How Facebook Advertising Works for Authors

You spend years writing, editing, and polishing your first book, and when it’s finally published, all you’re worried about is whether people will like it. You don’t worry about whether people will buy it or even know it exists. But (and this realization comes more quickly if you self-publish and you can check your sales statistics in real time), you soon realize that obscurity is the biggest concern. Before people can decided they love the book (and leave all sorts of warm, fuzzy reviews), they have to find it and give it a chance. Online advertising is one way that authors are trying to “be found,” especially authors who have a few extra pennies to spend on book promotion.

As we’ve talked about before, there are a few types of online advertising that authors might use: pay-per-impression (you buy ad space by thousands of “views”), flat-rate (you pay a set amount to have your book featured for a day, week, etc. on a blog, forum, or other website), and pay-per-click (your ad is displayed to a large viewership, but you only pay if someone clicks on it).
I’m going to blather impart important information on the pay-per-click model today, specifically Facebook’s version.

How Facebook Advertising Works
With Facebook, you create a short text-based ad that will run only on Facebook, being shown only to people in the demographic you target. You don’t pay to create the campaign; you only get charged when people click. How much you pay per click depends on what you “bid” for clicks. A higher bid will get you more prominent positioning.

For authors, you don’t generally have to bid much (perhaps 10 or 20 cents), as we’re not in a terribly competitive market space. That’s good, because we don’t stand to make much per sale either, not when we’re selling our ebooks for $1-$5. (Naturally, the numbers get better if you have a series with a good buy-through ratio, meaning you can count on a large number of the people who grab the first book to go on to purchase the other four or six or whatever it is.)

One thing I like about Facebook advertising over, say, Google Adwords, is that you can target a very precise viewership. Thanks to the “like” system, and many other factors, Facebook knows a ton about its users. Let’s say you’re a science fiction author. It’s possible to only display your ads to men between the ages of 18 and 29 who are fans of Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, or Orson Scott Card. This serves to keep costs down (no drive-by clicks from parties who aren’t likely to be interested in your work) while potentially connecting you with your ideal audience.

Speaking of costs, I’ve heard (and I haven’t tested this to back it up) that ads cost less over time if your destination URL (the place people go after clicking an ad) is a Facebook page (i.e. your author fan page) instead of an external site (i.e. your blog or your book’s page at Amazon). You also get more than a click if you’re sending folks to an internal page–a “like” option shows up on the ad. If you’ve just built your author fan page, and you’re hoping to get a few starter likes (social proof and what not), this can be an added perk.
If you decide on an internal destination, you can link to your wall or any tab on your author fan page (i.e. a book page you’ve created that includes an excerpt). As of a couple of months ago, you can even promote specific posts on your news wall.

How Facebook’s Promoted Posts Work
Facebook now lets you promote specific posts that you’ve made to your new feed (wall). The video in that link explains how everything works, but basically it’s a way to get people who have already liked your page to come back and see what’s new (it also reaches friends of those who have liked your page).

Some people get cranky about this concept (why pay to advertise to people who are already your fans?), but, if you spend any time on Facebook, you already know that a “like” doesn’t count for much. You’ve probably liked hundreds, maybe thousands of pages, and have noticed that none of the updates for those pages appear on your personal news feed. The exceptions are those pages with which you interact regularly. That makes sense — think how cluttered your feed would be if every news story from Star Wars, Eddie Bauer, REI, Whole Foods, and The Big Bang Theory showed up on your home page. You’d never see the updates from your flesh-and-blood friends.

Though that might make sense, the downside is that a “like” doesn’t get you much as an author. As I write this post, I have 1200-odd likes, and I’d say that maybe 100 people interact with my fan page regularly (leaving comments or likes on my posts). Advertising a specific post (maybe one that lets people know you have a new book out or offers a coupon/free-download on an existing book) is a way to bring back those folks who were interested enough to like your site once but haven’t been back in a while.

Costs are low for promoting specific page posts, too, as the only spending options are $5 and $10. You can select how long the promotion will run (from 1-3 days), and Facebook will spread your funds out over that time, charging you only when someone clicks.

So, does any of this stuff work to sell books? Are Facebook ads worth the money? As of last week, I’ve tried both types of ads (the sponsored links that go out to a targeted audience and the promoted posts that go out to people who’ve liked your page). Later this week, I’ll give you the lowdown. Stay tuned!

Source: Lindsay Buroker