Testing Book Descriptions With Facebook Ads [Case Study]

The book description on your product page, whether that be Amazon, Kobo, Apple or any other retailer, is one of the most important assets for your book and generally has the biggest impact on conversion (i.e. sales and/or page reads).


A great book description can turn a poor performing book into a champion performer; but the opposite is also true in that a poor book description that doesn’t engage, excite and intrigue the reader will result in fewer conversions.


What You'll Learn In This Guide

  • The traditional way of testing book descriptions - and why it’s not an efficient use of your time
  • An alternative way to test book descriptions - and find a winner in less than 1 week using Facebook Ads
  • The key metric to focus on when determining a winning book description
  • Which audiences to target with your book description Facebook Ads
  • My step-by-step approach to testing book descriptions with Facebook Ads and how to create your ads
  • And much more…

The Traditional Method For Testing Book Description


The most common approach to testing book descriptions is directly on your book product page, but as you'll see below, it takes a considerable amount of time and could potentially lose you a huge quantity of sales. Here’s how the traditional approach to book description testing looks:


Step 1

  • Take a note of your baseline sales, royalties and page reads for the previous 2 weeks
  • Write a new/different book description
  • Upload this new description to your book product page (through KDP, Kobo, Draft2Digital etc.)
  • Let this new book description run for 1-2 weeks, untouched (i.e. if you had ads running during the baseline period, keep the ads running for this book description test)
  • After the 1-2 week period, track the sales, page reads and royalties and compare them to your baseline

Step 2

  • Write another new book description
  • Upload this second new description to your book product page (through KDP, Kobo, Draft2Digital etc.)
  • Let this new book description run for 1-2 weeks, untouched (i.e. if you had ads running during the baseline period, keep the ads running for this book description test)
  • After the 1-2 week period, track the sales, page reads and royalties and compare them to your baseline and the 1st book description you tested

Step 3

  • Write another book description and follow the same processes outlined above! 

As you can see, this is an extremely time consuming, tedious process that could take anywhere from 3-6 weeks to complete and collect any statistical data. There is also the potential that you could be losing sales, page reads and royalties during this testing period as you’re not necessarily using the best book description for the 3-6 weeks that you’re testing. 


An Alternative Approach

What if I told you that there is a more efficient, less time-consuming alternative that would provide you with statistically significant data in just 3-5 days? 


As you’ve probably already guessed from the title of this guide, I’m going to show you how to test book descriptions against each other with Facebook Ads.


In this guide, I’m going to be walking you through one of my Book Description Tests using Facebook Ads. 


To give you a bit of background…


For this case study, I’m going to be advertising my wife’s book The Forbidden, which is Book 1 of a 6 book series called The Ancestors Saga.

I’ve been running Facebook Ads to this book since May 2020 with one particular ad that has been performing exceptionally well, with hundreds of shares, hundreds of comments and thousands of reactions. 


However, whilst the CPC (Cost Per Click) of this ad is still acceptable (hovering around £0.09 - £0.12 per click), I’ve noticed over the past 2 weeks or so that the CTR (Click Through Rate) has been dropping from a solid 5%-10%, to recently averaging around 2-3%.

The CPC’s are rising a touch too, which is a sign of Ad Fatigue - a topic for another day!


That’s a big drop in CTR and causes CPC costs to rise as Facebook deems your ad to not be as relevant to the audience you’re targeting, so they charge you more for the exposure. 


As well as keeping an eye on CPC, I also believe that CTR is an important metric to keep track of as it shows how well your ad is resonating with your target audience.

Another key metric to keep a close watch on is Frequency as this tells you how many times an individual person has seen your ad in a given time period. I don’t like this number to go above 1.5 - 2.0 the majority of the time.

The only exception to this rule of mine is during a launch or promo period when I’m happy for an individual person to see an ad multiple times, as generally, I’m only running ads for launches and promos for a maximum of 7 days.

With evergreen ads, however, when I’m advertising a stand alone book, or Book 1 of a series, I like to keep these running as long as possible to keep a consistent flow of readers entering the series.

Royalties are still doing well for the series (there are only 2 books published so far, along with a companion novel to Book 2; Book 3 in the series is being launched in March 2021), although there has been a slight dip (around 5-10%) over the past couple of weeks.

Yes, this dip in royalties could very well be ad variance, as well as Christmas, New Year and a new Covid-19 Lockdown here in the UK.

