SPS-175: What’s Working Right Now: Facebook Ads – with Shayne Silvers

When Shayne Silvers began using Facebook ads in his author business, he quickly went to earning five figures a month. On this episode, he shares with James his strategies with Facebook ads for building his email list, and for selling books.

This week’s highlights include:

  • Shayne’s Facebook ad strategies around a book launch
  • Being flexible with the types of ads running
  • Tips for apps to use for video ads
  • The key elements of a successful ad
  • Creating ad art at the same time as your cover is created
  • Tips for how to target Facebook ads
  • Examples of Shayne’s successful ads

Resources mentioned in this episode:

PATREON: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon page

SAMPLE ADS: Click here to view Shayne’s ads that James and Mark analyse.

COURSE: The Ads for Authors course is opening this week for a brief enrollment period. Learn more here.

Transcript of Interview with Shayne Silvers

Speaker 1: On this edition of The Self Publishing Show.

Shayne Silvers: The second I activated all of this advertising, marketing, Facebook ads, everything that he talks about in his course, Facebook pixels, all of that, I went to four figures a month in five weeks, and then five figures a month. Non-stop since.

Speaker 1: Publishing is changing. No more gatekeepers. No more barriers. No-one standing between you and your readers.

Do you want to make a living from your writing? Join indie best-seller Mark Dawson and first-time author James Blatch as they shine a light on the secrets of self-publishing success. This is The Self Publishing Show. There’s never been a better time to be a writer.

James Blatch: Hello and welcome. It is The Self Publishing Show with James Blatch.

Mark Dawson: And Mark Dawson. On a Wednesday.

James Blatch: On a Wednesday, which is unusual for us.

This is going to be a special week. We are opening our course, Mark Dawson’s Advertising for Authors, the acclaimed … I was going to say award-winning. We should have won an award by now for that. We have to find an award we can win so we can say award-winning course.

But what we thought we’d do as a sort of tie-in … Because not everybody’s going to be investing in the course at this stage in their career, but what we can do is we can put together a bunch of material overviews of the main three platforms when it comes to advertising for paid advertising for authors.

So that’s what we’re going to do in these special three episodes this week on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.
Today we’re going to start with Facebook ads. Tomorrow we will look at BookBub ads. Then on Friday, we’ll look at Amazon ads, but also we’re going to take a dive into your invasion of Germany, Mark.

Mark Dawson: Right, yes. It’s quite useful, actually. I’ve been thinking for ages how it’s possible to demonstrate what you can do with ads. I’m not always the best example for that, because of course, I’ve spent a lot on ads over the last few years. I sell a lot of books organically now. I’ve got a big mailing list, which doesn’t necessarily put me in the same position as an author starting out or an author at an earlier point of their career. So it’s sometimes quite hard to pick out the things that could relate across the board.

Then the more I thought about it … I came up with actually a pretty good way to do this. We’ll go into lots more detail on Friday, but I’ve just launched a trilogy of translated books in Germany, and over there no-one knows who I am.

I don’t have a mailing list. I don’t have a big Facebook page. I don’t even speak German, and I’m not selling books. So I am effectively a brand new author, or was a brand new author a couple of months ago in Germany.

What I’ve done is to use Facebook and Amazon ads, chiefly, to start selling books, and things are going really well now. I think I sold about 300 euros’ worth of books on just three titles in Germany yesterday.

I’m still well in the red because the translations were expensive, and we’ll get into that as well, but I think there’s a very clear path now to clearing that debt and becoming profitable quite quickly based on the ads that I’m running.

James Blatch: Big in Germany.

Mark Dawson: I am big in Germany. Absolutely.

James Blatch: Good. That’s exciting, and a lot more detail on that. I know people who are a bit further along with their careers will be interested in that move, because nobody likes to leave any money on the table, and the idea that just because you haven’t done something means that you’re not earning some money in that area is going to be niggling away at some people.

I’ve done the interviews. We actually brought in three experts this week. One of them is sitting in front of you, which is Mark.

Mark Dawson: Oh, me. Yes. Mark.

James Blatch: I’m including you as an expert. You’re going to be looking at Amazon ads. We have brought in experts for those two other fields, which is Facebook ads and BookBub ads.

Tomorrow we’re going to be hearing from none other than Dave Gaughran. I think you’ve described him as the shop steward of the indie world in the past, but someone who was right there at the beginning urging indies on and giving them the know-how.

His book, Let’s Get Digital, and has been going great guns since, and has a book on BookBub ads, which is quite difficult to say. So we’re going to hear a good interview with Dave tomorrow.

Today, we have Shayne Silvers. Now, Shayne is somebody who didn’t really know one end of a Facebook ad from another a couple of years ago, was introduced to them through the Ads for Authors course by Mark, and quickly became a master, a Jedi knight of the Facebook ads world.

He has a million-dollar year income man now. He’s a fantastic writer, of course, but it’s Facebook ads that have driven his career, so he is the person to speak to about that and that’s who we are going to talk to today.

Now, two quick things before we get into the interview with Shayne. First of all, for Patreon supporters, we are going to welcome our new Patreon supporters. We have a clutch of them on Friday’s episode, as normal. Also, there’s three episodes this week, but don’t panic. You will not be charged for three. We’re going to give two of them away for free and the charged $1-$3 will be on Friday. You can join our legion of Patreon supporters and be a part of The Self
Publishing Show if you go to We’d love your support. It means a lot to us.

Mark Dawson: One thing we should add before we go on, James. On the Patreon, and also anyone who’s in the courses … You get into the SPFU, Self Publishing Formula University, and one of the things that you get as a member of SPFU is a fairly regular, we try and do them monthly, webinar. Last month we had Gwen Hernandez who did Scrivener, which has gone down really well. Lots of people attended that one.

