How to Use Facebook Ads to Get Email Subscriptions without having a website


Guest Post: By the uber talented Chris Fielden

There’s a new feature on Facebook ads. It allows you to get someone's email address, without having so send them to your website or a landing page – or even having one.

All they have to do is tap a couple of buttons and BOOM, you've got an ever-growing list of fans.

It’s quick.

It’s easy.

You can gain leads for as little as 60p/¢ an email.  Talk about an investment!

To see authors who are using Facebook right to build success, check out this guide to social media for writers.

What You Will Learn

  • How to create a Facebook lead generation ad
  • The results you can expect to achieve
  • How to use the emails you receive to sell your books

Who Am I And Why Am I Qualified To Bang On About Facebook Ads?

I’m Chris Fielden. I’m very pretty. Here’s the proof.

01 Chris Fielden


I run a popular writing blog. I’ve experimented with Facebook Ads to sell books, gain exposure for my videos and grow my email list.

I’ve learned from experts. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve found a way of growing my email list in an affordable way. I’ll share these experiences with you in this post.

Where To Start

When I first started exploring ad platforms, I was drawn to Facebook because of its targeting options. Facebook holds an immense amount of data about their users. This means you can target your ads at people who are interested in what you sell and are likely to convert into customers.

02 Facebook-Ads2

While undertaking some research, I found a free Facebook Ads video course, offered by best-selling author Mark Dawson at Self Publishing Formula. I strongly recommend subscribing to the course. I learned loads from it. It got me started. Did I mention it’s free? It’s free.

In the course, Mark talks you through how to set up lead generation ads, targeting a specific audience that is perfect for your genre of book. It’s well worth a look as the course is jam-packed with useful advice.

I’ll talk about how I developed my ads to reduce the cost per lead by experimenting with Mark’s advice later in the post. First of all, I’ll present a tutorial that walks you through how I set up my lead generation ad campaign.

Facebook Ads vs Amazon Ads

Listen to my podcast episode with Johnny Andrews, where we as book marketers discuss the pros and cons of Facebook Ads and AMS Ads on Amazon.

Podcast Episode – Facebook Ads vs AMS Ads

How To Set Up Facebook Lead Generation Ads That Work

First of all, you have to get your head around giving something away for free. Free stuff grabs people’s interest, hooks them in and encourages them to give you their email address. If they like what they receive, they are highly likely to become a customer. By giving them something for free they become aware of you/your brand. You gain their contact details and can sell to them later.

There are a number of ways of doing this:

  • Give away free books (great if you’ve written a series)
  • Give a sample of your book away (I use the opening 12,000 words of my book)
  • Give away free resources
  • Give away a free taster of what you’re offering
  • Give away short-term free membership to your services
  • Etc.

I create lots of free resources on my website. The most popular resources are regularly updated lists of writing competitions. I use these free contest directories to gain email subscribers which I can then convert into customers. That’s what I’m using in this example.

Once you have decided what you’re going to give away, login to Facebook.

To create an advert, you’ll need an author page and payment method registered with Facebook. That’s all self-explanatory – you can learn how to do it here. This tutorial assumes you’re set up and raring to go.

Also, here are a couple of useful resources about advert and campaign structures that are worth reviewing before getting started (they’re only short – read ‘em):

First, login to Facebook and click the arrow at the top right of your screen and select ‘Manage Adverts’ from the dropdown list.


On the next page, click ‘Power Editor’. This allows you much more control over the adverts you’ll be setting up. The Power Editor will open in a new window.


Now, for some unknown reason, the editor sometimes opens up inside a campaign. If you experience any problems, click ‘Clear’ at the top right of the screen. That sorts it out.


Next, click ‘Create Campaign’ which you will find at the top left of the screen.


Choose ‘Create New’ and name your campaign. In this example I have called the campaign ‘Email Lead Generation Ads’.

Leave the ‘Buying Type’ set as ‘Auction’.

Then, from the dropdown list, select ‘Lead Generation’.


