Tuesday 17 May 2016

Promoting Your Book on Facebook: Three Tips

By Iola Goulton

What do people use Facebook for?

Yesterday I looked at the three types of Facebook pages: Profiles, Pages, and Groups, and the three types of Groups: Public, Closed, and Secret. I also gave some examples of each. Today I’m going to look at how you should—and shouldn’t—use Facebook for self-promotion. First, let’s look at what users want from Facebook.

What do people like on Facebook?

The American Christian Fiction Writers Facebook course I’m currently taking assigned us a task: to survey our target readers and ask them five questions:

1. How often do you check your Facebook newsfeed?
2. What do you most like to see in your newsfeed?
3. What do you least like to see in your newsfeed?
4. Why do you "like" a page?
5. What is your favorite "fan" page? Why is that?

I have two groups of target readers, one for my fiction and one for my non-fiction. I posted these five questions on my personal author page and in the Australasian Christian Writers group, and got sixteen responses. I know these aren’t statistically valid samples: the respondents are biased towards people who use Facebook a lot, and there is self-selection bias as well.

But my results are consistent both with what I would have expected, and with the results my ACFW classmates posted (what I found unexpected was how many of my classmates were surprised by the results. This could explain the content of some of their Facebook feeds …).

How often do you check your Facebook newsfeed?

Responses ranged from “daily” to “several times an hour” (to the person who blushed at admitting to ten times a day: you have nothing to be embarrassed about). This sample is probably biased in that people who aren’t on Facebook at least daily probably wouldn’t have seen the post.

What do you most like to see in your newsfeed?

There were a lot of similarities in the answers to this question:

  • News from family and friends
  • Inspirational posts (e.g. memes and videos)
  • Book or reading jokes (I also like grammar jokes)
  • Prayer requests (well, I did ask Christians)
  • Updates from favourite pages
  • Information and articles about writing and publishing (from the writers)
  • Information about personal interests (which vary by individual but include jewelry making, TV shows, science, craft ideas, and recipes).

Oddly enough, no one said “advertisements for books”, although people did mention links to free books or links to great books they could share.

What do you least like to see in your newsfeed?

There were also a lot of similarities in the answers to this question:

  • Political posts and rants
  • Whining
  • Advertisements and excessive self-promotion (although a post or two to announce a new book appears to be fine)
  • Swearing
  • Selfies, especially duck-face selfies (I do like classy selfies. But I agree about duck-face selfies)
  • Disrespectful posts or vitriol or posts that attack individuals (which is different from respectful disagreement over real issues)
  • Disturbing pictures (e.g. smut, cruelty to animals)
  • Scam posts (click this to win or share this if you want a blessing or repost this to show you care)

Why do you "like" a page?

Most people like pages either because they’re interested in the product or service or information provided, or because they want to support the page owner. This is good to know: your friends and fans want to support you.

What is your favorite "fan" page? Why is that?

One person asked “what is a fan page?”. I hope I answered that yesterday! The most common response was that they don’t have a favourite page.

Many writers said they like to visit writing groups (such as ACW). Others named specific pages, either author pages or the pages of other relevant communities. One person commented that they like the pages where the author interacts with fans and shows something of their personality, but don’t like the pages which are “into shameless self-promotion”.

Overall . . .

The results were consistent between the ACW members, and the people who answered via my personal page, suggesting that writers aren’t too different from non-writers in the way they use Facebook as individuals . . . which raises questions about the writer I mentioned yesterday, who posts to 100 groups each day.

How not to self-promote

As an aside, while I was procrastinating over writing this blog post, I checked out the 100+ groups this author is a member of (thanks to the fact the author doesn’t seem to avail herself of Facebook’s privacy settings). I’m a member of a few of the same groups, which are all promo-free or restrict self-promotion to once a week. One group had only two likes—one from the author herself, and another from her author page.

1. Focus on Engagement

Most of the groups were nothing but self-promo and the posts had little or no engagement, suggesting all the posters follow the same spam-and-run model of self-promotion, and no one is looking for books to buy (which reflects the results of my highly unscientific survey).

Facebook rewards people who post engaging content (i.e. content which people react to, comment on, or share). By continually posting content which gets no engagement, this author might unintentionally be pushing herself further down the Facebook algorithm to the point where Facebook doesn’t show her posts to anyone. Instead, she should:

2. Focus on Original Content

It was also evident that she—and others—are posting the same content over and over, something Facebook doesn’t like. Better to post less often, but to focus on posting original content her audience will engage with.

3. Target the Right Users

Most of the groups she posts in aren’t genre-specific groups: the author writes contemporary Christian women’s fiction, but her promotional posts were sandwiched between book covers featuring half-naked men and topless women, all in those shades of black and white so beloved of erotica authors. If this is the demographic these groups target, I’m not surprised members aren’t interested in down-home Christian women’s fiction.

If anyone would like a list of almost 100 groups that allow endless self-promotion and show little reader engagement, leave a comment! (Almost 100, because I’ve taken out the groups that don’t permit self-promotion, and the group she’s the only member of.)

There are ways of effectively self-promoting on Facebook. This is not one of them.