The next one we’ve got is with the guys behind Book Brush, which is a very useful tool. I met them in Florida last year at NINC, and they’ve got a very useful tool kind of a bit like Canva, but it is designed specifically to help authors create ad images for their ads. It could be Facebook ads, BookBub ads. Lots of different preset dimensions on those images to make it really easy, with graphics you can pull in. Your own graphics. Whatever you want.
It’s a really neat piece of software, so we’ve got them coming on to talk about how to use Book Brush to put your images together. I’m not entirely sure when that is. Do you know, James? A couple of weeks.

James Blatch: I’ll dig out the date after Shayne’s interview and we’ll get that up. That is coming up, but make sure you’re our Patreon supporter if you’re not enrolled in one of the courses.
Let’s talk to Shayne Silvers. Shayne is going great guns with Facebook ads. I’ve done the interviews. I’ve tried to pitch them so that they’re not simply advanced explanations of the sort of niches in Facebook ads now that it is a complex platform.

We’ll start with the basics and talk about how the campaigns can be used, what strategy you should use, because let’s face it. These are platforms where you can lose a lot of money very quickly as well as make money if you get it right, and getting it right does take some application.

So, let’s talk to Shayne Silvers, and Mark and I will be back.

Shayne Silvers!

Shayne Silvers: Yes. How are you?

James Blatch: Good. You looked confused and terrified for a moment there, but I think you were just having a curious look at your computer.

Shayne Silvers: Yeah. I’m clicking through my Facebook ads trying to find one that might be a decent example.
How are you doing today?

James Blatch: Yeah, I’m really good. How are you? We bumped into each other last autumn, I think, in … I say autumn. It was like 90°. It doesn’t feel like autumn for us in England.

Shayne Silvers: Yeah, exactly.

James Blatch: But in the tropics. We were excited to hear about the success you’ve had with Facebook ads in particular, but also with a lot of Mark’s teachings.

You’ve become a superstar. How does that feel?

Shayne Silvers: Well, I always thought I was, even if it wasn’t justified, so …

James Blatch: So now you’re intolerable.

Shayne Silvers: Yeah, exactly. My ego is too big now. But no, it’s a blast. I’m having a really good time, writing a ton of books. I always knew how to write the book, but now that … Mark’s famous saying, “You just need to learn how to sell it.” So his course taught me that.

James Blatch: Great. Okay. Well, look, we are going to learn about Facebook ads with you.

First of all, how important are Facebook ads to you?

Shayne Silvers: They’re vital. I think you’ve heard my story a little bit, but for anyone who wants a recap, basically I had written my first book in 2012. Kind of sat around for two, three years hoping for it to become an instant success. It never did, and then I ran across Mark Dawson.

He was talking about advertising and marketing and really treating it like a business. I used to be a banker, or I was a banker at the time and so I understood that perfectly, and for whatever reason, I had never connected the two thought processes together, the creative and the analytical.

So I started applying all of that. Having the website, the email subscribers. Really just having readers as customers, not just entertainment.

Learning how to do Facebook advertising is what really got me in front of those people because that same book that maybe did 50 to 100 bucks a month at best for three years started doing four figures, then five figures a month. Not just that book, but a second and third book as well, but I started hitting five figures a month within probably two, three months of applying Mark’s lessons. So yeah, it’s night and day.

James Blatch: That was a big jump for you, and Facebook ads pivotal for you then. How do Facebook ads feature for you now? Because there’s definitely been, it seems to me since I started getting involved with Mark a couple of years ago … Facebook ads really were the driver for most authors. I would say now half of them say it’s Amazon ads. Half of them say Facebook ads still important to them.

Where do Facebook ads rank?

Shayne Silvers: I’d say ranking-wise probably they’re 40% of it. Maybe Amazon is 60%. It’s pretty close. I’m still trying to learn Amazon, and they’re not as sophisticated with feedback and what you’re actually getting for your money and how the system works and reporting. So Facebook has a leg up on them there, but Amazon has all the customers, so I’d say it’s probably leaning more towards Amazon.

Facebook is huge for me. Whenever I’m launching a new book, I post it in my group. I start building buzz for it that way, and then I’ll send out an email to notify everybody that a book’s coming out. Then I’ll retarget those people that I sent to the email two days later, maybe one day later, just depending, with a Facebook ad, so that anyone who maybe saw the email but didn’t have time to click … Maybe they were driving, at work, in a meeting. They say, “Oh, yeah. Shayne’s got a new book out,” and so they click the link and download it that way. So Facebook ads are huge.
Even if a lot of people are saying that the cost is going up … I mean, that’s just business. Marketing aspects apply to every business, and just because we had a heyday a couple of years ago and over the last couple of years doesn’t mean that typical market corrections aren’t going to hit us too.

James Blatch: You gave us a little bit of the good stuff there of some of the process that you use, and I guess that’s what we’re going to be covering in this interview. It’s a complex platform, as you say, Facebook. It does put some people off.

Shayne Silvers: Yes.

James Blatch: A lot of aspects to it. It’s not necessarily the friendliest dashboard you’ll ever work with.

Shayne Silvers: No, it’s not.

James Blatch: But it’s powerful.

Shayne Silvers: Yes.

James Blatch: Now, we haven’t got time to teach the ins and outs of that, but what we can do, I think, is talk about those principles and some of the processes that you apply that work. Where the magic is and what’s working now.
That was an interesting little moment just then when you talked about retargeting people, something that you can do in Facebook.

Do you want to perhaps start with that? The seven touches of advertising.

Shayne Silvers: Exactly. That’s exactly the point, yeah. Exactly the point. Basically, whenever I’ve got a new book coming out, whether it’s on pre-order … However long the pre-order is, I’ll send out a pre-order email just to build the buzz, and maybe there’s a discount of a dollar or so for the pre-order.

Then what I’ll start doing is I’ll start having engagement posts on Facebook. It’ll have the link for the book and everything in there. Artwork, some clever one-liners. Just some copy. I’ll start getting that for the pre-orders.
Then once it comes launch day, I’ll send out a launch email to let everyone know, “Hey, it’s live. Go check it out right now.”

