How I Did Facebook Wrong and Got 43,000 fans – A Writers Guide to Social Media

To my regular blog readers – this post isn’t the normal Holly-Humor-grackle-Apocalypse kinda post.  It’s for writers who are interested in using social media to market their books.  If you are a writer, read on, and be advised that the rest of my blog is pretty much aimed at my target audience.  I just wanted to point that out, in case I look a little bipolar… or randomly possessed.


I was traveling recently and had time on my hands, so I started to sift through the sites of social media experts again.  I’m always looking for new trends in social media.  Facebook is my main social media of choice.  And as you know – they change things frequently.  Facebook has made several huge changes in the past 12 months, which made it even more difficult to learn how to do facebook, and do it well.  It’s like trying to grab a bar of wet soap.  Just when you think you’ve got it, the damn things slips through your fingers, and you have to pretty much start over.  Facebook keeps you on your toes.  That’s for sure.

To my surprise I found several sites & blogs that were by social media experts that said I’d done just about everything with my facebook page WRONG.  Yup, W-R-O-N-G.  It made my jaw drop.  Why, you ask?  Because I have over 880,000 interactions per month from over 43,000 fans.  That’s getting close to a million (which I’m really excited about).  And over 25,000 fans fanned me before my DEMON KISSED books were even for sale.  Honestly, it shocked the hell out of me.  I had no idea how high the fan numbers would climb when I started.  I just threw up the page and started.

To give you a facebook fan benchmark: Most authors have about 200 facebook fans and/or friends. The numbers tend to stop there, because the person’s social network has hit its total “reach.”  In other words, all your connections are used.  It has to do with social circles, and on average, there are 200 people within one person’s circle, of which a small number make weekly contact, and an even smaller number make daily contact.  When all those connections are used you have about 200 people in your social network.

FYI: There are biz pages (aka fan pages) and personal pages.  My main page is a business/ fan page.  If needed, I’ll say which specific type of page I’m talking about when it matters.  Otherwise, we’ll go generic and use the term ‘page’ to refer to a facebook page for either business/ fans or personal.

So, as you can see, anyone that passes the 1,000 fan mark is impressive… especially when they are Indie and going it alone, like me.  5,000 fans?  10,000 fans?  You are in jaw dropping territory, indie or traditional, especially if it’s before your debut book launches.

Penguin used facebook to create a fanbase for Andrea Cremer prior to the the release of her debut novel NIGHTSHADE.  It was dubbed “a viral success” with 1,600 fans (friends) with 12,000 interactions.  This is for a book that was from one of the big publishers with an initial print run of 200,000.  That’s a major investment for the publisher and look at the numbers.  1,600 people liked the page.  That’s an excellent benchmark.  Passing 1,000 fans is major milestone for a new author, and very difficult to do because no one has heard of you or your book.

A little comparision:  The Demon Kissed page was launched at roughly the same time as the Nightshade page.  At the time that article was published by Publisher’s Weekly, the Nightshade page had 1,600 fans, which was impressive.  The Demon Kissed page that was posted around the same time by me, also a debut author, had 14,000 fans.  The Nightshade page currently has 3,295 fans.  My Demon Kissed page has 43,067.  I didn’t have Penguin marketing experts to help me.  I had my brain and that was about it.

Why does this matter?  Nightshade became a huge bestseller anyway.  Yes, it did, but every writer is not so lucky.  Every writer does not have one of the biggest publishers purchasing prime display space in bookstores for their book.  That’s the exception.  You are more likely to get struck by lightening than to have your book end up like Twilight.  So, that is why you NEED to utilize social media.  It is something you can do on your own that will impact the ability to sell your book – and its free.  The only thing it costs you is time.

So, I did it wrong.  I built my fan base incorrectly.  Seriously?  43,000 fans and over half a million interactions per month.  Did I really do things that screwy?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  So who were these yahoos saying this stuff?  Maybe it was some schlep blogging from his mom’s kitchen, eating a sardine sandwich, in which case – ewe – and I’d just disregard the info.  So, I looked at the owner’s credentials on each site to see if they knew their stuff – and they did.  Or they should.  They are university professors and people who do social media for huge companies.  People who KNOW their stuff, without question.

But that left me with tons of questions.  Like this one – is there a right way and a wrong way to do social media?  Saying that there is a “don’t list” seems short-sighted to me, and yet there are plenty of those.  Don’t do this, don’t do that it will turn off your fans and alienate your fans and annihilate your page.

Can a single stupid act really decimate your page?  I’m sure you can piss people off and some may leave, but nothing short of the delete button will completely terminate your connections with your fans.  Fear of doing facebook wrong keeps people from trying to see what works and what doesn’t.  Don’t hit the delete button, and remember there are people reading what you are writing, and don’t worry about it.  Try it.  If that kind of post, picture, or video doesn’t work, try again.  I don’t think there is a wrong way to do facebook when you realize that you are talking to people.

Writers are expected to build their own platform and draw a fan base whether they are indie self-pubs, or are with a small vanity press, or are if they are with one of the big boy publishers.  It’s imperative in today’s market, and yet, no one seems to have a firm grasp on how to do it.

Here are some of the things I’ve done to grow my DEMON KISSED fanbase so large.  It’s taken about 15 months to reach this size fan base, and I admit that I slacked off to have a baby for a few months during that time.

