Thursdays with Amanda: How to Use Facebook as an Unpublished Writer
Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent.
This one’s tricky. I’m not going to lie. In all honesty, Facebook probably isn’t the best way to gain a readership if you’re an unpublished author. I’d much rather you blog or speak or write articles. But that doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. It’s just going to be more difficult…and the focus definitely needs to shift.
In going through these tips on how to grow your author platform, we tend to focus on reaching as many potential readers as possible. I’ve encouraged hashtags, multiple article submissions, and given you a few tips on making your blog posts more searchable. But for Facebook, we need to scale it back.
Because unlike all of those other media outlets, Facebook is one of those places where you can quickly turn into an annoying friend.
Take me for example…I joined Facebook way back in 2005. My reason for joining was so that I could stay in touch with my college friends after graduation (that, and I got pressured into it). So for 7 years I’ve been using Facebook primarily to strengthen friendships, stay in touch with family, and stalk the occasional random person.
So when I became an agent two years ago, I knew I couldn’t just turn my Facebook profile into a neverending advertisement for my career. Unless I seriously wanted to annoy my friends.
The first rule of using Facebook for both private and professional use is that you must must must separate the two. Keep a personal profile for yourself and then put together a professional page for your career-self. Sure, you can link to your professional page now and then or share really exciting things on your personal page, but the goal here is to give Uncle Ed the option to follow your career if he so chooses. Let him decide. He’s much less likely to block or become annoyed with you this way.
The second rule is to avoid fretting over the numbers. Did you hear me?? Stop looking at your low likes and follower numbers only to pout and complain. STOP IT! You’re only hurting yourself. Instead, think of Facebook as a place where you can build your army. Your street team. This is where you’re going to find your die-hard fans. People who will do anything to champion your book and career.
The goal should be to find 100-500 people who are total fans of you and your writing. And I guarantee that the people willing to like your author page on Facebook, are pretty close to qualifying as superfans already.
Here are some general rules for creating a Facebook author page for the unpublished writer:
- Be sure to populate it! Fill out that Info page (be sure to compare yourself with well-known authors in your genre) and find a really cool banner and profile pic (show your face!). Post at least once a week, though 3 times would be ideal. You want to make the space look lived-in.
- Post the link to your new page on your personal profile. You want your friends and family who are fans of your writing to be able to trickle over. So over the course of a week or so, gently remind everyone that you’ve started an author page and that you’d love to see them there.
- Don’t write to writers. Write to readers. Again, we’re in the business of finding fans. Everything should be geared to READERS. Not writers. So scrap that “How to bring your protagonist to life” facebook blog post and instead slap up something that gets your fans talking. Ask them what they like to read or ask them for input on character names, plot twists, etc. This leads me to the next point, which is…
- Give fans ways to participate. You want them interacting on your wall, commenting on your notes and liking your statuses. So try to make it about them, not you.
- Let them read and critique. How do musicians build street teams and fan bases? They provide downloadable demos and free bumper stickers. They give the fans all they need to A) love the band and B) help promote it. So don’t be stingy with your writing! Get your words in front of your readers. Give them something to share with others.
- Create challenges for your fans. Challenge everyone to introduce your writing to someone new. Or, challenge them to link to your page on their Facebook walls. The goal here is to use their enthusiasm for what you do to your advantage. Use it to build your following.
- Take advantage of Facebook’s ease of use. You can post videos, pictures, sound bytes, links, blog posts and more on your facebook page. Use most or all of these to keep your page fresh and visually appealing. Plus, you never know when some fans will react better to a video from you than a lengthy post.
- Talk about other books/movies/tv shows in the same genre. Chances are, if people like your books, they’ll like other books in the same genre. Keep an ongoing discussion in the notes section where fans can gush or gripe over what other authors are doing in the genre. You may need to spearhead it, which will mean reading those books (watching those movies, shows, etc) and then writing about them. But hey, when was reading in your genre ever a bad thing?
- Network at conferences, on blogs, forums, etc. One of the best results of attending a conference is that you’ll away with other writer friends. To make the most of this, don’t be afraid to talk about what you’re doing as a writer. Get people excited about your book. Then, invite them to visit your Facebook page (a bookmark or postcard would be a good handout at this point). Some of the best conferences for this kind of networking are the ones that incorporate readers and writers. RT Booklovers, for example, is a huge romance conference that is packed with readers…each of them a potential fan.
- Be yourself. I know it sounds lame, but you’ll have the best reaction from followers if you keep it casual and not try to turn it into some professional, stuffy experience. Keep things fun. Keep things focused on your fans, and you’re good to go.
These are just a few of the many suggestions. What are your ideas? Thoughts? Questions?
Also, I’m still taking questions for a future Q&A post. Ask anything about platform-building! Anything at all, and I’ll try and answer.
I’m starting to have other writers “friend” me on Facebook, but they find my personal page instead of my writer page. It’s not many people right now, but I hope to have a large following. Should I change my personal page to my first and middle name and leave my full name for my writer page so that anyone who searches only finds the professional one?
Curious as to suggestions. 🙂
Ideally, your writer page would be followed by fans; not necessarily other writers. If you don’t feel comfortable friending other writers with your personal profile, you can always make it private or direct them over to your author page. For me, I don’t really mind either way. I have editor, author and agent friends on my personal profile. But they aren’t going to get much industry info from me that way. If they want the scoop, they have to like my agent page. Does that help?
Amanda, thanks so much for answering my question. That was really helpful. Would it be wise to save something like this for when the contract is signed but the book won’t be out for another eighteen months? I know I feel like a fraud having an author page when I don’t have something under contract.
If you have a book coming out, then you should start building your platform right away, Sally. Find your die-hard fans and use them to mobilize sales once the book hits stores.
also, the tips above are for when you don’t have any contract and maybe not even an agent. I’m not encouraging anyone to pretend they’re someone they’re not. I’m just encouraging writers to find a support base. 🙂
Thanks, Amanda. I’ll work on that.
Great post! I just refocused my blog to be more reader friendly and joined Twitter. I wondered if all my writer-related posts on FB would annoy people. I think this is the next step for me to build the kind of platform that relates to readers. Thanks for this! 🙂
Welcome to Twitter! 🙂
It’s overwhelming and addicting at the same time! 🙂
The addiction will probably wear off when you’re not seeing the numbers you’d hoped (it happens to all of us). If you haven’t already, heck out my post on writing great Tweets if you want help on making the most out of 140 characters. 🙂
Awesome. Eminently practical, as always. I just wanted to mention to those clueless about Facebook like I was/am, the book Facebook Marketing for Dummies was helpful to me. I set up the page for my book wrong first. It has to be a business PAGE (meaning linked to your profile), not a business ACCOUNT to work properly and be searchable. So the book helps with the technical stuff like that. Our library had it.
Great suggestion, Charity. And thanks for clarifying the difference between account and page.
Excellent advice and just what I needed. I’ve read so many writer how-to’s and here’s one I will keep and refer to. Thanks!
Glad it’s helpful!
As a “new” author, I have found social networking to be a great place to thank my sources; the experts I contact, the places I name in my manuscript, etc. Not only do I give credit to the individuals who help my writing process, but the mention of famous places, businesses, and people validates my writing and proves to my readers that I am serious about my craft and the product I am attempting to deliver to them. This is a great topic to consider.