Click ‘Create’ at the bottom right of the page. Then click on the campaign you’ve created.


You now need to create an advert set. You do this (unsurprisingly) by clicking on ‘Create Advert Set’.


Here, select the existing Ad Campaign you have just created – in this example I have selected ‘Email Lead Generation Ads’.

Then create a new advert set. I have called this ad set ‘Short Story Contests’.

Then click ‘Create’.


Now we embark on the fun bit. Begin by creating an audience for your adverts.

Firstly, you need to select a page to tie the campaign to. This page is displayed in the advert. In this example I am selecting my author page:


Now you need to select a daily budget. I’m based in the UK, so my budgets are presented in GPB. By default, Facebook suggest £20 a day (cheeky gits). While experimenting and testing, I’d suggest using a lower budget. In this example I’m selecting a daily budget of £5.

You can make other selections here, regarding how long you want to run the advert for. In this example, I’m just selecting ongoing without scheduling an end date. You can turn your adverts off at any time, so there’s no need to worry about overspending.


Next, you select your audience. While I’m not using it in this example, it’s worth mentioning that you can click ‘Create a Custom Audience’ at this point.


You will then be presented with the following options:

  • Customer List
  • Website Traffic
  • App Activity
  • Engagement on Facebook


Using ‘Customer List’ as an example, you could upload your email database and target ads at your existing customers on Facebook. Ooo, loads of potential there. Anyway, I’m just mentioning it here so you’re aware of it and know to experiment with it. OK, back to the other options.

In this example, my audience can be anyone interested in writing competitions using the English Language. So, when I set this up I used the following countries:

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • New Zealand
  • United Kingdom
  • United States


Now, this is a broad selection. Since setting up and running this campaign, I’ve had a very helpful phone consultation with a member of the Facebook Support team called Anna. She advised me to test single country audiences to see which convert best. This would mean creating advert sets for each country. It’s on my To Do List, but the results I’m sharing in this post are based on the wide multi-country audience.

The reason I used broad targeting was because I know from running my website that I attract visits from users based all over the world. They all use my competition listings, as they contain details of competitions located globally. So a wide audience seemed appropriate for what I’m offering. Now I’ve learned you can test more accurately and generate better results with country specific audiences, I’d advise starting with 1 country.

In this example, before further refining, these 5 countries gave my ads potential exposure to 259,000,000 people. Whoa.


This is one of the great things about the Facebook platform – you can clearly see how targeted your ads will be and the potential audience is vast. As we go on, you will see how the targeting narrows this down considerably, so your ads have a better chance of success as they’re aimed at people who are likely to be interested in your product.

Next, you select more details about your target demographic:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Language


In this example, I selected an age bracket of 30 to 65 because people in these age ranges tend to enter short story competitions more than younger people. I run an annual short story competition, and very few young writers enter it.

I’ve selected men and women. I receive roughly 35% of my entries from women and 65% from men. My competition has a more male orientated theme than most contests – motorbikes, humor, beer etc. – so maybe that’s why I receive more entries from men.

In contrast, the demographic for people buying writing magazines in the UK is around 80% women of which around 70% are over 45. I know this from advertising in print magazines like Writers’ Forum and Writing Magazine. Both these magazines run and list short story competitions.

My website data is slightly different again. Visits come from:

  • Men = 60%
  • Women = 40%

You can learn all this information by using Google Analytics on your website. That’s a lengthy blog post in itself, but if you’re interested you can get started with Analytics here. It’s free.

Any research you can do about your target audience can really help focus your advertising and gain better results. All the research I’ve done indicates that a fairly broad demographic is appropriate in this case.

I’ve selected English language as my website, writing resources and books are all written in English.

This brings the target audience down to 160,000,000. Still pretty humongous…


But now you can refine the targeting based on subject matters Facebook users like or have shown interest in. Simply start typing ideas into the suggestion field and Facebook will make recommendations. In this example, I have used:

  • Fiction Writing
  • Short Story Writing
  • Write Short Stories
  • Writing Poems and Stories
  • Writing Stories and Poems


If you’ve written a work of fiction, you can target using similar authors, genres, styles and all sorts of different things. Experiment and find what is relevant for you and what you’re offering.

