Will Worsley

How I Faced Down Facebook

In February 2021, I published my second novel, The Cougar Candidate, a comedy about a delusional female candidate for president who becomes infatuated with a young reporter snooping into her sex scandals. The story is entirely fictional, and despite the racy title there is not a word of erotica in it. The cover is innocent enough, showing a woman’s hand grasping a campaign button with the book’s title imprinted on it. Below that are the words “A Novel” and “Will Worsley.” That’s it—not a shred of truth or porn in the whole thing. Who could object to such an innocuous yarn?

When The Cougar Candidate launched, my Facebook ad was all primed and ready to go. It had a simple design: my cover alongside a photograph of the White House. A red banner with white letters proclaimed tantalizingly, “She wants the presidency, and young Jack too.” Above the graphic was a tagline in bold letters that read, “A bumbling female politician has a secret craving. The boyish reporter bent on exposing it could be her next victim.”

As soon as the book went live, I started running my ad, which initially got a very respectable 5-8% click-through rate. According to Facebook’s data reports, older women—the prime cougar demographic—were especially receptive to my farcical story. I had high hopes for strong sales to this crowd.

Alas, that was when my troubles with Facebook began. Within days, without warning, its system sent me an email—no doubt generated by some officious algorithm or ill-tempered bot—informing me that my little ad had violated Facebook’s recently instituted policy banning ads concerning politics or social issues. I had heard about this policy, but never imagined that it would affect my book launch.

On the email there was a button I could click to appeal Facebook’s decision. I appealed, of course, pointing out that my ad was for a mere novel. Within a day or so, I received another email, this one granting my ad a stay of execution. All was well, I thought. Some human with common sense must have intervened and overruled Facebook’s computers, which for all their wizardry seemed unable to distinguish a satirical novel from a serious political message.

But the machines weren’t done with me. They soon fired off another email, reinstating the ban. I appealed as before, and once more Facebook relented. We repeated this ban-and-appeal routine several more times. I must have used up my quota of complaints, because Facebook’s system then treated me as an unrepentant troublemaker and rejected my ad outright, leaving no opportunity for due process. Facebook’s emails were obdurate: I must change my ad to comply with its policy. But there was no way to comply. Even if I deleted the White House photo, I couldn’t change the book’s title or cover at this late stage. No editing of my ad could conceal the truth: The Cougar Candidate does involve politics. It has politicians in it, after all. But crazy ones, you understand. Not like those you see in the real world.

Thinking I had no alternative, I gave up on Facebook ads and redirected my modest marketing budget to Amazon, which had not yet imposed any such prohibitions.

Two months passed. One day, a cheerful email landed in my inbox, from someone named Lara, a self-styled Facebook Marketing Expert:

Hi William,

I’m Lara, from the Facebook Marketing Expert team. Wanted to start off by welcoming and congratulating you on starting your journey with Facebook Ads.

To help make your next ad your best yet, I wanted to let you know that Will Worsley is eligible for a unique package of benefits for new advertisers:

  • One-on-one guidance to help with your ads or answer any questions you may have.
  • Personalized support to help you achieve your unique business goals.
  • Complementary ad credits if Will Worsley qualifies.

There’s no preparation required. Our team is available to connect with you Monday through Friday.

Lara, Facebook Marketing Expert 

Facebook’s algorithms were clearly wondering why Will Worsley wasn’t spending more money on ads, and had unintentionally thrown me a lifeline in the form of an actual human contact. Lara was not only promising help, she was a marketing expert! Eager to make her acquaintance, I clicked on the button that read “Connect Now.” That took me to a place where I could enter my phone number. Presumably, Lara would call me. Naturally, the Facebook Marketing Expert would try to encourage me to spend more money on Facebook ads. I would make Lara understand that I had yearned for months to do just that, and would have—if only Facebook hadn’t banned my ads.

