Following from yesterdays’s post on pacing your Free Promos on Facebook to avoid getting banned, here is a second post on the subject. As you may recall from my Call to Arms survey, Facebook didn’t do well in promotions. Because of their high cost, Facebook ads ranked pretty low when it came to paid ads. Here is a relevant post from Digital Book World, originally found in the excellent – and free- Passive Voice newsletter. It claims that Facebook cannot help you sell books, unless you’re already a celebrity with a mass following.
Author, book marketer and social media specialist Michael Alvear, makes the following points:
1. You Need at Least 20,000 Facebook Followers to Move Product
This number is based on his extensive experience. 20,000 followers seems to be the minimum amount you need to make any real headway. The average person, though, has just 338 friends.
It can be really hard to get to 20,000 “friends” or fans as an unknown or midlist author. What can one possibly post on a regular basis that would be so compelling, entertaining or informative that people would flock to “like” your page or become a friend?
Michael has hosted a TV show on HBO and England’s Channel Four. He’s well known in his niche market, yet after five years he only has 5,000 Facebook followers. What nobody tells you is how extraordinarily difficult it is to establish and grow a fan base on Facebook. It is so difficult, that even small companies outsource the job to experts.
Facebook Charges You to Reach Friends and Fans
This is always the biggest shock to most authors and even publishers: Facebook will not allow you to reach “friends” or the people who like your page unless you pay them. On average, Facebook allows less than 16 percent of your fan base to see your posts. You have to pay to reach the remaining 84%.
Michael has generously shared his marketing results. He has a niche book that’s spent the last 12 months on Amazon’s Top 10 gay nonfiction category. It is often #1. He has 5,000+ Facebook fans and recently spent $60 to reach them plus another 8,000 like-minded folks. The result? He sold three books.
In case you think his post in the news feed wasn’t very effective, he’s shared his numbers with us: 188 post likes, 20 comments and 23 shares. The response was actually so good that Facebook sent him a message congratulating him on the fact that his campaign did better than 93 percent of others like it.
But wait again: maybe a broader market behaves differently? His latest book is Eat It Later: Mastering Self Control & The Slimming Power of Postponement, which is in the weight loss category—a massive market that cuts across age, gender, income and class. So how’d this campaign do? Take a look:
A $344 Facebook expenditure to reach nearly 13,000 overweight people interested in losing weight got him zero book sales.
Why Facebook Struggles with Direct Sales
- People don’t “like” your page so they can be sold to. They signed up because they want free entertainment, gossip, information, advice and insight. You can only talk about your book so many times before you start sounding like an infomercial.
- Facebook has a low click through-rate for posts. His first campaign, the one that outperformed 93 percent of others like it, achieved a spectacular 3 percent click-through rate (the number of fans who actually clicked on his post).
Three percent is spectacular? Yes. Facebook’s average click-through rate is less than two-tenths of 1 percent. Of these people, the ones who actually both saw the post and clicked on the link to see it on Amazon, only about 13 percent will actually buy the book. This is Amazon’s conversion rate.
But what about brand-building?
Although I agree with everything that Michael says, there are two important caveats.
First, Michael does not mention the old sales vs. brand-building aspect of marketing. So, yes, Facebook may not create direct sales. However, it can help you build your author brand. For example, Michael says that he’s well known in his niche market. This is partly because of his online platform.
If you do choose to use it that way, one thing to do is create a nice ad. Here is a free PDF with 500 Facebook ads examples you can analyze and model after. I use these to come up with ideas from time to time.
Mark Dawson’s Experience
Second, there is some pretty impressive contrary evidence as well. Author Mark Dawson offers courses on using Facebook to sell books. His advertising methods are complex, involve special landing pages, boxed sets, carefully worded ads, etc – but seem to have tremendous success.
For a small-scale example, author Seeley James (with only 85 Likes on his profile) ran an ad for one boxed set and grossed $48.93, at an ad cost of $20.
Scaling this up, Barbara Hinske spends $1,200 a month and gets sales of $2,600-$3,800. HOWEVER, she does have some 20,000 likes in her page.
Visit Digital Book World to read Michael’s article in its entirety, and make sure to read the comments to get both sides of the argument.
By the way, I’ve been attending a marketing course on Facebook, so in the coming months I’ll be experimenting with it. Hopefully, I’ll be able to share a more positive experience than Michael. Watch this space!
This is why I never made a facebook page for PDC. I do all the work of attracting users to my FB page, then I get to pay money for the privilege of letting them see my posts? No thanks.
