Facebook has become a pay-to-play network, requiring paid ads if you want to get visibility with more people for your posts. This isn’t all bad news. Compared to most forms of traditional advertising, Facebook ads are still quite reasonably priced—and they allow you to reach very specific demographics.

But this post isn’t about promoting books with regular Facebook ads.

We’ve seen time and again that this strategy doesn’t work well (unless you’ve got a large, devoted audience already on Facebook and promote specifically to them). Even Amazon tried promoting books through Facebook ads, but quickly shut down the strategy when they found it wasn’t working. It turns out that promoting books via Facebook ads to a cold audience just doesn’t generate enough results to justify the investment.

But, there’s an even better strategy on Facebook that could help skyrocket your book sales! And it’s unbelievably simple.

Get others to recommend your book on their Facebook pages—and you sponsor the ads.

With the Nonfiction Authors Association, we tested this strategy to promote our annual Nonfiction Writers Conference. We found a writers’ group with a large following on Facebook and asked if we could sponsor a boosted post to their audience. Nobody had ever asked them before, and they were willing to test it out at no additional cost.

It worked! That ad more than paid for itself in event registrations.

How does this work differently than boosting the post yourself?

This strategy works because it looks like a recommendation from someone else, and this has more influence on Facebook users. Think about it—when a friend recommends a new restaurant, you are immediately more interested in dining there. The same applies for books. If a friend raves about a great new read in a genre that you also enjoy, you’re quite likely to go get the book yourself.

Sheryl Sandberg, a marketing executive from Facebook, recently released her newest book about recovering from grief. I found out about the book because of a sponsored post—from someone who has a large following in the grief community. See for yourself:

How to promote books on Facebook

Notice how this reads more like a personal recommendation than an ad. It starts with, “I was able to read an advanced copy…”

So, now what?

Here’s how to make this strategy work for you.

Step 1: Go find people and businesses with Facebook pages that reach your target audience. Note that they should have a significant following of fans—at least 1,000, though more is better.

Step 2: Ask if you can send a review copy of your book (or just mail them one with a friendly note inside).

Step 3: Follow up in a few weeks to ask if he/she had a chance to read it and get their feedback (or endorsement).

Step 4: Ask if you could sponsor a Facebook post recommending the book to their audience.

With any type of advertising, it’s best to start out slow and test the results. A good starting budget might be $50 or $100, targeted toward their page fans. The ad should read like a personal recommendation, and you’ll probably get the best outcome if you write it yourself and ask your promotion partner if the verbiage is agreeable.

After testing and confirming that your ad is working, I’d suggest allocating as much budget as you can to more ads. If your ads are working, then the more you spend, the better the results you can achieve.

What’s in it for them?

For your promotion partners, if you don’t already have a relationship, try offering them some incentive to support you. Brainstorm a list of ways you could reciprocate.

  • Could you promote their book or upcoming online course to your mailing list or social media audience?
  • Could you offer to help them build their mailing list by promoting one of their free downloads to your audience?
  • Could you mail out a promotional flyer for their book inside copies of your book when fulfilling orders?
  • Could you add them as a recommended resource on your website?
  • Could you promote them on your podcast or blog?

While some may be willing to help out of kindness, others—especially those who are in high demand—may need a little extra incentive.

Remember this pre-planning strategy for your next book launch.

Before you launch your next book, ask influential people who reach your target audience on Facebook (fellow authors, coaches, speakers and people with large audiences) to provide a testimonial for your book before it’s published. Ask as many people as possible—dozens if you can! Even if you can’t fit all of the testimonials in the book, you can put many on your website (which is valuable in its own right). No matter what, the more testimonials you can collect, the better.

Then once the book is ready to launch, you can reach out to those who gave testimonials and ask to sponsor a post to their Facebook audience. They will already have some incentive to support you because you’ve previously connected, they liked your book, and you aren’t just reaching out cold.

Good luck with this strategy and let us know how it goes for you!