When my second collection of short stories was being released, I thought again about creating an official author Facebook page – and decided, again, not to do it.
There are many reasons why I’m probably wrong about this. Author pages have some nifty perks – there’s no limit on the number of fans who can follow you, a ton of free analytics, and the ability to schedule posts when you’d rather be napping. An author page can also help keep your distance from the creepy “No. 1 Fans,” build your brand, and make you more accessible to readers.
These official pages have worked for a lot of writers. My friend Ken Budd, author of the travel memoir The Voluntourist, finds that his author page allows him to connect with readers without granting access to his personal Facebook page. He also believes it’s a better selling tool for anyone who might be interested in approaching him for an interview or speaking gig because he can position himself as an expert on certain topics. He posts news about his own writing plus links to articles about travel on his author page, and reserves the chili dog and baseball game pics for his close friends on his personal page. “I like having those two worlds separate,” he says. “And more importantly, I think readers might like those worlds separate as well.”
But what about when those lines blur? For me, I feel like an author page might actually do more harm than good. Here’s why:
My official author Facebook page would suck.
Think about all the content a writer produces every single day. Working on new creative projects. Writing blogs and essays. Posting on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr. Reviewing on Goodreads and Amazon. (Note: Please do this, writers!) If I created yet another platform that screamed for content, I might shatter. Or more likely: the page would be a lazy reposting of things I already discuss on my own Facebook wall. I’ve seen some lovely author pages, but others feel stilted, impersonal, and one-dimensional. I don’t want to be that author.
I’ve already got an author Facebook page…in my profile page.
This is the big one for me. I’ve already in some ways built my brand on Facebook with my own profile. I have a fantastic network of writers that I adore and whose careers I want to keep up with, and creating an official author page at this point feels like starting from scratch. Part of the delight in getting to know other writers is getting to know their quirks and interests. If it’s true that people buy books when they know and like the author and have some stake in their success, then I’m hopefully already doing the work in a natural and fun way – and in a way that feels friendly.
“You’re not a faceless corporation or multi-national company. Readers want to connect with you, the author, personally. Profiles give the appearance of being more approachable…” writes journalist Lisa Hall-Wilson in a blog on this topic. People want access and inside scoops, she says, and pages that already have a perceived distance to them that can turn folks off.
There are dangers to this approach, of course. The “creepy fan” factor is important – becoming friends with total strangers who’ve read your book is, essentially, opening up your life to them. I use the Facebook filters pretty rigorously, but even so I’m not naïve enough to think that means that anything posted on social media can ever be private. Another danger is alienating people. Like any conversation, the greatest value is in the give and take. You have to celebrate the successes of everyone else’s life as well as your own, from book deals to babies taking first steps.
I don’t have enough fans.
This is not a defeatist, woe-is-me attitude. It’s just reality. John Grisham’s author Facebook page has 1.5 million fans. Stephen King’s has 4.6 million fans. Maya Angelou beats them all with 5.6 million. They have valid reasons to have fan pages. Me – well, I’d be thrilled if I had this problem, but at this point in my career I’m still building my audience.
Let’s say I do create a Tara Laskowski, Author page. And let’s say I convince 50 percent (a very generous estimate) of my current friends to “like” the page – about 500 people. And then 100 “fans” find me and like the page. Great! But because of Facebook’s cruel algorithms, only about 75 of those 600 fans might see my update on their newsfeeds. I’ve managed social programs professionally, and a page’s posts often get blasted to only a small percentage of fans – unless you are willing to pay for more exposure, that is. Because I don’t have the time and money to devote to my author page, it would feel like renting a limousine to go to the grocery store.
I won’t say I’ll never get an author page. But for now, I’m attempting to build a network my own way. For now you’ve got me – quirks and all, with my creepy doll obsession and love of Northeastern Pennsylvania pizza. You know I crochet weird animals and, for better or worse, root for Philadelphia sports teams (usually for worse.) You’ve got me, not an auto-bot, in real time. And maybe at some point you’ll think fondly enough of me to want to buy my books. But if not, it’s cool. We’re still friends.
Tara Laskowski is the author of the short story collections Bystanders and Modern Manners For Your Inner Demons. Since 2010, she has been the editor of the flash fiction journal SmokeLong Quarterly and lived in Washington, D.C. She earned an MFA from George Mason University.
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