• J.A. Wright
  • How Facebook Advertising increased my book sales more than 1000%
How Facebook Advertising increased my book sales more than 1000%
Written by
J.A. Wright
April 2018
Written by
J.A. Wright
April 2018

When my debut novel, How to Grow an Addict, was first published on November 3, 2015, it was great to see a story I’d worked on for more than a decade in book form, and I was proud of the finished product and especially pleased with the beautiful image a friend provided for the cover.

My publisher is She Writes Press, a hybrid publisher, which is a type of joint venture publishing partner that supplies a variety of valuable services to its authors and in exchange expects its authors to invest time, energy, and money to ensure their book is promoted in a way that generates awareness and sales. I understood the arrangement when I signed up, and even though I was ignorant about many things related to publishing and promoting a novel, I had a fair bit of general marketing knowledge and was determined to learn what I should and invest what I could.

As my book's publication date inched forward, I found myself wondering how I was going to feel when I came across How to Grow an Addict in a Barnes and Noble store. This led me to consider the number of paperback books I should get printed. At first, I thought 5,000 sounded reasonable, but my publisher tempered those expectations with the reality of my preorders being in the hundreds, so we agreed to get the ball rolling with 1,000.  I had high hopes that it would be the first of many print runs, as I felt confident my novel would quickly find an audience and sell well enough to cover the majority of my publishing investment.

The first-year post-publication was a roller coaster ride. I pursued every promotional opportunity that came my way, including book blog tours, Goodreads giveaways, publicity opportunities, and applying for a Bookbub campaign (three times), that I understand can push a book's Amazon rating to number one in a few days (my book has yet to be accepted by Bookbub). And while I was somewhat successful at securing reviews, national and international publicity, and winning (or placing) six book award competitions, I failed horribly at selling books.

My publishing pink cloud burst the day I received my 2016 third quarter royalty statement and read that I'd only sold twenty-two paperbacks and seventeen ebooks, bringing my first-year sales total to 673 (460 paperbacks and 213 ebooks). I was hugely disappointed with these results, and admittedly a bit envious of other authors who’d enjoyed huge promotional success, though I can’t speak to their sales results.

I also knew I’d have to make a decision soon about the 400 books stored in my publisher's warehouse, as my contract only covered free storage for the first twelve months. My options included paying a monthly storage fee, having most of the books shipped to my home (at my cost), or having them destroyed. None of the options appealed to me, and while I was frustrated with my dim results to date, I knew there had to be a way to get things moving along—but what?

I spent the next couple of weeks researching social media and how to use it for promoting and selling books. I began by searching and reading essays and articles I found online. Some were a bit overwhelming, others spoke about BIG money investments, but many were straightforward with information relevant to my needs. I decided to commit to investing three months and $1500 advertising my novel on Facebook.

I chose Facebook rather than Instagram or Twitter, primarily because I felt more comfortable with the FB platform. It took a few days of playing around with different boosted posts (using images supplied by my PR company) before I began to see likes and post comments, but not enough to inspire me to continue with the same images. I felt I needed a better visual in my post to capture what I thought might be my target audience: young women struggling with addiction or recovery.

On November 27, 2016, I put two award stickers on the front cover of my book and took a photo which I posted on my Facebook author page, with a link to the Amazon buy page. I boosted the post for thirty days at $15 per day to a targeted audience that I selected. Three days later I woke to a ding sound coming from my phone letting me know I had Facebook notifications. Seventy-seven people had liked or commented on my boosted post in the past twelve hours, mostly young women under thirty. I was thrilled.

That was just the beginning. I’ve spent many hours since researching and discovering new and better ways of utilizing Facebook to promote and sell my novel. I’ve also experimented with a variety of boosted posts, adverts, and budgets. Some have done well at attracting attention and buyers, but none more so than my initial boosted post. A post that gathered more than 22,000 engagements; 3000 comments and 8000 shares to the end of 2017. 

Learning how to use Facebook to sell books wasn’t easy. I made some costly mistakes and had many moments of wanting to quit, but I kept at it and eventually found an audience, sold thousands of books, and paid my initial publishing investment back (and then some).

Summary of Facebook advertising results (November 28, 2016 - December 31, 2017):

  • Paperbook sales: 5160 units @ $5.80 per sale or $29,915 total (post royalty split)
  • Ebook sales: 2262 units @ $3.40 per sale or $7,698 total
  • Printing costs: $17,361 (5160 paperbacks)
  • Facebook Advertising costs: $ 11,500 (13 months / $885 per month)
  • ROI: $8,917 profit

Collateral Benefits of Facebook Advertising: 

  • Tantor Media bought the audio rights to How to Grow an Addict
  • Facebook Author page gained more than 14,400 new followers
  • 94 new Amazon reviews and 60 new Goodreads reviews 

You can view my best performing FB boosted advert on my author FB page (it's pinned to show at the top of the page): https://www.facebook.com/j.a.wright2015/


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