Category Archives: Social Media

How to Use Facebook Groups to “Sell” Books

An edited version of this post original appeared on the Book Marketing Tools website in February, 2015 (click here to view it).

“Sell” in the title is in quotes because you do not actually sell with Facebook groups – you build relationships, which sometimes lead to sales. See how:

Photo by Sean MacEntee, flickr creative commons: https://www.flickr.com/photos/smemon/5684115572/
Photo by Sean MacEntee, flickr creative commons: https://www.flickr.com/photos/smemon/5684115572/

One of the best ways to promote your book online is on Facebook with its millions of users. You’ve probably done some of that work. Your Facebook friends and family all know about it. Maybe you even ran a Facebook ad and gained some new likes. But those new likes haven’t translated into many sales.

You’ve likely heard at least a little about Facebook groups. You’ve searched and found some, but all of them have strict rules about not promoting books. Plus, these groups are for others writers. You need readers.

Many authors find themselves in the same quandary of needing to attract readers but seeming to be only able to attract other writers. Connecting with other authors is great; most authors are also readers, but they can’t possibly purchase every book written by their author-friends.

So what do you do?

Get Your Page Ready

Because people like to connect with real people, it’s better to use a human profile when participating in groups. This could be your author page or your personal Facebook persona, rather than your book page. If you use your personal Facebook page, make sure your identity as an author is clear. For example, you can list “Author” or “Author of ….” as your subtitle and include it in your description.

Be Selective

When a public group you’re considering joining consists mostly of ads, promos, or links to outside blog posts, click away and keep looking. If you get accepted into a closed group and find their participation excessively ad-heavy, leave. (It happens, even when the group dictates “no ads,” showing a lack of participation by the group’s administrator and a group gone rogue.)

When considering a group, look for conversations and engagement. How many posts have several comments discussing a topic? How many are tackling substantive topics? How kindly does everyone treat each other? Is there a lot of negativity or mostly positive attitudes, encouragement, and support?

Think Outside the Author Box

Think beyond groups about writing, publishing, and book marketing. Those are good, but think about the other topics in your book. If it’s a non-fiction book, this will be easy. If it’s fiction, you need to be a bit more creative. If it’s historical, look for groups covering your time period. If it involves an animal, join that animal-lover group.

When searching for genre-based groups, make sure to search for the keyword “reader” – like “mystery readers.” If you can’t tell, request to join and try it out. You can always un-join later. Most groups on Facebook are trying to grow so they welcome most everyone, but some tight-knit groups might not accept your request. That’s okay. Just keep searching. New groups pop up every day.

Be Subtle and Engage

When browsing a group, comment where you can add true value. Answer questions. Give encouragement. Share your experience. Have real conversations and build friendships. If it’s pertinent to your reply, mention that you are the author of such-and-such book or that you’ve done research on this or that while writing your book.

Keep the mindset that you’re making connections and having conversations, not selling books. Be real and authentic. After you feel comfortable and participate in a few conversations started by others, try starting your own. Post something that invites response. Ask a question. Whatever you do, make sure it relates to the group’s stated mission.

Seize Opportunities

Though as a rule, it’s not okay to be salesy and obviously promotional in Facebook groups, it is okay to speak up if someone provides an opening. Someday, someone might post the question, “Anybody know of any good novels featuring xyz?” Go ahead. Tell them about your book and include a link to the buying page.

When you connect well with someone, try to take the relationship outside of the group. Start a conversation through private messaging or meet on Skype. See if you can become regular Facebook friends, follow each other on Twitter

or connect on Linked In where you are allowed to (and expected to, at least some of the time) announce new releases, reviews, and blog posts.

When using Facebook to promote your book, remember that it is called social media for a reason. It’s not sales media. Just remember the goal is to have conversations and gain connections. Eventually, you’ll build awareness about you as an author and your books, increasing sales. Plus, you’ll make some new friends in the process.

THINK LIKE A BOOK STAR

Think Like a Rock Star (photo from Amazon)
Think Like a Rock Star (photo from Amazon)

Being famous. People waiting in line for hours to buy your book and get your loopy signature on its title page. Readers scrambling to get your next copy. Volumes of pre-orders. Admit it, as an author, deep down, that’s your ultimate dream, isn’t it? Don’t tell me you’ve not been the least bit envious of J.K. Rowling or Stephen King? (My hand is sheepishly raised.) Don’t get me wrong – I’m happy for all those book-star successes, but there is that teeny, tiny bit of bitterness.

Think Like a Rock Star by Mack Collier is a general marketing book with the subtitle, How to Create Social Media and Marketing Strategies that Turn Customers Into Fans. (I bought it at Brand Driven Digital’s 2014 Social Brand Forum.) The book studies rock stars and provides helpful advice about cultivating fan relationships with any brand. As an author, your brand is more similar to a rock star’s than many products.

The book is good; not preachy. It presents case studies to illustrate real-world points. It also includes a backstage pass in each chapter with action items for putting the ideas into immediate practice.

Listen

The main takeaway is to listen to your customers. In your case, listen to your readers. Listen to what they engage with the most, what excites them, and give them more of that. If they rave about the way you describe your characters, repeat it in your next book. Don’t try to make your book appeal to all readers – the only people you need to please are your fans. Fans attract more fans.

Cultivate Fans

One specific idea for cultivating fans includes giving them an identity. For example, Fiskars® calls their website/forum members Fiskateers®. One of my author-friends has a series of books called the Greyhound Lady Walking series; she could call her fans the Greyhound Walkers (if she wanted to).

Take care of your fans. If someone takes the time to praise your book on social media, respond and thank them. Make your fans feels special. Give them backstage or insider information that only those who follow you on social media get to see. Do something special for them like hold a contest related to your book, perhaps a video, essay, poem, or writing prompt contest.

Let some of your trusted fans be beta readers. They already know and like your work so they can tell you exactly what works and doesn’t for your target audience; plus being a part of the product might make them want to tell their friends and family about their work, increasing readership.

Bad Reviews

Most of the advice in Think Like a Rock Star apply perfectly to books, except for one. For brands other than books, responding (and empathizing with) negative comments is important. If you liken a negative comment to a negative review about your book, I believe it’s important to not respond. It’s especially important to not defend your book. If someone mentions a typo, respond, say thank you, and that it will be corrected in future editions. If someone has a problem with receiving an order or a book arrives badly printed, of course respond and make it right, sending them a copy from your inventory if you need to, even if they ordered from a third-party vendor. However, if someone simply says they didn’t like your book or criticizes your writing, do not respond. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and the fact is, not everyone is going to like your book or writing.

Trolls

What if it’s a troll, you ask? Yes, you occasionally see a reviewer who simply likes to give scathing reviews for fun. It’s mean. But your true fans are not going to care. And most readers are intelligent enough to determine when someone is just being mean-spirited and when someone is giving a thoughtful review. If a reader is going to believe such crap and avoid your book because of it, is that the type of reader you want anyway? If someone’s really out to get you and posts numerous such reviews, you need more help than I can provide in this post (and I’m going to assume that’s not going to happen). If you’re really lucky, your true fans will respond to the review for you, singing your praises. Most likely, though, you will have several positive reviews which will negate the bad review. Plus, people get suspicious if a book has 100% 5-star reviews, so it might actually make your overall rating more credible.

This is just a small sampling of general marketing principles you can apply to your book in Think Like a Rock Star. If you enjoy marketing in general, need to learn about using social media, or if marketing books is one of the things you like most about being an author, this would be a good read.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. What would it be like if you were a book-star? If you are a book-star, tell me how you made it happen (please)! Do you have additional ideas for cultivating fans?

Just pop in a comment below.