As an example, in Mark Dawson’s video course, he targets the names of popular authors who write thrillers, in a similar style to his, very successfully. So if you write humorous fantasy, for example, you might want to target Facebook users who like Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams.

Facebook will make suggestions as you type in words and phrases, showing you the size of the audience each phrase will give you access to. In this example, using these 5 phrases reduces my potential audience to 190,000.


Now, this is still fairly broad, but what I’m offering has broad appeal, so this is the audience I used in this example. It means I can run the ad campaign for a long time, or spend more money to hit the audience more quickly. You can quite easily narrow it down much further if you want to.

You can now select the placement for your adverts. A lot of people use these lead generation forms on mobile, but in this example, I used mobile and desktop. In the future, I plan to test mobile and desktop separately.


You can learn lots more about audience targeting here.

Once you’re happy with all your selections, you’re ready to create your advert.

Click on your advert set to create an advert.


Then, click ‘Create Advert’.

21_Create_AdvertYou can then name your advert. In this example, I have called the ad ‘Writing Competition Lists Ad’. Then click ‘Create’.


Now you create your advert. As you create and update your ad, there is a box on the left that shows you how it will look.

The fields you need to fill in are:

  • Text
  • Headline
  • News Feed Link Description
  • Display URL
  • Select An Image
  • Call To Action


Here is the text and image I used for my advert:

Facebook Ad Text

*** FREE Writing Competition Lists *** A regularly updated resource containing lists of 100's of short story competitions and writing contests from all over the world.

I used as few words as possible to get my message across. You need to bear in mind that Facebook users are browsing and giving very little time to each post they see. The messaging needs to be attention grabbing, concise and easy to understand.

During my call with Anna, she recommended shortening this text even further to catch the user’s attention and get them to engage before they scroll past the advert.

My plan is to experiment with text that simply reads:

FREE Writing Competition Lists

That might improve the conversion rate.

Facebook Ad Headline

For your free access…

News Feed Link Description

Just tap SIGN UP >>>

As you can see, the messaging here is concise and simple, drawing the user to the Call To Action. It’s worded so people on mobile devices won’t be put off. This can result in more conversions. Again, I refer to Mark’s course here. He’s tested this extensively and advises the same. When I come to split test mobile vs desktop, I’ll use ‘tap’ for mobile users and ‘click’ for desktop.

Display Link for the Advertisement

Don’t use a complicated URL – use something simple that a human can easily read and understand. If it’s too long, it will be cut short in the display.

Ad Image

You need to pick something visually appealing that conveys what you’re offering. The image cannot contain much text – text can only account for 20% of the picture. The recommended size is 1200 x 628 pixels. You can learn more about advert images here.

The best results I’ve achieved have been with images that have no text on them at all.

This is the image I used in this example:

24 Writing Tips Pic for Facebook Ad

I was careful to choose something that said ‘writing’ – it fits with the free competition lists I’m advertising. I also use the image on my website, so a user that visits it will be reassured they are in the right place when they see it.

Flickr and Pixabay are great places to source images that can be used commercially for free. You can then edit them using Pixlr, which is an awesome free online tool.

The other option is to pay a designer to create something unique. A great image is really important for the success of an advert, so spend plenty of time creating something that will work with what you’re selling.

You can find heaps more advice in this useful Facebook resource.

Ad Call To Action (CTA)

Next, you select a button for users to click/tap. There are a number of choices that include:

  • Apply Now
  • Download
  • Get Quote
  • Learn More
  • Sign Up
  • Subscribe

In this example I used ‘Sign Up’. Simply pick what is most appropriate for your offering.

Now you will need to create a form that users will fill in to submit their email details to you. You do this by clicking ‘Create New Form’.


On the next page, select ‘New Form’ and hit ‘Next’.