After a few minutes, the phone rang. It was not Lara the Facebook Marketing Expert, but a guy named Christopher. I’m ashamed to admit that I unloaded on the poor fellow, bellowing into the phone: “The Cougar Candidate is a NOVEL, okay? A funny novel about a totally made-up weirdo politician with a thing for young guys. Not like any politician alive today!” I recounted what had happened and told him that we had nothing to discuss until Facebook unconditionally removed its ban and allowed me to advertise my book. Christopher, who could see the whole sorry history of my fruitless appeals on his screen, surrendered at once, conceding that a dreadful mistake had been made. Novels weren’t supposed to fall under the axe of Facebook’s pitiless no-politics policy. He would refer my problem to someone higher up.

A few minutes later, I received an email from someone named Akshay, Facebook Concierge. Although the message was addressed to “Christarpher,” I deduced that it was actually intended for me:

Hi Christarpher,

Hope you are doing well!! Thank you for contacting Facebook Concierge. My name is Akshay and I will be assisting you further today.

I understand how important is to keep the control of your business and I am happy to help you. We will work together to better approach this situation.

I have escalated the issue to our specialized team for review. As a next step, you can expect a call or email from when there is an update on your case using the contact information you provided. For these types of cases we usually expect a turnaround time of 48-72hrs but it may take longer. If any information is needed regarding this issue prior to the update being sent, please feel free to email back in with your case ID and we’ll be more than happy to provide additional assistance.

But rest assured I will contact you as soon as I hear from my internal team.

Thank you for your understanding. Thanks again for contacting Facebook Concierge. Have a great day.

Kind Regards,

Akshay, Facebook Concierge

My issue escalated to a specialized team! Things were looking up. Now I was to receive concierge service. Akshay was going to bat for me within the Facebook hierarchy. Within days, my case would be in the hands of someone with real power, the sort of organizational clout it must take to okay an ad for a purely fictional tale about a nutty politician (who, I assure you, bears absolutely no resemblance to anyone in our world). Maybe Mark Zuckerberg himself would intercede on my behalf. My hopes rose once more.

As it happened, I didn’t have to wait 48-72 hours for Akshay to come through for me. Twenty-six minutes later, I received—or, more accurately, Christarpher did—word that my problem had been solved:

Hi Christarpher,

I hope you’re doing well, I have great news! I want to inform you, Christarpher, that the ads were incorrectly classified as ads that is about social issues, elections or politics. After a review, it has been now approved.

I hope I was able to resolve your issue.

If there is anything else I can help you with, please get back to me on this email or submit another ticket via our Help Centre Resources page.

It was our pleasure to assist you!

Oh, by the way, you will be getting a survey regarding my service. If you could please answer those questions, it would mean so much to me!

Thank you for being the best part of our Facebook Family and contacting Facebook Concierge Support. Have a great day!

Kind regards,

Akshay, Facebook | Concierge Support

A minute later, Akshay sent me (a.k.a. Christarpher) a feedback survey to fill out so that Facebook would know how I grateful I was about the marvelous job Akshay had done:

Hi Christarpher,

It’s important for us to know whether we are doing a good job. I’d love to hear your feedback about your support experience. If you have a moment, please take this 15 second survey.

Also, be sure to bookmark this page, so you can contact us again in the future.

All the Best,


Global Marketing Solutions Team, Facebook

Thinking I had at least won a skirmish in my struggle with the tech giant, I logged back onto Facebook’s system and recreated the same ad that had started all this. Hours later, I received another email, and my heart sank to my shoes. My new ad, although identical to the first one, had been rejected!

But this time Facebook had made a strategic blunder. It had left me a way to reach out. I simply needed to repeat the whole Sisyphean appeal cycle all over again, starting at the bottom of the hill with Lara the Facebook Marketing Expert. Sure enough, yet another placating email from Akshay turned up in my inbox overnight, informing me that once more my ad had been approved.

Somehow I don’t think that’s the end of this story.

Now comes the question of what to do about Akshay’s 15-second survey. I’ve been holding it hostage in my inbox, undecided about how to respond. Yes, I may regard Facebook with a smoldering rage, but I can’t deny that Akshay did come through for me (and Christarpher) in true concierge style, not just once but twice. I guess I’ll give him five stars.

(To get your copy of The Cougar Candidate, click here.)