Facebook Ad Copy: Start Here!

The 100,000 words in your novel might not have been the most important words you’ll write. The sixty in your Facebook ads could be the ones that make all the difference to driving mailing list subscriptions, sales and, if it all goes to plan, your career.

I’ve spent more time than is probably sensible studying copywriting strategy, and today’s post is a quick and easy guide to writing killer copy that will convert.



There’s been a huge amount of thought in this area and many people make a good living doing nothing else but writing ad copy. Facebook themselves have produced a cheat sheet that sets out the basics and I recommend you take a look at it. You can grab it here.


Don’t leave writing the copy to a few scrambled seconds as you put together your ad. You need clear focus. Treat the copy writing as a key part of the ad creation. Allocate time to the task and do nothing else. Minimise other distractions and, depending on your level of self discipline, maybe try tools like Freedom which limit online interferences.


A good ad needs to flow. You need it to swoop from the headlines, through the image and then to the main copy and the call to action. All of these elements need to work together, like the instruments in an orchestra. Make sure you have your image to hand when writing the copy and then ensure the headline, call to action and other elements all work in harmony.

           Designed by Freepik.com

           Designed by Freepik.com


Be clear in your mind about who your audience is. In many areas of advertising writers now refer to ‘personas’, an artificial creation based on the typical customer. Try giving your persona a name. She could be ‘Elizabeth, 48, mother of 3, works part-time as a dental receptionist and spends a lot of time running her children around to clubs and school events. She reads in the car when waiting for them and occasionally in the evening at home’.

With that in mind, you can now really focus on copy that will catch Elizabeth's attention. In order to do this properly, you’ll want to carry out some research on who your readers are. You’ll know from your targeting demographics on FB what groups works best for you and, of course, you have your mailing list.

Understanding your exisiting readers is a great idea, too. I send out a survey to my list just after Christmas each year, with the offer of a Kindle (loaded with my books, natch) to encourage participation. I’ve learned some useful insights along the way. For example, I know that my readers are 75% male and 25% female, and tend to skew towards the older end of the spectrum. That knowledge is very useful when taregting my ads (I can exclude women under 35 from the targeting, for example).


Think about testing your ads with friends and family before you publish. They might spot something that you’ve failed to pick up on. And, of course once your ads are published, they’re going to be tested all the time. Don’t be afraid to tinker and fine tune as you move forward, but remember that if you tweak the creative (copy and image), you’ll reset your social proof (comments, likes and shares).

            Designed by Freepik.com

            Designed by Freepik.com


Many ads fall down because there is no clear call to action. This is not a time for subtlety, so don’t be afraid to be super-obvious about it. For example, a subscription campaign could end with : “Get your FREE book here”. People appreciate that kind of offering and immediately know what’s in it for them. Ambiguity is not your friend.


People like drama. A good book often depends on tension, so make that work in your ad. Create a little peril for your main character, or suggest an uncertain future. You are giving your target audience reasons to want to know more.


If you’re offering up books for free or at a reduced rate, make it clear in your ad that it’s an offer that’s not going to last. The ‘Sale Ends Today’ approach will help accelerate potential readers’ decision making processes.


And, last but not least, make sure your ad copy looks right in terms of punctuation, spelling and use of capitals. Publishing an ad that fails on these grounds is unforgivable. ‘Get Your FREE Book HERE’ is going to work a whole lot better than ‘free book here’.

How to Select Images for your Facebook Ads

We looked at tips for creating video ads last week. Running a video ad need not be an advanced strategy, but it is a step up from the kind of ad that comprises 99% of my campaigns: a simple static ad, with an image and some carefully crafted copy. We will look at copy next week, but today it's all about the art.

how to choose your facebook ad image

My cover designer, Stuart Bache, has worked at some of the biggest publishers in the UK, and at senior levels. He has recently gone freelance, and will be working with me as we relaunch the full SPF course - without going into too many details, he will be offering to design FB ad images at a deep discount for our new students. In the meantime, if you want a new cover, I wholeheartedly recommend him. You can get him at Books Covered, and at this email address: mail@stuartbache.co.uk.

You can see a couple of Stu's ad images that I'm using at the moment below. They are both taken from the new covers that Stu has designed for my Milton series. They are performing very well, too.

And with that, over to Stu.

Top Tips for Designing Facebook Ads

  • Think of your ad as a movie poster for your novel, that way you won’t be constrained by the format and can create something new which attracts the consumer. But remember...
  • Familiarity is the most important aspect of commercial book cover design, the more links to your cover and brand you have the better. So...
  • Don’t just stretch your design to fit the width and height, tweak it and move elements of the cover until it fits comfortably.
Selecting images for your facebook ad
  • You’ve written your novel and understandably you want to shout about it. But bear in mind that good design doesn’t need to shout to grab attention, often something simple and well-designed is much more effective at catching the eye. Speaking of which...
  • Try to keep the information on your ad down to a minimum. As well as Facebook’s issues with the amount of text used, the fewer pieces of information a prospective buyer has to read the better – in fact, if you’re feeling confident don’t use any text in at all.
Selecting images for your facebook ad
  • Finally, don’t overthink it. Remember: people make instant decisions all the time without needing any information at all. All you need to do is catch their attention, the blurb will do the rest.

