| |

Can a Facebook ad really sell books? One nonfiction author says “Yes!”

Can a Facebook ad sell books? Read how author Randi Minetor sold hundreds with her first ad and get her best tips so you can do the same.

Our guest blogger today is Randi Minetor, the author of more than 80 books, including seven in the Death in the National Parks series—nonfiction books about people who visit national (and some state) parks and do not survive the experience. She also writes about U.S. travel, hiking in New York State, birds, nature, historic cities, and a wide range of general interest topics. Be sure to read Randi’s other articles here, “I wish I hadn’t done that: Tales from the book promotion road” and “Amazon sales rank: What the heck does it mean?

Affiliate Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means if you click on them and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission (at no extra charge to you).

Can a Facebook ad really sell books? One nonfiction author says “Yes!”

By Randi Minetor

Minutes after I created my Books by Randi and Nic Minetor business page on Facebook, I started receiving messages encouraging me to “boost” a post by making it a paid advertisement.

I dismissed the idea at first. The common wisdom I’ve heard since the 2002 release of my first book is that paid advertising doesn’t sell books.

The world of social media, however, gives us a whole new perspective on advertising, turning it from a broad-spectrum, mass-market enterprise into a highly targeted messaging system.

Social media gives us a whole new perspective on advertising, turning it from a broad-spectrum, mass-market enterprise into a highly targeted messaging system. ~ Randi MinetorClick to tweet

With that in mind, I decided to give a Facebook ad a whirl to promote my latest nonfiction book, Death in the Everglades: Accidents, Foolhardiness and Mayhem in South Florida, to see if I could raise its visibility during the holiday season.

Facebook ad sell books

Creating a Facebook ad, step by step

First, I used the book’s promotional copy to create a post on my page,  For the image, I used MockupShots, the wonderful tool Sandra Beckwith recommends that drops a book cover into any of the thousands of templates available on its site.

The click-through “call to action” went to the book’s page on Amazon.

Facebook ads 2
Death in the Everglades Facebook ad

Once I clicked “Boost Post,” it took me to the Create Ads page. I added a “Shop Now” button and moved on to the most critical part of the process: selecting the audience.

Here’s where Facebook advertising offers advantages I have not found in other online ad programs. Facebook suggests what it calls an “advantage audience” that it selects, but this is likely too broad for most books.

Instead of using this default, I selected that advantage I mentioned, “People you choose through targeting.” That allowed me to create my perfect niche: people ages 18 to 65+, living in Florida, who have expressed an interest in the Everglades, South Florida, camping, hiking, outdoors, hunting, or national parks.

Next, I chose my daily budget. I started conservatively at $12 per day for 10 days.

Facebook told me that about 1,800 people per day would see the ad. Advertisers only pay for the actual clicks on the ad, however, so I thought it very likely that this would not cost me much.

Results and tweaks

Facebook ad 2So you can imagine my surprise when I launched the ad in early December and the numbers started to come in.

In the first seven days, nearly 30,000 people saw my ad, and 408 clicked on the link. I watched my Amazon ranking numbers rise out of the basement, and the book became #1 in the Miami Florida Travel Books and Florida Keys Travel Books categories.

With 12 days to go before Christmas, I decided to run the ad again, right up through December 23. This time, I looked at the graph provided in the Ad Center and found that nearly all of the audience who interacted with the ad were older than 40—so I adjusted my audience target accordingly.

Fewer people—19,300—saw the ad, but the closer targeting generated twice as many clicks (see below).

When I looked at my actual sales on Bookscan a week later, more than 400 copies of Death in the Everglades had sold in just three weeks. (By contrast, other books in the series usually sell about 30 copies per week during the holiday season.)

Facebook ad analytics for Death in the Everglades
Death in the Everglades Facebook ad analytics

Equally important, the momentum continued into January. People shared the ad on Facebook nearly 100 times, so it has continued to enjoy robust sales—especially rewarding for a niche book about true crime and accidents in South Florida.

And all it cost was about $270.

Pro tips for a Facebook ad that will sell books

I learned a lot through this process. Here are my five top tips for creating Facebook ads that sell.