Then what I’ll do is probably the next morning, depending on how I want to structure the tale, because I’ve found that it’s better to have instead of just a ton of sales in a short period, to kind of spread them out a little bit. It just looks better to Amazon, to the rankings. At least, in my opinion, it has.

So what I’ll do is I’ll space that out a little bit, but within a couple days I’ll have a Facebook ad that will basically target all of my email subscribers only. I’ll send that to them for maybe, I don’t know, 30, 50, 100 bucks a day. It just depends on what my marketing cap is for that book.

I’ll hit those people, and then maybe three, four days, when I feel like it’s hit all of them already, which is probably 50 or 75 thousand people, then I’ll do a lookalike audience based on that, or I’ll make sure it stops serving the email people.

You can go into the Ads Manager and pick who to include or who to exclude, and so I’ll go ahead and do engagers on my website, which could be anyone from pixel, to they clicked on a link, to they thumbed up one of your ads at one point. Maybe they’ve gone to your website a couple times.

I’ll pick all of those people, anyone who’s ever had any interaction with me whatsoever, with my books, and any kind of social media presence I have online. Then I’ll exclude anyone who’s on my email list. That way they’re not getting hit twice.

But the cool thing about that is all of that engagement that you got from the email subscribers carries through, and so you can make your ad look a lot more interactive, like it’s not just a brand new ad. It’s got 500 likes or 3,000 likes, or 500 comments, or whatever.

So when new people see it, they say, “Okay, well, this guy’s obviously not just a new author. He’s on book 11 and there’s a ton of engagement on this ad, so I’ll check it out.”

James Blatch: You mentioned your mailing list there. Your mailing list is obviously quite substantial, Shayne.

Shayne Silvers: Yeah.

James Blatch: How many?

Shayne Silvers: I spend a lot of time on that. I don’t think I compete with Mark yet. I think he’s in six figures right now. But yeah, it’s pretty healthy.

I’ve got a free novella that’s kind of a prequel story to my Nate Temple series, and I’ve got that available on my website, on Twitter, on Facebook, really anywhere you go. You can get a free novella. I think it’s 27,000 words, so it’s just a short story. Short, fun, punchy. You can kind of test out my writing that way. Then if you like that, obviously you’d go into the whole series.

James Blatch: I was going to talk about the fact the mailing list obviously is important in your strategy now.

Now what I’m assuming, that Facebook ads were important for you in building your mailing list in the first place.

Shayne Silvers: Yeah, to some extent. Yes, it was initially. I started out with $5 a day. then when I was obviously not making any money off of my books, I was terrified to spend $5 a day-

James Blatch: Well, because it was your pension money.

Shayne Silvers: Yeah. Because it was 150 bucks a month.

James Blatch: If I remember rightly, it was your wife’s savings money for your retirement and you didn’t even tell her.

Shayne Silvers: Yup. I did not tell her. She’s fine now. But yeah, I cashed in my 401(k) and basically invested that into my business, so $5 a day was a lot. I have daycare. I’ve got diapers. I’ve got all these things that we’ve got to pay for, and so 150 bucks was huge.

So I limited it to that and I think initially all of it was for email subscribers. I was doing sign-up Facebook ads, and so I went ahead and did that for probably three, four, five months.

Over the last year or so, I really haven’t done any Facebook ads for that, for subscriptions. I am thinking about turning it back on, though, and giving it a go, seeing what happens. Because the thing about Facebook is as the algorithms change, as their website changes, as they shift focus to a new product line. Obviously, the house of cards falls down, and there’s sometimes opportunities in that.

A lot of times I’ve found that whenever a big change is going on at Facebook and everyone’s sitting there whining and complaining in all the author groups … They’re saying, “Oh, it’s not working anymore. It’s not this,” or, “It’s too expensive now,” I’ll go in there and start finding different things to do with Facebook ads.

Since everyone’s complaining about this one specific way, maybe it’s time to try email subscribers again. Or maybe it’s time to try lookalike audiences, or video ads, or something different. Carousel ads. Any of the 500 different options they have. A lot of times I find opportunity in that, and so when everyone is sitting there focusing on the negative, I’m trying to find a positive.

James Blatch: Great. That’s definitely the right attitude.

So we’ve got an idea of you using Facebook ads initially, giving away a book, signing people up onto your mailing list, using them in conjunction with your email list and your emails to get your audience warm, and then retarget the warm ones who’ve interacted one way and another.

We can see how that each time you refine and optimize your targeting, your conversions should, in theory, go up at that stage, and the advertising becomes cheaper. The bottom line is a better profit. So that’s a good overview.

Shayne Silvers: Yes.

James Blatch: Now, not everybody will know all the ins and outs of Facebook advertising, so perhaps you could talk to me, Shayne, about the different options you get.

What different types of ads do you have available to you?

Shayne Silvers: There’s more than I even know of. It seems like every single day there’s a new one popping up. There’s carousel ads where you can basically have three, four, five … I think up to 10 images kind of shuffling through.
I’ve personally seen it a lot on furniture companies or poster companies that sell artwork for your home, because I would be looking for artwork online, and then all of a sudden my Facebook ads start kicking in with those kind of products.

So a lot of times I’ll see a Facebook ad pop up for Wayfair, which is furniture and art and home décor. You can just sit there and kind of swipe through the different couches or bookshelves or pieces of art that they have.
You can do that with your books, too. Now, how you want to apply that … It’s really up to you. Facebook gives you the foundation to really see how you want to treat that. If you want to treat each image as a different type of ad where maybe one’s a sign-up.

I think you can mix and match it a little bit. I’m only just now looking into it, so I haven’t played with that too much. I can’t speak on how profitable or how beneficial it is, but it is something that I want to check out. If you have more than a couple books in your series or whatever you’re advertising, it could be pretty neat, because you can basically have all your covers right there. You can advertise that way.

There’s also video. I know a lot of people get concerned about video because they don’t have the money to go hire film production crew. But there’s a lot of apps on your phone, on the internet, on your computer, that you can download, probably built into your computer a lot of times, where you can turn still images into video.

