Thursday, January 24, 2008

More Marketing Tasks & Facebook

Does the calendar picture look familiar? It should. It's going to be the visual equivalent of Alert! Marketing Tasks Ahead!

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.
A couple of other things to think about doing if you haven't done so before is to take our Comfort Level Inventory, then once you have an idea of what's comfortable for you, create a working marketing plan from your strengths.

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!


Terry P. said...

Interesting, M & R. I wanted to add here that January was my target month to begin planning for the release of my book in July. Rather than do the standard kinds of things I've done in the past, I took your advice and contacted the publicist of the company. We spent all day discussing an overall plan. I learned what she had in mind and she came to know what I had in mind. Now, after having that initial communication, I believe we'll have a very smooth promotional plan. And it saved me money too. I was preparing to buy promo-postcards (like I've always had to do on my own), but she informed me that the publisher will do that. Thanks for reminding me to do the basics first (communicate with the publicist) before beginning anything else ;-)

Anonymous said...

Wow, thank you for the info about MySpace and Facebook. This is extremely helpful, especially to us old folks who are a bit intimidated about both.

The message I got is that with Facebook, it's better to let the kids come to you. If they've read your books and liked them, they might search for you on Facebook, but would feel strange if you approached them. That makes sense. MySpace is a bit more adult and public and it's easier to reach out to other people there, but don't be a spammer.

I hope I got that right.

Thanks again for the information. I feel more confident about trying social networking sites now.

R.L. LaFevers said...

Terry, we're so glad some of the suggestions worked for you! And yeay on having a publicist who would spend a whole day discussing this with you. Most excellent news for your book. ;-)

Bran Fan, I, too, found Robyn's explanation hugely helpful. It really helped me see the benefits of both. And I couldn't believe what great timing it was!

Anonymous said...


I went out of town over the last week for a conference, and when I come back - just look at what I've missed!!!!

BTW, Mary and Robin, I spread the word about Shrinking Violets down at SCBWI Miami. Even my non-introverted friends were writing down the website address to read about all the marketing goodies. You two are fab!

Kimberly Lynn

Mary Hershey said...

Hi, everyone!

Terry, so glad that you had such a good session with the publicist. Way to take that by the horns!

Kimberly, thanks for spreading the word! Hope you had a great conference. We think you're FAB. ;-)

Bran Fran, yeah, let's dive in, huh? Uh, you go first. Kidding! I did sign up for my account on Facebook. Y tu?

Really appreciate you sharing Robyn's post, Robin. This is a slightly different take on it than I'd read from a newspaper recently. LA Times, maybe. I'll see if I can find that. Grazie, mi amiga!


Anonymous said...

I'm going to be revamping my press to only publish the work of young adults (ages 13-18). Do you mind if I borrow your Comfort Level Survey for my company? I think this would help me when I start accepting authors. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

So glad to have stumbled onto your site. I was online doing some research into indie bookstores and one of your past blogs came up and voila!--you have a new fan.

Terrific blog, brilliant idea. I work the PR thing hard but I'm a fierce introvert and 'getting out there' is always a huge challenge emotionally.

Looking forward to lots more.



R.L. LaFevers said...

Celise - Yes, please do feel free to use our Comfort Level Inventory for your new authors! Thank you so much for asking.

Welcome Jane! And you must be very good at the promotion part of things because even though I've never had a chance to read one of your books, I am quite familiar with your name! Will you be at RWA National in San Francisco this year?

Anonymous said...


I agree with other comments about breaking your school visit into two assemblies. At the school I used to work at we divided ours K-2 and 3-5. This worked out perfect! The nice thing about doing it this way is almost everyone has a seat.

Um, however . . .

If I were the reluctant speaker, I would do it once and get it over with!!!!


Anonymous said...

Sheesh, I posted in the wrong place!