Tips for creating great ads for social

Rob Chilver and Kate Neilan

When planning an ad campaign via Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, one of the most important factors in converting “impressions” (views of your advert) to click-throughs is the image you use.

In this blogpost, we’ll share some principles of great social ad design, as well as some helpful free tools you can use, to make sure your ad images look professional and eye-catching for your target audience.

1 - Start with the book cover

The design of your book cover should always be your starting point when creating your ad images. When creating the cover, you will have thought about your target audience and what will appeal to them: use this as a template or style guide for your ads. Having a consistent ‘look’ based on two or three main colours for the background and writing, and a clear, easy-to-read font, will make your adverts more memorable and will mean people are more likely to recognise them and click through.


2 - Optimise your images

This sounds complicated but simply means you should design your ad images to fit the platform you’re running your ads on. Wrongly sized images will look out of place and off-putting to people browsing through. This is especially obvious on Twitter, where text is often cut off because the image is too large to be fully displayed.

Sprout Social have a great free-to-view guide that is always up to date, showing how large images should be for best viewing across all main social media:

They also have a guide to video sizes if you’re considering using a GIF or a ‘book trailer’ (

LM - Image - Example of Book Ad.png

3 - Looking great doesn’t have to be expensive

There’s no need to spend hundreds of pounds on a license for Photoshop and a design course these days. There are a host of tools which are easy to use and free or cheap to access, and will allow you to create professional-looking images for maximum impact.

Sprout Social lists 39 tools on their blog ( and they’re right that Canva is the most versatile and useful ( Canva comes already full of useful templates set up to match the image sizes on Facebook, Instagram, Instagram Stories, and Twitter. You can choose a preset colour scheme or create your own, import images - for example, your book cover - from your photo roll and add to your design, and save the images you create, ready to email or upload to your ad manager. I really like the feature that allows you to create a layout and save multiple versions of an image with updated text; it’s an easy way to create a set of “quote cards”.

Nice example of a YA ad - no copy at all.jpg
LM - Example of book ad on Twitter - very nice.jpg

4 - Use your images to tell a story

Facebook, Instagram and Twitter all now have the capability to create a carousel ad e.g. uploading multiple images which the viewer can scroll through. This is the perfect way to ‘tell a story’ about your book.

There are two great ways to use this feature. First, you could showcase great quotes you or your book have received from early readers or for previous books e.g.

Image 1: ‘I loved it’ - Karen, NetGalley reviewer

Image 2: ‘A really gripping read’ - Matt, Amazon reviewer

Image 3: ‘Couldn’t put it down!’ - Emma, Goodreads reviewer

Image 4: Your book cover and a ‘call to action’ such as BUY IT NOW

Another interesting way to use this feature is to share a key detail or question about the book, to make people curious. This works especially well with books that have a mystery or dilemma such as crime or romance e.g.

Image 1: ‘Jane thought she had it all...’

Image 2: ‘but a chance encounter with an old flame...”

Images 3: ‘makes her wonder: am I really happy?’

Image 4: Your book cover and a ‘call to action’ such as BUY IT NOW

LM - Nice ad with quotes - Damian Barr.jpg
LM - Julian Stockwin example social with review quote.png
LM - Image - Nice ad for a book with lots of quotes.jpg

5 - Stick to the rules

Facebook has very strict guidelines about how much text you are allowed to include in your ad image. Images must be no more than 20% text by area, and this includes the words on a book cover. Before uploading your ad images to Facebook Ad Manager, check them with this tool:

It will flag up whether your ads are likely to be rejected. Unless you get a ‘green’ all-clear, consider reducing the amount of text by making the font smaller or shortening the quote you’re using. If your image comes back ‘amber’, your ad may run initially and then be rejected later, wasting time while you adjust it later.