5 Famous Authors on Facebook… Let’s See if it’s Useful

With more than 1 billion users registered with Facebook, when authors are considering social media to promote their books, it’s often the first Social Media Channel they explore.

Publishers urge authors to get acquainted with Facebook, too.

In fact, I recently overheard (at the gym locker room, believe it or not), that one guy who just landed a book deal has to maintain a Facebook and Twitter presence for the book as part of the deal.

So, yeah, Facebook is a big thing for authors… or so we think.

If you’re trying to start a Facebook Page, the experience is a lot different than if you’re just a writer trying to get more followers on Twitter.

Why’s that? Let’s take a look, then see how five famous authors are using Facebook Pages.

My biased view is that Facebook is a big waste of time for authors. 

I’m not saying it’s unnecessary, but I suspect that, for the majority of writers out there, Facebook may not be that useful of a tool.

Yes, if you’re a big-time author, it might be good… but I’m still not sure.

I got curious enough to take a look at five famous authors “on” Facebook :

1. JK Rowling (Harry Potter)

What she uses it for

J.K. Rowling doesn’t personally control the Page. It was made in August, right around when her adult novel, The Casual Vacancy, came out.

Coincidence? Sounds riddikulous to me.

What’s on it

  • An interminable pattern of tiresome book promotion
  • A barrage of interviews, reviews, and news about The Casual Vacancy 
  • A cold silence toward fans by the social media team that controls the Page

What it’s doing 

Obviously, the goal of the J.K. Rowling Facebook Page was to differentiate the author from the Harry Potter series and establish her as a separate figure who apparently only talks about The Casual Vacancy and has no other opinions, thoughts, or feelings.

2. George R.R. Martin (A Game of Thrones)

What he uses it for 

Nothing. In fact, the owner of the Page recently posted to explain to fans that George R.R. Martin doesn’t use any social media

Why? He doesn’t have time.

Imagine that.

What’s on it

  • A maze of confused posts from fans asking about the next book that are doomed to go unanswered
  • Occasional videos and articles about the series
  • An author photo that was haplessly ripped from some other website

What it’s doing 

Serving as a place for people to proclaim that they “like” George R.R. Martin.

3. Suzanne Collins (The Hunger Games)

What she uses it for 

Nothing.

What’s on it

Nothing, because the link to the Facebook Page is broken.

What it’s doing

Reinforcing my sneaking suspicion that authors shouldn’t have Facebook Pages.

4. Stephanie Meyer (Twilight)

What she uses it for 

This is an interactive Facebook Page with lots of contests (some of which are in flagrant violation of Facebook’s terms of service) and things that showcase Meyers’ popular Twilight series.

What’s on it

  • An endless stream of contests for different prizes that encourage fans to interact with the Page
  • Pictures of the Twilight movies
  • Clips from the Twilight movies
  • Just about no mention of Stephanie Meyer, the author

5. E.L. James (50 Shades of Gray) 

What she uses it for 

A publisher-maintained Page, this one is really a step above (if not an entire staircase) the rest of the Facebook Pages here.

It’s a place where fans can learn more about the books and the author.

What’s on it

  • Interviews & news updates
  • Lots of photos with memorable one-liners from the 50 Shades of Gray series
  • Photo albums of James traveling across the country
  • Pictures of fictional floor plans, car collections, and other things that deepen the world of James’ series

What this means 

We can take away three big things from this totally inaccurate case study:

1. Famous authors aren’t using Facebook themselves

2. Publishers have wildly different levels of proficiency when it comes to Facebook

3. Authors who essentially become their books have more fans and more interactive material

I gave the E.L. James Facebook Page an “A-,” because the Page fully blends author and book. Stephanie Meyers’ Page does this too, with less success.

However, no Pages seemed to actually respond to Facebook comments or get some input from the authors themselves.

That makes these Facebook Pages very similar to fan websites, except that they’re on an unpredictable, third-party platform that keeps making it harder for Facebook posts to get seen.

The final tally

In every case, the Facebook Pages for the series that these authors wrote are explosively more popular than the author pages. 

Also, we can observe that James’ publisher has really worked hard to kick this trend, seeing as that’s the closest count by far.

My conclusion?

Before you start a Facebook Page, think about what you’re going to put on it and how you’re going to use it. 

Like we saw in my Twitter interview about getting more followers, you can’t just use Facebook for self-promotion.

If you do that, no one will comment or share the content. If no one comments or shares, Facebook makes it nearly impossible for your Page to be seen by fans, because their algorithm, EdgeRank, doesn’t think the content you post is popular.

At the end of the day, ask yourself:

Is it better to have a Facebook Page for my book or a Facebook Page for me? 

In most cases, I think the answer is your book.

Your book should be your brand. People are more likely to look up the book, anyway.

I’ll take it a step further.

My conclusion is that authors shouldn’t waste their time with Facebook until they’ve established an audience. 