If you have any questions about high converting images, you can drop Stu or me an email (or you can ask me live during Friday's Q&A on Periscope). In the meantime, we are working hard to update the full course. We are having great success with Twitter ads, and will be providing a full bonus module on how to use their excellent Lead Cards to send new subscribers to your list without the need for a landing page. It's seriously cool stuff. I've also just finished re-recording all of the course screencasts to take into account the newly designed interfaces inside the FB ads platforms. Lots of work, but totally worth it.

How to Make the Perfect Video Ad

Something a little different this time. My colleague, James, spent 12 years as a BBC news journalist. Now, when he isn't working on the SPF with me, he runs a small commercial video company. He has some thoughts on how to put together the perfect Facebook video ad.

With that... over to James!

designed by Freepik.com

designed by Freepik.com


Hi! I'm James. In this post I will:

•    Explain the fundamentals of a good video ad; and

•    Outline the creative process and offer some tips on tools to use.

Video is the single most powerful form of media. It can pack an emotional punch more than any other.

But it can also look awful.

So you need to be careful, and I’ll put this out there from the beginning…

Less is more.

The key word is ‘emotional’. Video is not the media for a detailed insight into your book or your offer. It’s a place to make an emotional connection with the viewer.

My job at the BBC was to tell stories, because stories trigger an emotional response and therefore it was the best way to convey complex news.

I knew when I’d done a good job and I knew when I’d been lazy.

When I let a TV report ‘breathe’, when I stopped talking and let the pictures and sound tell the story, that’s when I got it right.

Pictures by themselves are powerful. They work better without an annoying reporter or voiceover talking all over them.

These days we try to avoid voiceover completely.

Have a look at this short film we made for a UK company specialising in providing fun, action-packed vacation holiday camps for children:


A picture paints a thousand words and that video boasts 25 pictures per second. That’s a lot of ‘words’, with only a few actual words on the screen.

Sure, there’s the in-your-face car dealership and furniture showroom TV spots that are as subtle as a slap in the face, and maybe they do their very specific job of alerting you to a bargain. But they work over a much longer period of time, so when you finally sit up and start noticing the deals, it’s because you’re already familiar with the shop and context.

Selling books online means coming in cold to new readers.

So be enticing. Set a mood, use few words and strive for the emotional trigger that will appeal to your potential reader.

Here's the video we prepared for one of Mark's Facebook campaigns:


Simple, succinct and effective. And, given the cost of running a video ad on Facebook of between 1c and 2c per play, it is also an extremely cost effective way to broadcast your brand.

Here are some practical tips on the creative process:

1. What You Need

The John Milton ad was created simply using the assets that Mark’s designer had come up with for the book cover.

If you get your book covers designed for you, be sure to ask the designer for all the component parts that he/she used. They usually work in layers in a design product like Photoshop – so you can then deconstruct the image and start it moving, bringing it to life with video.

Your designer may want to be paid a little extra for this – and that’s absolutely correct. You are effectively asking for Leonard Da Vinci’s paint palette so that you can have a go yourself – so please respect your creative partner and pay them appropriately. For future designs, make it part of the deal.

2. How to Do It

Once you have the assets, you have enough for a simple ad such as the one we made for Mark. We use Adobe Creative Cloud software, which includes Premier Pro and After Effects for video editing as well as Photoshop. Its full price is hefty, approx $50/month in the US or £45/month in the UK, but if you have a student in the household who would benefit from access to the software it gets a lot cheaper, $20/£15 a month. This is a powerful set of creative tools and the package includes everything for web design, design in general as well as video and photography production.

It’s not straight forward software to use, so only go down the self help route if you are prepared to learn and you are adept with this type of program. There are lots of online video tutorials available.

3. A potential short cut...

You might be too busy to do this yourself. If you want to farm the work out there is a growing army of talented creative types - often working from their bedrooms - who’ll create something from your assets for a relatively low fee. We use www.peopleperhour.com when we need to outsource work and we’ve had very good experiences.

So that’s it – an outline of content and process. If it’s of interest, I can go into more specifics at a later stage – just Tweet us at @SelfPubForm or let us know via the SPF Facebook group.


The (Non-Time Travelling) Hot Tub Post

A few weeks ago, my wife and I made the decision to buy a hot tub. It’s a little out of character for us, since we are not particularly ostentatious or prone to buying things that are – let’s be frank about it – expensive and more than a little frivolous. But we bought one anyway.

hot tub marketing mark dawson

As we were sitting in it for the first time last Friday night, we analysed the influences that had led us to the conclusion that we would like to have one after all.