There’s one, I’m not getting paid to endorse this, but there’s one that’s called Werble. W-E-R-B-L-E. What’s cool about that is you can take a still image and you can make the fire in your character’s hand move, or the waterfall behind him look like it’s actually in motion.

You can make a five, ten or three-second video right there, and that works. Use that for Facebook ad and that does great, because video performs really well.

James Blatch: Typically, a video ad you would use for a book sales advert?

Shayne Silvers: Historically, yes. I would use it for a new launch or something like that. But I am thinking about doing it as … I think that’s the best way to get a subscriber. I’ve seen Mark do this a little bit recently, where you’re actually just talking to the reader for a minute, telling them about your books. I think that’s a very personable way to do that.

I do that via every other avenue. I really interact with my readers and engage with them. If they comment on my ad, I’m always trying to follow them and reply and thank them and ask them a question, so it’s not just the end of the conversation. I’ll try to keep it going.

But Mark doing that with the video ad is pretty neat. I actually like that idea a lot. But that’s the point, is there’s so many different ways to mix and match all the different tools available to you. If you can find a way that works with your genre, with your type of readers, romance is going to be a lot different than thriller, for example, how you choose to market that. But I think the tools are out there, you just need to try to think creatively and think as a reader, what would you like to see as an author?

James Blatch: I like those talking head ads as well, apart from the fact that I have to edit them for Mark whenever he records them, so he sends me all the bits.

Okay, so that’s Carousel and video, as you’ve mentioned. Now the big change that happened after I started working alongside Mark, and he was my guru, my Yoda, in this field, is the advent of the Lead Gen ad.

Explain before and after and why that was such an important innovation.

Shayne Silvers: It was a big job, because it was, again, it was one less step for the person to take. They’re already trusting Facebook. They’re already interacting with Facebook. They just click a button, and then all of a sudden, Facebook does all the verification, Facebook knows who they are, Facebook know who you are, and they’re just a good middleman.

All of a sudden, the reader has access to whatever freebie it is or subscription service you have on email, and it’s just one less step, because every step you ask them to take, you’re going to lose a big percentage of followers.

James Blatch: Yeah, these small margins, which I can’t still believe that some of the companies I interact with online don’t understand that you get put through so many hoops and some big companies, big, multi-billion dollar turnover companies, who just think, “Who on earth has designed this process? Because I’m giving up now.”

Whereas we, when you’re selling low-value items that cost three or four bucks, that’s through that lack of resistance, that making as easy as possible to click, to get the email address, to get the free book.

Shayne Silvers: Exactly.

James Blatch: As you say, each little thing you put in the way drops that conversion percentage down. Okay, so that’s lead gen ads. We’ve talked about Carousel and video ads, and you talked, because you misheard me, about the traditional ad before lead gen.

In those days when someone clicked “learn more” or “Get the free book,” or whatever your call to action was in the ad, and they got taken to a landing page that you had created.

Shayne Silvers: Yes. They would go straight to my website. I had a specific page for them to go to that’s got a couple review copies right there, it’s got the average number of stars on Amazon. It’s got a box set, so they can choose to do that instead after they download the free book.

It’s basically just got a whole bunch of interaction options for them. But they do get the free book regardless for just typing their email address.

James Blatch: Yeah. There’s a possibility they might also buy something at that stage. The “Would you like fries with that?” option.

Shayne Silvers: That’s the goal.

James Blatch: If you get that right, you can end up almost building your list for free.

Shayne Silvers: Yes, because it pays for whatever you spent.

James Blatch: Which obviously you got to get a lot right for this to work. When you’re working with Facebook ads, and I’m going to take you back in a moment. We’ll talk in a bit more detail for people who do know about all this fundamentals of it, I’d like to grill you a bit more about the process of retargeting and how that works.

As an intermediary step, what are the key elements to a successful ad, in your view?

Shayne Silvers: There are different ways that you can approach it. In my research, talking to other authors who have a really good grip on Facebook ads, or they’ve had really good success with ads, or they have maybe a marketing background in just advertising in general, there are a couple different ways you can choose to advertise your product.

You can do it based on customers, which just means it’s a third-party verification, like, “Hey, I’m advertising to you, yes, but 500 other people say this,” or “I have 1500 other five star reviews on Amazon say this.” You can use your Amazon reviews as your verification that you’re legitimate, you’re authentic and you’re good quality.

A lot of people who have been doing that recently, where they’ll say, “The best book I’ve ever read,” or “Best urban fantasy I’ve ever read,” or insert genre here. Whatever. They’ll just take a review from Amazon, put it in the ad, and then they’ll have an image or a book cover or whatever and that’s it.

Some people go the route of, which is more what I do, my books are really humorous and comical, they’re very serious as well, but I balance out the fighting and the violence and romance and I balance all that out with humor. If it’s getting a little too dark or too serious, my characters will say something funny or witty. I use copy a lot of times, where it’s just quick one-liners. With my Nate Temple series, it says, “When Shifter Dragons invades St. Louis, Nate Temple gives them the cure for a reptile dysfunction.”

James Blatch: I like it.

Shayne Silvers: It’s just a play on words, so that when you’re reading it, you say, “Okay, this guy’s obviously got a sense of humor, but it’s an urban fantasy book. I’ll check that out.” You can do copy.

One of the other ways that people like to do is a book description, an Amazon blurb. They’ll do a big two-paragraph story, or even a sample in some cases, of their book. Maybe a witty scene where the two characters are talking to each other or fighting or something, they’ll actually have a book description.

Then I think maybe the fourth way would be when you’ve focused on the character itself, not the story. You would talk about your character and why your readers should be interested in that character. Not necessarily about the book itself, but “Nate Temple has a troubled past,” or you really get into the character’s side to really try to get their emotions activated so that if they’re not interested in the story and the action and the plot, maybe they’ll read it because the character sounds really cool, or maybe they’ll read it because the copy sounds really cool. There’s a lot of ways, but those are the four main approaches that I’ve used and that I’ve seen that do well.

