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A Picture Can Sell A Hundred Thousand Words

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words...And Can Sell YOUR Hundred-Thousand-Word Book

In the decade-plus I’ve been in this business, I have seen first-hand the enormous influence of visuals in the digital marketing realm, especially for Facebook ads. The right visuals can engage an audience and elevate an author's brand presence. The wrong ones…well, the can do the opposite.

So how do you choose the RIGHT images for your Facebook ad campaigns? What are the qualities of an impactful ad image? Can you use low-quality or simple images? And what about using your book cover—is that a good thing to use for an ad image?

Let’s talk about all that…and more.

What Is A “Good” Image?

Images are the entry point to your ad, determining the user's first impressions and encouraging (or murdering) their desire to interact. A compelling image will make your audience pause, engage, and hopefully, click. The perfect ad image will almost always be:

  • Sharp
  • ​High-resolution
  • ​Follow Facebook's recommended aspect ratios for optimal display.

But beyond the technicalities, a good image needs to resonate emotionally with your target audience.

Successful ad images typically incorporate human elements or tell a compelling story. People instinctively respond to human faces and emotions, which is why so many ads show images of people laughing or playing as they utilize the product (whatever that product may be): it shows people benefiting from the product in some way, and that creates an emotional connection and triggers the audience's desire to experience the same emotions.

I’ve found that you don’t generally want to show a picture of someone reading a book, anymore than you want to show an image of your book cover itself (more on that later). So what DO you do?

Your Image Communicates A Mood, Not A Fact

Choosing images that are genre-specific can be a fantastic way to engage your target audience effectively. The imagery should resonate with the tone, mood, and themes of the genre to attract the right audience and pique their interest.

For romance novels, images that evoke a sense of intimacy, warmth, and connection are most effective. Beautiful, evocative settings like a sunset beach or a cozy fireplace, or symbols of love such as intertwined hands or a single rose, can subtly hint at the romantic journey your book offers. Colors play a significant role here too. Soft, warm hues or rich, passionate reds can convey the emotional depth of a romance novel.

Mystery and thriller genres, on the other hand, benefit from images that instill a sense of intrigue, suspense, and excitement. Shadows, silhouettes, or closed doors can evoke the unknown, while a cryptic clue or a dramatic cityscape can hint at the adventures that await inside your book. Darker, desaturated colors or high-contrast images can help set the mood for these genres.

For horror genres, imagery that elicits a sense of fear, unease, or dread can be potent. An isolated house, a creepy forest, a spine-chilling fog, or ominous symbols can encapsulate the frightening atmosphere of a horror story. However, be cautious not to make the image too gory or terrifying as it can alienate some viewers (and also can violate Facebook’s policies against certain kinds of imagery). A hint of the sinister is often more effective than explicit horror.

Adventure and fantasy genres allow for more imaginative and vibrant imagery. Stunning landscapes, mystical creatures, or magical elements can convey the grandeur and escapism of these genres. It's your opportunity to showcase a world that readers can lose themselves in. Bold, vibrant colors can make these images more compelling and captivating.

Regardless of genre, it's important to remember that images for Facebook ads should be more than just aesthetically pleasing—they should also tell a story and evoke emotions that align with your book's content. They should stir the curiosity of potential readers and make them want to explore the stories that you've so painstakingly created.

Remember, you're not just selling a book—you're selling an experience, a journey, an escape. Your images should reflect that.

Keep It Simple

Simplicity and clarity in an ad image cannot be overemphasized. Facebook users scroll rapidly, spending mere fractions of a second on each post. Your image needs to grab attention instantly, break their state of empty scrolling with an eye-catching image, and convey your message clearly and quickly (remembering that the message isn’t “buy this book” but rather “check out what’s going on here!”)

Images with strong color contrast, simple compositions, and clear focus points are particularly effective. They quickly guide the viewer's eye and help them understand the ad's intent at a glance. Overly complex images with too much detail or text, on the other hand, can be confusing, leading to lower engagement rates.

This image, with its high contrast, interesting yet simple composition, and clear tone, is a great one for evoking interest in a horror lover

This image, on the other hand, is hard to see, has little contrast, and is too cluttered to grab attention

This image, with its high contrast, interesting yet simple composition, and clear tone, is a great one for evoking interest in a horror lover

This image, on the other hand, is hard to see, has little contrast, and is too cluttered to grab attention


Another absolute 'no-go' in Facebook ad campaigns is low-quality images. Images from a non-professional device like an iPhone, while acceptable for casual social media posts, are inadequate for marketing purposes. These devices, despite their constant improvements, can struggle with capturing details, rendering accurate colors, and providing stability in low-light conditions.

Check out the little girl here, for instance. She's cute, she's reading a book! But will she SELL that book? Not likely. 

Using low-quality images can create other issues, too. They can appear blurred or pixelated when scaled up, lack the depth and richness of professional photos, and lead to lower user engagement. More importantly, they can damage the perception of your brand. If your images seem amateurish, viewers may question the quality of your work. Remember, the quality of your ads reflects the quality of your products.

What About Using My Cover?

Using your book cover as an ad image seems logical at first glance. It directly represents the product, and it offers immediate product recognition. However, there are several (massive) drawbacks to this approach.

First of all, book covers are designed to be appreciated at a leisurely pace in a bookstore or on a website. They often contain intricate designs and text that require time to process - time that a user scrolling rapidly through Facebook does not have. They may be aesthetically pleasing as a book cover, but they don't always translate well to the fast-paced world of social media ads.