A good point, actually. We’ll see how the ads go 🙂
GRRMVM! I hate FB! Just the other day I hear it’s started to ban authors for posting about their books in book-related sites. They do everything they can to close all avenues for free advertising so that you have to pay. Other than that, great insights and look forward to your own findings. Great that your plugin for instant tweeting mentions the plugin name. I’d read about this in a PDF and spent the last two days racking my brain to remember which PDF I read it in. Thank you for saving the day! I see this in many blogs now – so handy, thank you 🙂
Lol – glad I could help! Tweet This allows you to prevent display of its logo, but I couldn’t see the point. I don’t mind advertising them – they do a great job 🙂
I’ve tried exactly two Facebook ads (like $10 each), and both have failed spectacularly. Granted, I didn’t spend much money, and I don’t have many friends/followers. Still … for that same amount of money, I’m sure there’s another marketing tactic I could try with at least slightly better results. Don’t know what yet, but I’m looking!
There is a trick to it, it seems. I’ll let you know when I find out just what it is 😀
Great post. 20,000 followers would be a huge number to reach. That would take a lot of work over time, and time has value too.
Perhaps there’s an easier way. I’ve hard back from a number of people who want to present the other side of the argument 🙂
I tried a coupld facebook ads targeted at fans of fantasy tv series and movies. I didn’t notice an increase in sales. Building a 20K Facebook following is a lot of work, and for now that is just too daunting for me. I do think the free promo sites work well and they cost nothing.
Wise words. I’ll be trying Helen’s approach (see previous comment), so I’ll let you know how it goes.
Like most things, the takeaway is … yer pays yer money and yer takes yer chances. 😀
Lol – way to sum it up 😀
Thanks again for this new addition to the Facebook ad series, lol. I’ll be waiting for further evidence from you. 🙂
Wise girl 🙂
Do you know if those authors were selling books for the kindle or hard copy? I think even reaching 16% of your fans is higher since their algorithm chance- my reach only ever gets to about 4% of my followers…
Sorry, I don’t really know. I do know that most of us are referring to ebooks when blogging, but I can’t guarantee that’s the case here.
I have used FB ads and I have had decent results. I go into FB ads not thinking I’ll get 100 books sold. It’s basically about brand building and reaching people I never would have otherwise. Not many people look at a book cover and say, “I HAVE TO GET THAT BOOK!”
For books, you have to think about touches. They may have to see your cover or your book for quite a few times before they click on the link and take a chance. You have to play around with audience insights and find the right people who are probably going to read your post. You’re constantly trying, tweaking and testing because the audience number for a Tuesday post is different from one for Saturday.
For my ecommerce stuff, it’s more straightforward for sure. But for my books, I basically use it to build my organic likes and take a look at what regions responded to which book post…Sales will come eventually.
Haven’t had time to read all the comments on this interesting subject but I don’t think there’s any doubt you can sell books indirectly through FB. Use ads, not “boost post”, for starters. Offer something free–your funnel book if you have one, and link to a dedicated page on your website that has no links except the download button. Set up Mailchimp to collect and verify email addresses, explain that the viewer will be added to your “New Releases” group, or some such, make it clear that people can unsubscribe at any time, and let them download your book.
Once you have these viewers, you have the opportunity to email them at judicious intervals offering deals on your paperbacks or on other volumes in your series, or whatever.
Nick Stephenson offers all the how-to’s on this in his course “Your First 10K subscribers”. There’s no doubt the method works best for series, or for genres, not for people like me, who write books about subjects that interest them. Incidentally, I’d recommend Nick’s course over Mark Dawson’s, personally. Nick’s is less (about $600US) and explains all you need to know to use FB.
The important thing is, you probably can’t sell books directly through FB. But you can gather names, and as you refine your audience criteria, you can do it in a very cost-effective way. Having those names, you can then offer all sorts of goodies.
Many thanks for that fascinating comment, Helen! You have pretty much summed up what I’ll be trying in the near future, so I’ll let you know how it goes 🙂
I never thought of Facebook as a means for promotion. On my book series page I share things I am doing about writing and I use it as a form of social media. I am not very good at it, but for me it is only one of a numbers of things I am using to gain recognition for my product. I do not use any paid ads, I just use it as a source of information about what I am doing. I share possible art work for covers and it is one of the places I share progress of my writing. It is a way to connect with my potential audience.
It’s a great way to do things organically. As such, it’s bound to build a great platform slowly but steadily. For people looking to monetize their works, though, it may be too slow an approach.
Gee, I’ve had the opposite experience, both with ads and simply engaging. I think FB is an excellent site for promotion. But, and this is key I think, an author must “engage” and not just shout “Buy my book!” I’ve done a few webinars, too, and learned a ton of info.
I believe it’s all in how you use it. Thanks for sharing your experience. If you have the time and inclination, I’d love to include more from you in the second part of this post (which will list the pros).
When do you have it scheduled for?
