Guest post by Steve Harrison
Leif Peterson has a unique claim to fame: He’s the author of Missing, the first novel written entirely on Facebook. Initially started as a short writing challenge from a friend, Peterson soon realized the story, about a man who sees his own face on a Missing Person poster, had greater potential.
“I started posting daily installments on Facebook pretty much on a whim, but right away I realized that there were a lot of people paying attention,” Peterson says. “The fact that people were following along and often leaving comments was very motivating.”
For four months, five days a week, he posted new installments to his story and attracted many eager readers. Some of his biggest fans frequently shared their opinions on his Facebook page, and expressed frustration at having to wait 24 hours for the next chapter. Peterson decided to reward some of those readers by naming new characters after them.
Though Peterson had previously published fiction commercially, he chose to self-publish Missing about a year after he completed it, after his agent declined the story. Because of the unusual nature of the story’s genesis, he ended up getting a lot of unexpected attention online.
According to Peterson, “Once the book was published I sent out a press release. Interestingly, the press release got repeated on hundreds of websites and blogs. It even showed up on the New Yorker’s website, and a guy in the Philippines did a podcast about it.”
As Peterson’s story shows, Facebook’s viral quality makes this giant of social networking sites an important tool for any author’s promotional strategy. Fortunately, you don’t have to write an entire novel on Facebook to take advantage of its marketing power.
Karen Morss, the author of the self-published children’s book Flying Poodles: A Christmas Story, discovered another unique and fun way to promote her work — through profile matching.
“I had about 200 Facebook friends at the time, and I decided to post a new profile photo that was me and my standard poodle, Miss Lucy Ball,” Morss says. “All of a sudden, Facebook started suggesting friends that had poodles in their profiles. I also joined all the poodle pages on Facebook, and within six months I had over 1,800 friends, 1,600 of whom own poodles, or at least love them.” For Morss, the increase in Facebook friends led to an increase in book sales, as her story started being seen by the right audience.
For fiction authors, a fun Facebook promotion idea is to create pages and profiles for your main characters. Seth Grahame-Smith has a page for his bestselling novel, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and has created character profiles for Mr. Darcy, Elizabeth Bennett, and Corpse Bill, among others. The page for his book has nearly 13,000 “likes” and the characters remain active on Facebook, interacting with fans.
With Facebook, the promotion possibilities are endless — but it’s important to understand how the site works, and what members want (or don’t want) to see in their friend feeds. Here are some tips for you on generating Facebook buzz without alienating your followers.
Tip No. 1: Do use Facebook’s tools to add friends.
Because Facebook is an interactive network, it will often suggest friends, events and groups for you to like. If you’ve always ignored these little prompts that appear on the side of the page, start checking them out. The more friends you have on Facebook, the greater opportunity you’ll have for people to find out more about you.
Make sure your profile includes easily accessible information about your book. You can fill out the About Me box under your profile picture with your book title and a brief description, so that visitors to your profile can immediately see you’re an author. Don’t forget to list your website under your personal information, too!
Tip No. 2: Don’t add friends or join groups blindly.
While it’s good to have a lot of Facebook friends, it’s better to have a lot of quality Facebook friends. There are still quite a few trolls out there looking to add people just for the sake of getting more page views to promote a website — usually an unsavory one. It only takes a second to view the profile for any friend or group request you receive, so make sure to check it out before you accept.
Tip No. 3: Do join groups that share interests related to your book’s subject.
Like Morss has done with her poodle book, joining relevant Facebook groups can give you a built-in audience that is interested in what you have to say. It’s easy to find groups on Facebook — simply enter a subject in the search box, and then click on the Groups tab of the results page.
Once you’ve joined a group, make sure you’re active and participatory. Being a static group member is not likely to help with your promotional efforts. Introduce yourself on the group’s wall, and participate in discussions and conversations that are going on within the group. This increases the chance that other group members will want to click through to your profile.
Tip No. 4: Don’t be a broken record.
If there’s one thing most people on Facebook don’t like, it’s friends who do nothing but ask them to buy something or join something every time they update their status. Don’t make every status update about your book. This is the fastest way to get people on Facebook to ignore you, or even unfriend you.
Instead, you can post links to interesting articles that are related to your book’s subject, share funny or inspirational quotes, add photos or videos, or offer valuable content for your friends or group members, such as free downloads or discounts.
The best way to promote on Facebook is to make your status updates interesting enough to get people to view your profile — which is where you should keep all the information about your book — and keep them coming back for future updates.
About the Author
Steve Harrison of Bradley Communications is the editor-in-chief of Book Marketing Update, a paid print newsletter. The above article originally appeared in that newsletter which goes out to members of the Million Dollar Author Club. You can get more information at http://www.milliondollarauthorclub.com.