Book Marketing: Facebook and the New Public-Private Self

by Alison on March 27, 2012

Let me start this post with the good news: No one majored in Facebook. Not that New York Times-bestselling author you admire. Not your niece or nephew. No one. No matter how clueless you feel when it comes to the social network, bear in mind that we’re all still learning.

And yet Facebook is the single most powerful tool for connections and thus it’s vital that all authors have a page. Gone are the days when readers were content to read your words in a book and be done. Today they want to be able to learn more about you and Facebook is one of the first places they look.

I will admit that I was not the earliest adopter of Facebook. When I first hopped on, it was my secret island on the Internet and I loved it. That lasted about a day. Then random people from my past started to friend me and I began to feel panicked about sharing information with these people who were simultaneously both strangers and not strangers. I stopped logging in and told myself that I was done with Facebook. It had all been an intriguing experiment but it was not for me.

What I realize looking back now is that there is a learning curve to social networks and I needed time to adjust to the new public-private way we live.

In studying the Internet and observing writer friends, I’ve noticed an interesting commonality. Those who are most successful at connecting with online audiences are masters at the Public-Private Self.

Even just five years ago there was the Private Self and the Public Self and these two versions of you could have existed very separately from one another. Today, they have come together and in the middle where they overlap is the sweet spot for sharing and self-promoting on the Web–and particularly for Facebook.

Let’s use an invented scenario to talk through. Let’s say you’re writing a novel about Portland, so you plan a weekend getaway there with your husband. But when you arrive, it’s raining. Also, the food is not nearly as good as you’d heard and a few of the locations you had planned for your book are a bit drab in person. But you did have a nice hike and the best cup of coffee in your life.

Now, how will you update about this on Facebook? Here are several ways people handle this.

1) Say nothing. Reasoning that the trip was kind of a bust and that it’s no one’s business anyway, you decide not to write about it.

Outcome: You missed an opportunity to connect with fans. Here you were actually living the life of a writer, scouting locations for your book, and you didn’t share it. One of the keys to effective online marketing is to learn to mention your book without it feeling promotional and this could have been a good moment to share.

2) Share everything! You Tweet and Facebook the whole weekend, sharing (false) elated updates rhapsodizing about Portland and how you can’t wait to put all of this in your book. You also share a picture of you and your husband kissing–and a hilarious story about how he snores in his sleep.

Outcome: Oops! Too far. Sharing on Facebook should be done sparingly–and probably no more than once a day. (For every rule there’s a great exception but in general remember that Facebook is not Twitter.) Also you run the risk of your updates feeling hollow and self-promotional. Worse still, you may have crossed the line into sharing too much about your personal life.

3) Share twice, just a little. In advance of the trip, share your excitement about getting away with your husband to a city you’ve always wanted to visit and ask your Facebook friends for recommendations of what to do. Keep your disappointments about your trip off the Web and follow up with a quick post saying that you enjoyed exploring the new city and you are now addicted to the coffee from Stumptown. You can even share a Facebook photo album that includes a shot of your husband from the back on your hike or a snap of your hands clasped on a walk.

Outcome: Readers get a hint of the real you and a sense of how you spend your days but don’t feel bombarded by too much information. Also, you won’t upset everyone who loves Portland and you’ll be able to very subtlety remind your friends and fans that you’re working on a new book.

I feel thankful to know fellow writers who are nailing this strategy. Only by knowing them personally and then watching how they share online did I notice the subtle difference between what really happened and how they really felt to what exactly they share. It is these individuals who have the greatest success with connecting with fans online.

Soon, I’ll update again with my Top 10 Tips for Writers on Facebook, sharing the more nuts and bolts of how to set up and manage your page.

*All thoughts here are my own.


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