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The constant rolling rumble of construction work outside my window is leaving me a little… tetchy. Let’s see if we can get through this week’s email without climbing down the front of my building and poleaxing someone with an empty whiskey bottle! 

Today we’re going to wrap up the mini-guide to building a Facebook Ad (not the entire series – fear not! – there’s plenty more to cover), and then next week we’ll probably do something non-ad-focused as a palette cleanser, and then maybe the week after we’ll jump back into Amazon Ads for a bit and keep all these plates spinning.

But first, a solitary amuse-bouche of news:

  • BookBub formally announced a change to its ads platform that has been in testing since April or May, and which has been slowly rolling out to author accounts all summer. There have been two changes since I published BookBub Ads Expert. The first is something that sounds big but is actually quite minor – Readers v Followers – and the second is something that sounds minor but I think is quite a big deal: the introduction of new metrics such as CTR-by-author. Both of those changes are covered in detail at the Bonus Resources page for this book – which is a private part of my website for purchasers of BookBub Ads Expert – and I have some advice on best practices for both of those changes, as I have been playing with them for a few months now. Make sure to check it out!

BTW, as there were questions, you get access to that page via the link in your copy of BookBub Ads Expert. The link is repeated everywhere relevant in the book, such as the end of Chapter 4, the start of Chapter 7, near the start of Chapter 10, and so on. But email me if you have trouble.

I’ve been consistently adding to that page since March, and it’s now a really great resource: a gallery of winning ad images, a visual guide to ad creation, detailed optimization advice, case studies, and a place to ask questions.

This page allows me to keep the book up to date without having to update the book (changes which wouldn’t make their way to your Kindle anyway, unless you proactively downloaded them – so this is a pretty neat solution).

It’s not all good news though: construction noise has put paid to any notions of recording a video this week. Maybe instead I’ll do a video  when we conclude the entire Facebook series… if they ever stop digging holes outside my house!

Facebook 9: Building A Campaign III

After fiddling with all the back-end settings for the last couple of weeks, we finally started tackling the actual bits that Facebook users see in the previous email, such as the all-important image. Today we’ll complete our front-end finessing by addressing the ad text and the rest of the settings for the actual ad.

(Don’t forget, you can review the last episode, along with anything else you missed, in my Email Archive – which is now looking a touch better as I continue to pretty it up...). 

I want to take a brief step back to the ad image for a moment. While there were a lot of people who agreed that using the book cover gives them best results – particularly when you factor in the most crucial metric of all: conversion – there was some disagreement. 

So, I’d like to address that very briefly, but feel to skip ahead to the next heading if you are already sold on this.

If you are using non-book cover images and they are working for you, then carry on. As I always say, data trumps the most convincing theories. If there was One Simple Way of making money with Facebook Ads, we would be able to do this in a short blog post or two-minute explainer video. 

It’s always wise to test anything and take what works for you from those tests. My aim here is to cut down on that testing process for you and try and give some aggregated, generalized tips so you don’t have to spend as much time or money testing absolutely everything.

That said, I still have pretty strong feelings about using book covers in ads – or using the cover art in some form, at the very least. I strongly suspect that having the ad art line up with the cover art on the landing page (Amazon, for example), reduces the chance of readers pausing. And if they pause, you can lose them to all the other shiny distractions both on your Amazon page, and elsewhere on the internet.

All of my testing, across a range of genres, almost always shows better results with using a book cover. I say “almost always” because there’s an exception to everything, and I have very occasionally used non-book cover images with some success.

But as with so much of this advice, it’s also designed not to overwhelm beginners with too many options or qualifying statements. You can use non-book cover images, you can advertise non-discounts, you can even run ads outside of Newsfeed. I just think you are making it harder for yourself – and the path I’m plotting out for you, is the right course of action when you are learning the ropes, I respectfully suggest. But if you feel very passionately about trying something different, then feel free to test it too!

Let’s move on from this cavalcade of caveats.