James Blatch: What about the imagery? We do see a lot of people will simply stick their book cover up, but I’m assuming you’re going to advocate having dedicated Facebook ad imagery.

Shayne Silvers: Everyone says never use your book cover. I’ve never split tested that to see if there’s any validity to it. I will say if you’re going after a cold audience, just having a book cover probably isn’t the best way to go.
But there’s a lot of websites that authors use that will have generic Shutterstock images; just maybe it’s a girl in a field holding out her hand and it looks like magic or something, and they’ll use that. I’ve never really gone that route.

What I always do is I have my cover designer. We spend a lot of time on the art, so my books aren’t just typically a character and just a real generic background. I really have an art piece, is what I try to go for. When they make the cover, the background is almost as active as the character. I’ll have the designer make a Facebook ad-sized image of my book. It just won’t say the book title or anything on there. There’s no text. It’ll just be the artwork.

That’s worked really well for me. I know everyone says, “Never use your book cover, never use your book cover.” In a way, I guess I’m not, but I kind of am. I’m using the art from it, but I’m not using the actual book cover.

James Blatch: That’s a good tip for people just starting out, is when you do get the cover made, at the same time when you’re doing the deal, when you’re agreeing how much that’s all going to cost, get that same imagery in different formats available to you, clean, without title, without blurb and stuff, you and can draw that stuff. It’s very easy.

Most designers can do the basics of that in Photoshop. Get that done at the same time.

Shayne Silvers: Yes, because most of the time, you’re doing that anyway because you’re trying to get a Facebook banner image or a Twitter banner image or an email header or any other number of things. They already have the artwork, they just need to change the format.

James Blatch: Exactly. It’s easy enough if you ask in advance. It’s more difficult afterwards.

The one area of what makes a good ad that we haven’t discussed yet is targeting. Now I do want to talk to you about the more complex, more advanced retargeting process you’re using at the moment.

At its most basic, running an ad to attract new subscribers to your email list, for instance, how do you go about targeting?

Shayne Silvers: First off, you have to make sure you have a Facebook Pixel activated so that the ad is talking to your website, basically, and connecting everyone that has hit that website at some point, whether on their own or through an ad.

A lot of times, it’ll fire the Facebook Pixel if you make those two softwares talk to each other well enough. Basically, if you have the Facebook Pixel set up so that Facebook can pull the information to build an audience of people that have engaged with your website, your Facebook page, your ads, really any aspect of you on Facebook as an author, then you can build a list based on that.

That’s called an engager’s list, I believe, where you go into the Facebook ads manager, or the ads manager, but then you click the little toggle option to go to audiences.

I’m always building new audiences. Every month, I’m building a couple new audiences, just to see if anything has changed or maybe to tweak a little bit. Maybe go to a certain country or something like that.

But basically, if you get an ad audience of everyone that’s engaged with your website in some way, then you can do lookalike audiences based on that. That’s where you’d want to go ahead and try and get new readers to get your subscription ads served to, so that you can get their email address and they can get their free book. Go ahead.

James Blatch: This sounds scarier than it is, really, getting a Pixel. It’s simply something that you can say to whoever looks after your website, “I need this Pixel.” I think Facebook is a bit like AdWords, probably. Makes it really easy.

You can automate an email that goes to your webmaster, and that’ll have all the instructions of exactly where the Pixel needs to go. From that moment, then it starts making a note of everybody who visits, so it’s less complex than it might sound, although none of this is simplicity itself, we should say. Let’s talk about targeting raw, if you like.

Without using your Pixel, without using visitors, how do you go about that?

Shayne Silvers: Basically, I think there’s software that does it now, but in the past … Actually, it might be better to do it by hand with everyone trying to use the same software, but I’ll go through and I’ll poll my readers. I’ll do a poll and say, “How’d you hear about me? What other authors do you like? What other book series do you like? Put it in the comments, and I’ll pick five people to get a free book,” or something.

You basically crowdsource your fans, is what I do. That way, you can find a bunch of people that already buy your stuff and have chosen to buy your stuff from an ad or whatever, so you’ll know where they came from. But then, you’ll also know what else they’re interested in.

A lot of times, you’d be surprised, because those authors, those series, those book characters, whatever it is, they might not have popped up in your Amazon Also Boughts. But you see that 500 out of 1000 people have also read that series when you do the poll.

You say, “Okay, well just because Amazon hasn’t caught it, maybe it’s because of the discrepancy.” If say a book series has been out for 30 years, and it’s a cult classic, and all of those people just happen to like your stuff too, well that book might have sold so many copies in Amazon that they don’t even connect that it’s an also bought of yours. There’s a lot of ways that you can go about finding similar products to yours, and then you target that on Facebook if you can.

Facebook is a pain who you can target and how. But I always try. It’s always better to try. Or you can type in a group as well. I can’t remember exactly where it is in the ads manager. I can’t remember what it’s called. But there’s a way in the ads manager to go in there and type in certain interests, and it’ll tell you, “Everyone who likes those interests also likes … these are the top 10 Facebook pages that they like. These the top 10 groups that they like. These are the top 10 company likes or author likes that they have.”

You can backtrack your way into your target audience. If you’re trying to find a certain author that’s not popping up on Facebook, you can try this backwards way to say, “Okay, well people who also like fantasy also like this,” and you can build audiences that way.

That’s typically what I’m trying to do, is to just find your own also boughts, I guess. But there’s software that can do it now, that can rip through Amazon, top 100 authors or the top 100 authors like you. There’s websites like Yasiv, Y-A-S-I-V, as in Victor, you can go in there and you can either type your book or a competitor’s book, and it’ll show you anyone who likes that also likes this. It’ll basically word Cloud it, where it shows a ton of other books and authors that connect to that product. That’s another way to plug that information into Facebook and see if you can build an audience that way.