However, the conversion rate (the number of sales divided by the number of clicks from Facebook Ads) has dropped recently, from a solid 4-5%, to around 2-2.5%.

The current book description for The Forbidden has been up for around 6 months now, so I think it’s well overdue for a refresh and see if we can find a better performing alternative. We can always fall back on the current book description, but I believe that keeping things fresh and testing new things is always a good route to follow;

If you’re not moving forwards, you’re not even standing still, you’re moving backwards.

I’m not sure who coined this quote, and I’m paraphrasing a bit here, but I’m sure you get the sentiment behind it. We only grow when we push ourselves and move outside of our comfort zone. Yes, things can get uncomfortable, but we’ll come out the other side with more skills and more knowledge.

However, I digress…


Here is the current book description from Amazon:

The unforgettable story of one woman’s perilous journey to save, The Forbidden.
Rebaa’s adopted tribe lies slaughtered behind her. Rebaa’s lover, Juran, lays down his life for hers and now she must use all of her cunning and extraordinary powers to survive the inhospitable wilderness alone, ensuring that Juran’s sacrifice was not in vain.


But Rebaa’s battle for survival has only just begun.


Hunted by savage predators and more terrifying still, the nightmarish Eldrax, a murderous chieftain who will stop at nothing to possess Rebaa’s mysterious powers for his own. Rebaa’s very existence becomes a life or death chase in the pursuit and quest to reach the one place that surely offers salvation and a safe haven she can call home.


But what haven could possibly exist for one who bears... The Forbidden?


Will Rebaa find her salvation, or will crushing loss, hardship and the burden of carrying The Forbidden, first destroy her from the inside out?

The Ancestors Saga
The Forbidden is the first book in The Ancestors Saga; a gripping historical fantasy romance series that takes you into a richly-woven world set within our own dark and forgotten past, combining the known and the unknown with adventure and mythology, to retell a lost chapter in the evolution of humankind.

What Readers Are Saying...
★★★★★ “Totally absorbing story that I could not put down.”
★★★★★ “Great characters. Intense storyline. Life and death. Acceptance. A must read.”
★★★★★ “Fantastically written, which really captures the emotion of the reader.”

The Forbidden

Lori Holmes

Here’s what this current book description has going for it:

  • A one-sentence teaser
  • Tension
  • Stakes
  • A question for the reader to ponder and if they enjoy reading fantasy (which this book is) and a question that they want to find out the answer to
  • A short synopsis of the series as a whole
  • Social Proof

I feel that the main thing missing from this book description, however, is a sense of location and time period, as well as some form of tension.

You could argue that the book cover symbolizes the time period and location, as you can see on the left (or below if you're reading this on a phone!), but I’d still like to test covering these elements within the book description itself.

My Step-By-Step Approach To Testing Book Descriptions With Facebook Ads


Step 1

  • Spend 20-30 minutes looking at other book descriptions on Amazon, taking note of the words they use, how they introduce the characters, the plot, the time period, location, stakes and tension.

Step 2

  • Based on the inspiration gained from my Amazon research, and modelling, not copying, write three new book descriptions, that are totally different from the original description.

Step 3

  • Create a new CBO (Campaign Budget Optimization) Campaign with a budget of £15 per day) with a new Ad Set targeting a stacked audience of my best-performing audiences from the past. N.B. I like to use an audience size of over 1 Million people as this is a good sample size. I also run these book description tests to audiences in the USA only. When I find a winner, I can then test this with audiences in other countries.

Step 4

  • Create 3 new Facebook Ads, each using the same image and headline; the only difference in the ad is the Primary Text, which will be our new description. We are only testing the one variable, Book Description, which is why it’s important to keep all the other elements of the ads identical.

Step 5

  • Let the ads run for 3-5 days and analyse the results.

It’s worth noting here that when you find a winning book description with your Facebook Ads, it doesn’t necessarily guarantee that this book description will perform equally well on Amazon, Kobo, Google Play, etc, although the likelihood is that a percentage of the people clicking on your Facebook Ads are ultimately the people buying your books.


Moving on then, here are the three new book descriptions I’ve written for these tests:


Book Description Test 1

A young Ninkurajaa woman narrowly escapes with her life and finds herself lost, alone and isolated in a freezing and hostile world in this gripping fantasy romance series, set 40,000 years in our dark and distant past.