After you have uploaded your glorious book-cover focused ad image, you will see the ad preview on the right-hand side start to populate but ignore it for now. Instead, train your attention on the boxes for the ad text and the link where you want to send people.

Ad: Website URL

This is pretty simple on the face of it: you want to point directly to your book on Amazon. Some people suggest pointing to your website instead, but all the data in the world seems to strongly argue that taking customers direct to Amazon massively increases conversion and makes you much more money. It’s not hard to imagine why either – Amazon is the best in the world at e-commerce. It can close a sale better than anyone. It has everyone’s credit card details stored, people can order with one-click ease, and everyone knows who Amazon is.

So, send them direct to Amazon (and the other retailers too).

This is important: remove any tracking guff from your Amazon link. For example, if you go to Amazon and search for BookBub Ads Expert and then click on the link to go to the book’s page on Amazon, that link will look like this:

This has all sorts of tracking code added to it by Amazon, which is how they monitor user behavior. If you navigate to the book some other way – like from a bestseller chart or an ad or an Also Bought – it will have different tracking information. In the example above, you can clearly see that it has recorded my search keywords I entered.

Don’t use a link like this for your ads. I won’t get too technical here, just take my word for it. You should use a raw link without any tracking nonsense – and this goes for any time you are linking to Amazon. The simplest form of link to Amazon is this:

But where you put in the ASIN of the respective book instead, obviously.

So, for BookBub Ads Expert, a raw link will look like this:

There are other versions of these raw links – many versions in fact – but this is the simplest.

Get into the habit of doing this everywhere. The only exception is when you might want to use affiliate links, but you should be aware of the rules around same. You definitely can’t use them in emails. You definitely can use them on your website. Ads are a big grey areas. People commonly use them in ads, I think, but they are taking a risk IMO (risking their affiliate account, not theird KDP account, I should clarify).

I should note that most people want to use them for the data rather than the few extra pennies, but, honestly, I think you get better data from the crude approach of just eyeballing your sales chart/rank graph, as coverage is increasingly patchy with tracking these days, particularly since the rise of mobile.

For the non-beginners, there are some more advanced options with regard to using affiliate links, and Caro Begin of GoCreate.Me has a helpful video below explaining the pros and cons of doing things like using redirects or pointing to your website instead, and so on.

Ad: Text

I used to work as a copywriter so let me tell you straight: there is a lot of crap written about copywriting. Aside from basic things which you should already know (like try to sell the sizzle, not the steak, and that clarity and crispness is important above all), the most important thing is something no amount of blog posts or books or courses about copywriting can teach you.

You must know your audience.

I’ve written an entire book about the importance of knowing your reader and how that knowledge must filter through to every aspect of your book marketing (that’s Strangers to Superfans btw) but for anyone who hasn’t read it, you are going to really struggle with this part. But let me see if I can guide you a little.

The way you talk to the kind of grizzled vet who enjoys third-person battle-filled space opera is going to be very different to the way you speak with a reader of first-person, snarky paranormal romance. That tone should be consistent in your book cover, blurb, emails, and, yes, your ads too.

This is FAR more important for Facebook Ads than Amazon Ads or BookBub Ads as the ad text is front and center here. (It’s arguably less in the spotlight with Amazon Ads and there is no ad text whatsoever with BookBub Ads).

Aside from extreme genre variance in terms of what works here, there’s probably a gender angle too. Now, throwing out gross generalizations about gender is like cartwheeling across a field of landmines, but I have heard it said that men prefer plotty book cover decriptions and women lean much more towards character-focused copy. (How’s that for some passive voice?)

And maybe you can square that circle by focusing on a tagline which ties very strongly to your book’s theme but which focuses on your hero if possible. Writing a tagline is an art in itself, of course, but you’re a writer, dammit, you can do this. You just need to practice (and focus, and push yourself through a ton of tiresome iterations).