There’s a million ways to do it. But I typically do it hands on, because I try to think of it like a reader, not just a transaction. There might have been a ton of people who bought book one in that series that you’re targeting, but the readers hated it, so maybe you don’t want to target that.

I try to just approach it as a reader would want to see so that I can give them what I would want to see, and to avoid all the pitfalls that would turn me off.

James Blatch: To put it at its basics, the reason this is so important is because once you have the name of other authors, other books that your readers are interested in, however surprising that list to you, you can then target the fans of that book, target the fans of that author, and that should be a halfway warm audience to you.
There is lot of help in that field now of discovering who’s linked, and there’s a lot of data scraping that goes on and people can take advantage of those services.

Okay, so to get us into the last few fences of this jog around the Facebook course, love my metaphor, we are going to talk about retargeting, which you mentioned at the beginning, and you’ve alluded to a couple of times.

This is slightly more advanced stuff, but retargeting just from your Pixel is one thing. But I think anybody, once you’ve put an advert out there, whichever advert it is, whichever format, whichever way it works, anyone who has a brushing interest in it, who’s watched it on their timeline for a period of time, who’s clicked it to learn a little bit more, even if they don’t give the email address away, you start to build up a repository. You don’t see the email addresses. Facebook just has them as an audience there that you can start to use them.

How effectively are you using that aspect of the platform?

Shayne Silvers: Oh, as much as they’ll let me. I use that every time there’s a new book launch. I always target, they call them engagers. At least that’s what I call them. Anyone who’s interacted with you via Facebook in some manner, or even indirect way. If they’ve liked, maybe watched three seconds of your video, maybe commented, any kind of interaction on your Facebook page or your website, you can build an audience that way and I always target those people when it comes to a new launch.

I oftentimes will target them for a few days about the new launch. Say, “Hey, hope you’re all caught up on Nate Temple, but check this out. Book 11 just came out, or is coming out.” Then oftentimes, I’ll try to do the same thing with Instagram too.

You can get people who have interacted with your page via Instagram, or maybe they’ve watched three or four seconds of one of your video ads. I’ll try to get anyone I can.

Then maybe a few days later after launch, three, four days after launch, I might say, “Hey, thank you so much. Book 11 just hit number 24 on Amazon.” Then you put a picture in the ad or something like that. “Thank you so much for your support, hope you guys are enjoying it.” And that’s it.

That way, they’ll get, “Okay, he’s not just pestering me about it. There’s a lot of people that like this book. Maybe I’ll go check it out.” It’s all about, like you said, seven touches of marketing. Just making sure they see it a million different ways.

James Blatch: Absolutely. It’s a very important concept to understand that people make a purchase after a journey, I’m using the journey word again. It’s very rare someone sees one poster, one billboard, and makes a snap decision they’re going to do something.

Shayne Silvers: Exactly.

James Blatch: It’s visiting someone’s house and seeing they’ve got one, it popping up on TV, a radio advert, it starts to sink in, they’re warmed up. And then they get that crucial moment, the seventh, on average, apparently, touch is when they make that decision.

Shayne Silvers: Hopefully sooner. Hopefully, you can get it sooner.

James Blatch: Yeah, it would be nice sooner. I did a little bit of work on this when I was looking at adapting some of our material for people outside the book industry, and trying to explain how much of an advantage this is in modern business, that people don’t quite realize that the … The Wonderbra advert, which is on the subway, 50% of the people who walk past it don’t wear bras. Of the 50% that do wear bras … well, actually, more than 50%, because you’ve got age range, and you’ve probably … I don’t know … I’m getting into difficult territory here, but 35 to 45 might be the age range, and within that, a subsection of people who might be interested in that particular product, which is a little bit out there.

Suddenly you realize that less than 1% of the people who walk past that billboard are target audience. With Facebook, we have this magical ability to put our adverts in front of people who we know are interested in the area that we’re trying to sell something, and that is a massive advantage. And that’s why there’s been this explosion.

A lot of people don’t understand it, and a lot of people are scared of it, and there’s all sorts of controversies about politicians using it, but as far as I can see, politicians are free to use this targeting, and target people who are interested in their messaging as much as we are.

But we’re still pioneers, I think, are we not, at this stage?

Shayne Silvers: I think so. But the good thing about this, for anyone who’s new, or testing the water with their feet, I had no technical background, I had no IT experience, I don’t know how to do any of that. And I didn’t when I started.

But all you do is just go to YouTube. It’s the easiest thing in the world these days to get an answer to your question. If you don’t know how to do a Facebook pixel, google it, and YouTube will probably have a video walking you through it step-by-step. Or Facebook will have a video. Really, anything you want to know how to do, it’s a couple keystrokes away.

James Blatch: Or a very well-structured online course, for instance, might be available.

Shayne Silvers: Absolutely. But what I’m getting at, and Mark uses that too, is I was trying to google all this, and I would find the little snippets here and there. And I finally realized, okay, this is just overwhelming, or it’s like a job, I’m working 50, 60 hours a week. And that’s when I found Mark’s course.

He had everything neat in one place, he’s reputable, he’s done it, that’s the biggest part. It’s not one of the courses by the people that’ve maybe sold $5,000 in books last year. It’s someone who’s obviously doing extremely well, and that was important to me, because I tried a couple courses from people who seem like they’re hot stuff, and they know everyone, and they’re friends with everybody, and then you look at their book ranking, and you’re like, wait a minute. That doesn’t make any sense.

With Mark it was different, and so his course literally changed everything for me. You have to do the work still, but all the answers are right there.

James Blatch: And we should say that you weren’t making money, as you said, in your early days, and you are now a six-figure income a month guy.

Shayne Silvers: Yes.

James Blatch: And that’s because you understood the platform. Somebody taught it to you, you understood it.

When we’re talking about Facebook ads, in particular, that’s how important they are.

Shayne Silvers: Yes, it’s vital. Advertising is life to any business. And especially with how many products are out there, you need to stand out, you need to write a good product. We’re assuming that that part’s already done, but you need to know how to get in front of the right people.

