(Originally published on One Author to Another blog by Samantha Cole, Sept. 21, 2018. Reprinted with permission.)
By Samantha Cole
Some of the most frequent questions I see in author groups have to do with creating, cultivating, and maintaining an author’s FB reader group for fans of their books. When should I start one? How do I get people to join? How do I get them to engage on posts? Etc., etc., etc.
Let’s see if I can answer those questions for you.
When should I create a FB reader group?
It doesn’t occur to many new authors to start a group BEFORE they release their first book, but this is actually the best time to do it. It’s going to take a while to build up your membership (took me three years to hit 1000+ members), but if you’re already active in the FB book community then you have a head start. Create the group, think of a cute/fun name that has a connection to your books, then invite the book community members, that you interact with the most, to join. If you already have a book out, get crackin’ on creating that group.
How do I get people to join my group? There are several ways:
1) Post the link on your wall and your author page if you have one.
2) Post the link on all your other social media profiles too—Instagram, Twitter, Goodreads, Amazon author page, etc.
3) If you are already sending out newsletters, make a big announcement in it that you’ve started a reader group and invite them to join—don’t forget to give them the direct link.
4) If you’re doing takeover events, put an invite to join your group in its own post! Don’t bury it with all your other “stalk me” social media links.
5) When a reader contacts you through Messenger, your profile, your page, email, or any other social media site, to let you know they enjoyed your book and maybe left a review, invite them to join your FB group.
6) Right after “The End” in your books, tell the readers if they enjoyed the book and would like to learn more about your other books or upcoming ones, then they should join your group!
7) Be VERY cautious who you let in your groups, though. You will be bombarded with creepers wanting to join. Because my group is called The Sexy Six-Pack’s Sirens, I attract the trolls who do a FB search for the word “sexy.” Turn on the feature that creates a popup for join requests that gives them 1-3 questions they have to answer. They can be funny or serious, but make one of them “Name one of (your) books.” You’d be surprised at how many weird responses I get to that one.
Here’s the big one! How do I get my members to be active in my group?
This is the #1 group question I see all the time. I’ve written a similar response every time I’ve answered it, and seeing the question again today prompted this blog post. So here we go:
1) Post several times a day, every day! Let me say that again! Post SEVERAL times a day, EVERY day. If you’re not active, your members won’t be active.
2) Don’t just post about your books! Post about other things too. Here’s a list of things I post about, but pretty much anything goes (except religion, politics, or any other hot-button topic).
- Excerpts from works in progress—the steamy or very funny parts.
- Pictures of men and women who have inspired my characters.
- Memes—always fun.
- I recently start posting daily “funnies”—funny cartoons (try to make sure you won’t offend anyone with one—again avoid hot-button topics).
- I ask my members to help name towns and businesses for my books.
- I’ve had contests where the prize is for the winner to become a character in my book (name, physical attributes).
- I show my members the covers and book teasers before they go live.
- Live writes (more on that below).
- Invite other authors to come into your group and do a takeover for an hour or a day
- Post the links to another author’s books that you’ve enjoyed—especially if they’re on sale!
- Let your members know who your favorite authors are—it’ll give them something to read while they’re not-so-patiently waiting for your next book
- Let your members post about a new author or book they read (I’m not saying let them promo other authors every day, but the occasional OMG! I just found this amazing book! is allowed).
- Keep a growing list of your members birthdays in a spread sheet and give monthly or weekly shoutouts to those whose birthdays are coming up.
- Post about your real life—my members have heard about my mom’s health issues, my brother visiting and disrupting my routine for a few weeks, my dogs’ antics, my move to a new condo, crappy weather, etc. (But don’t get TOO personal).
- Let them post about stuff going on in their lives too—but within reason. Avoid controversial stuff and not every day. But if they need a prayer for a family member (or themselves) because of health issues or accidents, have a funny thing that happened to them, have a question that’s non-book related, or they’ve accomplished something big in their lives that they’re proud of, I let them post about it.
- Ask random book and non-book questions like When and who was your first kiss? Are you a dog or cat person? My characters are getting married—what do you think their wedding dress or tux/suit looks like? Which of my characters is your favorite and why? What was the last movie you saw? ANYTHING!
- Now I know a lot of authors will say that they ask these questions in their group and they’re met with the sound of crickets. These types of posts really only work if you are engaging the members every day with all the other types of posts.
- Suggestions for book titles. (I’ve gotten a huge response to this twice now and have used some of the titles. My new Hazard Falls series was named after a member’s suggestion when I asked for a small town name for the series.)
- Run contests with the prizes being an ARC or a $5 gift card.
- Post funny videos (again, avoid controversial).
- Post name game pictures (the ones with the first letter of your last name means something and the color shirt your wearing means something else). You can find these by Googling them or even making one that has your book/series theme to it.
- Copy and post a glowing review that a member gave you on one of your books and thank them for their kind words.
- Encourage them to post their reviews.
- Create a second secret group and tell your readers to join it if they want to discuss your latest releases without putting spoilers in the main group for those who still haven’t read it yet. (In that group, immediately after a book release, I create a post asking what their favorite scene was.)
- Ask for suggestions for a character’s name (I had my group suggest names for a pregnant couple’s child).
- Post pictures of you meeting your group members at signings.
- Keep an ongoing list of your upcoming signings in the file section of the group. I ask for volunteers to help at signings this way too. First person to volunteer, I pay for their assistant ticket and then give them a gift (book, gift card, or something else) at the end of the signing.
- Create albums with your book teasers and covers in them so members can easily grab one if they want to post it somewhere.
- Ask your members what jobs they’ve held so you can create a list for future research on a character’s job.
- Do a live video and talk about your upcoming books or anything else!
- And anything else you can think of that will garner responses. If you post any of the above only once or twice a week, it’s not going to work! Post often and you’ll start to see more and more engagement. Remind members to turn their group notifications to “All” so they don’t miss anything!
3 ) Live Writes
A live write is when you do just that—write live in a group or event. These can be done solo or with a partner, and you can invite other authors to do one in your group. You can alternate POV or paragraphs.
- Announce the live write all week with the time and date.
- At the start of the live write, ask for story prompts for the author/authors—images, careers, places, etc
- Choose a prompt and begin. Write a paragraph or two (don’t worry about typos, they’re expected) in the comments of the post then hit enter. If you’re doing this solo, then just start the next paragraph under that. If two authors are involved, then wait a few minutes for the other author to post their section, then read it and continue the story. (Duals are fun because you never know what direction the other author is going to go in lol).
- Some authors prefer that the members don’t comment (they can like) in between posted scenes. I, personally, don’t mind, as I get feedback on what I’ve already written. Either way, make sure the members know which you prefer before you start.
- Sessions can go anywhere from 1-2 hours. (Trust me, the time flies!)
- Have fun! I’ve done several of these, both solo and with a partner, and one has even inspired an upcoming book.
So that’s the lowdown on starting, cultivating, and maintaining an active FB reader group. As always, these are just suggestions, and other authors may have some other ideas. Do what works best for you. Feel free to join the Author Group Ideas Facebook group where authors and PAs share posts and ideas that worked for them in their reader groups!
Samantha Cole is a retired policewoman and former paramedic who is thrilled to add USA Today Bestselling Author and Award-Winning Author to my list of exciting careers. She has more than 25 titles published in the romance/suspense and comtemporary romance genres. Her standalone novel, The Friar, (since retitled The Road to Solace) won a silver medal in the 2017 Readers’ Favorite Awards out of over 1000 entries. You can find her blog at oneauthortoanother.com