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Should Authors Run Facebook Ad Split Tests?

Yes! Split testing is a marketing tool that can provide very valuable insights to authors. If you want to know which cover would bring you the most sales, which copy would work for your book blurb or which people are most likely to buy your books, you need to test it. And with 71% of all online adults being on Facebook, this is arguably the best place to find enough people for your test. With Facebook ads you can target very specific groups of people, while having complete control over the budget you want to spend on advertisements.

How Does Split Testing Work?

Split testing is actually a very simple concept, and the easiest way to explain it is with an illustration:

Adspresso wanted to expand their Facebook audience and increase the number of people that like their page. They ran two slightly different Facebook ads to see which one gets the most clickthroughs and likes. The only thing they changed about it was the copy.

The result:

Version A achieved 70 new Facebook page likes, while Version B didn't get a single one.

Why is this knowledge helpful? Because it teaches you how to change your strategy to appeal to your specific audience. More effective ads will reach more people and result in more book sales.

How Do You Split Test On Facebook?

Creating an ad campaign on Facebook is a fairly easy process. You simply click on this link and follow the prompts. Once you are done, you create a similar ad within the same ad set, but you only change one element about it, such as the image or the headline or the copy. If you want to target a different audience with your second ad, you need to create a new ad set in the same campaign.

What Should Your Ad Goal Be?

Apart from split testing, you want to achieve something with the Facebook campaign you are launching and you need to know what your objective is before creating the ad. Remember that your Facebook audience members won't necessarily be jumping at the opportunity to buy your books just yet. You need to win their trust first, which is why you will need what they call low friction conversions - something that doesn't take a large commitment. Here are some examples of goals that could work for authors:

  • Getting people to sign up for your newsletter- This is called a conversion. You can install Facebook's conversion pixel on your site and pay per newsletter signup. If you don’t have a newsletter yet, you should definitely get one. It is easy to set up with services such as Getresponse, ConstantContact and Aweber. Having subscribers to your newsletter means that you can contact your audience directly to their inboxes and let them know the moment you launch a new book.

  • Getting people to download your book- Offering free downloads for one of your ebooks for a limited time can give you more exposure, more positive reviews and eventually boost your sales, especially if you have more books in the same series. You can set your ad to pay Facebook per download.

  • Offering your book at a highly discounted price - People are more likely to click on freebies than cheap offers, but if you offer your book for a couple of cents, some may be persuaded. An offer like this can provide a good test on how well your cover works.

  • Promoting an event - Planning a book reading or book launch? Through Facebook, you can target readers in a specific region.

  • Getting more likes for your Facebook page - This should really not be a main goal, however. Facebook has updated their model to ensure that more than 90% of your followers won't see your page posts in any way. If you want to reach them again, you will need to pay for it. Advertising with the sole purpose of gaining more followers would be wasted money, in our opinion.

  • Driving more traffic to your blog or site - You want people to discover your writing. If they like what they read on your website, chances are that they will be back and that they will eventually want to read more - in book form. You will pay per click to your website. You can also track the people who visit your site through Facebook's retargeting cookie and target them again in other campaigns. While you want more people to discover your site, driving traffic shouldn't be a main goal. You want your audience to perform an action, such as signing up, downloading a book etc.

What Content Will Get You The Most Conversions?

Successful ads usually have great visual cues and colors that will grab a person's attention and evoke a certain emotion. They also typically have an offer that is hard to refuse and a very convincing call to action. Below is a more in-depth discussion of the type of content that will enhance your ad and make users more likely to click on it.

Images That Tell Your Audience: "This Is You"

Any Facebook ad you do must have an image, people respond way better to visual cues than text. A strong image will spark interest and gain more clicks than well-articulated wording. Facebook has a library with free stock images you can use, but if you want more variety, you can also find images from iStockPhoto, ShutterStock and Gettyimages. Just ensure that the image you pick really looks unique and not like a typical stock image. People have developed a feeling for stock images and because they know it is usually commercial content, they tend to block it out.

Images people can relate to usually perform well, human figures, especially faces. It doesn't need to be a young face - when you target an older audience, they would relate more to images of other 60-year olds. If you use an image of a person facing to the right, users reading from left to right are more likely to follow the person's line of sight and read the ad text.

Typography That Is Easy To Read

You can use type on your Facebook ad images, but be sure to adhere to Facebook's standards, which specifies that text can only take up 1/5th of the image. Any text in the image should reinforce and emphasize your ad copy.

Copy That Sells

The "AIDA" formula definitely applies to Facebook ads: you should draw (A)ttention with your title, get the user (I)nterested with some more details, create a (D)esire and end your ad with a call to (A)ction.