1. Make a fan page (aka a business page).  This is one thing that I found over and over again – the experts urging you to use your personal page until you have enough people to form a fan page.  That is so counterproductive.  Yes, you can use your personal page, but there are benefits to not using a personal page.  Your personal page has a 5K friend cap, while business pages do not.  You may think you would never reach that many people, but what if you do?  Do you think they will just fan your page and everyone will move over?  No.  People hate change, and they won’t move.  Also, business fan pages have valuable statistical information that you can use to see where your fans are located, post stats, monthly interactions, etc.  Failing to realize that and neglecting that information is really stupid.  Ignoring your stats can lead to lack of sales, because of a demographic mismatch. You may have noticed that in many of my posts on facebook and my blog that I sound like a kid, even though I’m highly educated and left my teen years behind several decades ago.  It’s intentional.  And it’s not fake.  Pedagogy and childhood development are things that I studied and things that interest me.  I think it’s important that children be allowed to express themselves as they mature so they can figure out who they are and what they want out of life.  That is articulated throughout my posts.  I don’t sensor them, or correct them.  I let them be them when they are on my page.  You need to examine what makes your target demo tick to have a successful page.

2. There is no such thing as too early.  Some people say that the page should go up 3 months prior to release.  Others say even later than that.  And I had one stalker/ hater who thought it was ridiculousness to put up my page before I was even done with the book!  Imagine!  What nerve I had.  Yeah, I have big balls.  Why is that a problem?  Especially in this market.  But that author ripped into me, and there was no convincing her that more time = more exposure = more people excited and ready to buy my book.  The more people who have heard of your book, the more people who will buy it when it’s released.  There is no such thing as too early.

3. Invest in art.  I’m a professional photographer for the affluent and was able to create my own covers and art work.  The painting to the left was the first image that went with DEMON KISSED.  When you launch your page, you need something to put on it.  Hire an artist to make your cover, or shoot some shots of your characters.  You can commission a college kid.  That is a very good way to get art and help an up-and-coming artist.  The painting that I posted was seen by over 1 million people when I 1st launched my page.  I didn’t even have the book cover yet.  The portrait of the heroine was enough.  Think outside the box.  Use images that will engage your target demographic.

4. Post.  Be yourself.  Be real.  Interactions (talking to people) are what drives facebook.  It’s what gets you fans and increases your social circles.  Realize that people are fanning because they like you.  The book is secondary.  Gasp!  I know, but its true – people buy stuff from people they like.  This was my first blog post – 8 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t (ever) Grow Up, and it was what got people talking on the Demon Kissed page when I first posted the page.  It resonated with my target demo, its fun, silly and… it’s awesome!  lol.  Really, click the link.  It’s fun.

5.  Keep talking.  Less than 1% of your fans will interact with you at any given time.  So when you first post your page there will be very few people talking.  That’s normal and totally okay.  A good page is like a mini forum, where there are new posts and comments and pictures for people to see.  You want people posting, and it takes time.  That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t keep posting.  It’s okay if your posts fill up most of the wall at first.  Keep talking.

6. 70/30 Rule: Keep things 70% personal and 30% business.  What the heck does that mean?  It means that 70% of the time your posts should sound like you are a human and not a marketing robot promoting your book.  30% should be about release dates, prices, locations  book signings, etc.

7. Be Confident: This is YOUR book and it’s awesome!  The facebook page is to allow people to hear about you and your awesome book.  Being shy about it is a new author mistake and it’s the kiss of death.  You can’t be all like, “It’s pretty good, I think.”  I’d be more likely to read it if you said it was the most awesome thing you’d ever written – and dude – it is!  So act like it!

8. Use the connections you already have.  I had three social circles when I posted my page – bridal shop owners, photographers, and family/ friends.  None of these people were in my target demographic, but they knew people who were.  I announced that I wrote a book at the same time I posted the fan page.  I said I was a facebook loser with no friends for my brand new book – please like me!  And they did.  That was what started things.

The DEMON KISSED series has sold over 15,000 copies and it was entirely from the facebook page.  I didn’t do ARC’s or approach bloggers.  I didn’t do anything else.  My only intentional marketing was my facebook page.

People seriously underestimate the power of social media.  It carries the weight of word of mouth, but it has the ability to spread at a exponential rate that isn’t bound by region or circle of friends.  Word of mouth is golden – you can’t get anything better than that, and facebook is the perfect way to start your word of mouth awesomeness.

Feel free to comment on this post to ask questions about facebook.  I didn’t talk much about page set up because there are lots of tutorials on that, so I kept it about utilizing the social media element when marketing your book.


About HM Ward

New York Times, Wall Street Journal, & USA Today bestselling author.
This entry was posted in book marketing, social media, writing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to How I Did Facebook Wrong and Got 43,000 fans – A Writers Guide to Social Media

  1. great post. I have a few more books in the pipe line and have bookmarked your site. thanks

  2. Pingback: Ways To Get Facebook Fans With Significant Statistics Today

  3. alexa says:

    who is that guy behinde ivy supposed to be?

    • hey alexa! not saying. some ppl think its collin, others thought it was eric – and some thought it was jake. for another hint – look at the trailer for satan’s stone. i just posted it in the post above this one. :o)

  4. Pingback: KDP Select & 5 Day Free Observations |

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