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Friday, June 15, 2012

Revisiting an old post -building a following BEFORE you get published

 Oh, if I only knew then what I know now....

If only I had a time turner!

I originally wrote this post in October of 2011...I've learned so much since then -and am still learning!  The indented text is from the original post.  The pink text is new .

Facebook... When taken advantage of, facebook is arguably your greatest tool for creating a following, direct advertising and a handful of other helpful things that will enable you to be successful in getting your name out there.
This may still be true but I think there are other places where time may be better spent...like writing a blog, commenting on blogs, Goodreads, twitter and the bazillions of writing and author forums out there.  Facebook is a great place to solidify your brand. A brand and a following are different.  A brand is how you're identified by others -it is much less intimate than a following.  Creating a following is exposing people to your writing style, getting them to like it (and you) enough to want to read more of your work.

Have I mentioned that you should visit my page, 'like' it and tell everyone you know about it? Another incredible feature of facebook is their advertising capabilities.  I happened upon a coupon for $50 of free advertising and was stunned at the targeting capabilities of facebook advertising.  It is simply amazing.
Facebook does have amazing advertizing capabilities. True.  What you want as a result of that advertizing should dictate whether you spend any effort taking advantage of these capabilities in the early stages of your following-building mission.  Huh?  Creating an ad simply to get likes doesn't generate a following.  Most of the likes will be from people who won't follow your work -they're just fly by clickers.  A small percentage may actually be enticed to hang around and view your status updates giving you the opportunity to turn them into followers but your # of likes does not equal your # of followers.

I don't get paid by facebook or anyone else to write this (FYI).  When you place an ad, you create what you want people to see -the picture, the text -today I'll use 'I am New Author trying to generate a following BEFORE my book publishes.  Please help and join my revolution!' Keep in mind, you only have 135 characters to say what you want to say.
Ignorance is bliss!

Now for the amazing part, the targeting.  You can pick the countries you want to target.  I shoot for all the English speaking countries. Then you can pick the age you want to target.  Obviously this will be the age range of your target readership.  To the right is the estimated reach, which will change as you go.  Right now I'm at around 135 million people.

It gets better. Precise interests is where you can narrow it down to virtually anything you want including specific facebook pages.  So, if I want to target people who read a specific author...say, J.K. Rowling, I can do exactly that.

For connections, I always put 'people who are not fans of J.R. Wagner'. Obviously you don't want to waste advertising on people who already like your page. Advanced demographics; sex, in a relationship, work etc. are things I don't target -I select all.  Why limit?

Name your campaign and set your budget. I always pick lifetime budget -my first time I picked per day and set the dates/times and facebook assumed I meant two days so I spent twice as much as I wanted.  Lifetime budget won't let you exceed your budget (the campaign stops when you reach your budget)

Set your pricing. I always pay for clicks because that's what I want from the ad.  The bid amount is a cool thing.  The way facebook advertising works is if anyone else has chosen to advertise on the same page as you, the bid determines who gets to show up on that page.  I suggest using the range suggested by facebook as a conservative start.

All that's left is to place your order.  You can run multiple ads at the same time, stop ads, pause ads -the flexibility is incredible.  The reporting will tell you how many people saw your ad, how many clicked on it and much more.
Like I said, a SMALL percentage of these people will become followers.  Does that mean it isn't worth trying? Not necessarily.  This IS the marketing game.  Getting people to see your product, to become interested in your product and to buy your product.  It is nearly impossible to quantify the effectiveness of this type of advertizing because all you've done is direct a person to your page.  Layered on top of that is the work you do with your page to keep people interested, keep them watching. All you've done is open the door for them.  Now you have to entice them inside.

Once you have a finished product you can use this type of advertizing to direct users right to the point of purchase -to Amazon or Barnes & Noble or wherever.  Doing some math with the number of clicks and the number of units sold (which is not, by any stretch of the imagination, an easy figure to track) you can come closer to determining whether your investment pays itself back.

In the end you can end up spending just a few dollars on an ad or a few hundred depending on how big you want to go.

Facebook ads are great but certainly not the only way to generate traffic to your page.  There are many other free methods to do this.  I will touch on them next (and I'll keep you posted on how my ad worked)

Until then...come visit!

Selling books is much, much, much (did I say much) more than online advertizing.  There are levels and levels and levels of layers and layers and layers that need to be addressed regularly in order to begin to succeed.  Face time with REAL people is essential.  Knowing your target readers, where they hang out online, in the real world -essential.  KNOW YOUR TARGET READER -everyone thinks their book would be a great read for folks of all ages...but if you don't build a base, nobody of any age is going to read your book. Know your target reader.

Get comfortable talking to people -individuals, small groups, large groups.  I joined Toastmasters International to help with my public speaking skills. -They're a great organization for anyone and everyone looking to improve self-confidence, leadership and speaking skills.  Truly. 

Finally, you should know these two points: 

  1. If you don't have a good product, it won't sell. Period.  
  2. No marketing firm (or publisher) in the world will promise you book sales.  Why? Because they can't.  It's impossible to determine how the public is going to react to a certain type of advertizing. It may have worked for author x but not author y.  The variables are too many.  

Okay, my last statement: I am not an expert.  I am one man trying to make my way through this tangled web.  Do I know more than when I started? Absolutely.  Is there more to learn? More than I can possibly fathom. And after all is said and done only one thing matters in this game. Just one.  Book sales.  

As always, find interviews, writing samples, videos, contests and more on my website.


  1. Nice post/article. I'm giving you the Lucky 7 Meme blog award, which is for authors, kind of like a promotion of their work. Check it out here--> Awards!

  2. The article is so right on. Ive tried the facebook ads and my likes went up 100pct however sales did not budge. Money has to be spent wisely or the bills will mount up. Certainly marketing has been extremely difficult and I guess we all have to keep plugging away if we wish to sell any books. Good luck all!


  3. Thanks for the feedback Vinnie! I was at a local festival over the weekend and sold over 30 copies. I know that figure isn't earth-shattering but it was nice to meet readers face-to-face. They were pleasantly surprised to see a local author at the venue and I'd be willing to bet 30+ copies beats an out of town book signing. Summer brings loads of festivals with cheap space rentals!