So, there are a few other marketing tasks I want to talk about, only because they involve creating or becoming a part of a supportive community, which also involves a long head start time.
- Visit your local independent bookstore and introduce yourself. Or, if that’s too hard, just visit the store and try to visit it regularly enough so that you become familiar to them. Basically, become a regular.
- Consider joining online forums or lists or communities. With one huge caveat: Only do this if you are truly interested in what those forums or communities have to offer. There is nothing worse than a drive by marketing plug on a list serv, and that will only get you banned or booed. But sometimes the publication of our first book can be a good time to step out into the world and make new connections. But again, you want to do it well before your pub date so it’s clear that your intentions are to become a contributing member of the group, not just a fly by marketeer.
And lastly, back to our discussion of Facebook. Right after Mary and Miss Vi and I were talking about Facebook, another author I'm on a listserv with posted a very detailed explanation of the ins and outs of Facebook as a tool for authors. With her permission, I am reposting it here.
One of the great perspectives Robyn Schneider brings to this discussion is that in addition to being the author of two YA books, Better Than Yesterday and The Social Climber's Guide to High School, she is also a college student, which is the exact demographic that Facebook was designed for, so she brings a terrific dual perspective to this discussion.
Facebook: A Guide for Authors by Robyn Schneider
I've been getting a steady stream of friends requests lately from authors. I know there have been some discussions on here about "I just got a Facebook! Now what do I do with it?" and "How do I promote my books on Facebook?" so, as a long-time Facebook user (since my sophomore year of college), I thought I'd share some info:
What are the differences between Myspace and Facebook? Basically, Myspace is an open network--you can view mostly anyone's profile, click to see who their friends are, leave comments on someone's wall who you aren't already friends with, join discussions, add people you don't know. Myspace is a place to connect with friends, but it's also a place to meet people you don't know in real life. You don't put personal information, such as full names, class schedules, addresses, phone numbers, on Myspace. It's like a blog--public.
Facebook is a closed network--most student-age users have profiles that are private, or only viewable by people in their school or hometown networks. Because of this, the site is used mostly for keeping in touch with old friends, for sharing photos with friends, for keeping tabs on your friends and classmates, and for daily communication with friends. You cannot leave a comment on someone's page, or most likely even view it, if you aren't already friends. Facebook is not a place where most teens are receptive to "friending" people they don't know, especially adults. Because of the fact that profiles are private except to their friends and network, most students have loads of personal info up: phone numbers, dorm or home addresses, their class schedule, photos they don't want their parents to see. And, MOST IMPORTANTLY, first and last names. You know how myspace profiles can be under internet handles like BookWritur21? Well, Facebook profiles are firsty-lasty plus either home town or school name. Why should a teen allow an unknown adult access to this information? Some teens don't care about having their stuff out there, and will be okay if you request them as a friend, but some do care, and won't.
I know a lot of authors are getting sick of promoting on Myspace because the site is so spammed these days, but most students don't want to be spammed on Facebook--and there's rarely even an opportunity to do so.
Say you want to let teens know about your new book on Facebook--how would you do it? One way is to join open-network groups for teen books and talk about your stuff. Another is to search for teens with certain interests or certain iRead books, and then, without being able to view their profiles, request that they add you as a friend--maybe send a private message first? The second option is where it gets sticky, because if the teen does add you as a friend, you have access to everything on their page that wasn't made public for a reason. Of course, there is a way to friend someone so they can only see a limited version of your profile, but that requires manual settings of what's limited and if you forget to tick the box for limited viewing, as I have on occasion, you've just given a complete stranger your life story. Crap.
So how do I use the two sites? I keep a Myspace profile that's 100% promoting my books. Links to amazon, jacket copy, blurbs, the works. It's like an extra page of my website, nothing that isn't already out there on the web. Teens can friend me without being afraid that I'll know where they go to school or what face they make when they do a shot of tequila at parties. Very few of my "real life" friends are friends of mine of Myspace. I use the site strictly for promotion and connecting with teens publicly.
But I also have Facebook. I'm on a closed network for my college, and although the profile is "clean" enough that I wouldn't be embarrassed if a future employer took a browse, it's also very much filled with private information. Photos of myself and my family. And worse, my wall of comments from friends. Things like, "Are we still on for coffee today at 3PM, the 110th
street Starbucks?" Because, most students don't email each other anymore--they send private messages or wall posts on Facebook, which can be forwarded automatically to their email inbox.
When authors who I don't know "friend" me on Facebook, I add them if I've heard their name before in the blogosphere, because I don't want to be rude, but I also wonder why they're adding me. What's the point? Do they want to go through my photo albums every week?
I'm easy to contact via my website or blog. I doubt they have such a burning desire to challenge me to a game of online scrabble.
However, I love it when teens find and friend me on Facebook. It's so cool. They've already read my books and want to connect. And even though I totally shouldn't let them see all my personal stuff, you can view the profile of anyone who requests to friend you before you make a decision to friend them back. So if they look okay, it's limited profile viewing time for them. I leave a message on their wall saying hey, and that's that.
So what do I recommend? If you want to have a Facebook profile to connect with people who already know you exist--including readers--go for it. But also know that a lot of people prefer Facebook to Myspace so they can avoid self-promoters. And know that if a kid turns down your friend request, it's probably because you might be a friend of their Mom's who can now keep tabs on their private profile, or because, you know, they learned the lesson well not to
let strangers see their business. I can't imagine how you'd get an overwhelmingly positive result trying to promote yourself on Facebook, but if you can prove me wrong, go for it! And then, um, would you mind letting me know how you did it? Because, I have a paperback coming out this August...
Thanks you, Robyn!