Rebaa’s adopted tribe lies slaughtered behind her. Rebaa’s lover, Juran, lays down his life for hers and now she must use all of her cunning and extraordinary powers to survive the wilderness alone and ensure that Juran’s sacrifice was not in vain.

The Forbidden

Lori Holmes

Book Description Test 2

Torn away from her Forbidden lover after a terrifying battle against fierce beasts from the darkest depths of the forest surrounding her home, Rebaa finds herself lost, alone and isolated in a freezing and hostile world.

Her battle has begun.

Rebaa must now survive this terrifying new world she finds herself in, whilst being hunted by the nightmarish Eldrax, a murderous chieftain who will stop at nothing to possess Rebaa’s mysterious powers for his own.

She must call upon these mysterious powers and use all her cunning to reach the one place that surely offers her salvation and a safe haven…

...but what haven could possibly exist for one who bears...The Forbidden

The Forbidden

Lori Holmes

Book Description Test 3

Young Ninkurajaa woman, Rebaa, learned as a girl that fierce raiders, known only as Woves, are a curse plagued to destroy Rebaa's kind.

So when Rebaa is kidnapped by the Chief Wove of a neighboring tribe who she dares fall in love with, her Ancestral home is no longer the safe haven it once was, should she ever have the need to return one day.

That day has come.

Rebaa’s Wove lover, Juran, sacrifices himself to save Rebaa from a terrifying battle with hideous, fierce beasts from the darkest depths of the forests.

Rebaa’s home is destroyed. Her lover is no more. And now, Rebaa is alone. She must find a safe haven to call home; but what haven could possibly exist for one who bears The Forbidden…

Could her ancestral home be that safe haven? Or will her own people banish Rebaa because of her heresy, and the shame she has brought to their tribe? Would they truly sentence her to certain death? 

The Forbidden

Lori Holmes

And now I let these ads run for 3-5 days...


The [Initial] Results Are In...


In the end, I let these ads run for a total of 4 days. 


The key metric I’m looking for here is Unique Outbound CTR (Click Through Rate), as this signifies which of the three book descriptions have resonated the most with the targeted audience.

The ads were approved within about an hour on Thursday morning and I let them run for 4 days, until the following Sunday evening. If I put more budget behind this test, I could have potentially got the data I needed in 3 days rather than 4, but I’m happy to wait for the data!

Sometimes, ads can take 12-24 hours to be approved, particularly on a new ad account, but once you’ve run a few ads you’ll find that new ads get approved reasonably quickly the majority of the time. These particular ads were all approved within 2-3 hours of publishing them. 

After the ads had run for 4 days, I checked up on the results; here’s what I saw:

As you can see, there was one ad (Blurb Test1) that outperformed the CTR (Click-Through-Rate) of other 2 ads. The difference was only minor in terms of CTR, but the CPC is £0.03 cheaper too, so that’s a good sign, although I'm not overly concerned with the CPC for this test, as it's the CTR that's the most important metric when testing book descriptions; CPC can be refined over time by testing different ad images/videos as well as different audiences.

Facebook has obviously favoured this ad over the others which is why it has received more of the budget; but I’m happy to go with Facebook’s suggestions - it knows a lot more about their users than I do!

I could have run with Blurb Test 1 and uploaded this to the book product page on Amazon. However, as the winning ad only just claimed the title of ‘winner’, I wanted to test out some alternative book descriptions to see if I could find a more substantial winner with a higher CTR and lower CPC.

I wrote 2 more book descriptions to test, one short and considerably longer.

Here are the 2 new book descriptions I tested against Blurb Test 1:

Book Description Test 4

Rebaa’s adopted tribe lies slaughtered behind her. Rebaa’s lover, Juran, lays down his life for hers and now she must use all of her cunning and extraordinary powers to survive the wilderness alone and ensure that Juran’s sacrifice was not in vain.

Rebaa’s battle has begun…

Start Reading Book 1 of The Ancestors Saga, ‘The Forbidden’ today: [LINK] 

The Forbidden

Lori Holmes

Book Description Test 5

40,000 years into our dark and distant past, humanity is on the brink of extinction and another glacial winter.

Deep in the forests, the Ninkurajaa people will go to almost any length to ensure their survival. Rebaa, a young Ninkurajaa woman, is taken from her tribe by terrifying raiders known only as Woves.

Rebaa’s people consider Woves to be responsible for all the terrible happenings in their lives.

