair you reading from the book
  • Naming the kinds of people who will most enjoy the book: “Lord of the Rings fans, this is for you!”, “A must-read for students entering law school.”

Retargeted Traffic

Retargeted Traffic consists of people who have already come into contact with you and your writing, whether that’s on your website, your Facebook page, or a different online home for your books and brand. The most common examples include website visitors, facebook video viewers, people who engaged with your posts, people who engaged with your ads, facebook page likes, or a custom list of people you upload to Facebook. Retargeted traffic is best for making announcements to already engaged people, for example a new book coming out or an event you have coming up. 

When building ads for retargeted traffic, you’re dealing with people who already know about you and your books. You don’t need to educate them much, but rather give them a little push into buying (in this case, “buy” can mean spending money on your books, or taking some other action like joining your newsletter or leaving a review). Some of the best ways to give that push include:

  • Showcasing a specific book or event: announcing the next volume in a series, or getting attendance for a live reading
  • Discount codes or flash sales: “Three days left in my buy one, get two sale!”, “Your last chance to get a review copy for free!”
  • Sharing a testimonial: a screenshot from a great review somebody left, or a video of somebody recommending your book
  • Member-only benefits: announcing a limited edition, inviting people to an exclusive newsletter

Lookalike Audiences

You can also combine cold traffic with retargeted traffic with Facebook Lookalike Audiences, which lets you reach people who are similar to your current customers. These can be very powerful, as they combine strengths of both cold and retargeted traffic. 

When you set up a lookalike audience, you choose one or more traits displayed by your existing customers, and Facebook then shows your ads to people who share those traits. You show Facebook some of your customers, based on data like: 

  • What Facebook or Instagram posts, pages, groups, and videos they interact with.
  • Having visited your webpage, or other webpages with a Facebook pixel installed.
  • Which apps they have used or installed.
  • Information you provide from your own company records. 

With that data as a seed, Facebook then goes on to find other Facebook users with similar traits. For example, if a fantasy author tells Facebook that many of her readers visit fan pages dedicated to Mercedes Lackey and Ursela Leguin, Facebook will then show ads to people who frequent those pages, but haven’t yet gone to her own page. 

In the “Create Audience” stage of setting up your Facebook ads, you can select “Lookalike Audience” and set up your preferences. This is a good second or third step in your Facebook ads journey, since you’ll want enough people already in your audience to gather good data and find meaningful trends. 

Your First Step

A lot of what we talked about today relies on you understanding your core customer. If you haven’t developed reader profiles, take a weekend and do exactly that. It’s vital to successfully aiming your Facebook marketing in the right direction.