So how should we promote on Facebook?

Remember, it’s a social network. Be social:

  • Have a personal profile and an author page, and don’t post the same content on both.
  • Focus on engagement with posts over quantity of posts. Look for ways to connect with your target reader.
  • Focus your content on your followers want: inspirational quotes, book sales and recommendations (not just your own books), personal news, and articles on relevant topics. You can use your Page Insights tool to see what specific posts get the most engagement.
  • Self-promote only when you have something new to say: a new cover reveal, a new book available on pre-order, a new release, an older book on sale for a limited time.
  • If you choose to pay for advertising, make sure you do it properly: aim for email list signups or book sales not page Likes, do some training first, learn how to target your ads, use targeting pixels, and calculate ROI on each campaign (if you don’t know what pixels are or why they are important . . . well, that’s why you need to get some training first).

(If you want information on Facebook advertising, check out this brilliant blog post—well, essay—from author Jeff Posey: Facebook Advertisements)

Overall, remember that spam is in the eye of the beholder (you might think you’re not spamming, but it’s not your view that counts. It’s the view of your current and potential readers). Focus on connecting with readers, ensure every post is something they will want to Like, Comment on, or Share.

Are you a Facebook fan? If not, which social network do you prefer, and why?

About Iola Goulton

I am a freelance editor specialising in Christian fiction, and you can find out more about my services at my website (,  subscribe to my monthly newsletter at CES Newsletter or follow me on Facebook (, Twitter (@IolaGoulton) or Pinterest (


  1. Another informative post, Iola. Is the ACFW course worthwhile?

    You may have seen this post from Dan Walsh on Novel Rocket recently but he provides a positive perspective on using FB to promote his novel.

    1. I think the ACFW course is worthwhile - it's available through the free loop, which is a plus.

      That's a great post from Dan - thanks for linking! He's also installed tracking pixels ("I also have a link embedded on this page that tracks everyone who visits"), so he can re-target people who visited his website.

      I think this reinforces my point: paying for FB advertising is a good idea if you know what you're doing. Dan obviously does. If you don't, it's likely to be a waste of money.

  2. Thank you Iola. You always give us helpful tips and advice. Much appreciated.

  3. I am on several groups that have self promotion and have turned of the notifications to all of them as I get so sick of the buy my book push. I also use Rather an app on Chrome you can use create a list of things you don't want to see on your newsfeed and you can put up a pic or if you don't have one you get a R My list includes, Trump, Election so I don't get those posts anymore. Thankfully I don't get many selfies either. But do love the cute cat ones.

    The likes is interesting I like pages for the same reason but have to say sometimes I wonder if people actually read a status when they put like on it. I have put posts which are not good like I am in pain etc and I get a like its not the right thing, now I will get a sad face by some which is better but I think when someone puts a status which is sad etc we need to be careful about putting like as it may come across as condescending.

    1. No more US election posts? What a great idea!

      I agree with your comments about Liking sad posts. I like (!) the fact FB now has different reactions so we can sympathise with the Sad face. It was a little awkward before - Liking seemed wrong, but I don't always want to comment on sad statuses.

  4. Thanks for the tips, Iola. I'm glad you have a handle on it. I find it a bit overwhelming.

    1. It can be! If you want to keep Facebook (or any social media) simple, by best advice is to focus on relationships, not marketing. That takes a lot of the pressure off. :)

  5. Iola, excellent post! Facebook advertising (sponsored posts, sharing promo in reader groups) is complicated and the ROI can vary widely. There are authors who successfully post in reader groups and see their sales spike on Amazon. That said, targeting the right audience is definitely the first step, and knowing how likely they are to engage in book promo posts is also important.

    I'm now careful about choosing the pages I like because I know that the information can be visible later to all of my Facebook friends in a sponsored post. Do I want my Facebook friends to know that I like a specific product or service? Do I want to see sponsored posts from pages that I've liked?

    I don't tend to like pages just to be supportive of the author. If I'm not interested in an author's books, then I'm not going to want to see the sponsored post when their next book releases. I figure the author is paying for me to see the sponsored post, and spending a small portion of their advertising budget on a disinterested reader isn't a supportive activity.

    1. I think you're right in being careful about the Pages you Like, and I think this comes back to the FB algorithm. It shows posts to a small percentage of people who've liked the page. If those people don't engage with the post, no one else gets to see it. If they do engage, by reacting or commenting, then FB shows the post to more people (a chain of events which can mean your post gets viewed by more people than have actually Liked your page!).

      But if someone has a lot of unengaged Likes (e.g. people who Liked to support the author but don't engage, or people who Liked to enter a contest), then that will affect the number of people who see the posts. I'm careful about not seeking artificial Likes for this reason.

  6. Great post, Iola - spot on :) I've found that it can be really hard to predict what content will attract the most notice - cartoons or humour definitely - but I've sometimes been surprised at the ones that really take off. I agree that posting things of interest & engagement are vital. I also think the other thing is to be in it for the long term, it takes consistency to build an audience. Thanks for the links.

    1. Definitely think long-term. It's about relationships, and all good relationships take time.

      Thanks for commenting.


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