I don’t. Probably late December/early January, as I need to run the ads and see how they perform. I want to share my first-hand experience 🙂
Super. Then count me in. Just give me a heads-up and I’ll add my two-cents. 😉
Yay! Send your 2c along whenever you have the time 🙂
Hi Nicholas- It is always interesting to hear authors talk about marketing. Most of the homemade experiences that authors have are without goals and strategy, which is problematic. If you want to market your books, you have to know a little about marketing. I think you’re on the right track–educate yourself. The Facebook article from DBW that you referenced is riddled with misinformation from a source that makes a living teaching people how to game Amazon. I know plenty of indies that have educated themselves on how to use Facebook correctly and have great success building email lists and street teams there–both things that sell books and are built to last, not fly by night. Just one thing we have to remember, Facebook is not Amazon. It is not built to be the primary source of book sales. But you can’t beat it for helping your books get discovered and building a loyal, raving fan base. If we don’t see the value in those things for selling your books, then we need a paradigm shift. If you’re just interested in selling books in the short term, then marketing in general will have limited use for you. Build sustainable marketing (fan base) and write good books and you’ll be good to go. There are no shortcuts or magic pills.
Thank you for that, and welcome! As I said, this week we heard from the opposition. In an upcoming post, we’ll hear from the defense. If you feel like contributing to that with your own experience, I’d love to hear from you 🙂
None of that surprised me and I’ve honestly given up on FB being a sales source. I see visual artists and models having more luck because it’s picture based. People seem to like things that they can see, like, and move on from within seconds. There are authors who gain a massive FB following, but it seems to be predominantly because they post pictures of personal life stuff, memes, or whatever grabs attention. I used to be mildly active on my author site and it was usually the same people interacting with me.
I think one of the biggest issues on FB is that most people do the ‘like & move on’ without paying attention to the post. Posting anything without a picture seems pointless and lengthy stuff only works when it’s political/social controversy stuff. Again, this is only what I’ve seen and it’s why I no longer put much effort into FB.
Ironically enough, FB might be one of those places where ads work better than organic posts. We’ll see – I’ll let you know when I try something out 🙂
I heard that if you do an ad then you have to keep doing them. Something about your posts falling further into the abyss if you aren’t paying. That or it was that every ad is more expensive than the previous one.
I haven’t heard that, and to be honest it doesn’t make much sense. What I do know, though, is that it’s increasingly hard to reach people organically…
To be fair, Facebook doesn’t make a lot of sense half the time. Though from a greed point of view I guess I see a little logic. If a person is willing to pay for an ad once then one can assume they would be willing to pay again. There is a strangeness to the business model there, but I’ve heard those complaints. Though that might be for paying to promote a post, which I’m not sure is the same as an ad.
I’m not surprised to read that Facebook charge for the service. That’s one part of how they make their millions, after all. I cannot even imagine knowing (or knowing of) 20,000 people. That’s a bit too much for my brain to compute.
Best wishes, Pete.
Lol – the power of social media 😀
I tend to agree that advertising on Facebook is more about brand awareness and engagement and less about actually getting people to part with money. We used to run a youth theatre group and although Facebook allows you to do some tremendous targeting (meaning that we gathered some good interest and followers) we failed to convert any of them into attending a free trial session. Clicking ‘Like’ is about as proactive as most people get.
Interesting, thanks for sharing that!
Thanks for an interesting post. I used to be a FB person but packed it in about 9 months ago. No regrets!
I hear that more often than you might think…
No, not surprised at all. Between ad costs and waste of time, I’m surprised it hasn’t gone into downturn generally a lot sooner.
There seems to be a way to make it work. Hopefully, I’ll be able to share more as I discover it 🙂
Blimey isn’t life complicated
Lol – surely that’s part of the fun, right? :b
You’re right Nick, that’s true.
Thanks, Nicholas. I’ve been trying to work through Facebook ads of late. So far I haven’t found that it has been worth the cost, but I’ll look forward to your added experience and information. Thank you for your willingness to share!
There is a trick to it. One that I’ll share as soon as I get it to work for me 😀
Thank you, Nicholas! I will keep my eyes peeled. Money doesn’t grow on trees around here! 😉 You are kind and generous! <3
Aw, you! *blush*
This is a great post and makes me happier than you can imagine. Why? Because, although I have a presence on Facebook, I don’t ‘do’ Facebook. I used to feel guilty. Now I feel as if a great weight has been lifted from my shoulders. 😀
Lol – good to have helped 🙂
This week, we heard from the opposition. Next month, we’ll hear from the defense. Hopefully, with some tips to make your FB presence as painless and effective as possible.
That is, if baby doesn’t get me first 🙂
You’re about to become a dad? How exciting! First child?
Yes. Sorry, I’d posted about it a month ago, so I thought you’ seen the post 🙂
-grin- Read it just now. I suspect you’re going to become a doting Dad!
Lol – that is so sweet! Thanks 🙂
Great post. Very useful.
Thanks! I’ll follow it in a month or so with the defense, of course. I like my posts to give both pros and cons 🙂
Love your posts! They are my breakfast treat
Lol – likewise! I get them in my email and read them first thing in the morning 🙂
Your posts go well with granola and yoghurt – lol
Erm, thanks? I always thought myself more of an egg on toast kind of guy. Who knew!