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