Guest Expert: Laurel Marshfield
This year, Facebook topped 550 million members. If it were a country, Facebook would be the third largest in the world (ahead of the United States, in fourth place with a mere 309 million).
Impressive numbers, but why should that interest authors – interest you as an author? Here’s why.
If only a tenth of a relatively small percentage of all “Facebookians” became your loyal readers, you could easily attain the Ultimate Author Dream: Writing the books you most want to, while netting the royalties associated with authors who are mega famous.
Maybe you’d like to know, right about now, what the basic guidelines for attracting readers on the biggest social networking site in the world are?
You Have to Play to Play
If you don’t already have one, set up a “profile page” – a basic Facebook account. Simply go to www.facebook.com and fill in the requested information (realize that you must christen your profile page with your real name – a Facebook rule; if you need to differentiate your page from all the other Jane or John Smiths on the site, use a middle name or middle initial).
Once you have a profile account, you’ve earned the right to create a “fan page.” That’s where you’ll stage the serious book promotion designed to attract your new readers. (Quick aside: you can create as many fan pages as you want, but you only get one profile page — in the same way that you only get one name.) Go to http://www.facebook.com/pages/create.php to set up your fan page, or pages.
Profile Page, Fan Page, What’s the Difference?
Your profile page is for friends — for fun. But only 5,000 people can “Friend” you, or join your page and get your status updates in their Facebook feed. Your fan page is for fans, readers, clients — for business. An unlimited number of people can “Like” you, with the same result as above. There are, however, some areas of overlap, and your profile page can and will draw potential readers, too.
To see how the differences play out, let’s explore the Facebook world of author and attraction coach, Eva Gregory. Esteemed in her field, she’s written two books, one of them with Jack Canfield of Chicken Soup for the Soul fame. (Another quick aside: the Facebook pages of famous authors aren’t particularly helpful, as they’re either maintained by their publishers – see Dan Brown, or they only contain a Wikipedia profile – see Jodi Picoult. But Gregory’s pages are instructive.) Here’s her profile page: http://www.facebook.com/evagregory ; and here’s her fan page: http://www.facebook.com/evagregoryfan (notice how she finds a way to use her name for both pages while making the difference clear; yet she’s still playing by Facebook’s rules).
If you go to the Info tab on Gregory’s Profile page, you’ll see a multi-paragraph description of her background, her service offerings, her books and programs, and her several businesses. You would not be amiss to wonder what all that has to do with “fun” and “friends.” But this is where that aforementioned overlap between the two pages resides. (Also note that, like everyone else with a Facebook profile page, Gregory’s nearly 5,000 “Friends” are most likely not friends in the usual sense, but in the social networking sense.)
Now, if you click over to Gregory’s fan page, you’ll see an immediate difference in both design and approach. A first-time visitor will enter through a Welcome page, and will be greeted with a pitch video, an ezine signup form, and a big, bold logo. You know right away that this page is about business – a friendly sort of business – but still, those profile page lists of interests and favorite movies are gone. In their place, you get a guided tour of Gregory’s many, many offerings.
Why Bother with Facebook When You’ve Got a Site?
It may seem odd that Gregory has established her presence so solidly on Facebook when — as you may remember from the Info tab of her profile page — she has three websites. Well, here’s why it’s not redundant, why it’s actually new territory. Facebook is where the people are. More people, in fact, than the entire population of the United States. Optimistically speaking, up to half of them could be readers. Being able to access that many potential book buyers in one place offers a huge advantage to any author — one that has never been available before. How can you make the most of it?
Finding Readers on Facebook
Scroll up to the top of any Facebook screen and you’ll see a Search box. To find potential readers, type in keywords like “Self-Help Author,” “Mystery Author,” and “YA Author” — based on your book genre or niche. Then try the plural and singular variations of other author- and book-related words. The results may appear erratic, at first, following as they do some arcane algorithm beyond the interest level of most bookish types. But you’ll eventually find authors who interest you. When you do, “Like” their fan pages and send them a friendly message about anything you may have in common. They may or may not “Like” you back, but keep at it.
Next, search for like-minded groups on Facebook — using such keywords as “Author Groups,” “Mystery Book Groups,” “Children’s Book Groups,” and a nearly infinite number of others. Join the conversation in the groups that attract you, make some connections, and you’ll begin building your potential-reader base. True, it won’t happen overnight, unless you’re already well-known. But, gradually, you’ll accumulate a following on Facebook – especially if you add new, interesting content to your fan page each week, while participating in the groups you’ve joined.
So, we’re back to our original question. Is it better to have readers who “Like” you, or readers who “Friend” you?
Readers may be readers, but it’s still better to encourage those for whom you are primarily an author to join your fan page. You can have an unlimited number of fans there, and you can promote your work in a way that’s not at all “indirect.”
Laurel Marshfield is a professional writer, developmental editor, and ghostwriter who helps authors shape, develop, and refine their book manuscripts for publication. She offers manuscript evaluation, developmental editing, co-writing, collaboration, ghostwriting, book coaching, and consultation for authors.
Her blogsite publishes inspiration and advice for the author’s journey: Blue Horizon Communications And her free eBook, available for newsletter signup (see the upper right-hand corner of her homepage) is titled: I Need to Be a Bestselling Author – Is That True?: The Five-Destination Roadmap to Authorship.
On Twitter, you can find her at: @BookEditorLM