Authors – How to make Facebook work for you

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I have recently been talking with an author friend who is disillusioned with Facebook and feels there are better ways to market his novels.

That maybe so, but I truly believe that for free promotion Facebook is easily the best marketing tool on the Internet. Sure the annoying popups reminding you that for an additional cost you can reach a bigger audience are annoying, but trust me, you do not need to pay. If you’re prepared to put in the time and effort, Facebook will work for you, the same as it is working for me.

Here are my six rules.

Don’t force your books on people

Some authors are relentless. All I see is ‘Buy my book, you won’t regret it’ repeated again and again. Sure, post the occasional reminder, maybe share when you receive a four or five star review, but don’t keep ramming your work down people’s throats.  They know you are a writer and that you have books to promote and if they’re following your page it’s because they want to know what you’re up to, not continually be bombarded with relentless sales pleas. Look at the pages of celebrities who are prolific on Facebook like Ricky Gervais and Jason Manford. They have things to promote, but they are not constantly reminding you with every post that you must buy their latest work, and let’s face it, if they were you would probably stop following them, because it’s not what you want to see.

Mix it up

Don’t post the same type of thing day in, day out. You will always go through peaks and lulls with your audience, but most loyal followers will keep an eye on your page. Keep them updated with what is happening with your work. Tell them how sales are going and if you’re meeting with a book club or doing some other kind of promotional engagement, talk about it. Let people know where you are off to and afterwards how it went. But don’t keep it all about the book. Post interesting pictures and quotes about writing in general. And try to inject some humour into your updates. I post about my family, my cats, my love for wine, my gripes with life (in a lighthearted way to make people smile, as no one wants to listen to a moaner), and anything witty that happens during my day. Think about what you’re putting on your page and whether it would engage you if you were the reader. If it would, post it.

Don’t give snippets away

When I was about half way through Dead Write I sought advice on whether to post a passage from the book to whet appetites. While the decision was left in my hands, I decided against it after it was pointed out to me that bestselling authors such as JK Rowling don’t reveal snippets of their work before the release of the book and that it comes across as rather amateurish – like, look at me and what I managed to write today – rather than engaging your readers. They want the finished product, not snippets, so make them wait and give the book to them in its entirety.

Post regularly

I cannot stress the importance of this enough. If you post once or twice a week you are going to have far fewer page views than if you post every single day. We all have other commitments in our lives, social, family, work and of course writing, but if you want people to engage and interact on your page you need to make time to post frequently. You don’t need to say a lot, but let people know you are there. Post every single day and at least two or three times a day if possible.

When I went on holiday last summer I switched off from writing for 10 days, only to return to find the people interacting with my author page had dropped from over 100 to about 5. This then had a knock on effect to the number of people who were viewing my posts. I don’t regret switching off while I was away because we all need to have a break from social media, and I would do it again, but be prepared for the harsh truth. A week away is enough time to knock you almost back down to zero and it takes longer – a couple of weeks to a month – to get you back on top.

I have a personal Facebook account, but other than to exchange private emails with friends and family, I rarely use it. Instead I have concentrated on my author page and over the last few months I have made an effort to post to it almost every day and when possible several times a day to make sure I am constantly in people’s faces. It pays. My average post view is around the 200 mark, but plenty are much higher and I’ve had posts hit almost 3,000 views.

Engage with your audience and be human

I love interacting with anyone who posts to my page, so this bit is easy for me. The people who follow my updates are great fun, they make me laugh, they encourage and support me, and I feel I have made so many new friends. Regardless of how your audience is, don’t ignore them. Without your page followers you are nothing. If someone takes the trouble to comment on one of your posts, acknowledge this. I have seen far too many author pages where a post is made and then there is no further interaction from the author. Like any conversation it’s a two way thing, so get down off your lofty pedestal and be nice.

Increase sales by asking people to post share

I know some authors are sceptical about whether marketing on social sites can lead to sales. I am not one of them. I still have my doubts about Twitter, as once you post it has already disappeared off the page of most of your followers, but Facebook can definitely increase sales and I know people I have met through my page, who had never heard of me before, have gone on to buy my book after engaging in my updates. Asking friends and followers to share links, especially when you have a new book out for sale, is also effective and I know I gained a lot of sales this way when Dead Letter Day was first released.

So the bottom line is this, Facebook is a great marketing tool, but if you want it to work, you need to put in a lot of effort. Yes, at times it is hard, but it can also be a lot of fun, and I promise you it will be worth it.