Because, like I said, the biggest thing that people should take home from my story is that book one in my series, Obsidian Son, it was rejected over 100 times by New York agents, literary agents. I put it on Amazon, it sold nothing.
I think life to date, before I started Mark’s course, it was $400 maybe, over three years. $400, $500. The second I activated all of this advertising, marketing, Facebook ads, everything that he talks about in his course, Facebook pixels, all of that, I went to four figures a month in five weeks, and then five figures a month. Non-stop since.

James Blatch: Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

Shayne Silvers: But it’s the same product. That’s my point, is that, if I was just being objective about it, I would say, well, I’m obviously a terrible writer. No-one likes my stuff, or I can’t do it.

But putting the right marketing in place took that same product from $400 over three years to five figures in a month, every month. And so it just depends on getting your product in front of the right people.

James Blatch: Well, you want to put a PDF together of your gross earnings and send it to each of the 100 people who rejected you in New York.

Shayne Silvers: A couple have reached out to me, asking if we’d like to work together.

James Blatch: I bet they have. I bet they have. Good. Okay, well, look, it’s an inspiring story, Shayne. I’m pleased
that, presumably, your 401(k) is now filled up again.

Shayne Silvers: Yes. Yeah, it’s better than it was.

James Blatch: Good. Because I’d hate to think you had neglected that bit of it. Brilliant.
That’s been a fantastic overview. It is really an overview, but it’s given us the understanding of the fundamentals and what’s working at the moment in Facebook ads, and we’re very grateful for your time. So, Shayne, thank you so much.

Shayne Silvers: Absolutely. And whenever you guys have questions, the best part is that you can go into the group after you sign up for the course, and take all the lessons to heart and apply them to your work. If you run into any questions, or have problems, he’s got two, three groups for the Self Publishing Formula Facebook ads that you can go check out, and ask other authors, and maybe 50 of them have had the same exact problem as you have, and there’s a quick fix that you don’t know about.

It’s not just the product that’s great, it’s also the customer service.

James Blatch: And we should say, for people who listen to the interview, you’re regularly in the group, so people can even reach out direct, should they want to.

Shayne Silvers: Of course.

James Blatch: Superb. Shayne, thank you so much indeed. We’re going to let you get on with your busy life, and we’re really grateful that you

Shayne Silvers: It was great talking to you, James.

James Blatch: Always a pleasure.

Shayne Silvers: Thanks for having me, I appreciate it.

James Blatch: That was Shayne Silvers, and we got some examples from Shayne of … well, we didn’t get some examples … Mark, you’ve been digging out some examples of some of those really successful Facebook ads. I think we’ll have a little chat about that. If I get one of those up now.

This is a Shayne Silvers sponsored ad, and you can see, at the beginning, that it does denote, it’s now the same as Twitter and the other platforms, by saying sponsored. You’ve got a grabby image there of a moody-looking man in an armchair, with some ravens perched around him.

Mark, tell me why this ad is successful.

Mark Dawson: Well, first of all, we should say, if you’re watching on YouTube, you’ll be able to look at this on the screen now. If you’re listening on the podcast then we’ll include them in the show notes, so you can have a look at those as we talk about them.

Shayne is very good at these ads, and he has really excellent covers. And as he said in the podcast, he gets his designer to allow him to … I think he asks his designer to pull an image from the cover that he can use in those ad copies.

Shayne did make reference to the prevailing wisdom that suggests that you shouldn’t use a book cover in your ad, and I would stand by that. But what Shayne is doing here, this isn’t really his book cover. What we mean by don’t use a book cover, is don’t use an image that looks like a book. It doesn’t have the font that the character’s on, or the title, his name, any of the text. It doesn’t look like a book, it’s just a slice from the artwork.

His artwork is always striking, so it’s quite colorful, it looks very, very professional. Really, really nicely done, and it stands out in the newsfeed.

Funny story, I didn’t even know that Shayne had taken the course, and I started to see these ads for his Nate Temple books in my newsfeed. So, probably not the best targeting, not necessarily Shayne’s fault, on Facebook, because I’m not really into buying urban fantasy, but they were really strong ads. I would’ve been tempted to buy them. In fact, I did buy one after seeing the ad.

The images are great, the copy is excellent. He writes very, very funny copy. What we’ve got here, as he mentioned in the podcast, “When shifter dragons invade St. Louis, Nate Temple gives them a cure for reptile dysfunction.”

So, it’s quite funny. Gives you an idea of what his writing’s like. Then, what readers are saying, “His foul-mouthed unicorn murders rainbows, five stars, all the humor of Deadpool, more magic than Harry Potter.” That’s a really great review quote that really sums up what his books are like.

And then, dropping down beneath the image itself, you’ve got the Learn More button that would take you directly to Amazon. And then his headline copy, “Free with Kindle Unlimited.” So he’s really going after Kindle Unlimited page reads there.

And then the descriptive text beneath that, “Anti-hero wizard with daddy issues.” Very, very effective ad, I really like that.

James Blatch: I tell you what strikes me straightaway, when I see a lot of Facebook ads that get posted into our group, is how few words there are. You often see people post their Facebook ads in, and there’s a big clump of description at the top there. But Shayne’s a good example there. Let’s have a look at another one of his.

The next one, again, as Mark says, you’ll get these in the show notes., and we’ll package up all the examples we talk about, and anything else that comes up, we’re going to include in that PDF.
I love the way we make things up as we go along. But it is all good in the end, isn’t it, by the time it goes out?

Mark Dawson: Very professional.

James Blatch: Yeah. So, ad number two. I recognize this image, actually, and this is … looks like it’s a video ad, Mark, and … are we looking at the same one? This is the guy with the lightning coming out of his hands, and the flames.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, it is a video ad, it looks like a video. What it is, is he mentioned this in the interview. It’s taken something, an image from his cover, and he’s run it through a little software application that animates some of the features.

