Build an Email List with Facebook Ads

marketing writing success Nov 08, 2023
build email list facebook ads

Case Study: Building an Email List with Facebook Advertising

Building an email list of engaged readers is a key step to any business’s success, and authors are no exception. The challenge comes from expanding our subscriber lists at a fast enough rate to support book launches.

By placing a free book offer in the front and back matter of my novels and creating an easy to find link on my webpage, I reliably add 100 to 250 organic subscribers every month. There’s nothing wrong with this pace. Not taking unsubscribes into account, at that rate I add 1200 to 3000 new subscribers per year.

But what if I want to add 100 to 250 subscribers per day?

There are a few options available, including group promotions through sites like Bookfunnel and mass giveaways at King Sumo, but I’ve found the former no longer builds subscribers as quickly as it did a few years ago, and the latter tends to produce low quality subscribers who are only interested in the giveaway.

Enter Facebook ads. For an in-depth look at Facebook advertising, I recommend Help, My Facebook Ads Suck by Mal Cooper and Ads for Authors Who Hate Math by Chris Fox. If you really want to push the pedal to the metal, enroll in Mark Dawson’s Ads for Authors course.

Key Components to Facebook Ad Success

To successfully build your email list through Facebook advertising, you need to nail four key components. Miss the mark with a component and your ad will fail.

For several weeks, I struggled to find the right combination and began to think I’d never make the ads work correctly. I even admitted my doubts The Creative Penn podcast. But persistence paid off, and now I’m building my email list at warp speed.

Landing Pages for Facebook Ads

Before you find your target audience on Facebook or search for the right imagery, build your landing page. Put as much time as is required into this effort. A lousy landing page won’t convert clickers into subscribers, so take advice from successful authors in your genre. You need a strong landing page, or your efforts will go for naught.

My apologies for the small text. I wanted my landing page to fit inside my article.

The headline makes the offer clear while encouraging visitors to act quickly. Beside my book cover, I placed a simple, embedded Mailerlite sign up form. Below the form is a short blurb to further entice readers.


Every successful advertisement begins with targeting. Brainstorm a list of famous authors in your book’s genre. Who do you write like? Whose fans will your books appeal to?

I write dark suspense, mysteries, and serial killer thrillers, so I do well targeting authors like Thomas Harris, Dean Koontz, and Lisa Gardner. Whether you target an author or a genre, it’s important you get this right. Otherwise, the people who see your ad won’t be interested in your writing style.

These days, I prefer Lookalike audiences over the Facebook’s default targets. These Lookalike audiences are comprised of people who look like my readers.

Images for Facebook ads

Some authors recommend using your book cover in your ad. I find this rarely produces optimum results.

You want an image that doesn’t look like an advertisement. The picture should draw the prospective reader’s eye and convey whatever feeling you’re shooting for. That might be exhilaration, love, or sheer terror.

Stock photos are a great low-cost source for Facebook ad images.

Facebook Ad Descriptions and Headlines

Now that you have a killer image and the correct target audience, you need to put on your marketer hat. The description and headline for your Facebook ad should be snappy and attention-drawing. Further, you need to make your offer clear. It’s obvious from my headline (Download Today for FREE!) that this is a risk-free opportunity. The text at the top conveys the genre and mood in one or two sentences. Quick and to the point.

How to Gauge Facebook Ad Success

Facebook provides advertisers with numerous metrics to gauge how well their ads are performing. The following case study refers to an email sign up campaign targeting my Lookalike audience during December 2022.

For the ad shown above, my CTR (clicks divided by impressions) is 10.3%. That means one of every ten people who see my ad click on the offer. Keep your CTR above 8% for mailing list sign ups.

A good CTR leads to a healthy CPC (cost per click). My ad is generating a CPC of $0.18.  For Facebook email list building, I recommend a CPC of $0.23 or less.

These are fine metrics. I know authors who can beat these numbers with regularity, but an ad with these metrics stands a strong chance of being successful.

The last metric to check is the click to subscribe ratio. Mine is 3.6, which means my conversion percentage is 27%. Not great, but good enough to turn a profit. If you nail your CTR and CPC, but your conversion rate falls flat, that means your landing page isn’t pulling its weight.

Am I Turning a Profit?

When I put all the numbers together, I’m spending $0.68 per subscriber.

One industry expert I greatly admire estimates each Facebook subscriber is worth $0.57 per year, or $1.14 overall if they stay on our lists for approximately two years. That suggests I’m spending $0.68 to make $1.14.

With numbers like those, I can’t wait to increase my ad budget every few days. By the way, I duplicated these ads for three different lookalike audiences in the US, and for one lookalike audience each in Australia and the UK. They’re all performing excellently. Even at $10 per day per ad, I’m spending $50 over five ads and adding 73 subscribers every day, or over 2000 new subscribers per month.

My plan? In my experience, the effectiveness of a Facebook ad lessens after 30 to 60 days. The effects become even greater after three months. That means I need to increase my budget quickly. If I successfully raise my spending limit to $30 per ad per day, I could gain 6000 subscribers in a month and 12000 new readers before the advertisement becomes less effective.

How do you use advertising to attract readers to your email list?

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