Name your form and select a language. I named my form ‘Comps Ad Email Lead Form’ and selected ‘English UK’ as I’m based in England.


Then click ‘Next’.

Now you select the information you wish to gather when users sign up. I’ve read up on this a lot, and tested it. In my previous life, I was Operations Director at a digital agency. We split tested forms for lots of clients in different sectors. The less information you ask for, the more conversions you’re likely to see. Really, all you need here is an email address. So that’s all I’ve asked for.

There is an additional field that allows you to ask for up to 5 pieces of information. I’d recommend not doing that, but if you need an address to post something out, for example, you might want to add that in.


Next, you will be asked to enter a link to your privacy policy. You can customize the link text and add custom declaimers if you want to. You will be taken to an additional page during the setup process if you do decide to do this.

In this example, I’ve simply added a link to my privacy policy and used Facebook’s suggested wording.


Then hit ‘Next’.

You can now add a link to your website. It gives the user the option to visit your site once they’ve signed up. You can send them to the page you are promoting, or simply send them to the homepage.

In this example, I am taking them to the Writing Advice section of my website as that’s where they can find the resources I’m advertising. The page also uses the same imagery that I’ve used in the advert, reassuring the user they’ve arrived at the right place.


When you’re done, click ‘Next’.

There is a new feature that’s just been added into this process that allows you to add a context card. I haven’t experimented with this yet, so it’s not used in this example. You can learn more about context cards here.


If you do want to create a context card, click ‘Add a Context Card’. In this example, I clicked ‘Not Now’.

You will then be shown a preview of your form. If you’re happy, click ‘Create Form’.

What the Customer Sees When they Go to Signup

Here are the 3 steps a user will go through when signing up via this form once you’ve launched your advert.

Step 1 is self-populated, using their registered Facebook email. This can be changed if the user wants to change it.


Step 2 shows the user the terms and conditions. They can review your privacy policy if they wish.


Step 3 confirms the user has successfully signed up and gives them the option to visit your website.


This is awesomely simple usability and requires very little effort from the user. If you offer something your audience want, it easily enables you to grow your email list.

So, this is what the finished advert in this example looks like:

Once you’re happy with the way your advert looks, you’re ready to submit it for review. Simply click ‘Review Changes’ in the top right of your screen.


And then hit ‘Continue’.


Congratulations, you’re all set and ready to go. Party time.

Facebook will review your advert and send you a notification when it’s live.

How To Download Your Leads

Once your advert has been running for 24 hours or so, you will be able to download your leads. You can do this in the Adverts Manager. Click on your Ad Campaign and then go into your Ad Set. Then, under Results, you can click the icon to download a list of subscribers.


When you do this, a box will open up and you can select the date range you want to download. The file is in CSV format. Once you’re happy with your date range, just hit Download.


Job done.

The Results You Can Expect From Lead Generation Adverts

At the time of writing, I’d been running this advert for 2 weeks.

Here are the results:

  • Email leads acquired = 114
  • Reach = 5,213
  • Cost per lead = £0.60
  • Total cost = £68.54
  • Relevance = 6



So, I have 114 new people on my email list.

My advert has been served 5,213 times. Because of the size of the audience I’ve selected, I still have around 185,000 Facebook users to serve the advert to. Blimey. If I hit all of them and get the same signup rate I’ve experienced so far, with this audience I’ll gain over 4,300 new email subscribers at a cost of around £2,600. If I can convert them into customers, that’s good value for money.

The average cost per lead is £0.60. On some days, this is as low as £0.38. On other days it’s as high as £1. Over time, I’ll experiment further to try and get the cost per lead down so it’s consistently below £0.50.

I’ve spent £68.54. My budget is set at £5 a day max. If I up this, I’ll acquire emails more quickly. I’ll do this when I’ve experimented further and reduced the cost per lead.

My relevance score is currently 6. The basic gist of relevance scores is that 1 is bad and 10 is fabulous. The closer you get to 10, the cheaper your cost per lead as Facebook will display your ad more often for a lower price because it’s performing well, giving a good user experience.