Without playing this, we’ve just got this as a still, I think if we hit play there, the lightning and the fire coming out of his character’s hands would crackle, and would be animated. And again, that really stands out in the newsfeed. It’s something that looks very unusual, they’re still not that common, those kinds of ads.

And what you want is what Facebook describes as thumb-stopping content. It wants you to stop the scrolling down through the newsfeed, to actually look at the image, and then if the image is good enough, to be tempted to read the text.

And if that’s good enough, to hit the call to action button, and then go to Amazon. At that stage, hopefully you’re into a buying mood, rather than a Facebook browsing mood, and you can get started with what Nate has been advertising.

James Blatch: And again, short and pithy copy.

Mark Dawson: Yes. “My name is Nate Temple, I ride a foul-mouthed unicorn, drink with Achilles, and I’m pals with the Four Horsemen. I’ve even cow-tipped the Minotaur.”

He’s used that copy a lot, and it’s obviously been effective for him. And it’s really good.

James Blatch: And it does a really great job of saying what the books are like, in a very short period of time, which is a really key part of an effective ad. You don’t want to confound expectations.

The final one that we’re looking at is a female protagonist this time. It’s also one of these moving ads. Some sort of angel.

Mark Dawson: Yes, an angel character. It’s again a colorful image with lightning firing out of this winged woman’s fingertips. And the copy there again, “People say Callie Penrose is kissed by heaven, whatever the hell that means.”
So, a nice punchy first line, playing on words.

“This kick-ass heroine,” so he’s setting up what you can expect in terms of the action quotient within the book, “skips church to hunt down monsters for the Vatican, in heels.”

I’d actually correct his ad. He’s got two fullstops, or two periods, there. I think he needs three. And that’s how pedantic I can be when it gets to advertising. So, if you want an ellipsis, you would have three there.
Beneath that we’ve got Unchained: Feathers and Fire Book 1, and then he’s got a personalized … well, he’s got the display link, which is hidden. The actual link would be going straight to his Amazon page, but he’s cloaked the link with what you call a display URL, which says

So, again, it’s suggesting that it’ll be addictive. Again, another nice, slightly irreverent … you wouldn’t see that in a normal ad from a trad house. It’s just setting out that this is the kind of tone and content you’re going to get if you dig into this book.

All three of those, cut from the same cloth. Strong images. Short, punchy copy. Direct and to the point, telling you all you need to know before you go over to Amazon and, hopefully, make that purchase.

James Blatch: Now, as we said at the beginning, the Facebook ads platform is complicated. It’s a quick and easy way to lose money if you don’t get it right. Don’t just dive in, necessarily, and these interviews have not been designed to get you started, really, on Facebook ads, they’re to give you an overview of the platform and talk about the potential of them.

It was great to hear Shayne talking about some of the retargeting, and some of the techniques he used, to give you an idea of what’s available to you. If you do want to dive in on the course, or have a look at the course, you can go to, it’s open for three weeks from today.
Wednesday, the day this is being released, which is the 5th of June

Mark Dawson: At 10: 00 PM UK time. So, as this goes out, it may not be open, but it’ll be open within a few hours, later this evening.

James Blatch: And if you’re not sure, of course, we do run this 30-day money back guarantee, so you can have a look at the course, and then if you don’t think it’s the right time for you, or for whatever reason, get your money back during that time.

And I say that partly because we’ve got a course for sale, and we want, obviously, to tell people about that partly just to say, just don’t necessarily start your Facebook ads campaign tomorrow, and start putting money in there, and expect to replicate what Shayne’s doing straightaway.

It does take a buildup, it does take some knowledge, and try and learn from the people around you in this wonderful indie community we have.

Okay, so that’s Facebook ads. Now, it is interesting to say that, a couple of years ago, when you and I started talking about this stuff together, you started talking to me about it, Facebook ads was number one, without question, for you. It was the driving force behind your growth as an indie author, and your income.

Today, it’s not necessarily number one, is it?

Mark Dawson: It depends where you’re talking about. So, the US and the UK, I’d say my spend is about 70/30 with regards to Amazon ads and Facebook ads. Maybe even 80/20. Facebook ads are still really powerful. Amazon ads are perhaps a little bit more powerful.

They do different things. Facebook is amazing for finding readers, getting them onto a mailing list. Building a list quickly of qualified readers is … it’s still very, very good, they’re best in the world at doing that.
Actually, selling books, it works really well, but it’s probably, Amazon is where you’d want to be focusing, in those two markets.

Now, if you’re looking to other markets, and we’ll get into this on Friday when we look at my German launch, Facebook is beating Amazon hands-down right now. Most of my spend is … just looking at the numbers I put together, I’m spending twice as much, most months, on Facebook ads over in Germany.

And you can see, we’ll demonstrate this with some screen grabs on Friday, you can see when I switch Facebook ads on, because the effect on sales … and just looking at it now, I switched some ads on on the 24th of May. The next day, German sales tripled. There was nothing else that could’ve done that, it was the Facebook ads.

James Blatch: Wow.

Mark Dawson: So, it depends. They’re both very important, and I think authors need to master both of them.

James Blatch: Excellent. Now, there’s another, third, platform, that we haven’t mentioned too much today, but we are going to talk about tomorrow, and that is BookBub ads.

So, the BookBub mailing list, which is a reader-centric mailing list, a huge mailing list, and they introduce this opportunity for you, not just to try and win a featured deal with them, but to place your ad in those emails that go out. And we’re going to talk to David Gaughran, who’s written a book on the subject, tomorrow.

James Blatch: So, that’s it for today. Thank you very much indeed. Mark, we’re going to appear tomorrow, wearing the same clothes, and looking very much the same, because we’re doing a little bit of batch recording today, but it is only the week before. It’s actually, this is the Friday, isn’t it? It’s only a few days before this is going out, so it’s all very contemporary.

We’re going to say goodbye for this episode, and we look forward to speaking to you tomorrow.

Mark Dawson: Goodbye.

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