Plus, book covers are generally portrait-oriented, while most Facebook ad placements favor landscape or square images. That means that using a book cover can lead to either scaling it down, making it harder to see, or cropping important elements, altering its original design and diminishing its impact. Take these two images, for example:

Both are really high-quality book covers, with great colors, simple imagery that grips you emotionally, and they both do pretty superb jobs of selling the tones and genres of the stories. Now lets look at them as Facebook ads:

What was cool and impactful is not cluttered and confusing.

Plus, remember how we talked about wanting to grab folks’ attention, to interrupt that doom-scroll and scream, “Look at me!”? Book cover images don't offer differentiation, because the online space is crowded with authors displaying their book covers. To stand out, you need to be unique and attention-grabbing. Use images that align with your brand and the specific message of your ad campaign.

In the next part of this guide, we’ll explore the art of sourcing and selecting effective images, the power of storytelling through images, and why testing and customization are essential to a successful Facebook ad campaign. We will also discuss more about branding and consistency, and how understanding your audience can dramatically improve the effectiveness of your ad images.

Selecting, Sourcing, and Testing

Selecting and sourcing images for Facebook ads requires a careful and strategic approach. Images unique to your brand or message will help you stand out and form a stronger connection with your audience. That said, most of us don’t have the kind of money required to hire a great photographer for a dedicated shoot that revolves around selling our book (let alone even plan what kind of images we would want to see!).

That said, there are other ways to source high-quality, unique images. I’ve provided a list of options where Bestseller Life subscribers can find great media content here.

Time To Test

In digital marketing, the only constant is change. User preferences, platform algorithms, and design trends shift over time, and your ad campaigns need to adapt. Running A/B tests on different images can help you understand what works best with your audience and optimize your campaigns accordingly.

Facebook's Dynamic Creative feature can be a valuable tool here, allowing you to test multiple images and other ad components simultaneously. This is a really cool feature designed to optimize and simplify the process of creating and testing various aspects of a single ad. It allows you to input several different components of an ad, including images, headlines, descriptions, call-to-action phrases, and more. The tool then automatically generates different combinations of these elements and tests them across your audience.

The primary advantage of using Dynamic Creative is that it saves time and resources by allowing you to test a wide range of ad variations simultaneously. This automation also removes guesswork from the equation, as the tool uses performance data to determine which combinations are most effective for different segments of your audience. Essentially, Dynamic Creative offers a streamlined way to create personalized, high-performing ads based on data-driven insights, ensuring that your ads resonate with different audiences and achieve your campaign goals.

Customizing your ad images for different segments of your audience can also dramatically increase their effectiveness. Different people will connect with different images, so creating several versions of your ad with varied visuals can help cater to a wider range of tastes and preferences. This level of personalization can significantly increase engagement rates and the overall success of your campaign.

Branding and Consistency

Branding and consistency are important aspects of your ad visuals. Your images should be consistent in style and quality, reflecting your brand's personality and values. This builds recognition and trust with your audience. Make sure your images complement each other and fit coherently within your overall ad campaign, providing a consistent visual journey for your viewers.

Understanding your audience is pivotal in selecting effective images. Know who your readers are - their interests, lifestyles, values, and what they seek in a book like yours. This understanding will guide your image selection, ensuring they resonate with your audience on a deep level. Incorporating elements of your audience's persona into your ad images can dramatically boost their appeal.

Lastly, remember that Facebook has specific guidelines for ad images, such as limits on the amount of text they can contain. Make sure your images comply with these guidelines to avoid having your ads disapproved or limited in reach.

Conclusion

Image selection for Facebook ads is a complex, strategic process that goes beyond simply picking a good photo. It involves understanding your audience, sourcing unique and high-quality images, and using visuals to tell stories and evoke emotions. While it's crucial to avoid low-quality images or relying solely on your book cover, exploring diverse, relevant, and visually compelling images can significantly enhance your campaign's success. With continuous testing, customization, and a clear understanding of your audience, your Facebook ad campaigns can drive engagement, elevate your brand, and ultimately increase your book sales.


Checklist: Is Your Image "Good"?

Use the below checklist to help determine if your image is a winner. Does it have all these...?

  • High Quality: The image should be high-resolution and sharp. Avoid images that appear pixelated or blurred, as these can make your ad look unprofessional.
  • Relevance: Does the image relate to the book's content or theme? Does it align with the genre? Does it resonate with your target audience? The image should connect with what you're promoting.
  • Emotionally Engaging: The image should evoke an emotional response or tell a story. Whether it's excitement, curiosity, nostalgia, or joy, a strong emotional connection can encourage users to engage with your ad.
  • Simplicity: The image should have a clear focus and should not be overly cluttered or confusing. Remember, users typically scroll through their Facebook feeds rapidly, so your image needs to communicate your message quickly and clearly.
  • Unique and Original: If possible, try to use unique images. This can help your ad stand out and resonate more with your audience.
  • Follows Facebook's Guidelines: The image should follow Facebook's ad guidelines.
  • Strong Visual Hierarchy: The image should have a clear focal point that draws the viewer's eye. Good use of contrast, color, and composition can help achieve this.
  • Brand Consistency: The image should be consistent with your author brand in terms of style, color scheme, mood, etc. This helps increase recognition and trust among your audience.
  • Appropriate Aspect Ratio: Ensure that your image has an aspect ratio that is suitable for your chosen ad placement. For example, square or landscape images usually work better for feed placements.
  • Tested: Have you tested the image? Using tools like Facebook's Dynamic Creative, you can test different images to see which ones perform best with your audience.

Welcome to the Bestseller Life Blog!

I'm Michaelbrent Collings, an international bestseller and produced screenwriter, as well as a multiple Bram Stoker Award and Dragon Award finalist, and maker of a fair-to-middling chocolate chip waffle.

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