There are over 70 million pages on Facebook and something we've known for a while is that the organic reach of these pages is in decline. One way publishers and authors try to get around this is through Facebook ads. But these can be costly and best suited to support a new book launch or to re-market your back catalogue.
So what options do authors have?
Seriously, the Facebook group I’ve set up has been amazing. Check out these insights below, the group just grows and grows every day (you get an initial flurry of members at the start then 1 or 2 a day).
It's no surprise. Groups have grown in popularity for businesses since Facebook announced in January 2017 that changes to its algorithms mean that posts from friends, family and groups will now be prioritised in people’s news feeds. No wonder we’re getting less engagement with our author pages on Facebook, which are now way down on the list for Facebook unless you advertise.
The fact is, groups complement your author page and help to build a community of loyal fans. A combination of a Facebook page as your attractor to drive people to find you, coupled with a Facebook group to boost engagement, can be a powerful thing. Especially as your group can be directly linked to from your Facebook Page.
Interested in setting one up?
Creating a Facebook Group is simple and straightforward. But it pays to have a think about what you want from your group and how you will manage it first.
Creating your Facebook group
Start by clicking on Group in the Create section at the bottom of Facebook and entering the details in the pop up.
Think of a name for your group, checking it’s not being used already by searching for it on Facebook. I went for a reader-friendly name which would make people feel welcome.
At this early state, you can either add friends or invite people. Adding friends will automatically make them members of the group. By inviting them you are giving them the option to accept.
Next select the privacy setting you want for the group. I recommend going for closed so members feel ‘privileged’ to be part of the group. Now it's time to start building your group page…
That’s it, your group is set up! But don’t worry, it isn’t live yet. Now you need to add some detail to make your group attractive and help people understand the value of joining your group.
Go to your group and click on the More option and select Edit group settings from the dropdown.
This will give you a number of areas to complete, including selecting your group type. Pick the option that best matches what you are trying to achieve with the group. I chose ‘Club’.
Now it’s time to write the description. You can have up to 3000 characters so make it yours. Add links to other areas such as your websites or Twitter accounts. Here is the description for The Reading Snug, my own Facebook Group which I share with the amazing Kelly Rimmer and Kerry Fisher.
You can then add up to 5 tags to help people find the group (as long as you haven’t set the privacy to Secret). Think about what your readers will be looking for.
Facebook Groups can be linked to your pages, you can create a vanity url for your group and even change the theme colour to suit your branding. You can also add apps such as Buffer and Canva to help streamline posting.
The web and email address section allows you to create a custom url and also an email address to make is easy for people to find you.
You will also be presented with a range of options too for getting new members to the group.
When you are selecting the options, think about how you would like the group to work. Too many limitations or restrictions on how people can post may increase your workload and put your readers off. I didn't go for pre-moderation on posts. My view is if any potential members look 'spammy', I won't let them in. And regular checking of posts means anything inappropriate can be quickly deleted. Your members will be great at alerting you to things too. I do however recommend posing a set of questions (under 'Ask questions' in Membership requests) to perspective members so you can get a better idea of their intentions. Here are mine:
Hey, thanks for requesting to join The Reading Snug! This group is for enthusiastic readers! So a few questions: First, what's the last book you read?
Have you read any of Tracy, Kelly or Kerry's books and if so, which ones?
Are you an author? We don't mind having author members as long as you promise to engage as a reader, not an author!
Adding a cover photo
At the top of your group page you will see the area where you can add your cover photo – simply click on upload photo.
It is a good idea to have this image ready. Facebook cover photo sizes do change and do display differently on mobile device compared to desktop. The recommended size is 1640px x 859px or 1.91:1 ratio. As you can see from the template below there is an area that needs to be considered for mobile devices but should not include any important messaging that may be lost when viewed on desktop.
Once you have added your cover photo be sure to check how it displays both on desktop and also on mobile.
Adding and Inviting people to join your group
You can now start spreading the word about your group. On a basic level, you can start by adding or inviting people you know would be interested. Click in the box below ADD MEMBERS (under your cover photo). Enter the names of your friends to add them to the group. You can also use email addresses to invite people, such as fans from your mailing lists, to join the group.
Once you have invited everyone you have contact details for remember you can always hit the share button to add it to your wall or share it to another group.
Linking your group to your Facebook page is a great way to grow your audience, it makes it easier for fans to find you, your fans have a community where they can interact with each other, and you can like and comment as your page in your Facebook Group.
To link your group to you page go to your page and select Groups.
If this option is not available click on Settings, Edit Page and scroll down through the tabs and click Add a tab. From the menu select Groups.
You will be given a pop-up window will appear and you can select what groups you would like to link to your page. Now just click Link and Link Page and you are all set!
Let me know how you get on!
1. Start listening to indie podcasts
I was happily living in my traditionally published bubble until I stumbled upon a podcast. It was the Worried Writer podcast. That led me to finding more podcasts, like The Creative Penn. It. Blew. My. Mind! From interviews with successful indie authors to guides from the people who helped them become successful, it shone a light on techniques they were using to sell more books. Techniques, I soon realised, which traditionally published authors should be using too. Now I listen to these podcasts all the time. And so should you. It doesn’t need to take up much time. I listen to them while exercising, tidying, walking the dog, clearing the garden… just make it part of your daily routine. For a full list, visit my resources page.
2. Check your social media stats
You want to make your social media posts as engaging as possible. And yes, there's a wealth of information out there to tell you how, just a simple Google search will give you realms of articles with tips. But nothing beats checking your stats to see what works and what doesn't among YOUR audience. I use the insights from my stats to see which posts are the most engaging. By engaging, I mean posts which encourage the most comments from your readers. These are the posts which will be shown most in Facebook timelines in particular going forward. See the Resources section to find out how to get these stats.
3. Engage with other authors
Other authors are invaluable. Not only are they a fantastic support but you can also share your readers! Does this thought alarm you? I remember when I first launched the Savvy Authors' Snug on Facebook, one of my friends said: ‘but why are you sharing information with your competitors?’ But I never see other authors as competition. The kind of readers we all want to attract hoover up books and have a passion for reading. They aren’t going to NOT buy your book because they’ve brought another author's books. So network online (see my resources section for a list of useful groups to join, and of course it goes without saying, you are welcome to request to join the Savvy Authors' Snug). Twitter is also a great tool for connecting with authors. Utilise the lists facility to engage with authors in your genre. And of course, connect with authors who are represented by your agent if you have one, or are published by your publisher too.
4. Sort out your web presence
No, I’m not talking about your website - though you should have a decent one (without spending a fortune). I’m talking about making sure your author pages on sites like Amazon and BookBub are up to date. Check out the resources section for a list. Also make sure your publisher and agent have an updated profile for you on their websites.
5. Change your mindset
This is so important, maybe the most important point on this list. ‘Don’t give up your day job’ is a well-worn mantra among agents and editors. I’ve banged on about it myself at times, after all, there is some truth in it. It would be foolish to pack your job in on the assumption you’ll get rich quick with your writing. But what this mantra has done is make some authors think that writing should be for the love of it, not the money. That we should be grateful to get a publishing deal. That we should continue to sign up to that 'poor artist' stereotype. If you want a long-term writing career, then you need to change your mindset. And ta-da! I have just the article for you...
It's time to start taking charge of your writing career. It'll be hard work. But by starting with these 5 important steps, you can get there!