Why having a Facebook author page for your book is (mostly) useless

Not facebook not like thumbs down 300x256 Why having a Facebook author page for your book is (mostly) uselessYou’re writing a book. You want to make sure you do the marketing part right so people know about it, buy it and read it (so that they can rave and tell their friends about it). You know having a “Social Media Strategy” is important, so you might be thinking about setting up a special Facebook page for your book (or for You, The Author).

But that’s mostly likely not going to work.

Facebook is mostly a giant black hole, and it’s not going to do anything for you in the way of book sales.

At least, unless you do the things I’m going to share in this article.

Why does Facebook suck for marketing?

Let’s start with an understanding of why Facebook is so bad for book marketing. Maybe it wasn’t always. Things have been changing. But Facebook is still primarily used to interact with people you know and see what they’ve been up to at a glance. It’s a place to share fun, interesting stuff with each other.

It’s not a place you want to find strangers trying to get you to look at stuff. Sure, there are those ads up there, but who looks at those?

So here’s the first reason:

#1: Facebook is for fans, not strangers

If someone knows you or reads your book and likes it, getting them to join your Facebook page means they can follow you – so that you can reach them later when you have a new book out, for example. But you don’t market to fans. They’ve already read your book. If you only have one book, what else are you going to talk about? If you keep talking about that one book that they already read, they aren’t going to stick around; they’ll soon block your content.

So while a Facebook can be effective for interacting with fans and getting them to know and like your brand, it doesn’t really help you reach new readers.

#2: Asking people to “like” your page is annoying.

Seriously – and ineffective. You could be asking them to write a review, or join your email list. But really, why should they? You shouldn’t be asking them for anything (if they’re strangers). You should be being awesome and sharing awesome content. If you ask for something, make it fun and cool – and reward them with a prize or something. Make it drop dead easy. Don’t ask people to do you any favors, even something as easy as joining a Facebook page. Why should they? What do they get?

#3: Negative social proof

“Social Proof” means that people will like and trust you more if they see a lot of other people like and trust you. But when you start, for a long time, you’re going to have less than 100 likes on your Facebook page. So everybody you invite to your Facebook page will see you don’t have many friends or followers and will assume you’re no big deal, or unprofessional or a small-fry. It’s difficult to get over that 100 hump. And when you do, it will take ages to get over the 1000-like hump. And most strangers won’t take you seriously even if you have a few hundred likes. So sending people to your Facebook page can actually be disadvantageous!

#4: Facebook is utterly useless anyway

I’ve tried lots of Facebook pages and kept about 5.

The one I mainly use (besides my personal account) is for this blog: www.facebook.com/Creativindie

Right now it’s got 777 followers. Incidentally that’s about how much blog traffic I get in one day.

I also have an email list for authors and other creatives – there several thousand people on it.

When I publish a new blog post, people find it and share it (I usually don’t promote it myself on Twitter or Facebook because that’s annoying).

But I’ll retweet if someone else shares it, and if it’s good content, somebody will.

My Tweets get posted on my Facebook page.

If I find good content on Facebook, I share it on my Facebook page. Sometimes I’ll add in an especially good blog post.

On average, out of 777 people, less than 5 people see anything I post on Facebook.

This is because everybody has lots of friends and follows or likes lots of stuff. There isn’t room for Facebook to display everything from everybody. So they show you what they guess you will like, based on past behavior.

(I think it also depends on whether people Follow you or something, “liking” isn’t enough… but Facebook settings feel like advanced Calculus right now.)

But the point is, as of now (March 2014) almost none of the people who liked my page ever see any of my content.

Reasons why you might want to use Facebook anyway

But that doesn’t mean I’m quitting Facebook altogether.

There are still some pretty cool things you can do that justify having a Facebook page

#1. Boosted Posts

facebook 800x575 Why having a Facebook author page for your book is (mostly) useless

In the above image, most posts got seen by a few people. The bright orange one I boosted so that over 7,000 people saw it.

When you post content to your page, you’ll be asked whether you want to “Boost Post.”

Yes, it means you’re basically paying to contact your own followers, which kind of sucks. But if they’re interested in the content, it may be worth it. Something else that’s interesting, the more people like or share your content, the less you are paying for boosted exposure (you boost it to get started, people love it, so Facebook starts promoting it naturally without charging).

You can also target specific types of people and have it display on their feeds.

For example, I write a legal-thriller, and I post content about my book giveaway, and I target people who liked “The Pelican Brief.” For as little as $15, I can put that material in front of thousands of people.

The trick however, is that this doesn’t work with advertisements.

If your content is promotional or salesy, it will probably fail. You need to make something cool or noteworthy. Share your most amazing blog post, not your book. Share a funny image and a question and ask for feedback. Your goal should be engagement, not sales. (This is basically what I did for a post I wrote a while back on the Life of Walter Mitty. I just targeted people who had liked the movie. At first, nothing happened, but several days after I promoted it, it started to get shared more and more. I had about 100,000 people visit my blog in 3 days – so many I had to upgrade my hosting).