Your ad is given a relevance score after it has been displayed to users 500 times. It’s calculated based on how people interact with the advert – likes, comments, shares, sign ups etc. The more people interact, the better. You can learn more about relevance scores here.

Now, I’ve found that after 500 impressions I’ve always received a low score. For example, this ad started off with a relevance score of 2. I asked Anna about this in my phone consultation. She advised that you need to run an ad for at least a month to allow Facebook to gather enough data to make the relevance score accurate. With this advert, the score has crept up every few days. Yesterday, it was 5. This morning when I logged on, it was 6. During that time, I haven’t altered the advert at all.

How To Convert Email Subscribers Into Customers

My book is called ‘How to Write a Short Story, Get Published & Make Money’. It uses my own published short stories as case studies that clearly show the reader how the advice in the book was used in practice to achieve publishing success. Writing competition judges and magazine editors have contributed to the book, making it unique and valuable to anyone starting out in writing.


Every resource on my website gives the user an opportunity to discover the page about the book and order a free sample. This works very well and I receive anywhere from 1-20 free sample requests a day. My email list grows and the free sample tells the user how to buy the whole book, if they like the taster. You can take a look at the page about the book here.

From these figures, you can see that the power of organic leads is fantastic. And they cost £0. I’m fortunate – my site receives a lot of traffic via the free resources it offers (currently just shy of 20,000 visits a month). However, I’m still investigating paid adverts. Why? To grow the business at the rate I want to, I need exposure to Facebook’s humongous audience.

So, once people are signed up to my email list, I send out discount codes. I prefer to avoid being too salesy, so these codes are always accompanied by links to free resources or news on short story competitions etc. The recipient isn’t just receiving sales gumf – they’re also receiving something they’ll value free of charge. They simply have the opportunity to buy from me at a cheaper price should they want to. Or they can buy the book on Amazon, which many people prefer as they trust the brand.

Does this approach work? Yes. It’s quite hard to measure accurately as most of my books are sold on Amazon and CreateSpace, which makes the sales path pretty much impossible to track. However, month on month, my overall sales figures are going up, proving my marketing efforts are working. They wouldn’t be going up on their own.


As you can see, Facebook advertising oozes potential.

Remember, I’ve only been experimenting with lead generation adverts for 2 weeks. I’m already getting some great results.

Facebook’s audience is huge. It’s targeted. It’s all kinds of awesome and keeps getting better all the time with updates. Why not try it yourself?

I hope you found this post useful. I’ll do my best to respond to any comments in a timely manner.


  1. John S. Thomas on May 21, 2019 at 12:22 pm

    Hello Chris. Such a nice explanation of Using Facebook ads to get Email subscriptions. This will also help me to know about the Facebook relevance score. Thank you for sharing this amazing article.

  2. Dani Elle on March 10, 2018 at 8:58 am

    Hi do you know if the emails from the lead ads go straight to your mailchimp or klavio or whatever you use account? Or do you have to regularly download the csv file from ads manager and upload it to your email program? Because i wondered if it matters if theres a few days between sending out the thankyou for signing up email, due to lags in me getting the csv file integrated into Klavio.

  3. Michael Miller on January 18, 2018 at 8:13 pm

    Hi @christopherfielden, I am trying to use lead generation forms to get email subscribers as a musician but having a heck of a time with it. I am offering free music to everyone who signs up but I’m not sure my ads are made well enough. Would you be willing to help me create an effective ad for getting email subscribers?