Your headline has to communicate your entire message. Most readers will only read the headline and skip the rest of the copy, so you really need to bring the message home if you don't want to lose the bulk of your audience at first glance. Use language that your target audience can relate to - you can’t use young, hip, language with older people who won’t necessarily get it, or very formal language when you are targeting teens. Your headline should also entice people to want to read the rest of the ad.

Try phrasing your headlines in different ways: questions engage users better than just stating benefits. Surprisingly enough, according to this study by Outbrain, using negative superlatives in your headline can get you 63% more clicks than positive ones. For instance, rather than saying "The best horror book you will ever read" you could write "Easily creeped out? Never read this book!"

Use your strongest, most important and persuasive words first. People read from left to right, so if the first couple of words in your headline are not interesting, they may not even finish your headline. Words like "new", "cheap" or "free" are good examples of power words.

Body Copy

Once your headline has attracted your readers’ attention, the body copy needs to sell your message. Social proof is a great way to earn people's trust and convince them of authenticity. Use testimonials or reviews of real people to help sell your ad. Include the numbers, if they are high, such as the amount of downloads on your book, amount of positive Amazon reviews or number of other subscribers to your newsletter to convince readers they need to follow suit.

What's Wrong With Funny Content?

Funny or crazy pictures and text will always attract clicks, which is why memes do so well. But readers who just click on your ad out of sheer curiosity because they saw something funny are not necessarily the audience you want to attract. These people don't care on what you have to offer - they are just after a quick laugh. Unless you are a comedy writer, these readers are not likely to take the desired actions, like subscribing to your newsletter, becoming regular visitors to your website and buying your book.

How Do You Reach Your Readers?

Many Facebook marketers make the mistake to go for a broad audience because they want to include everyone. But the more specific you are about the type of people you want to target, the more likely you are to have success with your campaign. For instance, you can tell Facebook to target all women between 18 and 65 in the U.S, but by listing keywords such as the types of magazines they read, movies they watch, websites they visit and the names of big authors in your genre, you will reach a more specific audience. The more relevant clicks you get, the less you will pay per desired action such as a newsletter signup.

But how do you know what your audience likes?

  • Look at Facebook Insights - Facebook gives you some insight into the demographics of the people who liked your page. Just click on “Insights” at the top of your Facebook Page.

  • Use yourself as an example- If your readers fall in your age group, they are likely to share a lot of interests with you. Listing the names of your favorite websites, authors, movies and hobbies will get you a long way.

  • Do some research - Visit the Goodreads discussion boards in your genre and see what topics the people discuss for keyword inspiration. Visit the Amazon pages of books similar to your own and look at the section that says: "Customers who bought this item also bought"

  • keywords from your genre - For instance, if you write historic novels, include keywords from the time periods in your books.

What Can Authors Split Test?

You can split test every aspect of your ad, from the image, to the headline to the copy, to see which ads work best on Facebook (and elsewhere). However, Facebook ads can also help you to optimize your book to drive more sales, so here are some split tests that could be especially helpful to authors:

Book cover- Use your book cover as main image for your ads and make some changes to it in the next ad. Remember to only test one thing at a time for the best results. See how changing the book title, book color, image or entire design affects your clicks. Once you have identified the most successful cover, use this one as your official cover everywhere else. It will make your book more enticing and draw people across all platforms. Make sure the alternatives have significant differences, otherwise you are not likely to see big changes in the performance.

Elements of your blurb- The first sentence in your book blurb is your "pick-up line". Use it in your ad copy for a free download, for instance, and split test to see which one gets the most conversions. More persuasive copy on your book cover and sales pages are sure to impact your book sales in a positive way.

Audience – Test the effectiveness of your ads on different audiences to figure out exactly who your audience is. Once you have profiled the audience that gives you the best results, you can target the same audience in future ads, or you can focus your writing more on this group of people.

Measuring the results

Tracking ad performance via Facebook

Facebook Insights will show you exactly how many clicks and conversions each advertisement is getting, so it would be easy to see which one performs better. Be sure to also keep an eye on the relevance score to see how your ads fare compared to similar ads of other marketers.
Tip: Place a Facebook conversion pixel on your site to allow Facebook to show you the exact amount of conversions each advertisement created.

Tracking ad performance via your website

You can use Google analytics to see exactly where your readers come from and which pages on your website they visit. Use Google's URL builder and add a custom URL to each ad. This will allow you to identify which ad's URL brings the most visitors, which actions they take and how long they stay on your site.


Facebook can be a great way to reach new readers, but if you are looking for a cost effective way to get downloads and sales, you are usually better off using a price promotion service such as ManyBooks. Our experience is that authors will pay 5-10 cents per free download via the ManyBooks newsletter. You are unlikely to match this price with Facebook ads.

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