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The Top 3 Reasons Facebook Ads Fail

The Top 3 Reasons Facebook Ads Fail


In the self-publishing world, authors get told all the time that the way to sell their books is by putting up Facebook ads. Then a lot of them do that, but don’t sell more books.


Because the ads themselves aren’t that good. Most first-time authors have no advertising background, so they don’t know how to create Facebook ads that sell. So their ads tend to fail for one of three reasons.

1. The ad itself isn’t workable

There are usually two reasons for this.

A. The copy (ad text) isn’t compelling enough If your copy sucks, no one will click on your ad. This is not Facebook’s fault, nor your book or product’s fault. Copywriting is a fine art. I don’t have space to go into how to do it here, but please, at least Google it before you make your first ad! There are tons of resources out there on how to write good ad copy.

B. The image isn’t attractive enough In this case authors have a slight advantage, because the image they’ll use is their book cover. If you have validated your book already (see more about that below) then you already have a great cover image waiting and raring to go. However—you still gotta get the margins and spacing right so that Facebook doesn’t cut off your image. Check out the Facebook Ads template on to fix that.

2. Audience Mismatch

This looks like using a book cover that looks like a carpet, and sending it to a Saudi Arabian audience.

Or sending a psychology book to a science fiction audience. You MUST get the audience right. Luckily Facebook has an awesome tool called “look alike audience” that allows FB to automatically define your audience for you through your website. That helps solve this problem. Awesome!

But those two are smaller reasons. Let’s talk about the number one reason Facebook ads fail.

3. Muddling the validation phase with the sales phase

This is the big one. If you have not validated your book, and then start a Facebook ad campaign, guess what? You are STILL in the validation phase!

Wait, what’s the validation phase?


The validation phase is where we test and see if people will actually BUY our product BEFORE we make it. And most authors don’t know to go through it. They spend weeks or months or years writing a book about whatever they want, then try to sell it and wonder why no one’s buying—because they didn’t take the time first to see if anyone was actually interested in reading a book about [insert topic here]. Totally back-ass-wards!

In other words, validation is the difference between a profitable author and an unprofitable one. It’s the overlap between what you want to make and what other people actually want to buy.

So if you run a Facebook ad campaign for your book before you’ve validated it, you’re not in the sales phase for your book yet. You’re still in the validation phase—and if your Facebook ads don’t work, that’s part of the validation (or lack of it).

Incidentally, there are lots of different ways to validate a book. Here are three of my favorites:

  1. The basic pre-sales technique: send an email to everyone on your list and ask them to pre-order your book on [insert topic here]. If you get a certain number of pre-orders, proceed to write the book.
  2. The book cover pre-sales technique: hire a designer to make your book cover, then use the image of the cover on a blog, landing page, and/or mass email to ask people to pre-order the book based on its cover. If you get a certain number of pre-orders, proceed to write the book.
  3. The Amazon cheat sheet technique: publish an abbreviated “cheat sheet” or “Cliff notes” version of the book on Amazon, with a link to pre-order the full book from your website inside. This allows you to build an audience from all of Amazon—and get a great sense of whether they’d buy the full book. If you get a certain number of cheat sheet purchases, list sign-ups, and/or pre-orders, proceed to write the book.

Now here’s where things get muddled: many authors do use Facebook ads to validate their books as well. And that’s okay. You can absolutely do that—as long as you realize that’s what you’re doing. You can use Facebook ads to test out which cover image, title, subtitle, or book description gets you the most interest, for example, or to see if there’s any interest in a book on [insert topic here] to begin with. All of that is great.

But most people (especially us newbie authors—wink wink, nudge nudge) will start with a book that we have not validated in any other way, that’s sitting on Amazon NOT getting sales. Then we try Facebook Ads to “bolster” our sales, and get mad when they don’t work. You cannot make up for bad quality, audience mismatch, a bad cover, the wrong book in the wrong genre, etc., with Facebook Ads — they ARE NOT a silver bullet!

Long story short, you gotta ask one big question before you run Facebook ads for your book (or any other product or service:

Have I validated this book yet?

If so, make your ads (see again issues 1 and 2 from the beginning of this chapter), do some A-B testing to see which ones work the best, and start building up sales and downloads.

If not, decide if you want to validate with Facebook ads. If you do, go ahead. If not, use one of the other methods I talked about earlier.

THIS is how it’s done my friends. THIS is how you should approach your Facebook ad campaign. THIS is the way of the profitable author. Good luck!

Interested in reading 99 other stories just like this? Grab The Better Business book here.

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