When daring to fall in love with the Chieftain of the Wove tribe who kidnapped her, Rebaa and her lover, Juran, find themselves with child, which, to Rebaa’s people, is Forbidden.

If anything were to happen to Juran, Rebaa would find herself alone, with a Forbidden child.

That day has come.

Before Rebaa could give birth to her Forbidden child, their home is ransacked by mysterious, horrific beasts who leave nothing but death and destruction in their wake.

Juran sacrifices himself to save Rebaa and now, Rebaa finds herself alone in this freezing and hostile world carrying her Forbidden offspring, with nowhere to call home.

If Juran’s sacrifice is to not be in vain, Rebaa must find a new home, a new haven to bring up her child.

Could her ancestral home be that safe haven it once was? Or will her own people banish Rebaa because of her heresy, and the shame she has brought to their tribe? Would they truly sentence her and her unborn child to certain death?

Rebaa has no choice but to try; her child must survive. 

The Forbidden

Lori Holmes

For some reason, the new short book description (Book Description 4) took around 24 hours to be reviewed and approved. The long book description was approved within about 12 hours.

This can sometimes happen for various reasons; just something to bear in mind, which is why, when running launches and promos, I like to create my Facebook Ads about 1-2 weeks beforehand and schedule them to turn on on a specific day at a specific time. This way, they are approved with plenty of time to spare and if they are rejected for any reason, I still have time to make changes and get them approved or ask for a manual review.

Coming back on track after that little tangent…

I let these new descriptions run for another 4 days to see if they could outperform the initial winner (Blurb Test 1).

Here are the results…

As you can see, Blurb Test1 is still the winner! And this time by much more considerable amount in terms of CTR. I’m too fussed about the CPC; I knew it was going to be high as I’m using a book mock-up as the ad image, and using a book mock-up always tends to be more expensive than not using a book mock-up!

There were a couple of days where Blurb Test5 was winning the CTR race, but as Facebook learnt more about the audience and which ads were resonating with them, Blurb Test1 came back and turned out to be a clear champion.

Below you can see a screenshot of the winning ad.

Next Steps…


Now that we have a clear winner, what happens next, you may ask…

As this description has proven to work well on Facebook, whilst there’s no guarantee that it will convert better on Amazon, I’m going to update the book description on the book product page on Amazon and see if we can improve the conversion rate.

There may be a noticeable difference, there may not be. However, the current book description on Amazon has been there for the past 6 months.

A quote that may come to your mind is…

"Why fix something that ain’t broke! "

Well, it may not be broken, but there is always room for improvement. And we won’t know the scale of that improvement unless we test.

We are currently sending around 400 people per day to Book 1 of the series from Facebook Ads and selling around 30 books per day (just across this one series).

Some of those sales are organic and we obviously have page reads too because the books are in Kindle Unlimited, but unfortunately, there is currently no way to track Kindle Unlimited borrows. But I’m confident that the Facebook Ads are generating a smattering of borrows, on top of the organic borrows.

However, coming back to sales, if we can increase the number of people who buy or borrow the books from those 400 individual clicks, then that will be a great win.


Take Aways…


So what can you learn from this experiment of testing book descriptions with Facebook Ads?


  1. Book descriptions don’t need to take weeks, even months to test; you can test multiple book descriptions in less than a week!
  2. When testing book descriptions with Facebook Ads, the core metric you’re focusing on is Unique Outbound CTR (Click-Through-Rate); don’t worry about CPC’s and other metrics.
  3. When you find a winning book description with Facebook Ads, this doesn’t guarantee that it will be continue its winning streak on Amazon (or any other retailers if you’re a wide author)
  4. Don’t test too many book descriptions at a time - test 3-4 at together, then test the winner of those 3-4 against another 2-3 descriptions to see if you can discover a clear winner
  5. With the targeting of your Facebook Ads for running these book description tests, use an audience that has worked well for you with previous Facebook Ads; this way, you know it’s a strong audience and you’re only testing one variable - the book description, NOT the audience.
  6. Continuing the theme of one variable, use the same image in each of your book descriptions ads; the only assets of your ad that should be changing is the Primary Text (i.e. the book description)

So that wraps up this guide to testing book descriptions with Facebook Ads; I hope this has shown you an alternative to finding a winning book description for your books and a step-by-step process you can follow to find this winning description in less than a week.

Until next time…
Matt

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