Long before Facebook, start a Twitter account and a blog. Create content and share it with your peers.

The breakdown 

  1. Photos are a big part of the Facebook experience
  2. Family and friends are the main reason that people use Facebook
  3. Books can’t be the only thing promoted on a Facebook Page: you have to use “peripheral topics” that are going to also interest your audience
  4. Unpredictable is a good word for Facebook– just this year, they’ve released major interface and feature changes, some of which are to the detriment of Page owners
  5. Publishers need to get their social media strategies together: there is a huge opportunity for savvy publicists who know how to make a good Facebook Page, but it doesn’t look like they’re trying very hard

If you’re interested in creating an online author platform, check out my free guide about starting a blog that helps get readers for your creative work!  

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9 Responses to 5 Famous Authors on Facebook… Let’s See if it’s Useful

  1. Gibble96 says:

    “…one guy who just landed a book deal has to maintain a Facebook and Twitter presence for the book as part of the deal.”

    I hope that doesn’t become standard in the publishing industry…

    Wasting time with facebook and twitter would just take away from writing time, which is bad for the author.

  2. tinker3333 says:

    Interesting findings and useful analyses – thank you.

  3. blaiselucey1 says:

    Hey Gibbles,

    I bet that this is going to be a trend going forward, but I agree with you. Just having publishers tell writers to “go do the social media” stuff is just going to waste everyone’s time.

    I checked in on the guy’s Facebook Page… it has one picture, no cover photo, and 41 fans who appear to be friends and family.

    Publishers are going to have to at least TRY to help writers with social media if they want to keep things going.

  4. Erik Hoel says:

    Well, I think the future will be paying someone to maintain an online presence as “you”, even if you just outsource your online presence to a cabal of internet writers (I’ve heard that this is already happening). The constant demand of the internet is endless. I recently saw on my facebook newsfeed that there is a program that calculates your total wordcount of fb posts. A girl was at 72,000. I dread to think what mine was, but 72,00 is about 20,000 short from a first novel. Authors generally aren’t “performers”, so its difficult to see how their fbs won’t have some kind of entertainment glass ceiling. Franzen is going to post… about what? Adultery and the difficulties of the modern family? Guys stealing his glasses?

    • blaiselucey1 says:

      @Erik: Good points, although I’m not sure whether most authors would like to cede control of their online presences to someone else. After all, authors are by definition thought leaders — their beliefs are their books are their brands. You can’t let someone else mess with that unless they really know what they’re doing, especially if you have to continually be on top of social media interactions that keep reflecting that brand, those thoughts, those beliefs.

      I think Facebook may just not be the right platform for most authors, because it does demand so much. Twitter is a better option, I think, because it’s less of a commitment to just share interesting news.

      And if you share interesting news related (vaguely) to what’s in your book or what your interests are (which should be in your book, right?) then you should get the attention of potential readers. Here’s hoping!

    • Erik, you might be thinking of a virtual assistant or online assistant (?). That’s the field I’m in and I do post on social media on behalf of my clients. They instruct me in what type of content they share with their friends/fans/followers and I schedule it for them, while they maintain the more personal parts of their social media such as posting photos, status updates, answering questions, etc. Just one way to free up the client’s time so they can focus on what they love to do and excel at. As a book lover, I’ll say (selfishly) that I’d prefer my favorite authors spend their time writing, not posting to social media 🙂

      Blaise, thank you for this post. I found it while doing research on behalf of a client who is considering the Facebook options of using a Profile versus Page. I really appreciate your thoughts on how authors are using Facebook. Creating a Group that aligns with your book topic or overall message is another option. I agree with you about Twitter being the more effective platform, at least in early days.

      • Blaise Lucey says:

        Hi Erika,

        Thanks for reading! I’d say that any author who’s considering a Facebook Page nowadays also needs to consider that Facebook just isn’t showing promotional Facebook posts anymore. You basically have to pay FB to appear in newsfeeds. So if your FB Page isn’t going to get fans organically, you might want to consider going with Twitter & a blog before branching out further.

        Best,
        Blaise

  5. I’m so glad I found this post. It’s wonderful and I have to say that I agree with your assessment. The author that does a great job on his profile, not his page, is Christopher W. Gortner, who writes historical fiction. You might want to check him out.

  6. I was planning to create a facebook page, as my book is all about my own quotes that I explain further, in the book. In other words i’ve been in doubts about either writing a book, OR creating a facebook page, where I can play with photoshop using backgrounds, text, colors and make some fun looking quotes to share. Perhaps it can be a great start though, but perhaps not as a start and finishing result, and still end with a book. Only thing is, I constantly get stuck in writing my book. So many subjects to write about, categories, making one big text in chapters from thousands of quotes I made up myself, from which I know I have helped people with my words. And THAT is the one and only thing I focus on, to pass on my lifelessons to other people. Heck, what if I just go for it and see what will happen?

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