Another easy trick for engagement is to have a prize contest. Ask a question like “Who is your favorite literary heroine ever – respond in the comments to win a Kindle Fire!” A boosted post like this will get a ton of interaction.

I just put one up for some signed copies of Hugh Howey’s Dust as an example. For $15 it reached over a thousand new people; got about 25 comments and got my page 10 more likes.

dust2 Why having a Facebook author page for your book is (mostly) useless

Of course, that engagement and interaction isn’t worth much if you don’t make a connection with those people; if I only had a book or author page it would seem more like self-promotion and people would be less likely to follow me. The key is – I’m giving away something of value without getting anything back: I’m happy to promote Hugh’s books and make a few of his fans happy. All I get is some social karma. It makes my halo shine a little more. If you think that doesn’t matter, you need to understand that people have to like and trust you before they’ll listen to anything you say.

I might do this 10 times a year, and people will view me and my brand in a positive light; so they’ll be more likely to respond if I ever have a book or promotion or something.

#2. Why you need a Group/Community

Making a page about you or your book is too limited. People “like” stuff that says something about themselves. They don’t want to share or promote you. They want to join a group with common interests. So making a “Community of legal thriller authors” or “people who love peanut butter” would be more effective than just a page about yourself. If you build a reputation for providing quality content, or you have an “about” section that resonates with people, they may like your page or follow you. If your page is about you or the book, the only relevant content is you or the book, and that’s not great for engagement.

#3. Advertising

Facebook ads are not a bad deal. Unlike “Boosted Posts” it’s OK to be flagrantly salesy. They’re ads. Everybody knows what they’re for. Do the best you can to get (the right kind of) people to click. You could lead people back to your website or Amazon page, but it’s cheaper to send them to a Facebook page. So for example, you could have a free giveaway for people who join your list or like your page, set up the ad to tell people about the deal, lead them to your Facebook page (paying less for the advertising), and get them to sign up or like – you can use Facebook apps (the tabs at the top of your page, under the header) for these functions.

But still…

Those are some ways Facebook can be made more useful for book marketing… but more powerful ways are probably sharing your book link on a bunch of different groups and pages (yes you’re spamming, but just do it once and try to be genuine – apologize to the moderator if you have to).

But the takeaway point is that Social Media isn’t for marketing or promotion. People don’t want to be harassed about your book when they’re catching up on the lives of their friends and family. You’re in the wrong place, using the wrong medium. What you need to do is find the place people who like your kind of books hang out and look for/talk about books (like Goodreads).

And even then, book marketing in general is pretty much a waste of time (hence my book, “Book Marketing is Dead.”

Find a way to be the story, to press a source of conflict or controversy, to connect your knowledge with Something Big people are already paying attention to. Forget about your big, think of ways to produce the kind of content that people share – focus on entertainment, education, enlightenment, philanthropy.

Think of big picture, world-changing stories of motivation and inspiration. That’s where you need to be. Your book is just an incidental, just the byline to your name after the article. Don’t make it the whole meal.

Finally – remember that you always want to ask the people you come in contact with to take action. Something very easy. But you don’t want to ask them to do a ton of stuff. From your website, I’d focus on getting them to sign up to your email list, in which case showing a Facebook like button is a distraction (I know, I know, I’m breaking this rule on this blog… I’m not very professional). Try to get them to do one thing and make it worth their while. It’s your job to tell them why they should… (like, click, share, join, etc).

The best way to organize your Facebook Author page

One of the best Facebook Author pages I’ve seen is Ramona Flightner’s. 

If you’re going to make an Author Fan page (may be a good idea if you have lots of books, and it’s better than not having anything…) take a look at hers for inspiration.

A very simple “About” section with the email link above the fold (if you have too much text, the link won’t display or be clickable, so it has to be up high… you can write more down after the link).

Apps for an email signup, Pinterest and Goodreads.

ramona 800x335 Why having a Facebook author page for your book is (mostly) useless

A smiling selfie (I even like the contrast of that bold blue top she’s wearing and the pink flowers).

Finally she’s using quotes from her book as large image files under “Photos” – that’s an easy and powerful way to take advantage of Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook posts. You want these to be really well designed but you could hire someone on Fiverr.com to make them cheap.

(All content gets shared more when it has a picture. Add a picture to everything you do.)

Got any other Facebook tips? Please share in the comments!

About Derek Murphy

I help authors and artists turn their passions into full-time businesses, make a bigger impact, and blaze a luminous trail of creative independence. Right now I'm in Taiwan finishing a PHD in Literature, writing several books, and managing a handful of online businesses. Find me