    • Christopher Fielden on January 18, 2018 at 9:13 pm

      Hi Michael. I’m afraid I’m swamped with other projects, so working on ads with people is not something I can offer to do, sorry. The best advice is to try trial and error. Try a variety of ads, targeted at people who like music similar to that which you produce. Then see which users interact with. Sorry I cannot be of more help, but I wish you the best of luck with your ads and experimenting with them! Cheers, Chris

      • Michael Miller on January 18, 2018 at 9:31 pm

        Thanks for the response Chris. If you find any open time in the near future and can help let me know. I can gladly pay you for your services if you can help me with my ads

        • Christopher Fielden on January 18, 2018 at 9:49 pm

          No problem, Michael. Sure, I’ll let you know if any time becomes available! Cheers, Chris

  4. Michael Miller on January 18, 2018 at 8:13 pm

    Hi Chris, I am trying to use lead generation forms to get email subscribers as a musician but having a heck of a time with it. I am offering free music to everyone who signs up but I’m not sure my ads are made well enough. Would you be willing to help me create an effective ad for getting email subscribers?

    • Christopher Fielden on January 18, 2018 at 9:13 pm

      Hi Michael. I’m afraid I’m swamped with other projects, so working on ads with people isn’t something I can offer to do, sorry. The best advice is to try trial and error. Try a variety of ads, targeted at people who like music similar to that which you produce. Then see which users interact with. Sorry I can’t be of more help, but I wish you the best of luck with your ads and experimenting with them! Cheers, Chris

      • Michael Miller on January 18, 2018 at 9:31 pm

        Thanks for the response Chris. If you find any open time in the near future and can help let me know. I can gladly pay you for your services if you can help me with my ads

        • Christopher Fielden on January 18, 2018 at 9:49 pm

          No problem, Michael. Sure, I’ll let you know if any time becomes available! Cheers, Chris

  5. Micah Brooks on August 18, 2016 at 10:45 am

    Very nice article. Do you feel like these email addresses acquired are going to be longterm, valuable leaders or people only interested in free stuff? I know that just because we have email addresses on a list doesn’t necessarily mean we will acquire good customers. I’d be interested to know if everyone has found this to be a financially good investment or not. Great article none the less.

    • Dave Chesson on August 18, 2016 at 3:31 pm

      Hi Micah. Those are great questions. The truth is, an email is only as good as you use it. A mistake many people do is that they focus on ‘getting the email’ but once they have them, they have no idea what to do with them. Worse off, because they haven’t preconditioned the new email lead into what to expect, the email lead is just as confused and becomes no longer interested.

      So, if you focus on gaining email leads, make sure you have a plan on out to keep them interested, and in the first email develop an understand of what they can expect in following emails. Personally, I like to mention something immediately that says “if that doesn’t interest you, then go ahead and click the unsubscribe button below and enjoy the free (whatever).”

  6. Eric Z on June 23, 2016 at 9:18 am

    Awesome post Christopher! My experience with Lead ads has also been great. However I am adding 1 thing now: I found the “tap tap done” experience to be too easy, and getting a lot of unqualified leads and freebie seekers. Out of 300+ sign ups, 7% are bad because their FB email is wrong, and – well freebie seekers. So the first mail I send to the tap-tap-clicker is a “qualifier” in which they do NOT get the freebie, they gotta read the mail first before they get anything.

    • Christopher Fielden on June 23, 2016 at 1:14 pm

      Thanks, Eric, that’s great advice. I’ll try that myself. Cheers, Chris

      • Michael Miller on January 18, 2018 at 9:02 pm

        Hi Chris, I am trying to use lead generation forms to get email subscribers as a musician but having a heck of a time with it. I am offering free music to everyone who signs up but I’m not sure my ads are made well enough. Would you be willing to help me create an effective ad for getting email subscribers?

    • pattyloof on June 23, 2016 at 1:20 pm

      Can you explain more about this first email? What sort of qualifier do you use?

      • Christopher Fielden on June 23, 2016 at 2:02 pm

        Patty – it’s a feature in MailChimp (or whatever email provider you’re using). You send an email to the person’s inbox once they have signed up. They then have to verify their email by clicking on the link you have sent them, a bit like you would with banking, shopping, or other websites that require your email address. It shows added security for the user and qualifies them as a real person for your purposes. Cheers, Chris

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Hey Guys, I’m Dave and when I am not sipping tea with princesses or chasing the Boogey man out of closets, I’m a Kindlepreneur and digital marketing nut – it’s my career, hobby, and passion.


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