Authors: How to Sell Your Books (and Related Products and Services) with Facebook AdsRecently I had the pleasure of speaking at the San Francisco Writers Conference, where a writer said, “I hear that Facebook ads don’t work.”

He was a little right and a little wrong.

Facebook ads can be frustrating, but when used to reach a bigger goal, they can be worthwhile. Many writers have given up on the platform because they spend money to advertise their books, yet don’t earn back their investment in sales.

Selling books directly is not the best use of Facebook ads and I’ll tell you why: You need to earn the trust of your audience first. If you decide to promote your book to fans of a fellow author’s page, for example, those fans may notice your book, but they’re going to have to see it mentioned elsewhere at least six more times before they seriously consider buying.

This is a general rule of marketing—it takes an average of seven exposures to a product before we decide to buy.

This always makes me think about the iPod. When it first came out, it sounded interesting, but I wasn’t immediately sold. I was the one who made song lists and burned CDs for all of my friends and family. I couldn’t imagine why I would ever want my music library to go digital.

I noticed those billboard ads with the silhouette of a woman dancing with her ear buds in. And I read an article or two about iPods. Had I tracked my exposure to this new gadget, I would bet I saw ads or mentions about seven times before I finally made the decision to buy. (And boy did that change my life! All the music I could ever want at my fingertips!)

The same rule applies for your book. Seeing an interesting book title might cause us to raise an eyebrow, and perhaps if the description is really gripping it can lead a true book lover to click on Buy Now. But not everyone is a book lover.

According to a study by PEW Research, the average American reads twelve books per year. And that number is a composite of a mix of avid readers (like myself—I read at least one book a week) with people who read little or not at all. The data suggests that the median number of books read in a year is actually just four. And 27% of respondents admitted to not reading a single book in the prior year. Yikes.

So if the average person is reading just four books per year, what do you think it takes to get their attention? Probably more than a Facebook ad. We tend to choose books based on reviews and recommendations, not because of ads.

But don’t fret yet! I have good news for you.

How to Make Facebook Ads Pay Dividends

Ads on Facebook are rarely good for generating book sales, however Facebook ads are great for helping you build an audience. And as you cultivate that audience, you can earn new readers.

For an example, I’ll share with you one strategy we use with the Nonfiction Authors Association. We occasionally release a free report, which requires users register with an email address to download. We typically boost a post on Facebook for around $100 to promote the report, which drives new subscribers to our mailing list.

One report, our Book Launch Checklist, generated over 500 downloads. That’s 500 new mailing list subscribers—and 500 more people we can engage and enlist in our tribe. The way I see it, we have to impress each prospective member or conference attendee by giving them plenty of value up front. Each time a writer gets inspired by something in our blog or newsletter, when they download a report or listen to our free weekly teleseminar, we should be building their loyalty. And ultimately that loyalty will lead to purchasing membership, participating in one of our courses or events, or making other investments in the services we offer.

It works exactly the same for books! First, you’ve got to drive people to your website. Second, you have to impress the hell out of them. Engage them with data, reports, content, value and entertaining blog posts. Make them want to remember your name. When you do this, the next time you ask for the sale you will be far more likely to get it than you would be if an ad for your book just popped up in their Facebook feed.

So, the bottom line is that you can use Facebook ads to reach potential readers and clients, but with the goal of ultimately building an audience that stays with you for the long haul. Create your own community and you will ultimately generate sales for your books, as well as other products and services you may offer.

If you like this blog post, you’ll love our Advanced Book Marketing and Launch Strategies Course! Learn more about our courses for authors here