These days there are a lot of expensive Facebook advertising classes. Please know that I don't mean to imply they're a scam. The people who teach those classes know a lot about how Facebook advertising works. And it's complicated, so they have plenty of great material to teach.
It's their job to impart that information (and cash your check) without judging whether or not Facebook advertising will change your life. It might. But it might not. And since we're not charging you for Facebook ads, we are quite happy to point out all the pessimistic details. So if you decide to take the plunge, you'll be fully informed.
1. Facebook ads cost between 100% and 500% more than they did a few years ago.
In other words, everything you can learn about Facebook ads works less well than it used to. When I ran my first Facebook ads I was getting .01 clicks in the US. But that was more than ten years ago. Even as recently as 2015 it was possible to get .05 clicks over a long period of time. These days you can still hit that price sometimes, but it's far more common to pay .10 to .25.
This data from adespresso cuffed the average CPC (cost per click) in 2017 at $1.10 in the US. That price would be a nonstarter for most authors I know. Why? Read on...
2. The Facebook advertising machine is not optimized for selling $4.99 ebooks.
Inconvenient truth: Most of the things that people are hawking on Facebook cost more than an ebook. The good news is that people are more likely to click on something that's cheap. That helps keep your CPC lower than average.
But the seller of an adorable $25 T-shirt has a higher tolerance for her click cost than you do. At similar conversion rates, she can afford to pay $1.10 because her profit is higher than yours. And guess what? You're competing for clicks with people who are selling T-shirts and luxury cosmetics and Facebook advertising courses for $700. Also Teslas.
Important note: If you're pitching, say, book 1 in a six book series, you are selling something that costs more than $4.99. You're selling an onramp to more revenue. That means Facebook ads will always work better for authors with a deep backlist and more product to sell. If you're a newbie, think that through before you invest.
And if you have a deep backlist, you still need to make great ads and target them carefully. Although...
3. Running Facebook ads isn't just an extra marketing arrow in your quiver, it's a part time job.
This may be the single biggest misunderstood thing about using Facebook ads as an author strategy. It's work. Even after you know what you're doing.
If you embrace Facebook advertising as a business strategy, know that you will be constantly making ads, testing ads, tweaking ads and redesigning ads. Unless you are clairvoyant (and then I want to hire you to run my Facebook ads) you will not know ahead of time which cute bit of ad copy will perform. Or which photo of an attractive man.
Ads get stale. And carefully targeted audiences get stale, too. So even if you are an ad-writing ninja, you will still need to stay on top of it. Especially because...
4. Facebook changes their interface as often as we change our socks.
They are raking in the billions, and that requires constant tweaking, too! So be prepared to learn new names for every component when they change them, and to reinterpret new reporting. And to test new options. Also...
5. Facebook can cut you off at any time. They won't tell you why, and you can't ask a human.
This is a truly terrifying thing, and it happened to me. One day last fall I suddenly got an email notifying me that due to advertising practices which violated Facebooks TOS, my account was closed. Since I had a new release coming the following week, I panicked, as one does. There was a link to appeal, which I clicked. I wrote something like, "Dear Facebook. I really don't think my ads for this book violate anything. Could you please help me understand what's going on?"
It was a stressful 24 hours but eventually I got another notice that more or less said, Oops, everything is fine. Carry on. My account was restored. But for some people the appeal fails. And since I no longer have a Facebook ads rep (I did, but then he disappeared!) there was literally nobody I could ask.
6. Success begets success. But you knew that already.
Facebook ad gurus can teach you exactly how to calculate the ROI (return on investment) of your Facebook ads. We can calculate down to the penny how many cents per click you can pay for an ad on a $3.99 book with a 5% conversion rate.
We can, but it would still be wrong! Because each purchase you make on Amazon or iBooks boosts your rank there. And only the books with a good rank receive any visibility on either platform. So. If you advertise a book that has a terrific rank already, each marginal sale will pinball you a little higher on the charts, increasing your organic visibility at the 'Zon.
Conversely, if you're advertising a book with a rank in the millions, a marginal sale will bring you up into the 900,000s, right? It sounds like a big move, but Amazon won't show you any extra love if the book only sells a copy or two each day.
Result: ROI matters more on books with a terrible rank than for books with a great rank. If you're already selling hundreds of copies a day, you can actually run Facebook ads at a loss and still profit by elevating your rank and remaining visible.
Yes, that's complicated. And discouraging. But our algorithmic overlords run the world, and they rule with iron fists and sharp little teeth.
7. Sometimes it's the book and its packaging.
Nobody ever wants to hear this. But even if you make a brilliant, clickable ad, if your book's vendor page doesn't seem appealing, you won't convert. Once you convince that Facebook troller to click, she still won't fork over her money if she feels let down by the product itself. Is your flap copy enticing? Does your cover art sing? Do you have a lot of good reviews to help push that buyer over the hump? Ask yourselves these important questions before you spend your money on ads.
This all might read as if we don't like Facebook ads. We do! We use them all the time. But we do so with eyes wide open. It's a really hard job, and there are days when we spend way too much time on it. And we live in constant fear of having invested ourselves in this manner when we should have been writing more books instead.
We don't have all the answers, but we love debate on this subject! How have ads been working for you?