1.    The gym we used to visit had a row of hot tubs in its spa.
2.    The chalet we stayed in when we went skiing this year had a hot tub.
3.    A friend told us a mutual acquaintance had just bought a tub.
4.    We’d seen an ad in a newspaper for a local hot tub company.
5.    That company were demonstrating their hot tubs at a local shopping centre we visited with the kids a few weeks ago.
6.    We saw a post from Facebook friends who had just installed a tub…
7.    …and then we saw it at their house.

Why am I telling you all of this? What do hot tubs have to do with selling books? Because those subtle nudges that led to us buying one are the perfect illustrations of the Rule of Seven.

The Rule of Seven is a marketing theory originally developed in the movie industry during the golden age of Hollywood. It states that a potential customer (in our case, a reader) needs to be exposed to an advertiser’s message at least seven times before they’ll take action to buy that product or service.

The requirement for seven exposures is not written in stone, of course, but I’ve found the general maxim to hold true. The more times a potential reader can be exposed to my offer, the more likely they are to make a purchase (or sign up to my mailing list, or leave a review, whatever it is that we want them to do). Of course, it’s possible that more than seven touches might be needed to cut through all the noise in people’s channels of communication these days, but the principle holds.

Our marketing tools give us ample opportunity to rack up the touches. Let’s look at just some of the easiest ones to implement in the context of my most recent book launch:

1.    Amazon Also Boughts – my launch strategy is designed to get my books into Also Boughts as quickly as possible.

2.    Amazon Hot New Releases List (As above!)

3.    Amazon mailshot to previous readers/genre fans – if you can tickle the algorithm just right, Amazon will email for you.

4.    Mailing List email – emailing a self-selecting list is still the golden standard in online marketing.

5.    A Call To Action in the front and back of previous books.

6.    Facebook Video Ad – video views are ridiculously cheap on Facebook right now – often 1c per view. I spend $5 on ads every day even though they don’t often produce direct sales in themselves. Why do I do this? Because my target readers become accustomed to my branding, when they see my…

7.    …“normal” Facebook Ads

You’ll see I’m focusing on Facebook for two of my touches. That won’t be a surprise to you—I’ve made it pretty plain that I think it’s the most powerful advertising platform available to writers at the moment (and, of course, I have a course on ads so, yes, I’m bound to say that…) But social media gives us the ability to touch the reader often, and, more than that, it allows us to touch the precise type of reader who is likely to convert with a sale without all seven touches.

Readers in our genre.

Readers who we know like the sort of writers to whom we are compared.

Seven might or might not be the magic number, but the more times you can get your message to your perfect reader the better. With carefully designed and precisely targeted social media content, you can deliver subtle content that can form a key part of your marketing strategy.

With that – to the tub!

Art or Business? You need both.

Art or Business? You need both.

Amazon asked me (and a couple of other successful self-published authors) to speak on a panel at the London Book Fair this year. It was a fun event; there was a large crowd in the room to hear us give our opinions on indie publishing, and then we were swamped on the KDP booth afterwards as writers came up to ask us questions.

Facebook: To Boost or Not To Boost?

You’ll have seen it pretty much every time you create a post in Facebook: that little button that invites you to ‘Boost Post’.  Because of its positioning it’s become the default option for many of us who want to better target our post. But you know what? It’s not that effective.

Think carefully about the variety of marketing characteristics your target audience is made up of and then take a look at the targeting options for boosting posts to them. You’ll find that the options are really rather limited: basic choices regarding gender, age etc. and then a measly selection of between 4 and 10 interests. I suspect this is why people struggle to succeed with advertising on Facebook. A lack of results and that empty wallet feeling make for a lot of disillusionment.

But I’ve found a far more effective way  of marketing my books to the Facebook community and that’s by using Page Post Ads and the glorious Power Editor. This offers up a far more comprehensive set of choices to enable you to super fine tune your ads to ensure they’re seen in the right places and by the right audience. Options on offer include calibration of elements such as interests (but way more than 10!), behaviours, placement, categories and a whole lot more.  

But that’s not all.  You can also plant cheeky conversion tracking pixels to make it easy to figure which of your ads are leading to conversions as well as create custom ‘unpublished’ page post ads. These will allow you to share messages with your targeted audience through your channel without using the News Feed distribution or Timeline route.

So do all the extra bells and whistles of Page Post Ads and the muscle of the Power Editor actually translate into something profitable? In my own experience that was what happened: after monitoring my campaign very closely, I came out with a ROI of  a staggering 150% and up. (Although please tread carefully with ads - they are not guaranteed to work, and they need a LOT of calibration and monitoring to ensure that they are operating as expected).

There’s an opportunity here for all authors to accelerate their sales with a bit of careful thought and management of their campaign. I’m more than happy to share my insights on the subject with a series of three videos that I’ve put together: feel free to sign up - just hit the button below - and I’ll make sure they get shipped to your inbox. We can do this!