Giving fans a dedicated community space can help them feel more connected to a book and author. While these communities might not have thousands of members, the fans who participate often become loyal advocates for the author, which is essential for creating word-of-mouth buzz.
Many authors and publishers use Facebook groups to house these communities. Unlike Facebook Pages, group updates appear in members’ news feeds without needing to pay for boosted posts. Also, members receive notifications each time there’s a new update to the group — at least until they specifically opt out of these notifications.
Here are a few goals authors and publishers are accomplishing through Facebook groups!
Note: Some people choose to make their groups closed, meaning that new members must be approved by the group’s admins before they can see and interact with the group’s content. This helps create a sense of exclusivity, but isn’t required. Since the Facebook groups in the examples below are closed, all screenshots from within a group have been included with permission from the author or publisher.
1. Build an author street team
A street team is a group of fans that volunteer to promote an author. The goal of a street team is to incite word-of-mouth buzz for a book, and they’re motivated by their love of the author’s work. Some authors use Facebook groups to organize their street teams and recruit new members.
Here are some examples of things authors ask of their street teams:
- To post reviews of the author’s books
- To share a specific update on the readers’ own social media accounts
- To crowdsource feedback on upcoming promotional assets
- To distribute basic swag (bookmarks, pens, book plates) to other potential readers
- To pitch one of the author’s books at the reader’s local library or indie bookshop
For example, in S. Usher Evans’ street team group, she asked her members to cross-post their existing reviews (e.g. from their blogs or Goodreads) to Amazon to help build momentum on that retailer.
She also shows members the results of their efforts to show her appreciation!
I use a Facebook group to manage my street team. The post-discussion format is great for getting feedback on book covers and blurbs, and it also allows me to make sure everyone sees important data (versus Twitter which is a bit more fleeting). The only downside is that not everyone uses Facebook.
This group helps me sell books because it increases the engagement between me and my street team, and they, in turn, help spread awareness through word of mouth and reviews.
2. Create an author fan club
Unlike groups that are exclusively for street teams, fan clubs are groups where readers can congregate without the expectation of helping with promotional activities. Fans can interact with the author, discuss books, and have other fun conversations with like-minded readers.
For example, author Megan Erickson created a group called Meg’s Mob where fans can gather to chat about anything. One of the perks of membership is interacting with Megan in a closed setting. She sometimes runs live video chats to answer fans’ questions. Here’s a post where Megan asks fans when they’re available for a live video chat:
Megan also occasionally publishes promotional posts where she updates readers on upcoming releases or hosts giveaways. Here’s a weekly post called #FreebieFriday where she offers members free swag:
My Facebook group is first and foremost a place for me to interact with my readers on a more personal level. I do think it’s helped to sell books as it’s created a sense of community around my brand. In addition to that, I host giveaways for those who review my books on retail sites, and am able to share more about the books to entice my readers to buy them. I have also started doing Facebook live videos, which is really fun for readers overseas who I might never meet at signings.
Rebecca Paula also created a group for her fans called Rebecca’s Romance Rebels. Here’s a post where she solicited feedback on a couple cover designs.
3. Create a reader group for a specific series
Some authors create reader groups dedicated to discussing a particular book series, rather than having a general author fan club where members chat about anything. Readers congregate there to discuss their love of the series, receive updates about new releases and promotions in the series, speculate about upcoming plot points, interact with the author, get book recommendations from the author and each other, and more!
Authors also sometimes use these groups to ask members for help promoting specific books in their series, just like they would an author-specific street team.
For example, The Walsh Groupies is a Facebook group author Kate Canterbary created for fans of The Walsh Series, and it has over 2,400 members. A group of three admins foster conversation by posting a prompt each day to keep group members engaged.
Here’s an example prompt, which had dozens of responses within the first few hours:
Here’s an another post asking for promotional help:
My Facebook reader group gives me a direct line to some of my most passionate and enthusiastic readers. I didn’t intend to grow a street team (or any other promotional entity) when my group launched. I was more concerned with creating a welcoming environment for folks who enjoyed my book. It’s a spot where I frequently share deleted scenes from already released books, exclusive teasers from upcoming books, and special giveaways, and — with the help of two amazing admins — we run daily chat threads to keep the readers involved.
Building and cultivating this community of readers has earned a great deal of engagement and excitement for my books, and that has translated to higher sales in several ways. First, this loyal corps of readers buy new releases, particularly preorders. Second, they’re some of my best and most authentic advertising as they frequently recommend my books to others, and those folks often become members of the reader group as well. Finally, this engagement brings me closer to bloggers and readers who are excited about sharing in promotional events, and allows me to invite them to do so.
4. Host a read-along group
A read-along group is like a virtual book club — a public or private group (via a social channel like Facebook or Google+) where participants read a designated number of chapters of a book per week and discuss them in the group. Having the author participate in the group is a great incentive for fans to join the conversation.
For example, Gardella Vampire & Colleen Gleason Hang-Out Page is a read-along Facebook group with hundreds of members for Colleen Gleason’s series The Gardella Vampire Hunters.
Here’s an update Colleen posted to her Facebook page promoting this group:
It was also an added perk, I think, that the author participated. I didn’t run the group; I had moderators doing that. But I popped in occasionally to answer questions, make comments, and announce news/promos/etc.
In this group, we’ve gone ahead and read a total of five books in this way, and people really seem to enjoy it — especially since the latest one that was read in the group, Roaring Shadows, was a much-anticipated new release last summer — so no one had read it, and they were all discussing it quite enthusiastically. It’s not a big group, but it’s a dedicated one and I love that about it.
5. Run content-specific challenges
Creating a Facebook group also works well when there is a specific objective or task for members. For example, Rodale Books created a Facebook group Official Wheat Belly Detox to promote the book Wheat Belly 10-Day Grain Detox. In this group, over 8K readers support each other to achieve the dietary goals outlined in the book.
Rodale regularly runs new 10-day challenges for group members, and sets the dates of the next challenge in the group’s cover photo, shown here:
Have you created a Facebook group for fans? Tell us about it in the comments below!
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