Love it or hate it, there’s no doubt that Facebook is an integral part of our lives these days – which is why writers can’t really afford to ignore it (much as we may wish to do so).
I’ve had a complicated relationship with Facebook over the years. I got on to it just to see what it was all about – and then promptly lost interest. When I started my blog, however, I received a lot of ‘friend’ requests from other bloggers and readers – and had to make a decision about how much I wanted to share with the world.
The answer, in my case, was ‘not much’. So I made another decision (phew, so many!) to set up a page for the blog so that I could connect with my cyber-friends there and keep my profile page set to ‘so private it’s hard to find’. The trouble with the page, however, was that it was a Life In A Pink Fibro page… which made it hard for people who were looking for ‘Allison Tait’ to find it.
Cue: the Allison Tait Facebook page was born.
For several months I faffed about with both, but it became increasingly hard work. So I made one final decision (please, let it be over soon) to consolidate onto one page – Allison Tait – which was agony because I had built a lovely number of likers at the Fibro and had to, really, start all over again.
But I’m still there at Allison Tait, feeling comfortable, loving the fact that I can ‘chat’ to people about all manner of things, from writing to tv shows to, well, one of my most popular comment threads ever was about washing in cold water, but we won’t talk about that.
Anyhoo. To me, Facebook is about the ‘club’ vibe that you get when a whole lot of people come together. And I love that. But I thought I’d ask an expert about the best way for writers to use Facebook to actually, you know, sell books.
Nathan Bransford is the author of Jacob Wonderbar and the Cosmic Space Kapow (Dial, May 2011), Jacob Wonderbar for President of the Universe (Dial, April 2012) and Jacob Wonderbar and the Interstellar Time Warp (Dial, February 2013). He was formerly a literary agent with Curtis Brown Ltd. and is now the social media and programming manager at CNET. He lives in Brooklyn – and, you know, knows his stuff.
Fortunately for me, he’s also very friendly – and happy to answer random questions!
Will Facebook help me to sell books? How?
Nathan Bransford: “Yes, definitely. Facebook (and social media in general) isn’t going to be the difference between selling zero copies and being a bestseller, but it is a very good avenue to help readers feel more connected with authors and for people to discover new books.”
Do I need an author page as well as a ‘profile’?
NB: “This really depends on whether you want to keep your presence as an author completely separate from your presence as an individual. Authors can either choose to have a totally separate Facebook page, which can be a little challenging because you have to get people to like it, or allow people to follow your public posts on your personal profile. I personally chose the latter. I find it easier to manage one presence.
“One thing I would recommend, however, is having a Facebook page for your individual books. When people will like these they will show up in people’s list of likes, which is a good way of spreading the word about your books.”
Do I need huge numbers of friends/followers for it to work?
NB: “It certainly helps, but in order to find a huge number of followers you have to start somewhere!”
What kind of content should I be posting?
NB: “This is totally up to you, but I find that the things that work best are the types of content and announcements that your friends and followers find genuinely useful. Yes, occasionally you have to self-promote to get the word out about your work, but otherwise it’s better to think about what you can do for your friends and followers and not what they can do for you.”
Top three tips for making the most of Facebook
1) Be authentic
2) Don’t ever make people feel spammed
3) Have fun with it
Biggest mistakes authors can make on Facebook
NB: “The absolute biggest mistake is viewing it as simply a way of blasting out your books and your reviews. If all you’re doing are self-serving announcements people won’t find much value from your feed and they won’t feel connected to you personally. Instead, look at it as a way of providing value and interacting with people.”
Five authors you think are doing Facebook well – and why
1) Tahereh Mafi: She does a great job of providing a mix of behind-the-scenes looks of her tours along with great images and personal updates.
2) Cynthia Leitich Smith: Cynthia is an example of an author who provides incredible value for her followers. Her Facebook page is a mix of blog posts, events and things that any aspiring author would find valuable.
3) Gretchen Rubin: Gretchen really “gets” Facebook. She asks questions and engages with her followers with a mix of links and photos.
4) Kami Garcia: Kami does a great job of mixing it up with advice, news, photos, and much more.
5) Nicholas Kristof: Nicholas Kristof is more of a journalist than a traditional author, but he sets the gold standard for a Facebook presence. It’s a terrific mix of commentary, interesting links, and glimpses into his travels.
What are your thoughts on Facebook – love or loathe?