1. Put your book cover in a great environment.

Displaying your book cover on a plain white background won’t make the book look exciting and special.

Thanks to MockupShots, we don’t have to spend a small fortune or a long afternoon photographing our books in movie-set conditions. It took me ten minutes to browse and pick an engaging template.

2. Punch up your sales text.

This came easily to me because I used to run an advertising agency, and I spent much of my career writing marketing copy.

I took the book’s back cover copy (which I had written) and boiled it down to a few clipped, declarative sentences with a throat-grabbing opening. You’ve got maybe three seconds to catch the eye of a reader scrolling through Facebook, so make that first sentence count.

3. Location, location, location.

Define your audience first by geography if you can—where the book takes place, or where your most avid readers may be clustered.

Ads that target the entire U.S. will not be effective at $12 per day—you’ll need to spend a lot more money to reach enough people to make a difference. Try to narrow that geography.

4. Target your readers.

Facebook is all about uniting people with similar interests, so use that to your advantage.

You can type in any topic to find your people: book genres (romance, fantasy, travel, true crime, etc.), hobbies, interests, professions, travel preferences, political views, religions, or other categories relevant to your subject.

Knowing your ideal audience’s age range can help as well—that turned out to be my biggest success secret. The more you can pinpoint your niche, the more effective your ad will be in reaching your target.

5. Set a realistic budget.

You can decide to spend as little as $1 per day, but don’t expect results from such a small expenditure. I found $12–$15 per day for 10 days to be very effective for a book with a fairly narrow audience.

If you’re promoting a book with a much broader reach, it may take more money to find them. Keep in mind that if the ad doesn’t seem to be helping you sell books, you can halt it with a single click and not spend another penny.

My nearly effortless ad campaign has given Death in the Everglades the visibility I need to peddle it to podcasts and blogs throughout the state.

The bottom line: If you know your audience well, you can reach a very specific group fairly economically using Facebook ads and see your sales rise.

If you know your audience well, you can reach a very specific group fairly economically using Facebook ads and see your sales rise. ~ Randi MinetorClick to tweet

Have you used Facebook ads for your book? What did you learn from the experience? 

Like what you’re reading? Get it delivered to your inbox every week by subscribing to the free Build Book Buzz newsletter. You’ll also get my free “Top 5 Free Book Promotion Resources” cheat sheet immediately!


    1. I’m SO happy to hear that Lesley! Would you be comfortable telling us what the “aha!” was for you here?


  1. This is a super-helpful post on a topic I’ve always found intimidating and laid out so simply. Thank you Randi for your insights, and Sandra for posting this valuable guest blog.

    1. I’m SO glad Randi’s experience and advice is helpful, Anita! Honestly, Randi has inspired me, too. Lucky us!


    1. I’m glad you like it, Vicki! Check out all of Randi’s books in the Death in the National Parks series before your next park visit, too. Better safe than sorry! ; )


    2. Thanks, Vicki! In all honesty, you’re not likely to be attacked by either an alligator or a snake in the Everglades—but there are plenty of other ways to get into deadly trouble down there. Still, it’s a gorgeous place to visit, especially if you like birds.

  2. @suthoryou, as one of my fave resources, I wonder why you have no share icon on your post to make it easy to share with my 45500 Twitter followers as one of my #FrugalBookPromoTips. They are mostly #authors who I know would love it. Best, Carolyn

    1. Carolyn, I’m a little confused. What is @suthoryou and what’s the connection to Facebook advertising?

      Regarding social sharing icons, they are here. On desktop, they’re at the top and side of each post. The side icons float, so they’re available wherever you are with the post. On mobile, they’re prominent at the top and bottom of the screen.

      On content with no social icons for sharing, I always copy the link to share on social networks.

      Let me know how I can help.


  3. When I run Facebook ads, they never allow this much copy to show, so I’m curious as to what setting this ad showed in. Facebook news feed?

    Helpful ideas here. I’ve been frustrated by Facebook eliminating so many keywords (and doing it inconsistently–one public figure’s name is a keyword but the other was eliminated, supposedly due to new rules). I might try the geographical location trick.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *