Friday, 14 February 2014

Facebook Author Pages - a guest blog by Linda Gillard

This week we are delighted to welcome Guest Blogger, Linda Gillard, to talk about using your Facebook Author page to connect effectively with readers.

Linda, you’re a successful indie author publishing non-genre fiction, which is notoriously hard to market. How have you used social networking?

Someone said 98% of all book marketing is a complete waste of time. The trouble is, no one knows which 2% actually works. It’s really hit and miss. I can’t claim I knew what I was doing, but looking back, I can see I’ve steered a steady course through the choppy seas of self-promotion and online marketing, just focusing on writing novels (seven since 2005) and interacting with readers.

I don’t have a personal blog and I don’t tweet. Facebook has been my main promotional tool. I rejected Twitter partly on time grounds, but mostly because I’m just not interested in reading tweets. I keep up with friends, family and readers in email and on Facebook. I thought a personal blog would take up too much time and might siphon off writing energy, so instead, I offered to guest blog whenever I had a book to promote. That was useful for reaching new readers, yet didn’t become a time-consuming chore. It also provided me with something new to share on my page.

I don’t have a huge FB following (887 currently) but many of them are very keen. They tweet for me, share my posts and talk about my books on forums. An author told me recently, “There's always chatter about you on Twitter” and that’s one of the reasons I don't tweet. A reader promoting me is far more convincing than self-promotion.

Why did you decide to set up a FB author page? 

In 2009 I’d been dropped by my publisher and I was waiting for my agent to find me a new one. Readers kept asking me about the next book and I continued to be short-listed for awards after I’d been dropped, so there was still book news to share. I got to grips with FB as a way of keeping myself in the public eye.

I kept my page lively, personal and positive. I was conscientious about responding to anyone who posted on my page. I also made sure I visited other pages and made my presence felt there, but in a genuine way.

I was just making it up as I went along really, dreaming of the day I’d hit 100 followers!

How did you create a FB page readers would want to follow?

I don’t know, but I can tell what I didn’t do. There were no puppies or kittens, no pictures of food, nor did I post pictures of half-naked men. (Though I realise hunky guys cuddling kittens would have got a lot of “likes”!) I posted mainly about book-related topics and topics related to my books: textiles, castles, island living, World War I, music, landscape, wildlife. There was plenty of variety.

I tried to make my page fun but intelligent, the sort of page I would want to visit. I kept the posts and links stimulating and informative, the sort of thing that invited engagement. I also kept it local. I live in the Highlands and most of my fiction is set there, so my page reflects that. People often find my page because of shared posts about Scotland.

I also shared my writing and marketing process. Readers were interested and keen to help. They gave me useful feedback about titles, covers, prices, blurbs. I think that gave them a sense of “ownership” of the books, which meant they were then happy to promote them.

Was there a tipping point when your page took off?

Yes, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012. I had to decide whether to go public on my page. I’d always been open about my mental health history (because I’d explored mental health issues in stigma-busting books like EMOTIONAL GEOLOGY and UNTYING THE KNOT). I could see no reason why I shouldn’t go public with my cancer journey.

It was the best marketing move I ever made. Health issues on my page found me a new audience. My sometimes lengthy cancer posts were shared and people posted to say they’d bought one of my novels on the basis of how I’d written about my experience, which was honestly, but with a lot of dark humour.

I discovered readers like to feel they know you personally. They love to hear about your ups and downs. My followers have watched me go from dumped mid-list author to indie bestseller. They’ve seen both my kids get married. They’ve followed the saga of my cancer, subsequent disability and slow recovery. It's been quite a soap.

Do you think the fact you had an existing fan-base when you went indie gave you an initial 'critical mass' of FB followers from which to grow?

More importantly, I’d already had three books traditionally published. There was a body of work to post about and ready to read. Pre-Facebook, I had a small, enthusiastic fan-base – in the hundreds, not thousands. After I went indie in 2011, HOUSE OF SILENCE found me tens of thousands of new readers, but the growth on the FB page has always been slow and steady.

What advice would you give to someone starting from scratch without an existing fan base?

Be patient. It could take years to build a following.

Look at author pages with a large, active following. Observe what they do (and don’t do).

Keep self-promo to a minimum. Even when you aren’t plugging them, you’re still promoting your books. Readers think – not unreasonably – that an interesting person might write interesting books. So don’t promote your books, promote yourself, your interests and especially the issues in your books.

Remember, you get out what you put in. If you make your posts informative, witty, passionate, quirky, personal, people will come back for more. Cats in fancy dress make people smile, but they don’t sell books.

Linda Gillard lives on the Black Isle in Scotland. She’s the author of seven novels, including STAR GAZING, short-listed in 2009 for Romantic Novel of the Year and HOUSE OF SILENCE, selected by Amazon UK as one of their Top Ten "Best of 2011" in the Indie Author category.

Her latest book is CAULDSTANE, a gothic novel in the romantic suspense tradition of Daphne du Maurier and Mary Stewart.

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  1. I have been a fan of Linda's writing since her early days and have tremendous respect for her. Great post, which I will be sharing on my own FB page as a reviewer.

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