I’ll give some quick examples from the world of movies, as we’ll probably have more common ground there:

Dude Where’s My Car – After a night they can't remember comes a day they'll never forget.

The 40 Year Old Virgin – The longer you wait, the harder it gets.

Postcards from the Edge – Having a wonderful time, wish I were here.

The Royal Tenenbaums – Family isn't a word. It's a sentence.

Psycho – Check in. Unpack. Relax. Take A Shower

Alien – In space no one can hear you scream

The Thing – Man is the warmest place to hide

The Social Network – You don't get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies

Zodiac – There's more than one way to lose your life to a killer

You can clearly see that the tagline’s most important job is to convey tone. Fans of arch drama might be repelled by the humor of the first couple of examples, but the tagline isn’t for them. The target audience will be sold on that line right away. Know your audience.

You have limited space here, and I think it’s best used by combining some form of tagline with some form of offer, and a call to action.

Unlike BookBub, the audience on Facebook is a lot less price sensitive. However, that doesn’t mean that discounts aren’t a big draw. Of course they are. A limited-time sale has two inbuilt hooks: the discount, and the urgency to act now. If you don’t have a sale to dangle, then you must find another hook, like some form of social proof (review quote, bestseller status, award, endorsement from fellow author, etc.)

And if you have absolutely none of that, then you really better work hard on that tagline!

Pulling all that together, here’s what a Facebook ad text might look like:

  • Winning will make you famous. Losing means certain death. Buy the Hunger Games now on Kindle for just 99¢.
  • Half-boy. Half-god. All hero. The first book in Rick Riordain's acclaimed Percy Jackson series is free for a limited time. Download on Kobo.
  • Growing up is tough, period. Judy Blume’s timeless YA novel “Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret?” is now available on iBooks for the very first time. Download now.

You get the idea. Tagline, offer, call-to-action. Of course, you can mix up these elements, or go a bit longer with tagline part, just keep checking that preview so that the text doesn’t get too long and get truncated. You definitely don’t want that.

Communicate what the book is about as efficiently as possible, and do so in a genre-appropriate tone. Convey the offer clearly. And put in a call to action. As cheesy as it might sound, it really does work.

Feel free to test any other approach if you wish, as always, but I’d recommend trying something in this form too. And definitely test more than one variation. As with images, often what you think is the winner is different from what your readers may think. 

And I always let them decide.

Rounding out the last few options are a handful of minor things in the interface.

You can put a limited amount of text in the Headline and Newsfeed link description sections. I usually drop some social proof in here, especially if the ad text focused more on other aspects. So something about award-winning or “Over 1m copies sold” or “Over 1000 reviews on Amazon” or whatever you can muster up here. Alternative taglines can also work if social proof is a little thin on the ground.

Finally, always include a button. I don't mean in the ad image - although that can often work well too - I mean in the actual architecture of the ad around the image. It's an option here in the interface towards the very end.

I like Shop Now personally. You can experiment with others – some swear by the less salesy approach of Learn More but I don’t know if I agree with that. I avoid Download Now personally as I wonder if readers think it will actually start initiating a download right away, rather than taking them to their preferred retailer. Test it if you like, but I get best results with Shop Now.

That’s it! You simply submit your ad and then it goes live pretty quickly afterwards. Just make sure to click the link requesting a manual review if that has appeared in your interface because of text - you need to do that before submitting the ad.

Anyway, you can now build basic Facebook Ads. 

We’ll delve into more aspects of all this in future episodes – particularly things like targeting – and we will also cover different uses of Facebook Ads, and more advanced tricks too, but these last three episodes in particular should give you a basic grounding in how to put together a campaign which actually sells books.

We will, of course, look at measuring success and optimization also, as well as overall strategy.

Good luck with your ads!


P.S. Writing music this week is droning out the constant thrum of construction - this wonderful instrumental track by the Velvet Underground which makes me want to go on a never-ending road trip.

David Gaughran

Broomfield Business Park, Malahide, Co. Dublin, Ireland

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